My labor up to pushing had been fast and furious, at least compared to how I thought it would be. I kept saying this -- over and over again -- to my midwife and nurse. They both told me -- over and over again -- that I needed to toss away those ideas of how I thought things would go. How fast I thought things would progress. How much I thought it would hurt. Just go with it.
Well, I did . . . but it sure didn't prepare me for pushing.
Note: Random item I forgot, and I don't exactly remember how this fits in, but there was a bit of a mystery over when/where my water broke. It didn't break at home. I don't remember it breaking in the shower. But even when I was checked early on, my midwife was puzzled. Concerned, too, because we didn't know what that meant for Ada's fluid. I had some minor watery stuff for a few weeks, but we don't think that was it. Anyway, it made things a little stressful because she was worried about infection.
When my midwife told me I was ready to push, I was excited and confident. Overwhelmed, yes. But I had kept in great shape during my pregnancy. My last run was at 37 weeks. I did tons of squats and yoga balance poses. Hell, I did 15 push-ups on Monday! I would get baby Ada out . . . no problem! I could deal with another hour, I thought. It was almost time to meet her, and we were psyched.
Cocky much? Yeah. I wasn't prepared for how excruciating that first push would be.
And the pain wasn't really from within my body, it was from the nurse's hands shoved up inside me. Yes. I just typed that. It was the strangest, most painful sensation to me. During that first push, I shrieked, but the nurse said "STOP. You need to save that energy for the PUSH." Oh, I hated her for telling me to stop expressing how it felt. But at the same time, it made sense. As the minutes dragged on, I appreciated the direction that pain gave me. I had to push RIGHT THERE where the pain was. I had to push THROUGH the pain.
Some of you had mentioned that pushing gives you a sense of power during labor. I completely agree. I felt like I was actually doing something. And bearing down during contractions definitely lessened the pain I felt being on my back. The contractions had also spaced out quite a bit, too. What a relief. I finally got my break, though I have no idea how much they had slowed exactly. I just knew it felt better.
Problem was: I felt productive, but I wasn't getting anywhere. The whole two steps forward, one step back seemed to apply to me all too well. But it was more like two steps forward, one back, then another back, then one forward. After the first bit of pushing (I have absolutely no concept of time during this period because it got super intense), I could see in my midwife's face that something wasn't going well.
She mentioned something about how I have strong pelvic muscles. Which is a good thing, but they were actually working against me. I learned more about exactly how later, but I remember having that statement mentally make me FEEL like my muscles were tight.
At each contraction, I'd take a relaxing (hahhah -- relaxing?) breath. Then a quick breath in and pppuuussshhh for as long as I could handle. About 15 seconds. Then another quick breath in and pppuuussshhh for another good spurt. Then another smaller quick breath and push. They told me the middle push was the most important, but I couldn't get my head around it. My first was always strong, then I'd have trouble breathing and following through.
At just before the one-hour mark, they looked worried. I could tell they were trying to keep it from me and coach me on, but my midwife had to go help another person who was also pushing. The nurse tried me in all different positions (hands/knees, toilet, etc.) to see if that would help. She monitored me again, but I remember feeling once the midwife left like this whole thing was going to last a lot longer than I thought. I mean, she left the room. She wasn't worried about Ada coming out anytime soon.
At this point, I also wondered when I had put on another hospital gown. So much was going on, and I didn't feel like I was actually there.
When she returned, I returned to our old routine, but this time after a few pushes, they actually said I needed to focus more and that the baby wasn't doing as well. Her heart rate was getting dangerously high and she needed oxygen. Which meant I needed oxygen. The nurse (the tough-love one that I didn't exactly jive with) looked me straight in the face and said that I needed to BREATHE because if I didn't, the baby would not be OK. She put the mask on my face, and I couldn't stop thinking about how they give oxygen masks when planes fall out of the sky. It was a weird moment of clarity during it all. She took my temperature and said that I, too, was starting to show signs of distress.
But we had to keep pushing or it wouldn't end.
All of this sort of freaked me out because I didn't feel like we were making any progress. And in a way, we weren't. Ada was stuck from what I could tell and from what I could see in my midwife's face. I could tell they were trying to turn her, but this is where those strong muscles were working against me. No one said anything, but I could just tell she was stuck and started to lose hope. I kept asking if the baby would be OK. I kept apologizing because I knew I was strong, but for whatever reason, I could NOT push ANY harder. I couldn't breathe any more deeply. I couldn't DO IT. I was so, so sorry . . . and confused . . . but I just couldn't get her to move lower.
I kept trying and trying, but Ada's heart rate reached a certain point, and my midwife went to get the OB. We needed to deliver her soon -- even if it meant some other type of intervention. (Terrifying to hear.) This is when I learned to love my nurse. She got down to business. She started yelling at me, but in a nice way, if that's possible. I don't remember what she said, really, but it was to focus. Focus EVERYTHING on that one spot where she was directing me to push. Since my second of three pushes wasn't the strongest, we tried our best to capitalize on the first, which is where I had my most strength.
My contractions had suddenly sped up. They said this was a sign that the baby needed to get out. A combination of stronger, closer contractions and the thought of some other type of intervention helped me somehow. Trust me, I still felt hopeless. But then the pain/stretching moved lower. Somehow. It was something I did, but something the nurse had facilitated, too. By the time my midwife had returned, I was sweating profusely and I could hardly see out of my glasses. But she was amazed. She threw on all the delivery gear as quickly as she could.
The next couple of minutes I closed my eyes and pushed as fast and hard as I could. I also remember very little from this time. It was so physically demanding. The one thing I DO remember is being scared that my tailbone would snap. There was so much back pressure. I seems like right after I had that thought, I felt a huge gush and she was out. No ring of fire. No great sensation, either. Stephen says I laid back and just sort of sighed.
I didn't look at Ada right away. I was too traumatized and worried that the pushing had somehow hurt her. Her head was so coned. That's when my midwife looked at me and said: "Ashley, you did it." She looked so relieved. She and the nurse proceeded to tell me that Ada had been stubbornly direct posterior, which meant the absolute widest part of her head is what was presenting first. She had been stuck in my pelvis/under my tailbone for a long, long time and that my strong muscles and relatively narrow pelvis had made the delivery nearly impossible. Had I had drugs, I likely wouldn't have gotten her out on my own. Either way, they were THISCLOSE to using a vacuum or trying another method to get her out.
The whole thing took just over two hours. Not the longest, not the shortest, but WOW. Where was I for two hours? I don't know how to describe how time was nonexistent . . . or how I just couldn't define it in my mind.
Oh, yeah. Besides all the frightening stuff, they also said that Ada was doing great. I felt really guilty in that because I didn't have the whole: "Oh, my beautiful, beautiful baby!" moment or tears or anything. I felt selfish (because I could only think about how scary the entire labor/delivery had been) and spent. My whole body was shaking from nerves and pain -- and perhaps some pitocin to help with the placenta. But they put her on my chest, and I held her slimy little body next to mine.
My main thought: "Thank god that is over." Followed by: "Did I really just do all of that without drugs?" I wasn't patting myself on the back. I was in shock. In a way, I still am. And I'm likely forgetting a lot of what happened during the whole thing. I felt like it happened to me versus me being on top of it. I'm getting better each day, but in a way . . . it has left a strange feeling of helplessness behind.
Of course, in the next hours and days, I fell in love with her. But that's another post. Right now, I want to stop typing so I can go hold her. More cute photos for those of you who made it this far!
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