So, my plans for a totally unmedicated birth center birth, attended by a midwife & unattended by constant fetal monitoring (and monitoring of self—blood pressure and the like), got shelved. No waterbirth, or showers. When we found out I’d have to get on a Pitocin drip, the rest pretty much came falling in after: two awkward bands over my belly, an IV in my arm, blood pressure cuff hovering always near like a small, asphyxiating cloud of doubt. But there was good news: the OB on call at the hospital happened (serendipitously, or by divine appointment) to be Dr. Shoutko, the physician who oversees the birth center at which I’d hoped to labor / deliver. Friendly to the “crunchy” birth crowd, and so very kind. When Elizabeth arrived and found out he was on the floor, she told us she’d been praying that he would be here.

At this point, things get fuzzier, and I’ve had to ask Marshall and Elizabeth lots of questions about what exactly happened at this or that point, and how long this or that took. I’ll sketch things roughly and may come back to correct. [>>Update<< Elizabeth just sent me a labor timeline! I’ll adjust parts of the following…]

My Pitocin drip started out low—at 2 or 3, I think (of what I don’t know). It immediately—was kind of amazing—regulated and strengthened my contractions. We could see them on the monitor, tall conical haystacks instead of choppy waves with a mountain here and there. After a while (an hour? two?), I could really feel the contractions, and Elizabeth found a birthing ball and had me on it, leaning against the bed, breathing long breaths in and long breaths out. This is pretty much where I stayed from 7am till 12:30pm, since it really worked for me. Tried a couple different positions, but sitting on the ball leaning arms and head on the bed was where I wanted to be. They increased Pitocin up to 12 at 9:20am.

We wondered what kind of laboring woman I would be—the vocal, active type, who needs outside help/affirmation, or the inward type, who doesn’t answer questions and seems far away, in another world. I guess I knew I would be the latter. And I was. Marshall said our room was dim, and the sounds of The Innocence Mission and me breathing were all he could hear, for hours. I don’t remember the music, or the dimming of the lights, but I do remember the breathing, how stabilizing it was to shut everything out and climb these mountains alone, with all the intention I could find.

As I got into late morning, I remember thinking “When will this end?”, (comma placement??) looking up at the monitor, and seeing that the nurse was adjusting the drip down a little. She said I was responding well to it, but they didn’t want to give me too much, and it was difficult to tell what was too much, since the monitor could represent the timing of my contractions, but not the intensity. And they had to let me labor as much as I could without getting checked by the OB, because of the risk of infection. The rest of my memories are completely free of any internal timeline—I don’t remember in what order they happened, just that they did … isn’t that strange.

But I remember the contractions getting frightening—very intense, and Marshall said they were coming every 45-60 seconds. The even breathing wasn’t much help anymore, so I decided I didn’t care at all what I sounded like or who was listening, and started doing that odd low moan that all the midwives want you to do (and which I had spent a ridiculous amount of time, pre-labor, worrying that I would do, self-conscious being that I am). And, duh, it totally helped. Who was I to doubt Ina May. It was stabilizing, in a more powerful way than just the even breathing, and it got me up to and through transition (8cm dilation to complete).

I do remember feeling like a wild animal in a trap, at that point, watching while tall hunters with long guns walked slowly toward me. I’d been told that transition was scary like that, that lots of women get to that point and think, I can’t do this. While I always knew I could do it, I bounced hard between the rock and the hard place, hating the road that took me to the oh-so-desired destination. Hard to describe. Marshall said I never cussed once (in an impressed tone) (recalling his sailor-mouth kidney stone episode, several years ago, which he worries his mother will never forget).

At 11:15am Dr. Shoutko came in and checked me, preparing us for me not to have made much progress … and I had reached 7-8cm, 90% effaced, 0 station. While I didn’t have the energy to be elated, I was pretty much super relieved. Marshall, Elizabeth, the nurse, and the Dr. Shoutko were all impressed and excited. He told me to keep doing whatever I was doing, because it was working. And the last paragraph shall detail one of the main things I was doing (how long is this already?): utilizing imagery / positive self-talk.

Which sounds kind of fru-fru (will let you Google the correct spelling of that word; let me know what you find). But this is another Ina May thing: your body will respond to your inner thoughts, just as your inner thoughts respond to your body. (Also, your inner thoughts are, mysteriously, your body. I will also let you Google that.) She says to accept the work of your enormous & hard-working uterus in labor, welcome its power (and its pain), since it is doing necessary, good work in you; specifically, opening up that cervix. I let it all happen. I didn’t resist anything, insofar as I could. I gave my body permission to open the cervix, I even told it so, time after time after time after time. I imagined it widening. In the moment, it felt natural. In retrospect, it feels mystical. Possibly this is the movement of life itself, or rather our movement through it. What we must do, today, metamorphoses: looking back, we see where we might have gone, and where we went instead.