I was in the shower at 5 pm on May 25 when my water began leaking. I was 38.5 weeks and feeling huge, but my expectation all pregnancy was that our baby would arrive late. I was kind of shocked when it kept leaking and I started to have irregular contractions. My sister Ellen--my birth partner, in addition to my husband—and her fiancé were already at my house, so we just kind of waited it out knowing we were going to go out to dinner once Garrett got home from work. I threw some things in a bag in case this WAS it and started bouncing on my birthing ball.
I called my doctor at 8:30 as I was leaking more and more. My contractions were all over the place--anywhere from 5-10 mins apart. But they were not painful at all-in fact sometimes I did not even notice them beginning and ending. My OB was on call and asked that I come in immediately so they could confirm whether my membranes had ruptured. I was pretty worried to be going in so early with what felt like such minor contractions, as I anticipated that I would end up on Pitocin immediately. I was admitted to Delaware County Memorial Hospital at around 9:15 and had my first cervical check at 10 pm. My OB confirmed my membranes had ruptured. I was 3 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced (I was 90% effaced at my only cervical check before that at 36 weeks).
My OB said with such erratic contractions she would normally start pitocin, but she knew I really wanted to labor naturally, and agreed to return to check on me in a few hours to see if labor would progress on its own. I moved around a little through the first stage, but my first nurse—who I didn’t really like(!)--really wanted me to stay on the monitor as much as possible, so I spent more time in bed and pacing right next to it, than I would have liked. I also tried resting while my contractions were not painful because I missed dinner and knew I would be up all night. I did eat a couple protein bars and some snacks while I was there, but not much because I knew I was breaking the hospital rule!
I did begin to progress on my own and by around 1 a.m. my contractions were getting more difficult. I used breathing techniques from Lori’s class as well as Hypnobabies tracks. As the contractions got harder, I bounced on a birthing ball for a bit and Garrett or Ellen applied counter pressure on my sacrum. I also drank a LOT of water. My 2 am cervical check revealed I was 4 centimeters dilated.
When the nurse came in to check on me at 4 am, I asked to use the birthing tub. She said no and that because my membranes had ruptured, she didn't "think" it was safe. I was pretty ticked and let her know that! She vowed to "check the policies" but basically did not return until 6 am right before her shift change. I was also checked before shift changes and I was only 5 cm dilated. I honestly thought that was a joke—how had I only progressed 2 centimeters after 8 hours—and a sleepless night of hard work!? :( My contractions were so strong, I felt as though I had to be further along. My OB did inform me I could use the birthing tub though and that my next nurse was going to get it ready for me--that was good because I was feeling a lot of pressure on my back at that point. She also introduced me to the doctor who was taking over her shift.
My new nurse was great and encouraged me to stick to my plan and labor out of bed as much as I wanted to. It was such a relief! I got into the tub around 7am and did not get out until 9. It was great as it relieved the pressure on my back and I think it really helped the baby move down. The only problem is, I continued to drink tons of water and eat lots of ice chips while in the tub...so when I got out, I had to pee a lot! And I couldn't empty my bladder all the way because of the baby's position.
The doctors had wanted me to progress to 7 centimeters dilated after the tub, but I was only at 6. My new doctor recommended Pitocin. We asked for more time to think about it. That's when two unexpected emergency c-sections pulled the doctor away for more than 2 hours. It was really a blessing for me because I was able to labor on my own without a doctor hovering or suggesting I wasn't progressing quickly enough. I stayed out of bed and remained active, laboring in different positions, often using the birthing ball. By 11:30 when she returned, I was 7 centimeters dilated (they wanted me to progress a centimeter an hour at this point). I felt like I needed to pee so badly but I could not.
From around 11 until I started pushing, I was in the most intense pain. My Hyphobabies tracks were no longer helpful. Ellen and Garrett were very supportive, but I could tell they were worried about my pain (and I later found out they were worried about the growing crowd of family and friends in the waiting room). I started talking about getting an epidural and we started weighing the options and asked the nurse about it. I felt like I could handle all the pain, I just couldn't handle the extreme pressure on my bladder and not being able to relieve it by peeing! The thought of "erasing" that with an epidural actually sounded great. I eventually decided against the epidural with my husband's support. I had made it that far and would hopefully be ready to push soon...and I wanted to be able to feel pushing, and get up and walk soon after delivery. And I had prepared for a natural birth for so many months!
I don't remember vividly the time between 11 am and 1:30 pm, except the excruciating pain from having to pee! I got on the toilet so many times but with no luck! At 1:15, I was measured at 9 cm. They suggested a drain catheter to remove some of the urine from my bladder and hopefully get me to 10 cm. Both benefits sounded great to me, so I agreed. It didn't do much to relieve the pressure on my urethra, but it did get me to a 10.
I didn't have an incredible urge to push, but the baby was low enough that I wanted to start pushing. We started around 1:45 pm. I tried several positions for the first few pushes. I ended up laying on my back (which I truly did not expect to like) because that's where the pressure on my bladder was minimal and where I was pushing most effectively (go figure!). I did tilt the bed up slightly so I wasn't completely flat. I was told I was an excellent, controlled pusher, but I attribute some of that to the fact that they normally deal with women who have epidurals and can't feel themselves pushing! The other part I attribute to going in knowing what to expect from Lori’s class!).
The doctor came in at 2:15 -- she offered me an episiotomy, but I declined. I continued pushing while Garrett held my leg and Ellen gave me words of encouragement. I gave birth to our baby girl at 2:55. I had a 2nd degree tear and baby girl came out with her hand up by her face.
She weighed 7lbs 8.5 oz and was 19.5 inches. We wanted to delay cord clamping but compromised with the doctor for about a minute and thirty seconds. (We knew in advance this was something we did not agree on, but they would not allow skin to skin until cord was cut.). She was healthy with 8/9 Apgar scores. We did get skin-to-skin and she latched on right away. She had jaundice in the hospital, but it was on the cusp, so she never needed the light or formula.
Overall, I feel so empowered that I was able to realize my dream for a natural birth. It was so amazing to be able to let my body work just the way it is supposed to without all the interventions that have become the norm in hospital births! Since our baby girl came home, she has been a happy, healthy and thriving baby!