Part 2: Active Labor and Delivery (Read Part 1 & Part 3)
We decided not to take the highways back home since it was rush hour but instead took side streets. But that was a HUGE mistake as there was a lot of construction, closed roads, and detours. It took us about an hour to get home, and it was close to 5:30pm at that point. Katie was gracious and stopped to pick me up some raspberries and peppermint water to help with the nausea I had been feeling.
When we got home I took my underwear off (more blood in my pantyliner) and lay on the bed to relax, while Ross made himself some dinner. I started to doze off in between contractions. Katie continued to press on my hips for relief. Ross brought me a small glass of wine to help me relax. Things were picking up and getting more intense, so Katie suggested I think about them as ocean waves. I began to visualize the ocean, and thought about surfing. Suring is hard work: you have to paddle to get out, then paddle like hell to catch the wave, but then once you’ve caught it it’s smooth sailing in to shore and there’s some relief.
A short while later (6:30pm) I felt a warm fluid begin to trickle out of my vagina, and I realized that my water had broken! We called Morning Star and they gave us the green light to come back. I did not want to get back in the car, and I seriously considered having a home birth instead, but we didn’t have a big enough tub. I asked Ross for a glass of wine, and he brought me another tiny glass. Pshhh. We grabbed the birth bag again, and I put on a pair of “adult protective underwear” since my water broke and I was leaking.
Gosh I really didn’t want to get back in the car. At all. So on the way out the door I saw the bottle of wine Ross had opened (3-buck chuck!), so I grabbed the bottle and took a big swig. Then I ran for the car and we drove to the birth center on the highways again since rush hour was pretty much over. We made good time but not fast enough, this was my 3rd trip in the car during labor. I had the rice bag under the seat belt again and when I would feel a contraction coming I would grab the “Oh Jesus!” handle with one hand and Ross’ thigh with the other. I would pull myself up with the handle and sway my hips as best I could while squeezing Ross’ leg as tight as I could. I remember thinking the whole time “only a couple more in the car. Only one more in the car…”
About a block away from the birth center I told Ross to just run the stop sign. When we arrived the Birth center was empty except for Mryiah and Rachel since it was after business hours. I walked straight back to the exam room, and they started fetal monitoring for ten minutes, but it was hard for Mryiah or Rachel to find the heart beat with the band monitors since baby kept moving and squirming around. Despite the difficultly I never felt worried about her, I was confident and trusted that my body would take care of me and my baby. During the monitoring they started filling up the birth tub.
After they monitored me through a couple of contractions I asked if we could be done, and Mryiah graciously said “Yes, I think we can be done now.” (Gosh I don’t know how women labor with those things on strapped to a bed!!!) They took the bands off my belly and they told me I could head back to the birth room. And I walked straight through the offices (a HIPPA violation, my first of the night) because it was a short cut. The moment I walked into the birth room I stripped off my sundress and practically jumped right into the tub. After one contraction the warm water did its thing and I had to pee. Rachel said that I could pee in the tub since it was sterile, but I didn’t want to pee in the tub, and I also didn’t want to get out of the tub and walk to the bathroom. I asked for something to pee into, and Rachel handed me a blue vomit bag. I squatted and peed into it then handed it to Ross, Rachel took it from Ross after a couple dumbfounded moments. Clearly at this point I had lost any concept of modesty.
I squatted in the tub with Ross holding my hands and Katie pressing on my hips. And I asked again and again, “is this for real?” Audrey, the nurse/birth assistant arrived (who, by the way, went to kindergarten with Ross) and she did some intermittent fetal monitoring with a waterproof doppler. A short while later on Rachel told me that I was entering transition. I asked, “Is this where I think I’m going to die?” She answered, “This is where some women think that.” At this point I found myself thinking yeah, I totally get why women choose to have an epidural. I get it. Might be nice. But if I want one I have to get into a car, and I’m not getting into a car, so here we go!
I remember being amazed, because right before she had said that to me I had started to feel a little pushy. Rachel and Myriah didn’t need to check my cervix to tell me where I was, they just knew what labor looked like and could tell by my vocalizations and movements where I was. These ladies really know their stuff!
I continued to squat through contractions but my legs started to get really tired so I switched to being on my back in the water. A few contractions later Rachel said that I was sounding really “pushy,” so she wanted to check me and make sure that there was no cervix left. I remember feeling her fingers and thinking that they sure didn’t go in very far compared to the last two times I had been checked. “Oh my goodness Jenn your baby is right there.” There was a little bit of cervix left, so she asked me to go back to squatting for a few contractions. I was really glad to be in the water so that this switching was fairly easy. After those couple contractions I switched back to my back and Rachel told me I could start pushing. It really does feel like you are taking a huge poop! While pushing I started to sway my hips side to side in the tub, and Rachel kept telling me to “dance my baby out” I could feel her head rocking into my pelvis and back with each contraction and I moaned through each one, low and loud. Ross said I was primal.
At this point I realized that the glorious thing about contractions is that you get a break in between, and during that break, nothing hurts at all. In between I could close my eyes and just rest, and nothing in the world hurt or mattered at all. I was safe and secure, surrounded by people who were all there for me, to love me and support me and help me bring my baby girl into the world. A month ago I felt terrified that I might die in childbirth, but in the moment I knew everything was going to be just fine. I was in good hands, Ross’ on the left and Katie’s on the right, with skilled midwives and birth assistants there to encourage and empower me to give birth under my own power.
All the sudden I stated feeling some burning, and I asked if her head was crowning? Audrey shone a flashlight and Rachel said they could see more and more head each time. They asked Ross if he wanted to catch and explained that Rachel would be there to assist as well. Ross walked around the tub to get a better view of what was going on down there. After one contraction Ross had seen enough and headed back towards my head and held my hand. Rachel asked if I would like her to perform “perineal support” to prevent tearing. I told her I didn’t know what the hell that was. She rephrased using words a woman pushing out a baby could understand, and simply said “does this feel good?” and offered me support by gently stretching my skin as her head crowned. On the next contraction I pushed out her head, at 10:14pm. I heard Rachel say, “Head is born, head is born.” I asked, “The rest is easy, right?” “Easier” was the response. And oh the pressure on my sacrum!!! This was the only contraction where I felt pain in-between them, and Rachel told me that on the next contraction that I need to hold my breath and push, that the body needs to be born… and something about a nuchal hand. As I felt the next wave I started grunting again, and Myriah had to step in and forcefully tell me to just hold my breath and push! Then, at 10:18pm, with one final push, I felt her slippery body come rushing out. She had the cord around her neck once so as she came out Rachel gracefully somersaulted her in the water to remove the cord and then immediately placed her on my chest.
Ross was on my left side and I kept looking from our newborn daughter and then back to Ross, who was absolutely bawling, and then up at Rachel. Ross and I kissed. Then I remember asking her two things at this point: one, “Is she real?” and two; “Am I supposed to be crying?” Well, she is definitely real and Rachel told me whatever I was doing was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I just kept rubbing her back to stimulate her breathing as she was having a little trouble transitioning. There was a flurry of activity and they decided to start oxygen and an ambu mask to help her breathing. As scary as it might have been I was never worried about her, I totally trusted the midwives and my entire birthing team. I was calm and kept staring at this little being on my chest. She never really started crying like you would think, but her breathing came around and she got nice and pink. At this point Rachel asked Ross if he wanted to cut the cord (as it had stopped pulsing) but he decided against it, he just wanted to stay (upright and) up at my head and by our sides.
Shortly thereafter they wanted me to get out of the tub and walk to the bed to deliver the placenta, so I told Ross to take off his shirt and take our baby girl in his arms. Ross gently took her and then went to sit on the other side of the bed while Audrey helped me walk over to the bed. My legs sure were shaking! I lay down on the bed and Ross handed her back to me so we could let her try to start nursing. It was incredible to see her little tiny head bobbing around searching for my nipple; she already had such a strong neck! After a short while she found it and started sucking!
Rachel then reminded me that I still had work to do and that I had to deliver the placenta, which at this point I thought would be no big deal. WRONG – the “fundal massage” was worse than pushing AND worse than laboring in the car. Rachel just dug into my abdomen and helped the placenta right on out. There was no point during my whole labor in which I had wished I could escape or began to beg for a way out of my body until this moment, I screamed at her to stop it! Rachel was very sympathetic and just said that this was the part where she had to be mean to help control any bleeding. Well, she must have done a damn good job because I only lost 2 ½ cups of blood! It was easy enough to birth the placenta; it felt all warm and squishy coming out. I was really anxious to know if I had torn or not, so after they collected the placenta (which we had encapsulated, Ross was very protective of it and reminded them not to use a biohazard bag. We were in good hands and he needn’t have worried, but it was so sweet) Rachel examined me to find only a hairline internal tear, nothing external. Such a relief!
And now we had our beautiful baby girl in our arms!!!!
Part 3 - Immediate Postpartum and Going Home