|My little bug|
Disclaimer: Don't read this if you'll be bothered by me talking about bodily functions in somewhat graphic detail. Having a baby destroyed what little modesty I used to possess.
I spent at least half of my labor denying that I was in labor.
I spent at least half of my labor denying that I was in labor.
My baby decided the time had come when I was a few days shy of 38 weeks. I had spent much of my pregnancy firmly believing that my baby would be born late; after all, as my midwife pointed out, first babies are nine days late, on average. Friends and family had been gleefully telling me how their first babies had come late, and I had read many positive birth stories where firstborns came after 41 or 42 weeks gestation. So you might understand why, when people asked me when the EDD was, I would tell them February 19, but then assure them that it would probably be late February, maybe even early March. In fact, I was secretly hoping for a Leap Day baby, and wasn't shy about telling anyone who asked.
So when my water broke around 2:30 in the afternoon of February 1, I assumed I had just had an embarrassing bout of urinary incontinence. Yep, I thought I had peed myself, and was quite thankful that only the cat was around to witness it. I still had the presence of mind to note the time (halfway through Fresh Air on NPR!) and to sniff it (I know, gross, but my birth class drilled that response into me). It didn't smell like anything, which meant it could be amniotic fluid, but it could also just mean that I was really well-hydrated; after all, I had been drinking water like a boss. I should have contacted my midwife then, but I suppose I didn't want to sound a false alarm and be that pesky first-time mom who saw labor around every corner.
Sometime after that, the contractions started. I assumed that I was finally starting to feel the Braxton-Hicks contractions that had apparently started at least a week earlier. At my last prenatal appoinntment, my midwife pointed out when one was happening; I couldn't feel anything, but she (and my husband) could clearly see that my uterus was contracting. These contractions felt uncomfortable, but definitely were something I could handle.
In hindsight, I should have taken notice of the fact that they made my back hurt. Aren't Braxton-Hicks supposed to hurt in front, while real contractions hurt in back? I didn't remember this, or didn't make the connection, and since the contractions were no real inconvenience, I kept going about my merry way.
I next decided that this was a good time to go get a haircut. But as I was on my way to Great Clips, I got a call from a friend inviting me to come over to play board games. (No, I am certainly not too old for board games, thank you very much.) Clearly, the hair cut could wait until tomorrow.
Famous last words.
As we played a few games, the contractions kept getting progressively worse, but I continued to actively ignore them. Even when they got to the point where I could no longer sit through them, I still refused to recognize that these contractions might be something worth taking note of. Never mind the fact that I was still leaking some kind of fluid; I suppose I thought I had lost my ability to hold in my pee properly. Never mind the fact that I had lost at least part of my mucous plug a week or so earlier. I simply refused to entertain the idea that I might actually be in labor. There was no way; it was too soon!
The ten-minute drive home was distinctly uncomfortable. I decided that a hot bath was in order; I think I recalled reading somewhere that a bath could make Braxton-Hicks contractions subside, and I definitely wanted them to subside at this point. So I filled up the bathtub as much as I could, which unfortunately wasn't much, since the geniuses who designed my apartment complex decided to put in the smallest hot water heaters available. So with bathtub half full (and that's after adding a few pots of water heated on the stove), I climbed in and tried to relax myself. My mama called, and I told her what was going on; I learned later that she suspected it might be real labor but didn't want to shatter my disillusionment, figuring I would come to the right conclusion eventually.
Not surprisingly, in retrospect anyway, the bath didn't really help. As I rested on my side in the hot water, the contractions just got worse, more painful even. Worse yet, when I got out to use the toilet, I found myself with a little bit of what could only be the bloody show. Resigned to the fact that I might actually be in labor, I decided to call my midwife.
I left a message. An hour later, I left a second message. I sent several text messages. No answer. All the while, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, and I was slowly becoming more convinced that this might be the real deal. In a moment of frustration, I remembered that the midwife's apprentice had called me a few weeks back; I hadn't saved the number, but I hadn't cleared my recent call data either, so it should still be in my phone somewhere. Eventually, I pinpointed which one I thought was hers and called, hoping I was right since by now it was pretty late at night. Success! While she worked at getting in contact with my midwife (she had other phone numbers to try), I tried to lie down and sleep some.
Sleeping didn't work. The contractions were pretty close together now, and every time one hit I absolutely had to sit up. Eventually I resorted to pacing my house, while my worried cat tried to act as my doula. (He had good intentions, but just didn't know what to do when I was so clearly uncomfortable.)
Soon enough, my midwife finally called me back. After getting my rough analysis of the situation, she advised me to get my husband home (he's in the Navy and was supposed to be staying on base that night). I had been texting him all day to let him know how uncomfortable I was, so he suspected something was up; he didn't seem entirely surprised when I woke him up around midnight and asked him to come home.
After that, things get kind of hazy, time-wise. I know I filled the bathtub again, and my husband continued to boil water on the stove to keep it warm for me. I know the two of us were in regular contact with my midwife, and it wasn't long before she (and her apprentice) were both on their way to my apartment. I had planned to give birth at their birth center, but an hour-long drive was clearly out of the question for me at this point.
I know I asked my husband to provide counter-pressure on my back during my contractions. I know I pooped a little in the tub during some of the contractions, but my husband showed his worth (not that there was ever any doubt) by putting on rubber gloves and scooping it out. He also brought me applesauce (the only food I was interested in eating) and kept me drinking water between contractions.
I know that after all of the books I had read, all of the stories and such I had read on the Internet, and the birth class (of which my final class was supposed to be in a week), I remembered only two things. First, I remembered to keep breathing deeply and evenly throughout the contractions; I also remembered to take a really deep breath at the beginning and end of each so that my husband would know without me having to tell him each time. I also remembered Ina May's concept that the uterus is a sphincter; as I breathed through the contractions (and squeezed first my husband's hand, then a rolled-up towel after he decided that he didn't want broken fingers), I actively kept my jaw loose, all the better to allow my uterus to open freely.
At some point, my husband became concerned about the water being contaminated, so we emptied the tub and I decided to try laboring in a few different positions. Hands and knees didn't work for me. Standing with my arms around my husband's neck while he supported my weight didn't work either. I ended up doing most of the rest of my labor sitting on the toilet, of all places.
I started feeling the urge to push. I'm not sure I understand the concept of coached pushing; when that urge came I pushed, and there was no way I could stop myself even if I had wanted to. I assume I was fully dilated by this point, but since I never had any vaginal exams throughout, I can't say for certain.
My water had broken earlier, but as I breathed through my contractions, it became apparent to me that the amniotic sac hadn't completely burst. Nope, when I felt down between me legs, there was what I can only describe as a bubble coming out of me. It was a very bizarre sensation.
The haziness increased. The midwife's apprentice arrived first. She came to see how I was doing, then went to prepare supplies for the birth. Eventually my midwife appeared. And, I was told later, my water broke for real about fifteen minutes later, and the baby came out in the same push.
I gave birth in my bathroom. The placenta followed soon after, and I sat in the re-filled tub for awhile while the midwife checked my son over. I hadn't received any medication of any kind during labor, but I gladly accepted a shot of Pitocin after to help stop the bleeding. Eventually I moved to my bed. While the midwives checked my bottom, my wonderful husband held our beautiful baby against his chest; we had decided to wait to cut the cord, so the placenta sat next to him in one of our mixing bowls. I had one tiny tear, which took two stitches to close up.
My son was born at 5:43 am on February 2, fifteen hours after my water broke initially. No medications, no interventions, a completely un-complicated home birth. I couldn't have asked for a better experience for my first birth.