My “due date” of September 19th came and went, as I fully expected. All along, I’d set the 26th as a more realistic target date for baby’s birth. For the first time, we’d declined finding out the gender at our 20 week ultrasound, so there was an added element of excitement. Not to mention the added frustration of deciding on not one but TWO names (or lists of names). While we had a male name and two backups planned, our female list was long, and none of them really spoke to us. The week of my due date went pretty normally: soccer, swimming, OB appointment, chiropractic adjustment. The chiropractor commented on how low the baby was and also how loose my pelvis felt.I also had an acupuncture appointment on my due date and later that night burned the moxibustion stick the practitioner provided. I’d had very little in the way of contractions so far, just a few here and there with some downward pressure, with the exception of the day I climbed up and down a step ladder, cleaning the inside of the kitchen cabinets.
Friday 9/21: I woke up, used the bathroom, brushed my teeth and headed downstairs. About halfway down the stairs, I felt a strange slippery sensation, so I scurried up to the toilet. Mucus plug! This was particularly exciting because I didn’t lose any plug with T until I had been in early labor for quite some time. I figured labor was imminent, and I was anxious. I also had a massage scheduled with my doula and her partner that morning. Unfortunately, my doula had to cancel and also shift call to her partner for the next couple of days as her daughter had spent the night in the ER with breathing issues. The massage was lovely, and my LMT/backup doula said my pressure points were really, really “zinging”, and when she palpated the baby, she said she could barely feel any head at all. She pointed out that what I was feeling right above my pelvic bone were shoulders! I’d never had a baby engage before labor, so that made me happy. I had a few light contractions while I was there. After that, it was business as usual--kids, lunch, school for the oldest. I talked to my husband and decided we should send the kids with his parents once C got home from school. Last time, labor would not kick in until the kids were out of the house. Once they were sent off, it was evening. I took a bath and settled into bed to read and watch tv and just relax to get ready for labor. Contractions kicked in around midnight. They were about 3 minutes apart lasting a 45-60 seconds. I could manage them lying down with some deep breathing and counting. I didn’t want to get out of bed until I had to because I had barely slept. The contractions then started becoming less frequent, and by 6AM, I had dozed off. When I woke, they were gone, leaving me physically sore, emotionally spent, and TIRED.
Saturday 9/22: After sleeping in, I treated myself to pity party with coffee and oatmeal. I was too exhausted to dress and drag myself to the girls’ soccer games, so I stayed home alone and tried to rest. I felt sad and missed my kids and worried how long they were going to be away as labor had fizzled out completely. I convinced Dan to bring me them home after soccer, and we spent the afternoon snuggling and watching movies. Then after dinner we sent them back to Grandma and Grandpa since Dan would be out of the house with a work commitment, and I was afraid of labor kicking into high gear when I was home alone with all of them. Sure enough, around 7:45PM, the contractions started again and seemed to pick up where they left off. I spent some time in the bathtub and tried filling our 2 person Jacuzzi with warm water, almost succeeding. While waiting for the water heater to fill and heat, I sat on the ball with my head resting on the bed at watched Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. Again, contractions were about 3 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds to a minute. By the time Dan got home at midnight, I was in the Jacuzzi tub floating on my back and humming through contractions. My legs were starting to shake. I got out of the tub and really began shaking (and it wasn’t due to cold--we have a heat lamp in the bathroom, and it was cranked to high plus I had the thermostat turned up to the upper 70s). I leaned over the sink with a contraction, and Dan told me to put clothes on, that we were going to the hospital because he didn’t want me to have the baby on the bathroom floor.
So we packed up and headed in. I was worried in the back of my mind about not being far enough along, but I also was concerned about not giving myself enough time since I went from 6.5cm to a baby in 45 minutes with T. We arrived at the hospital at about 2:30AM. The contractions still were close together and required concentration, breathing and “goat noises” as Dan called them. While we watched them on the monitors, though, they started to grow further and further apart. By the time my strip was done, they were up to 6 minutes apart and less strong. The nurse wanted to check me to be sure I wasn’t in active labor since we’d already mostly decided to head home. Sure enough, I was only 3cm. Fourteen hours of contractions and only a 3! Frustrated and discouraged were not strong enough words! When the nurse asked if I was okay, I burst into tears. We did end up staying the full hour after the initial check just to be sure that things weren’t progressing in spite of the lessening contractions, and there was no change. Home we headed, with something to help me sleep. As I stopped for a contraction on the way out of the building, I said wryly, “You’re supposed to stop on the way TO L&D, not on the way out!”
Sunday 9/23: Whatever I took to help me sleep worked. The contractions continued, but I was so knocked out that I only noticed them occasionally, mostly when I already had woken up to change positions. They were light and infrequent. Both of us slept until noon and woke feeling rested. The kids called and said they had a big day planned with Grandma and Grandpa. Dan and I were grateful because our exciting night had left us with little energy to deal with three little people. We spent most of the day being lazy. Finally around dinner time I told Dan I wanted to take a walk. I had been having sporadic contractions all day. They were intense when they happened but infrequent. During the walk, they became more regular. I had to lean into Dan with my forehead and stand still, breathing through them and trying not to make too much noise to alarm the neighbors. As I walked, I felt baby moving down, and I was very aware of my cervix. At one point, I felt something seem to slip ‘out’ but then that feeling went away. I am not sure if my bag of waters was bulging for a bit or if it was just a weird change in baby’s position. Perhaps it was a little hand wandering around near my cervical os? After the walk, I went to the bathroom and checked myself. I told Dan I was at about 4cm but stretchy and definitely thinner, and I could feel a tiny bulge of my bag and baby’s hard, hard head *right there*! After the walk, the contractions slowed a bit, so I decided to nap. I spent an hour or so resting in our bed while Dan mowed the lawn and picked up stromboli for dinner. Sitting on the stools at our pub table was really uncomfortable but I ate a big chunk of delicious stromboli and then headed into the living room to resume my birth ball/Grey’s Anatomy labor routine. Around 9PM, Dan decided to go to bed. He had a headache from all the disrupted sleep, and he had a feeling things were going to happen over night. I continued with contractions a few minutes apart.
By 10:30, I was feeling sad and lonely. Between my doula and I, we had one phone stolen, one lost and one submerged in the tub! So I emailed her at 10:38 and also left her a voicemail on her daughter’s phone saying that I was up contracting again. I worked through a few more contractions on the ball, growing increasingly emotional and frustrated. Around 11PM, I decided to get in the shower; I was sweaty and gross and knew the water would feel great. I took a long shower, shaved my legs, washed my hair and leaned forward, pressing against the wall with my hands, during each contractions while enjoying the hot water on my lower back. When I got out, Dan was awake. At some point during the shower, I had resolved that we were going to the hospital and having a baby that night, come hell or high water. I told him, “I don’t care whether they pit me or cut me. I am DONE. I need to have this baby. I can’t take another night of this.” He said okay and proceeded to get himself and the bags ready. As we were getting things together, I started needing counterpressure on my lower back during contractions. This was the first time I needed something and someone other than myself during the entire labor. Dan was a little slow responding to my request which irritated me endlessly.
We were in the car shortly after midnight, and I saw that my doula had called back several times at that point, so I called her as we pulled out of our driveway to let her know we were headed in to L&D. I was able to talk easily between contractions still, and the contractions did slow down during our drive. One thing brought me to tears, though: baby would NOT STOP MOVING the entire drive to the hospital, and that little body grinding on my insides was almost more than I could bear. I would rather have had a dozen contractions than to feel those elbows and knees and bony butt gyrating in there! Out loud, I begged baby to be a bit more still because it hurt mama. I think it was close to 12:30 when we arrived at the hospital. Dan asked if I wanted him to drop me off at the entrance, but I didn’t want to be alone. So off to the parking garage we went. My contractions started coming fast and furious as soon as we parked the car. I remember shouting at Dan to come help me because he was more concerned about gathering all of the bags than he was about putting counterpressure on my back! I had two contractions on the way into the elevator, one inside and one about 20ft from the exit. I managed to cross the street before another contraction came, and at that point the porter from the hospital was practically jogging toward me with a wheelchair! I was absolutely vocalizing through contractions with low noises at this point, deeper and louder than the humming from before. But between contractions, I was able to chat and laugh.
We arrived in triage and ended up in the overflow room by ourselves. The thought of getting out of the wheelchair, providing a urine sample getting back in the chair, getting out of the chair and onto the bed was daunting. After all those hours/days of labor, my legs were SO TIRED. I managed to do it, though. The triage nurse took pity on me and didn’t attach the TOCO monitor because it hurt to have that pressure on my belly. And it was patently obvious when I was having a contraction. I actually could manage contractions sitting on the bed, leaning my forehead into Dan and squeezing his hand. It wasn’t long before my doula arrived, and she began putting counterpressure directly on my tailbone while I pushed back into her hand. I concentrated on keeping my face and jaw loose and my noises low. Still, I was positive and chatty between contractions and even relayed a story about triage the night before and the lady who came in crowning while I was being discharged--who was due AFTER me and had only been in labor for 3 hours!
At about 12:50AM, the nurse checked me and found me at 5cm and very stretchy. I had been hoping for more progress, but at least I was in “active labor”! I had had a small gush of *something* shortly before we left the house, and she tried to check for amniotic fluid, but the slide was inconclusive, and I hadn’t had any more so we figured it was just mucus. I had decided at some point that I was going to get an epidural because I was tired and wanted to rest and had worked hard enough already. I figured I deserved some relief! But the triage nurse told me they’d read my chart and already had the birth pool up and filling. Talk about a sense of inertia--since that was rolling, who was I to change the plan? I used the restroom, changed out of my clothes and into a gown just to cover me till I got in the pool, and then had my saline lock placed in an awesome spot on my left forearm where I never noticed again until after the birth. I continued managing contractions with my doula providing counter pressure on my tailbone while I leaned my head into my husband and squeezed his hand. My legs were really starting to shake at this point, moving into whole body shaking between contractions.
Now it was 2AM and I realized we hadn’t called my mom. My plan was to call her once we were admitted so she could begin her 4 hour drive. I asked Dan to call her and even verified that he had the appropriate phone number, and I gave him specific instructions on what to tell her. She had had a feeling tonight would be the night and already had her bags packed. Shortly after we hung up with her, the tub was full. Walking to the tub was SO difficult, and it took one person on either side of me supporting me. But the effort was worth it! The water was absolutely blissful. The staff left us alone, my huband, my doula and me, and we continued with my doula providing strong counter pressure on my tailbone and my husband at my head, stroking my head and massaging my shoulders. I started out on my knees with my arms folded on the edge of the tub, resting my head there. I remember managing a few contractions well in that position and then really resisting and wanting to get away from the next couple of contractions. I said, “They hurt. I don’t want to do this any more.” Inside, I realized that this probably was transition but in the moment, I just wanted it to be over. My doula kept reminding me to moan deeply which helped a lot. Then she suggested I try floating on my back. I flipped to my back between contractions and supported myself with my finertips on the bottom of the tub. The weightlessness felt so restful. Then, as a contraction began I would flip myself end-over-end onto hands and knees. I worked through about 10 contractions this way when suddenly my hip flexors started to hurt SO badly. I needed to be upright, and I dug my own thumbs into the muscles and ligaments in my groin while moaning deeply during each of two or three contractions. At the end of the last contraction like this, according to my doula around 2:30AM, my moaning turned to a growl.
Doula: “Wow! Are you feeling a little pushy?”
Me: “No, a LOT pushy.”
My doula called for the nurse who managed to check me while I floated on my back. Amazingly, I had NO discomfort with the internal exam at all. The nurse--the float nurse as my nurse was at lunch--found me to be complete, just a teeny tiny lip of cervix right at the front. My doula told me just do what my body told me to do as the nurse called for reinforcements. The next contraction came quickly. I sat up on my knees with my body vertical and pushed.
“My water just broke.”
I quickly had another contraction and instinctively reached my hands down while pushing.
“I can feel the baby’s head.”
The head was *right there* with the top of it starting to crown.
Another contraction, and I pushed again with one hand on either side of the baby’s head. I kept pushing until the head was out, born into my hands.
“The head is out.”
At this point, four nurses converged on the tub. There was lots of reaching and grabbing and some yelling by one of the nurses. The fourth nurse to arrive was so calm while this other nurse was yelling at me to stop pushing and said, “You’re sitting on baby’s head! SIT BACK!!”
I thought, I can’t be sitting on baby’s head--I’m HOLDING baby’s head in my hands!
I saw four sets of hands reaching toward me in the tub. The nurses checked for a cord. One thought she felt one, but the calm, helpful nurse said, “No, that’s a hand.”
The freaking-out nurse yelled, “Why aren’t you pushing? Aren’t you having a contraction?”
I pushed the freaking-out nurse’s hands away from the baby with one hand and pushed once, gently, reaching down to grab baby under the arms. The calm nurse held baby’s back and helped me bring baby out of the water and to my chest.
2:51AM--born into mama’s hands
I sat back and they put a receiving blanket over baby. Dan was right next to my head, and he reached out to touch the baby as I put her on my shoulder. The cord was short and still pulsing, so it was a little hard to keep baby’s face out of the water, especially since I was a little out of it with the birth going so quickly. A few minutes later, I realized we had not checked to see if we had a boy or a girl. I thought I had heard a nurse say “she” but wasn’t sure. So I lifted the baby up for Dan and I to check together.
We were incredibly surprised as we both had grown to believe the baby I was growing was a boy. Uh oh...we definitely had no name ready for this little person!
Betsy, the calm nurse, felt the cord again and confirmed that it had stopped pulsing, so she clamped it and Dan cut it as I held the baby. Then it was time for us to get out of the tub. Baby was very, very mucusy so they unfortunately needed to take her to the warmer for some suctioning. My doula (also a CPM) said it was absolutely necessary--she would have been suctioned at home too, just on my chest instead of on the warmer. I didn’t want to move, didn’t want to leave the warmth of the tub, but I handed the baby to Dan who took her to the warmer and moved to the bed where I shook and shivered, and they covered me with layers of heated blankets. The nurses worked on the baby while the back-up OB--who FINALLY arrived once I was out of the tub--helped with delivering the placenta. Luckily, the back-up was also the one on call for my c/s with G! Some familiarity was nice. He laughed at me “precipting in the tub” and asked Dad, “Did you catch?” Dan just laughed, and I said, “No, I did!” That earned a laugh from the OB as well.
My OB showed up, apologetic, after the placenta was born. She said she should have known better since my active labors are so short and pushing phases even shorter. She said she debated leaving when I was admitted but thought she had a little more time to get ready. But she knew when she got the call that I was complete that there was no way she was going to make it in time. Her timing WAS great because I was able to get out of routine pitocin after the birth--she doesn’t do it, but the OB who delivered the placenta does, and I was asking them to unhook it since they attached it to my saline lock without my permission. She said that I’d not had a problem before and she wouldn’t have used it, so the nurses were okay with unhooking it before it even got started. At this point, also, baby was finally ready to come back to me after a long time getting some help with her breathing. She latched immediately and nursed well for quite some time.
The 5AM call to my mom was priceless! Not only was she in disbelief that the baby had been born already, but she could not wrap her brain around the fact that I had caught her myself.
Welcome to the world, little girl!