I planned and prepared for an unmedicated childbirth using the Hypnobirthing method and I am happy and grateful to say that I was able to achieve that goal. While I would not call my experience a "textbook" hypnobirth, nor did I follow all the hypnobirthing recommendations (such as the use of certain language), I do attribute a good bit of my success to that method. My labor began on the morning that I turned 41 weeks pregnant.
40 Weeks pregnant the day of my husband's MBA graduation...I was quite the spectacle.
Tuesday 1:30 AM
I awaken from my shallow pregnant sleep to use the bathroom (again), and after peeing I find that I'm super nauseous. I start to dry heave and I reflect on the fact that even leaning over the toilet to puke is harder at 10 months pregnant. I'm also feeling something similar to strong period cramps and my back aches. Something in my brain tells me that things might be adding up to early signs of labor, but the more sensible neurons in my brain remind me that I think EVERYTHING is a sign of labor. I go back to bed and sleep fitfully.
Tuesday 3 AM - 5 AM
I am having trouble sleeping as I am experiencing a contraction every 10 - 20 minutes or so. All my tossing and turning wakes up Husband and I tell him what's going on. He does some acupressure on me (specific points to help induce labor) as we listen to the Hypnobirthing relaxation CD. I'm really hoping that this all means something.
[Husband’s comment: At this point I’m not sure what is or is not a sign that Laura is going into labor. You kind of have to assume that it could come any time and that no matter how many times labor appears to have cried wolf, we have to be prepared.]
Tuesday 8 AM
Midwife Exam (these are now taking place twice a week since I'm over 40 weeks). I'm hooked up to the monitors for the non-stress test, which monitors both the baby’s heartbeat and contractions, and they leave me in the exam room alone with Husband. I’m disappointed when no contractions show up, even though I had been having them intermittently all morning. Finally one shows up on the monitor and it's exciting to see. The internal exam reveals that I've dilated another centimeter and I am now 3 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby remains engaged at a 0 to -1 station. The midwife sweeps my membranes, explaining that it can help push things over the edge if a woman is very close to labor.
[Husband’s comment: By this point I’m used to Laura being checked like some sort of automobile.]
Tuesday 9:30 AM - 1 PM
I continue to feel contractions randomly, perhaps one or two each hour, further increasing my suspicions that I might be in early labor.
Tuesday 1 PM
Husband and I take his parents, who have extended their visit from Florida in hopes to be around for the birth, to lunch at an Indian Buffet. I choose to eat an assortment of vegetarian delights - lots of lentils, chickpeas, and spinach. Basically, I eat 800 grams of fiber. This will come back to haunt me...
[Husband’s comment: This still haunts me... :) ]
Tuesday 2:30 PM – 4 PM
I take a nap and am roused time and again by contractions. I don't care - I am just getting really excited that at exactly 41 weeks things are FINALLY happening.
Tuesday 4 PM
The answer to Is this labor or not? starts to tip favorably towards the THIS IS LABOR! side. Contractions have not only continued to come, but they seem to be getting more regular. At this point I'm still able to talk during them and if asked to describe them I would say it still feels like a bad period cramp with accompanying back pain. They kind of hurt, but nothing out of the realm that I've experienced before. Husband and I begin to time the contractions using contractionmaster.com.
Tuesday 5 PM - 7 PM
Contractions continue to come and the timing between them gets closer and closer together. During this two hour period I move from contractions 10 minutes apart to 6 minutes apart. Each contraction is 30 - 45 seconds long. I find myself needing to stop whatever I'm doing when the contraction comes on and just breathe. This feels stronger than menstrual cramps, or at least a more concentrated type of intensity. My back is hurting. In between contractions I feel generally fine, although I still feel slight cramping. I update my blog and Facebook, text my sister and call my Mom. I'm feeling pretty darn sure that I'm in labor and I have Husband place a call to our doula to keep her apprised of the situation. Husband makes me eat a granola bar, but I have no appetite.
[Husband’s comment: For the first time I start to think "Holy Shit, I’m on! I need to get myself prepared." I can’t help but follow Laura around like some kind of lost puppy and just watch her and ask her incessantly "Can I get you anything? Water? Trail mix?" etc., etc.]
Tuesday 7 PM – 8 PM
Contractions continue to get stronger and stronger. The act of going up the stairs is enough to trigger a contraction even if I just had one a minute ago and it makes going upstairs to pee in between the contractions a little tricky. I decide to change into a short gray tank nightgown so I can feel more comfortable as I labor. My back pain seems to have eased up and I’m not feeling it during contractions. Contractions are 5-6 minutes apart and are lasting 30-45 seconds.
Tuesday 8 - 9 PM
Husband dims the lights, lights some candles, and puts on relaxation music. I request to listen to the Hynobirthing birthing affirmations CD a couple times. I begin to moan during contractions, which is sort of weirding me out, but I do find that it helps to ease the pain of the contractions as it makes me focus on my breathing. Contractions are 4-5 minutes apart and are lasting 45-60 seconds. The back pain seems to be making a reappearance.
Tuesday 9 – 10 PM
Husband places a call to the doula at 9 PM and asks her to head over as contractions continue to come more frequently and are lasting longer. Each one requires dedicated and focused breathing to get through it and I find myself most comfortable leaning on the back of the couch. The moaning continues to get louder and the sounds coming out of my mouth are “OOOOOOH” and “AHHHHH.” I remember reading that these sounds keep your jaw loose, which in turn keeps your uterus and body relaxed and makes laboring more productive. Interesting that it’s working for me and I do it seemingly unconsciously. My back is really hurting again and sitting on the birthing ball feels terrible although leaning over it during contractions is somewhat helpful. I have an urge to tense up my shoulders with each contraction and it's hard to keep them relaxed. Contractions are coming every 3-4 minutes and are lasting 45-60 seconds. I change back into my regular maternity clothes in preparation for the trip to the hospital.
[Husband’s comment: Laura seems like she’s in her own world now. She’s very focused and I’m a bundle of nerves. I try to stay busy by packing the car and having everything prepared for the trip. I’m nervous as hell and want to go for a run so I can relieve the tension but there’s no way that’s happening now and, besides, I already went for one earlier in the day. I try to show a calm face for her but inside I’m all nervous energy.]
Tuesday 10 PM
Just prior to the doula arriving, I became adamant that it is time to go to the hospital as I felt labor is progressing very rapidly. The doula questions this as she suspects I still have a ways to go in terms of laboring, but follows my lead. Seconds after the doula arrives, we get into the car and head to the hospital. I sit in the front seat and the doula rubs my shoulders during contractions. I remarked that I wouldn't mind if the contractions came more infrequently in the car (as I have heard can happen), but that is not the case for me. The window is open and I wonder if the man walking down the street is thinking with alarm, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" as I loudly moan my way through a contraction. I am grateful that this car ride is taking place during a time when the highways are free of much traffic.
[Husband’s comment: Laura was essentially turning my Subaru Forrester into a cop car, providing the warning siren as we sped to the hospital. I felt kind of strange driving through downtown with a woman moaning really loudly in my car with the windows open but again I just had to go with the flow.]
Tuesday 10:30 PM
We arrive at the hospital and pull up in front of the Emergency Entrance as the main entrances are now closed. I ask Husband and the doula to wait for me to have one more contraction before we head in, as the ER lobby is full of people. I can’t help but want to avoid making other people feel creeped out by seeing a very pregnant lady moaning in labor. Husband drops us off and goes to park the car. The doula and I make our way through the hospital, having to stop a few times along the way. I grip the wall rail and am able to moan more quietly during these contractions. Each time, though, nurses and other staff stops to ask if we need assistance. This vaguely embarrasses me but, of course, they must see it all the time. Again, I'm grateful that this is happening at 10:30 PM at night and not in the middle of the day when there would be so many people around to observe me.
[Husband’s comment: I really didn’t like being separated from Laura at this point but felt confident she was in good hands with our doula. I tried to park the car as quickly and safely as possible, as I was anxious to be back by Laura’s side.]
Tuesday 10:40 PM
We get upstairs to labor & delivery and check in. I go pee and as I turn to leave the bathroom I am suddenly very nauseous. I go back to the toilet and throw up. I remark to the doula, "Gross. It smells like my lunch". She laughs and helps me back to the little observation room when they hook me up to the monitors. I am very uncomfortable laboring in the bed with a blood pressure cuff on my arm and monitors around my belly. My BP is initially very high, but when taken again it is normal. The monitors reveal that baby is doing great. The midwife comes into check me and I'm dilated to 6 cm. She comments that I did over half of my laboring at home. Some part of my brain is glad that I was able to accomplish so much at home, but the bigger part of my brain is registering the fact that "Oh my god, these contractions are really hurting and I’m only halfway through?!”.
[Husband’s comment: I get the car parked and get all the bags, pillows, etc. It feels like I’m bringing stuff in for some sort of Bed and Breakfast, because we have lots of bags, etc. In fact, I carried in two pillows, a nursing pillow, a cooler, a backpack, my briefcase, Laura’s purse and a rolling suitcase and had to walk a ways because the main entrance that was by the ramp was closed, as it was after ten. My back started killing me and my shoulder was in a death pinch, which made me start sweating. Now, as I’m walking around the perimeter of the hospital, I think to myself, this pain in my shoulder and back is nothing compared to what she’s going through right now. Do I need to moan like a goat? No. So clearly I’m not in any pain. I finally reach Laura just after she puked and is getting her blood pressure measured.]
Tuesday 11 PM
We move to a much larger labor & delivery room and I change back into my gray nightgown to labor in. I try a couple different positions for laboring - leaning over the bed with my hands on the bed and then leaning over the birthing ball which is sitting on the bed. Neither is relieving my pain much, so I decide to try laboring in the tub. Husband changes into swimming trunks to help push on my back and massage me during contractions as I was feeling a lot of back pain. The doula also assists with massage and putting pressure on my back. I labor in the tub for several contractions, but feel the urge to try a new position so I get back out. I am very loud during each contraction, directing my AHHHHs, OOOOOHs, and OOOOOOOs to my uterus. I even start throwing in some OWWWWWWs, cause, dude, it hurt. I find it very helpful to direct the attention and breathing directly to the uterus with these crazy loud noises. Somewhere deep in my brain I wonder if the other laboring women can hear me. It doesn’t occur to me that if I can’t hear anyone else, they probably can’t hear me.
Tuesday 11:15 PM
The midwife checks me again in the bed and I’m at 8 cm. She states that she thinks she should break my water as it might help relieve some of the pressure. I allow her to do this, but don’t notice any decrease in pressure. There is a slight amount of meconium in the amniotic fluid so she places a call to have additional people in the room to check the baby when she is born as the meconium can get into the baby’s lungs when she draws her first breath.
Tuesday 11:30 PM
The contractions continue to come fast and furious. The midwife, in trying to assess where I’m at in labor, asks me if I am feeling like I need to push or maybe poop. I tell her that I definitely feel like I need to poop. And it’s not just a feeling; I really do need to poop - remember the 800 grams of fiber at the Indian buffet at lunch? I try going to the bathroom, but fears of the baby falling into the toilet prevent me from going (not to mention feeling AWK having the bathroom door open and a bunch of people waiting for me in the other room). I head back to the bed and work through the contractions with Husband putting pressure on my back and hips. And then it happens. I poo a little without being aware that I'm doing it. So it turns out I’m one of those kinds of women – the pooping kind. And now I want you to promptly forget I ever told you this.
[Husband’s comment: While standing behind Laura when she was leaning on the birthing ball, which was placed on the bed for higher support, I was massaging her back and putting downward pressure on her hips to ease the pain. Somehow a little nugget of poop dropped to the floor unbeknownst to either of us and as I moved away from her to help her into another position, my toe swept through the little turd, causing me to gag a bit.]
Wednesday 11:45 PM
I make it through each contraction by staring at a very specific point, either on the wall or somewhere in the room. In between contractions I drop into a heavily relaxed state, staring without really seeing into space.
Wednesday 12:00 AM
My moaning during contractions begins to change and they now are even more guttural and include almost a ferocious grunting (I was unaware of it). The midwife asks me how I want to deliver the baby; whether it be on my side, on my back, or on my hands and knees. I opt to get in the bed, mostly just because I don’t want to have to make a choice. I just pick it. I climb into the bed and the midwife does an internal exam. I’m just over 9 cm.
[Husband’s comment: during all of these contractions, which continue to escalate, I’m kind of freaking out, though I only show it occasionally. I can’t stand to see the woman I love in such pain. I want more than anything for this to end. I want to say, "OK, just kidding we don’t want the baby, let’s just go home and we’ll do this again in a year or two." The fact that this was irreversible and that we were going to go through this until the end was a bit intense. I mean, there’s no pause, no time out, no nothing. Just contraction after contraction, one at a time like some sort of metered battery of progress. Always moving forward.]
Wednesday 12:30 AM
Several more contractions later, the midwife checks me again and says I’m almost there. She pushes aside the last part of my cervical lip and then explains that now I am in the pushing phase and can start using the contractions to push the baby out. At first, I’m not exactly sure how to push, but when I bear down pooping style, everyone praises what a good push it was so I figure that is the way to go. When I push, a nurse holds one leg back and my doula holds my other leg. I note the clock on the wall above the midwife and I figure to myself that I’ll have this baby before 1 AM. I’m excited about the prospect, but unable to really dwell much on it. At this point, I just want this to be over.
Wednesday 12:45 AM
It occurs to me that an epidural would take away this pain, but I know they don’t give them this late in the game. Even with the pain, I don’t really want the epidural. I can be stubborn about some things and a natural birth was one of them.
Wednesday 1:00 AM
I continue to use the contractions to push the baby out. The feeling is so uncomfortable and there is no rest in between contractions as there is so much pressure all the time. I’m feeling confused why this is taking so long since I was under the impression a person just pushes a few times and the baby slides out. Clearly I missed learning about pushing along the way, as I didn’t know that pushing could take hours. I try asking the midwife exactly how much longer this will all take. She gives a vague gentle answer about things going in their own time and not being able to predict it. I ask again for a general time reference – will this be done in 5 minutes, 10? Maybe 20? She states that we will be calling my parents by 2 AM to tell them about the baby. I feel slightly panicky and ask, “Another hour of this!?” And she clarifies that she means the baby will come sooner than that, but by 2 AM we will be ready to call parents. This pacifies me.
Wednesday 1:05 AM
Husband keeps putting a cold washcloth to my forehead and telling me to focus on how cool it feels. This is really helpful because it gives me an alternative to focusing on the physical sensations elsewhere in my body.
Wednesday 1:15 AM
Oh my god, I’m still pushing. I watch the clock tick, tick, tick by. The midwife asks me if I want a mirror to see the baby’s head. I give a vehement, “NO!”. In fact, I say, “NO, thank you” in a weird display of politeness.
Wednesday 1:20 AM
Husband tries putting the cool washcloth on my cheeks and my chest. He gets a firm, “NO, THANK YOU” and goes back to just putting it on my forehead.
[Husband’s comment: Actually, she swatted me away like some annoying fly while saying ‘No, thank you.’ She was firm but polite throughout the entire process. I was amazed.]
Wednesday 1:25 AM
The midwife says that one more push and the baby will be out. She tells me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. The thought of that does not float my boat. The midwife gets another firm, “NO, thank you” from me. She tells me, “One more push and the baby will be out!”. FINALLY! I wait for the contraction so I can push.
[Husband’s comment: At this point Laura’s nethers look like a mound between her legs. You can see that the baby’s head is pushing the entire area up. Crazily, the top of the baby’s head is sitting just outside of her and is clearly visible. I really wasn’t sure what I was looking at but didn’t dare say anything about it. I thought for sure that the baby was going to have a true cone head. It’s incredible how that head bends and conforms with the flexible plates!]
Wednesday 1:26 AM
Wednesday 1:27 AM
Still no contraction.
Wednesday 1:28 AM
WHERE THE FUCKING HELL IS THE CONTRACTION!?
Thursday 1:29 AM
I ask the midwife, “Where is the contraction? I don’t understand!? Why did they stop? Where is it? Where is it?”
[Husband’s comment: This was a brief moment of humor for the rest of us. For the last how many ever hours, Laura has been struggling through the contractions and now she’s asking for one. I looked up and everyone was trying not to laugh but all held it in, appropriately.]
Wednesday 1:30 AM
The contraction comes. I bear down and…
Wednesday 1:31 AM
With a final push, Arabella Grace emerges into the world facing up (this was the reason for all the back pain). The rest of her body slips out very quickly along with her head. She is placed on my stomach and Husband cuts her cord. Because of the small amount of meconium in the amniotic fluid, she is brought over to a warmer and looked at. She appears to be perfectly healthy and there is no meconium in her lungs. Her apgar scores are 9 and 9.
Wednesday 1:38 AM
After Bella is checked out, the nurses instruct Husband to take off his shirt in order to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby to keep her warm. He brings her over to me and places her on my chest. Husband and I both cry and are overwhelmed with emotion.
Wednesday 1:40 AM
The midwife explains to me that I will need to deliver the placenta now, which will require some pushing, although nothing like delivery of the baby. After the placenta is delivered, I begin bleeding profusely and the midwife is having a hard time finding the source of the bleeding. In the end, I am hemorrhaging and lose over a pint of blood. To stop the bleeding they need to get my uterus to contract which requires a shot of pitocin and something called cytotec, which they administered rectally (RECTALLY – can’t a woman get a break??). They also inject me multiple times with Novocaine, which is painful and burns. At this point I’m feeling really frustrated by the situation and I just want people to stop touching me.
In spite of the drama going on down below, Bella remains on my chest. We initiate breastfeeding. Bella takes to it right away, but I do feel distracted. The blood pressure cuff keeps checking my blood pressure and I beg the nurse to let me take it off. She, of course, cannot because after the blood loss they need to make sure my vital signs remain stable. Once the profuse bleeding has stopped, the midwife assesses the damage and I have a second degree tear. She stitches me up and the nurses do a lot of pressing on my uterus (LEAVE ME ALONE!) and then by 2:30 AM, we are finally left alone.
[Husband’s comment: This was the hardest part for me. On the one hand, the baby was out and appeared healthy and happy but Laura was still on the table and there was a quiet concentration and bit of concern on the part of the midwife and nurses and they weren’t necessarily communicating what the problem was. Laura was losing, what looked to me like, a ton of blood, which was literally cascading down from her and over the table and into some kind of bag they had set up to catch the fluids, etc. The midwife kept saying that she couldn’t find the source of the bleeding, which to me meant this was not good. Also, Laura was still in pain and discomfort from all the measures they were taking to stop the bleeding and I was in a panic but again couldn’t or didn’t want to lose it for fear it would upset Laura or the baby. I was really worried that something was going to happen to Laura and there was nothing I could do about it. Fortunately, after some time, everything was getting better but there was a time that I was seriously about to break.]
Wednesday 2:30 AM
Husband stretches and says, “Ow, my back really hurts.” I say to him, “DUDE, you did not just say that”, but I think it’s funny. He then looks down and remarks, “What happened? Why am I only wearing my swimming trunks?”
Bella and I continue to bond as she lies on my chest. Husband stands by the side of the bed (after putting his shirt back on) and we just gaze at our baby, at what we’ve done.
And so our life begins…