This is the birth story of my fourth child, Benjamin. Though he is seven months old and my days are full, I still love to reflect on the wonder of the experience. ~Kristin
My due date throughout my pregnancy was sketchy. I was still nursing when I got pregnant so my cycles were long. My midwife assured me that she would not be quick to induce if I did go “overdue.” That was a relief to me because even though no very pregnant woman wants to stay pregnant a day longer than she has to, I didn’t want my labor to be forced just because I was outside of the medical timeline.
I visited my midwife ten days before my due date and mentioned that though my baby was still wiggling around, he seemed to be quieter that particular morning. She told me not to get excited but that babies often settle down right before labor begins. The next morning, I felt the first “real one.” The problem was the “real” contractions continued through the morning and into the evening but stayed about 30 minutes apart. I headed off to bed at 11:30.
I had a difficult time sleeping. Around 1 am, I became wide awake and started timing them. They were 5-10 minutes apart! I decided to go downstairs to read. I figured if it was labor, I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. And if it wasn’t labor, I could catch up with a nap the next day.
Three o’clock came and went and the contractions were still 5-10 minutes apart! Then it was four o’clock and four thirty… At five o’clock, the contractions had slowed (ugh!) so I decided to try to doze. As soon as I lay down, I had a whopper contraction grip me, but the next thing I knew, I was waking up at 6 o’clock, having slept without one contraction! Talk about discouraging.
We decided that Brian should go ahead to work with the idea that I could call him home as soon as I felt I needed him. I also called my mom to put her on alert that I would probably need her to come be with the kids sometime that day. At this point, I was a little down again. I knew these were labor contractions, but with them coming and going and varying their timing, I was afraid it would drag on for days. I got up to fix the kids breakfast and BOOM!, I had three contractions in a row!
At 9:30 am, I had a contraction strong enough that I had to concentrate to get through it. I was afraid to be alone with the kids so I called Brian and asked him to come home. We ate an early lunch and he entertained the kids while I laid down to rest. Again, I woke up from sleep, having had NO contractions. I was fed up!
We decided to gather the crew together and take a walk. I was barely out the door when the contractions started coming fast. I was able to relax and concentrate through each one, but it was difficult to maintain composure on a public street! Brian asked if I would rather go home, but I decided to keep walking since I seemed to finally be progressing. By the time we had circled the block a couple of times, I knew labor was steady enough to head to the hospital
During the hour drive, I was upbeat and talkative. During contractions, I had to hug my body pillow and close my eyes. I found that shutting my eyes helped me concentrate on relaxing all the muscles in my body. Relaxing my muscles reduced my tension which reduced my pain. As soon as the tightening ending, I was fine. All through the pregnancy, I had back pain—much more so than with the other pregnancies. My contractions followed the same trend. Even though they could be felt all over my abdomen, the majority of the pain was in my back.
We arrived at the hospital at 2:45 pm. I was offered a wheelchair, but declined, knowing I was perfectly okay to walk. One nurse sat in the birth center’s nurses’ station. She stared at me and said, “May I help you?”
I gave her a puzzled look, handed her my admissions papers, and said, “I have admissions papers.”
I stood there almost 9 months pregnant with my mouth hanging open! Brian jumped to my rescue. “She’s in labor,” he said.
“Oh,” said the nurse. “You’re here to be checked for labor!”
She ushered me into a bathroom to give a urine sample and sent Brian into a triage room. He could hear her discussing me with a second nurse. “She says she’s being admitted.”
“When is she due?”
“In 10 days.”
“Is she even having contractions?”
I emerged from the restroom and the second nurse hooked me up to a fetal monitor. I was still talkative and smiling. My midwife arrived within a few minutes, asked a few questions, and decided to check my cervix. “You’re 5-6 centimeters with a bulging bag of water!” The nurses seemed surprised. Apparently they had convinced themselves I was too calm.
My midwife reviewed my birth plan and we moved into a labor/deliver/postpartum room. The midwife pointed out that, though my contractions were still not coming as often as expected at this stage, “obviously it is working.” She said that since my water bag was bulging, she could break it and kick labor into higher gear, but she left it up to me saying she was prepared to stick around as long as it took to have a baby. Brian and I talked about it and decided that we would let my body continue to labor at its own pace.
The midwife was in and out. She would come in the room and chat quietly with me or even sit silently when I needed to be quiet. Instead of relying on monitors, she would feel my belly during a contraction to measure its strength.
Around 4:30, the nurse suggested I try the tub. With my belly entirely covered by the water, I could still feel all the pressure, but the pain decreased. The contractions started coming closer together and I sensed that I was in transition though I was still able to talk and relax in-between. The midwife came in again and suggested she check my cervix. I was at an 8.
I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure and the need to leave the tub. I took my time getting out and walking to the bed. The room was dim. The midwife and nurse were talking in hushed tones so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the room. I labored for a short time sitting upright on the bed. Though I still felt fine between contractions, they came so close to together, I stayed quiet to keep on top of it. If I lost concentration, I started to tense up which made it hurt more. The only part I had trouble with was the intensity at the peak of each contraction.
The midwife asked me if I was ready to have my water broken and “have this baby.” Knowing how close I was, I agreed. The nurse monitored the baby’s heartbeat with a hand-held Doppler while the midwife broke my water.
I was unable to talk by now. I communicated only by nodding or shaking my head. I’m sure I was physically able to talk, but it would have thrown off my concentration. I was in a semi-sitting position. I know that it is best to be upright while laboring, but this was actually more comfortable and I was progressing well so I decided not to change.
I started to feel increasing pressure and then the amazing urge to push. After the first push, Brian said, “You’re almost done.” I was surprised since I had just started, but it was encouraging because the pushing urge was so intense! With the second push, his head was out. Then the midwife said, “Okay, Dad, are you ready?” With the third push, Brian was able to grab the baby’s shoulders and upper back and help deliver him! Less than ten minutes after I started pushing, Benjamin was born. I reached down and pulled him onto my belly myself. It was 7:33 pm.
There was no tearing so I felt very little pain when labor ended. I wasn’t even sore. I kept Benjamin on my stomach while Brian cut the cord and while they wiped him off and evaluated him.
I am so pleased with my labor and delivery. This was my most satisfying birth of the four. Benjamin’s birth proved to me labor doesn’t have to be frantic but can follow its own timetable and be calm and enjoyable.
(As if this wasn’t long enough already, if you’d like even more detail, read my original, super-long birth story on my blog at http://from-my-life.blogspot.com/2008/11/benjamins-birth-story-part-1.html. )
Molly's note: Check out the full birth story at the link above - and while you're over there, check out the rest of Kristin's blog . She has a lot of good stuff to say. Thanks for sharing your story, Kristin!