While preparing for the arrival of our first baby, we found that reading birth stories online was very helpful & informative. Although we did read several books on childbirth, there was something about reading someone's real life experience that was even more insightful & interesting. So, on the off chance that we could help someone else out, I decided to share our experience.
From the beginning of my pregnancy we had talked about a labor & delivery that was free of medication & interventions. A family friend recommended that we research the Bradley Method for natural childbirth. As I am a habitual procrastinator, we missed the deadline to sign up for Bradley classes & ended up reading the book instead (2 months before his due date at that). The photos in the book are a bit dated (circa 1970), but we found the information to be very helpful.
One of the key points that the book points out is that there are not only physical stages of labor, but emotional ones as well. This method also focuses a lot on relaxation & breathing to get you through labor. Another key message of the book is the idea of husband coached labor.
Our main goals:
-labor at home for as long as humanly possible (apparently many people head to the hospital too early & that is when interventions are more likely to happen)
-avoid epidural & induction if possible
-intermittent fetal monitoring & no IV (so Mel could get up & move around during labor)
FYI: the rest of this post is very detailed & somewhat graphic, but hey - that's the reality of labor & delivery.
Basic Timeline (Due Date was April 20th)
Friday, April 17th:
Had last checkup before due date. Doctor confirmed I was 3 cm dilated & 75% effaced.
Saturday, April 18th:
10:00 PM - heard & felt a "pop" around pubic bone area
10:30 PM - finally discovered that my water had broken
11:00 PM - first contraction. Contractions from here on out lasted anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes, and were about 1-2 minutes apart the entire time.
11:45 PM - left for hospital
Sunday, April 19th:
12:00 AM - arrived at hospital
12:10 AM - checked by triage nurse to confirm active labor - was 4 cm dilated.
12:55 AM - finally got moved into our labor & delivery room
1:00 AM - labored on medicine ball until 2:10
2:10 AM - moved onto bed to be checked - was 8 cm dilated.
2:40 AM - felt urge to push & asked to be checked again - was 10 cm dilated.
2:50 AM - Doctor arrived & began pushing.
3:14 AM - Sami was born! :)
That's a basic outline of how it went down - here are some more details....
Up until the point of my water breaking, I did not feel any contractions or signs of labor. If anything, I might have felt mildly crampy or would experience a brief shooting pain here & there. If the doctor hadn't checked me at my last appointment, I never would have known that I had dilated to 3 cm over the couple of weeks leading up to his due date. Apparently, I was one of the lucky ones in that I basically completed the first phase of labor without even realizing it.
On Saturday @ about 10 PM, I felt & heard an audible "pop" while sitting on the couch. It sort of reminded me of the feeling/sound of your knuckles popping. Thinking it might have been my water breaking, I stood up. Nothing came gushing out, so I assumed it was just my bones & ligaments loosening up. At 10:30 PM I stood up to go to the bathroom & felt some leaking. I waddled to the bathroom, but after a few seconds of sitting down on the toilet & not feeling any more leaking, I figured it was a false alarm. However, after standing up, my mom pointed at the small pool of liquid on the floor & said, "Mel, I think your water broke".
I proceeded to sit back down on the toilet & cry. This was definitely not part of our birth plan - it wasn't supposed to happen like this.... According to what we had read, only about 10-15% of women experience their water breaking before real contractions begin. Luckily, I tested negative for Strep-B, so we did not need to rush to the hospital to get antibiotics. However, we felt that we would need to go to the hospital sooner than we had planned.
Once I pulled myself together & got over the initial shock, we went upstairs to grab some last minute items. I took a quick shower & shoved an absurd amount of towels in my pants to help soak up the continuously leaking amniotic fluid. Of course, I was embarrassed to have to go in public with what felt like a giant soggy diaper...but then everyone reminded me that A) nobody cares & B) I was having a baby. Oh yea. Perspective.
Contractions began about 30 minutes after my water broke. While they were not super intense (similar to period cramps), they lasted about 45-60 seconds & were about 1-2 minutes apart.
Wait, this is NOT how we thought it would happen either. Typically, there is supposed to be a more gradual progression with more time between the contractions (like 2-3 min apart or 3-5 min apart). I started freaking out a little. Why are they only 1-2 minutes apart? Is that even normal? It felt like I went from 0-60. At my last appointment, my doctor had advised us to go to the hospital when contractions lasted 60 seconds & were 2-5 minutes apart. Hmm. Well, I think we were past that point. We called the hospital & spoke to the doctor who told us to head to the hospital within the next hour or so.
On the drive to the hospital, the contractions picked up in intensity & I felt most comfortable on my hands & knees with my head on Nader's leg. We arrived to the hospital at midnight.
First, they took me to the triage room to make sure I was experiencing true labor. They had me get in a gown & hooked me up to the fetal monitor to check the contractions. At this point I was 4 cm dilated and the nurse confirmed that this was the real deal, and that they would begin preparing a labor & delivery room for us.
I was beginning to get extremely uncomfortable at this point. The main reason was due to the excruciating pain I was feeling in my tailbone region. I had read about back labor, but wasn't sure if that's what was going on, as it was centered around my tailbone/butt region. It. Was. Awful. I definitely did not anticipate that type of pain.
Once we got to our room, the L&D nurses asked about our birth plan. We told them we were going for an un-medicated labor & only wanted intermittent fetal monitoring & no IV so that I could move around & sit on my exercise ball. They were very supportive & never once offered me an epidural, but they did have to put a hep lock in my hand (for the IV) in case of an emergency.
Since it felt excruciating to be on the bed, I labored on the ball with my arms and head propped up on some pillows on the bed. It was strange, but I had no desire to walk, get in the tub, or get on the bed. My mom was recording most of it & at one point asked me if I could describe the contractions. My response: It feels like something is going to blow out of my ass (that was the tailbone pain I mentioned).
The contractions picked up in intensity as expected, but were still 1-2 minutes long & 1-2 minutes apart. I continued this way for just over an hour, when I started doubting myself, & asked to be checked to see how far dilated I was. I had to get up on the bed & be strapped to the fetal monitor so the nurse could check the baby also. At this point, I really began to get scared & remember saying out loud that I just couldn't do it any more. Ironically, the Bradley book advises that usually when you feel like you can't go on any more, you are more than likely in the transition phase (around 8-9cm). Sure enough, the nurse checked me & I was about 8 cm dilated. Hallelujah. We were almost there.
Although I felt horrible lying in bed, I had no energy to get back up. The contractions I had during the transition phase were by far the most intense. I needed to grab onto the rails on the side of the bed during each contraction. It just felt like I had to brace myself on something. After about 30 minutes, I was starting to feel the urge to push & wanted to see if I was fully dilated yet. The nurse informed us that I was just about 10 cm & that it was time to call for the doctor.
This is when everything picked up around the room & I could hear everyone start moving around to get ready. It felt like it was showtime. The bright lights came on, they took off the bottom end of the bed, & whipped the stir-ups out. I started to feel nervous regarding the pushing stage, but was also glad that I would feel some relief between contractions. For the first time, my contractions were further than 1-2 minutes apart, which meant I actually had some time to rest between them.
Once the doctor was there I began to push. Even though I thought I was prepared for the breathing/pushing portion, I quickly learned that I was taking too long of a breath between pushes. By my 3rd pushing attempt, I had a rhythm down. I had also read that some women experience a "ring of fire" down there during this stage...I can confirm that I am one of those women. It hurt. A lot.
It took about 8 pushes/30 minutes (with each 'push' consisting of 3 actual mini pushes) to get Sami out.
What a feeling of relief & excitement at the same time. They placed him right on my chest for a little skin to skin. It was amazing.
While we enjoyed our little Sami, I still had to go through the final stage of birth: pushing the placenta out. Nobody really talks about this part, but it hurt a lot too. Especially while they were pushing & prodding around down there. I'm pretty sure I did a lot of grunting & cursing at that point. They also gave me pitcocin afterwards to ensure I didn't hemorrhage.
Something else I didn't anticipate were the violent shakes that can follow delivery. Holy hell. I had a 2nd degree tear which the doctor was trying to stitch up while my legs were shaking uncontrollably. I remember the doctor telling me to relax & not fight it....uh....yea. I don't think I had the energy to fight it. On the plus side, I couldn't feel her stitching me up.
After she was finished down there, the bright lights went out & we got to cuddle with Sami for over an hour. I remember that I could barely keep my eyes open. I had heard that many women who deliver without the epidural have a burst of energy afterwards....unfortunately, I did not experience that. I just felt exhausted. Exhausted, but very happy & grateful! :)
It just goes to show that you never know what to expect & that anything can happen. While it's important to educate yourself on the basics, just remember that you can never fully prepare for what could happen. We certainly didn't think it would happen so quickly & intensely, or that my water would break so early. I learned that I could literally do anything I put my mind to. I don't think I had ever been so proud of myself.
I'd also like to mention that we very lucky that we didn't have any complications. That could have changed everything. Also, special thanks to my mom & Nader for helping me through. Couldn't have done it without you.
Our first family photo :)
Thanks for reading! Let us know if you have any questions! You can read about my breastfeeding experience, in my Nursing Chronicles Part 1.
Nader & Mel