I am writing this letter to you because it is important to me that you know and remember this. Years will pass, and the memories will begin to fade, but I want you to always have this to remind you.
I want you to remember the circumstances surrounding the birth of your baby girl.
It was Tuesday, February 9th right around 11am, and I was walking down the stairs after playing with Ronan in his room. I told him to come with me so we could go get some lunch. I took three or four steps down, and suddenly found that my feet were no longer under me. I remember falling backwards with my arms out, and screaming loudly and desperately – the sensation of ‘falling’ was terrible and real. I couldn’t catch myself on anything, and slid the rest of the way down the stairs, landing in a heap at the bottom and crying pitifully. Brock ran out from the bedroom and came to me immediately, pulling my legs out from beneath me and laying me flat, while Ronan had come to the top of the stairs and witnessed, at the very least, most of the fall.
Ronan started screaming, probably as much out of fear from hearing his mothers cries as out of some kind of toddler sympathy. I told Brock, “Go get him, get him!” so we could try to calm him down. He was crying so pitifully, as though it were him that had fallen. Through my tears, I kept assuring him, “Mama’s all right… Look Ronan! Mama’s all right!” He couldn’t stop his crying, and wouldn’t let me go for nearly an hour. Once he was over it, however, everything was just fine. Shortly after he realized everything was okay, I called to find out if I should go to the hospital or not. The answer was a resounding yes, so we left Ronan with our sweetest friend, Laura, and headed to the hospital.
A quick admission and a few minutes later, I was on the monitor. Baby girl’s heartbeats looked fine, but I was contracting every 3 minutes. They left me on the monitor for about an hour, which was enough to reassure them that baby girl was doing great, but the doctor said she wasn’t comfortable letting me leave until my contractions slowed down – wouldn’t do good to send me home only to have me come back in labor a few hours later. I remained on the monitor for an additional 3 hours before I requested that the doctor check my cervix, and if there was no change, we be discharged. She agreed, checked my cervix, found no change and sent us home.
When I got home, I got in the tub with some epsom salts, felt my contractions slow down and ease off, and got into bed. Despite a VERY bruised butt bone, I was feeling well enough to go in to work the following day for my last scheduled 12 hour shift. A few short hours later, the contractions were back, stronger than before, and I didn’t get much sleep… but it didn’t feel like labor, and I didn’t want to miss my last shift.
So I went in to work.
My coworkers appeared surprised that I had decided to come in, but I felt more embarrassed about falling down the stairs than anything. I took it fairly easy at work, and had to breathe through some pretty intense contractions. Despite the contractions, my shift went well, and I got home a little after 11pm. I knew how close I was to exhaustion, so I got in the tub again, and stayed until there were NO contractions. There was NO way I wasn’t going to get at least 8 hours of sleep! My eyes were closing as I headed down the stairs, and I convinced Brock to come to bed with me. It was nearly 1 am when we crawled under our down comforter, cuddled, kissed and said goodnight.
I had no sooner closed my eyes and felt myself drift off into sleep when I was hit hard with a contraction. It took my breath away, and I looked at the clock in desperation – please let me have slept most of the night.
It was 1:30 am.
I allowed myself to have 3 or 4 contractions that were much stronger than any previous before I started timing them. They were about 3 minutes apart, and lasting over a minute and a half each. I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor, so I quietly told Brock to try to go back to sleep while I did the best I could to sleep through each one.
Around 3 am, Brock finally got tired of me breathing and writhing during every contraction and asked if I was okay. “Yeah, I’m okay,” I said, “But I think I’m in labor. For real.”
He heaved a huge sigh and said, “Are you sure? Because I want to have a shower before we go in, should I go shower?”
My feelings were a little hurt by his sigh, but I told him to shower, and if the contractions eased off, he could go back to bed. We started getting things together in order to leave for the birthing center. All the while I was filled with this terrible fear that nothing had changed, my cervix would still be long and closed, and we would call everyone out for nothing. At some point, while contracting in the kitchen, Brock put counter pressure on my lower back while I contracted, and it was like heaven. From that moment forward, I needed him for every single contraction.
We called on Laura again to come over and sit with Ronan so we could head to the birthing center immediately, rather than wait for Brock’s mother Jane to get to our house. Laura helped me pack up… she even put on my socks for me while Brock was getting the car ready. I called my midwife, Lisa, just before we left the house to let her know we were on our way. It was 4 am.
The contractions in the car were terrible. There was no way to apply counter pressure, no way to change position to something bearable. Brock drove as quickly as he could, and we arrived at the center at 4:25 am. Lisa showed up about a minute later, unlocked the door, and started getting things ready. Pam, her apprentice, showed up and gave her a hand setting things out. As soon as I walked in to the building, I stripped my clothes off down to my bra, and shouted for Brock every time I was having a contraction. They were insanely long, and I NEEDED counter pressure the whole time. Even through all of this, I still held on to my fear that it was a false alarm. I contracted and contracted while everyone else prepared for a birth that I wasn’t convinced was really impending.
Lisa asked me if I wanted to be checked, and I said “No… I don’t want to be disappointed if there is no change!” She gave me her stern look and said, “I need to know if we’re a few minutes away or a few hours. I need to be able to call in the second Midwife.”
I nodded and went to the bed to let her check me. Early on, around 5am, being checked didn’t bother me at all. She proclaimed, “Girl! You’re changing things! You’re 5-6cm dilated, at least 75% effaced!”
I was completely shocked. “You’re shitting me?! Are you for real? This is REAL?” I nearly started crying with relief. Not only was I glad that I hadn’t called everyone out for nothing, but if contractions
this intense weren’t “real”, I didn’t want to know what the real thing felt like.
Lisa asked if I wanted the birthing pool filled up, and I asked her if I could use it even if I didn’t plan to deliver in the water. She said of course, so we got that rolling. Brock got my CD out of the car and put it on so I had relaxing, calming music to labor to. I think, honestly, for the first few hours I did really well. I breathed through all of my contractions from start to finish, low moaning at the peak of them. I relaxed everything. I visualized my cervix opening, and my baby moving down into my birth canal. Brock kept the counter pressure on the whole time. But after about an hour, I was starting to feel the pain and misery of hard labor, and had a much harder time keeping my spirits up. I kept remarking, “I’m so tired. I’m just exhausted.” It didn’t hit me at that point that I hadn’t actually slept in two days.
I got in the birthing pool with Brock for a while, and labored in relative comfort. Between contractions, I would lay my head on the side of the pool and try to nap. But the water was hot, and I’m a big baby, and I started to feel over-heated. I laid down on the floor, trying to cool off, and Pam asked if she could check me again. I let her, and she dug around for a while, announcing that I had a bulging bag of waters and was 10cm dilated! While she was checking my, my monster started coming out. I’m going to refer to her as Evil Mandy. I was so uncomfortable with her fingers on my cervix that I shouted out, “You are making me ANGRY!” It came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t stop it. It made everyone else laugh.
Around 6 am, the plan was to keep laboring, and hopefully for my water to break. I kept doing squats and giving little pushes during contractions to help it along. I think I tried for about half an hour. My timeline starts to get a little fuzzy here, but my water finally broke, and Lisa checked me again. She told me that the bag of waters was forcing my cervix open, and that I was actually only about 8cm dilated… I needed to labor a little more so that my baby’s head could push my cervix open. Evil Mandy didn’t like that news and started to cry. “That’s not FAIR!”
Back in the pool for a while. Brock didn’t get in, and was giving me counter pressure from outside of the pool. I’m sure his arms were tired, and he was leaning over with his effort. His hair brushed against my back at one moment, and Evil Mandy blurted out, “DONT touch me with your hair!” He laughed. I got tired and hot, wanted out again. Stood at the end of the bed for what felt like AGES, contracting and holding on to the side of the bed. Got up on the bed on my hands and knees for a while, and that felt good too. I was sure I had been in labor for a few days at this point, but it was probably a bit after 7 am.
I got back in the pool and labored away. The contractions were starting to get so strong that at the peak of them, I had an IRRESISTIBLE urge to push. I was instructed to push a little bit, but not to get carried away until my cervix was fully open. I remember looking at the clock at this point. It was 7:45 am. I had been laboring at the center for nearly four hours. Pam asked to check me again and told everyone that I was an “anterior lip”. They didn’t want me to push at all until the lip was gone, for fear of making it swell and making everything worse. I was SO. EXHAUSTED at this point that I wasn’t really thinking. Every time a contraction came, Evil Mandy started yelling.
“I HAVE to push! I am pushing! No No No No NO!”
I said no to EVERYTHING.
“Do you want water?” “No.” “Do you want to eat something?” “No.” “Do you want to get out of the pool?” “No.”
I just repeated, “No no no no no…” under my breath the whole time. I would feel a HUGE contraction come on, and want to push, and everyone would yell at me not to. “Breathe through it! Don’t push! Horsey lips!!” Evil Mandy was pissed.
“THIS IS AWFUL!!!”
I yelled it at the top of my lungs, and didn’t care that everyone laughed at me. It was awful. I wanted to push. Pam asked me if she could check me during a contraction to see if she could push my anterior lip of cervix out of the way. Of course, I said “No,” but I turned over onto my back and let her check me. When the contraction came, I started muttering, “No, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want this at all. I don’t want it, I don’t want it. I can’t do this.” My exhaustion had taken me past the point of reasoning, and I was in full-on transition. Pam was able to push the tip of the cervix over the baby’s head, and they said I could start pushing for real.
Lisa asked me to get back on my hands and knees for pushing. I said no. But I got back with her help, and she leaned her arms over the side of the birthing pool. I linked my arms around hers, where we were face to face, and I held on to her like she was the only solid thing in the world. She talked quietly to me, and suddenly I wasn’t so upset. It was almost as though I had needed her there the whole time and didn’t know it.
They said with my next contraction I needed to push. It felt really, really good to push into the contraction. But it was hard. It was so hard, and it hurt so badly. I didn’t want to push. I cried, exhausted pitiful cries, “I don’t want to. I can’t… it hurts, it hurts so bad.” Voices all around me were telling me, “You can do this! You are doing it! You are so strong, almost there Mandy, you’re about to have a baby.” But all I heard was one voice: Lisa’s.
“Your baby is waiting to come out. You just have to give her a push.”
With my next contraction, I pushed harder than I ever have in my life. I screamed at the top of my lungs. It hurt so badly… there was no ring of fire, there was entire bottom of fire. My legs were tired of holding me up, and my arms were tired, and my throat was tired. I was so tired. Evil Mandy yelled, “POOP. I’M GOING TO POOP!” Chuckles and a voice behind me said, “That’s not poop, Mandy, that’s your baby! Push her out!” It hurt, and it hurt… Pam said, “Do you want to feel her? She’s right here?” Evil Mandy said, “No, I don’t want to FEEL her! I just want her OUT!”
I had crowned, and didn’t want more pain. I didn’t want to push again. But the contraction came, and I pushed. I screamed again, louder than before, and it felt like a release at both ends. I delivered her head out in a huge torrent, a huge release of pressure and fluid, and at the same moment a scream left my mouth with resounding force. I put my head on the side of the pool and closed my eyes to rest. There was no contraction, and no contraction. Suddenly, someone was hitting me in the stomach, and I got ANGRY. Evil Mandy yelled, “STOP DOING THAT. STOP IT!”
… and then I realized it was my baby girl. Head delivered to the perineum, she wanted out and I wasn’t pushing. I looked up at Lisa and grinned. “It’s her! She’s KICKING!”
Everyone laughed again, and we waited for that final contraction. They kept asking if I was ready to push, and there was nothing there. Lisa, in her funny voice, said “I’m going to help you out a bit.” She reached down and tweaked my nipple a few times. Within seconds, a contraction began mounting and I cried out, “NO, IT HURTS, IT HURTS, NO PLEASE!”
With a final push, and all of my strength, I felt the baby leave my body.
I heard someone say, “Mandy! Pick up your baby!”
My eyes were closed, but looked down into the water and she was floating right there in front of me. I picked her up and pulled her close to my chest… and everything was fine. I wasn’t tired. There was no pain. I wasn’t angry. I had my baby girl in my arms, and she was perfect.
She was perfectly quiet, perfectly still, laying in my arms and wrapped in a warm wet blanket. Lisa said to her, “Come on, girl, give your momma a good cry,” and she DID! She let out one long, sad, plaintive
wail and it was the most beautiful sound in the world. I was completely lost in my baby, and heard lots of talking about blood. I looked down and didn’t see any, and looked at my baby again. Suddenly I was being told, “You need to get out of the pool NOW,” and I looked again. The whole pool was red with blood, and it was billowing out from between my legs. Everyone maneuvered to help me stand, but I stood on my own, stepped out of
the pool without help, and walked to the bed and laid down – all of my own accord. They told me to tell my body to stop bleeding, and I did. I said it over and over again, “Stop bleeding. Turn it off. Stop bleeding. No more blood.”
We waited until the cord stopped pulsing, and it was cut. My placenta was delivered, and my bleeding slowed down. I offered baby girl a nipple to nurse, and get contractions started to shrink my uterus and stop the bleeding altogether. Lisa came over and threatened me with a shot of pitocin – having gone this WHOLE pregnancy with no needle sticks, I said, “I’ll take care of it!” and
tweaked my own nipples until I caused contractions. The bleeding slowed down and stopped. I was checked for tears and they found NONE. Baby girl latched on and started nursing like a CHAMP. I got up and used the restroom with no help.
They did my daughter’s newborn evaluation and told me she looked perfect. 7 pounds and 12 ounces, 20 inches long.
She was born at 8:20am.
They told us we could go home. Since it was only about an hour after the delivery, they offered us to stay until 10 o’clock, and let all of us sleep. Brock drifted off, and so did baby girl, but I was buzzing. I sat and looked at her. I went over the delivery in my mind a thousand times. I smiled and cried a little and laughed some too. Then I got out of bed, walked out into the main birthing center and said, “I’m ready to go home.”
And we did.
You did it, Mandy. You set your mind on doing something, and you did it. It didn’t go as planned, and it wasn’t exactly what you expected, but you have to be SO proud of yourself. After six and a half hours of labor, and three big pushes, you delivered your daughter, Ruby Kate.
Please don’t ever, ever forget.