(Warning: This post is definitely too long, and definitely TMI…)
Well, I’m not 100% sure where to start this story, but I guess I will start with Saturday afternoon, when we go with some friends to their neighborhood pool. While we are there, I start feeling contractions, but I assume they are just being brought on by the heat and sun, so I don’t read too much into them. By the time Andrew and I get home around 5 pm, the contractions have stopped. We eat an early dinner, and around 6:00 I drink a cup of raspberry leaf tea, and shortly after I have another. This causes contractions to begin again, which doesn’t surprise me since drinking red raspberry leaf tea often makes me experience Braxton Hicks. They felt a bit stronger than normal, but not even uncomfortable necessarily, so I dismissed them. By the time I went to bed Saturday night the contractions had stopped completely.
Around 3 am I wake up to a fairly strong contraction, and then another and another. After they are consistent for about thirty minutes, and getting a bit stronger, I decide to text me mom to give her a heads up that things seem to be progressing. I know she has a four hour drive, so I want to give her plenty of time to collect her thoughts, and to be able to be here if Bonnie comes today. In the back of my mind I know it is a long shot, since my cervix was so firm at my appointment a few days before, and since the doctor seemed so convinced Bonnie would be late. I decided not to wake Andrew up, knowing that he has a long day of studying ahead of him, since his final exams start on Monday.
By 4 am, the contractions are strong enough that sleeping is out of the question, so I decide to take a shower. I know this might relax me enough to slow the contractions down. And I am thinking that if the contractions are not the real deal, the shower will make them stop. But it didn’t. By this time, the contractions are about a minute long, and anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes apart.
By 5 am, I am having contractions that are strong enough that it is difficult to walk and talk normally through them. And suddenly I am feeling them ALL in my back. I’d never considered that I might experience back labor, and am surprised at how painful it is. At this point, I decide to wake Andrew up. He is groggy, and not convinced that we should head to the hospital, but I ask him get dressed and make sure his bags are packed anyway. The contractions are getting stronger, but still pretty sporadic, at anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes apart. Laying down through the contractions is incredibly uncomfortable, so I try to walk, lean, and squat instead.
After some encouragement from my mom we decide to head to the hospital. My mom decides to wait a bit before leaving the house, since we are not sure at this point if the hospital will keep us or send us home. We pack up the car and head to the hospital. The contractions are steady on the way there, but once we get into a hospital room and I am strapped up to a monitor, lying on my back, the contractions stall, and become less intense. In light of this, and since I am only 2 centimeters dilated, the doctor gives us two options: We can stay at the hospital, and walk around for a couple of hours, or we can go home and wait things out. She tells us that, should we decide to go home, we should not come back until the contractions are consistently 2 to 3 minutes apart, and too painful to talk through. Although she gives us these options, she also makes it clear that she does not anticipate Bonnie arriving today; she thinks it will be Monday at the earliest. Of course, Andrew and I decide to head home. We call my mom and tell her not to come. She has actually already left her house, but turns back around after we gave her the doctor’s report.
By the time we head home it is almost 9 am. Both Andrew and I are hungry, so we decide to stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. During the hour we are there, my contractions intensify again. I cannot walk or eat through them. Throughout this time, I keep thinking to myself, “I must be such a wimp if I am only in the early stages of labor and already struggling so badly.”
Andrew and I get home at 10:30 am. We leave the car packed just in case we end up heading back to the hospital soon. I try to take a nap, but absolutely cannot. The pain in my back during each contraction is already so strong. I finally decide to take a bath, and let the water beat down on my lower back, which helps tremendously between contractions, but makes the actual contractions much worse, since we have a small tub. I could not squat or move the way I wanted to. After about 30 minutes I decide to try something else.
Since the doctor suggested that I walk, Andrew and I decide to head to the park after I get out of the tub and dressed. We get to the park around 11:30, and by now, I have to hold onto and lean on Andrew during each contraction. He tries to encourage me to continue walking through each one, which I am able to do for about an hour into our walk. After about an hour at the park, I am burning up and miserable in the hot sun, so we decide to walk through Publix. By the time we get to Publix, I can no longer walk through my contractions; each one feels like it is breaking my back. I hold onto the shopping cart, squat, and Andrew put pressure on my lower back. This goes on for about 30 minutes. By now, I am thinking we should head to the hospital again, but my contractions are not consistently 2 to 3 minutes apart. They are anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes apart. We do NOT want to be sent home again, so we decide to keep waiting.
When we get home from Publix around 1 pm, I try to lie down and cool off. I am miserable at this point, but we decide to stop timing contractions for now since they are still sporadic, and do not seem to be getting consistently closer together. I remember lying in the bed thinking, “How I am going to get through the night feeling like this?”
After cooling off some, I get another bath. In the tub, I notice that I am losing chunks of bloody, mucous-y something or another. My first thought is that it can’t be my mucous plug, because I thought I lost that already. Eventually I decided I must have been wrong about thinking I’d lost my plug, and that must be what this is. After my bath, I sit on the toilet for the next several contractions. This is the most comfortable position I’ve found so far, so I decide to stay here for as long as possible. When I finally do get up I notice a lot of blood and mucous in the toilet. Like, A LOT.
I go into the bedroom to lie on the bed, and Andrew begins to time the contractions again. They are still not consistently 2 to 3 minutes apart, and I am talking through them quite a bit. I actually feel like talking through them helps, which is ironic, because I don’t think I am much of a talker normally… only during contractions, apparently.
Once I’ve cooled off again, I decide to take a bath… again. This time I ask Andrew to come with me. He sits on the side of the tub, and helps adjust the water so that it is beating down on my back where I want it. I sit in the bath for about an hour this time, leaning into him with every contraction. Eventually I began yelling during each contraction that I cannot do it anymore. I remember begging Andrew to make them stop, and saying that I needed an epidural “right now.”
When I finally get a short break between what suddenly seem to be CONSTANT contractions (still 100% in my back), I make it to the toilet. I feel the urgent need to push through contractions all of a sudden, and begin to panic. When I stand up from the toilet to tell Andrew I am ready to go to the hospital, I notice even more blood and mucous in the toilet. Andrew calls the doctor to ask about this, and when she finally calls back, she tells us to come on in. She says it sounds like my cervix may be thinning. Even at this point, the doctor does not seem convinced that we are really ready to be admitted, but we head to the hospital anyway. Andrew calls my mom to let her know we are heading that way.
The ride to the hospital was the most miserable 20+ minutes of my life. During each contraction, I am strapped into the front seat, but feel the overwhelming urge to squat and push. Of course, I cannot.
We get to the hospital around 4:15. They get us into a room immediately, but we are in the room alone for about 15 minutes before a nurse comes in. During those 15 minutes, I have three contractions. During the first, I was on the toilet pushing. I tell myself to stop pushing and wait for a nurse, but that is impossible. My body insisted on pushing. During the next contraction, I am leaning over the hospital bed, and my water breaks. During the third, I am in the bathroom again attempting to clean the water off of me. (Ridiculous, right?)
Finally a nurse comes in and forces me onto the hospital bed so that she can monitor me. I have a contraction while she is trying to do this, and am writhing in pain. I realize I cannot labor in the hospital bed and beg her to let me off. She says she will let me move around after she checks for dilation. When I jokingly tell her she better not say I am still only 2 centimeters dilated, she looks at me, wide-eyed, and says, “Do not panic, but you are about to have a baby. I am going to get a medical team together.” I tell her I guess that means it’s too late for an epidural. She says yes, of course. (Andrew tells me later that when she checked me for dilation, he could see Bonnie’s head clear as day.) Not only do we not have time for an epidural (which I am so glad of,) but we also did not have time for the nurse to put a Hep-lock in, or to do our admitting paperwork.
While the nurse is out of the room, I get off the hospital bed and squat on the floor again, holding on to the bed railing. I let out a scream as the rest of my bag of waters gushes onto the floor. I am now convinced I am going to have this baby alone, with no nurse. I am shaking profusely, and remember thinking that I have to stop shaking if I am going to have to be the one to catch Bonnie, because I don’t want her head hitting the cold, hard, dirty floor. (My water had broken underneath me and I did not want her to land on it.) During the next contraction a medical team has finally come into the room. I am still squatting, and a nurse tells me to get on the bed. I keep saying, “I can’t. It burns.” But I somehow do get on the bed. The nurse checks me, and then calls for the nearest doctor or midwife, because right now, the room is just full of nurses. Someone catches a doctor walking down the hall, and they pull him into the room. He tells me to grab my legs, tuck my chin, and push during my next contraction. I remember pushing the head out, and asking if she had hair. After my second push during that same contraction, her shoulders are out, and then after my third and final push, the rest of her is out and crying.
Andrew cuts her umbilical cord, and supervises as the nurses take Bonnie and clean her up. In the meantime, I deliver the placenta, and a doctor stitches me up where I tore a bit. I remember trying to make my body calm down so that all my shaking would not alarm Bonnie when it is time for me to hold her. When Andrew brings her to me, I place her against me, and she begins breastfeeding almost immediately. I am too exhausted even to cry (I always thought I would cry when I saw her for the first time.)
Everything happened so quickly once we got the hospital that my mom was not able to be there. I remember saying several times that I wish my mom and dad were here. Once we were at the hospital, I remember saying it over and over again. I remember saying again and again, “I wish I had known.” Meaning, I wish I had known she were going to be born so quickly so that my parents could be here.
It’s amazing that, after all the books, articles, and blog posts I’ve read over the past nine months, I still had no clue what to expect during labor. I did not know when early labor ended and active labor began. I did not remember much of what I learned about the Bradley Method. My body just knew what to do and did it.
Apart from the fact that my family was not able to make it to the hospital in time for Bonnie’s birth, I am thrilled with the whole experience. Laboring at home was so much more enjoyable than I imagine laboring in the hospital would have been. And I know if I’d gotten to the hospital in time for an epidural, I would have caved in and gotten one. And in my heart of hearts, I never wanted one. Andrew was absolutely, blow-me-away, incredible throughout the entire thing. He helped me through each contraction, and was SO calm… every. single. moment. I am so glad this little girl decided to show up on Fathers’ Day for him.
My heart is so full of joy, and I cannot wait for the rest of our lives with her.