Sometime around 5:25ish we left for the birth center, I got in the Odyssey and leaned over on the seat, pressing my face into the bottom of the chair and rocking through contractions. I remember Peter telling me, “Don’t worry, no one can see anything.” I didn’t have a clue what he meant by that, and at the time I didn’t care. Apparently my butt was up in the air and my lovely, attractive depends were there for anyone who looked through the windows of our car to see. Contractions were raging through me, at less than 30 seconds apart and more than 90 seconds long, I was in labor land. He kept saying, “Hang on, we’re almost there, the traffic is really bad, but we’re close.” Apparently driving down Locust Street in Denton at 5:30 isn’t exactly traffic free.
Somewhere near around 5:35 ish (no one knows for sure) we arrived at the birth center. I stepped out of the van and had two HUGE contractions. A low and loose primal sound came out of me, while I leaned over onto the back of the car. Patty, who works at the birth center in the office, my friend and fellow birth assistant, later told me she looked out the door and saw my butt up in the air and my depends hanging out for all the world to see, and thought, “that right there is a woman in serious labor.” Jean was right by my side and led me into the birth center.
I walked into the labor room and saw they had lit candles, the tub was already filled and Enya was playing (yeah, we changed the music quick). A sigh of relief filled my heart. Okay, I am in my safe place now…let’s have a baby. Jean checked my blood pressure, my temperature, my heart rate, and the baby’s heart rate. Everything looked good. After that she had me get up on the bed to check my cervix. I was just 4 cm, baby was at -1 still and I was 80% effaced. ”WHAT?!” I thought to myself. I pounded my fist about three times on the bed and said, “Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t! I thought I was further along than that.” Jean agreed saying she thought that I was further along too. Patty was right next to me on the bed holding my hand and said to me, “Don’t worry, Joy, you are going to go quick.” I remember thinking, “Don’t feed me that line, Patty!”
For a moment my heart sank. I thought that if I was already feeling like I was in transition and this was only the very beginning of active labor and my contractions were already this HARD and INTENSE, then there was NO way I could do this. They better take me to the hospital and give me an epidural because I cannot make it if it gets worse. The truth is, I got really scared and started to lose my focus.
So, I knew I had a decision to make. I got off the bed and put my game face on. I had Peter put on some music, music that we listened to together the first weekend we met (True Love Waits Christopher O’riley plays Radiohead), and I began to pace the room saying to myself, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” During contractions I held on to Peter and pounded his back through the peak of them and literally yelled out my vocalizations, still low sounds, but LOUD sounds. I remember at one point I yelled and lifted my head up to the ceiling, while I clung to Peter and shouted, “LORD, LORD, LORD!” I had to say that because what I wanted to say was the “F#CK!, F#CK, F#CK!” (yes, I typed it, sorry, but that’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t, aren’t you proud of me?) I remember thinking, I’m loosing it. This is me loosing it.
Around that time, Lynne the co-owner of the birth center, my friend, employer and fellow birth assistant, came to me and asked me if I wanted to get into the tub. I was leaning over the bed and before I could answer a contraction raged through me. I grabbed her hand and held on for life. Just as one finished another came rushing through me again. Lynne was eye level with me and her presence was peaceful and calm. I said to Lynne, “I’m only 4cm, I shouldn’t get in the tub, it will slow me down.” She said, “Don’t you want to slow things down just a bit to cope better?” ”Yes, I do, good idea.” Before we moved, I asked Lynne, “Please tell me, is he OP?” I was concerned that I was laboring like this because my baby had turned back to OP. Lynne said, “No, He’s still ROT.” The relief that washed over me in that moment was tangible. Now I knew I could do this. So as fast as I could, I changed out of my clothes and got into the tub.
When I got in the tub, I asked Peter to put Emmylou Harris’ Angel Band on, the same album that I listened to while laboring with Zoe. I turned to my left side in the water and clung to the back edge of the tub while I pressed my forehead into the cool ceramic of the tub. I talked myself through each contraction, again saying, “I can do this, I can do this, my body is created to this, I have nothing to fear.” And then as the contractions came, I vocalized the word “open” through the contraction and imagined my cervix dilating and my baby dropping down. I knew my body had quite a bit of work to do yet if I was still 4cm. So anything that I could do to relax and trust birth was needed. Saying “open” as cheesy as it sounds helped me cope.
Just them my Mom arrived. I remember hearing her say, “Oh wow, you have her in the tub already?” Lynne mentioned that the goal was to slow things down a bit to help me manage.” My contractions spaced out just a touch enough to give me an ability to catch my breath in between them and soften my body in the water. However, with my next contraction, I felt the urge to push and at the peak of it, loudly grunted out the words,
Patty tells me that she was in the hallway when she heard me yell that out through my contraction and couldn’t help but laugh. I laugh now when I think about it, too. Who says that in labor? Leave it to a doula to identify her stages of labor while laboring! :)
Lynne said, “Good! Let me check where baby is at!” Lynne let me know that baby was sitting at +2 station! YES! That’s what I’m talking about! Jean was there right next to Lynne and asked to confirm my progress. I was curious to know as well, so I had Jean check my cervix. Jean let me know I was 8cm dilated. I remember her saying, “Joy, you’re going to have this baby soon!” Now that was good news. I was ready. They encouraged me to follow my body’s urge and to push lightly at the peak of my contractions. This felt really good, and actually lessened the intensity of the pain and pressure of these fiery contractions. About two more contractions passed when I literally roared through my next contraction. I remember hearing my mom say, ”Oh, that sounds like she’s ready.” Jean checked me again (I wanted to know), I was complete and ready to push. Jean said, “Your baby is siting right there, Joy. Go ahead and push!”
And that’s what I did, I sat up, brought my chin to my chest and bared down. I won’t lie, I was feeling scared and a little intimidated. This was happening so fast. This was not how imagined it would go. But I pushed through my fear and my pain and knew it was time to bring my son into the world. My bag of waters was still intact and I remember as I was pushing I felt it burst open. I actually thought that I had birthed Noah’s head because it hurt so bad. I popped my eyes open to look down to see what was going on and I was annoyed, what you mean that was just my bag of waters, that HURT!” There was just a touch of meconium when the bag burst open, it wasn’t enough for Jean to feel concerned so she kept me in the tub. In fact, she didn’t even mention it to me.
Another big push and I was crowning. Oh my Jesus in HEAVEN. That hurt so very bad. I actually had to stop for a moment and pant through the pain…which is exactly what you should do when crowning. My body did it instinctively and I think that’s pretty cool. His head came out easily, with one more push, his shoulders and body left mine and Jean swept Noah up out of the water and placed him in my arms.
Noah Luke was born at 6:14pm on April 13th, 2011, after 4 hours of total labor and less than 45 minutes of active labor and with just three pushes. And the song that was playing when my son entered the world was, We Shall Rise. Indeed, we shall.