I’d been having “prodromal” labor for a couple weeks. I hate to call it that, but they were stronger than my normal Braxton hicks that I’d been having for months, and they were consistently 1-1.5 minutes in length and five minutes apart for hours at a time. There were three specific times that I surely thought I was in labor! But every time, the contractions died down and stopped, usually after a sleepless night. I was frustrated, discouraged and exhausted. Contractions are hard work! And I wasn’t used to daily workouts, haha.
I remember waking up Thursday morning (Feb. 23rd) and feeling normal for the first time in at least a week. I was happy, I was motivated, and most of all, my mind was NOT on labor. I was cleaning, I shaved my legs, I did laundry. I know you’re all thinking “nesting!” but it wasn’t anything crazy. I mean, I wasn’t on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor. I just felt good. I guess I had finally given up on the hopes of labor coming soon!
I think it was about 3 p.m. that I had the first contraction. It was definitely strong enough to make me immediately say, “Hmmm, well this is different.” I’m going to go ahead and say they were painful. (Looking back and seeing how painful it really got later on, those early ones were nothing, but at the time I knew it was real.) I called my mom in excitement and just continued playing with Ryan and doing stuff around the house.
Steve got home from work around 4:30 p.m., and I looked at him and got all teary. A contraction came, and I held the kitchen table. I told him it was real this time (FOR REAL this time!), that it hurt, and that I was nervous. He gave me a hug, and then I think he started nesting, as he worked on cleaning the whole house.
I called my midwife around 5:30 p.m., not thinking she needed to come yet, but to give her a heads up. She told me to call back in an hour. In the meantime, I started baking a birthday cake for Rebecca! My contractions were, right off the bat, a minute long and every 5 minutes.
I called my midwife about 6:30 p.m. We decided she should come over around 8 or 8:30 p.m. I was stopping between contractions, but I guess I could still kind of talk through them. (If I had any idea how intense labor would get later on, I never would have called them this early). I sent a text to my doula, and she came over at the same time, around 8 or 8:30 p.m. It was the night of a snowstorm, so everyone wanted to get here earlier rather than later. My mom came too because she was going to watch Ryan. About 9:30 p.m. I went to the bathroom and lost some mucous plug – whoooo! I was so excited. BABY TIME!
My cake was done, and we decided to play the board game Buzzerwizzer (it’s a trivia game – so fun!) because we were all just sitting around. We kind of had a full house, and I felt like everyone was watching me, waiting for me, and I didn’t know how to react. Well, turns out that’s because it was really early labor. I wasn’t in full-on focused mode yet, and I had a long way to go.
We never finished the game because I got up to use the bathroom and felt the contractions more intensely. It was late – maybe around 11 p.m.? We decided to rest, take naps. I tried, but I was in and out of the shower. My doula really helped me get through the night. At 4 a.m., I had bloody show – whooo! More excitement. I got in the tub for about an hour then, while Steve slept. I got out for a bit and then took a shower at 6:45 a.m. Everyone was up and at ‘em in the morning, with Ryan getting up around 7 a.m.?
He made me smile, but it was hard to have him there during contractions. I ate some peanut butter toast (or tried to). At 8:30 a.m., my contractions slowed to about 7 minutes apart. When I was checked for progress my cervix was very posterior, and the opening couldn’t even really be reached. The edge felt thick and closed. Meaning no progress. I think the disappointment was visible across my face, so I was told that “Maybe I was 2-3 cm dilated,” but I don’t think I was at all. But that’s what I posted on Facebook, 2-3 cm dilated, because I was too embarrassed and disappointed to post otherwise.
What did this mean? I had been in labor for 12+ hours with no progress. I was not in active labor, maybe not in “real” labor? We all decided that it would be best if the birth team left. I felt watched, and we all know a watched pot never boils. I think I had performance anxiety. I didn’t feel comfortable and that can definitely slow progression of labor.
I sobbed. Of course! I was in pain and had been for 12+ hours. I had weeks of prodromal labor that apparently did nothing. I was tired. I felt defeated, I felt disappointed, I felt discouraged. It was the only time through this whole thing that I thought, “I can’t do this.” I’m not going to be able to make it. I have so much farther to go. How can I do it?
Steve tried to get me to go out for breakfast with him. He thought it would take my mind off things. I was told that this labor could even possibly stop and not start again for hours or even days. AH! I considered going out for breakfast, but then another contraction came, and I was like — there’s no way.
So Steve left to get breakfast and bring it home to me. I took two Benadryl, got in bed and fell asleep, hoping the labor would stop if that was the plan, or that the rest would help and things would pick up again. Steve woke me up with breakfast when he got home shortly after, but I shooed him away so I could sleep. In hindsight, I’m glad I got some sleep, but that Benadryl wiped me out. When I woke up only 2 hours later because the contractions were too much, I was a little slow moving.
Throughout the labor, there were definitive periods when my contractions stepped it up a notch. I mean, I could look at Steve and say, “Okay, we’re at the next level.” Then my body would get used to that level of pain, and it would be bearable again, until of course the contractions stepped it up again – it’s fascinating the way your body adjusts and copes. I eventually reached a point where I was just in a trance, in another world, completely focused and breathing through each contraction. One at a time. I knew that if I let myself slip up – FEEL the pain and think even for a second that “I can’t do this” – then I’d never come back. It’s so hard to relax a person that is tensing up and freaking out about pain, so I just never let myself do that. My chants through contractions were “Doooooown and out” and “IIIIII can do it,” over and over. The word “can’t” was not allowed to escape my mouth or enter my thoughts.
Steve and my birth team stayed in touch all day. I think I stayed in the shower for like 4 hours – until the hot water was gone. I had Steve call the birth team that night, around 7 p.m. My contractions were stronger. They were clearly not stopping, and were now 3 minutes apart.
I didn’t even notice when they arrived – I was in bed, moaning through contractions. I was focused. This was real.
Steve was amazing and stayed by my side the entire time, encouraging me and helping me relax. But my doula, she was something special. She had a magic touch and voice, I tell ya. Those painful contractions would come, she’d remind me to relax those muscles, tell me how strong I was for my baby girl, tell me I could do it, and the unbearable pain was suddenly bearable. I loved her.
My mom came back too, but Ryan stayed at her house with my dad. We had wanted him there, but at this point we knew it’d be better if he wasn’t.
At 8:30 p.m. I got in our Jacuzzi. I remember telling Steve, “I hope I’m not getting in too early.” Meaning, I thought I was nearly done, and I’d be giving birth in the tub. Oh if I only knew!
At 10:30 p.m., I was checked. I was scared. I did not want more bad news. My cervix was still a bit posterior, but I was 5-6 cm and 50% effaced. Oh thank the heavens. I was making progress!!! I was halfway!!! Okay, okay, we’re halfway there. We can do this! I CAN DO THIS!
So about 11 p.m., we tried new positions. I hung from the door during contractions with a Rebozo and rested on Steve in between. I labored on hands and knees, then tried going up and down the stairs. Around 1:15 a.m., I was so tired I went to bed to try to rest. Every time I lay in bed to take a rest, my labor would slow down and contractions would space out, but I so needed the rest!
I didn’t rest in bed too long – I needed a change (to help with the pain), and I got in the tub from 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. My contractions were 5 minutes apart, and I was “sleeping” between contractions. If you’ve been through this before, you know what I mean by “sleeping.” It’s not exactly sleep. It’s some form of total la la land. Steve slept.
At 8:45 a.m. (Saturday), I ate a little breakfast, changed my clothes and brushed my teeth. It was a new day! I tried more positions, some swaying and “dancing” with Steve, more hanging from the door. At 11:30 a.m., I was going up and down the stairs sideways with the Rebozo on, and Steve helping me. I didn’t have a clear transition phase, but this is when I kind of showed some signs of it. I was shaky, and my contractions seemed to have no end. I’d feel the wave lessen, like the end of a contraction, but it’d pick right back up again before stopping completely. It wasn’t terrible though, and I never broke down and said, “I can’t do this!” which is a typical sign of the transition phase.
Alright, we’re nearing a full two days of labor now. Around noon my mom left to go to the grocery store. While she was gone, I was checked and found to be 90% effaced, at +2 station, 8-9 cm dilated and very stretchy. AHH!! I can’t even describe the amount of happiness I felt at that moment. With Ryan, I got to 8 cm, 80% effaced, and +1 station before the c-section. I knew that sometimes in VBACs, moms stall at the dilation point they reached during the previous labor. Maybe I did, maybe I was at 8 cm for a while? I wasn’t checked often enough to know, but, at this point, I had passed it.
I pushed twice, just to see. I couldn’t feel anything, but my midwife felt the head moving down with each push – it was on the pubic bone. My bag of water was still intact, but bulging.
I changed my clothes (“Proud VBAC Mama!”), had a snack and suddenly felt like my contractions barely hurt at all – I think I was so excited to be almost done and past the point I got to with Ryan. I couldn’t stop smiling! And maybe the pain really did lessen, maybe this was my body’s resting point before the big finish?
Since Rebecca was on the pubic bone, I laid like this for a while – head down, butt in the air. They used the Rebozo a bit too, around my belly, holding it up. The idea was to get the baby to move slightly up, and then when I changed positions, she’d move back down, off the pubic bone.
This was the next position – to move the baby back down. Yeah, that’s Ryan’s potty stool, haha. The Rebozo was still around my belly.
About 4:30 p.m., I was doing some more light pushes in my bed. My contractions hurt so much that pushing was a relief. I don’t know if it really took pain away, or if it gave me something else to focus on. Either way, it helped, but I didn’t really have an urge to push. I had a slight cervical lip so my midwife helped hold it back while I was pushing to help it disappear.
About 6 p.m., I was in the tub again and doing some more pushing. I was having some urges to push, and those were my most successful pushes. It takes over your body and there’s nothing you can do but PUSH! It was an overwhelming feeling, and I made some sort of moan/yelling noise with each one. I tried on my back, on each side, on my hands and knees. At 7:30 p.m., there’s a note that I’m pushing harder, and the cervical lip was still there, but it would disappear on its own with each push.
The birth team was discussing a transfer at this point, but I had no idea. They asked Steve if I had said anything about it – if I wanted to transfer. Steve said no. (I didn’t know about any of this until after Rebecca was born, and I’m thankful). The thought of transferring never entered my mind, not once. Of course, if something was wrong or if someone had told me we needed to transfer, I would have in a second. But just because the labor was long and I was tired? No. I wasn’t giving up, baby girl was doing GREAT. She and I were checked the whole time.
I was pushing on the bed. Some sort of liquid came out with a push, and I was like “Did my water just break?!” Um, no, I peed. Awesome.
At 10:10 p.m., my membranes spontaneously ruptured. I was in bed, and it was a gush. The fluid was clear.
I remember asking what time it was (I had no concept of time) and was told 11:45 p.m. They said my baby might have a Feb 25th birthday! That meant I had 15 more minutes to push her out. I was excited!
That didn’t happen.
At 2:05 a.m. I was in the shower, for the last time. It was nearly impossible to walk with that head between my legs, and I was exhausted. My contractions were weakening. I mean, if you lifted a weight over and over for 2 days, your bicep would give up, too. My uterus was tired. I sat on a birthing ball in the shower, and although I was in complete la la land, I gave myself a mental pep talk. It’s now or never. There is no option. This has to happen NOW. Let’s do this.
I shot out of that shower, into the family room where I ate some fruit and peanut butter, drank some chicken broth and was ready to go. I think everyone in the room was holding their breath. It was 3 a.m. I thought I’d give birth in our bedroom (or maybe in the tub), but I think everyone agreed I needed a change of scenery. I needed out of that dark bedroom.
I pushed on my hands and knees on the birth ball. Then in the running start position (leaning on the ball with one leg propped up), hated that one, I could feel the discouragement in the room. With each push, there was silence – there was no more news of progress. I finally asked, “Am I doing nothing?! What’s going on down there?” I was feeling discouraged too. But I was not giving up. Finally I tried a squat position. It did the trick.
Steve sat on the couch behind me, and during contractions I squatted, feet flat on the floor, with his support under my arms. Between contractions, he pulled me up to his lap. At first I tried to sit on him, but there was a head in between my legs, and I could not sit! So I kind of laid on him. Oh and my VBAC t-shirt? Gone. Everything was gone.
At one point, I was told to reach down and feel my baby’s head. They thought it would motivate me. It didn’t. I felt a tiny area of her head, and all I could think about was how big her head would actually be and how far I had to go.
A little bit later, they got out a mirror. This time, much more of her head was showing, and that really motivated me. I could see progress while pushing, and I could see how close I was. ALMOST!
Then I mumbled a comment to Steve between contractions about how I was scared (of the upcoming pain). I used the word “uncomfortable,” which was probably an understatement. Not to say I wasn’t already in pain, but you know. My birth team replied that I couldn’t be afraid of that ring of fire! It’s coming no matter what, there’s no choice.
I realized I was somewhat holding back. Maybe not pushing as hard as I could because I was afraid of that pain to come. But good point, it’s coming no matter what. Time to push this baby out.
At 4:09 a.m., Rebecca was born.
She came flying into this world in one push. It turns out her left hand was up by her face, which might help explain the long labor. I got teary, Steve cried. She was absolutely beautiful and perfect. I sang her happy birthday and held her tight, skin-to-skin.
We did it. It was over. Rebecca was here, and everything was amazing. The experience was incredible – I’d do it all again in a second! The feeling is indescribable, like the last 3 days of my life were working toward this moment, toward this beautiful baby girl. And she’s finally here, safe and sound and perfect in our arms. We did it!
I think the placenta cord was cut before I pushed it out, but we did wait until it stopped pulsating. I think it was about 15-20 minutes? And then I felt a little crampy, gave a small push, and the placenta slid out easily (4:30 a.m.). It was inspected and looked great (we saved it in our fridge for encapsulation, but more on that later).
They offered to help me to the bed, maybe to the shower if I wanted, and I said, “Nu-uh, no way. I’m way too tired to move. I am laying RIGHT HERE.” They put a sheet down for me, but otherwise I lay right there, on the plastic and towels where I gave birth.
We iced my bottom (frozen water-filled condom – best ice pack ever!), so the swelling would go down a bit. Rebecca was latched and nursing by 4:55 a.m. She was a pro – it was really easy right from the start, and we’ve never had any issues with that! I immediately asked for one of the chocolate chip cookies my mom had made because that I hadn’t been able to eat during labor.
Everyone left around 7:30-8 a.m., and the three of us were alone. Steve did help me get up and get to bed. I can’t remember how long we slept, but my BIL and his girlfriend brought Ryan home around 5:30 p.m., I think, and he met his little sister for the first time, “She came out!”
~I hiccuped twice after every contraction. Every.single.contraction. It became a joke throughout my labor, and while I had no clear-cut transition period, there was a time when my contractions – although they lessened in pain – never seemed to actually end. That was proven by the fact that I wasn’t hiccupping. And the best part? The two hiccups I gave right after she was born = The end.
~Total = 58.5 hours
~She was 7 lb 6oz, 21 inches long, 13.5″ head
~I had a second-degree tear, and I chose not to have it stitched. Everything healed great.
~The question everyone wants to know: did I poop during pushing? You bet I did. I even peed on the bed, guys. No shame.
~I ate a few times, or tried to eat (fruit, cheese, peanut butter, crackers, broth), but really survived on vitamin water and water. There were 2 cups with straws filled at all times, and people were always sticking them in my face. I think we went through 2 cases of Vitamin Water, and lots of spoonfuls of honey.
~Steve was incredible. He was sweating right there with me. He walked the stairs with me, he supported me through contractions, I hung around his neck. He massaged me and talked to me and encouraged me. He even got in the shower once with me. He never had any doubt that I could do it, and he never once wavered in his support. I couldn’t have done it without him, and WE couldn’t have done it without our doula.
~During contractions some women moan, some might yell, some may be silent. I chanted. I guess through all my reading and hypnobabies, the ONE affirmation that really stuck in my head was “down and out.” I think it gave me something to focus on, and it was a positive thought – let’s get this baby down and OUT! So with each contraction, I’d moan “Down and out, down and out, dowwwwwwwn and ouuuuuut, dowwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn and ouuuuuttt,” and when they were really bad, I’d start turning my head from side to side too. My other chant later on was “IIIII can do it, IIIIIIIIIIII can do it.” The muscles I liked to tense up were my shoulders, so Steve and my doula did a great job at reminding me to relax those. The relaxation and letting go is really what got me through it.
~I really did want to keep everyone updated the whole time, but there are a couple of reasons I stopped posting on Facebook/Twitter – mainly because everything got so intense, and I was way too focused to be off typing on a computer. I was in another place (I was in la-la land), and the last thing on my mind was Facebook. However, all you lovely people did pop into my head a couple of times. I thought about updating a few times, but never got to it. Once, I said to Steve “Wow, everyone online is probably freaking out right now! I need to update them!” and Steve replied that HE was updating for me. So at that point, it pretty much went out of my mind. I felt at ease that Steve was telling you guys what was going on throughout the labor. Of course I found out afterwards that he only posted ONCE, so I am sorry for that. I know many of you were following and were truly concerned!
This post is long enough so more to come in future posts: dealing with pain/using hypnobabies, placental encapsulation, and hiring a doula for a homebirth.