On Wednesday, I went for my last appointment with Jan, my midwife. I was a week overdue, so we decided to have her strip my membranes and release a syringe full of evening primrose oil in hopes of encouraging labor. By the time I was driving home at around 2:00, I was feeling rather crampy. Jonas fell asleep in the car on the way home, and after I carried him up to his bed, I sat down at the computer with my afternoon cup of cold coffee and milk. By then, the cramps had become very regular at about five minutes apart, but only 20 seconds long and not very strong. After a while, I called Ben, my mom and Jan, just to let them know what was going on, though I didn’t want them to come yet. Contractions lengthened to about 30 seconds and stronger, but nothing that caused me to stop during them. I did ask Ben to come home early because I was sure at this point that things were going to continue.
I got an early supper going so I’d make sure to eat before I was past the point of being able. Scrambled eggs and banana sourdough pancakes were on the menu. By the time I was flipping the pancakes, I had to stop during the contractions to breath, and I realized that they were coming a little closer and longer too. Fortunately, I still had an appetite when we sat down to eat, though if much more time had gone by, I probably would have missed the opportunity for a meal. After dinner, I went right upstairs for a shower and then I tried to lay down. I was starting to have to work with these contractions and couldn’t get rest, so I called Jan back at about 6:45, at which time contractions were a regular 3 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. My parents were on the way too.
While Ben took care of Jonas until my parents arrived, I headed back upstairs and sat on the birth ball at the end of the bed. Sitting felt so much better than laying in the bed! I was really surprised by the strength of these contractions now. I had to moan through them and rest in between, trying to fully relax my muscles. Ben came up periodically to check on me and my parents arrived shortly after. While I was proud of how I was managing on my own, I was grateful that Ben was now able to stay with me. I didn’t have the horrible, never subsiding, back labor that I had with Jonas, but the contractions were wrapping around to my back, and the strong pressure Ben applied on my lower back gave me some relief. I remember telling Ben, that if I’m not in transition, I don’t know what I’m going to do because this was hard. My body began shaking after some contractions, and at one point, I was sure I was going to throw up, but I managed to avoid that. All the signs were telling me that this had to be transition, yet I couldn’t believe it because it came so fast; just a couple hours earlier, I was eating dinner and managing fine!
Jan arrived a little after 8:00. She took one look at me and said, “maybe I should check you before I take the time to set up the birthing pool.” I was at nine centimeters! What a relief! That knowledge gave me renewed determination. Fortunately, we have a nice, deep tub in our bathroom, so we decided to use that instead. I desperately wanted the relief of the water on my heavy body. I remember a great exhale as I sunk into the bath, and I was able to let my muscles go a bit more than before. Upon hearing that I was almost fully dilated, I expected I’d be through transition in a few more contractions, especially once I was in the tub. But labor continued and got harder. I remember thinking, I don’t want to do this anymore, as the contractions came closer together, and I prayed for just a little break – just one contraction that didn’t come with such intensity, but they kept coming. It was very different from my labor with Jonas though, where I could barely even feel the contractions in my stomach because the pain of the back labor was so great. With Bridget, I could clearly feel each contraction coming on and building and then subsiding. I had a little more warning, a little more time to prepare, and that was helpful. After being in the bath for maybe 45 minutes, I started to feel a little pushy at the height of the contractions, and while I didn’t exactly bear down, it did feel good to just give a short little push without holding my breath as the contraction hit its peak. My water had not broken yet, which was holding things back a bit. Perhaps I was holding things back too. Jonas ended up having to be pulled out by vacuum extraction due to distress, and I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive about moving from first to second stage this time, since I never had the satisfaction and success of getting to push Jonas out on my own. What if I couldn’t do it? I tried to acknowledge this fear between the last couple contractions before I got out of the tub. I did not want to stay here in transition, I reasoned with myself. Pushing contractions would be welcome.
I got out of the tub to use the bathroom after a couple of these slightly pushy contractions and stayed there through two or three more of the same type. Jan was sitting in front of me holding my arms while Ben sat next to me on a stool and Tehmina, Jan’s assistant sat outside the door and continued to time the contractions. I remember holding onto Ben’s knee and pushing down on it during the contractions. Then came another contraction that was totally different, and almost instantaneously, before I even had a chance to breath, I felt a huge bulging and the head burning at the exit of the birth canal. I had not even given a push. I think I said “the head,” but I’m not really certain, and Jan said “Stand up!” As I did, my water broke all over the floor and the baby came flying out into Jan’s arms, crying loudly. There was no holding her back since I wasn’t pushing in the first place, and I just knew that the sudden force of this birth was going to cause a tear, something I was really hoping to avoid. I was in such shock, trying to comprehend what happened so quickly, I didn’t even reach for the baby until Jan said, maybe 15 seconds after she caught her, “here.” I sat back down and held her and talked to her and stroked her. Finally after a minute or two, I checked for the gender. Funny, when I held her, I wasn’t even interested in knowing, but then I thought, “oh yeah, I should find out if it’s a girl or boy,” almost out of obligation or something. I was a little surprised to find that we had a daughter, and I said, “Grandma Cindy got her girl.” A minute or two later the placenta slid out into the toilet on its own.
I asked Tehmina if she’d let my parents and Jonas know they could come up. Jonas took one look at the state of the bathroom and the strange creature in my arms and decided he wanted nothing to do with the situation. It was not until the next day that he really started showing interest in her, and now he seems to think being a big brother is pretty cool.
Bridget was born at 9:47 PM on May 27th after a total of seven hours of labor, from start to finish. She came out very healthy and alert, and started rooting after just a couple minutes. She latched right on and nursed for at least an hour on and off. She proved to be a good nurser throughout the night. As Jan and Tehmina cleaned up the bathroom, Bridget, Ben and I laid in bed, and then Jan came to suture me – the least pleasant aspect of the evening. But I thought, besides the tear, this birth was just about perfect, so I cannot complain. This time, we got to stay home for the whole birth, next time we can work on avoiding a tear.
Jan told my mom that she had never experienced a birth quite like this one.