At my 39 week appointment I was 80-90% effaced and 2cm dilated. My midwife Nancy gave me a 25% chance of making it to my next appointment, which would have been at 40 weeks 3 days.
Saturday June 30th:
I woke up at 3 am with low menstrual like cramps and loose stools. My cramps were coming erratically, between 5 and 20 minutes apart and were only uncomfortable, not painful. I told my wife Kat what was going on, but let her sleep. I called Nancy at 6:30 to let her know. She was at a birth and told me to lay down and not do anything to speed them up. I lay down and was able to sleep some. The cramps slowly petered out and eventually stopped. It was hard waiting all day, feeling cervical pressure and getting excited about the impending birth with no contractions. I had to restrain myself from climbing the stairs and walking to try and get things going as I knew I would need my energy soon. My friend and birth photographer Beth came to stay with us that night and we stayed up laughing and telling stories from college, which helped to distract me. I had some bloody show in the evening, but when I called Nancy to tell her she said that birth could still be days away. I felt like things were going to happen soon.
Sunday July 1st:
I woke up at 2am with stronger lower abdominal menstrual cramp like contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. Some of them were strong enough to need to blow through a little. I woke up Beth and we hung out downstairs for a few hours, talking and moving around. She would lightly stroke my back or thighs through contractions, which felt great. I also used a hot rice sock on my back a lot. My favorite positions all throughout early labor were being on my hands and knees on our cushy shag rug, and leaning my upper body on my yoga ball.
Kat and Beth switched out at about 6:30. I labored for a while in the rocking chair with Kat on the sofa beside me. We listened to my labor playlist and just kind of blissed out together. We kept talking about how excited we were to meet our son. I continued to have consistently 10 minutes apart contractions throughout the day. I was vocalizing a little but still able to smile through most of them and enjoy spending time with my support team. My baby was very active all day and actually started rhythmically knocking with one hand, which he had never done before. I joked that he was telling us the door was locked.
I called Nancy at 1:30 to let her know what was happening. I told her that I still felt in control and that I felt supported by my team. She told me that this meant I wasn’t dilating yet and that I would know when the shift happened. She asked me to call her back when they got 5 minutes apart.
Around 3:15 I felt a shift and things got a lot more painful. I ooohed through contractions and stopped wanting anyone to touch me during them. After 45 minutes I called Nancy. She listened to me have a contraction and gave me some pointers on my breath as she was concerned I was going to make myself dizzy. She told me to try taking a shower as that would either slow things down or really get them going. I got in the shower and it felt great, especially on my belly. Things definitely picked up after that and I called Nancy and told her to come over.
I started laboring in the guest room, where we had our birthplace all set up. I was on hands and knees on the bed over my yoga ball and in between contractions I would look out at the street. It was such a relief when I saw Nancy’s car pull up.
Beth and Kat helped her with her gear and when she came upstairs she immediately put her arm around me. It was a nice feeling knowing she was there and we were really going to meet our son soon.
She checked me and I was only a 2, which really surprised me. She felt around and said it seemed that there was something strange with my cervix, it had a double layer on one side and was not letting go like it should. She released one side, and knowing I really needed to work to get it open she made me start walking through my contractions. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Kat went with me and we walked down the stairs. She had to keep me walking during them and I know it was hard on her. I was really tensing up and Kat told me to “let my monkey do it” like Ina May says. This helped me get looser. Eventually I just felt so exhausted I stopped fighting them, and things got a little easier. We went back upstairs and Nancy had me labor on my left side. Things were at their most painful at this point and I remember cursing and saying “I can’t do this”. I remember also saying that I don’t think I would be able to do it naturally at a hospital. Nancy laughed and said that I was actually an excellent candidate for an epidural because my baby was so low. I got mad and said “don’t tell me that!” I never actually felt like I wanted pain relief, just to get through the labor.
At this point I started asking to get in the tub. Nancy checked me and found that I was a 4 and that one side of my cervix would not let go. She mentioned the word adhesions and told me that she was going to try and open it up. This was an absolutely excruciating few minutes while she opened up my cervix and shifted the position of the baby’s head. I remember telling her no and begging her to stop until I found my breath, which was a long whistling sound that got me through it. Kat held my hand through this part and I don’t know what I would have done without her.
When she finished I asked to get in the tub again. She said I wasn’t far enough along but told me I could take another shower. I did and it felt wonderful. Once I got out I went back to hands and knees on the bed. After only a few contractions I felt a pop and my water broke. This actually felt wonderful, such a release. It was 7:50. Nancy checked me and I was a 7! Whatever she had done to release my cervix had worked and it was go time. Beth started to fill the tub and I could not wait to get in. As I labored on my hands and knees Nancy pressed on my butt bones and that felt amazing. It felt strange once I got in the tub and it took me a little while to find a position I liked. I felt a lot of pressure in my lower back and Nancy got me to turn on my side a little and pressed into it. I started to feel pushy and it was so exciting. It felt like I had been banging my head against a wall and now I was finally making progress. Nancy checked me and said that I had a small lip. She asked if I wanted to blow through a few contractions in the tub or come out and do polar bear while she pushed the lip back. I wasn’t able to make decisions at this point and said “tell me what to do”. She told me to get out and got me into polar bear on the floor. I pushed as she held back the lip. It felt so unbelievably amazing to push. I felt so effective and powerful and I knew it wouldn’t be long now.
Once the lip was gone I got up on the birth stool with Kat behind me. Nancy told me that I really needed to listen to her now and blow when she said blow. Every time I felt the urge to push I would close my eyes lean back and dig deep inside myself. Feeling him moving down so strongly felt wonderful. Every push was like hurtling through a bright tunnel inside my mind and as I let out my breath at the end of the push I made guttural roaring sounds. I took advantage of the longer breaks between contractions to pant and hydrate. Nancy told me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. It was so soft! She held the mirror and I saw him crowning, but it was too hard to pay attention to anything visual. Nancy kept telling me to blow and I remember saying “I can’t”, but ultimately I was able to listen. All of a sudden in what felt like one push, there he was, pink and screaming! I reached down and grasped his slippery body under the armpits and pulled him up to my chest. I could hear both Kat and Beth crying. I remember looking down and being relieved that he was indeed a boy (for some reason I was very worried about us having gotten it wrong and needing to pick out a new name). I’m pretty sure the first thing I said was “He has huge man feet!”, because he has the longest and largest toes for a newborn I’ve ever seen.
I heard blood trickling into the bowl underneath me and Nancy gave me a shot of pitocin. She later told me that this was because my cervix was hanging out and she needed to tuck it back in and was concerned I might begin bleeding more. I didn’t bleed much at all, but I’m glad she was cautious. I delivered the placenta easily in one push. She got us set up on the bed with Theodore snuggled into my chest. It turned out that I had torn pretty badly (2nd degree), probably when his shoulders came out so quickly. I cut the cord (Kat didn’t want to) and worked on drinking a protein smoothie. I felt so completely out of it, it really took me about 2 hours before I felt like I was really able to connect with my baby. Nancy sewed up my tear, which was much more painful than I expected. I really felt like I was in shock. Kat and the baby snuggled on the bed and I was so glad that he was gazing into his Mama’s face during that quiet, alert period.
Overall, my active labor was about 6 hours. I went from 4 cm when Nancy really opened things up manually to birth in just over an hour and a half, and only had to push for 25 minutes. Looking back on the birth from 7 weeks later I feel so blessed to have been able to achieve the natural delivery at home that I wanted so badly. I know for sure that I never would have gotten that experience in the hospital because of the issue with my cervix. Nancy’s expertise and tender care enabled me to achieve the most triumphant and empowering experience of my life.
Edited by Go_Vegan - 8/18/12 at 6:45pm