Happy One Week Birthday Eleanor! I can't believe just one week ago you came into this world. Truly you have always been with us. We have been waiting our whole lives for you!
To celebrate her One Week Birthday, here is the final installment of Eleanor's Birth Story. Without further ado: The Grand Conclusion.
I left off as we were entering the shower. The hot water felt wonderful on my back and the change of positions did a little good for my spirits. After an hour in the shower we changed positions again and got in the birth pool where we remained for at least an hour, working through every contraction. The midwives continued to check in on us periodically. At one point I remember thinking, "Where are they?!" only to be distracted by another contraction. Later I learned they refrained from staying in the room because I would just begin to cry and plead with them to do something for me. As long as it was just Alex and me, I would remain calm and strong. But once someone of authority entered the room I would begin to break down.
Back in the shower in the late afternoon I sent Alex to bring in Nicole, one of our midwives. I thought perhaps my water broke and she came in to check me. She announced that at long last I was 7 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and at 0 station. My water bag was certainly bulging, but had not broke. It was 4:30 in the afternoon.
Labor seemed to last forever. I cried for it to be over and at this point I began to cry for an epidural. For the life of me I couldn't remember why I had chosen a natural birth. Why did I put myself in a birth center where an epidural was all but impossible? Why not just have a C-section and call it a day? I was tired. I was done. And this baby was still not here.
At this point I laid back down in bed feeling so deflated. These might have been the tell tale signs of transition. But honestly I think this is how I felt the entire time we were at the birth center. I had gone in with such a bad attitude because I was already on day 4 of labor by Tuesday. The excitement most women feel in early labor was gone by the day I delivered Eleanor. I wonder now what a different attitude would have produced. Not really to change anything, but for my own memories of childbirth.
Each time I would beg for pain relief or a hospital transfer, the midwives would calmly rationalize with me. They would explain how difficult and how long it would take for me to get checked in to the hospital, hooked up to an IV, delivered a full bag of fluids, and then finally be given an epidural. In the moment, it helped a little to calm me down and make me realize that this was the delivery I had chosen. They would also tell me about having to stay the night at the hospital and not be able to go home right away, and that really helped to change my mind.
I am not sure at what point Ashley arrived, but I learned after my delivery that Marsha and Nicole called her in from Greensboro to be with us. Ashley is a midwifery student and acted as our doula for much of the afternoon and evening. Because I relied so heavily on Alex, I believe she became his support system. I can only imagine by this time he was exhausted and also feeling helpless. She was right there when we needed her and a great alternative to our midwives. Like Alex, she had no authority to transfer me, so I would remain more strong and in control around her. I had begun to lose control even with Alex, telling him, "Do not disagree with me," over and over again when I would ask for an epidural. Ashley provided much needed support for the two of us.
At 7pm I was really starting to lose it. I was asking for all my options. I wanted to know every single out for the pain I was feeling. What were the chances of a transfer, a C-section, anything to speed progress and get this baby out of me? Nicole told us that we could choose to have my water broken and Alex and I talked over the possibility. We had agreed in advance that we didn't want any interventions, even this one. We couldn't remember the risks so we asked Nicole. If Eleanor was not in a good birth position and we broke the water it would basically pull her down in that position, making delivery very difficult. This concerned all of us. We knew her head had moved around quite a bit over the weekend, and while she was head down, sometimes it would be off on one side or another. Marsha also came in the room and we talked about it, and basically the midwives agreed this was our only option. They checked me and I was 9 centimeters dilated and this would help to speed labor along. Not much longer we moved back to the birth pool as contractions sped up and their intensity certainly increased.
Around 9pm they started to encourage me to try to push with each contraction and to move the baby down and into position. I never felt the urge to push and it became painful, so once again I laid back on the bed to be checked. As assumed, I was fully dilated with a small cervical lip standing in our way. Marsha felt the position of the baby and soon after both of our midwives left the room. I'm not even sure I noticed their absence at first. But as they charged back in the room they were on a mission.
"So this is how we are going to do it," Marsha said, "and this goes against pretty much anything you have ever read about pushing a baby out." I was alarmed. "You are going to have to lay flat on your back and we are pushing now." As expected, Eleanor was in a very difficult position for delivery and they would have to guide her out, while also moving the cervical lip out of the way. This was certainly not the pushing experience I had planned on. It was difficult and it was painful. I was scared but I really wanted to be done. Although I felt there was nothing left in me, I knew this was the only way to get her out.
Although it seemed like an eternity, it really only took 20 minutes once I was started pushing. Ashley and Alex each held my legs up, while Nicole and I played tug-o-war with a rope. It is amazing how much that counter pull helps with the push. With my very first push I could feel her entire body move down inside of me and I actually thought that I had birthed her. When I looked up and there was still no baby I was very confused. Of course, after her actual delivery, I knew how badly I was mistaken to believe that was it. The midwives were very excited after that first push, however. It was the most she had moved in a very long time. With that, it was time to get this baby out.
With each contraction I would push two, three, and four times. Sometimes I wouldn't even stop when a contraction ended. It would hurt too bad so I just kept pushing. But between each one I would cry out to everyone around me to make it stop, just pull her out, take me to the hospital, do something! I was so exhausted. Each time I would push I would declare that it was my final push. I had nothing left in me. And yet I continued. Alex was right by my side the entire time, encouraging and coaching. "One more, you can do one more!" And each time I started to push, the four of them would erupt in cheers, as if I had scored a goal at a sporting event.
Like I said, it only took 20 minutes, but it felt like forever. Throughout the entire time, they continued to monitor Eleanor with a doppler and her heartbeat never wavered. She stayed strong throughout the entire labor and delivery. When she started to emerge, they urged me to reach down and touch her head. It was absolutely the worse pain I have ever felt. I was so traumatized that I refused to touch her at first, but at long last I touched the top of her hairy head and began to weep. Each push became much easier as I had an image of what I was actually doing. There was a sense of urgency. I wanted to be done, but now more than ever, I just wanted to meet her.
For the first time I was encouraged to slow down. Marsha poured olive oil all over me and massaged as she came out. I remember her saying "Wait, wait," and then "Oh, never mind," as Eleanor's body slipped out. Immediately they placed the crying baby on my chest and together we sobbed.
Delivering at a birth center and having midwives creates a unique relationship that I can only imagine is absent with many doctors and hospitals. We went back to see the midwives on Thursday and Marsha and Nicole sat in our room with us during what should have been their lunch break, telling us so many details of our birth that would have been forever forgotten. They explained many pieces that I didn't understand and answered my one plaguing question: Was it my fault that she was in a bad position for delivery because I chose to have my water broken?
They told us that her positioning had been bad throughout the whole process which really slowed labor down. Because labor contractions work to position the baby right, it explained why I labored for 4 days with no progress. My body would not allow me to move forward until Eleanor was where she needed to be. Regardless of our decision to break the water, delivery would have been very difficult. Had we been in a hospital I would have ended up with a C-section for many reasons.
During my labor I was so angry at the people around me for not relieving my pain. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't let me have an epidural. Now looking back, I am so thankful for the choices we made for our birth. I am so thankful I wasn't given an epidural. If we had been in a hospital I would have certainly had one. Because of the way I pushed, there is no way I could have pushed Eleanor out without the pain that I was experiencing. If I had the epidural, I absolutely know that I would have had a C-section. While at the time it didn't seem like a bad option, now 7 days later, and almost completely healed, I feel very thankful for my natural childbirth. I can appreciate the power of pain relief with an epidural, but more than that I appreciate how I felt after birth. Within three hours of delivery I was showered and walking. Within four hours we were on our way home. You don't get that with an epidural or a C-section.
Giving birth to Eleanor was the single most difficult thing I have ever done. It is also the most important and my best accomplishment to date! Welcome to the world Eleanor Margaret!