I went into labor around 5 pm on Tuesday, September 23, 2008. I had worked that day and came home and played with my 23 month old. I felt a little off, though, like I was getting a cold or just worn down. I went to the bathroom and lost my "baby cork" - I had lost a part of it the day before. I went to lie down to rest and within minutes, I started having period-like cramps. They were about 8 to 10 minutes apart. I ignored them because I didn't want to get too excited in case it wasn't the "real thing." Jonathan came home around 7 and I told him I thought I was having contractions. I also called my doula to give her a heads up in case it turned into the real thing.
I really wanted to continue with my normal daily routine and not get too excited. I really wanted frozen yogurt, so Jonathan, Jonah and I went to Ice Berry :-). Afterwards, we went home and did the usual bed routine for Jonah. I called my doula again at 9 PM to tell her I thought the contractions were every 6 minutes apart. I tried going to sleep at 10, but lying down was not comfortable. I told my mom and Jonathan to go to sleep and I tried various sleeping positions until I finally found one that worked... which, as funny as it sounds, was on the toilet. I put a pillow on the closed seat and stacked more pillows up on the tank and put my head down. I put some music on from my iPod and just tried to relax as much as possible. I was able to sleep in between contractions - some of them would wake me quite suddenly while others I slept right through. By 1 AM, they were about 4 to 5 minutes apart, so I woke Jonathan up. He called my doula and my midwife. We weren't able to reach our midwife so the OB on call called us. She was one of my LEAST favorite at the practice. She recommended I head into the hospital. I told her, thanks, but I was going to stay at home. Hilary, my doula, arrived around 1:45 AM and, much to my dismay, my contractions slowed down. I was so embarrassed. She told me it was completely normal. We walked around and talked. We even tried going for a walk outside but it was FREEZING so we came back in. At about 3 AM, I felt very tired and told her I really felt like I wanted to try sleeping again. We have a big sectional couch so we both took a side and went to sleep. I was waking with most contractions and I remember softly moaning through some of them. I never thought I would be a vocal laborer!! I also remember our dog, Bogart, was lying on the floor where my feet were hanging off and I would rub him with my feet through some of the contractions. His soft fur was comforting. With each contraction, I kept trying to relax deeply, using slow deep breaths from yoga and HypnoBirthing classes. I also kept thinking, "am I really in labor?" Time seemed to be going by quickly - it was strange.
At 6 AM, Hilary woke startled, which startled me. She sat up quickly looking to where I was lying and said, "I had the strangest dream that you went upstairs and had the baby and didn't tell anyone." That made us both laugh. I reassured her that I definitely didn't do that and if the baby was coming out, I was definitely letting her know. We woke up and I told her I was ready to get "things moving." She suggested I take a shower. That felt great - I didn't want to get out. I was having contractions still about every 5 minutes. We had some breakfast - I had red raspberry tea with honey and a piece of toast with honey and almond butter. Jonah woke up and was running around being very cute.
For contractions in the kitchen, I would lean forward and over the counter -- Hilary began some back massaging at this point as the contractions were getting stronger. I think it was about 7 AM. We went upstairs and I felt like I was going into a trance. I completely lost track of time and took each contraction one at a time. I sat on the birth ball, squatted holding onto the side of the bed, squatted leaning into Hilary for support as well as Jonathan. I remember crying a little because I was so overwhelmed with how amazing the experience was. I was so happy to be experiencing childbirth!! And I was so happy to be laboring in the comfort of my home, with my husband, mom, and doula there as my support team. And the dog :-).
I was getting the feeling of being "done" with it, though, and started to tell Hilary. I just wanted to be done with the labor. I was getting tired, but, I never once even thought of pain medication. I was just tired. Hilary suggested I get into the soaking tub - it was about 11 AM. Jonathan, bless his heart, got in with me - something he swore he would never do. (He wore his swim trunks). I didn't like the tub, which surprised me. The warm water felt great, but I didn't like how I was floating all over the place. I couldn't feel grounded and I felt like when I was going to have a contraction, I needed to know where I was going to be. I remember definitely being in a trance-like state. My eyes were closed most of the time from 7 am on... at one point, I remember Hilary saying, "after the next contraction, let's go to the hospital." I felt such relief - I didn't *want* to go to the hospital, but I was relieved that it meant I was making progress.
I am not sure how long I was in the tub, but as soon as I got out, I felt a warm trickle down my leg. I looked down and said, "I think my water just broke." Hilary checked it and it was indeed my water. It wasn't gushing out. I told Hilary I was about to have another contraction. I put my arms around her shoulders and rested my head against her right shoulder and she told me it was going to be a strong one. I am glad she prepared me as it was quite intense. A bunch of water gushed out with that contraction. She grabbed a chux pad and a pair of my husbands underwear (ha ha - he was kind of surprised when we got to the hospital later to find his underwear on the floor full of amniotic fluid!) She told me the car ride to the hospital was not going to be fun. She wasn't lying. The original plan was for me to ride in the SUV with my husband to the hospital. I almost started to cry I was so desperate for Hilary to not leave my side. I begged for another option. They quickly came up with a plan that my mom would drive Hilary's minivan, I would ride in the back... backwards so that I could hug a seat and kneel (I didn't want to sit at all because I felt so much pressure), and Hilary would ride next to me so she could rub my back. Thank God for that - I would have never made it in that car ride otherwise. Of course, we hit every light - not that I was aware of it at the time. But I do remember at one point opening my eyes at a stoplight and seeing this odd look on a truckers face like, "what is going on in that car??"
A few times in the car, I felt like I had to push, although, looking back, I think it was just the newly added pressure of the baby coming down. We got to the hospital at 12:15 and the ubiquitous guy with the wheel chair came out. I said, "I don't want it, I don't want it! I can't sit!" He kept insisting and I just walked right passed him. I had a contraction in the lobby and remember seeing this little old man reading his paper look up at me and quickly look back down at his paper!
We went to the 2nd floor as instructed by the lady at the front desk. Apparently, that's where you go to register. Once we got there and I realized that's NOT where I was having my baby, I yelled, "there is no time for this!" We got to the third floor and Beth, my midwife, met us in the hall. She was trying to rush me down the hall, but I was trying to take my time, stopping for contractions. Apparently, I had quite a few once I got to the hospital, but I really only remember two or three. It's great how relaxation throws you into a serious time warp. The other wonderful thing about natural child birth is that God gives you breaks when you need them. You will have one really strong contraction, and the next seems more bearable or shorter. And sometimes the rest in between felt longer than it was. Thank God for that gift.
We got into the room and Beth said she had to check me. I was "9 centimeters with a cervical lip." I don't think a sentence ever sounded better in my life. I couldn't believe I was 9 centimeters - and I don't think the hospital staff could believe it either!! I didn't come in screaming in pain and I walked the entire way - I think they might have thought I was 5 or 6, which is what I was so worried she was going to tell me. I started pushing at 12:45 even though I really didn't feel ready. Beth was telling me I had to push - I think it was because the hospital staff was really putting pressure on her to "get the baby out." Don't you love how hospitals freak out at birthing? It should be so natural and unfold so calmly, but it really felt like a three ring circus once I got into that room.
Once I started pushing, the room began to fill up with people. I felt like pulling out the old Seinfeld line, "who ARE these people?" My mom told me there were 12 in the room at one point with others in the hall. It was madness. At one point, I came out of my trance and heard them all talking about getting a hair appointment with my husband (we own a hair salon). I flipped out and yelled, "can everyone shut up??" I was like, "are you KIDDING me? I am trying to push a bowling ball out of me and you guys are talking hair appointments?" Just a note to defend my poor husband - he didn't start it and I never heard him responding to the questions they were asking him... he was really trying to focus on me :-) Beth quickly told the room to quiet down. Then, our camcorder ran out of dvd. Of course! My mom and Jonathan and Dr. Rosen were all trying to figure out how we could still record the big event. At one point, Jonathan gave me the cam corder and asked if I could fix it. We have a picture of me holding it, looking quite delirious. I did try to fix it but couldn't - I thought I could delete old footage, but the camera wouldn't let me. Oh well. Maybe the third birth we can get on tape. At least we have pictures of both.
So back to the pushing - it was really, really hard. The hypnobirthing "breathe down the baby" technique wasn't working at all, although it felt WAY better than the pushing the hospital wanted me to do (which is the bear down, hold your breath type push). I really think it's because I wasn't ready to push. I never had that "urge" to push. If I had to do it again, I would have held my ground and refused to push until I was ready. I pushed from 12:45 until Abigayle was born at 1:55 PM. It was hard, and the mean nurse on my left was yelling at me all the time. I tried my best to ignore her and focus solely on Beth. A few times toward the end when Abigayle was crowning, I felt like there was no one else in the room. I was really trying to focus on watching her eyes - she was telling me about the progress I was making. There was a lot of yelling going on in the room, but I was blocking it all out. It was a completely different experience from my peaceful home!! Hilary, my doula, had told me about "the ring of fire" that you feel when the baby crowns. She was right - I felt like that whole area was on a stove burner! It didn't really hurt - it just burned. I pushed and really started getting pissed that the baby hadn't popped out yet - I think I was also just getting frustrated with the hospital staff. I remember screaming, "get it out! Get it out! Get it out!" and Beth replied, "No! YOU get it out!" I knew immediately what I had to do. I pushed my heart out and when I felt like I couldn't push anymore, I would give it one more push. Finally, I felt a sense of relief. Her head was out! I was so excited - the rest of her just slid out. I didn't even notice it. Beth announced, "it's a girl!" and I was in shock. I think I couldn't believe that I did it! I had a natural, unmedicated VBAC!
They gave Abigayle to me and I kissed her head and rubbed her little chest. She started crying and had huge tears - which the pediatrician said was really unusual. She was so cute and looked so much like Jonah! I still couldn't believe I did it! I was on a high and wanted to tell everyone about the experience. I was so proud when, during my hospital stay, a nurse would say, "I heard you were a natural VBAC! Good for you!" My pediatrician was really impressed, too.
I really could not have done it without a lot of help - the ICAN group, whose members I hadn't ever even met called me and talked to me for hours on the phone answering questions. My midwifes, Beth and Karen, who worked with me and gave me such great advice on things like Evening Primrose oil and staying calm and relaxed. I really could not have gotten through the labor without my doula, Hilary Biesecker. She kept me calm, stayed with me the entire time, rubbed my back and legs, and got me through it. My husband and mom were also both amazing during my labor. My mom was there when I needed her and so quiet the rest of the time. So many people said before hand, "aren't you worried that she will get on your nerves? My mom would!" Never ever once did she and it was so comforting to have her there. My husband was great, too. He helped as much as he could and I remember the most comforting time during my entire labor was when he held me through several contractions. I was squatting in the bedroom, leaning against him and I just felt so loved, safe and secure. I also could not have done it without the support of the gals in my Bradley group. (When I was pregnant with Jonah, Jonathan and I attended Bradley classes. The original group of 6 have stayed good friends and we have playdates and outings together still.) They had a Blessing Way for me and another Bradley momma who was pregnant. Knowing they were all thinking of me and had been there helped me many times during my labor. And of course, I have to thank God who has given women this amazing, beautiful gift of giving life to another human being. I truly hope that more women can experience the absolutely profound event of natural childbirth. It's overwhelming, life altering and simply amazing.
The most beautiful thing about having Abigayle on the 24th of September - she was born 35 minutes before my 41 week appointment, which I was really hoping to miss!