Now that my daughter is two weeks old I finally feel like I have a minute to write down the beautiful story of how she came into this world. Even now it seems surreal that I grew this little person inside my body and had the strength to birth her, by far the most intense, overwhelming,empowering experience of my entire life.
I went into labor at exactly 41 weeks. Earlier that day I had been feeling so depressed and discouraged that she was never going to come. I spent most of the morning in bed, tired and exhausted by the fact that another night had passed and I had not gone into labor. At my prenatal appointment three days before I was only 1 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and at a +1 station. To make things more gloomy I wasn’t exhibiting any of the traditional signs before labor. Other than a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, I felt like labor could still be many days away.
We were scheduled the following day for an ultrasound and a non-stress test to make sure that everything was still going well. I was starting to wrap my mind around the possibility that induction might become a necessity if she didn’t make her debut soon. Trying to avoid that I made an appointment with an acupuncturist who assured me that after two treatments I would go into labor on my own. As it turns out I never needed it!
My husband and I went to bed around 10 o’clock that night. I listened to the Hypnobabies track “Come Out, Baby!” which I’d been listening to almost every day for the last three weeks to no avail, but whether coincidental or not, this time it seemed to work! Around 11:30 PM I woke up with lots of cramping. Knowing how anxious I was to get into labor, I knew there was a strong possibility that this was just another false start. But after a few minutes the crampy feeling was still there and I decided to go to the bathroom. That was when I saw all the blood, and I knew something was starting for real!
I woke my husband up and told him what I was experiencing, rather nonchalantly mentioning that I thought this could possibly be labor because I didn’t want him to get too excited. Of course that didn’t work! The cramps were getting stronger so I decided that we should start timing them. They were three minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds each time. I was so surprised at how quickly they were coming. I had pictured during labor we would have hours and hours of early, well-spaced contractions where I would need distractions while we waited for things to progress. But when my labor started it was fast, strong, and consistent.
We called the midwife on call who happened to be one of our favorites. My husband told her my status, and she said it still sounded like it was early labor. She told me to try a hot bath to see if that would slow down the contractions. She also told me to take a sleeping pill to see if I could get a couple of hours of rest since it was early in the morning and we had what we thought was a long road ahead. The hubs ran me a bath. The water felt great but it did nothing to stop my contractions or even slow them down. After getting out of the tub I decided we needed to go ahead and call our doula who after hearing about my close contractions come over immediately. We called the birthing center back, told him that nothing had changed and that my contractions were actually getting closer together.
Our doula came over andI labored upstairs in the bedroom with my husband holding my hand, my doula rubbing my back, and our sweet little dog Lucy licking my arm. At that point the contractions were so strong that I had begun to vocalize a lot. It was absolutely uncontrollable. It didn’t take long for me notice how hoarse my voice felt after only a few hours of strong contractions. My husband did a great job of keeping me hydrated and even got me to nibble a little bit on crackers in between, but the contractions were so fast I hardly had any time to do much except try to let go of the one that had passed.
Around 4:30 in the morning we decided it was time to going to the birth center. At that point my contractions were between two and three minutes apart and getting very strong. The 40 minute car ride was the most excruciating part of the entire experience because there was absolutely no way for me to get comfortable. The road was incredibly foggy; I can’t imagine how stressful that was for my husband as he tried to drive us safely while I was moaning and making all kinds of other noises through the contractions.
We got to the birth center and got settled into our room. The midwife needed to check me but with my contractions so close together, I struggled to find a time in between them for her to do that. After she checked me she asked me, “Do you want to know how far along you are?” Originally in my birth plan I had said that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was, but with the contractions so close together I was more curious. I said that I wanted to know only if it was good news. As it turns out, I was already dilated 7 cm!
I decided to go ahead and get into the bathtub to see if the water could help with the really intense feelings I was having through the contractions. I ended up staying in there for the rest of the time. I labored on my back for a while. When the midwife checked me again an hour or so later, she said I just had about a centimeter to go and urged me to try squatting with my arms draped over the side of the tub. It was so uncomfortable and I reached out for both my husband and doula to hold my hands. But it was very effective! After about three contractions in that position, the midwife checked me again and that was when my water broke. The sensation was so intense that for a moment I lost control and started to panic a bit. I was so scared by the intensity of the experience. My team of support brought me back to a place of calm and I kept telling myself, “You can do this. You can do this.”
At around 7:30 AM I was ready to push. Even though I was exhausted I grateful to finally have something active to do. I immediately felt focused and determined; I was going to get this baby out! The midwife coached me on how to push. Unfortunately she could only stay for about an hour before the midwives changed shifts. I was devastated to learn that the next midwife to come on call was Elke, the one midwife we did not connect with well at all. I was on the verge of tears at the thought of having her there. But then I thought to myself, she isn’t doing any of this. I am the one who is doing this! It didn’t matter who was there, I had the strength and focus to do this.
When 8:30 rolled around, the other midwife came into the room, and I did my best to not look too disgusted. As it turns out she really wasn’t that terrible, just socially inept and awkward. But I did know one thing for certain: she wouldn’t be sugarcoating anything so when she told me that I was pushing effectively, I knew that she was telling the truth. Pushing was so intense but it was the kind of thing that I could manage because it had a very specific pattern. Each time I felt the contraction I would take a deep breath and hold it as I pushed, take another breath, and push again. For each contraction I pushed about four or five times, and it was the same pattern each time. I knew that the first one would be terrible but that the second third and fourth would feel like I was really making progress. Mentally I knew that if I could get through that first push, I would be making good progress.
I had no idea what time it was, but I knew that I’ve been pushing for a very long time. Everyone kept telling me that I was doing great, but I started to feel like I was never going to get her out. In the end I pushed for four hours. I have no idea how I mustered up the energy to do that. At several points I almost leapt from laying on my back into a squatting position in the tub, and everyone was shocked by how agile I was after such a long time of pushing. Let’s just say I was highly motivated.
Finally at 11:28 AM on October 27th I gave it that final push that brought my beautiful, perfect daughter into the world. The midwife caught her and put her on my chest. It was the most exhilarating feeling I have ever experienced. I thought I would cry but instead I just felt this enormous high as I heard her cry for the first time. She was so beautiful! I couldn’t believe that just moments ago she had been inside of me and now she was here in my arms.
As it turns out, my daughter had been asynclitic and had come down the birth canal a bit cockeyed, which is why it took me so long to get her out. I found out later that many, many women end up with C-sections because the baby can often get stuck. Even though it was exhausting to push for that long, I am so grateful that I got the birth that I envisioned–med-free at the birth center, in the water. I feel fortunate that pain medication and other interventions were not necessary. I completely understand why women want and/or need epidurals and would not have turned one down if advised by my midwife to get one, but I’m just thankful that it didn’t come to that in my case.
We are so blessed to have this little girl join our family. She is bringing us so much joy!