My labor began on Sunday, September 23…my due date. DH and I had gotten back from brunch with a friend and I started feeling light contractions. We spent the early afternoon hanging out and decided to take a board game to the park, but by the time we got there I was too restless to sit. I remembered that there was a festival going on by the river, so we walked down and strolled around. I had to stop during a few of the contractions on the way back home, around 6:30. I was starting to believe I was really in labor. We got home and I needed to more actively deal with the contractions by changing my positions. I started thinking about what I would need to get through the labor ahead of me, so I tried my best to rest through the contractions. I found this nearly impossible, so decided food would be the best next thing to keep my energy going. DH made dinner and I hopped in the shower for the first time, calling out contractions to him which he kept track of in an Excel spreadsheet…what an engineer. :) The shower helped a lot, and we realized my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart. I moved to the bed because hands and knees position was working best for me. I ate between contractions and DH called the midwife. I was GBS+ which meant that I needed to get to the hospital sooner than I was really wanting so I could get antibiotics. The midwife on call seemed so chill about the whole thing, knowing my birth plan and respecting that I wanted to labor at home as much as possible. After talking with DH for a few minutes, she wanted to speak with me to hear me go through a contraction to gauge how far along she thought I was. I had two contractions on the phone with her and she guessed that I was somewhere around 3-4 cm. We talked about the need to start my antibiotics 4 hours before delivery and suggested I come in within the next two hours. I ran a bath while DH packed the last minute things for our hospital bag. The bathtub was so frustratingly small, I couldn’t handle laboring in there, so I showered instead. It was again helpful but my thighs were getting tired from laboring standing up. I found the most helpful positions were squatting with DH holding me up from my armpits or pressing my hands between door frames. We decided to head to the hospital around 10:30. DH called the midwife again, who we needed to reach through an after hours service. The person on the phone was asking him what the call was regarding and at the same time DH yelled “my wife is headed to the hospital…just tell the midwife to meet us there!” as I yelled “get OFF the PHONE!” through a particularly intense contraction.
Thankfully I only had one contraction in the car on the way to the hospital…it was not pleasant to have to sit there and take it without being able to find a productive position to be in. I fell asleep after the contraction and woke up to find us pulling into the hospital parking lot. We checked in (two contractions at the desk…the woman kept saying “really, you can do this later” but for some reason I thought it was important to have everything ready at that time). I got upstairs and after one look the nurse said there was no need for triage…I could go right to the L&D room. I changed into my labor gown (3/4 sleeve cotton nightgown from LLBean, SO comfy and worth it) and kept working through contractions with my midwife and DH. The midwife checked me for the first time and I could feel that I wasn’t just at a 3-4. She was pretty excited to let me know I arrived at the hospital 7 cm dilated! It was exactly how I wanted it to be. I made sure to keep my jaw open and sounds low to keep my body relaxed so I could continue to dilate and deal with contractions as they came. I did lots of visualization of the baby moving down and found the exercise ball to be a great place to labor as I rested my head on the bed between contractions. I was still joking and laughing between contractions and getting to know the midwife since I had not yet met with her in my group. She was SO encouraging of me and my body’s abilities….she was exactly what I needed. I had my IV set up and started the antibiotics. It was such a pain to lay in the bed while the penicillin dripped in, but through breathing and visualizing my contractions I was able to get through it. Once I had my dosage I was free to actively labor again. Everything was going smoothly for a few more hours and the midwife checked me again, thinking I’d be ready to push soon. She said I was not quite 9 cm, which we found odd since I had been progressing so well before. My waters hadn’t yet broken and she suggested breaking them so his head could more actively dilate the cervix. DH and I agreed, so she went ahead…and there was meconium…ugh. This meant external monitors on me the rest of labor and I still had my GBS IV in, so all of a sudden my active labor was tethered. My next contraction was very intense, as I was expecting since it was no longer a cushy water bag, but his head pressing on me. I knew that was a good thing and was still able to ride it out, but he wasn’t digging on it so much. His heart rate dropped to 80 bpm and stayed there for a minute before returning to the 130s. The nurse and midwife were fine with that, but it was still concerning to them. He made such huge progress during that contraction, though, that the midwife started prepping the room for delivery. With the next contraction, again, his heart rate dropped pretty low but returned in a fair amount of time and he made more progress. And then the next contraction…this is where the interventions really began.
His heart rate again dropped to 80 bpm…and didn’t return back to normal for 10 minutes. After one minute down at 80 without returning to normal range, my midwife and nurse made me lay on one side then the other. I knew they were concerned and to be honest I was still upset about the fact that he had passed meconium and was trying to reason with myself that he was likely just fine. Between my concern and the midwife’s intensity I was unable to process what was going on and was agitated that I was being forced to lay on one side and then the other without explanation. If I had stepped back from myself for a few seconds, I’d realize why I was being asked to do these things, but I was starting to transition and my mind and body didn’t seem to be working together anymore. His heartrate remained low for 4 more minutes of me flipping back and forth when the midwife called the OB into the room and the nurse put on the oxygen mask. Now new people were coming into the room concerned, I didn’t know why I needed oxygen or needed to flip back and forth…I just knew that the oxygen mask was making me very claustrophobic and it was one more tether on me. The OB introduced herself, told me she read my birth preferences and would do everything in her power to avoid a cesarean for me. She told me between contractions that it was imperative that we get the baby out as soon as possible and asked my permission to perform an episiotomy if necessary. I agreed. The nurse said something about getting forceps ready and the OB scoffed and said “I don’t use forceps”…that made me smile a little bit between thrashing around still wondering why I had an oxygen mask attached to my face. During this time DH was a rock, helping to calm me through breathing. The midwife saw that I had finished dilating and told me with the next contraction I needed to push. That really helped me get out of my “what the hell is going wrong here?!” state since I had a purposeful task at hand. They made the episiotomy cut, attached an internal heart monitor to his head to distinguish between my heart and his (and found that his heartrate resumed to the 120’s, yay!) and with my next contraction had me push. I was fully prepared to have my pushing be directed by my body’s cues, but I had no such luxury. I was really only tensing all my muscles, or that’s what it seemed to me. DH and my midwife said they were amazed by my pushing strength, but honestly I didn’t feel like I was all that productive. DH was absolutely amazing during this time. We both feel like our bond was so strengthened during this part of delivery. There was so much commotion and stress going on around me, but all I heard during this time was my DH’s voice yelling at the intensity that I needed to push, “PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH, ERIN YOU CAN DO THIS, YOUR BODY WAS MADE FOR THIS, YOU ARE GETTING OUR BABY OUT SAFELY, YOU ARE SO STRONG, YOUR BODY CAN DO THIS.” What an amazing encouragement. It obviously helped because within 17 minutes of pushing, our little Isaac Alexander was born.
Because of the meconium passing, we weren’t able to have delayed cord cutting or DH cut the cord. They took him immediately to the warming table to suction him out while I was stitched up. I couldn’t believe it was over already and just loved snuggling my head to DH’s while we listened to Isaac’s cries. Everything in the room changed immediately. I cried as I thanked the OB for her help, I was just so grateful to everyone. Meeting our little one for the first time was amazing…I couldn’t believe that he was the one kicking me for all those months. It seemed like two completely different ideas. All the nurses, the pediatrician and the OB left us to nurse for about an hour and the midwife stayed back with us. She said she didn’t want to overwhelm us with everything now, but said she’d be by within the next couple of days to go over what happened and answer any questions we had. She did stop by the next day (on her off day!) to help us understand the labor. That was such a gift because I still had many questions about the monitors and oxygen mask and whether rupturing the membranes should’ve been done. She also wondered about that and said she had been thinking about it non-stop. We did decide that it was the right decision, we just couldn’t have guessed that he would respond to the quick progress the way he had. And honestly, with the meconium, I’m glad we got him out as quickly as we did. The day after delivery I looked like I had been hit by a truck…blood vessels everywhere in my face, neck and upper back were broken and I had a blood blister on my thigh from grabbing it while pushing. But I had my new family, and my body DID get my son out safely, and I had the hope that next time the delivery can be as easy and beautiful as my labor was this time.