This has been a hard post to write. I desperately wanted to write it weeks ago, but with a newborn, time hasn’t really been available. But also, it’s been hard to write because I did not have the birth experience I wanted, and it took me a few weeks to deal with the emotions of it all. I’m still doing that. Trying to come to terms with my anger, regret and sadness. Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so I’m finally making myself get it all out. The good, the bad and the ugly of it all. (Warning: Parts of this are graphic. Reader discretion is advised.)
On Friday, June 28th, I was bored. The jigsaw puzzles were done. I had seen all the movies on TV. It was way too hot to go outside. I needed a break from reading The Baby Book. So, I decided to masturbate. It wasn’t even particularly good. It just made my uterus contract, which at this point, doesn’t feel so hot. And then a few hours later, things got started. It had totally slipped my mind that orgasms can get labor started. Oops. Good thing I was 39 weeks along.
After about an hour of sleep, just after midnight on Saturday, June 29th, I wake up to contractions and nausea. I know this is the real deal. I’d been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions for days, but these are not pain free. They wrap around my midsection and come with uncontrollable shakes. Also, I am super crampy with back pain, nausea and the need to pee or poop every 5 minutes. (I had heard that the body tries to clear itself out before birth. I thought at the time, great, I won’t poop during the birth then! Haha – not to jump ahead, but I totally pooped and my husband saw it.)
I wake up DH and tell him that the real event has begun. I know I won’t be able to sleep, so I move to the couch and start timing the contractions. I tell DH to sleep since he won’t have a chance once things get going, but he gets up anyway and brings me a garbage can to barf into. He rubs my back while I lay on the couch, trying to breathe as I was taught in hypnobirthing class.
I started taking notes about my contractions. Here’s what they looked like two hours after they began, starting with contraction #3:
2:24, 19 min later
2:52, 28 min later, bathroom break
3:17, 25 min later, bathroom break
3:40, 23 min later
3:51, 11 min later
4:04, 13 min later
4:12, 7 min later
4:23, 11 min later, vomit
4:33, 10 min later
4:36, 3 min later
4:42, 6 min later
4:44, 2 min later
4:48, 4 min later
4:51, 3 min later
4:56, 5 min later
5:03, 7 min later
5:05, 2 min later
5:09, 4 min later
5:14, 5 min later
5:15, 1 min later
5:18, 3 min later
And that’s when we switch to an iPhone app to keep track. The contractions are pretty close together right off the bat. I’m concerned about that, but know I’m not supposed to call our midwife until they’re 4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, or unless my water breaks, (or unless I’m freaking out and just need her.) I know it could take hours, maybe days, before the baby comes, but it’s still disconcerting to have contractions 2 minutes apart.
I labor throughout the night and call her at a reasonable hour in the morning. After speaking to me for a bit and listening to how I’m dealing, she says to call her back in a few hours and to try to get some sleep. (Ha! Wish sleep was possible, as I could’ve used it later.)
I vomit a few times and try to snack, although eating is the last thing I want to do. I get into my delivery dress (Yes, I bought a dress to birth in. Call me crazy. I actually thought I’d be wearing it when my baby arrived) and move from the birthing ball, to the bed, to the toilet and to the bathtub.
We have a small, deep tub, and I had purchased a cheap pool floaty thing to cushion my back while in the water. It works perfectly and feels glorious. The warm water is amazing, and I don’t ever want to get out – and that is where I stay for 4 hours. (I learned later that my poor DH had to go to the bathroom the whole time I was in there but didn’t have the heart to ask me to leave. This explains why he asked a few times, “Do you want to get out and try something else?” I told him, “Hell no. This feels amazing.” Sorry hon!)
For some reason, our hypnobirthing plan never really happens. I listen to the affirmations CD once (“I trust in my body and my baby to know what to do. I will have a calm, joyful, easy birth…”) and we do one hypno session, but it never really takes me very deep into relaxation. I’m just not feeling it, so that was that. (I wish now I would’ve tried harder to focus on what we trained to do. I think it might’ve gone a long way in helping us avoid what was to come.)
I develop this low moan to deal with the contractions. It isn’t silent, it isn’t “breathing through the pain” but it’s working for me and feels right. We listen to my birth music playlist, light some LED candles, and I move around to my various positions, timing the contractions all the while. DH is by my side the whole time, offering encouragement and praise and rubbing my back. He is my superman. There are wonderful, loving moments. He keeps telling me, “You’re doing so well, honey.” I’m sure it isn’t easy for him to see me like that – just balls out expressing myself, something I do not have a history of – but he’s a champ for me. It’s quite beautiful at times.
Eventually, the pain becomes intense, and I don’t want to do it anymore without my midwife.
I ask DH to call her and ask her to come. I guess I want guidance or something. On the phone, I know she’s asking him about how I’m coping and telling him that we have some time yet, and I yell out, “Just tell her to get her ass here! I don’t want to do this alone anymore!” She tells him she’ll be over in two hours. It pisses me off, but then, everything is at this point.
Here’s the thing. I knew that a midwife is there to help you deliver – not labor. A home birth allows you to labor at home alone, in the comfort of whatever position you want, on your own. A midwife doesn’t interfere with that. But I feel sort of abandoned, to be honest, and it makes me angry that I have already gone through hours and hours of this without her. I guess we should’ve gone over more thoroughly what was expected of each other.
When my midwife finally arrives, she tells me to labor on the toilet for a bit. (The toilet puts your body in the perfect position – it opens up your pelvis.) I had given up on the delivery dress when I got into the tub, so I was full on nekkid now. Past me would be mortifed, but it’s true what every mom told me: You’re not going to care if you’re naked in front of a hundred people when you’re going through that.
(Side note: You’re also not going to care if you have to poop while laboring on the toilet in front of your husband and midwife, and so you do with no apologies. Yup! I did that. I also may or may not have gone on the well-protected bed and that my DH “took care of it” as he tells me days afterward. That’s love! [Correction: DH informed me he didn't clean up poo, he cleaned up blood.])
The midwife checks my dialation. I don’t remember if she told me then what I was dialated to, but I know I got to 8 centimeters eventually. Woo hoo! I’m really getting tired and want to get the show on the road.
Note for moms-to-be: Never try to push Mother Nature along. Not allowing things to happen at their own pace can start the ball rolling downhill to the very interventions you’re trying to avoid. I know this, and still, I start poking and prodding Mother Nature to move things along.
I ask my midwife to break my water. She says, with her hand inside of me, “If you want me to, I can do it very easily right now.” I say, “Go for it,” and she does. Whoosh! A gush of water comes out and into the toilet. There is an immediate feeling of relief, though I don’t know if that is physical or just mental because it feels good for there to be something happening.
This, along with many decisions I will make later, is done without consulting my husband. I feel awful about that. We are supposed to be in this together, but I steamroll through the partnership and make spontaneous decisions in the heat of agony without consulting him. I am the worst partner ever.
It isn’t long before the midwife realizes that my bag of waters was holding my cervix open, and after it breaks, my cervix starts to close. (I didn’t even know that was possible! My body was closing back up? WTF?) My cervix closes back down to 6 centimeters. And there’s now a “lip” hanging over my cervix, partially blocking the baby’s exit door. She can push it back during a contraction, but it comes forward again after the wave is over. I don’t know this all right away though. This news comes later by several hours. Several hours of me wailing through contractions that are starting to be on top of one another, offering me no relief.
I don’t know what time it is, what day it is, what my name is. All I know is this fucking sucks, and I’m starting to seriously doubt my ability to deal. I want to be strong though. We planned for this. I feel strongly about a drug-free intervention-free birth. I want this. I can do this.
Now, at the end of my contractions, I start feeling the urge to push. I ask my midwife if it’s OK to push, thinking it must mean the baby is coming any minute now, right? Maybe she should get some hot water and ripped up sheets or something? It’s almost exciting to have a new sensation, even though it means agonizing endings to the contractions that leave me out of breath and like my head is going to pop off. She tells me to do what my body is telling me to do, but not to push if I don’t feel the need. Oh, I feel it alright. I’m convinced that the baby will be making her way out soon.
I was wrong. So wrong.
Seventeen hours have gone by since it all began. It’s now the afternoon on Saturday, and I am laboring on the bed. I’m tired, scared, filled with doubt and feeling oh so over it. (DH is a rock through it all, by my side the entire time, though I know he must’ve taken breaks to eat and go to the bathroom. Funny, I don’t remember ever being alone.)
In agony, I ask the midwife, “Am I just a wimp? Is it normal to feel like I can’t do this at this point?” She says something like, “They don’t call it labor for nothing. It’s hard work. You are doing great.” I feel annoyed that she just sits on the bed with me and watches. No advice? No encouragement? No tips or tricks? I don’t know what I expected, but I know it was more than I’m getting from her now. Maybe I’m mixing up the job of a midwife with a doula.
Note for moms-to-be: Get a doula!
Eventually, she leans in and in a soft voice, says, “I think it’s time you consider going to the hospital.” She explains that in her professional opinion, the lip over the cervix thing indicates trouble, and she thinks the baby has moved back a little. (Back? Babies can move backward??) “You may need help, and you still could have many, many, many hours of this ahead of you, and you are getting really tired,” she says.
I cry. (The first time my husband sees me cry.) I know what this means. Hospital means intervention. Drugs. Strangers in and out. Pushing on my back. Baby being attached to monitors. Not being able to drink or eat anything (not that I want to.) Not getting the bonding time I want with my baby. Being pressured into procedures I don’t want. Being under the gun to “move things along” or else “baby is in distress” and “you need a C section.” I’ve seen enough of A Baby Story to know how it works. And the whole reason we chose a home birth was to avoid all that shit.
I stop crying and say OK. I throw in the towel because relief at this point sounds glorious. And yes, my first thought was, mother f-ing epidural, yes please! Plus, I don’t want to risk complications at home. We have the back up plan for a reason.
At this point, the midwife’s assistant arrives (a little too late, lady!) She helps me get dressed, gather my hospital bag that I had pre-packed just in case (so glad I planned ahead for this possibility!) and make my way out to the car. I have to stop several times to grab the wall/couch/person next to me and moan through a contraction. I want to drop to the floor and curl up into a ball, but I also want to get my ass to that hospital. Hospital wins – I keep moving. The midwife calls ahead to our backup doctor on call, Dr. B, and tells him we’re on our way. She says she’ll meet us there. DH removes the car seat from the back of the car and throws it in the trunk. I lie down in the back seat, apologize for the wet mark I’m no doubt leaving on his seat and tell DH to drive like the wind. It’s only a 20 minute drive, but feels like forever. My moans have turns to yells. Poor DH reaches back to pat me and offer comfort. He tells me he’s doing his best to go fast, but is more concerned about driving safely. I do not make it easy on him.
We pull up to the emergency room entrance and DH runs in to get me a wheelchair …