On my fourth day fighting prodromal labor (the topic of my last blog post), my doula, Marta, had to head back home for an interview the next day. She hoped to come back Thursday even though it would mean another six hour drive for her.
I spent all day Wednesday working to keep contractions going. I sat on the edge of my arm chair with my legs wide, as you would on an exercise ball, and when contractions slowed down in that position I would get up and move around until contractions slowed again. My whole day went like this: about half an hour sitting, ten to fifteen minutes standing, repeat. By that afternoon my mother-in-law decided she was going to drive down, and my sister-in-law came with her. They arrived around nine that night. My contractions had picked up to coming mostly every four minutes. We all stayed up until midnight trying to determine if I should go in or try to get some sleep. I was determined not to go in until I absolutely had to, seeing as I hadn’t had great success in my other three visits to the hospital (Saturday night, Monday night, and Tuesday for my scheduled non-stress test). I settled on sleep.
At two in the morning, I woke up Garth. The contractions were still close together and intensifying. He asked if I could stay and sleep a little longer, and I considered it. Two more contractions one minute apart made it clear that I had to get to the hospital. We grabbed our hospital bags, passed Garth’s mom and sister somehow sleeping through our ruckus in the living room, and headed out the door.
Once we got through the emergency room check-in, I sat in nervous excitement as the orderly pushed my wheelchair toward the elevator. I feared labor slowing down, but her comments about how close my contractions were reassured me that this time was the real deal. Ready or not, I was going home with a baby.
When we got to my room Garth gave the nurse our birth plan. We had gotten some great advice on how to write it and thankfully had the opportunity to run it by my father-in-law, who’s a doctor, and we discussed it with my OB/GYN. It was less than a page, bullet-noted, and practical. We even had a short outline for a c-section, just in case.
This time, because the ability to move freely during labor was on my birth plan, the nurses didn’t make me lay down to monitor the baby. I got to sit, stand, walk around in front of the monitors, use the exercise ball as much as I wanted. I wasn’t allowed to eat in case I would need drugs, but they let me sip on chicken broth, jello, and popsicles. Keeping moving, relaxing when I needed to, and getting calories helped keep my contractions coming. Garth stuck close and let me use him as a support while I stood through contractions.
At six in the morning, a nurse came in to inform us that the doctor recommended induction. Garth and I remained adamant that until it was an emergency, we didn’t want to induce. We knew too many young ladies who had gone that route and ended up with an unplanned c-section. She said the doctor was leaving after her patient delivered and the next doctor would arrive at nine, so it was either now or never. We asked if we could see the doctor after her patient delivered. Luckily, her patient didn’t deliver before I did.
From six to eight I slept between contractions, which were still going strong at two to four minutes apart. When I roused, Garth asked the nurse if I could sit in the whirlpool. She got the ok for that and ran the water.
Garth sat next to the bath while I soaked for twenty minutes. We watched the baby press against my belly as contractions came and went, as if she was pushing her way down with each one.
“Are you one of those husbands who thinks it’s hard seeing me in so much pain and wishes he could take it away?” I asked Garth.
“No,” he said, folding his hands, “I’m just really proud of you.”
Ladies, that is the man you want in the delivery room with you. Not the one who’s worried and anxious, but the one who believes in you, who knows he can’t take the pain away but will be there with you through it knowing you can handle it. Who’s assured not only in your strength but in his ability to be a good source of comfort to you, the one who strives to provide that comfort.
When I got out of the whirlpool, things happened fast. The nurse said I wasn’t allowed back in the whirlpool, doctor’s orders. I was hooked back up to the monitors, and the nurse wanted to check me. I laid down on my side because sciatica made laying on my back too painful. In the time it took her to put a glove on I had the most horrible contraction followed by a gush.
“My water broke,” I said.
“When, just now?” she asked.
“I think so,” I was suddenly unsure of myself.
“Yup, your water broke,” Garth said behind me, looking down at the bed.
She checked me anyway and I was dilated to a seven. This is the point where I would have asked for an epidural, but it was too late. I asked to get on all fours, thinking that would be more comfortable, and began dry heaving. My gown fell off my shoulders and I couldn’t even bother to care. Fifteen minutes later I was at a nine and felt like pushing. The nurse called the doctor.
The urge to push comes naturally, but in practice it’s so much less intuitive than I expected. “Bear down like you have to poop,” my nurse kept saying. I tried, but the pressure stopped me. It’s so unlike pooping. For one, you’re pushing something out of your vagina, and it’s roughly your baby’s mass larger than a poop. I tried pushing on my side so the nurse could better assist me, but that wasn’t working either. Finally, the doctor came in and asked me to push on my back. As much as I didn’t want to be in supine position–it was a request on my birth plan that I wouldn’t be–I really wanted to be done with the most intense part of labor. With the help of the doctor, my nurse, and my husband (I’ll never forget how intensely he cheered me on), I pushed hard with each contraction until my baby came out all slimy and crying with a perfectly round head after just thirteen minutes of pushing. They placed her directly on my chest where she stopped crying immediately. She was so beautiful in her gooey glory. I could hardly believe she was here.Everything between her first breast feeding, which went better than I had been warned to expect, and our first day in the hospital is a blur. I was beyond exhausted and just couldn’t sleep. When I finally took a shower the next afternoon, I noticed for the first time that my eyes were yellow and red. “You popped some blood vessels when you were pushing,” Garth informed me. Nobody ever told me that could happen. I was horrified yet somewhat reassured that no one had said a word about it. It cleared up by my second week home.
Some things that helped me at home–things that I found essential–were the mesh undies and gigantic pads from the hospital, padsicles that my sister made and stuck in my freezer for me, Colace, juice (lots of juice to keep that poop soft, which I would also recommend while in the hospital, because that first poop is scary), and ibuprofen. I only tore a little, but the sheer trauma your “down there” goes through to bring forth new life warrants babying that area for awhile afterward.
If you are an expecting mom, I hope you can glean some helpful wisdom from my birth story. I read a blog post about that first poop near the end of my pregnancy, and I was extremely thankful for that blogger. I wish someone had also warned me about prodromal labor before I spent two nights in the hospital, and I really wish I had known what to expect when pushing.
Everyone’s experience is different, but by telling our unique stories, we can help each other. I can’t tell you how many times my mom has said she wishes she had the resources we have today when I was born. As different as every birth experience is, whether natural, medicated, or cesarean, doula or no doula, we’re all hoping for the same ending. It helps to know what to expect when getting there.