I loved reading birth stories so much when I was pregnant, and talking to all of my friends about their birth experiences. As much as it helped to know what I might be able to expect, but every single baby definitely comes in their own special way! There were ways that we had prepared ourselves, but there wasn’t much of the day that could be called “planned” in advance. There were a couple pieces of advice that helped: the first was my friend Jodie telling us that having a baby is called labor for a reason – it’s hard work, and not something you just lay in bed and wait for. The second was knowing the different birthing positions, how helpful the ball could be, and that gravity would help to get the baby out. (Warning: this is long, but I want to be able to get it all down while I still remember it all.)
As mentally prepared as I was to go past my due date, I started feeling antsy a week before. Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday I had some cramping and signs that labor might be nearing, but I was taking it easy, not going for long walks or anything to kick labor into gear. Monday I worked a regular full day (from home). I ran to the grocery store in the morning for some basics, and Monday night got caught up on thank-you notes and worked on a few crafty things for the baby. I didn’t have any pre-labor signs at all on Monday and went to bed like it was a normal night.
At 12:40 am I woke up to a gush of water as my bag of waters broke. Out the window went our plans for a nice slow early labor at home, killing time until it was time to go to the hospital. Poor Carl had only slept about an hour and we were both in shock trying to make sure we had everything ready to go to go to the hospital. I had packed his clothing, but he didn’t have things like his sleeping mat ready to go at all. We ran around in circles for a bit, Carl took a quick shower, and we were off to the hospital. Everyone we talked to warned me to eat on the way to the hospital since it would be so long until I could eat again, so I grabbed a couple of pieces of leftover pizza to eat in the car (and I think Carl ate a bowl of cereal – if we were thinking things through we should have taken the time to make him a sandwich, though, because I didn’t let him leave to eat food and he got pretty hungry too).
We checked in at the hospital at about 2 am. They got me hooked up to the IV (for fluids & antibiotics since I was strep B positive) and checked me out and discovered that I was still only about 1 cm dilated, so they put me on a pitocin drip right away around 3 am. If I had had a birth plan it would have said one thing in big letters, NO PITOCIN, but things change. I had heard so many bad things about pitocin contractions (and contractions after your water breaks), but my options were either to wait around and see if things progressed and end up on pitocin anyway, or to just go ahead and start it like the doctor wanted.
For the next two hours my contractions were fairly easy, and were about 5 minutes apart. I hung out in the hospital bed and used the computer, watched TV, and Carl tried to get in a little nap. I had a couple tough contractions where I vomited all of the food I had eaten on the way to the hospital, which apparently was a sign that I was dilating. I was put on an anti-nausea drug and that meant that I wasn’t even supposed to have much to drink or many ice chips for the rest of the day because it would be too much stress if I was throwing everything up. It also meant that they kept my pitocin dosage to the lowest amount, though. By 5:30 I was 3 cm, so they declared my active labor to have started at 5 am because there was a “cervical change”.
The next stretch felt long, because we had no idea how much longer we had. 6-12 hours was the best estimate we heard, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it without drugs for 12 hours. I was having a lot of back labor so I was having Carl press on my spine and my hips during each contraction to make them bearable. At some point I moved onto the birthing ball (it looked like this), which was the best thing all day. It helped Carl get into a better position to push on my hips and back, it relieved some of the pressure on my pelvis, and I was actually able to breathe through a couple contractions on my own without coaching (seriously, like 2. I needed a lot of reminders to breathe and relax, even while I was clenching my face and saying I AM RELAXED). Around 9:15 the doctor came by and I was at 6 cm, which gave a lot of hope that this wouldn’t last forever. I got back on the ball, and by this point we had reached a rhythm. I’d say “it’s coming”, Carl would get into position, coach me through each contraction, and it was all a lot easier (although let me mention that there is no doubting that it hurt every bit as much as I ever thought labor would hurt. And I argued for the drugs, saying that with back labor, pitocin, and my water having broken I must be in too much pain to make it without drugs, but especially once I was at 6 cm and it looked like I was progressing well enough that I could make it through. This was so much a team effort – there’s no way I would have made it through without Carl’s coaching and help).
The surprise came around 10:30/10:45 or so (really the contractions were close enough that I couldn’t focus on anything else, much less the clock) – I started feeling this urge to push during the contractions and I told the nurse that there’s no way I should be feeling that because it was way too early! She checked, and I had progressed all the way to 9 and the baby had dropped almost into position in the last hour. That progress right there is the best advertisement I can give for the birthing ball – it opened up my hips and helped give the gravity needed to move the baby into place. After she checked me out, I got back on the ball for a few minutes, where Carl could actually feel the baby moving down while he was pushing on my back. They called the doctor to come back to the hospital and I moved back into bed after not very long in case it was time to deliver the baby. The nurse told me not to fight the pushing, but not to encourage it either. One of my biggest reasons for not wanting an epidural was to be able to feel the urge to push and use my body’s endorphins to their natural benefit. I have to say, it’s a pretty cool that your body is naturally working to get the baby out like it should. And maybe because the pressure had finally released off of my spine, pushing was the least painful part of the day. Once the doctor showed up, I pushed 3 times in each of 3 contractions and Will was out! Getting stitched up took annoyingly long, but seeing him for the first time was such an awesome feeling.