As marathon runners and triathletes, my husband, Bob, and I felt prepared walking into our first birth class. We figured birth was just another endurance event and, of course, we’d seen the movie Knocked Up!
But as we began to watch the first birth video, Bob’s face paled in the flickering light of the television. I started to sweat. If we were going to get through this, we needed a coach.
When the lights came up, we approached Rachel, our instructor. As both a doula and a marathon runner, we thought she’d be perfect for us. Bob and I promoted our qualifications like job applicants. We knew how to work as a team. Plus, we lived close by. That sealed the deal, and Rachel was hired as our labor instructor.
During the final months of my pregnancy, ongoing round-ligament pain made waddling down the hall to the bathroom every 20 minutes a slow and painful process, which turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. I was nervous and excited when I went into labor, just like at the start of a race, but after 18 hours, the contractions began to grip my lower back in painful spasms.
When Rachel called Bob for an update, I moaned, “I’m fine.” Wisely, they both ignored me and soon Rachel was on her way. I distracted myself by keeping a log of times. Bob distracted himself by making his first casserole. When Rachel arrived, we both nearly wept with relief, and at midnight we left for the hospital.
Bob and I had both completed Ironman Triathlons in 12 hours. But somehow, after 28 hours of labor, I was going nowhere fast. In the hopes of speeding things up, the doctor administered Pitocin. Four hours later, nothing had changed. When the midwife broke my water, we were even more discouraged: The baby was backwards.
Rachel showed me different positions to try in order to turn the baby around. It seemed impossible. I didn’t want to give in and take pain medication, but I desperately needed a break and decided to get a shot of Fentanyl. After the drugs had worn off, Rachel looked me in the eyes and made me confront what I had been avoiding: “You’ve got to get this baby out.”
Rachel coached me through the next contraction. I imagined running up a hill in The San Francisco Marathon—the first race Bob and I had done together—and, muscles burning, the baby turned to the correct position. I looked at Bob and made up my mind. I was fully dilated and it was time to have this baby.
No one had told me that pushing was such hard work. The midwife cheered, “You can do it!” with unflagging enthusiasm. I looked at Bob and saw his eyes fill with awe and tears. After nearly 43 hours, we finally reached the finish line. Our trophy was Audrey, a beautiful baby girl.
— Jennifer Colvin
Jennifer Colvin lives with her family in Burlingame, CA.