Around 4AM on Saturday, January 11, I woke up to contractions around 10-12 minutes apart. They were painful, almost like a bad period- but not unbearable. I got up and took a shower, then came back to bed and laid back down to try and get some rest. Around 8, Matt woke up, and I told him I thought today might be the day! We were excited but also knew that it could be a while, as early labor can last quite a while. We also text my family to tell them to be ready!
Matt’s family had come into town a few days beforehand, so we met his parents for breakfast at a local restaurant, Baugher’s. We told his parents that I was having contractions (not that they needed telling, I was visibly uncomfortable every few minutes) and that we were going to head to the mall after breakfast to do some walking. We all made a pact to keep it quiet about labor starting- I didn’t want phone calls all day or Facebook spam or whatnot. Even people we ran into didn’t have a clue!
Contractions stayed consistent all day- around 10 minutes apart- so we also went out to dinner with Matt’s family. After dinner that night, we headed to Target to do some last minute shopping, then parted ways with our parents with a “see you some time tonight”, assuming that labor would intensify with the night hours and that our little girl would be born tomorrow. We went to bed that night with packed bags and anxious hearts!
By around 5AM on January 12th, my contractions had intensified to about 1 minute long, 6 minutes apart, and stayed that way for about three hours. They were incredibly painful- I was nauseous and couldn’t eat or drink anything. Between each contraction I would fall back to sleep- we were waiting for them to get just a bit closer together before we called the birth center and got on our way- but we alerted our family that the time was near. And then- out of nowhere- the contractions spaced out. A LOT. Suddenly it would be fifteen minutes between, then ten, then half an hour- still painful, just spaced apart. We didn’t know what to think. So we slept as much as we could and waited for things to progress.
This irregularity continued well into the afternoon. Meanwhile, I felt terrible, had awful diarrhea (a typical early labor sign) and couldn’t eat anything. Around 4 or 5, at the encouragement of Matt and my mom, I called the birth center and explained how things had gone throughout the morning, only to be told that it was just ‘false labor’ and that I should try to lay down, eat, etc to get the contractions to stop. Not only was this really frustrating (all I’d been doing all day was laying around, and I was to nauseous to eat) but it just didn’t feel right.
I followed the midwife’s advice and choked down half a sandwich and tried to relax. Pretty soon, things started to change- suddenly I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes, but they were only lasting 30 or 45 seconds. I had Matt call the midwife, who told me to get into the bathtub and stay in for an hour, to hopefully even out my contractions. She said that it sounded like my uterus was tired- who can blame it, it had already been working for 36 hours!
My time in the bathtub was not fun. At all. Contractions spaced to 5min apart, and started lasting longer. They would make me feel like I needed to go to the bathroom, so I painfully got in and out of the tub several times, soaking everything in my path. I would shake uncontrollably when I would get out. Finally, Matt called the midwife and she told us to come in. It was time to get the show on the road!
Matt’s parents packed up our car while he helped me get dressed and dry. He lined the front seat of our car with trash bags (my water still hadn’t broken) and we were on our way. We made what usually is an hour’s drive in about 40 minutes- and boy, was it a rough drive. Contractions every 3-4 minutes in the front seat of a car? I don’t recommend it.
We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 pm to find Linda, a midwife whom I had only met two days before. She took a urine sample and concluded that I was severely dehydrated and undernourished- my body was basically breaking down muscle for calories. She left to get a bag of fluids and I immediately started throwing up. I pretty much puked for the next 5 hours- through 3 bags of fluids and two different anti nausea medications.
Those hours were absolutely horrible. Because of my dehydration, the pain of the contractions was magnified, and I was throwing up between almost every one. Matt alternated between holding a trash can for me and rubbing oils into my back to help with the pain. The cycle was unrelenting and I began to doubt my ability to continue.
Finally, around 3:30 am, Linda suggested taking a low-dose sedative that would allow me to sleep for an hour or so and regain some strength to finish labor. At this point, she checked me and told me that I was about 4.5cm dilated, and that I would likely stay that was while I slept. I didn’t even care- I knew I needed the rest. While I did still feel my contractions and had to get up several times to get sick, I was able to rest for a while, and so was Matt. I am so thankful that this was an option- it honestly saved our labor.
I woke up around 5:30 and got myself to the bathroom, only to have a very strong contraction. I knew immediately- I needed to push. I yelled for Matt to get the midwife (now Susannah, as there had been a shift change while we were resting)- both of whom looked at me like I was crazy- I shouldn’t have progressed during that time at all! But I knew- when your body tells you to push, you can’t do anything else. Sure enough, when Susannah checked me, I was fully dilated.
There was just one problem- there was no nurse in the building at the time. Knowing how close to delivering I was, and that she would need an extra set of trained hands, Susannah told me that I was only 9 cm dilated and that I couldn’t push yet- while she frantically changed into scrubs and called for a nurse to come in. Cue the most miserable 45 minutes of the night- trying not to push when that’s what your body is doing. It’s nearly impossible. It’s painful and frustrating and feels so wrong. I pretty much sobbed into Matt’s shoulder during each contraction. Finally, when I knew I couldn’t continue like that anymore, Matt and Susannah went and filled the jacuzzi tub. It was time!
It took a few contractions to figure out a good rhythm, but eventually I sat myself sideways, with my back on one side of the tub and my feet propped up against the other side, knees up towards my hips. Matt knelt on the other side of the tub, and with each contraction, he held my hands as I pulled against him, almost like a tug-of-war, which allowed me to bear down more on the baby with each push. I honestly didn’t mind pushing- it wasn’t comfortable, but at least it was a task, with an end goal, and I had something to DO besides just try to get through it- like the rest of labor! I started pushing around 6:30, and my water FINALLY broke, in the tub, at about 6:50. At 7, the nurse finally arrived- just in time!
It was an amazing feeling of relief when Matt told me that her head was out- what he didn’t tell me was that it was purple! Susannah checked for the umbilical cord but couldn’t feel it, and on the next push, we assumed that her body would be born. But it wasn’t. Something wasn’t right!
Susannah quickly realized what the problem was- Halle’s shoulders didn’t fully rotate and they were stuck in my pelvis, and pinching the umbilical cord. This left Halle without oxygen, so we needed to get her out quickly! Without explaining this all to me (there was no time) she and Matt pulled me up in the tub and had me push once standing, which didn’t work either. Finally, they yelled that we needed to get on the bed. I was half carried/half drug to the next room- with Halle’s head hanging out of me- sopping wet and thrown on the bed and told to give as hard of a push as I could. I’ll never know what she did, but somehow Susannah maneuvered her shoulders down and Halle was born- 7:10 am, 51 hours after my first contraction.
She was immediately placed on my belly but was dark purple and unresponsive. Susannah and the nurse quickly began rubbing her with warm towels and gave her some quick oxygen, and very shortly she let out a great cry. I heard her make noise fairly quickly, so it wasn’t until after her birth was explained to me that I really understood the gravity of the situation. If it wasn’t for the quick work of the staff of the birth center, we might have lost our girl. I am so grateful for their knowledge and assertiveness.
Meanwhile, Halle stayed on my belly, but because of the damage done to the umbilical cord, we needed to birth the placenta immediately. I was given a shot of pitocin in the leg and it came soon after. Matt cut the cord and Halle was free! She latched on within the first ten minutes and has been feeding well ever since.
Honestly, the moments after her birth are a huge blur- between the drama of the birth itself, then the hurry to birth the placenta, and how extremely exhausted I was, I had trouble keeping myself awake and really comprehending what was happening for the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly, as I rested in the bed, I was able to fully appreciate the moment- she was here! In my arms, and so perfect.
We headed home from the birth center just a few short hours later and have been loving life ever since! We are so blessed by our little girl and so privileged to be her parents.
Looking back on our birth, nothing went as planned. The labor pattern was so irregular that we didn’t know what to expect. I got very sick because of being in labor for so long. I basically slept through what is traditionally though of as ‘active labor’. We had wanted Matt to catch Halle, but clearly that couldn’t have happened- same with delaying cord clamping and having a peaceful, gentle water birth. But just because things didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean they didn’t go as they should’ve. We have no regrets about our birthing experience and we are so thankful for the education we received that prepared us to handle the unexpected!