I've fallen way behind on posting my birth story... the last 10 days have been a little hectic! But better late than never...
Laurel Madeline was born on March 20 at 8:49 pm weighing 7 lbs 12 oz! She arrived a week before her due date. Contractions started early Monday morning at 1:45 am and I stayed awake for the next two hours to watch their frequency. At about 3:45 am I started having bloody show and my husband Patrick woke up while I was searching for a maxi pad in the dark. I told him I thought I was in labor, but he should try to get some rest in these early stages. Of course he didn't -- he immediately jumped out of bed and started doing laundry and packing all our last minute items in the hospital suitcase.
We called the hospital around 5 am to let them know what was going on, but we knew it would be awhile before we left for the hospital. I stayed in bed during those early contractions because I wanted to conserve as much energy as I could. Around lunchtime, my contractions were coming about 5 minutes apart and lasting a minute, so we thought we should consider leaving for the hospital. But after I got up and started doing stuff to get ready, the contractions began to stall. I called the midwife to let her know what was going on, and she didn't feel the contractions were intense enough. I told her we would work on improving that.
For the next hour I did squats, sat on a birth ball, and we did nipple stimulation. That seemed to do the trick and the contractions started to intensify and become more regular again.
We arrived at the birthing center around 2 pm and my water broke at 2:35 pm. Because my water broke, the midwife only did a visual check on my cervix and announced it was only about 1 to 2 cm dilated. We walked laps around the birthing center for a while, and each time a contraction hit I would put my arms around Patrick's shoulders and hang off him. I'm not exactly sure when the contractions began to get really intense because I lost track of time, but I think it was somewhere in the 4 o'clock hour. Contractions began to hit every two minutes and at times they were far more intense than I expected. I struggled to find positions that felt OK -- I wasn't comfortable on my hands and knees, my uterus hurt too much to be seated or squatting and leaning forward, and sitting on the birth ball didn't give me any relief. The only thing that worked was wrapping my arms around Patrick's shoulders and hanging on him while practicing the first stage of breathing. I never graduated to the second or third stages of breathing because I felt the first stage gave me the most control and relaxation.
Throughout the more intense contractions, I vomited several times -- I guess that's how my body responds to that kind of pain. (I also threw up a bunch when I had kidney stones a couple of months ago.) I couldn't keep anything down, whether liquid or solid, and I worried that I might not have the energy for the pushing phase... but things turned out OK as you'll read below.
At one of the heartrate monitoring sessions, the nurses began to get worried that the baby's heartrate was slowing down dangerously during contractions. They put me on my side in the bed and strapped the fetal monitor to my belly for about an hour. That was torture. The position wasn't conducive to dealing with contractions and things were only getting more intense for me by the minute. I began to have chills and shake uncontrollably -- looking back on it, I believe I was beginning transition at that time. After a lot of discussion among the nurses, they felt the baby wasn't in danger and removed the fetal monitor. They wanted me to try standing in a shower for a while to see if that helped me deal with the contractions. The water birth tub hadn't been filled because the midwife didn't think I was progressing enough, and she even considered sending me home!
So we walked to a postpartum room to use the shower. I had a birth ball in the shower with me and tried sitting on it, but that was no relief. Patrick stood outside the shower and sprayed my back and front with water. Each time I had a contraction, I still had to hang off Patrick's shoulders. There was water everywhere in that bathroom! Then suddenly I had the biggest contraction so far and a HUGE urge to push... I flipped the nurse alarm in the shower and my nurse Tiffany came running. I was feeling overwhelmed and scared at that point, but Tiffany grabbed my face and said to me, "You're in transition! You're going to have this baby now! You can do it!" That made me feel so much better.
We walked slowly back to the birthing room with three contractions on the way. I had to "blow through" the contractions because the urge to push was so intense. Once we got to the birthing room, midwife Sarah tried to insert a speculum to checking my dilation (the first time since I was at 1 to 2 cm) and she couldn't do it because the baby's head was on its way down the birth canal. Sarah said we could fill the water birth tub now and I could deliver the baby in the water if I wanted to -- but it would take 20 minutes to fill the tub. I'd dreamed of having a water birth, but at that moment I said, "NO I'M HAVING THIS BABY NOW." There was no way I could breathe through 20 more minutes of pushing contractions and not push. They put a large mirror in front of me so I could watch what was happening. To protect my perineum, the nurse and midwife had me lie on my side and push the baby out. It was surreal watching the baby being born in the mirror! Patrick really wanted to catch the baby, so Sarah told him she would deliver the head and then Patrick could take the body as it came out. The baby's gender was a surprise, so Patrick got to turn it over and announce, "Oh my, it's a baby girl!" The nurse immediately put baby Laurel on my stomach and she spent the next hour wide awake, gazing at me and the world around her.
In all, my pushing stage only lasted about 30 minutes. Midwife Sarah said she thinks I went from 2 cm to 10 cm in about 3 hours. We knew from ultrasounds that our baby's head was very round so I expected her to have quite a bit of molding from birth, but she came out so fast that her head stayed round! She was also very vocal and began crying before her body was delivered. I had a small tear that required four stitches, but I felt pretty good after the birth.
Laurel Madeline is healthy and happy, and she's taken to breastfeeding like a champ.
I feel so fortunate to have a healthy baby girl and I'm so thankful for Patrick's awesome support. At those moments when I told him I didn't think I could keep managing the contractions for another few hours, he would get me through it.