I have a habit of walking in my sleep. Talking in my sleep, and when I woke up at 6 a.m on December 3rd, 2010, I woke up with a livid fear that I actually wet the bed, a victim of a bathroom dream perhaps. “But I never wet the bed” I thought to myself in my half sleep as I slowly pulled the weight of my body up in sitting position to survey the scene. As I waddled to the toilet, I grabbed our birthing guide “The Birth Partner”, a book that explains every detail of pregnancy and labor to research our latest development. I sat there on the toilet, my body filling every available inch that will hold me, reviewing the consistency of the liquid that had left my body, trying to determine if this was he beginning of labor, or simply a symptom of a labor that may not begin for days.
I walked back into the room and David eagerly asked me if it has begun. I assumed it had but recommended we rest a bit as we have no idea how long this could possibly take. We’ve read accounts where women pass mucus plugs and do not go into labor for weeks.
Despite lying our backs down, within minutes we were both up, scatter brained with the decision to get on with our day, after all, we just purchased an expensive cut of meat that could not wait another day to be cooked, and we had invited guests that evening for dinner.
After a couple hours, I began to feel the tensing of my torso, reminiscent of painful menstrual cycles of my past, when my body was discovering womanhood. These cramps would only elicit a wrinkle of my forehead as the morning opened up to us and the light glow grew into sun-streaked rays into our apartment. Regular Friday morning phone calls were made as I nonchalantly talked about my weekend plans, holding the receiver away from my mouth when I needed to breath through another contraction.
Another couple hours passed us by and the orange yoga ball was brought out for me to lean on. I found comfort in placing the ball on the couch and leaning over it when my body would begin to tense. A movie was displayed on our TV screen, paused and waiting to be played. That never happened. My old friend Katie arrived around noon, ready to relieve my pain with compressions and foot rubs as I swayed into each contraction as the last one exhausted me more and more.
By 1pm my contractions were becoming more intense and erratic. Sometimes they would come every 5 minutes for over a minute, or sometimes they would come in coupled waves of intensity, slamming into me one after another. I would stand there, gripping a countertop until my knuckles turned white, grinding my teeth. This is when we decided to head to the hospital. Our departure was planned in between contractions. My biggest fear at the time was being caught in public, howling at the sky while cradling my belly.
The car was not big enough to hold me. Legs were kicking seats and I attempted contortionist moves in the back seat of the car, demanding David shut the windows when I felt another contraction, afraid the
outside world would witness my discomfort and judge me . An ambulance passed us by, it’s siren drowning out my groans.
We arrived in the observation room at around 3pm. A lonely table with a heart monitor sitting next to it. I was instructed to lie on the table as they fitted the monitor on my belly and checked my dilation. Disappointment fell on my face as the midwife announced I was only 3cm. After a few minutes of discomfort in the reclining position, I opted to stand for the next forty minutes as my contractions became more intense. A cheap curtain splashed with pastel designs fluttered with the movements of random hospital staff fulfilling their daily tasks.After a heartfelt plea to move to the labor room, the head midwife allowed us to transfer. I walked myself carefully down the corridor, concentrating on each step I took toward my destination. The lights were dimmed and no sound could be heard until a wave of contractions hit me. I stopped and yelled a constipated moan out of from the gut of my stomach. The nurses at the front desk looked up from their paperwork in my direction, and then continued with their day.
40 minutes after our arrival, we entered the labor room. Steel counters lined the room and a reclining bed commanded the center of the room. The midwife was a focused Russian woman, who instructed me to change into one of the hospital smocks. As I was undressing, another contraction caused me to urinate on the floor. I profusely apologized to the midwife explaining I didn’t know what came over me. She listened to me with an unimpressed look on her face, as if I had forgotten where we were and what I was there for.
After I settled from the rush of another contraction, I positioned myself on the bed to check my dilation. The check showed that in the last forty minutes I had progressed from 3 cm to 7 cm.
The midwife showed Katie how to massage my legs by lifting one and rotating it in a circular motion as I writhed on the bed, hanging off of it from one side, using the support of a stool on wheels next to the bed. “Please move back on the bed, I’m afraid you will fall off” she asked me kindly in Hebrew. “No, I can’t, I’m fine I’m fa-fa-fa fine” I force the words out of my mouth. I tried to remember the calm breathing techniques I learned for months in prenatal yoga and Lamaze class. The moment I found peace, another contraction would snap me into a trans of pain. I tried positive moans, moans that sounded comical, as if I was a blubbering idiot. I gave myself a pep talk, reassuring myself with a sense of urgency that “I can F****** do this”.
The midwife became concerned with Ziggy’s heart rate, which would decrease every time a contraction hit me. By now, they attached a monitor to his head, to accurately measure his progress. A doctor entered the scene at this point, with concern that the baby was in distress. Unconcerned with the pain I was in, he took the liberty to check my progress. (Do you see how I didn’t write: “Gently check my progress?” )
By this point, it was official- I could have been the lead singer of Aerosmith. In another 40 minutes, my body had progressed to full dilation and I was ready for pushing. The midwife instructed me to wait a few moments and I coped with the urge to push by blowing an imaginary feather off of my nose. This was not as effective as I had hoped. My body, since the moment the urine test was positive, had once again, taken over.
Dave was my book of facts during this time. I kept asking him how long transition was and how long he thought I would have to push. All I wanted was some assurance that this was almost over. “Push Susi, he’s coming out!” Dave said with enthusiasm. “I know David” I said in a growl, “I can feel EVERYTHING.”
The doctors, who had multiplied in the room, did not want to take any more risk as Ziggy was in distress, so he greeted the world with a vacuum atop of his head.
Instant cries filled the room as they whisked him away for a brief moment to make sure the meconium did not pose any threats to his health. Within a minute he was on my belly, staring at the people who have been waiting for the last nine months for him.
My body on the other hand, felt like it had been through a tornado and the rough ride had yet to end. The first push on my stomach unleashed the placenta and the second push splashed over two pints of blood onto the birthing room floor. The Doctor returned to stitch up the damage that a vacuum brings on and the midwife attempted to clean up the war zone that was my vagina. I was not pleased with the distress the cleanup brought me and howled and pleaded until they completed their tasks.
Another blood test proved I did not need a blood transfusion, which I assume is a good thing, however, the loss of blood brought tremendous weakness after the birth. We celebrated our hard work with a pack of Twizzlers, that was packed in haste only a few hours earlier. The taste of fake strawberry came as a relief after the intense experience that we all just had.
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