I took a very long walk on Tuesday. It was beautiful and sunny, and Riley rode her bike while I waddled briskly behind. During the walk I had some contractions...nothing serious... But enough to keep me excited. That evening, starting around 5pm, I had constant lower back pain. It lasted until around 11pm and was relieved when Dan gave me a massage. I went from thinking it was a pre labor sign to thinking I had overdone my walk.
I woke up early on Wednesday, around 5am, aware that I had been cramping on and off while sleeping for an hour or so. I started timing them around 6am. They were 5-8 mins apart, lasting about a minute. They felt like menstrual cramps that started in my lower back, then wrapped around to the front. I got up and got Riley dressed and to the bus stop. I told her that I thought it was the day and Nana would be meeting her at the bus stop after school if I was in labor. Dan had a meeting that morning, I called my mom to come over while Dan was gone and decided to take a bath. The bath totally stopped the contractions. CRAP! So I got out to see if they would come back. My mom showed up. It was around 9am.
My mom and I did some cleaning up, then went for a walk. The contractions came back, this time coming every 2 mins, lasting around 20 secs each. They were slightly more intense, but I could still walk and talk through them. When we got home, I was having a lot of "bloody show". But it seemed more watery to me then mucusy. I showed my mom, yes, I have no limits when it comes to sharing gross bodily fluids, and she said "you're leaking, you idiot". So I called my midwife and told her I wasn't sure if I was leaking or not, she told me to come in to get checked.
I was still unsure at this point. I knew something was happening... But not sure how long I would be in this pre-labor. I was calm and excited. Dan got home and we drove to the midwife office around 12:30. It was such a gorgeous day in Seattle. Perfect blue sky, warm and sunny. The midwife checked and determined it was not amniotic fluid. I was still at a "stretchy" 4, but more effaced than on Monday when I had the membrane sweep. She asked if I wanted another membrane sweep and I said yes. She told us to go get some lunch and walk around, maybe see a movie, call if there was a major change in "intensity" of my contractions.
I think we were three steps out the door when the first new type of contraction hit, and it was intense. But I didn't want to run back in screaming and look like an idiot... So we did what we were told and headed to lunch. I was contracting every 2 mins and starting to panic. I was finding it difficult to breath through them in public. It was hard to keep composure while ordering a croissant. We decided to sit on a park bench in the sun, away from people. I breathed through painful contraction while getting a nice tan. I would squeeze Dan's fingers when one started, he would time them until my grip released. They were lasting 30 secs coming every 2 mins. So 2 hours after leaving the midwives office, we checked in to the Ballard Swedish Birthing Center.
About a half hour after we got there I started going through transition. My breathing turned to moaning. I puked a couple times. I talked less and less between contractions. Without fail, I still would grab dans fingers to squeeze through every one. I needed them. My focus was squeezing his fingers. The world started slipping away around me. I asked to be checked to gauge how I was progressing....this was the one and only time I mentioned the word "epidural". I simply said I need to know where I am so I can go in the bath or talk about an epidural. I was at a 6. They started the bath. While it was filling, I got in the shower. The shower was AWESOME. My midwife thought she saw my water break while I was in there but wasn't sure. The bath was ready. It had been maybe 10 mins. I was checked again and was now at an 8. My water had still not broken. Everything was a blur. The pain was so powerful. I was lost in it. I had no idea how long we had been there. At this point I shook through the pain. I could barely stand...but standing felt better than anything else. I didn't like the bath and with each contraction I clawed at the tile trying to flip over or stand up. I don't remember time between contractions because it all morphed together into pure, all consuming, unyielding, gut ripping, muscle splitting, bone separating, PAIN...preparing for it, surviving through it, recovering from it....PAIN. There was nothing else. I moaned through this pain completely unaware of anything else, who was near, words people said, questions asked. All I knew was pain, and where Dan's fingers were. I knew he was there and that was the only constant I needed. No breathing techniques, no massage, no encouraging words. I just needed Dan's poor, crushed, hand.
I was told I needed to go back to the room which was fine because I hated the tub. As soon as a stood up I felt the urge to push. Now THAT is a weird fucking feeling. All the sudden you just start grunting and it really is out of your control. I was hooked up to monitors at this point and kneeled on the bed, facing back. I was at a 10 and told to push in any way that felt right. None of it felt right. It all felt very wrong. I felt pissed. I felt frantic. I felt like I was totally screwed because there was no way to get the baby out in any other way. I had to push and it felt awful. The "ring of fire" lasted for a second during one push of one contraction. Then I felt the head move down into my pelvis. Lower with each push. Then the contraction would end and I would feel him go back up. This was a low point. This is when I started to whimper and whine and say it wasn't possible. This is also when I could hear Dan's excitement and I knew we must be close. I could hear his emotion. He was laughing and I told him to shutup but it gave me hope that it would be over soon. I was tired. I flipped over on my back and felt in more control. The one positive of this stage was I actually had time between contractions to rest. It felt totally euphoric compared to the pain of pushing. It felt like silence. Stillness. Like I could curl up and sleep. And then another contraction would rip me away. I remember the point where I decided this was it. I would push with every fucking thing I had because i could not do it anymore. So I did. I pushed and screamed. SCREAMED. The loudest, primal, HUGE, cavewoman of a scream. I screamed the scream of life and death and pain and suffering and it must have been heard for miles. The nurse shushed me and I wanted to grab her by the throat and say "don't you DARE shush me!!!".....but I couldn't because I was SCREAMING for my fucking life. And then I felt his head come out, still in the amniotic sac. The the sac broke. I felt warmth. I felt Dan's excitement. I heard nothing. (later I was told the cord was around his neck and they were unwrapping it). Then I pushed again and felt his warm body leave mine and he was placed on my chest. He was beautiful and perfect and pink and screaming a different type of scream. A tiny, beautiful scream. The pain stopped instantly. I told everyone who would listen that it was the worst experience of my life.....but now......a few days later.....I think it was pretty damn incredible. I survived. I did it. And I feel amazing. I only needed one tiny stitch.
My husband was so proud of me that he told me I could name our son the name I wanted. His reaction has really been something I never expected, but maybe the best part. It is one thing to feel empowered. To be proud of yourself. To successfully achieve what you set out to do.....but, the pride in Dan's voice when I hear him tell people about the birth really makes me feel like the strongest woman on the planet.