By Kristen, USA
My husband, Adam, and I were afraid that our daughter would be born early because my mother and grandmother both had their first babies two weeks early. So, we rushed to get everything together in time: car seat installed, infant CPR classes finished, Bradley Natural childbirth classes finished, breastfeeding class finished, and books read. The days kept rolling by though and the closer we got to our July 8th due date, the more antsy we got. My grandparents timed a visit to coordinate with our due date, but when it came time for them to leave, our daughter, Gillian, still had not arrived. My husband and I took long walks with our dog every night, but besides being uncomfortable, nothing happened.
On Thursday July 13th, 5 days after our due date, I had to go in for a non-stress test and ultrasound to make sure everything was going smoothly. Gillian did great on the NST and the ultrasound showed that she still had plenty of amniotic fluid. The ultrasound technician said the baby looked about six pounds. I still had not been checked for dilation and effacement because in my opinion, it heightens your risk for infection or premature membrane rupture and can't really help predict when the baby will come. Our nurse midwife, Carrie, offered to check for me and to sweep my membranes, and even though I was really tempted, we decided to wait and do it the next time (and hoped there wouldn't be one).
I felt great after the appointment, but later got a voicemail from Carrie saying that after consulting with one of the obstetricians, they were afraid my baby was too small. She explained that the ultrasound technician had said six pounds, but that indicated a range from 7 pounds, which would be fine, to 5 pounds, which was small. She said they were afraid of intrauterine growth retardation and wanted me to come in the next morning to be induced. I was really upset because I wanted a natural childbirth. I talked to Carrie on the phone and said that I had been 6 pounds when I was born and just didn't feel that it was necessary to rush to induction just because an inaccurate test said our baby could possibly be 5 pounds. We had also had a scary experience with a false positive triple screen test that indicated Down Syndrome, which amniocentesis later ruled out. So, although we were nervous, we decided to hold off and let nature take its course.
The following Monday (9 days after my due date), I went in again. It was a little tricky getting a good NST this time because Gillian was moving around like crazy and kept moving away from the heart monitor. Again, her fluid levels looked good. Carrie checked me and I was 80% effaced and only half a centimeter dilated. She swept my membranes, which I found uncomfortable, but not painful. She assured us that I should have contractions that night and we were excited. We took a long walk that night and I drank two glasses of water with 10 drops of a black cohosh tincture. We also had quiche with lots of basil, which I had read could help, but nothing happened. We were both feeling pretty frustrated at that point and went to bed.
At one o'clock in the morning I woke up and felt diarrhea-like cramps. Everything in my stomach did seem to be trying to get out, but I also realized I was having contractions every ten minutes. I knew it could be a long time before anything happened and tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn't. I went downstairs to watch TV and told Adam to just stay in bed. I watched TV, walked around, and bounced on a pilates ball for awhile, in between running to the bathroom. The contractions were staying steady at ten minutes apart, but I was really sleepy and realized I could fall asleep in between them, even though they woke me up. Around 5 am, I got bored and decided to get in the bathtub. At this point, they were coming every two to three minutes apart, but I could still talk during them. Adam got up and starting packing our suitcases. I would yell to him when I was having a contraction and he would write it down so we could time it. I got out of the tub and he made me some toast, scrambled eggs, and coffee. We thought Gillian would be born sometime before noon and were excited. I got dressed and we walked around the neighborhood a little while and the contractions were steady at 2 minutes apart. However, when we got back home and I sat down, they slowed back down to ten minutes apart, which was disappointing. Adam was still keeping track of the contractions and kept looking at me expectantly every two or three minutes. He would say, So, it's been about three minutes This was very annoying, as if I had any control over it! We watched TV and did stuff around the house, the contractions would speed up if I walked around, but kept slowing down when I sat. Eventually, we called the midwife to see what we should do and she suggested we come in and get checked. We took our time and stopped at McDonalds to get lunch I ate two hamburgers. The contractions kept coming they were painful, but no worse than really bad menstrual cramps. When I got checked, I was completely effaced and almost five centimeters. The midwife told us to go check into the hospital.
We got checked in about 5pm, settled into our room, and started walking the halls. Not long after that, there was a fire alarm and we had to stop walking and go back to our room. We walked around the room for awhile and then I decided to get in the bath again. Around this time, Adam's Mom got to the hospital, she had driven from VA to SC after we told her we thought we were in labor. Again, the contractions slowed down in the tub, but were still about 3 minutes apart. After I got out, Adam's Mom brought food from Arby's for them. Adam proceeded to eat sitting next to the bed. The smell was nauseating and I told him that he'd have to eat outside.
The midwife on call wasn't the one I was used to seeing, but Barbara was great anyway. After she got to the hospital, she suggested breaking my water to speed things up. Since I had been up basically all night and had been in labor for almost 15 hours, we agreed. Thankfully, the fluid was nice and clear. Since my water had been broken, I had to keep the monitors on. Barbara hadn't told me that beforehand and I momentarily upset by it because I think the contractions might have been easier to handle standing up. From that point on, the contractions got really painful. I remember thinking that I must be in transition and it couldn't last forever, even if it felt like it. I felt a bit like I was in a trance, kind of blacking out until a contraction hit. Adam was great and was very encouraging. I was taking deep breaths during the contractions and he kept trying to help me breath calmly by breathing with me. That was very annoying and in between contractions I told him to Stop breathing. I was still only at 8 centimeters though and didn't seem to be progressing. Barbara suggested I try going to the bathroom. So, Adam, Barbara, and the Labor and Delivery nurse helped me walk to the bathroom where I did actually have to go. Barbara told me to try pushing a little just to see how it felt. I tried, but I didn't really feel like I was doing anything. I got back in bed and she tried to stretch my cervix over the baby's head. That was painful and didn't really work. She told me to try and push. I tried, but I felt like I got a Charley Horse in my stomach muscles and remember clinging to the side of the bed on the verge of tears. I felt like it just wasn't working and I had had as much as I could take. They tried to get me to push different ways: on my side and the classical way of holding onto my legs. In the childbirth classes, I had thought I might like to try squatting, but at that point, you couldn't have gotten me into a squatting position for anything.
In the classical position, I finally gave a good push, Barbara and the nurse kind of smiled and made encouraging sounds. At first I thought I had pooped on the bed, but apparently it was just a productive push. From that point, I realized how to push and pushed as hard as I could. I felt everything stretching, which definitely hurt. I remember Adam excitedly saying he could see her head. I only pushed for 20 minutes and she was born at 8:52pm after almost 20 hours in labor. They put her on my chest and rubbed her. I was a little bit in shock I think and I couldn't believe she had actually arrived. As I delivered the placenta, they took her over to the side of the room to weigh her, give her the Vitamin K shot, and put on her eye ointment. The placenta just felt like a slippery blob coming out and didn't hurt at all. I had to get three stitches for minor tears, which hurt a little bit. Then, they brought her over to breastfeed. She latched on right away and I remember being surprised by how forcefully she sucked and it was a little painful.
The nurse helped me get in the tub afterwards, which felt great. Adam and his Mom held Gillian. That night she cried for several hours and we were completely exhausted by the time she finally went to sleep. We only spent 24 hours in the hospital before coming home. Gillian has been a great baby and I can't imagine life without her.