The story of the coming of this little human starts like most... with love. I first met Maximilian in San Francisco and the connection and love was instant. We were made for one another. His company alone makes me the happiest lady around. The past two years at his side have been amazing. So many milestones have taken place for us both, the greatest being becoming parents.
Long before ever becoming pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have a natural birth, one that was not messed with or in which interventions made. I am among the women who realize that in most all cases the female body of all species is able to give birth without intervention. All we really need as a social species is other women (and men) to support us through it. What I didn't know was what I was set to endure during this momentous experience.
Labor started for me on September 19 around 2:00 pm, which was ten days after my supposed “due date.” What does this date really do to us pregnant women, other than drive us crazy and set an impossible goal, as only 3-5% of babies come on their “due date.” My first emotion associated with labor was excitement. I was not afraid of what was to come. I describe early labor contractions as a tightening of the belly and an annoying uncomfortableness. It was far from unbearable. I thought, “If this is all it is but just a little more intense, I've got this in the bag, no problem.” I was very optimistic that it would not be too painful. As a first timer, I did not know just how intense it would become, so when I was mildly painful, I was thinking the baby could be coming soon. We went to the birth center around 10:30 pm that day. By 5:00 am on September 20, I remember using the word “agony” when answering my midwife's question, “how are you doing?” I was quivering and my eyes were watering so badly that I could hardly see. I wasn't “crying”; my eyes were just watering from the intensity of what I was feeling physically. These labor contractions where very painful. I hate when people try to describe pain by saying something such as, “it was like someone jabbed a knife into my belly and twisted it.” Does anyone really know how that feels or if they had experienced that, are they alive to tell the tale? As much as I hate these analogies, I would have used some horribly dramatic scenario to describe my pain.
Lying down and sitting were the absolute worst positions to be in during a contraction but my midwife demanded I rest during the nighttime hours as my body would need the energy for the roughest part that was yet to come. I lied down for several hours, sleeping only for very short amounts of time until I was awaken by a contraction. I wished so badly that I could have slept soundly. Maximilian was exhausted too, having been awake with me, trying to comfort me and do what he could to help. Finally when the sun arose and labor was getting more intense, my midwife checked my progress only to find that my cervix was pretty much just as it was hours before, open to about five centimeters. This was a tragic finding for us. How could I have endured all of this for so many hours already and have progressed no further? Prior to even going into labor and for a week prior, my cervix was open to about three centimeters. When arriving to the birth center the night before, there was another woman laboring also. Due to this, we were placed in the second birthing suite. We spent the night and some of the early morning hours in this room, resting what little I could and enduring. The other mama had her baby around 4:00 am. She and her family were on their way home around 8:00 am, if I can remember correctly. We were then placed in the main birthing suite which is larger and contains a large jetted bath tub to relax in. My memory does not serve me all too well in recalling the events of the entire labor. Simply, in my head to this day, early labor occurred in the night in the first room we spent time in, and active (agonizing) labor and the delivery occurred in the second room. Everyone was tired. I was fortunate enough to have both midwives with me for most of my labor and the birth. Cindi had attended the other woman who was at the center with me all night, so she was exhausted. Carla came to the center in the morning. They were both with me, combining their expertise to ensure I was doing all I could to keep things moving and taking care of myself. Not only did I have two midwives and two assistants at my side but Larissa, a chiropractor, who I had several sessions with in the last weeks of pregnancy, was there to help me. She and Carla had me taking part in movements and positions to help the baby's positioning. Larissa was putting lots of pressure on my back as well as pushing on the baby, while my knees were on the ground and my arms resting on the edge of the bed. At this point, I was so tired and weak; I could hardly keep my eyes open. My body had received so little rest and food that it was starting to slow down. Cindi and Carla thought it a good idea for me to try spending a little time in the tub to try to relax. Sinking into the warm water was a very familiar enjoyment that was soon ruined by the inevitable contractions. As much as I wanted to enjoy the hot bath, the change in the force of gravity upon my belly would not allow it. The contractions felt different in the water. It is hard for me to explain, but I could tell that they were going to be more painful when I got back out of the water so the anticipation put me on edge. I didn't spend much time in the water anyway, as the midwives were fearful my labor would stall too much. It had already been over 12 hours since we arrived at the center. Because my cervix wasn't opening in the time that anyone preferred, most of all me, we had to try new things. Cindi brought out the breast pump hoping to stimulate the release of oxytocin and speed things up. This didn't seem to change things.
Time went on and I continued to endure, the contractions getting tighter and more painful. I became dehydrated. I was nauseous and vomiting any water that I took in via mouth so I had fluids administered intravenously. This measly 1000ml of sodium chloride made me feel so much better and undoubtedly gave my body a little boost. At a certain point, Carla suggested me consider allowing her to break my bag of waters. The idea was that without the cushion of the water, the baby's head would come down heavier on my cervix, allowing for further dilation. I agreed to this procedure, even though in the worst case scenario, it would not cause further, hasty dilation and the clock would be ticking for how much longer the baby could be inside. Upon picking a hole in the membrane, I felt the warm rush of fluid escape. Initially it was clear. As it continued to pool out, Carla observed it was tinged brown, an indicator that the baby had already pooped. This was not a good thing and it had me worried. Soon after the bag was popped, my body progressed very quickly. It did the trick. I went from six centimeters to nine in a very little amount of time.
I never thought I would be the vocal laboring woman. During the comfort measures class, there was discussion about keeping your sounds in the low pitches to facilitate a sense of calm and not panic that would ensue if your sounds hit high tones. I heard this but did not think it would be something I would need to put into practice. I was wrong. In the late afternoon on September 20, I was in the worst pain of my life. Everyone is the room continued to remind me to take deep, slow breaths and keep my vocalizations low in pitch. Both of these commands were so hard to heed. I found my body automatically panting and making high pitched sounds. I do find, looking back, that doing as I was instructed not only helped the process but also put my mind in a different and more calm space as I was focusing on something other than my pain.
I started pushing without even having to decide to do it. My body just started doing it. I feel that no woman giving birth needs to be coached on when to push. By the time you're asking if you should be pushing, you should be pushing! You just know you have to. It just happens. This phase of birthing lasted about two hours or so. It's weird but I felt my boy's head pop past my cervix, at least that's what I think that feeling was. It was an interesting feeling and I felt almost like it could have been heard, if your ear was close enough. It felt like progress, something I was craving. During my pregnancy, if I was intimidated at all by giving birth it was due to the thought of what the contractions would be like, not the pushing and delivery of my baby. There are surprises around every corner. The expelling of my baby from my uterus was incredibly intense. I feel like I'm running out of words to describe this ordeal, but I think you get the picture. The stretching happening below felt like a burning. My contractions were coming so close during the pushing and I was so longing to get my baby here that I pushed and pushed with all the might in the universe without so much as a full breath, through each and every contraction. I was being torn in two, but I wasn't getting relief from not pushing so I might as well push, right? “Just rip yourself in two,” I said. “Get him here.”
Like I said, my memories of the entire event are hazy. I do however remember the assistants being so incredibly helpful and caring. I just so happened to have two assistants named Jessica. With all that was happening to me, I could not remember to do anything other than focus on and get through the current contraction. Both ladies were there offering me water by straw, keeping my hair out of my face and making sure I was comfortably cool or warm. They were so wonderful. I cannot sing their praises enough. Not to mention, Maximilian was there encouraging my every move and massaging and rubbing me. It's not all too important to chronicle the exact series of events and describe the amount of pain I was in; what is important, and the reason for this story, is that my son was brought into this world as was intended by nature and chosen by his parents. All went according to plan, ultimately. The length of my labor, the meconium in my water, the agony my brain perceived, these things don't matter in the end. All that matters is that my baby boy is in my arms.
Of all the positions I managed and mastered, the last one was the best for a special reason; it's the one in which my son was born. I was on my hands and knees on the bed. Maximilian was in front of me to my right, encouraging me to the end. Because I couldn't see Cindi, Carla, Jessica and Jessica, I assume they were behind me, or maybe it's that my eyes were closed most of the time and I was closed off to everything but the task at hand. I had no idea how long I would be in this new position, trying to get my baby out. For all I knew, it would be another five hours. In my mind, I thought it was going to continue forever. He was never going to come out. I wasn't in this position long before he came. With each contraction, I gave my all. I remember grasping with my hands, trying to find anything to grip and squeeze. It just so happened to be Maximilian's pants. He told me later, when the mood wasn't so intense, that I nearly grabbed his balls at one point. It scared him. Lol! I was being encouraged dramatically now by Cindi. I knew he was coming soon. “He has a lot of dark hair,” she said. I was so tired, painful, hot, you name it, but those few words made me so happy. Not only was his head visible, but my wish of having a baby with a head of hair came true. I felt his head with my fingers. He was oh so close to being out. I pushed even harder and with more strength than I knew I had. I felt his head come out. I was on task. I kept pushing. He was here. Instant relief. Instant nirvana. Cindi said, “pick up your baby!” He was on the bed between my legs. I pulled him up and held his head in my right hand, his body in my left hand and against my chest. He was crying, loudly. He was beautiful. I couldn't believe how amazingly beautiful he was. You try to imagine whilst pregnant what your baby looks like. I dreamt about it too. I could not have imagined or dreamt up this beauty. I was instantly obsessed. All the pain, fatigue, everything bad, was gone. He erased it all with his presence. Maximilian and I stared at what we had made, in awe. This day will forever be in the front of my mind... I experienced many things monumental. It was the day on which this little human forever changed our lives. It was the day when I experienced more pain... and love... than I ever will again.
Story by Kristina Pionzio, Sebastian's adoring mama. 2014.