I'm kicking off my series of natural childbirth stories with the story of Peanut's birth. Hope you enjoy!
On a Thursday, four days before my due date, I woke up with a horrible backache and cramping. I called into work and decide to just stay home and see if the backache turned into anything. Pretty shortly after that, I started having contractions about every 5 minutes and by 3pm, they were getting stronger, longer and closer together. I called my husband, Justin, and told him to wrap things up at work and head home. I was miserable by the time he got home at 4pm, so we loaded up the car and took the 10 minute drive to the hospital. I was so proud of myself for staying home for so long! You can imagine my disappointment when the nurse checked me and informed me that I was "maybe 1 cm" dilated. I had been 1 cm for 4 weeks, so this was not what I wanted to hear. Turns out I was dehydrated and once they gave me some fluids, the contractions and backache started to pitter out.
I spent the weekend waiting for labor to kick back in, but instead just had sporadic contractions - nothing timeable. Monday was my due date and also my 24th birthday. I really thought it would be neat to have a birthday baby and although I'd prepared myself for the fact that I may go "overdue", I was shocked when my due date came and went with no baby. My doctor scheduled an induction for that Saturday and I reluctantly agreed. I figured I'd probably come on my own before then and it wouldn't be an issue.
I continued to experience contractions throughout the week. They would come fast and furious for hours at a time and just when I'd start to think they were turning into the real thing, they'd stop altogether. On Thursday I called my doctor and moved my induction until the following Tuesday, I just couldn't handle the pressure of knowing that the dreaded pitocin was waiting for me.
Friday night I was up all night with contractions 5 minutes apart. They started getting closer together around 4am and I woke Justin up to help me through them. At 6am I was convinced this was "it" and we headed to the hospital. By this point my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, 45-60 seconds long. I finally got checked around 7am and was told I was still 1 cm. Talk about discouraging. Because my contractions were still so close together they didn't want me to go home, so they sent us for a walk and told us to come back in two hours. By 10am I could tell the contractions were spacing out and weakening. We headed home and I hid in my room and felt sorry for myself.
Monday morning I had a doctors appointment and the first thing I did was move my induction (again!) from Tuesday to Thursday. I had a cervical check and was still 1 cm. My doctor was a little concerned that I'd been experiencing so much labor with no cervical changes but I was surprisingly immune to her attitude. My sister Kelly took me shopping at the mall and we spent hours walking from store to store. I had heard that curb walking (walking with one foot on, one foot off the curb) can drop the baby lower into your pelvis, so I decided to give it a try. Kelly even did it with me so I wouldn't feel like such a dork.
The contractions kicked in again around 8pm, so Justin decided to go to bed early and I layed on the couch and tried to sleep. That whole night is a little fuzzy, but I remember spending hours in the tub and some time on my birth ball listening to my birthing CDs. At 6am the contractions really picked up in intensity and I woke Justin up and told him he probably shouldn't go into work. We decided to go for a walk, but never made it outside. All I wanted to do during the contractions was to rock on all fours. I was exhausted from no sleep and by 9am I started to get really emotional about whether or not we should go to the hospital. Two hours later they were still coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting about a minute long and I started getting nervous about waiting too long. So we headed to the hospital. Again.
Because I was eight days past my "due date" I was admitted directly to a room and the nurse started working on my admission papers. Before she checked me, I told her that I'd been here twice before and that if she told me I was only 1 cm I was going to cry. She checked me and gave me a really sweet smile and said, "Well, the good news is - you're 80% effaced!" I just looked at her blankly. "Are you telling me that I'm still 1 cm?" She genuinely looked sorry, "Yes". Then I really did cry. It had been 16 hours since my contractions started and I hadn't made any cervical change. They sent us walking around the hospital and I continued to have strong, regular contractions. During the waves, I would stop walking and Justin would apply counter pressure to my lower back.
Around 2pm we headed back upstairs and the nurse could tell immediately that I was in active labor. She checked me right away and I was 2-3 cm, 90% effaced. Finally some progress! I had to sit in bed for 20 minutes while they monitored the baby and that was really difficult. My doctor came in around 4pm and checked me and I was 4cm, 100% effaced. She offered to break my water and I agreed since it was obvious at this point that this was definitely "it". She even agreed to allow me to continue to walk around even though hospital policy is to keep you on continuous monitoring once your waters have broken.
I spent the next hour labored in the shower, on the birth ball and leaning over the bed but nothing seemed to bring me any relief from the squeezing contractions. I just tried to handle them one at a time and focus on my breathing and relaxation techniques.
Around 5pm I started squatting with each contraction - because I had heard that helps speed things up - and before long I started feeling "pushy". I was experiencing such a tremendous amount of pressure, I couldn't imagine that I had much longer to go. I had Justin call the nurse to come check me. I was only 5cm, but my body started to bear down with each contraction. Thirty minutes later I was begging the nurse to check me again, the urge to push was so strong and I couldn't stop it anymore. She announced that I was a "stretchy 6" and decided to call my doctor because it appeared that things were going to start moving quickly.
My doctor arrived around 6pm and gave us the great news that I was fully dilated and could start to push. This part of the day is really fuzzy for me, but for some reason my doctor left the room and the nurse told me to just breathe through a few contractions and then she left too. About 15 minutes later a new nurse came in and obviously had not been briefed on my progress. She totally freaked out that room was ready for delivery and and insisted on checking me to make sure I was ready to push. She announced that I was only 6cm and had hours and hours to go - wouldn't I like to get my epidural now? I was furious. Everyone had been so great about following my birth plan and no one had even mentioned drugs to me. I told her that I did not want an epidural, not now, not ever. She then proceeded to tell me how with her first child she had been 8 cm for 4 hours and 9 cm for 5 hours. Just what I wanted to hear. In hindsight, I don't know why I didn't ask for my doctor, but I just kept focusing on trying not to push. Not pushing was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I got out of bed, but all that made me want to do was squat and push with every contraction, which of course sent my nurse into a fit. Two student nurses came in (we had previously given them permission to observe the birth) and they were a huge help to me. Justin held one hand, one of the students held the other and all three of them breathed with me through each contraction. I know I must have sounded like a broken record in between the contractions, "I have to push, please let me push!" and after about 30 minutes, the devil nurse checked me during and after a contraction. I was 8 cm and my cervix was swelling all the way around. She told me I was probably going to end up with a c-section, so I'd better just get an epidural now. I said very deliberately, "Don't say that." She got very offended and started spouting off her credentials. Thankfully, she left the room and I was able to work with my contractions for another 30 minutes with Justin and the student nurses. During one particularly hard contraction the three of them told me once again to “just breathe” and I told them all to stop telling me that, it was literally impossible not to push and this baby wanted to come out NOW. They ran to get devil nurse and she confirmed (after checking me during and after a contraction) that I was 10 cm and ready to push. My doctor came in very shortly afterwards and it was a HUGE relief to finally start pushing in earnest.
I gave it everything I had - I was so ready to be done. After about two pushes I started to feel the "ring of fire" that everyone talks about and knew I was close to the end. One more push and the baby was crowning. The doctor looked up at me and said, "We're going to have a baby with the next contraction, are you ready?" I was so ready. One more push and at 8:36pm, Peanut was born! As soon as the doctor held her up, I said "It's a girl!". I was such a wonderful surprise, we had both been sure it was going to be a boy. They placed her on my chest while they cut the cord and dried her off while she tried out a brand new pair of lungs. I remember thinking that she was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen. She weighed in at 7 lbs., 13.9 oz. and was 20 inches long.
After we were both cleaned up, the doctor volunteered to go get the family members that had been patiently waiting in the waiting room. We heard them cheering all the way down the hall, it had been hours since they had an update and everyone was very anxious. Four grandparents, two great-grandparents, seven siblings and three nieces and nephews piled into our room and we introduced the family to our little girl.
In hindsight, there are things that I would have done differently. I would have definitely taken the 40+ minute drive to a more natural childbirth friendly hospital. While my experience wasn't a bad one, I think it could have been even better in a different environment.
Having a natural childbirth was the most wonderful, empowering thing I've ever done. I have absolutely no regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Now for the pictures:
Just seconds old
First family picture
Brand new baby Peanut