By Jeni Davis
At that point I called Merrill and suggested that she start preparing to head to our house. I spent the next 30 minutes in the bath with Jeremy sitting on the floor holding my hand. When Merrill arrived, my contractions were coming consistently every 5 minutes. I was still able to talk in between each one and they weren’t too painful. She suggested that I try a different sitting position and guided Jeremy in doing counter pressure on my back. Out of her bag of goodies come the rice pack and aromatherapy. Once she has that prepared, Jeremy uses it on my back while she sits at my head holding my hand and helping me to breathe through each contraction. Within 45 minutes I decide that we need to leave for the hospital. My contractions had suddenly become more painful and were coming every 3 minutes. I could see the look on Jeremy and Merrill’s faces. They were anxious to go too. I was very freaked out about having my water break at home or in the car. All the stories I had read about women suddenly having their baby at home or in the car flashed through my head and I did NOT want to be one of those people. I wanted to be in the hospital with trained medical personnel.
It only took us 15-20 minutes to get to the hospital but it felt like forever. I couldn’t get comfortable in the car and at one point I was hitting the ceiling with my fist and begging the other cars to get out of our way. Thankfully, the hospital has valet parking so once we arrived all we had to do was hand over our keys and get on the elevator. We arrived at the triage desk at 4:30 and begin to sign all the consent forms. It only took 5 minutes and just as I signed the last form my water broke. I had been worried that I wouldn’t know when it happened but it was just like everyone had described it. I felt a little pop and then everything was wet.
We moved into the triage room where the nurse checked me and began to monitor the baby. I was 4 cm dilated, 80% effaced and baby was at 0 station. My memories of triage are spotty. I remember Jeremy helping me out of my wet clothes and into a gown but then nothing until I was getting ready to be moved to my L&D room. I stood by the bed as a contraction hit and suddenly I had to throw up. I HATE throwing up. I knew that some women got sick during labor but for some reason it took me by surprise. When I was ready to change rooms, they asked me if I wanted to walk or if I wanted a wheelchair. With the very uncomfortable memory of the car ride still in my mind, I said I wanted to walk. I absolutely didn’t want to sit still.
By 5:45 we were in the delivery room and I was able to get into the tub. We had forgotten to call ahead and were lucky that there was a tub room available. The water felt so good but the contractions were coming back to back with almost no break. It only took a few before I felt the need to push. I was checked at 6:00 and had progressed to 7/8 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I had to fight the urge to push. I’ve never wanted anything more than I wanted to push and fighting that was, I think, the hardest part of the whole delivery. I was scared. This feeling was so powerful and I felt so small and unable to do anything. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Merrill suggested that I do “horse lips” to keep from pushing. At the time, I thought that was the absolute dumbest thing I had ever heard. Here I was trying NOT to push out a baby and you want me to blow horse lips?! How could I possibly concentrate on doing that when these contractions are coming so fast and strong? But as usual, she was right. Shifting my focus to my lips and breathing took my mind off my need to push. It only lasted for 2 contractions before the midwife said I could get out of the tub and into the bed.
All of that took 9 minutes but felt like hours. Once I was in the bed, I was fully dilated and allowed to start pushing. I thought that turning around and leaning on the back of the bed would be a good position because I would be able to hang on and rest against it. After 16 minutes of pushing we realized that position wasn’t working. I turned around and had the squat bar attached to the end of the bed so that I could hold it while pushing. That angle definitely helped move the baby down but after 9 minutes I could hardly stay upright anymore so the midwife wrapped a sheet around the bar for me to pull against.
I was getting so tired. Jeremy was having to push me up from behind because I had barely enough strength to hold myself. I’ve never had good upper body strength and I had reached my limit. I got scared again. The contractions were coming one after the other, pain on top of pain and all I wanted to do was relax but there was no time. Everyone was telling me to take one breath and push again but I couldn’t. I could feel my lungs getting tight and I had to fight to keep the panic away. The last thing I needed was to have an asthma attack, but I needed air and couldn’t seem to get enough. All I could do was take short, shallow breaths and hope it was enough.
Finally I could feel it, what everyone called “the ring of fire”, and I knew that meant he was close. I knew I didn’t have much left in me but I gathered all my energy together like a ball and pushed as hard as I could. I have always been afraid of pain, and right then I was very afraid but I knew that if I focused on the pain I would never get him out and I couldn’t go through this again. With that one push his head came out and the rest was easy. Before I had time to think, his body just slid out and they were laying a screaming baby on my stomach.
He was so tiny and perfect. Jeremy and I held hands and just stared at him. We were doing delayed cord clamping so we just stayed there, our new family of 3, for 10 minutes until Jeremy cut the cord. I was having a lot of bleeding so Jeremy took Noah for some skin to skin bonding. I didn’t think anything of the bleeding until I looked down and saw the midwifes red gloves. I had a moment where I thought I was going to die, leaving Jeremy to raise our son alone, but then Merrill leaned over and whispered in my ear that she had the same problems. I knew if she was ok then I would be too. I was given a shot of Pitocin and had internal compression to help my uterus contract. After 15 minutes the bleeding had stopped and they were able to start the “repairs”. I had a 2nd degree tear and some shallow lacerations that needed stitches. I didn’t even feel the tear when it happened. The whole time they worked on me I talked to Merrill and my mom while Jeremy stayed with Noah. Then it was all done and they gave him back to me. He was beautiful with big wide open eyes just taking everything in. He took to nursing like a champ. In fact he was so into it we had to stop him after 20 minutes so we could move into our recovery room!
Our sweet boy was born at 7:17 pm on July 24th, just 2 hours and 47 minutes after we checked in to the hospital. He was 6 lbs 14 oz and 19.5 inches long.
We’ve been parents now for a few months and when I look back on that day a few things really stick out…I love that we decided not to have people at the house while we were waiting on my labor to progress. My most cherished memory of the whole experience is when I was at home, in the tub and Jeremy was sitting on the floor next to me holding my hand. It was the last time that we were the only two people in the house. When I got out, Merrill arrived and the dynamic was suddenly different. I was surprised at how powerful the contractions were at the hospital. When they were coming back to back to back with no break, I couldn’t believe how strong they were and how difficult it was to even think. The one thing that I was really impressed with was my medical team. Since I delivered during shift change I had 2 different midwives and 2 nurses. Each woman was wonderful and really worked to make me feel comfortable and safe. The recovery nurses and baby nurses I had were so attentive and never made me feel like I was bothering them when I needed things. In fact, they were always asking if they could do more for me. I knew early on that I was hoping to use Merrill as our doula but a small part of me was always wondering how much of a difference she would really make. I know now that having her there made all the difference. She was such a calming presence throughout the whole day. Without her skills and encouragement I’m not sure that we would have been able to make it through the med-free birth we had planned. She did an amazing job not just supporting me but also my husband. She made sure that he felt confident in his strength and ability to help me in any way. I will never think of my son’s birth without thinking of Merrill. She will forever be a part of our family because she gave so much of herself.