when paul & i started preparing for birth, i knew that i wanted a home birth. paul was very supportive, and we starting planning for labour by candlelight, choosing records that we wanted our child to hear as he entered the world, and arranging for a birthing tub to be set up in our living room. everything was going great, until my due date came and went with no sign of impending labour. as the days passed and i became more and more overdue, it got to be pretty clear that this baby had no intention of being prompt. he was perfectly healthy, and i was adamant that as long as the baby and i were both fine, there was no need for an induction... but at 2 weeks past my due date, the waiting was definitely wearing me down. paul's parents had scheduled a visit for 3 weeks past my due date (when we all assumed the baby would be about three weeks old) and now their visit was fast approaching with still no baby to be seen. i dreaded the idea of them arriving and me still being pregnant (or worse - having them LEAVE and me still being pregnant!) and after trying everything possible to induce labour naturally, we finally started talking about medical induction.
we went into the hospital 19 days past my due date so that my labour could be medically induced. it was a really hard decision for me, but i knew it was what i had to do for my mental health - being pregnant for so much longer than i had anticipated was wearing on me emotionally way more than i had imagined it would! i felt very sad the whole night before i was scheduled to be induced, and very sad and defeated that morning as we headed into the hospital. it wasn't the best mindset to be in when starting labour, but i didn't know what else i could do, and so we went. so you could imagine how happy i was when the doctor examined me and declared me to already be in spontaneous labour! i had been in early labour for the past two days without realizing it. we decided to allow the doctor to break my water to speed things along, and on the advice of our midwife decided to labour in the hospital.
and so we were off. i had renewed vigour knowing that i had in fact gone into labour of my own accord, and was loving every contraction as they became stronger. i felt like i was being initiated into this amazing club that so many women i knew had gone through before me. as the contractions grew stronger, i started moving and working with them, hoping to bring the baby down quickly. however, it seemed that this baby was not so enthusiastic about being in labour as i was, and during a particularly long contraction his heart rate dropped enough for our midwife to become concerned. after that, the contractions (and my labour) stalled up. we had been so convinced that the baby would be born that day, but he had other plans. i rested and tried to relax, hoping the contractions would get stronger again, but after a few hours with no action, our midwife suggested we kickstart things with a little oxytocin. it was a huge concession for me to consent to oxytocin augmentation - i already felt like i had allowed enough intervention to happen just by having the doctor break my water, and i really wanted to do things on my own, but i knew my midwife was concerned for the baby and i trusted that she had our best interest in mind. so i got set up with an oxytocin drip, and the contractions started getting stronger again.
things became blurry as the oxytocin strengthened and intensified my contractions. these contractions were different now - more intense and less under my control. they grabbed me and squeezed me, and they started to get a little scary. i was making a lot more noise to get through them, and paul helped me to keep my noises low and deep to stay relaxed through each contraction. the minutes and hours melted away, and all of a sudden it was the middle of the night and it was time to start pushing.
i've read many birth stories in which the women say that pushing was their favourite part of labour, because they felt like they had control over what was happening and could take action to help bring their baby into the world. for me, it was intensely difficult. i was exhausted (emotionally and physically) and really just wanted it to end. i put everything i had into each push, and it just didn't seem like enough. paul renewed my energy when the midwife encouraged him to check out our baby's progress and he shouted, "I can see the head, and it has hair!!" - we were both bald babies and had really hoped our little one would have hair - but this baby still wasn't inclined to make things easy for me, and he stayed put. finally our midwife, who was monitoring the baby's heartbeat and again had concerns about how far it was dropping during each push, suggested we have the doctor come in and help our baby make his way earthside with a little suction. at that point i just wanted to meet our baby, so i consented and soon our peaceful delivery room was abuzz with a slightly frenetic energy as the medical staff descended upon us. it wasn't just paul, our midwives, our doula, and me anymore - we were joined by two doctors for me, two pediatricians to make sure our little guy would be okay once he completed his journey into the world, and at least one friendly nurse (although at that point i couldn't understand why the nurse was introducing herself to me - i really didn't care what her name was and what she was doing).
after what seemed like forever, the doctors were ready with the suction and i only had to push once or twice more and phoenix was born! they held him up for me to see, and announced it was a boy. i felt so happy and so sad at the same time to see him, as i knew that paul had really looked forward to catching our baby, finding out his sex, and cutting the cord - all things that he didn't get to do. i also couldn't believe that the baby who had been living in my belly was so fully and perfectly formed, right down to his little wrinkled forehead! phoenix needed some help to get his airways cleared, so he was whisked over to the baby area of the room and i had to keep telling paul to "go over there and stay with the baby - make sure he's all right!" so that he would leave my side and fully absorb the new little life that now made us a family. once he was breathing well, the doctors gave this tiny baby to paul, who brought him over to me and put him on my chest. i could hear our doula snapping pictures and i was so happy that she was able to capture the joy i felt during these first moments we spent together.
the first day we spent with our baby was rocky, as he had had a difficult time coming into the world so we stayed in the hospital to be monitored for an extra twelve hours, and by the time we came home i had been without sleep for about 45 hours. i remember the first few hours that we spent on our own, just the two of us, when paul went home to take a short nap, and i remember marvelling over this perfect little creature curled up on my chest. i remember my mom coming to meet the baby in the delivery room shortly after he was born, and then coming back again later when i needed some emotional support. i remember deciding with paul that we'd name our baby phoenix, and going over all the reasons that this was the perfect name for the new person in our family, and then calling our parents to tell them the name of our baby - phoenix michael richard. i remember paul's parents arriving, as scheduled, and us laughing about how ridiculous it was that instead of meeting a three week old baby, they were meeting their grandson only twelve hours after he was born! phoenix was finally here, after making us wait twenty days past his due date, and working with me in an 18-hour labour - the most difficult thing i've ever done in my life.
over the first six weeks of phoenix's life, i thought back a lot to my labour, and wished it could have gone the way we'd originally planned. i cried in the shower many many times in those first weeks. sometimes i cried because i felt defeated knowing that i had had to consent to so many medical interventions that i was so against, and never wanted. sometimes i cried because i couldn't believe the miracle of what had happened, despite how phoenix's delivery had been so different than our plans. sometimes i cried because healing from labour and birth was a much longer and more difficult process than i had anticipated. sometimes i still cry, and there will probably always be a part of me that wishes i could have had the peaceful, undisturbed, empowering birth that i had imagined. but i know that the way things turned out was the way things had to be, and that the sacrifices i made during labour were to ensure that that we would have a healthy and amazing little boy at the end of everything - a little boy who exceeds my expectations and who i love more every day than i ever could have imagined.