Sunday, January 16, 2011 – At 5:11am I woke up with a very painful contraction. My baby was 10 days over due, and I had been having mild contractions for several weeks – but this one was different. Far more painful and I couldn’t think about something else. After the contraction ended I tried to fall back asleep, but about 7 minutes later I had more pain and I woke Jonathan up. We agreed to try to sleep more, but we got up before 6am because the pain was too intense.
Downstairs I made a pot of oatmeal with diced apples and walnuts. Contractions continued to come on strong about every 6-7 minutes. At one point I dropped to all fours in the kitchen…Jonathan was sure that such intensity could only mean that the baby was near at hand, and he wanted to call the midwives ASAP. I convinced him that we should really wait. We played Yahtzee while we ate our breakfast. I only got about halfway through my oatmeal before another contraction came on. The feeling made me want to vomit, I couldn’t eat the rest of my oatmeal. In between contractions I felt great – and even scored an amazing 532 on one round of Yahtzee!
At 7:30am we called our doula, Erin, and put her on alert, but told her we didn’t need her at our house right away. We also called our midwife, Kristin, and let her know that I was in early labor. She wanted us to check in again when contractions were 5 minutes apart, one minute long, for one hour. At about 8:30am we called Erin again and asked her to come out to our house. She arrived about thirty minutes later. At this time Jonathan called my parents and told them to head to Bellingham. I text messaged my best friend, Ann, and she began her drive from Seattle.
Once Erin arrived, she began timing my contractions She helped me with different positions that encouraged bringing the baby’s head down on my cervix. She encouraged me to drink lots of water and eat when I could. When contractions were 5 minutes apart, I phoned Kristin again. We all agreed to meet at the Bellingham Birth Center (BBC) at noon. Jonathan called my parents and Ann and rerouted them to the BBC – asking them to kill time until we got there. I wasn’t feeling like visitors.
Erin encouraged me to use the last 60-70 minutes before we left for the BBC to rest. I would lay on my side in bed with a hot pack on my back, then rise up to my knees to work through a contraction, then lay back down. My sweet Saint Bernard, Wesley, would not leave my side and was quite agitated by my obvious discomfort. I was also moaning in low tones as a coping mechanism, which probably didn’t help with poor Wes’ nerves, either.
At 11:30am we left for the BBC, and arrived on schedule at noon. Kristin was there to meet us, as was the student midwife (Beth), my parents, sister April, and Ann. The midwives checked my blood pressure, fetal heart rate, and questioned me about how my labor was progressing. I chatted in the waiting room with my family for a few minutes, then went back to my room to be checked for dilation and effacement. This would be the last time I saw dad, April, or Ann before the baby was born. They will never know how much it meant to me knowing that they were in that waiting room praying for me and supporting me through my labor.
12:30pm – 4 centimeters dilated, but stretched to 5. I was a little disappointed. With how much pain I was in, I was hoping that I was at a 9 and getting ready to push. Boy was I kidding myself. We still had almost 11 hours to go! It is a good thing you don’t know how long the labor will be once it begins. It is truly a one-contraction-at-a-time sort of thing. You can’t look too far ahead, and you certainly can’t dwell on how long you’ve been at it. Just focus on getting through the current wave.
I spent time in the tub, changing positions frequently trying to keep the baby moving down. I was in the tub for about an hour and a half the first time – and I cannot report that it relieved my pain. I still hurt. A lot. I was moaning through each contraction. I felt like I must sound like a heard of lowing cattle. But it was the only way to get through. I felt bad for my family listening to me out in the waiting room…
Four hours after my last exam, the midwife checks me again. I’m still at 5 centimeters, but she stretches me to a 6. I look at my doula in despair, and begin to weep. Four hours! One centimeter? Quick math tells me the road to 10 centimeters could be a freakin’ long one. Jonathan holds me. Erin rubs my back. I boo hoo for several minutes, then pull myself together – my baby needed me.
At 5:00pm my family reports via doula Erin that they have dinner and are offering Jonathan some grub. I encourage him to eat (remember that 6am bowl of oatmeal? Yeah, that’s the last significant thing either one of us has eaten). Jonathan is reluctant to leave me, but I tell him to send my mom in. I know as soon as I see her that she has been dying in the waiting room listening to me in pain. And I didn’t know how much I needed her with me until she was there. Joking with me in between contractions. Breathing with me through them. Rubbing my back. Encouraging. Praying.
Still in pain (duh) I jump back into the tub at 6:00pm. At this point I feel miserable. I’m saying I want to be done. My stomach is rolling and I tell my mom I need to vomit. A large bin is produced. I fill it. Twice. Honestly, I felt like this is the worst thing that could’ve happened to me. I hate puking. But – my stomach felt so much better after the vomiting incident – and when I got out of the tub at 7:45pm, I had more good news. 9 centimeters! *insert fist pump here*
The downside was that this 9 cm was accompanied by a swollen cervical lip that just wouldn’t budge, and the baby can’t come out unless you are a perfect 10. Thus would begin the most painful two and a half hours of the whole labor. We tried everything to reduce that swelling. A natural anti-inflammatory. Side-lying with changing sides every two or three contractions (I wanted to hit someone every time they told me to turn over). Rupturing my membranes. Finally, my midwife decided enough was enough. She ‘manually’ reduced my swollen cervix while I was pushing (a practice that, simply put, is barbaric).
I started pushing at 10pm on the birth stool. Then on the toilet. Then on my side. Hands and knees. Finally they had me on my back. Apparently baby’s large head was reluctant to make its way out. I never felt a strong urge to push, something I think was a huge detriment. We’re not sure why I never felt an urge, but my doula was confident it would not be a repeat problem with baby #2 (ha! As if I was even thinking about pushing something else out of myself ever again at that point).
Around 10:50 I was able to reach down and feel the baby’s head. Talk about second wind! I could almost taste victory. This marathon was almost over! The midwives were scaring me, though…constantly checking baby’s heart rate and then looking at their watches, then giving each other looks that made me feel like everything might go downhill in a big hurry. So when contractions rolled around, I pushed with all my might. When they asked me to do something, I did it quickly, even if it hurt worse than whatever I was doing before. Then they put the oxygen mask on me.
11:12. Ring of fire. I scream a pretty feral scream. And her head is out. I was ready to retire. Then we sit there for what seems like an eternity waiting for another contraction to help me push the rest of the baby out. It feels like forever, but a minute later…
11:13pm. Annie Joy draws her first breath. And then she screams for about thirty minutes. But I fall in love as I cuddle my new babe on my naked chest. She’s a little purple/blue, but obviously breathing fine. I think she looks so tiny. My mom confirms that the baby is, indeed, female. Jonathan has tears in his eyes as he kisses me, then Annie, then me, then Annie again. He has been on edge for the last 18 hours, and he is finally at peace to know that both of his girls are safe and sound.
Photos courtesy of Erin de Kock