My due date was April 19th. I had convinced myself that this baby was going to be late, some time around April 25th. Preparations were definitely being made for the home birth, but I continued to work through April 3rd, and when the home birth visits were cancelled and rescheduled twice, I thought, no big deal, we have plenty of time, yet. Holy Week came and went, the first week of April. I was having no Braxton-Hicks contractions anymore, since about 36 weeks. What I knew of those were that they were mild, definitely noticeable, but mild and isolated usually to the top of my uterus. Robbie always sat very low, so it was hard to tell if I had dropped or not.
35 weeks or so, loving every minute
38 weeks, and running out of room!
Easter was nice, and we spent it just as our small, little family together in our formal dining room. I made a ham (Boston Butt) and Rob made a turkey. We had lots of leftovers for the week.
At the end of Easter week, having finally met with Cindy, one of the midwives, for our home birth visit, we had pretty much everything we needed for the home birth – now we just needed to set it up. We planned to do this over the weekend of April 11-12. Friday night (April 10th) after going to bed, (and after having relations to help “soften the cervix” per Cindy), I awoke to a stronger type of contraction than I had previously felt. I knew enough to know this wasn’t the real deal yet, especially since it was my first baby. So I went back to sleep, and had a couple more contractions through the night. I never looked at a clock but I believe it was around 2:00am when these started.
Saturday April 11th we had planned to go to the Farmer’s Market, and I did not want to miss it, so we went – and I told Rob that I had had some contractions through the night, but assured him that they were very far apart, not regular, and this was either very early labor or false labor. I had planned to rest as soon as my contractions started, but suddenly that plan went out the window since we had things we needed to get from the Market, Petco, and Michael’s, and then had to come home to set everything up in the Parlour for the home birth – JUST in case this was the real thing! I continued to have contractions throughout the morning, with one particularly notable one at the Farmer’s Market that I needed to sit down for. I still didn’t look at a clock, but I estimated that the contractions were at this time coming every 12-19 minutes, but again, didn’t seem to be regular (though they could have been, I knew it was still way too early to be interested in that).
When we got home, we went into full speed getting the Parlour set – Rob had to bring down the full-size bed from the guest room, and set it up with the sheets and plastic tablecloths, as well as blow up the tub, and I moved some lighter furniture out of the way, and moved the rug over to the end of the room where the tub was. As I was bending and lifting and pushing things, my contractions came a bit closer together, and were stronger. I remember having to kneel or get on all fours to get through them, this time. Rob saw me have some of these contractions and scolded me to stop pushing myself, to go and lay down. I wouldn’t listen – I think instinctively we both knew this was the real thing, now, and I was determined to have everything in place for the next day, Sunday, when I imagined the birth would happen.
Baby's first clothes and my birth affirmations hanging in the Parlour.
Finally everything was set up for what I believed would be the following day’s active labor and birth. We had a quick frozen dinner, and then I went to bed in the full-size bed downstairs in the Parlour while Rob went up to the bedroom, because at that point my contractions were 9 minutes apart and consistent.I turned off all the lights and prepared to rest through the night to start the next day fresh and ready for labor to progress. By the time I was laying down in bed, the contractions were much more difficult to manage. I used my HypnoBirthing techniques and breathed up slowly, imagining my breath filling a giant balloon, then releasing the balloon with my slow exhale. After several of these contractions, and not falling asleep, I looked at my clock again and timed the next several, which were now 7 minutes apart exactly. I got up and had a contraction on all fours, which was much more manageable, and it was at this point that I realized I wouldn’t be getting any sleep if they stayed this consistent. Laying down was the most uncomfortable position for my contractions. (Makes ya wonder about hospital beds, eh?)
I decided to text my doula, as it was now about 11:30pm and I wasn’t sure if my contractions would continue to get closer together through the night, or what. She responded right away and said to let the midwives know, because they may be able to recommend something to help me sleep through the night, as this was still early labor. I spoke with Roxy at the midwives, and she said to take Tylenol PM – we didn’t have any, so I sent Mr TCIE to the QuickChek down the road to pick some up. Roxy had said to take 2 every 4 hours. I took 2, laid back down to go to sleep, but the contractions were again worse laying down, and still like clockwork every 7 minutes. I definitely could not sleep. By this time it was about 2:30am, and I was back on all fours contracting on the floor of the Parlour, when I decided to text Simone my doula, again. When she heard that the Tylenol had not helped me get any rest, and that my contractions were strong and still consistently every 7 minutes, she said she would pack her bag and be over. She got to the house about 4:00am on Sunday morning, April 12th.
Simone and Maeve (the doula in training who attended my birth, as well) were absolutely wonderful from the moment they arrived. They helped to set the mood immediately, and make a nice, safe, quiet space for me to labor during the dark night/early morning hours, and once the sun came up and the birds were chirping, they knew exactly when to switch things over to a more active, energetic, airy mood. I remember the entire time I was in labor thinking that the lighting and ambience in the Parlour was just perfect. My contractions early that morning were coming every 5 minutes, and when I was in the bathroom they came closer together, every 3-4 minutes. In the bathroom I noticed a small amount of mucus that was gummy in consistency and brown and clear in color – I thought this was my mucus plug (which it was, but only the beginning of it.) When the contractions had been every 4-5 minutes for a few hours, Simone said it was a good idea to call the midwives to let them know about my progress. I called and Roxy was at another homebirth with Chrissy up in the northern part of the State (about 1- 1.5 hours away)! She said she would call me back after they made a plan of what to do. While awaiting her call back, I went back to the bathroom (after each strong contraction, I had a bowel movement during the day on Sunday – by the end of the afternoon, I had had 13, yes, 13 bowel movements!!!) – and passed more of the mucus plug and afterwards I thought I felt fluid dripping from me, not from the urethra. I mentioned this to Simone and she said to call Roxy back and let her know, that it could be my amniotic fluid leaking. I called back and Roxy said that she was sending Chrissy to the house to check my status, but that she wouldn’t be there for another hour or so.
I continued to labor while waiting for Chrissy, and she showed up sometime around 9:00-10:00am to check my cervix. At this point my contractions had been steady at 4 minutes apart, and in the bathroom (where I was quite often!!) they came every 3 minutes. We were all pretty convinced that something was definitely happening with my dilation.
Chrissy told me that I was 1+ cm dilated, and 55% effaced. This was a huge bummer to me, since my contractions had been so strong and every 3-4 minutes for what seemed like awhile, but Chrissy gave me suppository of Fenergen to help me sleep since I was still so early. I couldn’t lay down, still, so I sat in the recliner to try to sleep. I did get some rest, waking up with some contractions, and only moaning through others (per my doula), and got 2 hours of sleep. At noon, however, I was up for good because now the contractions were even stronger and I couldn’t sleep through them at all. I found that the best position for me to get through a contraction was squatting, so I would squat while holding onto the bathroom sink, squat while hanging over the edge of the portable tub in the Parlour, and later on in the day, I discovered that holding onto the mantle in the Parlour was also a good squatting position. It was a gorgeous day outside, about 68-70 degrees or so, and Simone had us go out for a walk and while walking I also squatted to contract. Other positions I tried were all fours leaning on the birthing ball, sitting on the birthing ball, and sitting with my legs straight out in front of me while leaning back slightly. In between contractions I was still able to talk and even joke with Simone and Maeve, while stretching, doing some yoga poses, and trying to relax. Also after every contraction I would belch and/or get the hiccups, which we all thought was funny. One time I went to the bathroom and Simone didn’t come upstairs with me, but I was hiccupping on my way down the stairs and she said, “Oh, you must have just finished a contraction!”
At around 1:30pm, Jodi my chiropractor and Dr Jean my NaPro Dr/friend showed up. Jodi gave me an adjustment to help things progress a bit quicker. Dr Jean helped me labor by holding my hips or allowing me to lean back into her as I squatted through a contraction. Both of them left by 2:00pm, but Dr Jean said she would return after a hike with her husband. For the rest of the afternoon, the doulas made me special labor drinks and got me snacks and water whenever I needed them, along with anything else I could possibly have needed, they diffused essential oils in the Parlour for me, and made suggestions for new things to try – we went for another walk, and went out and sat on the porch when I no longer wanted to be “on display” in the neighborhood, we played my labor soundtrack on the iPod to energize me, and I took a shower. While listening to my soundtrack, I remember becoming aware of the irony of my song selections, and the lyrics of those songs. “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel, “So Much To Say” by Dave Matthews (with the lyrics “cuz here we have been standing for a long, long time – treading trodden trails for a long, long time”), “Rocket Man” by Elton John (lyrics “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time”) and “Run Around” by Blues Travelers (lyrics “is there a sure-fire way to speed things up, when all it does is slow me down”). Also during my many visits to the restroom, I saw more of the mucus plug and a lot of bloody show. Dr Jean returned around 6:00pm or so, and by this point I was chatty a lot less between contractions, and more focused on staying relaxed and in my zone. Simone suggested I return to the bathroom to have my next 3 contractions, because every time I was in the bathroom, I had very strong, very close together contractions, and she wanted to help me to progress. She noticed that in the Parlour my contractions were about 4 minutes apart, but now in the bathroom they were every 2-3. The contractions were lasting 60-90 seconds, now, where earlier in the day they were 60 seconds. We decided to call the midwives again when I was at this pattern for a couple of hours. I wanted to be sure that I was further progressed when we called the midwives, again – I was so worried that they would show up and tell me I was only 3cm. Both Simone and Dr Jean assured me that the way I was laboring and how my contractions were, there was no way I was only 3cm. So we called, and Chrissy came back to the house to check me. Now it was about 8:00-9:00pm on Sunday night. By now, I was soooo ready for this baby to be born. I remember telling Simone that I just could not do this for another 24 hours, but what I actually meant was I couldn’t do it another 12. I was either going to be having this baby TONIGHT, or I was checking myself out! So, when Chrissy checked my cervix and told me I was at 2+ cm, I immediately broke down into tears. I was defeated. I couldn’t go on any longer. In my mind, all of this laboring was a wasted effort, and at 2cm, I could only imagine that if I continued naturally, I was in for another 6 days of labor!
Chrissy told me that I had a few options. She knew that I needed to rest more than anything else, and she suggested we could try the Fenergen medication, again (which only gave me 2 hours of sleep previously), or she could call in some additional medications to use with it, and then when I woke up I could continue to labor at home and hopefully deliver at home, as planned. In retrospect, this sounds like it could have been a viable option to try. She also said we could try cod liver oil to move things along quicker. At that time, I knew that whatever decision I made HAD to be one that was definitively going to lead to this baby being born SOON, within 12 hours at most!! I did not feel that trying those options at home would be foolproof, and I feared laboring through more wasted efforts only to make the ultimate decision 12-24 hours later. The final, and ultimate option and decision made was to transfer to the hospital where they could offer me some pain relief via IV that would ensure sleep, as well as possibly and epidural and Pitocin to move my contractions along so that my cervix would finally respond. After discussing with my doulas, Dr Jean, and Rob, I knew my decision was clear – to the hospital it was. I wasn’t about to hold on for dear life to my home birth plan. This was an unexpected turn of events, HypnoBirthing prepared me to meet it calmly, and infertility more than prepared me to graciously accept that I had no control over this turn in my birthing. While yes, retrospectively I was a little upset I didn’t get my home birth, I also know that I had the birth that I and Robbie needed. And at the time? At the time I even said to everyone in the room, “Just take me to the hospital, I’ll have an elective C-Section!” Yeah. I was DONE.
Except, I wasn’t done L
Mr TCIE was frantic running around the house getting things together for the hospital – clothes for me, the baby’s clothes (which were hanging in the Parlour already), snacks and drinks, the witch hazel/lavender/frankincense sanitary napkins I had frozen for after birth, a cooler for the placenta… (yes, we took the placenta home and let's just leave it at that :)- he was absolutely crazed, since we hadn’t packed a hospital bag. I kept assuring him this wasn’t an emergent transfer, but at the same time, every time a contraction came, I was audibly VERY eager to get to the hospital. The only hospital where my midwives had working privileges was 50minutes away, so Mr TCIE was also very concerned to see me in so much discomfort all that time. As he set up the backseat of the car (laid down chucks pads and towels in case my water broke, , moved the seats all the way back so I had room to move, at least minimally, through contractions), I had several contractions outside the car. Then when I finally got in, Mr TCIE ran back inside to let the dogs out and grab a few more items we had forgotten – and the contractions I had in the car were so uncomfortable, I got back out and squatted nearby to get through them. I was not looking forward to this long drive to the hospital!
On the way to the hospital, we called my parents, my sister, and Mr TCIE's dad to let them know we were heading there, but that I was only 2 cm so it would probably not be until the next morning that we’d be welcoming the baby. My Mom said they would leave really early the next morning to come to the hospital, but I told her to await Mr TCIE's (or our doula’s) call that things were getting close. I had a contraction while on the phone with her and had to pass the phone to Mr TCIE. Each time he stepped on the brakes to slow down or stop, my contractions were worse. I held onto the headrest of the passenger’s seat and “stood” up as much as I could to get through each one. Mr TCIE made record time to the hospital, and we arrived around 10:00pm.
Since I had not pre-registered at the hospital, I had to fill out paperwork, but there was no way I could fill out anything, so Mr TCIE started it for me, then Simone finished it since he had to move the car and get some more of our things. Luckily, he had cleaned out the entire car the day before I started contractions!!! He hadn’t installed the car seat, yet, but since he had to go back to take care of the dogs at some point, he figured he’d do it then. Chrissy arrived (one of our midwives) and told me Lisa (another midwife, one of the senior midwives) was on her way. I had some loud contractions in the waiting area of the hospital maternity ward, and quicker than I’ve ever been taken to a room, a nurse came and showed me to a room with a birthing tub J Even through my contractions I made sure to ask if my room had a tub (they have several, but sometimes they run out of these rooms).
Once in the room, they made me get into the hospital gown and bed, and about 97 different people came in to ask me the same questions over and over. My LMP… um, really? Does it MATTER at this point? Having had the opportunity to labor in the comfort of my home now gave me a new perspective on how the hospital was trying to “manage” my labor and birth. Luckily, when it came to the actual labor and birthing, that’s where the midwives did have clout. But, I still had to tell 97 people my mother’s maiden name, and if my 2nd cousin on my father's side was allergic to anything, at the peak of my contractions.
They administered a pain relieving medication through an IV that remained taped on my arm, and the good thing was I could get out the bed and walk around the room, use the bathroom, etc. without being “connected” to anything. I remember using the bathroom and seeing a lot more of the bloody show, and by now, things were getting real messy and I didn’t care since it wasn’t my bathroom J Lisa had arrived and talked with Chrissy to get caught up on how I was, and she checked me again and I was at 4cm. She watched/listened to me having contractions after the pain med, and saw that they were lasting for 2 minutes (usually they are 1 minute, but I’m just special, I guess). Even though I was only at 4cm, Lisa started drawing the water to fill the tub, because my laboring seemed much more advanced. That was absolute music to my ears. I remember being in the bathroom, trying to stand up with Mr TCIE and Simone’s help, they were trying to fix my gown and monitors, and I just didn’t care anymore, I was going to walk to the tub butt naked and no one was going to get in my way or slow me down!
Stepping into that hot water was nothing short of divine. Yes, I was still having 2-minute long, intense contractions, but being surrounded by that warm water just felt so… secure and manageable. I stayed in the water, with Lisa refilling with hot water periodically, for about 2 hours(??) Lisa checked me again in the water once I started acting “animalistic” as Mr TCIE called it. I was finding it hard to focus my eyes on one thing, and I was moving and contracting like an animal, he says. Lisa had me turn over and “float” my pelvis up towards her, and she checked me and I was still at 4cm!! It was at that time that we decided enough was enough, and she asked if I wanted an epidural to get some rest, followed by Pitocin to help my cervix to open while my body rested. I was ready to embrace this unanticipated route, and they called the anesthesiologist in.
It seemed like forever for him to get everything set up, and I felt like I had about a million contractions while waiting for that needle in my back and the sweet, sweet relief that quickly followed. Finally, I was able to breathe and feel my own center, again, and I think I almost immediately laid back and fell asleep.
The next thing I knew, and I had no concept of time since I had fallen asleep, I was waking up to the most God-awful, painful, intense, never-ending contraction known to woman. All I could feel were two simultaneous and equally strong feelings: pain and fear. I had NO IDEA what was going on, but part of me didn’t care because the pain was just so awful I couldn’t focus on emotions. I turned and grabbed the closest thing I could, the rail of the bed, and nearly ripped it right off. The contraction from hell just kept going, there was no climbing, peaking, and winding down like all my previous contractions, this one started at Defcon 5 and stayed there… for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES. It could have been 30 seconds, it could have been an hour, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I was in it, and there was no way out. All my breathing techniques went out the window since I hadn’t prepared before the contraction hit, and all I was doing was trying to survive it. I remember one of the midwives (later I learned it was Chrissy) checking my cervix towards the end of this contraction, to see if it was in fact actually dilating me to the extent that it was contracting my uterus. While she checked, Lisa told her to go ahead and break my water, which she did. When the contraction heard ‘round the world finally stopped, I recall the nurses and Chrissy arguing about whether or not it was the fault of the Pitocin. The nurse was saying that she had JUST turned on the drip, so it couldn’t have been the medication. While Chrissy counter-argued, Lisa came in and reached over and turned off the drip. If ever I was happy to have the most “take no prisoners” midwife from my group in my birthing room, it was then and there!! No more Pitocin for me (during that labor, or ever, ever, ever again in the future!!!)I got back to sleep after being assured that THAT would never happen again(!) and it was now about 4:00am. My amazing doulas, having been with me now for 24 hours straight with no breaks for real naps, went to Simone’s nearby house to grab a quick nap while I rested.
I awoke around 7:30am to the voices of Mr TCIE, my mom, and my sister whispering, and I could tell that they were talking about my Epic Contraction from a few hours previously. My sister later told me when she came into the room and looked at the monitor, she pointed to that contraction (which was still on the screen) and said, “Oh, WOW, look at THAT one!” When I awoke I also got another strong contraction, but this time with a ton of pressure very, very low. It was the pressure that was most intense. I started to breathe and moan loudly, and my sister and mom quickly left to go wait in the waiting room. Chrissy had been napping in the room with me, and she woke up and came over immediately to tell me the pressure was a great thing, and that I could start preparing to push. I was at 10cm(??? I don’t recall if she told me how dilated I was at that time).
To prepare to push, Chrissy told me to go ahead and use my HypnoBirthing breathing to breathe DOWNWARD and help to ease the baby lower and lower. I did my best, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually doing it correctly. Chrissy seemed really calm and confident, but also was not right by the bedside the whole time, so I assumed I had a long way to go. She said she would let Lisa know when I was ready to actively push (Lisa was napping elsewhere in the hospital). Well, sooner than I think Chrissy expected, the baby’s head was fully engaged and she was calling Lisa in. Lisa quickly got her gloves on and I saw her and Chrissy getting a bunch of things ready “down there,” as Chrissy told me whenever I felt like it, I could begin pushing.
For the first couple of pushes, I tried breathing the way I read how to in Hypnobirthing. It wasn’t quite clicking, and didn’t feel right. Lisa just bluntly told me, “OK, listen, I’m not ‘coaching’ you on pushing, BUT, just push harder than you ever thought you would ever have to push in your life.” I took that as a challenge J With the next contraction, I breathed in deep, held my breath, and pushed HARD. I could feel the baby descending! I was able to get about 2-3 good pushes in with each contraction, and then there was a break. Chrissy kept reassuring me that I was doing great, and I think she was amazed each time she checked that he was coming so nicely and quickly! As I could feel his head coming through the cervix, I remember Mr TCIE speaking to Robbie. “Come on, Big Boy! You can do it, my Big Boy!” I quickly said, “How about we call him ‘Little Boy’ as I push him out?” Lisa responded, “Good idea.” (This may be my favorite memory from pushing.)
Before I knew it, they were saying that his head was right there and they could see all his hair! They told me to reach down after that push and feel his hair. I remember thinking this was funny, because I was totally in a zone of getting him out efficiently and safely, and I really did NOT care about the hair, so I faked an obligatory “Oh, wow!” and quickly got back to business.
When the head was coming out, Lisa told me to prepare to ease up when she told me to and not push as hard. I followed her directions to a T, and I remember feeling like this part was amazing, even while I was doing it. I felt powerful and capable. After the head was fully crowned, they had me turn onto my left side with their help and Simone’s help, so the baby’s body could turn properly. For the next contraction after one push they told me to ease up, but I heard them whispering about the meconium near his mouth, and wiping it away. I felt secure and safe since they were so calm, but at the same time, I thought, this baby may need to come out quicker if he has meconium! So, for the first time, I did not listen and instead of easing up, I pushed harder. His head was out, and another push and out came his body. I heard them saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” when I pushed before they were ready J (I did wind up with a superficial tear because of this stubbornness – Lisa told me “Well, you had the POTENTIAL not to tear, if you had listened to us!”) They also later told me that his little nose turned upwards at the last minute as his head came out, causing the other superficial tear up top.
I could hear him crying, and I was quickly turned onto my back as they wiped away his meconium. What was a matter of seconds felt like an eternity and I was saying “Let me see him, I can’t see him…” since my legs were in the way. Then I finally got a glimpse of my boy...
They lifted him onto my belly and his tiny little face cried and his eyes searched for mine. It was all at once magical and surreal. I could freeze that moment in time. I didn’t know it at the time, but the reason he was on my belly and not my chest was because his umbilical cord was short. Interestingly, Simone told me later that she wonders if short umbilical cords are somehow linked to long labors with failure to progress, as she had now seen this scenario twice in her own experience.
After the cord stopped pulsing, they were clamping it off to have Mr TCIE cut it. Then, my baby was finally on my chest, in my arms, and only inches from my face. I kissed his head. I stared and stared and stared at his perfect little body. He was just – perfect. The nurse told me I had pushed him out in 23 minutes, and that that was amazing for a first time mom. He was weighed and measured after we had uninterrupted skin-to-skin bonding time. He was 7lbs 9oz, 20 ¼” – and entered the outside world at 10:53am on Monday April 13th. Finally after a good ½ hour together alone, Mr TCIE went and told my parents and sister, who came into the delivery room to meet him. Lisa helped me to get him latched for breastfeeding, and afterwards, they were ready to move me to the recovery room.
I felt pretty amazing after everything, considering I hadn't slept in 3 days. But how could I not feel amazing?? The entire experience, from positive pregnancy test through delivery and continuing through today, has been surreal only in that it has NOT been surreal. In other words, I feel like I have been handed a new mission in life, and that my heart, body, mind, and soul jumped right into it without looking back. Every experience, every moment of maternity has felt so natural to me that I almost don't remember the 8 years of painfully sorrowful childlessness that preceded it.
This has been my experience. I know it is not every woman's story, but it is my own. And I couldn't have written a better one, myself. Thank you, Author of my life. Thank you.
And now, back to my #1 priority...
Robert Joseph, 7 weeks old today
OMG... I blinked.