*Just want to give a fair warning: this is going to be a very true account, for better or for worse.*
Where to begin???
Our due date was September 29th, but I had mentally prepared myself for an October baby. That being said, when the 29th arrived, I was ready to get down to business.
Because Annabelle was posterior, we decided to have Danny's older brother, who is a naturopathic doctor, do some acupuncture on me. I know that acupuncture is said to help labor along, but I was really just hoping to get Annabelle to flip. I didn't really feel much different after acupuncture...we had a low key rest of the day...and nothing happened. Saturday came and went.
So September 29th arrived. We woke up and went to Mass. It was really fun to see people and have people ask when we were due. Everyone got a kick out of me saying "Today!" But we were pretty convinced nothing was going to happen. I went home and did some cleaning. Danny flipped a little because I was "nesting"...but really I was just cleaning. We went to dinner at Joe's Farm Grill and went for a 30 minute walk in Agritopia. It was a really nice and relaxing night.
When we got home from Agritopia, I was talking on the phone with Mary, my sister, and I really needed to use the restroom, so I gave Danny the phone to keep Mary occupied. Well, when I went to the bathroom, I wiped and saw what I haven't seen in 9 months: a little pink on the toilet paper. And so I screamed (a calm scream) to Danny. I didn't want to tell him what was going on because Mary was on the phone, but I knew this was an important change. He got off the phone with Mary, I showed him, and we decided I should call my doula (Grace Lape-she's awesome if you are looking for a doula!) and ask her what she thought it was. I thought it might be my mucus plug and she agreed. It definitely wasn't the whole thing, but it was part of it. She said that sometimes the plug can fall a part slowly rather than fall out all at once. So for the next few days, I saw this sign of labor, but didn't think too much of it.
The next day, Monday the 30th, I had a 5 pm appointment with my midwife. Danny came, since I was overdue, and we talked to her about the pink spotting. She wasn't concerned, but we were curious if it meant I had dilated at all. Earlier I had thought I wouldn't want to get checked at all, but because we had that little sign, I thought maybe there would be some effacement or dilation. So she checked me. OH MY WORD! I don't know what I was thinking, but having your cervix checked when you are 9 months pregnant is the most uncomfortable thing I have experienced. No joke. Worse than labor...okay maybe not, but it is pretty bad. And to make it worse, the little hope I had that there would be some development was dashed to the ground. Nothing. No changes. Still very, very pregnant. And shut tight like a vault.
It would be a lie if I said wasn't discouraged just a little bit, but it did make me ever more determined to get it going. We came home, I made dinner, put a loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven, ate dinner, took the loaf out, went for a THREE mile walk, did some squats and lunges on the walk (all in an effort to help Annabelle turn) and then came home and enjoyed two delicious pieces of buttered pumpkin bread. The three mile walk must of done something because that night I had four contractions in the middle of the night. I might have had more, but I distinctly remember those four. I timed them and they weren't long or close together, but they were definitely noteworthy.
I went to work the next morning, Oct. 1 and had contractions all day, but they were really far apart and didn't last for very long. Some lasted for 30 seconds, some for 45. And they went from being about 15-30 minutes apart...so good news, but not anything to freak out about necessarily. Danny was super excited and thought I should leave work, but I assured him that I was fine. By that evening, the contractions had pretty much dissipated. We went for another long walk, but nothing really returned. Danny had a rough night sleep that night because he kept waking to see if I was okay. I, on the other hand, slept like a rock. Gotta get all the sleep I can before the hard work begins!
I went to work on Wednesday morning. Let me tell you, it was no fun. Especially because I had told my 11th graders that I was contracting a bit and thought Tuesday might be my last day. It was no fun to see their faces when I showed up to work. Not to mention that all of the faculty and staff just gave me these sad looks every time they saw me walk into the school in the morning. Anyway, around noon, I started to get contractions more regularly (as it not regular at all, like every half hour or so-give or take). Because I had been contracting since Monday night, I didn't think anything of them. I went over to a friend's house and had a few there, but I was able to talk through them, which meant they weren't too strong. The contractions continued until 7 and then stopped. It was so frustrating to be contracting for a few days but have no real labor. (In hindsight, I am super stoked that this was how I labored!). I made dinner, and then Danny and I went on a super long walk. I thought three miles was long...but we did four! It was really nice. We walked along the canal and then crossed Rural and walked on a golf course (how rebellious!). We walked back on the course, going up and down hills. When I got home, there were no contractions and I wrote this: "I am not convinced that walking helps labor. Every time we go for a walk, my contractions stop. Boo." I did get a few contractions right before bed, but nothing huge.
At 10 pm, my brother Joe sent me a text that said, "You have 24 hours to have this baby." He has wanted our girl to be born on his birthday for our whole pregnancy, but I really didn't ever think it was going to happen. Before falling asleep, I asked Danny if I should time any contractions I have or sleep through them. He suggested just sleeping, so off I went. Then around 10:15, I had a contraction. And another at 10:30. And another at 10:45. They weren't very strong, but they were regular enough that I was convinced something might be happening. I decided to get out of bed for a snack, just in case. I had pretzel crackers with peanut butter and then went back to bed. At 11:15, I sent my doula a text that said, "I am starting to think this could be it...just a heads up. But...it could also not be. Now to sleep!" No matter what, I knew I needed to sleep. I was either going into labor or had to go to work tomorrow. The contractions were getting stronger and I definitely had to breathe through them. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get out of bed again and lay on the couch. I knew this was labor, but I wanted to let Danny sleep as long as possible, since there was no saying how long this process would be. I labored on the couch from about 11:45 until 2:30. I was staying really hydrated, so I kept having to use the restroom. I would have the best contractions on the toilet (this would be my trick to progressing labor the entire time). At 2:30 when I got up to use the restroom, I felt a real shift in my contractions. They were harder to get through. I couldn't just breathe anymore, I had to moan. I decided it was time to let Danny know I was in labor, but I didn't plan on him getting out of bed.
When I went to wake Danny up, I was not in the middle of a contraction, so I went up to the bed and said his name a few times. Being the deep sleeper he is, he didn't wake up...at all. Not even a stir. Finally, I touched him and said his name one last time. He woke up...right in the middle of the start of my contraction. This communicated enough to him, since I had to really focus and moan through the contraction. He asked how far apart they were, and since I couldn't talk, I just threw him the phone. A few of them had been just three minutes apart, so he quickly got out of bed and started getting ready. He asked if we needed to get to the hospital, but I assured him that I wasn't that far along. I knew all the signs I was looking for from our Bradley class, and so I just knew we had time. He decided to call Grace and let her know that it was the real deal. She headed over and got to our house by 3 a.m. where she found me on the toilet. Meanwhile, Danny had gotten ahold of both of our moms and started packing the car. Grace was so wonderful. She helped me get through the contractions on the toilet and then we decided to try some other positions to help Annabelle turn. One of my favorites was using the yoga ball to squat and move my hips around. We were waiting for my contractions to stay a bit more consistent (3-5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour) before leaving for the hospital. I think this wait made Danny a little nervous, but I knew I wasn't ready to leave. The last thing I wanted was to go to the hospital and be sent home because I wasn't at a 4. Around 4:30, I felt another distinct shift in my contractions and knew it was time to go. I was still nervous to leave because I didn't want my labor to slow down by changing atmospheres, but I knew it was time.
So we got in the car. I think I had about two or three contractions in the car. I was able to send a text to friends letting them know we were in labor and on our way to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, Danny helped me get out of the car. He grabbed our bags, and we started walking. I did not want a wheelchair. There was only one way this baby was getting out and I knew walking would help that along. Unfortunately, I got a contraction in the middle of the parking lot and totally blocked traffic. A car literally had to wait for me to finish my contraction before it could move. I felt like I was in a movie. Once we got into the hospital and checked in, they brought down a wheel chair for me to use in getting up to triage. They make you use it, so I had no choice. When we finally got into triage, I mentioned to the nurse that I was really hoping I was a 4 because it was the "magic number." She looked at me like I was crazy and said, "What do you mean?" I explained that I knew a 4 meant you got a room...she literally laughed at me and said I was dreaming. She explained that if I was at a 4, I would still have to get up and walk around for an hour, then come back and get checked again for progress. That was a rude awakening. (Turns out Mercy Gilbert was having an overflow of babies so that was how they were trying to manage the overflow. They couldn't just let any mom at 4 have a room.) Anyway, she checked me and I was at a 4!!! I was still really happy because that meant I was in active labor and I wasn't just making it up. So up we went and walked around for 45 minutes (the shift was going to change at 7 and she wanted to make sure to check me for progression, since it is kind of a subjective thing). We walked and I didn't get that many contractions. Before we knew it, it was time to go back to triage. She checked me. I was still at a 4. I tired not to get discouraged, but she mentioned the possibility of me going home. That was the one thing I didn't want...Anyway, the shifts changed and we got a new L&D nurse named Susan. Susan decided to let me stay and walk around for another hour to hour and a half. Then she would check me again. So that's what we did. We got up and walked around. I had a few harder contractions, but I still knew inside that I wasn't making much progress. We decided to go to the bathroom and try to labor on the toilet (again, this was my trick). We labored on the toilet until it was time for me to get back in the triage bed and get checked.
Before Susan could check me again, she wanted to monitor Annabelle's heart rate for 20 minutes. That was a very long 20 minutes. I was trying really hard to maintain mental focus and breathe through any contractions I had, but I still wasn't convinced that I had progressed. I was beginning to doubt my ability to labor naturally, especially if my progression was so fast at home and so slow at the hospital. Danny could tell, so he started to tell me the story of how we found out about Annabelle. He recapped everything-all the milestones with the pregnancy-and focused on how we were so close to getting to see our girl. This, along with a really encouraging text from Candyce, my sister-in-law, made me cry. I just needed to be reminded that I could do it and that Annabelle was worth all this hard work. It literally makes me cry as I think about it. So 20 minutes went by and Susan checked. I was so nervous. She kind of gave a little laugh and said, "You're at a 7!" A 4 to a 7! I was so happy!!! I knew if I could go from a 4-7 without meds, I could make it all the way to a 10 and push this little baby out of me with no medical intervention. So off to our room we went. (I should let you know that in between contractions, I was really composed. I almost felt like my normal self...okay not really, but I was able to talk and communicate all of my needs.)
Once we got into our room, things began to get intense. The midwife, Melissa, suggested that I labor on all fours on the bed. This position is suppose to help posterior babies reposition during contractions. So that's what I did. It really wasn't all fours, but it was me on my knees leaning over the top of the hospital bed. It was pretty effective as far as contractions went, but it did not turn our girl. While I was doing that, they filled the birthing tub with water and gave me my first round of Penicillin (I was GBS+). When the tub was finally ready, about a half hour or 40 minutes later, I was really excited to get in it...well as excited as you can get while you are in labor. So after going to the bathroom and having a few good contractions on the toilet, I moved into the tub. And then I quickly got out of the tub. It was so DANG hot! I couldn't even handle it. So I got out of the tub and labored at the side of the bed. Susan lifted the bed pretty high so I could just lean on it. While I did that, they tried to cool the tub down. They were taking pitchers of the hot water out and pouring pitchers of cool water in. They even put ice in the tub. In all honesty, I was over it. It was just taking way too dang long and I wanted to move passed it. They suggested me getting the shower, but I knew that I didn't want to labor standing. I decided to just stay on the toilet.
My midwife came back in around this time and convinced me to try out the tub. She said even if I just sat on the side, it would be helpful because water naturally relaxes people. Plus, my body would acclimate to the temperature. I decided to give it a go, and luckily the water had cooled enough that I could actually get all the way in. It was so great. I remember actually saying "This is awesome." I labored in the tub for a while. I lost all sense of time when we got in the room, so I really don't know how long it was. I labored over the side of the tub, on my knees with my legs spread really far apart. When a contraction came, Danny would coach me and remind me to relax all the different parts of my body. Grace was crucial in that she reminded me to move my hips back and forth. Together, Danny and Grace were a great coaching team. My contractions kind of slowed down a bit while I was in the tub. Danny thinks this was due to moving out of transition into second stage. I think that was probably part of it, but I think some of it was also mental. At this point, I shared with Danny that I was extremely scared. I did not want to push this baby out. I was going to tear and it was going to hurt and what if she didn't come out because she was posterior. He was such a good husband-coach. He reminded me of how far we had come and how close we were to seeing Annabelle. We also had put together a playlist with some really crucial songs that held great meaning for me. Music may have been playing throughout the whole labor...I really have no idea. But at this point, Danny decided to play three of those really important songs. They were Matt Maher's "Letting Go" and Danielle Rose's "A Mother's Communion" and "Not a Burden." All three of these songs brought me to tears (and still do and probably will forever) but the Danielle Rose songs were especially moving. I knew I just had to give everything over. I had to let go entirely if I ever want to (and I did!) see Annabelle. Shortly after listening to these songs, I wanted to get out of the tub because I was experiencing that gross lukewarm feeling you get when you're in water for too long. My midwife still wanted me to stay in, since the water is the best natural pain relief for posterior back labor. In order to do this, Grace started to pour fresh water over my back using a cup. This gained us a bit more time in the tub, but I was started to feel the urge to push. Since you are only allowed to labor in the tub, my labor nurse, Susan, wanted me to get out. From there I went to the bathroom and I really felt the urge to push. And Susan kinda flipped. Every other time I had gone to the bathroom, she would always say "No pushing on the toilet," but now she could tell that I really was close. My moan had changed, and she said a totally different tone, "Get off the toilet." She asked if she could check me and I agreed. I was at a 9.5, so I just had a little lip of cervix left and then I would be ready to push. They (my midwife and labor nurse) decided to have me use the the peanut ball which is this special yoga ball shaped like a peanut shell. It goes in between your legs and you lay on one side or the other. They wanted me to lay on my right side because that was the side of my cervix that needed to dilate. They said the peanut ball worked like a magnet...and let me tell you...it did. I could really feel my contractions of the right side of my body. The ball is also suppose to help shimmy the baby down. So after doing my right side, we did my left side. They also said that if I felt the urge to push a little bit, I could. If it gave some relief, then I could keep pushing. I wasn't at a 10, so it wasn't active pushing but it felt really good. And then I labored on all four again, like how I started laboring in the room. That was the most uncomfortable part because I was so far along I just wanted it to be over. I was so thirsty and I kept burping and hiccuping. I felt like I could vomit at any moment (poor Grace got me about 4 different barf bags) but I never did. Apparently the hiccup/gas phase is an indication that you are pretty far along, which I learned after. Finally Susan asked if she could check me again. I had made a little progress but still had a little lip left. She suggested letting her tuck it behind the baby's head during my next contraction and I was all for it. At that point, what was a little more pain. I wanted to see my girl! So Susan did it and I was ready to push!
The midwife came back in and we got all set up for pushing. At first I was just in the classic C position, with me holding my legs back to my chin. Susan was sitting on my right side and Danny was standing on my left. Grace was down south. My first push sucked. And I could tell Melissa was a little concerned. In order to push out a posterior baby, I needed to have really effective pushing. I asked her to give me a little bit more coaching since I had never done this before. And that changed EVERYTHING. She said she was trying to respect my birth plan, which asked for a calm and relaxed environment, but I assured her that we could throw that out the window at this point. I had all the calm and relaxation I needed for my labor and now it was time to get down to business. They decided to have me change positions. Rather than be in the C, they thought it would be more effective for me to be on my right side. So that's how it happened. I got on my right side, Danny held up my left leg and I held my right leg back. With each contraction, Susan would help me lift my upper body and she and Melissa really coached me through, tell me where to direct my push (which was really low...it was like pushing out the biggest poop of your life...). Susan was especially good at coaching me, yelling in my ear, "Push, push, push, push." With each contraction, I pushed three times. I think that happened about 5 times. At one point, they wanted me to change back to the C position for the last good push. Melissa said that if I had one more good set of pushes, I would be holding my baby girl. So I did that and got really close, felt the ring of fire and all, but didn't get her out quite yet. So one more set of pushes, hardest work of my life, and then we had our sweet Annabelle!
It was the most beautiful moment. They put her right on my chest and she was so alert! I kept saying, "We did it! You and mommy did it!" Grace was taking pictures and Danny was by my side and it was wonderful. All of a sudden though, the room changed. I heard Melissa say "Call up Dr. SoandSo." And she told Danny we need to cut the cord right away (we originally wanted to do delayed cord clamping). After they cut the cord, I heard them say, "Take the baby away from mom; Dad go with baby." Melissa ordered Susan to get the Pitocin started in my IV and they started pushing on my stomach. Melissa asked me to give a little push to get the placenta out. I heard them say "We are losing too much blood" and "get the doctor." They also gave my a really intense drug called Cytotec which helps your uterus contract. (It goes up your rectum which was super fun.) It was a really scary time, but somehow Danny and I were able to look at each other from across the room, each of us trying to stay confidently composed but with tears in our eyes. It was here that all my practice with relaxation was key. I just tried to remain peaceful and calm. Danny said he was so torn about who to be with, but he was confident Annabelle was okay and just wanted to be by me. So he left Annabelle with the nurse and came by my side. When he got to my side, the doctor also arrived and the mood in the room changed again. The doctor seemed confident that they had handled the situation properly. The worse part at this point was the sewing up of my lady parts. Because I was losing so much blood and they didn't really know if it was coming from my uterus or my tear, Melissa started sewing me up with out putting any local anesthetic on my lady parts...which was honestly more painful then childbirth. Danny was by my side and I just kept saying, "Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me." It was the only way I could get through those stitches. Slowly, the room started to calm back down and everything was okay. They gave Annabelle back to me and I was just so happy she was safe and healthy. (We learned later that I did not technically hemorrhage; I lost 450 cu (I think that is the measurement) and the technical amount that would qualify a hemorrhaging is 500 (or so we were told.) While it was a super intense moment, I am glad they reacted to quickly and efficiently.)
I loved natural childbirth. I would do it again without a doubt. Was it super intense? Yes. But I was so engaged and a part of the process and Danny was so involved. It was extremely spiritual and holy, and I wouldn't change anything, not even the really intense/scary part at the end.
Later on, I'll be posting on tips for a natural childbirth (not that I am an expert) and why I would never choose to labor at home, even though I think it would be beautiful. Considering the fact that it took me a whole week to write this post, don't expect those posts any time too soon! :)