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The Birth Story I Didn't Want

This is not the birth story I wanted. Not even close. But it was probably the one I needed.

This being my third baby, everyone told me it would be quick. Everyone (even my doctor) predicted a short labor—two to four hours at most. But reality was a far cry from those predictions. It was long and painful and discouraging. I cried a lot. I cussed. I reached to the deepest places within me to find only bits of the courage I thought I had. It was as if God was saying the entire time, "No my dear. You are not in control."

Margot was born at 4:17 in the afternoon on Thursday, April 10. The 24 hours before her arrival were so surreal. We arrived at the hospital around 9:30 and walked ourselves to Labor & Delivery. They wanted to monitor me to insure I was in active labor. I wasn't thrilled about having to sit in bed, but this would be a good indicator of how fast my labor was progressing. After nearly an hour of fetal monitoring, the contractions had slowed. They were still coming and I still had to breathe through them, but they had slowed down to every six or seven (or sometimes even eight) minutes apart. Even the nurse agreed that the "doing nothing" is what made my labor slow down. Dammit.

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After discussing it with the doctor on call, the nurse suggested that we return home. She told us to come back if my contractions got more painful and closer together, or if I had any of the symptoms from a list they gave me. I was completely discouraged and felt in my gut that we were making a mistake by going home. I knew this was it. I just knew it.

No kidding, 10 minutes after we got all the way back home, the contractions got pretty intense. I began sweating profusely and shaking uncontrollably—both normal, hormonal signs of imminent labor. I tried to sleep but couldn't. I ended up getting sick in the bathroom and saw some blood, which was enough for me to wake my husband up and go back to the hospital. I could barely speak I was shaking so much.

"I want this to be over. I want to take a break. I want to get some sleep. I want to eat something."

As soon as I got to the hospital, they monitored my surges again. At first, they were every four minutes. Then, like a repeat from earlier, they slowed down. What in the hell! To urge my body along, I began walking the hallways. I knew that if this baby was coming any time soon, these contractions needed to start coming faster.

For several hours, I rocked back and forth on a birthing ball, stood, walked, sat up, laid down. I tried all of the positions in the books. While we waited for the sun to rise, I told Phil to get some sleep while he could. Of course, as soon as he was out, the pain became consuming. I labored alone with my husband asleep next to me for a couple of hours. It was a mind game at that point. My thoughts were racing back and forth and all of the voices in my head were arguing with each other.

"There's no way I can do this."

"You have to do this. You were made to do this."

"I don't want to do this. I hate this."

"You have prepared for this day. You are capable of bringing life into the world."

"I want this to be over. I want to take a break. I want to get some sleep. I want to eat something."

"You have done this twice before. Do not be afraid."

"Look at him. Asleep. He just gets to sit there and have a new child delivered before him. I hate his guts." (No, but seriously!)

I got over my hatred pretty quickly after the doctor broke my water. It was nearly 8:00 in the morning and my contractions were consuming me. I was still barely dilated. I was exhausted. I needed him to hold my hand, to push hard on my lower back. I needed him to labor with me and convince me, for the third time in my life, that I could and would bring a new baby, our baby, into this world.

Things went like this for SIX more hours. The contractions were stronger each time, but still only five or six minutes apart. I was losing energy. I was losing faith. I was losing myself.

Around 2:00 that afternoon, the nurse and the doctor finally suggested that I start a bit of Pitocin to help things along. I cried at this news. I had been in labor for 22 hours by this point and was only dilated to three centimeters. I was exhausted. Dizzy. Starving. I couldn't see straight. I had developed a fever. My head was pounding. And quite honestly, I knew that I couldn't do it naturally if I had to use that devil drug.

This baby needed to come out. It was time to let go of trying to prove something to everyone else. It was time to let go of trying to prove something to myself.

Not even two minutes after the Pitocin started dripping into my IV, the contractions picked up. They were sharp and focused. They began to get closer together. Things continued this way for a bit, and the nurse gradually added more and more to speed things along. Before long, I was gritting and grunting and moaning and mooing and doing everything I had trained my body to do to get through the contractions. I cried out in pain. I cussed. I prayed. I squeezed my husband's hands as he held me through each surge. In that moment, I was lost. I reached to the deepest place in my mind, the deepest part of my heart. I looked myself straight between the eyes and saw myself for exactly who I was in that moment.

I was a mother. I gave my all. I did everything I could. I prepared and read and asked questions. I trained and planned and practiced. And here I was, unable to accomplish what I thought I could control. Here I was, facing myself in the reality of my own story, realizing for the first time that I had nothing to prove. I had nothing to gain. I had done it all. I was finished. This baby needed to come out. It was time to let go of trying to prove something to everyone else. It was time to let go of trying to prove something to myself.

Soon, I requested anesthesia. The pain faded. I laid on my side, tears dripping down my cheek, and found rest in the fact that my baby would be here soon. I could still feel the pain, the contractions, the slamming in my back. But it was bearable. The epidural provided the relief I needed to finish this task.

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Twenty minutes later, panic took over my body once again. Something wasn't right. I was sure of it. I couldn't breathe. I was shaking, hyperventilating. It was time for the baby to be born.

Sure enough, my body had done its job. I was completely dilated and Miss Margot was finally in a hurry to meet her mama. My body was in charge by this point. I remember yelling that the baby needed to come out. I remember crying out that something wasn't right. I remember saying that I needed to push. I remember not being able to breathe. I pushed when I needed to. I panted. I breathed. I cried. I yelled. The second my doctor entered the room, I pushed with every drop of energy I had left and Margot's head was born. I reached down and touched her, gave one final push, then pulled her up to my chest and held her skin to skin.

She didn't make a sound. She just opened her eyes wide and looked up at me, like she knew it was me all along. She grabbed on to my finger and held on tight and the two of us just stared at each other. I cried so hard for several minutes after her birth—so thankful she was finally born, so thankful that labor was over, so blown away by the power of childbirth. For the third time in my life, I had done it. I brought new life into the world. And it didn't matter how long or how natural or how awful or how wonderful the labor and birth had been. What mattered was this baby, newly bundled, sticky and sweet, healthy and safe, staring up at her mama.

She was here now. She was perfect. And everything was as it should be.

Image via Lacy Stroessner

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