It was 9am on Sunday. I’d been in labor for 25 hours.
Of course, I was immediately given instructions to pee in a cup and put on a gown and get hooked up to the monitors. There was absolutely no way I could do any of these things, and when I started to go mental on the nurse who helped me into the bathroom (I think I started crying and shouting, “I can’t even pee!”), she started backing up like I was the exorcist. “Ok, no problem sweetie. You don’t have to pee in the cup. It’s fine.”
I made it back to the bed and felt the worst contraction yet. It hurt to cry and it hurt to breathe and Doula grabbed me under my arms and let me hang beneath her, my body limp on the floor. It was truly one of the most humiliating moments of the entire experience; hanging there like a rag doll, no control, sobbing and screaming.
My husband picked me up and placed me on the bed. Nurses began furiously poking me with needles in my left arm. I wasn’t sure why this was happening now as opposed to last night until I heard one nurse comment that I was spilling keytones in my urine and was extremely dehydrated. I didn’t remember peeing so I wasn’t sure how she knew this, but as the next contraction came I didn’t care. My body sucked down a liter of saline in 8 minutes (according to my husband). They put up another bag immediately, and another one after that. The nurse, a middle-aged woman with kind eyes, too much mascara, and a sweet southern voice laid her head next to mine on the bed. I felt so comforted by her. “Erin? Sweetie, I read your birth plan. We can easily accommodate everything for you, but I want you to know right now that pain medication is available to you if you need a break. I won’t ask you about it again after this.” Doula began explaining to her I’d been in labor since 8am the day before and she felt like it may be time for me to accept some help.
This was not the plan. The plan was for me to be a super hero and finish the job myself. This is what women were made to do and I was going to do it and carry the bragging rights in my pocket forever. I couldn’t surrender. It wouldn’t be my perfect birth. I said all of that to Doula with my eyes and she stared hard right back at me. Then she said the words that completely changed my life. “Erin, you get the labor you need. You don’t have to be perfect. You’re allowed to take the help.” I cried through the next contraction, feeling half like a failure and half like a woman finally free of a lifetime striving to be a hero. It all hit me at once like an emotional ton of bricks. It was finally time for me to admit that being a hero didn’t mean doing it all myself.
I continued to cry in pain and a little in relief through the following contractions while the nurse checked my progress.
26 hours in I was 8cm, 100% effaced.
The nurse smiled and got close to my face again. “Do you know how well you’ve done? It’s time for you to rest so that you can push this baby out.” I nodded and accepted help genuinely and from my heart with no ego. I’d been broken that there was no energy for ego anyway.
Stripped down to my soul, I felt a peace I’d never felt. I suddenly wasn’t disappointed that I hadn’t achieved the goals I wrote down on paper. In fact, it was the opposite. I was proud. In that moment, I changed as a person and began to see the beauty, strength, and courage in myself that I’d only pretended to see before. I couldn’t become a mom without accepting help. That was my lesson. That was the labor I needed.