About 10 minutes later my nurse came back in with the morphine. Nolan was sitting by my side and we were talking. Anne went around to my left side where the IV was and started unpackaging the pain killer. I remember my mom was sitting a a chair to my left and my dad was standing across the room in front of me. Next to him was my pastor. Then it seems like Jim and marla were across the room on my right. I asked the nurse what this was going to do to me and she said that it would make me feel kinda drunk. (Now I've honestly never been drunk so I still don't really know what to expect) I say, ok, and I turn my head over to Nolan and we keep talking. I suddenly feel a cold sensation travel up my arm, around my brain, and then back down my right arm. I remember telling Nolan that I felt something funny. And then I remember people laughing at me and being concerned that I was going to make a fool of myself in front of my pastor. I also remember looking at my mom and seeing her so sad, but feeling a sort of hazy happiness, and wishing she could feel it too. Mom told me later that I kept telling her that she needed to get some of this and that if she asked nicely the nurse would hook her up. I also remember my dad laughing at me and saying how 6mms of morphine was nothing. (I also remember wondering how he knew what 6mms of morphine felt like in comparison to more than that. But I think that might be a story for another day.) I guess I was pretty funny considering the circumstances. I don't remember a ton about those minutes, but I do remember that medicine didn't do a darn thing for those contractions. I got up a few more times as the contractions began to get stronger and longer. After about 3 or 4 I was lucid again and it was as if I'd never had the morphine. Marla or my mom would follow me into the bathroom and stand there with me or rub my back. Anne (my amazing nurse - this is not sarcasm, she really was amazing) asked if I wanted a body ball and I told her that would be nice. But I only got to use it for like 20 seconds total, because at this point the contractions were coming at about 30 seconds apart. But don't get any ideas that this was close to being over, because it was a good 4 hours before Asher was born.
I stood for what seemed like hours in that bathroom. The counter was just high enough for me to grip the far edge of the sink and snarl into the basin. I started out on the balls of my feet for every contraction. In the beginning I never came down off the balls of my feet. All I would do is grip the sink, grit my teeth, stand with my feet apart, and growl. It was the angry growl of a wounded mother wolf trying to protect her cub, but knowing she is powerless. So full of sorrow and anger and fear. I suppose that sounds corny, but it's true. As time wore on and I began to get tired I started hearing Lori's (my birthing class instructor) voice in my head; keep your feet flat..... keep your voice in low tones......keep your bottom loose........ say "OOPEENN"........ride a wave in your mind with each contraction. So I started by putting my feet flat on the ground and moaning instead of growling. It became the guttural moans that come from a power deep down inside that no woman knows she has until she goes through labor. This moan was not like anything you can stop from coming out. It has to come out. This moan reverberated in the sink of that bathroom and off the walls. It vibrated my whole body from the inside out. It gave a release to my pain. If I were to stop that sound..........well, I don't know, because I could no sooner do that then keep the sun from rising. With each contraction the moan would start soft, and as my uterus tightened the decibels would rise to what seemed like thunder in my ears. As the contraction eased off so did the roar of my voice. It felt good. It also felt like I was dying.
(This is a totally random side point which I never want to forget, so I'm putting it in here now) As I was growing up, my dad used to make comments about how I needed to be tough as an Indian squaw. He used to say that they just went off by themselves and squatted in the woods or a field to give birth (this is actually true for some tribes, I have a book about it). At some point he came in and said one of the most encouraging things to me. He said "You sound like a squaw." Now I know this sounds like a ridiculous thing to tell a laboring woman.... but it was honestly a compliment of the highest order. Later he came in and said "Come on! Tough it out!" Again, unless you know my dad, you'd never know this was him cheering me on. Letting me know he'd do anything in the world to take this pain away from me. Telling me he loved me and that he knew I was a strong woman. That he was proud of me.
At some point the nurse came in and asked if I'd like the dr. to check me (that is check my cervix for dilation), to see if there was any progress. I asked if she could just do the checking, and she said yes she could. I squatted a bit and she reached up inside me and said I was 3-4cm. I got really disappointed at this point. I felt like I'd been in that bathroom for hours. At this point I decided to get into the shower. This is when the real magic began to happen. If I'd have been smart, I'd have gotten into the shower right off the bat. That is where I'm the most relaxed, in the water. They would have let me in the birthing tub..... but the Cervidil was still in my vagina. So the shower it was. The contractions became stronger, harder, like someone was going to pull my body apart right down the middle. But there was Lori's voice again in my head..... keep your butt loose....... low tones......... keep your jaw muscles loose..... say "OOPPEEENNN".......... ride that wave! it took every ounce of control in my body to relax the muscles of my butt and cervix and vagina. It was like pain from hell itself when I would begin to relax, but after the muscles were unclenched the pain became tolerable; and so I learned a pattern.
A contraction would start, I would stand up (Anne had gotten me a chair to sit on while in the shower), I would consciously plant my feet firmly on the floor, grab the railing and clench my hands with all my might while at the same time moaning "open", unclenching my bottom and envisioning myself riding a gigantic wave. As the wave would fold itself into a giant curl, the contraction would be at its peak; as it crashed to the shore the contraction would come to an end. Then I would sit down again. Exhausted, I'd sleep for the 30 seconds or so until the next one came on.
This song reminds me of my time spent in the shower. The fellowship I felt with God. The kinship I felt with every mother giving birth who had come before me. The closeness and support from my family. And the prayers for me that were said that night. I choose this song back in May.
Song #5 is Down in the Rive to Pray by Alison Krauss