Jackson Clay | The Birth Story
Photo by Ali Caudill Photography
Childbirth is an experience I can’t even begin to put into words. How can I accurately convey the marvel of bringing a person into the world and really experiencing every moment? I figured I better try before it all becomes a faint memory, as so many parts already have, from the second he was placed on my chest. So here I sit, tears streaming, as I reflect on the most cathartic, life-changing, rock-you-to-the-core experience of my life all the while staring at the little miracle that worked so hard alongside me, as he sleeps in his bouncy seat.
I went to the doctor on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 for a Non-Stress Test and internal exam since I was beyond my due date by almost a week at that point. The results were good: baby was healthy, and I was dilated 3.5 cm and 90% effaced. My doctor suggested that we pick an induction date, since things get pretty risky if a baby is in the womb past 42 weeks. We scheduled it for April 20th, since that would be exactly 42 weeks, and I wanted to give Jackson the best shot possible at coming on his own and avoiding medical intervention wherever possible. Dr. Bell informed me that he would be out of town over the upcoming weekend, and, unfortunately, so would his back-up OB, Dr. Meyer. He explained that if I were to go into labor over the weekend, a Dr. Chun would be on call for delivery, but that he hoped I wouldn’t make it to the weekend. I had a feeling (really I knew) that I would give birth on the weekend, but made a deal with Jackson that if he decided to come, on his own will, over the weekend, I would deal with some third-string doctor I hadn’t yet met, and that it would be just fine.
Fast forward to the early morning hours of Sunday April 17, 2011; I had been on a sleep pattern that would be one great night of sleep, followed by one night of waking up at 3 am and not falling back asleep. It was no surprise that I awoke at 3 AM on the 17th. I had some slight dull aching in my lower back, but thought nothing of it, and so rolled over and tried to fall back asleep. At around 3:30 I began having contractions like I’d never felt before. I had been walking around with some pretty intense Braxton Hicks contractions for 8-12 weeks prior to giving birth, but these were different. They felt like BH contractions, but also like very intense menstrual cramps at the same time. I woke Zac up around 4:30 and told him to be ‘on call’ because I thought that I could be in active labor. I decided to take a hot bath, since the water had proven capable of stopping BH contractions throughout the past weeks. The heat of the bath was soothing, and, to my surprise, did NOT stop the contractions. By the time I decided that I was in active labor, Zac was up and ready to go. I live only feet away from the hospital (I can literally look out my patio door and see it in my backyard), so I thought it would be good to labor at home for awhile. By the time 5:30 rolled around, we were in the car, ready to drive the less than 1 minute journey to the hospital. Zac thought it would be funny to ask if I would make it or ‘if the ambulance needed to meet us halfway.’ I told him to shutup.
We entered through the ER since it was after-hours, and a nurse offered to wheel me to the birthing center in a wheelchair. I laughed and said I would prefer to walk. I distinctly remember stepping onto the elevator, accompanied by my husband and a nurse. I stood in the corner, behind each of them and had the most intense urge to cry. I could feel my eyes welling up and thought to myself ‘you’ve got to keep it together. you can do this. if you fall apart now, you will never make it.’ I swallowed the lump in my throat, dried my eyes, and got ready to face the uphill battle that is labor and delivery as I stepped off of the elevator.
Once we were in the birthing center, we got checked in, hooked up to the monitor for the mandatory 20 minutes, & signed all the necessary paperwork that comes along with a hospital stay. The nurse said I had a ‘beautiful labor pattern’-on the monitor it was perfect bell curves evenly spaced at 2 minute intervals (it didn’t stay beautiful-that’s for sure). They checked to see ‘where I was’ and I was 5.5 cm dilated and 100% effaced!!! There was a shift change, so the nurse I would be with all day, Mary, came in. She was amazing, by the way. She was totally supportive of my wishes to have a natural birth and let me in on the best tip for pain management. She noted that she had a natural birth the weekend prior, and the woman’s doula worked with the pressure points in the palms of her hand to ease the contractions. I used this technique for 90-95% of the labor, and it was a huge help. At this point, it was almost 7 am and my water had not broken yet, so I was allowed to go into the “spa.” This was by far the best part of the labor. The water was hot and the jets helped to soothe through the ever-intensifying contractions. I was able to do 45 minutes in the whirlpool and then be monitored for 15. When I came out the first time, they checked to see if I made any progress, and to all of our surprise, I was 8 cm (!!!). In my head, I was so encouraged, and thought, for sure, that Jackson would be here by noon, 10 AM if we were lucky (it was around 8 or 8:30 at this point). I went for another round in the whirlpool, and then one more for a total of 3 times. I have nothing but fond memories of the whirlpool. I would have this strange stream of consciousness that I think my body needed to compensate for the pain. It went like this: I would have a major contraction, and then would ‘sleep’ for what felt to me like 20-30 minute naps, followed by another contraction. The naps were complete with dreams and all. I told Zac how great I thought the naps were, and he was like, ‘they are NOT 20-30 minutes, Christy, its maybe a minute to a minute and a half.’ However long they were, they were a welcome break, and my body appreciated them.
I had chosen to hydrate by mouth (though they did insist on a saline lock IV ‘just in case’ which turned out to be absolutely necessary later) so I was drinking a ton of water. I was also verrrry hungry at this point, since I hadn’t eaten ANYTHING since dinner the night before. I had brought crackers with me to the hospital but they insisted I could have only clear liquids. I think this is where things started to go awry. The contractions were intense, so much so that I could not get through one without making noise. Sometimes I would just yell for Zac to press harder into my palms, and other times it would be obscenities, or some strange, primal, animal noises that I couldn’t even begin to replicate now if I tried. Bottom line – it hurt like hell. I was trying really hard to compose myself and remember the affirmations. I really needed to get out of my head, but all I could think was ‘ow, ow, ow, it hurts, holy f-ing shit, im hungry.’ I completely forgot about my plans to hydrate myself and ended up vomiting. This is when the nurses required, by code, that I receive a round of fluids. I have to admit, that I did feel MUCH better after being rehydrated. Things went on this way for a long time. I ended up throwing up again, screaming and writhing in pain, and still not progressing past 8 cm. Around 2 PM, my water still had not broken, and things were not moving along at. all. I agreed to let Dr. Chun break my water, though they said it would make the contractions more severe, it should certainly move things along. It was a big relief once the water was broken, but only for a minute. This is where things got bad. The contractions were a series of peaks. They no longer had any break between them, but would just dip down a tiny bit and then become more intense. After a few minutes of this, Jackson began reacting poorly. His heart rate dropped into the 70s, so they put me on my left side. After another minute or two of monitoring, it dropped lower, into the 50s. The nurses frantically threw me on my right side (in the middle of a contraction nonetheless) put me on oxygen, and I immediately vomited again. I hated being on oxygen. I wanted to gasp huge breaths of air, not have the stupid mask on my face. All I can remember is laying on my right side, terrified, writhing in pain, with hot tears streaming down my face. I was so so scared that something would happen to the baby, and that I was about to have an emergency C-Section. This is when the lowest of low happened. The doctor, who was NOT my OB, and did NOT thoroughly read my birth plan (if she had, she would know that I did NOT want to be offered an epidural. Period.) recruited an anesthesiologist to come talk to me. He comes in (mind you, all my bits are on display for the world to see) and introduces himself to a crying, oxygenated, contracting pregnant woman and said ‘I heard you said you did not want an epidural, but I thought I would come in and check things out since I heard you screaming when I stepped off the elevator, have you changed your mind on that?’ I responded “NO. I DON’T WANT IT.” Let me just say that had he not been such a douchelord, I might have caved and taken the epidural or some other sort of relief. So I thank him for being a jerk, and helping me to do things the way I wanted to. He went on to talk about what might happen if I were to require a C-Section (at this point, it looked like that’s where things were headed – I had been stalled at 8 cm for nearly 6 hours, and Jackson was not responding well to labor at all).
Less than 2 hours after Dr. Chun broke my water, I was ready to push. The nurses had all been in a corner whispering with the doctor (no doubt, about how I would ‘need’ a C-Section if things didn’t progress fast) and when Dr. Chun checked me, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I attribute the progress, not only to breaking my water, but the anesthesiologists talk of a Cesarian. No way in hell had I come that far and dealt with that much pain to end up being operated on. Pushing was much better than the contractions and transition labor. Not only did it not take as long, it was a means to an end, rather than endless contractions. I pushed for about an hour total. The nurses and doctor were great and gave perennial massages and applied baby oil to the area to try and help prevent a tear. I was not the best pusher in the beginning. I couldn’t hold them for a full 10 count and Dr. Chun yelled at me every time I eased up at 6 or 8. I yelled back ‘I’m TRYING’ and then would get ready to bear down with the next contraction. At one point Dr. Chun threatened to use a vacuum extractor due to my poor pushing and you better believe that within 2 more pushes his head was out. I exclaimed ‘Oh my God!” and then with one more push came his slippery little body to a room full of cheers from the nurses and tears from myself. He was placed on my chest and I marveled at how real he was. He had no vernix left at all, and was so alert. He didn’t even try to cry, but just locked eyes with me as if to say ‘we did it, mom. Here I am, just how you wanted.’ I can’t even describe how perfect he was. He was totally worth the 11 day wait past my due date, worth the third-string doctor, and all of the nasty attitude I got from the anesthesiologist. Zac was able to cut the cord, and Dr. Chun said that she needed to ‘stitch me up’ – funny, I didn’t even realize I had torn. I mean, it burned when he came out, but it was more of a relief than anything else. I did, however, end up with a ‘third degree partial rectal tear’ (ouch).
After all is said and done, I am still moved beyond words about the natural childbirth experience. When it was over, it was over. I felt great. I had a sense of euphoria that is unparalleled. I felt that I was ready to get up and move around instantly. I could not have done it without the support of my husband. He was such an integral part of the process and was by my side every second. He had not eaten since dinner on Saturday either, and wouldn’t even grab food throughout the entire labor. Instead, he was with me, rubbing my palms, hips, or back, and whispering words of encouragement into my ear. I can also definitively say that I would not have been able to do this without the level of preparation I undertook in the months leading up to delivery. Hypnobirthing, affirmations, documentaries, birthing stories, etc. prepared me for what to expect, even if they were not of use during the actual labor. In any case, I can’t imagine experiencing the birth of a child in another manner.