Pushing was extremely difficult. Because of my asthma, I was never able to hold my breath for the full 10 seconds on the last push of each contraction. That made me feel like I was failing, and I became anxious leading up to each contraction, which only made it harder to give my all each time. I was also feeling a lot of painful pressure and asked for more pain medication, though we would realize later that something must have been dislodged and I was not receiving medicine like we all thought.
Time completely melted away during pushing. All I know is that I felt tremendous pressure and assumed the baby must be so close. My nurse kept saying, “She’s right here. One more good push!” But it was never just one more push. If I ever do this again, I will explicitly forbid anyone to tell me “just one more push.” Every time I heard that, pushed, and didn’t have a baby became utter disappointment piled onto total exertion. My anxiety over not being able to do this “the right way” started to take over my mind, and I was on the brink of an anxiety attack. I began frantically wondering what happens when someone cannot push the baby out. Will Addison be okay? Is she stuck without oxygen? Will I need emergency surgery?
At one point, I yelled, “Just get her out!” I was so worried that I was hurting my baby girl. I could feel her so close to being here, but it felt like it would be a million years before I could finish this. I was losing it. I looked up at Clayton. I found his eyes and I stayed there. I couldn’t move to the left or to the right, not up or down. I knew that disaster and fear and panic were waiting for me outside of his gaze, so I would not, could not, move. I stared at him, terrified, and he stared back at me. He was scared, too. I could see it splashed across his face, but that was the safest place in the room and I never wanted to leave his blue eyes.
“Natalie, what are you afraid of?” Dr. Peden asked with the greatest insight.
Everything! I wanted to scream. That I physically can’t do this! That you’re asking me to hold my breath when I can’t! That I don’t know how to push any harder!
But I didn’t say any of that. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it was a lie.
Dr. Peden directed a nurse to give me oxygen in between contractions. I don’t know if it helped, but it was a heavy realization that I was not handling this well. I dove into the pile of anxieties in my mind and shoved them over a cliff. I didn’t have time to be afraid anymore. My baby didn’t have time for me to be afraid.
On the next contraction, I knew this was it. I knew I would never be able to push the way they wanted me to. So I wouldn’t let myself get to a third push. The contraction came, I curled my back, pulled my knees into my chest and lost myself in that push. I have never worked harder than those seconds. The handful of baby-attending people who had gathered in the room let out a collective gasp.
And I felt it. I knew. My baby girl was in the world with me.
Relief and joy and pride and exhaustion crashed together in a wave through my body and mind. But then it all silenced into the purest, overwhelming love as a tiny, white baby with matted dark hair rested on my chest, floating up and down, up and down, to the rhythm of my heart.
“I love you, baby girl.”
And my sweet Addison Brooke was home.
Then I didn’t sleep for three weeks.