It all started on July 8, 2012…
Sunday, after a lazy morning, Neil and I headed over to the Ethan Allen Homestead to walk the nature paths and enjoy the beautiful weather. While we were there I thought that I might be having contractions about 10-20 minutes apart. I wasn’t sure if they were real contractions or just Braxton Hicks. I also didn’t want to get myself excited just to find out I was having false labor so I just took note of how I was feeling but didn’t think too much about it or say anything to Neil.
We headed home from our walk and I worked on a new recipe for a freelance assignment while Neil went for a run. We ate and then I worked on blog posts while watching a few episodes of Breakout Kings on Netflix. Around 8pm I started to feel uncomfortable but was still not positive that what I was feeling were real contractions so I kept working on posts and we watched another episode of Breakout Kings.
At 9pm I decided that maybe these contractions were the real deal so I asked Neil if he wanted to go for a walk with me (I still hadn’t told him that I suspected I might be in labor). We went for a brisk mile long walk and that’s when I finally decided to tell Neil that I thought I might be having real contractions. We returned home and watched one more episode of Breakout Kings and I labored on the birthing ball for awhile. I also apparently started to write a blog post but didn’t make it too far (see below):
I’m honestly awful at this whole tracking contractions thing but around 8pm tonight they started- at first I wasn’t sure but it seems that they have become more consistent and a little bit stronger as the night goes on. I thought I was experiencing some earlier today on our walk through the homestead and I might just be right. We will see!
At 10pm I was super hungry and really wanted a bagel with Tofutti so Neil headed out to the grocery store down the road to pick up Earth Balance and Tofutti for our bagels. I contacted our doula, Sarah, to let her know what was going on and she said it sounded like I was probably in early labor and to eat, drink and go to bed. So that is exactly what I did. I had a bagel with tofutti and bottle of water and went to sleep around 11pm.
I was able to sleep for about an hour but was then woken up by more intense contractions. Neil (who was too excited to really fall asleep) helped me to track the contractions on his iPhone. At midnight my contractions were around 4.5-5 minutes apart. I labored on hands and knees for awhile and tried the birthing ball again but wasn’t really feeling it.
(At some point here I asked Neil if he had ordered our CSA and when he said he hadn’t I told him that we needed to – so here I am laboring and all I can think about is the fact that we needed to pick our produce for our CSA.)
The intensity of contractions quickly progressed and I continued to labor on hands and knees until 2am. At 2am I decided that I wanted to take a shower and after showering my contractions were around 3.5 minutes apart and getting more intense. At this point we decided to call Sarah and have her come over to our house, however, minutes after hanging up with her we decided to call the Birthing Center to let them know what was going on and they said since we lived 75 minutes away that we should just head there. We called Sarah back and told her to head directly to the Birthing Center. We grabbed a few last minute items, fed the cat and we were on our way, leaving the house around 3am.
We got in the car put on City and Colour and started the 75 minutes drive to the Birthing Center. During the entire drive I was having contractions about 3.5 minutes apart. The drive down however wasn’t as awful as I thought it might have been, I had enough room to move slightly during contractions and the roads were clear due to how early it was. I even found myself singing along to the music with Neil in between each contraction. I snacked on a few Clif Shot Blocks and sipped my water the entire ride, knowing that I was going to need to stay hydrated and fueled for the upcoming events.
We arrived at the Birthing Center around 4:30am and I was taken to the monitoring room to get hooked up on the monitor for 30 minutes. Sarah arrived a few minutes later and we filled her in on how things were going while I was on the monitor and waiting to be checked. After about 25 minutes I was checked and was 4+ centimeters dilated and 80% effaced, which meant I could stay but unfortunately I still had to be on the monitor because they hadn’t yet had the three 15 second heart rate increases from baby. At this point being confined to the bed was the hardest part yet and I was anxious for they to get all they needed from the monitor so I could move around.
Since I was far along enough to stay they decided to move me to a birthing room and continue to monitor from there. It was about 45 minutes later that they finally got they results they needed for me to be taken off the monitor and move around.
After finally being taken off the monitor, I met my nurse, Ellen, and saw my midwifes Ellen (there was also another nurse named Lindsay and my middle name is Ellen!) and Tanya as they came on duty. Of all the midwives at Gifford, Ellen was the only midwife we hadn’t met. She had just rejoined back to Gifford after being away for 10 years (she had been at Gifford for 15 years prior to that). I was surprisingly not concerned with not knowing her and that she would be the one to actually guide my labor and eventually catch my baby. I instantly felt comfortable with her and confident in her abilities to follow my birth plan as closely as possible.
After having met everyone, we were given the opportunity to order breakfast. Our nurse (Ellen) gave us a breakfast menu and we ordered toast, fruit, and homefries to get us fueled for the journey ahead. After that my birth team would come and go and checked on me as needed. For the most part, Sarah(our doula), Neil, and I were left alone to work through each contraction. At times one of my midwives would just come and sit in the rocking chair or on the birthing ball and watch as I worked through each contraction, providing guiding words and encouragement as needed.
Our breakfast eventually came and I ate in between contractions as they grew stronger and stronger. I tried laboring in a few different positions and eventually found the one that worked best for me was standing up with my feet pointed out, lunging side to side while supporting my upper body by leaning over the side of the bed. During each contraction I went back to all of those prenatal yoga classes that I had taken and focused on my breath and breathing into the areas of discomfort. Whenever I felt myself start to tense up I would flutter my lips (or, as Neil likes to call it, I would make horse lips) to loosen myself up. I just kept going back to what Susan, my prenatal yoga instructor, would say about how this action would loosen the pelvic floor and although I felt silly practicing this fluttering of the lips during yoga it was just what I needed to do during labor.
I labored in this lunging position for around 3 hours with members of my birthing team (Neil, Doula Sarah, Nurse Ellen, Midwife Ellen, and Midwife Tayna) helping me through each contraction. I stuck with the same rocking motion for pretty much the entire time with help of other measures such as Sarah pressing on my lower back or Neil and Sarah wrapping a scarf around my hips and each pulling on one side, which helped to open my hips and relieve some of the pain by placing pressure on my lower back. My nurse and midwives (and of course Neil and Sarah) were there to provide encouraging words and remind me to go back to my breath and that there was always an end in sight even when the contractions didn’t seem like they’d ever stop. Neil was also making jokes and working to make me laugh and smile. If there was one thing that helped me the most during labor, it was not losing my sense of humor. Laughing helped to distract from the pain of the contractions and made the room feel warm and created a positive space to labor and birth my baby.
Around 9:30am I went to the bathroom and returned to the bed to continue to labor with the rocking lunges and I started to feel a trickle down my leg. Midwife Ellen, who was sitting in the rocking chair behind me, asked if it could be possible that my bag of waters had broken. And indeed they had. Midwife Ellen expressed some concern that my waters were somewhat brown. She couldn’t tell if it was a result of old blood or if it was meconium. My midwives suggested that I move into the shower so that I could labor in the warmth and water to help with the pain of the contractions (as an alternative to the birthing tub). This also made it so that I could wash myself before being checked to help in preventing infection. Neil changed into his swim trunks and joined me as I leaned over the support bar in the shower and he rubbed my back. We smiled and laughed and joked some more as I worked through every contraction. Sarah would come in from time to time to help provide encouraging words and support. By this point contractions were coming on top of each other and I started to ask why they (the contractions) wouldn’t give me a break. But, quickly, I would go back to my breath, my fluttering lips and low moans.
At 10am Midwife Ellen said she would like to check my progress and I was toweled off and made my way to the bed to be checked.
At 10am Midwife Ellen checked my progress and found that I was 7cm and 90% effaced. I was now moving into transition and was encouraged to try a new position to labor in- squatting. The birthing ball was rolled over to the side of the bed, a sheet placed over it and there I was naked besides my bra laboring on the birthing ball in a supported squat. I used the side of the bed for support to lean over during contractions and eventually found myself reaching out for Neil’s arms across the bed.
Things started to get really intense very quickly and the sensation of the contractions was at times almost unbearable, but I knew I could do it- I had to do it. I tired to focus on my breath, making low noises and fluttering my (horse) lips. Each time I would find myself starting to lose control asking “Why aren’t they here yet” I would be reminded that the contraction would eventually end and I would get a break. I kept talking to myself, telling myself “it will be fine”, repeating it over and over and over again.
At one point I remember making these low groaning noises and I could tell Neil was doing his best not to laugh but I knew I sounded funny and I told him that he could make monster sounds with me too if he wanted. This made us both break out into laughter and I successfully made it through yet another contraction.
As each contraction came on stronger, my desire for it to end became more intense. Eventually, I started to groan that I just wanted them out and “why weren’t they out yet!?”. My midwives reminded me that I need to focus on my breath and try making low “O” sounds which eventually turned into me chanting “ouuuuuuuuut” over and over again. Sarah reminded me to soften around the baby during each contraction and so I started a new chant repeating “soften around the baby” over and over again.
Although I kept trying to smile and laugh the intensity of each contraction was wearing on me and eventually it felt like I just wasn’t getting a break. Each contraction I would close my eyes tight, grab on just above Neil’s wrist and work through each contraction. At one point Neil needed to take a pee break and Sarah moved from pressing on my back and took over his position across the bed. Contractions were coming hard and quick at this point and although I knew Neil was in the washroom I couldn’t help but ask where he was, I just knew I needed him across from me. He quickly finished and came back to his position and I yelled (okay maybe demanded) for Sarah to get back to my back.
Shortly after this I started to feel the “urge to push”. I put this in quotes because I really felt like I need to have a bowel movement. I went through three more contractions feeling this intense urge before I finally turned to Sarah and told her that “I feel like I need to poop.” She asked if I was feeling the urge to push and I told her yes. She looked over and told Midwife Ellen that I was feeling the urge to push and Ellen said I should see if I was still feeling that way after a few more contractions. I told her that I had felt this urge for the last four contractions and then I went through one more. Midwife Ellen then had me get up in the bed to be checked and she found that I was fully dilated (10 cm) and 100% effaced. Now was when I could finally start pushing.
At around 11:30am, I finally started the last part of my birthing journey…the pushing. Little did I know that this would be the most challenging part of the entire birth experience. At this point I had been up for nearly 28 hours with only one hour of sleep, my body was tired, my mind was tired, but I knew I had to push on (literally and mentally).
The front of the birthing bed was lowered and the squat bar was brought out. I started off my pushing in an upright squat, using the bar as support. The initial sensation was incredibly uncomfortable, awkward and new, but I knew there was no turning back. I pushed slowly at first getting used to the new sensation, reminding myself to use my core to push and reminding myself to take a breath in between pushes (well everyone else around me also reminding me that I needed to take a breath). At the end of each contraction I relaxed back, making sure to relax my entire body as I prepared for the next contraction and the next round of pushes.
After about 30 minutes of pushing in an upright squat I was getting exhausted so the midwives had me try a new position. A sheet was put over the top of the squat bar and I put my feet up on either side of the bar to put myself in a reclined squat position. Each contraction I would wrap the ends of the sheet around each of my hands, curl myself over my baby (thankful that Sarah kept reminding me to do so) and push with all my strength. The contraction would end and I would fall back, relaxing my shoulders, my face, and my body as much as I could as I waited for the next contraction.
I pushed in this reclined squat for awhile and then was asked if I would be interested in trying pushing on my hands and knees, the thought being that gravity would help bring the baby down. The back of the bed was put almost up right for me to grab on to the top and I got on my knees, when the contraction came I started to push down, but I quickly wanted to come out of the position. I was uncomfortable, it hurt more than the reclined squat and I just didn’t like it. The midwives and nurse encouraged me to keep trying it and at least finish this contraction. Reminding me that in each new position that I tried I would encounter a new sensation and that it would take a few contractions to get used to it.
I went back to my breathing and kept reminding myself that there was no turning back and that I was trying this new position to get our baby down and out as fast as I could. I pushed through a few more contractions in this position before I finally couldn’t take it anymore and moved back to upright squat for a few contractions before I finally went back to the reclined squat, which was the most comfortable for me.
At some point, I think about an hour and fifteen minutes, into pushing, Midwife Ellen checked on my progress and found that the baby was about one inch from crowning. This meant absolutely nothing to me. All I could think of was an inch? How long is that going to take? I knew there was no point in asking because I would either be given a time and be concerned if it didn’t happen in that amount of time or they wouldn’t be able to tell me anything at all. Instead, I focused on breathing, pushing and psyching myself up at each contraction to push this baby out. I reminded myself that it would take as long as it had to but that I need to make sure I took advantage of each contraction and pushed with all my might.
After another 30 minutes or so, I was told the baby was almost crowning. This is when I knew I was getting closer. I was looking forward to hearing that s/he was crowning and I kept in mind the “ring of fire” sensation that I had read about. After around four or five more contractions I started to feel the ring of fire sensation and I knew that I was close, this was the motivation that I needed to finish pushing.
Once the baby was finally crowning Midwife Ellen took over coaching/guiding me through the last few pushes. At my next contraction, I made sure to bare down as much as possible and pushed, took a breath, pushed again and five breaths/pushes later I felt this incredible sensation and my baby was out and on my stomach while Midwife Ellen cut the cord. After that she was quickly whisked away by the pediatrician to be assessed because of the meconium in my waters.
Neil went over to the warmer to reveal the sex of our baby (IT’S A GIRL!) and to cut (trim) the umbilical cord- we both loved this since he wasn’t able to cut the cord initially due to the urgency of having her checked. She held onto his finger as he watched the pediatrician check her out. He found that everything looked good, with no worries of her ingesting the meconium into her lungs. She was returned to my chest and I was ecstatic to have her on me. Neil then whispered in my ear that he knew which name he thought was perfect for her (at this point we had narrowed it down to two girls names and had decided to wait until the birth to choose a girls name). I looked at him and told him I had decided as well and asked him to share his choice first that’s when he said Edith and I was delighted because that is what I had decided as well.
We announced the name and honestly I don’t remember much else after this just that I had my first breastfeeding attempt after about 30 minutes and was able to hold my baby on my chest for the first two hours before she was weighed and given her first bath by her daddy (with guidance by Nurse Ellen). Then Neil had his turn at skin to skin contact with the baby- and I watched, falling more in love with both of them.
My Reflection on the Birth:
I had nothing short of an amazing birth experience. I attribute my amazing experience to staying active during pregnancy, prenatal yoga, hiring a doula, choosing the care providers that were right for us and having an amazing husband who was supportive through my entire pregnancy and the birthing of our daughter.
Check out Edith’s Birth Story from our doula’s perspective here.