On Friday, January 22, I went to my regularly scheduled midwife appointment. I was dilated to 4 cm and baby girl was sitting pretty low in my pelvis, but I hadn’t started having any contractions. After an entire pregnancy of keeping my blood pressure controlled it was finally elevated enough that the midwife and I talked about our options. She said I could a) head over to L&D and have the baby that night, or b) go home and rest and keep checking it. Before I left she stripped my membranes hoping that it would send me into labor on my own that afternoon. It was such a difficult decision to make! On the one hand, I was so tired of being pregnant and the thought of getting to meet our little girl that day was so tempting! But, on the other hand I had been hoping and praying that I would be able to go into labor on my own and do most of it at home. I was hoping to achieve my first natural labor, too. David and I talked about the pros and cons of both options. To have control of the situation, including getting to choose which midwife I would deliver with was a big plus. On the other hand, if I were to be induced it might eliminate my chances for a natural labor. After going home and giving it hours of consideration, and still no sign of labor starting, I called the midwife and let her know that we were just going to wait it out.
For the rest of the day Friday, and all day Saturday I didn’t have any contractions, but did have lots and lots of cramping due to the stripping of my membranes. I felt icky and was discouraged because I was really hoping that I would have gone into labor afterward just like I did with Benjamin. Along with the cramping I was also losing my mucous plus. A good sign, but still no signs of true labor. Also, my blood pressure continued to stay elevated. Finally, after worrying over it all day I decided to call the midwife. She instructed me to go to the hospital to be monitored. We were sure that this was it. We packed our bags thinking that there was no way they would send me home with high blood pressure. I was excited to be going to have the baby, but disappointed that I didn’t get to go into labor on my own. I was also a bit apprehensive to be starting the process out so late at night. I was already so tired. How was I going to endure laboring all night and attempt a natural birth with an induction?
We arrived at the hospital around 10 pm. Once they got me settled in and started checking my blood pressure we were shocked to see that it was perfectly normal! We could not believe the difference in readings. The midwife came and talked to us and said she really couldn’t justify inducing my birth at 38.6 weeks pregnant, and with no current problems. Had I been a day later she probably would have gone ahead with it. What a roller coaster! For the second time we were so close to having this baby! And, once again we were flooded with mixed emotions about it all. I was sad to not be meeting my baby soon and frustrated that we would now have two hospital admissions for insurance to deal with. But, I was certainly glad to get to go home and sleep in my own bed and glad for the chance to go into labor naturally. I got dressed and we headed back down the long hall not sure when we would be back again. By the time we left the hospital after midnight we were pretty hungry so we stopped and got ourselves a “second dinner” at Whataburger and ate it on the way home!
Sunday morning, January 24, I awoke with a different attitude. I decided to stop thinking that each day “would be the day”. Because we were out so late the night before we planned on skipping church and made it a laid back family day at home. We played and talked as a family in the play room with the sun beaming in through the windows. It was a nice morning and I felt so content. Around 10 am I noticed that I was having some contractions. They weren’t painful, but were definitely more than Braxton Hicks contractions and they were coming about every 10 minutes. I tidied up a bit around the house to see if they would keep coming and they did. At lunch I casually mentioned to David that I was having some contractions, but not to get his hopes up. I took an afternoon nap and was so disappointed to wake up 45 minutes later and discover that the contractions had all but stopped. I knew I didn’t want to go on like this all night long wondering if it was the real thing so I suggested that we all go on a walk when Benjamin got up from his nap. I timed the contractions as we were walking. They quickly progressed from 10 minutes apart at the beginning of the walk to 3 minutes apart by the time we returned about an hour later. At this point they were lasting 30-60 seconds, but I could still walk and talk through them. They were uncomfortable, but not terribly painful.
Such a terrible picture of me! But, hours before having a baby!
While David was taking care of the boys’ dinner I stayed in our bedroom and rolled on the exercise ball while watching tv to keep myself distracted. I hadn’t really been keeping David updated because I really didn’t want either of us to get too excited about anything. We had already had two close calls! It wasn’t until a couple of the boys ended up in our room during a contraction and I felt irritated by them that I realized things were starting to pick up. I headed out to the kitchen to tell David that it would be a big help if he could keep them out of the room and a few minutes later he came to keep me company. At this point my contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes and were increasing in intensity. I busied myself with packing a few last things and asked David if he had ever watched the youtube videos I’d sent him about comfort measures during child birth. He hadn’t but he quickly pulled them up and watched them while I sought relief on the ball. He was a fast learner because as soon as he started applying pressure to my lower back in the way that the videos instructed I felt so much better! It was about 6 pm now and David was getting a little concerned that we needed to leave soon. I, however, was just waiting for the contractions to get more painful! Wasn’t I supposed to wait until I couldn’t walk or talk through them? At his urging I decided it was probably best to give my mom a call since, after all, it would take her 45 minutes to get to our house.
By the time my mom arrived I was in a lot more pain. We were completely ready to walk out the door when she got there and that is basically what we did! After a quick “hi”, a contraction, and a “bye” we were on our way to the hospital to have a baby! In the car I had a much harder time getting comfortable, but the contractions eased off to 3 minutes apart. David wheeled me down the long L&D hallway and we began the process of getting admitted…again. My contractions were still 1-2 minutes apart and I was needing to stop talking and find something to lean on during them. They had me get into bed so that they could monitor the baby and my blood pressure for about 20 minutes. I could not get comfortable there and was looking forward to when I could get up and walk around again. Sure that I was dilating fast, I was anxious for the midwife to check my cervix. So you can imagine my disappointment when she said I was a 5. After all of those contractions! A 5 really!? I thought for sure that now I was doomed to be laboring for a long time in the hospital which I had tried so hard to avoid. Shortly after being checked my water broke on its own! This was a first for me, and made quite a mess when I eventually got out of the bed!
While getting checked in to our room I mentioned to them that I would like to attempt a natural birth and that I was interested in using the tub. So in between contractions the nurse walked us even further down the hall to the tub room where she had the bathwater already drawn. The water was warm and oh so relaxing! Upon getting in I immediately felt some relief. David was still giving great pressure on my back during contractions and I was still talking and happy in between. I figured that they would check my cervix again and if I wasn’t progressing as fast as I would like I might get out of the tub. I still wasn’t 100% sure I would make it without the epidural so I figured I would still have the chance to get one if the pain got to be too much. It was 7:15 pm. I asked David if the bag with our speaker for music was in the room and he said that it wasn’t and that he would go get it.
The tub! We thought it resembled a space ship!
While he was gone the contractions really increased in intensity. Part of this was probably due to the fact that I didn’t have my partner to give such great support. The midwife applied pressure to my back for several contractions, but it just wasn’t the same. She suggested that I turn from my hands and knees onto my back so that I could spray warm water on my abdomen. It was during this turn that everything changed. I only made it to my side before the pain became searing. It was all I could do to just lay there, hanging onto the side handles of the tub, with my eyes closed. I was also becoming quite vocal at this stage. I was already doing great with my breathing. It felt quite natural to take deep breaths in and slowly breathe them out. But, Katie, the midwife, instructed me to make low-pitched moans with my voice instead of high-pitched squeals. This helped tremendously! And, several times, when I forgot and began to squeal again she would say, “No. Mmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm.”, and I would get back on track. It was at this point that David came back into the room. He later said that it was then that he knew everything had changed. He tentatively asked me if I still wanted the music to which I quickly shot back at him a definite “No!” A few more minutes passed with David giving pressure on my back and me making cow-like noises with my eyes closed in the tub. I was still on my side, and all of a sudden I felt an extreme urge to push. I let Katie know and she did a quick check of my cervix. “Yes you do! You’re dilated to 10!” I could not believe it! So many thoughts were swirling in my head! Wait…this was really happening. There was no going back. It was time to push and I was going to have this baby in the tub. Now. Without an epidural!
Somehow I got positioned on my back and held on for dear life to the tub handles and PUSHED! It hurt like the dickens! But, the most remarkable thing about this stage of labor without an epidural was that my body was doing it all by itself! When a contraction came my body responded with a push so powerful that I could not have stopped even if someone had tried to force me to. For lack of a better comparison I likened it to vomiting. My body had taken over and it was amazing and frightening all at the same time. Equally frightening were the guttural screams coming from my core! I am sure that everyone in L&D could hear me! A few pushes later and SHE was here at 8:32 pm! Our little GIRL, Hattie Kate, had arrived in the most amazing way, and she was perfect!
Unbeknownst to me Hattie’s heart rate had begun to dip while I was pushing so Katie was anxious to get her out quickly. She was born with the cord wrapped around her neck. And, once the placenta delivered we discovered that the umbilical cord had a true knot in it! It’s a miracle that she didn’t have more problems because of these things.
David got to cut the cord, just like he did with Benjamin. After I held her skin to skin for a few minutes the nurse handed her to him to do the same while they got me cleaned up. It was an amazing feeling to be able to stand up after giving birth and walk into the next room to the bed! What a difference from all of the other births!
Hattie’s birth was so special in so many ways. We still laugh about the fact that we didn’t make a big deal about the contractions all day. We were on a walk and had no clue that 4 hours later we would be holding our sweet baby girl! I will always, always remember and be thankful for the fast labor that I had prayed for throughout the pregnancy. And, to be able to say that “I did that!”. To have gone through labor and child birth without meds is an amazing accomplishment and I will always be proud that I was able to do it. My only regret is that I didn’t have this experience with any of my other labors!