Stefan thought it would be funny to start this story with “It all started with great sex...and I'm not talking about the conception!” I laughed, but it's true so I'll explain. Sex can be used as a natural induction method.
Let me pause while I say I hate using that phrase unless my readers are familiar with it. When I say “induction” I'm sure a lot of people immediately think of drugs in a hospital setting taking a woman from zero to sixty. Natural induction methods are NOT like that at all. Basically, with the exception of a few herbs, natural induction will only work if your body is ready. It helps the process along. I had been having some pressure the day before (December 31st). So, I thought we'd try a few things to see if my body was, in fact, ready to have the baby. At that point I was 37 weeks so it wasn't a huge deal either way. If I did go into labor it was late enough to be safe (and I was very ready to meet my son) but if I didn't it was no big deal because I still had a few weeks left.
Well, the contractions started around noon. I knew these were different than Braxton Hicks. These felt lower in my tummy and more like my uterus was pressing downward. (Braxton Hicks are more of an overall tightening) We started lazily timing them and figured out they were coming every 15 minutes. Now, that's nothing to write home about (that can actually start WEEKS before real labor) so we went about our day and kept an eye on them. A couple of hours later they were every 10 minutes. Any sort of progression can be a sign of impending labor so I called my midwife. She said to try to get some rest (she suggested a hot bath) and see if they slowed down. We were packing at the apartment so we finished what we could and came back to the house. I sat in a hot bath and would call out “contraction” to Stefan each time I had one...by this time they were coming every 7 minutes. At the end of my bath they were coming every 3-5 minutes. Around 4pm I called my doula to see what she thought. She told me to give her a couple of hours to get everything situated (she had to figure out childcare) and she'd be over. That's when I realized it was time...I was going to have my baby. And the fear set in.
Ginni (my doula) showed up around the same time as our friend Janee. By this time the contractions were set at around 4 minutes apart but not painful or anything. It was like getting really bad menstrual cramps. I should also go ahead and say that at this point I was still coughing up a storm AND Franklin was running a fever. Each cough brought on a contraction and Franklin was super clingy. Just keep all of that in mind as this story continues. For the next several hours we sat up and played old school Nintendo and cracked “That's What She Said” jokes. Ginni says it's one of the more interesting births she's attended.
I think it was around midnight when Stefan's family showed up. That's when my contractions stopped cold. When people get in my house I go into hostess mode without thinking. Ginni took me outside for a walk to try to get things moving again. It didn't work and I just kept getting more and more frustrated. She suggested going for a drive to get coffee or something but I wasn't in the mood to go anywhere. So, her next “suggestion” (quotes because it was more like a command!) was to go upstairs and take a nap. Franklin was tired and fussy because of his fever and Stefan had been sleeping with him off and on. I told her I didn't want to be rude and just leave everyone downstairs. Her reply, “You're not. Go upstairs and rest.” I figured she knew what she was talking about (I mean, she's done this more than I have) so I did. I laid in bed with Stefan and Franklin and cried. I just wanted this baby. With Franklin I was only in labor for 7 hours from water breaking to baby out. At this point it had been at least that long. I hate crying and usually try to not do it. Stefan, however, knew that crying would release some of the frustration I was feeling and let my body do what it needed to do. I closed my eyes to try to sleep. I kept waking up thinking I was having contractions again but not being totally sure. Thankfully, I did rest some and woke up to regular contractions again. At this point Janee had gone home and everyone else was pretty much in bed.
I sat and talked to Ginni. I walked around the house. I laid in bed. The contractions stayed at the same pace and intensity. And then they started to slow down again. Ginni suggested we eat something (another benefit to birthing at home: I could eat and drink constantly) so I heated up some leftover pasta. That did the trick. The contractions picked up again with more intensity. After an hour or so of contractions I had to concentrate to get through, Ginni called Salli (my midwife) and told her we were getting well on our way.
Salli came about 6am. I was curious to see how I was progressing and asked her to check. Let me tell you what kind of shock it was to find out I was at 8cm and 85% effaced. (10cm is the “golden number” and you want to be 100% effaced) She commented that my amniotic sac felt really thick, but we'll get into that more later. The contractions were uncomfortable, but not overly painful. At this point I climbed in the bathtub and hung out. Stefan got in with me for a bit, but we quickly realized that it wasn't doing anything either way and Franklin (remember, still have a sick toddler) needed him. I don't remember how long I was in the tub...but my contractions, again, started to slow down. Salli checked me and I was still 8cm but 95% effaced. Now I was getting frustrated. Salli reassured me that I was, in fact, in labor and I was progressing. She said I needed to rest. If I couldn't rest I needed to walk, but, in any case, I needed to get out of the tub. So, I started drying off and getting dressed. I cried the entire time. As I walked into the bedroom (which was full of people) Stefan said, “Everyone clear out. She's been told to rest.” (I LOVED that he did that for me) I laid in bed with him and cried again. I'd been in labor for something like 16 hours at this point and just wanted the baby OUT! I told Stefan, “I know I'm right there. I know I'm almost done. I've hit the 'I can't do this anymore' point of labor.” I remember saying that I was done and I was going to the hospital. Stefan told me I didn't mean that and Ginni confirmed by saying, “Yeah, if she meant it she'd be in the car already.”
Apparently crying is good for me...my contractions started up again. This time I had to vocalize through them. Stefan said it was kind of creepy because it's a noise he's never heard me make before. Ginni said it's a primal thing because most women make similar noises and you can't replicate it when NOT in labor. Ginni came in after a few vocalizations and said, “You sound pushy.” I asked her later what she meant and she said my noises went from one long note to more staccato (my word) sounds. (So, instead of “ooohhhhh” it was “oohhh ohhh ohhh.”) After several of those contractions I noticed I was starting to shiver a bit. Salli and Ginni took interest in this fact. Apparently, it's the outpouring of endorphins that causes it and it means your body is in transition. (Transition is the time between active labor and the pushing phase) I got super excited about this.
I was allowed to get back into the tub at this point. I had a few more contractions like the ones above. Finally, I felt this wave of calm wash over me. There was a longer break between contractions. I remember looking at Ginni and saying, “Something has changed. I feel different.” She confirmed that this was the big rush of endorphins that prepares your body for the pushing phase. Salli checked me again and we decided to break my water instead of trying to wait for it to break on its own. She said my sac was 3 layers thick (usually it's a thin membrane...) Once that was done she said I was dilated to 9cm and 100% effaced. Now I just had to wait for my body to start the pushing phase. I didn't have to wait long. The next contraction I said to Ginni, “My body is pushing and I can't help it.” She said, “That's fine. Go with it.” I realized I was on my back in the bathtub and got up onto my hands and knees. (NOT birthing on my back was one reason for a home birth) I started pushing with each contraction; I couldn't NOT push at this point. It's hard to explain if you've never felt the urge to push. I couldn't describe it, either. Finally I reached down to try to feel the baby's head and realized that I could! This was the most encouraging part. I told Ginni, she told Salli, and Salli's response was “cool!” After a couple more pushes I reached again and realized he was crowning. Again the message went through Ginni to Salli. That's when Salli came in and told Stefan if he was going to catch he needed to get ready. All I remember is seeing my husband's legs move past me as he tried to pull his pant legs up quickly. I also vaguely remember Salli or Ginni trying to get a heartbeat reading, but I couldn't stop pushing long enough for it to matter. A couple more pushes and I felt his head come out. Salli checked for a cord wrap (there wasn't one) and I pushed again. If you've never felt a baby slip out of you let me tell you that it is one of those feelings you never forget. I sat up and was handed my new baby boy.
They started checking him out. His color was good and his breathing was okay, but he had stuff in his throat. It was like thick mucous. I was on the verge of panicking. I really didn't want to have to take him to the hospital. Everyone stayed calm (Ginni kept reassuring me that everything was fine and reminding me that no one was panicked) Finally they got it suctioned out and his breathing immediately changed to more normal. I realized later (while talking to Ginni) that if I'd been in the hospital they would have snatched him up and taken him to NICU for it...but it was easily taken care of at home. Stefan got to cut the cord. After sitting in the tub for a bit (Stefan thought it was really gross...it looked like the tub in any horror movie killing) I got out, rinsed off, dried off, and was escorted to my bed. Jonathan started nursing right away. He came out quite hungry!
The rest of the story is laid back. We did the weighing and measuring (7lbs 12oz and 22 ¼ in long) Salli's assistant joked that it was only the last few hours that it sounded like someone was in labor in my house. That made me smile.
I felt, and still feel, empowered by the whole thing. I didn't have a doctor telling me how or when to push. I didn't have medication of any kind. I did it.
I'll have a post with photos (there is mild nudity...you can't see anything really, but you can tell I'm naked) and a post with why I prefer home birth.