On Friday, I had my bloody show, but no real contractions.
"No one questions that labor and birth can be physically painful experiences for many women. Less well known is the fact that some women in all cultures have labors that are essentially painless."
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, p. 150
On Saturday, more bloody show, and a few contractions each hour. They seemed to be coming closer together.
On Sunday, around 1 am, the contractions were about eight minutes apart and were strong. I called the midwives, who started their two hour trek, and I called the babysitting crew, my step-mom and step-sister. When the midwives arrived, they sent everyone to bed. I had to sleep sitting up, as laying down made the contractions excruciating.
I had one of those nights where I woke up for the peak of each contraction, but was able to sleep in between. In the morning, the midwives checked my dilation. I was one centimeter. One centimeter? After all that!
Everyone went home. I continued keeping rough track of my contractions, which slowed back down to a few an hour. My step-mom and Dad came over for the afternoon. My dad connected so well with my boys that we decided to add him to the babysitting team.
Dan worked second shift on Sunday and we went to bed late.
Around 2 am, the contractions started up again. I went to the couch to be upright. After an hour or so, I made Dan write down the times of each contraction. By 8 am, they were five minutes apart. I called my primary midwife who was able to listen through a contraction. She had the secondary midwife call me, who confirmed I was in real labor, and they, with the student midwife, once again started their two hour trek and arrived around 10:30 am. The babysitting crew, my step-mom, Tara, step-sister, Emily, and Dad, also came over.
The rest of the morning went fast. The baby sitting crew took Bobby for a walk. One of the midwives went and read in her car so there was less commotion. Everyone was kind of continually coming in and out.
It became clear that sitting was the best position for me. Standing made the contractions painful and laying down made them excruciating. The student midwife told me that I want to be in different positions, even though some are more painful. I could not bear lying down, so I took a shower, where I was forced to stand. I then alternated standing and sitting. I stood behind Dan and swayed back and forth through each contraction, clinging to him.
At one point, one of the midwives told me that all I could feel was the pressure, that there was no other feeling besides a strong sensation of pressure. For most of my contractions, this was true, even when I stood, if I focused on it.
With each contraction, I made a throaty "aaaaaaa" sound. The midwives thought I was singing, and they sang with me, which I found funny.
Dan, Daniel and I went for a walk with a midwife and the student midwife. We only got about a block and a half away before I started to feel very uncomfortable about being so far from home. It felt like every few steps, I had to stop, lean on Dan and sway back and forth through a contraction.
When we got back to the apartment, one of the midwives commented that with such powerful contractions and with them one on top of the other, the baby would be coming soon. I was thinking, these contractions aren't that bad, I hope the baby still comes soon.
We talked about checking my dilation again, which I was all for, except I had to lie down. I was six centimeters, and the baby's head was engaged low in the pelvis.
Things continued like this for a while. My primary midwife found a technique that really helped me get through the contractions. She would say positive, affirming statements and I would repeat them during the contractions.
At some point, my "aaaaaaaa" turned into "oooooooo" or maybe more of "aaaaawe". The midwives picked up on this, and told me I would be feeling the urge to push shortly. They wanted to check my dilation again, which showed I was about seven or eight centimeters and the baby's head was further in the pelvis. They became worried that the head being so low was preventing me from dilating fully. They were also concerned as they knew I was going to want to push soon and was not fully dilated.
They talked about the possibility of breaking the waters to get the dilating going more. They really don't like breaking waters, but prefer letting waters break on their own. I insisted they break my waters, as the baby was clearly in the right position, and I just needed to finish dilating. So, they did. In retrospect, I'm not sure this was the right decision. I just don't know.
Then, they had me go through some contractions on all fours. The student midwife gave me an herbal tincture to put under my tongue that would help me to dilate. Being on all fours was not my favorite, but not the worst either. The worst was what came next.
They wanted me to take a shower with Dan. I was a little uncomfortable with that with everyone in the apartment. They said us being close together would stimulate hormones to get the cervix dilated all the way. They said we could snuggle on the bed alone together instead. We had talked about making out during contractions, and had tried it before everyone got to our apartment and making out really does make you feel better during contractions. So we tried that in bed. But by now, I was in transition, which is painful anyway, and I was laying down, so making out did not relieve the pain at all. I screamed and screamed and Dan held me. Finally, after four contractions like that, I yelled that I couldn't take it anymore and I stood up.
They checked me again and I was almost to nine centimeters. My primary midwife suggested I push while she stretched open my cervix. Well, I forced myself to push once, but then pushing sort of overtook me. If I had ever had an out of body experience, this was it. I had no control. With each contraction, my body became a pushing machine. Fifteen minutes later, Thomas Quincy was born.
My birth was not painless, but it was not full of pain, either. It was not complication free, either. Along with my tricky cervical dilation, I needed three stitches for pushing too fast. The cord was around Thomas's neck, which happens in one in four babies.
My postpartum transition has been the easiest yet. Dan took some days off of work and school. Thomas is my best breast feeder and co-sleeper. I wasn't allowed to co-sleep in the hospital with either Daniel or Bobby, and neither of them took to co-sleeping at home, although both co-nap to this day. I don't ever see myself going back to hospital births.