First, I'd like to preface this by saying that I didn't go natural to "be a hero", as I so often hear when people talk about birthing. I just wanted my daughter to be free from medication and also, I didn't like how "out of control" I felt the first time around (medicated labor). I had confidence in my body this time around and was determined to trust my body and instincts.
Short: Elise Maya was born at 11:02 a.m. via natural water birth. She weighed 6 lbs, 12 ounces, and was 19 3/4" long. The labor was 9 1/2 hours from start to finish, including 13 minutes of pushing. Apgar's 8/9.
The long story: I started having some random contractions on Friday, 2/26/2010 but they really were not anything I could time. Occasionally, I would have a painful one, which made me think that maybe tonight would be the night. I went to bed around midnight and had a few contractions that were spaced out and then I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and started having contractions that were 4-5 minutes apart. They were starting to hurt a little. I went to the bathroom and had bloody show and then I knew this was it.
I was so excited to be in labor! I was going to try and sleep through some contractions but I realized that wasn't going to happen, so I went out to the living room to get on the computer so I could time the contractions (I sent the hubby into the bedroom -- he had been sleeping on the couch. I wanted him to rest up because I remembered how long my last labor was -- 22 hours of active labor).
At this point, the contractions were about four minutes apart, and sometimes three. I started packing my hospital bag (which was already packed for the most part, but I needed to add a few essentials like my toothbrush, contact lenses, camera, etc.). Every time I'd get a contraction, I'd try and sit on the toilet because it just felt best being in that position. I breathed through them (sometimes swearing, but not too loud because I didn't want to wake up Andrew) and then I'd hop off the pot and continue packing. I even had to open a package of SD cards so I could put one in the easy-to-use camera (I wanted both cameras on hand -- my fancy one can be hard for people to use, so I like having the point-and-shoot too). I charged up the camcorder, too, because the battery was dead.
At 5:00 a.m., I decided to call my mother and let her know I was in labor. I figured the best plan of action would be to have her take me to the hospital and check me in and we could see where I was at before having Rob take Andrew over to his mom's (last time, labor progressed so slow). Honestly, I just wanted to get into that birthing tub! I kept thinking of how good that warm bath would feel. My mom was excited for the call and said she'd be right over (I told her not to speed and just to take her time).
My mom arrived about 20 minutes later and loaded my bags into her car. We drove over to the hospital and my contractions were still three minutes apart (sometimes two). I remember at one point trying to turn off her radio because I didn't want to hear any noise during the contractions.
When I arrived at Labor & Delivery, my midwife, Glenda, was waiting right where we walked in (well, my mom walked and so did the attendant who wheeled me in). I gave Glenda a wave and said, "told you I'd make it in on your shift!" (we had both talked about Friday overnight until 8:00 a.m. on Saturday). I had tears in my eyes because I was so happy to see her. She said, kiddingly, "you better be uncomfortable!"
I got checked into the birthing suite, which is the big room with the adjoining small room with the birthing tub. I got my gown on and went to the bathroom and then they set me up first in the bed. They got the heart monitor on and we listened to the heartrate for a little while. Of course, it dropped a little when I would have a contraction (completely normal) but they had me lie on my side to see if that helped, and it did. They got the IV of penicillin in (I'm Group B Strep positive). Glenda came and checked me around 6:00 a.m. and said, "you're at a 3-4 and there is no cervix left -- completely effaced, which is a change from Tuesday" (when I was at a 2 and still pretty firm). She asked where my husband was and I told her that he had to arrange for childcare for Andrew, and she said that he should probably get there because she had a feeling I was going to progress quickly (this delighted me!).
After a little bit, I went into the bathroom to sit on the toilet to get through my contractions. It felt the best to be in that position. I was in there for probably a half hour, and finally asked them to fill the tub for me (they said they usually liked to wait until closer to the end of labor but I though that was silly because the tub has a drain and a faucet to add more hot water if need be).
When I finally stepped into the tub and sat down, it was instant relief. The water felt so good and I almost pretended I was on vacation somewhere and was just in the hot tub. As a contraction would come, I would breathe through it, turning on my side because that position felt the best. In and out of the small tub room were my midwife, who had to go at 8:00, because it was shift change -- so then the next midwife, another nurse who was training to become a midwife (she was awesome and "hippie" like me -- I really liked her), the nurse who did most of the monitoring, her helper (CNA, maybe?), my mom, and eventually my aunt (Labor & Delivery RN who was off duty), and my husband.
The next time I got checked (8:55 a.m., I think), I was at an 8. I was amazed. I had progressed from a 3-4 to an 8 in just under three hours. I could not believe I was officially in transition! At this point, I started doing the low moaning that I had only seen in other natural birth videos. I kept thinking I didn't want to be like that, but it really helped with the pain relief. I was like an animal, and at one point said that the mooing would eventually scare my baby out. I said, "I'm going to survive this, right?" but it was more of an affirmation or a statement of the truth than a question. The nice midwife-to-be told me what a great job I was doing. I asked her if when I got to a 10, if I'd still have breaks between the contractions or if they'd all be right on top of each other, and she assured me I'd still get breaks in between (for some reason I had it in my head that it was all just going to hurt so much).
At some point, I decided I had to pee so they warned me I'd feel 1 or 2 very intense contractions as I stood up in tub. Boy were they ever intense! However, I walked quite a ways and made it to the toilet, peed for awhile (tossing the hot towel off my back -- the one the nurse wrapped aroundd me), got through a few contractions, and headed back to the tub. The staff had let some water out and added more hot, so it felt awesome to get in and get back into my zone.
Things started picking up and I got a little bit crazy. The padded headrest behind me kept falling off and it was pissing me off, so they started putting towels behind me. I was reclining for the most part, but when I felt a contraction come, I'd turn on my side and put my head on the towels, moaning through the contraction (more of an "oooooooooooh", long "o" sound). Every once in awhile, the nurse would put the doppler in the water and listen to the heartrate through a few contractions. A couple times it dropped low, but I knew this was normal and pretty much just tried to ignore the nurse, who sometimes asked me questions during contractions. The nurse who was training to be a midwife, Erin, was my favorite. She was quiet and after I'd get through a contraction, she'd whisper, "good job". She, at one point, told me that she birthed her son in a tub, at home! How awesome.
Anyway, the towels would fall in the water and I would toss them over my shoulder -- I honestly didn't care about the mess I was making! I also liked a cold washcloth for my head, and I would rub it over my face during a contraction to distract from the pain. At one point, I had a pretty strong contraction and I whipped the washcloth over my shoulder as well! Later on, I found this all to be funny.
I got checked again shortly before 11:00 a.m. and I was complete. This was it. I was almost there and soon my baby would be in my arms. I had more contractions where I started to feel pressure -- "the" pressure they talk about where you know it's time to push. I would be breathing/moaning through a contraction and when she'd push down, my voice would say, "uhUUUHuhUUUUHuh" (if that makes sense). I wasn't quite there yet where I felt that I had to push, so I kept moaning through the contractions, and I noticed the contractions were much longer and here and there, my voice would get a little higher when the pressure would happen, but Erin would tell me to keep moaning low because it helps with the pain (and it's true, because it did). I could hear my friends cheering me on in my head, telling me I could do this (Andrea in New Mexico and Jules, especially).
I finally said they could break my water when I was at a 10 and the bag was bulging (see? I knew I wasn't the type to have my water break spontaneously early on in labor). I felt some more intense contractions after this and they told me that when I feel the urge to push, to just do it.
I had to change gears and go from breathing out to taking a deep breath and pushing (with my bottom and not my face). A couple of times, I remember saying, "oops, let me get another breath" because I'd let that one out. I had my eyes shut during all of these contractions, but I could hear my aunt telling me to bear down and PUSH with my butt like I'm going poop -- this would immediately get me to focus because I kept trying to push with my face. When they told me they could see her head and her hair, I waited for the next contraction, and then I pushed and kept pushing, feeling some minor pain, but honestly, it wasn't as bad as the contraction pain. When they said the head was out and to keep going, I took another big breath and pushed, pushed, pushed (I could hear myself and I sounded like an animal), until my whole baby came out. They told me to look down and grab my baby! I had my eyes shut and glasses off and it was dim, and oh, the washrag was over my eyes so I commanded, rather like a Nazi General, I later decided, for someone to take the washrag off my eyes so I could see my baby.
I held my beautiful baby for the first time. Her eyes were open and blinking at me. She was beautiful. I couldn't stop saying, "oh, oh, oh" and I kissed her and held her close and said, "she's little too, just like Andrew was". I then realized I had done it. "I can't believe I did it", I said, and I looked over at Erin and with tears in my eyes, thanked her and told her that this was so amazing and I couldn't believe I did it. I announced that her name was Elise Maya (I even checked her parts to make sure she was still a girl as we were told in our ultrasound; she was). I asked if someone had noted the time, and they told me 11:02 a.m. was when she was born, after 13 minutes of pushing.
Everyone was in awe and they all said how amazing I did. It was honestly so much easier than I had envisioned. Prior to this, I had only based natural labor on what I had seen portrayed on t.v., and that really isn't a good depiction. It was amazing, empowering, and less painful than I ever could have imagined. The pushing felt good and was less painful than the contractions.
I told them to let the cord pulse, and then my husband cut the cord. They told me the placenta should be ready to come out soon. I asked if I had to wait for a contraction, and they told me just to try pushing. I did, and that was very easy. After all, my beautiful little girl was in my arms, healthy as could be.
I got out of the tub then, and we went over to the bed. Within a minute, I had Elise latched on. She had a perfect latch and continued to nurse for an hour-and-a-half. She has been doing beautifully ever since.
Erin came to see me the next day and said she was so glad to have been part of my beautiful birth. I told her that I was so glad she was there. We had this connection that I can't explain, but I feel like she was this angel sent to help me achieve my goal. (Update from August, 2010: I got in touch with her later -- a little bit of stalking on my part -- I sent her this birth story and some pics and she responded with a nice letter so we then started e-mailing. I later learned that she had 10 years of experience as a doula -- how awesome is that?! She also let me know that she passed her boards so she was now a certified nurse midwife. I am so proud of her.
I promise to get some pictures up soon -- I need to upload them to my photobucket.