Thanks for hanging in there and checking back to read my birth story! Remember to read the previous posts first. It goes without saying that things are gonna get very real and graphic, so if you would rather pretend that babies arrive via stork than via vagina, you'd better just skip reading this. Here goes...
Dan called our midwife, Tamara, and told her that we were heading to the hospital. She said she would meet us there and to go to the regular labor and delivery area of the hospital, because the birthing center would not have a room ready for me until 3pm. Dan's parents had boarded the train in Lancaster, PA, and were due to arrive at 3:20 at Penn Station, where a friend was going to meet them and bring them to the birthing center to meet up with us. I had asked both my mother and my mother-in-law to be present for labor and delivery, along with my husband. These 2 women had 12 children between the two of them, all born naturally with NO pain medicine! Dan's mom had 3 children born at home- one of them didn't even wait for the doctor, so she and Dan's dad delivered his sister by themselves! I knew that I trusted them to encourage me and that they understood how to be present but not intrusive. My mother had 5 children, and labored so quickly that my father was only present to see his first child born- he was either parking the car or rushing to the hospital when all the others were born! I was hoping that I would have that same quick labor that my mum is famous for!
I said goodbye to our 2 dogs, and walked to the elevator of our apartment building with my mum while Dan took our bag and headed down to the lobby first to hail a cab outside. Here's the mistake he made: he TOLD the cab driver that I was in labor. This cab ride actually proved to be the worst and most painful part of my whole labor and delivery! I will swear over and over that riding in that cab was more painful than actually delivering and pushing the baby! The ride to the hospital was a blur- I didn't have my eyes open the entire time. If you've ever riden in a NYC taxi cab, you know how crazy the cabbies drive- but when they know a woman is in labor in the back of their cab, they go MENTAL! I think he was terrified that my water would break (as was I!) or that the baby would actually be born in his cab! He sped so fast and tailgated every car, and banged on his horn. He hit every pothole and bump in the road with ridiculous speed and changed lanes radically just to try to get around every car. I was holding dan's hand in the backseat, leaning into his neck and shoulder, and hoisting my body off the seat so that I could absorb the shock of the bumps through my legs and not be thrown around. I tried so hard not to make a noise, because I feared that any moaning or screaming would make him drive even MORE erratically! It was a 15 block drive, but to me, it was the longest drive of my life! I was so thankful when he arrived at the front of the hospital and I could get out of that cab!
We arrived at the hospital at 2:05pm. As Dan paid the cab, my mum and I headed through the front doors and towards the elevator bay. The labor and delivery ward is on the 11th floor. As it was a Sunday afternoon, the lobby and elevator bay was full of visitors. I waited for what seemed like FOREVER for the elevator. At this point, my contractions were coming fast and fierce, with little more than 2 minutes in between. As I waited for the elevator, I leaned with my forehead against the wall and closed my eyes to process and re-focus the pain. When the elevator arrived, it was PACKED. I was so annoyed as I pushed in with an elevator full of strangers (and they were probably afraid of being stuck on an elevator with a woman in full labor!) I believe that elevator must have stopped on every single stinking floor from 1-11. It was SO difficult- why don't they have an express elevator for women in labor that goes straight to the 11th floor? These are the things about living in NYC that you never think of! For those of you that have been in labor- imagine going in a crowded elevator up 11 floors, with the doors opening and closing on each floor and people getting on and off! Somehow, I still managed to remain composed. I leaned against the back wall, with a white-knuckle grip on the hand railing of the elevator, and prayed and prayed for us to just get to the 11th floor.
When we finally got to the 11th floor, it was now about 2:15pm. We walked to the reception area, and I assumed my forehead-against-the-wall pose as I endured another contraction. I had prepared everything well in advance: I had contacted the hospital and gotten all the required registration paperwork in advance, so that I could fill it out and send it in and they would have everything in the computer for the big day. Additionally, I made photocopies of all the paperwork, along with my ID and my insurance cards, so that if they somehow lost my paperwork, it would all be ready. The lady at the reception desk was probably the nastiest staff member that worked in that hospital. She barely looked up from her computer screen and said, "Why are you here?" I wanted to reach across the desk and grab her by the throat but instead, I found my breath and said, "I'm having a baby." (DUH!)
She slid a clipboard at me, without even looking, and said "fill this out." At this point, another contraction struck me so I returned to my wall and Dan took over. He said that the information should be in the computer, just look up my name. She interrupted him and said, "fill this out." He pulled out the folder that I had all the copies of the paperwork and insurance, pediatric information, midwife information, and handed the file to her. Without even opening up the folder, he said she slid the folder BACK across the desk towards him, with a shove of her finger, and said, "I SAID, fill this out!"
He grabbed the clipboard, muttered some swear words, and took a seat in the waiting area of the reception. I was standing with my head against the wall, legs spread apart in a ballet demi-plié, breathing forcefully. He started asking me the name and phone number of the pediatrician's office, gynecologist, midwife, insurance, and basically the history of my vagina for the last 40 weeks. When I could finally speak, I pleaded with him to use the paperwork I had already filled out to get all this information. I was so beyond ANNOYED at this point, that in the midst of heavy labor, I was expected to fill out forms and paperwork and research phone numbers. He went back to his clipboard, I went back to my wall.
I returned to the nasty lady at the front desk and begged her to find a nurse for me. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I knew that this baby was coming FAST. A kind nurse heard me and offered to take me into triage while my husband stayed in the waiting room to fill out the paperwork. My mom stayed in the waiting room as well, as she was not allowed into the triage area (another stupid rule, in my opinion.) The midwife still had not arrived to the hospital, so I was totally by myself.
In the triage area, it was a large open room, with several hospital cots (not the fancy beds, just gurneys) and a sheer curtain between each. A nurse asked me to put on a hospital gown. I tried explaining to her that I wasn't staying here; I'm going to the birthing center, and I don't want to wear a hospital gown. She insisted. I figured that as soon as the midwife arrived, I could go down to the birthing center and then do it my way, so I would oblige this woman while I was here. I put on the hospital gown in between contractions, and went back to my wall. "No no no," said the nurse, "You can't stand up, you have to lie down on the bed." Trying to be nice, I moved to the bed and tried to climb onto it. Another contraction struck just as I lifted my leg up to the bed and I instinctively jumped up and grabbed onto the wall, facing it. After the contraction ended, she asked me again to get onto the bed. I pleaded with her and told her I just couldn't. My body would not let me- there's no way to describe it, but I knew without a doubt that I needed to be standing and bracing myself against the wall.
The nurse told me forcefully that I needed to lay down so she could strap the belt around me to monitor my contractions. I told her that I did NOT want a monitor and I would be soon leaving to go to the birthing center. I specifically did not want any machines or monitors. I wanted to be free to move and stand as I needed to. She took my blood pressure and then decided we could compromise: she would let me stand if she could strap the contraction monitor around my abdomen and I could stand beside the machine. I gave in, as I didn't have any strength to fight, and I knew she was just doing her job. I kept reassuring myself that as soon as the midwife got here, these dumb nurses would leave me the hell alone and let me get to the birthing center so I could do what my body was telling me to do, and not what was the textbook clinical process they had been taught to do.
After she had me hooked up to this ridiculous machine, I heard my midwife, Tamara, arrive. She was in her dress clothes- she said that she would change into scrubs when we got to the birthing center at 3pm. She asked if I could lay down for just a moment so she could examine how far dilated I was. I made it up on the bed, despite the discomfort, and she determined I was 6 centimeters dilated and a -2 station (if you don't know what that means, go HERE to see the stations of the baby during labor.) She said this was a very good place to be at this point in labor and I was progressing great. She helped me back up and I leaned forward with my elbows on the bed. I felt the bag of waters bulging in my vagina and I knew my water was about to break. It felt like a tampon that was sitting really low. When the next contraction came, I gave a slight little push to help the water break, and I felt it burst. It didn't gush, it was just a trickle of water running down my leg like I peed myself. About this time, Dan arrived in triage with me. He said that he filled out what he could on the paperwork, and then left the clipboard on the desk and just barged back to triage without permission. He was fed up with sitting in the waiting room and not knowing what was going on with me! As he was saying hello to the midwife, and she was filling him in on where I was in terms of my labor, a very powerful contraction came and my entire water broke. It was a flood! It gushed out and splashed on the floor. When the water broke, I felt the baby's head drop- and I mean DROP! I felt the baby sliding down and could feel the head crowning. I didn't panic, but I wanted the midwife to be informed of this, so I tried to tell her that I could feel the head coming out. She was putting towels down on the floor for me to stand on so that I wouldn't slip, and she said, "oh no, honey, you've got a long ways to go yet. Probably another 6 or 7 hours and then you'll be ready to push." I looked at her, pleading to please check me again. I told her that the baby was coming out, and I could feel the head. I grabbed her hand and shoved it under my gown (there is no humility and grace in childbirth, folks!) and told her to feel it! I'll never forget her face: she got dead serious and immediately said, "We need to get you into a room. Now!" She left in a hurry to see if they had any open rooms for me to deliver the baby in. I remember telling Dan that I didn't care, I'll just have the baby right here, if someone will just catch it! The midwife returned with a wheelchair. I took one look at it and said, "No no no no no, I'm not sitting down! The baby's head is RIGHT THERE!" She gently told me that I had to try. She said there's no time to walk to the delivery room, and she had to move me quickly or else it would be born right here in the hallway. I told her that was fine; I don't mind giving birth right here, and I argued with her that it was physically impossible for me to sit down! As we were going back and forth on this, the first nurse who had hooked me up to the contraction monitor interrupted and told the midwife that she couldn't move me into a delivery room, because they have to have at least 20 minutes of regular and consistent contractions on the graph paper spitting out of the machine, before they will "admit me." (It was way too late for discussing that!) The midwife told her that there was no way they were going to get 20 minutes of readings on the machine, because the baby was not going to wait that long!
This first nurse had to contact her supervisor, and then the two nurses plus my midwife "conferred" over the charts and contraction charts, while I continued to stand with my hand under my gown, thinking that I could maybe catch the baby myself if it continued to slide down! After what seemed like forever, they cleared me to proceed to the delivery room, which was at the end of the hall. The midwife again told me to get in the wheelchair. I decided I would never be able to walk, so I gingerly tried lowering myself into the seat. (This next part of the story, I don't remember- my husband had to fill me in on what happened! I never realized that when you're in the final stages of intense labor, you really aren't aware of what's going on around you!)
As I lowered myself into the wheelchair, a contraction struck me and and Dan says I lept up from the chair and squatted right in the middle of the hallway! The midwife freaked and got down on the floor because she thought the baby was coming out and she needed to catch it! After the contraction, she literally grabbed me with one arm around the waist and pulled me into the wheelchair so she could get me out of the hall. I remember flipping the foot petals down and standing up on them, lifting my butt off the seat and holding myself up with the armrests and foot petals as she flew down the hall, pushing me as fast as she could, with Dan running beside! What a sight! haha
In the delivery room, another nurse was setting up and she told Dan that he could go and get my mother so she could join us. He said, "I can't leave! The baby's almost out!", so the nurse said she would go get her. My mum was smart enough to know that the baby was coming fast, so she was standing just outside the door to the delivery ward, instead of in the waiting room. If she would have been in the waiting room, she wouldn't have made it in time! As I was getting out of the wheelchair, a nurse told me to climb up on the bed and lay down. I pleaded with her that I can't! I couldn't imagine how I was going to climb up onto a hospital bed and worse yet, lay down on my back! This was my breaking point. I started to cry, saying "I can't!" I managed to get myself up onto the bed, but was on all fours, with my head at the foot of the bed, and my butt at the top of the bed. The nurse decided to say the worst possible thing in the most cheery, sing-song voice: "there's no such thing as I CAN'T!" (can you believe that?) This is another part of the story that I don't remember, and it's probably a good thing! Dan says that he was afraid I would either cuss her out or punch her in the face for saying that to me! haha
The reason I was saying, "I can't" was because, literally, the baby was moving down and out, without me even pushing, and I could not move my body. It was like I was paralyzed- I was afraid to move because I didn't want the baby to get stuck or push it in the wrong direction. It's like my mother always says, "Don't fix what's working!" The midwife came to my rescue: she very gently said, "honey, I can deliver this baby with you on all fours, but you have to turn the other way so that your head is at the top of the bed. I need to be able to see the baby coming out and have room to work." At the next break, I focused and turned myself around so that my head was at the top of the bed and my feet were at the foot of the bed, but I was still on all fours. Not the most glamorous position, but this would have to do, because this baby was not waiting!
With the next contraction, the midwife told me to go ahead and push. Up until now, the contractions were doing all the work. I never realized before, but the contractions ARE the pushes. Your body does the work for you, if you just relax and let the contraction take control. The more you resist the contraction the more work you're going to have to do in the end! The verse that I kept repeating to myself to mentally center and encourage me was "Perfect love casts out all fear." I knew that in order to love this baby completely and perfectly, I had to be fearless and brave. Birth is not for wimps! (I'm not sure how this all works if you have an epidural and are numb and paralyzed for the whole birth- I can only share about how my own, drug-free labor experience.) Dan put his hands gently on my shoulder to encourage me, but he says I looked at him very calmly and told him to please not touch me. (Another part I do not remember!)
I pushed like my mama told me before: like you're pooping. Yup. Like I said before, there's not a lot of glamor in labor, but it's true. That's exactly the way you need to push in order to birth a child. As I started pushing when I felt the next contraction, the midwife said, "You're doing it! You're doing it!", in a completely shocked and surprised tone. I think she didn't realize that I was going to get it right the first time. I've heard a lot of women say that they're not sure how or where to push, and that sometimes the dr or midwife has to place their finger in the place where they want you to bear down. I pushed with my eyes closed tight, and mentally found my strength by telling myself that my baby was almost here, and it was almost all over. With the first push, the baby's whole head was out. The next contraction was just seconds away, and I pushed again. This time, it was the shoulders coming out. I had always assumed that once the head is out, the rest is easy. This is FALSE, people. The SHOULDERS are the really hard part. Think about it- the shoulders are much bigger and wider than the head, and a completely different shape. As I pushed for the shoulders to come out, I thought I was still pushing the head (no one filled me in on what was happening- I think it was all so fast they didn't have time to!) The first push for the shoulders hurt SO much! It was an intense burning feeling- like a searing hot fireplace poker was being pressed against my lady gaga. I remember thinking, "There's no way I want to feel THAT pain again, so the next contraction I'm going to push with everything I've got!" That's exactly what I did- at the next contraction, I found every bit of strength I had, took a huge breath and pushed like hell. It did the trick, and like a friend told me beforehand, when you push against that searing hot burning feeling, it actually feels BETTER, not worse. Go figure!
Now that the shoulders were out, the midwife told me to wait and not push. That was so difficult! I panted and breathed and tried to hold back from pushing while she rotated or squeezed or whatever it was she did down there to help keep me from tearing. When I finally got the go ahead to push again, I had barely gotten started when I heard her saying, "Carmine! Look at your baby! Look at your baby!"
I looked UP. I know...UP. I didn't realize that the baby was OUT already! I thought that she had a mirror or the nurse was holding a mirror or something for me to see the baby. Everyone in the room laughed and Dan said, "No, look between your knees!" I looked down and saw my sweet sweet Sevryn. She had her eyes all squinted up, and hadn't taken a breath yet. I immediately reached down to her and sat back on my heels and cried, "my baby! my baby! oh my baby!" and wept with joy. As I pressed my face to hers and stroked her, she let out a huge wailing cry, and it was the sweetest and most beautiful sound I'd ever heard!
I tried to pick her up, but the midwife said that the cord was still attached and it was rather short, so I couldn't move her. I just stared and stared at her, in disbelief that this tiny, perfect baby had emerged from my body. We waited for the cord to finish pulsing, and then my mother cut the cord. It wasn't until the cord was even cut that I lifted it to see that my baby was a....GIRL! Isn't it strange that finding out the gender didn't even occur to me? I just instantly loved my baby, not even knowing whether it was a girl or boy! I started cleaning her off with the blankets, and noticed that there was a lot of poop everywhere. I said, "Is that MY poop?" Again, everyone laughed. The midwife said, "No, no, the baby pooped!" It was a pretty funny moment! I wasn't embarrassed, I just felt bad if I had pooped on my baby! hahaha
They weighed her at 7lbs 14 oz and 19.5 inches long. She was born at 2:45pm...just 40 minutes after our cab pulled up at the front door of the hospital. It was extremely fast, but as my midwife said, babies that are born that fast also are extremely painful and intense, because it happens so rapidly. But I would much rather have a fast and intensely painful labor than one that is long and drawn out, but does not escalate in pain as quickly.
I delivered the placenta very easily, and the midwife showed me and explained all about the parts of the placenta and what she examines it for. She said it was quite large, but very healthy. She then asked if we wanted it, and we emphatically said, "NO!" hahaha It was painful when she massaged my uterus- it's like they knead it and push on it to make sure there's no hemorrhaging and to help the uterus go back to normal size. I had 4 labial stitches and one very minimal perineal laceration. The midwife said the stitches were not really necessary for healing, but just for cosmetic reasons (how nice of her to play plastic surgeon for me!) lol
Dan left to go text and make phone calls, and my mom and I marveled over every tiny crease, wrinkle, and tiny toe on my little baby girl. She latched immediately, and began nursing. She was so content and relaxed and happy. I was grateful that I could deliver my baby completely naturally, without even a tylenol or an IV. My milk was pure, without any drugs or toxins from epidurals, and she was born alert and vibrant; not lethargic.
As they wheeled me out of the delivery room and into my recovery room, they swaddled Sevryn and the nurse said, "ok, mama will hold the baby, and we will take you to your room." Instinctually, I handed the baby to MY mother. The nurse said, "no, YOU'RE the mama!" We all laughed at that- it was so surreal that I was now a mother! It really hadn't sunken in yet!
My in-laws didn't arrive until about an hour after she was born, and they couldn't believe it was all over. I was resting happily in my room, Dan was cradling Sevryn (who was still unnamed- we didn't decide on a name until about 7pm that evening!) and we all were laughing about the manic event of my fast labor and delivery. All the nurses kept popping in and saying, "so YOU'RE the lady that squatted and almost had her baby in the hall!" I was the talk of the labor ward!