I had a baby four hours ago. It might be a little absurd to already be blogging about it, but I always find I write best when things are fresh on my mind. So here goes.
Our birth story starts Sunday, April 15th. I was due to be induced on Tuesday, April 17th, and really didn’t want that to happen- so I was thrilled when I couldn’t fall asleep Sunday night because contractions were starting. I eventually gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs to the couch. They were coming at about 4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, so around 3:00 am I woke Mark and we called the midwife. She told me to relax, take a bath, and call back when they were more regular. They never became more regular, but they never stopped. We had an appointment scheduled Monday afternoon, so we waited until then. I didn’t sleep at all on Sunday night.
At our Monday appointment, we learned that I had made some progress from the previous week. I was still having contractions, but sometimes they were just a few minutes apart and sometimes they were 15 minutes apart. The midwife advised us to eat a good meal and go to bed early, and predicted that we would head to the hospital that night when more active labor kicked in. Monday was another sleepless night. Once again, the contractions were painful enough to keep me up but never got more regular. We decided to just wait to go in until our 4:00 induction appointment on Tuesday.
This was a rough time for me. I was already tired from not sleeping for two nights and I knew I needed a lot of energy to make it through a natural labor. The husband was tired and I was worried he would not be in a good condition to support me- and support is SO important in natural labor. Plus, I was worried about being induced. I was not in a great place to start labor.
Tuesday, April 17th, we check into Research Medical Center. Around 6:00 they start me on Cervidil, which is supposed to soften the cervix and start labor. I was hopeful this would regulate my contractions as well; if not I was going to be put on Pitocin Wednesday morning and I really did not want that. The Cervidil did help- but once again, I didn’t sleep a wink. Mark didn’t sleep much either. At 5:00 Wednesday morning the nurse came in with the Pitocin. I asked her if that was really necessary since I was becoming more regular, and after calling the midwife we agreed it wasn’t. Score one!
Early Wednesday is a bit of a blur. Things were not going well. I thought I was breathing through the contractions, but later I realized I was tensing and fighting them. They were painful, and I had no idea how I was going to go the long haul without pain relief. Mark has been fabulous with this whole pregnancy and is going to be a fantastic father. He researches everything, was really into our natural birth class, and has been very active the whole time. I really couldn’t have asked for more from him. But he is not a labor coach, especially when we are both tired. We weren’t clicking, and that was making me frustrated.
I had also asked my sister to attend the labor, but wasn’t sure she would be able to since she lives a few hours away. Luckily for me, since I thought labor was starting Sunday night, she drove up with her husband on Monday morning and pretty much sacrificed their whole week for this. She got to the hospital Wednesday morning. Mark took a nap while she was supporting me, and one of our fabulous nurses realized I was tensing during a contraction. The nurse instructed me to relax my muscles and suddenly everything just clicked. Kaydee became an on-the-spot doula and really saved the day. I do not believe I could have achieved the labor I wanted without her support. Mark and I had some birth cards from our class that we could not stop laughing over. They said things like: “Imagine your cervix opening like a flower.” “Imagine you’re on the beach, hear the waves. The waves rolling in bring oxygen and life to your baby, and the waves rolling out take pain and anxiety with them.” Mark couldn’t say these things with a straight face, and I don’t blame him. But Kaydee did, and I really focused on them, and that’s when things really changed. I started working with the contractions instead of against them, and suddenly they didn’t seem so painful. Plus, Mark and my mom were able to support me then too.
Things went fine for several hours. The contractions were manageable and I was making good progress. Our room had a huge shower, Jacuzzi tub, birthing ball, all kinds of stuff to help. Everyone was working together and things were going exactly how I had hoped. At one point the midwife asked if I wanted her to break my water, and I said yes. That was disgusting. That was supposed to help speed things along- although I was making good progress, it was slow progress- but this is when things got REALLY tough again.
I was dilated to a 7 or 8. At this point I was ready to have this baby, but you can’t push until you’re a 10 or you will rip apart your insides. My uterus had been contracting for so long that it was getting tired and the contractions were not dilating me. And the contractions were REALLY painful at this point. For hours-hours! I tried and tried different positions to get myself fully dilated, but nothing was working. The baby was positioned very low, which put a LOT of pressure on me during contractions. I was miserable. I was so ready to start pushing the baby out and had no more time, patience, or energy to go through another painful contraction. Nothing was working. Eventually, the midwife suggested a small amount of Pitocin to strengthen and regulate the contractions. As much as I was against Pitocin in the beginning, I was all about it at this point. Maybe I was just too tired to care, but I do think Pitocin has a time and place to be used- and this was an appropriate time.
The nurse, midwife, Kaydee, and Mark were so great during this time. They kept encouraging me when I thought I couldn’t go on- and there were a lot of times in the last several hours I thought I couldn’t, and said as much. These contractions to take me from a 7/8 to fully dilated lasted five long hours. I would go for 45 minutes or an hour, be checked, and find that I had made minimal progress. It was discouraging; I wondered if I would EVER have this baby. Finally, finally, I got close enough to fully dilated that the midwife could do the rest.
Time to push! Because they baby was so low, they had said pushing would be fairly easy. Turns out their definition of easy and mine are different. Keep in mind that at this point I hadn’t slept in 3 nights, had been having contractions for 70 hours, and had been laboring in the hospital for over 24 hours. Seriously exhausted. Seriously ready to have this baby.
Pushing was…an interesting feeling. It hurt less than the hours of painful contractions, but it hurt. Maybe the difference was I knew what happened at the end of pushing; I never knew how long it would take the contractions to get me dilated. It felt like I was pooping a baby out. It was hard work and made me sweaty. You really have to commit yourself to pushing- you have to push hard, and for long periods of time! Again, the team was so great during this time and told me exactly what to do. After a full 2 hours of pushing, baby Nugget arrived!
Unlike in the movies, babies don’t cry the second they come out. We knew the baby had meconium (which means they pooped in the womb, so they have to be suctioned out before they can breath it in). This seriously freaked Mark out, but the baby started crying soon and after a very quick suction, was returned to us in a minute or two. For the record, the meconium was super gross. It took awhile for me to deliver the placenta, but after we did that and a quick breastfeeding, our families were finally allowed to visit. Some of them had been waiting at the hospital for over 13 hours!
We named the baby Maclin Frederick Miller. We just liked the name Maclin, and Frederick is after my dad, who is amazing. The baby is perfect, and we were glad we waited to find out the gender. It made the pushing very exciting! He weighed in at 7 pounds 10 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long.
So, thoughts on natural labor after actually going through it? I’m not going to lie, it was much harder than I was expecting. It was painful, and it was intense. And exhausting, though I’m on sort of a high now. But it was awesome and so empowering. I’ve never been through anything close to that physically demanding, and I feel like Superwoman. We were so happy with our experience with the midwifes at Research Medical Center. I’m a huge advocate for natural labor, but I realize it is not for everyone. If it’s something you’re interested in, I think there are a few musts:
- You must be committed to it. There are too many hard times in labor that you can crack if it is not a serious goal. I was not 100% against taking pain medication if I truly needed it, but I was pretty determined to deliver naturally.
- You must have a great support team. There is no way I could have done this alone. No way. Not just a support team of people that love you, but people who know about natural labor. Hire a doula (I was so lucky that my sister was a natural doula).
- Do yoga. Not the kind at the local gym, but at a serious yoga studio. There are so many concepts in yoga that carry over to natural labor, from breathing through uncomfortable positions to visualization.
We have a baby! It still hasn’t hit us. Isn’t he a cutie?