My official due date was January 22, but because of my history of miscarriages, and also because of my D&Cs with two of those miscarriages, I was at some increased risk for pre-term labor. So we spent the whole pregnancy very focused on January 1—the day I would reach 37 weeks, and when the baby would be full-term. We knew that if I could make it to then that everything would be fine…well, that day came, and that day went… I had not really expected to deliver early, but we had spent so much time focusing on making it to that day that when it finally came I found myself suddenly very impatient! In my 37-8th weeks of pregnancy I gained a LOT of amniotic fluid, and my belly stretched disproportionately faster than it had in the entire pregnancy…I’d had one little row of stretch marks along the bottom of my belly, and then in my 37th week I gained a full second row above it, and in my 38th week I gained a row above that—AND 7 lbs (all in one week). I looked and felt huge and uncomfortable, and was feeling VERY ready for this baby to come… It was so tempting to try induce labor…but I believe strongly that God and Mother Nature know best, so I waited it out…impatiently.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan 14, I was getting quite a few contractions. I’d had days with lots of contractions more than once in the prior two weeks, and nothing had come of them…but I had a gut feeling that this was different. Sure enough I woke up nearly hourly all night long, and finally at 6:30am, after 4 contractions in 15 min, I concluded that I was not going to get back to sleep this time, so I got up. I didn’t feel at all rested. As I got up I felt a gush of warm fluid and thought my water must have broken. I had several contractions and decided to take a warm bath, which felt GREAT. Around 8 I called my sister K, who was going to help with our 6yo son W at the birth, and I also called my mom and told her I thought today was the day.
Throughout the morning I had very irregular contractions, but they were never more than about 10 min apart, and since they had kicked in rather rapidly (gone from 20 min to 5-7 apart) I figured I should call the doula. I was guessing we’d probably have a baby by dinner time. The doula came down around noon, but said I was definitely still in early labor, because I could talk through the contractions. My sister in law came over with her kids to watch W, and Daddy and the doula and I took a walk for a while to see if things would pick up…but they didn’t really. Around 3:30 Daddy and I tried to take a nap, figuring we’d need the rest, but after two horrible contractions in the bed I knew there was no way I could sleep, and no way I could lay in a bed, so I got on the birth ball, leaning onto a pile of pillows at the edge of the bed, and that was MUCH better. At this point I needed to pay attention to the contractions, but I could still talk through them, so everybody figured we probably still had a while…on the other hand, by about 6 I was so uncomfortable off the ball that I decided I’d rather go to the hospital earlier rather than later, because it’s a 15 min drive and I did NOT want to have too many of these contractions buckled in a car rather than on the ball! We left around 7. My sister in law got dinner for all the kids and then took them all to her place to put hers to bed (then she came back to put W to bed here).
At the hospital they checked me and ran their test strip and it showed that I was having 1 min contractions every 4 min—just like clockwork. I guess there are different kinds of contractions though, because I was only really feeling every second or third one, which is why I thought they were still irregular. However, I was only 4cm (in spite of being 100% effaced). All that amniotic fluid I gained in those last two weeks had caused the baby to float back up to a -2, so his head was not pressing on my cervix and I was not dilating effectively at all. They tested to see if my water HAD broken (because obviously that would put us on a timeline) and the test came back negative. I still think I’d had a little leak in the morning, but I know sometimes there are high leaks which then shift so they don’t keep leaking, so maybe that’s what happened. Regardless, the doctor said that especially with a first baby labor can be pretty slow, and he knew I didn’t want interventions, so he was ready to send me home unless I wanted to have my water broken. Well, I figured I had already missed one night’s sleep, and I knew I wasn’t going to sleep this night either, and yes, amniotomy makes the contractions faster and harder, but that was going to happen sooner or later anyway…so we opted for sooner, so I could be a little less tired for the hard parts. We knew there was the chance that labor wouldn’t kick in, and we’d have to do pitocin or something…but I really didn’t think that was likely since I already had a solid labor pattern going, so we said let’s go for it. We finally got all checked in about 9pm.
The doctor said he’d be there in a couple of hours, so we tried to work with lots of labor positions and things to encourage some more dilation before he came (why waste time, right?). My doula’s experience came in handy here as she knew lots of things to try. Dr P arrived about 11, checked me, and announced that I was solidly at 4cm…still…he broke my water, and checked me again, and I was at 6cm. Gee, I guess that was the right choice! I also flooded the bed—he said it was probably about a quart of water that came out, and I had a second flood 30 min later that was at least as big, so I was right about having a lot of water! Interestingly, even though the contractions DID get closer and harder with the amniotomy, they got easier to handle for a while because my belly wasn’t under such pressure from all the water! (I could actually see it visibly shrink!)
Things did pick up, and I started having to concentrate more. I had a lot of aching in my lower back, and even though we knew S wasn’t fully posterior, we guessed that his head must be a little off kilter. We tried changing positions (the first couple of contractions after a change were always rough) and the doula pushed my tummy around a bit…I really don’t know if any of that helped, but all I wanted was heat on my lower back. I had some rice warmers but the nurses wouldn’t let us heat them up because of liability because someone had gotten burned on one once…stupid malpractice suits…so my doula went down to her car and got a bag from China Express and put the warmers in it and then asked at the front desk (downstairs) if there was somewhere she could heat up her dinner… We figure she wasn’t lying too much, cuz it WAS rice, right?! Anyway, she was able to find a microwave and get them heated and they were SO wonderful. That was the worst part about shifting positions was that I’d lose my heat for a minute!
We weren’t sure how long it would be, but since things seemed to be moving along, we called my sister K, and she grabbed her husband R, and they came and got our six year old son W and brought him up to the hospital. They ended up having to sit around for 4 hours…but that’s better than missing the birth, right?!
Somewhere along in here I started hyperventilating. To relax I was taking deep slow breaths…well, either they weren’t as deep as I thought, or there were too few of them because they were slow…however it was, I wasn’t getting enough oxygen for me (or for the baby) and I needed to change…only I was getting into laborland (or possibly getting lightheaded from lack of oxygen) and I couldn’t figure out how to change my breathing. Again the doula’s experience came in handy in knowing what to do, but it was my husband’s voice that I wanted…We had brought massage oils and lotions and music and all kinds of things but most of them stayed in the bag. For several hours all he did was breathe with me…I couldn’t figure out or remember how to do it on my own from breath to breath, I just needed him to do it with me over and over and over. I can’t imagine how boring it must have been on his end!
I guess this was the hard part of labor, but one thing was really a lifesaver: I don’t know if it was my husband or the doula who said it first, but my husband just kept repeating to me “you can do anything for one minute” and then he would breathe with me, and sure enough, I could do anything for one minute…because every contraction ends. So I would just focus on where I was at that moment, and breathe with him, and know it wouldn’t last very long. I wasn’t even thinking about the baby during contractions. The one other thing I remember is having a really really dry mouth…thankfully they brought me juice and water and I was able to frequently drink…but I still had severe cotton-mouth.
I guess it was around 3am I started feeling pushy. It was funny, because the nurse came in to check on us and asked if I was feeling pushy yet, and it hadn’t even occurred to me…I was just taking one contraction at a time. But with the very next one I did feel slightly pushy…maybe it was the power of suggestion! The nurse checked me and I was complete but I had a little bit of lip. It was on the front, so they helped me get on my hands and knees to try to get the baby’s head pushing on that area. THAT was really hard—I think mostly because I was sooooooo tired at this point. But it worked, and after a few minutes I got to lay back down and start pushing. Pushing was a whole different ball game, because I was no longer breathing through contractions, now I was supposed to put that energy into pushing. Pushing was a relief because it was different, but it was also hard because they wanted me to hold my breath and push…and I felt like I just couldn’t get enough air! I had read all the books and had really wanted to be upright and breathe my baby out gently and all those things, but when it came down to it, I didn’t want to get up, I just wanted to stay there on my back and push like crazy, so I did. We tried side-lying for a while but I was less effective that way, so mostly I just stayed on my back. My arms got exhausted from holding my legs so we got the doula on one side and the nurse on the other and they held my legs for me so I could push against them—that helped a lot because I could just focus on one thing—pushing—I didn’t have to try to remember my legs. (My husband held my legs for a while, but he was exhausted too, and as crowning neared he stopped helping that way because he was getting ready to catch the baby!) My contractions got further apart during this stage…I wasn’t really watching the clock, but I think they were at least 5 min apart. Everybody commented that they had slowed down, but I think it was because my body knew I was exhausted, and needed to rest…and rest I did. I was almost asleep between contractions. (I guess that’s why pushing didn’t seem to take so long to me…even though it was two hours!)
I’d brought a bunch of CDs to listen to, but when it came down to it, the one I wanted to hear (over and over and over) was “Junior Asparagus’ Bedtime Songs” from veggietales…it’s just a bunch of lullabies, but it was perfect. At one point the doula changed the CD (probably because she was going insane) but it got changed back before very long.
At some point Dr P came in and started helping. He did some perineal massage and stretching all of which I’m sure was helpful… When the baby’s head finally crowned, I reached down and touched his head. I think that was the moment that it really fully registered that there was actually going to be a real little person at the end of all this! I said “hey S__, we’re almost there, we can do this!” (In late pregnancy and early labor I’d talked and sung to him a lot, but somewhere in mid-labor I stopped…but there were always the lullabies!) They brought in a mirror so I could see S being born, and I did see him crown, but I kept closing my eyes, so I missed seeing the actual birth. He was coming down well with my pushing, but kept moving back up between contractions, even with the nurse keeping a hand on him through my tummy…after a few times where he was really close, the doctor told me he was going to catch under the baby’s chin and help get his head out…I’m not certain what he did, other than that on my next push the nurse pushed down from the top and the doctor pushed things around at the bottom and I felt like I was ripping like a sheet…and POP there was a head! The instant it was out the doctor said “the cord is around his neck twice and tight I have to cut it now” and he had it cut almost before he finished the sentence…then he moved over so daddy could move in and catch S the rest of the way. He laid him right on my tummy, and everything got very surreal. S was floppy, and the nurse and the doula were rubbing him and we were all talking to him, trying to get him to perk up. He was breathing, and looking around, but also looking very shell-shocked. Dr P brought W over and helped him cut the cord nearer S’s navel (the original plan had been for W to cut the cord), and then they took S over to the little warmer to try to get him to perk up. He had some mucus in his tummy, and I really think that was probably the biggest struggle for him…but they took him down to the nursery to check him out anyway. I was sad that he had to go, but daddy got to go with him, and W and Uncle R went too and watched through the window. Meanwhile I was delivering the placenta and getting stitched up—I had three small tears and got 5 stitches…not too bad I guess, considering that I really wasn’t controlled in my pushing at all, I was just trying to get the kid out! As Dr P went to give me the numbing shot he said “this will pinch a little” and I actually laughed out loud and said “you think a tiny little needle will bother me after what just went through there?!” (I’d been somewhat concerned that I might have bleeding problems afterwards, as I’d had a miscarriage with major bleeding problems a couple of years ago…but everything clamped right down and every nurse that checked me over the next day said my uterus was doing GREAT—thank you red raspberry leaf!!)
So S was about an hour old before I got to try breastfeeding him—that was the one real disappointment in the whole experience—but he took right to it with no problems! After he nursed for a minute he looked up at me, very bright-eyed and alert, and I swear he smiled at me. Then they took him to the nursery while they got me and all my stuff moved downstairs to recovery (everybody else went home to try to get some sleep!) I got seriously light headed, and my vital signs went all over the place for a little while…I think it was just my body reacting to the shock of delivery, combined with the exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration of the long labor. I felt ok after I got some food and sleep, but it took me about 12 hours to get back to normal on my vitals, so they had us both stay the next night to make sure everything was ok—his breathing and my vitals. (I’d wanted to go home Tuesday night, but I guess Wednesday morning isn’t too bad—it was about 30 hrs after the actual birth.)
S was born at 5:06am on Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, at 39w1d gestation—my first thought when I saw him was “oh my gosh he’s real” immediately followed by “did somebody get the time?!” He was 19.5 inches long, 7lbs 1 oz, 36.5cm (14.5in) head. He has Daddy’s dimples and big feet; mommy’s big nose and dark hair; and he is absolutely perfect in every way. He is the long-awaited miracle for whom we have prayed.