before all details have disappeared, let’s pick up where we left off with my pregnancy…
like many nights before, i woke up at 3am to pee. as i carefully navigated my overly pregnant belly back into bed, there was a new sensation…
that past saturday had been the full moon. they say that babies like to be born around the full moon and that dancing helps induce labor, so we ventured out to a friend’s beach birthday rave that night, and i danced under the full moon trying my best to call in the island birthing powers that be.
but baby stayed put that night. probably for the best since we were an hour or more from the nearest hospital.
that past tuesday, in between final client work calls and baby to-do list tasks, i went to the chiropractor and acupuncturist. they say that these can help induce labor too. if nothing else, they helped me relax in my aching body.
i went to the doctor that next day, my due date. wednesday, october 12, 2022. no baby yet. the monitor showed i was having contractions pretty close together, zero centimeters dilated. all was looking well except that the baby wasn’t moving as much as the doctor wanted her to, but i knew she was just fine. i drank cold water and poked my belly to incite some motion. just as they threatened to send me to the hospital, she woke up. we passed the test and headed back home to wait.
i had never really gotten the feel for what braxton hicks contractions felt like. everyone said i’d be able to tell the difference, but would i? was this sensation just those false alarms? or gas? or cramps?
and so when i laid on my side and tried to fall back asleep after my 3am potty break, i didn’t think too much of it. however, the cramps or contractions or whatever they were seemed to be getting more frequent.
i got back out of bed and went to the nursery/office/guest bedroom and sat in our comfy hand-me-down rocking recliner chair. (thanks cadys.) i pulled out the journal i had been writing to our baby girl in for months.
dear pumpkin… could you finally be making moves after nine months inside me?
as ryan’s alarm went off at 5:15am, i knew these feelings were different. he would not be going to work today.
i texted my doulas. yes plural, as we had been working with two amazing doulas throughout my pregnancy. the one on standby for today began her journey with me. i often wonder what was happening at her house at 5am that morning as she prepared to be our rock through whatever was in store.
in preparation for this moment, i had downloaded an app to time my contractions. they were about four minutes apart. the pain was pretty mild. my doula kept telling me to head to the hospital (a 40-minute drive from our house) when the contraction pain took my breath away or made it difficult to speak. but i was still feeling relatively fine.
and then a lost my mucus plug in the toilet. i’ll save you all the bloody details, but that confirmed it. i was in labor.
it has been seven months since that morning. the details are already starting to fade. did i take a bath? who did i text? what was i thinking? what was ryan thinking? who texted chaz to make sure he picked up bowie? the memories are already a distant shade of gray.
but i recall that i continued timing my contractions and texting my doula. three minutes apart. my water had not broken yet. i laid in bed with my dog and husband by my side and wondered when we should head to the hospital. just as i made the call to head to the car, my doula sent a text message that maybe it was time.
i’m glad we both agreed.
every bump in the road made me breathe deeper with pain. the contractions were definitely starting to grow stronger as my old gray mazda 5 headed down the hana highway. how many centimeters dilated would i be upon arriving at the hospital? would they admit me? would they send me away to wait and labor in my car?
ryan dropped me off at the emergency room entrance of the maui memorial hospital around 9am on thursday, october 13th. our nephew’s birthday. as he parked my car, the staff led me to a desk to sign some paperwork. a difficult task when your contractions are now two minutes apart.
they offered me a wheelchair to take me up the elevator to the exam room. sure, why not. but when they could not quickly locate a wheelchair, i told them to forget about it. i could make it up on my own.
i do not remember if ryan was in the elevator with me or not. i don’t think so. i think it was just me and a nurse weathering my intensifying contractions together up two floors. i wonder what was going through my mind in that moment. i wonder what was racing through ryan’s brain as he parked the car and hauled in my carefully packed hospital bag.
into my frida mom dark gray hospital gown. selected for softness. and socks. i think i had socks on.
the nurse checked my cervix. three centimeters dilated. normally, they do not admit mamas this early, but my contractions were very close together. i settled into my delivery room. this was it. my birth journey was fully underway.
ryan and my doula, jamie, comforted me as i moved between the bed and a yoga ball, between the toilet and the floor. i had a well-thought-out birth plan that was quickly forgotten by my brain as the pain increased.
my water did not break all at once. it was nothing like the movies. over the course of an hour or so, it leaked out everywhere. there was constantly liquid between my legs. i tried to breath deep and slow. i tried to listen to the cassette tape of christian science church hymns that i was raised on and always listened to when i was sick or sad as a child. i tried to focus on finally settling the debate if the singer was male or female, searching to find any thread of relief as the contractions creeped closer and closer together.
my doula encouraged me to move and change positions but as the contractions hit back to back to back to back, all i could do was curl up in fetal position on the bed and squeeze ryan’s hand as tight as possible and yell through the pain.
my yells were loud and guttural. they trailed off into sobs that made ryan’s heart hurt. my eyes were clinched shut for minutes, maybe hours, at a time. blacking out the waves of intensity coursing through my body.
after four hours of this, i was almost seven centimeters. three more to go. the contractions were not letting up or giving me the break i desperately needed. and although my beautifully designed birth plan clearly stated no medical interventions, i heard the words in my head, and then out of my mouth: help me.
the nurse made the call i wanted her to make. i sat up on the edge of the bed, tucked my chin to my chest, tried with every fiber in my being not to move during contractions, and had a man whose face i have no recollection of insert a crazy needle into my spine.
yes, i got an epidural. and no, i do not regret it.
although i tried to push through my labor and delivery without the aid of pain medication, in that moment, i knew i needed help to delivery this baby safely and with ease. and within minutes, my hospital room was a whole different space. the fear and pain had left completely. i could not feel or move my legs, but i could stop clenching my jaw and squinting my eyes. i could smile at my husband and crack jokes with the nurses. i was myself again.
i’m not sure what the next few hours would have looked like if i had powered through. perhaps our baby would have arrived minutes later. or maybe i would have ended up on the surgery table. we will never know. but what i do know, is that i was present to witness the birth of my daughter, not blacking out in pain.
after a nap and a few hours of hanging out with ryan and jamie, it was time to push. we all think i was probably fully dilated before the doctor came in, but oh well, no harm in letting baby girl move a bit further towards her entrance to the world.
around 7pm, a circle of nurses huddled around my lower half. the doctor spread my legs wide, with ryan by my side, and instructed me to push on each contraction. by this time, the epidural had worn off a bit. i could not feel pain, but i could feel pressure. i could feel the sensation of each contraction pushing baby girl out.
with everyone else ready, i was told a contraction was happening, and it was time to… push!
instead, i told ryan to grab the speaker and put some music on. i definitely wanted to push to some music. a dancer can’t give birth without some beats! i didn’t have a playlist picked out though, so as all the nurses, doctor, and doula waited, i scrolled through my iphone trying to decide. i quickly threw on a playlist i had made for snowboarding several years ago called “mountain magic.”
the first song to come on was the nitty gritty band’s “fishin’ in the dark.” it surprised everyone in the room. not typical “pushing” music i was told… but i was into it.
for 30 minutes, i followed the rhythm of my body and pushed until i thought my head would explode. at one point, the doctor mentioned the possibility of an episiotomy as the baby’s head seemed stuck at the ears (ryan’s genetics i’m guessing), but i just blatantly ignored her and kept pushing. no one was slicing open my nether regions on purpose.
some gladiator movie, maybe 300?, was playing on the small hospital television. fitting i thought. country music and gladiators raging out. this was definitely how i would want our child to enter the world.
and then, at 7:34pm, there was a rush of liquid and a poop covered (meconium apparently) baby girl with a full head of blonde hair was placed upon my chest. holy crap, i had just given birth to my grandpa. (or myself.) this child was definitely my daughter. complete with her great grandpa bird’s german cheeks and blue eyes.
ryan asked me if i could hear what song was playing on the speaker… i tuned out the chaos of the room and focused in on the music. ooh baby baby baby baby, ooh baby baby ba-baby baby…
that’s right. our baby girl had just been born to salt-n-pepa’s “push it.” i shit you not. i could not have asked for a more perfect entrance for our little matilda maple.
again, the details get fuzzy here, and i am sure i’m leaving out a million of them. but as i held our daughter, all 7lbs. 14oz. and 21 inches of her, i was so grateful for her safe and harmonious arrival. after we had a sufficient amount of snuggles, ryan cut her umbilical cord and watched in complete fascination as the doctor delivered my placenta and stitched me up. (he now is pretty certain he missed his calling as a surgeon and could sew up a vagina if ever called upon to do so.)
we relocated to our recovery room overlooking the iao valley and sacred hawaiian birthing pools and settled in for the next 48 hours. two hospital beds side by side with a cute little bundle swaddled up in between us ready for us to welcome her home.
what a journey. birth is no joke. beautiful, painful, challenging, easy, disgusting, magical, all the things every mama tries to explain to you but you don’t understand until you’ve experienced it. and unique. this birth story is unlike another. this birth story is ours and only ours.
and maybe the sexy people. and maybe all you fly mothers… 🙂