by Georgia Ragonetti-Zebell, MD
A familiar feelings swells inside. A wave? Yes, and then another. They are close, but mild. I am on the phone with my mother who laughs with excitement. Finally! Five days, one membrane sweep and acupuncture treatment later than expected. I hang up to tell my husband. Another wave. The chaos of our house becomes louder. “Mom, can you check my homework?” Number one. “Not right now, darling.” The TV is on, but not the right channel. Another wave. “Mom, I don’t want to watch this!” Number two. “Ok,” I say, as I lean onto the kitchen counter, swaying back and forth. “Mommy, what you doing?” Number three. Another wave. “What can I do?” my mother in law asks. Another wave. “I think we need to leave,” I tell my husband.
We were done having kids. I told my parents we were done just days before I found out I was pregnant. The youngest of my three boys had just weaned. I had not forgotten the “joys” of pregnancy or the “ring of fire” I had felt with each of my previous births. I was looking forward to having my body back, no expanding belly, no more leaky boobs. I could have a normal wardrobe again!
“I have something to tell you,” I said as I held up the ultrasound picture. “Hi Daddy!” He, like me, was less than enthusiastic. “I don’t want another baby!” he said, laughing. I was dreading pregnancy and delivery, while he was dreading the sleepless nights of a newborn. Whether we liked it or not, it was happening.
I needed something to get me into a more positive mindset regarding pregnancy, so I signed up for a Hypnobabies class. Yes, I am an OB/GYN, and yes, it was my fourth pregnancy, but since I thought we were done having babies, this was kind of like starting all over again, right?
Attending the classes once a week was nice, away from the kids, almost like a date night. Most of the information was review, so we focused on the scripts at the end of class and our “home play.” Once the giggles died down, John would read the assigned hypnosis script, and I would focus on relaxing, usually falling asleep. I listened to the scripts when I was on call and to the affirmations every morning. I loved the affirmations. They were exactly what I needed to get a positive mindset for the pregnancy.
Since it was my fourth baby, I was sure I would deliver well before my New Year’s due date. Yes, a Christmas baby was in my future. I started my maternity leave and my parents visited for the holidays…and Christmas came and went. No baby. No sign of birthing time, no birthing waves, not even a ripple. To pass the time, I would crochet. Since we didn’t know the gender, I made two of everything. A pink hat and a blue hat. Pink booties and blue booties. A pink and blue blanket. Still no baby.
New Year’s came complete with fireworks and sparklers…and no baby. To say I was impatient is an understatement. I listened to the “Come Out, Baby” script and tried prenatal massage and acupressure. Every morning I woke up and thought, “Ugh. Still pregnant.” And our visitors reminded me often. “No movement yet? When are you gonna have this baby? Don’t you know how to get things going?” Of course I knew. I was induced with my last baby, but I wanted to avoid all that this time around.
The holidays were over and my husband went back to work. I had a prenatal appointment five days past my “guess date”, and I finally agreed to membrane sweeping. And it hurt. A lot. I didn’t prepare or flip any hypnosis switches, but I wish I had. I generally love my OB, but in that moment, we were not friends. I called my husband after my appointment, crying. “It really hurt. I don’t want to hurt anymore.” I had been so uncomfortable at the end of the pregnancy and all the feelings of fear and dread that I felt when I found out I was pregnant again came rushing back. My wonderful hubby reassured me and met me at an acupuncture appointment.
I relaxed during my treatment, still feeling no pressure waves. As I drove home from the appointment, I called my mother. “Don’t get excited. This isn’t it,” I told her as she answered the phone. As we chatted, I had a pressure wave…and then another three minutes later. And then another came and I knew. My birthing time had finally begun.
The sounds of my three children fade away as we load the car. I listen and relax on the way to the hospital. Phone calls are made. The waves are regular, but there is no pain. I worry that it is too soon, that I’ve called them all in for nothing. The room is waiting; they all are waiting. What if this isn’t it? It’s too early. They’ll be waiting all night. They’re ready. I’m ready. The baby’s heartbeat gallops on the monitor. I pace. I go to the bathroom. I rock on a ball. I breathe, I lean, I sway. I pace. I go to the bathroom. I am still relaxed and peaceful and there is still no pain.
Pacing has me tired. I lay in the bed and the wave rises. My eyes are closed, and I can hear myself moan as it peaks and falls. My husband notices the change. “That sounded like a big one.” I open my eyes. “Maybe I should get in the tub.”
The tub is warm and wonderful. The roar of the running water drowns out my sounds. The waves keep coming, but never seem to intensify. I can’t hear the heartbeat but I can feel movement. I’m not worried.
I get out of the tub to be monitored. The galloping continues unchanged. I debate being checked and breaking water. “I can’t decide if I want to get things moving or enjoy the pace of labor.” “Who enjoys labor?” my husband asks.
“Don’t tell me,” I tell my OB. He checks me and breaks my water. I’ve waited forty weeks and five days for this baby and I am impatient. I peek as he holds up seven fingers to the nurse. The waves come but there is no pain.
I get up to go to the bathroom and the water flows out. I laugh as we try to keep the floor clean. I get back in the tub. I know it won’t be long now.
I feel as if I am on a roller coaster, slowly moving up the tallest hill. The anticipation is great. It’s coming; when is it coming? I feel another pressure wave rise and fall. That wasn’t it, but it is close. I know it’s coming. I can’t relax. My body braces. Another wave. This one brings me to the top, to the edge of hill. Wait. I’m not ready. “Ohgodohgodohgod…” I grip my husband’s hand tightly, to steady myself against the force. I am not ready for another wave but it comes anyway. I know I should be doing something. I should relax; I should be saying “ahhh..” or sliding down the slide. But I’m not. I can’t. The pressure is too much. The intensity is too much. It comes and it is loud and it is forceful. And I am flying, rushing down the hill. It is happening without me. I am simply holding on while this ride pushes down. Down and through and out. And I feel it, pressing through and slowly out. I feel a head, round and warm and hot. Small at first and then more and more and more until it is small again. The ride isn’t over. The pushing down and through and out isn’t over. “Get it out!” I want off the ride. “Push, Georgia.” The bottom of the hill is near. A breath is pulled in and pushed down, and finally, out. Shoulders and arms and chest and belly and little legs and feet out. The roller coaster sinks as it hits the bottom of the hill. My stomach drops and the euphoria begins. I did it! Wasn’t it fun? My once clenched eyes are now open, searching for my little one. I pull up a wet, wrinkled body.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” I squeeze tight, close to my chest. “What are you?” I can’t see in the darkness of the water. I reach between two chubby legs and feel. “You’re a boy! Oh, thank God you’re a boy!” I am so happy. He is big, eight pounds two ounces of perfect. He looks like his brother. He lets out a cry that is powerful and piercing. And I am in love yet again.
Georgia Ragonetti-Zebell, MD is an OB/GYN practicing in Upstate South Carolina, and is mommy to four (yes, FOUR) boys. She is a graduate of the Women’s Health Pathway at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology with the Greenville Health System in Greenville, South Carolina. She has a special interest in natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and alternative methods in labor and delivery. She enjoys yoga, crochet, and reading, but spends most of her free time cleaning up poop while trying not to step on Legos.