August 23, 2014
The last days of pregnancy I felt full. As the moon was waxing, my feet, ankles, and lower legs were swelling. Everyone was calling, adding a sense of tension that the baby “was late.” Then, in the last week, my pressure went up to high readings. My midwives were worried that I would surpass the limit in which they could assist a home birth. The clock was also ticking as I was now approaching 42 weeks at which point, I would have to go to the hospital.
Sunday August 10th was full moon. All day Saturday I felt irregular contractions, with many other signs that pointed toward labor. But as Sunday came, all the symptoms subsided and that night, although I thought the baby would come summoned by the moon tide, we slept more soundly than we had in days. This was a restful preparation for what was to come, but I did not suspect it at the time, and I woke up disappointed.
Monday evening we were scheduled to see our midwives to place a balloon catheter in my cervix, which was to aid dilation. However, the first thing they did was measure my blood pressure. It was higher than expected, and they told me I could not be in their care anymore as I was at risk now. They suggested I go to the hospital that night. Lynn called UW Hospital. But they had no bed for me. The full moon, and barometric changes were causing many women to give birth all at once.
It had gotten colder and a storm was on its way. As we drove home, I was surprised by how calm I was despite the turn of events. On the highway it started to pour. We made the necessary phone calls, prepared things, and set off to Swedish Hospital. I realized later the turn of fate was putting me in confrontation with my worst fear: to go to the hospital, and the one with the highest C-section rate in Seattle.
We checked into Labor and Delivery, met at triage by a nice nurse who was also very respectful and knew Lynn (her sister dates Lynn’s son Morgan). They began running tests. They found a high protein content in my urine, my pressure still high, and various values off like creatinine and kidney function.
We waited for a while. It was past 11pm by now. Dr. Eggers came in. He was a bear, burly and arrogant from the start. He told me he did not want to release me. (I wanted to go home and try to sleep; in the event labor were to start I wanted to be rested). He said, “you have the disease” (pre-eclampsia), and I should stay there. The baby was overdue, and the sooner I delivered it, the sooner symptoms of pre-eclampsia would disappear. I was a bit scared to start an “induction” program, but I consented to stay there and follow through, especially when I heard that, if we returned in the morning, they would have to start the tests all over again.
We were finally given a room around 1am, and at 3am the balloon catheter was placed. It was supposed to help dilate my cervix. It was to stay in for 12 hours. In that time I was monitored hourly for blood pressure and blood draws. I didn’t get any sleep, and felt agitated. Around 3pm the next day (August 12th) the catheter was removed and we found out I hadn’t dilated much beyond 2cm. I became very discouraged and started crying, feeling my body was letting me down. With all the hospital testing, I felt things were being “done to me” rather than being allowed to happen. Also, it did not help that we suddenly had a nurse who from the start misunderstood my situation (she thought my back was fused from C2-L2!!) She was arrogant, and couldn’t remember what was taking place.
At this point a synthetic prostaglandin called misoprostol was placed in my cervix. It was to act in 4 hours, or another would be placed to ripen the cervix. It was now around 7-8pm. Lilly had just brought us some food delicious Thai food. I realized I was feeling down. But as I checked in with myself I realized I was still in charge. This was not the birthplace I had been visualizing for nine months, nor by far the kind of birth that the calm, secluded ambiance of a home setting could provide. But we still could have a beautiful, and safe, outcome without much interference and medication. This made me happy. I told Josh we should try to have fun in this time. I wanted to dance.
The first “miso” (as they called it…which made me think of soup) didn’t dilate my cervix much further at all. So, around 8-9pm a 2nd one was inserted. Then, with a (great) new nurse, Caitlyn, who understood our need for sleep, we were finally left alone with a “do not disturb” sign on the door.
Around this time I received reassurance from my close circle of women friends. The message was that they had faith in me and were with me in prayer. I called my mother to comfort and reassure her that I was ok. Then Janis sent a message asking me to join her in a meditation on the opening of a blossom and to think of my poem “In Love.” I pictured being in love with my baby, being in love with my body and having not only trust, but faith that I could do this. I drifted off into sleep invoking higher powers to preside over me. I also visualized in my mind the image of a lily bud, soft pink and veined with green on the outside, slowly opening to show its speckled pink inside. As it unfolded it became. It yielded an open blossom. It shed its interior beauty to the world. I drifted off into the waves of sleep.
I woke up at 1am feeling darkness around me. The beeping machines. The beating of my own heart. And a sudden strong pain piercing through me that came and went. I suddenly heard, or felt, a pop from within and a gush of wetness pouring down. I stood up quickly thinking I had peed, and realized the water was not stopping. My water had broken. The pain was now much more intense. The nurse came in, and at the same time Josh was up. Everyone was suddenly aware that my contractions were coming strongly and regularly every 2 minutes. I got down on all fours on the floor with towels under my knees that Josh helped me place, while he called Lilly and my doula, Dolly.
As the rushes came, my body knew what to do. It took over while my mind slipped into the background. I was breathing rhythmically, low and hard into the wave rising within me. As I felt it surge, I rode on it like a surfboard, letting it peel and soar. Then I rested for what seemed split seconds, before the next one started.
Josh was at my side, breathing with me, holding me, giving me fresh water and coconut water, caressing, massaging, and giving me love. Soon Lilly and Dolly arrived. I remember Dolly complimenting me.
They were all there with me. Partaking of the waves of my emotions, with the exception that, being nighttime they were tired, while I was wide awake. I was riding high in the throes of adrenaline, altered by the indescribable sensations. As I continued, each surge came as a wave of unwavering force, taking over my whole body, making thinking impossible. The only thing to do seemed to release into it with low toned breath, allowing myself to be at one with the energy.
I remember spending most of the time on all fours. Between the surges, what seemed like seconds of respite would come. During that time, it felt so calm and blissful that I forgot about the pain. Only to feel the distant hint coming on, a reminder for which I prepared for by renewing the breathing deep into my belly.
I soon went in the tub. I had the belly band on that held the monitor in place. The water was warm and felt good. The contractions were so strong I almost couldn’t speak. I only emitted grunt-like orders: “Lilly, coconut water…“
We were well into the night. Either Lilly or Dolly went to get coffee. I never saw the cups, but could smell the pungent bitterness on their breath, and didn’t like it. It distracted me. I could also distinctly detect each of their breaths. For one moment I imagined crying out loud that I didn’t like the coffee smell and that they should brush their teeth too. But then I was able to bring my mind back to focus on what was taking place, so holy, within me.
When the nurse checked me what seemed minutes, or years later, I was 5cm dilated. I was disappointed, and blurted “Only?” Dolly told me not to do math around this. At 6am and 6cm I started having the absolutely irrepressible urge to push. It was completely impossible to resist, yet the hospital nurse was telling me not to! I felt like cursing at her.
Dolly suggested we change scenery and walk in the hall. In a spurt of humor I told them they weren’t very nudity-friendly around there, and Dolly said “let’s give them a show!” We all laughed. It was harder than hard not to push. Even in the hall, standing up, I was getting the urge. Dolly said the only antidote she knew was an epidural, but that would also delay the process. She wondered whether I was tired enough that I would welcome the possibility to sleep for a few hours. She asked whether I thought I had three more hours in me. I think it was around 9AM. I had been at it since 2 AM. I didn’t know. I started to waiver and felt I couldn’t do it. Dolly recommended I go back in the tub. I felt so tired. I was falling asleep in the seconds between my furious contractions. Dolly again said it was time to have a conversation about epidural or perhaps narcotics. I said I was fed up. I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. I got out of the tub impatiently and Dolly asked if I wanted to be checked again. I was, and I was now miraculously at 9.5cm! So close to pushing that the nurse from Swedish said she didn’t recommend pain meds now. Two contractions and you’ll be at pushing, she said.
I was on all fours again and then sitting on the bed using the mattress to counterbalance my desire to bear down, with Josh holding my arms while I swung back, going through the surging pain. Suddenly they said the baby’s head was crowning. They all said I could now push. With enthusiasm they said I could give it all I had. I remember feeling tired, and also elated, but wondering whether I had it in me to go any further. I focused and began to push. Bearing down, screaming high pitched and strong, then low in my gut, pushing, heaving from deep down within.
Suddenly there were more people in the room. The OB, Dr. Eggers, was putting on a blue suit with head and mouthpiece. The thought that he looked like he was getting ready to set off into space flitted across my mind. Again the humor. There was mention of squatting. I turned around and a bar was placed on the bed that I could hold onto while squatting. However Dr. Eggers had other plans. He asked me to lie down on my back. He said “we Americans are not a squatting people, like the Orientals.” Even in my altered labor state, I remember thinking it was appalling he just said that. I didn’t have it in me to show him what I was capable of. I saved my belligerence for pushing out my baby rather than arguing with his arrogance. I curled my spine in a C-shape, against multiple recommendations to not compress the fused bones in my back from other doctors. In the midst of all this, I suddenly became aware of panic, and a beeping sound in the room. My pressure had skyrocketed to 220/180. Fear around me was tangible. I was told I would be given a pressure lowering medication intravenously to avert a stroke.
I was urged to “push, push, push” repeatedly by both the doctor and the nurse. It seemed I wasn’t acting fast enough and they were worried. But I felt with the pause between each push the baby sliding further down and out from me. Dolly whispered in my ear that the baby would come anyway, whether I pushed that fast or not. I remember that made me smile, and it resonated with what I already felt inside. She and I knew the female body, and were letting mine be in control, while all around me, the doctors and new nurse were spurred by fear that something would go wrong.
I now felt the baby gliding down and I took my time for the next push. They put up a mirror at the foot of my legs. I started to see her head coming out while my vagina stretched unseemingly wide and a circle of fire spread through my perineum. The head just kept getting bigger. For a few minutes it was as though time stopped. Then the head slid out, enormous, followed by the whole slippery baby. I heard movement, talking, and then the baby’s cry sharp and distinct.
I closed my eyes and lay back, catching my breath. I had done it. I was a mama. Dr Eggers clamped the cord immediately, despite our request not to. Next he was on to getting my placenta out. He said it was stuck to the uterine wall, and he was working on it. I asked if he wanted me to push it out, but he said he had it.
They passed me my beautiful baby girl. She was large, perfect. Her closed eyes and features were so peaceful. Her skin was pink despite her trajectory into this world. She felt very heavy to my tired limbs. I was told she weighed 10lbs 4.6 oz. It was 10:10AM.