I woke up on my due date feeling excited for no good reason. Shastan’s cold had gotten worse and he’d finally decided to take a day off in hopes of feeling better by the time the baby came. We were awake early though, so we took a walk and got breakfast in a coffee shop then bought some things from the Co-op. I noticed that the Braxton-hicks contractions I’d been having since the day before were still there, though not really noticeable enough for me to time. I couldn’t help but be excited though, it was my due date!
At about 11 am I called my doula to inform her I wouldn’t be going to a mutual co-worker’s baby shower and mentioned the Braxton-hicks. She said I should think about timing them if they seemed pretty regular, that they might be very early labor. I agreed to call her back if they seemed to have a pattern or if anything changed. It was hard to tell when I was having them since I was so easily distracted from them so I lay forward over my birth ball doing pelvic rocks. I felt a little liquid come out, but I’d had that a week ago and it was nothing, so I ignored it and continued my pelvic rocking. Then a little more came out… and a little more… and then a big gush that had me running to the toilet! I still wasn’t convinced it was my water so I tested with some pH paper I had and sure enough my water had broken at 12:30 on my due date!
Phone calls ensued; our midwives were on their way to check on baby, my doula was on alert for contractions starting, and my Mom, who had a seven hour drive, was also on standby for any changes. I didn’t want her to come up to early since I knew it could be a while before anything else happened. Baby’s vitals sounded good so our midwives advised us to go about life as normal but not to wear ourselves out.
Since Shas was sick, he took a nap and I puttered around and eventually went for a walk in the park at 4 pm. I still hadn’t felt anything other than the random Braxton-hicks, but the walk got them going and more water gushing out. We watched a movie when I got back and that’s when I felt my first real contraction. They were really mild and about 20 min apart. After the movie we took another walk to get some more pads b/c I was regularly leaking and also stopped at the candy store. Shas had a good time freaking people out by telling them I was in labor! On the way home we alerted my Mom and she said she’d start getting ready for the drive.
By 9:30 that night they were a little stronger, but still not painful, and 10 min apart so we called everyone back to let them know they might be getting a phone call in the night. I told my Mom to start driving and she expected to arrive at about 4 or 5 am. At that point I decided to try and get some sleep, but as soon as I lay down the contractions got painful. I would almost be asleep when the next one would hit and I felt like if I could just move around they’d be manageable. At 10 I gave up and got out of bed and found I’d had some bloody show. I told Shas to go to bed and I’d wake him up if I needed him.
I labored on my own, breathing easily through contractions and listening to Over The Rhine for a while until I fell asleep on the couch. For some reason that was more comfortable than the bed, but it was a weird sleep where I was still conscious of the contractions. At 2 I woke up to a whopper of a contraction and emptied my bowels. It seemed to last forever and I was sweating and shaking and thought I was going to vomit. I yelled for Shas and told him I needed the birth pool to start being filled.
While he worked on that he called our midwife, Sudy, and I called my doula, Wendy because contractions had moved to 5 min apart and were more intense, though not as bad as the one that woke me up. Sudy advised we continue to labor and call her if we needed them. My doula came right over and sent Shas back to bed. I didn’t really need much help through the contractions though she would gently rub my back and that felt wonderful. Mostly I needed someone to hang out with in between.
My doula started really timing the contractions and we noticed they were really long. Some were as long as 2.5 minutes! We laughed that no one teaches about what to do when you’ve got 2.5 min long contractions in early labor and I joked that I hoped it didn’t mean I’d have 5 minute long transition contractions! Boy did I regret that joke later. We chatted in between contractions all night having a good time. I labored on my birth ball and did lots of squatting, breathing pretty easily through the contractions. When my Mom got there at about 5:30, they were getting more intense and I really needed Wendy to rub my back through them. We decided to see what was happening by 7 and maybe go for a walk at that point.
By the time it was 7 am though I was in no mood to leave my house. Shas had woken up and we did go outside in the cold sunrise for some fresh air and I squatted on my deck, but I was really feeling like I wanted to get into the pool. Wendy called our midwives for us and Shas finished filling the pool. I was starting to feel nauseated, so Wendy had me smell rubbing alcohol. It’s a great trick, either it takes your nausea away completely or makes you throw up and either way you’re happier. In my case it took away the nausea.
I was starting to need to moan through contractions when I got into the pool and it was so heavenly! The warm water really felt good. Time started to lose meaning at this point and it seems like only minutes before my midwives were there, but they actually took a couple hours to arrive. I was still able to smile and chat in between contractions, but I was starting to get less and less breaks in between them. I mostly labored in a forward leaning squat and was really vocalizing through contractions at this point. Everyone took turns giving counter pressure on my sacrum and Wendy made sure I was staying hydrated. Every so often they’d have me get out of the pool to use the bathroom and I hated laboring on the toilet.
At some point the rubbing alcohol wasn’t working anymore and I vomited for the first time. My contractions were lasting anywhere from 5-9 minutes long at this point with only a couple minute break in between and I vomited a lot. This was the hardest part of my labor because I really needed to vocalize and throwing up made that impossible. My midwives kept checking my belly to make sure I was still contracting because they were so crazy long, but I definitely was. They told me later they were worried about dehydration and were talking about an IV, but I never knew it at the time. Wendy did a good job of making sure I drank often and it was never needed.
At some point I started to get a little grunty and my midwives said go ahead and push if I felt like I needed to. I tried it because it hurt SO bad if I wasn’t pushing at that point, but the pushing felt wrong too. I said I didn’t like this pushing part at all and everyone laughed because it was the first complaint I’d made my whole labor. My contractions spaced out and I got a lot more breaks in between which was great. After a while with nothing feeling different they had me get out and try pushing on the toilet. It still felt wrong, but so painful not to push. Eventually everyone’s intuitions merged and we decided something wasn’t right. Amy, one of my midwives, checked me on the toilet and pronounced me only a stretchy 6-7 cm!! We couldn’t believe it! It was my first vaginal check, but everyone agreed I had to have been farther along than that before I started pushing. Sudy thinks that my pushing swelled my cervix back up some.
Everyone was worried I would be discouraged to hear only 6-7, but honestly I was relieved. Pushing had felt wrong and while breathing through was painful, it was something I could do. I was exhausted though and my midwives could tell I needed some help. They gave me some skullcap tincture and I was able to fall asleep for a good 20 minutes. It’s amazing how revitalizing a 20 minute nap can be in the middle of labor! It completely turned everything around for me. My contractions started getting longer and closer together again and I started to vomit again. I thought, oh goodie, I get to do transition twice! Yet I was still relieved to know what was going on in my body and the nap had given me the energy to go on.
I was back and forth from the birth pool to the toilet again, but I was really in labor land this time. I don’t think I opened my eyes once until I really was pushing again and I fell asleep in between each extremely long contraction. I was really focused on getting the job done and it didn’t feel hard anymore, even though I was still having on average 8 minute long contractions and vomiting all over the place. Eventually I started getting grunty again, but it was VERY different. It was very primal and my body just started to push on its own. My midwives asked that I blow through them and Amy checked me again just to make sure I was complete this time. Sure enough I was, but I had a bit of an anterior lip.
I flipped over onto my stomach in the pool and tried to breathe through the contractions. It was the hardest thing to do, my body was pushing whether I wanted it to or not. Eventually I was given the go ahead and it was such a wonderful feeling to push with my body! Shas was supporting me in a squat and I’d fall asleep in between contractions and then wake up pushing.
I ended up pushing for a total of 66 minutes, but it didn’t feel like that long. When it came to the point where the baby’s head was crowning, Amy told me to blow through the stinging sensations to avoid a tear. It was difficult not to push, but I didn’t want to tear so I kept blowing. Apparently I delivered the head the slowest and smoothest my midwives have ever seen! I’d push only when I absolutely had to and blow through it the rest of the time. Finally the head was out and it turned out the baby had a hand up by its cheek as well. With the next contraction I pushed the rest of the body out which was an amazing feeling; I felt every inch of the body pass through me!
Amy told me to reach down and grab my baby and I brought it up out of the water and put it on my chest. The baby was a bluish color and only making little mewling sounds, so I started talking to it and telling the baby to breathe for me. Everyone else was telling the baby to breathe as well and my midwives were rubbing its back and trying to stimulate it. Finally the baby cried and everyone let out a cheer! The baby pinked up really quickly after that. Finally I turned my baby over and looked and announced we had a little girl!!! We told everyone her name was Adelh Muirrean . We were so surprised because people had convinced us we were having a boy from how many people had that intuition.
We quickly moved to the bedroom and I started cramping again for the placenta. It was almost worse than labor contractions! It felt SO amazing, almost orgasmic, to get that placenta out though! My midwives were really calm, but I was bleeding and my uterus was just exhausted from my intense contractions, so they were really pro-active about getting Adelh latched on to my breast for the first time and Sudy told me very seriously to stop bleeding. I immediately focused on that and my bleeding did slow, but it wasn’t enough so they gave me a shot of pitocin. At once my uterus started firming up and they relaxed, but they were so calm about the whole thing that I wasn’t worried about it once.
Once the placenta was out and my bleeding had stopped, they checked me for the tear we all thought would be there from her hand coming out with her head… but no tear! I couldn’t believe it! My midwives said they thought it was because I’d taken so much time to birth her head that I’d let my tissues really stretch.
My Mom left soon after to go get Mexican food for everyone and those enchiladas were the best food I’d ever tasted! They did Adelh’s newborn exam and pronounced her perfect, although she did have a little caput from her head coming at a weird angle and one eye was a bit puffy. Soon enough it was hours later and everyone was leaving us to settle in for the night as a family of three. It was amazing to be skin to skin with my little girl and know that we were home in our own bed and didn’t have to leave.
The whole experience was way more intense than I thought it would be, but my midwives, doula, Mom and Dh were such amazing supports that never once did I think I couldn’t do it. The birth tub was amazing and I didn’t ever want to get out! I was surprised by how much noise I made, everyone said it was very like chanting, but it helped to vocalize and I could feel the vibration of it deep inside and it helped with the pain. The things I thought would be important to my birthing, like making a birth altar with candles and encouraging words/items, picking out the music I’d listen to, etc. really didn’t matter one bit when I was in labor. What mattered was that there was always a hand when I reached out needing one, always a straw when I needed a drink, and being surrounded by people who trusted my body and let me do what I needed to do to birth my daughter.
Mama to my Addie Bug (10/2008) and (6/2010); nursing student & childbirth educator