Transformation into Mother
Baby’s name: Josephine Lorraine
Weight: 9lb 12oz
Gestation: 41w 6d
Birthday: September 12
Place of birth: out of hospital birth center Chapel Hill, NC
Overall, Josie's birth was wonderful and at the end I had a beautiful, happy, healthy baby, but it was by no means easy and at times much harder than I anticipated. I am incredibly lucky in that the birth I had is very similar to the birth I dreamed about. Despite it not being 100% medication free I was able to have the out of hospital/minimal intervention birth that I wanted. I feel incredibly empowered by my birth experience and although there are things I wish I could change about it, they are very small compared to the joy I feel when thinking about her birth.
So I was 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant when I finally went into labor and we were throwing the kitchen sink at this thing trying to get labor started! The Friday before I was dilated to 3cm, 70% effaced and the baby was at -3 station. She was healthy and well oxygenated as seen on the previous day's ultrasound and biophysical profile. I was just starting to panic that this baby would never come on her own and we'd need to scrap the birth center birth for a medical induction. I went in again on Monday for another NST and we discussed at length with the midwife what happens if we get to Thursday when she would be 42 weeks. After 42 weeks they do recommend induction, but if we sign a waiver and go for another ultrasound we felt like we'd like to wait until the following Monday to be induced. I think I cried most of this day because I felt like my body was a labor failure. I started to doubt myself and think that there was something wrong with me as a woman. The midwife did a membrane sweep and we went home, but I felt only a few cramps and no sign of labor coming.
That night in my continuing quest for labor induction I went and got acupuncture, and I don't know if it did anything, but I felt so relaxed and enjoyed that hour so much that it was worth it even for that! So here we are and now it's Tuesday and I'm 41 weeks 4 days pregnant and we go to the midwives for another membrane sweep and set up a plan for induction. The midwife did the sweep and said the baby was touching her finger with a hand up by her head (this important fact comes back up at the end of the story). She gave me instructions on castor oil and told me to try it tomorrow if I wasn't in labor yet and she checked me again. I was now 4cm, 70% effaced and the baby had moved down to -2 station. This gave me a much needed confidence boost that kept me going all day as my husband, my mom (the poor woman came 2 days before my due date and ended up staying 2 weeks after until the baby was born!), and I got a relaxing lunch and picked up the castor oil from CVS (side note: we also saw the google maps car drive by while we were eating lunch and that in itself was pretty cool!).
After lunch I took a nap and the husband came to nap with me while my mom napped downstairs. About an hour into my nap I felt increasingly uncomfortable cramps and I wasn't comfortable anymore lying down. I got changed and headed downstairs at 3:30pm to sit on my birth ball (which I had been sitting on for the past 6 weeks) and realized that the contractions could be timed. My husband started timing them and they were about 60 seconds long and 6 minutes apart. They weren't really that painful and I doubted that I was in labor. They felt like really bad menstrual cramps that would ramp up and wrap around my belly and back before fizzling out. They were sort of hard to time because they felt like a wave and didn't have a clear beginning and end. An hour later they continued and my mom decided to call my dad and tell him that this was it, and the baby was coming within the next day or so. He got dinner and got in the car to drive 8 hours from Pennsylvania to my home in North Carolina. I however was still doubting the fact that this was real labor. It didn't feel that painful and I could totally handle it with the relaxation techniques I had practiced.
I called the midwives at 7pm and told them I was having 60 second contractions 5 minutes apart and had for the past few hours and they recommended eating and sleeping in order to prepare for a night of labor. I was able to eat dinner and my mom and husband ate as well. We were all happily chatting while I was contracting and they still weren't that painful despite getting stronger than before so it was going really well. After dinner I decided to make coffee cake for the midwives and nurses to have as a thank you for after the baby was born. I made the cake, I walked around our condo complex and then decided to try and sleep for a bit to see if I could rest. At about 11pm I laid down on the couch and tried to sleep, but I was just able to relax a little. My husband slept upstairs for a few hours from 1am-3am, and my mom and I rested downstairs.
At 3am I was definitely in way more pain and doubting if I could handle this whole labor thing. My husband came back down and we sat together on the birth ball before I said I needed to try something else and got into the bath to see if the water would help. The water took the edge off of the pain between contractions, but they were still intense. My husband was great and kept telling me how proud he was of me and helping me ride out the contractions. At about 4am I got out of the tub in an immense amount of pain and started to feel overwhelmed by the contractions. We called the midwives and said we'd head over sometime within the next hour, but after 30 minutes I couldn't take it anymore and really felt like I needed help. I was starting to break down mentally and I was physically tired as well so the combo was not great.
We got to the birth center at 5am and they checked me and discussed with my husband and mom how far along I was and what to do (in my birth plan I asked not to be informed of my dilation/effacement/station status so I didn't make it a mental game in case I was having hard contractions, but still was only at a few cm dilated). I later found out that I was still 4cm dilated, although now 100% effaced with the baby at 0 station. The midwife suggested to my husband that I was not relaxing enough and that some narcotics might help me sleep and take the edge off enough that I could let my mind get out of the way of my body and keep progressing.
While the midwife was talking to my mom I threw up twice which felt pretty horrible (I have a special aversion to throwing up and can't stand it so I'm sure I made a bigger deal out of it that was necessary). The midwife then came back in and asked me if I wanted some medicine to help me relax and sleep and I said yes. They gave me nubaine and fentanyl and told me that they would work soon and give me some relief.
I laid down and kept having contractions and through every one I would just keep saying my mantra "It's almost done…It's almost done…" until the contraction stopped. This became my mantra for the rest of labor and meant different things at different times. At first I thought the pain was almost over and the drugs would kick in, but this happened for about 5 contractions and I realized that the contractions weren't going away, but I was able to completely relax between them which I wasn't able to do before. I continued this way sort of sleeping between contractions, but still able to quietly deal with them because I had my mantra for the next 3.5 hours.
At 8:30am I was feeling restless again wanted to move around or try something different. I sat on the birth ball and sat in the bathroom and contracted there for a while. The midwives kept asking if I could eat something or have a smoothie and I wanted none of it so we agreed on gatorade diluted into my water (I had no IV, but was drinking water after every contraction). My mom and dad went out and got the smoothie and some food for my husband anyway and I tried a sip of the smoothie and threw up again so that was the end of that. At some point later in the morning (time was not something I cared about anymore) I asked to be checked again so I could get into the tub. I was shaking pretty bad and I knew the water had helped earlier so it might help again. They checked me and I was at 7cm (although I didn't know until later) and I got into the tub. The water took the edge off enough that I could quietly cope with my contractions again. I kept saying "It's almost done…It's almost done…" this time meaning each contraction would have an end and then I knew I would get a break.
At about 11am I felt the urge to push with the contractions and it felt better to push than to not push with each contraction so I lightly pushed until the midwife came back to check me. Once she was here she said there was just a tiny lip of cervix left and had me push while she moved it out of the way. I then pushed in the tub for 2 contractions when she had me get out and go pee and try to push in the bathroom. Pushing was painful and my birth instructor had previously said that most women like pushing because it gives them something to do and focus on. I was not one of those people. Pushing hurt a lot, but I knew there was no way back and at this point the mantra of "It's almost done…It's almost done…" meant that the more I pushed the closer I was to labor being over.
The midwife had me push on the bed on my back (ironically since it's generally not one of the more natural pushing positions) to help the baby come under my pubic bone a little better. I did that twice before I was back pushing on my side and oh man it started to REALLY hurt. I pushed 3 times with each contraction not really directed by anyone except that the midwife did tell me when I was having more productive pushes and to push like that. I pushed for 40 minutes and then my water broke, however before then my mom, husband, and midwife said they could see the baby's hair floating in the amniotic sac. Once my water broke it was 3 contractions and her head was out along with a hand and without me consciously pushing, the rest of her body came out.
Immediately the pain was gone and I was flooded with relief and love for this new creature on my belly. Her cord was pretty short and she didn't quite make it up to my breasts until the placenta was delivered and my husband cut the cord. I ended up bleeding a bit so they gave me cytotec to stop it and it quickly stopped after that. I had a small tear that they stitched up and while they were working on me my husband had some skin to skin with our sweet girl. Josie was still covered in some vernix and despite being almost 42 weeks she had no signs of being "post date".
This made me extremely happy that we waited and didn't go with an induction despite everyone else's (family, friends, not our midwife's) unfounded concerns. We guessed her weight by looking at her to be about 8.5-9lbs, but she ended up being 9lbs and 12oz and 21 inches long! She's a dense one! We breastfed right away and she was a champion latcher. My parents got my husband and I chipotle burritos for lunch and we all sat around and ate lunch before my mom held her and let my husband and I nap. When I woke up she fed again and we all just stared at how beautiful she was.
At 4pm we felt ready to go and got her all dressed up and headed home. I felt so ready to be home and honestly I didn't feel physically as bad as I thought I would (I felt way worse after running a 10K). It's been a very easy recovery and now 5 days out I don't feel any pain related to her birth anymore.
Looking back on my birth experience it was pretty close to perfect. If I could change anything I would have practiced my relaxation techniques a lot more while pregnant. I think that I could have avoided the drugs if that were the case (it also didn't help that labor started in the afternoon and went all night without much sleep). I feel like such a champion and have been able to tell all the naysayers that just because she was a big and late baby does not mean that she needed to be a c-section. The midwives think that the hand up by her head is was possibly why labor didn't get started until so late. Who knows, all I know is she is perfect and wonderful!
This labor and birth experience echoed my path of becoming a mother. I found out I was pregnant and was in shock and couldn’t believe it, this baby was a surprise (a welcome one) but my husband and I were in the middle of our PhD programs so it wasn’t the most ideal time. At the beginning of labor I was shocked that it finally started and I didn’t believe I was actually in labor that shock and surprise feeling was there again just as I experienced when I found out I was pregnant. As labor continued it wasn’t too hard, same as my pregnancy, finally towards the end I needed love and support from my partner both to get through labor and to get through pregnancy while conducting my dissertation research. Then at the end it was pure joy as I welcomed our first child and the pain of labor taught me that motherhood would be filled with pain and joy (now that she’s 6 and growing up I see that these can occur at the same time, seeing her go off to school is wonderful and painful as a reminder of her growing up). For me the pain of labor and being able to work with my baby through it felt like a transformation into mother.