My first pregnancy was normal and healthy for the most part. The biggest problem that I had was lower back pain. The joint in the back of my pelvis kept slipping out, and that was pretty painful! My husband Chad and I were ecstatic to be starting a family. We were blessed to find a really awesome midwife practice that made us feel really comfortable and supported. We took Lamaze classes from my Mom, who is a childbirth educator and lactation consultant. She was also going to act as our doula. As our due date approached, we held several practice sessions together. We practiced easing me up and down on the birthing ball, breathing through contractions, and other relaxation techniques. I hoped to be able to use a birthing tub during labor.
I went into labor around 5 am. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions ever since I was 20 weeks pregnant, so at first I wasn't sure whether it was the "real deal" or not. My husband and I sat up timing the contractions, which were about 10 minutes apart. We called my Mom, but decided that we would just try to go about our day as normal. I had a pedicure appointment at 10 a.m., which I did not want to miss. My husband did not want to let me out of his sight, so he came with me and sat next to my pedicure chair, surreptitiously timing contractions. I would squeeze his hand when I felt one, and he would look at the clock. We tried to be discreet about it, but I think the pedicurist knew something was up.
The contractions were still about 10 minutes apart and not really gaining in intensity. We decided to go out to lunch. Things started to pick up a little during the meal. I needed to stop and concentrate during the contractions, but they weren't really painful. Then I stood up. The first significantly painful contraction hit. It was like something out of a sitcom. I said "We need to go, NOW!" My husband would go two steps and I would say "No! Don't leave me!" He would come back and I would say "Get the car! Go get the car!"
Somehow he got me into the car and home. We were so excited and nervous. I tried to lie down, but the contractions became too strong when I did that. I ended sitting on the birthing ball for a long time, leaning onto a pile of cushions on the couch. We lit scented candles and put on soft music. My husband sat behind me, rubbing my back and timing contractions. I remember being unbelievably relaxed. The contractions were getting pretty painful; they took quite a bit of concentration to get through.
We called my Mom around 4 pm. She came over, and we decided to go to her house (she only lived a mile away) because my Dad and sisters wanted to see us. They were throwing a family birthday party for us that night (this was the day after my birthday and two days before my husband's birthday). The car ride was a little tough, and by the time we got there I honestly did not feel like being around people. I retreated into a dark, quiet room and tried to resume my relaxation. The contractions were significantly stronger now. Mom and hubby took turns eating steak and lobster, while I nibbled some toast. I was too nauseous during contractions to handle much more.
We called our midwife, Julie, at 8 pm. She told us to "mosey on down" to the hospital. My sisters made us stop and blow out the candles on our birthday cake before we left! The ride took about an hour, and it was rough. Chad sat in the back with me, looking into my eyes and breathing with me. As long as I could maintain eye contact with him I felt OK. We had to pull into the emergency room entrance, where I had to sit in a wheel chair and be separated from Mom and Chad while they parked the car and got ID badges. It was the only time during the whole process that I cried!
Julie was waiting for us at the hospital. We were glad that we were able to get the room with the birthing tub. Julie checked me and I was 4 centimeters dilated. Woo hoo! Our nurse, whose name was also Julie, hooked me up to the external monitor for 20 minutes. Laying down made the contractions a lot stronger and I hated not being able to move around. Midwife Julie was delivering another baby at the same time, and that mother was just about to start pushing. So after Nurse Julie took the 20 minute test strip, it was just Chad, Mom, me, and baby in the room laboring. Nurse Julie would come in every half hour and check the baby using a handheld Doppler. Nurse Julie was great. She was really quiet and encouraging. If I was laboring on the floor, she would get down there with me.
I spent a lot of time sitting on that birthing ball with Chad behind me to hold me up and Mom in front of me, fanning me or giving me water. At first they were encouraging me vocally, reminding me to breathe and everything. Before long I told them to "Quit bossing me around!" The contractions were taking every ounce of my concentration to get through. If anyone touched me or distracted me, I swatted them. If anyone stepped between me and my focal point . . . well, it wasn't pretty. I wasn't angry; I just did not have any energy for any other kind of communication.
My support team was amazing. I could not have done it without them. We did not see much of Midwife Julie during this part of the labor, as the other delivery she was doing had become a little complicated. Unfortunately, this meant that I could not get into the birthing tub, as I needed to be monitored by her. I was so longing for that tub!
Around midnight, Midwife Julie came back. I was moaning to get through the contractions, doing my best to keep the tones low and even. I visualized the sound carrying the pain through my throat and out the top of my head. I know that sounds a little weird, but it worked. Of course, by this point some of the moans were just outright screams. I was telling the nurse that I didn't really want to have the baby anymore, thank you very much, when Midwife Julie came back in and said that I could get in the tub. Glory be!
The tub was wonderful. I was a little disappointed that the contractions still hurt, but in between contractions it was blissful. I started feeling some downward pressure, so I asked Midwife Julie to check me. It was the first time I'd been checked for progress since I had first gotten there. I was 10 centimeters! Yes!!!
The pushing contractions hurt, and I was pretty disappointed about that. I had heard women talk about "pushing away the pain", but I was not able to do that. Pushing also did not come as easily to me as I expected. Midwife Julie coached me on pushing for a few minutes. When I was comfortable, she called in Mom and Chad. At that point, I felt a pop and my water broke in the tub. There was meconium staining in it, so I had to get out. I was not happy about that! I tried every bargaining chip I could think of to stay in that tub! I promised that I would stop having the baby right there!
Somehow they got me out of the tub, dried off, and onto the bed. Midwife Julie explained that because of the meconium, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) people were going to come in and take the baby right away to suction her after she was born. They set up a little station on the other side of the room. The Julies were also having trouble finding the baby's heartbeat. I had to push on my back, so that they would be able to have access to the baby's head when it came out. At this point, I realized that this was kind of serious, and that I needed to push this baby out soon. I redoubled my efforts. Fifteen minutes later, at around 1:20 a.m., I felt an intense burning, and then Chad said "Oh my God, you just gave birth to the most beautiful baby!" I looked down and there she was! I couldn't believe it was over. They whisked her away to suction her, but she was perfectly fine.
I had a small second degree tear. I held her for a moment, and then Chad held her as they stitched me up. She breastfed like a champ. I was bleeding a little too much, so they gave me two shots of pitocin to slow it down. I walked to the bathroom, but was unable to empty my bladder. A full bladder sometimes interferes with the uterus' ability to clamp down, so they had to give me a catheter. It was the worst part of the whole experience! I just did not feel like being messed with down there any more!
Soon enough the bleeding stopped, everything was cleaned up and Midwife Julie left to deliver another baby (3 in one night!). Everyone left, Chad and Isabel fell asleep and I was left there holding my baby. For the first time it really sunk in. This was my baby. Everything I had been through was worth it for that moment. Words can't describe it. You'll know when it happens to you.