Clare Rebecca was born at 4:42 PM on Sunday, July 29th, weighing in at 6lbs 9oz and measuring 19.75″ long. She was born after about 12 hours of active labor, and let me tell you how PLEASED I am about that, after hearing about first-time mothers being in labor for days.
It really started at around midnight on Friday, 5 days after my due date. I awoke with that feeling you get when your period starts in the middle of the night (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). I went to the bathroom, where I found that I had gotten my bloody show. I was pretty stoked about this, because I had read that, once you get it, you can expect to go into labor within about 72 hours. Hooray! The process had begun! I went back to bed a little giddy, and shortly thereafter I started having contractions, which felt like period cramps that were coming in a relatively rhythmic pattern. I actually hadn’t experienced any Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout my pregnancy, which made them even more exciting. They weren’t serious at all, and I eventually fell back asleep.
I woke up Saturday morning, and I was still getting the rhythmic contractions. They weren’t bad at all, and we decided to run some errands downtown. We had to pick up our wedding bands from the jeweler, and we wanted to get some lunch. Kevin was freaked out that my water was going to break in the middle of the restaurant, but I was pretty adamant that if I was going to be losing my babyless freedom within a few days, I was going to get some goddamned Indian buffet! So, we went to Masala. As we were walking back through the Ped Mall to the car, we had someone take our picture at the playground, to commemorate the occasion.
I laid down for a nap when we got home, and when I woke up, my contractions had stopped. I was a little disappointed, but we invited our friends Andy and JoAnn over for dinner and board games, and my contractions started up again sometime around 9pm, and continued on through the night.
I was woken up by more powerful contractions at about 4am Sunday morning. I laid in bed with them for a while, timing them with an app on my phone, and finally got up when I felt like I started needing to vocalize through them. They were 8+ minutes apart, but I wasn’t going to be sleeping through them any longer, and I wanted to let Kevin sleep longer. I went out into the living room and did hip rotations on my yoga ball and got excited on the internet. I also noticed that my pain mostly seemed to be in my back, so I did some reading on that and started doing some Abdominal Lift and Tucks with each contraction to help get the baby into position and tuck her chin. I think Kevin got up around 8am, and by that point my contractions were stronger and creeping closer together. At around 5 minutes apart, I texted my doula, Kaitlin, and she came over. At this point, I was having shorter, less-intense contractions between much stronger ones, and it felt best to me to be leaning face-first against the wall, rocking my hips while I moaned, through each contraction.
Once my contractions had been 3-5 minutes apart for a couple of hours, we decided it might be a good idea to go to the hospital. We called Labor & Delivery, and the nurse on the phone looked at our birth plan and actually suggested that we stay home a while longer. Since my contractions had gotten strong enough that I couldn’t do anything else while they were happening, we all figured it was time to go, so we went anyway. Contractions in the car weren’t the most fun, but they weren’t as horrible as I’d heard they’d be. I had one a few feet away from the nurse’s station on the way into the department, and the nurse who greeted me took me straight to a delivery room instead of the usual triage room for testing. I asked her about it, and she said, “Oh yeah, you’re not going anywhere.” I think we got checked into the hospital at around 10:30 or 11:00am.
Pretty much as soon as we got into the room, my contractions ramped up. It was as though my body knew I was in the place where I’d deliver, so it got down to business. I asked my midwife, Elizabeth Cook, to check my dilation at this point. My water hadn’t broken yet, so I wasn’t worried about introducing bacteria to the birth canal or anything. I had managed to labor at home to 5cm! That was exciting! I’d taken myself halfway on my own!
The time in labor after this point is sort of a blur. I know I tried laboring on a peanut ball for a contraction or two, and it was too big and not comfortable for me at all. I spent a little bit of time on a yoga ball, with Kevin or Kaitlin putting pressure on my lower back during contractions. After a while, I was pretty blind to anything going on around me, totally concentrating on the work I was doing.
At some point, I was convinced to try getting into the tub. We had to keep the water hotter than felt totally comfortable to me, between 95-99 degrees for the safety of the baby. Once inside the tub, I held support bars on either side of me in death grips while I swayed back and forth and bellowed in pain through my contractions. I’m sure I was quite loud, and I was told later that I looked a little like Stevie Wonder. This was definitely the hardest part of labor, with contractions the most painful, sometimes one on top of the other. At one point, I moaned that I couldn’t do it anymore, and that I needed a break. Kevin says that he was talking to the nurse, Carol, at this point, and they both agreed that I was in transition. Objectively, I thought I was too, but I was afraid that I was in an earlier stage of labor and that it was going to get worse from there. My midwife convinced me that I needed to get out of the tub and try laboring in the room for a while.
Here’s something nobody told me beforehand: any movement or change in position during active labor can bring on a contraction. So, when Elizabeth told me to get out, just turning my upper body to start getting out caused a contraction. This definitely made me afraid to move at this point, because the contractions were so strong. I eventually made it to my knees, and before I got up on my feet, the contractions changed. I was feeling like I needed to push during them. Actually, that’s not quite right: my body was automatically pushing. I cried out in worry about this, because I was afraid that I might not have progressed enough and that it was too early, that I might injure myself or the baby. Nobody else seemed worried about this, and I eventually made it back to the bed, after a pit stop on the toilet and several more contractions.
I asked Elizabeth to check my dilation (my water still hadn’t broken), although I warned her that I was worried that I wasn’t very far and that I had much longer to go. She checked me and I was fully dilated, 10cm! Hooray! Well, not hooray, but you know what I mean. At this point, my body was pushing by itself, and although contractions still hurt quite a bit, they were NOTHING like transition contractions. My body was doing real work, and pushing during contractions felt good, felt right. I felt like I was making progress. I labored in side-lying for a while, first on one side and then the other. It was on my left side, with someone holding my right foot for me to have pushing leverage, that my water finally broke. There was meconium in the fluid, which was a huge bummer, but we all kept chugging along.
Eventually I couldn’t be in side-lying any longer, because the baby was having non-reassuring heart tones, so Elizabeth suggested squatting at the end of the bed for a while. I squatted through several contractions, and through a few on a short stool. The midwife suggested she take a look with the flashlight to see if she could see the baby’s head, and that I might want to try pushing on the toilet for a bit. She couldn’t see much, so she asked me to get on my knees with my butt towards her so she could get a better look. She could see the baby’s head! At this point, she asked Kevin if he wanted to catch her, and handed him some sterile gloves. She was able to see about a quarter-sized area of the scalp, which quickly turned into a half-dollar. I was experiencing the “ring of fire” pretty hardcore at this point. I could feel her in my birth canal, and with every contraction and pushing, afterwards I could feel her slip backwards a little, which is normal (two steps forward, one step back is how they describe it). I was NOT HAVING THIS. The contraction after the “half-dollar”, I basically just kept pushing, and as Kevin said later, her head was out! He didn’t even have a chance to get his gloves on, he caught her!
Because of the meconium in the amniotic fluid, she needed to be suctioned out and checked over by the neonatal team immediately after birth, so we weren’t able to delay cord clamping until it stopped pulsating. Because I pushed her out so quickly, and the midwife thought she had way more time, they weren’t there waiting when she was rushed to the warmer, so Elizabeth actually hit the “Code” button to make them come more quickly, which freaked Kevin out. She ended up not having any complications from the meconium, and she was brought back to me quickly for some skin-to-skin time. We were able to attempt breastfeeding immediately, while I was being stitched up for my 2nd degree tearing by the midwife.
All in all, I had about 36 hours of labor, with about 12 hours of active labor. Not bad at all! I can’t say that I have any urge to do it again, and the past seven weeks have been a pretty trying time, but I love our daughter, and we’re a happy little family.
Welcome to the world, Clare!
(Yes, I know this is seven weeks late. Gimme a break.)