This story is dedicated to all the women in Chicago who are hoping for a natural birth this year. My labor was about sixty hours long and fifty-seven of those were at home. Laboring felt difficult but not traumatic. This story is second of all dedicated to my mother and the rest of my team—namely my doula, my husband, and my mother-in-law––without them, this would not be a positive story.
Day 1: Friday October 18th
3pm—Contractions ten minutes apart
7pm—Ate Lou Malnati’s deep dish spinach pizza and had a glass of wine
10pm—took TylenolPM, tried to get rest, and did sleep between contractions!
Day 2: Saturday October 19th
1am—called the doula. Contractions 5 minutes apart in my lower back.
1:30am—took shower and/or bath
3:30am—managed to sleep some
5am—doula arrived, but the contractions subsided to ten minutes apart…the type of contraction I could almost sleep through.
10am—acupuncture brought contractions on stronger and closer together.
5pm—doula returned and contractions subsided again.
I was drinking coconut water constantly, and although I didn’t feel like eating—Joe knew exactly what I would not be able to turn down.
6pm—Five Guys burger and fries and a glass of wine
9pm—Tylenol pm, trying to sleep.
I spent most of the night in the bath or shower or “trying to sleep.” The water was a huge relief, though I began to wonder if it was relaxing in the tub that kept slowing things down.
Day 3 Sunday October 20th
9am—per doula’s orders Joe and I took a walk with the dog around the block. I had to walk very slowly and about every six minutes I had to stop and lean on Joe for a contraction.
I was pretty calm this whole time, with a few breakdowns when I wasn’t sure how long I could keep going. My doula put me at ease because she had witnessed so many births. Joe almost didn’t believe the contractions hurt.
They did hurt, but as long as my mom, my husband, my mother-in-law, or my doula gave me counter pressure or massaged by back with every contraction, I found it manageable.
I was determined not go to bed at home that night. “I’m having this baby today,” I said.
12pm—the doula went home. Joe had his mother come over to help with massaging me during contractions while she was gone, which I discovered is a hidden talent of my mother-in-law.
5pm—the Doula came back, contractions were closer together, but still not more intense.
The doula asked me if I could kiss my husband. I knew this was a natural way to stimulate oxytocin (potosin is the synthetic form of oxytocin and is given to bring on contractions in hospitals). So, I announced to my mom and mother-in-law that Joe and I were going to try to take a nap. Kissing was not only a fun distraction--but it worked.
By this time I could barely eat…but I was still downing coconut water. Soon I needed the relief of the bathtub (I had had more showers/bathes those three days than in the few weeks prior).
While in the tub something that the doula had said stuck with me. Somehow I needed to breathe into the contractions and let them get bigger. While I wanted the baby to come out soon, allowing pain to take over did not sound fun.
So I tried picturing myself blowing up a balloon every time there was a contraction, and I breathed that way. I pictured my cervix opening with every balloon I blew up. It worked. Though I was still feeling the contractions in my back, they were getting closer together and more intense.
We had had all of our bags in the car ready for the hospital since the late afternoon.
11:30pm—had this contraction that shook me. I was so startled I said, “What was that?” My doula said it sounded “pushy” and we were out the door in five minutes.
I was in transition. Each contraction was more intense than the last. I was like a crazy woman during each contraction—making loose lips horse sounds to stay loose without pushing—all the way from Lincoln Park to Evanston, all 30min of the drive.
It was horrible, I cursed the road with each bump. There was a point when I was sure we’d have the baby on the side of the road, and was relieved that we were “following” right behind my doula. But, we made it there.
Day 4 Monday October 21st, just after midnight
Walking into the entryway to hospital, I felt a huge contraction coming, so I stopped and roared, “He’s coming!”
The security guard looked at me wide-eyed from across the empty lobby. The next day I discovered that a different woman hours earlier had shown up ready to push…stark naked. I guess I seemed normal next to her.
The midwife and nurse came rushing out to meet us, and I couldn’t believe I had to sign something and answer routine questions for the nurse.
I squatted and pushed between being asked dumb questions and being monitored electronically. I refused to change into a hospital gown and was genuinely surprised when I realized I had to take off my underwear.
Finally there was enough of a break for the nurse and midwife to check my dilation. And, I was at 10 centimeters. Thank God!
Everyone seemed to think this was going to be over pretty quick, but contractions felt different, so it was hard for me to tell when one was ending and the next one beginning. I felt exhausted, I think that is why it took so long, and the reason I tore.
I tried every pushing position you could think of…later my mom said I was such an athlete.
Everyone was talking about the water sac that still had not broken, so I had to see it. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Looking, turned out to be a distraction so I asked them to put the huge mirror away.
But the bad thing was that meconium was visible in the sac, and when it is visible a pediatrician has to be called to be present at the birth.
If the baby did not come out crying the midwife said we would have to give him to the pediatrician so that she could clear his lungs of the meconium. So in came a doctor and two or three assistants with a contraption to lay the baby in and bright lights. I did not want them to be there.
After over two and half hours I asked, “Can I do this? I need you to tell me.” In unison they all said, “yes.” My mom adding, “you’re doing it, we can see the head with lots of hair.” And that was it... it only took a few more pushes.
After his head he slid out with a wail. He cried, he cried—“Give me my baby!” I said.
The pediatrician argued that since she had come and set up, she should look at him first, but the midwife gave him directly to me—slimy, squirmy, and perfect. We named him Lincoln David Negussie.
I held him skin to skin and to my breast throughout the first hour, through being stitched up. Finally Joe said, “She hasn’t even let me hold him yet.” And they cleaned him off, put him in a blanket and handed him to Joe.
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