Welcome Little Man
I need to write about the labor and delivery of my first son before the anesthesia of motherhood overpowers the memories. It was a wonderful, quick, challenging and athletic event. Sometime early on in the pregnancy we decided to pursue a natural childbirth, and by the end of my pregnancy felt very strongly about trying to have this baby without any interventions, drugs or unnecessary monitoring. Dave and I were looking forward to having a midwife deliver our first child and knew that this would be the best way for us to achieve our goals of a natural childbirth.
On February 23rd, after a VERY slow hike on Sanitas, I had a nice lunch with friends and then went home to put the finishing touches on the baby’s room with Dave. As soon as that last screw went in the wall I was down on the floor with what felt like a strong menstrual cramp. I thought “is this it”? I was two days past my due date and definitely ready to get the show on the road. I still wasn’t convinced this was labor, so we got dressed and went to a nice dinner.
About 11:30, and halfway through Saturday Night Live, we realized that the contractions were consistently 1 to 2 minutes apart, and it was time to go! It was quite a scene trying to get all our stuff in the car. I could barely do anything for the few seconds between contractions. Somehow I managed to throw on a sweater and jacket, grab my purse and make it to the car. I even had to get down on my hands and knees and work through a contraction in our driveway while silently hoping the neighbors weren’t watching.
Merrilyn showed up shortly after we arrived at the hospital and checked me. I was 4-5 centimeters and 100% effaced. I don’t really know how far apart the contractions were but they seemed close and consistent. My body told me what to do, and I labored on my hands and knees - both on the bed and then on the couch, face pressed against the glass window. I was able to focus on my breathing with lots of deep moaning and tonation. I guess this went on for a couple hours, not really sure. The pain started to intensify and at times my moans sometimes turned to more screams and howls. They say modesty goes out the door during labor and this was true - my clothes came off at one point and never went back on. The contractions became more intense, longer and seemed to be on top of each other. Merrilyn was there the whole time calmly lending a gentle word or a suggestion when we needed it, but mostly Dave and I worked through the contractions together as a team.
Time was passing quickly and it felt like things were rapidly progressing so I was able to handle the pain. Finally we decided it was time for the tub. They filled it up and I gingerly slipped into the warm water. The tub didn’t provide as much relief as I had hoped, plus I was going through transition and was extremely uncomfortable. Transition was pretty crazy. Dave said this is when I got the crazed look on my face and was a little psychotic staring at things with bugged out eyes and screaming in pain. I just had a hard time getting comfortable and really wanted to be back on my hands and knees. Finally I left the tub and went back in the room.
Merrilyn checked again after the bath and I was at 8 centimeters and before too long, I was at 9 ½ centimeters. She said it was time to push – the Big Moment! I was standing at the time and really didn’t feel the urge to push, which everyone says will happen. I was just in a lot of pain and didn’t want to make it worse by pushing. She urged me to try and I did and it was pretty darn painful. Much more intense then I imagined. What I didn’t know is that he was coming out in a posterior position, or “Sunnyside” up. It was a difficult position on both of us, a tough path for him to navigate. It was slow and painful work.
I kept pushing and pushing and pushing – sometimes pausing to breathe and rest through a contraction. Merrilyn soon decided to call the OB because they were worried about his heart rate (it kept dropping during contractions) and she also thought they might need to use a vacuum to get him out because he was so low and not emerging. Dr. Shimoda arrived about 20-30 minutes later, and in that time his heart rate had stabilized. So she joined us and was a huge support to our little team - she held the monitors and cheered me on during the intense pushing.
I was so overcome by doubt, fear and stress at this point. I kept saying I don’t think I can do this. And my husband and the nurses kept saying “you ARE doing it, you’re doing it right now!!” They were so supportive and kept telling me that I was so strong and doing really well. I kept looking at them with my eyes popping out of my head asking what was going on? It felt like it was taking forever to push him out. The power pushes I did started to finally move him and I could tell we were close by looking in Dave’s eyes and seeing his emotional tears that the baby was coming down. I could also tell that we were close when Merrilyn put on her gown (boy was I happy to see her suit up).
Telling me it was close was what I needed to hear to gather some major strength – mentally and emotionally. As he was finally moving down and navigating his way, I was still in tremendous pain, but starting to see the end to this. Finally after some big pushes his head starts to emerge. And this is the crazy part, his head gets about halfway out and my contraction ends. There we are… the “Ring of Fire”…. in full effect!!! They told us about this in birth class and I didn’t fully comprehend why it is called the Ring of Fire. But at this point, I got it. He was halfway out and I was just completely mortified. Here I pause and wait for the next contraction with his head stretching me to unbelievable lengths.
They asked me to touch his head and this was really too much… I could feel his head. I guess this is the upside of no epidural – you can feel everything. It was almost a sensory overload and I couldn’t even think about looking in the mirror (which I thought would be totally cool). I did touch his head and felt some fuzzy hair and couldn’t believe it. They told me he had blonde hair and that made it even more real.
So the Ring of Fire thing is happening, and I knew I had to dig down deep to get this guy out. It was just too much and I couldn’t fathom going through another contraction in this awkward position. So I dug in and pulled myself up and gave it my all and out he came in one slippery push. There he was – our little guy!
Merrilyn quickly untangled the cord that was wrapped twice around his neck, and whisked him to the nurses to clear his lungs before he breathed in the meconium that he had pooped in utero. But soon we heard his cries and thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s our baby – he’s outside and here at last!” I was just sitting there in shock trying to take it all in while Merrilyn delivered the placenta, which was a lot easier than I thought. Dave was so emotional and teary and that was incredible. He was an amazing coach and powerful presence for me during the delivery – I know I couldn’t have done it without him.
Next thing you know they are handing us this tiny, little being with a crazy messed up lopsided, bruised cone head. It tilted super far to the right and had a big purple bruise at the top of the cone. But we loved him so much and snuggled him in. We still hadn’t finalized the name, so we discussed quickly and decided on Westyn Levi because the rising sun had lit up the mountains in the west a beautiful rose pink while he was making his way into this world. It was a tough, emotional and incredible experience and I was so thankful that Merrilyn and her team were there to share it with us.