“Just relax, don’t stress out.” Everyone kept saying to me. “If you’re stressed you’ll make the baby stressed.”
How could I not be stressed and overwhelmed. I was close to 38 weeks pregnant, up to 175lbs, the biggest I’ve ever been in my life, and the third trimester was kicking my ass. I felt exhausted, drained, and had a mental list of things to do, that felt endless. The nursery loft wasn’t fully set up yet, the baby registry gifts still were in their boxes, and co-sleeper wasn’t even assembled. Where would the baby sleep?
“Go get yourself a massage. Just lay down.” Family and friends would constantly tell me.
Sure, I thought to myself. That would be quite nice, sit and literally do nothing. I was still working from home, full-time, and really needed much self-care. I’m one to just work and not bask in my free time. Heck, I’ve held a job since I was 16 year’s old. So doing nothing was foreign and seemed lazy to me.
I finally gave in. “Okay, I’ll go get a massage somewhere.” I sighed and really wasn’t looking forward to it.
I’ve only ever had one massage in my life. I was 24 years old and it was at a Day Spa with my friends in the Pacific Northwest. I was hesitant back then too, but my masseuse did incredibly well! I’d expect nothing less, for her name was Magic, and she had magical fingers. She kneaded and took care of all the joints in my body. My 1 hour private session was serene, personal, and just damn good. I felt undone and like jelly, as I walked out of her room. I just wanted to leave it at that, and never get a massage again. I knew I would never get that pleasurable feeling again from a massage from anyone else. True story. No one ever could be like Magic, so I thought.
Mid afternoon in Tallahassee, Florida, thunderous rain was pouring, as I drove to Massage Envy. I scheduled myself an appointment earlier in the week. I was to meet Carol for my session. While I waited for her, I fiddled with my keys, and really just wanted to get it all over with. I repeated to myself, “Get a grip, it’s just a massage. You deserve this. You need this. Breathe.”
“Hello. Are you Rachel?” Carol said with a smile, as she walked up to me.
“Yep, that’s me.” I attempted to reply casually.
“Well, It’s nice to meet you.” She said with a firm handshake.
I thought to myself, this might not be bad. She had a warm, kind presence to her, and was older than I expected. Old in age is always a plus to me, more wisdom, and more experience. She left me alone to get situated and undressed. I laid on the cushy table and covered myself with the soft blankets. When arriving back, she dimmed the lights more. So it was at a perfect setting, where I could just fall asleep. In the background, there were sounds of tranquility, of waves crashing on the ocean. The ambiance of the room slowly began to calm me.
“How far along are you now?” She asked, as she began massaging the heels and balls of my feet.
“Hmm, I’m 38 weeks.” I mumbled.
“Ah I see,” she said. “You’re so close, you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy.”
I nodded. Letting my mind drift and my body melt in her kneading fingers. She continued to ask me questions and give me her motherly advice.
“Don’t worry.” I recall her saying. “By this time, in a couple weeks your little one will be here.”
“Ah yes, I can’t wait.” I managed to say. “I have a feeling she will be here early.”
I walked out of Carol’s room feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. I no longer felt the knots on my shoulders or the aching in my legs. My mind and body appeared more present and clear.
The rest of my day was carefree. As I waited for my husband to come home, I laid on the couch and fell asleep.
That night, my husband and I were curled up on the couch watching a college football game on television. Indy, our dog, had kept eyeing me through the game. I thought nothing of it, since I had been getting up and down to use the bathroom several times. Then it happened.
As I was walking toward the bathroom, I felt a gush of water leak out of me. I didn’t quite make it and hurried along the toilet to get clean.
“Uh Brannon…” I called out to my husband from the bathroom. “I think my water just broke.”
“Oh shit!” We both thought.
He immediately contacted my midwife, explaining to her what happened. Then I spoke with her and she explained I was to wait for my contractions, for they will not be immediate. An hour or so passed and I still felt normal. No contractions. I was feeling anxious and worried.
We headed up to bed and I tried to sleep. I was restless and wanted something, anything to happen. The moment I felt myself dozing off, the contractions began. I can’t thoroughly describe it, but there was a tremendous amount of pressure I had never felt before. It was all along my abdominal muscles. The tightening of my tummy and the pain moving towards my pelvic bone.
“Hmm this isn’t too painful.” I told my husband.
He started documenting the seconds and minutes of how far apart my contractions were.
Every one of them were different and came in waves. As the time and hours passed, the intensity grew. I had spoken too soon.
Sunlight began peeking through our windows, morning had arrived. My contractions were about 3 minutes apart, and only then were we able to make our way to The Birth Cottage. We grabbed our packed bags and headed out, to what seemed like a drive that dragged on and on. Walking through their doors, we were greeted with my midwife. She had open arms and a smile.
“Uhh ahhh…” I grunted in pain. I didn’t swear or cuss, even though I badly wanted to. Focusing on the pain and feeling it, was all I cared about. I tried numerous positions, laying down in bed, sitting on an aerobic ball, on a rocking chair, and in a bathtub.
The contractions intensified mid-day.
“Ahhh..I feel like I have so much pressure coming down on my ass. Why does it feel like I have to take a shit?” I would scream out confused.
“Hahaha…” my husband laughed.
“I don’t think it’s funny.” I scowled. I couldn’t even be upset properly.
“It’s ok,” He reassured me. “You’re doing great.”
Then the waves seemed to flow gradually and my pain began to be bearable. I continued to stay in the bathtub, the warm water was comforting. I called out to my midwife several times to check if I was dilating accordingly. I was not. She gradually gave me herbal supplements to help with my dilation. It didn’t work.
It was nighttime and more than 16 hours had passed since my water broke. I had been in active labor for what seemed to be forever. I was exhausted and had no sleep. My midwife gave my husband and I a choice, wait it out a few more hours, to see if I will progress, or transfer to the hospital. In my birth plan, I wanted a natural birth and wanted it done at the Birth Cottage. However, if it came to the point of having to transfer, due to not dilating enough.. I would do it. For there could have been a risk of getting an infection, I would for my safety and most importantly our baby’s safety.
The drive to the hospital was excruciating. The tightening around my belly, began to worsen. When I arrived to my labor room, I was examined by the doctor, and he confirmed I was 7 centimeters dilated. I seemed to have progressed, but I felt weak and drained. I decided I wanted some rest and granted myself an epidural and pitocin.
“Why am I shaking? I’m trembling.” I said shivering. Then realized it was the side effects of the epidural. I tried my best to close my eyes and relax.. slowly did I drift to sleep.
Hours passed and I gradually felt the pressure again. I woke up and felt a vigorous need to push.
“You can start pushing now.” The nurse urged.
“Uhh Ahh!” I pushed and wailed. I still felt no pain, due to the epidural.
I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed…
“There’s her head! Keep pushing!” The doctor and nurse yelled out.
I pushed and pushed and pushed…and gradually felt the pain again.
I pushed even harder, clenching my legs.
“Wahhhhh!” I heard her cry.
I pushed again and I delivered my placenta. My husband was able to cut her umbilical cord. The nurses wrapped her in a blanket and hat. Then they immediately gave me my baby girl. We had our first skin to skin contact. I felt an immense amount of love rush over me. The world seemed to stop. Everything was vivid and clear.
I regretted nothing and would go through all of it again. The journey of that day will be embedded in my heart. My bundle of joy was finally here with me, with us.
Her little fingers wrapped around mine… she felt magical in my arms.