The Sweet Reward (Part Two)
by Joy

When we returned to our building for the second time that day, I felt a contraction coming on at the base of the stairs. While draped over Jamie, I let the energy out with my deep birth cry. The increased pressure down there along with my scream resulted in a pop and release of warm fluid rushing down my legs filling my boots and creating a puddle by my feet. I pointed down to the ground during my contraction, which puzzled Jamie. When the surge passed, I asked, “Is this what you mean?!?” Everyone laughed. Lu kindly hosed off the amniotic fluid for the sake of our neighbors. With Jamie’s help, I went upstairs and stepped into the shower.

I was on all fours in the shower; the warm water provided a massage as it pelted onto my back. I had several contractions in the shower and wailed away during them. There’s no doubt that my neighbors can hear me, I hope they don’t mind! It was a quarter to 5pm and I was feeling a strong urge to push accompanying my contractions. I told Maria about this and wondered if this meant I was fully dilated. After the shower, Maria had me lay on our bed for the second time that day and checked my cervix...I was 6 cm dilated, which meant I couldn’t push yet! Hmmmm, but my body is telling me to push during the contractions! How do I work with this?

Maria instructed me to blow through the urge to push, she also told me that my cervix was mostly in the front and that I should avoid being on all fours. This would assist opening of the cervix by not adding unnecessary pressure to that area. She also mentioned that if I did push during the contractions, while not fully dilated, my cervix may get swollen and this would make it more difficult to become fully dilated. Whoa, so I need to tell my body NOT to push even though that’s what my body is signaling to my brain?!?! Imagine having diarrhea and not being able to push it out because you aren’t at the toilet yet. Like you have been holding it for HOURS but you just can’t shit your pants, - that’s how much pressure I felt down there with each contraction. There’s no release, you CAN’T release ‘cause your cervix isn’t fully open yet, (and if you do push, well, there may be a trip to the hospital and I definitely did not want that) so you have to release the energy somewhere, and that’s what I did...

Here is what I remember about the next several hours:

  • The quality of the contractions to follow and how I dealt with them was much different than the contractions before our second walk that day.
  • I was breathing differently during the contractions, as if blowing out a candle a foot away from my face with strong hard breaths and pursed lips.
  • Every other contraction I was able to overcome the urge to push and “blow it away” (I was pretty quiet and Maria had to ask me when my contraction had stopped...some of them felt like I was blowing away the urge to push for a loooong time!)
    I thought about how my breathing was similar to how you breathe when you’re on the bike climbing and going anaerobic. You get into a rhythm.
  • Every other contraction the urge to push was just TOO strong.
  • Even though I had to tell my body NOT to push, my body surrendered to the urge and I felt like a bucking bronco as my brain and body conflicted with this. (Think about how a fish flops around when they are out of the water, that’s how I looked during these surges.)
  • I was LOUD!
  • I visualized my breaths blowing open my cervix!
    I was in the tub and Jamie had a compress on my butt to prevent my hemorrhoids from getting worse. Lu was stroking my hair.
  • Jamie whispering encouraging words in my ear about riding bikes in the Alps.
  • Toasted crumpets from Trader Joe’s with butter, honey, and sea salt cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Hypnobabies playing in the background. Today is your birthing day...
  • Forcing my chin up during the contractions, even though I wanted to bear down.
  • Relaxing my face and shoulders, and being VERY conscious of the effort to do so.
  • Thanking everyone after a set of contractions. Subconsciously thanking the contractions for bringing Baby G closer to me.

Almost 2 hours into the VERY-strong-urge-to-push-but-cannot-part of my labor, I got out of the tub. My bladder felt engorged, I attempted to pee but nothing came out! I stood in the shower, bent over with my hands resting on the hot and cold faucet knobs (remember, I could not be on all fours!) and tried to relax and pee, but even my urethra couldn’t release! I think I was in there for what seemed to be at least 10 minutes. Maria said she could catheterize me to release the pee. I freaked out. I didn’t want MORE discomfort! I listened to the water, I thought about waterfalls, I recalled how this sensation was exactly like the one when you have to pee SO BAD, and you’ve been holding it for SO LONG that it takes like 30 seconds before you start to pee, and when you do it burns a little at the beginning. I had that burning sensation a few times and thought Oooh, this is it, my pee is going to come out! But it didn’t, so I agreed to have a catheter put in me for the first time in my life.

I resumed the exam position on our bed; on my back with my legs spread. My bladder was so full that I had a separate pooch from my baby pooch. Lu even said that my bladder was so large that she thought that the baby may have turned and her mind started to stir. After 750cc’s of urine drained out of me, I felt MUCH better. We used the old Brita pitcher to contain the pee. Ha, I will always think of being cathed when I see a Brita pitcher now! There may be nothing worse than the feeling of being cathed, but there is: having a contraction with the urge to push-but-you-can’t while being cathed! I was 7 cm dilated.

I got back into the tub and breathed, bucked like a rodeo bull, listened to Hypnobabies, drank more (but not as much, cause I feared that I would fill my bladder again and have to get cathed sooner than later), kept my chin up, visualized blowing my cervix open. I even divulged to Maria some childhood stuff that I had intended to tell her prior to the birth during one of our visits, but always forgot to. I thought that perhaps this information might be blocking my cervix from dilating quicker. I read about a birth in one of Ina May’s books where after many hours of labor, the birthing mama’s cervix progressed and dilated quickly after she admitted some of her fears to the midwives. So while we were in the tub and Maria was sitting on the sofa, in between my bucking bull contractions I told her some stuff that I only share with close friends. And just like a best friend, Maria listened intently and asked genuine thought provoking questions.

It was 11pm, we got out of the tub and moved to the bedroom. The game plan was to get some rest. My contractions were even stronger now with the urge to push growing steadily. It felt like I had a poking coconut-head! Maria said she would check me again at 3am, but if I felt that the baby was dropping and the pressure was increasing she would check me earlier.

During the contractions I remember Lu massaging my hips and legs, Jamie lying next to me face to face, my hands squeezing his. The pattern resumed with my blowing away the urge to push with the contractions, and with the urge to push taking over my body and me bucking hard on my side. I started to feel my back cramping in between contractions. It was becoming difficult to relax as my muscles were fatigued and seizing from the bucking. Later Lu told me that I looked at her and said, “I’m beginning to have doubts.” I remember weighing the risks and benefits of driving to UCSF. How long will it take to get to UCSF? How shitty would it be to have a contraction in the car?! I don’t know how much longer I can do this! I think I need an epidural. What if I’m not fully dilated when Maria checks me again?

For sustenance, I had a GU and water sometime past midnight. Lu had cut up a baby watermelon into bite-sized pieces and my spirits lifted. That was exactly what I needed! The cool sweetness and juicy bits satiated me. My confidence was starting to waver and I had to tell myself to stay positive. I continued to visualize my breaths blowing my cervix open and hearing Maria say I was fully dilated. At 2:30am I told Lu that I wanted Maria to check me at 2:45am. That’s a good compromise. I will give my body a little more time to open up. Please be a 10, PLEASE! Just before 3am, Maria checked me. I remember the look of concentration on her face. “We’re where we want to be. You’re fully dilated!”

Lying on my back, I remember the muscles on my face forming into a smile while slowly raising my hand to give everyone a high five. “You mean I can push now?!” I asked.

I couldn’t have been happier. I could FINALLY push! Now this was a challenge for my mind to grasp since I had been forcing my body to overcome the urge to push for the last 10+ hours. I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I could actually push. OK! Change in game plan! YOU CAN PUSH NOW!

For the next two and half hours I pushed. Here is what I remember:

  • Getting cathed one more time so that Baby G had as much of an opening as possible.
  • I was so exhausted that I was falling asleep in between sets of contractions.
  • I pushed in 7 different positions*
  • For more than half of the sets of contractions, I had to rely on my mental state and environmental factors to initiate my body to have a contraction and push.
  • We listened to my energizing playlist, when a song came on that wasn’t energizing enough I had Lu skip to the next song.
  • The quality of my breath and how I dealt with the contractions was much different than before. Contrary to what we were told in my prenatal yoga class, I had to hold my breath while pushing. I was releasing too much energy from my throat and out my mouth, when I needed to be releasing energy down my core and out my yoni.
  • In our Bradley class we were told about the “Ring of Fire” which is a burning sensation you feel when the baby’s head is crowning. I didn’t feel a Ring of Fire, I felt a “Ring of Sting!”
  • Everyone offering words of encouragement when I would have a contraction. It felt as if I had my own cheering section. This really helped me push and stay focused. In fact, there was 1 time when it was silent during my contraction and I couldn’t really get into the push. I communicated to everyone that I really appreciated the cheers and I needed the words of encouragement to get Baby G out!
  • Our apple TV scrolling through our photos on the TV and feeling as if our friends and family were in the room with us.
  • Lu handing me a teacup full of warm miso soup to keep me going.
  • Talking out loud to Baby G in between contractions and telling him/her how we were ready to meet him/her.

Another amazing midwife named Sue arrived and we moved to the main room. I was on the birthing stool when I first felt Baby G’s hair. This is really happening! We’re about to finally meet Baby G!!!! We moved to the tub since we intended on having a water birth. Jamie and I engaged in some nipple stimulation. This seemed to work, however the warm water was also extremely relaxing. I encouraged Jamie to do some clitoral stimulation since I had to rely on extrinsic triggers to initiate my contractions. Believe it or not, I had a short but satisfying orgasm and a contraction followed. I pushed and pushed and Baby G just wasn’t coming out! In fact, Baby G’s heart rate had dropped significantly enough such that Maria had us get out of the tub. I remember hearing the difference in Baby G’s heart rate on the Doppler. This definitely caught my attention and everyone was calm.

We resumed on the sofa. I was lying on my right side and as I was falling asleep I would force myself to bring my left leg up to bring on a contraction. Stay focused. We’re soooo close! I recalled another Ina May birth story where the birthing mama’s cervix closed after being fully dilated! I can’t let that happen to me! I found that for over half of the contractions, I had to mentally bring on the first contraction, then my body would take over and the next surge would be more visceral and I could REALLY push. Baby G’s heart rate returned to normal, but I was so comfortable I was falling asleep. This position was no longer working for me. “I think I need gravity’s help. Let’s move back to the birthing stool.”

* Side-lying on our bed, side-lying on the sofa, sitting on the birthing stool, side-lying on the floor, in the tub, back to side-lying on the sofa, and sitting on the birthing stool.