And Clare was born.
There should be some voice other than the passive for this.
In celebration, here is Clare's birth story as I wrote it a few weeks after her birth:
On Wednesday morning we woke up early (though we decided to aim for the 7:00 end of the 6:00-7:00 timeframe Brynne recommended for checking in). Maria had arrived Tuesday night late, and we all went to fortify ourselves with a good breakfast at the Princetonian Diner, a.k.a. Clare’s diner, where Brent and I would eat after almost every prenatal appointment. I had whole wheat pancakes and since I didn’t want to order coffee, even decaf, I decided on grapefruit juice, completely forgetting that Maria had once advised against citrus juice before labor. That issue came back up later.
So from there we went to the University Medical Center and checked in. I was now 15 days postdate, and the plan was that we would break my water and see what happened. For two weeks I had been 3-4 cm dilated, and had been having irregular, very light contractions after stripping my membranes on my last few visits to the midwives. So we were pretty confident that this was all it would take to push me into real labor.
And so it was! Brynne did the amniotomy at 8:30 and by 10:00ish I was in labor. Maria and I took a couple turns around the hallways, chatting while the contractions got stronger.
After that, I stayed in the room (room 436) for the rest of the time and labor really got underway. At some point I threw up that wretched grapefruit juice (which left me with really nasty breath and that bothered me every so often later, but Maria did this great aromatherapy thing with the pillow that really helped). For a while, and from this point I have no time reference other than that, I sat on the birthing ball while the contractions got stronger. I really felt like leaning forward and resting my head on my forearms—that seemed to make it, not less painful, but easier to negotiate. But the monitor kept slipping down off my belly—like all my maternity pants had been doing for the last 2 weeks—and the nurse had to keep patiently readjusting it. I’m sure that was annoying to the nurses, and it certainly was a little bothersome for me, especially when I would have a contraction in the middle of being fiddled with. So on Maria’s suggestion instead of leaning forward, Brent sat behind me for support and I leaned back into him. It was very hypnotic at this point for me—I just kept trying to relax, more and more, breathing really deeply and just diving inward and experiencing what my body was now doing. It was in its own way very very peaceful. Eventually Brent got a little fatigued, and Mom took his place and I leaned back into her. It was wonderful for me and later Maria told me that Mom said to her all she could think of was holding me and nursing me as a baby.
Eventually my back began to ache steadily, even between contractions, so I moved to the shower. The Jacuzzi might’ve been nice, but I didn’t want to wait or to have an exam before getting into it, and the shower was right there. So I moved to the bathroom once the shower got going. I remember hearing Maria comment, “look how well she’s walking!” and wondering in a sort of detached way how other women would be walking. I got on all fours in the shower, with my back to the water, and Brent and Maria and Mom took turns with the shower nozzle, moving the stream of water up and down on my back. That felt really good. I stayed in the shower a long time. While I had been mostly silent while leaning back into Mom and Brent on the birth ball, I made a lot of noise in the shower. I would moan as each contraction built up and released and gradually just got louder and louder. I didn’t expect to feel so uninhibited about making noise. I didn’t anticipate being a screamer—I’m just not—but I didn’t think I would be making all that much noise at all. And at first I didn’t, but making noise was something to concentrate on that gave a bit of release as things kept building and building in intensity. There came a point where I thought, this has got to be about as bad as it gets, because I wasn’t sure I could take any more intensity in what I was feeling. I think at that point I asked where I was—luckily no one took that as a sign of dementia but understood that I was asking where I was in the process. I was in transition.
During the whole time there was a chorus of voices near me, encouraging me and helping me negotiate the increasing pain of the contractions. I could hear everyone very clearly and the voices were a connection to the present moment, keeping me from just floating away into inner space but not interfering with my concentration, either. I never replied to anything anyone said, but it became very important to hear praise and encouragement as things went on. The voices never stopped even though I never acknowledged hearing them.
Finally, I was out of transition. I don’t know how that was decided or who noticed, but there was a definite point where I became more aware of the present and felt like I could get out of the shower. I had a bit of a rest between this point and beginning to push. I actually felt no real urge to push right away at all, and even when I did start the pushing, it was more that I felt like I should start because that’s just what was supposed to happen next. I also wasn’t quite sure how to go about it and I didn’t feel like I was getting any helpful cues from my own body, so I told Brynne I felt like I needed some direction. I pushed awhile in the bed, sort of sitting upright, and tried some different things, different places to brace my feet, and different things to hold on to with my hands as I pushed. After awhile I tried the birthing stool, which I really liked, and I think I remember Brynne saying later that she thought I had made some good progress in that position. I remember it feeling pretty comfortable and powerful to sit on it and push down. At some point I moved back to the bed, I think because everyone thought I was about ready to be done soon. After moving back to the bed things like the baby warming unit were wheeled in—signs that people were anticipating the end. But I still felt like even though I had been pushing for a while, that I wasn’t really making any progress. I couldn’t feel any progression, unlike with the contractions earlier where there was a definite sense of increase and intensity and moving forward. Pushing was more like stasis—it just felt the same every time I did it, and I just had to trust that something was happening even if I couldn’t tell. It felt like I pushed for a very long time. Eventually, Brynne set up the mirror and I was able to see some of what was happening and a tiny glimpse of a head. For a long time it seemed like I would push and the head just stayed right where it was. I could hear Mom (and others, but Mom especially) get excited when I pushed because they could see the head getting bigger. But by the time I was done pushing and could look in the mirror, it would be right back where it was before the push. This was discouraging, even though I could still look into the mirror and see that there really was a head and the baby really was slowly but surely coming down. This lasted a long time. At one point I felt really tired, and felt the need to say to someone, “I am really tired.” I didn’t feel like saying, “this hurts a lot,” or “I feel some stinging,” or anything like that, because I knew that was just part of what happens and there was no sense complaining about it. But I was really tired, and it worried me to feel fatigued because I already felt like I wasn’t making much progress. But I knew, too, that there was nothing to do but break on through to the other side no matter how tired I felt, because it wasn’t like I could just pause and take a break and resume when I decided I felt more like it. So I kept pushing anyway. And eventually there was more of a head visible, and then I could touch it. That was pretty cool, and encouraging. But again, I seemed kindof stuck there, and so it was a little less encouraging than I thought it would be.
I made a lot of noise! But it wasn’t screaming, it was just that the force with which I would have to expel air from my lungs was so great when I pushed that it had to come out as this enormous grunting sound. This was way different than the moaning I did through transition, which was way more hypnotic and focusing. This new sound was simply the audible evidence of hard, hard work. Like a weightlifter grunting through lifting some enormous weight or something.
And then, suddenly, it was time to push again and I began, just like all the other pushes, but this time, I heard Brynne say, this is it!, and, “Brent, you’d better get down here if you want to catch this baby,” and although my eyes were again squeezed shut I could feel the difference in what was happening, so I didn’t need to see anything. It took me by surprise—I thought, my God (and this was prayerful), this is it, she’s really coming out!—and I felt this enormous burst and release of pressure, and then felt my baby sort of slide right out—and then she was just there, right there on my chest, really really there. I felt like crying (I want to cry now as a matter of fact) but I was too busy being dumbfounded and fascinated and stunned to bother. I just wanted to look at her forever.
I didn’t pay attention to anything else after that.