Nothing, I mean NOTHING, prepared me for childbirth—not the hundreds of dollars worth of classes we attended, not the pile of books I read, not the relaxation tapes I fell asleep to. When I went into labor, it was Childbirth 101, pass or fail! I can distinctly remember thinking at the time “I will NEVER do this again.” But alas, nearly two months have passed and the amnesiac effects of oxytocin have worked their magic on my memory, softening the painful edges of the experience.
The day I went into labor, I had visited my midwife at 5pm, two days past my due date. She took a look at things and said no dilation yet, but I may feel some contractions that night because she was going to work on some acupressure points to bring on labor. (If you’re interested in these points—there is one just above the ankle on the outside of the leg)
Before we even got home, I started to feel cramps and by 7pm they organized into 2 minutes apart. Now we had been told by every book and class that first babies often start with false labor and that even when you are in real labor, it is slow so you’ll have plenty of time to get ready. Don’t rush to the hospital too early, they all said. So we ordered dinner and watched TV all the while I’m having contractions every two minutes—completely oblivious that I’m in labor. Around midnight I’m thinking, well this could turn into something so I should get some sleep. It had been an exhausting day with construction workers building a scaffold directly outside our windows, peering in while I ate my breakfast. So I got up to go to bed and it was as if someone flipped a fast forward switch because as soon as I stood up the contractions suddenly became unbearable. Now I had the unique challenge of trying to get dressed in 2 minutes windows before I was doubled over again. I managed to get dressed in the last pair of pants that still fit when my water broke. That was discouraging. So I left the house in the most ridiculous pair of shorts and socks with freezing temperatures outside. Our good friend Maura managed to safely deliver us to the hospital despite my screaming like a banshee in the backseat the whole way.
Nothing can really describe the experience of labor—the mind-splitting pain of contractions alternating with the dreamlike spaces in between. You revert to a very primal, non-verbal state of being. I remember my range of focus collapsed to a small diameter about 6 inches in front of me. My doula, Judith was amazing. She got right into my face and held me together when I thought I was falling apart. But most incredible was my loving partner and baby’s father. Eduardo was right there when the most difficult time came, transition. He got right into the tub with me and held fast to my wild, panic-filled eyes. With his voice he guided me through the most frightening pain. When I felt like I was spiraling out of control, he pulled me back and together we helped Isa descend into the birth canal for his final exit.
After laboring in the tub for about an hour, it was time to navigate my way to the bed and begin pushing. I was hit with a contraction between the bath and the bed and if Judith had not been there, I would have landed on the floor. By now everyone is saying, the baby is coming soon, it won’t be long now, and I’m thinking, “What baby?” For some strange reason, when you’re in labor all you can think about is the labor—the mention of “a baby” came as a surprise to me. And at 4:39am, holding Isa in my arms for the first time was an even greater one. A remarkably fast birth, Isa was born in less than 5 hours of hard labor.
Natural / No Drugs Childbirth—
Major Disadvantage: It hurts. I’m not gonna lie—it hurts like hell. There were many moments when I didn’t know how I’d get through it
Major Advantage: When it was over, it was over and I felt great. Within the hour after he was born, I was sitting up, walking and hanging out with the family. (I think I even washed my kitchen floor the next day, but that admittedly was just stupid)
If you happen to be one of our many friends or family expecting a baby this year, you probably should disregard everything you read here because as I said, nothing can prepare you for childbirth—especially someone else’s experience.