Here’s me lounging on the sofa earlier on Sunday with 8year old son and cats, still no signs of labor besides a tiny bit of white plug in the morning (actually both on sat & sunday mornings right after drinking red raspberry leaf tea.)
Now, on Monday very early in the morning (pre-5am) I sense in my sleep that something started to trickle, like I sprung a leak. My pjs were pretty wet in the crotch when I finally got out of bed a few hours later to check it out, odorless, clear liquid, nothing like mucus. I decide to wait and see what happens, but I go and rent a TENS machine to practice, since my best friend said it really helped her during the last birth. The water keeps trickling so I call the hospital and they ask me to come in and have the fluid swabbed and checked. They test it but say it’s not amniotic fluid, most likely very clear liquidy mucus plug coming out, and they determine I’m 100% effaced, anterior, and 2cm dilated. I was heartbroken as I had been 2cm dilated over a month earlier and I had had so many contractions in the weeks since and had hoped I was more open. However, the progress was all in the effacement, as I had still a couple cm length at my 36 week dr check, and it was all gone, so I should have tried harder to be excited about that. I guess I was just hoping for more!
By the time we got home, I noticed the contractions had been quite regular, every 8-25 minutes for a couple of hours, so we tested out the machine and it did help during these mild but painful contractions, and the trickle had turned pink. I figured the vaginal exam had made me bleed a tiny bit. The contractions never got closer together and even seemed to get less frequent at our normal bedtime, so we just went to bed. By the end of my first cycle of sleep (midnight-4am) I got up to go to the bathroom and noticed they were on hiatus, and I went back to bed. The trickle of fluid never ceased though, like I had a tiny leak at the top of my uterus and every hour or so a tiny spurt would come out. I just wore a maxi pad.
I stayed in bed and tried to sleep but couldn’t fall back to sleep until 7am but grabbed another sleep cycle and got out of bed at 11am. No contractions, so I showered, had breakfast, and watched a movie and watched the trickle situation. By 1pm they started up again and were at least every 10 minutes, usually more like every 6, but with 1 or 2 pauses (14 or 22 minutes between). I stared writing them down and I almost always was able to count to 45 seconds, up to 55 seconds during a contraction. Occasionally they were only half a minute and less intense, but usually they were pretty darned catch-my-breath-close-my-eyes (and use the TENS machine to cope) in intensity.
After a couple of hours, I noticed they were every 4 minutes so I told Metalman to come home when he could. He didn’t manage to leave early but anyways after 5pm I had quite a consistent log going, but not getting to one minute in length quite yet or any contractions that really made me feel intense about getting to the hospital. We texted the doula to let her know that things might happen that night. I decided it would be more fun to try to go to dinner and a movie and distract myself through this prelabor or early early labor, so we sketched out a tentative evening date agenda…..
….but then at about 7pm I made the decision that things were too regular and too painful during contractions to enjoy any sort of evening plans, and I had a feeling that things were going to happen soon, so we headed to the hospital. It’s a 35 minute drive and I have a history of fast births once things get going so I just wanted to get that drive out of the way and see what the situation looked like when I got there. I guess I was definitely hoping that when they checked my cervix it would be the case that the 8 hours of contractions would have done tons of progress and I’d be at 6 or 7cm and almost ready to give birth. Here’s me having just arrived and being strapped to a fetal heart rate monitor. I’m huge and miserable and wanted to get the show on the road.
However, shortly after that photo I was told that I was still at 2, my cervix was exactly the same as 24 hours earlier before any of these regular, unpleasant contractions. I was a stormcloud after that, just faking politeness at my fiance and Doula, who tried to cheer me up. We got into a hospital room and tried to figure out a way to wait the hours out until things really vamped up from the early labor stagnation I was in, to full on active labor. We watched netflix on my fiance’s crappy work laptop he had with him, and investigated food options. I had eaten before we left, but as the clock got to 10pm and then to 11pm I realized I wanted some creature comforts like a hot meal, someplace comfy to relax, a decent movie to try to distract myself with, anything to help the hours just freaking go by until we could move on to real business. However, we were in a small town area and although Metalman headed off to drive around and search for something open, he found nothing and came back empty handed. The entire hospital was relatively shut down except for the maternity wing, so no facilities within the hospital either. They had a snack fridge but I just didn’t want what was in there, I didn’t want to bother unless it was something satisfying.
My contractions kept at the same frequency as they had since the afternoon, and it was midnight and decided to let the midwife check again and do a very gentle stretch/sweep. She checked my cervix which was at 3cm and did such a gentle stretch for 2-3 seconds that I didn’t even feel it, and then I waited for things to kick in. After another hour nothing had changed and it was midnight! I got sick of trying to be social with Metalman and Doula and just wanted to weep with frustration but felt that I couldn’t as I was sort of the center of attention to a little drama there in the hospital room, and I didn’t really feel comfortable enough with my doula to just weep in front of her from frustration and anger/irritation/desperation like a little kid not getting her way, so I decided that things were just not happening and she should go home and get some sleep in her own bed and we’d let her know when things were really in the active stage.
I then had a cry as soon as she left, and released all my sadness about my body simply NOT doing what I wanted it to do, and putting me through such a long wait for this labor to truly kick into gear. I was also very, very tired, for some reason and felt like I needed to either sleep or give birth. I wanted my own bed. After discussing it and crying in my fiance’s arms in the hospital bed for awhile, I decided we would go home and come back in the morning. I put on my coat and shoes but the next contraction was much stronger, at that point it was a bit after 1am. The next several were quite a bit stronger and I realized there was no way I could go to the parking lot and get in the car, or even out of the building down the stairs.
I took my shoes off and asked to get into the tub and we started making our way towards the tub. I wasn’t able to make it very far, by 1:30 my water had broken and the contractions started coming so intensely I just lost it and started blubbering and begging for help. I felt pressure against my bowels and asked if they could somehow quickly empty my bowels, as if that would be the solution to everything. Or anything. The contractions became so intense and sometimes without any break at all in between, so they offered me gas and air. I was panting too shallow to really get any benefit from. I used the TENS for every contraction but I noticed with horror that the contractions were totally painful also in the front and not just in my lower back anymore, so they weren’t exactly offering much of a relief. Some, but not much.
I lost my mind with fear, as I had just been told less than an hour earlier that I was at 3cm, and the idea that I had “so far to go” at that level of pain just made me lose all morale or faith in wanting a natural birth. I knew logically that some women can get to 10cm in no time from whatever point, but I was scared to death that I would be the exception and it would just hurt that much for hours. I told them to arrange for narcotics, an epiural, a spinal, whatever…. so they made phone calls and arranged for a dr to come to the premesis (the 2-3 women there were all midwives, no doctors in the building, but some available on quite short notice on call). I managed to get into a position so they could check my cervix again (at my request, I needed to know!), which was very very hard to do, any sort of movement was next to impossible, nothing felt ok, I was just writhing like a woman being stuck with a hot poker, and there were literally only 0-10 seconds of rest between the contractions, so getting a cervical check was truly difficult. However, I was told I was 9cm! It was 2am at that point, and they called the dr who was just about to walk into the building and told her to go home, and they frantically got a position to help me birth thrown together.
By 2:15 I managed to get into a bed that had been adjusted up to a sitting position with stirrups, and I sat there and they told me I could push. I didn’t want to, even though the urges came strong. I was afraid that if it hurt so badly without pushing, that pushing her through my birth canal would….I don’t know, kill me. I was so scared that if I gave it all I had and it took a long time, I would die from pain. My mind raced for guarantees that it would at least be fast if I pushed, so I screamed and begged for them to use the vacuum to suck her out. They told me just to push– that she was ready and coming. I never stopped screaming my refusal and requests for them to help me somehow, but nonetheless I gingerly allowed myself to attempt pushing her out.
The reactions from the midwives and what I could actually feel myself, was quite amazing, I could really feel her head stretching me and crowning, and the women’s relaxed attitude about it happening so great was encouraging, like maybe I could do this, so I just screamed and did it. By the third push at 2:30 she came out and…..OMG, I feel I have never felt so relieved and elated in my life when they put her on me and instead of being in the throes of Hell, I was on the other side and felt amazing & had a baby on my chest.
NB: I have had the physical relief from a very intense birth before with my first, and I so I remembered that amazing pleasure of relief (that physically the horror was over), but I didn’t get a baby on my chest after that birth- he was whisked to the NICU, so quite a different experience, only the physical relief was to be enjoyed, nothing more. I had my baby nearby with my last birth at home, and it was a relatively gentle, non-intense experience, but we didn’t get bonding time immediately. I had my mom take him right away so the midwife could stitch me up and leave—then my 1 year old woke up as I was being stitched up, so I went to go comfort nurse him back to sleep and I didn’t have a chance for another hour to bask in the glow of my newborn and, by then, I don’t know, the moment of sheer amazement and exhilaration and relief and adrenaline had sort of passed. Maybe a homebirth with siblings, parent, and a midwife eager to get home, just isn’t for me. Mostly, it was my 1 year old who took away my focus from the birth experience and the new baby.
Anyways, this time there was nothing I needed to do, nowhere I needed to go, I just lost my mind with euphoria laying right in the spot I was in (they removed stirrups and added an extra leaf to the bed so that I could lay and be comfortable), nursing my new baby and admiring her ….and feeling so so so so so happy that the ordeal was over. Bliss. I called my mom and told the good news. She pooped on me but I didn’t care, we were a mess of fluids but the midwives just put warm blankets on us and it didn’t matter, and after about 45 minutes the placenta (600 grams) finally came out and they stitched me but very gently and I felt no pain. 4 stitches, but I never stopped enjoying my baby. The midwives were really really awesome.
Finally, after a couple of hours, I gave the baby to Metalman to go get her cleaned up and weighed and checked out a bit, and I had a shower and got dressed into my own clothes (I never wore a hospital gown). Shockingly she still didn’t cry, she was peaceful these entire first hours. The midwives got us a snack and pushed two hospital beds together for the three of us to lay down in, and we napped for a couple of hours. Then we woke up at about 7am, we got a hot breakfast, a dr checked the baby, and we packed up and headed to the car. This is baby in the wrap for the first time, leaving the hospital at just about 12 hours from the time we originally arrived, around 6 hours from the birth:
And here are some photos later that day with her brothers and I on our living room sofa.
Thoughts on homebirth vs. hospital birth: I honestly felt like this hospital, that is so natural-birth-supportive (although fully willing to let the mother opt for meds if she wants to, assuming there is even time for that) & so full of warm and dedicated staff, who was so obliging to our birth plan and our desires to leave right after (I would compare this place to a free standing birth center in the US, it was so not hospital-like) , was an even better option than a homebirth for us. Yes, the creature comforts of home are excellent but we were back to them in no time. During my homebirth, things were just not 1000% organized to make me feel like I could shirk every single other responsibility and just focus on the birth. A midwife who is in a hurry to get in the car and leave, so wants to stitch you immediately (& not very carefully in terms of numbing you properly first) and especially very young siblings who may cry and distract mommy from her main priority, are pretty distracting. Then again, it was such a relaxed, gentle, relatively low-pain birth experience, that perhaps that huge crescendo of physical relief euphoria at the end would not have been there anyways, no matter what the scenario. But, it would have been nice to just hold and stare at my baby for as long as I wanted after, and that was the one thing that I got to experience for the first time this time and I am so glad! What a beautiful moment, I will never forget it. Or the pain! But… an hour of pain, even mind-blowing pain, was a totally reasonable price to pay for such a perfect baby girl.
Kudos if you got this far! Oh yeah, 9 pounds 5 oz!