Wednesday, June 15th.
9:00 pm Still perched on the exercise ball next to our bed. I would go back and forth between this spot and the bathroom. Laying down made the contractions harder to bear, so that was out. I timed my own contractions with the stop watch and watched Ocean's 13 to keep my mind occupied. This is so me- turn on a movie to make the job you're doing more fun! But honestly, having a movie to follow really helped the time pass and helped me escape my own mind when I could.
Thursday, June 16th, 2011. The Birth Day.
12:00 am I was really close to the point that I had been waiting for and working towards: contractions 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute long! I stood up to go to tell Grant that I had reached the point of no return and immediately felt like I needed to throw up. I went back into the bathroom and sure enough, threw up. I felt better. And encouraged! I was sure that this meant I was entering a new stage of labor.
1:30 am We called Erika. She's on her way. Contractions staying roughly 5 minutes apart, but most of them were still only about 45 seconds. I was very quiet. Completely focused. And I just had to be moving. I would bear the contractions by swaying, bouncing, or rocking... or all 3 at once. I closed my eyes. Immersed in my own little world, where there was only one job to do. It truly was a lonely job, too. You don't realize how unnerving and draining it is to be deep in your own mind, alone, and absorbed in pain endurance/hard labor for hour upon hour.
3:45 am Erika came in to check on me, and Jenn (the doula) was with her. Jenn gave me a hug when she met me and said, "Happy Birthday to your baby!" That was when it hit me, that I was going to have my baby on this day! I actually let myself think about it and realize it. Whoa. But I hardly had time to dwell on it before I was back in Labor Land, sitting on my bouncy ball, single-minded. Erika took vitals on me and the baby and then let me keep doing my thing until the next check-up. Everything stayed steady for awhile, and I remember my legs starting to shake from exhaustion.
5:30 am Things picked up a little and I decided to get into the birth pool. I liked it a lot. The warm water felt nice, it took weight off of my trembling legs, and relieved the pressure I felt from some minor back labor. Most of all, it helped me relax. I wasn't scared or nervous, which surprises me, but I was really tense from concentrating so hard. Contractions were now about 3 minutes apart. Still a "friendly" 45 seconds short, but very intense. When I would feel one starting, I would pull on Grant's arm as hard as I could because the resistance helped me bear it. I was still able to talk normally in between contractions, but I didn't say much. I found myself relying on the truth of Psalm 55:22: "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you". I would pray "Jesus sustain me" over and over until a contraction had passed, and He was so faithful to me! By His grace, and only by His grace, the pain was never more than I could bear. And the relief was sweet when it would fade away.
I always wonder if the word "pain" is the best way to describe what I really felt during a contraction. Of course, it was painful. Yes! But for me it was not the stinging, throbbing kind of feeling that makes you scream or has tears springing to your eyes. It wasn't the kind of pain that stays imprinted on your mind and you can go back and remember how awful it was, like how I imagine it feels to be badly burned or break a bone. It was such a unique type of pain that it almost fits better to describe it as bearing a burden. A huge strain on your body. You cannot help but put your head down and figure out how you are going to bear it, because you're the only one who can. Grant told me afterwards that he was so amazed at what it was like, and how quiet I was. This is probably because I was almost swallowed by the hugeness of the work. It is an entire self effort. It takes all of you- mind and body. Looking back, I think this was one of the hardest aspects of labor for me. My mind was so consumed, it almost felt like I had no thoughts left.
8:00 am I felt like I wanted to push. Check ups on and off. I had no idea how much time had passed or what day it was. And oh, did my legs ache from squatting and kneeling for hours. It felt great to stretch them out and move around in between pushes, but any kind of movement ushered in another contraction. I was afraid to let them come on too fast, but also was anxious for the end to come. I wondered how many minutes? hours? days? I had left doing this job. But pushing was feeling better than "regular contractions"- it felt like I would all of a sudden have this wave of energy and the only thing I could do with it was push it out. Things were definitely moving.
10:00 am We listened to the baby's heartbeat. Moving around was getting awkward and difficult for me, but always brought progress. I remember realizing that my arms were incredibly weak from gripping Grant's shoulders so tight. And my legs? They were shot. Just the memory of it makes me want to stretch them out right this minute. At some point, Grant lifted the shade on a big window in our room. I'm so glad. In between pushes, I was able to realize that it was morning, and it was such a sunny morning! I was too exhausted to talk, but I said something about it being "a beautiful day." A good day to have a baby.
10:30-ish am I could feel that the baby was way, way down. In my head: It must be so close! Right? I'm not sure because I've never done this before, but how much more sliding down can this baby do? Is this it? What if this IS it? I think it might be! My water broke with a push and the baby was crowning with the next push. I think I surprised everyone. It felt like one minute we were quietly dozing, waiting, working (me), and the next minute- This is it?! Get ready! There's a baby! Everyone was up and moving! It almost felt like I could say to them, if I had the strength to put a thought together, "You guys had no idea I was so close did you?! Ha ha! I got you!" After a few more minutes of pushing, I was ready to do the final effort. Just two (or three?) pushes and....
10:42 am Hadley June Harms was born! Grant caught his daughter and handed her to me. We were in awe.
After we announced the birth, a friend of mine wrote me a simple message: "You did it!"
I wish I could tell her how wonderful that was. I wish I could tell every new mom that. I gave birth! I didn't lose my mind. The pain didn't slay me. Although sometimes it may seem like it, it was not impossible. Moms-to-be, take note!