I'm still reeling. My thoughts are all over the place. Randomly I'll remember details from that night: Asking Aaron to turn up Billy Joel's "Piano Man" playing from the speakers in the corner of the room. The specific size and shape of the arrow around the speaker on the hospital bed rails. The deep purple of the grape juice they offered me after. Seeing Dexter's face for the first time before he was completely out.
I was delirious at times, and completely lucid at others. I felt like I was literally losing my mind and myself, and the only things keeping me whole were Aaron's hands in mine. He never left my side for longer than it took to get to the other side of the bed when I turned.
I had thought I was prepared for a natural birth. I read the books; I did a thorough inventory of my inner self and thought myself ready. I don't know if I was deceiving myself in preparation or what, but I was not ready for the pain. The location, the intensity, and the frequency — these were all things I was not prepared for.
Once active labor started and I had to concentrate on each contraction, I felt myself slipping away to "Laborland" or whatever you want to call it. I slipped away each time a new wave came over me. I was vaguely aware of my sister-in-law replacing the nurse providing counter pressure to my hips. I was a little more lucid when I told Aaron it was time to call my sister and mom. I don't remember my other sister-in-law coming in, or my mother-in-law joining the crew around me.
Lucy Peck, 27, of Logan, Utah, became a first-time mom on July 29, when she and her husband, Aaron, welcomed Dexter Aaron Peck into their lives.
I remember people coming in and asking me questions, like, "How are you doing?" in soft, tender voices. I ignored them all. No extra brain power to answer questions. All my active concentration was focused on getting through the next contraction. Afterward, my mom compared all of the women in the room who provided counter pressure to a rugby scrum. It's funny now, but oh so necessary then.
I remember meeting our new nurse at the shift change. I think I waved. She turned out to be an angel in disguise. We could not have gotten through everything without her. I still want to go back and give her a hug.
I had thought I would want to be mobile during labor, not attached to monitors and tied to the bed. Boy, was I wrong. I wanted nothing more than to stay put and keep an eye on Dexter's heartbeat. During some of the worst contractions I would search out the monitor and find the blinking heart icon, see it was still strong, and find more of my own strength there.
I lost track of the time when the contractions got intense. I only remember things according to my dilation. At a 4+, I was begging for relief. Mostly because I was only at a 4, and I couldn't imagine continuing to a 10 at that pain scale. I felt myself losing it. I had hit rock bottom and was seriously considering an epidural. But a little voice inside me kept telling me I could do without; my body could handle this, even if my mind couldn't. But I really needed some kind of relief so I didn't completely lose my mind. Our nurse suggested fentanyl to take the edge off.
After more tears, a few more contractions, and with Aaron's support, we decided to go with the drug. It is a narcotic, but the dose I was given only lasted an hour. It was exactly what I needed to get my strength back. I would "fall asleep" in between contractions, vaguely aware of people around me talking. Aaron never left my side. He says I was smiling sometimes. I remember dreaming about our dog, Ponyo, once. That must have been why I was smiling.
As the fentanyl started to wear off and I came back to full consciousness, the nurse checked me again. This time I was at a 5+. Boo. But progress, I guess. She told us that getting to a 5 is the longest, hardest part. That was encouraging.
Courtesy of Lucy Peck
Courtesy of Lucy Peck
More contractions, more counter pressure. At one point, I knew I needed to empty my bladder. I knew that it was causing my muscles to stay tight. So, hooked up to the IV tree and the monitor cords I made my way to the bathroom in the room, with my entire support team helping. I think there were at least two people holding me up, someone dragging the IV tree, someone holding the monitor cords, someone else making sure nothing got tangled. It must have looked comical, and I remember thinking that this was the most help I'd ever had going to the bathroom. Lucky me, I had an entourage.
A contraction hit as I was sitting down and I grabbed the person standing to my right. I think it was my sister-in-law. Got through it OK, then headed back to the bed as another one hit. My entourage got me there so fast they must have carried me.
Our nurse checked me again and said I was almost at a 7. I could tell, the pain had moved and was more centered in my lower back. Breathing with any kind of rhythm was getting harder. If I really focused during a contraction and breathed slowly, I got through it OK, but that was getting harder to do and I was losing myself again.
Our nurse suggested using the "hee hee hoo" breathing pattern. She would say a number between 1 and 4 and I would do that many "hees" with one "hoo" at the end. Sounds silly, but it got me all the way to a 10. A few times, she would stop saying a number between 1 and 4 and I would start to hyperventilate. I remember shouting, "Somebody count!" several times. Aaron started counting for me, right in close to my face so I could hear him over my own breathing. He was calm and quiet and I took more strength from him in those tense moments.
At times my breathing became more of a guttural growl; other times I would shout the words instead of breathe them. The rhythm and pattern were what got me through, not necessarily the breathing.
At an 8, I started going crazy again. I think I might have cried? I don't remember, but I needed relief. I begged our nurse to stop the pitocin, but she was worried that if we did, my body would slow things down and it would take longer to get Dexter out. She had called the on-call doctor in to the hospital and they were watching Dexter's heart rate closely. It looked as though the umbilical cord was wrapped around something. They weren't sure what, but his heart rate had started to slow down with each contraction. Not a lot, but they wanted to be safe and get him out quickly. So, no end of pitocin for me.
Instead, I asked for fentanyl again. The nurse was hesitant because it can pass to the baby, and they never want to deliver a drugged-out baby. But I was still at an 8, and she decided she felt confident enough that I wouldn't start to push in the next hour. So I got more fentanyl.
It didn't do as much this time. I couldn't sleep between contractions any more, but I could at least relax. I think this is what helped get me to dilate further. I think I cried to Aaron that I was never going to get to a 10, I'd be stuck at an 8 forever. I don't remember what he said, but I hope he laughed. What a silly idea.
When the second dose wore off, the nurse checked me again – I was at a 9! The pressure in my lower back was so intense at this point I had at least three people pushing on my rear end during contractions to provide counter pressure. They had to push hard, but the harder they pushed, the better it felt. They nearly pushed me off the bed, but I didn't care.
Courtesy of Lucy Peck
Courtesy of Lucy Peck
When a contraction would hit, I'd yell, "OK!" and they'd all start pushing. My team was awesome. A few of them have told me since that they had to take it in shifts to push, and they all had sore arms the next day. I thank them all for their sacrifice. I couldn't have done it without them.
I remember saying something about feeling like I needed to poop. Our nurse perked up at that and checked me again. She called the doctor and spoke to him, then told me I could push during a contraction if I felt like it, but I needed to keep it at about 25 percent. Yeah right. The fact that she told me I could push made me pretty happy.
I tried to only push at 25 percent, but that was impossible. I remembered something I read in Birthing From Within about pushing with little pushes towards the end to slowly nudge the baby down into place. I tried that. It didn't feel great to push, but giving in to the urge did. I could feel amniotic fluid gushing out, and my sheets were changed at least two or three times. We were getting closer.
Finally, our nurse checked me one more time and I remember hearing the words, "She's 100 percent and at a 10. She's ready."
What? I did it? I'm at a 10? I'm going to have a baby?
Our nurse ushered my team out, and they all went, unwillingly for some I'm sure, but I thanked them for leaving. The birth position I was in was entirely unflattering and I don't need that image of me in my loved ones' minds. Ever.
Our nurse had everything prepped, the lower part of the bed came off and the stirrups came up. There was a table with everything prepped for the doctor with all sorts of stuff. The warmer came out of the closet, and the bright lights were turned on. This wasn't exactly my vision of my birthing, but I was busy arguing with Aaron and the nurse about other, more important things.
I was lying on my right side when this all happened and they told me to turn onto my back.
"You have to, it's the only way the doctor can see what he needs to do."
(I should mention I was delirious at this point.)
"You have to change your position."
Aaron and the nurse practically turned me themselves, with me whimpering and crying. They placed my legs in the stirrups and told me to scoot forward. I politely declined.
Finally, Aaron looked me in the eyes and told me it was the best way to get Dexter here safely, and it was my job to make sure that happened. I scooted forward.
You know how in movies and TV when someone has a baby, there is dramatic music and lots of screaming? That's exactly what it felt like to me. Absolutely crazy. I couldn't believe I was about to push my baby out into the world. It was all so surreal.
They tell you to push by holding your breath and pushing to the count of 10. Either I couldn't hold my breath that long or they were counting really slowly, but I kept pushing for the few seconds I could hold my breath.
Push, scream, yell.
"Push harder! 1-2-3-4..."
"Keep pushing! 1-2-3-4..."
"You've got to push harder. We can see his head."
"I can't. I can't keep doing this. I'm done."
"You can, and you have to."
Big push, next contraction.
They put an oxygen mask on me to help me and Dexter. His heart rate kept dropping when I pushed and they were pretty sure the cord was around his neck. Man, I hated that mask. I got so claustrophobic in it.
When he crowned, the doctor announced, "He's got a lot of hair."
Aaron peeked around and looked back at me with amazement on his face. "He's coming, he's almost here! Keep pushing!"
I still wasn't cooperating with the breathing and the pushing. I just didn't feel like I could hold my breath that long. But the doctor looked at me and said, "You've got to push, we've got to get him out now. This next contraction he'll come out."
"Really? Promise? If he doesn't, I'm going to kill you for lying to me."
Next contraction hit as he was talking to me and I buckled down. I held my breath, put my chin to my chest and pushed with all my might, willing the little head to come out.
"Stop pushing! Just for a second!"
It took all the control I had left to stop pushing. The doctor quickly looped the cord from around Dexter's neck once then gave me the go ahead to keep pushing. I could see his little head in the doctor's hands, and as I pushed one last time, I felt his tiny body slip from mine and out into the world.
His eyes were wide open and he hardly made a sound. They put him on my belly and Aaron got to help towel him off. I watched in amazement as my son, MY SON, turned pink in front of me and waved his little arms and legs.
Dexter had arrived — alert, quiet, and perfectly healthy.