this post contains words like “dilated”, “effaced”, “crowning”, and “placenta”, among others. if those words make you uncomfortable…too bad. be an adult and get comfortable, because this is real life people, we all get born the same way.
also: grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one.
as many of you know, our due date of august 15th came and went like any other day of the pregnancy. no braxton-hicks, no weird twinges, nothing. i still made sure to say goodbye to my co-workers that friday, just in case i didn’t come in the next week, but i was pretty sure i’d be there on monday. on august 16th, Mister Man and i were just hanging around the house with nothing to do, since what do you do when there’s no baby yet?
basically, we decided to do all the silly things they tell you to do to induce labor: eat spicy food, drink a small glass of guinness (at home), have sex (fyi: so much easier said than done when you’re nine months pregnant), take a walk, etc. we headed to saturday evening mass before going out on a date to our favorite thai place. we said some prayers for baby, then went to the restaurant for some REALLY spicy curry.
once the labor induction items were checked off the list, we went to bed and woke up the next morning with no baby or labor on the horizon (i DID sleep for 11 hours each night that weekend, which maybe should have clued me in to what was ahead, but it didn’t strike me as special at the time). we celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday with dinner that night, and went home, making jokes about my water breaking and wondering what we were going to do all week while we waited.
i took a bath when we got home to relax, and it felt so nice to just soak. when i got out of the bath to get ready for bed, around 10:30pm, i was in the bedroom when i felt a bunch of water at my feet. i sort of blinked for a second before running to the bathroom with a towel between my legs to sit on the toilet. sure enough, a huge gush of water came out as soon as i sat down. no doubt in my mind, my water had broken. mind you, not many people’s water breaks before they have contractions, so we weren’t really prepared for this. i put a giant diaper pad on, and called the hospital to see what i should do. thank goodness for the nurse working the phones that night, because she told me to stay home and sleep while i could, to come in when the contractions kicked in, and to call if they hadn’t started by 12 hours later. i think a lot of nurses would have told me to come in right away because of infection risk, and i did NOT want to do that. it’s much less risky in my mind to stay at home versus going to a hospital where there are tons of germs.
once i let him know what was happening, Mister Man and i went to sleep. i had a few contractions throughout the night, but nothing that really kept me awake. when we woke up, they hadn’t gotten much stronger. we ate breakfast and took a walk to try and speed them up, but nothing was happening. so we called the hospital, and they told us we would need to come in. i’ll admit, i cried a little, because i had my heart set on laboring at home for most of the time. but what can you do but roll with the punches?
by the time we arrived at the hospital, my contractions had all but stopped. i knew what that meant, especially since my water had been broken for 12 hours. it meant they were going to want to induce me somehow, and that was the last thing i wanted. sure enough, they told me that they were going to put me on pitocin after checking to see how far i had progressed so that my contractions would start. i just prayed that i would be far enough along to not need any other induction methods. we had been at the hospital for about four hours by the time they checked me at 4:00pm. the nurses (and i!) were really happy because i was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced, and the baby was at -1 station, which means it was almost “locked in” to my cervix. this meant that i would only have to be put on pitocin and nothing else. this also meant that i would still be able to have a water birth if i wanted, and could still try for an unmedicated birth.
the hospital we delivered at is in the process of being designated “baby-friendly”, which means that they are committed to minimal interventions, and want the process to be as easy on mom and baby as possible. i was able to eat while i was in labor because i wasn’t getting the epidural (which meant i had more energy throughout the process), and the monitor i was hooked up to was both mobile and waterproof (which allowed me to labor out of the bed, in the bathtub, and would have allowed me to do a water birth as well). i highly recommend looking for a hospital that has similar policies if you are at all interested in a natural birth but want the reassurance of a hospital as well.
i labored from 4:00-9:00pm with good progress. i spent the first part watching tv with Mister Man, until the contractions started coming too close together for me to concentrate, at which point we turned on the playlist i had made for the labor (i will share that in a separate post). i ate dinner, and then they checked me again at 9:00pm. i was only dilated at 3cm, but had progressed to 90% effaced, which meant that really good progress was being made and they would keep me on the pitocin to see if i could deliver later that night. the nurses were pretty sure the baby wouldn’t be born until the next day but agreed to let me keep going.
things got going really quickly after that. between 9:00-11:00pm, the contractions really picked up and got strong. i labored in the bathtub for a while, then they moved me onto my side in the bed to get the baby in a better position to move into the birth canal. i threw up the chicken fingers i had eaten for dinner, which was awful, but also a good sign that i was getting close to delivering baby. at that point, as i was breathing through the contractions, i started to feel my body contract in on itself and push involuntarily. i could actually feel the baby’s head moving lower and lower. i told Mister Man to tell the nurse that i felt like i was bearing down, and she said she thought that i was just feeling the pressure of the baby moving. she then had me stand up and hang on to MM so i could sway back and forth during contractions. during the big ones, i was literally putting all my weight on him so i could just concentrate on breathing.
i did not have any pain medication during my labor. i will talk about this more in a future post, but i truly believe that women have been done a disservice when they are told how “painful” birth is. giving birth is not comfortable. i do not pretend it is. but i do believe that it is not painful in the sense that we understand pain in our normal lives. breathing and relaxation techniques can do a lot to help, and so if you’ve ever thought about a natural birth, don’t let conventional wisdom get in your head. all that said, pain medication exists for a reason. there is a point when exhaustion plays a huge role in the success of the birth, and sleep is needed, and you can only get sleep if you aren’t in extreme discomfort. i support all women’s decisions for their birth process, especially when it’s in the best interest of their babies.
during one big contraction, i could feel the shape of the baby’s head as it moved lower down, and that’s when it really hit me: there was a baby in there and he/she was coming out very soon. i said to Mister Man, “is this transition? i hope it is, because otherwise i don’t know what that is going to be like!”. bless his soul, he said, “maybe…but either way you can do it”, and that was it for me. i repeated back to him like a mantra, “i can do this. i can do this. i can do this” and he kept on agreeing with me and telling me how good i was doing.
at 11:00pm, the shift changed and they checked me again. the nurse looked up and said, “congratulations! you’re 100% there and ready to push!”. i had progressed 7cm and 10% in two hours and it was go time. she said they would call my doctor to come and asked if i wanted her to fill the tub for me. i said yes, but in the back of my head i just knew i wouldn’t make it there. she told me if i wanted to try pushing to put my energy towards something, i could. so on the next contraction, i pushed. and she looked at me and said, “wow. you’re really good at that sweetie. i don’t know if you’re going to make it to the tub, what do you want to do?” i told her i was staying there to push, she could turn off the tub. the problem was, the doctor wasn’t there yet and the baby was coming REALLY quickly.
so for the next three contractions, they told me to pant to keep the baby in, because it was already crowning. i would say that was the hardest part of the whole ordeal, fighting against my body’s natural instincts to PUSH. after the third contraction, my doctor ran into the room asking if she had missed it, and got to work right away. two contractions, six pushes and 20 minutes later, miss amelia joyce came crying into this world, perfectly pink and wide-eyed and beautiful. they told us she was a girl, and all i could do was hold her on my stomach and look up at Mister Man and say, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”.
i could not have done this without my husband. he was so calm and supportive throughout the entire process, from beginning to end. he helped me through the hardest part of my labor, and never once let go of my shoulder during the pushing. having him as my partner in this process is something i will never forget and will treasure forever.
we had such a wonderful experience with this birth. the nurses at the hospital were so amazing to us. they respected our wishes, and worked to make sure we were happy with the way everything was going. our “plan” obviously didn’t pan out exactly like we thought it would (but when does it ever), but everything happened exactly as it was supposed to, and i am so proud of myself for sticking to my guns about the pain medication. the best part of it all was meeting the perfect little girl we get to call our daughter.
*the content is going to be pretty baby heavy here for a while, i hope you don’t mind. i’m planning on doing a post on why i chose a natural birth, some posts on the best products for mom and baby, as well as lessons learned about the “after” part of having the baby. even if you don’t have babies yet, i hope you enjoy reading about what i’ve learned, and might even pin the lessons for later when you do have some.*