The midwife then on call, Valerie, had done one or two exams just to make sure I was progressing, and everything looked great. A couple hours after midnight, I'd gotten out of the tub because it was starting to slow labor too much and we needed to keep things moving. Goodbye hot tub, hello 7 centimeters . . . 7 and a half . . . 8 . . . are we done yet?!!
I was now on all fours gritting my teeth during extremely hard contractions. Pretty soon I had lost all control and was screaming through them-- forget that steady breathing nonsense. (Jared says that at this point, he started to wonder how long I could keep going.) Those contractions felt like every muscle from my knees up to the top of my stomach was being pulled so tight it would break; think of the intense, radiating ache of a charley horse and multiply it by a hundred. At the peak of each contraction I found myself wailing like some wild animal, not caring who heard me or how crazy I sounded.
I suppose every woman probably has a moment during labor where she thinks "Okay, could we stop now? The baby can just stay in there. I don't really have to keep going, right?" I certainly did. I remember telling Jared that I couldn't do it anymore, though what I really meant was that I didn't want to do it anymore. I knew perfectly well that I was capable of going to the end, and I never even thought "I want an epidural." Good thing, because I couldn't have gotten one anyway! But seriously. It was horrible.
Valerie did another exam.
"I really need you to try not to push," she said. "You are at 9 1/2 centimeters, almost there, but you're a bit swollen from pushing too soon."
I thought Go jump in a lake, lady but I just nodded.
"I can give you an injection of Nubain right now," Valerie continued calmly. "That would not eliminate the pain, but it would take the edge off of your contractions and help you to relax. I could also give you Benadryl to help you sleep."
I decided that getting a bit of rest was more worthwhile than fighting for a completely drug-free delivery. (In any case, Nubain was unlikely to slow dilation or interfere with pushing, two of my concerns with an epidural.) So I said yes to the injection, no to the Benadryl.
Oh, did that needle ever hurt. The pain only lasted a few moments, though, and it helped me to relax during the last part of transition. I laid down on the bed with Jared and dozed between contractions while he held me and stroked my hair. I am still very thankful for some pain relief at that point. I'm glad I did it without an epidural, but I'm not sorry about the Nubain!
Valerie did one last exam and announced that I was ready to push: there was still a tiny lip of cervix, but she had slipped it over the baby's head and I could get started. Despite feeling slightly groggy from the Nubain, I was thrilled.
It didn't take long to figure out that during the second half of each contraction, my body was consumed by an involuntary pushing reflex, and all I had to was get behind it. (At first I pushed through the whole contraction, but then I realized that the midwife would only say "That's good, keep going!" during that second half, so I decided that the first part must not be very effective anyway and I might as well wait.)
Anyway, this part of delivery felt great. It took every bit of energy I had, but the pain levels had gone way down; thanks in part to the Nubain, and in part to how hard I was concentrating. I know that it looked painful (especially to my poor husband) but it honestly was not. Valerie and Diane, the nurse, kept encouraging me and letting me know how Ellie was progressing. "She has a lot of hair!" Valerie told me, smiling.
Feeling your baby slowly slip down the birth canal is . . . strange. And exhilarating. It took about 45 minutes.
I could feel Ellie getting closer and closer, and I realized that I was actually doing it. I was getting my baby into the world! Whoa! Then all at once, with a sudden stretch and burn, her head was out. A couple more pushes-- one extra for her chubby belly, they told me later-- and at 4:40 in the morning, WHOOSH. Onto that bed she slid, along with a sizeable gush of fluid. Gross.
Diane quickly picked Ellie up and placed her on my chest. The first thing I noticed was her incredibly long eyelashes. She hadn't made any noise, and I remember asking if she was all right. Valerie assured me that she was, and yes, soon she let out some indignant wails.
I was so exhausted by that point that I couldn't really think. I was just glad that Ellie was okay and happy to be done!
Jared snipped the umbilical cord once it stopped pulsing; he says he was surprised at how tough it was. I delivered the placenta and nursed my hungry little girl. When Diane finally weighed and measured her, everyone was shocked: 9 pounds and 10 ounces. No one had expected her to be that big. The midwives had estimated 7 or 8 pounds. Even once Ellie was born she didn't look huge, probably because she was so long and the weight was stretched out. :) Surprise!
Can you imagine how enormous she'd have been if she had gone full term? I shudder to think.
Things get blurry after this in my memory. We stayed at the birth center for about 5 hours after Ellie arrived. Jared held her, I got stitched up and took a shower, both of us napped at some point (Ellie pretty much slept the whole time), Diane gave us the run-down on what we should expect for the first few days, and I scarfed down most of the food I'd so sagaciously packed. Banana bread, yogurt, tuna salad, the works.
Once I felt up to walking, we slowly made our way out to the car . . .
Much the same way as we'd arrived, except this time there was a tiny person in the back seat.