7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29
This was Julia’s due date, but since only 30-35% of babies are born by their due date, we didn’t have any expectations. Josh and I had a lovely last dinner out at Les Zygomates and went home to bed. But I was hyper and didn’t get to sleep until after 1:00 a.m.
3:00 a.m. Friday, June 30
I awoke with a start when I felt my water break. I managed to go back to sleep for half an hour, but woke up to another trickle and subsequent gush at 3:30. Of course I was panicked at the thought of going through labor on two hours of sleep, so I couldn’t get back to sleep after that. But I let Josh sleep so at least one of us would have our wits about us later. I finally gave up and Josh and I both got up around 5:00.
6:00 a.m. Friday, June 30
I started having contractions – I could tell they were different from the Braxton Hicks (“practice”) contractions I’d been having earlier because they were accompanied by lower back pain and some front crampiness, whereas the Braxton Hicks had just felt like a tightness. However, they weren’t really painful. I had a high-protein breakfast and called my midwife as instructed when the birth center opened at 8:00. She recommended I take a Benedryl, which got me another four hours of much-needed sleep, and told me she would call back in the afternoon if she hadn't heard from me by then.
1:00 p.m. Friday, June 30
I got up feeling much more rested, had lunch, and started trying to clean up a few projects around the house that I’d been in the middle of. My contractions were lasting about 60 seconds but were irregularly spaced, coming every 6-10 minutes. Josh and I worked on different relaxation positions during contractions and I found what worked best was for me to lean forward against something and for Josh to give a hard massage to my lower back. After a few hours, though, the contractions seemed to be getting lighter and farther apart. I realized I needed to stop working on the household projects and focus on labor, especially since my water had broken more than 12 hours ago, and the chance of infection increases the longer your membranes are ruptured before birth.
6:00 p.m. Friday, June 30
The increased focus worked and by 6 p.m. I was having contractions every 4-6 minutes. The intensity had increased and required a lot more concentration and much harder back rubs. The birth center’s instructions said to call once contractions were 5 minutes apart and you couldn't talk through them. I could still talk during contractions, although I didn’t really want to. We called the midwife around 8:30, when the contractions were more like 3-4 minutes apart – I was kind of hung up on the fact that I could still form words during the contractions (perhaps there should be a distinction between talking during the contraction and talking through the contraction), so I didn’t call until it really felt like time. Josh gathered our stuff to leave for the birth center.
10:00 p.m. Friday, June 30
We met the midwife at the Birthplace. I was fully effaced (the cervix was flattened out) and 5 cm. dilated (halfway), so our timing was quite good. The contractions were increasingly painful and I was happy to be at the birthplace where I had access to a warm Jacuzzi. After a while in the tub we got out and moved around to be sure I was still making progress. Within a few hours I was at 7-8 cm. and got back in the tub to begin transition, the last phase of labor before pushing. Transition is the part of labor you see on TV when women scream obscenities at their husbands, but I was actually pretty nice, although the pain had gotten pretty severe and I was having trouble relaxing. If anything I was thinking, “whose genius idea was it to do this without drugs!?” but by 2 or 3 a.m. Saturday I was fully dilated and ready to push.
2:30 a.m. Saturday, July 1
With only the relatively brief pushing stage left to go (usually between 30 minutes and 2 hours), I was feeling really good that I had made it through the hardest part. I confess I was looking forward to saying “I told you so” to all those doomsayers who had told me their labor horror stories and implied that I was crazy to try to do it naturally (you know who you are). But as I pushed and pushed, the baby did not descend. We learned that the back pains I had been experiencing were not a normal part of labor, but that I was having back labor as the baby had turned posterior. Babies are supposed to be facing their mothers’ spines so they can bend easily to get through the pelvis. If they’re turned the other way, their head presses against your spine, causing the back pain, and it’s difficult for them to get around the pelvic bones. Think about how much easier it is to pull on a turtleneck if you tuck your chin down than if you tilt your head back and try to go through forehead first, and you’ll get the idea.
The back labor made the pushing stage extremely painful, and my pushing got weaker as I became increasingly tired. We decided that I should try resting for an hour to get back some strength, and hopefully also bring the contractions a little closer together to help the baby turn. I tried to rest and breathe through the contractions but many of them were much too strong and I had to try and push, so I didn’t get any sleep. I resumed pushing, but after all that time, when the midwives checked, the baby had not budged.
8:00 a.m. Saturday, July 1
The midwives could also now see evidence of meconium, the baby’s first bowel movement, in the amniotic fluid. Babies will sometimes pass meconium during labor rather than waiting until they are born, and the fear is that they may inhale some of it. As we were making no progress, and it had been 29 hours since my water broke, we decided to go to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The midwife suggested that a pitocin drip (the drug used to induce labor) might strengthen and regularize the contractions, which could help the baby turn anterior. I knew that with back labor and as exhausted as I was, there was no way I could face increased contractions without some pain relief, so I decided to have an epidural as well, which would have the added benefit of allowing me to relax.
We arrived at Newton-Wellesley and I was given an IV, and as soon as I had taken in enough fluid and they had tracked down an anesthesiologist (this took until 9:00) they started the epidural. By the next contraction I could tell the difference, and my memories of the last 6 hours began to fade immediately. I slept for an hour – hooray! – and awoke with much more energy. Then they started the pitocin drip and my midwife turned me to one side to encourage the baby to rotate in the proper direction.
11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 1
When the midwife was ready to check the baby’s position, she said if it had not changed we would have to “discuss other routes,” which we all knew meant a C-section. I gave a few pushes and she felt the baby’s head descend, now anterior! It turned out afterwards that no one (even Josh) had believed, except possibly for the midwife who suggested the idea, that the pitocin and epidural would actually work as intended and prevent a C-section in my case. Fortunately, they kept their mouths shut about it until afterwards, so I did not get discouraged.
With the increased rest and decreased pain, I was a much better pusher the second time around as well. I asked for a mirror so I could see the baby’s head and seeing the progress I was making really helped motivate me.
1:31 p.m. Saturday, July 1
Although it seemed slow at first, and I began to tire about halfway through the second pushing stage, everything went very quickly at the end as we watched the head crown and saw the baby born. At 1:31 p.m. we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!
Despite the deviations from our ideal plan, I felt that we had a very positive experience. We were involved in all the decision-making, and we both felt that we had really worked hard and tried all the alternatives before resorting to interventions. Fortunately, the interventions worked exactly the way they are supposed to – moving the labor along and preventing a C-section – rather than interrupting the normal course of labor and leading to one. After all that work to push her out, I had to believe that I could do it, and I did! That was the most satisfying part of all – knowing that I had pushed the baby out under my own power. It was really a great experience.
The doctors whisked Julia out, suctioned out the meconium, and kept her for observation for an hour to make sure she was in good health. Then they brought her back to the room and I fed her and the nurse started to do a bathing demonstration. Unfortunately she chose that moment to forget to breathe. “Newborn babies forget to breathe all the time,” said the nurse before sending Julia off to the special care unit, “this one just made the mistake of doing it in front of a nurse.” That got her 48 hours of observation in special care, but the neonatologists were clear that they weren’t concerned about her, they were just being cautious. And we visited her frequently and nursed her whenever she was hungry.
2:00 p.m. Monday, July 3
Julia was deemed perfectly healthy and was allowed to leave the hospital just shy of her 48 hour deadline. She is perfect and in perfect health!