After 3 weeks of sitting around the house waiting for baby, having tons of contractions every day and trying to keep my blood pressure down, I had gone 4 days past my due date. My husband and I stayed home from church on Sunday because I thought that if I heard even one remark like, “You haven’t had that baby yet?” I might have an emotional breakdown.
Monday morning, one of the pastors from our church, called to check on me. He had been checking on us every few days, and had noticed that we weren’t in church. After talking with him for a few minutes, I had him assured that I was feeling great (I was!) and that we figured we would be waiting still a bit longer for our new little arrival. I hung up the phone and stood to let the dogs in the back door. Fortunately I was wearing sweatpants (very absorbent) because when I stood, my water broke! The elastic in the ankles of the sweatpants saved our brand new carpet from disaster! It was 9:30am.
Filled with butterflies of anticipation, I called my husband to tell him to come home from work. He didn’t answer, so I left him a message. I still wasn’t having any “real” contractions, so I relayed that to his answering machine and got in the shower.
Once in the shower it was no time before I began having “real” contractions. They started in the front and wrapped around to my back. They were immediately more uncomfortable than the pre-labor I had been having for 3 weeks. I tried to be conscious of the energy of each contraction and rest in the knowledge that they were what was opening my cervix and bringing my baby to me. I had a great time in the shower! I prayed for a safe birth, sang to the baby and told it how I couldn’t wait to meet it, and fantasized a little about what the day would bring!
My husband came home, and we set about getting our stuff together and readying the house for our friend who would be coming to take care of the dogs for us. We made some phone calls and assured everyone that we would let them know when we had any news. During all of this I had to pause every 7 minutes or so to concentrate on my current contraction. They were becoming a bit more difficult to cope with and I was unable to continue any productive activity during them.
At 11:50am I called my doula, to update her on our progress. I let her know that we were enjoying laboring alone together for now and that we would like to be alone for a little while longer. I agreed to check back in with her in a little while to let her know when to come to the house. When I got off the phone, we discussed how we would decide when to tell our doula to come. Nadene, my midwife, told me that morning to come to the hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart for an hour. I guess we figured we would call the doula sometime during that “hour”. We called her, instead, around 12:05 when we realized that in the last 30 minutes I had gone from having contractions that were 7 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart and they were lasting 1 ½ to 2 minutes each. I never had 5 minute apart contractions.
By the time our doula arrived, I was unable to talk through the contractions. If I happened to be standing during the “break” in between contractions, the onset of the next one would drive me to my knees.
I vomited a couple of times (surprisingly, it felt great), and the dogs became very attentive to me. I was vocalizing uncontrollably; kind-of a low-pitched moan. I coped well by getting louder and louder! I felt so powerful!
We continued to labor in my living room for about 30 minutes when I heard my doula tell my husband, “If she does this a couple more times we need to go!” I didn’t really comprehend what she was saying, though. All I could think was “where did my break go?” She and I were noticing the same thing… My contractions were now 2 minutes apart and lasting 2 minutes each! Literally, I took one breath after the contraction and the next one would start. My husband told me later that I went through all of the Bradley Method “emotional signposts” in 20 minutes.
The next thing I remember was mu doula telling me to stand up and hug her. She would support me while we made our way to the car (only about 30 feet). Fortunately I got a few contractions with about a 30 second break in between, so it only took 2 to get me to the car! I prayed hard that I wouldn’t have any contractions in the car. Praise the Lord, I only had one on the 1 ½ mile trip to the hospital.
When we got out of the car, I promptly had a contraction and vomited in the ER parking lot (in a small wastebasket I had brought with me). Looking back, I have to laugh at the show I must have put on for the folks in the ER waiting room. While waiting for someone to take me up to L&D, I had several very LOUD contractions. When we first walked into the waiting room, I was hit with a particularly “good” one. My doula and my husband were just far enough away from me that I couldn’t reach anyone to lean on, so I hit my knees and held on to a chair while I moaned loudly. When the contraction was done, I looked up to find a wheelchair and about 10 hospital staff-members standing around me. Apparently they were afraid I was going to birth the baby in the waiting room. Boy, the inhibitions you lose during labor!!
It took us a while to get up to L&D as I refused to sit in the wheelchair. The nurse led us up to the 3rd floor wheeling the empty chair and patiently waiting for me through each of my contractions. When we got to our room, I vomited. I spent a few minutes laboring on the floor.
The nurses, per hospital policy, had to get a 15 minute “strip” of the baby’s heartbeat, so I had to get into the bed for a little while. Because I had been vomiting so much, Nadene decided to give me some IV fluids. She promised she would run them in fast and unhook me. By the time they were done getting the baby’s heart rate on record, the IV was unhooked. In the meantime, Nadene checked me. I was 6 cm dilated, fully effaced, and the baby was at 0 station!
I had requested a room with a tub for pain management. When we arrived, though, there wasn’t one available. Nadene told me that they were cleaning one, and we could move as soon as it was ready. I wanted to be in hot water, though, so we decided I could wait out the cleaning staff in the shower. She said she was going to go see a couple of patients and would come check on me in about an hour. Once I reached 8 cm, she wouldn’t leave until after the baby was born.
I got into the shower; once again I was on my knees. The hot water felt amazing on my back! At one point I could feel the baby’s head turning in my pelvis. I heard my voice yelling “Stop!” It hurt, but I couldn’t express anything. All I could do was tell it to stop! I had another contraction and told my doula that I needed to poop. She told me to go ahead because we were in the shower and it would just wash away. My next contraction, I was pushing! I couldn’t control the urge. The nurses called Nadene back to my room and helped me to the bed. I guess they didn’t want me to have the baby in the shower. I asked my husband later how long I was in the shower. He said 10 minutes max! I went from 6 cm dilated to pushing in about 15 minutes!
I have heard that in a drug-free birth, you will prefer either contractions or pushing. I did not prefer pushing. After I felt the “ring of fire”, I was ready to quit. I think I actually experienced a 10 on the pain scale. I had always thought that was reserved for ripping off an arm, or something. Fortunately, when I got to the bed and really started pushing, the baby was already crowning. The nurse got a mirror so I could see the head. It was good to take a peek, but there was no way I could watch myself give birth, so I had her take it away.
I pushed a few times half-heartedly. The nurse was having a very hard time finding the baby’s heartbeat. When she did, we realized the baby was having heart rate decelerations in the 80’s when I pushed and the heart rate was not going back up between contractions. When the baby's heart rate went down to 60 and didn't return (what I learned later is called a critical deceleration), Nadene made eye contact with me and told me I had to stop playing around and push the baby out NOW. So I pushed. Hard. I thought it felt better and better the harder I pushed. Nadene cut a small episiotomy, and the next thing I knew, the head was out. I pushed again and our baby was born. She came out with her hand by her face and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and her body. It was 2:51 pm. Less than 5 ½ hours from the time my water broke.
My husband announced to me that we had given birth to a baby girl, and Nadene handed her to me.
We held her uninterrupted for more than an hour. The baby nurse then took her only five feet away to weigh, measure, and bathe her. She was 8 pounds 8 ½ ounces and 21 inches long. We named her Eden Blythe.
I could not have had a more wonderful, beautiful birth experience if I had written it myself. It was such a supernatural experience. My husband said and did all of the right things at the right times. He was a wonderful coach and partner (and he still managed to take some fabulous photos!) My doula was great, as well. She really empowered me to trust my body during a very powerful event. My midwife, Nadene, just let me do my own thing and labor. She was exactly how I envisioned a midwife should be. When the situation became a bit more urgent, she was matter of fact and told me exactly what I had to do.
I praise the Lord for the miracle of life and for the way He allowed me to bring this new little one into the world. God is so good!