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Friday, January 18, 2013

Laboring for Liesel: Part IV

So, I surrendered my preferences and laid down in the was awful. The pain increased so much and I was miserable. Lest I risk sounding completely negative, there were two good things about the bed: I hadn't laid down in about 12 hours, so even though I was hurting worse, I was able to rest my body a little. And taking on this position caused me to progress. 
I'm not sure how long I was on the bed, because I really went outside of my mind at this point. I remember hearing my midwife say "Happy New Year!", which caused me to see a picture in my head of the final scene of 'When Harry Met Sally', when they finally get together at the New Year's party. I thought about people celebrating all over the world and how very, very far removed I was from all my previous New Year's celebrating at that moment.

Contractions--previously slowed by my time in the shower--started coming faster together again, and eventually I had no breaks between them. They all rolled together with only slight dips between the peaks. I couldn't talk, I could only moan. Tim was rubbing my back with heat packs and my mom was rubbing my feet. I would have been lost without them. Having those other sensations gave my brain something else to process besides the pain, which helped so much. 

I laid there and thought about an epidural, and how badly I wanted one. I thought about an anesthesiologist coming in and performing the procedure on my back. Maybe I was so outside my mind that I thought it was actually happening. If I had been able to process those thoughts into words, I would have begged for one, but I was so deep inside myself that I couldn't communicate with the people around me. Eventually I heard my mom on the phone, talking with someone at the nurse's station. She was asking for them to send my midwife back to check my progress, because I'd "been having a continuous contraction for the last 25 minutes."

What?! That sounded so bad. My midwife arrived immediately to check me.

"You're at least 7 cm!! You're doing so great, Bethany!" 

A chorus of praises rose up from Tim and Mom as well. I didn't hear their words but I remember their joy and pride and encouragement over me. And then I heard the very sound of salvation: running water. Someone was readying the birthing tub! I was going to be allowed off the bed and back into the water! This was my first glimpse of the light of possible release from labor. Laying there with a flurry of activity going on around me, I suddenly felt the need to fold myself over my next contraction and bear down through it.
"that can't be right..." I thought I wouldn't feel an urge to push unless I was a complete 10cm, and I had just been told I was only at 7cm.

I don't remember how I went from not being able to even speak to leaving the bed on my own strength and climbing in the tub. I just got in there somehow, and slowly sank into the water. 

The water was hot, way too hot, and it was pure wonder. Everything went still and my body stopped screaming at me as soon as each part was submerged. My mom tested the water and worried out loud to the midwife that it would be dangerously hot for the baby. They asked me if I wanted some cold in there, and I could only reply "I just love it." Everyone snickered and left it alone. My midwife knew it would be a long time before any baby would be in that water. 
The doppler heartbeat checks continued to show that the baby was fine. I was so grateful. 

After experiencing a few more contractions, I admitted to my midwife that I thought I felt the urge to push but I was afraid to if I was only 7cm. She checked me for the last time and informed us that I was complete and the baby's head was at a -2 station. Such great news! All I had to do was push the baby's head under my pelvic bone and we'd be so close to being done.
So I pushed.
I always fancied that I would be a delicate, silent woman in labor. That was not the case. I was a yeller, and my midwife seemed to love it. With every contraction, I pushed with everything I had and "vocalized" to keep from holding my breath and turning purple.
"Goooooood, Bethany! That's so good!" 
I must have been desperate for any positive affirmation that I was doing the right thing. If yelling while pushing was right and good, then fine.
Tim told me later that he didn't know I was capable of making such ungodly sounds. 
The nice thing about pushing was that it replaced the pain of contractions with pressure. Not that it felt easy, but it was awesome to not have the terrible pain anymore. 
This went on for two and a half hours (I found out later). I ran myself completely out of energy to the point where my best efforts were obviously more feeble. Contractions had slowed down so much that I was waiting and waiting for the next one to come so I could push with them. I felt stuck. I stopped hearing positive feedback from my mom and my midwife, and finally asked them what they thought I should do.

"I think we need to get you out of the tub and get this baby out."
"Ok. How about the birthing stool?"

I never thought I would use that thing, but I sure didn't want to lay back down on the bed again. I climbed out of the tub, spent one contraction leaning over the bed, and got settled on the stool. Immediately, everything changed. Gravity and instinct took over, and I had no control over my body anymore. I went from straining as hard as I could to move the baby, to feeling like an unstoppable force was pushing the head farther and farther down, and within about two minutes I felt the ring of fire. Tim was sitting behind me and I was gripping his hands for dear life. The extreme pressure, burning, and speed of everything was pretty scary to me, and I was trying to slow it all down with deep breathing. Everyone encouraged both of us to "Look! Look down and see the head!" but neither Tim nor I were interested in that sight. I kept my eyes tightly shut and told them absolutely not. 

This part hurt so bad, but it was over so quick. I remember finally feeling relief and saying, "Oh, that feels better!", and my midwife replied "that's because the head is out." I still didn't open my eyes until I felt someone lift my baby into my arms. It was all finally over.

The relief was indescribable. I looked down to see the bloodiest baby I've ever seen in my life lying limp in my arms. Tim was beside himself with excitement and I just stared at our blinking, quiet baby. 

"Look what you have! What do you have? Is it a boy or a girl?!"
"Why does that even matter right now?!" I couldn't have cared less. I was completely in shock that a human being had just been born out of my body. It was so surreal, but everyone wanted me to get on with it and announce the gender. I peeled back the blankets.

"You're a GIRL?! You're my Liesel??" I had wanted her to be a girl so badly. 

Once the announcement was made, it was back to business. I was bleeding a lot and I had to change positions quickly to slow it down. Still holding Liesel, I was lifted up onto the bed and laid flat.
Someone in the room said: "Time of birth: 5:08am."
"THAT'S what time it is?!!" I thought it was maybe around 1 or 2am. She was born 23 hours after my water broke.

All too soon, the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Tim cut the cord, and they took her away from me because she still wasn't crying or breathing as deeply as she needed to. The nurses went to work to deep suction her and I sent Tim over with them so he could talk to her while that was happening. She had always been so responsive to his voice while I was pregnant, I wanted her to at least be able to hear him if she had to be away from me. 

My midwife had a lot of work to do on me to put me back together. More than once I asked her how many stitches she was doing, but she coyly replied "well, it's a running stitch, so....". It's probably better that I don't know, really. I just know it took her an hour to stitch me up. By then Liesel had her lungs clear and I could hear her big healthy cries as she was being weighed and measured, which was a great relief. 
She was 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 18 inches short with a full head of long dark hair.
The stitches finally ended and I got to change out of my bloody clothes and get her back in my arms. 
And then the sun came up. The longest night of our lives was finally over. My mom and Tim took long naps but I couldn't sleep at all, I was too energized by the birth and generally excited about her.
I had thought that she (or he, whoever our baby would prove to be) would be a little stranger to me when they were born. That wasn't the case. Looking at her was like looking at a familiar face. She looks just like Tim's baby pictures.

There it is. The end. Thanks for reading this very long (longer than I intended) account or our birth.


  1. all I can say is, I am so happy for you three. :)

  2. You did so beautifully - both in the birth itself and in its retelling. I kind of want to go back and read it again. :) She is the loveliest. Just the loveliest. I found that just a few months after Lila's birth I had completely forgotten how hard it was and started telling people how much I "enjoyed labor." The people in the room at her birth (I had a crowd) tell me their memories suggest otherwise, but I think they're wrong. All I remember is the relief, the thrill, the joy of meeting my daughter. I'm pretty sure the rest is erased from my consciousness. Sending so much love to you all! Please come to KC soon so we can see that lovely little Liesel.

  3. Girl this is so amazing. I think I checked your blog like 10 times today cause I wanted to hear the end so bad! WOW. 1. God is so good. 2. You are so badass. I am so sorry for swearing! But holy mother (!!!) labor is the worst thing I can think of & I was as drugged as I could get! I literally cannot even fathom the strength & determination it took to do what you did! It's amazing!

    The part where you found out she was a girl? I cried. Big ole mommy tears.

    Congrats, congrats, congrats! I hope our girls can meet!

    You did it!!!!!

  4. Bethany,
    I want to thank you so much for writing all of this out. I'm two weeks-ish away from delivering a baby girl, and we have been planning and preparing for a natural birth. Reading this has brought many tears to my eyes, and I'm so thankful for the candidness and openness of your story. A thousand congratulations to you and Tim (I knew him a bit at Moody) and thanks again for your willingness to share.

  5. Wow Bethany thank you so much. This all sounds really scary, but I appreciate your honesty.

  6. You are one incredible mama! Thank you for sharing Liesel's birth story. It was beautiful to read!

  7. Loved this! love you! love your baby! hugs all around! xoxo Susie

  8. i LOVED reading this! she is so beautiful. thank you for sharing! - brittany

  9. Sweet Girl. I so loved reading this. It reminded me of the births of my children. I, too, wanted a drug free experience and I got it, twice! I remember everything. Laying on my side, small parts down, to speed up labor, camelback contractions, complete with the shakes, and I remember "Hi Jenny" when this sweet face showed up in the light, posterior, but perfect.

    Blessings to you, Bethany and your sweet Tim. God's wonderful blessings on you and your family!

  10. I'm sitting here a day after my due date and I just re-read your labor story. It's been really helpful to me as I prepare and wait for this girl to arrive. I read it through once again around the time we started our childbirth class and reading it again now is extra helpful. Just trying to wrap my mind around all of the different things that might happen. I'm feeling ready. And I'm glad you documented this so I could read it from such a good friend instead of just another birth story from a stranger. Love you girl.