Let me preface this by saying that labor was a lot harder and more painful than I had somehow expected. I used every muscle in my body and every ounce of courage and strength within me to push our daughter into the world. It was the most powerful moment of my life, but it was also the most exhausting. 12.5 hours of very active labor with no bag of waters, is, shall we say, a very participatory process. And I would not have wanted it any other way!
My water broke at 7:30 pm on the night of Dec 14. I wasn’t remotely in labor yet, so I was really, really concerned by this—I knew that the midwives needed me to be in active labor within 24 hours, or they would have to send us to the hospital. As soon as my water broke, though, I had a few bouts of diarrhea, so I knew that was a good sign for labor beginning sometime soon.
I called my mom in PA to tell her to head on down to FL. Then I swept, did a load of laundry, and dusted a few rooms. We went on our usual after dinner walk at 10 pm, showered, and went to bed. I was having a few intermittent contractions, but nothing more than usual.
At 2:45 am, I was woken up by a contraction that I had to breathe through. About 5 min later I had another one just as strong, and that’s all it took to convince me to get out of bed! How women labor while lying down I cannot fathom.
I got the last minute things prepped for going to the birth center, but it was becoming increasingly important that I start breathing and light moaning at the very start of the contraction or I could not keep on top of the sensation. By 5 am I needed to moan through every one, and I was starting to think that some counter pressure on my back would be a very good thing. I woke Steve up and returned to my yoga/birth ball. I basically labored on that the entire time we were at home. Steve put pressure on my back and he started timing contractions. They were already 45+ seconds long and 3 – 4 minutes apart, as I had suspected. It didn’t take long for them to last 90 seconds and be 3 minutes apart. At 7:30 we decided to head to the birth center.
The transfer there slowed me down a little bit, but not much. I REALLY wanted to get in the tub, but the midwife wanted to observe my labor for a bit first. I practically begged them to check me, but I was only 4 cm and 80% effaced. I cried then. If this is how intense and long and real early active labor was going to be…I shuddered to think of what transition would look like. Steve and I got in the shower and he helped me pull myself together. My labor picked up again once I re-committed to this whole natural birth thing, no matter what.
When they let me in the tub around 9:30 am, I never wanted to leave. And until she was born, I basically didn’t. I spent 90% of the next 6 hours on my hands and knees and only flipped to floating on my back when the midwife insisted. I needed so much counter pressure on my back that Steve’s wrists and forearms were sore for days afterward, and I had bruises on my back. But I seriously do not think I could have made it through labor without him doing that!
I don’t really remember the time in the tub coherently. I remember bits and pieces…I got pushy around noon, and was concerned because I knew my parents would arrive at around 12:30. Turns out I was just stuck at about 7 or 8 cm. That was the toughest part. I was so very, very mentally and emotionally done, and to find out that I still had possibly hours left was very discouraging. I just wanted her out! And was quite vocal about that idea. J I never knew it could take so much effort and energy to relax!
Steve never, ever gave up on me. No matter what I said or cried or insisted, he calmly insisted that he knew I could do it, that I was doing it. He kept helping me to ground my breathing, and remind me that every contraction was one more done out of a finite number, that the harder it got, the closer we were to meeting our little girl. Chris (the midwife) and my mom and the birth assistant Christine were also totally supportive and reassuring that all of this was normal, I was doing great, and yep, this was all part of having a baby. They helped me through the toughest parts with Bach rescue remedy and spoonfuls of honey, too.
My chin and forehead were actually lightly bruised from banging them on the edge of the tub during contractions. I threw up in what I now realize was transition. Christine told me at that point that I was so close, but I started crying because I figured that the worst part was still ahead. They assured me that pushing was way better, but I don’t know. Pushing hurt. And it was such a powerful force that it was almost scary to let it go. Looking back, I feel like I was pretty whimpy, but everyone said I was doing amazing and a great job, and that my breathing was perfect and I was following my body beautifully. I did do a really good job of that—but by that time, my brain had basically stopped functioning, so what else was there to do but keep going till the end? I never wanted to transfer, or have pain medication. I wanted it to end, and I wanted her out. During a few more lucid moments, I thought about why women want pain medication, but even when I cried and said I couldn’t do it, I knew that deep down I could—and that I wanted to.
And I did! During pushing (45 min from complete to baby out) Chris had me flip over and float on my back while holding onto the handlebars in the tub. Steve was behind me the whole time, but not in the water. Chris and my mom held my legs. At one point between pushes I looked down and saw half of her head with all this floating hair just there between my legs. That was pretty mind-blowing. Chris unwrapped the cord from around her neck really quick and I pulled her out of the water. That was by far one of the best parts—being the one to pull her out of the water and onto my chest.
Somehow, with everyone’s help, I got out of the tub and onto the bed, still holding her with the placenta still inside. She got some oxygen because she was still a little blue and grunting instead of crying. The placenta took 45 minutes to deliver—seriously, who wants to push anything out after that, even if there are no bones? I started to hemorrhage so they gave me a shot of pitocin before it got bad at all. After that, I needed blow-by oxygen for what seemed like quite a while. I kept feeling like I was on the verge of fainting. I also drank tons of Gatorade and ate enough to feed an army. She nursed a little bit, but was having such a tough time breathing and grunted for 3 hours. We almost had to transfer to the NICU, but we got a good nursing in, and she started to do much better after that. They kept us for 5 hours after she was born, then we got to go home. Chris waited till she was breathing right to do the newborn exam–Rachel weighed 7 lb 6 oz and was 20 3/4 inches long. I tore in two places and needed stitches, but they were just first degree tears.
I don’t know quite how to end this story…it sounds terribly corny to say something like, “and that was the beginning” but it truly is. Now there are 3 of us. And we are totally in love with this little being.