So now for the climax of it all . . . allow me to describe what the pushing stage was like for me. I began pushing at about 8:30am on the 12th, and I pushed for almost 4 hours. If you had told me at the outset I’d have to push 4 hours I would have ran (waddled) the other way! How did it go down? At first it was a bit of trial and error as we all tried to find a position that would work well for me. The money maker ended up being the rope. Well it wasn’t actually a rope, it was a sheet, and here’s how it worked. . . David held one end of it and stood at the foot of the bed. I held the other end and pulled hard like tug of war at the height of each contraction 3-4 times. If you can imagine . . . I was lying on a hospital bed with 7 or 8 people surrounding the bed helping me and cheering. In order to push I needed my knees back and legs relaxed, chin down on my chest, and elbows out towards my knees. This required a lot of assistance! Here is a picture taken from my vantage point . . . I know it’s edgy but that’s why this blog is rated PG-13 and not G.
This picture was actually taken before we introduced the “rope” technique. You can tell by people’s faces that it wasn’t that intense yet. They were teaching me how to do it and in the beginning I was holding my own legs back. Things ramped way up in the course of 4 hours!
In the most intense point Tara our doula was on my left holding my left leg up. My dear friend Stacie was on my right holding my right leg up. There was an awesome nurse next to Stacie holding the monitors on me to watch the baby’s heart rate. She was also giving me oxygen through a tube between pushes. My mom was by my head on the left crying and praying. (It was actually great to hear her praying for me!) David was seeing everything down there and holding the other end of the sheet, and Lin was trying to stretch me so I wouldn’t tear, and leading the team in cheering and instructing.
When a contraction would come I would take a giant breath of air and pull as hard as I could on the rope and push! Many women will tell you it feels like a huge bowel movement. That is the truth. I could feel when to push and how to push because I wasn’t numb, and that made my pushing more effective. I was only supposed to take 3 big breaths and push 3 times per contraction, but sometimes I did 4 because I couldn’t stop. My body was making me push! I had to keep going until the contraction was over. Everyone around the bed would holler and scream “More! More! Keep pushing!” “You are doing it!” They would tell me to tilt my pelvis up and push towards the ceiling. I could hear Lin screaming louder than anyone. She was amazing! She had so much energy and she really motivated me to work harder than I have ever worked in my life. She gave me such clear and specific instructions so I knew exactly what to do and what to “aim for” in my pushing. ha. I can still hear her English accent “More! More! Push to the lights!”
I always thought when they said “I see the head!” That meant you were almost done. Ha. Not for me! They were talking to me about the head for like an hour it seemed, and I kept asking “How many more will it take?” But no one had any idea how big that baby was.
After about 3 1/2 hours of intense pushing Lin looked at me between contractions and said “Kendall, I’d like to make a little snip.” I had written in my birth plan that I did not want an episiotomy, but instead I wanted to tear naturally if necessary. I knew that she knew this, and that she would not do it unless absolutely necessary. Plus by that time I had pushed for so long! I can honestly say an episiotomy had not even crossed my mind during any part of labor. When she suggested it I actually thought to myself “that’s a great idea!” She said after that the baby would come right out, and she was right. Only a few more pushes and there she was!
Ella came out with the cord wrapped around her neck twice and her ankle once, and she was as blue as a blueberry for a minute or two. Her heart rate never went down though, even after being pushed through the birth canal for 4 hours. She was a trooper. They pulled her out and lifted her up and everyone was shocked at how huge she was. She weighed 9 lbs and 13 ounces even after she had pooped!
As it turns out, at the very end the baby did find a way to maneuver back into the correct position for birth, with her face toward the back. This was likely because the bag didn’t break so it allowed her more freedom of movement. If we had elected to break the bag early on it could have been a C-section easily. It almost ended up being one anyway! Four hours is a long time for any baby to be pushed out, and I’m just so glad I trusted my midwife and listened to her suggestion to do the pitocin instead of break the bag.
Now I’m going to post a couple pictures here . . . no judgment allowed. I look like I’ve been to hades and back. (That’s my PG-13 description). But I want you to see what it was like that day. It’s one thing to hear someone’s birth story, its entirely another to see it. I have never been so exhausted in my life. For like an hour afterwards I couldn’t see straight. I thought my eyes were crossed I was so tired. But my body felt great, the pain was gone! And because I didn’t have any meds Ella was able to look at us in the eyes and was so engaged and alert!
In the pictures Lin our midwife is in the scrubs. Tara our doula is in black. These ladies made all the difference in the world.
So what did I learn in all this? I learned that natural childbirth is about trust. I learned to trust that God made a woman’s body to give birth, and I learned to trust my body. He created us with innate hormones that help us, and fear and anxiety work against those natural processes and often end up creating a need for medical interventions. In addition, it is crucially important to deliver your baby with people you trust. I would choose to deliver my next child with Lin in a heartbeat, because her agenda was to support me and use as little intervention as possible. That’s what midwives do! She told me I could do it and I believed her.
I learned to trust God that He made me to do this. When I was tempted to fear what labor would be like, by His grace he gave me the perspective to choose faith. Are there complications that make natural childbirth impossible for some? Of course there are, we live in a broken world. That’s why we have medicines and procedures to deal with those when necessary.
What I’m saying is that if you have the support you need and you prepare well, you can do it! You can have a baby without pain meds! It’s not likely they will be any bigger than Ella was! Trust God, choose a good caregiver, and trust your own body to do what it was made to do.