a birth story
At 2:15 a.m. on my due date, my water broke.
I woke with a start and raced to the bathroom; my husband said, "Seriously?!" when I told him what was going on. We called our midwife, who told us to head to the hospital to make sure everything was A-OK, but since my contractions were quite mild, she added that we might end up coming back home to labor for a few hours.
We called our parents, grabbed our hospital bag, an extra pillow and blanket and drove to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning — all the while joking that this couldn't possibly be "it," there's no way the baby was going to come on my actual due date.
By the time we parked and walked down a long hallway to the triage area of the maternity ward, I felt more cramping and back pain, and the nurses in triage admitted us after checking vitals for myself and the baby. In the dimly lit hospital room, we looked at each other in surprise, joy and fear: we were here to stay, and when we left, we would be parents.
I'll admit that I thought all the yoga I practiced during pregnancy would serve me well during labor. I planned on being as zen as possible. I visualized myself breathing steadily, not lashing out at anyone, staying very mobile and maybe even doing a couple of deep squats or yoga poses to help with contractions. I also wanted to try for a natural birth, though I was open to interventions if need be. In other words, I had a plan.
My labor experience lasted about 6.5 hours — short by many standards, but of course it felt endless to me — and I couldn't have been further from the peaceful portrait of myself I had painted. As the pain increased, I got louder, moaning the word "ow" over and over and over again; I inhaled sharp, short breaths and could not seem to access any regular pattern or sense of control. I sat on an activity ball for a little while, and then moved to the bathtub as soon as I could. Having access to a bathtub during labor = A GIFT FROM THE HEAVENS ABOVE. I only got out when I absolutely had to; the hot water eased my back pain and offered a distraction from the waves of pressure and spasms of pain that rocked my body.
I remember very little. I ignored my husband almost entirely. He was absolutely amazing in terms of encouraging me to breathe, telling me what a good job I was doing, and reminding me that it would be over soon and we would meet our son or daughter — but I could only concentrate on getting through each contraction as it swelled up. Thank goodness my sister arrived soon after to keep him company and lift his spirits in addition to supporting me.
I kept my eyes shut as much as possible, and tried to ride out moments of nausea and fatigue. I felt like I might black out. Early on, I requested a little help with the pain and received some fentanyl to take the edge off; those 30 minutes of dizziness were a welcome respite from all the effort. I thought it would last forever. I couldn't go on, and then I did. Despite the nurses repeatedly telling me that first time moms often experience a long labor, I knew deep down in my body that the baby was coming sooner than later. Each time they checked my progress, I was a little further.
Having thrown my desire for a drug-free birth out the window, I asked for more fentanyl as I clutched the side of the hospital bed. My midwife looked at me and said I had to wait 30 minutes, but I could get back in the tub. I did, barely able to walk the five steps there, and soon after, I frantically told my husband that I felt like I had to push. Our midwife came into the bathroom, calm as a cucumber, and said, "Okay, let's get back out and see how you're doing."
I stood up, and dropped back down to my knees before hobbling to the bed yet again. By this point, I could not talk or breathe. The pain had quite literally taken over my entire sense of self, mentally and physically; it was as though I had entered a black hole of unbearable pain as my body shook and took over the reins.
I heard: "Wow, alright, you're ready to have this baby. Let's push."
A blur of activity ensued: a bright light, tables, more nurses, the bottom half of the bed removed. Someone asked if I wanted a hospital gown and I said that no, I didn't care; modesty had flown WAY out the window. Jared hugged one of my knees, and a nurse held the other. Funny moment: when they told me to pull my knees into my chest, I literally said, "No. I can't." The idea of reaching for my knees, which were only an inch away, felt IMPOSSIBLE, which is hilarious in light of all the crazy yoga poses that I've loved over the years.
Covered in sweat, I yelled and screamed at the top of my lungs, every inch the stereotypical woman giving birth. (I can only imagine what other patients and hospital staff on the rest of the floor were thinking: "That crazy lady in 624, holy moly.") It was the most primal and excruciating thing I've ever experienced. I pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed.
A perfect, healthy baby boy. He landed on my chest at 9:09 a.m., covered in all that protected him for nine months, and cried loudly. I looked at my husband's tears, and gazed at our little one. I said, "I'm so glad it's over," followed by "I can't believe he's real." The moment left me in pure shock and gratitude. We named him Ezra Troy: Ezra, a Hebrew name meaning "to help," and Troy, the name of my kind, generous, compassionate, strong father.
Parenting with my husband adds another layer of partnership, love and dedication to our relationship; I couldn't ask for a better co-pilot for this journey. Our family and friends have been instrumental these past couple of weeks, supporting us through visits, walks, late night comforting, food, gifts and flowers. The sleep deprivation is so real, but every tiny cuddle and smile makes any struggle fade away.
Being Ezra's mother is a massive gift of love and repeated lesson in sacrifice. We are so blessed.
Some details of Ezra's birth story will stay private, just for our little family, and I probably won't blog specifically about him going forward for personal reasons. But during my pregnancy, I appreciated reading the birth tales of other babies to try to understand the wide range of mothers and their stories. I hope my story contributes something small to this universal experience. Giving birth is an incredible feat and I remain in awe of all women who choose to do so.