On Wed., Sept. 6, I went to prenatal yoga. I had been waiting months for it to be my turn for the class to chant to me. The class will chant to any mama who is close to her due date to help get things going. It rarely ever works, but I had been chanting to women for almost nine months, and I was so excited—it was finally my turn. While everyone chanted to my cervix and yelled for Wyatt to come out, I tried to relax everything and visualize everything opening. There was a another gal who we chanted to who was past her due date and I was hoping I wouldn’t be like her and need another round of chanting—but I was pretty convinced our baby was coming early.
At 4 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, I woke up for my millionth time to pee and there was a little bit of blood. I was so excited because I knew that, unlike losing your mucus plug, this meant things would be happening within the next few days at most. As soon as I saw the blood, I started experiencing real contractions. They were very mild, but definitely not Braxton Hicks anymore. They felt like sustained period cramps in my lower abdomen. I didn’t want to wake Joe because I knew he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep and he would need his rest if this was going to happen soon. I told him I couldn’t sleep and was going to read in the other room. I anxiously awaited his 6:15 a.m. alarm so I could tell him the exciting news. I tried to sleep but couldn’t, I was just too excited. I waited for Joe to get up and make his coffee and then I asked, “Are you ready to meet your son this weekend?” He was definitely taken by surprise. I told him he should still go to work as we were probably still a ways out from anything happening, but he didn’t want to be away so he worked from home.
The rest of the day I just relaxed, finalized my birth bag, updated my family and my doula. I spent time on the birth ball doing a lot of circles to open up my pelvis. We went for a short walk in the neighborhood, but throughout the day my contractions were really far apart and not really gaining in intensity. I decided to try and lay down for a nap in case things picked up in the night. I slept in the nursery in the guest bed since it’s darker in there. Joe turned on the two-way monitor so I could call for him if I needed anything. I was laying on my side, trying to calm my thoughts so I could finally get some sleep when I felt a gush! I called out to Joe so he would hear me on the monitor. It felt like he took forever to respond. He came upstairs with a towel—I didn’t want to have to change the sheets and I could tell it hadn’t hit the bed yet. I rolled out of bed and was shocked that the water just kept coming! It was a lot, but then stopped as I went to the toilet. I was concerned because my doula had told my husband (who mentioned to me but wasn’t supposed to) that it can be more painful to labor naturally if your water breaks so early in the process.
I sat on the toilet while my husband called the doula. She said to call Kaiser and see what they say to do since my contractions were still sporadic and not intensifying. Kaiser has you come in even if you sneeze funny, so of course, they wanted me to come in. By now, my contractions were getting uncomfortable and it was better to breathe through them, but I didn’t HAVE to. I had made a day-of packing list and taped it to the front door, so while Joe loaded the car I paced outside. I was nervous to go to the hospital so early in labor, I knew we weren’t close, but I wanted to make sure our little man was OK.
Just before leaving, we folded a large beach towel so it was 3 in. thick for me to sit on as I was still leaking water. Once we were in the car, I kept getting more gushes of water. I’m talking gallons. I quickly soaked through the towel, onto the car seats and was puddling on the floor. I was sitting in a puddle of water. No one ever said the gushes keep coming! I kept asking Joe to look to see if the fluid was clear—didn’t occur to me that he should focus on driving. He stayed so calm and I was convinced there was an odor (which is a very bad sign) but Joe kept reassuring me. He later said he too was freaking out because it was so much!
We made it to the hospital around 6 p.m. and I put on my hypnobirthing script as we walked in to stay calm and focused. I started crying when I saw that Nurse Kathy was on duty. We had seen her the last two times we had to go in for having too many Braxton Hicks contractions. She switched with another nurse to be assigned to our room, which was awesome. I got hooked up and the midwife confirmed that I was having good regular contractions but she didn’t want to check me and risk infection since my water broke. Wyatt was handling the contractions well and she said she wanted to admit me. I told her I wanted to leave because my plan was to labor at home until I couldn’t talk between contractions (I wanted to do as much at home as I could). She said they would leave me alone to labor as long as I wanted if I stayed and I was torn. We called our doula and she said that if the midwife wasn’t trying very hard to convince me to stay, I should leave. We decided to leave, and the midwife was really great about letting us go, we just had to sign an AMA form. Kathy and her both said they would see me later. They also told me which midwives were on duty and even though mine wasn’t, the next shift was being covered by a midwife I had seen a few times and I really liked her.
I was nervous to drive the 25 minutes home, because I didn’t want to deal with the drive back when I was further along, so at 7 p.m. we went to my sister-in-law’s house to labor there as she is 10 minutes away. By now my contractions were more regular and definitely much more intense. I told Joe to stop the car at a right-hand yield turn because I could feel a strong contraction coming on. He wouldn’t stop because there were cars behind us, and I remember being so mad in the moment. After that, he drove so well! When we got to Meghan’s (my sister-in-law), she had the downstairs dark and quiet, with the best pillow nest I’ve ever been in set up on the couch. I was so worried about leaking water on her brand new couch, but she kept assuring me she had covered everything. Our doula met us there and I was finally able to relax and rest in the pillow nest and we settled into a rhythm with the contractions. I started toning—making a low tone—throughout each contraction. I told Joe I needed him to make the sound with me, and from that moment on, he moaned through EVERY contraction with me for the remaining 18 hours of labor!
I tried to rest in the pillow nest, and then we went for a walk in the neighborhood. The doula had me walk with one foot on the sidewalk and one in the gutter to open my pelvis, which was more awkward than uncomfortable. We labored on the birth ball, on the toilet, and tried all fours for a bit on the yoga mat but that wasn’t very comfortable. For some reason, I would burp at the end of every contraction. I couldn’t control it, and my poor husband had to deal with me burping in face as we breathed together. The contractions were stronger, but still not very close together and I was still able to talk in between them. I decided around 11 p.m. that I wanted to get to the hospital so we could get in a groove there. I was nervous that the car ride would be too uncomfortable if I got much further along and I knew it would break my focus. I just wanted to get to the hospital ASAP so we could regain our groove. I was also afraid I was going to throw up, so I clung to a bowl the whole drive back to the hospital.
When we checked in to triage, I begged them not to make me pee in a cup and do the whole check-in routine again since I was there four hours earlier. The clerk said I had to, but Nurse Kathy came to the rescue again and just took me straight back to a triage room. I got hooked up and my contractions were showing stronger and I was ready to be admitted. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want to walk to the labor room, so they were nice enough to wheel me in the bed to our labor room. All throughout the pregnancy I had visualized the labor room as having the window on the left side of the bed (I think that is what I saw in the tour) and when we got in, Room 209 had a window on the left and I thought, “I can do this, the window is on the left.” It was surprisingly comforting. Our nurse introduced herself to us but said she was going on break for a bit and introduced our temporary nurse. She let that nurse know that I had refused to get the IV saline lock (I just didn’t want that to distract me, and my team had been keeping me hydrated). The temporary nurse didn’t like that and then took one look at my contraction tape and started spouting off about how worried she was and how awful the baby was doing. Keep in mind, everything looked fine in triage and we had just transitioned to a new room and bed. She ran off dramatically to find the midwife. I told our actual nurse that we were planning to have a calm birth environment and that I didn’t like that nurse’s tone. I told her we needed to find someone else, and thankfully, we never saw that lady again. I changed my position and the baby responded better to the contractions. After that, we hunkered in and got back in our rhythm of breathing and changing positions every so often.
We tried all kinds of positions—all fours in bed, hanging over the back of the bed, standing, yoga ball, toilet. I had no idea that the first contraction in a new position was alway more intense, so it took some convincing from the doula for me to change positions. I kept my positive birth affirmations playing on a loop and would tune in to certain phrases throughout labor. We held off on getting checked because I didn’t want to get too hung up on the number. Eventually, I was concerned that I could still talk in between my contractions, which I was afraid meant I wasn’t very far along. I told myself that if I wasn’t a 7, I would get the epidural. The midwife checked me and said I was a 6 but she could stretch me to a 7. I was so disappointed because I was so close to my target number. My doula was great about keeping me distracted and said we would call it a 7 and just kept me moving along through positions.
At some point, the baby just wasn’t recovering fast enough after my contractions and the midwife said the best way to support him was IV fluids and oxygen. At this point, I didn’t want to risk stressing him out further and needing serious interventions, so I got all hooked up and he responded well to this.
We kept on laboring and I still could talk in between contractions, which kept freaking me out. I thought I had so much longer to go because everyone said they knew they were in active labor when they couldn’t talk in between.
At one point, I actually nodded off in between contractions and I remember dreaming about the Mindy Project—which I had been binge watching while on leave. I remember waking up and thinking how strange it was to be thinking of that at a time like this.
I told everyone to chant the number 8 through the next several contractions and everyone did! I asked to be checked and if I wasn’t an 8 I was going for the epidural—the process was just feeling endless. I was a 9.5! I was so excited that I was in the home stretch … or so I thought! I wasn’t fully effaced, and the doctor said there was still a “lip” of my cervix that was in the way of his head. She said she needed to manually flip the edge of my cervix out of the way. The kicker was, she said she had to do this DURING my contractions and that it would take several tries! This sounded like the worst idea ever, but I was ready to be done, so the next contraction she got to work. I don’t remember it being that bad, and eventually she got it cleared and it was time to start pushing—around 9 a.m.
I had heard that pushing without an epidural could take up to 2 hours, but I was determined to get him out and be done with this process. My doula said that the first push will push him forward, but then he will retract a bit. The second push is where you make progress, and if you can get a good third push in, you will hold our progress. I felt like I could only get two good pushes per contraction and I was just faking the third. We tried pushing in several positions: squat, on the toilet, on my back and side. We got out the squat bar, but it was too intimidating so I didn’t use it. The new midwife checked me after pushing for a while and said that Wyatt was getting stuck on my pelvis and in order to clear that part I needed to push flat on my back. We pushed for a while here but eventually I just needed to change positions. We think I eventually cleared the pelvis while pushing on the toilet.
I pushed for a long time on my side, but would get a horrendous cramp in my hip the minute the contraction was over. There was a peanut-shaped exercise ball they put between my knees after each contraction, but I felt like they could never put it in place fast enough and I would scream for the peanut ball until they got it in place and I could rest.
At one point, a nurse wheeled in a tray that was covered and I thought for sure this meant I was close to delivery. But, they kept it in the back of the room FOREVER and I kept wondering when it would be time. The midwife kept checking in on me and every time she came in I would ask, “Are you going to stay until the end?” I thought each time she entered, “This will be it.” But then she would have to leave and I knew I wasn’t close.
Eventually, Nurse Cynthia said it was time to massage me and get me ready for delivery. I’ve come to learn that no part of any “massage” in the hospital is fun. While she massaged the birth canal, she’s chatting with me in between pushes and asks if I do CrossFit! She said my glutes were in the way and that I have a really strong pelvic floor. Not the conversation I expected.
When the midwife came in next, I had been pushing for 4 hours and she was concerned that, because my contractions were still 5 minutes apart, this was just taking too long. I was getting tired, and so was Wyatt. She suggested giving me pitocin to speed up contractions. I was worried because I thought this would make things more painful, but the contractions actually didn’t hurt much at this point and she said it shouldn’t cause more discomfort—just less rest in between. I asked if we could try a few more positions and we did for 30 more minutes, but not much progress came so we started the pitocin. I don’t recall things picking up. But apparently my contractions got to 2 minutes apart. The midwife asked if I wanted to watch in a mirror and I said yes, even though I was unsure. At first, I could not see his head at all—everything looked the same down there and nothing like my vagina. But eventually I saw him and it was so motivating and incredible to see him pushing through. Because he went slightly back in after each push, I was determined not to let him go too far back so watching really helped me focus. I touched his head, but I felt like it broke my focus, so I kept my hand behind my legs to push.
Seeing him come into this world was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. They put him right onto my belly as soon as he came out. I went to pull him to my chest, but the midwife said to wait. Apparently the umbilical cord was pretty short, so he couldn’t reach my chest until the placenta came out. I rubbed him and talked to him, it was such an incredible moment. A few minutes later I did a short push and the placenta came out and I was able to pull him to my chest. The way he looked up at me melted my heart—it was the greatest feeling ever. He wasn’t interested in eating just yet so I just held him and talked to him and we just stared at him in awe that he was finally here.
Written by Tawny Linehan