Oh, how I’ve wanted to write this post.

I dreamed of the story behind her birth, of the hours that Peder & I would spend laboring {literally} for her arrival. Would it be in the middle of the night? Would I feel guilty about calling the midwife out of the darkness? Or would it be during the birth center’s business hours, where I would be so conscious of the busy clinic outside?

As with so many of my expectations about labor, none of those things mattered at all.

Because labor was much, much more difficult than I ever could have imagined, and pretty much everything but the sensation of the pain went out the window about 24 hours in.

But then we had her, and all of the pain in the world went away.

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Labor had been mildly progressing for weeks; contractions were there–some painful, some not–but never consistent, and never prolonged. Until Friday night, February 22nd, when they were there–for sure–and they didn’t leave. After one last Chinese takeout meal, Peder and I went to bed where we both dozed on and off between contractions. I was excited yet also a little apprehensive when they still continued into Saturday morning.

Looking back, those contractions were nothing. But at the time, they felt painful enough to cancel plans to go out and study with a friend, enough to miss a movie we had wanted to go see {to pass the time}, and enough to bail on a game night with friends. At the time, they felt strong enough that I couldn’t ignore them without some visible repercussions, and we decided that experience was best left to the comfort and convenience of our own home. We did do lots of baths, bouncing on the birth ball, grocery shopping/indoor walking, and a brief walk downtown to get a smoothie {all day long, I felt nauseous and on the verge of throwing up. A smoothie sounded so good, and was one of my last foods before birth!}. After a ravioli dinner {trying to push those carbs}, we tried to get some rest.

That’s when things got interesting.

We’ve known for a while that the baby was posterior {face up}, but we thought she turned as of Wednesday. Apparently this was not accurate, as the uterine contractions quickly turned into incredibly painful back labor. I cannot express how intense this pain is–it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt. It’s absolutely untouchable; nothing makes it go away, nothing relieves the pain, nothing. But Peder, my saint, did everything he could to try and help. From 6pm until the wee hours of Sunday morning, he pushed on my back, fetched frozen vegetables to help ease the pain, tried the double hip squeeze that’s supposed to help with back labor {ha}. Later, he told me that he completely destroyed his wrists and hands and forearms just trying to help–but I never knew it at the time. He was amazing, he was so supportive.

To help me get through contractions, he tried to get me to count in Fibonacci; he’d say, “What’s 1+1?” And during my contraction, I’d answer, “2.” “What’s 1+2?” “3.” “What’s 2+3?” “5.” When that stopped working, we’d count in alternating odds and evens.

One last before-shot!

One last before-shot!

And then the pain got too intense to even utter one number. That’s when Peder called the midwife.

By this time, it was about midnight. When Peder made the call, we were amazed to find Heather, our midwife, answering the phone! Turns out there was another woman there in labor, so everyone was already ready to go. The midwife said it sounded like we were definitely on our way to having a baby, but there was still a ways to go. Which wasn’t terribly disappointing to hear; we knew that we were close, but not quite there. She said to call back when they were too painful to talk through.

After a few more hours and many, many more contractions, I hit that point.

Peder called at 3am, and she said to wait 30-45 more minutes and then start the hour drive to the birth center. He left me on the bed and ran around the house assembling the last-minute things we needed, and then told me it was time to go.

Something I never thought I’d say in return: “No.”

By that point, I was in so much pain. Contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes, and I was afraid to move. I couldn’t get out of bed without triggering another contraction, but laying down made them worse. It was the closest I’ve ever come to being stuck between a rock and hard place. I told Peder that I wanted to just stay at home, I couldn’t imagine being confined to a car seat for an hour; how many contractions would I have in that time? How was I going to make them stop? I didn’t want to even go there. But he made me get up, helped me find socks and shoes and pants or whatever else I was missing at the time, and we headed for the door.

Halfway down the stairs, I asked if he has his sunglasses. Yes, he does. Does he have our wallets? Yes, he does. What about the baby’s bag? Um, no. As I had one last contraction as quietly as I could by the front door {and the wall we share with our sleeping neighbor}, he grabbed the bag and we headed out the door by 4am.

Thankfully, laying down in the bumpy car seemed to make it all better. Halfway there, I was now contemplating giving birth in the car. Clearly, my mental state was already way gone. I was able to sleep between contractions, though, and they slowed down to give me time to rest between. And then we were there, in what seemed like no time at all to me.

We walked in and were shown to the exam room, where our midwife Amanda checked me to see how far I was dilated. Turns out, we did an amazing job laboring at home and I was at a 7-8. We were able to stay, thank goodness. I think I cried a little at that point, knowing we could stay and have the baby and it was definitely, for sure, going to be soon. But even though we were allowed to stay at the birth center, there were already two other women in both of the birth rooms–literally, no room at the inn. But luckily one was on her way out, so we labored in the library for a bit while we waited. Soon, though, we were able to head into the Gaskin Birth Suite.

After this, time gets fuzzy to me. I don’t really remember time passing, only that labor had become so, so painful in the meantime. I had a very thorough understanding of everything that was going to happen, and I knew that at some point I was supposed to think I couldn’t do it–but none of that could have prepared me for how so, so, painful those contractions were. Because the baby was posterior, she pushed right on my spine during every contraction. And since there was no where for my spine to go, it just hurt. A lot. By that point, I’d have one incredibly painful contraction, about a minute’s rest {in which the back pain did not subside}, and then have another slightly less painful contraction before a few minutes rest.

It was, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I screamed. I grunted. I panted. I made sounds I told myself I would never make. I am a quiet person, but it was that bad.

Next door, I heard the other woman screaming, too. It seemed worse than what I was doing, which didn’t make me feel better. Instead of thinking I was handling it better, I knew that she was just farther along than me. It was going to get worse.

And then, I heard her have her baby. I heard his first cries along with them. It was a bit disappointing.

At this point, I decided to get into the tub and try pushing. I quickly learned that was even more painful and not something I wanted to do ever again. Heather offered to check me {which, I’ve been told, they do not do unless I request}, and when she said I was only at an 8 1/2–my resolve shattered on the spot. I think this was around 8 or 9 am.

By now, my head was not a good place to be in. I thought I couldn’t do it. I was fairly sure that I didn’t want to. I, the non-invasive, the I-don’t-want-to-be-an-inconvenience, wanted to transfer to a hospital and get something for the pain. Looking back, I don’t think I necessarily wanted an epidural or narcotics and I definitely didn’t *want* a c-section, but I just wanted something to help. I wanted something to be able to touch the back pain for even a minute and give me some relief.

I remember turning to Peder and saying that I didn’t want to do it anymore, and that I was so, so sorry.

He turned to me and put his hands around my face. He told me that I was already doing it. All I had to do was get through this one more, just hold on for a little bit. He made me tell him that I could do it.

I didn’t believe him, but I kept going.

Our amazing midwife, Amanda, came in and told me I needed to rest. She said to lay down on my side with my top leg propped up for 10 contractions and then to switch sides, and then to labor on the toilet for a while to give my hips a little more room for her to spin. I was so tired–it was about 11am, almost 40 hours into labor, hour 28 without sleep, and hour 18 with incredible pain. But by the time I followed her directions and labored for a while on the toilet, I found it was much more bearable to push. After about 20 minutes, the nurse Linda came in to check our heart rates and–despite never doing checks–found to everyone’s astonishment that she was crowning.

Amanda quickly helped me jump in the tub, and after a couple pushes I realized I could see the top of her head. It was full of long, wavy hair that swayed in the water, but I could still feel a lot of head that still needed to come. I told them that I know it’s supposed to come out, but I don’t think it will, and they patiently reminded me that it will fit. Just go slowly. It will be ok.

By now, Peder was looking at me with the sweetest smile and tears in his eyes. He could see our baby, she was almost here. And after a few more pushes, her little head just popped out. Then she turned and her shoulders slid right through without me doing much at all–and she was born.

My hands were already feeling her head, so I grabbed her chest and pulled her up. Peder’s and Amanda’s hands followed soon after, and she was on my chest.

It was over. It was done, and she was here.

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After that moment, nothing else mattered, and it hasn’t mattered since. The realities of the pain are starting to fade as I think about that last moment of true painlessness–once her head was born, it was all fine again. I’m starting to realize that yes, labor hurt like hell, but it was all for a purpose. It was for her. And I’d already do anything for her.

Norah Josephine was born on February 24th, 2013 at 12:39pm. 6lbs 8oz, 20 inches long. Perfect.

And now as I look down and watch her sleep, or when I wake up and see her snuggled next to me, or when I see her gaze into her dad’s eyes, I can’t imagine life without her. She fits us, so incredibly well. She’s ours.

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