POP…pop. On September 26th at around 11:30pm as I was laying in bed, I heard and felt two pops at the top of my stomach. I asked Tony if he heard the noise and he confirmed that he did. I questioned whether that was my water breaking, but didn’t feel alarmed so didn’t pursue anything at that time. Overnight I went on many bathroom breaks, but didn’t notice any extra fluid so figured that I was okay.
I woke up feeling alert and unable to go back to bed around 5:30am and watched a few episodes of The Office. I started to feel sleepy again about an hour later and returned to bed sleeping until 8am. I got up and got dressed when I told my husband that I felt like hell. I couldn’t point to a specific reason. I physically felt okay (besides normal end of pregnancy discomfort), but think I was just anxious and thinking about how in a few days I would have my 40 week appointment and really wanted to avoid any medical intervention. I started researching water breaking online and during my next trip to the bathroom concluded that I did believe my water broke. With resignation and some tears I called my midwife who did advise me to come to the hospital to get checked out. Tony and I quickly finished putting last minute things into our hospital bag and I packed some snacks thinking we would be waiting around for awhile, but didn’t truly believe at that time they would admit me to the hospital.
Tony and I drove to the hospital and went to the labor and delivery unit and the midwife-in-training/labor and delivery nurse that we had seen at my midwife appointments before, Tina, checked me out and confirmed with labs and a pH strip that my water had in fact broken and amniotic fluid was leaking. She told me that she would call my midwife Shannon, but that I would need to be checked in. Cue the tears. I told Tina this was one of my worse case scenarios. I texted with my doula Rachael who empowered me to ask questions about everything and stated I did not have to stay at the hospital if I didn’t want to. I did start the hospital intake process, but waited to decide whether I wanted to stay. Shannon was at the hospital seeing patients so she was able to come down and talk to me about options. At a previous midwife appointment we had discussed induction information and she brought up again the use of Cytotec which she recommended to all her “crunchy moms who wanted to have a natural delivery” because it tended to allow the process of labor to happen more effectively and naturally than if I had taken Pitocin. We sat in our hospital room thinking, researching, and alerting our parents that something could be happening. I also was grieving that my birth plan (or birth wish list as Shannon liked to call it) was not happening the way I wanted. I don’t think I ever let it go, but remember needing to shift my mindset into relaxing and being sure about the new plan so that mentally I created optimal conditions for helping labor progress.
At 4pm I decided I did want to take the Cytotec and agreed to start it at 5pm so I could finish watching Judge Judy (what?! I love Judge Judy). I was hooked up to the monitor for baby’s heartbeat and contracts. Basically nothing happened from 5pm-11pm when I was going to get a second dose of Cytotec. My nurse Abbey wanted to wait because just around 10:45pm I started to have regular but super mild contractions that I really didn’t even notice until I looked at the monitor to confirm. After talking with Shannon she decided to wait on giving the second Cytotec. And I am glad that she did. Around 11:30pm I started having regular and strong contractions. This is where time and pain get kind of blurry. I remember bits and pieces. I remember that I needed to hold Tony’s hand during every contraction. I remember going between the birth “peanut” ball, walking the hallways, and sitting on the toilet. I remember trying to lay on my side in bed because I was so tired, but those contractions were pretty uncomfortable.
I had Tony call my doula Rachael sometime around midnight I believe and let her know I wanted her to come. Once she was there she rubbed some clary sage on my legs and I remember I liked the smell a lot and it felt soooooo good having her rub my legs. I took turns holding Tony and Rachael’s hands during contractions and making low noises during contractions. Tony and Rachael were both so encouraging. Tony’s encouragement was that I was strong and I could do this and Rachael’s encouragement was that I was doing this and she was good at letting me know that my body was doing what it was supposed to. I remember encouraging myself “one contraction at a time” and remembering to groan low through the pain. I threw up several times and remember saying to Tony and Rachael “you guys, this is so hard”. Abbey wanted to check me soon, but I wanted to take a shower first. Every time I had a contraction in the shower I had to have Tony hold my hand and turn off the lights.
I think my birthing team was waiting for enough progress so that Abbey could check me and see if I was at 6 cm — the magic number when I could get into the birthing tub. I remember wanting to wait as long as possible to avoid being discouraged. Abbey and Rachael both seemed to have a good sense that I was close and that was when Abbey checked. I didn’t want to know but wanted her to tell Rachael. I was apparently close, but don’t know how close I was. It felt like a short time later she wanted to check again and at that time I was 6.5cm and I could get in the tub and they would call Shannon for her to come. I remember being very encouraged by this and glad when Shannon arrived which made me feel like things would happen soon. I also remember getting agitated with Shannon when she asked me if I was going to keep on my hospital gown in the birthing tub. This seemed like a ridiculous notion to me at the time and I tried to articulate that I just needed to wait for a contraction to end so I could take off my gown.
In the tub I was at the point where I was saying during almost every contraction “I can’t do this” “I don’t know how to do this” and talking to Charlotte encouraging her to work with me and that we were a team. Rachael kept assuring me that I could do this and I was actually doing it. I kept moving around and trying so many positions in the birth tub to figure out what felt best. I liked lying back to rest in between contractions and squatting or on all fours during contractions. I did have to stand up a few times At some point I started to feel the urge to push and I was encouraged to go with it so I did. I explained that it felt weird on my tailbone, but Rachael told me that was good and at that point I felt confident that I needed to just embrace it and go with the pushing sensation and that’s when progress really seemed to happen even though it was hard and uncomfortable.
When I started making regular pushing noises Shannon came in the room to stay and I remember she told me to reach and see if I could feel the baby’s head, which I could and I was so encouraged. She said to wait for a burning sensation and that’s when I would be really close. Tony was with me the entire time except going to the bathroom once and once he was in the bathroom I remember I said “it burns!” and seeing Shannon and Abbey put on their gowns and gloves and Tony hurrying out of the bathroom. It took until the next contraction for her head to come out and two more pushes to get her all the way out into her daddy’s hands. She was here! And yes, worth every moment of pain. At 7:03am on September 28th Charlotte Rosemarie entered the world. My active labor where I had regular contractions and pushed in total was about 8 hours.
Tony laid her on my chest and she was immediately blinking her eyes several times and eventually started crying which felt like we had to wait awhile, but it was probably only a minute or two. I don’t remember everything that happened once she was born except taking a family picture in the tub. Charlotte and I transitioned to the hospital bed where the placenta was delivered and Tony cut the umbilical cord once it stopped pulsating. I was in a beautiful birth haze with my new little girl and husband and I couldn’t believe that she was here and I am her mama. My heart was filled with gratitude for every single person who helped and supported me as I gave birth to her. While Shannon stitched me up (which was sooooo painful) Charlotte started to search out for my breast and attempt breastfeeding. She was so content on my chest. I was unable to completely focus on her until the stitching was over with and we were allowed to cocoon together as a family.