Monday, February 29 was my due date and I went in after school for my 40 week check up with my midwife. I had noticeable contractions every five minutes or so on my drive over, which was about half an hour. I started getting excited and thought that maybe this would be it! When I arrived at my appointment, however, they stopped. My midwife (Lindy) and I had a nice conversation and made an appointment for a week later, hoping that I wouldn't attend. She estimated that my baby was about 7 pounds, which she had stated numerous times previously is a good weight because bigger babies tend to sleep better. My husband was in the six pound range and I was in the seven pound range, so this estimate made sense to me.
I went home and had a relaxing evening with my husband. At quarter to five the next morning I got up to go to the bathroom. I realized then that I was having regular contractions that weren't letting up. I went back to bed and told Barton.
Barton and I were too excited to sleep and after a while, since I was feeling very hungry, I had a bowl of cereal. I was still able to relax through the contractions and at one point Barton stated with sadness, “Did the contractions stop?” I looked at him with surprise and said, “I just finished another one!” Around six I thought I felt my mucus plug go and so I went to the bathroom to confirm. Sure enough, we were really going to meet our baby soon!
We had been told repeatedly to ignore, then distract, and finally surrender to the contractions. At ten minutes before seven we called Lindy to inform her and asked her if we should head to work. She left it up to us, and we decided that it could be a long time yet so we might as well go.
When I got to school, I was doing my best to ignore the contractions but was starting to feel rather ill. It had been a while since breakfast so I ate a little in hopes that it would help, which it did some. By quarter to nine I was certain I would not be able to make it through the whole school day and it was a matter of making it through one segment of the day at a time. My second graders were extra chaotic that morning because I wasn't feeling up to dealing with their energy and it was “hat day” of Dr. Seuss week so there was plenty of energy among my 20 second grade students.
I decided to notify the woman who would be taking over my class that I would be needing her at some point during the day, but that I was fine for now so please don't tell anyone I'm in labor. Well, she already teaches in our building and so she went to the office to see if she should call in her substitute and within ten minutes our principal and superintendent were at my door, telling me that “you won't get any bonus points for making it to 10:00.” They insisted that I go home. Suddenly, I had half a dozen other adults in my classroom insisting: leave now, we can take over, are you sure you're okay?, did you just have a contraction? (yes), did your water break yet? (no, would you like it to break in your office like the first grade teacher's did?), do you need a ride home? (no!), can I help you carry anything out?, etc.
Finally I gave in and gathered my belongings, all the while thinking, I'm fine, teaching was my form of distraction. What if I don't have the baby today?? Another staff member had been assigned to follow me home (seriously, I was fine…) and I was firmly instructed to call the school to let them know when I made it home (wasn't being followed home enough?).
Around 10:00 I arrived home and tried to decide what I should do with myself. I had called Barton on my drive home and told him about being “kicked out” of my classroom, so he knew I was home. Suddenly at about 10:15 I started to notice my contractions were a lot stronger. I had to stop and wait for one to pass before thinking about doing any walking. I went downstairs and got some fruit from the freezer to snack on and heated some up in the microwave. Okay, distract, distract. Aha! Laundry. So I picked up a pair of jeans to fold and then another contraction hit (already!?). Forget folding laundry.
At 10:30 my distraction plan was to call mom. We started chatting and I would glance at the clock and just half listen to mom talking every time I had a contraction. By quarter to eleven I realized that they were coming every five minutes, then every four, and I was not able to hide them from my mom anymore. Yikes, I got off the phone from mom at around 11:00 and immediately called Barton to come home. He made record time and got home at about 11:30. Barton took one look at me and called Lindy, our midwife. She talked to me for a couple of minutes and decided she had better come over. I hadn't been timing my contractions very much, just glancing at the clock sometimes, mostly trying to make it through each one. She told me that these were definitely coming more often than five minutes.
In the ~45 minutes before she arrived, I got in the shower to perhaps wash up (that never happened) or at least get some relief (also didn't help a ton). I had just gotten out when she arrived. I had been moaning through each contraction because it seemed to help, but she warned me that I might be at it for a while and she didn't want me to hurt my voice. Oh.
After that, I mostly spent the afternoon trying to rest in Barton's arms between contractions on the couch, because when I moved to any other position I would have an immediate contraction, and they were already coming close together. I just wanted a break! Amazingly, I was able to drift off to sleep between them for a while. I tried eating a few times, but when I'd finally get to a point of being able to feel up to eating, another one hit.
Lindy and Barton said I needed to get up and move around, so I decided to try going to the bathroom. I couldn't wait to get off the toilet! Somehow I managed to get upstairs to our bedroom where it was much darker. My ball was up there and I tried using some of the different positions from our class, but I couldn't seem to get comfortable. Everything seemed to just make it harder. At one point I threw up everything I had managed to eat. Lindy asked me for the second time if I wanted her to check my progress, and I finally relented.
So at about quarter to six I hesitantly agreed to be checked. I was afraid I'd only be about 5 or 6 cm. It was worse: I was only 2 cm. How could this be? I'd had contractions almost on top of each other for hours and hours! Clearly I was upset and frustrated. Lindy said that if I had gone to the hospital now they would say I was not in active labor and send me home. If they saw how often and strong my contractions were and knew how long they had been this way, they would say I had failed to progress and do an emergency c-section. Lindy offered that if I wanted to get some relief I could go to the hospital and get it through an IV. I stubbornly refused and punched the pillow. She told me that her presence, even though she had stayed out of the way so far, could be slowing me down, and that I needed to rely less on my husband and find my own inner strength. This baby was not going to come in the next hour or two. Lay down and try to relax.
Everything she said only served to make me rise up as though she had laid out a challenge. This was NOT going to end in the hospital. I was NOT going to be in labor all night. I've been told more than once that I'm a little stubborn…
Barton set up the relaxation recording from the birthing class for me and then left to make himself supper. I tried to relax. Oh, I tried. When the recording got to the part about telling your cervix to soften, I decided to start forcefully commanding mine to OPEN every time I had a contraction. I had plenty of opportunity. At 6:05 my water suddenly broke in a huge gush! I yelled for Barton and he came up. After calling Lindy (who hadn't even made it home yet) and being told that this didn't change anything, he went back down to eat his supper.
After my water broke, my contractions immediately got a little stronger and time no longer existed. I don't have any idea how long it was before I had the urge to push with each contraction. I tried not to for a while; after all, I was only 2cm not too long ago. Barton told me later that I was grunting and groaning with each push and that he finally heard me downstairs where he had dozed off and came running. He immediately called Lindy again (by this time it was 7:20) and she came over as fast as she could. She arrived at about 8:00, yelling “breathe!” as she raced through the house hoping to make it before the baby. (Later she was trying to find where she had dropped things on her mad dash to get to me.)
They quickly laid out the tarp on the floor and got me on all fours. At 8:21 Gideon arrived all at once in one enormous push with one hand by his head. Barton caught him and I had to wait a few agonizing seconds while they got him to start breathing on his own. I couldn't see anything and all I heard was, “come on, breathe baby.” Finally he cried, Barton told me it was a boy, and they passed him up between my legs. I stared for a moment at the incredibly beautiful baby that was lying on the floor below me before picking him up to hold him close. He was perfect. Barton proudly cut the cord when it stopped pulsing and I had no trouble delivering the placenta shortly after.
Then they helped me get up on the bed and I laid there curious to see if little Gideon would figure out how and where to nurse on his own. He was getting really close but we ended up helping him a little after Lindy checked me over. (He's been a champion nurser ever since!) I had a second degree tear but it did not go into the muscle, so she gave me a choice: have her stitch it with a shot of novocaine, go to the hospital where I could get better pain killers, or simply keep my knees together for a couple of weeks and let it heal on it's own. I opted for the last choice. Again, I'm stubborn and I also don't like needles. It has healed very well and took only a couple weeks for me to be walking around almost back to normal. ((UPDATE: At my six week appointment we discovered that it was not actually my perineum that tore, it was my hyman! Somehow it had stayed intact all this time…))
Shortly after Gideon was born, Lindy declared, “That is no 7 pound baby!” Sure enough, when she weighed him later she looked at us and said, “You are never going to believe this: 8 pounds 6 ounces.” His length was 20 1/4 inches with lots of dark hair, just like both parents had at birth.
My husband was amazing and such an incredible source of strength and calm through it all; I wouldn't want to have gone through it without him! Lindy said she was amazed at his calm demeanor and the way he supported me through labor and delivery; she said most men, especially first time fathers, don't do so well… I've been told multiple times by Lindy since Gideon's birthday that I am Wonder Woman and that mine was not a typical labor. She assures me that future labors won't be like this one. I hope not. The transition stage with such frequent contractions isn't supposed to last 9 hours. Even when I got to the pushing stage they didn't space out like they normally do. I was greatly relieved to be able to push, but I'm told they only spaced out to around 3 minutes between. Yeah. Honestly the pushing stage was still such a relief that I felt like I was finally getting that long-awaited break! There are many things I know I probably could have done to speed up my labor, and maybe next time I'll have the presence of mind to try them. But I did it! And this beautiful baby boy that is laying peacefully in my arms a month later is totally worth every contraction. Bring on the next labor, I can take it.