Pain in the Ass: a Birth Story
I like to let things unfold. This is my approach to life and it applied to pregnancy as well. I was lucky to have an easy, uneventful pregnancy. I was that annoying lady in birthing class who didn’t have any real questions, fears or reservations. I was hoping to have a natural, doula-assisted birth with a midwife – maybe in a birthing tub, maybe not – but, other than that, I was just gonna wing it. Every birth has a story and they all involve a hiccup or two, a cast of characters, and something hilariously gross. This is the tale of my first-born, Sami, who arrived in June 2016.
Monday, 10:30 AM: I wake up late after a night of tossing and turning. I think to myself, ‘Urgh. This must be what 38 weeks pregnant feels like.’ Perhaps it’s exhaustion from a weekend baby shower. Maybe it was going to bed with the unsettling concern of ‘am I massaging my perineum correctly?’ But, alas, we are two weeks out from my due date and there’s way more discomfort to come in the near future. So, I suck it up – there’s only room for one baby now.
12 PM: I saunter into work. A mother of six knowingly asks if I slept OK, meaning I must look like hell. I take a client meeting and get on my hands and knees mid-sentence, as dull-but-sudden pain radiates my back. I make a lame joke through a feigned smile, ‘This must be what 38 weeks pregnant feels like.’ I behave erratically and contort publicly for a few hours more, before deciding to pack up the freak show and “work from home.”
4 PM: I’m trying to rattle some e-mails off – we’ve got two weeks before baby’s anticipated arrival and I’ve got to make the most of it. But, damn, my back is crampy and my fingers trail off to a series of Google searches that read:
- “Am I in labor?”
- “What does labor feel like?”
- “Is this what 38 weeks pregnant feels like?”
- “Am I being a wimp?”
7:30 PM: I need guidance. I ring my midwife. ‘First-time mom, first-time caller! I’m not sure what a contraction feels like – can you describe it for me? I have read my Birth Education manual three times over and – sorry to bother you – but I don’t feel great and I’m not sure if I’m in labor. I have had loose-ish stools, but, like, how loose are they typically?’ They tell me that I’m in the early stages of labor and recommend that I relax as best I can, it could be a while. ‘My mucus plug hasn’t even fallen ou- Oh. Uh. Hold on a second. I do believe my mucus plug just fell out while I was on the phone with you.’ Who am I kidding? These are definitely contractions! Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
Hour 1.5: Eleventh-hour nesting descends upon our household. While I writhe and bark on the bathroom floor, my husband scurries to and fro. He furiously tidies the house while crudely packing a hospital bag. He types up the Birthing Plan, double checking that only he, my mom, and our doula will be in the delivery room with me. He’s not even a real dad yet and he’s hit his stride! My husband takes the trash out, bumping into our downstairs neighbor who says, “Congratulations, man!” This means one thing: my howling is audible for the entire apartment building to hear. My husband glances at his watch, it’s 9 pm. Just a few more minutes before he can finally eat something, because – did I mention? Today is the first day of Ramadan. My husband has been fasting since he went to bed Sunday night. I’m not sure which of us is going to faint first…
Hours 2-5: I’ll spare you the play-by-play and stick to the highlight reel. I incorrectly timed my contractions. Like a monkey at a keyboard, I haphazardly push the button, cutting them short. My husband offers all the comfort measures he learned in birthing class and he tries to get me to eat something. I fight him off. He wins. I take a bite. I vomit it up immediately. Start the “Gross Factor” counter: that’s Loose Stools, 1. Vomit, 1.
Hour 5: We phone our doula to give her the update. Contractions are still slow and short. “Hmm…,” says the doula. “Let me listen to one. [Listens carefully] Yeah, you guys are complete idiots and don’t know how to time these things. I’m coming over RIGHT. NOW.” OK, I might be paraphrasing a little here, but I am bringing life into the world. What’s your excuse?
Hour 6: My magical doula appears and my husband is relieved to have a knowledgeable supervisor. We set the mood, dim the lights, and ride the waves of contractions together. Our doula gently suggests more comfortable positions and peacefully guides us with a sense of assurance. We are laboring at home and my natural birth dream is coming true! Ina May would be so proud.
Hour 7 & 8: We move from bathroom to bed to couch to bed, but mostly I just want to sit on the toilet and make weird sounds. It’s getting loud. My doula and husband keep asking me if I’m ready to go in. I repeatedly-but-politely decline every time, saying ‘let’s stay a little longer here.’ I am fearful that I am being a wimp and am convinced that we have many a mile to go.
Hour 9: Time check – it’s 4:30 am and she’s ready to move. A camo hoodie from college, a pair of bright blue running shorts, an obnoxiously loud pair of dirty slip on sneakers – I call this look “MTV Teen Mom chic.” One flight of stairs, several contractions, and countless “I can’ts” later, the Mama Bird has left the nest. To the hospital!
Hour 9.5: It is now early Tuesday morning and we arrive at the hospital as it begins to rouse into daily activity. Between the car and the registration desk, I have three full-blown contractions in front of many strangers. I vividly recall locking eyes with a six-year-old in the lobby. Convulsing and foaming at the mouth, I subject this kid to the miracle of birth, scaring him for life. Staff hurries me to a delivery room, where they do a cervical check and – HOLY SHIT! I am 9 cm dilated. The nurses fire up the jacuzzi for my perfect, drug-free, aromatherapy-enhanced water birth and my husband and I exchange smirks. Ha! Cakewalk. This’ll be over in no time.
Hour 10: The last member of my support team, my mom, arrives. As she enters the delivery room, she cannot hide the shock on her face when she hears my loud and primal contraction noises. “I didn’t know a human was capable of such sound.” Passing the time, she pokes around the room, reads a strewn-about copy of the Birth Plan, and throws a temper tantrum, “What do you mean your sister isn’t allowed in the room until after 3 hours of skin-to-skin contact?!”
Hour 12: Still no baby.
Hour 13: Still no baby.
Hour 14: haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com
Hour 15: The nurses change, the on-call midwife rotates. My new care team takes a peek and discovers that Baby is in a posterior position. This is quite literally the biggest pain in the ass I have ever experienced. We move into a farcical routine of tricks to “flip the baby,” as suggested by my midwife. Roll on this peanut ball. “Rebozo” the bozo. Stand on your head and recite poetry in Pig Latin. My poor support members tag team in and out, holding my increasingly heavy legs in the air for me in the strangest positions. We are desperate and compliant. We are stuck and so is Baby. This isn’t what we planned for. They’re starting to lay out my options and they involve interventions. The D-R-U-G words start to creep into the conversation as options and my midwife introduces some possible-but-rather-graphic cervical procedures, but I will spare you the gory details. Last time I checked, our “Gross Factor” counter was at Loose Stools, 1. Vomit, 1. And I’d like to keep it there.
Hour 15.75: I am running out of steam and my spirit is waning. My support team tries to re-energize me. They can see my hope shriveling up, my body dehydrating. They insist that I drink a cranberry juice. No, thank you. It’ll make you feel better. No, really. C’mon, just a sip. I sip. I sit. I projectile vomit, spraying the room with everything in my stomach except for the baby. That’s Vomit, 2. for those counting.
Hour 16: Skeptical, I pull my husband into a private corner in a moment worthy of a reality TV show alliance. ‘See, I’ve been thinking: it’s 2016. Vaginal. C-Section. Are you telling me these are my only two options for getting this thing outta me? I don’t buy it. Surely, there’s a cutting-edge technology…’ Fuggit. Where’s the nitrous oxide at?
Hour 16.5: It is noon on Tuesday, nearly 26 hours since the fun began. It’s time to push, they say. You’re so close, they lie. Time seems to hang in the balance for me; these pushes are never ending with no progress to be made. Deep breath…a push and my mom exclaims, “Oh! The baby has hair!” Deeper breath…a push and, “Oh, my god! It’s braidable,” she announces in disbelief. Seriously not helpful, MOM! This is not the motivation style we previously discussed…
Hour 16.6: ‘YOU BETTER LOVE THIS FIRST GRANDCHILD, MOM. BECAUSE THIS BABY IS THE ONLY ONE YOU’RE GONNA GET FROM MEEEE.’ I am pretty resolute that I’m taking a “one and done” approach to motherhood.
Hour 16.75: The “Ring of Fire” is aptly named. I will never listen to the Johnny Cash song the same way.
Hour 17: IT’S A BOY! I waited 8.745 months to uncover that mystery. The worry, the uncertainty, the wondering – it all washes away as if it never even mattered and something amazing is just beginning at 12:40 pm in the afternoon. Now, gimme that baby! I’m going to smell the shit out of him.
12:42 PM: ‘I miss being pregnant! Let’s do it again!’ What in the actual f*&k! Did I really just say that?! Is this the “natural high” they talk about? I have never been prouder of myself. I have discovered strength I did not know and am in utter awe of the human body. Of my body.
12:43 PM: Betrayed, I learn that both my husband and my mother have independently-and-covertly been taping my “dying whale-like moans” for their sick listening pleasure. They will proceed to share these recordings with every visitor in the coming 48-hour hospital stay. Note to self: leave them out of future Birth Plans, my sister is coming off the bench.
12:44 PM: Heaven is a place on Earth. Do not disturb! Snuggling and snoozing with Babe indefinitely…
For Sami, the cutest pain in the ass there ever was. You were and are so worth it.
Top image by 2ndTruth
Ashley Paguyo El Shourbagy is a human living in a dog’s world, as she’s the co-founder of Dogs of Instagram and peddles Hawaiian shirts for pups. Ashley shares a life with her her husband/co-founder, their happy-go-lucky baby boy, and a lapdog who constantly looks over her laptop.