Lying in bed I felt a warm gush of water between my legs. I jumped up and frantically waddled to the shower. Water with a pinkish tinge flowed down my leg and into the drain. My husband, Steve, checked if there was a smell and there wasn’t. At first, we weren’t sure if it was the mucous plug or the bag of waters. Steve ran to get the Bradley Method® Student Workbook while I stood in the bathtub and laughed hysterically from nerves and excitement.
We determined it was definitely the bag of waters, which meant we were most likely heading to the hospital. We contacted our doula and Bradley Method® Instructor. She said we could call the doctor first and try to negotiate staying at home for a while. We contacted the nurse and told her what had happened. She said we needed to go to the hospital due to their policy on risk of infection.
At the hospital we planned to negotiate going home if I was not effaced, my station was at a zero or a positive number, I was less than four centimeters dilated, if ultrasound levels were normal and baby and I were normal on the monitor. In triage the nurse immediately tried to administer the intravenous fluids. Already well hydrated, I simply said I would rather have a hep-lock; they obliged. This was the first of many negotiations and intervention preventions. The on-call doctor checked my cervix and determined I was two centimeters dilated, 50% effaced, minus one station. They would not let us go home.
The on-call doctor asked if I wanted Pitocin in a couple hours to “nudge” things along. I said I would rather try natural efforts to induce labor. We were transferred to the labor and delivery room. We met our nurse and together we reviewed our birth plan. We discussed that I would like intermittent electronic fetal monitoring so I could be active and walk as much as possible.
I initially felt very disappointed that we had already deviated from our birth plan. I had envisioned spending most of labor in the comfort of our home. Now we were on “hospital time” and I felt pressure. Steve coached me and reminded me not to dwell on the negative and refocus on the fact that we were making progress and would meet our baby girl soon. My mom arrived at 10:30 a.m. despite telling her not to come yet. We kept in contact with our doula via phone and text.
My contractions were painless and sporadic. I had a lot of energy and was very excited. During the monitoring Steve and I played cards and talked. When off the monitor we roamed the halls. I stimulated my nipples by rubbing them, sucked my thumb and walked. We tried every non-invasive method to induce labor. Feeling hungry, we asked the nurse if I could eat and she said no. Although our doctor was not on call we ran into her in the hallway; she was working in the operating room but made time to meet with us. My doctor said I could eat and I immediately ordered food. At 12:30 p.m. we sat with our doctor, the on-call doctor, our nurse, my husband and mom. We discussed our options for inducing labor. This was a turning point for me.
My doctor was understanding and supportive of our desire to have a natural birth. We decided that first I would have a hot shower. If that did not induce labor, I would have an enema and if that did not induce labor, I would have a midwife stretch my cervix. The shower felt amazing but did nothing. The enema helped ease my mind but did not induce labor. Then at 6:30 p.m. a certified nurse midwife came in with her cheerful demeanor and determined attitude. I told her, “You seem nice, but I know you are going to hurt me.” She checked my cervix and I was three centimeters and she said the baby was very low. She stretched my cervix (stripped my membranes) and it actually did not hurt. Steve said that my eyes lids were fluttering as if I was in severe pain.
We resumed walking the familiar halls. Within minutes we turned back towards the room because the contractions were increasingly intense. We continued to walk back and forth in the room. During the earlier contractions I pelvic rocked on the floor. I wished we had brought our labor ball. We called our doula and asked her to come because I was now four centimeters dilated and in active labor. The stretching worked! I felt relieved that now I would not likely need Pitocin. My body had started to do what it was designed to do.
The contractions increased and I chose the side lying position. When our doula arrived I went to the bathroom and when I returned she put the labor ball on the bed and I began having contractions whilst leaning over the ball. This was preferable to side lying because gravity could continue to work in my favor. I climbed on the bed and pelvic rocked over the ball. I “slow danced” with Steve and ultimately spent most of the latter part of active labor sitting backwards on the toilet with a pillow between the cistern and me.
Having Steve, our doula and my mom there rubbing every inch of my body, helped me to relax and give in to the contraction and allow my body to melt. It felt like a billion hands supporting me through each contraction. As labor progressed I became increasingly quiet. I would occasionally ask for a pillow to be repositioned or for the fan to be turned off or the music turned on. Unbeknownst to me, the anesthesiologist regularly offered his services and fortunately, our doula, my mom and Steve kindly declined. They perpetually had to remind the staff that I was doing great without any pain medication or an epidural.
At 10:30 p.m. the certified nurse midwife came back in to check on me. She did a vaginal exam. Our birth plan stated I did not want to know how many centimeters dilated I was, but Steve and our doula could know. I would be informed if I had or had not made progress. They told me I had made major progress and I was doing great. I was curious what “progress” meant. As the contractions become more painful I started asking Steve if I was more than five? In my head I was thinking I had better be closer to eight centimeters because these contraction were very painful. I hoped I was in transition. He said I was doing great and had made progress. At that time I was seven centimeters dilated, 80% effaced, minus one station.
I remember learning in Bradley Method® Class about “taking a nap” between contractions. I thought this was the most absurd concept. However, I did actually take naps between contractions. When I was on the electronic fetal monitor Steve and our doula would start talking me through the contraction as it was about to start and guide me through the peak. Off the monitor my body had its own indicator that a contraction was coming – I would begin to shake uncontrollably as if I had the chills. This helped prepare me for the contraction and moaning during contractions helped relieve the sensations.
Saturday, 2.20.2010, Midnight
From the toilet I decided it was time for side lying – which in hindsight marked the beginning of transition. There were a few little things that really bothered me during labor. One was that there was no toilet paper in the bathroom. Internally I was livid but I was surprisingly polite throughout the labor. Also, I was annoyed with the nurses reading the monitor printouts. It sounded like they were crinkling newspaper in my ear. I felt nauseous at this stage and vomited a few times.
Then, whilst in the side lying position, my contractions progressed in such a way that the peak of the contraction felt like a tight ball in my stomach and I could not relax. Our doula asked if there was something different about these contractions. I said that it felt like I could not relax anymore. During these contractions I had to breath as though I was blowing out candles to help avoid pushing. I was not ten centimeters yet.
At 12:30 a.m. our doula called the nurse because she thought I was ready to push. The nurse came and checked my cervix and confirmed I was ready to push. There was no doctor available so the nurse said she would deliver the baby. I sensed her trepidation and she seemed panicky – calling for other nurses. There was no one available to help. Finally, a new doctor on call arrived. I pushed on my side for about five contractions (usually three pushes each) then I felt the urge to change positions and lie on my back. There, I pushed for about two contractions. Steve held my right leg and our doula held my left. The room was gradually filling with more and more nurses. Everyone was saying they could see the head. I yelled, “Shut the f*** up!” I could not believe that my baby was almost out.
When she was crowning it felt slightly more uncomfortable, but I did not experience the “ring of fire” sensation. I could feel her head nearly out and then when I stopped pushing I could feel her go back in slightly. Our doula’s guidance during pushing was very helpful. I hadn’t previously decided if I wanted counting and coaching during the pushing stage. Counting and specific instructions turned out to be very helpful. The pushing was one of the main areas where our doula was very helpful because Steve and I couldn’t really practice pushing during pregnancy and we weren’t sure what to expect.
At 12:58 a.m. baby Hennie was born and she cried immediately, which was a huge relief. I reached out for her and forgot she was still attached by the umbilical cord. Everyone said not to pull too hard because the cord wasn’t that long. Once the cord stopped pulsing Steve cut it. The nurse asked if she could start doing the erythromycin ointment and vitamin K and, yet again, we had to negotiate. I asked that she wait at least one hour for me to first breastfeed and bond; she obliged. Breastfeeding was a bit of a blur. I remember thinking it was not as magical as I had anticipated, but Hennie did latch on which was wonderful. It was incredible how she already knew exactly what to do. Our labor journey ended and we started our voyage as parents to beautiful Hennie Amelia England, eight pounds, 20 ½ inches long.