Our labor and birth story did not go as planned, but in the end it was still an empowering experience, although frustrating at times. I think it’s nice to have a list of what your priorities are for your labor and birth, and what importance you attach to them. Our number one goal, as is most expecting parents, is a healthy baby and a healthy mama. We achieved this goal (although since our labor was so long it was a healthy but exhausted mama). Our second most important goal was a vaginal birth, and we were able to achieve that. We wanted a natural birth, and while we did have to have a few interventions during labor, we feel that they were necessary in our circumstance and that we made good decisions for everyone’s health. In the moment it was very disappointing, but again, a healthy mama and healthy baby is #1 priority.
Labor started 4 days past our due date, on a Saturday evening. It was HOT outside, the hottest summer on record in San Diego. I was sure this was the real deal. I experienced “prodromal labor” which can be exhausting and frustrating.
(Definition of Prodromal Labor: An early phase of labor that does not progress in a normal pattern: contractions do not increase in intensity and cervical
dilatation is minimal.)
I had contractions ranging from every 6 minutes, to every 15 minutes Saturday night but they died out by morning. I was anxious, confused and tired. The contractions weren’t that painful, but enough that I couldn’t sleep through them. I called our doula and emailed with Liza and they assured me this happens sometimes, and that it would probably pick up at the next sundown and to try and get rest. I tried, but felt “off” and was still having random contractions that would wake me frequently making rest elusive.
A Full Moon + Lunar Eclipse= Labor
Sure enough, on the eve of the blood moon, labor contractions kicked back up at dusk. Our baby had been in a right side posterior position for weeks, and was stubborn and staying there no matter how much I tried to move her. I was doing the Miles Circuit and pelvic rocking and hip opening, to no avail. Labor progressed quickly, and it was the dreaded back labor. (Back labor can be more painful and longer because the baby’s head may not be in the optimal position to put pressure on the cervix but it is putting pressure on the laboring mother’s back).
(Try the poses in my video 2-3 times a week to Balance Your Pelvis & Position Your Wombmate)
Stayed Home Till I Was in Active Labor
We relaxed at home, and I managed the pain well with the support of my husband. Our doula arrived around 1:00 am (I wanted her earlier but my husband delayed her a bit I later found out). I was ready to leave for the hospital when she arrived but her calming presence and advice got me to labor at home for two more hours and to eat a small meal before we left. By the time we left I was in active labor, with contractions regular (but occasionally doubling up), and the back labor was very intense. The car ride was excruciating, I am not going to pretend it wasn’t anything but pure hell. We arrived at the hospital and I was 4 cm dilated, and they admitted me. Our doula and my husband got me set up with the hot pack on my back, and I labored with intermittent monitoring for a few hours.
6 cm…I Can Do This!…6 cm…6 cm..6 cm… 🙁
When they rechecked me I was 6 cm. I was in pain, but I thought “I can do this”. Then the contractions starting doubling up… and doubling up… and doubling up…. So much back labor. I labored and labored… and was still 6 cm many hours later. I even kept going after that for a few more hours, and was still 6 cm. At this point, I was exhausted and shaking and couldn’t even relax to pee. It was then my doctor came in and we talked in between contractions. I verbalized that a vaginal delivery was the most important thing for me, and I was worried about having enough strength to push if I wasn’t progressing. In the end, I got an epidural. I was able to relax, and rest a bit. My doula assured me that it was an “ok time” to get an epidural, because you don’t want to get them too early or labor won’t progress. I was terrified of the epidural, and I told my doctor I still wanted to feel my feet and legs. They were able to accommodate that, which made it less scary.
Then things still didn’t progress, which was very concerning. Our doctor really wanted to break my water but we held off. In the end, we did have the doctor break my water, and things progressed from there. Our doula and doctor said sometimes people’s bag of waters forms a bulge, and is very tight and strong. This is linked to good prenatal nutrition, which is great, but sometimes doesn’t let the babies head put enough pressure for things to keep moving (along with the unproductive contractions due to her being posterior). When it came time to push, the doctor loosely put me on a two hour clock due to the labor already being so long. To be honest, pushing was awesome. I loved it compared to the earlier stages. I was able to use the strength I had maintained from tons of swimming and fair amount of yoga during my pregnancy, and it felt so empowering.
38 Hours of 1st Stage + 45 Minutes of Pushing= Ela !
In the end, after 38 hours of labor and only 45 minutes of pushing our daughter was born at the wee hours of morning on Tuesday. She was perfectly healthy, as was her mama. There were times during labor that I got very upset about not having the birth that we wanted. We had to grieve for that temporarily. In the end was realized we used many tools that we learned during our Bradley Method training to our benefit, and felt as if each decision was made thoughtfully using the BRAIN acronym (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Nothing) to help with making decisions along the way.
In the end a few insights: Hire a doula. Holy “crapola”, that was worth the money! Our doula was amazing, and she was essential for us coping with such a long and emotional labor and birth. I don’t know if we could have digested and processed the decisions we needed to make with how tired we were without her support. And she and my husband were able to help turn the baby using hip shaking (using a Rebozo – Del Mex Mexican Rebozo Shawl Blanket Doula (X-large (9 ft x 5 ft), Blue) and a peanut ball (Bintiva Anti-Burst Peanut Ball, Including a Free Foot Pump, for Labor, Physical Therapy, Fitness, and Exercise) the last 4 hours of labor.
If you trust your doctor, trust your doctor. Our doctor had wanted to break my water earlier. But she was a good listener and did not push us at all. When we finally did have her break the water, things progressed. Trusting her (as she had been SO spot on about everything thus far during my pregnancy) would have saved us 8 hours. She was never a pushy or agenda filled physician, and we should have trusted her expertise earlier but were scared of “another intervention”.Even if your experience isn’t exactly what you planned, it can still be the most beautiful moment of your life thus far. Honestly, it was. The room was SO filled with joy when Ela arrived, and nothing else mattered but her arriving healthy and thriving.