While pregnant, I tried not to think about labor and delivery. It scared me. All I knew is that it was going to hurt A LOT and somehow I was supposed to work through the pain to get to the "goods" of delivering my baby girl. I thought of birth as a medical procedure and that I needed modern medicine to take care of me so that I wouldn't have to suffer or to feel as little pain as possible. It was about a week prior to birthing Ruby that I had an attitude 180. I learned so much about the birthing process and what medical interventions can do to help and how they really can be too intrusive. I found that labor wasn't going to be one long, agonizing contraction and then a lot of pushing--there would be breaks in between contractions, I could get up and move around, I could even listen to my favorite music! Something beautiful happened within me and I began to be joyful about labor, not just about finally having my little girl in my arms. I woke up at 2am on Thursday, Sept. 27 with some contractions. I moved to my rocking chair in the nursery at about 3am and stayed there until 730am. My ritual for dealing with the contractions was to rock in the chair and, when one came on, sniff a scented stuffed lamb that we received as a gift for Ruby (it smells like lavender), start the contraction timer on my cousin's phone, and go to my meditative happy place. I was able to sleep soundly in between contractions...you know, all 7 mins at a time The remarkable part of this phase of early labor was that I finally was able to find my happy place after having spent months trying to find it to no avail. What did my happy place end up being? My parents' living room with Jess and I on the couch and my mom in her recliner. My dad was also in his office down the hall and would periodically pop in and my sister was upstairs and came down once. But all sorts of people came to visit us there as we all awaited the arrival of Ruby. It was great because it is a place that I know vividly and am so comfortable in. All three of us (me, Jess, and my cousin Paula who was my doula) got us for the day at 830 and got ready to go to my non-stress test, which was totally stressing me out. By the time we got to the appointment, my contractions were 6mins apart but I thought I would be sent home--I didn't think that this was the real deal at all (neither did Jess or Paula, I later came to find out, because I was coping so well). Well, as it turns out, I was 4-just-about-5cm at my appointment and my provider determined I was in active labor. I also won the battle about my due date--it was put on all of my sheets that I was 40w5d at the time I went into labor (another story...this one's already going to be long). Anyway, I was sent to lunch and to walk around and I was to report back at 3p. So we went out for pizza. At one point while in the restaurant, I scared most of the wait staff because every time I had a contraction I would close my eyes, hold my rice sock (literally a sock filled with rice and scented oil to be used as heat or scent therapy) to my nose, close my eyes, and go to my happy place. In the end, they treated us to a dessert with a birthday candle and we all sang happy birthday to Ruby! When I reported back at 3p, I had progressed to 6cm so I was admitted. The next part traumatized me and was the only part of labor that brought me to tears. My hospital's policy is that every woman admitted for labor has to have a hep lock in the event that she needs an IV. I was GBS positive so I definitely needed an IV so I had been preparing myself to deal with the needle...but to no avail. The first nurse tried sticking my left wrist, but the vein blew, at which point I thought to myself, "I just told you I'm scared of needles, why would you say this aloud?", so she tried sticking my right hand. That vein also blew and so she called over another nurse. At this point I just started bawling. I absolutely could not stop crying but somehow kept still enough for that nurse to successfully stick my left hand. It took 30mins to get the hep lock in place and 10 more for me to recover. Having finished that, I was sent off to my labor room with all the support and praises of the nurses for wanting to use all other methods of coping before having an epidural. Let it be known that I am not against epidurals nor having one (at any stage of labor) but I knew that there were other methods of coping that would be better for me, especially since once you have an epidural, you have to stay in bed and I knew that laying down/reclining was not the most comfortable way for me to deal with contractions, hence my initial basis for not wanting an epidural. Anyway, so once in the delivery room, we set up shop--got out the birthing ball, set up my laptop and started playing music (my specially made "labor and delivery" playlist of all of my favorite songs), had my focal points on hand, and put my rice sock on the bed. I was able to sit on the birthing ball for all of the fetal monitoring and other questions and answer sessions they put me through. It was kind of funny, different people would be talking with me and then I'd have to cut them off as I had my contraction and then would pick up right where we left off when the contraction was over. It felt so good to be so incredibly lucid. I was coping so well no one could really tell when I was actually having a contraction. At 7:30, my attending doctor decided that they couldn't get a good enough read on the fetal monitor and that I would have to lay down in the bed so they could. Another of my hospital's policies is that every woman must have continuous monitoring unless recommended for intermittent monitoring, which happens basically never. Well, side-lying hurt like nobody's business because my hips are out of line, which is how the doctor wanted me to remain for the rest of my labor. This clearly was not an option for me. So my nurse and I negotiated that since I was completely healthy and had a non-complicated pregnancy and was going without an epidural that if we gave them 20mins of continuous monitoring that I would then only need to be monitored intermittently. I came to find out that I was only the 2nd woman in the history of that hospital to successfully negotiate intermittent monitoring. So, those 20mins were very hard for me, but they were so good. Jess and Paula were each on one side of me and my nurse would put her hand on my hip for some opposing pressure every time I had a contraction. I got through it because of those three and my ridiculously awesome playlist. At one point, "Tiny Dancer" came on (which is probably my most favorite song) and I started singing along and I sang the entire thing, even through my contractions. It was just such a happy, joyous environment and it made it all the better for me. At 10:45 I was 7cm, 100% effaced, and +1. After a few more contractions, though, I decided that I was too tired to do the rest of this labor unaided, so at 11p I decided to get an IV of the narcotic fentinal and an anti-nausae med as I was having some pretty bad acid reflux. I got "beer goggle eyes" with the first dose of fentinal and so I had to close my eyes. Well, the big joke in my house has been the Packers/Seahawks game (we're Packers fans) and had seen one meme of Stevie Wonder with the caption "Roses are black, Violets are black, Everything is black, Touchdown Seahawks!" and I impersonated that while I had my eyes closed. At a later dose, Paula was tying my bandana onto my head and it ended up looking like a babushka. I was fairly incoherent at this time, so while Paula was comparing me to Little Red Riding Hood, I was babbling about babushkas and porch-sitting Pittsburgh grandmas and started singing "Matchmaker Matchmaker" ala Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. Good times were had by all! And there are some pretty hilarious pictures from all of this. At midnight, I was still 8cm and my doctor was getting antsy to get me going. She started demanding that I be put on pitocin because not only was I not progressing but Ruby was in Right Oxciptal Postterrior position meaning the crown of her head was facing to the right which is not a good position for coming out. My nurse went to bat for me and got us an hour to try other positions to help Ruby move. I had to move into another side-lying position which seemed to help her move quite a bit, but left me in a lot of pain. I had my last dose of fentinal at this time. Just before 1a, without my knowledge (although this was for the better and Jess and Paula knew), I was put on pitocin...just as the fentinal wore off! These were the worst contractions ever--having ridiculous pitocin contractions with no medication is no fun! However, it was also a really productive time. My whole body was shaking all of the time and it was very hard to get to my happy place. At this point, I gave up actually making it to my happy place and just imagined my mom and saying to her, "Don't go yet, I'm bringing Ruby to you. I'm bringing her as fast as I can." I started bearing down without knowing or trying and the nurse was very concerned because they didn't think I was fully dialated yet. As it turns out, I was which was at 2:22a. At some point before I moved into a comfortable sitting position for pushing or after, I'm not quite sure, I remember saying that I just didn't have anymore to give, that I couldn't do anymore. I was assured that I could do more and would have to--I hear most women go through this sort of thing, a moment when thy just want to give up, when it all is too much to bare. I call this the "God moment", when you meet your Maker and just turn everything over to Him. Reflecting on my labor, I thought this moment was so profound, that at my moment of surrender I said I didn't have anything else to give, that I had spent myself for the sake of another. And that is when God took over. I couldn't give anymore but He can give endlessly and it was with His strength, His perseverance, His love, His joy that I continued. At 2:45 they could see Ruby's head, just a tiny bit. Around 3:05 they could see about 3cm of her head and thought that I would deliver her head on the next contraction. Now, in each contraction I would push about 2 or 3 times. On this contraction, I went for the third push which should have delivered her head. Instead I delivered Ruby in entirety! Literally we went from seeing some hair to having a baby in the doctor's arms. So, at 3:07a on Friday Sept. 28th, after exactly 45mins of pushing, Ruby Mae Anastasia was born. I also noticed that there were about 15 people in the room besides Jess, Paula, and I at this time. We joke that they just shouted down the hallway for anyone who wasn't doing something, but in reality they had a bunch of the med students in there as part of their observations and training--I did deliver in a training hospital, after all. The looks on everyone's faces were priceless! I'm so glad I saw them LOL. It very much looked like everyone was thinking, "Holy shit! This is not how the video depicted it!". So then for the repair. It was officially recorded as a 2nd degree repair but it was just about the worst 2nd degree tear you can have before it is a 3rd degree. I tore in an unusual way, too, so the doctors had to call in a specialist to teach them how to do the types of stitches they needed to to repair me. I continually had to remind the doctors that I was unmedicated and could feel everything they did so I needed more lidocain. A great distraction was holding Ruby in my arms while it was happening.The two doctors and their sidekick would talk with me and ask me questions totally unrelated to what was going on, so that was nice. The sidekick and I were even able to joke a bit! In all, it took them an hour and a half to repair me. This was absolutely the coolest experience of my life. I loved labor! Sounds kind of odd, I'm sure, but I never felt like it was an ugly process that I had to get through to get the awesome gift of Ruby. Instead, I felt like labor was such a joyous event and that Ruby was the cherry on top. Not at all like the road to Calvary that I thought it would feel like. Of course, Our Lady of Sorrows is Ruby's patroness and I could feel her presence. I totally feel like the most accomplished woman in the world. Also, this has done loads for my confidence. Absolutely every nurse and doctor that saw me in recovery (and everyone that had been in the delivery room) not just complimented me but made sure I knew how remarkable I was and what an incredible job I did. Honestly, I never thought much about all of it. I just did it because I had to and I wanted to. And honestly, I have a skewed sense of pain and have a high pain tolerance, so when I say 4 on the 1-10 scale, normal people would say 6, so I really never did think much of it. So anyway, I've never thought much about my capabilities until giving birth to Ruby. I realized that I am much more capable than I give myself credit for and that if everyone else can see it, I should too. So I've started to and it was made life with Jess and with Ruby that much better. I feel awesome! I feel awesome not just because my confidence has been boosted but because I have come closer to my God. For the first time in my life, in my meditation of the Passion I did not unite myself to the sufferings of Christ--I united myself to Christ's self-gift and in that there is true joy and pain doesn't matter. I did walk the road to Calvary, but not as one suffering, rather as one living.