In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!
My due date was December 28th. It came and passed unexpectedly, since I really thought that I was going to give birth close to my due date. The whole week went by with gradually more and more signs of impending labor, but still no actual labor. 4 or 5 days after my due date, I had Diane, my midwife come and check me and do a stretch and sweep (I had had another one a couple of days before). Jamie had a show on the 7th and I was starting to get worried that he was going to miss the birth if I didn’t go into labor soon. I was even thinking about a castor oil/breast pump induction on the 4th in hopes of getting things going. I wasn’t really concerned about being overdue – it was more just Jamie missing the birth.
I was taking lots of supplements to get my body ready, we had a friend over who did reflexology on me, and still nothing happened. On the 2nd, I decided to drive up to my mom’s place and have her do acupuncture on me. By the time I had been home for an hour or so, contractions had started. But they were very sporadic, not too intense. I was quite sure that this was the beginning of labor, but was equally sure that it would be a long time before anything actually happened. I went to bed that night excited about what would lay in store for me through the night. Somehow, I slept through the night (save a few trips to the washroom!), and woke up around 8am on the 3rd in Willow’s bed. I heard Jamie get up and do his thing for a little while, and finally I asked him how long he had been up. He said 15 minutes. I had had 3 contractions since he woke up. They weren’t strong, or long, but they were there and frequent. By 9am I decided to call my mom to pick up Willow. The contractions weren’t nearly too strong, but she was distracting me a lot and I was getting sort of crabby with her, so she was better off with someone who could give her full attention.
My mom came and got her, and Jamie and I spent a lovely day together as contractions very gradually got stronger and stronger. This part of labor lasted all day, but it was so nice. Jamie and I rarely get the chance to spend quality time together, and the memory of our passing this time together will always be a special one. We went for a couple of little walks in the forest, ate a big, hearty lunch and dinner, played cribbage together until eventually I couldn’t focus on the game anymore. Around this time, I started feeling pain at the sides of my legs, some sort of nerve pain, with every contraction. Although things were more intense, and quite close together, I knew that it wasn’t time yet, until around bedtime, when I had finally resolved to try and sleep, that it picked up. I laid down in bed with Jamie and had two contractions that were stronger and back to back, during which I had a bit of the shakes, and they made up my mind that it was time to call our Doula, Melissa, and our midwife, Diane, and get things rolling.
Jamie made the phone call to Melissa, and, doing his best to remember what he had learned from all of my birth talk, told Melissa he thought I was in transition (because I was shaking). I heard it just as he got off the phone and told him I definitely was not in transition. Sohe called her back so that she didn’t panic and run out in the snow in her slippers! Then, we got in touch with Di and she said she’d be at our place by 10:30pm. Melissa arrived first, when I was still laying in bed. She came in and we chit chatted through contractions and eventually I got up and we sat together in the living room while I sat on a birth ball. The pain in my legs was still there, and stayed with me throughout every contraction of my active labor. Everything was quite manageable, and I was getting contractions every 5 minutes or so, give or take.
A short while after Di arrived, we decided to do an exam to figure out how far along I was. When she checked, I was 3-4cm dilated and 75% effaced, which was about where I had guessed I was (although I had hoped I was further). We decided to start taking caulophyllum and cimicifuga (sp?) alternately every 15 minutes to try and help establish a closer contraction pattern and get well established into active labor, which came soon after, but I am quite sure active labor would have come at this time, regardless of the homeopathics – I could feel the change in intensity.
I had been laying on my side for a lot of this part of labor and as things got stronger and stronger, I started really struggling through the contractions and the pain in my legs. It seemed like the pain in my legs was much greater than the pain of the contractions, much as the back pain had been when I had back labor with Willow. I was feeling discouraged because I wasn’t relaxing through the contractions, they weren’t coming any more frequently but I was not handling them as well as I wanted to be. In short, my doula head was getting in the way – I was too busy trying to analyze my own progress (and judging that there wasn’t any) to realize that I was almost in transition! When Diane checked me again, I think around 2 or 3 am, I was 7cm and baby’s head was level with my spines – lower than Willow had ever gotten. But that pain in my legs was unbearable.
When I got up to go to the washroom, just out of desperation, I lifted my leg and stomped my feet in hopes of relieving for just a millisecond, some of the leg pain – and it worked. And so, for the next 2 or 3 hours, I spent every single contraction stomping, kicking and dancing my way through labor. The leg pain was still unbearable – but I felt like I had a lot more control over what was happening, and I wasn’t tensing up the way I had been lying down. Everyone seemed to notice that my stepping was very rhythmic (unintentionally, since I was certainly not caring about rhythm by that point), and Jamie (being the drummer that he is) said he could tell how intense they were by the rhythm I would stomp (I guess I would stomp in different time signatures depending on the intensity!) I felt so much more powerful standing and moving through this part of labor, even though, considering I was so far along, I didn’t expect to be standing. I was able to move over and get my own drink of water, take a few steps and be in the bathroom without needing help to get up, and it really helped. But then I noticed myself grunting at the peak of contractions, and that’s where my mental head blocks started up. My last exam had been 7cm, which was where my labor stalled the first time, with pushing urges. I was so worried that these urges were in my head, that I was unconsciously sabotaging myself, that I would have to end up in the hospital under the same circumstances as my last birth. I knew these fears, I expected them, and I had them my whole pregnancy, but they were very real. I noticed my contractions spacing out greatly, and I knelt on the floor and rested my head on the bed in between them, as I was getting a few minutes of a break. I knew this happened often at full dilation but I still had my mental blocks, so even though they were encouraging me to push if I needed to, I told Diane I needed her to check me again (around 5am). When she checked, she said I was fully dilated except for a lip of cervix, and my waters were still intact.
I was completely finished with this whole labor thing. I was so, so happy to be fully dilated, but I was about to encounter my second mental road block: the second point that my labor stalled last time, pushing. My waters were still intact and I was not willing to wait for them to break anymore, so I asked (or rather, demanded, LOL!) Diane to break them, which she did. I had a contraction instantly and was bearing down with all my might. I flipped over onto my hands and knees right away and started pushing. The pain in my legs was still there and it was distracting me so much (WAY worse than the contractions!), but Melissa was right there in my ear telling me that once the baby is out, the leg pain goes away. And so I focused on that task. It didn’t seem like a lot of progress was being made in that position, and after maybe half an hour or so, Melissa and Diane told me I needed to change positions, so I flipped onto my right side, and put my head on Jamie’s lap. In this position, at some point, I started to figure out HOW to push. It started spontaneously when suddenly I felt some sort of burning feeling deep inside, and when they told me to push the way I just had, I knew that was where I needed to be going. It was still hard for me to reach that place on my side, though, and so eventually I flipped up onto my back, with Jamie sitting behind me so I could rest my head on his lap. Melissa stood at the end of the bed with a rebozo for me to pull onto for leverage so I could push harder, and this was when I was really able to push into that burning. But despite this, I still thought that I wasn’t making any progress, until, after maybe an hour and a half of pushing, someone pulled up a mirror and Jamie and I were able to see part of his head. I couldn’t believe it, I really couldn’t! I looked at everyone (our second midwife, Lynne Marie, had joined us at this point) and said “Am I actually going to do this?” and they all hollered back “YES!” “I’m really going to do this??” I was in disbelief. I pushed with renewed energy and then asked them – can I get the baby out on the next one??? And they said yes, and on the next push, his head came out. His cord was wrapped loosely around his neck and Diane unwound it and told me to push as hard as I could as quickly as I could. I think about 20 seconds elapsed before the enormous relief of his body finally coming out, the greatest moment of my life, and my warm, sticky baby came onto my tummy.
Jamie and I were in pieces. I think we both cried for an hour. Jamie looked at me and said “Robin?” (a name we had considered early on in the pregnancy but hadn’t revisited in a long time) and we both knew it was just right for him. I was so happy, I just could not believe that I had done it. I remember saying “I have this beautiful baby and nobody cut it out of me!” After a couple of minutes, baby needed to be rubbed a bit before he really got “started”, I thought to wonder what the gender was, and no one knew. So they lifted up the towel that was on me and we found out we had a little boy, who promptly, upon introduction to colder air, emptied the contents of his bowels and his bladder onto my tummy, yum yum! But, since I was covered up and down in amniotic fluid and blood anyway, it didn’t make much difference to me, and we sat together and cried and marveled at everything for the longest time. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, and completely dazed. Now I understand the “hormone bath” phenomenon of natural birth! It was amazing. Although, at the moment, I thought that labor was the worst thing in the world, I never wanted to think about it again, and I certainly never wanted to go to another birth again in my life.
But now that I write this, two weeks after his birth, I know that my place in life is only solidified more by this birth. I had wondered often if having a good birth would lead me to more passion in that area, or conclusion, but now I know. My own issues with birth have been healed as a result of Robin’s arrival and I’m already missing labor support and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to go to school for midwifery.