Fair warning, I don’t want to scare any woman out of having children but I do want to tell you my birth story and, more importantly, I want to write my birth story. I don’t want to forget it because, believe it or not, I love my story.
Back labor feels like the most painful pooping experience you can imagine; you have to poop so badly it makes you feel nauseous, there is this intense stinging pain welling in your lower back, you feel hot and clammy all over, and tears well up in your eyes… but you can’t actually poop. Hopefully, you know what I’m talking about. Actually, hopefully not. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think flu with diarrhea while you are on your period. Think pain, lots of pain. All the pain you can imagine. And then more.
Anyway, during labor, it took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to run (ok, hobble like a drunk man trying to cradle three bowling balls in his arms) to the toilet every time I was having a contraction. I fought through these contractions with controlled breathing. Not lamaze style folks, yoga style. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out. It was the only way I could keep myself from collapsing into a fit of sobbing and hyperventilation. I did this laboring for three days while rotating from a poised seated position on the couch or the birth ball, to laying down on my side, to standing and leaning on something, to any one of an array of yoga poses. I also managed to go on a couple of walks, take a couple baths, watch a few movies, keep no amount of food down, and get a few minutes of sleep in-between contractions sometimes. I was in labor so long my doula called in back up doulas so she could get some rest.
32 hours into labor we drove to the hospital. I was still on the same timeline, contractions were still 5 minutes long and 5 minutes apart. I didn’t want to be traveling to the hospital under much more pain so off we went. On the way there even driving over a fist sized rock felt like my insides were being pulled out of my body.
We made it into triage for my assessment. In-between contractions I was grilled with questions and prodded. I was told I was only dilated to 2 cm and that I couldn’t be admitted until I reached 4 cm. I had to go home. This news sucked all hope and gumption out of me. My reality was 32 hours of grueling sleepless and foodless labor behind me and another 45 minute excruciating drive home ahead of me for more of the same. I cried. Hard.
56 hours into labor I called my doctor. In reality I asked her for help in a controlled and kind voice – in my head I was screaming and crying and pleading all at the same time. She said I could head to the hospital and she would admit me whether I was 4 cm or not. If not, then she would give me morphine so I could catch some sleep. I was so excited I could barely stand it! I was going to get some sleep! And I was going to the hospital to stay!
This time triage discovered I had made it to 5 cm! I was given some lesser version of morphine and wheeled down to my delivery room (that drug works quickly, I tried to walk but apparently all I could manage was a swaying drunk man’s wobble step so they plopped me into a wheel chair.) After they hooked me up to an IV (because I hadn’t eaten in days) I slept for what felt like hours (which I later found out was a mere 45 minutes.) I was renewed with vitality to pursue getting my baby out. My doctor asked to break my water because I was not progressing from 5 cm. I said ok and worked hard on dilating further. I took a walk in the hall, stretched on my yoga mat, performed labor encouraging yoga poses, and walked lunges until I made myself dizzy. Then I was exhausted again.
I don’t remember the next several hours. I know my first Allison nurse was replaced by another Allison nurse. I know this new Allison nurse fussed with my external baby monitor so much I wanted to yell at her until she would stop. It made me internally insane. I mean, I didn’t even want the thing in the first place but at 41 weeks I had no choice in the matter. Anyway, I was not above yelling at her. I wanted to with my whole being. But all I could manage to get out were these polite requests for her to please leave it alone. I’ve heard that other women yell and scream and sob during labor. During pregnancy I was told I would do the same. That I would hate my husband and anyone trying to help me. But no, I was told I was completely polite, cheerful even. I thought for sure I had pleaded for pain medication, or anything else that would help me, but apparently I didn’t make a peep about it. Josh said he even thought I was doing just fine. In reality, it was utterly debilitating having my own body torture me. There simply was no assailant I could attack to make my pain stop. There was only myself to be mad at. So, not only was I battling labor, but I was emotionally crushing myself. I was mad at my own body and mind for not being able to get my baby out.
Finally, my nurse asked if we could use pitocin.
My birth plan specifically indicated I wanted a completely natural birth and all the parameters around that. It was my deepest desire to bring my baby into the world without medical intervention. So, it’s easy to say I was beyond desperate to end my labor when my response was, “yes, but I will also need an epidural.”
My memory of everything after this moment is laced with the golden glow of joy. It’s like my world went into fast forward because what was several more hours felt like mere minutes. I was poked with the epidural, the Pitocin was administered through my IV, and suddenly I was feeling powerful urges like a strong need to poop. My doctor checked in and checked me. I was 9 cm.
Again, my memory eludes me but at this point Josh left to get a drink and my doctor left before I could manage to mention I needed to push. I turned to my nurse and told her to get Dr. Mallory and my husband because I was pushing with or without them when the next contraction hit.
As my first push hit me Josh burst into the room followed shortly by Dr. Mallory. My visual of the space before me was through a wide angle lens, everyone comically distorted and blurry but still recognizable. I had my nurse to my left, a back up doula was standing over my left foot taking pictures with my phone, my doctor was sitting in a chair quietly instructing Josh on how to help by holding my right leg, and my doula was whispering encouragement and tips in my ear while feeding me ice chips. I vividly remember hearing the phrase “you’re so close” so often I wanted to scream at them to stop saying that until they meant it. I desperately wanted to tell them to reserve that phrase for when I was on my last push or two but all I could do was let out animal groans/grunts. They kept showing me my progress with a mirror, but seeing a little more of my baby’s hairy head did not help me figure how many more pushes it would take for her head to pop out. That’s all I was thinking about, something like “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop,” but birth style.
41 weeks of pregnancy, 72 1/2 hours of labor, and 52 minutes of pushing and our baby finally entered the world with a healthy cry and a bright red face. Josh pulled her out by the shoulders and before she was all the way out I reached down and pulled her up and onto my chest. Well, almost. Comically enough, the umbilical cord was so short she didn’t quite reach. Dr. Mallory asked who we had and I was shellshocked to realize we completely forgot to check the gender. Josh took a peek and we named our girl on the spot, Maisy Joy Calhoun. After a few minutes the cord was finished pulsing so Josh cut it and I settled Maisy on my chest. Within minutes she hunted around to eat so I helped her over to feed. Josh and I spent the next hour snuggling and staring at the side of Maisy’s face as she learned how to nurse.
My birth story veered pretty far off my intended path, but I don’t regret one decision. Yes, I took drugs to help me sleep. Yes, I ended up with Pitocin and an Epidural. But I also ended up being able to push strong because I achieved some rest. I was also able to finally dilate to 10 cm with the help of Pitocin. And my Epidural wore off by the time I got there so I could feel the urge to push. I am incredibly thankful for these drugs. With a posterior baby and a tall pelvis my body simply couldn’t get her out without help. Without the drugs I would have ended up with the c-section my medical staff was apparently discussing unbeknownst to me. At the end of the day, I have a very healthy baby girl and a birth story that I can remember as colored with joy instead of only pain and suffering.