It was Sunday, March 2, 2003. I remember it was Sunday because my sister had spent the night to help put away the baby shower gifts (from the 1st) and go to church with me the next morning. I was the Uniteen R.E.P., or Reasonably Enlightened Person. Basically I taught Sunday School to the middle schoolers. I woke up at 8:20, ten minutes before my alarm, and I really had to pee. You get used to that in your ninth month. I went back to the bedroom to begin getting dressed, when suddenly I had to pee again. According to Eden's baby book that I found yesterday, at this point I found a bit of blood when I wiped so I put on a pad. I went back out to get dressed again, and within minutes I was running back to the bathroom again. I was leaking quite a bit.
My water had broken, but at the time I felt really unsure because I hadn't been having contractions. After Josh brought me fresh drawers, I told him I thought my water had broken but I didn't think I was really in labor. He said he thought so the way I kept running to the bathroom. I went up to call the midwife, and we made plans to meet at her office at 1:30 to do a test strip to see if it was amniotic fluid. From the sounds of it, she told me, she was pretty sure it was. I called out of church and went home to clean some more, not due to nesting but necessity. I was also hoping that moving around might start contractions, but all was pretty calm in my belly. We took Lyz home and after my other sister, Tina, found out what was going on, she wanted to come with us. We met Jan, my midwife, at New Dawn, where I started leaking a good deal more. A ph strip (I think) confirmed that it was amniotic fluid. She suggested that I try a castor oil root beer float, followed with a peanut butter cup. Hopefully the castor oil would start some contractions. We made plans to meet at the hospital around 7:30 pm, because they start getting antsy 12 hours after the water breaks. Not Jan herself, but if I wanted to keep her as midwife then we had to follow certain protocols. I knew they'd want to do pitocin if labor didn't start, but at all times I was completely confident that labor would start on its own.
From the day I found out I was pregnant, I had spoken and meditated with my child. I visualized birth and showed it what I felt was my 'perfect' birth scenario. We planned to have a water birth, because my research had led me to believe that it was a safe and gentle entry, and I instinctively knew that I would welcome the soothing feel of water while in labor. My baby was pisces, afterall. So I imagined the natural water birth I wanted, telling the baby that we both knew what to do and to follow our bodies, let it be swift and as painless as possible and we would do it together. Every night as I went to sleep, I would visualize the two of us working together for our perfect birth. People asked me if I was afraid and I laughed. Are you kidding? I'm a birth goddess. I didn't doubt for a second. It's what I was made for.
We went home to clean up a bit more and pack our hospital bags. With a due date of March 17 and a baby shower on March 1, we hadn't gotten around to that yet. We took our huge bumbling mastiff, Brutus, up to the neighbors' house and drove Achaiah to my mom's. We were birthing at Park Ridge Hospital, the only local hospital that I know of that "lets" you birth in the tub. It's in Hendersonville, which isn't far from my mom's house. I drove, as Josh still didn't have a license at this point. We stopped at the Burger King down the road from the hospital so that Josh could get dinner before everything started.
In the drive-through, everything started.
The contractions, that is. I still didn't recognize them, since I expected them in my stomach and not my back. But I was definitely doing some breathing while Josh leaned over me to order, and by the time we were paying and waiting for the bag, I believe I'd started cursing a bit. Contractions started a little after 7. We got to the hospital and I gave Josh the (already filled out) hospital forms to check us in, and I hurried to the bathroom. The castor oil had really kicked in, and I thought I had to use the bathroom. It didn't work for me, but the contractions were pretty intense in the bathroom and it took a few minutes before I could walk to the safety of Josh's arm. I was very nauseous and felt like I either needed to vomit or poop, but neither was happening. We got to the room and they put me on Electronic Fetal Monitoring, where they put the strips on my belly for 20 minutes upon entry to record my contractions and the baby's heart rate. I was surprised to learn that my contractions were already coming every 2 minutes. It was about 8 pm, and I had been in labor for just under an hour.
Jan tried to do a vaginal exam to see how far I was dilated, but she couldn't find my cervix. That's actually a common problem for me - apparently I tilt backwards some, and VEs have always been uncomfortable. While in labor, though, it positively hurt. I started crying. Jan quickly apologized and said she'd check later (the cervix usually tilts forward during labor, anyway). They were slightly concerned because they said the baby's heart rate wasn't going up a lot when it moved, and I drank lots of juice to try to help out a little. I kept thinking I had to poop but I couldn't, and finally I exclaimed, "God, I'd just be ok if going to the bathroom would work!" or something like that. Jan offered me an enema, which to my surprise, I happily accepted. I sent Josh out of the room for that bit of fun, but it did help a little bit. In retrospect, I had felt the baby decending. We'd only just gotten situated in our room, and I hadn't realized that then.
Following my trip to the bathroom afterwards, I was extremely hot. The shower looked so inviting, I begged to get in. They put a plastic bag on my hand so the heplock wouldn't get wet and I put it on lukewarm water and just luxuriated in it. It cooled me down so much, and the water felt good against my back and stomach. Eventually the contractions started getting stronger again and I had to sit down, but I just turned around and sat on the shower floor and let the water pour over my forehead. It was so peaceful, and really one of the most vivid memories I carry from my first birth.
When I got out, I had to get Josh to help me dry off. He was so gentle and sweet, toweling me off and holding me when a contraction surged over me. They were very strong and long by now, and after they passed, Josh helped me get back to the bed. They talked me into saline solution, saying I was dehydrated, but I learned from that with my next birth. I will never labor with things sticking out of me again. That's the only disappointment I had with that birth. They said it would help the contractions settle down if I got fluids in me, and as they got that running, I started to freak out a little bit. I told Josh, "I'm sorry, baby. I'm really sorry but I can't do a natural birth afterall. It hurts so bad! I can't take it." It hurt all in my back, and I started kicking my legs and rolling around trying to get relief. Jan said she would get the anesthesiologist if I wanted, but I knew I didn't really want that. She suggested she try another vaginal exam to see how far along I was. Jan checked me again and learned that I was 8 CENTIMETERS! It was so fast, no wonder I'd been hot and flustered.
We hadn't been there very long at all, two or three hours, and I thought I was maybe three or four centimeters. I certainly couldn't take ten more hours of that. I wasn't a doula then, although I had made the decision and was studying for it, but I didn't recognize the fact that I was in transition. When I heard 8 centimeters, it made better sense. Rationally, I'd known that transition is pretty much when every woman wants to wuss out. It's the deer-in-the-headlights feeling - the moment just before surrender, when you haven't quite accepted the power. Did I want the anesthesiologist, they asked? No. I knew I didn't, but I sure could use that tub.
They hurried to fill it, knowing I really wanted a waterbirth. Boy, I REALLY had to use the bathroom, and I wheeled my IV to the toilet and sat with a trashcan between my legs because I thought I was going to throw up. I didn't do either, but the squatting/leaning position on the toilet relieved a lot of the pain and nausea and I started to feel better. Then I noticed my legs were shaking pretty badly and my stomach knotted up and I felt a big pressure in my bottom. I realized I wasn't going to be pooping, I was trying to push!
It hit me suddenly, and when those contractions stopped and I ran to tell Jan. They had the tub mostly full and they helped me ease in. It really helped with my back. After the next round of contractions passed, she had me lay back for another VE and confirmed that I was 10 centimeters.Now, from the time spent going to the bathroom and climbing into the tub, it was five (maybe ten) minutes since she checked me and learned I was 8 cm. Jan told me to go ahead and listen to my body, push when I felt I needed to.
I leaned forward and squatted over the rim of the tub. I couldn't lay back with the pain gathering in my back. I held the tub and just breathed...and everything seemed to slow down and get really sparkly. The noise of Jan, the nurse, Josh, machines...everything muted out except for the sparkly wall I stared at and the sound of me going "Hee-ha-hee-ha". I had prayed to know the moment my child's soul entered its body, and I fully believe that that moment when time slowed and everything got sparkly, it happened.
I could feel it coming fast. "It's coming! It's coming!" I put my hand down and felt, then told them, "There's a head down there." Jan felt and said, "There is a head down there." She tried to have me lay back in the tub, but it was too uncomfortable. I leaned over the edge and kind of squatted. The nurse, Fonda, was really nice and wiped my head with a cool cloth.
Nothing in the world ever felt so good as when the baby's head popped out. After another minute or so, the whole body came out. I remember looking down and seeing little feet under the water. Because of my position, the baby floated out behind me and I was a little sad to see it floating away like that. Then everything started moving quickly again, and as I moved back away from the edge, Jan reached her hand in and kind of pushed the baby back through my legs. I looked down at it and reached down to help pull it out and give it it's first taste of air. I held it up to my chest and started talking, telling it how much I loved it and how beautiful and sweet it was. The baby cried out and I remember laughing and saying, "I know - that sucked, didn't it?" It didn't, though.
Josh said, "Let's see what we've got, honey." I hadn't even thought about it, honest to God. Holding my first baby and meeting it for the first time, and I hadn't even considered whether it was a boy or a girl. Everyone had told me I was having a boy (the way I carried it, you know, and the 'showing early' that I blamed on the baby and not the french fries). I looked down between it's little legs and said, "I think it's a girl." I laughed and said, "It's a little girl!"
Josh smiled so big and beautifully. He said, "I guess it's Eden Mahjia then." I was surprised, because I didn't think he liked that middle name. I'd had 'Eden' picked out since I was 10 or 12, but we'd had quite the middle-name-impasse. Mahjia was actually a word that came to me in a dream, actually spelled out. I wasn't sure how to say it. I thought it was a more gutteral (that's not the right word) Hebrew word or something and I've looked it up to no avail (it shows up on arab or turkish websites, I think). But anyway, we instead pronounce it in the way Josh could say it, which is 'Mah-high-uh'. Apparently he didn't dislike it as I thought, and he said that's who she was.
Jan invited Josh to cut the cord, and I was coherent enough to demand a picture (although they did not get his face, which is sad). Eden was born at 10:51 pm, after about three and a half hours of labor.
She wasn't breathing that well, so they put her on oxygen for a bit. Josh stayed with her, and I was helped back to the bed to deliver the placenta. That was an odd feeling, and I wanted a good look at it before they took it away. I was afraid I'd have tears since it happened so fast, but there was just one tiny tear that wasn't even bleeding and I didn't need any stitches. I wanted to hold Eden and breastfeed her right away, but after she was warmed and dressed and pricked and all that (you should have seen Josh's indignation at the thermometer up her bum!), they took her to the nursery and put her in one of those oxygen tents. I was disappointed, but I'd rather she be breathing good. I really just wanted a shower, anyway. I don't think Jan wanted me up on my feet right away, but I just wanted to clean up. After my shower, they took me to the nursery to see her.
They said that as soon as I came in and started touching her, her heart rate slowed down. That made me happy. She knew who momma was. I took my hair down, since Josh had put it up horribly on top of my head and I looked like a moron. That was ok. They helped me breastfeed her for the first time, but they wanted to observe her on an hour of 'room air' after an hour of oxygen, so I went to move everything to our room. After the two hours, she was moved with us to our room. Josh had stayed with her the whole time.