Baby's due dates were September 23 (according the ultrasound) and 25 (according to the midwives' calculations). I woke up at 5 am on Monday the 24th, having dreamed of traveling along a wide slow river and through a big, underground tunnel, feeling a little crampy. I went back to sleep, dreamed again of traveling down a wide, slow river, and woke up still feeling crampy. DH had gone to work, and I went about my day as usual, but with the possibility of birth in mind – I put rice & lentil soup in the crock pot, set some bread dough to rise, packed up a just-in-case hospital bag, and gave the bathroom one more quick clean. By the time I was taking the dog on our daily beach walk, the cramps had started to regulate into contractions 4 minutes apart.
I sent emails to DH and my mother (both teachers) just to let them know to keep their phones handy for the day. I called one of my midwives, Jessica, just to keep her posted, and she said to try to ignore them, stay fed and hydrated, get a nap in if I could, and had me calling her every three hours unless something drastic happened.
The contractions intensified very very slowly, and being a first timer, I had no idea what to expect as far as pain level or timeline. Of course, I'd been spoiled by our mothering group into thinking it would happen quickly! DH finished training his substitute and came home, and my mother got on a plane to come from NC to MA. DH and I had bread and soup around 5 and I had a banana not long after that(the last food I would keep down until after the birth!), and we waited.
By seven or so that night, they were starting to feel pretty uncomfortable (I would have said painful at the time – ha!). I had already run out all of our hot water in the shower once. Our midwifery team (Jessica and Sarafina, and their apprentice, Paige) came over around 9 or 10, and they quickly saw that I wasn't nearly as far along as I thought I was or wanted to be. I was only dilated 1 cm, though I was effacing and thinning out quite nicely, they said.
So they gave me a tincture of motherwort, which I promptly threw up, and then some benadryl, and told me to try and get some rest through the night, and then we would see how things stood in the morning. I was on our living room couch, DH on the recliner.
I managed to get two hours of 'rest' (still contracting every 5 minutes or so), and then the benadryl started to wear off. I was drinking water, but everything else I tried (pretzels, fruit, juice, toast) came back up as soon as a tough contraction hit. At 3:30, I took more benadryl, but it didn't help as much as it had the first time, so I got in the shower and ran out the hot water again.
By then, I was definitely moaning through my breaths. They were controlled and focused, and DH said very easy to time. I was half dozing off, half passing out for the two minutes between them – I was tired from the slow 24 hours of progress, not to mention the lack of food.
Mid-morning, I hit a wall. None of the midwives had shown back up yet, so I didn't know if I was really making any progress or just getting tired. I worried I would be in labor for hours and hours and hours still – which felt like forever. The contractions were wearing me out. Jessica had told me on the phone to make sure I was laying on my left side some, since the night before Thomas had been in a weird position on my right, but laying on my left was even more painful than leaning back. I realized I was making a lot of noise during contractions just out of frustration, not out of pain.
DH said after that he watched that transition – the way that I broke through. I went to the bathroom and came back, but my moaning returned to controlled vibrations, a release of energy. I really worked at intentionally relaxing all of my pelvic muscles throughout (I only let myself clench my fists), and I was focusing on the word 'open' through all of my “oh” sounds, reminding myself that that was the whole point of all this pain. It still hurt like hell, but I needed to remind myself that there was a reason. My water broke around this time, too.
The midwives started to show up some time after that, as did my mother (though she did an excellent job at leaving DH and me in our labor zone). They started to set up the birthing tub, which I initially hadn't really cared about, but after clearing out our hot water tank twice, I thought might be a good idea.
I was starting to feel like I needed to poop, which I knew could be a sign of the pushing stage, but I really didn't want to get my hopes up. I did know the contractions were getting more and more intense, but I thought that might also be the moving around to and from the bathroom after spending most of the morning on the couch.
It was until I got in the tub, around 1:40, that I was certain I was right about the pushing. DH was at my side with water and gatorade and a cold rag, and I felt suddenly awesome. I could feel the baby moving down with every contractions, could feel everything stretching and opening, could feel my pelvis wanting almost to shatter but knowing it wouldn't. I finally KNEW that I was getting somewhere, and it made all the difference in the world in my morale.
I kept thinking of my body as a car engine, because I could feel myself “shift gears” as my body took over each push, and I bellowed louder in response, and then shifted up another gear, and I bellowed louder, all the while feeling myself stretch open.
Thomas Gabriel was born at 3:11 pm, still in the caul (we're still not sure whether it was just torn a little higher up and that's why I thought I had broken my water earlier, or what). He came out already a beautiful pink color, 7 lb, 12 oz, 20 in, and right on his due date. I have a scrape and a few very minor tears, but nothing that needed stitches. He latched on right away, and has pooped I don't know how many times already. DH and I are completely smitten.