Thursday, 3/15. 39 weeks + 2 days. For me, life during pregnancy became a number; a march towards 40 + 0. Approximately. Each week, there were new boxes to tick for preparations to be made. Nursery- complete. Stroller- purchased. Birth class-complete. Every accomplished task was one step towards readiness for the baby’s arrival. A 40-week preparation plan! I love plans.
It was my first week on maternity leave. Zach was working. I was already a little bored, but doing my best to keep busy. That day I took Willow, our dog, out for a walk at the Berkeley marina. Walking felt good; I was pretty uncomfortable every time I sat down. Around 4pm I noticed an opaque mucous discharge when I went to the bathroom. Could I tick the ‘lost mucous plug’ box? Eh, I better not mark it as complete… I had read (and then immediately re-read in my 5 pregnancy books) that this COULD mean labor will start soon, but "soon" could mean today or in two weeks. Regardless of the timeline, I knew that my body had at least provided the eviction notice to the baby. I just didn’t know if it was a 24, 48 or 72-hour notice.
Zach came home early, we walked Willow, and then ate dinner. Around 7pm I got into bed, as I did often during my pregnancy. I had trouble falling asleep that night, I felt like I was going to throw up. While this was a somewhat common feeling for me as of late; it seemed different. Eventually, I fell asleep.
2:30AM: I awoke and my underwear felt damp. I went to the bathroom, there was a small wet spot in my underwear, but I didn't want to think too much of it. I got back into bed and noted the time.
2:50AM: I felt period-like cramps. They felt strong enough that I decided to try to time them. This is easier said than done. The pain came in like a wave, peaked, and then left. I wasn't sure if I should start timing at the point when it hurt, or when I felt the wave coming on. I didn't know. I just knew that the sensation was different than the painless tightening of Braxton Hicks, and that I felt the pain about twice in an hour.
3:00AM: I went back to the bathroom to see if there was more leakage. I remembered from my birthing classes that if my water bag had torn, it would continue to leak. This time when I wiped, I saw a pinkish tinge and it smelled "fresh." T-A- C-O. ‘time, amount, color, odor’. I noted this information in my phone.
I was relieved, excited, and in disbelief that this may 'be it'! I still didn't want to get carried away, so I put a pad in my underwear so that I could be certain that this was, in fact, a rupture of membranes. About 10 mins later, I felt the need to poop, so I went to the bathroom. When I removed my underwear, there was blood-
tinged mucous. This must be the bloody show!! So I had ROM, bloody show, and contractions, but the contractions weren't regular. I decided this was enough to wake Zach up. I told him that I ‘may be in labor’ and that I was going to get into the shower. He asked if he should text Britt, our doula, and I said we could wait until 7AM or so.
We normally go to our CrossFit gym at 6AM on weekday mornings. Staying active during my pregnancy was an important goal of mine, and I was still going at this point. CrossFit is amazing in that ANYONE can do it and it can be scaled to all abilities. CrossFit kept me active, strong, and happy. This was a special time of year for CrossFit, called the Open, where everyone in the world does the same workout on Fridays for 5 weeks in a row. This was week 4 of 5. At 3:00 AM, I was thinking that I would still be able to go to the gym at 6 and do
workout number 4.
4:30 AM: It's clear that no one will be going to the gym. I told Zach to text Britt with the facts so far- possible ROM, bloody show, and regular contractions. I was on my knees in the bedroom, draped over a birthing ball. I was rolling rhythmically with each contraction that I felt. Britt reminds us to get all the rest that we can- this is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no way I’m getting any rest with how I feel.
5:00- 5:45AM: My focus had shifted inward and I was concentrating everything I had on surrendering to what my body was doing; trying to not let the pain overwhelm my senses. I had moved back to the bed, was on all fours, with my head buried in the pillows and covers pulled over me. Zach was attempting to time my contractions based on what I was telling him and my body language. It was hard to tell when they were starting and stopping; it seemed like there was no beginning and no end. The pain came in waves and was unlike anything I had ever felt. I decided to get into our bathtub and have the shower spray down on me. Again, I was on all fours- this was the only position that gave me any relief. The shower felt good only for about 5
minutes then I felt like the water couldn't get hot enough and I wanted to be back under the covers of the bed. Zach had to help me out of the tub and dry me off. I felt so relieved that he was there with me, I knew he would take care of me. I got back into my previous position in the bed, it was the most comforting place for me to be.
5:45AM: Britt calls to listen to me and decides it's time for her to head to our place. She will be there in 45 minutes.
6:00AM: Zach calls Aimée, our midwife. Aimée wants to speak to me, but I cannot speak, so she just listens to the sounds I am making. With every contraction, I am breathing in as I feel the wave come on, and then moaning as the pain peaked, persisted, and then released. I'm typically a quiet person when in pain, but making these noises just came naturally and felt like the right way to cope with the pain. With each contraction, I remember the stories I read about in 'Spiritual Midwifery', and I try to visualize my cervix opening. I picture a drawstring being cinched back to open up the portal for our baby's departure from my uterus. After listening to me for a couple of minutes, she says she will meet us at her office.
6:30AM: I tell Zach we need to leave. It felt more like a plea. Please, I need to go, I need to go. In my head, I was concerned about my ability to actually walk to the car, and then the car ride itself. I don’t think I can physically make it. Zach reassures me that Britt is on her way. He says he needs to walk Willow and finish packing the bag. I tell him not to go. Then I say OK go now! Again, I feel like I am pleading. I want relief but cannot find it. I knew I was going to have to dig deep, and not fight. All I wanted was to rest.
I have a thought that I can't do this.
But then I keep hearing Zach tell me that I can do this.
At any chance I could, I lied on my side to get seconds of rest. Unfortunately, as soon as I lay on my side, the contraction started again and I had to get on all fours.
Zach gets back from walking Willow and I tell him we need to go now. He says Britt is almost here. I say I don't care we need to go. I see a bunch of bags next to the door and tell him to just take everything to the car so we are ready to go when Britt gets here.
7AM: Britt arrives and checks on me. She helps me up and reminds me that this is what I wanted and I am safe. We walk to the door to leave; I ask for my shoes. Zach says to wear my rain boots (it's raining). I say (scream) no. Britt suggests sandals. Zach gets my sandals and we leave. The walk to the car seems insurmountable. I treat it like I would a CrossFit workout- just one step, just one step, just one step. Each step gets me closer to my goal. Eventually, we are at the car. I get in the back on all fours. I can tell this isn't going to be fun. I close my eyes and try to lose myself so that I can't tell where we are. I don't want to be able to calculate how much more time before we get to the hospital. Luckily, Zach takes a way that we have never been
715ish: we arrive at Aimée's office. It's raining. I see her standing at the door and relief sets in. I made it! Zach drops Britt and me off. It's raining. I shuffle towards the door. As soon as I'm inside, I get on a bench on all fours and have a contraction. I know other people are watching, and I do not care. They get me up and into the elevator. Again, I collapse on all fours and have a contraction. Could I just crawl from here? I get up, and walk into Aimée's office. As soon as I step inside, I fall on all fours and have another contraction. Zach runs in and gets down on the ground with me. I can tell he wants to do anything to help me. If he could, he would be the one having this baby.
They tell me I need to get up so that Aimée can check me. I collect myself as much as possible, and walk into the exam room. Aimée helps me get my pants off and does a cervical check. She says I'm about 4 CM, but it's all on one side where the baby is situated, the other side isn't dilated at all. She says on the next contraction she's going to stay inside and try to ease the other side open. At this point, I have surrendered all control and have given myself over to this team of people who I fully trust. I have a contraction and Aimée says "that worked! Now you're at 7! Let me call over to the hospital". She calls over to get us a room.
Then they tell me we need to get to the hospital across the street.
I have another fleeting thought of 'I can't do this'.
I interrupt this thought and tell myself 'just one step, just one step'. This is just the next goal for me to accomplish. I have this group of three people here to support me, and they all believe in me.
Just one step... It's still raining. I know I am barely moving, but every movement brings me closer to where we need to be.
Eventually, we are in the hospital!
We get into the elevator and go to the 3rd floor. As soon as I step out of the elevator, I fall to the floor and have a contraction. It's as if I had been holding it off as long as possible and could no longer fight it. I hear people telling me I can't be on the floor here, but I can't get up. I hear a nurse ask if I can make it to the delivery room or if she should get me a wheelchair. I ask how far, and then follow up with – wheelchair, please. I get onto the wheelchair on my knees and face the nurse, she holds on to my sweatshirt to keep me from falling.
We get to the delivery room and I climb onto the table. Someone takes my pants off, but I don't know who. They tell me that a number of things need to be done, I just say OK. They strap on a fetal monitor which is super uncomfortable and I make that known. They tell me it's for the baby, which I realize that all of this is for the baby, so I should try not to complain. They try to give me a saline lock, but can't get my vein. The nursing team seems to think it's OK to leave out. I'm again on all fours, because that is the only thing that feels right. My eyes are closed, and I am focusing on the task at hand. I have no idea how long this is going to last, so I focus on right now. I know that I need to keep hydrated, so anytime someone offers me a liquid, I stick my head up, eyes remaining closed, and open my mouth. I feel like a baby bird.
Sometime around 8: I say "I need drugs." Once I said it, I remember learning that typically women say/feel that in transition, which means they are almost to the finish line. Was I almost to the finish line? I didn't want to ask for fear of the answer being no.
8:50ish (or so I was later told): The next thing I knew, I felt the contractions spacing out. I was finally getting a break! My body started shaking, and I felt the next contraction coming on. This was different. I felt my body pushing on its own. The sensation was similar to throwing up- involuntary clenching of your insides; only my body was pushing in the other direction. After this happened a couple of times, I understood that I needed to help my body and push along with it. The contraction would start, I would dig deep, and push as hard as possible. The contraction would stop, and I would (finally) get a break. The break felt endless compared to what I had been going through earlier. I decided to lay on my side. I remembered learning that it was easier to control the tearing of your perineum when on your side because the baby could ease out slower. Aimée said she could see the baby making her way down and that she had a full head of hair! I was astonished, as I was positive my baby would come out bald. Surprise!
As I lay there, Aimée told Zach to get ready to catch the baby. Was this really happening? Like now?!? I still didn't ask how long it would be, because I didn't want to hear the answer.
With the next few contractions, I pushed with all I had, and then followed Aimée's coaching. She had me pant (I thought of Willow), so that I could slowly push the baby out. I could feel myself stretching. It felt like I was on fire. I remembered reading about the 'ring of fire'. Turns out it's adequately named. In between pushes, the nurse put a pillow between my leg so I could rest as much as possible. If felt weird closing my legs while my baby was suspended in the birth canal. But I did as I was told. These people were in charge.
9:44AM: Our baby girl emerged, and was swiftly placed onto my no longer pregnant belly. Upon seeing her I exclaimed "holy shit!". I couldn't believe that something that big had just come out of me. This was Dagny! The little being who had been developing inside of me for the last 39 weeks. Aimée quickly cut the umbilical cord because it had been wrapped around her neck and then her body.
She wasn't pinking up or breathing as well as the nurses would like to see, so they put her on the warmer and got her 'going' within a couple of minutes. She was then placed right back on top of me and encouraged to nurse. Meanwhile, Aimée patiently delivered the placenta, and then my uterus began contracting on its own. The placenta was bigger and more beautiful than I had imagined.
Zach and I couldn't stop staring at her. She was so strong and alert. It was strange to be holding this baby that just minutes before had been inside of me. My brain was having trouble catching up to what had just occurred. I was amazed at what my body was able to accomplish by surrendering to its natural process. It’s incredible where just one more step can take you.
Dagny Charles Satt
6 pounds 15 oz.