Elijah’s Birth Story, Part IV

I was told that from the time the options were presented until the time we made a decision was about an hour. But all I remember from that time was lying on the bed next to Rob, sleeping deeply in between contractions and waking to endure them. I lost all sense of time. I had no idea what to do.

Then, suddenly, I remember waking and saying, “Let’s do it.” I felt a renewed sense of strength, and a decision needed to be made. Avoiding a decision would still be a decision, and it wouldn’t stop any of the discomfort from continuing. All I knew was that something had to change. I felt—albeit momentarily—strong enough to handle whatever consequences would come from breaking my water, whether that meant a hospital transfer or harder contractions. I looked to Rob to make sure the decision was also alright with him. It was.

Within minutes, Robin had checked Eli’s heart rate and then Christy had broken my water. We waited with bated breath as Robin re-checked his heart rate. The moment felt huge, even through my exhaustion. I felt the gravity of the results. Would I have a hospital birth, or a home birth?

Just as it had been the whole time, Elijah’s heart continued to beat strong. This kid was quite the fighter. If he could do it, so could I. We were in this together, and inwardly, I told him so.

I braced myself for the contractions to increase. It was time to move back into the water. The next hour was a blur. The contractions were strong and difficult. I slept in between. Robert, Christy and Robin continued to be my support team, and there were times when all I saw was Robert’s eyes, grounding me. I felt anxious, I felt despair, I felt hope and desperation all at the same time. I wanted to see my son. I wanted it to be over. But I also felt lost.

I stopped speaking. The only way to communicate became through nods or shakes of the head. I had to conserve all my energy, and talking felt like it used up too much. Besides, there were no words for these moments. It existed outside of time, outside of language. It was raw and primal and real, and the only way out was through.

I began to feel an enormous pressure descend toward my bottom. Some say it feels almost like a bowel movement, and in some way it does, but it was also different. The pressure began to increase with each contraction, and I couldn’t hold it back. I was afraid to push too soon this time, and I told Christy so—I told her also that I couldn’t hold it back. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but I also didn’t know when the risk of re-swelling my cervix would have passed. I held the pressure at bay to the best of my ability.

The time finally came when Christy asked if I wanted her to check my cervix to see if there was any progress. I told her I wanted to wait a few more minutes. I needed to mentally prepare myself, and I wanted to be sure that I held that pressure off as long as possible. But after only a couple contractions, I couldn’t wait any longer. I asked her to check.

Before the check, I went to the bathroom. Christy and Rob talked softly outside. While in the bathroom, I secretly thought to myself, “If I haven’t progressed any more, I might need to go to the hospital. I’m just too tired.” I thought about relief from the pain. I dreamt of having a hospital around the corner. My resolve faltered, I feared the worst. I imagined that Rob and Christy were talking about the same thing (which I later found out wasn’t the case—they were discussing the positive aspects of my progress). I laid on the bed and looked to heaven. Please God, I whispered. Please. I looked once more to the purple letters on the wall. Support me, whatever the news is.

Christy got a distant look in her eyes as she concentrated during my contraction. Finally, she said, “There’s only a little bit of cervix left, and I think you can push past it. Let’s try on the next contraction. I want you to push when you feel the contraction coming on.” I felt relieved but not out of the woods. As the contraction began, I pushed. “Yep…” Christy nodded. “Yep. The baby was able to move past that last piece. Wow, you’re a great pusher, Stacia. This baby is going to be out in no time.”

Part of me couldn’t believe it. Was it finally time? “So I can push whenever I want?” I asked.

“You’re free to do whatever you feel like,” Christy replied. And it was then that I finally began to really feel what a “pushing contraction” felt like. It was something that I could aid, but couldn’t stop. Some women say that they felt a great sense of relief when the pushing started, although I’m not sure I can say the same. It didn’t necessarily feel “good,” but I can say that I was glad for the change of pace and the sense of progress.

I pushed for a few contractions on the bed. It was hard work, and I began to break out in a drenching sweat. I almost couldn’t believe how much I was sweating! It seemed to seep out of every pore of my body, from my scalp to my toes, dripping down my face and arms. I decided it was time to move back into the birthing tub for the final time. I wanted to give birth in the water.

Strange as it may sound, I could feel Elijah moving down the birth canal. I felt his progress physically, and I felt the emotional connection between us deepen. I would finally see this little man face to face—the one who had been kicking, elbowing, hiccupping, and back-flipping inside me for so many months. This was his final movement inside me, the last page of this first chapter in his life. A new adventure was about to begin.

After about 50 minutes of pushing, I began to feel the stinging sensation of his head emerging. I quickly told Christy and Robin that it was beginning to sting. I remember thinking that Christy seemed surprised for a split second, and then she and Robin disappeared briefly into the bathroom. They emerged quickly after, and Christy stood behind me as I began to push Elijah’s head out. At the time I was on my hands and knees in the pool, and Christy was monitoring Eli’s heart rate every other contraction. It remained strong until his head was halfway out, at which point she told me to flip over after his check. His heart rate sounded slower to me—a fact which she later confirmed—and I needed to reposition. After I did, it went back up immediately. His head emerged fully after two more pushes, then his shoulders, and finally the rest of his body. It was over. My son was born.

Christy caught him and immediately put him on my chest. I felt his little warm body, and was surprised at the thick layer of sticky vernix. It was hard for me to get a good look at him because of the angle he was at on my chest, but in many ways I was filled with disbelief. Was this really my son? Was the labor really over? What now?

During the many months leading up to his birth, I had pictured that moment over and over. I had imagined crying, or saying something like, “My son! My son!” and being flooded with overwhelming emotion. But the truth was, the physical and emotional exhaustion of the experience kept such an outpouring at bay. There would be time to process the emotions later; for now, the main feelings were relief and disbelief. I was looking forward to figuring out exactly how I felt, but I needed a little time.

 Elijah was remarkably calm–one of the benefits of waterbirth and delayed cord clamping. I couldn’t believe it. He was finally here, this warm, squishy bundle in my arms. He was so dependent and helpless, and I was now responsible for making sure he felt safe and protected. I knew instantly I loved him, although it took a few weeks for me to be in love with him. I think this is mostly because it was my instinctive mommy-sense that loved him, but it took a while before I began to know who I was loving. The instinct to love came first, and the choice to love came after.

I held him for about 15 minutes as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and as the midwives monitored his color and breathing. Then, after cutting the cord, Elijah was handed to Robert and I was helped out of the pool and onto the bed. I felt like I was finally returning to my body, and was aware of its separate-ness from the world for the first time in about twelve hours. My world was no longer my body’s sensations. It was now wrapped up in a little bundle on my husband’s chest.

[The last part, Part V, coming tomorrow…]

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