Parts of our birth story I expected, but there are several elements I did not. This may get lengthy and full of details that some would say is too much information. But I say, it's all part of the story!
For weeks leading up to delivery day I was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, slowly losing my mucus plug, and preparing for the big day. Knowing my body was preparing itself for labor any day, I had to get sleep at night without staying up late to blog. I knew it was important to be well rested for the physical exertion labor would put my body through.
As many of you know, I was expecting (and hoping) Xander would arrive naturally by his due date because of concerns about being induced due to gestational diabetes. His due date came and went, but no baby.
On Friday, December 7th, (the day after his due date) I had another NST and OB check. My OB said she didn't like letting diabetics go beyond 40 weeks; however, she was willing to give it more time. She checked me and I was 3 cm dilated, 80% effaced and X's head at station -1. She swept my membranes (which is quite uncomfortable!) to see if it would help trigger labor. If I was still pregnant the following week I would be induced on the 14th (41w1d). She mentioned breaking my water might be enough without using medication.
I left feeling a bit crampy, which was to be expected. If labor didn't start within 24 hours we were going to try a few natural induction methods suggested by my doula. Nothing else had worked yet, but timing is key too. I know some may consider membrane stripping to be a medical induction, but for me it was still a way to allow me a natural, unmedicated birth. At least it would still allow my body to labor on its own without forcing contractions like Pitocin.
We went out to dinner and I started feeling contractions. They were stronger than I'd felt so far and seemed to be happening with some regularity. I didn't tell Brian until we headed to Target afterwards. I wanted to keep walking to see if it would help things progress. I tried not to get too excited as they continued. As we drove home I started timing them.
They were coming around 8 minutes apart but my uterus wasn't completely relaxing between them. I drank water and laid down, then started pacing around the house. After about 2 hours I called my doula. She asked me to take a shower and let her know if they continued.
Unfortunately they stopped with the shower. I was disappointed that it had been false labor but thought it was still promising for this weekend. I then put Rissa and I to bed and joked with Brian that he should go to bed early too just in case.
As I nursed Rissa to sleep, I thought I felt a couple contractions. I fell asleep for a few hours but was woken up by my contractions. I laid in bed for awhile but they kept coming. Brian was still awake (having just laid down a little before I got up) and mentioned that I had been moaning a little in my sleep.
I got out of bed around 1am and started timing my contractions. They were definitely stronger than the false labor and were concentrated in my lower abdomen. They were averaging 6-8 minutes apart. I waited until 2am to call my doula to let her know. Poor thing hadn't gotten much sleep and started getting ready. She said she could hear a waiver in my voice that indicated to her that I was in labor. I was worried about calling too soon but she preferred more notice than not enough. She checked in with me a half hour later and I was still contracting. She asked if I wanted her to come over and I said that would be fine. My doula wanted to see me to help assess if I was in early labor since she knew from my previous birth story that I tended to labor internally rather than being very vocal.
My doula arrived between 3:30am and 4am. I was encouraged to get rest since my contractions weren't quite 5 minutes apart, but we concluded it was finally the real deal! One thing I definitely noticed was the scent – like menstration – when I was in the bathroom. My doula said that was the smell of birth. I felt excited – my baby was coming today!
Everyone tried to get some sleep and eat to keep energy levels up. My cats started acting odd. Bella kept following me around and pretty much stayed at my side all day. Freckles liked my doula's bag and took a nap in it.
Over the next several hours my contractions progressed. My mother-in-law came over to watch Rissa, but I did not progress as quickly as we thought I might. They stayed at 4 minutes apart for quite awhile (couple hours) but they were getting more intense. Changes in my breathing and face signaled oncoming contractions. I could no longer talk through them or do anything through them. If my phone was in hand I'd drop it as the surge came over me. A few started to bring more pressure and made me rock, sway and shake my head.
But I mostly remained silent vocally as I turned inward, closing my eyes and breathing them away. I did my best to relax my body through each contraction even though my body wanted to tense up and fight the surges.
I kept using the bathroom about once an hour and kept hydrated. Everytime I saw some bloody show I was to report it to my doula. Things were moving yet felt stalled. Overall I felt comfortable being at home in my clothes. It was much easier to stay relaxed and let my body do its thing.
I tested my blood sugar a few times to keep an eye on it and it was in normal range. If I couldn't control it I knew we might need to go to the hospital sooner for a glucose drip like with my daughter.
We trusted in my doula's knowledge and experience so we weren't planning to head to the hospital until she thought it was time. My instructions were to call the OB on call number when my contractions were 6-7 minutes apart for an hour. Goodness, I would have been calling before 8am and told to come in. No thanks!
As lunchtime came and went I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that my labor wasn't progressing faster, though it was finally active labor. Rissa became restless and whiny because she needed a nap, but there was too much excitement for her to settle down. She started asking for mama milk but I was conflicted about trying to nurse while laboring. Finally I decided I would lay down with her to nurse so she could fall asleep.
I'm convinced that helped put me over the edge to transition. While nursing my contractions got closer together and incredibly stronger. So strong I was writhing on the bed and had to force Rissa to unlatch. My doula came to check on me and found my contractions jumped to two minutes apart. Plus, I was feeling pressure – a lot of pressure in my bottom.
She told Brian to start the car and helped me out of bed and to the bathroom again. The pressure mounted and I struggled to walk. I was shaking – thought I was cold, but I was in transition. Somehow I made it to the car. Brian was instructed to call the OB number and tell them we are on our way, I'm feeling pushy but my water hadn't broke yet. My doula also said if I felt like pushing to look up and breathe or we could pull over.
The hospital is only about 15 minutes away from our house but Brian was on hold for the OB line for half the drive (and he called before we actually left). I gripped the car door with so much strength that my hands were numb by the time we got to the hospital. I kept lifting my bottom off of my seat, staring up at the ceiling. It felt like I was sitting on a water balloon that wouldn't pop. My relaxed self was gone. I struggled to maintain control and felt the most pain during those few minutes.
Brian pulled up to the main entrance and helped me inside. I could barely shuffle my way in. He grabbed a wheelchair and took me to the front desk. Labor and delivery hadn't been alerted that I was on the way. They made me sit in the lobby for several minutes moaning and writhing in the wheel chair. They insisted a nurse had to come down and get me, that I couldn't be taken straight up.
It was like a movie at that point. I'm in labor in the chair, moaning, face scrunched, being wheeled through the hospital. The most annoying thing was all the questions people kept asking me. I was in no mood to talk and could barely get words out. When I did respond my words tumbled out fragmented and in an angered tone. While the nurses tried to figure out what to do with me, the OB on call service finally told them I was coming in…
They didn't have a room ready and someone mentioned taking me to triage. I think someone finally listened to my doula and my vocalization, realizing I was close to delivering. They said there was one room that was sort of prepared but lacked some of the birthing goodies…things I had no use for at this point.
Everyone was running around like crazy. They wheeled me next to the bed and asked me to get up, get undressed and put on a gown. Well, I had trouble getting out of the chair my contractions were so close together. My hands were numb. I felt little control over my own body.
Finally I tried to get up with 3+ people helping me. My pajama pants and underwear came down. The nurse tried to have me step into some band that would hold monitors in place on my belly. I tried to lift my foot but involuntarily grunted and started to squat.
The nurse ditched the band and told me to get into bed. Everyone helped me onto the bed. I couldn't say anything. They pulled an arm out of my hoodie for the blood pressure cuff and a nurse checked me. She said she couldn't find a cervix.
I was fully dilated and ready to go. They put a sheet over my legs. The doctor wasn't there yet, they wanted to put an IV cap in my arm just in case…but never got to. As one nurse tried to put a monitor on my belly to check Xander's heart rate, I involuntarily bared down, grunting. I felt a big gush between my legs and knew he was coming. My doula peeked under the sheet and told the nurses, “There's his head!”
Monitor was forgotten about as they helped prop my legs up. I pushed a couple more times and out came my sweet baby boy at 3:15pm. 14 hours of labor later! I looked down, saw him all purplish and perfect. He started to cry and I relaxed back onto the bed.
He was brought up to me for skin to skin, I think before his cord was clamped. It was delayed for a bit and Brian cut it… I just can't remember if I was holding him before, during or after that. My legs shook uncontrollably for what seemed ever. It took a bit before I delivered my placenta, then I had to wait for the doctor.
My OB wasn't on call and I'd never met this one before. He came in to check me over and stitch me up (2nd degree tear again). All the while he made passive-aggressive remarks to the nurses about the room not having supplies, that my registration wasn't completed…and that I should have come in sooner…. Because they “like to have more control over things.”
Yeah, exactly why I didn't want to come in sooner. My OB had no issue with the plan (and after the fact joked with me about how fast I was at the hospital). I just tried to smile and nod.
I was the talk of the unit all weekend though!
Unfortunately, since it all happened faster than I expected upon my arrival I never got to use the Pretty Pushers labor gown I bought… Brian didn't get to put on his Daddy Scrubs we received to review… And there was zero time for birth photography.
Brian finally got to park the car while I initiated breastfeeding.
It was quite the day! We officially welcomed Xander at 3:15pm on December 8, 2012. He was 7 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long.