Contractions started almost immediately. Not painful but more noticeable than the Braxton-hicks contractions I had been having. As soon as we got home (around 9:30 am) I tried to stay moving. Took the dog on a short walk, cleaned a window, sat upright in our glider, packed a few things. By noon they were still pretty regular at 5-10 minutes apart and pretty mild. We went out to lunch and walked more – by the end of lunch (around 1) I was cranky through the contractions which were still very regular.
Back home to wait. Dh came in to check on me around 4 and we timed the contractions. All were 3-5 minutes apart, 40-60 seconds. Some irregularities but definitely settled in to a pattern. We called our doula and midwife to give them a heads up.
Called the doula back around 6 pm so that she could come to the house to help us labor here. I was already not speaking through the contractions. She arrived at 6:30 and encouraged me to get in the hot tub outside for awhile. This was a really comforting place to be, but even so these were consistent and strong pains. Pretty soon I really had to concentrate on breathing and started some low moaning. I started feeling just a little bit ‘pushy’ (with 2-3 minute intervals between maybe 45 second contractions) and that was the signal to head in. I put on a robe and we headed out to the birth center.
Arrived at the birth center around 9 pm and got right in the tub. Attended by midwife, her nurse assistant, Dh, and my doula. The tub was good just not as deep as our Jacuzzi. More moaning and breathing, a little pushing. I was surprised by how quickly time passed. I think around 11 I could feel the head moving down – just a few inches in actually. Everyone was betting on this child being born before midnight, which maybe jinxed me a bit.
Around midnight we still weren’t there yet. I got out of the tub to see if changing positions would get things going. I was scared to move – every shift meant adjusting to new sensations and I lost my groove. We tried every position in the book – birth stool, hands and knees, reclining. The baby was not making the ‘curve’ past my pubic bone. At some point I realized I was pushing even without the strong contractions, which is not efficient at all but I just felt more in control that way. I remember feeling betrayed that the pushing didn’t feel good to me – you always hear what a relief it is when that sensation comes.
My labor had stalled. The midwife suggested that my rather strong legs (lot’s of hiking) could have something to do with it – she had seen dancers who had trouble in this stage relaxing the legs enough to use other muscles. She tried using her fingers to apply counter pressure to my pubic bone, also from the top. Baby’s head was showing but just not moving enough (but no signs of distress). I was in a ton of pain.
We were pushing the limits of being in this phase, even at the birth center. We realized that I had not peed basically since lunch, and a full bladder could be stalling the labor. I couldn’t pee on my own so agreed to a catheter, even though I hadn’t had any pain meds. This hurt too – I think they tried two different catheters and really had to push against the pressure of the baby. Eventually they got it in but I didn’t notice any relief. I also took another dose of cohosh to try and start more contractions.
They started talking about hospital transfer around 2 am. It had just been too long. I was exhausted and afraid of the pain, not in control. I remember a part of me feeling like I was giving up – thinking maybe that would give me some pain relief. But I was not thinking clearly. The baby was so close we were likely talking about an instrument delivery without pain meds, or very emergency c-section… Not to mention the whole mess of a transfer, painful ambulance ride, and my midwife had another woman at the birth center at that time, so she might not be able to go with us.
While she and the nurse were out making arrangements, I got on the bed kneeling and holding on to the headboard railing during contractions. All of a sudden they became very strong and I started pushing with them. Still scary and painful, but I asked for a mirror and finally could see some progress. A very small burst and my water finally broke (just a dribble). At some point I could hear the ambulance drive up and people talking outside. I think my doula convinced the midwife to give me a bit more time – when they came back in we were seeing more of the head than ever before. The midwife told the EMTs they could stay just in case if they wanted, but we were going to have a baby there soon. I think they left.
My doula and midwife were very happy all of a sudden – I think I still wasn’t sure but at this point just had to get it done. Maybe 5-6 pushes later her head was out, then the body. Gabriella was born at 3:02 a.m. I turned over and they passed me my baby. I announced her sex first. She had no vernix and generally looked more like a 41 weeker than 40. I was happy and tired and a bit in shock by the whole event. I immediately started to panic about how close we had come to the transfer, and also kind of doubting myself that I had caused some of the problems. There were no tears but a pretty good road rash injury. We let he cord stop pulsating on its own before dh cut it. Two big clots and the placenta came out a few minutes later.
Anyway, I lost a lot of blood right away and this started the second phase of concern. We did some painful uterine massage, and pitocin shot. This wasn’t enough so the midwife had to ‘go in’ after some blood clots, which was incredibly painful. Moved to a pitocin IV and another medication by mouth, I also had some nubain at some point to help with the pain. It was touch and go for several hours, and at one point they were talking hospital transfer again, but this time without my baby. No way I wanted that to happen so I actually started massaging my uterus too. After a few hours things looked better. We stayed until about 2 pm, which is several hours more than normal for the birth center.
I was so happy to get home. Thankful that we weren’t being ‘held’ at the hospital, thankful that my baby never left my side. It’s several days post partum now and I am pretty weepy. I am having some trouble processing the birth still. On one hand I know I did it, and I was awesome under some difficult circumstances… on the other hand I can’t help but feel that I contributed to the stall and the long pushing phase. I’m so in love with Gabriella and every day feel a little bit better about the birth.
a few pics - mostly post-birth - posted here.
she is beautiful
Talk through your story. Talk to all of us, or your friends, or whomever. I think you will find that we all think you birthed your little girl like a Superwoman. I hope you see that for yourself soon, too.
Enjoy your babymoon and give yourself plenty of pats on the back!
Try to relax & nurse as much as possible - the calming hormones do wonders!
Tweet me: @kellynaturally Working Mom to 2 Montessori-schooled kids. We're a vegetarian family! I blog at kellynaturally.com <--link in my profile!
You're right...we had very similar experiences, and although I'm thrilled you avoided the transfer, I can imagine that going home so soon after such an intense experience is adding to the stress you feel. Give yourself time! Birth is so powerful and changing even when "nothing" happens and in this case...well....you are ONE STRONG MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm so so so impressed with your strength and courage. Enjoy your little one and give yourself time to process the experience. And congrats!
Gabriella is gorgeous, as is her name! Congratulations!
secondly, the problems you faced during delivery are not your fault. problems, stalling and fear are all normal parts of labor, especially first time labors! please dont beat yourself up! you did an amazing job and look at what you have to prove that fact! HUGS!
JENNY, 38~ preschool teacher, birth activist, sun worshiper, singer, married for 17 years and mom to
Karan 15, Fiona 12, Bodhi 10, Bjorn 6, Devon 3, and Robin Taylor born January 16th!