I woke up the morning before my due date to some faint period-like pains at 6 a.m. I incidentally had a prenatal appointment that morning, and I was lucky enough to have the midwives coming to my house. I knew this was the start of something, so I laid there and willed them to get stronger while I continued to try to sleep. I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl and I was excited to have my birth experience that I had been preparing myself for in the months past. They did get stronger, and I knew for sure this was the beginning. I nudged my husband Joe and said, “I’m having our baby tonight!” I was too excited to go back to sleep, plus they were a little too strong to ignore and I felt like I had so much to get done. I got out of bed at about 7 and called my mom, who lives an 8 hour drive away and couldn’t make it to the birth. We both had been bummed about it for months, since we are pretty much best friends and go through everything together. We both agreed this had to be it, and surprisingly they were consistently 5-7 minutes apart right from the beginning.
If I thought this was any indication of the length of my labor, I was wrong! I continued to have them 5-7 minutes apart and the midwives arrived at 9:30 for my prenatal appointment. I bounced on my birthing ball and Dorothy made a comment like, “You look like you’re in labor!” to which I said, “Well, we are pretty sure we are in labor!” At the end of the appointment they checked my cervix at my request and found me to be at 2 cm and 60 % effaced at a -1 station. I had plans on making treats and even putting supper on through early labor, but the contractions were never as spaced out as I thought they’d be, and I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to nap in the recliner but I had sporadic periods where the contractions would be only 2 minutes apart and a minute long, for almost an hour. At this point, Joe got the pool out that was already blown up. The only way I was comfortable was on my side; I knew this wasn’t going to get the baby to move down but I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. I had been vocalizing through many of them at this point, but not quite enough of them. Sleep never came, and I had been texting Dorothy who was doing other prenatal visits in the area. She told me when they were consistently strong contractions to let her know.
It was about 3:00 when I texted her that we were filling the pool and going for a walk. Joe took me outside and we made it to the end of the block and back, pausing about 4 times to breathe through the contractions. Dorothy and Pia arrived at around 4, and I was bouncing on the birthing ball. They encouraged me to try some hands and knees positions to keep her moving down. I switched between the birthing ball and laying my arms on the couch with my knees on the floor. It hurt way too much, I thought, to keep this up long. Unfortunately throughout the rest of my labor, this helpful position was the least tolerable one for me. I held off getting in the pool until 6 pm, when I just couldn’t take it anymore and needed some relief. Before I got in, Dorothy checked me again. The first time was a little uncomfortable, but this time I tried to visualize my cervix opening as I concentrated, and it was completely painless (Thanks Ina May!) My mucus plug dislodged this time, and I was at 6 cm and 0 station. The pool brought a lot of relief at first, later on I didn’t realize how much it helped unless I got caught on the toilet with a contraction, which had me hurrying back to the pool. My mom was watching on Skype. I lamented about how I really wanted more than one child, but this was just too much. She told me it was worth it every time. I had my arms up on the edges of the pool, and I remember joking about how I had an irrational urge to keep my armpits from getting wet. The midwives wrote this and a couple of other funny things down for us so we'd remember them. Everyone laughed and I really felt in a good place and staying on top of things by breathing through it. By 7 pm, my contractions were almost back to back and I was getting less rest between them than they were lasting. The midwives encouraged me to try hands and knees, or leaning over the pool. At first I powered through the pain but the pressure in my rectum was far too great to keep trying to bring my baby down properly. Twice I stood with my arms around my husband’s neck with his full support and swaying my hips. It was agonizing compared to sitting in the pool.
By this time I was pretty emotionally overwhelmed, periodically tears would stream out and the midwifes kept whispering encouraging words, telling me I was doing great and reminding me to relax. It was SO so hard to relax, but I found that at the peak of the contraction when I knew it’d get easier was when I could finally let go each time. Joe kept reminding me how great I was doing and it helped so much. An hour and a half of this and my water broke in the pool as I sat with my legs in front of me, the only way I could keep grounded. I knew she was coming and while I was excited I was still trying to cope with the feeling of immense pressure in my pelvis with the contractions. Dorothy let me know that they would feel different from here on out, and I remember asking if it would get worse. She assured me it would just be ‘different’. I was starting to get out of breath from dealing with the pain and I felt like I couldn’t get my breath. My back was hurting from bracing myself against the pool with my arms- a sure sign I was having trouble holding tension. I moved around a little more, completely restless and in pain no matter how I seemed to move. Before long I had to get out of the pool to try lying on my side to rest my back. It was fatigued and I knew I couldn’t push the baby out in the same position I had been clinging to for the last hour or so.
We all went to my bed where I laid on my left side, I felt my body pushing down, and said “I’m pushing.” All I remember was soothing words being spoken and looking at Joe’s face as he held my hand he looked intense and amazed, as he felt for the baby’s head inside me. I attempted to feel her head once but it broke my focus so I declined to feel her again. Eventually I ended up on my back because my pelvis wouldn’t open enough that way. Dorothy reminded me to work with my body and to not resist, so I started helping push her out as my body worked. I couldn’t get my breath, and Pia brought oxygen in and it was a lifesaver. I could breathe finally and I screamed like a warrior woman. I had never felt a more important task on my shoulders before. I remember Joe looking at me as if he were shocked, and he told me I was his hero. Seeing his face gave me the strength to push my baby out and later I was told that I started smiling while pushing her out. A lot of smiling, and a lot of screaming. I felt like the scream helped draw my strength out and I used that to help me push. I talked to her and told her to come out. Someone suggested I get on my hands and knees and I remember saying it would hurt to move. I’m pretty sure it was Angy who said that anything would be uncomfortable at this point, while I obediently “rolled” over onto my knees with Joe supporting the top half of my body and I pushed against him. Joe told me later that her heart tones had been decelerating, and that prompted the position switch. This was so much easier! I pushed her head out, and then Joe switched places with Angy bracing me now, and he went to catch his little girl as I pushed the rest of her out. Her cord was wrapped once, and they handed her wet little body to me and I was so happy and relieved. I had actually done it, and I said, “I did it!” I remember the sweet smell of all the afterbirth and it was so strange but awesome.
I laid down on the bed with my baby wrapped in a warm towel. She had her hand on my breast and even made an attempt to use her hand to get my nipple in her mouth. She fed right away, and we only had problems getting the swing of things for about a day. I attribute my breastfeeding success so far to her awesome instincts! My whole body was shaking and shivering, from exhaustion and cold. Joe wrapped me up as I lay there and the shaking subsided after a few minutes and I could finally focus on my baby after a surreal and crazy experience. Our major birth high lasted for 3 days, and I am still thinking back to bits and pieces every day and am amazed and utterly star struck at how wonderful it was despite the agonizing pain. I feel like such a strong woman, like I could do anything!