My due date was June 8 (or 9, depending on who you ask) and my last appointment with the midwife was Thursday June 12, at which I was told that if I didn't have the baby before my next appointment they were going to schedule an induction for the following week.
I was not at all happy about this. I firmly believe babies know when they are ready to arrive and I believe that a woman's body will do what it needs to do when the time is right.
The baby wasn't in any kind of distress, the heart rate was fine, my blood pressure was still nice and normal, I was feeling fine and I didn't see any need to induce.
So that weekend, I committed to drinking gallons of Raspberry Leaf tea.
One of my best friends is a doctor and has -- therefore -- gone to medical school. She recommended I drink raspberry leaf tea to help with labor and she texted me regularly "Drink raspberry leaf tea! I am telling you!".
The women at the local health food store knew me because I had gone in 3 separate times to buy boxes of it. One of them said "Maybe your baby wants to be a Cancer and not a Gemini".
I am not making this up.
It was hot in June, so I made iced tea.
And drank an entire box worth on Saturday the 14th, the day before Father's day.
When I woke up on Sunday around 7:30 and went to the bathroom, there was a little bit of blood and I felt slight cramping and, well, had to use the bathroom as if I'd eaten curry the night before.
This is the body's way of "making room" for the baby, so I knew it was time.
I went back to bed, excited, but not wanting to wake up Geoff because I knew it would probably take awhile and we both needed our rest. He woke up around 8 and I told him what was happening and we just sort of laid there in bed for awhile, really quiet, with the heaviness of what was happening sort of blanketing the room.
At 9:30 I called Connie (our doula) to give her a "heads up" and she asked me about my contractions and told me to rest and treat it as much as a normal day as I could and to call her that night.
I thought "If this is contractions, I can do these ALL DAY LONG!"
Luckily for me, I got my wish.
Geoff and I decided to take a nap because, again, we knew it could take a long time and we also knew we needed to rest as much as possible.
So we slept until around lunchtime, and when I woke up I was absolutely CRAVING three things:
1. Fried chicken
2. Mashed potatoes and gravy
I mean, I can't tell you how hungry I was. I was STARVING. My body was telling me "You better get some calories in your system NOW because it's gonna be a LONG road".
Geoff went to get Kentucky Fried Chicken (btw, I normally don't care for fried chicken ... I'm more of a "nuggets" type of gal) and nachos and I devoured them.
And we watched movies all day while I sat in the leather recliner and drank lots of water and just waited.
At 9 o'clock that night, I called Connie to tell her the contractions were feeling stronger, like period cramps, but I was going to sleep and she told me to call her if I started to have to "pay attention" to them.
I slept about 2 hours and at 11 p.m. was woken up in pain.
This began my journey to a place where time did not exist. The only reason I know times from here on out is it was either memorable (such as when Phoebe was born) or because I am looking at the journal our doula gave me.
I tried not to wake up Geoff, but when you are in pain there's not a lot you can do to muffle the sounds. I moaned and breathed out and tried to remember all the "helpful" things I'd read about in my books, such as "Some women orgasm during labor!".
They are all liars. All. Of. Them.
And I remembered the scene in "Baby Momma" where the girl goes "It feels like I'm shittin' knives!" and thought "That is the most accurate description of a contraction I've ever seen in my life."
The worst part is I could feel them coming. They build like waves. They start small, and go up to a peak and then diminish slowly.
They were coming hard, fast and excruciating. Like the worst period cramps of my life.
Geoff woke up and decided to time them.
He was asking me questions and I was like "I'm sorry, Meghan is not here right now so you're gonna have to be on your own for awhile".
They were a minute apart. And lasted 2 minutes each.
Again -- I had zero concept of time at this point. I had no idea if they were 5 seconds or 5 years although if you had to ask me at the time, I would have erred more toward 5 years than 5 seconds.
So Geoff called Connie at 12:40 because I was not really capable of making coherent words at that point beyond "SHHHHHH" because any noise was distracting me from the task at hand.
I was shaking and felt like I might throw up and couldn't get comfortable.
Connie and I decided we should go to the hospital.
We got settled into a room around 1 a.m.
There was no tub room available at French, which was disappointing, to say the least. But I was happy we had a room at French because I really preferred its "small hospital" atmosphere.
We also got the Nurse From Hell whose name I won't even mention because maybe she was having a bad night. I don't know.
I handed her my birth plan, and she scanned it (which included things like "no constant fetal monitoring, no needles" etc) and she said "Lay down on the bed and I'm going to wrap these monitors around you to get the baby's heartbeat and your contractions.
I was like "I do not want to lay down because that hurts" and she said "You need to do it".
My contractions slowed down considerably at this point.
I was first checked at 1:50 a.m. and was only 1-2 cm dilated (hint: you need to be 10 cm dilated to let the baby out of the uterus). But I was 90% effaced, so that was good news.
I was discouraged, however, because I thought "Wait, I've been in THIS MUCH PAIN and this is all I've got to show for it!?!?"
We walked the halls for 2 hours, drank lots of water (I brought Smart Water from home in my "hospital bag", as a present for myself) and the nurse checked me again.
I was 2-3 cm and I think she was being generous.
I laid down on the bed. This was 4:40 a.m. in the morning.
Mean Nurse came in with paperwork. "Why are you here today?" Mandatory stuff. "HELLO! I'M HOPING TO HAVE A BABY AT SOME POINT!"
She asked me to describe my pain on a scale of 1 - 10 and I said it varied between 6 and 9 depending on the contraction (they are not all created equal).
I refused bloodwork and IV antibiotics.
I have a heart problem which could be deadly if I get an infection, so I have to take antibiotics whenever I have anything "done", such as going to the dentist, etc. I knew I could take them via mouth as I'd asked my cardiologist about it and he said that should be fine.
Mean Nurse did NOT like this AT ALL.
I was frustrated.
I wanted a home birth.
And I was so annoyed with "the system".
More contractions and we ate some Wheat Thins, snuck into the hospital in Geoff's bag.
More walking around the halls of the hospital.
At 7 a.m. a new nurse arrived. Her name is Ronda. Ronda is a goddess.
At 7:20 I got in the shower, which was the best feeling of my entire life. I felt like I could relax and the pain wasn't as sharp in the shower. The hot water felt amazing.
Breakfast arrived shortly thereafter, but I couldn't imagine eating. Geoff ate some of it.
At 7:48 Ronda took the baby's heart rate with a doppler while I was in the shower. Going strong still.
Oh I loved the hot shower. It never ran out of hot water. I thought about all the women in labor who don't have access to hot water and I felt sorry for them.
I could have stayed in the shower forever.
At 8:20 contractions slowed a bit and were less intense.
I rested in bed for 20 minutes and went back in the shower for another 30 minutes. Doppler in the shower showed baby's heartbeat still going strong and doing great.
At 10:10 a.m., Ronda checked me and I was still 2-3 cm and the baby was still really really high.
I didn't want to risk losing our room at French because they were full and I really wanted to have the baby there, but we discussed options a little while, such as going home.
At 10:45 I started crying. I was frustrated. I'd been working so hard. Nothing was happening. I could see that Geoff was exhausted and Connie was holding on to stay awake for me. I was hurting and there seemed to be no progress.
I was afraid of what kind of intervention the hospital would require if the baby didn't come soon. I didn't want a c-section, and I felt like here I was doing everything I could and nothing was happening the way it was supposed to.
At 11 a.m. (we're at the 12 hour mark now, folks!), Ronda checked baby again and baby was moving a lot with a strong heartbeat.
I rested for 45 minutes in bed, wetting the bed 3 times. I didn't want to move. I was so exhausted. I'd never been more tired.
At 12 noon, I had some tea with honey, which was amazing, but some vanilla pudding changed my life. It was the best pudding I'd ever had in my life.
Lunch arrived and I told Geoff to eat it. I couldn't handle food.
At 12:30, I found the best place for laboring -- sitting on the edge of the bed, feet dangling off, moving my head from side to side and just exhaling and moaning with each exhale. It felt great. I could have done it for hours.
At 2:30 p.m., we got a new nurse, Gina, and I was still on the bed.
It felt like I'd been on the bed like that for 10 minutes. I can't believe -- looking back -- that it was 2 hours.
Contractions were coming. Every 10 minutes.
At 3:30 p.m. I wanted some broth. Baby was doing great -- moving around, strong heartbeat, totally enjoying herself.
At 4 p.m. when the broth came, Connie, Geoff and I had a meeting to discuss options if we find out I haven't dilated anymore. I was exhausted, but afraid contractions would stop and then what?
I had more pudding. Chocolate.
At 4:25 I decided to be checked again and to make a decision.
At 4:45 when Gina checked me, she said she could ask my doctor to prescribe a sleeping pill so I could go home and rest.
At 4:45, I wanted to kiss a female nurse on the mouth because that was the most amazing news of my life.
I was still at 2-3 cm so I decided "Yep, we're going home".
At 5:25, I was happy with my decision, I had my sleeping pill and we said goodbye to Connie in the parking lot.
The funny part was I had to take the pill at the hospital because they didn't want me giving it to anyone else.
I would not have sold that pill to anyone for $700 billion. Nobody. I would have killed someone if they tried to take it away from me.
My mom was waiting for us at our place because she had made food for us and wanted to meet the baby at the hospital and all. She drove all the way from Bakersfield and, sorry, nothing.
I ate some of her homemade shrimp fried rice (best of my life) and went to bed.
I slept from 6:15 to around 10 p.m.
At 1 a.m. the contractions returned with a vengeance.
I took a warm bath, rested, tried to stay home as long as possible (but meanwhile was dying to know how dilated I was) and called Connie at 5:21 a.m.
At that time, I felt like I needed to poop, but knew that had to be impossible since I'd barely eaten anything.
I was in agony and told Connie "Well, maybe I could have a Stadol or something, you know, something minor to help with the pain".
Connie ignored this (as I had asked her to do months before that moment) and she asked if we were ready to go to the hospital again. I asked her to call French and see if they had rooms, because that was important to me.
At 6:39 a.m. a tub room was available at French Hospital.
We met Connie at the hospital at 7:20 a.m. and and our new room was gigantic and had a tub! Sadly, it did not also have a shower.
At 7:55 Nurse Nancy checked me and I was at 6-7 cm dilated.
This was the happiest moment of my life.
Nancy discovered there was a bulging bag of waters, meaning baby's head wasn't putting pressure on my cervix (like it's supposed to do to help move things along).
There was also some "old meconium" that came out, so the water had broken, but it couldn't come out because the baby's head was acting like a plug keeping most of it in.
When I stood up after being checked, my water broke.
I started lunging with my foot on a chair to help the baby move down. Nurse Nancy wanted to see some accelerated heart rates on the baby monitor before I was allowed into the tub.
I had a few bites of pudding. I was on the bed, on my knees.
At 8:50 a.m. I was still keeping hydrated by Connie (Chief Water Pusher) and I tried leaning on the ball and standing.
Contractions were definitely stronger.
At 8:53, Nancy checked baby's heart rate, but baby was not being reactive and I was so tired of being in bed.
Contractions in bed are excruciating. The worst. They are MUCH better standing up or walking or even sitting. Laying down is the worst position and I had to stay there and bear it so I could be granted permission into the tub.
Connie was feeding me pudding to get some sugar into my system to get baby's heart rate up.
At 9:36 a.m. I was 8 cm dilated. Almost there! Baby's head was on the cervix, doing its job. Nancy got the heart tone she wanted.
At 9:53 I got into the tub, which was the greatest feeling of my life.
Contractions were coming, but they were "softened" by the warm water.
At 10:03 Nancy checked baby's heart with a doppler while I was in the tub, and everything was great.
At this point I had been completely naked in front of 2 strangers for half an hour and did not give one whit.
At 10:18, I said "I feel like I have to poop" and started feeling the urge to push. Exactly like the feeling when you have diarrhea - that NEED to push and PRAY that something comes out.
I was grunting so loud because -- my God -- I had to PUSH. Nurse Nancy checked me and said there was still a little bit of cervix in the way of the baby's head (which is bad to push against because the cervix can swell and then the baby definitely won't come out) so I tried so hard not to push. Trying not to push made me shake and grit my teeth.
I got out of the water and onto the bed.
At 10:50 a.m., it was okay to push through the peak of the contraction and I got on my knees on the bed (backwards from the normal way you see in movies and on tv -- my arms up on the "headrest" part) and it felt great. With each push, there was more meconium.
The room was dark and peaceful.
Nobody was making noise except the constant murmuring of Connie and Geoff telling me "You're doing great. Here, drink more water."
Connie helped put my hair in a ponytail because it had gotten loose and was in my sweaty face.
Joanne, the midwife, was in the room now and was just watching and waiting.
The room was totally quiet.
At 11:32, Joanne suggested I move to a squatting position, supporting myself on Geoff's legs while he sat in a chair behind me. The baby moved WAY down. Joanne was on her knees in front of me.
At 11:37 a.m., I touched the baby's head.
This is really happening.
I stood up to take a break from squatting, and got down again.
With each contraction I pushed with all my might, bringing my chin to my chest, holding my breath, listening to Connie, Joanne, Geoff and everyone in the room whispering "You can do this, your baby is almost here".
At 11:48 a.m., our baby was born with no drugs. No needles. No unnecessary intervention.
I did it.
Oh my God, I did it.
I can do anything.
Joanne cut her cord and put her in my arms while I was still squatting on the ground with Geoff behind me, and I said:
"It's a girl! It's a girl! Oh my God! She's beautiful, Geoff!"
It's a girl.
And we named her Phoebe.