I started having symptoms of labor at 38 weeks — a few weeks before I actually gave birth to my daughter, Luna. Experiencing labor signs early was one of the hardest things to go through emotionally, but I can say that I am so glad it happened. The experience taught me a much needed lesson in patience and in trusting my body. It was very frustrating to be on edge for those next few weeks, but there was also a lingering peace that I would know when it was happening. The next few weeks were very intense, emotionally and physically.
I kept waiting and of course had bad and good days. We thought for sure I would deliver by my due date and when I did not I hit bottom. The next week was full of crying, hormones, lots of DHA and milkshakes. Finally, I hit the 41-week mark and had an energy burst — but I knew better. I didn't call anyone or get my hopes up. I didn't even think it meant anything anymore. I just went about life as normal.
My mom called me while my partner Marc was at work to check on me, we chatted for quite awhile and while I was on the phone I realized how happy I was feeling. I remember telling her how I felt but quickly adding "Don't get excited, I'm sure I'll make it to at least 42 weeks." Marc called me from work sounding quite happy and informing me that I was going into labor that night, he was going to make sure of it. He had cut up a huge pineapple and was bringing home steak and asparagus for dinner. I just laughed and said it couldn't hurt anything.
I remember the whole time thinking something felt different and I was starting to think it could be time but I was determined not to get my hopes up. Around 7 that evening I started having light contractions — but again, did not even start to get my hopes up. I spent some quality time with our daughter Ocean and got her to bed. Marc got home and I ate all of the pineapple while he cooked dinner. One of the clearest and best memories: he made an amazing steak with cotswold cheese and asparagus. He also brought chocolate cake, which was the last thing I ate before labor.
At this point I was starting to realize how real this was — I was going to have a baby in a few hours. Insane!
The next thing I remember is waking up around 4 am because of an uncomfortable contraction. I tossed and turned for while. Finally I nudged my sleeping hubby and said "Marc — I think this might be it" (still determined to not get my hopes up). I told him I was going to wait a bit to contact my midwife and went back to sleep. About 30 minutes later I got up and went to the bathroom and quickly realized that I was losing my mucus plug. I looked over at Marc in bed and said "This is it."
I texted my midwife at 4:46 and let her know what was going on, then again a little while later to see where she was, getting antsy for her to check progress. Then I called my mom around the same time and let her know what was happening and that I was pretty sure this was probably the real thing.
At this point I was starting to realize how real this was — I was going to have a baby in a few hours. Insane! I realized that this was the best I was going to feel for quite a while so I grabbed some water and dried fruit to munch on while I sat at the computer and caught up on my blog reading. Every few minutes pausing to relax through a contraction.
When my midwife arrived she checked progress. I was at a 5 1/2 cm and fully effaced. My hopes were soaring. Contractions were increasingly painful but very bearable. The breaks in between gave me enough time to try and sleep — I laid on the couch with a blanket. Ocean painted watercolors at the table while my midwife worked on her embroidery. It was so calm. I kept looking at Marc and smiling — I could not contain my excitement! My family arrived and everyone was beaming. I was on my yoga ball and working my way through contractions. It was about 9:00 and I was at seven centimeters.
I resisted the urge to get into the birthing pool until my midwife suggested it. At this point contractions hurt but were still manageable. Between contractions I joined in the conversations quietly going on around me. When I felt one starting to peak I tried to keep my body as relaxed as I could and I swayed back and forth in the water. Those simple movements allowed me step back mentally, almost like I was only watching myself go through this process.
My mom and sisters reminded me to drink water in between and kept wet wash rags in the freezer and would switch them out after a contraction. The coolness felt so good. At this point there was little rest time in between, and after a few minutes they started peaking on each other. This is where things got crazy. I could not relax during contractions anymore — I had to move. I started to cry during contractions as well. I was getting discouraged — it was around 12 pm and I hadn't had a baby yet. In between I was talking and laughing with the others but when a contraction hit, moaning and crying were all I could do.
I bounced on the yoga ball, swayed with Marc, and stomped around my house before my midwife finally said she would break my water if it hadn't in 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes or so and after some particularly hard contractions I asked my midwife to check progress and I was at 9! Relief flooded me. We decided to walk around a bit to see if that would get things going. I held onto Marc during contractions and swayed. After that, I got back in the tub and labored a while longer. At 1pm my midwife checked again and I was at 10. I was a bit shocked when she told me. I felt no urge to push, so I told her and she reassured me some women don't. She told me my water hadn't broken yet and that could be why. I bounced on the yoga ball, swayed with Marc, and stomped around my house before my midwife finally said she would break my water if it hadn't in 30 minutes. Around 1:40 pm, she broke my water. It was a relieving feeling, I felt lighter. The contractions were back and worse. I was laying on my bed wiggling around trying to move to alleviate the pain. It hit me right after the contraction that I still felt no urge to push. She told me to relax back in the tub and to push with each contraction, with that she told my mom and sisters to come outside with her so that Marc and I could be alone for awhile.
Marc turned out the lights and I remember how quiet it got. A contraction hit and Marc held my hand "Push, babe! You can do this" I started crying and saying "Nooooo, no, no, no…" Marc stayed calm and kept encouraging me through each contraction. At around 2:15 I cried to Marc "Im never going to have her! What's wrong with me!" Marc went and explained to my midwife what was happening and she told me to go and sit on my toilet and push. So I did: assisted by my sister Liz and Marc I waddled back and plopped down just in time for a contraction. I cried and cried; my midwife watched. This went on for awhile. My poor friend Lily called about the same time that I was pushing and yelling. She had just asked Marc how I was doing when she heard "UUUUGGGHHHHHHHAAAAARGGGHHHH" and said "I'll call back."
I kept pushing but to no avail. I really hit my wall and my midwife bent down and looked me in the eyes "I don't want to hurt your feelings but it's time to put your big girl panties on, stop crying — you are wasting energy — PUSH!" So, I started pushing. Low yells and moans accompanied each one.
After about 40 minutes of that my midwife started cleaning my bed off. She told me we we're going to try something she didn't typically try. I sat down on tons of towels laid over my bed while my midwife instructed me to lay on my back, my chin tucked into my chest and Marc holding back one leg, my sisters taking turns with the other. She told me to direct all of my energy to pushing.
I gave it a flimsy shot here and there but didn't try too hard. I couldn't even last to 10 seconds. I was so exhausted that in between contractions I couldn't hold my head up.
I gave it a flimsy shot here and there but didn't try too hard. I couldn't even last to 10 seconds. I was so exhausted that in between contractions I couldn't hold my head up. I tried a few more times, writhing in pain. In between I was crying about how tired I was. I think I told them I couldn't do it anymore.
Then it happened: I realized the only way this was going to end was if I pushed her out (obvious as it may be). I became determined. With the next contraction I pushed as hard and long as I possibly could. I became very focused and got so irritable, my mom started counting while I was pushing and I yelled "Please. stop. counting!" (sorry mom!) Every noise annoyed me, I wanted to punch someone.
I had two more contractions and all of a sudden everyone started cheering "We see her hair!" I instantly reached down to feel her head, it was halfway there. I pushed even harder with a good yell. I was about to relax when they all started yelling "She is right here! PUSH HARD!" I mustered up all I could and pushed as though my life depended on it. A good yell once I hit the ring of fire and I felt her head come out. Everyone was crying, I pushed with the next contraction to get her shoulders out but my midwife had to twist her around a bit, she had her shoulder wedged and was not really budging, hence never feeling the urge to push.
After another quick push she was out…I just remember saying "it is a girl, right?!" I reached out and grabbed her from my midwife's arms and we both started crying. There was not a dry eye in the room.
I was in total bliss and it hit like a ton of bricks. All the emotion — I felt myself covered in it. Without intervention or drugs, I birthed this beautiful baby. I laughed at the fact that I ended up on the bed instead of my tub — that's the thing with birth, even when it goes as planned, per se, it doesn't. You must learn to listen to your body and not expect anything but that your body knows what it is doing. My homebirth was so empowering. As mothers we need this experience.
It was beautiful — beautiful in each and every way.