Birth Story Part 1

Belly on my due date

There I am in my last weekly belly photo, on my due date. I was prepared to wait it out until baby was ready to make his or her debut, but I didn’t have to wait long. After going to bed that night I was woken up at 4 am by my first contraction. I tried to go back to sleep as I was taught in the Bradley classes, but I was so excited that I didn’t fall asleep for 2 hours. I got up around 8am and went about my normal day since the contractions were mild. I finished a few lingering items on my to do list, like adding an initial to our reusable wipes (we are using a diaper washing service), cutting breast pads from leftover batting, and adding the last of the items to the hospital bag (just in case we had to transfer).

At 7pm my husband came home from work. Since this was my first labor I really wasn’t sure if I was getting excited about nothing. We started timing the contractions, just to see if there was any pattern. They were regular but far apart and still mild. At 8pm we called our Bradley teacher and talked for a bit. She recommended we call our midwife to let her know that labor might be soon but we weren’t sure. We called the midwife and she suggested I take a bath and try to get some sleep. We had a quick dinner and I took a warm bath.

By 10pm, I couldn’t sleep because the contractions were picking up and at midnight I woke my husband up because I felt like I was at the point that I needed some support. We called our doula and she came over around 1:30am. Throughout the night the doula and my husband helped me relax all my muscles and I breathed slowly during each contraction, letting my body do the work. The contractions were getting stronger and closer together but I was feeling confident that we could do this. I spent some time in the bathtub, on a ball and in the bed. In the wee hours of the morning, we used the side-lying relaxation position which made my contractions spread out so that I was able to sleep between them for a few minutes at a time.

Labor in the bathtub

I had a prenatal appointment scheduled with the midwife for Friday morning, so she joked that I kept my appointment when we got up in the morning and called her over. By this time it had been about 12 hours since the hard contractions began and I debated if I wanted to know how far I was dilated. I was afraid to be discouraged if it was very little, but decided to find out. I was only at 3 cm! The midwife dilated me to 4 cm during one of my contractions and repositioned the baby’s head, which was not hitting directly on the cervix. I hoped the repositioning would get things moving faster. We also tried a homeopathic, a shower, some stair climbing and nipple stimulation and the contractions got more intense and closer together. The midwife went to do some prenatal visits in the area and said she would come back whenever we wanted.

My contractions were all over the place, spreading out whenever I used the two relaxation positions we learned in the Bradley class but becoming very intense and almost on top of each other every time I went to the bathroom. (I was drinking a lot of raspberry leaf tea, juice and water and had to pee at least every hour.) The contractions gradually got stronger, and by this point were much harder than what I described as hard contractions that started 24 hours before. When I was in the bathroom the intensity of the contractions was at the limit of what I felt I could handle. I was determined to labor without medication so I focused on the progress and the purpose of each contraction, rather than pain. I don’t really even remember it as pain, but as a wave of tightness pulling in, moving through my abdomen, peaking and then diminishing. I was relieved but not surprised that the contractions never got so strong that I couldn’t handle them.

The midwife came back to check on me again Friday night and I was up to 7 cm and really “soft and thin.” She dilated me to 8 cm and said we can decide if we want to try to keep things going or get some rest since it was 10pm again. I was feeling exhausted since I got a short night of sleep Wednesday night and no sleep Thursday night, so we decided to take a rest. I was able to tailor sit on the couch so that my contractions stayed close together and I put a nursing pillow around my neck and slept between contractions again. It wasn’t much sleep, but it made a huge difference.

At about 6am Saturday morning I took a rest in the bed with both my husband our doula, me side-lying with my husband acting as a body pillow and both of them getting some well deserved sleep. They had been up with me since Thursday night timing contractions, massaging me, reminding me to drink and eat, etc. I was able to sleep for about 5 minutes at a time because in the side-lying position my contractions spread out to 6-7 minutes apart. I kept drinking fluids and every hour or so I continued to get up to go to the bathroom and have some more of the harder contractions, with the hope that they were making a lot of progress!

Having a contraction

It was very strange seeing the sun come up and go down multiple times during the whole process. When the sun came up again on Saturday morning I decided to try to stay active so that I would hopefully be fully dilated by the time the midwife came back again. When she came back I was fully dilated, but with a small lip in the front. At this point, both of the midwives were there and we talked over what to do. They thought the baby’s head might be able to put the right pressure and get rid of the lip if they broke my waters. In the back of my mind, I still had the fantasy that we might have an “in the caul” baby, but I was exhausted and hoping we would get to the pushing stage soon, so I went for it.

After rupturing the membranes we tried another homeopathic, laboring on a birthing stool and squatting. The contractions were really intense and close together but after about an hour in the squatting position, I still wasn’t feeling the urge to push. The midwives said I was making some “pushy noises” so they checked me again. The lip was still there, but soft enough that it could be held out of the way to let the baby’s head come through. After almost 40 hours of ┬áhard work, it was finally time to push!

Continue to Part 2.