Cecelia made her way into this world and our lives exactly four Wednesdays ago. It's hard to believe both how fast and slow the past few weeks have been. It's still a little surreal. This marathon of a post includes the details of Cece's birth day, to the best of my recollection.
The details of the day Cecelia was born are already starting to get fuzzy and faded so I better get this recorded before I forget how painful the experience was. The forgetting part has to be Mother Nature's way of ensuring that we continue to add to future generations. Because if, like me, you vow that you'll "never do it again" while in the midst of unrelenting, unmedicated contractions 9 centimeters into labor, four weeks later you've pretty much forgotten it all. But let's back up a little, shall we?
My dad's birthday was December 18th, a Tuesday. My parents and my brother's family came over for a birthday dinner. I felt a little off through dinner, really tired and a little crampy. I didn't think too much of it, as I had been experiencing cramps and Braxton Hicks contractions for a week or so. At this point, I was almost a week overdue and convinced I'd be pregnant for the rest of my life. So, I didn't mention my symptoms to anyone. That night I went to bed around 10:30 and woke up an hour later to pee. Five minutes after lying back down I started getting significant cramps in my lower back. The pain would appear and then eventually subside a few minutes later. The contractions were about 10 minutes apart and felt like really bad menstrual cramps. The strange thing is they were exclusively in my lower back. I remember looking at the clock when they became strong enough to really catch my attention. It was 12:02 AM on December 19th. That was the first time I actually thought I was in labor. It was also the first time I allowed myself to say, "maybe today is the day".
At that point I had pretty much given up on sleeping. I didn't want to wake up James (I figured at least one of us should get some rest!) so I went out to the living room and lied on the couch. I tried to rest between the cramps but as soon as I relaxed enough to almost doze off, another contraction would hit me. As they strengthen and became more regular, the pain started to transition towards the front of my abdomen. There was no doubt in my mind at this point that I was in labor. Eventually, the pain of the contractions, which by 2:30 AM were consistently coming 5-6 minutes apart, became intense enough that I went downstairs to the game room to pace and grumble through the contractions. I keep telling myself to focus on making it to 5 AM. At that point, I would wake up James. Eventually, 5 AM came. I got in the shower, which felt amazing, and woke up James. I remember telling him that he was going to become a daddy that day. After getting out of the shower I called my best friend Suzanne, who also happens to be a midwife, and explained that my contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes or so and were becoming increasingly uncomfortable. She told me to hang tight and was at our doorstep within a half hour. Did I mention she's seriously awesome? I owe a ton to her and absolutely could not have gotten though that day without her. I have true love for that lady! Anyway, when she arrived, Suzanne checked my cervix. I was 4 centimeters (out of 10) dilated and 80% effaced. We talked about it a bit and I decided that I wanted to labor at home for awhile before going to the hospital. For the next hour and a half or so, Suzanne and James helped me though contractions, which continued to strengthen. I found that the only position that I was comfortable contracting through was standing with my legs spread and hands against the wall. The "pat down" pose. Sitting in any position or even kneeling was torture. The baby had already dropped very low and the pressure in my pelvis was intense. After another shower and many more contractions, Suzanne checked me again. I was dilated to 6 centimeters at that point. We decided it was time to head to the hospital.
Roughly an hour later, I was already dilated to 8 centimeters and feeling the intense pain of what is called "transition"- the last stage of labor before pushing. I was excited to hear that. I had read somewhere that transition isn't as long as the other stages and while the pain was off the charts, I didn't expect I'd be there for long. Boy was I wrong. While the earlier stages of labor progressed at a pretty reasonable rate, I "stalled" at 8 and 9 centimeters. The contractions were so intense at this point and very regular. I was lucky if I had a minute between them to regroup before the next wave of pain took hold. It was really, really difficult. I remember crying and telling Suzanne that I "couldn't do it anymore" to which she replied, "you ARE doing it" and kept the encouragement coming. I also remember, in a moment of weakness and extreme hunger, telling James I wanted a Big Mac. As in like a McDonald's hamburger. Seriously?!! I haven't had a hamburger (let alone a Big Mac!) in about 12 years. I really don't know where that came from. And for the record, I never did get that Big Mac. And I don't think James or Suzanne will let me live that one down. I also told James at one point, after a particularly difficult contraction, that I would not be giving birth to anything ever again and that if we wanted another child, we would have to adopt. A lovely idea, no doubt, but I believe that was entirely the pain talking.
I don't have any real clear memories of what transpired during the 2 hours I was stalled at 8 and 9 centimeters. I can tell you it hurt and that I have never felt pain like that ever before. I wanted to die. Someone could have convinced me I WAS dying. The contractions just never let up. To make matters worse, my cervix was "posterior" or in other words, pointed in the wrong direction. In order to help right it, Suzanne and my nurse positioned me on my knees and forearms. Needless to say, I HATED this position, it seemed to elevate the pain. Eventually, I ended up on my side, clinging to the edge of the bed with one hand and squeezing James' hand with my other. Suzanne was behind me, putting pressure on my lower back during every contraction. Apparently, to add to the enjoyment, I was one of those lucky women who experienced "back labor". That means that Cece's head was bumping up against my tailbone during each contraction. Ouch. It hurt.
At some point during these intense contractions, I lost complete control. My body just wanted to push. I remember telling everyone in the room that I felt like I needed to push. In fact, I couldn't NOT push during every contraction. The nurse checked me and said I was still only 9 centimeters and that I shouldn't push yet. But it was impossible not to. I remember feeling scared that I was somehow hurting Cece by pushing before I was "allowed" to. Finally my OB came in, checked me and discovered I was fully dialated and that I could finally start pushing.
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the room and my nurse was directing me onto my back and into the classic pushing position. At one point, I remember her saying to someone, "she could be pushing for two hours or more". Um...no. At that point I was so tired and strung out from pain that I couldn't imagine being in labor for two more hours. Luckily, it didn't take me long to figure out how to get Cece out fast. The pain was awful, and different than the pain I felt during transition, but at that point I was thankful that I didn't give in and get an epidural because feeling everything meant that I had a better handle on how to push correctly and efficiently. I only pushed for 15 minutes. During my second contraction, my water broke. Cece was born on my fourth pushing contraction. I was determined to see her I guess. Or just ready to be done with the pain.
The moments after her birth are also a little fuzzy. When my water broke we discovered there was meconium in the fluid. It can be really bad if a baby inhales it, so after James cut the umbilical cord, Cece was tended to immediately. The nurses cleared her nose and throat and then passed her back to us. She was placed on my chest and we cuddled for the first time. It was pretty surreal. I was so happy and so, so tired.
After snuggling for a bit, we weighed and measured Cece. She clocked in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces and 18.5 inches long. She was born at 12:55 PM. From start to finish, I was in labor for about 12 hours.
I absolutely could not have had this birth experience without James and Suzanne. There were several times when I doubted myself and didn't think I could physically manage a "natural" birth. James encouraged me through the whole thing and Suzanne was my biggest cheerleader and councilor. Somehow we managed not to get a picture of Suzanne and Cece at the hospital. This one was taken last week during a visit. We love you, Auntie Sues!
Four weeks removed from the experience, I can say that Mother Nature indeed has done a good job of allowing me to hold on to mostly only good memories from giving birth. I still remember the pain, but it is already starting to become a distant memory. I feel like I could do it again (not any time soon though!). It's kind of like running a marathon. You hate life for the last few miles and you swear you'll never, ever do it again. And that lasts for a week or so before you're already planning your next race. And for the record, anyone that tells you giving birth is like running a marathon is lying...it is MUCH harder. I remember feeling like I could do just about anything after finishing my first marathon. I had that feeling 100 times over after giving birth to Cece. It was literally the hardest physical thing I've ever done. And probably will ever do in my lifetime. But it was so, so worth it. Just look at that face!