My little Sabrina kept me guessing for weeks as to when she might be ready to arrive.
Beginning July 15th I had a lot of prelabor excitement with contractions, cramping and all the good signs. But labor would come and go and never become regular enough to go anywhere significant. That and she was still rolling around a lot, turning sideways a few times and generally scaring mommy into thinking labor might become complicated! Sabrina just had her own schedule and own agenda, and she wasn’t ready to let mommy in on her secrets yet.
On July 27th I woke up with contractions that were present but fairly mild and not too close together. I was also seeing bloody show and feeling lots of aches. I stayed home from work for a little bit to get a better idea about what was happening, but by 10 p.m. I decided that this was probably a false alarm again and decided to go to work. All day long I had contractions, some more intense than others but not much closer than 15 minutes apart. I was pretty emotional by this point after so many weeks of prelabor and just felt ready to be done with the waiting. I had a bit of a breakdown as I was saying goodbye to my friends at work (I decided this was my last day no matter what!) and then again when picking up the girls from my mom’s house. I was done. That evening, contractions continued on but didn’t intensify and I was totally worn out, so by 8:30 I went to bed for the night.
The next morning I woke up around 4:15 a.m. noticing that I was getting some fairly intense contractions. I timed them in bed until about 5:30 a.m., discovering that they were about 10 mins apart. I got up and took a shower and got ready, and they kept regular and got a little bit stronger, though still very bearable. I sat and watched the news while sitting on my yoga ball and they stayed regular (finally after all the on-off again prelabor!). At 5:45 a.m. I sent a text to Kim, our doula: “Gmorning. Guess who wants to have a Bday today? 8-10 mins apart and pretty intense.”
I was also noticing more bloody show so I knew this might really be it. I woke Daddy up around 7:00 a.m. to let him know that today would probably be our day! I was still cautiously optimistic after all my prelabor, but this seemed to be building like it should finally. Around 7:00 I talked with Kim again to let her know things had stayed regular and were building, I also called my mom to see if she could come over for my girls who were now up and around for the day. She came right away and was so excited for us!
Around 7:30 a.m. we left home to head to the hospital since I was worried this might be a really quick birth due to all my prelabor and the quickness of my second baby's birth. I didn’t want to wait around home too long in case we had a surprise on our hands! I had actually been told Iwas already dilated to 4 cm as of Tuesday, so I knew the potential was definitely there. Of course, while driving to the hospital things slowed down a little, but then we took a short walk in the park when we arrived and the intensity picked right back up again. I was still only getting them about 8 to 10 mins apart, but the intensity was definitely there. I decided to check in just in case she came quickly, even though things weren’t terribly exciting yet.
They kept me in the screening room first to determine if I was ready for birth. My midwife came in around 9:00 a.m. and did my first check. I was happy to hear that I was at 5 cm and about 70 percent effaced! She told me to get walking to move things along and she would check me again in an hour. She also let me order some food to build my energy. So we started walking … and walking … and walking. Around 10:30 a.m. she checked me again and said I had thinned out quite a bit to 90 percent and seemed to be ready to go today and she’d admit me! Yay!
Once we settled into the room around 11:00 a.m. Kim, my husband and I set out to walk the halls again and again and again—a common activity for the day. Walking really increased the pressure and made me very uncomfortable and even though I would only feel the start and end of contractions while I was resting, it was almost like walking was one big contraction with increasing pain. Sometime around noon Kim suggested I try getting in the shower for a while to create some stimulation as well as offer my back and belly a little relief. It felt great to get the warm water spraying on my back. The contractions came on pretty good with a little stimulation, about 5 minutes apart now! I stayed in the shower for about 30 minutes before they had me get out so they could get a good read in on the monitoring equipment.
Everything was looking great on the monitors and my nurse was great about letting me disconnect from them as much as I wanted. So I got dressed again and we went walking for the next hour or so. My hospital definitely needs longer hallways—we walked in the cross pattern over and over and were really getting bored with the short halls. I would have loved to have been released to go down to the third floor and walk on the long skyway! While walking, my husband and Kim kept a close eye on the regularity and intensity of my contractions. We were definitely building in the right direction and now they were about 2 to 3 minutes apart. My husband noticed that I tended to always have a contraction in one certain branch of the hallways and so he kept steering me that way. We were so active all day—barely stopping to rest at all!
Around 2:00 p.m. my friend Sarah arrived to be my photographer for the birth. She came a long way for me and I was so thankful to have her there so I could have photo documentation of the day’s events. She joined right into my entourage and walked the halls along with us. It was pretty funny because I was becoming a bit of a rockstar in the hallways—several nurses and even other people in the halls kept telling me “You’re amazing!” or “Wow- way to go!” and other such encouragements. As we walked past the nurses’ station we couldn’t help but notice all the monitors of other moms in labor, laying in their beds most likely hooked up to epidurals and Pitocin and such. That was the norm, not walking the halls and experiencing a fully natural labor. I should not have been the exception; labor like mine should be the norm!
At 2:30 p.m., a new nurse came on shift and wanted me to lay for a little bit to get a good monitoring read again. It felt good to lay and rest, but contractions while laying in bed were no picnic! I much preferred to be up and active for my contractions so I was happy the monitoring session was pretty short. After that we were up and walking again with a few short (and I mean short!) rest breaks in the room. We walked a whole lot, but it really was helping labor build. I had quite a few intense contractions and they were pretty close together, about 2 to 3 mins still. I was definitely needing the support of my husband much more now, and he was right there holding my hand, hugging me, rubbing my back and doing everything I needed the whole time. Kim was also right there to massage my back as I needed or apply counterpressure on my back during contractions. She also kept me motivated with her supportive words.
Around 4:30 p.m. we decided to try a new tactic. Kim had me sit on the toilet to see if it would help the baby descend more and possibly get me closer to transition. Oh, it helped alright—it made me very uncomfortable which was good. I wanted the pain at this point and really welcomed it knowing that it brought me that much closer to being done and having my baby here. I labored on the toilet for close to an hour and the whole time I couldn’t stop moving. I was constantly rolling my hips, swaying side-to-side and just doing anything to keep my body in motion, it just felt so much better. I had a lot of really intense contractions sitting here which was great, but I had to make a switch to ease some aches and pains.
Next I got up on the bed on hands & knees laying over the yoga ball. Loved this position because I was able to push my belly up against the ball for some counter-pressure during contractions, plus the openness of my hips helped the baby descend. I also liked that it was an easy way for my husband and Kim to massage my back and help with the rebozo scarf. And of course I kept swaying, rolling and bouncing gently the whole time. It just felt good!
Around 6:00 p.m. I tried getting on my feet again for a bit. No walking though—I wasn’t feeling up to leaving the room at this point, things were definitely too intense now. But my husband and I “danced” gently, swaying side to side between contractions and then he would support me strongly during each one. It helped sometimes if he would reach down and hold my belly up with his hands or other times I had him push hard on my lower back and that helped too. As I would feel a contraction I worked hard to visualize opening up for her birth. I thought about being open for her and helping her come down and sometimes I could really feel a difference in how my body responded to the contractions when I was concentrating on this. I again welcomed the pains because I knew they were taking us in the right direction and were all part of the transition that needed to happen for Sabrina to join us.
At 6:20 p.m. Kim offered me the “choice” of either getting on the toilet again or going for a walk. At the time I told her she was evil and I wanted a 3rd choice, but she was right and I decided to sit on the toilet again to bring transition closer. It helped, but was almost too much for me to handle. My midwife came in again just after this and checked me, only a little lip left and she encouraged me to grunt push as I felt was necessary. She offered to break my water at this point but I refused it again. We were close though!
I was tired by this point—very, very tired! It was about 7:00 p.m. and I had now been up since 4:15 a.m. Of course the “hard” labor had only been about 3 to 4 hours at this point, but with all the walking and not eating since 10:00 a.m., I was definitely feeling tired. Every once in a while my contractions would settle down for a little bit and space out to about 7 to 10 minutes apart and just give me a quick rest. At the time it freaked me out a little bit that I was starting to stall, but I realize now it was my body letting me have a little break so that I was ready for all my hard work ahead. I did sneak in a handful of Goldfish crakers and a bite or two of a granola bar which helped perk me up a little bit.
Over the next hour from 7:00-8:00 p.m. I was in all kinds of different positions, dancing with my husband, on hands & knees by the side of the bed (while whacking my feet on the floor during contractions!), sitting on the bed, squatting at the side, kneeling on the bed … I just did whatever felt right and whatever helped me get through that contraction.
At 8:00 p.m. the midwife came in again to check me and offered to break my water since I was really feeling pushy now. She broke it very gently and it just slowly released. I was fully dilated at this point and was really ready to just help her come out finally. I was semi-reclined on the bed which felt good in helping her move down and it gave me a way to rest a little between contractions. With each contraction I let her do as much work as possible first, just letting my body work first, and then only pushing gently with the end of each one. I wasn’t straining to push, only a grunt push at the end to finish the contraction (mostly because I just had to do be able to deal with it.) I kept this up for about a half-hour just slowly letting things work.
Around 8:40 p.m. the midwife helped set up a push bar so that I could be in a more upright position which was good. This really intensified things though and I was ready for full pushing very quickly. With a few contractions I surprised to find we were close to crowning. I hadn’t even really pushed much yet. So I got to work then, really bearing down and working to push her out, but still keeping my tones low and all my energy focused on pushing and not being too loud or stressed in my shoulders. It was such a serene environment. No one yelling at me to push, no bright lights, just totally calm and relaxed. The midwife was doing warm compresses to help me from tearing and was gently helping baby as she crowned. It only took about 4-5 good pushes and her head was out. Suki asked me to pause for just a minute so she could turn Sabrina’s shoulders and then one more good long push to birth the rest of her body. I was able to reach down and touch her as she was being born—it was just amazing! It was 8:56 p.m. when she was born.
The midwife laid her immediately on my chest to let us be together, she was alert and breathing well and just looked perfect to me. We let the cord finish pulsating before my husband cut it to be sure she got all the good blood possible. Sabrina cuddled right up with me, but cried a lot as she was not so sure about this new world she’d come to find. It was so wonderful to finally be holding her in my arms and kissing her curly, dark hair. Within a few minutes I introduced her to nursing and she started on her first meal quite easily. We were able to bond for over two hours before I asked the nurses to come in to clean her up and do her initial checks. When they did measure her we were very, very surprised to learn she was 9lbs 8oz, our estimates had been closer to 8.5lbs! She didn’t seem like a big baby, but was very long and slender really! She really was just perfect to us!
I am so pleased with the way my labor went. It was long and strenuous at times, but it was slowly progressive and I never lost momentum all day. With all the help and support I had from my husband and doula, my work was easier and more bearable. I am thankful for the nursing staff and the way that they supported me in being able to labor the way I wanted to and they offered no interference for that. All day long I listened to what my body needed to do to make labor happen and it worked. I focused on the end goal at all times so that I could work hard knowing my baby was waiting at the end of this. I loved that I was so active all day and used all the different positions to help labor intensify. While a quick labor would have also been nice, I love that I really experienced the full work of a good labor and was able to be great at doing it. In the end, my perfect little baby arrived and I recovered quickly thanks to the labor that I had; I couldn’t ask for more.
Photography credit: Sarah Watson of Sarah Watson Photography