Last Tuesday, August 13, Chris and I got into bed a little after 11pm. Chris was playing a game on his laptop and I was sitting beside him, reviewing my Birth Boot Camp workbook. I flipped to the section on pressure points and tried out a couple that were supposed to induce labor. I wasn’t really expecting anything to come of it but I was certainly tired of being so huge and uncomfortable and excited to meet my little girl.
After a little while I started to feel some mild cramping (until recently I didn’t connect these to the acupressure). Honestly it just felt like menstrual cramps and I had felt some of those earlier in my pregnancy and so I thought nothing of it. I started falling asleep and then noticed that it wasn’t just a random cramp here or there, but they were coming in waves. They didn’t last very long but there was definitely some sort of pattern. I told Chris what was going on and he suggested a bath. Um yes please! I’m a huge fan of baths for cramping so I figured this would be a good way to combat these..whatever they were.
I hopped (ever so gracefully in my orbital state) into the shower and let it run until it filled up the bath. I continued to have these ‘cramps’ pretty regularly. Chris helped me time them because I couldn’t think long enough to do it myself. One would be about 30 seconds long and then the next one would be a minute long. I was still so convinced that I wasn’t actually having contractions. I made Chris promise not to be mad if this were not in fact the start of labor. I was so concerned that I was making all of this up and had kept us awake for no reason.
After about an hour in the bath (starting up the shower every time I got a little cold) I got out and laid in bed. Before I could get comfortable I was hit with a huge wave of nausea and threw up before I could get out of bed. Thankfully Chris was quick and caught it all in the towel he pulled off my head.
I was able to sleep in between contractions. I woke up to hit the timer, dozed off a little during the contraction and then woke up when it finished to stop the timer. A couple of times I had crazy strong contractions and woke Chris up to get something for me to throw up in. I actually preferred those contractions because the throwing up took my mind off the pain. Oddly enough I preferred the dry heaving to the contraction. I was supposed to be eating and staying hydrated but I couldn’t keep anything down, so I just concentrated on drinking plenty of water.
Chris tried to sleep when I did but he woke up during most of my contractions to make sure I was doing okay. A couple of times I moved to my birth ball which was occasionally more comfortable than the bed. Without the warmth of the water soothe me, Chris made some ‘heating pads’ out of socks filled with rice that he heated in the microwave. Those were a lifesaver. After one of my contractions Chris looked at all the ones we had timed (we were keeping track of them in an app) and realized that my contractions followed the 5-1-1 rule: 5 minutes apart, one minute in duration for an hour. He said it was time to call the midwife. I couldn’t believe it, this couldn’t really be happening…was I actually about to have a baby?! I wasn’t really that freaked out, in fact I was pretty calm. I think I was in denial.
Chris grabbed my ‘go bag’ that had been packed since week 36 and we got in the car. I only had one contraction in the car before we got to the birth center. Then I had another right when we got inside the lobby area. The midwives seemed impressed by how I handled it. We got to the birth center at around 4am. They said that they’d noticed in my birth plan that I had requested no vaginal exams and asked how I’d like them to track my progress. I said the biggest thing for me was that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was. I’d heard that a lot of women hear how much they’ve dilated, then don’t progress for a couple hours and get discouraged. Little did I know that knowing how far I was wouldn’t matter…I’d still have a hard time progressing.
So they checked me and let me know that they’d admit me. I would find out at the end of the labor and birth that I was 7 cm dilated when I checked in. My sister-in-law said that after watching me she would have guessed that I was at a 4. Guess I handled the contractions pretty well.
They started filling up the gloriously deep jacuzzi tub after that. This thing was so fantastic. I could sit in it cross legged and the water still covered my belly. I was planning on a water birth but knew that in the thick of it a laboring mother’s mind could change, so I was flexible to whatever needed to happen to get my baby out.
Contractions in the tub were awesome. I mean I didn’t love the pain but they were so easy to manage. I found that if I pushed my knees up against one side of the tub it pushed my back against the other side and the pressure made the contraction all but disappear. Every so often I still needed a bucket to throw up in but I only threw up water so it wasn’t bad. I tried to eat saltines but I couldn’t even make it through one cracker.
The hot water from the bath felt really good, but my body was going through so much during contractions that I got too hot and sweaty. My knight in shining armor got a cold wash cloth to put on my head and neck to help me cool down a little. I had my birth playlist playing, my amazing husband keeping me company and being the biggest support in the world and a relaxing jacuzzi bath that I was actually able to use to relax in between contractions. After about 3 hours my midwife came back in and asked to check me. She seemed surprised that I wasn’t ready to push yet. Not wanting to tell me how dilated I was, she went to confer with another midwife about what should be done. All the while everyone who came to check on me commented on how well I was doing. The whole time I kept thinking that something was wrong because it didn’t seem hard enough. I kept expecting it to get much worse at any moment.
When my midwife came back, she informed me that I hadn’t progressed in the three hours since I had been there. According to her, it was time to do something different to get things moving. My options were to try different positions, walk around and if all else fails they wanted to break my water. Breaking my water was something I had requested to not be done on my birth plan. Once again they acknowledged this and asked what I wanted to do about it. I was so appreciative that they paid attention to my birth plan and consulted me before doing anything.
Chris and I decided to try moving around before we resorted to breaking my water. I wanted to avoid unnecessary intervention if at all possible. I got out of the tub and tried the birth ball (basically just an exercise ball). It actually felt pretty good, Chris was sitting in front of me and when I had a contraction I could lean over on him. My heated rice pack/socks were also fantastically helpful. Through this whole process Chris was so encouraging and always said the right thing to help me through each contraction. Usually though, all I needed was his touch to know that he was there and I wouldn’t have to do this alone.
While I was in the tub, the midwife pretty much left us alone apart from the occasional monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. I hadn’t been on the birth ball for long before she came in and encouraged me to get up and walk around. I really didn’t want to. In fact, all I wanted to do was get back in the tub and relax. Contractions weren’t so bad in there. But I think I was too relaxed in the tub which is why I hadn’t progressed. Contractions out of the tub were pretty awful but I wanted to do whatever I had to get my baby out.
**Interesting side note: During this whole time it still hadn’t clicked for me that the pain I was going through would produce a baby. I didn’t ever let the thought enter my mind. I’m not sure why. I never really got excited about meeting my daughter. I was just in focused labor-mode.**
Once off the birth ball, Chris helped me put some clothes on (all I was wearing was a bikini top) and we headed outside to walk around the courtyard. The more I walked, the more uncomfortable my contractions became. But I was okay with it because I knew that the worse the contractions got, the sooner the process would be over. We walked around the courtyard twice and then headed inside to walk up and down the stairs. Down. Contraction. Up. Contraction. Down. Contraction. Not all the way up. Contraction. They were coming closer and stronger. When I had one I would lean against the wall and Chris would put pressure on my lower back which really helped with the pain.
Around this time one of the midwives tried to get me to eat but I just couldn’t do it. I kept throwing up. The best I could do was water. After the stairs, we decided to go ahead and let them break my water. At this point I didn’t really care. I just wanted the labor to progress. It was such an odd feeling. I laid on the bed with Chris sitting at my head, playing with my hair, and then whoosh, a rush of warm water spilled out of me everywhere. After that I asked to get back in the tub to push. I still wanted that glorious water birth!
People had told me that when it came time to push, they had this overwhelming desire to do so and it was such a relief. It was not that way for me. I felt no need to push and it DID NOT feel good or relieving. I much preferred nursing the contractions in the comfort of the warm water. The midwife told me that when I felt a contraction, I should push as hard as I could. For several contractions I tried to push while breathing out and avoid any ‘purple pushing’ that could potentially pop a blood vessel. I started to get tired and frustrated that nothing was happening. It was around this time that one of the midwives brought me a glass of apple juice with some salt in it. I’m not sure why it had salt in it but I slowly sipped it in between contractions.
During this whole pushing adventure, the bathroom was full of people. My original midwife had to leave to teach a class, and another midwife I hadn’t met before came to stand in. But the main midwife I was working with was a student. There were also two other students in the room, my sister-in-law who was doing the photography, my birth instructor and my beautiful encouraging husband. After a while of pushing (I have no idea how long, I wasn’t really “all there” mentally at this point) they discovered that my baby’s head was pushed down so that her ear was pressed against her shoulder. This meant the portion trying to come out was the other side of her head (ear coming out first). This would simply not do. I kept trying to push and heard myself say, several times, “I can’t do this,” or “It hurts!” To which the reply was a chorus of “Yes you can” and “You’re doing great!” from all the women in the room. It was so empowering to have other women who’ve been there before, cheering me on. But the voice that stood out the most was my sweet husband. I couldn’t tell you exactly what he said, but every time he said anything I remembered what I was doing and why I was doing it and that I wasn’t alone. He was my strength.
At one point the stand in midwife had me grab onto her hands when a contraction came, bare down and try to pull her into the tub. I guess that was supposed to help me push but it just made me more tired. I was so exhausted. Then it was suggested that I move to the birth stool. If you’ve never seen one, it’s basically a ‘U’ shaped stool so you could push out a baby and someone could catch the baby from underneath you. Chris sat in a chair behind me and held me when it became the hardest. Once again, the midwives referenced my birth plan in which we said that we wanted dad to catch the baby. But in his position behind me that would be impossible. At that point we decided that he was needed more to support me. I know he would have loved to watch our daughter enter the world, but he knew that I couldn’t do it without his support. I pushed on the stool for a while with my legs up on two different midwives shoulders. As I pushed with all my might, a third midwife had her hands inside me to try and turn my baby’s head so she could progress down the birth canal. Talk about uncomfortable. I can still remember what that felt like, and there was nothing good about it.
A contraction came, it hurt and I pushed with all my might. It reached a point that I was holding my breath and pushing hard enough that it didn’t hurt as bad but then I got tired and had to take a breath and stop pushing and it hurt all over again. The pain seemed unbearable. They moved me to the bed where I pushed first on my side, then on my back. The midwife was still trying to turn baby girl’s head in an uncomfortable manner. I was told that things were moving, but they didn’t seem to be moving fast enough because they decided to move me back to the birth stool.
“I can’t do this.” I repeated it over and over again. “It hurts so bad.” I was crying. Several pushes were accompanied by screams. My classes taught me that high pitched screams didn’t do any good and I remembered this as I was screaming. But I couldn’t help it. The pain was excruciating. A thought entered my mind as I screamed: It was my mother telling me that she was never one of those women who felt the need to scream during her labor and she too had natural childbirth. But scream I did. I don’t know when but at some point they put me on oxygen. I was exhausted. It was too hard. I really thought that the baby would never come out. I honestly believed I couldn’t do it.
They were about to move me back to the bed when a contraction came, and it was a strong one. This was it. Without any direction I bent over, wrapped my arms under my thighs, held my breath and pushed harder than I knew possible.
“That’s it!” the chorus of midwives encouraged.
I stopped briefly to take another breath and continued to push with more force this time. Out popped the head.
This was it. One more breath and I pushed with a strength I didn’t know I had and the rest of her body slid out. She was born at 10:48 AM on Wednesday August 14.
A midwife caught her and I reached down to pull her up to my chest. The following thoughts and emotions occurred spit fire in a matter of seconds, one right after the other: An immediate sense of relief and feeling of released pressure followed by intense stinging, then there was my slippery baby in my arms crying out. Her umbilical cord seemed so short. This isn’t real. Can this baby really be mine? Is this her? Is this my daughter? Someone should check if she’s really a girl or if the ultra sound tech in Hawaii was an idiot. (I feared my whole pregnancy that she would turn out to be a he.) This can’t possibly be my baby, she’s so tiny and red and angry. But she just came out of me. She is the one I’ve been carrying around all these months. This is my daughter, my Evelyn, my baby girl.
They told me to talk to her, that it would help her calm down. I was sobbing with a joy and relief I had never before known. I looked to Chris who looked from me to our daughter and kissed me. “This is our baby,” I said.
The midwives helped me and Evelyn, who was still attached to the placenta, to the bed. I don’t actually remember this, I just know I was in the bed at one point. The midwives had wiped her up and sucked stuff out of her mouth to help her breath. Everything was happening so fast, I couldn’t concentrate on one thing. Suddenly I was told to push again and out came the placenta. That hurt. I was still stinging so badly.
I was holding my beautiful baby girl and Chris was enamored by her and I was trying to focus on her but it just stung so bad. The following order of events is a little blurred. The midwives searched me for tears. (Ow times a million). They gave me a few shots (Ow and I cried). and proceeded to stitch me up. I was outfitted with an attractive adult diaper and an ice pack that helped the pain about .1%. We were left to have some family cuddling time. They came back to measure and weigh baby girl. My mom came to meet her granddaughter, the midwives brought us some breakfast/lunch, then we had 3 or 4 hours to hang out before we went home. After such an exhausting evening and morning, the 3 of us fell fast asleep all cuddled together in bed. And at some point in there before baby girl got her diaper she pooped sticky tar poop all over me.
When it was time to get up and go home, I found that walking was near impossible. My tailbone was rather unhappy with me. Chris dressed baby girl and put her in her carseat and loaded the car and helped both of his girls to get inside so he could drive us home.
On Evelyn’s birthday, I told Chris he better like this girl cause she was the only child he would get. But now, over a week later, I’m already starting to forget how bad everything hurt. I can remember how exhausted I felt and my perception of the pain, but I can’t remember the pain itself.
Looking back, despite the nearly 2 hours of pushing, I would choose a birth center with no medication all over again. I can’t imagine the kinds of interventions that would take place if I were in a hospital with a baby whose head was positioned poorly. Not to mention I don’t think I’d have been able to manage the pain without the use of the tub and options to move around. I was in such a comfortable situation with low lights, music of my choice and 5 people who were at my beck and call, knew me without having to check a chart and were only helping me and not another 15 women also giving birth. I had a support system of women who had been in my shoes and were encouraging me to succeed. I think it was the best way I could’ve given birth and I’m so grateful my husband agreed to it despite us having to pay out of pocket since our insurance wouldn’t cover any of it.
Want to hear more about the benefits of natural childbirth or how great it is to be in a birth center? Check out my post on why I chose a birth center!