This is the story, raw of honesty of my labor. The timeline might be a bit off, we’ve tried to go over it with my husband and our doula. Anyhow, this is how I remember it. It’s long to read, trust me it’s longer to live.
“Mrs X is expected in room 23.”
I get up and take place in the room. The lady start moving her probe,
“I’ve read on your file you do not want to induce…”
“Well I’m sorry I’m not gonna be your friend today”
“I’m gonna send you now with your files for an induction. You almost don’t have amniotic liquid anymore”
“Now? Do I have to go now?!”
“If you were my sister, I would send you now, just go. I’m going to examine you before to see how far you are, do you agree ? And if so, do you agree for a stripping*?”
*(for thoses who do not know about stripping membranes, here the medscape definition : “Stripping membranes, sometimes called membrane sweeping, is a method used to try to start labor. The health care provider puts her or his finger into the cervix — the mouth of the uterus — and uses the finger to gently separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix.” It isn’t gentle, that’s a lie -it’s very very unconfortable-, the rest is true.)
Out of room 23, files in my hand. My journey had begun earlier, that same morning. Let me take you back to it.
As I woke up on the 41st week and two days of my pregnancy, with a few hours of sleep, I felt very weak.
My lower back as well as my lower abdomen were feeling sore but I was not too worried, as it felt sore for quite a while now. However something has changed as I felt cramps and heaviness coming and going, from my hips to my knees.
I still managed to do pretty much everything I needed to do before my weekly check up at the hospital … in room 23.
Now, waiting my husband in the hall, my dad around is as stressful as stressed. When he finally arrives panting we walk straight to the birth unit of the hospital. After admission, a nurse ask us if we are ready. We knew we had to be ready right away, but we had all our stuff back home.
“Ok come back at 6pm”, says the nurse
Our trip to Noshame city will start one hour after.
A nurse guides us to our room and ask us to wait here the doctor. It’s 6pm.
The room is shiny clean and spacious with big windows (and curtains!). White walls, some closets with poster about labor position inside and some other items that I cannot define. There is a ‘bed’ in the middle, with a lot of devices around, this is obvioussly were I’ll be giving birth. A sofa bed is also on the side and finally the bathroom … stuning, with a bath and retactable metallic bar on each side of the toilet!
Time passes very slowly and after visiting our spot and the outside surrounding I’m staring to get bored.
I just realized that my morning cramps were mild contractions, that are getting more intense but still managable enough to do a fake karaoke with one of a device as a mic and spotify playing some of our favorite songs.
At 7pm our doctor shows up and plug me to one of the device, it’s an intravenous solution to keep me hydrated. She starts explaining that she will add the hormone oxytocin to the solution and that from now on I shall nor eat or drink. I am shocked. People told me to bring some snack because I might get hungry during the process of giving birth, so not only I have plenty of small snacks but also, I haven’t eaten since noon (!). My contractions are getting more intense, every two minutes as it should. I ask the doctor if I can eat now and if we can wait a bit until they start inducing with the hormone since, I already have contractions. She agrees.
“Eat now, not too much, we do not want you to have a full stomach.”
“In case we have to do a c-section. And also because you’re gonna throw up. Belive me, you are going to throw up. When I come back if your contractions aren’t painful enough I’ll start with the hormone. I want you to feel in pain … I’m sorry. Also, you cannot wear your clothes, please put on that gown.”
I am going to throw up? Really?! Why does she sounds so sure about this. My mom didn’t throw up when she gave birth.
Before leaving, she performed another painful stripping and installs fetal monitoring strips on my belly. It is a device that is used to know the heart rate (well-being) of the baby. Two sensors (external transducer) connected to a screen (FHR monitor) show the heart rate of the baby along with uterine contraction. Sensors are tightly placed on the belly and held by two elastic belt.
I trade my clothes for the ugly hospital gown, eat cereal bars and pray that my contraction will be painful enough to change the doctor’s mind. We start playing hangman with my husband and our doula.
My brain gets foggy, I can’t think of words or find the right word when there is only two letters missing. I need to stop writting, smilling or talking when there is a contraction and deep squat for a minute before getting up.
It feel like something inside me is squeezing and stretching my hips, perineum and lower back at the same time.
It feels like a full belly cramp when you ate something bad on the worst day of your period. And my legs, my legs are feeling weak, desesperally powerless and in pain, like a cramp that prevents movements.
Thankfully that feeling last only about 40sec with a break of maybe 5min. Our doula tells us that the body produce ocyntocin when there is a milk production. This is most probably the weirdest time of my life, nurses and doula leave us alone at 9 pm for half and hour. Alone in the room my husband and I are trying to stimulate the production, two times a nurse comes in (I do not remember why). Nurse + nipple stimulation = Awkward moment.
It’s about 9:30 pm, I usually go to sleep at 10. I’m starting to feel sleepy but we are far from pushing that baby out ; a mixed feeling of excitement and fears keep me from falling asleep. I eat in secret some cereal bars with my witnesses (husband and doula). The nurse comes back and decide to start ocyntocin induction even though my cervix is completely effaced (thinned out) … I am still not diluted enough and the pain I’m feeling is apparently not the pain doctors want me to feel, before leaving she warns us :
A nurse will come back every 30 min to increase the dosage
Time passes and nurses too. At some point a men student introduce himself to us, saying that he will be there during the labor and asks us a few questions.
Around 10pm, he comes back with a nurse and a doctor … they increase the hormone dosage and ask if I need anything. Yes, yes …
I’d like that there is no more than two people in the room. Too many blue coat make me nervous.
A bit surprise by my answer they very kindly say that they will do their best according to the situation (and they did!).
At that point I think our doula gives the doctor my birth plan (on which it is written, among others wishes, that I do not want students).
We all read your birth plan. You wrote you do not wish for an epidural, we will not offer it unless you ask for it.
At some point, it might be around 11 or midnight, I feel contractions are getting intense : the ‘real labor’ starts. My belly feels hard like a rock, it hurts but thankfully my two guides back me up. Now sitting on the bed, at each contraction our doula lift me with her arms on which I am sitting, I push my husband and hold on to him. They are both supporting me so well that I do not need to use any muscles. I stay soft and limp like an old rag.
I am still able to move, change position and walk for about 2 hours. Slowly but surely I am getting tired and around 2am I fall asleep between each contractions. I do not clearly remember how I get to the toilet to pee but I do remember that toilet are the best place to have a contraction! It is less painful.
When we go back to the bed I ask to lay down, I can’t hold my body anymore.
Every contractions are coming like waves, the intensity of the pain increasing until the end. Crescendo. I wake up everytime moaning. I hear people talking, nurses, doctors, doula, husband. How many people are here? I do not know.
The pain is unbearable, I contemplate the idea of an epidural. I am too tired to open my eyes. Sometimes I want to punch people in the face. Everything hurts. People talking too loud, I feel my head is exploting. My husband is holding me so strongly that I need to counter-weight the counter-weight he is doing. Thoses stupids fetal monitoring strips on my abdomen are killing me … they feel so heavy, I wanna rip them off.
A nurse pass by to increase again the ocytocin level. I shake my head in disagreement and lift up one sensor in a grimace. The nurse appologize sincerely for the hormone and say they will probably not increase the ocyntocin level anymore. However, as she puts back in place the sensor, I can hear by her tone that she is irritated.
It’s for your baby, you need to keep that in place. We need to know that your baby is ok.
In a rush of excitment I ask for a sip of water thinking it might gives me some energy. Our doula has to take it back almost right away, I am drinking too fast, a contraction arrives, and I throw up everything on the floor. It might sounds shocking but at that point… I don’t give a fuck anymore.
Nailed it (!) The lady warned me and she was right (!).
I am now on a broken-piece-of-ice diet for the next part of that trip to noshame city.
Around 3 am the ocyntocin level is unchanged, the monitoring shows baby is ok and the nurse agrees to take off the two sensors so I can take a bath.
The bath is warm, our doula massage my back and my husband hold my hand.
When they put a small wet towel on my belly to keep me warm I wanna cry out in despair. It is so heavy. They are now forced to wring out the towel to let the water run slowly on me. It feels good, I wake up at every contractions.
It feels like a full belly cramp when you ate something bad on the worst day of your period after somebody punched you in the stomach and you are constipated. Crescendo. I try to imagine that my dream is my reality and that my contraction are a dream (or more like a nightmare) and that I will wake up (fall back asleep) and forget about it. Although this mind trick works for a few minutes I realize that my nightmare is my reality. I am almost giving up, thoughts runing through my mind : please let me sleep and wake me up when all this is done ; maybe I should ask for an epidural ; shot me with drug and make this pain stop.
Half an hour after, they help me get out of the bath and dry me. In the way back to the bed I need to stop and bend on my knees. I cannot walk. My husband and the doula try to conviced me that I am doing great, that I need to continue like this, and that I should not fall asleep nor stay on my back.
You are not helping the baby on your back. You need to wake up a little bit. Do you want to try sit down? Or squating like earlier?
What a joke! Right now, no I do not wanna squat. I want you to wake me up when this is finish. Wake me up when the baby is here, out of my womb.
Hearing them talk make me want insult everybody, but I know they are tired too, I know they are doing the best they can to help me. So instead of mean offensive words, I praise their hard work and choose to shake by head in disapprobation.
It’s almost 4am when a nurse ask me if I want anything. In a sigh, I articulate quietly “Epidural”.
“Are you sure you want an epidural? Can you say you want it?”, nurse
“I want”, me
“What do you want?”, nurse
“Too late?”, me
“No it’s not too late”, nurse
“Can you wait?”, husband to nurse
“Remember that you didnt want it, you said you wanted a natural birth and that there are risk associated with it”, husband to me
“You are doing great, you already did the worst part, now it’s almost done.”, doula
“I let you think about it and I come back.”, nurse
I shake my head. I wanna kill them. My only chance at peace, they blew it.
I am so mad. I don’t wanna feel anymore. I thought I was though. I am a fighter, I broke my feet and my nose in sparing, got fingers sprained and shin bruised. I thought I knew pain, I knew nothing. Pain is bareable, this is beyond pain. A word should exist just for this. ‘Childbirth’ sounds cute. It isn’t.
Our doula ask me if I agree that a doctor comes and see how far I am (how much my cervic is dilated). I nod. Before the doctor arrives I want to go to the toilet. They ask me if I want to push but I don’t know what does that mean exactly, how it is suppose to feel? I repeat in vain ‘I wanna poop’. Our doula reassure me ‘it’s ok you can poop, you can pee, whatever you want, we won’t judge, it’s ok’. At that point, people have put their hands in your vagina, touch your belly, saw you throw up, scream, cry … all that naked…
I’m thinking that they can judge all they want, I don’t care anymore. I still wonder if my husband will be disgusted by me by the end of the night but I erase that thought very quickly. I stay quite a while in the bathroom. Toilet are the place to be. The doctor arrives around 4 am and since I am having contractions but I do not pee or poop I have to go back to the bed.
You are 9 cm dilated. Only one small centimeter and then you can push. You’ve done the worst.
Sigh of relief and satisfaction. So here we are, baby is coming out, it’s a matter of a few minutes maybe?
What a mistake to think that the baby would be out in an hour.
From 9 to 10 cm, how many hours ? I am unsure. But it was hell.
Around 6 am the doctor examine me again. Finally 10 cm : I can push.
What is time? What is life? What is death? Nothing matter anymore.
My mind scream “GET OUT” as if baby would hear me.
“I want to see my baby. I want to see my baby.”, me
“You will see her soon, it’s almost done”, doula
I start pushing in whatever position suits me, since I said I wanted to poop, I still feel like I want to poop. Charming, right?
Each contraction = one push = did I poop on the bed?
This is a trip to noshame city … !
At around 7am the doctor examine* me again, my water didn’t break. She wants to break it now.
*(for thoses who are unsure about what ‘examine’ state for : it is the doctor’s hand/fingers in my vagina)
“Does it hurt?”, me
“No it won’t”, doctor
Between two contractions she breaks my water. I do not know how, and I am not sure I want to know. Apparently, they use an amnio-hook to do it, it looks like a long metallic hook. When she breaks it, it feels like I’m peeing a lot.
At 8 am my favorite doctor comes in. When I recognize her, suddently I feel safe, relaxed and happy. My husband will later on says that “she came in like a gladiator ready to save the situation”.
Around 8:30am the doctor ask me to lay down, at the hospital they do not let woman give birth on another position than the ‘medical birthing position’ (basically laying down on your back with legs up).
There is now seven people around me nurses, doctors, doula, husband. Everybody is busy checking baby heart rate, holding my hands,
sterilising medical tools for my favorite doctor, holding my legs, cheerleading me. I have a full team screaming “PUUSHHH YOU CAN DO IT SHE IS ALMOST HERE WE CAN SEE HER HAIR GO GO GO GO”.
The doctor asks me if I wanna see the baby with a mirror as I am pushing. No thanks, I’m already traumatized enough and the idea of seeing my vagina ripped off is not something I foresee myself doing. If a poor pregnant lady is walking in the hallway of the unit birth she might get scared and think somebody is getting murder in our room. This isn’t a scream anymore, it’s … it’s something else.
If you don’t push that baby out I’m gonna have to get it ! Your baby heartrate is falling. If I could push for you I would do it. Come on, push more.
I wanna scream at the doctor that I am doing my best… what do they think? That I am faking-pushing? Hell no I ain’t faking anything. She passes something like a tube in my bladder to empty it, for a few second there is a sharp pain, as if I was cut. This is suppose to give space to help the baby comes out. Not too long after I hear something about forceps* and ventouse.
“Forceps ok, forceps ok. No ventouse.” is all I can say.
*(for thoses who do not know, forceps are ‘surgical instrument that resembles a pair of tongs’ or as my husband will says later on ‘I saw a nurse sterilising two sabres, she handed it to the doctor. Like a samouraï the doctor grabed the two big blades and I thought ‘is she really going to put that in my wife’s vagina?!’, well she did”).
When she puts theses blades in, it feels like she is tearing appart all my uterus.
Next contraction baby has to be out. When the contraction arrives, every push now feels easier. I feel a burn just before the end of the contraction and as I am about to relax I hear my cheerleading team scream at me to push again.
Pushing without contraction feels like trying to lift a weight without muscle.
It’s hard. It feels like my vagina is throwing up a semi-liquid semi-solid food while I am taking the biggest poop of my life. (Thanksfully, I’ll learn later that the head of the baby is what makes me felt like pooping but that I wasn’t actually pooping. What a relief!)
I hear exclamations and scream of excitments.
Something wet and warm is on my chest, something burns inside my uterus.
I open my eyes and here she is looking at me.
She looks as scared as I am.
We are both completely lost. “Is it my baby? Is it my baby?”
She is so scary.
She doesn’t look like me at all.
I want to cry. I think I cry.
For a few second I am terrorized that the placenta will not comes out. One last contraction is enough to deliver the placenta. It’s the best feeling ever. It’s so pleasant, warm, gentle and soft. In french it is called “la délivrance” which can be translate by “release or liberation”, this is exactly what it feels like.
Our baby somehow find my breast and start eating like a small starving animal.
“You have a perineal laceration. We need to stitch it, but you are not anesthetized, I can performed a pudendal nerve block.”, doctor
“No no, it’s ok, I’m not in pain”, me
The idea of a pudendal nerve block is scarier than stitches for some reason. Anyway, how bad can it be after this night? After pushing a baby out?
She starts stitching, it hurts but it’s not that bad … it feels like a bee is stinging me multiple times. I look at our kid in the eye bravely, she looks right at me. An hour after, we are transfered to another unit of the hospital. The staff there isn’t as nice as in the birth unit. They are rough, they speak loud, they are impatient and rude. They want me to drink a lot, get up and go pee. I can hardly move, it’s like half of my body have been run over by a car. My whole body shiver, my teeth chatters : I am freezing. When I finally wants to pee, two nurses ask me to wait a second (I don’t remember why). I cannot wait. That’s something I didn’t know (though if I must be honest pretty much everything was unexpected!) when I finally wants to pee : it’s now. Later that day a nicer nurse will explain me that it’s normal I do not feel my bladder, that’s why the other nurse insisted earlier. It takes forever to reach the bathroom as I walk like a 90 years old lady. I almost pass out as I see a sea of blood in the toilet. A nurse comes and help me get back to bed.
During theses 48 after-birth hours at the hospital, I pass most of my time drinking water, peeing and crying.
People ask me if I am in pain. But what is pain? If labor is pain, then I am not in pain no … If labor is something else bigger than pain, then yes I suppose I am in pain. Does it matter anymore? My husband asks me if now that I can see our kid I can say it was worth it… I wonder. Is it worth it? If I could have the baby without the labor it be great! Can I say it is not worth it? Of course not, it would mean I regret our kid, which isn’t true. I can’t sit. I’m bleeding. I’m so tired. We order some food our last day at the hospital, I am not hungry but as soon as I start eating I cannot stop, like my daughter, I eat like a starving animal. It seems I haven’t eaten in 3 days (well it’s almost the case).
I wonder why people told me to bring clothes …. I’ve been half naked wearing the same ugly hospital gown since we arrived. Maybe it’s a trick, maybe it’s to make you belive that you will feel good enough to get up and wear something -somewhat- nice.
“Hahahaha, before doing the luggage I was watching youtube videos like ‘what’s in my hospital bag?’. Youtubers were saying ‘I have this small bag inside my bag with my make-up, here I have a few underwear, one pink t-shirt to match with my baby clothes. I will also be bringing theses two dresses that I just bought since I am not sure with one I will want to wear. Here I have my rasor and hairbrush.’ and so on … hahaha really?! I can only imagine them just after giving birth ‘wait I need to put on some make-up for my after-birth vlog’. The truth is … they should just say : ‘bring A LOT of sanitary towel or even better disposable panties (no worry this is noshame city!), loose and comfy clothes that are easy to open so your child can eat, calorific juices because you won’t really want to eat and be ready to cry.’ I am so happy I had you and our doula, I could’nt have done it without you two” , me to my husband
That’s it. Our trip to noshame city ends on that 3rd day.
We go back home.
I hear women say “ohhh but we forget” when I assure this kid is the first and the last. I am not going through this again.
Today is day 9.
I’ve been crying for 9 days.
It is a strange emotional journey.
I did not forget.
And I will never forget.
This pain, this suffering is the reason why moms are moms.
Because we know that our kid is worth dying for.
Ask your mom or any moms.
Was labor easy?
When I wasn’t a mom, they’d say “I don’t remember, it’s been so many years”
Now that I am a mom, they tell me their stories. Most of them are horrifying.
I told my husbdan that giving birth was as close as I could think of death.
But having our kid is as close as I can think of rebirth.
I would do it all over again, just to see her smile.
Maybe this is what it is : we die to be born as mom.