Here is Magdalena's birth story. Warning
: it is long, as my mind seems to ramble these days.
My contractions started Friday, March 25th at 40.4 wks, although they were irregular all day and night, anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour apart. They felt different than the toning contractions I had felt for the past few weeks. These ones were more cramping and intestinal feeling, like I was going to have diarrhea. I was hopeful it would happen Friday and I set out to walking early in the morning. They continued off and on all day, but nothing came of it. It was my Dad’s birthday and Good Friday, so we drove out to my parents’ place and spent most of the day there. That night I was up every hour with at least one good contraction waking me from sleep, but they never increased in frequency.
Saturday morning they had increased to every ten minutes. My husband and I walked to a local diner for breakfast and I had chicken fried steak and pancakes, thinking I may not get any heavy meals for a while. I was having loose stools all day, too. We ended up visiting my mother-in-law in the hospital for a short while. Boy, did that feel strange to be in a hospital and having contractions, full well knowing I was having a homebirth. We even passed a woman in the elevator with her pillows and suitcases headed to the delivery floor. I was really glad to be going home after the visit.
Knowing it was Easter tomorrow, I called my midwife at 2pm to give her a heads up that my contractions had increased to 6-10 minutes apart. Then my husband and I took a walk to the local ice cream shop. I had a delicious orange sherbet on a cone and he got a six-pack of orange ale from the liquor store. The contractions had increased to every 6-8 minutes, so I called my parents to let them know, as my mom would be coming for the home birth.
At 4:30 I had another big meal and then tried to nap in case I was up all night. Of course I couldn’t nap very well, as I was too excited and the contractions weren’t light enough to sleep through. So, that evening I ended up in front of the tv watching old movies and rocking away in my new rocking chair, which seemed to provide some relief during contractions. I also called my mom and she decided to come out and watch movies with me in case things sped up quickly. After a movie and no change in me, my mom decided to drive back home and get a good night’s rest. My heartburn also decided to come back at this point. My husband was busy cooking and cleaning the house and generally getting ready for labor.
At 9pm I asked my husband to check my cervix, as I had talked him through doing it a couple weeks before so that he could feel it when it was closed. He did it again and said he thought I was 1cm now, still 50% effaced. I went to bed around 10 pm, but it wasn’t really sleeping or staying in bed. The contractions were getting stronger and I couldn’t stay lying down when they hit. My husband slept and I went back downstairs to the rocking chair and some PBS.
By 1am I was having more loose stools and I had to move my operation (and rocking chair) to the “labor room” in our house where we had set up the birthing tub, futon, and a stereo. The frantic rocking during contractions wasn’t really working anymore, so by 2am I called the midwife back and let her know my status. She wanted me to try and get some rest till the morning and they increased in both frequency. I ended up back downstairs in a recliner with my feet up, trying to “sleep” in between contractions. My husband woke up and felt badly, so he slept on the couch near me as I tried to doze.
By 3am I was miserable and drew myself a bath. Once I was in the hot water, I had almost complete relief from the contractions. Of course, this only lasted for about a half hour and then my body got used to the water and the pain returned. I tried going back to bed and just moaning/screaming through the contractions so that I could sleep in between. This did not even come close to working.
By 530am I was up to pee and had some bloody show. My husband got up to make me some chicken soup and I was back to the labor room to try rocking again.
At 630am my husband checked me again and I was 3.5cm, the contractions were 4-6 minutes apart and lasting 30-60 seconds. At 7am I paged the midwife and she arrived by 8am. From this point on, I spent most of my contractions moaning and groaning up against a desk or table top while wagging my butt and hips in the air. After a while the midwife suggested I try to keep my body upright to help descent and also to save my back from wearing out. So, my main MO turned into grabbing/straddling an open door by its sides at the top and dancing around in front of it while slightly hanging from my arms and moaning loudly. I’m sure it looked like I was doing the lambada with all the doors in our upstairs hall, but this movement combined with the hanging off something really helped me to deal with the pain. At one point I looked at the clock in our bedroom thinking it should be around 1 or 2 in the afternoon and it said 9:45 – I was convinced it was wrong and someone had changed it. Time was moving by slower than it ever had in my life.
My husband and the midwife filled the labor tub and I added laboring in the tub to one of my coping strategies. It didn’t seem like there was any one thing that took care of the pain for me, I just had to keep moving and switching my positions to deal best. It seemed that just as soon as I was able to find something that worked, the pain would increase or change so that I had to start all over again in my coping skills. I threw up a couple times from the pain, but at least it took my mind off the contractions for that little bit of time.
After it was all over I found out I had progressed close to textbook-style over 15 hours as a first time mom (1 cm every 1.5 hrs). Sometime after noon I was complete and I remember “resting” in the labor tub during this time. I was attempting to deal with contractions by not moving at all, which was VERY difficult and more of a mental challenge than anything. I prayed to everything I could think of to get past each wave of the contraction, and I guess I was successful in at least appearing calm and peaceful in the water. My husband and midwife at first thought my contractions were spacing out and that I wasn’t having them, but they were more intense than even before – it just took every ounce of my energy to deal with the mental torture of trying to ignore the pain and remain still. My husband finally caught on that my fingers would twitch when I was having a contraction.
I can remember hearing the midwife and my husband quietly chatting about something unrelated to the birth and I wanted to scream at them to shut up, but I didn’t have the energy to say anything - I was just very irked that they could talk about anything so mundane while this was happening to me. I couldn’t even stand to hear my husband’s genuine encouragement for me during contractions – it was just too distracting and I did best when he would just stand near me, not touching me or speaking, but there for support if I needed it. Unfortunately, when I did need help or support it came out in grunts and barking commands as I tried to use as few words as possible. He was really a trooper to put up with me during all this.
Just before 2pm, the midwife checked me again when I was still in the tub and said I was 9.5cm with just a little rim of cervix. When her fingers were in me it caused an intense contraction and I had to yell at her to stop. After a while longer of mental agony in the tub, I just started pushing without warning. When I started pushing it was more like grunts and it just felt like I had to have a bowel movement. I didn’t really feel any intense urge to push or pressure, as most people will talk about. I just had a few grunts every so often. Because I was lying practically vertically in the tub to keep as much of my belly submerged as possible, the pushing didn’t feel very effective. I felt like I was trying to push sideways and it just felt wrong to me. So, after maybe a half hour of pushing in the tub, I got out to sit on the birthing stool and get some help from gravity. My groans/screams when I pushed felt so loud that I was sure the whole neighborhood could hear me. I remember thinking, well, this isn’t really very quiet and peaceful for the baby to be born into. My throat was getting hoarse, but the pushing was much less pain than it was to endure the contractions. My mother sat behind me while I was on the stool and I was able to lean back onto her thighs and push off, as there weren’t any handles or anywhere to hold on while on the stool. At first it felt like my pushes weren’t doing anything, but then they put a mirror under the stool so that I could see my baby’s head crowning and watch what happened as I pushed. This really helped me to focus my pushing, although I couldn’t keep my eyes open the whole time. It felt like my eyes were popping out of my head and as if I would give myself a stroke or hemorrhage in my head. Finally her head came out and there was some rushing around and nervousness, as the midwives thought her head was regressing a bit back into me or “turtle-ing” which can be a sign of shoulder dystocia. So, they were intent on getting her out as quickly as possible. I tried a few more pushes without the help of a contraction and they were pretty much ineffective, and then once the next contraction hit and I pushed, the rest of her body came out and my husband caught her along with the midwife. They put her up on my chest right away and she instantly peed all over me. It felt so good to hold her. After that they moved me to the futon a couple steps away and I rested there with my daughter on top of me. She was fine and started screaming and pinked up right away. I ended up pushing for a total of 58 minutes, which was fine by me, as I was expecting two hours. Magdalena Sadie was 7lbs, 7oz and 20.5 inches long.
My placenta came out not too long later after a contraction and a push. Of course, being a redhead and a labor and delivery nurse, the cards were stacked against me, so I bled just a little bit too much. After some fundal massage and waiting it slowed down and I didn’t have to transfer anywhere. J I had a tear, but it wasn’t bad (2nd degree) and we decided to let it heal on its own, meaning no stairs for a week or two.
My homebirth was an absolute life-changing experience. There is no way I would have trusted myself to open up like that in the hospital with staff and strangers coming in and out of my room. I couldn’t imagine giving birth any other way, but I do remember thinking during the labor that I will never have any other children or work with any other women who are going through this hell. Yeah, right. It has changed my outlook on life, my priorities, and how I view my own body. I feel very grateful it all turned out so well.