Hours passed. They felt like days.
The nurse checked me. I had arrived: 9 cm. I remember feeling ecstatic about this, even through all the pain. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like pushing, though I was told I still had a bit of a “lip” and that I shouldn’t push. The urge was pretty powerful, though, so I did a tiny bit of pushing.
I made a wonderful discovery. Pushing, though scary at first, feels good. Well, good in the way vomiting feels good when you’ve got food poisoning.
I did some more scary vomit-pushes. I tried it in different positions: squat, all-fours, side. Nothing happened; no further progress was made and I was wearing myself out. Finally my OB asked me to get in the classic lithotomy position because as she explained it, it opens up the pelvis more. I had zero energy to discuss this with her, the contradictory information from all the childbirth books I’d read over the years notwithstanding. However, she’d attended over a thousand deliveries in her OB/GYN career, so I figured she had some experience in the matter. Plus, she told me once about how she labored naturally and delivered two babies of her own. Upon remembering that, I took her advice with complete confidence.
Lithotomy position it was. Let me pause for a moment to describe what being in the lithotomy position feels like when you’re nine months pregnant and have been laboring for about 24 hours on no sleep. Strap a fifty-pound boulder to your midsection. Make sure it’s strapped very tightly so that all your organs are uncomfortably compressed. Do the treadmill/cattle prod thing for 24 hours straight. No breaks allowed, not even when you’re having an ungodly internal check or while a tiny vein in your hand is being poked for an IV. After 24 hours of strict treadmill-cattle-prodding torture, invasive internal checking, and needle-poking, you then need to lie down flat on your back with the boulder still tightly strapped to your belly, lift your knees, and wait for more electric shocks so that you may vomit-push your boulder out your vagina. Also, you’re naked and there are at least five people in the room focused entirely on your bloody, possibly poopy crotchal region.
My husband held my right leg and my dear friend Ann held my left. I waited for the next electrocution, I mean, contraction, and I pushed. It felt great and scary, like a good vomit should. Like all cathartic vomits, though, they happen in clusters. So one good push wasn’t enough. I needed to experience a few more to be done with this. I was ready. But my body wasn’t. My contractions put up a little “Be back soon!” sign on my uterus while I lay there, fuming and pushing impotently. I decided to stop pushing and reserve my energy until the next contraction. That’s what they’re there for, after all.
I remember the OB and the labor nurse (who were both awesome, especially the nurse) said, “Oh wow, she’s a good pusher!” and I clung to that like a shipwreck survivor to soggy driftwood. I also remember Ann and my husband, well, actually, everybody, saying, “Oh, I see the head! I see the head!” That alone gave me more strength than the pitocin. Thank goodness they didn’t say instead, “She’s pooping! She’s pooping!” Because I would have grabbed my feces and flung it at the lot of them.
The next contraction came, and I rode that wave for all it was worth. One more solid push and she was out! Whew! What a relief! Good thing, too, ‘cause I’m not sure I could have done that for much longer.
From the moment the Cytotec had been inserted into my cervix to the moment I pushed my daughter out of the birth canal, 24 hours had elapsed.