Few things in my life have been more amazing, surreal, and disturbing than watching my baby enter this world. It's actually pretty damn difficult to describe what it's like to watch your baby crown. I felt some pressure, like I needed to take a massive sh*t, which is about the time my midwife invited me to take a peek and see if I could start pushing. She wheeled in a giant mirror and angled it so I could see my comically swollen vulva. I laid on my left side, placed my foot on her shoulder, and started to push like I've never pushed before.
It took a few practice pushes for me to get a hang of the whole "pushing another human being out of my body" thing, but seeing my daughter's head-full of dark hair helped me feel strong and motivated to push her into the world. It was really amazing, but also really gross, which pretty much describes parenthood in general, if you think about it. So consider the act of watching your baby crown to be a crash course in motherhood.
In my conversations with other moms, I have heard some similar experiences. Some thought the mirror was helpful, allowing them to actually see their pushing progress and motivating them to do that last little bit to push their babies into the world. Others marveled at the moment they realized that labor was coming to an end and that they would soon meet their babies. Some thought that while seeing their babies crown was amazing, seeing blood, fluids, and their poor mangled vulvas under pressure was another story entirely. Yikes. Others didn't like it at all. I think everyone I spoke with agreed that it was unique and unlike pretty much anything else in the human experience, though, and that highlights an incredible truth we can all agree on: our bodies are amazing.
"[My son] played peak-a-boo with me. He pushed 'out and in' three times before he starting crowning. I also wasn't prepared for how pale he was going to be. I knew he was mine because he was a complete fur ball."
"They told me to go home since it was my first, but I made them admit me. Four hours later I finally got an epidural, because I started passing out from pain at the crest of each contraction. Five minutes later a nurse came grumpily in to check me — I had been stuck three three centimeters for all that time. She started yelling at me to not laugh, cough, sneeze, or breathe heavily, raised the bed and went hollering off down the hall to get the doctor. There was a strategically placed mirror, and I realized I was looking at my daughter's head crowning. I remember thinking, 'Awww, no red hair.' (I'm a ginger, as are five of my eight siblings). I only got to see it for a few seconds. The doctor burst through the door, snapped on gloves, and caught her in the nick of time as she made her speedy entrance."
"My first thought: 'Wow, he's right there. This is almost over.'
Second thought: 'Holy sh*t is that my labia? That's bad.'"
"When my son started crowning, my OB-GYN said, 'Oh wow, look at that bald head.' She helped me reach down to feel the top of his head, and asked if I wanted a mirror to see. I said 'yes' and heard a nurse say, 'Man, that's the first time I've heard someone actually say yes.' It was amazing, and really helped motivate me to push because I got to see the progress I was making."
"Pushing wasn't going well, and my baby needed out sooner rather than later. Nurse Helpful grabbed a mirror and showed me exactly what I was doing. Out came baby within minutes. To be honest, I didn't notice any of my vaginal bits, just baby's head, blood, and a ton of meconium."
"When I delivered my second daughter, I was able to watch her being delivered in the reflection of an overhead light. Pushing had become difficult and seeing her head start to emerge was incredibly motivating. It gave me a burst of energy to push harder.
However, once her head was halfway out I could see that she was blue. I knew something was wrong and didn't need to ask any questions when my doctor called for the NICU, gave my nurse some instructions, and reached inside of me to pull my daughter out. I could see for myself how urgent it was. Her shoulder had gotten stuck in the canal. Fortunately thanks to my doctor's quick action and the NICU team, she is completely OK. I am glad that I was able to see. It helped me process what was happening a bit quicker."
"I had a mirror set up to watch,while I was pushing (all two and a half hours of it), and it was helpful to see the progress right up until the point where my daughter started crowning. Then it turned into a horror show. I wanted to see her make her appearance, but I never, ever wanted to see my vulva in that state."
"It was amazing! Watching the baby's head slowly come out with each push was the motivation I needed. The excitement of seeing the first glimpse of your long awaited baby is such a rush. I wasn't worried about the pain or how beat up I was going to be down there. In fact, it didn't cross my mind once while watching his head crowning. I highly recommend watching the delivery process with a mirror if your hospital offers."
"My kid came out waving. In this order: head, hand, arm, shoulder, shoulder. It was absolutely surreal, made better by the fact that I was 45 minutes into my epidural and I wasn't feeling any pain."
"I had a mirror for my first birth and absolutely loved it. It was amazing to watch the entire process and helped to motivate me through two hours of pushing. Nobody asked if I wanted a mirror for my second, and he came out after only a few minutes of pushing. I'm still a little sad that I missed out on that experience."
"I didn't like it. My midwife asked if I wanted to see his head. My partner ran around trying to find a mirror for me. I was really disappointed and discouraged that I could only see a slither of scalp. When she said 'head' I thought his head was out. I just yelled, 'No, take it away.'"
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