Tomorrow Lucy turns ONE! I’m still in disbelief. But I thought I would post her birth story, since I’ve had it written out since shortly after she was born but before the blog was. If you don’t like hearing about things involved in labor and birth or are squeamish then skip away! I know I love birth stories, and many do, which is why approx 260 women have posted their stories in Grace’s link-up (so go there if you want more!).
The Fastest First Labor, ever.
It’s hard to say when labor “began.” I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for about two weeks, but they were random and not painful, so I didn’t pay too much attention to them. At 36 weeks, I had started taking an herbal supplement to help prepare my body and ripen the cervix, so that, in my midwife’s words, it would make my cervix “less of an unripe banana, and easier to peel.” Right. Well, apparently, those little supplements did their job! At 37 weeks and 6 days, on the morning of April 11th, I began to experience my first “real” feeling contractions. The night before, we had walked around our cute local main street, gotten ice cream, and stopped in at adoration at our parish. I hadn’t really felt anything that night other than the tiredness and severely swollen feet that had been my constant companions, a la Mrs. Bennett, for the past couple weeks.
I woke a few times between 4:30 and 5:30 and noticed maybe two or three cramp like contractions. They were definitely different than all my previous Braxton-Hicks, so I knew something was afoot. They were also more uncomfortable but not truly painful. I was sort of incredulous in that early morning waking– was this it? Was it real? Would she come today?
I told Tom around 6:15 that I’d been up for awhile with a few contractions, and that I would text my co-teacher. I knew I couldn’t teach through these contractions (which really should’ve clued me in to what was happening) but I told her it might be a false alarm, so I’d let her know if I would come in later (hah). Meanwhile, my poor substitute had only had two days of shadowing me and figuring out what the heck was going on with my classes. I was supposed to work up until April 19 and slowly let her take over my teaching over ten days. This baby had other plans and Tamara was thrown into the fire, but did beautifully and relieved my many worries on that front.
I went to the bathroom shortly after texting my co-teacher, and there was some bloody show. I knew that was another sign that labor was truly beginning. But, still, I just couldn’t believe it was happening, particularly since we’d been told over and over at our birth classes that first time labor was often very, very long, and usually occurred after the due date. I went back to the bedroom to tell Tom and felt a little gush of water; nothing crazy, just a little bit, but I knew it was amniotic fluid and told Tom that “some of my water had broken.”
We decided that since the contractions weren’t too intense, Tom would go to school and wait to hear from me. He didn’t have afternoon classes, so he could come home at 1 if labor was progressing, and we could take a walk, watch a movie, and relax (hah, again!). My contractions were very bearable, but I noticed them. They were probably about 7-8 minutes apart, but didn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds. I sent Tom off at about 7:20, and made plans to go to Whole Foods and buy coconut water and baby wipes/diapers, make home-made Labor-Ade to sip in labor, and clean up the apartment a bit.
Well, about an hour after Tom left, and I had finished emailing the day’s lesson plans to my sub and alerting the school that I was maybe in labor, the contractions started really picking up. I needed to breathe through them consciously and stop what I was doing to focus. I knew I should eat, though i had very little appetite, so I had a bowl of plain yogurt. I texted Tom to update and let him know the contractions were getting more painful and closer together. I was sort of loosely timing them and they were probably now about 5-6 minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. I found an app online and tried to use it to time them, but found it extremely cumbersome to try and lug the Macbook around whilst trying to relax during each contraction, and sometimes I’d be too far from the computer and totally miss timing one or two, so I didn’t have a great picture of the progression of the contractions.
I decided that now going out anywhere was impossible; the contractions were not slowing down during my activity, and stopping to breathe and relax every few minutes wouldn’t have worked in the car and the store. So, next I tried making my Labor-Ade. This required juicing 5 lemons and measuring out some honey and a few other ingredients to boil on the stove. Lets just say it took me a very long time to get that recipe made, since I had to continually stop, bend over and get through a contraction. It was probably about 9:30 or 10 at this point.
I used the birth ball a little to rock and drape myself over during contractions, as well as leaning into the wall and swaying. These things helped a little. I decided a shower would be nice, and maybe slow things down. The water did feel good, but I had several more contractions in the shower, so I knew my plan was pointless. I dressed in the stretchiest, comfiest clothes I could find, and let Tom know via text that I was getting more uncomfortable quickly. I put on Pride and Prejudice with the idea of distracting myself, but the movie quickly became background noise; I couldn’t focus on it whatsoever. I tried the heating pad to relieve some pain, as well as different positions on the bed. I knew at this point that labor would not slow down, but continue to progress, and I was getting a little panicky at being alone and being approximately 50 minutes away from the birth center. I threw a few more last minute things in the diaper bag and the birth center bag. I discovered the camera battery was dead, and failed in my attempt to charge it.
Around 11:00 I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, and my feeble attempts to time contractions showed that they were about 4 minutes apart and lasting almost 50 seconds. They were becoming much more intense, and required a lot of moaning and moving around for me to calmly endure them. At around 11:30 I had had it, and sent an all caps text to Tom saying I needed help, come home now. I had realized an hour previously I should probably call the midwives at the birth center, but every time I tried to dial I would get a contraction and give up.
Tom finished the class he was in the middle of teaching and left the school around 12:30. I was definitely in transition and becoming much less able to endure the contractions. They were very strong at this point, and I thought of women who had Pitocin-induced contractions, which are way more intense, and couldn’t fathom how they survived. Tom called me on his way home, probably after I texted him again in panic, and he stayed on the phone with me as I went through a few more contractions. He finally walked in the door at about 1:15, and tried to make me a smoothie which I refused. Poor guy. He was trying to call the birth center, get changed out of his suit, make a smoothie, and put pressure on my hips all at the same time. He realized I was in, or almost past, transition and that we needed to get to the birth center quickly. We left around 1:30, praying there’d be no traffic on the several major highways we had to use to get there.
That car ride was the worst of my life. I was in the front seat, so I couldn’t really stretch out, and it was torture. I wonder what people in nearby cars thought– I must have been a sight! Gripping the hook above the door and curling over my huge belly, while moaning and sometimes screaming. Tom was awesome– he drove as fast as he could and used his right hand to apply pressure on my back/hips, while reminding me to relax between contractions and drink water. He also reminded me through each contraction that it would come to a peak and then die down…that was really helpful, since in the moment it feels everlasting. He also told me it was ok to scream and that actually helped a lot too.
When we were about 10 minutes away, we hit the only traffic of the drive, due to construction. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially since there was absolutely no shoulder because of the jersey barriers, and everyone was at a dead stop, waiting to inch forward. I thought I would surely give birth right there on the road. There was incredible pressure on my pelvis, because the baby had already descended all the way down to the cervix. The pressure of holding her head in made it feel like my lower back was going to break. Contractions were about 1.5-2 minutes apart, and lasted a minute. We were also so close to the birth center, it probably would’ve been faster to get out and walk.
After about 20 minutes of this, we finally made it past the construction and into the parking lot of the birth center. As I walked in, I remember thinking I was one of “those” women, who goes into labor In the middle of the day and has to walk into the birth center waiting room filled with moms waiting for their afternoon appointment. At each of my own appointments I had wondered if I would ever see a laboring mom walk in, but never had, and now I was that mom. However, at this point, I didn’t care; I was just so glad we had made it in time. The midwives and staff were expecting me and immediately walked me back to the Lotus Room, which I had chosen a few months earlier to birth in. All 4 of the room in the birth center were absolutely gorgeous, with huge beds, fireplaces, lovely furniture, and a huge birthing tub. I had chosen the Lotus Room because it had soft pink colors in the decorating scheme, and a beautiful round birthing tub in the middle of the room, not too deep for my petite self.
The midwives were immediately soothing and solicitous; not once did we feel pressured or put-upon. Kelly, the head midwife that day, asked if I wanted to be checked. It was the moment of truth! I had a slight fear that I would only be 5 or 6 cm. dilated, but as soon as she checked me, Kelly announced that she could see the head! I think I asked if I was 10 cm, to which she laughed and said, “Honey, you’re complete!” Wow. I was still in shock. It was happening!
I didn’t have long to mull over my shock, though, as the pounding pressure on my pelvis took over. I asked if I could sit on the toilet, as that position felt the best. They said I could, but told me not to bear down. I came out a few minutes later, and the assistant were filling the birthing tub. They asked if I wanted to et in, and that water sounded great to me. I got in, and almost immediately announced that I needed to push. My body wanted nothing else but to push that baby out, now! Kelly said, “Yes, you do!” And yelled out the door to Kim, the other midwife, and the two assistants to come quickly.
It was probably about 2:45 when I got in the tub. I began to push with the contractions on all fours in the tub, but found it more comfortable to sit/squat while leaning back on the tub. Tom was behind me to hold up my arms and encourage me. One of the assistants listened to Lucy’s heart every so often, and they monitored my heart rate and temperature too. Another assistant kept giving me water, which was awesome, and wiped my forehead with a cool washcloth. The whole team was amazing. The best thing was that between each contraction, everyone was so quiet, allowing me to lean back and almost sleep in the painless interludes. This was very refreshing, since pushing was much harder work than I’d anticipated. I mean, you can’t really practice pushing a baby out, not until you’re actually doing it. It did feel better to push through each contraction. The midwives said I could reach down and feel the baby’s head, which I did, and it felt so strange! Squishy and wrinkly. They tried holding a mirror for me to see what was happening, but I wasn’t wearing contacts so I could mostly just see a blob. Kim traded places with Tom so he could watch and encourage me from the other side of the tub.
After about 30 or 40 minutes of pushing, the baby’s head was getting closer to coming out. I knew this because of the notorious “ring of fire” feeling. That was particularly horrendous, and the midwives said, “Push through the burn!” Ungh! Worst words I ever heard! All I wanted to do was make it stop, t making it stop required pushing the head all he way out. The head was taking its time, coming out and receding, over and over for about 20 minutes. Tom said this was the most frustrating part to watch. Finally, the burning and pressure was too much, and I was motivated enough to push through it as hard as I could. Kelly told Tom to get closer so he could catch the baby, but as I pushed her head out, her entire body came shooting out like a rocket! No time for Tom to catch, Kelly swooped in and caught the baby in the water and brought her up to my chest. She was screaming (I don’t blame her!) and her huge, deep blue eyes were wide open. Her chubby body was covered in vernix, a sign she was a little early, and I laughed because Tom had such an aversion to the idea of vernix all through the pregnancy. My first thought was that she looked exactly like her father, and that she seemed big!
In the next few minutes, as we wrapped a blanket around squalling Lucy, the midwives asked if Tom wanted to cut the cord after it finished pulsing. It was crazy to see her umbilical cord with blood still pumping through it! At that point, they helped me try to stand, and as I did the placenta started to come out. So, once again, Kelly had to intervene and cut the cord herself, so they could get the placenta out safely. I then was helped out of the tub, and onto the bed to look at newborn Lucy.
She had stopped crying and was looking around intensely. She was very pink and had lots of fat around her face. We also noticed she had very pretty reddish blonde hair. We all took bets on her weight, and I thought she was about 7. She turned out to be 6 lbs. 14 oz., so I was close! I immediately decided all future babies must come two weeks early, because pushing out 6-14 was good enough. I was SO glad she didn’t go full term and get any heavier!!
Weighing Lucy in the cool midwife weighing thingy
I actually felt pretty good, all things considered. The midwives kept telling us how impressed they were with my pain tolerance, and wished all their moms could be like me. I hadn’t eaten anything since my 8:00 AM yogurt, so I wolfed down the rest of our forgotten smoothie, and Tom ordered burgers and fries to be delivered (appropriate, since those were my biggest preggo craving). Then the assistants helped us get Lucy latched on to nurse, and she did so… Great on the left side, not so great on the right. She fell asleep shortly after being diapered and swaddled by Dad.
We realized we hadn’t had a minute to let anyone in our families know we were heading to the birth center, so Tom quickly sent out a few emails and texts to our family and close friends. The midwives were meanwhile discussing what to do about the tears I had I incurred while pushing the little chunker out. They weren’t sure they could stitch it up there, so they called in Peggy, the head midwife, who inspected them and said they were second-degree tears and she felt confident stitching me up. So we all walked down the hall to the little room with an operating chair and better lights. Tom held sleeping Lucy and the other midwives chatted with us while Peggy stitched away. She was very thorough and careful, and took her time. The surgery took about an hour, and Peggy kept warning me it would hurt, but they used a lot of Lidocaine to numb it, and it honestly didn’t hurt much, not compared to what I’d just done.
Our food had arrived, so we ate that and Lucy woke up to nurse again, and then screamed for no apparent reason. The assistant expertly checked her diaper and had guessed correctly- she had pooped her first meconium. Lovely. The midwives gave us a rundown on what to do and expect the next three days, we dressed Lucy and me, took a few family photos, and they told us we could go! We arranged with my parents to stop by and let them meet Lucy, and they kindly went to the grocery store and bought us a ton of necessities, since we weren’t 100% ready for her arrival.
First Family Photo
We left the birth center around 9 PM, so all in all we were there for about 6 hours. I was so glad on so many levels that we had birthed at the birth center with midwives. They do home births also, but we went with the birth center because it was more covered by insurance (correction: so we thought), and because it was much bigger and better equipped for birth than was our apartment. Plus, all the mess was contained and cleaned up there, and we returned home to a (mostly) clean apartment.
I can’t praise the midwives enough. They were so supportive and respectful, from my first meeting with them, through the birth, through the last postpartum checkup. They never did anything without asking permission first, and respected and trusted a woman’s body to perform the task God had created it to do.
I can’t say the birth was painless, but it wasn’t ever so overwhelming that I couldn’t get through it, even sans pain meds. It was empowering and reassuring to do it, and know I could. I felt very blessed to have experienced such a rapid labor with my first, since that’s definitely not the norm. I was also so relieved she came two weeks early; I was so uncomfortable and ready to be done teaching on my feet all day.
Ah, that was fun. It was also good for me to re-read all of it, since I’ll be doing it again in approximately 12 weeks, or 10, if we follow the same pattern (and the correct one, I’d like to throw out to Baby #2). At least I learned several things:
1. Listen to the body in labor. It knows what it’s doing.
2. When contractions start, we better be ready to mobilize within two hours or less this time. I want to go through the crazy part and transition AT the birth center, not the car.
3. Relax. 🙂