Many women, like me, go into their first labor with an ideal birth vision in mind. I’m sure this may be the case for subsequent birth events as well, but there is nothing quite like the mentally-backed optimism that comes with a first time pregnancy. All knowledge, no experience. My birth vision included a robe, a bathing suit top, no epidural, a tub, a doula, a midwife, and my supportive and equally-birth-educated husband.
I researched around for the best hospital which would cater to this ideal and found Sutter Davis–a branch hospital of a much larger hospital network. Doulas, midwives, tubs…glorious. Another benefit was that the hospital could provide a range of low-intervention births all the way to c-sections so if medical intervention became necessary, I had access to it.
My pregnancy was easy, and low risk. My husband and I attended 48-hours worth of birth, labor, and child care courses–in addition to listening to multiple audio books, videos, and reading the plethora of books and information available online. I bought my bathing suit top and fashioned a robe. Pre-registered and specifically wrote, “I want a doula and a tub birth” on the form. Calling to confirm they would definitely ensure I get those things. Mentally, we were ready.
At 38-weeks pregnant, my husband and I started walking nightly. Beneficial for all (especially our puppy) the 2.2 mile round trip ensured I was sweaty with cramps and a few contractions before I flopped back onto the couch only for them to subside into a relief of nothing. I was annoyed they never turned into labor, but simultaneously waddled to the couch in anticipation of relief from my cramps.
Sunday night (39 weeks, 2 days) we started off on our usual 2.2 mile journey. No cramps. No contractions. Agh!!! The only sign my body even acknowledged that I had been walking whilst pregnant was that my belly button popped out. “My turkey timer popped,” I joked. “Now, where is my little turkey? You’re done kid, out of the oven.”
Monday morning (39 weeks, 3 days) I felt amazing. So much energy. Agh!!! Oh well, time to accept my fate: I will give birth on my due date. Time to make a to do list with the remaining four days. I tell this theory to a few people. “My period would have originally started on my due date, so it must be correct for me,” I say sagely. Around 1 pm, my hips start hurting. Whew, too much activity, the list and crafts can wait, time for a nap.
But the pain never subsided. Cramps seeped their fingers around my already aching pelvis. Ughhh, I kicked my legs around in my blankets to find a better position, gripping my pregnancy pillow and shoving it under the belly. Baby D dancing, obnoxiously, all the while. “Kid, you’re killing me here. I just want a nap.” (a phrase I’d repeat post-labor)
Then the first contraction came. I pull out my phone and text my husband, “I just had a contraction.” He luckily did not take the bus into work that day, opting instead to work from home. So he quickly popped into the bedroom. “Really?”
“Yeah…I’m going to go to the bathroom. I am having cramps.” I crawl out of my pillow cocoon and head to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet I rock through several more light contractions. They are short, 20 seconds long, about 10 minutes a part. 10 minutes…that seems really close together for early labor. I haven’t worked up the courage to leave the toilet yet, but as I cleanup I see something I haven’t seen in almost 9 months. Blood.
“Labor has started, 10 mins a part, blood.” I text my husband.
He knocks on the door. “Really?”
“Yeah… I’m going to call the midwife, but I … I want to stay here a little while longer.”
“Okay, I’m going to go get my hair cut then, it’s a mess and this might be my best chance.” (First time labor is “quick” if it’s under 24 hours they told us, at the time this decision makes complete sense)
I work up the courage to leave the restroom, anticipating my water to break any moment. I call the midwife. I breathe through a few contractions while on the phone. They feel like they are about 7 minutes a part I recall thinking, but still very short. The midwife recommends taking a shower and seeing if that soothes them away (common if labor isn’t ready to really start yet). The contractions seem to be wavering between 5-7 minutes a part, to I text my husband “5 minutes a part I think, going to take a shower.”
A shower was the first check list item on on my “Labor Induction Checklist.” (because, of course, I have a list for this too). This To Do list was on the refrigerator, downstairs, a place I am not traveling to until I plan to leave. So I mentally recount all the items as I step into the shower. Through the sounds of the shower, muffled by the door, I hear my husband crashing around in the house. I labor through a contraction and absently think he must be in a panic. He violently shakes the bathroom door. I’ve locked the door apparently. “Baby? Baby? Baby?”
“One moment!!!!” I snap. I hobble out of the shower. “An accident (the locked door). Don’t do this. I’m the one in pain.” I quickly return to the shower to labor through another contraction. The heat wavers and I know I’ll be forced back out or stuck laboring under cold water. I note that my husband appears to have not gotten his haircut….but lost his entire beard. It takes me at least 10 minutes to dry my hair as I have to pause to labor through two contractions before I finish.
I start walking my husband through the checklist, he quickly sees to each task, rushing back to me for the next item.
All packed, ready to go. I make my way downstairs. My husband was still tittering about nervously, a fast-moving blur as I slowly start falling into the tiny world of labor within myself.
It’s about 3 PM now, a whole hour after labor began as we pull out of our driveway, the chux pad spread on the carseat as the contractions stayed at 5 minutes apart and slowly became longer. In between contractions, there was no pain. I thought it was a little bit amazing, how I would be consumed with a contraction, and it would end. End to the point that I had no physical remembrance of it until the next one came to remind me. I used this time and the long 40 mile journey to the hospital to contact family to tell them “I’m in labor, heading to the hospital, don’t call me.” and shut off my phone.
We arrive around 4PM to the hospital and get checked in and hooked up to the monitors. They check my dilation and effacement. I’m 3 cm, and less effaced (somehow) than I was 2.5 weeks ago. My contractions are now 3-4 minutes a part and I feel myself slowly easing towards active labor–a whole different ball of wax in terms of the pain. I’m GBS+ so I assume they’ll let me stay at the hospital. They don’t. The midwife gives me a semi-threat, “the longer you stay…the more intervention you’ll have.” Um…that’s under your control sugar pop, you’re the midwife. Where’s my prenatal group midwife? She said she works L&D on Mondays, it’s Monday. My husband is pretty pissed, and calls a hotel. By the time we make it to the car the contractions are 2 minutes a part.
We drive an entire 3 miles down the road to the Hyatt. The nearest hotel to the hospital, and they thankfully give us the handicap room closest to the doors and equipped with bars in the bathroom. My husband sets me on the toilet. Contractions are 1.5 minutes a part and about 40 seconds long. I’m definitely in active labor. While the pain, like early labor, completely subsides between contractions the duration and space spent between each contraction is consumed by me trying to catch and steady my breath. “Soft hands, soft face, soft contractions” I tell myself over and over again as I steady my breath. “Back! back!” I scream outloud to my husband as he applies the appropriate counter-pressure. My patient, minimally-trained, maximally-involved doula/husband, un-wavered by my yelling and dutifully tracking contractions and time.
By 5:30PM I’m at a solid 1 minute between contraction and 57 seconds long. He moves me to the shower for the longest 5 minutes of my life while he calls the birthing center to have them tell him, “We prefer it 1 minute long. Try another 30-45 minutes.”
Are you f*cking kidding me? I have a brief moment to want to cry, to think how unfair that all my prenatal group ladies mention they were admitted and spent HOURS in the L&D birthing center. Why wouldn’t they let me come? No more time, contractions to focus on.
My husband returns to the shower, and thankfully applies counter-pressure to my hips. At 1 minute apart, and 1 minute he calls it (15 minutes later, thank you very much): we’re going to the hospital. I absently notice that the time between the last contraction seemed longer. Have I gone mad?
My husband briefly leaves to call the birthing center and tells them we’re coming in. He moves me to the toilet again to dry me off and get me as publicly appropriate as one can possibly be. As I sit down, my water breaks, and as the next contraction flies in, I felt baby D’s head. I immediately freak out: THIS IS NOT THE WATER BIRTH I WANTED!
Though I don’t say that. I say, “I FEEL LIKE I’M GOING TO POOP!”
Which was a joking comparison our birthing instructor said the urge to push feels like. My husband knew exactly what I meant though. And as we attempted to make it out of the hotel room… I couldn’t. I flopped sideways next to the door, shower water soaking through my clothes haphazardly placed back on my body. My husband looked desperate, I’m sure I did too. The 200 foot walk to the car, impossibly long. An ambulance would be slower than me.
I tried to stop the urge to push. Crossing my legs, saying “oh no oh no oh no.” The urge to push was not under my command. However, the motivation to not give birth in the Hyatt was. I nodded to my husband and we made our escape. On our way out, my condition clearly alarmed some hotel patrons, the couple parted ways leaving the husband to assist my husband in getting me to the car. It was a long 200 feet walk.
I distinctly felt baby d’s head push down through the canal, and then utilize all those kegel exercises post-contraction and feel his head return (which I was scared it wouldn’t do without my assistance). Then I’d walk as far as I could in a minute before the next contraction. I made it to the car in an entire 6 contractions. “Go steady, and drive safe.” I remember saying. My husband I think nodded telling me something like I was amazing and doing good. I don’t recall, I had my legs crossed and my feet on the windshield saying, “oh no oh no oh no.” I don’t think I was wearing shoes.
5 contractions and 3 miles later my husband drove up to the hospital door (literally), and ran inside bringing three nurses with him. One, I noted, had a wheel chair. Thank god. The midwife who kicked me out no more than 2-3 hours earlier felt and confirmed, “Yep, there’s a head.” and I sat sideways on the wheel chair as they rushed me in. I recall shouting, “I wanted a tub birth!”
They wheel me in and put me on the bed (as the tub had to be prepped) around 7:10 PM. I had no motivation to leave the bed. My stress level of giving birth in the Hyatt subsided and my communication skills were left with “oh no oh no oh no” to indicate a contraction was about to start, and “water” to tell my husband to lean the water straw nearer my face. I was relaxed enough to note that pushing contractions felt about the same as early labor contractions, less painful. They were pretty rapid, I think about 2 minutes a part, and I spent my off-time silent or asking for water.
My world existed approximately in a 5-foot bubble around myself. The lights were bright, and the bed rails thankfully stronger than me. When he was crowing, it definitely burned. The midwife was asking me something about feeling his head or to look and I told her “No!” I would touch his head in a second. Geez woman, I was aware of where his head was–if I wanted to touch it, I already would have. I wasn’t incoherent… They kept saying something about he’s close and not to stop. I tried to say “Yes, I feel he’s there and it’s burning.” but got out “He’s in the burning!” and they told me it was okay and I would be just fine. Yes, thank you. Two or three contractions go by and through closed eyes I feel his head pass, I feel his knee, and he’s out. I open my eyes and there he is.
My husband helps me out of my bra and our baby D is laid on my chest.
No tub, no doula, (no medication for the GBS+,) no birth robe, or bathing suit top. Labored from 2 PM to 7:40 PM, no epidural, amazing husband, and cute baby. Oh well… best laid plans.