2:55 am, February 15 I woke to a gush. Three days past my due date, my water broke. I was terrified and exhilarated all at once. I hobbled to the bathroom for a gigantic pad and sat wondering if I should wake up Jared? Call the midwife? Or wait for contractions before waking everyone up at this unholy hour. It took me about 2 minutes before I decided I had to tell SOMEONE. I called the midwife and she told me to keep her posted, but until my contractions started and were regular I should try and get some sleep. Jared was next. It took a few moments to hit him, and we both lay back down to try and rest. I knew I would never fall asleep so I asked him for a blessing. I felt like I was 10 years old the night before a trip to Disney, jittery with nerves and excitement, all while uncontrollably peeing my pants. I laid awake for another hour and a half before getting up and going into the nursery. Being in the baby’s room calmed me down a little, and I felt a few aches in my low belly. I texted a few friends and relatives, letting them know what was going on, and finally fell asleep for three hours wondering whether my baby would be a girl or a boy and if I was actually ready for this.
I woke up to a steady stream of text messages- and no contractions.
Ten a.m. rolled around and my midwife called to check in. She asked me to come into the birth center to be checked and to discuss my options. Jared and I drove into Riverside and stopped for a bagel. We took a few laps around Riverside Park. The day was gorgeous. It reminded us of the day after we were married when we took the same walk around the park. We watched some tightrope walkers balance just a few feet off the ground and a bunch of kids and dogs run around in the field. Shea, my midwife, asked us to pick up some castor oil and we dutifully did so, then headed in. I was dilated to 3 and almost completely effaced, but the contractions just weren’t coming. A first time mom whose water breaks first often has this problem, she said. The text messages asking where our baby was kept rolling in and a castor oil shot with a milkshake chaser came next. We stopped for some lunch and about an hour later the castor oil hit me. Oh did it hit me. Seriously, only do that if you are in the direst of circumstance. We watched Princess Bride, I felt at some point that I myself was hooked up to that life draining machine, I tried (and failed) to nap, I bargained with every known God from my seat in the bathroom, and yet still no contractions.
Shea checked in and asked me to bring out the big guns- the breast pump. Of course it was still boxed up, unused but we had to give it a go. As I struggled to put the pieces together I started to cry. Would this baby ever come? At this point I was doubtful. Jared pulled up a YouTube video, we finished putting the pump together and I gave it a go. After about 30 minutes, a contraction! Pump, pump, pump – another. Now we were getting somewhere. For the next few hours my contractions came steadily. Jared checked in with his Bradley book and helped me try and relax through each one. At this point I was exhausted. I was running on fumes and still running to the bathroom every half hour or so. The text messages where’s the baby where’s the baby kept coming- I cursed them all. Jared and I walked down to the park and did a few laps. Each contraction felt so satisfying. We got back home and I began to fade. I was falling asleep and the contractions were slowing down. I sent Jared to bed, and I labored for a while on my own, falling asleep on the couch, waking up to contractions every few minutes. At 3 am Shea called us back to the birth center and checked me again. I had made some progress, so she sent us back home hopeful but we had a deadline now- I had to keep progressing or I would need to transfer to a hospital where they would give me Pitocin and get this show on the road.
A few people told me, as I approached and then passed my due date, that I wasn’t miserable enough. That’s why the baby hadn’t come yet. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, and I felt at peace with going over my due date. But this was misery. This labor limbo was misery. I was afraid of the Pitocin. I knew it would jeopardize the natural birth I was striving for. I was afraid of infection now that my water was broken. I was exhausted. I was still pregnant. I was pooping my brains out thanks to the castor oil. When we got home, Jared and I kneeled down and I prayed. I prayed for the safety of my baby, for peace of mind, and for some kind of miracle to get this thing going. I decided to pump again, as morning rolled around again. And this time it worked.
Jared and I headed back into the birth center, getting there at 11 am. These contractions were different. They were deeply intense and I had to stop and rest while walking in from the car. Shea was satisfied that I was finally out of the woods and on my way to having this baby. Give me two hours of strong steady contractions she said and you can get in the tub. Jared and I were laser focused now. I had to pace the room or sit in a firm chair between contractions. When one would start, Jared would hold me up in a slow dance, rocking me through and rubbing my back. It didn’t make the pain go away but it gave me such comfort just to be there in the crook of his neck as he reminded me to let the tension go. The time seemed to fly and to stretch. I have never felt so focused in my life. Finally, I climbed into the warm tub and floated there. Relaxation was instant and savored the weightlessness that made my contractions just a fraction more bearable.
About 30 minutes after getting into the tub my contractions intensified. I felt an insane amount of pressure and I felt my focus fracture. I felt feral. My body writhed with the contractions and all I could think of was running away. Running away from my body, from Jared, from the pain. But I couldn’t. There was a sign on the wall above my tub. You Are Brave. I stared at that sign and chanted it over and over in my head. Jared was being so sweet and handing me cold washcloths for my face and neck, and I wanted to kill him when he handed them to me all wadded up. PLEASE FOLD THEM FLAT PLEASE. The washcloth incident finally clicked in with my psycho brain that I was in transition. I remember telling Jared it was so hard and I couldn’t do it before my midwife came in to check on me. She told me as soon as I was feeling heavy pressure even between contractions she would check me. That was now I told her—right now. As I got out of the tub and walked to the bed, I knew this had to be it. And it was. I was at 9.5, so close. I got back into the tub and I couldn’t help myself, my body was pushing this baby out.
Shea had me swivel my body towards her and brace my legs against the side of the tub. I pushed hard during my contractions, and felt them change. There were wide expanses between each one. Later Shea would tell me I was falling asleep between each one, but really I was just deep inside myself. I could feel my breathing, and I thanked my body and God for letting me rest. Everyone kept telling me what a great job I was doing and how I was almost there. I reached down and felt the baby’s soft head. It was unreal. I pushed and pushed but that head didn’t seem to move. I wanted my baby! After about 40 minutes of pushing I gave it one more insane push and a scream and felt the baby slip out all at once- from crowning to birth in one push. Jared says he remembers it in slow motion - all of a sudden there was a baby floating in the water. 1:55 pm.
She handed my my bright eyed baby. It’s a boy! No It’s a girl! Sorry Echo, but you were a bit swollen down there! My girls eyes were wide open and her little tongue was going crazy. She barely cried. They tickled her back and she squawked a bit more. She had come out forehead first- occiput posterior, and I had pushed her out anyway. Head covered in black hair, gorgeous beyond belief even with a nice lump on her forehead from being squeezed. Jared cut her cord, and then held her while the midwives took care of me. 6 lbs 4 oz of pure joy. Echo Marie, you were so worth it.