We did it! Samuel Robert was born Sunday, March 21 at 1:43 p.m. Labor went very well and the birth was everything I had hoped for. It was challenging, exhausting and blissful, much like parenthood.
On Saturday, we began wondering if I was getting close to labor. I had had some contractions the night before that didn't go away when I laid down. Saturday I was still having contractions, but couldn't tell if they were Braxton Hicks or not. We decided to go to the mall so Susy could play in the indoor playground there. By the time we got home, I was feeling really tired and the contractions were stronger, so I lay down in the bedroom to rest for a while. They continued about 15-30 minutes apart throughout the evening. I tried to go to bed with Susy at 8, but the contractions were uncomfortable enough that I couldn't sleep through them. I spent some time watching movies with Mike and we tried to sleep again around midnight. Mike was able to sleep for a few hours, but I couldn't, so I went back to watching movies. By around 4 a.m., things began in earnest.
I timed my contractions for an hour and they were 4-5 minutes apart, lasting a minute in length and very uncomfortable. I was experiencing the most discomfort in my back, and I found the contractions went best if I put my hands on the back of the sofa, bent forward slightly and swayed my hips back and forth. At 5 a.m. I decided I needed help, so I woke up Mike. Unfortunately we inadvertently woke up a very cranky Susanna. After another hour or so of timing contractions, we decided it was time to go to the hospital. We called Heather (Susy's support person) to have her meet us there and set off on our way. Let me just say that laboring in a car is a lot less comfortable than laboring in your living room!
At the hospital, I was checked in, had a quick cervix check and sat on a bed while they ran a 20 minute strip on the monitors. I was 5 cm dilated, which was fortunate as I had threatened bloodshed if anyone dared tell me I was under 3 cm after all that work! The monitors showed steady contractions and a steady heartbeat for the baby, so I was taken to a delivery room and allowed to do as I liked while waiting for my midwife to arrive.
The jacuzzi was free, so I opted to go into it. It was really soothing, relieved all of my back pain and made it much easier to cope with the contractions. Next time, I'll know to run a warm bath at home and take advantage of the pain relief during early labor. The nurse suggested I leave the bath every 45 minutes to switch positions and walk around a little, so we alternated the jacuzzi with standing and swaying through contractions. Periodically the nurse or midwife would hold a monitor against me through a few contractions to check the baby's heartrate, which continued to be fine.
The contractions got much closer together and very painful at times, so we decided to do another cervix check and see if progress had been made. I was 6.5 cm dilated and the baby was fully engaged, so my midwife said she felt it would be very safe to break my waters if I wanted her to. We decided to give it a try. I entered transition almost immediately.
Transition was ... well, not easy. My husband was amazing throughout and really kept me going. He was able to relax me when I began to panic. I found leaning against him in the "slow dance" position and swaying back and forth while he supported me to be the best way through each contraction. Eventually, though, my legs began to tire too much. The nurse suggested we try raising the head of the bed to a 90 degree angle, then have me kneel facing it and lean over the top. This enabled me to lean back on my heels between contractions and rest. Mike held on to me, providing counterpressure on my back when I wanted it. My midwife joined in with massage and it definitely kept me going. I used a very productive, positive and affirming mantra of "Ooohhhh, it hurts it hurts it hurts" during each contraction. Occasionally I added a few more colorful expressions or asked if someone else would like a turn so I could nap for a few minutes. After about an hour and a half of transition, I began feeling the urge to push. Oddly enough, I had just asked, "How will I know it's time to push?" The nurse replied, "Oh, you'll know." Two contractions later my mantra had changed to, "I have to push I have to push I have to push." A quick recheck showed that I was 9.5 cm dilated, so not quite ready. My midwife suggested I bear down enough during each contraction to relieve the need to push, but not actually try to push out yet. After a few more contractions, she helped me push back the last little lip of cervix and I was ready to go.
I was still leaning over the back of the bed and I pushed a few times in that position. I was tiring, though, so eventually we decided to try having me push lying on my left side with Mike supporting my upper leg. In between contractions I was able to lower my leg and catch my breath. This position worked beautifully. At this point, Susy, who had been happily playing with Heather, doing art projects and asking endless questions ("Why is Mama making that "OOOOoooohhh" sound like a ghost?!"), became very stressed. She saw the baby's head begin to emerge, but she was so upset she had to leave the room. A few pushes later, the head was out. One more set of pushes and my baby boy was born. He was placed on my chest immediately and Mike cut the cord.
We nursed for the first time about 10 minutes later and Sam took to it like a champ. He stayed latched on for most of an hour. After the placenta was delivered and I was cleaned up a little, everyone left us alone for some family time. Mike found Susy and Heather and brought them back to meet Sam. Eventually the nursery nurses came in to weigh and measure him. He was 9 lbs, 9 ozs and 21.5 inches long, He was pronounced to be in good health and given back to me. We stayed in the hospital for about 24 hours and then went home to start our new life as a family.
So far, everything has been wonderful. Susanna is adjusting very well, although she gets very stressed and upset if he cries. She loves being the big sister and is excited to help out. Nursing has gone very well and I have recovered from birth remarkably quickly. I get tired easily, but I feel good overall. I feel so very blessed and fortunate. I couldn't have asked for a better pregnancy and birth or a happier outcome. Sam is a cuddly joy to be around and is snuggled in his sling sleeping as I type this. It has been a great pleasure to share this pregnancy with you all. Thank you, Maribeth, for giving me the opportunity (ed. note: THANK YOU SUSAN!) and thanks to everyone who took the time to write me and share your own experiences.