July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you.
It was a typical Monday morning. I’d woken up, gone to the barn to take care of the animals, showered, dressed, and had breakfast. The house was in semi-order, thanks to my mother’s helpfulness over the previous weeks after moving into the new house. Whose idea was it to move at 38 weeks pregnant? At least it was just across the road. As I finished my morning routine and was about to leave the house, I looked in front of the television where our hospital bag lay. Aside from some discomfort on Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, I felt fine. Everyone had guessed Sunday would be the big day. Sunday had come and gone without a hint of excitement. I left the bag on the floor, telling myself that if I took them, I surely wouldn’t need them; if I left them there was a chance that I might.
Unlike a lot of women, I wasn’t at that extreme discomfort stage where most women are ready to relieve their bodies of the extra weight. I was curious about the life inside my abdomen and ready to meet that little person and begin a new, intimate relationship. Only in that manner was I ready for my body to undergo some drastic changes. I smiled and left for work, hospital bag still on the floor. Besides, I had the really important bag (with the items I wanted with me during labor) in my car. The rest could come later if needed.
Work started without excitement. At my midwife appointment the week before (at 39 weeks) I was found to be 4cm dilated and 80% effaced, at which time my co-workers were incredulous that I was up and moving. One of the veterinarians I worked with suggested I walk around with a net between my legs, just in case. Another vet asked that I not go into labor during surgery. Active labor is generally considered to begin at 4cm, but I felt nothing unusual, just the occasional tightness that had become customary though the pregnancy. I had noticed a little extra “wetness” and vaginal discharge over the past few days. By 10am Monday morning I had soaked through multiple pantliners when I decided to ask a co-worker what she knew about membrane rupture. In our childbirth class we had learned that the bag of waters doesn’t always gush when it breaks, and that it could trickle out slowly. One of my co-workers had that experience and said it felt as if she had peed in her pants. After talking with another technician, I decided to call the midwife’s office and speak with a nurse. Could it just be urine? The nurse told me to head to labor and delivery where Erin, the midwife on duty, would check me over.
I began to get a little excited and a little nervous as I called my husband, HB, to give him an update. It was 11am. I agreed to meet HB at the hospital and went to let my co-workers know what was going on. It was a surreal moment, full of well wishes and hugs from co-workers. I laughingly said there was a chance this was nothing and I’d be back in an hour or so.
I got in the car and made my way across Link Road, HB called along the way asking where I was. While I lingered at the veterinary hospital, informing coworkers about various cases, and telling the office manager what was going on, he had jumped in the car and rushed to the hospital. I told him not to worry, I was almost there. Checking in at the hospital was uneventful. We made our way up to labor & delivery, where we were shown into a triage room.
A nurse came in and I settled on the bed to review the scenario. Eventually I was given a gown and asked to change so that Erin, the midwife, could come in to check me. I changed and settled in to wait. The nurse put monitors on me to follow the baby’s heart rate and to monitor for contractions. HB watched the screens, trying to figure out what the numbers and waves meant. This is the same man, who, at our first ultrasound asked the ultrasound tech if she could view the CL. Oh yes, he is well-versed in the physiology of gestation, parturition, and lactation thanks to his background in dairy science.
Erin arrived in the room and after some small talk, she knelt down for an exam. We all had a laugh after she inserted the speculum and took a look, and then announced that the bag of waters was intact and in fact, she could see the baby’s hair floating in it! At that point she declared me to be around 5cm dilated. The lithmus paper test was negative for amniotic fluid, but Erin also took a sample on a microscope slide. Apparently, amniotic fluid has a “fern-like” appearance when it dries on the slide and is a better indicator. Erin left the room to check the slide under a microscope. Soon she returned; and as she approached the cracked door I could hear her and the nurse reviewing my allergies and GBS+ status – I knew at that point, we were staying.
Sure enough, as Erin entered the room she declared that we were staying. Normally she might have let a mother go at that point, but since I was GBS+, I needed antibiotics prior to delivery. Blood work was drawn, and I was moved across the hall to a real labor and delivery room. About that time Carolyn, our doula, arrived and we settled into the room. A nurse came in to place a catheter and start the antibiotics. HB went down to the cafeteria to get some lunch, and I had him sneak a sandwich back for me. Erin had told us in triage that I could eat; the nurse had said I couldn’t. I refused to go without eating! It was lunch time after all, and I wasn’t experiencing any sort of contractions!
After eating a sandwich and finishing the first dose of antibiotics, Carolyn and I began to walk while HB ran to the store to purchase a few necessities. Every so often I had to return to our room to be monitored. Everything was going smoothly, but I wasn’t having consistent contractions; Erin called it “uterine irritability.” I was told to keep moving.
Carolyn and I walked and walked. I began to feel silly, being at the hospital, without actually being in labor. This wasn’t my plan. I was supposed to labor at home for as long as I could and then come to the hospital. This little amniotic leak and GBS+ status was starting to derail my idea of MY delivery process. As we walked, Carolyn and I talked about my feelings, and I was trying to remain calm and go with the flow, hoping my body would do the right thing.
As we walked, we listened to other rooms as we passed. In one room, we heard intense moaning as we walked by. A few laps later we heard newborn baby wails coming from the same room. HB returned and walked with us. Erin checked in with us to check my progress, which was minimal. Because of my GBS+ status, vaginal checks were not performed, but we discussed how I was feeling and what I felt like was happening. We discussed rupturing the membranes after the second dose of antibiotics if there was no progression of labor. Part of that decision, Erin informed us, depending on the other labor she was attending in the next room – if that mother wasn’t complete at that time, she would rupture my membranes. If that mother was complete and ready to push, she would wait to rupture the membranes. We continued walking.
Near 5 pm, I returned to the room for my next monitoring session with the nurse. At that point they started the second round of antibiotics. Not knowing how long labor would take or how quickly it might progress, I opted to stay in the room and try to rest while the antibiotics dripped through the IV line. About that time, my father arrived and I was grateful to see him. My mother was on her way from Chapel Hill, having waited for her doctor’s appointment to finish before heading our way.
Just before 5:30, Erin entered the room and we decided to proceed with rupturing the membranes. I was nervous, fearing it wouldn’t cause labor to progress, necessitating more medical interventions down the line. Erin was confident that it would allow more pressure to be applied to my cervix, helping speed the dilation process. After a few awkward moments, my father left the room, and Erin proceeded with rupturing the membranes.
The breaking of the bag of waters is an unusual sensation. It is such a rush of warm fluid, it’s almost as if you’re urinating Niagra Falls, as silly as that sounds. Erin told a joke as she ruptured the membranes, and in response to my laughing, the fluid gushed and squirted, soaking Erin in the process. As she stuffed more towels to absorb the fluid, I couldn’t stop giggling which made the fluid continue to squirt. Everyone in the room was laughing. We asked for the birthing pool to be set up in the room for use later on.
The antibiotics were still dripping, so I stayed in the bed to await their finish. Within 10 minutes I started to get uncomfortable as contractions started. I was ready to begin walking, and the nurse sped up the final few milliliters of antibiotics so that we could start. With my trio of support (my father, HB, and Carolyn) we hit the floor walking, walking, walking. HB started timing contractions; I paid no attention to their spacing. I focused on getting through them. Initially, they weren’t bad and I could continue to talk and walk through them. I noticed them, but wasn’t bothered by them.
As time progressed, the contractions became more noticeable. They never stopped me in my tracks, but I definitely slowed my walking. I started dissociating from the support trio, focusing more inward as labor progressed. I credit this ability to years of riding sensitive horses, where I had to focus so much on myself and my balance as I did my horse and the surroundings. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at zoning things out and focusing on certain things.
Just before 7pm I returned to my room for the next monitoring session. I was starting to get uncomfortable, and asked to use a birthing ball. After bouncing for a few minutes, I asked if we could have the birthing pool filled. I progressed deeper into my own world as the contractions became more intense. At the same time so many things were happening. My mother arrived, as did HB’s parents (with the rest of my hospital bags!). The hospital maintenance man came in to begin filling the birthing pool. I’m sure he wasn’t actually making a lot of noise, but in my mind it was tremendous. He was clanking around with hoses and attachments, chatting with the nurse about his family. Meanwhile HB’s mother was catching up with my mother. It was TOO MUCH NOISE! I moaned for the talking to cease (probably not that politely!).
The men left, leaving both mothers (both nurses), Carolyn, HB, and myself in the room. As the contractions continued I found myself unable to get comfortable. My mother-in-law applied counter pressure to my lower back as I bounced on the ball. My mother kept me supplied in cool wash clothes for my face.
The birthing pool was filling, far too slowly for my liking. When I got to the point where I just couldn’t relax on the birthing ball, I asked if the tub was full enough. By that point, I was bouncing, hard, on the ball, unable to stop and relax. The tub was just over half full – full enough, we decided without referring the question to a nurse. HB changed into his swim trunks and I changed into a t-shirt and we entered the pool. The pool was one thing: marvelous. It allowed me some comfort and I was actually able to relax between the contractions, which were growing stronger. As a contraction ended, I would lean back against HB and close my eyes and get a little bit of marvelous rest. The nurse entered, surprised to see me already in the pool. She had wanted one more monitoring session before I got in. Oh well, I was comfortable, I didn’t care! She tried to do some monitoring in the pool. Repeatedly, she asked me to turn on my side for a better reading. I would get so nauseous on my side that I would turn back to being belly-up or belly-down. Eventually she brought me some anti-nausea medication. There were a few times I regretted having that sandwich earlier in the afternoon; and I kept wondering if the sandwich would reappear in the pool water! And then, what the nurse would say when she knew I had eaten!
The contractions became more intense, and I got more uncomfortable. I remember thinking, “I can see why some women want drugs!”, but I knew I was too far along in labor to consider using medication, and felt like the end was near and it would all be over soon. And I knew I didn’t want to use them anyway. Carolyn was there to help me refocus when I would start to slip and lose concentration. She redirected my efforts and was so helpful as I labored in the water. A few contractions had me nearly in tears and I remember moaning about the pain, and then apologizing for whining! Quiet, calming, reassuring words from Carolyn helped me so much, as did the physical support from HB.
Then, I let loose a deep, guttural moan.
I was told that at that moment the nurse snapped to attention. She asked me if I felt like I needed to push. I replied that I wasn’t sure, but felt as if I needed to use the bathroom. I was helped out of the pool and into dry robes and ushered to the toilet. I sat there and then noted, almost in tears, that I didn’t need to pee. At that moment I was struck with such a strong contraction and urge to push it was unbelievable. The nurse told me not to push, but it was such a strong urge that I couldn’t resist! I tried to obey, but it was impossible! The nurse said “You’re not having this baby on the toilet” and I clearly remember thinking “Why not? Plenty of women have!” followed by “If Erin was in here, she would let me!” Either way, the nurse had me move to the bed.
She checked me and found me nearly fully dilated and effaced. The contractions and urge to push were incredibly strong, and it was the hardest thing I’ve done – trying to breathe through those urges while we waited for Erin to come in. At that moment, the woman next door was pushing, Erin was tied up. The nurses tried to get the OB on call to come, but he was busy too. With no one around, I was forced to lay in the bed and breathe through contractions. Everyone was coaching me along, the nurses rushing around to set up for the delivery. My nurse called in an assistant and I vaguely remember them rushing around.
After what seemed like forever, the nurse checked me again and let me begin pushing. The nurses still weren’t sure if Erin or the OB would deliver me. I remember thinking, amidst all the blur in my head that I better not have to pay for an OB to deliver me! Pushing was hard work! Soon, Erin entered – fresh from delivering the baby next door. I think she was shocked how far along I was! Her first comment was “Wow, I think we’re going to have a baby now!” Erin gowned up and started coaching me to push.
I don’t remember much from pushing. Everyone was supporting me – my mother would hold my hand and replenish the cool washcloth on my forehead, my mother-in-law (yes, she stayed too) would help support me, as did HB and Carolyn. My mother-in-law was next to my head and would whisper encouraging words into my ear as I pushed. I kept my eyes shut nearly the entire time. I would open them occasionally, but there were too many people and too much going on. I had taken off my glasses and the world was blurry. I would shut them again. The nurse and midwife asked if I wanted a mirror and I shook my head; I just wanted to keep my eyes shut and focus on the job at hand.
I would push, and the baby would progress. Then I would relax and the baby would retreat. This went on for a while. Eventually Erin didn’t let me rest and had me keep pushing. It was hard!! As your head appeared I reached down and touched the crown of your head. There was so much hair! The pushing continued, Erin had the nurse rub another contraction, forcing me to keep pushing. It was so intense, even a year later I can’t find the words to properly express the feeling. Finally the head was out and after a few more pushes, out came the body! As her little body presented to the world, my little baby immediately started doing her own thing. After her head emerged, her entire body did a full rotation before the rest of the body emerged. Even now, 14 months later, I can still hear Erin and the nurses exclaim over that maneuver. The feeling of her entire body exiting was such an unreal sensation. Indescribable, but suddenly, there she was. It was 9:35pm and Olivia Grace had arrived!
Immediately, the baby was placed on my abdomen. The umbilical cord was shorter than average, so she lay on my belly while I curled up to meet this little person I knew so intimately, so instinctively. I distinctly remember my first words, said just after she excited my body: “Hi Baby! Hi Olivia!” Erin asked if I still wanted to wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating, with the cord so short I couldn’t hold Olivia to my chest until the last remnant of our physical connection was severed. I said no, and continued to curl up so I could hold this marvelous being. Once the cord was cut, Erin set about suturing up my second-degree tear, but I was pretty much oblivious. I was enchanted. In my childbirth class we had watched videos of the “breast crawl” and the scientist in me wanted to see my baby perform it. The nurses, the grandmothers, and the midwife wanted Olivia on my chest pronto. Olivia was moved up to my chest, covered in a blanket and snuggled. The nurse helped with our first breastfeeding session, and she took to my breast like a champ (and hasn’t looked back!).
I first wrote the majority of this birth story in the first few months following the experience of a lifetime. I then lost my birth story (and almost cried over that fact), and rejoiced when it was discovered. Without having a chance to read it in the past 12 months, I loved “rediscovering” my birth story and those little forgotten details. Ultimately, I had the birth experience I craved, and I am so grateful for that blessing. In the months following Olivia’s birth, I learned who the woman in the in delivery room beside me was, and we’ve kept in touch. Our daughters, both with the middle name “Grace” amongst other similarities, were born 15 minutes apart by the same midwife – we kept her hopping that night! Over the past 14 months I’ve had time to reflect on bits and pieces of my birth. Certainly, there are things I would change or do differently -- but that’s what baby number 2 is for, right?
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