The third part of my labor (and birth!) with Gabe is the part where I feel like I lost it.
Even though I was ‘losing it’ – shouting and grunting and swearing – I never completely lost my cool and started being rude to anyone (except Mike. I told him to shut up once. And tried to bite his arm once. I wish I was kidding. Sorry, babe.). When the nurse poked the Doppler against my belly underwater during a contraction, I wanted to say, “Get that thing off me!” and when Susan stuck her hands up my hoo-ha during a contraction, I wanted to say, “Get the hell out of there!” Instead, I said, “That hurts.” (Okay, maybe it was more like, “That! Hurts!”) See? Labor is bad, but it wasn’t so bad that I started kicking and yelling at people.
The pushing stage is a blur. A messy, makes-me-shudder-when-I-think-about-it blur. And not because it was fast. Oh no. Because it was just…painful. And long. Oh, so long. I started pushing around 11:45pm and he was born at 2:16am. That’s two-and-a-half hours of yelling, grunting, and puuuuuushing with all my might.
I had long periods of rest in between my pushing contractions – during which I’d drink water (I finally stopped throwing up) and ask them how much longer. They couldn’t tell me. I joked with Susan couldn’t she just pull the baby out of me? Wendi mentioned something about the morning and I said, “I’ll have a baby by morning, right?” Wendi smiled and reassured me that I’d be done with labor by the morning. I was joking, but I did need to think that, at some point, I’d be done. My body wouldn’t be experiencing this intense stretching and effort.
During contractions, I pushed with all my might while Susan, Wendi, and Mike encouraged with, “Push push push. Good! Give this one all you’ve got! Push as hard as you can!” In the back of my mind, I knew that I needed to listen to my body for cues like how long to push. I did it my way for a while, but then tuned into Wendi’s voice. Her words were the most helpful in mustering all the strength I had. Still, I felt like I was letting them down. They’d be yelling, “Push as hard as you can!” And once I cried in desperation afterward, “I am. I am trying so hard. I am pushing as hard as I can.” A few times, I’d start to hyperventilate while pushing. Susan would remind me to breathe slowly and I’d relax a bit.
It was during this stage that I remember thinking, “Just cut this baby out of me!” and realizing that if someone suggested a c-section, I would definitely want it just because I’d be done. It would be over. No more pushing without making progress or frustration or feeling like my body was being ripped apart or complete exhaustion. Labor is effing hard work.
I felt like I should be making more progress. I pushed for a LONG TIME before I felt his head move lower into the birthing canal. And then I pushed for a LONG TIME where his head would start to come out during the push and then slide back in at the end of the push. I knew from childbirth class that this was good and normal – my body was just stretching so it could accomodate an entire baby coming out. Mike could look down over my shoulder and see the baby’s head poking out – and I reached down and felt it. (Which was slightly reassuring, but also slightly, “What the heck is that thing??” since it felt soft and wrinkly. I didn’t expect it feel like that.)
And then, the crowning, aka: the ring of fire. Oh, yes. Since I was completely unmedicated, I got to feel every single sensation of labor – including when the baby’s head was crowning and my crotch felt like it was on fire. “It’s burning! It hurts!” I yelped. His head stayed there for a while, and I was encouraged. The baby was going to come out. After hours of pushing, there really was a baby and he really was coming! At 1:45am, Wendi called the baby nurse down and told me, “You’ll have a baby by 2.”