Rebecca was due May 1 and since Catherine (my first, a c-section) had been overdue and my mom’s three had been either overdue or only a day early, I was convinced I’d at least make 39 weeks no problem. We scheduled surgery for her sister Catherine on April 20 when I would be 38+3 with the thought that I could give all my attention to Catherine’s recovery that way.
My husband Chris was deployed to Afghanistan and we debated when he should come home. Finally we settled on him trying to be home for Catherine’s surgery.
I had had a lot of Braxton Hicks with Catherine and Rebecca was no different. They started sooner this time but mostly followed a similar enough pattern not to have me worried. At 32 weeks, I was having some that felt a bit crampy and so I asked to be checked and found I was 75% effaced and closed up tight.
With Catherine I had intended to have a natural birth, but due to a lot of complicating factors, had finally chosen a scheduled c-section. This time I was determined that I was going to get my natural VBAC and I worked hard towards that goal. I studied “The Pink Kit for Birthing Better”, something put together by some Australian midwives I believe. I feel it really rounded out the knowledge I had from all the other sources, including my Bradley classes from Catherine’s pregnancy.
I started the “internal work” around week 36 because I was just so behind – this is perineal prep and so forth. It also involved checking yourself periodically so you’d be able to kind of feel for progress during labor and assess if you needed to change your positioning and so forth. I found that I was closed up, but very soft and effaced.
At 37+1, I woke up in the night with crampy contractions that were starting in my back. They weren’t too painful, but enough to get me a bit nervous… Still, I never believed that labor was coming SOON. As the week progressed, I definitely felt that Rebecca was low and that my body was prepping, but again, just felt that things were a ways away. I continued my furious nesting that I’d been doing for weeks at that point. I probably started nesting in earnest around 32ish weeks as I knew we had surgery coming and I just felt a strong sense of deadline that I needed to meet. In retrospect, I’m very very glad I did it all because it has been nice not having a lot of unfinished projects hanging out there.
On 37+5, my folks arrived in town to help out with Catherine’s surgery and I felt a huge relief to have them here. At 38 weeks exactly (April 17), I had an all day VBAC class up in Seattle (an hour drive) and did a lot of labor practice and so forth. I really released my feelings over Catherine’s birth and was able to latch onto Rebecca’s birth alone.
38+1, Sunday April 18 rolled around and it was my 29th birthday. My husband Chris was now in Kuwait on his way home, but wasn’t slated to be there for another day or two. We were concerned whether he’d make it in time for the surgery.
My mom, Catherine, and I got up early and went to church as I had nursery duty that morning. Spent the morning chasing toddlers and as the last kids were being picked up (so around 10:30 AM) I started to feel some fairly strong contractions – strong enough to make me sit down on the floor a bit and not be really helpful with cleanup. I should say that I also found myself gagging while changing one little boy’s diaper earlier that morning and thought that was rather odd as my sense of smell isn’t usually that strong. Anyway, I was expressing to everyone (mostly joking) how I hoped I wasn’t going into labor since Catherine’s surgery was on Tuesday.
My mom kept asking if I just wanted to sit down and hang out at church but I felt a strong urge to be out of there. I asked her to drive because I wasn’t sure I could concentrate well enough to drive. We had a baby book in the car that I wanted to exchange as I’d found a much cuter one and we debated as we were getting closer to the turn off whether we wanted to run up to Babies R Us or just go home. Finally I felt like if I WAS in labor, I wanted the right baby book with me and we went and did the errand really quick. I exchanged the book and walked out and my mom and Catherine were nowhere to be seen. I finally ended up going back in to find my mom buying a bag that she could take her knitting to the hospital in for Catherine’s surgery. I’ll admit, I was kind of mad because I had lots of bags at home she could’ve used and I really wanted to be home NOW.
We made it out of Babies R Us and back home and contractions were picking up a little. They mostly felt like a really bad urge to poo and I thought maybe I was just really backed up and that was irritating my body a bit. I failed to recognize that my body was clearing itself out as I made several trips to the bathroom.
I was hungry since I hadn’t really eaten much prior to the nursery but NOTHING sounded good. I finally settled on potato soup. I found myself picking out all the potatoes and eating them.
It was about 11:45 and I finally decided I should warn my doula that I might be going into labor so she could start thinking about getting herself ready to come down. She knew I didn’t want to be in labor for at least another week and she recommended I maybe try a bath, saying if it wasn’t real labor, that would probably slow things down. I didn’t really want to take a bath so I kinda put it off for a while. Finally I was looking at the clock and knew I wanted to get Catherine down for a nap at 1 so I could go to a 1:30 hair appointment, so I headed up for a bath. I got my mom to bring up a candle so I could be in a darker room. For whatever reason I didn’t want the bath very hot. While in the tub, I checked myself and thought I might’ve been around 2 cm. Because my tub is so shallow it just wasn’t that enjoyable and I probably got out after about 10 minutes.
I sat on the toilet again and my body cleared out some more. Then I went and laid on my bed for a few minutes. Soon my dad came in with Catherine singing Happy Birthday to me. It was time for her nap, so I took her through the routine. I think I had a contraction or two in there, but as she was really drifting off, I had one BIG contraction and I struggled to sit still and quiet in the glider so she could get to sleep.
As soon as it was fading off, I got out of there as fast as I could. It was now just after 1 and I thought about that last contraction and sitting in a chair getting my hair done and I was finally honest with myself that I was in full active labor and this baby was coming today. I called and canceled my hair appointment. I then asked my mom if I should call the doula again and she pointed out that the doula had wanted timings last time we talked, so I laid down on the couch while she timed the contractions. I was having a bit of a time coping, particularly because of the bright light coming in through the windows.
I was also having some pain in my back with the contractions and was nervous that it was back labor (in retrospect I am pretty sure it wasn’t), so I tried hands and knees on the floor and also chest down like that, neither of which I liked. I had liked the birth ball while pregnant, so I tried that, but things were just too intense. I needed to use the bathroom and ended up laboring in there a few contractions, but ended up back on the couch. It was somewhere around this point that I asked my mom to get my birth skirt so I could cool off a little (it’s knee length). Somewhere in there I ate a few peanut butter crackers and that was the last food I ate while in labor.
At this point it was around 2 and I was having contractions about 5 minutes apart and lasting mostly 1.5-2 minutes long. We decided to call the doula again and tell her definitely to come. Little did we know she was on her way, but it was a long drive.
After that we decided to finish packing the hospital bags while I still could think at all, so up we went to my room. I sat on the floor on my hands and knees and my mom ran around and gathered up what I asked for (based on the list I had made).
Soon I felt like I HAD to get in my bed, so that’s where we went next and I laid on my left side in bed. I put in my MP3 player and just tried to surrender to the process. My mom rubbed my back and got a hot pad for my tummy and gently stroked my arms. I had her lead me through some guided relaxation too. She was my savior! At one point, I felt nauseous and she got a bowl. A few contractions later, I threw up a little and felt a bit better.
I was getting really frustrated with myself because I felt I really wasn’t coping well. I knew I needed to relax but I just couldn’t do it. I felt like things were just so intense and I was getting nervous about this taking hours and hours more. I also kept getting frustrated with myself for not getting up and getting active. In my mind, I thought I was making a big mistake to labor on my side in bed, that I should be upright and active. But my body just took over and told me to lay there some more. I think if I had known how fast things were going, I wouldn’t have beat myself up so much about it.
Finally after a particularly intense contraction, my mom asked again if it was time to the hospital and I said I really wasn’t sure. So I checked myself and estimated I had to be at least 5 cm. Pulled my hand out and saw bloody show. And with how I was feeling (ready to get out the bed FINALLY), we decided it was time to go in. We called the doula to say that we were heading in and it was 4:10. She asked if we could wait just a little as she was about 10 minutes out and we said we weren’t sure. In the end, she walked in as we were finally getting ourselves together to go. We had been running all over rounding up the last things we needed like my ID.
I went to the bathroom one last time and had another contraction in there. Then we went back to grab our bags out of the kitchen and suddenly I was very nauseous and asked someone to grab a bowl as I dropped to my knees. Thankfully they were fast enough and my mom and the doula were swapping out bowls in front of me and flushing them away as I completely cleared out my stomach. I remember the doula commenting that she thought I was trying to transition.
After that, we felt very compelled to get out the door. We finally headed to the hospital and I had two more contractions in the car while helping my mom keep her directions straight. They weren’t fun, but I do think I must have already been in the plateau between transition and pushing as they weren’t as hard as they could’ve been. I had one more contraction right as we parked the truck and I had to stay seated to cope. This was probably around 5:00 PM.
We made our way slowly up to the hospital and I had quite a few contractions along the way. By the time we checked in through security and made our way down the hall to triage, I think it was about 5:20.
In triage, the nurse admitting us was taking his time and asking all kinds of obvious questions while I sat in the chair. I do believe he didn’t think I was very dilated. I sat in the chair what seemed like a long time, but apparently was around 5 minutes as the doctor walked in and commented that she heard me have two contractions in the less than 5 minutes I’d been there so she felt things were going fast…
Finally they finished intake and I was led to the bed to be checked and get on the monitors. I was telling them I wanted a room near the tub and I wanted on the wireless monitors. The doctor looked up and said I was not going to be getting in the tub as I was 10 cm and +2. Suddenly everyone swung into gear and a wheelchair appeared. I really didn’t want to get in the wheelchair as I didn’t want to be labeled a patient, but I took a moment to think and finally agreed that the wheelchair would be faster and I didn’t want to push my baby out in the hallway. My doula tells me they really wanted me in the wheelchair because they were afraid my membranes would rupture and I’d make a mess in the hallway.
Anyway, got to my room quickly (actually happened to be the same one I’d seen in the two tours I’d done) and got up on the bed. They started handing me a hospital gown and I told them I wanted to labor in my own clothes. I could tell they thought I was nuts, but I didn’t care. I had on my birth skirt and had intended all along to deliver in it.
Then they started in with more questions – mostly things they already should’ve known like my allergies (which I had given at the initial intake). And someone started to try and get a heplock. And they kept digging and digging and poking and poking trying to get the heplock started. I apparently was very dehydrated. They finally got the heplock started on the fourth stick after we estimate about 20 minutes of trying (and many contractions).
Somewhere in there Chris called and he spent the rest of the time on the phone with my mom listening in. Even though he missed the birth, he did at least get to hear me pushing and hear Rebecca’s first cries.
My doula reminded me that I needed to decide what position to birth in and it really felt right to turn around and grab the back of the bed and squat, so I did. Not long after I started to feel pushy (I think my body was waiting for them to be done poking me before moving on) and started in with some mild pushing. Somewhere in there, I pulled my shirt off and labored in my undershirt from then on. And suddenly it got much more intense and I pushed hard and POP my water broke at roughly 6 PM. After that, the pushing really started in earnest.
I found pushing to be a definite relief – like I was finally doing something. I could feel her move down with each push and the doctor just sat back and watched and encouraged me. My doula kept giving me water and I FINALLY wanted it and drank in earnest.
Somewhere in there, they asked if I could take off my skirt and I quickly ripped it off, since it was a birth skirt. The doctors were very impressed.
I started to REALLY feel her ready to come out and decided to reach down for a feel and could feel the top of her head down almost out of myself – very cool.
I had another pushy contraction and she started to crown. In between the doctor had me hold her in place (in retrospect I probably should’ve let her continue to slide back in between contractions). On the next contraction, I decided I really wanted her out (again, probably a mistake!) and pushed very hard and Rebecca Marie was born at 6:39 PM.
It was tricky turning around to hold her and be stitched as I did not want the cord clamped and cut until it stopped pulsing, but we figured it out. I just looked at my beautiful girl while we waited on the cord. It didn’t take long at all and the doctor said she didn’t feel it pulsing anymore (probably about 2-3 minutes). I asked my mom if she wanted to cut the cord and she was happy to do it.
Rebecca’s Apgars were 9 and 9, which fits with what we saw as she looked pink pretty much from the start.
It didn’t take long and I birthed the placenta and then they started stitching me up which hurt. In retrospect I forgot that I don’t respond at all to local anesthesia and so it makes sense that it hurt. I had second degree tears which really isn’t too bad for how hard I was pushing.
Anyway, it took a while but I got Rebecca nursing and now she nurses like a champ. We delayed the shots and declined the bath and the eye goop. She measured out at 20.75″ and 7lb 8oz, so just a little smaller than Catherine, which makes sense considering she was over 2 weeks earlier.
Chris finally made it home to see his little girl the evening of the 21st, so he met her when she was right at 3 days old.
We are so thrilled to have our little girl here and I am just awed at my body’s ability to birth babies. I CAN do it. 🙂