Caution: This is a very long, very rough draft of Willa's birth story. I have been hoping to write this for a year and by putting it up here and now in this form, I ensure that I will come back to fix it and it will not just be another one of my rants that fizzles out due to dinner or laundry or homework needs and sits in the nowhere land of "My Documents."
It is not a how-to in any form nor is it explicit. It's just my thoughts. I'd advise against reading it quite honestly. But I'm the one that has put it out for the world to see. Go figure.
It’s taken me a year but now, on the first anniversary of her birth, I am finally sitting down to write Willa’s birth story. Because of the tardiness this reminiscence, I’m sure I will miss some of the finer details, but I always have David. For example, I just consulted him and he said of that early Monday morning 365 days ago, “You had her and I said, ‘This is our last.’” To which I said “What!?” As if to say, “That’s it? I had a baby, no big deal, and then you laid down the law. That’s what you remember?” But he mistook my “What!?” to mean “I don’t remember having a baby or you saying that maybe this should be the last.” So he replied, “Yeah, don’t you remember how much you screamed?” Hard to forget my love, hard to forget.
So with David’s version covered, here’s what I remember. I remember going to church on Sunday as big as a house and feeling like I’d been pushing that house uphill for a mile. I was exhausted but in all other respects fine. It wasn’t until after David left for a meeting and I was finally sitting down to a snack that I felt it. One moment I’m enjoying a little nibble of something and then the next I wonder if my water just broke or if I had soiled myself. By shifting in my seat a little and feeling the rush again, I realized that, yes, this was happening! And if it was happening than I’d better get that car seat cleaned NOW. They don’t let you take a baby home without a car seat and the one we had was gross with former baby stains. Cleaning the seat had been on my to-do list for weeks, but I never found the strength to do it. That oft spoken of “burst of energy” which comes right before labor is a hit and miss myth. It missed me.
After cleaning the seat, I’m sure I checked the hospital bags, and I know that I got dinner on the table. Then I waited for David to come home. I wasn’t ready for the hospital but because I’d never had my water break all by itself, I called our Doula. Emily Rumsey—best Doula on the planet—told me to call the hospital, and then call her back. From my prior birth experiences, I knew that I’d be in labor for some time and I didn’t want to go to the hospital yet. But it was getting late, and if I didn’t call for the babysitter for the other kids now, then I would either have wake them up at midnight or wait for the morning. So I called the hospital and the hospital told us to come in. So I called Emily back. Then I called our babysitters to come and help--which was a shock for them because I’d just asked them earlier that day and assured them that it wouldn’t be for another week yet. There is a lot of calling involved in child birth.
From that point on it was nothing but work. We checked in at the hospital and did all the things that you have to do before they’ll give you a room. You see, they don’t just give a room to any ol’ pregnant lady claiming to be in labor. You’ve got to pass a test. In all my labors, I’ve only failed the test once (fortunately, I passed it later on retest). I passed this one with flying colors.
We were given and room and the nurse put in that horrible, intolerable, STUPID, “just-in-case” needle in my hand. I detest those things. They always try to put it in and they always hurt me. No matter the nurse, no matter the many or few years that that said nurse has been putting needles into women, I always get poked multiple times and it never feels right. Even in the deepest part of labor when my insides were being ripped up and pulled out, I could still feel the pain in my hand from that vile needle. They are hateful things!
Thankfully, not long after Emily showed up. And, as I wasn’t feeling many contractions, just slight pains hardening my belly, we thought some walking might get things moving. We went up and down the halls and stairs. Yep, stairs. I trudged up several flights of stairs and toddled the halls that surrounded them over and over. It was nice to talk with Emily but it didn’t seem like it was getting me any where labor wise.
(This is just a quick time out and talk about our Doula, Emily. I have never had a doula before Willa’s birth, but I knew I wanted one after Calvin’s birth. A doula is like a trained labor coach. She, usually she, has tricks and training to help laboring couples. Wonderful things that you agree on before hand, like music, and smells, and counter pressure massages. She and David worked as a team to help me. The main reason I asked Emily to be there was to help me make decisions (I’m horrible with split second and in-pain decisions) and to communicate those decisions to the powers that be (the nurses, doctors, and aides.) Emily did much more than that. She was a calm and constant voice. The nurses and doctors come and go with the clock and each one has their own opinion of how you ought to have a baby and each one has more than one patient. Emily was there for us, only us, and knew how we wanted to have a baby. I can't recommend a doula enough. I wished I'd had one for each of my births.)
So, when we realized that the labor pains weren’t getting any more intense, we went back to the labor and delivery room to speak with the midwife. She said that she could break my other bag of water and that might get things going. Until then, I didn’t know there was more than one bag of water to break. But there is and I felt it break with that plastic hook-on-a-stick thing that they shove up there. And it worked. And I soon began to feel real contractions.
I labored a bit through them while David and I discussed what we should name our baby when she came. This discussion lasted until the pain got a bit more intense and I asked to get into the tub. The tub was nice. The contractions came but the water and the help from Emily, David, and the midwife were enough to help me through them. However, at some point, the midwife made me get out of the tub to check on things. Hospital staff is always checking on things. And when they do they say very discouraging things like, “You haven’t progressed” or worse, “Looks like this baby could come any moment” hour after endless hour.
The latter is what they told me so I could not get back into the tub. But nothing happened. Or at least no baby came. There was lots of pain, so much so that I began asking for help. Going into this labor I knew that an epidural was the drug of last resort. I had an epidural with Enoch that did not work. It made his birth so much more painful. But I wasn’t taking all drugs off the table. And the epidural with Calvin did work; I just had to threaten to dismember that pretty little young nurse, her family, and everyone she had ever loved to get an epidural at that late stage of labor. For hours she had been saying I couldn't get pain medications; it wasn't until I was at 9 cm out of 10 that she mentioned that an epidural was a possibility.
So with Willa I had a couple of choices. I chose to go without labor hastening drugs which would have led to an epidural and went with something that was the medicinal equivalent to a beer. It was mighty fine stuff. It allowed me to nap, and gave me the option to get an epidural later if I wanted it.
Then at some point in here the labor pains started to really hurt. All that other hurt I was going through was just the precursor to the pain that came. David and Emily and I tried all sorts of different positions and massages and techniques that had worked before but they lost effectiveness. So we tried the shower. It worked. Emily and David both took a side (of me) and started pouring warm water on my tortured midsection. I don’t remember much of this or how long it took. I was totally in my own world of pain and progression. I imagine I felt, looked, and required the same amount of effort to maintain that a beached whale does. Somewhere during “the longest shower of my life” I started rocking and moaning at the pre-pain pain and screaming from the bottom of my twisted guts to the top of my lungs at the pain pain part until I reached the post-pain pain where I would moan and rock again. When there was no longer any time between the pre-pain pain or post-pain pain and it was all just PAIN I told everyone I was done. Whatever “done” meant I was ready for the next step, epidural, death, bring it! Fortunately, the next step was pushing. I staggered to the bed and laid down half on my side, half sitting. The weirdest delivery position other than maybe delivering on your head I’m sure, but it’s how I fell onto the bed and I wasn’t moving until I got my baby.
Pushing was easy comparatively, the excitement of seeing my baby, finally, sustains me. That and, I must have “child bearing hips” because Willa entered this world only about 5 minutes after I started pushing and she was beautiful! I am so amazed at how the pain and hurt and torture of the last 9 months suddenly becomes trivial because you have a baby! A real live human being to hold in your arms. It was so worth it, despite what David claims to have said.
The rest was all about stitches, and feeding, and holding, and cleaning and blessedly, convincing the nurse that she could take that needle out of my hand and I wouldn’t sue her or the hospital if something catastrophic happened because it wasn’t there. David and I just sat there and loved our baby while Emily congratulated us, cleaned up and took pictures, she’s a photographer too. Eventually, we chose Willa over Chloe, Nora, Ruth, Matilda (would've been Tillie), Alice, and Mindwell (family name). And we brought her home on a cold February day in a clean car seat. We are so happy she came.