Warning: This post is somewhat explicit. If you are uncomfortable with certain bodily functions (yes, red-haired friend, I am talking to you!), you might want to skip this.
One year later, and I am finally sharing Tiny One’s birth story. I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant, so I feel that I should pay back the internet community by sharing mine. I think my procrastination in writing this was because I wanted to share a beautiful, completely natural birth story with you; and that is not what happened… Let me follow that by saying that I do not regret any decisions we made during labor. We did what we had to do with what we were given and I am grateful that we had options and our midwife, doula, and the nurses were very supportive.
Starting in November, I had Braxton Hicks contractions – basically they just felt like period cramps. I never thought they were the real thing, but I hoped that they were making some progress!
Saturday, December 29th
Around 7am I had my first “real” contraction. I tried to go back to sleep – drifted in and out – but I was too excited!
We started timing contractions around 10am – at that time they were coming about 15 minutes apart. We spent the morning watching the Food Network and HGTV. I started making cookies, as they were my “labor project,” but I never finished because I couldn’t stand during contractions and they were starting to come closer together.
By 12pm contractions were coming 7-8 minutes apart. I mostly bounced on the ball and did some hip circles during contractions. Sometime in the middle of the day (most of these times are fuzzy now) I took a nap and the contractions slowed down a bit – this made our doula suspect it was prodromal labor (contractions that are not really doing anything; you basically just have to wait until they become productive).
Around 4pm we called the midwife on call (who happened to be my favorite midwife from the practice) to tell her the contractions were 5 minutes apart. She told us to keep laboring at home and call when they got 2-3 minutes apart and much stronger, or if my water broke. Our doula then suggested I take a bath to see if it would slow down the contractions and then try to take a nap. If they slowed down I could get some rest, and if they did not the bath might help me relax and progress further. The bath was so uncomfortable… our bathtub is not very big, so the water would not cover my entire belly, and I was extremely uncomfortable. Instead of taking a nap, I got out of the bathtub and vomited…
By 7pm my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and much more painful – I was vocalizing and hitting the couch during the worst part of contractions – and our doula decided to come over. I was also shaking. When she arrived, she observed us for a bit. I told her I was ready to go to the hospital. This was a big deal for me since I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, and I am squeamish about hospitals. If I wanted to go, Mr. S and my doula trusted that it was time to go.
The car ride wasn’t too bad. I sat over a towel in the backseat (just in case my water broke) and leaned over the car seat. I was able to breathe through the contractions, vocalizing at the really bad parts, but I think they had slowed down a bit. The whole car-ride there and then walking through the hospital up to the maternity ward was almost an out-of-body experience. I was trying to go as fast as I could between contractions, and was a little self-conscious about the people looking at us as we walked through, but I was also excited to finally be there and ready to see my little girl!
When we got to the maternity ward we had to fill out forms… even though I had already per-registered online. But I tried to be pleasant as I filled them out in between contractions, and leaned on the desk during them. After filling out the paperwork they had us wait in the waiting room where families were gathered. I think I may have scared the visitors as I kneeled on the floor and pounded on a couch during contractions. Between contractions I kept asking Mr. S and our doula why they were taking so long. It seemed like forever.
When they finally brought me and Mr. S into triage (our doula had to wait in the waiting room), and checked my progress I was only 2 cm dilated. I could not believe it. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor to check on the baby for 20 minutes. As we waited I was saying to Mr. S that I didn’t know how I was going to handle going back home and laboring there longer and then coming back. Then, during an especially bad contraction, my water broke. There are two awesome things about my water breaking at that point. First, they would probably admit me, and second, my water didn’t break somewhere where we would had to clean it up!
Unfortunately, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid (i.e. there was fetal poop in the water). This can mean that the baby is in distress (although she seemed fine on the monitors and was moving as normal). Because the staff was then worried about the baby, I had to be hooked up to continuous fetal monitors and monitors for my contractions, which didn’t really allow me to move. Tiny One would actually kick them (they were strapped across my belly), which was enough to disrupt them. So, I was not able to follow my plan of belly dancing and moving through contractions. (It also didn’t occur to me at the time to ask for a birth ball, but that would probably have been too much movement as well.)
The contractions continued pretty close together, but not consistently. By 3am, I was only 4 cm –but the contractions were really painful and my body was starting to “push” on its own. I was vomiting and pretty miserable. I got through as best I could by breathing and meditating. My doula was there to support me and keep me focused. However, I was wondering how I was going to get through this, and I was worried that I was feeling like my body was “pushing” on it’s own when I was not ready. I asked Mr. S and our doula to discuss the possibility of getting the epidural. We decided to ask for one; my midwife was also supportive of our decision. Around 4am I got the epidural. I was worried about putting it in, because I was violently shaking during contractions, but Mr. S held me and everything worked well. Once the epidural kicked in, I slept for a few hours, which was lovely. But when I woke up – around 9am – I had not progressed. Ugh. I continued progressing really slowly throughout the day, so eventually Pitocin was recommended. I wanted to try everything I could first (I was terrified of going down the epidural – Pitocin – c-section road), so my midwife had me try using a breast pump. It did progress me about 1 cm, but I was not progressing fast enough, especially since my water had broken the night before, and the hospital staff worries about infection.
In the afternoon I started on Pitocin, and was finally starting to progress faster, but my temperature started to rise, so I was put on antibiotics. Then the baby was having some occasional issues (her heart rate would drop every so often), which was probably more about what position I was in, but they gave me some oxygen just in case. I have never been hooked up to so many cords in my life. It was a surreal experience.
Mr. S and our wonderful doula were there the entire time – sitting (and trying to sleep) in uncomfortable chairs. I told Mr. S to go down to the cafeteria to get himself some food, but he stubbornly refused to leave my side. (Silly man!)
Once I got to around 7cm, my midwife told me to call her when I felt like I had to push, but not to push until I absolutely felt like I had no choice. At around 7:30pm, when she checked me, I was fully dilated (yay! Finally!) and Tiny One’s head had moved all the way down. She told me I should push because she was right there. I only pushed for 20 minutes and she was born! Mr. S had intended to stay up by my head and not see any of the “action,” but he ended up holding my leg and said it was really cool how she came out. The first thing he saw was a whole lot of hair!
When Tiny One’s head appeared she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck – apparently that is relatively common. Our midwife quickly and adeptly pulled it over Tiny One’s head; by the time she told me about it she was done. Then our midwife put the baby on my stomach while they cut the cord, before she was whisked over to the warming station where a neonatologist checked her out and she was weighed. Our birth plan was to do delayed cord clamping and have her on my stomach for a while after birth. Unfortunately, because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, they needed to make sure she did not breathe it in. Luckily, she was perfectly healthy! She was 8 lbs, 8 oz, and 21.5 inches long. She was a very pink baby, which is great because we never had to worry about jaundice.
When she was born and taken to the warming table, Mr. S didn’t know whether to stay with me or go with the baby – it was very sweet. I told him that I was ok and to stay with the baby, which he did. The neonatologist reminded him to grab my camera and take some pictures. In the meantime, our midwife helped me with the placenta (the final stage of labor that no one tells you about until you’re pregnant).
After she was born, we cuddled and breastfed and then a nurse came in to give her the vitamin K shot and the anesthesiologist came in to unhook the epidural. I was so relieved to have the cords out! (But I had to wait a little while before they let me take the IV entrance out of my arm… that thing bugged me the whole time!)
As I said before, I do not regret any decisions made. We thought through everything and I did not feel like we were pressured into the decisions we made. I am sad that I didn’t get my empowering drug-free birth, but without hesitation I can say that I will try again next time. And, of course, I am so happy to have my healthy, beautiful girl.