I wasn't sure how I wanted to write the birth story for Elliot Gray. But I'm just going to start from the beginning of what I consider my "birthing time" and go from there.
Remember that I went into this pregnancy wanting and planning to have a completely natural birth. I didn't want any unnecessary medical intervention and wanted to do it the way it was intended. Ryan and I took a Hypnobirthing class using techniques that help you stay calm and relaxed and make natural childbirth seem like a breeze.
If you remember from my 38 week pregnancy post, I was discouraged by my midwife appointment that day. I hadn't progressed at all and it seemed like I would be living the rest of my life with braxton hicks contractions (oh what i would have given for those instead of the real thing). I spent that evening reflecting on my pregnancy. I took a warm bath, burned a candle and sat alone in our bathroom with the door open listening to Ryan mess around with a mandolin. I had a hard time accepting that I still had some time to wait for this baby to come, and for all selfish reasons. I was tired of peeing every 5 minutes, tired of the aches and pains, the constant not knowing of "is this the real thing?", I just wanted to be done with it and move on with our lives. But I sat in the bath alone and just thought about the last 9 months and asked God to help me with the waiting part.
The next morning I woke up feeling better, I had released my hope for his early arrival and felt ok with being pregnant for at least another two weeks. We had our car worked on and I made a couple jokes about what a bad day it would be to go into labor, without a car and with ryan at work across town. I noticed a faint familiar menstrual like pain creep into my braxton hicks but blew it off as another weird "you might be going into labor but probably not" thing that happens towards the end. That afternoon I used the restroom and saw what appeared to be my mucus plug/bloody show. I had been losing my mucus plug slowly over the last few weeks but it was always clear, not this time. I still didn't get my hopes up being that the midwife had checked me the day before and that could always cause some spotting. But throughout the day I saw more and more come out...
Around 9 pm I decided to go to sleep, and good thing I did because I was woken up at 12:15 am with what felt like the peak of your menstrual cramps and after laying through a few of them I noticed they were hitting me at a rhythm. I grabbed my cell phone and started timing them. They were coming every 6 minutes and would get slightly more intense - and by that I mean, I started to get really bad back labor with each one. After an hour of timing and hydrating, I put on my ipod and listened to the "Deepening" hypnobabies track on repeat a few times and was able to relax enough to fall asleep for another hour. When I woke up again they were stronger but not closer together. I texted my doula around 4 am letting her know that I was in some serious pain as I rotated between being on all fours on my bed with my head and chest down and laying on my left side, both trying to take the pressure off my spine. Eventually I got to my senses and got into the bath tub. Part me of me really didn't believe that I was in labor as it wasn't going anywhere and just seemed to be this perpetual state of immense pain.
We called the midwife on call to tell her what was going on. It was someone I hadn't met at the clinic yet and she kind of blew me off as a first time mom. I told her we were using Hypnobabies and that I was able to stay calm and relaxed during each pressure wave/contraction but that they were essentially unbearable when I was in one. She told me that this is the longest time during labor and that average first time moms go through this part for at least 12 hours and to call back when they were 4 minutes apart for an hour. We spent the next few hours listening to more hypnobabies tracks, laboring in the bath tub and going on walks. By 11 am I decided that I should probably call my doula to come over as I was nearing the end of the "12 hour period" and since Ryan really wasn't using any of his hypnobabies prompts (granted, I was doing fine with just the cds) I was ready to have someone really get me focused on what was happening.
I got off the phone with her and she told me she could be here by 1 pm. Which seemed fine with me. Ryan got me something to eat and I drank some gatorade before getting back in the tub. Owen knew what was happening and he wouldn't leave my side. Every time I turned "off" to focus and relax on a contraction he would grow concerned, in a sense I'm sure he was feeling my pain. Ryan poured hot water down my back during each contraction and in between we would talk and laugh. At one point the baby had the hiccups and I thought that this might be the last time I ever feel these. We timed the contractions for over an hour and they were at 3 1/2 minutes apart and had definitely gotten more intense. I got out of the tub and called the midwife. She still didn't seem to really believe me because "i was talking to her through them" but told me to come to the hospital and they will check me if I wanted. As soon as I hung up the phone, something changed. Suddenly I just knew I needed to be at the hospital, something clicked and I went into survival mode. I was getting frustrated because Ryan didn't seem to feel the same urgency that I did and was taking his time getting things into the car and calling his parents.
The drive to the hospital was the hardest part. It felt like an eternity and I kept telling Ryan that I couldn't do this. The pain was so extreme, so consuming that I wouldn't be able to birth naturally like we had planned and I would need the epidural. I felt so weak, but if it wasn't for the back labor I would have had a better time getting a handle on the pain. It was getting so intense and I started to get sick to my stomach. At this point, I really had to just let go and let each contraction take over my body. I had let this happen all night but at this intensity there was no choice. I was too exhausted to even try to fight against it and the only hope I had was the complete peace that came when they faded. They would come up like a wave and plateau and then fade...then it would feel like nothing, I would feel normal until the next one rolled in. We got to the hospital and I stopped twice on our way to the fourth floor to try to throw up but nothing happened, and I have to say - there is nothing worse than having a strong contraction while you're kneeling over a toilet trying to throw up...
It was about 2:20 by the time they got us into triage - again even the nurses seemed to think I wasn't that bad. They put me on the bed, leaning back - leaning on my tailbone which made the back labor about 100 times worse and wouldn't let me move. They strapped me to the monitors and started stressing about the fact that with every contraction his heart rate would drop. I started feeling a little loopy, the pain was making me in a sense drunk and I was in another place in my head, wondering how I wasn't dying. Angel, our doula, arrived shortly after and I burst into tears when she got there. I was having such a hard time and it didn't help that I felt the whole staff was against me. We had decided to use the midwife group to have a more intimate and natural, mother directed experience and that was not what we were getting. Angel started immediately telling me the hypnobabies prompts as I held hard onto Ryan's hand and he would place his other hand on my forehead or shoulder during each contraction to help me relax. In the moment, I didn't realize it but this was transition. It's the part where you feel like you can't do it, there is just no way, but I didn't realize how soon it would all be over. Eventually, the midwife - who took her time, came in to check me. I was at 5 cm and 90% effaced. Enough for them to admit me. I felt okay knowing that this was actually my birthing time and that I would be holding my baby that day, but at 5 cm I had some time to wait and labor before he would come. They all left the room and I had a few more contractions. Each one, Angel would push with all her might against my lower back and I would lean into Ryan, now moaning from the pain. Then suddenly, I heard and felt a "POP" and warm water gushed out. My water had broken and it put me into shock, even up to that point it didn't feel real, but with that breaking I knew he was coming.
The nurse came in again shortly after that to look at the monitors and comment about how his heart rate wasn't good and how my blood pressure was getting too high. With the next contraction that hit I leaned into the nurse and suddenly I felt a drop in my pelvis and my body just started to push. I yelled "I'm pushing!", all the staff in the room started yelling at me "STOP PUSHING, YOU ARE GOING TO HURT THE BABY! you're only at 5 cm" and I told them I was trying not to push but now each contraction was on top of the other and with each one I felt him move lower and lower down. I couldn't control the pushing as much as I could try. My blood pressure went up and his heart rate dropped again, so they put me on oxygen to try to get me to calm down...maybe they shouldn't have been yelling at me... The midwife rushed back in and after telling me the same things the nurse did she checked me again. Her voice changed as she said "there is just a lip left" - translation: I was fully dilated...the full 10 cm in less than 15 minutes I went from a 5 to a 10...A wheel chair came for me and I loudly moaned through each contraction as she wheeled me down the hall...still feeling him move through my body. I later realized that even though I really lost control of the use of our hypnobabies method - with the chaos of triage and the discouragement I had gotten from the staff, I still used it. Between each contraction I turned off, closed my eyes and breathed. I was vocal through them because I knew the more open I kept my airway the easier it would be to stay relaxed and let him come out on his own.
I remember thinking that I was probably scaring the other pregnant women around with my noise and the obviousness of what was happening.
We got into our room - the one we wanted, with the labor tub, but there was no time to even think about filling it, there was no time for me to even think about getting an epidural. As soon as they wheeled me in I ran to the end of the bed where there was a birthing stool. I sat on it and worked through a few contractions while everyone rushed around me and Ryan tried to get the room how we wanted it. He plugged in our Ipod and put on a hypnobabies track, he dimmed the lights and put the sign on the door - asking for hushed voices. None of this happened of course. There were way too many people in the room with me, all talking and moving around but in those moments I ignored it and concentrated on what was happening to me. I stood up and leaned against some pillows on the end of the bed, I waved my hips and squatted as I pushed him down, trying to breathe him out. Angel was telling me how great I was doing as she still put pressure on my lower back and would rub my shoulders in between. She said I was following my body and that was the best thing. It was true, I never made a conscious decision about moving or squatting, I let my body take over. After all...my body was pushing him down - mentally, I had no control over it, I just had to let it happen.
We had declined treatment for GBS and so I had only one chance to use the hibicleanse to try to kill the "bacteria" that was in the birth canal - ideally, I should have done this the first time right after my water broke and I should have already been in this room at that point, but oh well.
I then moved to the bed. I was on all fours, leaning against the pillows, again I felt him move lower and lower and all the pressure on my "behind", as if that was where he was going to come out of. Vanderbilt now offers a kind of laughing gas during labor - nitrus oxide I think. I had asked for it when we were in triage out of desperation. It was supposed to take the edge off of the contractions, though you would still feel them but it helped with moms with long labors who wanted to avoid an epidural. They gave me the mask and told me that whenever I felt one coming to take a deep breath into and that I could use it as much as I wanted. I breathed it in twice and felt so light headed, as if I was going to pass out...and it did nothing at this point, each push was just as difficult as the last, just as painful.
My legs started to feel weak and so I laid on my left side, at that time the midwife said "Okay Chelsey, I think we can get him out on these next pushes". Angel moved behind me and pulled my right leg up as far as she could and they had me push it out with my right arm. I held onto the mask with my left and Ryan was standing directly in my eyesight stroking my hair and again helping me to relax. I pushed a few times, each time feeling him move and move...and then he would slide back. I had heard that this was a difficult part for moms because you feel the progress and then it goes back, but to me...I felt like he was already crowning and then he would slide back and I could rest for a few moments before it happened again. The midwife then said "Okay Daddy, you ready to get your gloves on" and I saw Ryan pull away from me and go to the end of the bed. I was overjoyed. Ryan was going to catch the baby and I knew that if she was pulling him over there that it was almost over. The next thing I know, the midwife was in front of my face and said...
"Okay Chelsey, you are going to feel a ring of fire now, and you're going to want to stop. But keep going, keep pushing."
And she was right, the pain was different now, still I felt it throughout my entire body, every nerve was tuned into what was happening but it was also very localized. I started to hear a change in tone in the room as Angel said "his head is coming out, and he has so much hair" and that's when the fire started. This was the worst pain so far, so different than the contractions. So much worse that I couldn't even feel them in my pelvis or my back anymore. I realized how much it was taking out of me and how difficult it was becoming to not "purple push" (when you don't breathe during the pushing). I used the mask as a cue to breathe. I would feel a contraction come and take in a deep breath into the mask and then push as hard as I could as I moaned and yelled out the air, my body then took over and I would involuntarily push 2-3 times, and those would be purple pushes. There was no time in there for me to breathe. His head was moving out and I could feel the excitement in the room, someone asked me if I wanted a mirror and I yelled "NO!" Then someone told me to put my hand down there and feel his head and I said "NO!! Just get him out!" and I heard Angel laugh. I tried pushing in between contractions because he was crowning and there was now no relief between them...this was what the midwife told me about, "the ring of fire" but my pushing was useless. I needed the help of the rest of my body, which now seemed so much stronger than I was. I took a deep breath and pushed and his head came out. Someone yelled it to me, but I knew because it felt so good, I even asked if all of him came out because that's what it felt like.
The cord was wrapped one time around his neck and in my dreamy zone I saw someone standing over where he was taking it off. The next contraction came on and I pushed with everything I had and he came out. Now, that was the best feeling I have ever felt. It was over, Ryan pulled him out and handed him to the midwife who put this bloody, crying baby immediately on my chest. I was still in my dreamy haze and just remember seeing Ryan crying over me as I reached out to hold my child for the first time. I had birthed a baby. I had done it without medical intervention and without pain medication. It was over and I was in shock. He laid on my chest and stopped crying, he moved his head and looked up at me as I kept saying "oh my God, oh my God".
We had a few name options but as soon as I saw this one I knew what name fit him. We waited for about 30 minutes before talking to each other and both of us thought the same thing. So there was Elliot Gray, laying on my chest as I was shaking from shock and I was freezing, I begged for more and more blankets but I couldn't stop the shaking.
The next two hours were almost as painful as the ones before, I had torn - just surface - so they had to stitch me up, as well as put a shot of pitocin in my thigh to get my uterus to start contracting again. I'll spare the rest because it was really gross, and really painful for the next few hours as they had to make sure things were happening normally.
But Elliot laid on my chest for almost two hours before getting any tests done. I nursed him as well. We had waited until the cord stopped pulsing for Ryan to cut it and we stared and talked to our little wide eyed boy.
Again, we got into triage at 2:20 and I was in there for almost 45 minutes. Within 35 minutes of being in the labor and delivery room, Elliot came. It was so fast, so unreal and so unexpected.
Birthing Elliot was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever done in my life. But being on the other side of it is amazing. Feeling a connection between myself and the many, many, many women who have ever birthed naturally is amazing. I climbed the biggest wall I had ever seen and made it.
Elliot Gray Meyer
June 12, 2011
5 lbs 8 oz
18.5 in long
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