A Birth Story
Brirthing Zoë. Many people have asked me to tell the story. Some expect a tale of agony and negativity, others expect a retelling play by play of a 'movie' scene.
I have neither.
What I do have, is a marathon experience I will never forget.
Birthing Zoë was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had and I know, if given the opportunity to bring another life into this world I will do it again in a heartbeat.
It started between 10:00 - 11:00pm. My husband, Jeremy and I were soaking the bathtub (something I highly recommend to all pregnant women and couples in general) when I began feeling what were the beginning of contractions. They were mild and could only be explained as cramps at that point in time, but they felt oddly more patterned than the cramps I was experiencing off and on the past two to three weeks.
"I'll time them to see if they are the real thing." Jeremy said, urging me to tell him when I felt something.
"Now." I replied when I felt a slight cramp.
"It's gone." I would reply when it had ended.
This went on for a while when we realized, that if this indeed was the real thing, we needed to get as much sleep as possible.
Of course, I didn't get sleep after that, but after a call at around 1am to our Doula, Jeremy was able to sleep for the next almost two hours while I worked through the rest of the mild contractions.
They progressed for the next few hours from mild to moderatly strong. I went from laying beside Jeremy with phone in hand going through pinterest and saving motivational birth quotes to my camera roll and as phone wallpaper to motivate me, to getting out of bed and breathing through more powerful contractions that made me sway with the intensity.
Are they painful? So many people have asked.
What is pain? Is all I can respond with. When your body is doing something right, do we feel it as pain? Pain is what our brains tell us it is. I chose to see these powerful surges as ocean waves my body was experiencing to bring this baby down and into my arms. I am not sure that I remember feeling 'pain', but I remember thinking "THIS IS INTENSE!"
Intense it is and intense it was.
Between 3 and 4am I woke Jeremy up and told him it was time to be awake and help bring our bags to the car. I was going to stay in the shower. I let my body expierence the surges get stronger and stronger in the shower until the inevitable for me. I began to transition from contractions that were 7-9 minutes apart to contractions 4-6 minutes apart and I vomitted my dinner as the water poured over my body. I turned off the shower, giving up on that kind of relaxation teqnique.
Between 4am- 5am our Doula arrived and the contractions were now 4-5 minutes apart. We moved to the bathroom where she helped get my yoga mat and exercise ball in place for me to kneel and have support.
By 6-7am we made the transition to the hospital where my contractions were then a consistent 1-2 minutes apart. The registration office tried to downplay my need to be seen right away, but it became obvious very quickly that 'first baby' or not, I was in very active labour. The transition from seeing the nurse in registration to being seen upstairs on the labour floor did take more time than I was in the mood for, but I stayed focus on the waves and laughed when I was asked to lay down so they could check my cervix.
"Your kidding!?" I remember saying after another wave subsided and another began. I did get on the bed, and she did check my cervix. All the while, I was telling myself that labour can take days for some people and that I needed to not care about numbers, time, or how fast things were progressing. I needed to stay present. That was my only job.
Stay present and strong.
"You are six centemters." She said.
I tried not to let that number excite me, but I do remember giving myself a mental high five and inward dance.
From there, they transferred me to our room and again, I inwardly laughed when the nurse pointed at the bed.
"In what world does that look comfortable?" I said to myself with inward snark. "But this looks great." I walked towards a huge garbage can and vomitted again. It felt good to know I was transitioning from stage to stage well.
"Tub." is what I remember saying to my doula and Jeremy. And there I stayed in the tub on all fours, on my side and sitting holding onto a bar.
I didn't say much out loud, or make noises. Noise bothered me, and probably because I had so much going on in my head. Inside I was talking a mile a minute to myself.
I said things like
"I am going to do this and be amazing."
"This could take more than twenty four hours. Don't have expectations, just do this."
"These are the precious moments our lives are made of."
And I had endless lyrics and beats filtering through my mind as well:
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller ...."
"One jump ahead of the breadline ....I steal only what I can't afford, and thats everything....Riffraff street rat, I don't buy that..."
In some ways it felt like time had stopped. In others it felt like time flew by fast and before I knew it I was on all fours in the tub, with all kinds of things floating along with me. Jeremy wasn't phased by what my body was shedding. Blood, poop, membranes... it was all apart of the process and as I glanced at the floaters I remember thinking
"This is the real *shit* right here. This labour thing, it's more real than any poop I've ever had."
Before I knew it my body was pushing. What they don't tell you about pushing, is that it really isn't an option. Like a sneeze, or vomiting, it is a neccessary action your body doesn't give you a choice on. Nobody tells animals when to push, and I guess thats why I accepted the pushing when it came.
"Trust in God, and trust your body." Our doula whispered in my ear when the pushing began.
I could feel Zoë's head in my pelvis and I thought she was going to come out right then. The nurse and doctors had no idea how far along this was until finally they checked and I could hear the bustling began. Jeremy and the nurse lifted me out of the tub and onto the bed. It was an unfortanate positioning that I got stuck in. I couldn't get my body to change positions after she entered my pelvis so on my back I was.
There I pushed for almost an hour, and to some that might seem exaushting. But this was my favourite part. I felt like I was in the biggest workout session of my life. Every push felt so rewarding and full of a rush I cannot explain.
If it were not for the membrane still over her head, she would have been out in no time, but of course, Zoë and I couldn't make it too easy for everyone. With every push she would come farther out but get sucked back in because of the pressure of the membrane. And I knew this because the Doctor, who was Katherine Heigals doppelgänger, was explaining all of this to her resident.
"I AM IN A GREYS ANATOMY EPISODE!!!!!!!! THIS IS TOO COOL!" I said to myself, and only hoped Jeremy was thinking the same thing. "Too bad theres not brain surgeon needed... maybe he would look like Patrick Dempsy."
Needless to say, at 11:53 I gave that final push that felt like all my intestines were falling out of my body, but was actually all of Zoë and her umbilical cord. I was grappling for her as she layed on my lower abdomen. She wasn't yet cut from me, yet I wanted her as close to my face as I could get her. She was so strong, so beauitful and utterly captivating. I didn't check to see if she was a girl, because I already knew. Mothers just know these things.
We snuggled and cuddled and the bonding process began. I had always read about skin on skin bonding, how it has saved babies and moms lives just by doing it. How it regulates both baby and mom, but it wasn't until Zoë was born that I truly understood how important. This was essential to us and it was magical.
There I was completely naked as I was when I was born and there she was herself, just as she is.
We were the most raw of ourselves.
It wasn't long after she was born that I began to talk everyones ear off. Zoë was a strong little girl who was already lifting her head, climbing to the breast and feeding off me as if it was her last meal. It was the her first of many.
After a half hour without the placenta coming out naturally Dr. Katherine Heigal look alike told me she might have to think about giving me the pitocin shot to hurry things along. I made a face, let another mild contraction wave build and pushed, letting the placenta fall out of me.
"You mean all I had to do was ask?" She laughed.
"Pretty much." I smirked, enjoying the high natural labour was giving me.
And that is where the problems arose.
Due to the tears and extra membranes still inside me, my bleeding seemed abnormal and strange. It was confusing to them as they inspected my placenta and saw it all intact yet still found membranes.
They rolled my stomach like bread dough and Zoë still resting and nursing on my chest heard her mamas first yells.
Labour was nothing. Contractions and pushing was nothing that needed to be yelled about. Just deep breathing and concentration.
When your stomach is being rolled out like dough to find if there is more blood to come out, that, my friend is the real unexpected painful moment.
All in all, it didnt last long, we made the decision to give me the pitocin my body needed to stop the bleeding and although they had to stitch me up, I was still in a very good mood and place.
"You've had such a good birth, I am really sorry we had to do this." Dr. Heigal said to me as she watched her intern stitch me up.
"Oh it's okay! It's probably a good thing you look like Katherine Heigal though." I teased.
"YES! THANK-YOU!" Jeremy exclaimed. "I've been thinking that the whole time."
The room burst with laughter and I held Zoë tighter as they finished their work.
Once they were finished, the nurse helped me get up to shower. The first time since she was conceived that I was separated from Zoë. I missed her already. I felt unsteady but strong. Like a warrior and I looked at the key around my wrist. I felt like I lived up to the word and was determined to continue that journey as I recovered with my daughter.
Settling back into the bed with sore lady places I took my halter top down and placed my daughter back onto my skin.
And I ate and ate and ate.
I have never had as much food as I did that day and the next three days.
I downed protien drinks, oatmeal, prunes, fruit bars, cookies and more.
Once in our room Jeremy asked me what I wanted for dinner and a quick glance at the menu said it all.
"Waffle breakfast for dinner please!" I grinned up at him with our daughter asleep in my arms.
It's been exactly seven weeks since that day and now, I still wear this key as I continue on my journey of Mama Wellness with the word Strength around my wrist. I've watched the weight fall off as I have embraced my yoga practice, and introduced cardio back into my life. We have embraced nutrition in a whole new way and those extra five pounds that are on their way out, they have taught me a lot.
I embrace the tiger stripes on my abdomen and although it makes me hesitant to wear a bikini I have found that sexiness isn't about how your body looks, but in how strong you are.
Strength is sexy
Scars are sexy.
And my tiger stripes are just another story that brings my husband and I closer together.
Mamas who embrace their strength and scars are the most sexy of women.