#2: Getting a Garden Start
Location: Richmond, VA
How pregnant: 39 weeks, 4 days
Baby number: 1
Hours in labor: 12 total (from initial cramping), 7-8 active (from when I called the midwife/was certain it wasn’t prodromal/false labor)
Delivery type: Unmedicated vaginal firth without intervention
Did you have a birth plan?
I had a very detailed birth plan including contingencies (i.e. situations in which I would be OK with an IV, epidural, vacuum/forceps, cesarean, etc). My plan was written on paper and packed in my hospital bag. I had also discussed it with my care provider (a midwifery practice) prior to going into labor. Ever since I saw the documentary The Business of Being Born I knew that I wanted an unmedicated midwife assisted birth and I became fascinated with learning as much as I could about physiological, unmedicated childbirth.
When did you know you were in labor? Where were you and what were you feeling physically?
I had suspicions that I may be in early labor around mid-day because I had lost a large piece of my mucous plug (which I had been shedding over the previous few days). I also had what I would describe as noticeable cramping but I had also been having it occasionally during the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy. It wasn’t until I sat down and timed my “cramps” (in the Lawn and Garden section of Target) that I realized they were coming at regular intervals. Even though my cramps/contractions were regular I still thought it was possible that I was experiencing prodromal labor. I realized it was likely the real thing a few hours later when I was no longer able to carry on regularly in conversation and other daily tasks.
What did your doctor/midwife say when you called?
I called my midwife at around 8pm after returning home from dinner with my husband. I had insisted we go get some food because I wanted to “do life” for as long as possible before the birth and also because I knew I might need some calories if I was heading into a long labor. I realized during dinner that I was almost certainly in active labor because I couldn’t really eat the food I ordered and conversation with the waiter was terse at best. My midwife advised me that it was likely early labor and to have a small glass of wine (if I wanted one) and try to get some rest. I also called my doula at that time to give her a heads up.
What happened before you went to the hospital?
I knew I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible because it was a comfortable, safe environment and the less time I spent in the hospital, the less likely I was to have a medically unnecessary intervention. I tried to drink the wine my midwife suggested but after months of abstinence it tasted like rubbing alcohol. I also tried to rest/sleep but my contractions were too intense, frequent to get any sort of meaningful rest.
I labored upstairs in my bedroom for several hours, changing positions frequently. I was on my hands and knees on the bed and on the birth ball on the floor while my husband and dog calmed me during contractions. I was listening to a Joni Mitchell station on Pandora which I had aggressively forced my husband to create mid-contraction. When I stopped being able to speak during contractions and instead began tapping my hand on the bed to cope with the intensity of the contractions my husband and I agreed to call the doula and have her come to the house. She stayed with us at the house for about 2 hours before we headed to the hospital.
When did you decide to go to the hospital? What was that trip like?
There came a point where my contractions were so intense that I was literally crawling around on the bathroom floor trying to find any sort of position that would provide some comfort but they just kept coming with incredible intensity and very little break. At this point I was also experiencing a good amount of bloody show. My husband called the midwife because he was convinced it was time to go to the hospital. I was so immersed in my own labor that I wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting through each wave of contractions. The midwife asked to speak to me but my husband gave the phone to the doula instead since I was unable to speak. She quickly assessed the intensity of the situation by talking to the doula/overhearing my contraction in the background and advised us to come in.
By this point I had no idea how far along I was into my labor but I remember telling my husband and doula that maybe I was wrong and maybe I couldn’t do it without an epidural. At this point my doula knew I must be in transition (8-10cm). She reassured me that I could do it--I WAS doing it. Her saying that helped me to focus and hold it together as we made our way to the hospital.
It took us about 30 minutes to get from the bathroom upstairs into the car parked out front because of the intensity and frequency of my contractions. When we got out to the car I began to feel the urge to push. Fortunately the hospital was only 8 minutes away but it felt like we were in the car for much, much longer.
Once you got to the hospital, what happened first?
When we got to the hospital (around 2am) it was practically deserted but I was somehow offered a wheelchair multiple times. I remembered that walking was good for getting the baby to descend and I was also too uncomfortable to sit so I adamantly refused. Instead, I stubbornly walked the whole (incredibly long) way, stopping to lean up against the wall or my husband with each contraction. At one point a well-meaning nurse tried to ask me if I was ok and all I could muster was a glare in her general direction.
When we got up to L&D I was asked to fill out a ridiculous amount of paperwork despite having “pre-registered.” I was so far into my own world/labor that it was really difficult to complete the task and I felt like the reception desk had no idea how quickly I needed to get into a room. I was told to wait in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity. I was literally on my hands and knees on the waiting room chairs when I felt the intense urge to push/poop which I loudly expressed to everyone in the room (which fortunately was just my husband, my doula and the bewildered receptionist). Finally, my midwife and her nurse emerged from the double doors to lead me back to a room.
What did contractions feel like?
At first contractions felt like menstrual cramps and over time they grew progressively more intense. Later in labor the cramping is so intense that it feels like the type of cramping you get when you have a stomach flu but even stronger and over a wider region.
Once in your room, what happened next? Was it what you expected?
On the way to the room they had me stop at a scale to weigh me which at the time felt like a ridiculous, unnecessary thing to do given the state of affairs. When we got to the room they also tried to make me pee in a cup which I was unable to do at all. In fact, I couldn’t even get my skirt off--my husband had to do it for me. They hooked me up to a wireless monitor for all of 5 minutes while I swayed around the room and did a cervical check which revealed that I was complete (10cm) with a bulging bag of water.
I felt like I was about to give birth at any moment but my midwife said the baby was still at station 0. She asked if I wanted her to break my bag of water and I said no. She asked if I felt the urge to push and I said yes but that I was scared I would tear. She told me that I had two choices: I could either not push and stay where I was or I could give a big push and try to break my bag of water to help things progress. I decided I literally couldn’t be where I was any longer so I decided to give a big push on my next contraction.
I felt a strange sensation and gush which I assumed was just the bag of water breaking but I heard my midwife yell “THERE’S A HEAD” as she reached out bare-handed to catch my baby girl!! My husband and I (and the midwife, nurse and doula) were in a state of complete and utter shock and elation.
If labor was unmedicated for all or a portion of the time, how did you manage contractions? Was it what you expected?
Moving and walking was the most effective way for me to manage contractions. I changed positions repeatedly and when contractions got really intense I tapped onto the bed/wall/floor to get through each one. I also really appreciated the double hip squeezes that both my husband and doula did during my contractions.
What happened immediately after your baby was born?
As soon as my baby was born my midwife and the on-call nurse helped me into the bed where we did immediate skin to skin and my daughter latched and breastfed almost immediately. We remained skin-to-skin for about an hour and during this time I delivered my placenta and my midwife gave me two stitches for a minor tear. After about an hour they did the standard checks (i.e. weight, length, etc) by the bedside before we were transferred to a recovery room where we stayed for about 24 hours before heading home.
Anything else you want to add?
I had such a positive labor/birthing experience that when my daughter was one year old I decided to train to become a birth doula to help other women through labor and delivery.
I have gone on to have a second child in an another unmedicated midwife-assisted birth--this time at home!
Final question: How would you describe this delivery in one sentence?
My delivery was beautiful, intense, other-worldly and unexpectedly quick!
Do you want to share your story? Submissions are anonymous. Tell us the details here.