I had my baby!!! She is almost 2 weeks old today.
The birth process started at 8:30 in the morning, with an abrupt breaking of waters. I had just woken up after a long night of good sleep. I was surprised about how much amniotic fluid was in there. I talked to my midwife and once we determined that the baby was moving, she told me to come to the hospital around 1 pm.
So we spent the morning just hanging out... getting some chores done, talking to a friend on the phone and packing our hospital bags. During the drive, I was having mild contractions every 7 minutes or so. They hurt so little that I hoped maybe I was one of the very lucky and rare women who breeze through labor. I remember saying, "if this is a contraction, what is everyone complaining about?" As my husband drove, I reviewed the hypnobirthing technique with him (such as surge breathing, silver glove of endorphins, depthometer -- those who have read the hypnobirthing book will know what I mean!).
Hospital check-in was quick. The nurses pretty much left me and my husband alone in a laboring room. They said I was in early labor and seemed to think that it could take a while for anything to happen. However, starting at 4 pm, things started to get intense. I was having contractions that were difficult to manage even though my husband was trying to give me hypnobirthing prompts. I listened to two tracks from hypnobirthing CDs on my ipod with headphones. I think these helped to center me and remind me that I was prepared for a "smooth, easy birth," and that I had "put all fear aside to welcome my baby."
Around 5 my mom arrived; she and my husband sat with me and chatted about things they could see out the window, such as a cat and chickens in someone's yard across the street. I remember telling them that they weren't allowed to chitchat during my contractions because it was distracting, but according to my husband when I would come out of the contractions, I asked about the cat.
As the early evening came on, I started throwing up. I threw up throughout the pregnancy so it wasn't that surprising that I was throwing up in labor. My midwife ordered IV fluids for dehydration. My favorite nurse told me that she threw up all throughout one of her labors, and with each bout of throwing up, she told herself that she was dilating one centimeter. That made me feel a lot better about throwing up. The nurses got the IV fluids installed after a while and I was very glad to be taken care of in this way. It made me think of dehydrated laboring mamas in other countries and eras who could not get this kind of support.
Another interesting detail that we learned from the nurses was that the maternity area was unusually busy -- and that I was the third mother that day who'd had spontaneous breaking of waters as first sign of labor. Also, we eventually learned, all the babies born that day were girls. The hospital was calling in nurses who were on call to come in. I felt like we weren't getting much attention from the nurses in terms of hands-on support. For example, I was throwing up into random trashcans -- because they didn't bring me a basin to use. I'm not sure if this hands-off approach was because they had so many other patients to take care of, or if it is typical for them to leave early/midstage laboring moms alone. But this is the part of the labor where I could have used a doula. My mom and husband stood in for this role, fortunately.
As the contractions neared three minutes apart, I created a mantra that helped me a lot, even though it wasn't a hypnobirthing prompt. My mantra was the word "opening," and I said it repeatedly throughout the peak of each contraction. My midwife said I was doing great hypnobirthing work here, and that I was centered and keeping my jaw relaxed. However, there were a number of positions and approaches we forgot about and didn't try (such as walking) -- and definitely the hypnobirthing prompts got forgotten. I was in a focused kind of daze.
Around 9 pm, the midwife said she wanted to check me (which was for the first time) and I said OK, but I didn't want to be discouraged by the number if it was under 5. She did it, got a delighted smile on her face, and said, "7"! (In a follow-up visit after the birth, she told me that she was expecting me to be only a 4, so the 7 was a big surprise for her too.)
The midwife got me on the hospital bed facing the headboard in kind of a squatting position. I held on to grab bars at the head of the bed and as she showed me, did a kind of small ladder-climbing motion. I was in a lot of pain at that point and I was shouting the mantra "opening! opening!" It was about half an hour between when she checked me and I was a 7, and when she brought me into a different room for the waterbirth. My husband encouraged me by saying, "you'll get to have a bath soon!" (I love baths.)
It was exciting to get into the tub, knowing that I'd reached the next milestone. I was surprised at how warm the water was -- it felt like the perfect hot bath. It did release some tension and pain right away. But the tub was really large, and even though I am tall, I had difficulty feeling anchored in it. As part of my labor training, it may have been good to be able to practice using the tub.
It was not smooth sailing once I got into the tub. I started the pushing process right away. There was no time to simply sit there and enjoy the relaxing affect of the water. Thinking about it now, I believe that I had less education and preparation for the pushing phase than for managing contractions. For pushing, I was suddenly in rather deep water, poorly anchored, and frightened by the intensity of the experience.
The first few pushes did not seem to go as the midwife wanted. I was floundering a bit. She said I needed to push my feet more firmly against the end of the tub and to curl my torso over. This re-positioning helped, but the first couple cycles of less productive pushing tired me out a bit more than necessary.
For the productive pushes, several nurses and my mother helped, by holding my legs and such. My husband fed me ice chips at the head of the tub. At the beginning of each more productive push cycle, I would say to the midwife, "Tell me what to do!" and she would then re-instruct me in the procedure. I was so glad she was there to organize my work. I was still scared by the intensity. Two or three pushes into each pushing cycle, I would say, "I can't breathe!" and she would reassure me.
Towards the end of the pushing phase, I was running out of steam. I got a little worried that I would be too tired to continue, but I knew that there was no "resting and waiting" option here. But the breaks in the contractions were a wonderful natural way to rest. I was riding on a wave of unstoppable force -- nature being stronger than my own body, and my own body being stronger than my mind, will, and personality.
My midwife told me that it wouldn't be much longer, but I said, "I don't believe you!" I don't think she responded to that... As we got to the final pushing, my mother was telling me my baby has dark hair. The midwife offered me the cliched, "Reach down and feel your baby's head." At first I didn't want to, but I did, and it was so soft and real, it made me motivated to keep going. So the cliche prompt worked.
As guided by the midwife, I did the childbirth final-push out humming breathing. I think my baby's head came out through a series of two pushes. I then got to birth her shoulders, which was a beautiful slippery reprieve. The rest of her soft limbs came out easily. Unknown to me at the time, the cord was wrapped around her neck and around her belly, so the midwife had to flip her underwater (like a baby dolphin, I was told) to bring her out of the water correctly. Upon seeing her, I said, "It's a baby!," in shock that my body could create something so profoundly beautiful. Right away I knew she was happy and strong. I was so relieved that it was over. We learned that our baby was a girl, and my husband cut the cord.
She was born at 10:30 pm, which made the active labor about 6.5 hours -- not bad for a first-time mama! I'm so thankful that the labor didn't stretch into an overnight event.
During final pushing, I did not feel the "ring of fire" I had expected. This could have been the impact of waterbirth -- "liquid epidural." I felt intensity, fear, and breathing difficulties. I wasn't thinking of any sensations as "pressure" as they'd been described by my hypnobirthing teacher. So I think that the main value of waterbirth was decreasing the pain of pushing. Having done waterbirth, I think I'd hate to have to do "dry land" pushing for a second baby. For a second baby, I'd be less afraid of the tub.
Following placenta delivery, I started bleeding heavily. As was explained to me later, my uterus had been through a lot with the quick labor and pushing, and just didn't want to cooperate further by contracting back down to size. It was "boggy." Several nurses started working on me -- they gave me pitocin and another contracting drug through IV. When they pushed into my uterus to help it contract, I would whimper and yelp, which worried them. The midwife told me in our follow-up visit that I was "borderline hemorrhaging." I also had a first degree tear due to the baby's arm being up against her shoulders and face, but the tearing and stitching and subsequent healing have been no big deal.
My husband held the baby for a good while during my extra treatment. They made eye contact and he welcomed her to the world. Then, after I was stabilized, I got to hold my baby -- and the adventure began!