This post is the third in a series of positive natural birth stories that I will be publishing in the hope that more women will feel empowered to give birth just as nature intended, without intervention or medication.
At 41 weeks and 1 day (Tuesday), we had a sonogram for a biophysical profile and I got hooked up to monitors for 25 minutes to track her heart rate and see if I was having contractions — I was (so that’s what that funny feeling was…). Since she looked perfect, scoring 8 out of 8 on the biophysical profile and reacting normally to the tiny contractions I was having, Margi, our midwife, said she would let us keep going until Labor Day Monday (how ironic), which would be 42 weeks exactly. The plan was for me to come in for another check up on that Friday (41 weeks, 4 days) to be hooked up to all the monitors again, then if everything continued to look good I could wait until Monday to be induced.
Induction was not part of our plan, so Chris and I resolved to try everything possible to encourage little Nora to make an appearance on her own. I tried spicy food, caffeine, baths, drives on bumpy roads, watermelon, yoga, red raspberry leaf tea, eggplant, really long walks, climbing stairs, and a few other extracurricular activities that required Chris’ assistance. Basically, I tried – and proved wrong – every old wives’ tale out there. But “baby” was quite comfortable, so nothing worked. Thursday (41 weeks, 3 days), I felt very strange in the afternoon and finally thought that the day had come – I even left work 30 minutes early and called Chris home from work. I had contractions steadily for about 3 hours before they slowly died down.
Friday, I decided not to go into work and instead went on a 3.5 mile walk with our dog, hoping to get things moving. I skipped the doctor’s appointment, because I wasn’t interested in being hooked to anything and was too stressed out to drive 45 minutes to the doctor’s just to be reminded about the deadline. The receptionist who called me wasn’t to pleased about it, but by Friday I was just doing what I needed to do to stay sane. We went to a movie that night to take my mind off of the ticking clock.
Saturday (41 weeks, 5 days) was cohosh day. We went to the farm to get our vegetables and hung around lazily most of the morning. After talking to Liz, our doula, for about the 12th time that week, the plan was for me to try the cohosh Saturday night and then to move to castor oil and acupuncture Sunday morning, if nothing had happened. I figured being sick to my stomach from castor oil wouldn’t have been fun, but it would be better than being hooked to IV pitocin for 8 or more hours in a hospital on Monday and risking additional intervention. I took one teaspoon cohosh mixed in a little water at 7:30 pm. At 9:30, I did an hour or so of yoga to relax, including several rounds of squats, then at 10:30 I took another teaspoon of cohosh. I watched about 30 minutes of Raising Helen and then went to bed.
I slept through any early contractions but woke up at 4:30 am Sunday morning (41 weeks, 6 days) from contractions that were just uncomfortable enough to keep me from staying in bed. After Thursday’s false alarm, I decided to let Chris sleep and until I was sure it was the real thing. I watched the rest of the movie and messed around on my computer until about 6:30. At the point the contractions were about 7 to 10 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute long. I came downstairs, ate a bowl of cereal, and decided to take a nice long shower. At 7:00 am I woke up Chris and called Liz to give her the heads up that the cohosh had worked. I told Liz she didn’t need to come over yet because I could still handle the contractions and she told me to try to rest and to call her when I needed her. Chris and I relaxed on our bed for about an hour; he rubbed my back during contractions.
At 8:00 am, Chris made phone calls to all of our parents and to Margarete, my friend who was going to come to the birth. We finished packing our suitcases and went for a walk. After the walk, at about 8:30, I called Liz and asked her to come over. I told her not to rush, but that I felt like I was going to need her soon, then I swept the stairs and vacuumed the rug in the living room so she wouldn’t be so horrified by Pip’s fur (in retrospect, I now realize that probably means I wasn’t doing t0o bad with the contractions). Chris and I tried to lie back down, but that wasn’t working and I had to get on my hands and knees to be comfortable. Liz arrived a little after 9 am and we sat in the living room for a while so she could time the contractions, because we had stopped timing them. They were still irregularly spaced so she recommended that we start walking again. We walked up and down our street for about two hours. Some of the contractions I could walk through, others were painful enough that I had to stop and lean on Chris. During those contractions, Liz would apply counter pressure to my hips (“the double hip squeeze”) and a few of the neighbors came out of their houses to see if I was okay.
We came back to the house at about 11:30 and Chris made some edamame for me to snack on. I was really tired, but afraid to sit or lie down because I knew the contractions would hurt more. Liz was able to suggest a seated position that allowed me to rest, and she massaged my ankles with lavender oil between contractions, which was one of the most relaxing things ever. Chris made them lunch and shortly after noon he called Margarete down to hang out.
Seated on the couch, I was able to focus on breathing through each contraction. I kept my mind centered on the fact that the pain was intermittent and would be over soon; as long as no one spoke, I could get through each contraction easily enough. If someone talked, especially about me having contractions or how I was doing, it made the squeezing much harder to deal with. We fell into a rhythm of talking in the space between and quiet during each contraction. At the end of each one, Liz would tell me what a good job I was doing in a quiet, even tone; she was amazing at reassuring me that I was doing things right, which was something I needed at the time. By 1:00, my contractions were regular; they were 4 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute long. We decided to wait at home longer to establish the pattern for at least an hour; I was adamant that I was not going to spend any more time at the hospital than absolutely necessary.
Shortly after 2:00 I had a contraction that was so bad I couldn’t sit on the couch any more. Liz and Chris pulled me up to my feet and helped me through it – it lasted much longer than the others. After it was over, I went to the bathroom and thought that my water broke in the toilet. I came out and told Liz and she and Chris decided that it was time to go to the birthing center – perfect timing for me to go into transition. I thought I was going to be sick, so I stumbled back into the bathroom and got down on all fours with my forehead leaning against the tub. Chris called the answering service to tell the midwife and birth center we would be on our way, as Liz tried to help me move towards the door. The contractions at that point were pretty intense and I felt like they weren’t stopping – for a moment I really doubted whether or not I could keep going, but Chris and Liz managed to keep me moving.
Margarete had gone to get her Escalade and was waiting for us in the driveway when I finally managed to get out of the house, just before 2:30. She and Chris helped me up onto the backseat and I had my one stereotypical woman-in-labor moment: Chris was trying to make sure I was comfortable, I thought he wasn’t moving fast enough, and I told him to “get in the f-ing car”. Well, he moved faster after that, got in the car, and Margarete drove us the 40 minutes to the birth center, air conditioner blasting, me on hands and knees on the floor of the backseat, butt up in the air, trying not to push (possibly the hardest thing I tried to do during labor).
We arrived at the birth center shortly after 3:00 pm, about 10 minutes ahead of Liz, who had driven her own car, and Chris helped me walk in (barefoot), straight back to a room. I told the nurse, Lisa, that I needed to push as we walked, and lay down so she could examine me – just in time for my water to actually break all over her arm. I was 10cm dilated (just as we thought) and Suzanne, the midwife, had not yet arrived, so they called in the ER doctor. Liz and Margarete made it into the room and I pushed on my side and in classic “dead bug” for about 30 minutes until Nora was born at 3:47 pm.
About halfway through the pushing, they got a mirror for me so I could see everything. The coolest moment was when her head came out and she started crying immediately – before Suzanne even suctioned out her mouth and before the rest of her came out. Then, I pushed again, Suzanne had me reach down to help catch the baby, and I pulled Nora face down onto my stomach (her cord was really short). The movement to my stomach was so quick that no one knew whether she was a girl or a boy. So after a moment of “oh my god, it’s a baby,” Chris looked and told the whole room that we had a girl (he did so by looking up at Margarete and simply saying, “You were wrong,” because Margarete had been convinced that we were going to have a boy). We stayed like that with her on my stomach for about 10 or 15 minutes (until the cord stopped pulsating) and then Chris cut her cord and I pulled her up to my chest. I delivered the placenta and Suzanne brought it over to Chris and I so we could see it (so amazing) and she showed us all of its parts (and we have pictures but I won’t torture you with them here).
We hung out together for about 45 minutes or so, but then I let them take her to do all the newborn stuff that hospitals like to do, because I was shaking so much from all of the hormones and adrenalin, and they were stitching me up and pressing on my stomach (which was way worse than actually birthing the baby), that I was afraid I was going to drop her. Chris gave Nora her first bath and oversaw all of the weighing and measuring (we did do the vitamin K shot, but we skipped the eye cream).
After I was feeling more able to hold her, he handed her back to me so we could try nursing again (she didn’t really nurse right after birth).
The whole experience was so amazing and really empowering. There are definitely some things I would have like to have been different; a big one is that I wish I had had a midwife more trusting in the process, and that there had been less stress about getting labor started. I wish I hadn’t lain down to be checked, because once I did that, there was no getting up – even when Liz and Suzanne were suggesting it to me. It would have been great to have skipped the car ride and uncomfortable hospital bed and disgusting hospital food. But despite these things, I can easily say that Nora’s birthday was one of the best days of my life. I’m not just happy to have this amazing and wonderful daughter, I’m also happy to have had the experience of bringing her into the world, and have had the fabulous birth that we had.
And I can’t wait to get to do it again (though next time, it’ll be at home!).