At midnight, the very beginning of March 3, 2010, I awoke with a start and instinctively got onto my hands and knees and began rocking back and forth and breathing heavily. Something was happening. I’d been having Braxton-hicks contractions for several weeks and cramps for a while. But this? This was different. I had learned from our midwife to try to sleep through the beginning of labor (pre-labor) and get as much rest as possible. I wasn’t for sure that this was even “it,” so that’s exactly what I did…I went back to sleep (after using the potty, of course). At 12:40am, I again awoke with an even stronger contraction. My body leading the way as it moved me to all fours and again I rocked and breathed through it. I quickly realized there would be no “sleeping through it” for me. I decided to wake Bradley…”Honey, something is happening.” He sat up straight with a grin and we just stared at one another in disbelief. “I think this is it!” I filled him in on the previous contractions and suggested that maybe he try to sleep. Uh, no. He was too excited to sleep and wanted to be with me.
At this point he texted our midwife, Hillary, to let her know that I had started. She encouraged us to get as much rest as possible. We ran a tub and I loved the warm water supporting my body and the sounds it made as I moved about. I continued to have contractions every 5-8 minutes for the next hour or so in the tub. It was a bit of a struggle for me to get up and onto my hands and knees in order to get through each rush, but any other position just wouldn’t do.
I got out of the tub and moved to the living room and continued with the irregular pattern of contractions. Some would be close together and long, others short and spaced out. No rhyme or reason apparently. Between contractions we kept laughing about the “stuff to do during early labor” list we had made and planned on before labor began. The list included things such as: take a walk around the neighborhood, bake cookies, write the bean a letter, sew (?!), etc. The only thing we seemed to be able to do was to get through each contraction without me wanting to die. I was expecting more of a ramp-up…a more gradual process of the contractions getting stronger and more painful as the time went on. But for me, it just seemed to start with a bang and stay rather consistently painful for hours until the end.
He continued his attempts to get me to eat something, but nothing—absolutely nothing—sounded edible to my ears. I was finally able to get down some apple slices and peanut butter. Also Gatorade. And water. Lots of water. He says that if he would offer me anything (including water) I would decline, but if he put it in front of my face (or more specifically mouth) I would have some. I remember sucking and sucking on that straw as if it was my life-force.
At 5:00am Bradley encouraged me to try to labor in bed and hopefully be able to rest between the contractions. I couldn’t really imagine actually sleeping between contractions but I decided it was worth a shot. We were expecting this to be a very long day—it had already BEEN a long day to me!—and it would greatly benefit my ability to persevere if I was able to rest. And rest I did. From about 5-7:30am we were able to sleep (really!) between contractions and they then slowed to about 8-10 minutes apart. What a relief! I tried to stay on my side a few times, but it was just too overpowering. I needed to maintain focus and control, and being on my hands and knees and breathing low breaths is what enabled me to do so. I remember so many times saying, “I don’t think I can do this” and “I CAN’T do this.” He continued to remind me, over and over again, “You ARE doing it.” That was the best thing he could’ve said. It gave me the strength. He gave me the strength. I also remember talking to the bean and reminding her that we were a team and would get through this together. I never worried about her safety throughout the labor, and I am so incredibly grateful for that.
At this point I was getting pretty vocal and was surprising myself at the noises coming out of my mouth--out of my gut. The contractions were progressing in a typical manner at this point and showing signs of consistency, which was encouraging. Started around 10 minutes apart and gradually dropped to 9…8…7…6…and finally 5 and were each lasting about 45 seconds or so, give or take.
Around 8am Hillary texted to check in on us and she and Brad spoke on the phone. She listened to me go through an entire contraction and asked Brad to remind me not to get too high in my register and instead focus on vocalizing lower in my abdomen, pushing the baby lower and lower. This helped to regain my focus and remind me of what all this pain was about. I remember saying to Brad at one point, “It just hurts! Why does it have to hurt SO badly?!” He responded brilliantly by stating, “It’s pain with a purpose. Each contraction is pushing our baby closer and closer to coming out!” This made so much sense in my mixed-up brain. It was perfect. At around this time we also decided it would be a good time to call my family and let them know.
At about 8:30am, I went to the bathroom where I lost my mucous plug. I was excited and scared and kinda grossed out by it but knew it was a great sign that the labor was really progressing as it should. He informed Hillary and she said she would send one of her assistants over to check on us soon. This was reassuring. It was really happening!
I was anxious to get into the tub that Bradley had prepared, but we didn’t want to use up any of the big dog tricks yet since we were expecting many more hours of this. But by about 9:45 or so it was time. I needed a change of scenery and a new coping mechanism. At around 10am I remember having a particularly intense contraction and basically flailing myself across our dining room table and wailing in pain. I got myself together and walked over to the bathroom where all hell broke loose. I was standing at the sink when another powerful rush came over me. I immediately squatted to relieve the pressure with Brad behind me. At this point my bag of waters broke and wetness rushed all over my legs and feet. And…I panicked. And cried. Bradley reassured me that everything was fine, but I wasn’t so sure. Almost immediately I had the urge to push. I was taken aback and not sure what to do. I knew I shouldn’t start pushing yet, but my body was just doing what it wanted. I felt out of control. From the very beginning I had been praying and trusting that God was watching over us, protecting all of us. From the very beginning I had been trying to relinquish control of this experience and hand it over to my body to do what it was designed to do. From the start I didn’t know what to expect, but I trusted that my body would know. That my body had been preparing for this day for months and months. It was in charge and I needed it to direct me and tell me what to do.
So there we were, in the bathroom—the perfect place for the water to break, in fact—and I was pleading with Brad to call someone for help. But he wanted me to calm down first and breathe. This, my friends, is what they call transition. The freak-out, the panic, the melt-down. I had it. He immediately got Hillary on the phone and explained what was happening. As soon as she heard me in the background, she knew that this baby was coming and coming quick. She instructed him to get me to lie down, which would hopefully slow the progression. He tried to get me to move but I wouldn’t budge. The rushes were coming so quickly now (there was no timing going on at this point) but he convinced me to move to our bed.
I should probably note that it was still just the two of us at this point. My contractions never got to the point that we would’ve even called Hillary to come (4-1-1). And if we had been planning to go to the hospital, I never would’ve made it. Talk about being thankful for the choices we made!
We waited for about 10 minutes before Rita, the doula, showed up. Unfortunately, as she was getting out of her car her Doppler fell out and was run over by a cab. Therefore, when she got upstairs all she had was a stethoscope with which to use to hear the baby’s heartbeat. But by this time the head was practically crowning and it was too low for her to be able to pick up the heartbeat. While this was not the news I’d wanted to hear, I was still quite confident that our baby was just fine and things were just progressing as they should. (Except for the fact that my body was begging to push and I was doing everything I could to stop it from doing so.) I remember asking Rita how far along I was, and she was like, “Oh, you’re there.” WHAT! I mean, obviously I was, but just getting the confirmation was such an exhilarating notion. She and Bradley were coaching me through some Lamaze-style breathing techniques to keep the pressure off my lower body and up in my chest. Brad told me that I kept closing my eyes and each time I did so I would stop breathing and lose focus, so he had to keep reminding me to look at him and breathe. Again, I felt so thankful for my amazing birth partner. He was getting me through this.
As her head started to crown, Rita was able to feel her heartbeat in her head and it was healthy and strong. Yip! Brad felt it and so did I. It was all wrinkly and smooshy. But it was our baby! Rita was helping my perineum to stretch with each progression of the head so it wouldn’t tear. Slow and steady they tried to remind me, which was extremely hard. This babe just wanted out! And I wanted her out, of course! Hillary arrived and continued to coach me through slow and steady pushing. And then I remember the magic words: “Okay, you’re ready. Go ahead and push.” “Really?!” “Yes!”And push I did. And burn it did. “So THAT’S the ring of fire?!” Brad was still by my side, but it was time for him to catch our baby. After about 4 pushes, her head was out (with one of her hands as well--ouchie). One more push and the rest of her body came flying out, quite literally. Like superwoman. Hillary had stepped away and allowed this to be our experience. As a family. Bradley caught her and pulled her up onto my stomach. She was gray and limp, and luckily I was prepared for that. They covered us in towels and the three of us just lied there in shock and amazement. With all the commotion we hadn’t even checked to see if she was a boy or a girl (I think I’ve already ruined that part of the story), so I held her up and cried, “It’s a girl!” We were beyond ourselves with joy. And relief. And jubilee. Her color came in quickly and she began to cry. She had gone through just as much (if not more) trauma than us! And she was letting us know.
I remember lying there and being filled with so much love that I thought my heart would burst. After the cord stopped pulsating, they clamped it in two places and Brad cut the cord. A little while later I started to feel another contraction coming on and was relieved that this final part of labor would soon be ending—the delivery of the placenta. A few more pushes and out it came. And it was HUGE! I was shocked. And grateful for the life-giving force that had been helping to feed our baby girl for the past 39 weeks and 6 days—she was one day early.
I will never forget this incredible experience. It was painful and powerful and exhilarating and empowering and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Our precious Millie is here!