Hawindrem: Mandela's Late Arrival
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 2:10 PM
"All I remember saying was, 'I want my baby!' After about an hour, her body was on my chest. The pain
ceased immediately, and all we were left with was joy."
It all started around 5 p.m. on Monday, April 27 (5 days past my EDD). I had begun to notice that the cramps I'd been experiencing since having my membranes stripped that morning were developing a definite wave-like shape and pattern. My husband James and I went for a walk and noticed they were coming less than fifteen minutes apart and staying strong. We went home and relaxed for a while. When they started coming every ten minutes, we decided to take it seriously and get things prepared. We swept up some dog hair, put away some laundry, and just basically set the mood at home with dim lights and soft music. He drank a glass of wine and went to bed to try to get some rest, even though we both knew sleep would be impossible for him at this point. I was too excited to nap, so I chatted on the computer for a while and made some phone calls. After a while the contractions started coming between five and seven minutes apart and lasted over a minute long. I took a shower and tried to relax and get mentally prepared for the adventure ahead.
Laboring at home
For the next eight hours we labored at home. I tried lying in bed, rocking on the birthing ball, pelvic rocking, standing, etc. I finally got in the tub and stayed there in a side-lying position for about an hour. I thought I wanted to get out, but James came and helped me relax through a dozen more contractions and I got very serious. I found that the only thing I could do during a contraction was take a deep breath, moan on the exhale, and count my moans. They were consistently peaking at ten moans, and I just kept telling myself I could make it to ten. This went on for a long time, beyond when the water went cold.
I finally got out and got back on the birthing ball. I just sat upright with my hands on my knees and moaned through the contractions for a while. When they had been consistently around two minutes apart and lasting a minute long, we called the midwife again. I felt like I was already running out of steam, and really wanted to go to the birthing center and get in the tub. The midwife said to come on in, so James loaded up the car while I continued to labor on the ball. When he was all ready, I crawled into the back of the station wagon on some blankets and pillows. The contractions did not abate with the change of scenery, and I actually felt like they were getting closer together.
The hard part
Once we arrived at the birthing center I was eager to get checked. The midwife did an exam and delivered the disappointing news: I was still at 2 cm, the same as at our prenatal appointment that morning. I was heartbroken because I really felt like we were making progress. She gave me some herbal tea to soften the cervix and calm me down, and then put me in the shower. I stayed there for probably eight hours, squatting during a contraction and sitting on a shower chair in a state of complete oblivion in between.
I had no idea of the passage of time or the frequency of contractions. James said they were coming less than three minutes apart and lasting a minute and a half the entire time. They set themselves a pattern: a long hard one, followed by an easier one, and then another hard one, followed by a rest period that allowed me to regroup. Whereas before I had been telling myself I just had to get to ten, now I had to get to seventeen, then twenty-five. Somewhere towards the end of the shower period my water broke. I moved to the deep tub, but found that I didn't like it as much as the shower, and got out to be checked. I was at 7 cm. The sun had been up for a long time, but I have no idea what the time was.
At this point, even though I had wanted a completely med-free birth, I started to panic a little. I knew I was very tired, and facing transition. I told James I wanted a shot of Nubain (the only med offered at the birthing center). The midwife took her time getting it, and explained that it should let me rest for about 2 hours. Well, I did get some relief, but only slept for about 30 minutes. I was well into transition at this point, and would moan through a 30-breath contraction, then sleep a minute, then do it again. I kept telling myself that if I could get through this contraction, I could go back to sleep! But soon enough the contractions had no end, they just went on and on and on, and I knew we were about to start pushing. James was wonderful at this point, telling me that we would be up and pushing out our baby in no time. I started to get really excited.
Here comes baby!
Pushing was an adventure. It was much more primal and noisy than I expected. I played tug-of-war with a midwife's assistant, and it really helped me focus all my energy to the right place. All I remember saying during all of this was, "I want my baby!!" After about an hour (which was only really about 8 or 10 contractions), her head slid out, and with the next push her body was on my chest and I was wailing with joy. James and I cried together, covered in sweat and blood, and it was a moment I will never ever ever forget. The pain ceased immediately, and all we were left with was joy.
All in all I was in labor for 21 hours. She weighed 7lb. 7 oz. and measured 19 inches long. I had a couple of stitches put in because she delivered with her hand in front of her face. Other than that, cleanup was easy. We went home 5 hours later, and she has been wonderful. She has a super-strong latch and feeds easily. When they tell you it's worth it, man, you have no idea. She is on my chest as I type this, and I can't even describe what it's like to just stare at this beautiful little thing that just two days ago was in my belly, making me miserable. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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