So I can push. Finally. I’ve never been so happy to know that I was about to put myself through something so unfamiliar. I’d spent the last 45 minutes trying desperately not to push, although anytime that I fucked up and did, it was an awesome feeling, like this is what I am supposed to be doing. It lessened the pain.
As I felt the next contraction coming, I grabbed for Chris’ hand and Sarah started coaching me: “Push with your butt, like you’re trying to take a giant poo.” I leaned my head far back — I was so afraid I’d stop breathing if I put my head down — and screamed as I pushed. You know all those early concerns I had about the amount of noise I’d be making in labour, and whether it would inconvenience or annoy the people in my building? They were irrelevant. And apparently I didn’t make enough noise to disturb anyone, as we never heard anything about it all (in fact the landlady, who lives next door, said “wow, the hospital got Tatiana out fast, huh?” when Chris saw her Friday afternoon). Pushing felt … good. I mean, it was intense, and I felt like I was really working, but it was nice to know I was making progress.
At some point earlier in the night, Chris crushed up some ice into chips for me. As he and Sarah rushed around the apartment setting things up for the birth — and called a second midwife to come help as well — I sucked down those ice chips. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try and force myself to drink. Chris kept asking if I wanted a popsicle but really, I didn’t want to hold anything either.
I lost track of time as the contractions continued. I’d swear they were one on top of the other, but I really don’t remember them being excessively painful — just exhausting, and uncomfortable. The second midwife, Susie, showed up. I remember her and Chris and Sarah all talking, but I was either pushing or had my eyes closed and was focusing my strength and energy inwardly. Then I remember someone asking if I minded if Susie called her student to come join us — as if I gave a damn at that point! All I wanted was to have a baby.
My timeline is a bit confused as I try to look back on it all, over a week later. I remember labouring in the living room and screaming at Chris, “WHERE THE FUCK IS YOUR MOTHER?!” since it was after midnight, and we’d called her right after the midwife, a few minutes after 11. I think both of the midwives and the student were there, telling me what a phenomenal job I was doing, when one of them said, “I can see hair!” My response: “She has hair?!” I expected a bald, Polish-looking baby. “Lots of it!” was the answer.
At some point after my mother-in-law MJ arrived (and she arrived about 30 minutes before the baby), Sarah said I should go labour on the toilet because the gravity would help the baby to come faster. I did NOT want to move, but I knew we’d make good progress with my body in that position and so, after the next contraction, she helped me into the washroom.
I sat down on the toilet. She told me to tuck my head down into my chest — I was “pushing with my face” too much — and focus all my pushing into my rump. One contraction like this and I could already feel a difference; there was something more happening here than when I was sitting up. It must have shown on my face when I looked up at her after the contraction, because she smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you have a waterbaby on the toilet.” I was so hot, rubbing ice chips over my face and chest; Sarah grabbed some wash cloths, wet them, and laid one on my back and one on my chest to try and help me cool down. We laboured there for awhile, with me closing my eyes and rocking back and forth between contractions. There was a long period between one set of contractions where I was able, blessedly, to relax a bit more and keep myself calm. Sarah says that happens sometimes during labour and it’s basically like the mother’s body is helping the mother’s mind. I was wearing a nursing bra when we went into the washroom, but by the time we left I had torn it off and thrown it into the bath tub, leaving me completely naked.
When we walked out into the living room, I could feel the baby’s head down low. I hobbled along bow-legged, with MJ and Chris sitting on one couch, the other midwife & her student on the dog’s loveseat, with all sorts of little stations set up around the apartment (weighing the baby, oxygen if she needed, an injection of some sort for me to help deliver the placenta, etc). I remember asking Chris to straighten up my pillows behind my back after every contraction, because I wanted to be sitting up more than lying back. I wish I could remember looking at him, but I honestly don’t; maybe we didn’t make eye contact. Maybe I was too distracted and he was too scared. Someone asked if I wanted a mirror so I could watch the baby being born, but I definitely didn’t want to see it at that time (now, I kind of wish I had, but I think it’s more because I love her so damned much that I regret missing out on those few extra seconds that I could have been looking at her).
I remember women’s voices: she’s down so low, she’s ready to come out, you’re doing so amazing, we can see her hair, every time you push she comes a little closer, push long and hard this time, just one more time… I remember Chris: you’re doing amazing baby, you’re amazing…
And then this strange stretching feeling, this burning sort of achiness. It was so incredibly fucking uncomfortable, but it was NOWHERE NEAR the pain that I thought I would be experiencing. “Stop pushing,” Sarah said. “Just relax. We need you to relax and let your body stretch for her, and then you’re going to push her out when I tell you to.”
Again, my body gave me a break between the contractions, but this time I couldn’t enjoy it: “GET HER OUT GET HER OUT GET HER OUT!” I screamed. All I could imagine was a squirmy little baby face sticking out. I felt a weight down there. I wanted my baby to be out already, because I was tired of being in labour, I was tired of pushing, I was tired of not holding her. But I didn’t push, because my midwife wasn’t telling me to.
I felt a contraction coming. “Incoming,” I whispered, then started to push. I made up my mind that I was NOT going to stop until the baby came out, and I don’t even remember hearing anyone talking to me; I just remember pushing, putting every ounce of my energy and heart into bringing my baby into this world. Then this rushing sensation down low, the weight in my pelvis disappearing, and a chorus of cheering as a hot, slimy little body was laid on my chest.
The first time I saw my daughter’s face, I was in shock. I expected that I’d have an ‘ugly’ little baby, and I had steeled myself for the possibility that she would be slimy and bloody and gross, but I hadn’t prepared myself for looking at someone so damned beautiful. I wasn’t ready to be instantly enamoured of her. And apparently I immediately said, “Oh. My. God.” but I don’t remember it, I remember looking at her for what felt like forever, not knowing what to say, feeling like I should say something amazing and important, and then settling on a rather unsatisfying “Oh. My. God.” Chris was talking too, and I can’t remember what he said, but I remember him and his mom both laughing when I spoke. Maia wasn’t screaming at me. She seemed so calm, so accepting of the fact that here she was, here I was, and here we were as a family together now.
Who put the hat and the blanket on her, and when? I don’t remember. I know Chris moved off the couch and came to kneel at our side with the camera. I know he touched her hand and she gripped her fingers around him. And I know that I was — and am — so damned proud of us and our baby.