I pushed open the double doors and leaned, face first, onto the cool wall in front of the nurses’ station. um hmm, Nurse Kathy, said, this is the mama I want to see. Not that sweet lady who walked in here at eleven o’clock this morning. She floated from behind the desk and brought my sweaty forehead from the wall to her soft shoulder. I started to whimper a little, probably because of the kindness that oozed from her voice.
I had awakened my husband around seven thirty that morning to let him know about my twilight contractions. I thought it might be time to head to the hospital soon, since the pain was getting steadier, and I was already five centimeters dilated at my doctor appointment the day before. Nervous and excited, I whisked through those double doors around 11:00 am, stoically presenting myself to Kathy with abdominal throbs and glowing anticipation. I chuckled with Kathy while she took my vitals and waited for the doctor to check me.
Still at five centimeters.
My head dropped at this news. I pulled myself off the bed, gave Nurse Kathy a forced smile, and waddled out the front door to head home. If I could not have the guarantee of my baby’s arrival soon, I’d suffer in my own space. My husband, A Doctor of Physical Therapy, got in the trenches with me, administering dry needling to my feet, hands and elbows. We got out the weighted exercise ball and worked out together in the yard. Oh yeah, this did the trick. The contractions started rolling through my body with powerful force and frequency. It was time to pull out my hypno-birthing CD, lie across my bed and breathe.
Early on in this pregnancy, I had decided I wanted a much different experience than my first. Five years before, my daughter had taken two days to arrive after induction, and once it was time to push, I’d been so medicated that I couldn’t help my body push her into the world. When I told my family and friends I wanted a natural birth, I received mixed reactions.
Awesome! You’ll be glad you did it! My natural birth experience was…
Um, why would you put yourself through that if you don’t have to? Women don’t have to do that anymore.
A month prior to my due date, I had signed up for a hypno-birthing course that met after hours at the local Gymboree. For five Wednesdays, I sat in a semi-circle eating cheese and grapes with four other expectant moms and their husbands. Their sweet, giddy faces told me they were all first-time parents. The husbands petted their wives like expensive Parisian glass. The wives leaned back giving tired smiles of approval and sipping water bottles.
Our instructor, a petite, bare-faced, fiery mother of four with cropped blond highlights, found her life’s calling in natural birthing. With wit and sometimes a growl, she taught us everything we needed to know about hypno-birthing. We watched videos of birthing mothers who smiled and barely made a sound as their babies gracefully slipped out of their bodies.
Call them ‘surges’, not ‘contractions’.
Trust your body.
Imagine a flower opening up as you breathe your baby down.
Don’t let those doctors force you to push.
Just breathe your baby out.
We were inspired, and us mamas agreed to a fire-hot rebellion against that ugly hospital gown. We’d birth in our own flowery, darn gowns.
After my course, I wasn’t just a soon-to-be mom. I was a round ball of super-human- ready, willing, and able to bring forth whomever this little critter was living inside of me. I tried to tone it down when I told my doctor the rules I wanted her and the nurses to abide by on birthing day. I hoped my face was soft and kind when I told her NO EPIDURAL AND NO PUSHING.
But when I arrived back at the hospital around three o’clock that afternoon, I wasn’t quite the stoic lady I had been earlier that day. I was more like a beached whale gasping for breath than a round ball of super-human. The breathing and visualization techniques I had learned in class and from my CD tore away from my brain like lost puppy signs in a hurricane.
Um hum. This is the lady I want to see. Nurse Kathy said. Snuggled in her neck, I limped like a wounded soldier to my room. She helped me ease onto the cold sheets. Put this on, she said. And without one thought, without one objection, I slid that ugly hospital gown on faster than the drive-thru at Chick- Fil -A.
I’ll put my own gown on after the birth, I told myself.
At eight centimeters dilated, my world was rocking off its axis. I could feel this baby dropping down and thought, he must be Kung Fu Panda. Sitting on the edge of my bed, being held by Nurse Kathy, we rocked from side to side like old ladies in a gospel choir.
Finally, wild-eyed, I whispered, when is it too late to get an epidural?
Anytime before push-time, a compassionate Kathy said. I could hear her own relief.
I turned to my husband. He had been my personal tug-of-war rope all day. Is it okay? I needed someone’s approval before I abandoned the hypno-birthing ship. Plus, That $345 for the classes was about to go right down the drain.
Whatever you need, Hun. Whatever you want.
With one swift dial on her phone, Kathy ordered an epidural to be administered to the beached whale in Room 2.
The medicine ran down my back like a cool glass of sparkling water.
I just might live after all.
The throbs in my nether parts slowed down like batteries in an old toy.
Giggled and clapped my hands with Kathy.
As I slipped into medicated bliss, my husband sat beside me rambling about a list of good vegetables that were good for my blood type.
Broccoli. I don’t remember what else.
PUSH! My doctor said.
Push this baby out!
And at command, I pushed. I was too tired to protest. I just needed this baby out.
Push? Sure, doc. No problem.
At that point, I would have sung the alphabet if it meant this would be over. Forty-five minutes later, I was holding my eight-pound sweet, baby boy. We all giggled and clapped our hands at his arrival.
When it was over, I felt a little guilty for not following through with my commitment to have a completely natural birth. Then, I looked at my little boy- safe, healthy, and sleeping peacefully in his bed. Good job, mama. Good job.