Catherine’s Birthing story (in-depth version)
For all the years I have spent being annoyed at my curvey body shape, it turns out that I have perfect birthing hips!
The birth was intense, much more than I had anticipated. I thought I would be able to move around more go to different positions, but the pain was so intense and all on the left lower back. Apparently he was facing the wrong way, his head down correct but his face was pushed into my spine. eventually he turned around to come out the right way but that was intense. I had hardly any front labor pain at all, when I did get the front contractions they were wonderful, so much more manageable.
For a week before Mile’s birth I was 2-3 cm dilated. On the friday before I was due (I was due on the sunday) I lost my mucus plug and was excited. I had been having braxton hicks and they seemed to be getting stronger and then… they died in the ass and I spent the weekend just waiting.. then I spent monday waiting, tuesday waiting and then Wednesday I went to the midwife. I was getting concerned because I had intended on birthing in the birthing center . They have a lot of limitations on birthing there, my main concern was I would go past the 6 day threshold. On day 7 past your due date they send you off to birth at Labor and Delivery.
So after a discussion with my midwife we decided to do a membrane swipe (which is when they pull the sack away from the uterus wall with the intent that will trigger labor.) It doesn’t always work, but if it does it will do so within about 24 hours. So Thursday I kept Dave home from work to keep me company (I was pretty big by then and tired of watching TV), and my contractions started to get noticeable around 5:30pm.
By 8:30pm they were 4-8 mins apart and then it started to become a blur. I called my midwife and she recommended just laying down and sleeping while I could. Laying down (its recommended to lay on your left side) actually slows your contractions and standing speeds them up (gravity is a handy tool). I would fall asleep and then wake every 6-7 mins with a contraction. Sometimes I think that was worse than being awake for them because it would pull me out of sleep, quite violently. The contractions were lasting anywhere from 45sec-2 mins. Then when they finished I would be shivering with cold and I made Dave get into bed and cuddle me to keep me warm. I struggled to keep my eyes open. The pain was pretty intense and it was all located in my lower back on the left hand side.
I also started throwing up, from the bottom of my boots. Pepprmint oil helped a lot, but I struggled to keep even water down.
By 1 or 2 am the contractions were getting closer together and sleep wasn’t an option. I would have the contraction and I would try lots of different positions. Sitting on the fit ball made it hurt more, leaning on Dave and swaying relieved it a little bit. My friend Melissa, who is also a doula, had texted me earlier in the evening and reminded me about getting in the shower to relieve the pain. Thank God she did because I just hit this point where getting in the shower was all I could think about. I had been applying panaway and deep relief to try and ease some of the pain but they weren’t doing much for me, I just had to get into the shower. So I did. I cranked the water up and got it pounding on my back. I was very fortunate because my shower had a towel rail in the shower, a really silly place to hang a towel, but a fantastic place to hang from when you are in labor.
I worked out that if I twisted my hips and got the water mainly on the left side I could relieve some of the pressure on them. At this stage I hadn’t really thought about the fact that all my pain was in the back, which meant Miles was facing the wrong way, his head was down correctly, but his face was pushed into my spine. I had hardly any front labor pain at all, when I did get the front contractions they were wonderful, so much more manageable. What I had felt like someone was grabbing the top and bottom of my left hip and butt and then crushing them together.
So I stood in the shower at home for about 2.5 hours with just hot water pounding on my back. I discovered that when I didn’t focus on my breath and let myself cry out, the pain got out of control. Dave was in charge of the contraction timer, I do love apps on the iphone (ahoy to Kirsten for getting me onto it!) I would call out start and stop times.
Between contractions I would lean against the side of the shower, or sit on the edge of the bath, trying to rest my legs. I could barley keep my eyes open. My body was just shutting down. I assume it was a pain coping mechanism. I eventually got tired of standing and my contractions never really got consistant, but they were about 3 -4 mins apart, which generally translates into 5 cm dilated, and at 4:30am I made Dave call the midwife. I just wanted to get into the hospital and get into the jacuzzi in the birthing center.
We got the ok to come in and Dave tried to call a car service. At 4:30am I though there would be plenty of cars, but one said it would be a 30 min wait and another said they could get someone there by 9:30am!!
In the end Dave went out and hailed a yellow taxi and we got the nicest driver in the world. Dave sent the cab around to our house and he came in to get me. I got out of the shower, (I was so wrinkled I’m surprised I wasn’t squelching as I walked), then had a contraction. Dave took the bags out to the cab so he wouldn’t drive away. I got myself dry and dressed, had a contraction. Walked out to the cab, very slow steps leaning heavily on Dave, had a contraction before I got in. Got into the cab and off we went. I dozed in between contractions (sitting contractions were pretty awful, but I do remember we drove through central park.)
We got to the hospital and tipped the cabbie well. He had waited out the front of our apartment for 15 mins and he hadn’t even started running the meter. I was super impressed! It was snowing outside and I was so hot from the shower I barley noticed it.
We had to enter via the emergency entrance and we couldn’t work out how to get in, the main doors were closed as it was after hours and after pausing for a contraction we worked out to use the side entrance. We got upstairs around 5:30am and went to triage where they laid me down on a table for 30mins with a baby monitor on my belly making sure Miles’ heartbeat was all ok. I knew I was dehydrated and the midwife to give me an IV. Those 30 mins seemed like a lot longer. the biggest challenge with the baby monitors is the fact that you can’t move even a little bit as messes up the readings.
We finally got the clearance to go to the birthing center. We got into the room and they started filling the tub. It takes about 20 mins to fill the tub and Cory, my midwife, suggested I start walking the halls to speed up labor (the laying down had slowed it somewhat). I could barely stand, let alone walk, so I just leaned on her and Dave. At times Cory pushed my hips together and that helped give some relief till I could get in the water.
I found out after the birth that I was very lucky to even get into the birthing center. They only have 4 beds, and are rarely full, well apparently when I rocked up to the hospital there was only 1 bed left and another lady arrived at the same time. It was her second baby and she was fully dilated and ready to go. The other ladies midwife was very generous and said to Cory that I could take the room as I needed the Jacuzzi. So thank you to that midwife she really made my birth so much smoother.
I got into the Jacuzzi an knelt, and leaned my arms over the side. I had Dave constantly run hot water over my spine, especially focusing on the left hip, when he didn’t I really noticed it. I was sucking cold water and coconut water as well to keep hydrated. With each contraction I would focus inwards and I kept chanting to myself “Open and loose and relaxed”. I kept visualising my cervix dilating. I also keept chanting “My body was made to do this.”
The midwife would check me periodically, I’d been in the water for a while and I remember asking her if I was about to go into transition. She looked at me and said “You are almost out of it.” So I had this moment of relief knowing that I was near the end.
I got to the point where I felt ready to push. Earlier they had been coaching me not to push, to just let my body do the work. Miles finally turned around so he was facing the correct way and that was pretty close to the end (time really blurred at this point). I had some really string contractions as he turned himself . My water hadn’t broken yet. The nurses asked me if I had heard it happen in the tub, she said its really obvious you hear a ‘pop’. When I was given the go ahead to start pushing it really did go ‘pop’.. it was pretty cool 🙂
The hospital doesn’t allow you to birth in the tub so once I was almost fully dilated, I got out and moved to the bed. I was on my knees leaning on a big wedge. Because of the pubis symphysis, about 7 months into my pregnancy this kicked in, the cartilage in my pubic bone had gotten too soft from all the hormones and if I split my legs too wide , even walking, it felt like my body was being torn in two. This meant I couldn’t squat or split my legs open too wide, so kneeling was my best option. When I got on the bed I must have been about about 9.5 cm dilated Cory helped to stretch me to full dilation. (I didn’t know that they could do that!)
Then the hard part started. I was pushing for about an hour. It took longer than I expected. At one point I got Dave to rub some Valor (Young Living blend) up and down my spine and that helped to center me. It took me a while to process direction into action, but Cory wanted me to arch my back and curl my hips under to give room for Miles to move down. Right near the end I got scared. The contractions were coming thick and fast and. I started to get overwhelmed and scared. I was doing three pushes each contraction and I felt myself fighting it. I had to hold my breath and push to make a cannon ball effect so my energy was pushing Miles down rather than blowing out with my breath. Cory got me to feel his head, he was so close to coming out. That helped to give me an extra boost to keep pushing.
The crowning of the head was an amazing feeling, It felt like my midwife had her hands down there stretching me apart, but she wasn’t even touching me! Then another push, his head came out and then I had to stop pushing, (when all I wanted to do was push) so she could make sure Miles airway was clear. Then I got the go ahead and with one more push he slipped out. I remember thinking how hot he felt (not a surprise considering I had spent the last 6 hours in hot water!)
Apparently he was a little grumpy looking when he came out and his nose was squished in as it had been pressing against my spine! Its filled out now 🙂
So Miles was born at 9:32 am weighing 9.4 pounds and it was still snowing outside!
I tore a lot, pretty much from top to toe, but only surface tears apparently which is good (I was expecting to tear I have pretty sensitive skin down there). And then it was all done!
We waiting until the placenta had stopped pulsating before it was cut and then I took my placenta got it encapsulated with essential oils. (For those in New York a wonderful lady named Judith from Birth Balance to encapsulated it, I highly recommend her 🙂 )
I’ve never been so exhausted before. I tried to sit up in bed, my arms were shaking I could barley move! I did turn to Dave said “I don’t know how people lined up for a second round of it.” Thankfully the memory has faded, which is a blessing 🙂 It kinda feels like a fuzzy blur when I look back on it now and try to remember the pain. Species self preservation mechanism no doubt!
But we made it and Dave has been incredible its been a real team effort and I never imagined it would be like this! Another nice surprise!