On the night that I finally went into labor, I was 40 weeks and 6 days and had been having contractions about 10 minutes apart for about 36 hours. I also had three previous episodes of what I thought was the beginning of labor that later stopped. To say that I was ready to meet my baby is an understatement! Between 9 and 11 that evening, my contractions were uncomfortable and noticeable, but not very painful and never any closer than 8 minutes apart. Around 11 pm, however, things started to pick up, both in pain and frequency. I had to get into a variety of positions, breathe and vocalize through each one. After a handful of contractions like that, my husband and I thought it best to call our doula, our babysitters and our midwife. I had guessed that my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but after watching me, my husband said they were more like 3 minutes. (I had no idea; by that point, I could not focus on a clock.) We agreed that it was definitely time to go to the hospital. Amazingly, I had the awareness (in between contractions) to pack my kids’ backpacks for school, email a friend to cancel a playdate scheduled for the next day, and grab a plastic bag and towel for the car ride — just in case.
The car ride to the hospital was an experience I’d rather not repeat in this lifetime. I knelt in the back seat, feeling every twist and turn and dealing with contractions by bracing myself against the seat back, breathing and moaning. When we arrived, we entered through the emergency room since it was after hours. I remember passing by a handful of people while wearing my nightgown, hugely pregnant and clearly in active labor. One woman congratulated me. Upon entering, I told the admitting nurse that I would not be riding in a wheel chair to labor and delivery — there was no way I could manage contractions while sitting in a chair! On the way to L&D, I had about 4 contractions. Each time, I would stop, close my eyes, drop to the ground, try and breathe (though it was getting tough), and vocalize.
When we entered the delivery room, it was dim, there was just one or two nurses and everyone was speaking to me very quietly and respectfully. My assigned nurse was someone who enjoyed assisting women birthing naturally (yay!) and was so accommodating to my state of labor. My doula arrived shortly after we got into the room. Per protocol, the nurse wanted to perform a vaginal exam (which I was ok with since I too wanted to know my progress) and get a few minutes of fetal monitoring. Because my contractions were coming hard and fast, we timed the exam in between a contraction so I could lay down and then quickly get back up to prepare for the next contraction. She checked me and revealed that I was 4-5cm. What?? I was sure that, based on the intensity of my contractions, I would be closer to 7 or 8cm. As soon as I stood back up after the exam and had another contraction, I heard a snapping sound and my water broke with intense force, all over the hospital floor. I clearly remember thinking, “Gross, what a mess!” While the nurse finagled with the fetal monitors around my belly to get a clear reading of the baby’s heart rate, I climbed onto the bed to try and better cope with the next contraction. I knelt on the bed and asked my doula and nurse to raise up the back of the bed so I could have something to brace myself against. During this time, my doula and nurse attempted to comfort me by providing counter pressure and rubbing my back — nothing felt good and I quickly asked them to stop. I was at the point in labor where I didn’t want anyone touching me! After a couple of contractions, I felt pressure and a slight burning. I told my nurse, “I think I’m ready to push!” The nurse, who had been monitoring the baby’s heart rate and was still entering my information into the computer, lifted up my skirt (I had changed into my Binsi labor skirt upon arriving) and saw that the baby’s head was in fact crowning!
At this point, the only people in the room were my husband, my doula and the charge nurse. My midwife was still on her way (she was coming down the hall, I later found out). When my nurse saw that baby was crowning, she quickly left the room and brought back a team of people, including my midwife. There was a flurry of activity and the atmosphere in the room was serious but energized. I was slightly aware of what was happening in the room, but mostly focused on what was happening with me. As the baby descended, I could tell that I needed to provide more room as it felt like she was hitting my pubic bone. Still kneeling, I lifted out my right leg (modified Captain Morgan pose, ha!) to open up my pelvis. As she started to further emerge, I instinctively reached down to support my perineum (and because it hurt!). What I felt was not what I expected to feel — a gooey, mushy, round protrusion. I guess I had expected it to feel more solid. After her head was out, the midwife reached in to unwrap the cord from around her neck — yeowch, that did not feel nice! Shortly after, with a few more pushes, she was fully out. The relief was immediate and amazing. Since I was facing away from the midwife, she handed the baby to me through my legs so I could hold her for the first time. As I reached to grab her, all I could think to do was to find out the gender — no one had yet said anything about the baby being boy or girl. When I saw that she was a girl, I announced it to the room and sat in complete shock! My husband and I both thought that we would be having our third boy. She was not yet crying and took a little while to make noise, but she soon started wriggling and worked out a cry. The midwife and staff were respectful of my wishes to hold her skin-to-skin and allow the cord to stop pulsing before clamping. When they finally did take her to perform some extra suctioning (the birth was so fast, she had a lot of extra fluid in her), the nurse asked about diapering and wrapping her and I declined — I wanted to see and hold all of her, not a little burrito blanket baby! Everyone in the room was SO accommodating to every last one of my requests, down to the littlest detail like bringing our own baby wash for her first bath; no one showed any attitude or made me feel like someone else was calling the shots. It was awesome.
To get an idea of just how fast this whole experience was — we were checking into the delivery room at 12:50 am and Vivian was born at 1:16 am. It wasn’t until we were moved to a recovery room that I had time to digest what had just happened. I was elated that I was able to have the low intervention and med-free experience that I so longed for, and I was so pleased with how I was treated by everyone in the hospital. At the same time, the way in which the birth scene played out was intense and at times, a little scary. I won’t lie — when I was upright and pushing, I was frightened at the warp speed timing of everything. It was like a freight train with no brakes — there was no stopping the process! Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the experience, I am just so happy. Birth is definitely a mix of preparation and luck, and thankfully, I had both on my side.