When I started feeling mild contractions Tuesday morning at 38 weeks & 3 days, I figured this might be the real thing. I hadn’t had any Braxton-Hicks contractions with either pregnancy, didn’t have any prodromal contractions with my son, and he arrived at 38 weeks & 2 days. I alerted DH, our doula, and my work. At this point, the contractions were just distracting but not unbearable, and not at consistent intervals, so I just kept working, trying to tie up loose ends or hand them off. DH decided to use the time to get some more cooking and other things around the house done.
The contractions started getting a bit more intense in the afternoon and evening, so we also let our son's babysitter know. We got DS ready for bed, DH finished his cooking, and decided to go to bed early. I stayed up to finish a few chores, then took a shower, which didn’t slow down the contractions. At this point they were more painful and about every 10-15 minutes when I was lying down or sitting and every ~5 minutes when standing.
Our doula had advised us not to wait too long to head to the hospital, as the second baby could come much faster and we had an hour drive to the hospital. I woke DH up and called the babysitter a bit before midnight and we started getting ready. We ended up getting to the hospital around 2 am and our doula met us there. The nurses put me on the monitors and checked my cervix, I was at 3 cm. After settling in, DH took a nap and I tried to lie down as well, but the contractions were waking me up.
The doula and I ended up walking the hallway for quite a while to see if it would help things progress. The nurses kept trying to get me to wear socks but I just wanted to be barefoot. Around 6 am I felt so exhausted I lay down again and managed to get an hour’s sleep with no contractions. When I got up I had several intense contractions about 2 minutes apart, so I was encouraged by this. However, the MW showed up a little later and checked me and said I was still at 2-3 cm, which was definitely disheartening. She recommended that we go home so I could rest for a bit.
At home I tried to lie down for a while, got brief bits of sleep between contractions, but they continued, getting a bit more intense. I also started losing my mucous plug. When I wasn’t lying down I was trying to spend the rest of the time with DS, getting him some much-needed mommy time and giving DH a break. DH called over the babysitter in the afternoon to help me with DS while he took another nap. At this point, my contractions were definitely much more intense, having to stop everything to get through them, and seemed to be about 4-6 minutes apart.
The babysitter and I took DS and the dog for a walk, then I went and took a shower while she fed him dinner. My contractions did not slow down at all while I was in the shower. I gave DS a bath and tucked him into bed. The babysitter left expecting me to call her back fairly soon. I finally had another chance to try lying down and the contractions did not slow down at all, so I figured I should wake DH up. We then called the doula, the midwife, and the babysitter, then got ready to head on back to the hospital.
On the way, DH was looking at the clock to time the contractions. When I had a couple 2 minutes apart, he told me to “slow down!” I told him I couldn’t help it but I knew I wasn’t in transition yet. Happily for his sanity, they went back to 4-5 minutes. We got to the hospital around 10 PM on Wednesday night, figuring chances were low at this point we would have a July baby. The nurse checked me and I was at 4 cm. This time they didn’t leave the monitors on very long, which was nice. The MW just did an occasional check with a Doppler.
The doula suggested I try squatting (using a birth ball behind my back) through 10 contractions as it could help get things going. After that the MW suggested breaking my water, and we went ahead with that. The fluid was clear, and I kept getting gushes out with each contraction for quite a while after. I walked the hallway with DH for a little bit, then went back to my room and I sat on the ball while he turned on some relaxing music then he laid down for another nap. I started moaning through contractions and also started feeling nauseous. With DS I threw up through all of active labor but thankfully this time I didn't although I made sure I had a basin handy at all times just in case. The doula gave me some peppermint extract on a towel to help with the nausea, then she and I went to walk a bit more.
I was definitely finding the contractions more painful and intense, in my lower belly and my upper thighs. I asked about the tub, so the MW went to go and fill it up. The hospital had one shared Jacuzzi tub that could be used for labor, but not for birthing. The MW told me to let her know if I felt pushy when I was in it, “or we might have our first water birth here” which she found amusing but the nurses did not. I joked back, “how about in the hallway?” which everyone but the nurse laughed at. The tub was finally ready, so the MW wheeled me down the long hallway to it, and got me in, put some lavender in, and turned on the jets. It was in a nice dark room with candles, very peaceful. The MW and doula helped coach me through a few contractions in the tub. I think I was in transition at this point but never got to the “I can’t do this” stage that I felt last time with DS. I hadn’t been in there very long when I started feeling lots of pressure and a bit pushy, so I warned them. They asked if I wanted to go back to my room and I said "Yes."
The MW wheeled me back to my room and I climbed onto the bed on my hands and knees. I went through a couple of contractions and started to push. The MW asked me if we should wake up DH and I barely got out a “Yes”. I think he’ll never forget waking up to “Wake up Dave, you’re having a baby!” The MW suggested that I try side-lying as that was the best position to protect my perineum, so I got on my left side and the doula helped hold up my leg. The MW coached me through a few pushes, then had me feel the top of her head. Another push and her head came all the way out and she started crying immediately. It took another couple of pushes to get her body out. DH caught her and put her on top of me. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then DH cut it. Our baby was born at 1:36 am on August 1, just 3.5 hours after we got back to the hospital.
I moved her so that she could nurse and she latched right on. The MW prompted me to push out the placenta and it came out very easily and looked nice and healthy. I had a couple of small tears which she then stitched up – she had tried very hard to keep me from tearing, but between the scar tissue from my previous episiotomy and baby’s nuchal hand, it couldn’t be helped. Even with the tears, I was in far less pain and much more mobile than with DS. After my stitches were done, we chatted a bit with the MW and doula then they packed up and left us to rest. It was such a peaceful experience, very different from my previous birth with DS, which was unmedicated but somewhat traumatic for all of us. I think DD's birth was healing for both me and DH.
Some pictures of Penny:
Paula, mama to DS M (7/2010) and Watson (1998) and welcoming baby Penny (8/1/2013)