By Tamsin, USA
On Wednesday November 14th, a week before my due date, my midwife checked me and I was about 50% effaced and 1 cm dilated. We were all beginning to think that I would go past my due date. I set up appointments for the following two weeks and I began to feel disheartened. I desperately wanted to meet this little girl who I had grown to love over the last 9 months. The following day I went and bought some Evening Primrose Oil caplets and inserted one to help soften the cervix.
That Friday evening my husband, James, and I were out with some of his work colleagues. I had been having irregular contractions for the last few weeks, and had a couple right before we were leaving to go home (about 6:30pm). I then began to feel a slow drip and wondered if maybe my water had broken. I didn't want to get people's hopes up, so I said nothing and figured I'd check later. James and I ate dinner with his mom, Mary, and I had a couple more contractions. After dinner I went and checked what was going on and sure enough my water had broken and I had light pink fluid on my panty liner. I told James and Mary, and James' reaction was almost exactly the same as when he heard I was pregnant – he couldn't have been more excited! Nothing much happened for a while after that, though I took some castor oil and we went for a walk to try and help things get moving. At 10pm we went to bed to try and get some rest before the big event.
Not surprisingly, I couldn't sleep, and if it weren't for a long day at work and several beers James probably wouldn't have either! At 1am I started feeling contractions again. By 2am they were approx 1 minute long and 2 minutes apart. All the books, etc. said when they were 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart for an hour we should call our midwife and get ready to leave, so I was wondering where that part of my labor went! I decided to wake James up, and that was when we realized we didn't have a watch that was suitable for timing the contractions, so we were estimating! I had planned on doing all sorts of things during the time I had before I reached this stage, thinking that with this being my first birth I would be in labor for 12-24 hours. So there was no bath, no light meal, and packing for the hospital became somewhat frantic. As we packed our last few things and I called our Doula, Dionne. She was not actually the Doula I hired – that lady was out of town due to a death in the family. Likewise, my friend Erin was supposed to be my third support person, but she was out of town for Thanksgiving, so we asked Mary if she would like to be there. Fortunately James was available!
Dionne arrived and observed me for a while. She said that she didn't think I was that far along, but I was nervous about the frequency of the contractions, so we decided we would go to the hospital and get me checked. If I was only a couple of centimeters dilated, I would come home and labor some more there. I didn't want to be in the hospital for hours and hours. We got to the OB ward at about 3:45am and when the nurse checked me, I was 100% effaced (thank you Evening Primrose Oil!), but only 2 cm dilated. Trouble was, whilst she checked me, my waters gushed out. I hadn't told the hospital my waters broke earlier as I know they start a stopwatch and will intervene if things don't move along according to their schedule. Since it became obvious the waters had broken they said if I left it would be against medical advice. I looked to Dionne for advice and she said she thought things would move along quickly, so I decided to stay.
One of the nurses went to hand me a hospital gown and when I refused and said I wanted to wear my own clothes, she looked to the other nurse with a confused, quizzical expression. The second nurse told her that was fine. I guess they don't get that often! I walked the halls of the ward for the next 90 minutes or so, stopping with each contraction to squat and breath through it. My back was killing me and it became clear that I was experiencing back labor. I had thought I might like to use the birthing ball to labor, but all I wanted to do was walk with Dionne and James rubbing my lower back during each contraction. I felt so in tune with James, he seemed to know exactly what I needed before I even asked.
At 5:30am I was checked and I was only 4 cm dilated. I was thinking, “This is going to go on for hours”! They had me lay on my side and the contractions got really intense. I wanted to get up, but they told me it would help things go faster, so I rode out a few killer contractions and then got up to go to the bathroom, promising to lay down again afterwards. Whilst in the bathroom, I got the most extreme attack of the shivers. I was trembling uncontrollably and I remember thinking, “This means I'm progressing.” Once I came out of the bathroom they checked me again and I was 5cm. Hooray! That was the magic number – I could now get in to the birthing tub.
It felt so good to get in to the water. After a few contractions I found a position that worked for me and proceeded to take each one at a time, focusing on getting through just that one, then the next, then the next, etc. At one point, we realized that we'd left the camera in the birthing room, but I wasn't about to let my husband go and get it. I felt like if he left I would lose it completely! Dionne said she had her camera, and went and got it. My midwife, Sonya, arrived at 6:30am and checked me. Double hooray, I was at 10cm! My body gave me a well-needed break of a few minutes to rest and prepare for the pushing phase. In the meantime, a doctor who was in the ward asked if she could come in and watch since she had a client who was interested in water birth and she'd never done one.
Pushing felt like it took forever, but 45-60 minutes really isn't too bad. I had to bear down so hard and I was struggling. After a while someone suggested I hold on to one end of a sheet and pull whilst a nurse held the other end and pulled also. This REALLY helped, though I had to tell the nurse to pull harder at one point because I was stronger than her and kept winning this “tug-of-war” which wasn't helpful. When my baby's head was fully out, they saw that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and they unwrapped it. Sonya, the doctor who was observing, and the nurses were starting to worry. I then discovered the baby had shoulder dystocia – no wonder they were worried! I was determined to do this, but it made delivering her body VERY difficult. They had to manipulate my vagina a great deal to facilitate it and one of the team pressed down VERY hard on my abdomen to help push her out. During the final contractions they had difficulty finding the baby's heartbeat and were very concerned, so it was all hands on deck with quite a lot of panicking and chaos. Dionne later told me that the medical team at one point discussed getting me out of the tub because they were finding it hard to reach in and do what they wanted to. Can you imagine getting out of a tub with a baby's head stick out of you!?!?!? Thankfully, Dionne was ready to stop them had they pursued that.
So, after a hard and fast labor, at 7:24am on Saturday November 17th Eleu Keira was born weighing 7lbs 4oz and measuring 19 inches. She was VERY blue and they had to whisk her away to start her breathing, etc. Meantime, I delivered the placenta. My uterus was not contracting properly now and I was losing a lot of blood because of it. I lost approximately 2 liters. They gave me a shot of hepabate to make my uterus contract and then put me on an IV with pitocin. Then Sonya sewed me up. I tore in 4 places, but both Dionne and Sonya said they were amazed I didn't tear a great deal more. I thank the water birth and perineal massage for that.
My birth story became the talk of the OB ward! I managed to stick to my birth plan with the exception of two things: I wanted to wait to cut the cord, and I would have liked to hold and nurse Eleu immediately. However, I feel the medical team only did what they had to to ensure Eleu's safety. I had originally wanted a home birth, but James was too nervous. It turned out for the best that I was at the hospital, the way things usually do, and the most important thing is that James and I have a beautiful baby girl who brings such joy to our lives.