“To give birth, ... a woman must go to the place between this world and the next, to that thin membrane between here and there. To the place where life comes from, to the mystery, in order to reach over to bring forth the child that is hers.” - Jane Studelska
My plan for this birth was largely influenced by my first - a planned homebirth turned emergency c-section before I ever went into labor. And while that wasn’t the plan, I felt empowered - we elected the c-section based on the circumstances and made the best choice for Ellington. What felt traumatic was his swift removal from the OR to the NICU as a precautionary measure against possible infection. And me left alone in the recovery room for hours, unable to move with no nurses coming when I called.
So approaching this delivery, we planned for a VBAC as there was no apparent reason to elect a repeat c-section. But our ultimate goal was healthy baby, healthy mama, together. In line with this, we knew going into spontaneous labor as close to my due date as possible and avoiding as many interventions, including pain medication, would give us the greatest chance of this unless something else arose.
As my due date approached, I had so many doubts things would start on their own. I debated between letting things happen as they may or taking proactive steps to encourage labor (of course, many aren’t proven effective). After talking with my midwife and friends, I decided to try a few things. I was already eating dates, drinking red raspberry leaf tea and going to the chiropractor once a week. At 39 weeks, I decided to try acupuncture. I went on Tuesday night, that Friday and again on Saturday. They used a special machine hooked up to the needles that gave it an extra oomph. I was hopeful as several friends said this had helped them, but I also started to settle in to the idea of going to 42 weeks and having an elected repeat c-section.
After acupuncture Saturday, I got the sudden urge to prep a ton of food and get the house in order. I was also suddenly very irritated at my husband for not already packing his hospital bag!
I woke up on Sunday, February 23rd at 3am to use the bathroom and couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards. At 4am, I felt a little trickle, got up and realized my water might have broken. A few minutes later, contractions started. I wasn’t sure if these were really contractions or just stronger Braxton Hicks. I decided to just try to rest.
When my husband’s alarm went off at 5:30am, I told him my water broke and I was having contractions. We got up and as it became more certain my water broke, we knew baby would be coming in the next day or so. I spent time having breakfast with Ellington and reading to him. I texted my midwife and we chatted mid-morning about how things were going. Right after I hung up with her, I stood up and my water gushed out movie-style so we knew there was no mistake about what was happening! There was slight meconium in the water, so I called my midwife back and she decided to come check on me and the baby. We decided to send Ellington to grandma and grandpa’s at this point so I could rest during the early contractions. I laid in bed watching movies, I timed a few here and there and they were 30 seconds long and 2 minutes apart. Since Parker was ROA, the contractions kept pushing him into my hip bone, so I decided to sit on the yoga ball and just relax.
My midwife came by to check on me, and as soon as she ensured baby was handling the contractions fine, she left us to labor at home. At some point though, it became too much to watch TV or talk through the contractions so my husband called her to come back. They were radiating in my upper thighs and back and I couldn’t find a manageable position. She came over and we did some labor at home and then she recommended a walk. We drove to a little patch of walkway by the water and walked and walked to get the contractions closer and more consistent. When it got dark we headed back home and the contractions got more intense. I was so happy to be in labor on my own, and welcomed each contraction as the gift I had asked for.
My midwife was optimistic and decided to check my dilation. Not even 1cm. I held it together for a couple minutes while we talked through our options. It had been nearly 16 hours of contractions at this point with a ruptured bag and I was worried about how things would progress. We knew the best option of keeping us together after birth was to give birth as soon as possible, so we set off for the hospital planning to request pitocin to make the contractions more consistent and stronger.
When we got to the hospital, we met with the midwives and they got me settled in. I was still having contractions every two minutes so they hesitated on the pitocin. Different people kept coming in to discuss paperwork and there was a shift change. I started to get annoyed because I just wanted to stay in “labor land” as I called it and it felt like every time we had to discuss details, the contractions stalled out for awhile. Labor felt so primal, so internal; paperwork and options on the other hand required I put on my logical lawyer hat and really pulled me out of the process.
Finally, they agreed to give me pitocin and things got intense. I was having coupling: two back-to-back contractions (like a double peak) and then a 4-minute break. I labored through the night mostly on my knees and standing since I knew that could help change my cervix. The pain radiating in my thighs was so unexpected and actually the hardest part to cope with.
At this point, I had to use the bathroom and the contractions on the toilet and while walking were suddenly unbearable. I asked for an epidural. Internally, I was thinking of all those peaceful women who rest and have serene births while on an epidural, and I felt anything other than serene inside. My body had become a powerful, overwhelming force and I was afraid of what more was coming.
My midwife suggested we check how dilated I was so I could make an informed decision about an epidural. I was 8cm! The midwife checking me noted that she could feel a full head of hair and I started crying. I was so surprised and grateful that my cervix was actually dilating, and that I was so close.
Then our new nurse came in during shift change, and my midwife told me she had worked at The Farm and I felt even more supported and understood. I decided not to get the epidural and try laying down for awhile. I remember drifting off to sleep between contractions during this time. Again, I needed to use the bathroom and the contractions during this point put me over the edge again.
Afterwards, I tried kneeling upright on the bed for several contractions. The contractions were coming 3 in a row and then a break. There was so much pressure that it felt like my tailbone was going to crack open. I started telling everyone I couldn’t do it anymore and I needed an epidural. They gave me some nitrous oxide but it didn’t take the edge off at all. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling it right, but it felt like his head was already all the way down, and in hindsight, I may have been completely dilated for awhile. They called the midwife on duty to check me to see if there was still time to get an epidural. Turns out, I was 10cm and ready to push! They said I could still have one, but I decided to just get the baby out and make the pain go away.
For the first few contractions, I couldn’t get on top of the pain enough to push. But I was right, his head was already all the way down and they told me to reach down and feel his head. I felt his full head of hair! I got myself coordinated and pushed with the contractions. If I didn’t push hard enough, I found the pain of the contraction took over. I kept repeating in my head that the only way out was through. After an hour of pushing, at 10:04am, he was born and they handed him to me!!! That feeling of relief was just what I had imagined. I just marveled at him laying there on my chest, eyes wide open.
I did have a second degree tear and I had to have a shot of pitocin in my leg since my IV had come out during pushing. Certainly not the worst pain, but when you mentally get to the point of “yay, the pain is over!” those things hurt a bit more than usual.
We did skin to skin for an hour (which flew by!) and then my husband held him and we moved to the recovery room.
Parker’s birth was the most intense experience I’ve ever had. Physically, I feel like I ran a couple marathons but still so much better than I did after my c-section. Now we are home, enjoying the postpartum bubble before fully getting into the swing of life as parents of two!