I've tried to write Pherson's birth story a few times, but always got off track and stopped. It was a very long labor, I imagine that's why. Now, 7 months later, time has sifted the unimportant stuff out.
He was born exactly 8 days past my estimated due date, exactly what the Bradley book said was average. I wanted an unassisted birth at home, but felt very flexible to transfer if anything came up which made my uncomfortable about staying home. I’d had BH and prodromal labor for weeks before the real thing started. I was in no rush to have my baby and felt strongly that he’d come out whenever the time was right, but I knew things were positioning and getting very close. Anyway, when it did start for real, I knew.
It was 9:55 pm on a Friday night; I’d been awake all day, big mistake. I was getting ready to lie down. I suddenly had a strong(ish) building contraction that made me sit down on the edge of the bed. About 8 minutes later, I had another. My husband JP went to sleep, I lay down to try and rest but couldn’t sleep at all. About an hour later, I got up and went downstairs. I was very upset JP was ignoring me, he’d worked for months to get ready to support me and since we didn’t ever know if it was real labor he didn’t go into support mode when I needed him. At almost midnight I woke him and explained all this the best I could, and he got up and blearily sat with me. My contractions were still 8 minutes apart. After a little bit, we made love, then suddenly they were 4-5 minutes apart!
He went back to sleep, I couldn’t, so I called his mother as she’d made us promise to tell her when I was in labor. I called her and she talked to me for about 3 hours. I wasn’t all that interested in talking to her and it was all about her life and what was going on with her new job and wedding plans, but it did pass some time.
At 4:30am I woke JP back up and he took a shower. Labor was moving slowly. I wanted to go out for a walk. We decided we would need groceries for the week so we went to the store. It had been raining all night and now the morning dawned bright and clear, the skies cleansed. I hobbled along, stopping to lean on the cart with each contraction, musing how distraught everyone would be if they knew I was in labor. No doubt it would be like a Wal-Mart wide episode of I Love Lucy, you know the one where she goes into labor and they rush to the hospital? JP insisted on buying a stopwatch to time contractions, though I didn’t want to be timed because it made me focus on pain. So far the contractions weren’t all that painful, they just felt intense. We did our shopping (very slowly) and went home.
I remember a few of those timing sessions, JP wanted to feel like he was doing something I guess. I’d say when each contraction was beginning and when it had tapered off. They were about 3-4 minutes apart and 40 to 90 seconds long, building over a few hours. I still could chat with my husband between them, and was making jokes. As I was in charge that day, for once the TV never got turned on! And I had his full attention. I baked a birthday cake for Pherson, chocolate with strawberry icing, complete with a zero candle on it. We took a walk outside. I gently swung and rocked in the apartment’s swingset. Later on, I remember roaring through some contractions. It felt good, powerful. I took a bath and during it actually got an hour of relaxation, almost sleep. Contractions slowed down. That evening, JP checked me: I was at 4cm from our nearest estimation. He was positioned ROA, a little tougher than LOA but not bad. I was stuck there quite a while, but everything was still going well, maybe something else needed to happen other than dilation.
Around 9pm Saturday night I was getting very tired. We decided if nothing had happened my morning we’d probably go to the hospital. I lay on my side and tried to rest, JP put a futon mattress on the floor and rested on that. I kept falling asleep and waking at the peek of contractions, that was horrible. As tired as I was, this now counted as pain. I was sleepy and a little delusional and I thought something about crystals torturing me.
Before midnight something happened. JP says he heard God tell him to read Psalms. He went to the car and got the Bible, came back up to the bedroom, and the second he set the Bible on the bed my water broke. I felt a pop and he heard it. I woke from a dead sleep and scurried off the bed onto a towel, and felt the liquid spill out. With this, I’d FINALLY entered active labor. I sat on a stool, awake and capable now, and rode wave after wave of increasingly intense contractions. I barely vocalized as I listened to JP reading passionately about salvation from enemies and trust in the Lord. I think he needed those messages more than I did, but it helped anyway.
Some time after this I got an urge to push and the contractions seemed different. I thought ok this is it, and tried pushing, it did feel better. But something was wrong. After a few pushes it was clear it wasn’t time for this yet, but the urge was unmistakable. I think his head was too far down and putting pressure in the wrong places. I thought now I wanted things checked on, to see what was going on and make sure everything was ok.
I didn’t want to ride in the car and be separated from JP for parking. We called EMS to give us a ride. I remember one of them saying the hospital was the best place to have a baby, maybe he suspected I’d wanted a homebirth? Anyway I was in no mood to go into a discussion with him as my contractions were 2 minutes apart and 90 seconds each, that’s 30 seconds of rest. I simply told him “sometimes.”
I got into triage and found that I was still 4cm. They insisted my water had not broken because an ultrasound revealed there was amniotic fluid still there. I think his head plugged up the leak. I slowly walked to a private labor and delivery room and promptly stripped off the gown they’d made me put on. My OB was out of town, the doctor they assigned me (female, I insisted) got in touch with her and got special instructions. My husband handed out my Birth Plan and everyone actually read and respected it. Nobody even mentioned the word Pitocin. After triage, they used a Doppler every once in a while instead of the belt to check heart tones, that was the most important part as I NEEDED to move around. JP tells me I’d be laboring in one position a while and all the sudden deliberately get up and move to somewhere else. He also says people would keep trying to talk to me, I’d not pay attention and tell them to talk to JP, and they’d keep talking to me. He gave all my answers.
We had a wonderful nurse, Peggy, help out. Somehow she arrived 30 minutes before her shift. Natural births were so rare at this hospital they went out of their way to put the best woman on it. She knew the process the way it was supposed to be, unhindered by chemicals. And she had cold hands which felt SO good on my burning forehead and back. She was strong and supportive. She was more like a doula than a nurse. What’s more, she spent a lot of time in my room which I hear you can’t expect from most nurses.
Labor progressed, but it was very difficult from here until second stage because of that d****d urge to push. I fought it and breathed through it every single contraction. I yelled “no, no, no, no!” not to the pain but to my body, which tried to push without my permission. I considered getting an epidural to get numb because I feared this pushing would hinder the labor. I was too afraid of the huge needle and the drug’s negative impact to actually send for the anesthesiologist, thank God. Near the end, I was stuck with a stubborn cervical lip in the way. Peggy even tried to push it out of the way gently, but it was no use. We waited it out. Finally when JP was ready to give up hope I reached in and felt Pherson’s head for the first time! I knew it meant I could push now. I called JP over to feel too. He didn’t realize that’s what it meant, and went to tell Peggy he didn’t know what to do, he was spent. She came in, checked me, and confirmed what I already knew and told me to seriously push.
There was no counting or orders on when to puch, but Peggy sure cheered me on loudly. She kept reminding me to hold my legs, which was hard to do. That was annoying, but helpful. She had asked if I wanted to squat but I didn’t want to move. Looking back, I should have, it would have been easier. All told I pushed for 20 minutes, about 8 contractions. The doctor came in; she helped me stretch and applied lubrication (for this 20 minute service they charged my insurance $800). I had my hand on my baby’s head the whole time, the cone-headed little bugger just keep coming. Finally the head was out and he turned and roughly jostled himself out the rest of the way. JP caught our son, they put a blanket around him and handed him to me immediately. Oddly enough it wasn’t until that moment that he was real to me. The doctor botched an attempt to get a blood sample from the cord without clamping and cutting it so had to do it before the pulsing was all done. The placenta came right away and I felt so wonderful after it was out. I tried to nurse him a little but he wasn’t ready just yet, it took us about a week to get the hang of breastfeeding (I had to express at first).
Next time, I’m having a midwife and maybe a doula on call and staying home. The hospital stay after (only 1 day, after much struggle on our part to get it shortened from 2) was miserable. But for the birth itself things went far better than expected in a hospital. Like I said, they actually paid attention to my birth plan. The next day doing hearing screening, someone asked my husband if we were the ones who had the natural birth, apparently we were the talk of the floor. A doctor even asked for a copy of our birth plan for his wife to use in composing hers. Mine was the only vaginal birth out of many births there that day. He was 8lbs11oz, 21” long. Looking at the statistics later made me pretty proud I did it with no drugs, but to me that part was standard. The entire labor was 38 hours. Very long, but it was wonderful.