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I had changed all of the sheets on my bed on Tuesday in an effort to give myself something to do to keep my mind off of the fact that I was almost 4 days past my due date. Of course this meant that my water broke at about 12:45am on Wednesday, March 7. I jumped up out of bed and woke up Jeff before running to the bathroom to grab a towel. I had been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions all weekend, but no “real” contractions so I wasn’t expecting it at all. We called the midwife to let her know and she said if I wasn’t contracting to just go back to bed and call her at about 6am. I went back to bed with lots of towels because I would get gushes of the fluid every time I moved. I started getting very light contractions every 20 minutes or so that would last for just a few seconds, but nothing major at all.
At 6:30 she called me back (I had gone back to sleep) to check on my progress. She told me to take a walk and that the next midwife on call would give me a call in a few hours. After walking around the block, I got a call from the other midwife and she told me to go ahead and keep my regular appointment that was scheduled for that day at 1pm. We packed up our things and headed to the hospital for my appointment.
Contractions at this point felt like menstrual cramps and were coming every 10 minutes or so. When she checked my cervix I was about 3cm and the baby had a pocket of fluid over his head still. She laid out the options for us. Since my water had been broken by then for about 12 hours with no real contractions, she was starting to get concerned and said there were some things we could do to move things along. She gave me the option of either using nipple stimulation with a breast pump combined with walking the floors of the hospital or being transferred out of the Midwifery Center to Labor & Delivery to be chemically induced with Cytotec. It was clear what we would do as I had been looking forward to a natural delivery in the Midwifery Center since we found out I was pregnant so there was no way I was going to be transferred to L&D if I didn’t have to be. We went into what would be our room. It had a queen size bed, tv, fridge, and a Jacuzzi tub. I was immediately hooked up to the breast pump, which made the contractions a little stronger. She also broke the remaining pocket of fluid over his head to dilate me more. As soon as she had, I was 4cm and contracting every 4-5 minutes, getting stronger all of the time. We continued the breast pump for the next 3 hours for 15 minutes at a time followed by walking aimlessly through the halls. When the contractions started coming on stronger, I sort of hugged Jeff and hung from his shoulders a bit to sort of stretch things out. The pain was totally manageable at this point and I was feeling pretty good.
By the third time on the breast pump, the contractions were so strong that I couldn’t keep the pump on when I was having one. It was about 5pm by this time and when the midwife checked me, I was about 5-6 cm and in active labor. We ditched the walking at this point and I leaned over the birthing ball on the bed. I really started to feel the pain in my back because of the position of the baby (the back of his head was facing my spine instead of my front) and it was taking all of my concentration to focus during the contractions. I started low moaning with each one, which really helped me get through it. Jeff also massaged and squeezed my hips and lower back (no easy task for him because he had to squeeze pretty hard). It seemed that every time I changed positions, a stronger contraction would start. I squatted for a couple, went back to the birthing ball for a couple, leaned over the bed etc. Leaning over the birthing ball on the bed was definitely the most comfortable for me. It was about this time that the nurse came in to fill up the Jacuzzi tub. I was so happy to finally be to a stage where I could get in, as I’d been wanting to for a while, but the midwife didn’t want it to slow my labor down.
After what seemed like forever (was really only about a half hour I think), I was finally able to get in and immediately got a really strong contraction from the change in position. The beautiful thing about all of this though was the nice lull I had between contractions. It allowed me to sort of catch my breath and relax a tiny bit. Once I got into the tub, the pain would almost go away with just some residual tension left over.
The contractions picked up in intensity after I entered the pool and Jeff was using all of his strength to press on my hips and massage my lower back. Each contraction felt like knives stabbing me and my pelvis being stretched apart at the same time. The intensity of the pain was such that I never knew what would help. Sometimes I wanted him to press the top of my hips together, other times I wanted him to massage the middle of my lower back, other times I didn’t want him to touch me at all. He was really great at keeping up with my very demanding requests. As if all of that wasn’t enough, I began feeling nauseous with every contraction and finally threw up which made it a bit better. Another one of my “coping mechanisms” became a little chant that I would do throughout the peak of the contraction. I can remember saying, “you can do it, you can do it”, “you’re ok, you’re ok”, and later on…lots of cursing! Lol I kept up with the moaning as well, only louder and more guttural It’s really funny how something as simple as that helped me through the most intense part of the contraction.
I started feeling a lot of pressure (then came the “pressure, pressure, pressure” chant…) like I had to pass #2, but without the urge to push (yet) and the midwife decided to check me again. It was about 7:30pm and I was 8cm by now. She asked me if I was ok having the baby in the water because she didn’t think I would be able to get out of the tub at this point. I told her I didn’t care and I just wanted it to be over so I stayed put. This is when the contractions started changing from barely manageable to totally out of my mind excruciating. I felt the ligaments in my pelvis stretching more and it was sort of like a burning sensation. It was also at this point that the baby changed positions and, although the back labor was mostly gone, I was now having the pain in the front instead of the back. I had probably 4 of these contractions before I had a sort of lull. It was as if everything had stopped for a few minutes and I rested against the side of the Jacuzzi. Right after this lull is when I started getting contractions with the strong urge to push. The nurse wanted me to wait for the midwife, who had stepped out to speak to some people who had shown up for a scheduled tour of the birthing center, but I couldn’t control the pushing. My whole body would curl up at the end of the contraction involuntarily. I tried blowing, but I felt like I had no control. When she came back in I had had probably 3 or 4 of these pushing contractions. The best thing about not getting any pain meds was that I could actually feel the baby moving down every time I pushed and that was very encouraging to me. She wanted me to get into a better position for pushing. Until then I had been sort of kneeling/squatting in the tub, which was good, but she couldn’t get into the tub with me! So with help I was able to get up onto the step of the tub into more of a sitting position. Jeff slipped behind me so he was sitting on the step as well supporting me. She checked and said the baby’s head was just an inch inside. I pushed with the next couple contractions and I could feel my skin burning as it stretched around his head. She coached me to blow to allow my skin to stretch further. This is where I think being in the water really helped me because I felt like it took some of the pressure off. It was hard to push when I felt the burning and all of the pressure of his head moving down and crowning. The midwife told me to just give little hard pushes. As his head was crowning it felt like she was pushing him back in, but it was actually the baby moving around. It was very difficult, but after a few of these little pushes I could feel his head was out. It felt like she reached in a bit to help with his shoulders. I’m not really clear on this part because I had my eyes closed for pretty much the whole pushing part on the step. It was like I had so many other sensations going on that I needed to shut my eyes to concentrate. The instant his shoulders were out, the rest of him slipped out into the water and she brought him up to my tummy. He was born at 7:54pm. I pushed for just about 10 minutes. I can’t describe the relief I felt! Virtually all of the pain I had just been feeling melted away and I cried with relief. I rubbed his back and within a few seconds he was coughing and sputtering and starting to cry. It was amazing! He was so clean. There was not a spot of blood on him anywhere and very little vernix. He was so perfect; all I could do was kiss his head. Jeff cut the cord and the nurse took him into a towel and handed him to Jeff while the midwife helped me out of the tub to deliver the placenta. I actually found this harder to do than delivering the baby, as there was nothing to provide resistance against my pushing. Thirty minutes later, the placenta was out and I felt a huge relief. I was even able to get up and give him his first bath.
When all was said and done, I had only a “skid mark” of a tear, which means the tear was so minor it couldn’t be seen unless the skin was pulled apart and didn’t require any stitches at all. Travis Michael weighed 8 pounds 9 and a half ounces and was 21 and a half inches long. He had a slight hemorrhage in his eyeball and some broken capillaries in his forehead from the rapid change in pressure during his birth (because it went so quickly), but it will clear up on it’s own with no ill effects. The way I see it, labor is one day of (a lot of) discomfort, but with no side effects from drugs, he was able to nurse right away, I was able to get up and walk around with no help, I had no residual “yucky” feeling like I did after having an epidural, and I generally felt TONS better recovering from this birth than from my daughter’s birth. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience. It was very intense, very painful, but totally worth it!