After my 38-week checkup on Thursday July 15th, showing no changes to my cervix, and my ultrasound on Friday, showing that the baby was measuring even more behind than he had been the last one, I was convinced that I would be going late. After all, I had barely had anything I thought could have been a BH contraction, first-time moms typically tend to go late, and my due date wasn’t until the 29th.
Well, it turns out our baby had other plans.
I spent Saturday working at home on my laptop, while DH was away working at the office. He wanted to get a certain amount of work done before starting his leave a week before my due date. That morning, I started to feel something a lot like menstrual cramps. At first I thought it was possibly added pressure from intestinal contents, as I was also going to the bathroom a fair amount that day. However, the pain just came and went, didn’t seem to improve over time. I kept working through it, moving between my exercise ball and the bed. In the afternoon I took the dogs for their walk, taking short breaks during the worst bits of cramping. At this point I thought that perhaps it was my body finally starting to make the first moves towards getting ready for birth. However, I knew from the other mamas in my DDC that prodromal labor and cramping could last for weeks so I didn’t think all that much of it.
I made myself some dinner, and the cramping started to feel worse, and I paid more attention and realized that there was actually some pattern to it. I opened up the ContractionMaster website on the laptop and started trying to time them. I missed a few as I had to get up and take care of the dogs’ needs, but it looked like at least some of them were about 7-8 minutes apart. I sent a message to DH to tell him I thought I was having some early pre-labor contractions, and that if I was going to have 3 more weeks of this, I wanted my iPod back from him so I could have some music to distract me. I also told him to come home soon as I needed his company.
DH finally got home around 10 pm, and I greeted him with a contraction, and he agreed with me that he thought something was going on. He suggested that I take a shower to see if it would help slow things down and give me a break. I tried, it helped me deal with the pain, but the contractions didn’t slow at all. I told him I thought he should stay home from work the next day. We ended up going to bed around 11, he was able to get some sleep, while I catnapped in between the contractions, woke up trying to breathe through them and trying to time them.
The contractions kept increasing in intensity, and I started having to moan through them. Around 2 am I realized that I couldn’t sleep any more, and DH finally woke up as well. He tried to do some of the pain-relieving moves that we learned in our childbirth class, but those were more focused on back pain, and mine was still centered around my lower abdomen and had also spread to my upper thighs. We ended up finding that him just stroking my back lightly helped slightly, and my best position was standing leaning over the bed. We kept timing, and by 4:30 am they were about 45-50 seconds long, with intervals between 1.5 minutes to 5 minutes. At this point we decided to call up the OB's office and they agreed that we should go into the hospital.
Because of DH’s crazy work schedule recently, we were completely unprepared. We had planned to get the hospital bag ready, clean and prepare the house, and install the carseat sometime in the next week (thankfully I had just picked up the car from the repair shop on Friday). Luckily I had ordered all the essentials a month before so we had things, just not well organized. He threw together a bag under my direction (although he had forgotten my iPod at work ), grabbed the carseat and put it in the car, and gave the dogs a quick walk and some food, then we were on our way. The hour-long drive through the mountain roads was not fun, but I was able to make it and we got to the hospital around 6 am.
I could tell the contractions had slowed down a little bit during the drive, and when we checked in, they monitored me for 20 minutes and found that I was having them about every 5 minutes. They checked my cervix and found it was paper-thin and 2 cm dilated, and decided to go ahead and admit us. I gave the nurses a copy of our birth plan, and they asked a few questions to clarify things, but were very respectful of our wishes, kept the intermittent monitoring to a minimum, and never pushed anything that we said we didn’t want. They also left us alone much of the time, just making sure we had what we needed, and said they were impressed with me “doing it the hard way”. The only real disappointment was that the OB who came on call later that morning was the only doctor in my practice that I didn’t like (DH agreed she had a terrible bedside manner).
While the nurses kindly made fresh coffee for DH as he called both work and a friend to look after the dogs, I labored away, resting on the birth ball between contractions, and standing and hanging onto him or leaning over the bed during a contraction. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since dinner the night before as I was feeling nauseous, so everyone tried to get me to eat snacks and drink some fluids. I tried my best, but ended up throwing up everything including the water…my stomach just did not want to absorb anything. After I while I moved to the shower, I sat on the birth ball in there and pointed the water at my belly, and just camped out there for about 2 hours, as it really helped me cope. However, eventually I was starting to feel pretty dehydrated, so I got out and asked for an IV for fluids.
I was quite exhausted at this point, with no sleep and no food. I lay on my side for a while, falling asleep in between contractions as best as I could. At one point they checked me and I was between a 6 and 7, membranes bulging. I soon moved into transition. My legs were so shaky I couldn’t stand anymore, so I moved to laboring on my hands and knees in the bed.
At this point they started monitoring me continuously with a telemetry unit. The contractions were right on top of each other, with no break in between. I don’t remember how long this went on, but I remember telling DH, “I can’t do this” several times, and he kept encouraging me on. At one point my nose got so congested (I was still recovering from a cold) that I couldn’t breathe well, so I remember asking for something to blow my nose on and the nurses laughing at how polite my request was as they got me some tissues.
Eventually they checked me again and I was at 9 cm. At this point the doctor said she wanted to rupture the membranes. DH asked me if that was ok, and I said yes, I thought it might speed things up. She broke the bag, and they discovered there was meconium in the water, so they arranged to have a pediatrician standing by to suction him and make sure he was ok after delivery. They checked me again and there was just a thin lip of cervix left, so they told me not to push yet. Easier said than done! My body just wanted to push. They kept telling me to breathe through them, but it wasn’t something I could control. After a while, around 4 pm, the OB checked me during a contraction and pushed the lip aside and said I could push. That was the most painful moment all day, instead of my usual moans I let out a horrible scream that I found out afterward almost caused DH to break her jaw.
I stayed on my hands and knees to push, as that was the most comfortable position for me. The doctor said I wouldn’t accomplish anything breathing during my pushes, I needed to hold my breath to push. I wasn’t happy with this but wasn’t in a good state to argue, so I ended up doing 3-4 shorter pushes each contraction with breathing in between. I was grabbing onto Dave’s fingers and squeezing with each push, he said later that he thought I was going to break his fingers.
It wasn’t long before they said I was crowning and almost there. I kept pushing but it seemed to be taking a long time (I was pushing for about an hour and a half). Then suddenly, the OB said the baby was in distress, and flipped me onto my back and told me she had to cut an episiotomy. I was disappointed but knew we had to get the baby out quick. It took a couple more pushes, lying and grabbing my legs with my hands, and he was out and rushed over to the warming pan where the pediatrician was waiting. The OB said that he had the cord wrapped twice around his neck and that was why.
I couldn’t see him from where I was while I delivered the placenta and she stitched me up, which had me worried, but it was only a few seconds before I heard him crying, so that made me feel a bit better. They asked DH if he wanted to cut the cord; he did but hesitated to leave me, and I told him to go. I felt better knowing he was with the baby and making sure things were ok, and he reassured me. They brought him over to me about 10-15 minutes later, and he started nursing right away. After a bit more skin-to-skin time, I think we all just about passed out.
I spent a second night in the hospital and then we came home the next morning. Apart from this one particular doctor, I was happy with the experience at the hospital and especially all the support from the wonderful nurses there. The hospital even managed to get vegan meals for me throughout my stay.
Our son has been doing great and nursing very well. DH and I are totally in love with our little guy. I'm slowly healing up and feeling a little better every day.
Born July 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm
6 lbs 3 oz, 20” in length
In the hospital
Resting together at home
Part of a breastfeeding poster that they seem to have in every room (among other things it said "Remember, it is not possible to spoil a newborn.")
Paula, mama to DS M (7/2010) and Watson (1998) and welcoming baby Penny (8/1/2013)
What a surprise. Like you, I thought it would be weeks still until you had your baby! Amazing how our bodies just do what they do. Birth has it's own plan.
Sounds like you really worked hard through this labour and congratulations on birthing your little boy.
Happily married to my sweet DH with two precious girls (12/08) and (8/10) and a crazy puppy dog. Expecting blessing #3 around 12/10.
Paula, mama to DS M (7/2010) and Watson (1998) and welcoming baby Penny (8/1/2013)