I didn’t know what to expect exactly with this second pregnancy. My first live birth was my daughter and she was born at 42 weeks after 8 hours of pitocin and 5.5 hours of labor. I had a lot of expectations for this second baby’s delivery – things that I wanted to “do over” – like no induction.
I didn’t know what it felt like to go into labor naturally. I was hoping that this baby would come early and I talked to it (we didn’t know the gender) starting around 35 weeks letting it know it could come around 39 weeks. The Wednesday before I delivered our son, I had mild contractions from mid afternoon until 10 pm. I also had to void a lot and felt heaviness in my lower abdomen and butt. I happened to have my 38 week prenatal visit that day and the midwife didn’t think that I was in labor and we scheduled the non stress test for the following week, given my advanced maternal age (39). Thursday night I was especially uncomfortable and did not sleep well. I was half dreaming that I was in labor. Friday night I felt fine. All day Saturday, I felt fine. While at dinner with my partner and daughter in our home, I felt a stronger contraction. It made me pause, but it wasn’t too bad. I stood up a few minutes later to take my prenatal vitamins in the kitchen and as I was standing there, my water broke. A small gush at 7:10 PM. While my partner packed our bags, I went to the bathroom and saw a little blood and clear liquid on my legs. As I sat there the first contraction came and I started documenting the contractions. They were 5 minutes apart from the start. I called the midwife twice before we connected and said it would take me an hour to get to the hospital. I had a few more contractions at home, where I would sit down and breath and our 4 year old daughter would come give me a hug. We drove her to a friend’s house for the night and headed to San Diego – a 30 minute drive. The contractions steadily came closer together and took more effort to breathe through. There was some comedy about driving fast vs safely and not having this baby in the car. And more comedy when we got to the hospital after hours and were looking for the correct entrance (on the tour they point out the side entrance for after hour arrivals from the inside of the building……..hard to connect those dots on the outside of the building when you’re in labor). The contractions were 2 minutes apart at this point and I was wondering if I would have to lie down on the ground as I tried to walk into the hospital, but walking made the contractions much easier than sitting in the car. I ended up walking in through the emergency room and asking for directions to the elevator. I finally found the tiny labor and delivery window and said that I had called, my water broke and my contractions were 2 minutes apart. Then I paced in front of the window until a nurse led me to a labor and delivery room. I had two things to worry about – I have herpes and I’m group B strep (GBS) positive. The midwife check for lesions – none! Yay! Cleared for natural birth. But I was waiting on the IV antibiotic for the GBS which takes 1 hour to administer and had to be administered 4 hours prior to birth…… I knew this baby was coming fast and there was no way that the 4 hours would be possible. They eventually cleared me to go up to the birthing center and we arrived there at 9:20 pm. I was breathing hard through the contractions. A few times they had to tell me to slow my breathing down. Suddenly, I realized, there is only one way through this and this is hard. I rode the birthing ball and did my ridiculous horse noise (like a horse blowing through it’s mouth). The same breathing that got me through my daughter’s birth with no pain medications or epidural. (We took a hypnobirthing class with my first pregnancy and it prepared me mentally, but I didn’t do visualizations etc during labor, I just did what I had to do to keep as calm as possible and manage the pain on my own.) The horse sound must sound ridiculous, but this time I realized why I made the sound, it really helped me to keep breathing out. I generally have a hard time with the count of 4/8 (breath in/breath out) and the horse noise helps me to hit that 8 or longer.
While riding the birthing ball, suddenly there was a huge gush of liquid coming out of me – water breaking again (I didn’t know that was possible, but I guess there was a leak for the first gush at home and more of the water broke this second time). That gush knocked my concentration and I struggled for a minute to get back under control. “Slow down your breathing”. I started feeling that strong need to poo and I said that I needed to push. They asked me to get on the 4 poster queen size bed to check how dilated I was. I was only 7 cm. The midwife asked me not to push. I was standing on the bed saying I don’t know what to do. The volunteer doula walked in and we said “hi”. The nurse and midwife told me that standing on the bed was not a safe position for me (more comedy). My partner was holding me up. I said, I have to push and I’m going to poo. The midwife said, “okay push, listen to your body, it will be okay.” Meanwhile she was wiping poo off me. I sat down on the birthing stool on the bed and held onto one of the posts with one hand and started pushing through contractions. Pushing makes the pain less for me – I learned that with my daughter’s delivery when I pushed for 1.5 hours and was grateful to push through the intense discomfort of the contraction.
While sitting on the chair, the midwife and nurse where trying to get the heartbeat of the baby with the Doppler. They couldn’t find it. They said that I had to lay down on my side so that they could try again. I was afraid – that was the most painful position when I delivered my daughter, but I did it. I lay in the top corner of the bed, with my partner cradling my head and upper body. They found the heartbeat – 80…… not good. The next reading was 70. Terrifying. A team of people suddenly appeared in the room. The midwife said “You can push this baby out – you are fully dilated, you can just go.” I pushed with the next contraction and the baby didn’t come out. I said “I’m sorry, I can’t do it.” (In my head I’m thinking about emergency c-section to get the baby out – which had just happened to a friend three weeks earlier with a heartbeat of 80). The midwife said ”With your next contraction you will push this baby out. You can do it.” They had already put a mask on my face to provide oxygen. The doula told me to tuck my chin and breathe and told me that I could do it. To keep my legs open as I pushed on the shoulder of the midwife with my leg. Waiting for that next contraction was an eternity….. the contractions that were coming too fast before suddenly felt too slow, but it finally came and I pushed and pushed and pushed as hard as I could and kept pushing. I felt the “ring of fire” (which is nothing absolutely nothing, when you are at this point) and kept pushing through it – feeling like life or death was on the other side. And out came my baby at 10:30 PM (38 weeks and 5 days), I felt the sweetest relief of my life as that head came out and the rest of the body slipped out. They laid my baby on top of me, rubbed it down and the midwife asked “What is it?” My partner and I looked, it was a boy. My baby boy cried.
The midwife told us that the cord was a perfect knot and suggested we take a photo, we did (not that anyone will ever see it). The knot is what caused the decelerated heartbeat. She was confident that the baby would be okay while I was pushing because she could see his head and see that it was pink still and that I was completely ready to push this baby out.
She waited until the cord stopped pulsing. My partner cut the cord. I pushed out the placenta with the midwife’s help. She stitched up my second degree tear (probably due to the short and intense pushing – only four pushes in total. We had previously spoken between contractions about my desire not to have an episiotomy.) Again – this stitching up is nothing compared to everything else. I barely felt it – just some small tugging and one pinch. I was bleeding more than they liked and I accepted the shot of pitocin (the IV had ripped out of my hand in the pushing phase). The bleeding slowed down. The midwife did put her fingers in to check for clots that could be removed. My baby eventually started nursing. They didn’t weigh him or measure him until after he nursed (a good 2 hours later for the measurements). In all it was 3 hours and 20 minutes from when my water broke and contractions started to when Evan was born. Fast and furious. All natural – no pain meds or epidural. The most intense and wonderful and even frightening experience of my life (due to the heart rate).
By Jessica Brewer