This birth story, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), comes from Allison. Allison shared her cesarean birth story with us during CAM last year. To have your birth story posted on this blog, email it to: email@example.com
Sunday morning marked 41 weeks. Sleep was scarce due to sore hips and back. I tried to nap, but that didn’t end up happening. My husband took my 3 year old to his parents’ house for the day, and usually I work or clean but there wasn’t anything left to do. My friend T called to see if I wanted to go walk at the park, and I jumped at the offer hoping to jiggle baby out!
We got to the park around 2pm. The kids played on the nice, new playground equipment, and we went for our first round on the easy trail. I went around once more by myself (faster), then a last time with T and the kids. I’d been walking all week, and it always stimulated contractions but nothing too painful or “real”. The Sunday walking prooved to be no different, but we had a great time on the beautiful afternoon anyway.
Got home, ate some dinner, and dozed from about 6-8pm. Dh and munchkin got home around 8:30 and she went straight to sleep. After getting her tucked in I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had lost a fair amount of my mucus plug and it was tinged with a little bloody show. SO excited that I ended up texting T and my doula immediately. I knew it could still be a few days or even a week to go, but things were happening.
I ran around a bit and just tidied up the house, but nothing major. There were still dishes in the sink. T said all along that her 3rd came when the sink was loaded with dishes, so I just left those there thinking it would be something to do if contractions started in the next day or so. I took 2 melatonin to try and get a good night’s sleep “just in case” and went to bed around midnight. I was still too excited about the appearance of the plug and show to sleep, so I kept getting up to get a drink of water, pee, and eat my standard nighttime snack of orange cream tums until about 3am.
At about 3am Monday morning (Valentine’s day) I noticed that the contractions I had been feeling (had them almost constantly for 2 weeks) had changed. They weren’t painful so I brushed them off as Braxton Hicks and tried to sleep. I had experienced a few more, and I wasn’t sleeping anyway so I got up to time them. They were lasting about 30 seconds and were every 8 – 10 minutes. I messaged a friend of mine to update her about the plug/show/changed contractions and tried to go back to sleep.
Contractions got stronger and I thought “hmm…that was different”. Came back in and they were 45 seconds long and even closer than before. I just sat/rolled/rocked on my birth ball during the fairly painless contractions and timed them for awhile. They were very regular…getting closer together gradually and lasting longer, but I wasn’t really convinced it was “it” yet, because I wasn’t in a lot of pain. These contractions were very crampy and easy. They started coming every 5 minutes and were lasting a minute apiece, and it was around this time (4:45am?) that I texted T and my doula to give them a heads up. Both live about 15 minutes out and have 3 children each so they needed time to make arrangements for the morning/day. I didn’t feel like I really needed support right then, but I’d always heard “go to the hospital when contractions are 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute”, so I thought I’d love some input on if *I* needed to go then or not. I wanted to labor at home as LONG as possible.
I quit timing contractions at this point since they had been very steady and growing in intensity and time for nearly 2 hours. Bustled around the house tidying up, packed the carseat and hospital bags into the car, cleaned out the car, etc. At some point during the tidy/pack the car phase I went in to let my husband know that the girls were on their way over and to just stay in bed…I was fine, just don’t come out of the bedroom without pants basically. lol. I filled my kleen kanteen insulated with ice cold water, unlocked/opened the front door, and retreated into my daughter’s playroom with my birth ball. It was dark, silent, and peaceful. I spent most of the time on my knees with my torso draped over the ball. These contractions were painful, but very managable and I breathed through them without any problems.
My doula arrived and immediately fell into the dark/quiet atmosphere. She came to check on me, talked to me quietly in the middle of a few contractions and went back out to sit in the living room and re-read my birth plan. T arrived shortly after and the two of them whispered in the living room for a bit. Apparently I was easy to read…they knew I was still in the early stages and was just getting past the contractions one by one easily enough.
They came in to time me for a bit and T offered counter pressure since the contractions had started radiating in my back. The counter pressure felt great. I was able to get in my zone and stay there. At one point someone went to get the heating pad out of the hospital bag…contractions grew more intense, and something changed after I went to the bathroom. There was a lot more show, I went in to the bedroom to grab a few more pairs of panties to keep in the bathroom (didn’t cross my mind to just use pads..) and I had a few contractions along the way. I remember my doula telling me to “say something” when I was about to start a contraction, but I wasn’t able to verbalize anything…I just could wave my hand at her when they started. When I had to leave the room, I’d had 2 contractions and she mentioned “you need to let me know when they start!” but I couldn’t wrap my head around how on earth I could do that. It didn’t make sense. They suggested I go to the bathroom, but for some reason every time I sat on the toilet it brought on a contraction and I wasn’t anxious to repeat that. Sitting down contractions were 10x worse than regular ones! When I said “no…I don’t want to” to the bathroom suggestion, T said “ooh we’re getting close when you don’t want to do what we suggest!” It boosted both my mood and my morale
There were comments made sometime in this time frame (hazy…can’t remember the exact chain of events) about how they were coming a lot closer together. They talked about who would keep munchkin, when to wake dh, rush hour traffic, etc. I finally went to wake dh up to let him know we’d be leaving soon. Munchkin woke up with him. Things were still fuzzy, but I remember telling him to make sure she had on her Big Sister outfit. He got her dressed and I was having contraction after contraction. I had wanted to wait until after rush hour, but my doula said that the contractions were about a minute apart at this point and we really needed to go. I had her call my sister twice (no answer), so she ended up calling another friend to come sit with munchkin until further arrangements could be made.
This is as far as I progressed with my oldest, and it hadn’t registered that I would really have a baby in my arms if that makes sense. I knew the process…I know how it works, but it just wasn’t hitting me that this was really “it”. I was really worried that we’d get to the hospital and I’d only be at 3cm. My labor was SO long with my first. This was the only point at home that I remember being really anxious…the worry that I’d stall once we got in the car or at the hospital. Worried about not being far enough along to stay. That we’d get there and get a bad nurse…
The car ride was hell, but thank goodness we missed the majority of rush hour traffic! My doula rode in the back seat and I was in a weird sitting position in the front with my arms wrapped around the back of the seat. Being anywhere on my butt/back was excruciating, so I made sure to lift myself off the chair as much as possible. I thought the contractions would stall/stop in the car, but they didn’t. Just as strong, though maybe a little more spaced out. I don’t think we timed them. I think it was in the car when I started getting more and more vocal. Since I couldn’t move positions, I needed another way to cope with the pain, and it really did help.
We arrived at the hospital at about 8:45am. I had a few contractions in the parking lot on the way in and some guy actually slowed his car to a crawl and rubbernecked. Dh toted both the mama and baby bag and my doula kept reminding me to stay in my zone…that leaning on other people’s cars was perfectly fine as long as I didn’t set off their alarm. lol. She did an awesome job at keeping my spirits up the whole time.
Got up to L&D, checked in, and they led us over to my room. It was really, really cold but a nice room. T arrived shortly after we did with the birth ball, but I really just wanted to be vertical for awhile. The nurse came in and introduced herself. She had some seriously gorgeous hair, and we talked about that for a few minutes. I spent several contractions standing up with my arms wrapped around dh’s neck and T pressing hard into my back. It didn’t take me long to “get into the zone” here…it wasn’t terribly bright and I was left alone for the first hour. The nurse asked me questions and my doula and dh answered as much as they could for me and asked me when I came out of contraction land. I was offered a hospital gown, but I associated that gown with my last birth and I kept on my pajama pants, tank top, and fuzzy socks. She offered a cervical check, but I wanted to wait. She said no problem at all. We were asked for a copy of my birth plan, and my doula handed it to her. After looking it over, she said the only thing was that I had to have continuous monitoring. I said I’d sign a waiver against it, but I’m not really sure what happened with that. If it was forgotten or not available? Regardless, it had been put on hold long enough (over an hour) and she needed to get the baby on the monitors. Someone set up the bed for me and helped me into it. I was on my knees leaning over the back of the bed. This position wasn’t terribly comfortable but the contractions were REALLY strong by this point and I came to the conclusion that nothing was going to really make it better.
Baby’s heartrate was great. They needed to put in my heplock and that process took 2 contractions…not pleasant. These contractions were very intense and I was VERY, very loud. I knew that at the end of munchkin’s labor I was very vocal so I thought I’d make some noise but geez. My doula really encouraged me to “let it out” and I did. It made the contractions SO much more effective and managable. The nurse asked if I’d like to be checked, and I figured I might as well. We were all very curious at this point since I had not done a check at all this pregnancy. I was at 6cm, 80% effaced with a bulging bag of waters. My heart sank…I was 7cm when admitted to the hospital with DD1, and though I know that the 2 labors were NOTHING alike, I felt a bit defeated that I still had 4cm left to go and the contractions were nothing short of awful at this point. I remember saying “Only a 6?” and getting teary. A resounding “only??!!” poured out and my doula and T both kept telling me that I was over halfway there and that the end could happen a LOT faster than I could imagine. It was either the next contraction or the one after that was the most intense and painful yet…I wasn’t prepared for it, lost control and just started screaming for drugs. That is something I NEVER thought would come out of my own mouth. One nurse was way too eager and jumped in saying “what do you want? what does she want??” I shocked both T and my doula…they had no idea what to say to me since I don’t think any of us expected me to be so demanding about it. My nurse was a very pro-natural nurse and took over saying “you are so close…that was a huge contraction. why don’t we take another look. I bet you’re a lot farther along now”.
I couldn’t believe that just 3-4 contractions could make that much of a difference, but the others were encouraging and I was hoping that she was right. I think I was at a 7 at that point with the waters *right there* and she said I had really thinned out. A few more contractions came like that and lasted well over 90 seconds each. I was really wanting drugs at this point…was having a hard time staying in control and focused throughout them. I asked if I had hit transition and someone said “you are so close”. I asked about breaking my water…if that would speed things along. They said that contractions would be even more intense with my water broken…I couldn’t imagine that at all and was a little scared. I was already feeling out of control and didn’t know how I could handle even harder contractions. The doctor is technically the one to break the water, but it was suggested that I have a cervical check during a contraction. I don’t remember having a long time to think about it, but at the start of a contraction someone asked “do you want her to check?” followed by “just give us a head nod”. I nodded and my pants were yanked down, a hand reached in, I screamed (powerful contraction plus check = pain!) I felt a *thump* and water went everywhere. Someone said “meconium” in a serious, flat tone. I asked if there was a lot, and my nurse said there was a moderate amount. She said “this is going to change things a bit. I want to let you know that some things on your birth plan won’t be able to happen now…she’s going to have to be taken over to be seen by the NICU team before you can hold her.” I said OK. They helped take off my pants and underwear and wipe down the floor beneath me.
Contractions definitely changed at this point. My tailbone really hurt and I could feel pressure in my butt. My doula, T, and my nurse were wanting to know if it felt like I had to poop, and I said no…there was just pressure. I don’t remember how many contrations there were here…it didn’t seem like very many (3-4 tops) when my noises really started to change. They were more “throaty”. Someone said “man…those sound REALLY good” and the next contraction I completely lost control of my body…something took over and while standing up, I bent my knees, my pelvis tilted forward and I was pushing HARD. This is such an odd description but I felt like a bumble bee with a stinger and trying to press it hard into something. Pushing made the contractions not painful in the sense that they were in my back, but they didn’t feel “good”. It was just this overwhelming, can’t-stop-it, primal thing. I was so shocked…I looked up and T and my doula were both grinning HUGE at me saying how awesome that was. I was just so shocked by it. Someone mentioned a birthing stool and I was more than happy about that. A nurse went to find one…then they found one, but it didn’t have foam on it. Blah blah..I just wanted on it. I had a feeling that as soon as I sat on it that everything would change…it seemed like THE perfect position for me. I had envisioned myself birthing on the birthing stool almost the entire pregnancy. I had several very strong pushing contractions. I remember trying to stop one of them because I wasn’t ready for it, and it made it that much stronger and more powerful. Finally someone brought over the birth stool and they placed it on the floor beside me on top of a towel. I sat down and remember thinking “where the heck is the doctor??” I hadn’t seen one at all at this point, and I was a little discouraged that everyone seemed to think I still had all this time. I had thought I was close…I was ready to be done.
The birth stool felt fantastic. Granted it felt like my tailbone was going to split open (or that I was going to split open for that matter), I was grunting and really letting the noises help with making the pushes more effective. T and my doula were across from me on the other side of the bed. Dh was somewhere to my right. Within 2-3 pushes on the birth stool someone said she was crowning. I was SHOCKED to say the least. Again, I looked up and T and my doula were both beaming. Talk about encouragement! It was almost done! Here’s where things get hazy from my point of view…someone said “we’ve got a nuchal ___” (something…can’t remember if she said cord or not) followed by “there’s a lot of blood” followed by “she needs to get on the bed NOW”. I had another contraction on the birth stool and was told to push. The head came out while a hand went in, and I could feel things happening though I have no idea what. I was screaming at this point…between the contraction, the hand, and everything else…I remember yelling “FIRE!!!” really loud. After that contraction someone said “Ok you need to get in the bed NOW. Get on your back” in a very serious, worried tone. I literally jumped off the stool, into the bed, and onto my back in a matter of seconds (with the head out, mind you). My feet were pressed back and I remember vaguely seeing a TON of people running around. The nurse said “you need to push her out right NOW”. I shut my eyes and pushed as hard as I could…twice if I remember correctly. Someone said “she’s out!” and I sort of fell back, but I didn’t open my eyes. They ran her over to the baby table where I could hear several people working on her…suctions, etc. It seemed to be really quiet except for that, and I looked at T and My doula and asked a few times “is she OK??” My doula was praying…T said something, and then I heard her cry. I looked over at the table and could see little pink arms and legs and the relief was instant.
The doctor arrived shortly after all of this. He congratulated me, I was preoccupied by the little angel in the bed across the room so I don’t recall everything that happened here. He delivered the placenta and I needed some stitches (2nd degree tears). He finished working on me at the same time the nursery workers had finished working on baby girl, and as he was doing the last stitch she was placed in my arms.
I am so very thankful to my birth team. Their knowledge and encouragement was exactly what I needed to get the birth I wanted. They were both incredible and I owe them so much. I still can’t believe it actually happened. Med free VBAC…I did it!