To preface the story: we had been working to get the nursery all set for baby’s arrival and had left most of it until the last minute. The crib was all set up but that was about it. We made a last minute trip to IKEA in Boston that Tuesday and then picked up our glider a few days later. There were quite a few evenings that week spent assembling baby furniture! Then there was one last delivery – a bouncy swing from my sister. The last thing to be assembled. I had been telling M how sometimes women don’t go into labor until everything is “ready” for the baby. Not that I expected to go into labor anytime soon – my due date was still days away and many people said how first babies are often late. Regardless, we joked about how wouldn’t it be funny if I went into labor now that the baby’s room was done and everything was put together. It was about midnight on Saturday that we finished up, then watched a movie. (We’re night owls.) I stayed up until about 3. And then…
At about 5:30 in the morning on Sunday April 4, my water broke. It happened in a big gush – no subtle leaking here – and woke me from a sound sleep. I must’ve exclaimed something because I woke M up and let me tell you…there’s a good way to see a man jump out of bed! “Hey, honey, my water just broke!” Indeed. I waddled off to the bathroom, dripping the whole way, while M threw our linens in the laundry. (Thank goodness we had just invested in a waterproof mattress pad cover!) I took a nice hot shower and wondered if labor would actually start on its own or if I would be one of those people whose water breaks and then nothing happens. Well, nothing happened for a little bit, but it wasn’t long after that I started having contractions. I needn’t have worried…yet. They weren’t terribly painful or intense but they were definitely there – about 7-8 minutes apart and lasting for 30-40 seconds each. I called the midwife at around 7:30 or 8 that morning and after detailing the events of the morning, she said it was fine for me to stay home until the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. Certainly I was welcome to head to the hospital earlier if I wanted, but there was no need to, since we live only about 10 minutes away and it was an uneventful pregnancy. I called our doula, Sky, and informed her that my water had broken, but that she didn’t need to head down right away (she lives an hour away) and she told me that she had been dreaming that we were having that very same conversation! I tried to go back to sleep and managed to doze off and on for a bit but had a hard time sleeping through the contractions. Around noon, Sky called back since she hadn’t heard from us and I told her I wouldn’t mind if she came down now. Things still didn’t feel like they were progressing very quickly, if at all, but it was getting to the point where I felt like she should be there. Around one she showed up with her very sweet dog who ended up having to stay in the car for a long 2+ days, poor thing. M, Sky and I sat around, talking, reading, eating and taking walks. M braised carrots. He braised carrots, people. I’ve never known the man to braise anything before, but they were delicious! By early that evening, when I still hadn’t shown up at the hospital, the midwife, Ellie, called back and told us that it would probably be a good idea for me to head in sometime soon, just so they could check me out and make sure everything was OK, since my water had been broken all day. At sunset on Easter Sunday, we arrived at the hospital, and I had a few minutes to sit outside and enjoy the last rays of sunlight. I think I will always remember that light. (It was also the last time I would be outside for the next 5 days!)
We headed on in and the nurses said they been expecting me all day. But things still weren’t moving very quickly. They monitored me for a while, then let me free to roam the halls and do what I could to help labor move along. We walked, I showered, squatted, sat on the yoga ball, thought labor-inducing thoughts, but by morning I was still no further along. They had not done an internal exam, which shocks everyone, because of the risk of infection, since my water had already broken. Which meant that I had no idea how much I was dilated. But truthfully, I didn’t care, because it would have been no indication of how things were going to go. That day, Jen, another midwife from the practice, took over my care and we discussed nipple stimulation as a means of helping labor along. Out came the breast pump and I used it for 20 minutes at a time a few times an hour for a while, all the while being monitored to make sure everything was OK. In between, I walked, rested, chatted and generally labored away. Things would pick up…then slow down…then pick up…then slow down. There were a few moments where it really seemed like things were getting going, but invariably they would always slow right back down again. I would go from having intense contractions every few minutes to one every 15 minutes. Sigh. By the end of the day, I was seemingly no further along that I had been the night before. It was at about this point that I started to feel discouraged. I really wanted a natural childbirth without drugs or interventions and it was seeming less and less likely that that was going to happen. My desire for a water birth had already been ruled out due to my prolonged rupture of membranes and the risk of infection. (Though I could still labor in the tub…go figure.) I was afraid of having my labor augmented artificially because I had always heard how it can be really painful, more so than a natural labor, and I was intent on avoiding painkillers. Despite all my misgivings, I finally decided that evening that something had to be done because clearly this labor was not going to speed up on its own. (Keep in mind, it had been over 36 hours at this point.) I decided that I would give my body the rest of the night to get things moving naturally, get as much rest as I possibly could, and start pitocin in the morning if nothing had happened. I knew I would need my strength for that!
At around 9:30 the following morning, I was still nowhere near having a baby, so pitocin it was. I was hooked up to an IV (I hate needles) and had to have continuous monitoring from that point on. Luckily, they have wireless monitors so I wasn’t tethered to anything but my friend, the IV pump. I had been afraid I would feel strapped down and confined, but I really didn’t. I was able to use the bathroom normally, labor in the birthing tub for a while, use the yoga ball, the rocking chair and basically do whatever I wanted, which wasn’t much. I tended to get into a position and stay there for a while. Throughout this whole experience, Sky was there cheering me on! I really don’t know what I would have done without her. Also, at this point I was on my third midwife of the practice (there are four). So now midwife Laura was on duty and had the kindness to ask me if she wanted me to be there for the day or if I minded if she saw a few patients at the office, since they had just started pitocin and things would probably still be a while. It didn’t occur to me until later how very wonderful that was of her to ask. Of course, I told her to go. I was, after all, only 5 cm dilated at this point. By the time she returned in the early afternoon, things had really picked up. The contractions were coming much more frequently, but still didn’t seem to be coming as quickly as everybody wanted them to. (Me? I was fine with their frequency. Ha!) I had heard all these stories about transition and how hard it was to get through and how intense it got at that point. I don’t know if I just have a high pain tolerance or what but there was never a point at which I thought, “I can’t do this.” It always seemed completely manageable. After all, I only had to get through one contraction at a time. Before I knew it, I was 10 cm dilated and my body was definitely telling my to push. It was a relief to do so. I headed into the bathroom, for what I can’t remember anymore. Maybe I really had to go, I can’t recall. Anyway, I sat myself down on the toilet and labored there for a while. Because seriously? It’s a nice place to push for a bit. Eventually though, Laura told me I really should move to the bed soon and I was all for it. She hadn’t meant right then, but I wanted to get over there and get comfortable (relatively speaking) before the big event. I managed to get up and waddle over to the side of the bed, where I had one intense contraction. I distinctly remember M taking a photo of me right afterward. I distinctly do NOT remember thinking I was just about to have a baby. But the next contraction had me shrieking at the midwife, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” because I was convinced the was doing something – turns out the baby was crowning and she came right out! She was born at 4:49 PM on April 6, nearly 60 hours after the whole ordeal began. What a crazy, crazy feeling of sudden emptiness. I picked her up and climbed onto the bed where M cut the cord and we waited for the placenta. And waited. And waited. It was as if at this point, my body just said, “Enough!” But finally the the placenta (mostly) detached and out it came. Notice how I said “mostly?” Yeah. That. This is where the more squeamish among you may want to skip ahead…even one of the nurses (a student, mind you, but a nurse nonetheless) actually had to leave the room. Apparently, this thing can happen where the placenta can grow extra lobes. Normally, they would detach along with the rest of it. But mine? Mine did not. There was some worry that it had grown into the lining of my uterus. (Bad news.) So there I am, lying there with half a placenta, under very bright lights, with people milling around and looking worried. The midwife called for the OB/surgeon to check things out and make sure everything was OK. She came in and poked around and decided that it was not in fact grown into the wall of my uterus but had to be manually extracted anyway. They all looked so worried for me and were offering me pain medication that I got a little scared. I asked what exactly she had to do and how long it would take. Turns out it would only take a few minutes…but as for what she had to do? Oh, the horror. M saw the whole thing and told me it was a very good thing that I couldn’t see what she was doing. I told him it was a very good thing he couldn’t feel what she was doing! Because what she was doing was sticking her entire hand up into my uterus and manually removing the bit of placenta that was “stuck.” Which feels about as pleasant as it sounds. In other words, NOT SO GOOD. They told me it would feel like a really strong contraction. Which it did. Sort of. Only with someone’s hand up my vagina up to the elbow. The ever lovely Sky was on one side and a shockingly young intern on the other and I grabbed their hands like I have never grabbed anyone’s hands before… (That intern? I think she’ll do just fine.) After a minute or so the whole thing was over, Laura stitched me up (2nd degree tear) and I was able to sit up and enjoy the little bundle of joy who had just burst forth into the world!
She is the most beautiful baby and I love her very much. It was all worth it. I absolutely can’t believe that my labor went the way it did. It was not what I expected at all. But I am extremely grateful to my team of midwives, nurses and doula for believing in me and being there for me and just basically letting me do my own thing and act as instinctively as I could, under the circumstances. Had I been in most other hospitals, I would have ended up with a c-section for failure to progress, or at least have been given pitocin at a much, much earlier stage in the game. (Which maybe wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but still…) I am thankful that I got to experience E’s birth without any pain meds. There was really never any point where I thought I needed them. I never asked for them and nobody ever offered, until the end and the whole placenta thing. I felt great after her birth – tired and worn out, yes, but not groggy or medicated. After a shower, I climbed back into bed with her and all was finally well with the world.