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On June 17th, a Wednesday, I felt homey. The sky was gray in the afternoon and I took that as an excuse not to go to my yoga class. This was unusual, as I really enjoyed my yoga classes, but I felt a little fatigued. I went to bed, to rest, and started reading a new book: Una piccola bestia ferita, by Margherita Oggero. I knew this was going to be a pleasant book, a lighthearted mystery.
At around 4.30 pm I went to the bathroom and lost my mucous plug. I had wondered what this was going to be like, as my sister never realized when she lost hers for my two nephews. Well, it was unmistakable for me. It was like dropping an egg white in the toilet.
I immediately called Stephan, my husband, to the bathroom, and we took a good look at it. We were both very excited, even though we had read it could be weeks before birthing time. Still we were one step further. His parents called a few minutes after, and were told the news, and I e-mailed my mom, just to keep her up to date on progress. Then Stephan had the idea of brewing me some RRL tea, which was very relaxing to drink. I did the Deepening script, with lavender aromatherapy. It was the best hypnosis session I ever did! I felt great afterwards and with some mild cramping. I thought the cramping was from the RRL tea, so I was very relaxed and I practiced my off switch here and there.
At this point I started thinking that maybe birthing time could be closer than we expected, we could not be sure it would take another week. And the cramping continued, still mild. So I decided that for dinner I wanted to have a huge pasta dish, spaghetti alla carbonara. This is the good pre-races carbo loading tradition. If it worked well for rowing it would work well for delivery too. I felt I needed to be prepared. Stephan didn’t think we were at all near the big day, but helped me cook the pasta, as I still had cramping and was practicing the off switch. I ate dinner with gusto and we went upstairs to watch a movie, Sleuth. Interestingly weird movie. But I didn’t get to see the end of it until a few days later. Because as we were watching it the cramping got more intense and I needed Stephan to stop the movie to better do my off switch without missing what was going on.
Meanwhile we noticed that the belly was much lower, but that was supposedly normal with lightening. I was also peeing a lot and losing some liquid. But it wasn’t like water it was still a little thick in consistency. Stephan read on the internet it could take hours to loose the mucus plug completely, so we didn’t think it was my water breaking. We then tried to time the pressure waves, if that was what they were, but it was hard to do. I wasn’t able to distinguish a start and an end. It was a cramping truly like a wave. What I could determine was the peak of each wave. So Stephan timed the peaks and they were 3 minutes apart. Again we looked at each other and he thought it was not possible, since I was doing so well.
But I had a feeling the baby was soon to come, I thought maybe the following morning, like I had often envisioned in the birthing visualizations. We got to the point that we were stopping the movie so often it seemed silly to continue watching it. And the waves became more intense, so much so I could not sit still. This was initially shocking to me, as I had most of my confidence in my off switch. I thought it was pretty powerful, it worked with cramps in my legs, with needles, etc. I was not happy not to be able to use it during waves. But I had already figured out that the center switch was going to be important, to move around. And the last days I had being practicing it more, following some suggestions from the forum. So I went to center switch and instinctively went on all fours on my yoga mat and moved my hips in circles. This was bliss and helped so much in “riding” the waves. Meanwhile Stephan took a shower, shaved, packed all the pre-assembled items for the hospital bag (a huge travel bag on wheels really) and called a taxi. I had originally planned to take a relaxing bath and a shower before leaving for the hospital. But I didn’t feel like taking either. I thought it was funny that Stephan was all focused on showering, but in retrospect it was good he did, as he didn’t see a shower for the following two days, camping out at the hospital. When the taxi arrived I was circling my hips on my birthing ball. I got up and off we went with the huge bag in the trunk and the ball in the front seat. I was listening to the birthing day affirmations on my iPod at this point. I really liked them, not just affirmations like the pregnancy ones, more like guidelines. The taxi took off and Stephan immediately realized it was heading in the wrong direction, so he made it clear to the driver that we were going to Pennsylvania Hospital, not University of Penn Hospital. I guess the driver was a little nervous: I had four pressure waves during the 8 minute cab ride. I saw him running at least one red light (it was past midnight, so not much traffic anyway).
The driver left us at the emergency room hospital entrance. Stephan took the bag, I took my ball and off we went. The security guard didn’t quite understand I was in labor, but opened the door for us to get in. So I walked all the way: the first floor hallway, elevator, fourth floor hallway, to the PETU desk. I had four pressure waves on our way there. For each one I would put down my ball and sit on it, making circles with my hips. Also, as soon as I was inside the hospital I switched to the Easy First Stage track. I heard what I thought was an interference, like the iPod was breaking. I told Stephan and he said that was the background music in the hospital lobby. Just imagine… I was annoyed by it. I was totally in my bubble. The funniest wave was the one in the elevator: it wasn’t quite past when the doors opened, I kept circling on my ball. Stephan didn’t move, just waited. But as the doors were closing the wave was over, so I jumped off my ball, took it in my arms and squeezed through the doors at the last possible instant. At the reception desk Stephan dealt with everything, I was just saying whatever came to mind that he may forget, like “low intervention room” and repeating a couple of times.
They got me in the triage room and wanted to have me on a bed to monitor me. But I didn’t want to move from my ball, so they put the monitor on where I was. Soon a resident came for a check visit. I managed to climb on the bed, but stayed there on all fours. Now this visit was painful, and she didn’t know where to put her hands in this position. She said I was at 5 cm dilation. So they let me go to the bathroom, which I had wanted to do since getting there. In the bathroom I told Stephan I was a bit disappointed: the waves were now intense and if I was only at 5, then I didn’t have a clue on how to go on for who knows how many hours. And I felt like pushing. He told the nurse so and the resident was back for another check visit. I was now lying on the bed like they wanted me to, since I was a bit down and in between pressure waves. The visit from the front revealed that I was actually at 9, so they rushed me to the delivery room. This time I was on a wheelchair, but still holding on to my ball. I couldn’t see Stephan and was calling him and also saying “drink, drink” as I was very thirsty.
Since everything was so rushed they didn’t manage to put in the hep-lock, which I didn’t want but was hospital policy. I was very happy about this. In the delivery room Stephan put on the Pushing track on speakers. Now the difficult part began. I thought I knew how to push. I had even practiced the last month, while pooping, the exhale pushing and I thought I got it. Well I didn’t have a clue. Also I thought I wanted to squat, but that was a difficult position to hold (even though I had practiced this one also) and the nurses weren’t too comfortable with me on the floor. I really wanted to be on all fours on the bed but the midwife was not comfortable with this position either and they couldn’t monitor the baby’s heart beat. The belt was picking up my heart beat, so they asked Stephan for permission to put the internal sensor on the baby’s head, which we agreed to. Since I felt a little lost at this point and thought the baby would be out quickly, I wasn’t sure of what to do.
The midwife asked if she could direct me and I said yes, ending up on my back, doing the purple pushing. This also seemed to me not to work. The fact is I thought this phase was going to be fast and that I knew how to push. I had read the article Pushing for Primips by Gloria Lemay http://www.glorialemay.com/blog/?s=pushing+phase. But I had somehow forgotten about it, or I thought the “head being shaped by the canal” had already taken place. I should have memorized this article, not simply read it! So I was really frustrated I couldn’t push the baby out, especially since I am an athlete and am used to controlling my muscles. All I kept thinking was that my face was going to explode and that I could feel my eyes popping out. The nurses kept telling me to push against the pain, but I didn’t feel any localized pain to push against. The waves here were very intense and I could do only 3 pushes per wave, and they felt rushed. In between waves I would calm myself, go back to center switch or off, rest and either apologize to the nurses for my screaming like a mad woman or complaining to my husband that I didn’t know how to push and I felt like a failure. But he was very reassuring and the Peace and Relax cues with hand on the shoulder worked wonderfully all the way, also while pushing. Finally Stephan saw the head. He asked me if I wanted to touch it, but at that moment I didn’t feel like it, it was more about my overcoming this moment than thinking about the baby.
When I did feel the head right “there” the midwife said: “With the next contraction you can push the baby out”. But I remembered about pushing without a wave from the program and I also felt that the head couldn’t possibly stay where it was as I was super stretched. So I replied no, that I could now feel the “ring” and the baby and I would push him out. And I did in 4 pushes, that I could control very well. I took as much time as I needed in between, as I didn’t have to fit them into a pressure wave. It was very satisfying to feel back in control of my body’s reactions. And it was amazing to feel the baby come out, very gently, not all at once, and a bit slippery and warm. Instantly it was about the baby again, not about me, and with a great sense of achievement, rather than relief. I had my eyes closed and opened them only when I felt the baby on my belly. First thing I saw was his head from the top: a head full of hair. I touched it and it was so soft and silky. And I caressed him.
I don’t remember what I said, I was just in awe at this little red being that I thought I didn’t know, but really I did. And it was incredible I loved him, right then and there, without knowing where this love came from, it was just there all at once, all of a sudden. Or so it felt like that. Stephan was very moved and caressed him and then held him too. He cut the cord. We had about an hour to bond and try a first attempt at latching. Then baby went for bath, etc and Stephan went with him. I was alone for some time and couldn’t believe how everything went, as I was sipping my Gatorade in the darkened room. The pushing was 1 hour and a half, active labor overall was about 4 hours. My perineum didn’t tear, the midwife had been massaging it (Stephan had done a good job with the massage too in the prior weeks. Not too often, but to a good point); I only got one internal stitch in the vagina, where there was a small cut and the midwife wanted to be sure it wasn’t going to bother me later. After a little while I got up and went to the bathroom by myself without a problem, not walking too fast, but certainly much better than I had imagined. We kept the baby with us from the first night, he was born at 2.36 am. Given the time difference with Italy I could call my mom pretty soon and tell her the baby was here: she couldn’t believe it! After all the phone calls by noon my husband and I went to the breastfeeding class. We were the only parents who had had a baby that night to be there.
It was an awesome birth and much of it I owe to Hypnobabies. If there was a video of my birthing time at the hospital it would probably not be as inspiring as the videos I had watched, so peaceful (I guess the peaceful part was at home). However I feel hypnosis worked for me all the way. I was very focused and confident. With the exception of the frustration with the pushing I enjoyed the experience for what it was and while I cannot say it was comfortable, it wasn’t painful either. It sure was fast! The sensation was intense and stretchy. I was also screaming but it somehow went with the expression of the moment, it wasn’t out of sheer pain. I wonder if taking the Hypnobabies class with an instructor would have made me understand the pushing phase better. If I had to do it again, I feel I still wouldn’t know how to push without the sensation of where to push. But I would be less impatient with myself, giving the whole process the time it takes. Of course I was also lucky not to have any complications. But I did everything that was under my control: I used the tool I had chosen to believe in, I was as well informed as possible and last but not least I was in excellent shape, having worked out throughout the pregnancy (I rowed in a quad with my wonderful team mates up to 31 weeks; after I stopped I did pre-natal yoga). I now recommend Hypnobabies to all women who wish to have a natural birth. And this forum was an excellent source of information, support and inspiration. Thanks to all of you.