They told me it was time to push, but I didn’t exactly feel like I had to. The epic battle of Butt vs. Torso continued, but I didn’t yet feel like the solution to stopping the pain was to push. But since they said it was time, I figured I would try.
With Michael on my left holding my leg and my mom and my sister on my right holding the other, I lay back into the semi-reclined position and looked to the nurses for guidance. They told me to bear down as if I was having a bowel movement. So I did. And then, as they instructed, I did again. The more I pushed, the faster the contractions came and the worse the pain in my pelvis became. Let me be clear, the epidural did work in the sense that I felt no pain, only pressure in the vaginal area; but I did feel every. single. contraction.
And all the pain that came with them.
At some point they had me roll onto my side and push in that position, which I prefered to being on my back. However, I suppose the progress wasn’t so great so I rolled back over.
As the contractions went from minutes to seconds apart, I found myself in doing the hardest, most strenuous physical work I had ever experienced. A contraction would start as a wave, gripping my middle and washing over me from head to toe. I followed my body’s lead, curling forward over myself, lifting my knees to my chest, resting my forehead on Michael’s and pushing with all I had.
My main nurse had a nice strong count. “One. Two. Three. Four.” She would count for three counts of 1o, and I would take a deep breath between each set. Eventually, she encouraged my mom to count for me, but she was far to gentle in her counting and I requested that the nurse resume in her firm manner.
In the moments between contractions I would collapse back on my pillow, or chew on ice chips my sister was feeding me from a spoon. Except for the one time she gave me a massive scoop and was met with a “TOO MUCH ICE!” from me, the ice was a welcome relief in the seconds between pain.
All the questions I had regarding labor and how would I know how to push were answered as my body told me repeatedly what to do. Once a contraction started, I couldn’t stop pushing if I wanted to. As we continued, it was the only thing I wanted to do. The nurse would stop counting after the third set of 10 and I would yell out, “ANOTHER!” and push for a fourth set. At one point, she told me I was getting a little hysterical and should really try and rest between my contractions. My brain was screaming at her that my body wanted to push for four sets, that my contractions were lasting for four sets, but my mouth couldn’t form the sentences.
So I ignored her, and did exactly what my body wanted to do.
There was excitement building in the room. I didn’t realize it, but my doctor had been called to the emergency room and was also tending to another woman in labor, and was not back to me yet, despite frantic pages to find her. Eventually I heard a nurse try a page one last time, saying this baby was coming NOW! Luckily, my doctor burst into the room just in time and took her place at the foot of my bed. Turns out that full moon made the hospital a little crazy! My doctor was great, telling me I was an excellent pusher and that my baby would be here in just a few more pushes.
Then, I heard some gasps. The doctor asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel my baby’s head, so I did. It felt…hard. And slimy. I think I wiped my hand on my gown. My sister told me later that for a while, what she saw was just an It, a something. But all of the sudden she saw a little ear and it all became real to her.
With my support team around me and my medical team cheering me on, I put all the strength I could muster into those last few pushes. I made noises I never knew I could make — deep, guttural moans that came from my core.
And then, after pushing for an hour, there was crying. Loud, frantic screams coming from a little person who was being placed on my chest. Our baby, our son.
This picture isn’t pretty, but it’s real.
In that moment, I became a mother, and the emotional heaviness of that hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked at Michael, my husband and now a father; at my mother, now a grandmother; and my sister, now an aunt. We all cried tears of joy together. And my dad, who had arrived just in time to hear Owen being born from outside the doorway, became a grandfather. I am so happy I could share that moment with everyone.
Owen stayed on my chest through all his exams and I was able to try breastfeeding him almost immediately. (Breastfeeding. I think that deserves its own post!) As I bonded, my doctor stitched up the small second-degree tear I sustained pushing out that 8 pound 1 ounce little boy. The stitches stung a little, but I didn’t really notice them. She also showed me the placenta, which was…weird. The body is a strange thing — creating and disposing of an organ just for childbirth. I can’t accurately describe it, except for it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.
Owen was bundled up in a blanket and hat and we all began the process of getting to know the new edition to our family.
There is more to this story — post partum and all that comes with it, but that’s a story for another day. But I’ll end with this: for me, the cliche was true. I fell instantly in love at 1:05 p.m. on June 26th.
Unconditional, pure love.