Just to clarify, this is my first pregnancy and delivery--we have an older son whom we adopted when he was a few days old.
At 41 wks 4 days pregnant, we were starting to wonder if I was going to risk out of the birth center, which only does births up to 42 weeks. We’d spent a couple weeks trying various non-chemical induction techniques, but nothing had kicked in. I had an appointment Monday morning where they said I was 2 cm dilated (I’d been there for a couple weeks ) and 90% effaced. They did a membrane sweep and a foley catheter induction (they thread a foley catheter through the cervix and inflate it to help put pressure on the cervix and promote dilation. It stays in for 12 hours, or until it falls out on its own, which means that 4 cm dilation has been reached.) It was uncomfortable and caused cramping, but not awful.
I went home, went for a 2 mile walk and then headed out to get a coffee. About 2:30, I was sitting in my car when I felt and heard a pop! I knew either the foley or my water had broken. It was the foley, which is apparently quite rare. I called the midwives and we joked about scaring the baby out with balloons popping.
About 3pm, I noticed the cramping felt different and wondered if maybe things were going to get started. At dinner time, I called the neighbors to tell them we might be bringing DS#1 over that night and then we all headed out for dinner.
During dinner, I had several contractions/cramps that were 6-8 minutes apart, but nothing major. I figured I had hours of this before anything started. DS choked on a French fry at dinner and threw up all over the table. As we were cleaning him (and us, and the table) I remember thinking that a mama’s work is never done, even in labor!
I went to use the bathroom before leaving the restaurant and had about four contractions between the bathroom stall and the car, two of which I couldn’t walk through. They took me by surprise. When we got home around 7:30, I told Bruce to take DS next door, called the doula to give her a heads up, and told her, “If these aren’t real contractions, then I don’t want real contractions!” She laughed and, I’m sure, figured she’d see me in several hours.
By the time DH got back from the neighbors’ house minutes later, I was having contractions hard and fast. I had a list of things to do during early labor but that was out the window. I found one position that I could tolerate (hands and knees) and that’s what I did for every contraction. My contractions STARTED at 2 minutes apart, lasting between 30 seconds and a minute. There was no chatting or talking during OR between contractions and I remember thinking that this did NOT sound like the early labor everyone talked about. I figured it was my first experience so maybe I just didn’t know any better.
At 8pm, we called the midwife to let her know what was going on. I like all of the midwives, but was thrilled that one in particular was on call that night. She advised me to lay down and see if the contractions tapered off at all and to call when they were lasting a minute or more for an hour. As soon as we hung up the phone, they kicked up to a minute- a minute and a half, still two minutes apart. I decided that maybe I wasn’t crazy after all and that I was going to have one of those hard, fast labors I’d heard about. I also remember thinking that natural childbirth sounded like a really dumb idea.
We called the midwife back around 9:15 and she told me to go ahead and get ready and head in (we live 30 minutes from the birth center and it took us some time to get into the car.)
We arrived at the birth center at 10:10pm, ten contractions later. The midwife and doula were waiting for me in the “big room,” with lights low and candles lit.
After a couple contractions, the midwife checked me and, after asking if I wanted to know, told me I was at 6 cm. Thank goodness! My biggest fear at that point was being sent home. She encouraged me to walk around to try and get things to pick up a little (and here I was trying to get them to let up!) I walked around for a bit, tried a few contractions standing up (which SUCKED!) and then the doula filled the tub.
I got in the tub around 11:15. I had hopes that the tub would provide some relief, but my water broke shortly after I got in the tub, which I knew meant things were going to intensify. And they did!
I went from feeling like 1.5- 2 minutes between contractions wasn’t nearly enough, to wishing I had those two minutes back. Soon after my water broke, I started a 20-30 minutes of rolling contractions that never quite let up before the next one hit. I’m not sure that being in the tub helped, but I was sure I wasn’t going to be getting out since that involved moving. I remember pleading with baby to give me a little break, that he needed to settle down just for a minute so I could catch up. I spent a LOT of time thinking about the hospital and drugs. I remember alternating between thinking, “I really can’t do this!” and thinking “That means I must be in transition! Or at least close. I hope."
One of the things I loved about the birth center was how hands off they were. The midwife came in and out of the room and checked baby’s heart rate with the Doppler several times (I only had to move to help her once—she worked around me.) She pretty much left me to follow my body. I only had one check for dilation—the one when I arrived. I was pretty much in my own world the whole time and didn’t want anyone to talk to me during contractions or touch me, so my doula sat by the tub and kept giving me sips of water.
When it was time to push, it started gradually. I didn’t really have the overwhelming need to push that some women mention—there just wasn’t anything else to DO at that point. I did comment out loud that I guess there was no point going to the hospital now since even THEY wouldn’t give me drugs any more. I finally got a break between contractions during pushing, which was wonderful! Pushing was ok—not a relief, but not horrible until crowning. When I was pushing, I remember looking around and noticing that neither of the midwives were even in the room at that point. I thought that must mean they somehow knew I was going to be doing this for a LONG time.
When I felt babe getting lower, I finally commented that they should probably check me. I think everyone was surprised to find that he was right there and there was a brief scramble to go get the second midwife back in the room (she was resting in the other room.) I think their notes say I pushed for just over 20 minutes, but I’m pretty sure I was pushing a little before that. Bruce reminded me of this later, but when babe’s head got low, the midwife asked if I wanted to reach down and feel baby’s head. To which I replied, “Oh, I can feel him!”
I didn’t really plan to have a waterbirth, but was open to it if that’s where I happened to be. Since I was there already, that’s where Oscar was born at 12:23am. He came out and went straight into my arms. He was a bit pale and quiet and took a minute and a little extra rubbing before he gave a few good cries and then settled into my arms and peeked around at everyone. No bright lights, no vigorous suctioning, just babe in arms and we all sat back to enjoy the first few minutes together while the midwives checked his breathing and heartrate with him right there in the tub.
I took one look at my little googly-eyed man and thought to myself, “He looks like an Oscar!” but knew that DH preferred the other names on our list. No sooner had I thought that than DH turned to me and said, “He totally looks like an Oscar.” We didn’t make a decision right then, but decided to wait until we had a better look at him.
Once the placenta was delivered, the cord had stopped pulsing and been cut, we moved to the bed where we spent the first hour or so just hanging out and staring at the baby. He was wide awake and alert and stared right back with his big old eyes. We chit-chatted about names a little and decided that he did, indeed look like an Oscar, and so he got his name, despite our initial intentions.
After an hour or so, the midwife weighed and measured Oscar and found that he was FAR short of the 9lb boy the ultrasound had predicted twelve days earlier! He weighed in at 7lb 9oz and 19.5 inches long. The midwife commented that he had a pretty big head at 14.5 inches. They also checked me out (I was a bit worried to find out what damage there was given how fast he arrived.) I had a few tears, but all first degree. One is fairly significant and causing me a fair bit of pain, but no stitches.
We left the birth center to go home at 4:10am, exactly 6 hours after we arrived.
Overall, I’d say it was a good experience, but it came SO fast and hard that I didn’t have time to build up to anything. I think there were about 4 contractions the whole time that felt like my body had caught up to where I was—where I had a handle on what pain level to expect and what movements helped and how to get through it. The rest of the time I felt like I was just hanging on. But we made it through with a healthy babe and mama and DH is forever in awe of me and it’s GREAT to be home!