July 31, A Busy Day One Day Before Maya’s Arrival
It was a cloudy morning. Rain was expected. I felt weird.
My contractions were strong and frequent but we’d had a couple of false alarms in the last couple of weeks so Julian went to work, standing by his phone for the call.
With Julian gone and me feeling so strange, I quit work for the day and headed out to see my midwife. It was the day before our appointment but she said she was happy to see me and listen to the baby’s heart rate.
So Evelyn and I hopped in the car and started driving through a calm rain which quickly picked up into a torrent of hail.
“Maybe I should just go home and sleep it off,” I thought. But keeping busy was more appealing to me than seeking refuge from the hail.
So we drove slowly through the soggy streets cranking Marina and the Diamonds.
Nedra, my midwife, had penciled me in between a couple of clients. But because of the weather, I missed that spot. She said I could come by at the next slot so Evelyn and I stopped at the mall to kill time. We got some tea at Starbucks, walked around the mall, marvelled at the clarity of the new iPad screen, and headed back to the car.
I turned the key in the ignition. The engine was silent.
Stranded at the Mall
“Shit. We need a jump.”
I asked an old guy in the car next to me to give me a jump. He gladly complied with this very pregnant woman’s need. He hooked up the cables and I turned the key. Sparks flew and flames jumped up from the battery. I scrambled out of the car to grab Evelyn, seriously worried the car was going to explode. The old man assured me everything was fine and adjusted the cables. “Start the engine again,” he said.
More sparks, more flames. He left and I called Julian for help.
It was 4pm by then and we were 15 miles down the freeway against rush hour traffic. We were going to have a long wait.
Evelyn and I went back into the mall and walked and walked and sat and walked. I was hungry. We went to the food court and complained about the lack of food choices. And we walked and we sat. Back at the food court, we searched again, like when you open the door to your empty fridge over and over, hoping something new appears. And alas! There was a salad place we hadn’t noticed before! We ordered two simple salads with olive oil and lemon and sat down to eat.
Contractions and the Bloody Tooth
Evelyn takes her first bite and pop goes her front tooth. She sees her hands covered in blood and starts crying bloody murder.
“Excuse me,” I say to the ladies beside us, “Could you please watch our food for a minute?”
We run to the bathroom and, at 39 weeks pregnant, I pick up Evelyn right in the middle of a contraction, lifting her to the sink. She washes her mouth, hands, and face. She’s crying. I want to cry.
The blood washes away and the tooth is left dangling in her mouth. With the blood gone, it’s funny now, but she still won’t pull the tooth. I eat my salad while she stares at hers. When Julian arrives he works his magic on her and convinces her to pull out her own tooth. She eats and we leave.
By now it’s after 6pm and I still have to drive 45 minutes back home through traffic with distracting, strong contractions.
“Am I in early labor?” I ask myself. “Probably not. I always think I’m in labor.”
Long story short, now that I made you read all that, I had a long day and I was tired.
Active Labor, 10:30pm, July 31st
I finally lay down for the night at 9:30 but soon woke to the sound of myself moaning through a contraction and the feeling of something tearing down below.
Faster than you’ve ever seen a pregnant woman jump I hopped up from my mattress and sprinted to the bathroom. Bam! There goes my water, half all over the floor, half in the toilet.
Evelyn popped out of bed. “Mom? Is this it? We’re in labor? Okay okay, what do you need? This is so cool!” She exclaims in her tiny squeaky voice.
Very shortly I was having unmistakable active labor contractions. They were intense and I was excited. The baby was coming. Within an hour or so the contractions were very strong and required quite a bit of concentration. My mom and a friend came over, as did my midwife. They all started getting ready for the birth.
Nedra, my midwife, checked the baby’s heart rate. It was strong. I breathed a sigh of relief. The cord wasn’t wrapped as it had been with Evelyn. This birth wouldn’t turn out like my first. Wonderful.
My contractions were tolerable at first. They were intense and very strong but nothing that someone like me couldn’t handle. But within a few hours my lower back started to hurt like someone was stomping on it and each contraction just melted into the other. I had very few moments of rest.
The word pain wasn’t allowed in the house that night. I chose to view the contractions, no matter how strong, as something else, anything else – a tightening, a pushing, intensity, movement, waves, whatever. These were all good distractions for me at first but now, after 5 hours, I let the word come out.
But wait, I’m a badass!
“Nedra. I’m going to cry. I’ve not been in so much pain since, since, I don’t know if ever.”
It was unrelenting and had gone on for hours. Even though there were several loving people there, I felt alone on Planet Pain. I thought of all of the traumas I’d endured before. There was the dude that nearly beat me to death, the bicycle accident, the c-section with Evelyn which I refused pain medication for during recovery, snowboarding down the mountain to the clinic with an arm broken in two places, a fractured heel after jumping off a two story building barefoot, running a marathon with loose joints (before I found out I have celiac), and others.
I let my mind revisit these moments in hopes that it would soften the present.
What could I do to relieve the pain, I asked myself? Relaxation exercises. My visualization of the ocean waves. The birth pool was almost ready. Nedra suggested a shower. Breath.
“Why does it hurt this bad?” I asked Nedra. She said the back pain and the contractions which seemed to have no break were due to the fact that the baby was occiput posterior, i.e. her back was against my back, her limbs against my belly. So, backwards. Her head was not in the right position to slip through the pelvis. We knew about this coming into the labor. I had been trying to turn her for weeks with no luck.
And so my labor hurt like hell and progressed very slowly. After a while we were concerned about a few things:
- Would the baby make it out of my pelvis?
- Had my cesarean scar ruptured?
- Was I too fatigued to keep this up?
Another c-section seemed a real possibility – one I wanted to avoid at all costs. In light of so much pain, we ended up making the decision to go to the hospital.
I dilated slowly. Labor progressed slowly. After 20 hours in active labor and two and a half hours of pushing, little Maya Sofia was born vaginally at 7lbs, 10oz. She was placed on my belly until the cord drained and began nursing within 15 minutes. Julian and my midwife helped thwart many interventions such as the vacuum, the antibiotic ointment, Hep B and vitamin K shots.
It wasn’t a perfect birth experience but, for me, it was truly miraculous. I know what it feels like to push a baby out and, for me, that’s huge.
I bounced back super quick too and have been enjoying the last four weeks immensely.
For those who are interested, another woman in the community also had a VBAC: The wellness Mama