On Tuesday, February 22nd, at 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I woke up around 5 a.m. with mild cramps.
I wasn’t excited – I still hadn’t managed to wrap my mind around the fact that I really would have a baby soon. And I didn’t want to be one of those “oh my gosh I’m in labor!” women and then it turns out to take another week.
Nathan, however, was very excited when he woke up a couple hours later and insisted on starting to time my cramps. They weren’t very regular, anywhere from 6-9 minutes apart. He called into work and we sat reading in the breakfast nook, way earlier than we ever get up together. Laying down to try and sleep again made the cramps worse.
Around 10:30 a.m. he decided to go out and buy cigars and I gave him a list of ingredients for this somewhat complicated Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Pie I wanted to make. I was sure I’d be bored for the next few hours until we went to our regularly scheduled doc. appt. at 3 p.m. We’d already called our doula and the midwives and they said just keep tracking the cramps (contractions?) and go to your scheduled appointment.
By the time Nathan got back from shopping, the cramps had gotten more intense. I wasn’t sitting through them anymore, but standing and bending over onto the counter, or getting on my hands and knees.
The pain still didn’t seem bad though, and in between I felt fine. Meanwhile, Nathan started packing up the car, sure we’d be staying the night at the hospital. I guess somewhere in my mind I accepted that as a possibility because eventually I made sure everything I needed was packed too.
At 2:00 Nathan said the contractions were 3 1/2 minutes apart and convinced me to leave early for our doc. appt. (Which I should note is in the main hospital where we’d be delivering).
Being out of the house seemed to make the contractions more painful. I remember leaning against the wall in the hospital with my eyes closed thinking the elevator was taking foreverrrrrr. They got me to the exam room immediately after seeing my condition. The midwife came in to check me and I was at 6 centimeters! So they wheeled me straight to Labor & Delivery, it was the real deal, and I still couldn’t believe it.
We got into our room at 3:30 and the next four hours are a fast blur in my memory.
I spent a lot of time on the floor on my knees, with my head resting on the bed and Nathan pushing on my hips during contractions. They hurt, and made me whimper and swear a few times, but were not excruciatingly painful.
I need to insert here than I’m sort of a huge wimp. I’ve never experienced pain in my life. I don’t do vigorous exercise – even running one mile seems strenuous. I’ve never made it past a beginner’s yoga class. I hate being uncomfortable and think people who wear stilettos are nuts. So yeah, even though I dislike medications and wanted a natural birth, I was definitely ready to let them drug me if the pain got too bad.
Around 5:30 the midwife suggested I try to push with the next contraction instead of breathing through it. I tried, and it lessened the pain, but I had no urge to push and really no idea what I was doing.
At this point I was on my knees in bed, which was in the a fully upright position and I was leaning over the back of it. From there, they got me to move onto the toilet and also try a physically challenging (for my weak legs!) squatting position to help move the baby down. My water broke as I was shuffling back to the bed from the bathroom.
I got on my knees in the bed again and continued pushing with the contractions, even though I never felt a strong “urge to push”. They told me to push like I was pooping, and I finally let go and did exactly that, even though my naked butt was eye level with three people looking right at it. In this post you can see a little video clip of me telling Nathan to “get a picture of them wiping my butt”.
They told me to grunt very low, so I did, but probably would’ve been silent otherwise. The midwife had to keep putting her fingers in the spot where I was supposed to focus my pushing. Just goes to show it’s not all instinct, but I was lucky enough to have an excellent midwife, doula, and nurse to coach me.
Before I knew it, they said the baby was moving down and they could feel her head inside me, did I want to feel it? Nooo I didn’t. I preferred to stay in disbelief that this was really happening and it wasn’t the time for a reality check.
They had me change positions again so I was sitting mostly upright in bed, sort of on my side, with one leg way up pushing against the nurse’s chest.
I don’t remember being in pain at this point. I don’t know if I’d remember much at all if it weren’t for the pictures & Nathan’s recap. One thing I was terrified of was tearing**, so if anything I was holding back just a little on the pushing. But just a few more pushes and about 15 minutes later, Jane was born.
I was in shock, slightly hysterical, in total disbelief that I did it and here was our baby! By all accounts I was acting like I was stoned during most of the labor, but now it was like I’d taken some crazy upper drug. I shook uncontrollably for hours after her birth, unless she was laying with me. See this post for a video of us immediately after she was born.
The whole experience was not nearly as scary or painful as I’d imagined. For perspective though, both the midwife and doula said it was one of the easier births they’d seen.
I know luck played a large part in everything going so well, but all the natural birth research, being in a comfortable environment with people I trusted, and really believing this was something my body was meant to do had to have some small part too.
**I was surprised to learn I did have a 2nd degree tear, but they numb you for the stitches so I barely noticed. All that worry for nothin!