On Monday, November 4, my due date, I started having some regular contractions. I timed them for an hour--8 minutes apart exactly. I called the midwife on call just to let them know I was having regular contractions. Then I text my mom and Julie to warn them they might be on call. And then, the contractions stopped.
I continued to have strong Braxton Hicks all night, but when I woke up they weren’t too intense, so I went to work. The more painful contractions continued all day, more like a menstrual cramp than the Braxton Hicks had been, but the pain and frequency didn't increase, so I kept working. At lunch, I went to the track to walk. The contractions got so strong I couldn't finish more than 2 laps, so I went back to my office to get ready to leave for the day and possibly for the next 8 weeks. As soon as I sat down, they stopped completely, so I finished my work day. We were expecting a bad rain/snow storm, so I called my mom and had her drive up so that she wouldn't have to drive in the snow. I assumed she’d be going home the next day and I’d be back at work.
I made some tacos for dinner. Around 6 pm, the contractions became stronger and more regular. We put Big A to bed and watched New Girl. By 9:15, I called the midwife to ask what I should do; the contractions were lasting about 15 seconds but were about 4 minutes apart. She said we should wait . I began to move from hands and knees during the breaks to squatting during the contractions supported by Nate. In an hour, the contractions were lasting about 30 seconds, so I called again. She said I could come in.
When we left the house, I assumed we’d be going to get an epidural. When the midwife, Annie, checked my cervix, I was at 5 cm. I had gotten an epidural with Big A when I was at 4 cm, so this knowledge gave me the strength to keep going without medication. I continued my routine of hands and knees and squatting. Nate and our nurse, Kristin, continued to encourage me with every contraction, telling me I was breathing well. I could hear myself tighten my vocal chords and was able to talk myself down to a lower pitch, and the praise they would give me when I did this fed me, since I thrive on praise. J
Eventually, I moved from the bed to the floor. Annie gave me a birth ball to hang over instead of having to hold myself up with my hands during the breaks. With each contraction, I realized it wasn't any worse than the one before, and since I had gotten through the last one, I could get through this one too. In addition, there was a clear break between contractions to rest, which I didn't get at all with Big A. I was very deliberate about trying to look into Nate’s eyes during the contractions, which helped me to breathe through them as well. After the contractions, I would rest my 3rd eye center (the space between the eyes) on my hands because Bridget, one of the prenatal yoga instructors, would say that relaxing the 3rd eye center tells your body you are safe. It seemed to help.
I asked to be checked again, and was now at 6 cm. The clock was behind Nate and I was watching it, so when I had only progressed 1 more centimeter, I stopped believing I could do it. I asked if I could get an epidural just to be able to rest for a bit and then take it out later, and was told that once it was in, that was pretty much it. Annie suggested some other medications or the tub. I couldn't remember what the risks were with the other meds, and when I had a med through my IV with Big A, it didn't do any good at all, so I figured we’d try the tub. It was helpful to change locations for a bit (and the lavender salts were a nice addition). Annie checked me in the tub and I was at 7 cm. I was again a bit disappointed.
However, shortly after this, the intensity increased. By the time I realized the contractions were harder, I had gotten through a few and was again able to talk myself through the next one, reminding myself that I had managed the last one and this one was no worse. At some point, I asked if this was transition, and Kristin told me transition is typically between 7-10 cm. This was enough to encourage me that I was in the worst of it, and it was still manageable. Somewhere in here, Nate told me I was doing this, I was having a natural birth.
At 9 cm, I started to want to push, and was told I’d have to use horsey lips or breathe shallowly to avoid pushing. Because of my position, the monitors stopped picking up Little A's heartbeat, so Annie asked to break my water and put a monitor on Little A's head. We did this and I quickly progressed to 10 cm and was told I could push. So I did! I pushed for an hour before she was born.
I was on my hands and knees, and then they wanted me to move around to help Little A find the right position, so I laid on my side and held up my leg with assistance from Kristin. Her head was coming out and Annie told me to feel her head. I reached down but I wasn't really sure what I was touching. I wasn't sure anything was really happening, but everyone kept telling me they were seeing more and more of her head. Finally they moved me to a supported squat with a squat bar and a sheet to push and pull against. Little A's head came out, and then they took over because her shoulder got stuck and the cord was around her neck once. They made me lay down and Kristin pushed on my belly. Then, she was out. There was no crying and they were taking her to a warmer instead of placing her on my belly, but Annie said she was fine and just needed some help getting started with breathing. Then she cried.
I have no idea what Nate said to me as all this was happening, something along the lines of “you did it” and “She’s here”. They brought her over and placed her on my skin. However, the placenta wasn't detaching, so they gave me a shot of Pitocin to try to help it along. This seemed to cause more unbearable pain than anything I had experienced so far, so I had Nate take Little A. They called the OB on call to assist because Annie wasn't comfortable trying to detach it herself. We waited for an hour, and the OB finally arrived. I’m not sure what she did, but I delivered the placenta shortly after that. That might have been the best physical feeling I had because it helped stop the contractions. I had 2 small 1st degree tears, so Annie stitched me up while I held Little A.
It was absolutely the birth story I wanted to have. I feel so fortunate to have been surrounded by people who believed in me, Little A, and the power of women to do what their bodies instinctively know how to do.