Elisha's Birth Story
by Jessiqua Wittman

I was thirty-eight weeks along...

My pregnancy had gone very well, with no complications. We were under the care of Alice Sirmons CPM, a very well-educated midwife, and planned to give birth in Okmulgee, at home.

It was exciting to be so close to the end of my pregnancy. I found myself cleaning the house like crazy. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I kept asking, "If the baby was born tomorrow, what would I need to do today?"

When bedtime came, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. However, around one-o-clock in the morning, I suddenly woke up again. My bladder felt super full. I scrambled out of bed (if a pregnant woman can scramble) and barely waddled to the toilet in time to unleash a gushing waterfall of fluid.

I didn't know it, but that was my water breaking.

As I sat there, rather amazed that I had just "peed" so much. My stomach started to cramp.

Uugh... These Braxton Hicks are getting bad... I thought.

I remembered hearing that a warm bath would relax the uterus and settle down false labor. So I filled up our bathtub and sat in it for the next two hours, waiting for the pain to go away.

After two hours, I was starting to kinda breathe heavy during the contractions, and they were getting pretty close together. I could hardly believe my watch as I counted the minutes.

Could this be real?!

After an especially sharp cramp squeezed my insides, I crawled out of the tub and shuffled back to bed.

"Hey," I whispered, gently shaking my sleeping husband's shoulder. "I think I need to call Mom."

"What for?" he mumbled.

"I think I'm in labor."

"Na, you're just sleepy. Wake up a little and-"

"Hon! I've been awake for two hours timing contractions! You're the one that's sleepy!"

My hand clenched his arm as another contraction came on, the heaviest yet. My pain-riddled voice shot my husband wide awake. He quickly sat up.

"Wha-what?! You're actually hurting?!"

"Yes!" I hissed. "I told you!"

He quickly bumbled over to the phone and called my parents.

The midwife and my mother arrived right about the same time. I had been waddling in circles in our living room while I was waiting, because I had heard that walking during labor helps speed it up. My husband hovered beside me the whole time. Every time a contraction hit me, I'd stop walking and grab his arm. He'd hold my elbows to support me while I tensed and breathed through it.

This was starting to really hurt. I couldn't even talk during contractions anymore. I was scared and ready to get the baby out.

The midwife took one look at my sweaty, red face before hurrying to my room to prepare the bed. The day before I had organized all the materials she would need in a box in my closet. She quickly set out her tools and oxygen tank while my mom lay down layers of waterproof pads and sheets.

My back was beginning to ache very badly. I could hardly walk anymore when the midwife and my husband brought me back into my room. The midwife checked my cervix and found that I was several centimeters dilated, well into active labor.

"Oh you're doing so good for a first time mom!" she praised. "You make it look easy!"

"Don't tell me this is easy!" I growled. "This hurts!"

She smiled, reached down to my foot, and firmly pressed the middle of it between her fingers. The sharpest part of the pain dulled a little so I could breathe easier. My husband, as pale as the moon, sat behind and slightly under me so my shoulders would be supported.

The contractions were reaching a feverish pitch by now. I was starting to squeal in the middle of them. My midwife encouraged me to make low sounds instead of high ones. She also seemed to be checking the fetal heartbeat a lot with her handheld Doppler. I noticed her meet eyes with my husband for a breathtaking moment during one of the short lulls between contractions.

The baby's heartbeat was gone, missing without a trace. My brain quietly registered the implications of that, but the pain forced me to focus on survival. They would deal with that, I had to keep working.

The midwife's voice was calm and smooth as she said, "Sometimes the pelvis makes it hard to get a good tone. Let's give you some oxygen and roll you over a bit."

She turned on her oxygen tank and put the oxygen cannula in my nose. My husband helped her move me, because I couldn't muster the strength to move myself. His hands shook as he brushed my sweaty hair out of my face. The midwife readjusted her Doppler again, then smiled as the fetal heartones pulsed out loud and clear.

"There it is!" she smiled. Then she directed my mom on how to press the lower part of my back so my back pain wasn't quite so overwhelming. She let me take the cannula contraption off, too.

I was starting to screech by now. I felt like curling up around each contraction. I could swear my bones were cracking wide open. The midwife said my dilation was complete. My mom called my dad and told him that he should load up my siblings and hurry over.

Then the pain suddenly lulled. I felt nauseous. My legs started to shake really bad.

"Go grab a trashcan and put some towels in the dryer," my midwife whispered to my mom.

"No, no! My back!" I cried as Mom stopped pushing on my back and some of the pressure and pain returned.

My midwife quickly moved. She pushed on my back with one hand and rubbed my shaky legs with her other hand.

"It's alright, Jess. You're just getting ready to push. This is about to be over."

"I... can't wait..." I croaked.

Mom barely made it back in time with the trashcan. My whole body heaved in pain as I vomited into it. The shaking got worse as I threw up again and again. The midwife told my mom to go get the towels out of the dryer. They were warm by now. My team put them on my legs so they wouldn't shake so badly.

I was starting to feel pressure way down low. It got worse each time I threw up. It also made my bowels move with diarrhea. My midwife had soft paper towels nearby that she merrily wiped my butt with every time I needed it.

"I feel like pushing," I panted after another nasty dry heave.

"Go ahead then! It'll probably help you feel better," my midwife replied.

The contractions were starting to pick up. The pushing urge grew stronger with each wave. I clenched my husband's hand so hard it bruised as I growled and focused on the power surging inside of me.

Suddenly, the phone rang. I hardly noticed it, but my mom jumped to answer it. After a couple sentences she hung up and came to me.

"Your dad popped a truck tire on the road. I'm going to go pick him up," she said.

"Hurry!"

The next several minutes were a blur of pain. I squealed and hollered through every contraction, bearing down as hard as I could. I barely noticed my parents and siblings arriving. My dad and siblings sat in the living room, anxious and excited. My mom came back into my room. It felt better to push than to just bear the contractions, but exhaustion was quickly overtaking me. Even as the baby crowned, I felt like progress was inching along. The pain was so sharp, I kept pulling away from it, compromising my pushing power.

"I can't do this!" I cried, shaking my head and clenching my legs together. "It's so hard!"

"But you're so close!" my midwife encouraged. "Reach down! Your baby has hair! Feel it!"

I moved my hand and she guided it so I could touch the top of the baby's head. The hair felt soft and thick. Emotion surged through me, bringing tears to my eyes.

Somehow, along the way, I had forgotten why I was doing this. I had been so distracted by surviving and ending the pain, I had forgotten that I was having a baby. That I would see my child at the end of this.

Strength and determination came back to me. I pushed with all my might, and felt downward movement. Then I pushed again, holding my breath until I was blue in the face. Blackness closed in around my vision even as I suddenly felt a heavenly release.

The baby's head had slipped out. I sucked in a deep breath, hardly able to believe that I had survived.

"Hold up!" the midwife firmly cautioned. Her fingers moved like skilled lightning, unwinding two loops of cord from around the baby's neck.

The next contraction came on. The baby gracefully slid out into her hands. The pain drained out with it. Everything loosened and relaxed inside of me as I breathed a sigh of relief.

The baby squawked, then started loudly bleating. The midwife gently set him on my chest and rested a warm towel over our bodies. I looked down at slick black hair and purple skin as my baby writhed around, a jumble of arms and legs. My husband cried as he stroked the little, pointy head.

"Look at our baby! He's so beautiful!"

"I know," I agreed, petting the fuzzy hair covering the baby's back.

When the baby heard my voice, he stopped crying. His head bobbed as he worked little muscles, then his face lifted so I could see it.

Time stopped for me. This was my son! Big, murky eyes, tiny little nose, creamy vernix flaking everywhere.

Then his forehead wrinkled as he smiled. I smiled back. His head wearily rested on my chest again as his body cuddled against mine.

My labor with Elisha lasted for six hours. The sun was peeking up over the horizon outside as it ended.

In the years since then, every moment of pain has been repaid with joy.

It was all worth it.