What an experience - laboring and birthing . . . something that I hadn't completely had the opportunity to experience until this day. Not the picture perfect HBAC that I had dreamed about, but I wouldn't have done it any other way!!
Around 12:30am on June 30th, I awoke to a contraction. Several minutes later, another contraction. Could this be it? Could this be the day that I've been waiting for for over nine months? The contractions were mild, coming about every 6-8 minutes probably, though I was hesitant to time them knowing it didn't mean much. The feelings: excitement, worry, peace, calm, joy . . . all mixed together in my being. Excitement that I would actually have a fair opportunity to birth my baby the way God intended, which I had never previously had. Worry as to what the road ahead of me would bring. Peace that I would trust my instincts, my body, my supporters, and birth my baby! Calm that I was remaining at home for this sacred day. Joy that I would soon birth my baby and meet this joy that I had nurtured and loved for over nine months.
I lay in bed, not wanting to awaken Mike, wondering if I should call my midwife. I gave myself some time to go back to sleep, and after about an hour, I called my midwife, as she had requested prenatally, to give her a heads up that I thought I was in labor. She asked that I call her again when anything changes. I also called my sister, Trish, to let her know, as she had gone to Pittsburgh the day before, but we wanted her to be with me for the birth, and to take care of my other two children, Hallie and Bennett. I couldn't sleep, as contractions were still coming, though still tolerable, so I decided to distract myself a bit, check e-mail, and get some final things prepared for the labor and birth.
At about 3am, I called my midwife to let her know that this was definitely labor, and the contractions were getting a bit closer together, but I was managing well. She decided that she'd be on her way, and I was wondering if I'd called her too early. I don't think I was ready for support at that point. I hadn't even awoken Mike. I liked the time that I had alone, laboring with my baby, smiling as I thought of what was to come. I knew that was soon to change, so I woke Mike up and told him that today was the day. I labored a bit longer in bed, on my hands and knees, and then I decided to call my doulas and let them know that my midwife was on her way.
I labored for a while on the birth ball after Mike blew it up, which felt really good. Sometime between 4 and 5am, my doula came and immediately started rubbing my back, which felt very calming and relaxing. By about 6am, my entire birth team was there including my midwife, birth assistant and two doulas. Oh, and my sister was on her way, and I decided to wait to call my mom until I was further along in labor. When my other doula came, she took over with the back rub, which felt so nice and relaxing during contractions. I also held Mike's hands during each contraction, as I needed to feel him close, and be with me throughout this journey.
I coped in various ways throughout the morning including on the toilet, on my hands and knees in bed, on the birth ball, standing up and leaning, and at one point (around 9am) I got into the Jacuzzi tub, and then later in the morning, I got back in again. The kids were in and out, and gave me kisses, and it was nice for them to see mommy working hard, getting ready to birth their baby brother or sister. Trish had come at some point earlier, and she was also in and out (more in than out, from what I was told, but I felt so surrounded in support with my eyes closed, that I don't know exactly who was with me throughout labor). All of my support people gave me just what I needed even before I asked. I had plenty of water to drink, cool clothes with lavender on my forehead, hands to hold, voices to calm, and all was well.
I remember around 11am, I started to feel the urge to push, and I wanted to get out of the tub to use the bathroom, as I didn't feel as though it was time to birth, but just to go to the bathroom. Someone commented about not letting me push the baby out in the toilet, and I knew it wasn't time. I was feeling the urge, but the time wasn't right. I asked my midwife to check me, and I was at 4 centimeters dilation. This was crushing news for me, and my first emotional setback. I felt as though I was working so hard, yet my body was progressing so slowly, and I didn't think I could do this all day. I remember someone saying that my body was going to labor just how it needed to, and with that, I tried to find my patience within. With everyone's help, I regained my strength to continue on, and so I did.
Throughout the day, I tried so hard to resist this increasingly overwhelming urge to push, which just got harder and harder to control. I needed to look in my doula's eyes, and count over and over again. I kept being told to "try not to push", and I was trying, but I couldn't help it, my body was doing it. That was a bit frustrating for me to hear this from everyone repeatedly, and I probably voiced my frustration more than a few times. I'm not sure what I did for coping other than counting wherever I was (and I was definitely mobile - standing in the bathroom, being on the toilet, on the bed, next to the bed, in the tub . . .), though I do have some moments that I remember.
I remember sitting on the birth ball, leaning on my bed, with my birth assistant on my left side rubbing my arm just breathing. She had such a calming presence, and I felt less of a need to vocalize with her next to me. I remember at one point being in the bathroom with just Mike and my midwife and having a popcicle while laboring on the toilet. That was around noon, when my mom got to the house. The one and only time I saw her was when she came into the bathroom gave me a kiss, and told me she was so proud of me. I remember being in the bathroom with my doulas next to me, leaning on the countertops, looking into their eyes desperately while trying to count to distract myself from this incredible urge that was overtaking my body. At that point, I thought to myself that I have got to get to the hospital to have an epidural to stop myself from pushing - at that point, and once more later, were the only times the thoughts of transfer entered my mind. We were counting over and over from one to four, and during one contraction I said FU@*!! to which my doula replied said, "Let's go with that", but repeating that word wasn't working, so we went back to counting.
Resisting this urge was the hardest thing physically and emotionally for me. I knew probably too much about the birth process, and kept thinking that I was going to get nowhere by how I was having to deal. I felt like in order to not push, I had to squeeze my bottom, but I also knew that by squeezing my bottom, I wasn't going to dilate the way my body needed to. I felt very much stuck between a rock and a hard place, but luckily I never thought to myself that I wasn't going to birth my baby - I just thought that maybe it would be at the hospital instead of home.
I was checked again sometime between 3 and 4pm, and was found to be 6 centimeters dilated. Another breakdown moment . . . 14 hours into labor, resisting the urge to push for over 4 hours, and I was only 6 centimeters?? I couldn't believe it. Emotionally, I was done. Physically, I was done. That was a moment of another good cry, which my midwife encouraged as I lay in bed feeling so defeated. I don't know what I said, or if I said anything, but I really had a hard time moving forward from there. What choice did I have though? The labor wasn't stopping until this baby was out, so I continued on.
My midwife suggested that she give me something to help me relax for an hour, and then they try to power the baby out. I agreed, but did feel a bit uncomfortable about the "powering the baby out" part, but we'd cross that bridge when we got to it. I got into the tub at about 4 or 4:30pm while they gave me some nasty tasting drink to help me relax (homeopathy, not alcohol, though I could have used a drink by that point!). Boy, that was good stuff. I could feel the contractions, I could feel the urge, but my body couldn't push with the feeling. My midwife said a couple of very empowering affirmations that I just grasped and repeated for the next hour. Through each contraction, I said, either "I am strong" or "Release the baby" to help me relax, and this was probably the most bearable time that I had had since about 11am.
After about an hour, they started dosing me with some more homeopathics to try to get my contractions going stronger and closer together. That, along with some nipple stimulation immediately got my contractions harder and closer together. I was worried at this point about uterine rupture because I knew the chances were greater when my labor was messed with, but at this point, I was exhausted and knew I needed to get the baby out. The urge to push came back fiercely at about that time, and my midwife checked me and found me to be about 8 centimeters dilated. She manually tried to dilate me to complete while I pushed with my contractions, and WOW - it hurt! She also suggested breaking my water, which at that point was fine with me. After a bit more time, she had the birth assistant (and her senior midwife) check me just to confirm what the midwife thought was a lip, and the birth assistant said I could push past it.
I'm not sure why or how I ended up getting out of the tub to birth my baby. My doula later told me I was restless and said I wanted to get back in bed. Anyway, I pushed a couple of times on my side, and then Mike got behind me and I pushed semi-reclining until my baby was born. The feelings were so much more intense than I thought they'd be, and I was much louder than I thought I'd be. At one point, I remember saying (multiple times), "Guys, I'm done." And they would say, "Yes, you are almost done." But that's not what I meant. I meant I was done trying, and I thought to myself, how can I get myself out of bed, down the stairs, into the car, and to the hospital to have my baby, but that wasn't necessary. Really, I was almost done, and after about an hour of pushing, I did it! I pushed my baby out! I couldn't believe it. I was ecstatic, and so relieved that it was over. I just kept saying, "WE DID IT!!!" with great pride and joy! I am so grateful for the support that I received, and for the belief that everyone had in me. The belief and confidence that others had in me and my body carried me through the times in labor when I didn't have confidence in myself, and that's just what I needed to birth this baby. And this is the biggest accomplishment of my life - I birthed my baby the way that God intended safely and comfortably in my own home! I wouldn't have it any other way!