The Coming of Kai
A few short years before I became pregnant with my 2nd son, I rediscovered yoga. It was the one sure way that I could release my mind, body and soul and step onto a higher plane. A time where I could let go of any distractions, weaknesses or doubts in my life. During one of these practices about 30 weeks along, I had an epiphany. One I would’ve dismissed with a laugh and an “Oh sure!” in my 20’s. During meditation, while I lost myself in the sweet kicks of my unborn son’s feet into my ribs, the burning incense and stillness of the room, I decided that I would have a natural, med free labor and delivery this time. I had wanted to with my first born but got scared and defaulted to the epidural once my contractions became just a bit too intense. I caved and always wondered, what if? As we ended Shavasana that practice, I cried tears of clarity. That I would get the natural birth that I had wondered about for so long.
For years I had quietly admired the women who had had the strength and courage to go med free, like the thousands of women had before us who didn’t have the modern day luxuries of labor suites, pain inhibitors and a full staff standing by. I wanted to experience it as our fore mothers had. Old school. I wanted to feel it all; every sensation, good, bad or excruciating, along-side my son. He wasn’t getting pain meds for the work he had to do, so why should I?
The next final weeks, questions and doubts naturally taunted me: What am I trying to prove? Will I be disappointed if I can’t do it (again)? What if I can’t handle the pain? How will I manage my failure? Will I be easy on myself if I ask for the epidural after all? Is this crazy? The only answer that I could come up with to quiet these questions was this; that no matter what, I wouldn’t die. So as long as I held onto that one truth, I WOULD do this. No, it wasn’t the most poetic nor comforting truth, but it was all that I had and I would hold onto it until game day.
About a week before my due date, I began to stress that we had not yet prepared our home for the stay of my mother in law. We had no bed, no linens and no blinds in the guest room. Terrible. After work I hit a few furniture stores with the hope of buying a sofa bed on the spot. Earlier that day, my OB had stripped my membranes. I had cramped all day and bled a bit. I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t be furniture shopping but at home, just in case. I left sans bed and assumed the position, on the couch. The contractions started. They were sporadic and about 10-12 minutes apart. So I waited, patiently, as my husband started to re-pack our hospital bags and clean the house. The Sochi Winter Olympic Games were on so I lost myself watching ice dancing twizzles and began to time my contractions on my phone. By midnight, they were 5-6 minutes apart and a bit stronger. I told Sean to take a nap and that I would most likely wake him in a few hours to head to the hospital. By 2:30am, they were exactly 5 minutes apart. We left home at 3am (the exact same time I left for the hospital for my firstborn), coincidentally.
On the 10 minute car ride, Sean was quiet and focused. There were no cars on the road. Just us. I could tell that the music playing was adding to his stress level, so I changed it to Bon Iver and remained calm, for us. We said very little to each other. I let him enjoy his silence as I knew that there were 1 million thoughts swimming around his mind aka he was freaking the fuck out. Once we parked, I suggested we leave everything in the car, in the event we were sent home.
The first nurse came in to do a quick check. After several tries (each as uncomfortable and painful as the prior), she claimed that she simply could not find my cervix and that she needed to find a nurse with longer fingers. Really?! In came the on-call OB. First try she found my cervix and told me that although I was about 4 ½ cm dilated, that she was hesitant to admit me as my contractions didn’t seem that strong. And that due to my jovial, light-hearted energy she found it hard to believe that I was in real labor. Awesome.
She gave us two choices: 1) walk around the maternity ward for 1 hour to see whether my contractions intensified 2) go home and come back later. I was NOT going back home, only to turn right back around. I knew my body. I knew that my baby was coming. We started our final “pregnant” walk around the ward, knowing that 8 laps made 1 mile. Each lap we made small talk with the nurses. Some engaged. Some did not. I told Sean when I would have a contraction, and he would note the time on his phone. It wasn’t until the 5th and final lap that the contractions were three minutes apart and stopped me in my tracks, forcing me to lean on the wall. Finally. We were officially admitted into the labor/delivery ward and I was wheel-chaired into Room 328. It was about 5:30am.
We had over packed because we could. One nurse asked if were moving in. We began to make the space our own. We sprayed lavender essential oil into the air above my bed. I changed out of my street clothes and into the hideous hospital gown that I left open in the back. I took a beat to appreciate how many women before me had given birth to their babies in the very same gown. I thought that was pretty cool. I put on my knit kitty cat slippers. We opened the can of glow bracelets and adorned ourselves and the nurse with the blue, purple, red and orange light sticks. If we were going to bring life into this world tonight, we were going to do it in style. Sean set up our two Buddha statues on my table, in clear line of sight, as my focal points. Huge exhale. The calm before the storm.
He connected to the Providence Wi-Fi and played DJ, just as I had asked. Birdy station on Pandora indefinitely, until it was time to push. Once I heard the Indie, folk sounds of my favorite female artists, I suddenly became empowered. I was now 90% sure that I would do this as intended, with no meds. In fact, I was so sure that I decided to re-apply my makeup right then and there. I kept it simple. Powder, blush, liquid eyeliner and baby pink lip gloss. In the event that Sean took photos and sent them out (as I knew he would), I’d be damned if I looked like dog shit.
When my OB walked in at the start of the 7am shift, I was so relieved, I almost cried. I wanted no one but her to deliver my child. She had held my hand for almost a year with my cervical cancer scare and she was the only one I trusted with my life and Kai’s. With her, also came a new nurse. Thank God. Though the initial one was decent, there was no connection what so ever. Her energy was about 100 notches below where I needed it to be. She wasn’t The One.
Heidi was the nurse meant to deliver Kai. She let me labor without the monitor straps, freely, as I wanted. I could move from the rocking chair, to the yoga ball, to the floor, to the bed, to standing. Not tied to belts hooked up to the machine. We asked Heidi when she thought the baby would come. With full conviction she said by lunch time. Wow. That fast? I thought.
Kelly and Heidi asked me where my head was at, regarding pain medication. And so I told them. I wanted to try it with no epidural but wanted to be notified of the last possible window of time to have it, IF I changed my mind. They answered perfectly. They said that I should see how I handled the intensified contractions after my water was broken. If I could, onward ho. But if I couldn’t, that I could then consider the epidural. Sounded like a great plan to me.
Once she broke my water, I definitely felt the contractions increase in power and pain. But still, they weren’t THAT bad. My DR nodded and said, “How do we feel? How bad are they?” Although I was scared, I answered, “Not TOO bad. I want to go for it.” Both of them answered in unison, “Good for you. Let’s do this.” Holy SHIT, I thought. Is there really no turning back now?! Can I change my mind NOW or have I really fucked myself and this point?!”
The contractions were now two minutes apart and absolutely kicking my ass. They stopped me in my tracks, took my breath away and silenced me completely. Rocking in the chair and standing were no longer practical options. I resorted to the yoga ball, where I could massage my screaming taint on the soft, forgiving latex and dig my hands into my own thighs. I used the Lamaze “He He Woo” and it actually kind of worked. It was the only type of breathing pattern or rhythm that would get me to the end of the contraction without completely losing my shit.
As I labored (hard), I listened to the three of them talk about hiking Machu Picchu, our proposal and our recent trip to Indonesia. I so badly wanted to contribute to the conversation but I could only get out a few words before the next contraction would consume me. So, passively, I let go and listened to their voices and storytelling. Sean would ask me a question in the midst of a contraction and not understand why I wasn’t answering. I wanted to throw something at his face. The DR finally explained to him how poor his timing was. He stopped. I forgave him.
The contractions began to build, so painful that I thought to myself, “Wow, I didn’t think they COULD get worse. How bad are these going to continue to get?!” I told my nurse that the ball wasn’t cutting it anymore. I told the DR that I felt like I had to poop. She said that it was the baby. I became defiant. I repeated that I had to poop. She repeated that it was the baby. No, not yet. I wasn’t ready. I’m too scared out of my mind. NOT YET! NO!!!!!!
It was time to move onto the bed. Sean and Heidi helped me onto all fours, on the end of the bed, where I would continue to labor doggie style. I was mortified. My gown was still open in the back and my hairy asshole and hemorrhoids were exposed in Sean’s face. I was dying. Goodbye self-pride.
The toughest part was timing it so that I would actually be able to move from one position to the next in-between contractions. I missed a few windows before getting it right. Once on all fours, Sean massaged my lower back while I lost myself in the pain. I heard the familiar sound of the Brookstone massager and let the vibrations help alleviate some of the pressure. It helped. A little.
Any ounce of grace was now gone. I was losing control of my breathing and I was getting really scared. Heidi suggested that I move back onto the ball. I told her that that sounded like a terrible idea. Truth was that I was in so much pain, that I knew that I would end my laboring on this very bed. I would move from all fours, onto my back and that was all she wrote. Fuck the ball.
This is where it goes very spotty for me. Like trying to recollect a drunken night of partying where you’ve blacked out much of the detail and only held onto the good stuff.
I remember Heidi to the left of my head, Sean to the right of me but a bit lower (maybe around my waist). And my DR was down there, of course.
The contractions were ridiculous. I can’t even describe the pain. Each one came at me like a freight train, stronger than the prior. It was like someone stabbing me with a machete and turning the blade while inside. I sloppily grabbed for the side hand rails but could never seem to find a position that felt right. I must have tried every handle up and down from my waist to my ears. I tried grabbing the sheets. I tried digging into my thighs again. Nothing felt right. Nothing. Then I noticed that my legs took on a life of their own. They were flopping around, bending up and down like a fish out of water. It was mostly my left leg. My right leg was on its own path. Whatever.
And then it happened. I journeyed elsewhere. I left my body and relinquished all control. I let the labor take over. I surrendered completely. With Heidi as my spirit guide, I grounded myself into her every word. “Let go. Let go of the control. Let your body do what it was designed to do. Moan. Good. Just like that. The lower the moans, the easier your body will endure the pressure.” She was absolutely right. When I screamed a weak, high-pitched pussy squeal, it hurt more. When I moaned a deep baritone groan, it felt more pure and somewhat manageable. Go figure.
At this point, I was buck naked, rocking my pelvis, thrashing my left leg and fully consumed in labor and on the journey to meet my son. Heidi said, “She’s gone to her own planet. She’s there.” I guess I had.
With all of my might, I asked whether pushing would hurt more. I needed to know so that I could wrap my head around whether the pain would get worse or stay about the same. The DR said that it would be more intense. WTF did that mean?! I am an analytical person. I need to know specifics and actual tangibles. Is that worse or not?! She explained that though the pain would get more intense, that the pushing would help distract me. I understood. The pain of the contraction felt so horrible because I simply had to wait and “take them” each time. With the pushing, I had an active role, using each contraction to bring Kai down the canal. OK, that actually makes sense. THIS I could process.
The last image I had of labor was of a 2nd nurse wheeling in a rolling table of what looked like 100 metal torture tools, like something from Silence of the Lambs. Why did I look?! God Damnit!
My DR told me that I was ready and that it was time to push. Now my eyes were sealed shut and I was crying and in complete fear. I was afraid of whether I would have the strength to push. I was afraid that I couldn’t handle the pain of him crowning. I was afraid of it all. OK, I was absolutely terrified. It’s what I would imagine utter horror would look and feel like.
Heidi and Sean each took a leg. I grabbed the insides of my swollen thighs. The DR yelled, “Chin to chest, Amanda! Bear down through your bottom. You know what to do!” Holy fuck was this hard. I pushed with all of my energy and prayed to God that Kai would shoot out after one push. No such luck. Fuck. She made me push 3 times during each contraction. By the 3rd push, I was screaming bloody murder and didn’t give a fuck who heard. With every push, one of the three would tell me how “close” I was and that he was “almost here.” WTF?! Does that mean one more push? Does that mean 50 more pushes?! What does “close” mean, assholes?! I hated them all.
They started talking about how much hair he had. This was all I needed to hear…the tiny bit of hope that proved that he was actually “close.”
And then it happened. The crowning. Um, yeah. No words can describe this sensation. It was indeed the ring of fire. The feeling that there is a blow torch aimed directly at your vagina and asshole, coupled with someone or something tearing your body in half. I truly believed that my body was ripping into two parts. I screamed, “Are you kidding me right now?!” I still couldn’t open my eyes. I was scared of what I might actually see.
And then the dreaded words, “You still have to get his shoulders out, Amanda. You’re not done yet.” Fuck you. Fuck you all. Fuck this shit all day. Make it end. Make it all go away.
Then Heidi’s angelic voice in my ear, “It’s like hiking your Machu Picchu, Amanda. You’re almost there and you will feel the most amazing sense of relief and pride when you get there…you’ve got this!” Fine. I’ll do it. But only because I have no choice.
I pushed one final time, with all of my heart and determination. And then I heard his cry. His insanely beautiful, perfect cry. I lost it. I started crying uncontrollably, as I felt his warm and slimy skin on mine. Sean was crying to the right of me. I had done it. Holy fuck, I had done it. The DR said, “Well that was a whole lot of awesome right there.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Feb 12th, 2014 was hands down the most raw, pure, spiritual, mind blowing and world-rocking experience of my life. I felt it ALL and like Sean said, “Shit got REAL.”
I feel so fortunate to have shared that unforgettable morning with the love of my life and two of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, Dr. Kelly Burkett and Nurse Heidi. As cliché as this sounds, on that day, if never again, I could legitimately scream, “I am woman, hear me ROAR!”
~ Namaste. Amanda Charr