My contractions began on Friday night, May 8, around 10:30pm. They weren’t much different my normal braxton-hicks contractions, except that I felt a very slight ache in my lower back. I assumed I wasn’t in early labor, though, because I’d experienced plenty of braxton-hicks-filled nights that produced no results. I didn’t think it wise to decide that these contractions would produce results simply because there was a bit of a backache added into the mix.
After spending some time working on my “39 weeks pregnant” blog post, I realized the contractions were coming quite often and were rather uncomfortable. Still assuming they were false labor contractions, I decided to take a shower because I’d heard that warm water often caused false labor contractions to cease. To my surprise, however, I contracted three times in the shower and continued to do so even after I got out.
Ryan was gone at a band rehearsal and I knew he’d be out late, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep. I stayed up until around 12:45am or so, and finally realized that, in the off-chance I was in labor, I needed to get my rest. I quickly fell asleep, but unfortunately, I did not rest easily. I woke up several times, and at 3am, when I saw that Ryan still hadn’t come to bed, I went to check if he was home. I met him in the hallway as he was coming back to get ready for bed and explained how my night had gone. I was still experiencing contractions with increasing achiness in my back, although they were easy to talk through. We agreed that we should go to sleep immediately, just in case. Ryan fell asleep as soon as he hit the pillow (of course!), but sleep would not come to me. I occupied myself for a little while, praying and eventually looking up random birth stories online.
Finally, around 5am, I was sick of laying in bed awake. I went out to the kitchen, cut an apple and made some toast with peanut butter, and drank a huge glass of water. I journaled a bit, but felt restless sitting down so I got up and paced the living room and kitchen. It was a very peaceful morning…despite my curiosity about whether or not I was in labor, I felt such calm in my home. I began to pray – for Forrest, for myself and Ryan, for Jack’s transition into being a big brother, for safety during the birth (whenever that would be), and for our home to be full of God’s presence.
Around 7:30am, I noticed that my contractions didn’t feel quite as strong (though mind you, they were never really that strong, just mildly uncomfortable). I laid down on the couch and fell asleep promptly, only to be woken up minutes later by a gorgeous little blue-eyed boy who was ready to start his day. I led him back to our bedroom and wearily explained to Ryan that I was desperate for sleep. Being the sweet husband that he is, 😉 he got up and took charge of Jack for me. I started to get this sinking feeling that I wasn’t really in labor since my contractions seemed to be fading, but fell into a deep sleep before I could give it another thought.
At 9:30am, I awoke to my cell phone vibrating. It was my midwife. Still half-asleep, I didn’t answer but waited to see what her voicemail message might be. I found it quite funny that she was calling me after the night I’d had. “Maybe she’d sensed that something was up,” I thought. I listened to her message, and interestingly enough, she’d called to ask how I was doing since she was planning to go to a wedding down by the beach that afternoon. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t in labor – if I was or felt like I might go into labor, she was considering staying local just in case. I called her back immediately, and after filling her in on the details of the night, she said she’d feel most comfortable if I came into the clinic for an exam, just to be sure. She instructed me to eat some scrambled eggs, take a brisk walk, and head over to the clinic by 11am.
As we prepared ourselves to go out, I couldn’t help but feel goofy. I kept thinking to myself, “How can I be in labor? My contractions have practically gone away. I went two whole hours without one contraction! They barely hurt!” I was also concerned that she’d examine me only to find that I hadn’t progressed at all. I really didn’t want to know if that was the case – but what to do? If I WAS in labor, she needed to know. It would be bad if I ended up progressing quickly while she was 45 minutes away on a Saturday.
We arrived at the clinic a bit after 11, and my midwife examined me soon after. And, lo and behold, I was 5 centimeters dilated and fully effaced! I was shocked. I had fully prepared myself for her to say, “Oh, sorry, you haven’t progressed at all!” She decided she wouldn’t go to the wedding, of course, and gave us further instructions on what to do until things got intense. We were told to go home, prepare the birth supplies, do a little light cleaning if we wanted, and eat some lunch. We actually ended up grabbing a light lunch at Corner Bakery, but when we were only halfway done with our food, I wanted to leave. My contractions had picked up and I suddenly felt anxious to get home. I was afraid they might get uncomfortably intense while we were in public and I didn’t want that.
By the time we arrived at home, all I wanted to do was sit on my bed. I quickly set out all the birth supplies and then planted myself on our prepared bed. I’d told my mom that I was officially in labor, and as we prepared, both my mom and my dad came over and my aunt began the trek up from San Diego. Then, my midwife called and said that she felt like I’d progress rather quickly and she’d feel more comfortable if she was there to prepare. Soon after that, she and her two assitants showed up. The house was a buzz of activity but I still didn’t want to get off my bed. It seems strange to me now, because my contractions weren’t crippling at that point, but I felt uncomfortable and tired. I didn’t lay down – I sat indian-style so as to help in Forrest’s descent, but I couldn’t imagine a more comfortable place to be at that point.
My midwife checked me again, although I’m not sure what time it was -maybe 2:30pm or so? She found that I was only 6 centimeters dilated, and Forrest’s head didn’t seem to be pressing down on my cervix very well. She encouraged me to get up (and I reluctantly agreed). Ryan and I went on a walk around the block, and within 20 minutes, I’d experienced at least 12 strong contractions. We came back home and I sat on the floor in the living room with everyone else. It felt kind of awkward – Ryan, my mom, my dad, my aunt, my midwife, two assistants, Jack and myself all just sat there and made conversation. My midwife mentioned that she thought it might be a good idea to break my water if I hadn’t progressed next time she checked me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this because I really wasn’t interested in manipulating my labor. When she brought it up again after a little while, we went into the kitchen and discussed it further. She explained that when she’d checked me last, Forrest’s head was floating slightly above my cervix and my bag of waters was bulging. She said the fluid between Forrest’s head and my cervix was preventing him from fully descending. She said breaking my water would be good because otherwise, I might stay in early labor for a very, very long time (at least, that is my understanding of her explanation). At that point, the idea of being in labor for such a long time was very unattractive. I felt good about her explanation and trusted that she wouldn’t just break my water for the heck of it, so I agreed to let her if I hadn’t progressed more by the time she examined me again.
As she expected, I was still only about 6 centimeters dilated when the time came. It was just about 5pm when she broke my water, and the intensity of my contractions tripled instantly. I took a warm shower to clean off from the busy day, and Ryan applied counter-pressure during all the contractions I experienced while showering. After the shower, Ryan and I stationed ourselves on the floor at the foot of our bed. I sat indian-style again and rocked myself back and forth through each contraction. I remember saying to Ryan at 5:15pm that I’d really like it if Forrest would make his entrance within an hour. I laughed at myself, assuming it would take much longer than that. Within a few minutes, though, I somehow communicated to Ryan that I thought my midwife should come back to the room (did I actually speak? I’m not sure!). She and the assistants came back, but at that point, my contractions were coming right on top of each other – as in, there was NO break in between. I could barely do anything but rock back and forth, with my eye closed while I hummed/moaned quietly. It was so, so intense, and I honestly hadn’t expected to feel it so quickly. One of the assistants kept askng me questions (“Do you want water? Does this feel good on your back? Would you like to try another position?”), but I couldn’t allow myself to speak because I knew it would break my concentration. One thing I knew: I was terrified to change positions. There was so much pressure and in hindsight, I think I knew that he’d come very quickly if I moved. It was so intense, like I said, and you’d think I would have wanted to do what I could to get him out, but I really was scared. I’m sure I was in the throes of transition at that point.
Within minutes, everyone was insisting that I change positions because I couldn’t very well push him out if I was sitting flat on the floor. I finally agreed and they helped me into a standing position. I put my arms around Ryan’s neck and he supported most of my body weight. I noticed that I was getting a bit of a break between contractions again, and suddenly, WWHHOOAA! Without warning or choice, my body began to push and I let out a loud grunt. It was SO strange – I literally had no control over it whatsoever. My midwife told me I MUST sit down, and I didn’t even know if I could do that. Somehow, I ended up sitting on the floor with Ryan behind me, and again without warning, my whole body heaved and pushed – and Forrest’s head came out! Just as I could feel my body preparing to push again, his little body slithered out into my midwife’s hands. I couldn’t believe it! I was so struck by how small his head was. Truly, as his head was crowning, I thought, “Are you kidding me? That’s IT?” I suppose I forgot how little a newborn head is. 🙂 Ryan and I simply laughed and cried together as my midwife handed Forrest to us. He was perfect from the very beginning – a beautiful, round head, beautiful pink skin and huge eyes. I immediately noticed how much he resembles Ryan -it’s amazing! He began nursing just a couple minutes after he was born and continued to do so for 20 minutes! And, amazingly enough, he was born at 6:02pm on May 9, LESS than an hour after I told Ryan that I hoped he would come within an hour.
We sat together on the floor until he finished nursing. When the cord stopped pulsating, Ryan cut it. My midwife measured and weighed him – 22 inches and 8 pounds, 4 ounces. I put on his little diaper, dressed him in a gown that said “Welcome to the World” in tiny blue stitching, and swaddled him. Ryan took him out to meet the family in the living room, and my midwife mentioned that I had lost very little blood. When Ryan returned, he helped me into the shower and I was amazed that I was actually able to wash my hair and body without his help! I felt SO good – alert and strong and just HAPPY.
When I came out to the living room, Forrest was ready to nurse again. That’s when the afterpains set in – OUCH. In all my reading during this pregnancy, I never once read that I’d experience WORSE afterpains with subsequent pregnancies. I wish someone had told me! I was completely blindsided by the pain. I was hoping to soothe any afterpains with arnica alone, but the pain was too intense. I ended up taking Advil, and although it really only took the edge off, it definitely helped to make the pain more bearable.
We spent the rest of the evening getting acquainted with Forrest, and proceeded to get a lovely (considering we had a newborn) night of sleep!
So, I’m not sure exactly how it should be calculated – light contractions began at 10:30pm the day before, but is that when labor really began? It actually began to FEEL like labor when we were in the restaurant after my midwife examined me. Really, I don’t know how many hours it was. I just know that it exceeded my expectations! I am so grateful that we were able to have such an amazingly uneventful birth at home. I realize that it’s not to be taken lightly, and I feel so blessed by our experience. I highly recommend a homebirth to all healthy, low-risk mamas – there’s nothing like it!