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Melissa & Joel


Oscar’s birthday (aka my labor day), March 5, 2013

Before I was pregnant, I never understood why pregnant mamas got so impatient towards the end of their pregnancies. I mean, you’ve been waiting for nine months, what’s a couple more days, or a week even?

Oh, ignorance.

Besides the fact that the last few weeks of pregnancy were uncomfortable – getting up to pee 5 times a night, can I get an “amen,” mamas?), and that people are constantly asking “When will he be here?!” (as if I knew!) – I had lots of fake-out labor in the days leading up to Oscar’s birth. I would have rhythmic contractions, growing in strength for two or three hours. And then, they would just disappear.

Joel and I were doing everything we could think of to make it the real thing – tons of red raspberry leaf tea, plenty of “what gets the baby in, gets the baby out” practice, and nightly routines through the optimal fetal positioning we’d done in Samanda’s class. Not to mention mall walks at the Galleria on a regular basis (I think some of the kiosk vendors started recognizing me as the crazy third trimester power walker).

Alas, nothing seemed to do the trick. I gave up timing my contractions, or even paying attention when this “pre-labor” business began. I figured that when the real thing came, I wouldn’t be able to ignore it.

His “due date” (more appropriately termed “guess date” by Samanda) came and went, and so did my sanity. On Monday, March 4th, Joel and my mother did a good job of trying to help me relax. We went out for a nice mall walk and lunch, enjoyed tea at the London Tea Room downtown, and had friends over for dinner.

I think that evening was one of the most genuinely relaxing evenings I’d had in months, and we joked that maybe my friends would be good luck charms for coaxing Oscar out of me. We headed to bed around 11 and said our usual prayer of, “Jesus get this baby in our arms soon, please.”

Around 1:30am on March 5th, I woke up with contractions. I don’t know how to describe them other than to say that they just felt different than before. Not necessarily stronger or harder, but as though more of my body was involved. Even though I’d sworn off timing them, I decided that since these were unlike what I’d experienced before, I’d give it a try. An hour went by and I could tell something was happening.

They were very rhythmic (5-6 min apart, 1 min long), and increasing in strength. Around 2:30 I leaned over to wake my husband. Oh, my sweet love. He is very delirious when aroused from sleep. I told him what was happening and he said, “That’s great!” and literally fell right back asleep. I jostled him a bit more and he finally realized he might want to be awake for what was happening. We timed them together for about 10 minutes, when I felt a little pop and leaking of liquid. “Um…Joel,” I said. “I think my water just broke?”

I gingerly stepped to the bathroom while he formed together the words, “Huh? Really?” and went to get my mom. For some reason, I needed confirmation from another female that this had indeed occurred. She verified what had transpired and we all rejoiced with squinting sleepy eyes in the bright bathroom light that Oscar’s arrival was upon us.

Joel and I had a bowl of cereal and returned to bed, knowing we would need our rest for the hard work to come. Around 6am we woke up and spoke by phone with Jessica, my midwife, and Bethany, my doula. Both suggested a nice big breakfast and some laboring at home before we headed to the new Birth Center in O’Fallon (where we were going to give birth). We enjoyed a lazy morning and exchanged smiles and squeals that the day had come. It was snowing very hard and I felt swept up in the magic of it all.

We live about an hour from the Birth Center, and as the snow came down traveling conditions became precarious. Even though I was still in early labor, we decided around 10am that it was best to head to the Birth Center. Joel continued to time my contractions in the car as my mom drove, and we listened to one of my latest jazz obsessions (Robert Glasper’s “Black Radio” – check it out!).

We arrived at the center around 11, but the car ride and change of environment had caused my contractions to space out quite a bit. Bethany suggested nipple stimulation. Since my water had already broken, asking Joel to help with the nipple stimulation would have been torture (no sex after your water breaks!), so I did it myself. It was scary effective. Contractions came quickly and with strength. By 11:30, I was in active labor.

I enjoyed this part of labor. I definitely had to work through contractions and was constantly changing positions – on my hands and knees, on a fitness ball, dancing with Joel, on the bed, on the toilet – but in between contractions I was talking, laughing, eating, and drinking. I felt like I was getting good work done, and I had a great team helping me. Bethany’s warmth gave me peace and courage, and Joel’s love was my anchor. Jessica came in to check on us several times and I felt safe with her near.

I suppose it’s hard to know for sure, but around 3pm, I believe I entered into transition. No one ever checked me, so I have no idea if I really was in transition, but from all the descriptions I’d ever heard of it, that’s where I think I was. In class with Samanda, we’d talked about all different kinds of pain coping techniques, and as transition came upon me I felt myself scrambling to try each one.

I was ROARING, so clearly vocalization is one of the techniques I ended up using. But truly, I did not handle this phase very well. I was suffering. I was tightening up with each contraction and resisting them. Now I know why Samanda always said, “Welcome another contraction.” I was pushing them away and saying, “Do not come back!” I think I said, “I can’t do this anymore!” about 30 times.

I was in and out of the tub, on the floor, on the bed, writhing in pain and wishing it would stop. I mentally tried to figure if we could get in the car, go to the hospital, and get an epidural, but I knew I’d passed the point of no return.

Jessica came in around 4, having witnessed my suffering, and said that if there was not noticeable change (i.e. pushing) within the hour, she would check me. Well, that hour came and went and she did not check me. I noticed this (hint hint I was not in my primal brain!), and asked her why she hadn’t checked me. She said, “If I check you, and you’re only 6cm, will you be discouraged?” I said yes. So she didn’t check me. Seeing my frustration, she said to me, “Melissa, there is only one way to the end. And that is through this.”

Something changed. I realized I was not working with my body, but fighting it. I was trying to go over and around instead of through. I was suffering, instead of progressing with the pain as productive work.

For the next hour, I was very different than I had been before. And honestly, I don’t remember much of it (yay! primal brain!), but Joel says I became very quiet. He says that hour was the longest hour of his life. The room had a stillness to it, and everyone just watched as I labored in a new way in the tub. I felt drunk – each contraction washed over me like a powerful wave, and I would fall asleep as they receded.

Around 6pm, Jessica came back in and said she was going to check me, because of how dramatically I had changed. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d changed so significantly, but she was right. I think it made everyone a little nervous (including me!), that I had calmed down so much. Isn’t it supposed to escalate until the end? The room held its breath as she checked me. Seriously, I was so scared. I was convinced I was only going to be 4cm.

Jessica’s eyes got big. “Melissa,” she said. “You’re 9 1/2 cm. He’s RIGHT there! His head is RIGHT there!” Everyone let out such a huge sigh of relief. She pushed a small cervical lip out of the way, and instantly my body convulsed into pushing. It was such a bizarre feeling, this unstoppable push. I welcomed it, though – it felt much better than the contractions of transition.

I only pushed for about 20-30 minutes, but boy did I need help. I was very tired by this point, so Joel had to hold my head up to keep it from going under the water. Bethany would give me sips of water in-between pushes, and Jessica was checking on Oscar and my body. I remember asking her at one point, “Does he have hair?” As his head got closer she said, “He has SO much hair!” This must have been just what I needed to hear, because about 2 or 3 pushes later he arrived!

I sobbed. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. [Replay: In the video recording of the birth, it is actually hilarious. I look completely worn and haggard, I’m ugly-crying, there’s blood everywhere, and everyone is celebrating. Not quite the way I remembered it. HA! Actually, the truly beautiful part is Joel’s HUGE smile, and Jessica saying, “Great work, Melissa,” as she lovingly pushes the hair out of my face.

I held Oscar and soaked in his first cries. About 10 minutes passed and Joel cut the cord. He held him on his bare chest while I delivered the placenta. I hemorrhaged, and this was the only *scary* moment of the whole day, but Jessica and Halley (her assistant and part of the “Naturally Prepared” team!) handled it amazingly. I was still a bit delirious, but within seconds someone had put a shot of pitocin in my thigh and Jessica was massaging my uterus VERY hard (not cool, but necessary).

It took some time, but they got it under control. I only had a very small tear in my labia (NOT my perineum! yay!), and Jess only had to put a couple stitches in it (which didn’t hurt at all). Oscar nursed almost immediately, like a boss, and our little family cuddled on the bed. Joel made me a turkey sandwich and all felt right in the world. (Seriously, I love a good turkey sandwich).

By 10pm, we had cleaned up and packed up and headed home. The three of us fell asleep in the same bed we’d woken up in, except this time, Oscar was in my arms instead of my belly. We thanked Jesus.