You know, if you ask for prayers for strange neurological symptoms, go for your appointment and return saying nothing in a little, rural church, there will be...well I don't know, because it would never happen!
So, when I returned to my community with the joyful, surprising news that I did not have a painful illness or a lifelong disease, we did not wait the typical 12 weeks to share. We were only about two minutes pregnant when we told everyone, and then began the long, intense wait for Baby Lingle or WoJo.
I bought bigger pants. I declined a few pairs of XL maternity pants because they were just too big (*snort*). I bought even bigger pants and began to worry my birthing plan like a dog at a bone. Remember that I had just graduated from nursing school. I had definite opinions about how a birth should go. I just about had to stop talking out loud because even I was getting tired of listening to me spout about pain control and what our bodies are made to do. I knew the Cesarean rates for all of the hospitals in our area. I went to a midwifery practice and read thousands of pages of birthing stuff. I am pretty sure my husband gets a medal for living with me. You try being pregnant for the first time without getting obsessed.
Beneath the obsession was clearly terror. There was only one desirable outcome for pregnancy and it involves significant pain one way or another. But deeper than the terror of labor and delivery was something unmentionable. As much as I had cried bitterly every time we had failed a pregnancy test, when I heard those words announcing that not only was I not sick, I was going to have a baby, more than a shred of me wasn't joyful. Some self-centered part of me struggled against giving up my life for this new one. We had made plans! We were going to travel! I was not ready to be a mom. So, I thought endlessly about my birth plan. The place, the sound, the flow, the methods filled my mind as motherhood filled my body. I could tell you ten ways to use a rubber ball to ease labor pain, but I studiously avoided thinking about motherhood.
I bought even bigger pants. I hired a doula. I read more books. I worried. I. I. I. My husband began talking a little less. His solution seemed to be to feed me. I liked that plan. I accepted those XL pants. I wrote out a birth plan that made my OB teacher proud (she used it in class). I waited and neglected that unmentionable voice. Confrontation is not my most natural talent and I chose to ignore myself rather than face the truth that I was struggling with changes in my life and body.
I forswore pants altogether. My ribs ached and cracked and people began making startled noises when I walked by. Twins? Triplets? Basketballs? Watermelon? Seriously folks...just don't breathe around a woman as pregnant as I apparently was. There is nothing you can possible say that would be right. Nothing. No. Freaking. Thing.
Just when I thought I couldn't stand being pregnant for one more second and my husband couldn't bite off one more sharp retort. I went into labor. At 4:50 am on Tuesday morning, September 16th, I felt my first real labor pain. I was giddy. The unmentionable voice had been stomped into oblivion by my swollen--everything. We had a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) appointment scheduled for that morning, so we didn't run to the hospital. I was excited and managing my pain quite well. We went to the office and I had a silly grin on my face as the midwife came in. I shyly mentioned that I had been having contractions for several hours, and I was more than a little proud of not being dramatic about it. Int he weeks leading up to this appointment, I had been refusing to be checked because it was against one of the rules I had (I don't really remember why...something about causing anxiety...hahahahahaha), but since I was actually in labor...I excitedly hopped on the table (ok...I didn't hop) and the CNM, without a single shred of softening, told me I was at 1 cm and 0% effaced. That means, in terms of running a marathon, I had barely put on my shoes. I was ordered to sleep and drink.
So, Luke took me to breakfast. I called my doula who also told me to sleep. I was not really ok with this advice. I had been planning this labor for months! I had a PLAN! So, I worried and wandered and timed and analyzed. Luke had a print out sheet and studiously tracked my contractions. 10 minutes apart. We were in labor. We were rocking this. I was impressed by the intensity of the pain, but not overwhelmed. We ordered Papa John's pizza and rented a movie about traffic. I don't remember anything but how annoying it was. At 10 pm, I was 5-7 minutes apart and starting to see the shape of this labor. The shine was waning. I was using more coping strategies. I could feel the tendrils of terror creeping in as the night approached. This was taking a really long time to happen. I tried to sleep. I really did, but I couldn't. The darkness was thick and scary. Luke took a nap and I got in the shower. About 2 am I finally saw some bloody show. At four I called the CNM and decided to go to the hospital. After 24 hours of labor, I arrived at the hospital.
I told the security guard I was there for an eye exam. He laughed very nervously.
By 5:20 am I was in triage. They checked me a six cm and 90%. My spirits lifted. We were making progress. But I was tired. By 6 am I was naked and focused. I had no compunctions about this. Clothes hurt, so I took them off. I was having a baby. I had work to do. I asked about the joke on my popsicle stick. I threw up the popsicle. Luke and I were locked into this work together. I could see his eyes pulling me forward and warding off the terror. His hands always on my back or arms so I knew he was there. I couldn't let him go. He was base. Also, I made the nurses nervous because I wouldn't sit still. Luke warded them off because he knows: I just can't.
At 10:20 am, 29 hours into labor, they broke my water. I was starting to shake and my legs trembled with the effort. Have you ever seen an animal give birth for the first time? Eyes wide like they are on the forward most edge of mind-bending panic? That was me. I was tapped out. My plan did not stretch to this. I struggled on for a few more hours, but after 32 hours of labor, I sank to my knees at the edge of the bed and pleaded for a rest. My sweet husband and partner teared up as I asked if he would be disappointed with me if I got some pain control. Four liters of fluid and one epidural later, I slowly began to face the reality of my plan. It had become the obsession that helped me avoid my inner conflict. I had made an idol of my birth plan.
Five hours of rest and pitocin later, I began to push. Pushing is hard. It is gritty. It is easily the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. I did it for four hours. At 38 hours of labor, when I began to push, I thought it would be over in 1-2 hours. By the end of it, I was screaming with effort and had at least one French speaking med student (there for observation only) holding my sweaty rubbery leg. I remember a horrible mirror (my thought: unspeakable horror), people talking about all the baby's hair (my thought: grab it and pull!) and Luke's eyes. I still remember how he looked into me and pulled me forward. We labored forward together. Hard. Screaming hard. Long.
At 11:02 pm after 42 hours of labor, Luther Eugene Lingle IV was born.