After almost two weeks, my husband Blake and I started to accept the fact that our daughter, Lila, may never want to come into this world. The doctors were already talking about lower apgar scores, but we were committed to avoiding any unnecessary interventions, especially induction. On this Saturday, we decided to go to the movies, knowing this type of excursion might be one of our last once our daughter decided to arrive. In the middle of the movie I started feeling various aches. Blake and I had been through this the last time we went to see a movie so I tried to squirm and complain as little as possible. I figured it was probably just the typical pains that come with being 10 months pregnant. We made it through the movie and went on home. I called Tina and told her that I was feeling some tightening sensations but nothing really strong and hadn't noticed a real pattern. We decided to talk again in a few hours to assess where we were.
I spoke with Tina again around 10 pm and we decided to follow our original plan and try to let everyone get as much rest as possible. Blake and I lay down, Blake fell asleep but I continued to lie there awake and unable to sleep. The waves continued to get stronger and more painful but I tried to walk around and rest on the couch as much as I could. In preparation for a long labor I wanted to let Blake and Tina get as much sleep as possible.
Around 3 am, after trying most of the techniques I had practiced on my own, I had a very strong contraction while standing in the kitchen and I started to cry. I woke Blake and told him that I couldn't go on alone anymore. For about a half hour we tried to time the contractions and they seemed pretty close together. Blake called Tina to let her know that this was the real thing and discuss how we wanted to proceed. During our prenatal visits Tina, Blake and I created a good plan for how to best balance our desire to labor at home for as long as possible with our need to reach the hospital, which was a 45 minute drive away. We decided that Tina would be available to come to our home to assist in the early labor phase and then we would all travel together to the hospital.
When Blake spoke to Tina at around 4 am she was getting her things together to come to our house which was also 45 minutes away. I tried to lie on the bed but there seemed to be no position that made the contractions tolerable. Blake called Tina again to let her know that the contractions were progressing pretty rapidly and we all decided it was a better idea to go ahead and make the drive to the hospital.
When we reached the hospital, Tina immediately joined us as we headed for the door. I remember feeling very dizzy and told Blake that I needed to sit down. We found the closest chair and right when I sat down my water broke and I threw up all at the same time. I was escorted to the admitting room where the nurse hooked me up to the fetal monitor. Time was passing in a really strange way: I don’t remember ever seeing a clock, I only remember eventful happenings, so I can’t really say how long it was before the doctor came in to check my dilation. I do remember feeling stunned when he said I was only two centimeters dilated. But thoughts about dilation soon passed as the next contraction hit. I remember watching my mom, my sister, Tina and Blake and feeling as though they were on another planet even though they were so close. I often stared into the various eyes of my helpers trying to connect and stay in this dimension as I felt I was disappearing into a deep black hole. I think part of the feeling comes from knowing that no one can make it through the pain but you; that even though you have all the people round to help they cannot really do much except watch you as you try to accept the intensity of what is happening to your body.
My mom and Blake took turns trying to lead me through breathing. I remember focusing so strongly on the snowflakes on my mom's sweater (the power of concentration is one of the greatest things that provide relief through labor). Even concentrating on the smallest thing seemed to distract from the ever increasing need to resist the experience of actually going through labor.
Blake and Tina drew a bath for me and as I walked to the bath I had to stop ever few steps to concentrate through the contraction. I tried to sit down in the bathtub; I immediately wanted to get out. The water seemed to be running into the bath at the slowest trickle I had ever seen. I got out and asked Blake to help me to the bathroom because I started to feel like I really had to go. When we made it in, I told Blake that I really felt like I had to push. I told him I did not know how much farther I could make it if it was not time for me to push. He went to get the doctor. The doctor came in and checked my dilation-he said he thought it was time for me to push. It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever heard come from anyone's mouth. I felt so much relief.
Tina suggested that they put up the squat bar since I had been practicing squats in my prenatal yoga class and thought that might be the preferable way to deliver my baby. I got up on the bed and started to push out my baby. Tina asked if I wanted a mirror so that I could see the progress. At first I was hesitant but then decided to go for it. It was such a help to be able to see her head coming down and crowning; every time I pushed I would see her head come down a little farther which gave me more strength to keep pushing. In preparation for labor I think all pregnant women have secret expectations of what things will be like. One of my strongest beliefs was that I would not make very much noise and sound like a wild animal like I had seen other women do in the birthing videos that I watched. I was so wrong; during each push I bet every person in the hospital heard my grunts and roars. After about an hour (but what seemed like 5 minutes) of pushing, Lila was pushed out onto the bed. I was overcome with joy and relief to finally meet her. Tears came instantly and I felt like my heart exploded, I had never loved anyone or anything so much and so quickly.
Our initial birthing plan did not include a doula. We reconsidered our decision after reading the incredible statistics that show such improved birth outcomes for those women who had the help of a doula. We were so lucky to find Tina. She was such a wonderful match for both my husband and me. One of the reasons I hesitated to hire a doula was that I thought such an assistant might take away from my husband's role in helping me through the birth. When I talked with Tina about this, she explained how she often saw here role as more of a support person for the birthing partner. As a trained doula she would be able to provide ideas or tools (the nature of which of course depended upon on my birthing experience) to my husband that would enable him to provide the most support. Additionally, Tina would be a liaison to the hospital staff so that my husband and I would be free to completely focus on the birthing process.
Both before and after the birth, the assistance that Tina provided exceeded my expectations. Before the birth Tina was always available to discuss anything that was coming up during the pregnancy. She was so calming and reassuring, especially with the stress of being two weeks overdue. During the labor, Tina often spoke with the nurse and the doctor relaying our wishes as outlined in the birth plan that she helped us create. I don't remember once having to explain anything that was in the birth plan - everything just seemed to fall into place. Only after the birth did I realize that without Tina's help this probably would not have been the case. In the few months following the birth we saw Tina often. She helped us adjust as a couple to our new roles as parents. She helped me so much as a new mother by listening without judgment and offering kind words and advice. We feel so blessed to have Tina in our lives. She has truly become a part of our new family.