My husband and I were so excited when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby on the first day of spring. I had an easy, joyful pregnancy, so I hoped the labor and delivery would be the same. Although that wasn't exactly the case, I still think of my daughter's birth day as the best day of my life.
It all started on Monday, Nov. 30th, at 10:30 p.m.
After almost a week of pre-labor contractions that were keeping me up at night, things started getting a little more intense. My contractions were four to five minutes apart and lasted close to a minute long. I labored on my own for a couple hours, using the relaxation techniques I learned in my Hypnobabies classes and breathed through each contraction until I felt like I needed a little extra help to make it through them. I woke up my husband around midnight and he applied pressure to my back and talked me through the contractions.
Around 3 a.m., we decided it was time to call my doula, Melissa. I was thinking this was probably "it," but couldn't quite wrap my mind around it — especially since I was so worried about the contractions just going on for days like they had been. Melissa came over and worked her magic. She helped me through each contraction by applying pressure to just the right spot on my back, sometimes on my hips, and by helping me try lots of different positions to ease the intensity of each contraction. She brought her essential oils (lavender, orange and lemon) and put them in my candle warmer to permeate the air with their calming/energizing smells.
I was already tired at this point from not sleeping much the past week, so I tried to take a little nap. I wasn't really able to take a real nap, but I did doze off for the few minutes in between contractions. When the sun came up, I put on my upbeat music mix. Melissa recommended making a few different playlists for my labor day, so I did. Studies have shown that women who listen to music during labor report feeling less pain.
Melissa made some omelets and fruit salad for breakfast, then we went on a walk. It was such a perfect day outside. Perfect, but pretty hilarious for the standers-by to see a bundled up, exhausted pregnant lady randomly collapse into her husband's arms every few minutes while another lady pressed on her back. We sure got some funny looks, but I didn't really care at this point. The walk actually made my contractions a little easier for some reason. We went back home and had some lunch, I went through more contractions in different positions, (my birthing ball was my best friend during labor!) and the contractions were getting more intense. At 6 p.m., after 19 and 1/2 hours of laboring at home, we all thought it was time to go to the hospital.
And the drama sets in ...
We drove to the hospital in rush hour traffic, and any mother will agree that having contractions in the car is not optimal. We made it to the hospital and I got checked in the triage room. I was completely effaced and dilated at a 3+, but they wouldn't admit me until I was a solid 4. The midwife on call suggested I go walk around Target or something. Love the midwife, hated her suggestion. I could barely stand up at this point! We decided to walk the halls of the hospital for two hours and get checked again. Still a 3+. The midwife gave us 3 options: go home, hang out in the triage room until I could be admitted, or take a shot of morphine so I could get some sleep. But the problem with the morphine, she said, was that it may or may not work for me. It could work for 20 minutes, or up to 6 hours.
Everyone left to give us privacy to think our options over. It was really a moment of despair for my husband and I. We did not want to go home. Not because we were too anxious for our baby girl to come — we knew she was already on her way. The desperation was that I was completely exhausted physically and emotionally. I really didn't know if I could continue. Also, I had always wanted an unmedicated birth, but if things kept going how they were, I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it. The tears came. My sweet husband, who told me later how worried he was about me despite the reassuring smile on his face, asked me what I wanted to do. Then he said one of the most heartfelt, pleading prayers I have ever heard.
Then I told him I wanted that morphine.
It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Who knew a shot in the butt would ever be an answer to my prayer? The morphine started working immediately. We decided to go to my mom's house because her beds are so comfortable. When we got there, my husband basically carried me to the bed and I zonked out for four hours. Bliss. When it wore off, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. and the contractions picked right up where they left off. I called for my husband and he sent in Melanie, a doula-in-training/angel from heaven who came to help while Melissa went home and rested. Melanie was incredible. So sweet and motherly. She helped me through the contractions for a couple of hours and Melissa came back. I labored at home until 8:30 a.m., when my sister brought her chubby little baby Kate to show me the end product I was going towards — it was good motivation.
When I started feeling slight urges to push during contractions, we thought it would be a good idea to head to the hospital again, crossing our fingers that I was far enough along this time.
We hit rush hour traffic again. When we finally got to the hospital and went into the triage room, I heard some serious screaming and moaning down the hall. I tried to convince myself it was just a fussy kid that sounded like a woman in labor. Then the nurse said, "Oh, that lady is doing an unmedicated birth — thus the screams!" I hoped I wouldn't be screaming like that because it sounded just plain painful. When the nurse checked me, I was dilated 8 centimeters — and I was SO happy.
I was admitted to a room, got into the tub, and things moved really quickly. I was at a 9 1/2 then a 10 in under 2 hours. I was surprised at how little I cared about privacy at this point. Yes, I brought a modest little sports bra to wear in the tub, but it stayed in the bag. I figured the delivery staff had seen plenty of nakedness. The only thing I cared about was remaining calm during my contractions and getting my baby out! The pushing urges started getting stronger, so I went to the bed and got into a side-lying position, and started seriously pushing. I was excited to be at the pushing stage because I knew I was so close to the end and would meet our baby girl so soon. It was nice to get kind of a break from contractions and do something "more productive." I compare the pushing to when you are violently ill with the stomach flu and your whole body tenses up as you can't help but throw up. I didn't feel any nausea or anything ... but the urge to push was really strong and draining. The midwife didn't do any coaching — she just let me push when I felt like I wanted to, which I liked.
The midwife asked me if I wanted her to break my water. But I remembered seeing the hook they use to break water in my Hypnobabies class — it looks like an extra long knitting needle. The thought of having that thing inside me was anything but pleasant. But the thought of speeding things along was tempting. Before I had a chance to answer my midwife, another pushing urge came and my water broke like a balloon. Everyone said they heard it! I just felt it.
Now it was time to get down to business. I had my husband put on my upbeat music mix. I was just pushing along when everyone excitedly said they could see my baby's head. My mom said, "She has dark curly hair just like you had!" That little sneak peek gave me some extra motivation to push. I got her head out, and then the rest of her body slipped out like a jellyfish — all to the tune of Weezer's "Holiday."
The first thing I said when my baby came out was "I did it!" I felt SO relieved. And ecstatic — both that my baby girl was here and that I actually made it through the undmedicated childbirth I had wanted so badly. My midwife handed my new daughter to me right away. I tore a little and bled a lot, so there were stitches and shots to be reckoned with, but they didn't phase me much because I felt like I could do anything at that point. I was completely awake and energized the entire day. The fact that the little brown-haired baby I was finally holding in my arms was mine and that my body knew how to get her here on its was an absolute miracle.
One thing I learned that day is that I can do anything. And when it comes to giving birth, women are so much stronger than they give themselves credit for.