A few fun facts about me before we proceed: I was married at age seventeen and gave birth to my first son three months later. I had my next babe, a girl, two and a half years after that and I found myself a mother of two before I could legally purchase alcohol. My third little honey came along twenty two months after her sister. As a mom of three at twenty three, I felt like my days of pregnancy were well behind me. Surprise! Two years and one month later enter my most recent, and my last (I mean it this time) birth. This is where our story begins.
After previously being induced into labor three times, I was determined that my fourth (and probably last) birth was going to be as natural as possible. I drew up a nice juicy birth plan, complete with all my wishes and hopes for my dream labor and delivery! Things like laboring in the water, no pain medication, dim lighting, few people, and no interventions. Then after delivery, delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, breastfeeding right away, and delayed first bath. I spent my entire first trimester picturing how lovely it all would be! I spent my second trimester genuinely enjoying the pregnancy and all the attention my sweet little belly garnered. The third trimester arrived and I was honestly quite tired of being so large and uncomfortable. I was sure that my little son would arrive before his due date...after all he was measuring two cm larger than the norm!
At thirty eight weeks I began to despair that he would ever decide to be born! Two other mom's who's babies shared the same due date had had their babies already and I was impatient to see my son and not to be caught in pre-labor limbo any longer!
As the wife of an elementary school employee and the mother of a kindergartner, preschooler, and two year old, sickness is never far from my doorstep. At thirty eight weeks of pregnancy I caught a particularly vicious stomach virus that rendered me helpless and attached to the toilet for twenty four hours. Somewhere in between the vomiting and...other more unpleasant emissions, contractions began and seemed to be very regular. At five minutes apart I decided that it was truly labor and after calling in his mother to keep the kids, my husband drove me to the hospital. A more wretched car ride I had yet to experience.
Upon reaching the hospital and being escorted to the labor and delivery wing, my husband and I were stashed in a tiny triage room to await admittance. I was severely dehydrated and was given three bags of water through an IV and a shot of something to stop the nausea and vomiting. As I began to feel myself again, my contractions slowly became more spaced apart and then stopped completely. If you have ever been close to the end of pregnancy and more uncomfortable than you ever thought possible then you can imagine my dismay when the labor began to stall. After waiting in the small room for six hours the doctor finally showed up and preformed an exam to determine if the contractions I had were productive or not. My cervix, I was told, was seventy five percent effaced and two centimeters dilated with no change in the time we had been there.
It was at this point all my lovely plans for an intervention free birth went soaring out the window, and I admit it, schemed for a way to get some pitocin and perhaps an artificial rupture of membranes. I had been very uncomfortable for a month and in excruciating pain for a whole day so I made my excuses to myself. Although now I admit that I was definitely only considering my needs and not so much my little babies when I asked for my labor to be augmented. Fortunately (or unfortunately as I felt at the time) my doctor told me that he wanted me to go home and see if the labor would begin on its own. He told me that the last few weeks were really good for baby and it was preferable to let baby choose his birthday.
It was with great disappointment that we left the hospital and made all the calls letting people know there was no baby here yet. I do believe I cried a bit with bitter disappointment at being denied the opportunity to see my boy after all the waiting. Logically I knew it was for the best, but emotionally I felt cheated.
The next two weeks that followed came with thousands of calls and texts requesting how soon I thought I would be before I produced my child. My nerves felt raw as I monitored every single sign my body gave, whether it be a gas bubble or Braxton Hicks contraction, assuring everyone that it couldn’t be long now! Nothing was more exhausting then waiting for something to happen. Honestly I felt I was letting people down. First by having the “false alarm” and then by not going in to labor as soon as I hoped I would.
I went to my forty week doctor appointment, absolutely certain that I would never ever have this baby. I recall saying to my husband that I would be pregnant and uncomfortable forever. After the initial weight, blood pressure, urine check, I asked to be checked to see if two weeks of walking about and thousands of Braxton Hicks contractions had done anything. I also requested a cervical sweep, with the knowledge that it probably wouldn’t do any good since I was going to be pregnant for the rest of my life. The check proved me to be three centimeters and a little more effaced than before! At the end of the exam I asked when she would do the sweep and she replied that she had done it already! I hadn’t even noticed. Leaving the appointment I felt encouraged and hopeful that just maybe I would have this baby one day after all!
Since my sister had kindly offered to keep the kids for the afternoon, my husband and I grabbed lunch at Five Guys. To this day, that was the best burger I have ever eaten. Then we moseyed over to Walmart to go grocery shopping. I had a few contractions while shopping but none that I felt were important. Upon reaching home and putting away groceries, I had a few more; still nothing painful or intense.
The contractions began to hurt while I cooked dinner and I felt an inexplicable need to clean the dog’s food dish and scrub the kitchen floor, which I did while dinner cooked in the oven. Haha. All the signs were there but I refused to see them because of my previous “false” alarm. I ate a HUGE helping of dinner (BAD idea FYI) and began to time the contractions. I don’t think I actually realized I was in true labor until I couldn't stand to be around the kids and their noise. I needed to be alone. Seeking silence I went to my dark bedroom and suffered some pretty bad contractions there. None were further than eight minutes apart but none were uniformly five minutes apart either. I sat on the birth ball and rocked away the pain, alone in my room. After an hour of active labor, four hours after my cervical sweep, I alerted my husband of the need to get to the hospital. We were lucky my sister was still there or while waiting for someone to come, I would have had an accidental unassisted home birth.
Another FYI, if you are in active labor, do not sit in the front seat and suffer the contractions in silence. In retrospect I knew kneeling behind the passenger seat and holding on to it was the best way. But I was in transition and not thinking clearly through the pain, so I buckled in to the front seat. I suffered the now most wretched car ride of my life. Twelve minutes away from our destination I felt the urge to push and began to mentally prepare myself to delivering my boy myself. My husband punched the gas and we made it to the emergency room entrance in seven minutes. I dislike remembering my trip out of the car and through the emergency room. Those steps were so hard. I remember looking at all those sick people sitting there and telling myself that my baby couldn't be born in front of them. There was no safe place for me. I was vulnerable in the worst and best way a woman can be, and I was not in a safe place to birth my child. Panic is a good word to describe how I felt, as we rushed to get me up to the L&D floor. I was chanting in my head “Do not have him in the elevator” over and over as we made the elevation to the second floor. Through the doors of labor and delivery we sped and my husband said “we need a room NOW” to the man that met us for registration. And they rushed us into the closest room available.
The room was full of scurrying nurses, and the check in man, but my shoes we shucked off followed by my pants. One nurse attempted to usher me on to the bed and I recall telling her no emphatically. That was the last thing I said before birthing my son. On my own. Standing next to the hospital bed. With one push he was born. I caught him as he arrived and I will never forget how he felt in my hands. I was delirious with relief and the rush of hormones that overcome a mother who has just birthed her child. I am pretty sure I spoke things that didn't make sense like “This one is mine” and “I got him”. My husband laughed because I called our son like I would call volleyball during a game. Haha!
I lie on the bed and let the nurses rush about and clean stuff. I ignored them. Birth is messy (Do not stuff yourself with dinner before labor) and it is tempting to apologize a lot for all the yuck that comes out during it. But I told myself not to pay it any mind because I was giving my son the perfect place to spend his very first moments of his life earthside, on his mommy.
I declined when the nurse tried to put a hat on his head. I told her I needed to smell him. She gave me a weird look but left us alone.
Doctor finally showed up a few minutes later and asked me if it was alright to cut the cord. I expressed my wishes to wait until it was through pulsating and my wish was granted. My hubby cut the cord as he had for our other children. Then the doctor delivered the placenta. I was given a shot of pictocin in my leg, to help with the bleeding, so I was told. I could have done without that, but allowed it because I was focused on my newest baby boy. When I put him to my breast, he latched right away and I was so proud of him!
My little guy spent his first hour skin to skin with me. I requested that his first bath be delayed and his little checkup be done while I held him. I felt completely in charge of the proceedings.
So despite my very short and intense labor, I feel that the birth of my son and the hours following were just as they should be. And I have a kick butt story to tell him when he is grown. How he was almost born in the car, and then in the emergency room, and then in the elevator.
I would like to encourage any moms who are waiting in pre-labor limbo. Those last few weeks will pass I promise! Also a natural hospital birth can be achieved. Keep calm and trust your body and things will happen how they are meant to.