It all started at Scalini’s, the nearby restaurant that was famous for promising labor within two days of eating their eggplant parmesan. When I arrived I was convinced it would work, after seeing the entrance covered in pictures of babies. I was 39 weeks, 6 days and I was READY. The eggplant parmesan was delicious and we went home and waited. My due date came and went and nothing happened. I was starting to doubt the Scalini’s guarantee, but at 8 p.m. the next night, it started! I remembered what my doula had emphasized over and over: Get some rest. I was able to sleep until 3:30 a.m. and then I was just wide awake with a mixture of nerves and excitement. The contractions weren’t too intense, but they sure were frequent. All I had ever heard is that they start far apart and work their way closer together. At 3:30 a.m. my contractions were two minutes apart. This should have been my first clue that things were not going to go as I had expected, but at this point I was still clueless. All I was thinking about was my checklist: my hospital bag, my makeup (ha!), the baby’s clothes, cell phone charger. I didn’t want to forget anything and risk being uncomfortable. The brain works in mysterious ways.
Around 11 a.m. my doula, Cynthya, came over. The contractions were getting more intense and they were still coming fast. Cynthya had me and my husband walk around our apartment complex. I knew I was moaning through the contractions, but I did not realize it was so loud that neighbors were coming out to see what was going on. I would take a few steps and then lean on the nearest car in the parking lot and sway and moan my way through the contraction. I remember one woman yelling at Cynthya to take me to the hospital. The woman came out with her dog and followed us around the complex. I had to get the doula to chase her away.
From that point on time didn’t really have any meaning. I know in all I was in labor for 42 hours but the specifics of when things happened are lost on me. As the contractions started getting more tsunami-like I just went into a mental place that is hard to explain unless you’ve been there. Nothing existed except the contractions. I had no idea if I was even breathing, although everyone kept reminding me I needed to. I remember getting in the shower, pacing my apartment, sitting on the toilet, and finally saying I wanted to go to the hospital. I don’t remember the drive over, but I do remember getting on the elevator. A contraction started right as the doors opened, so I just leaned on the door and moaned like I had been doing. A teenage girl grabbed her mom and asked if I was all right. Her mother said, “Just remember this moment, honey.” I had so much I wanted to say to that teenage girl, like “Whatever you do, DO NOT get pregnant,” but I couldn’t speak. It was probably for the best.
My labor went so incredibly slowly. When the midwife checked me at my arrival to the hospital, I was 2 cm. I couldn’t believe it. I had been in labor for nine hours! I had wanted an unmedicated water birth, but at 2 cm I couldn’t get into the tub. So, we waited. The contractions were relentless. I was dehydrated and started to get a fever. The IV fluids they gave me made me look like a beached whale (as if I wasn’t already huge). Finally, I got to 5 cm and was assured that labor would start to progress faster. Wrong. But they let me get in the pool. I have heard the pool referred to as an “aquadural” and it’s true, it helps tremendously. My husband, the trooper he is, got in with me and even moaned with me through the contractions. It was beautiful. I was in the pool for about 5 hours when the midwife checked me again and then started whispering with my doula. Then, the news. I was still at 5 cm. No progression AT ALL. I just started crying, cursing, and yelling for an epidural. I was exhausted. My midwife agreed that I needed to rest, so the doctor came. I remember telling my husband, “I am scared of the epidural, but I am more afraid of the next contraction.” I cannot lie, the epidural was glorious. I fell asleep almost immediately and get a few hours of good rest.
After resting and laboring until fully dilated, and a midwife change, I decided I was ready to push. I had a midwife and a midwife-in-training. My husband put on some 80’s music for motivation and I was ready to go. I am not going to even try to sugar-coat it: pushing out a baby is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Period. My sweet boy just did not want to come out. I pushed with everything I had, I pushed with strength I did not know existed. After an hour and half, I asked the nurse to take down the clock because I could not watch the time. After two and half hours everyone said they could see the head and my husband got really excited. They asked me to reach down and I could feel his head. When I did, it was not even close to being out and I started losing my mind. I was yelling, “Just grab him, just grab him!” Mentally, I was done. Then my awesome midwife walked up, put her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “Allison, there is only one way out of this.” In that moment, I gathered the strength of a lioness and started pushing like never before. I was grunting and yelling and making sounds that were so primal it didn’t even sound like they were coming out of me. And finally, he was out! The first thing I thought was, “Get him away from me.” I just wanted to rest. I still feel bad for even thinking that. But when they put him on my chest, and my husband started crying, I felt a bliss that I have never felt in my life. Magical doesn’t even begin to describe that elated, powerful, overwhelming love I felt for that perfect baby. They let me continue to hold him while they sewed me up. I had a stage three tear and multiple other tears and had a lot of stitches. I didn’t even notice.
My lessons from my baby’s birth have been many, but the one that means the most to me is being flexible. This birth, going almost nothing like what I had hoped, planned or expected, was my big lesson in flexibility. It has served me well in the nine months since his birth. Being flexible has allowed me to remain in the moment, gain patience, and not worry so much about life in general. Just as his birth all worked out, so does life when you are open to all the options.