Welcome to my behemoth of a birth story. Let’s jump right in.
Monday, July 6. (39 weeks + 2 days pregnant)
Alexis = CLUELESS. Completely convinced that I’d be pregnant for probably another week. Despite being utterly certain that Olivia’s arrival was anything but imminent, I did try a few doula-approved tricks to get keep the contractions rolling every time I had one.
(Late pregnancy: the one time in a woman’s life when she’s EXCITED to realize that something feels painful and to try and keep it that way.)
It’s a good thing I was home by myself, because every time I had a contraction, I’d stop whatever I was doing and squat it out (Natalie thought this was hilarious and was more than happy to join in). The contractions never got any closer together or more intense as the day wore on, so I told myself I was just working on my glutes, not trying to start labor. Drop it like it’s hot, mama.
After dinner I went for about a mile walk with the rest of my family. I waddled happily along, feeling very spherical but not much other than that. My mom and my sister and I made arrangements for Natalie to stay with them the next day while I went to my 39-week midwife appointment. As my sister walked back to her car, she shouted to me, “What if you go into labor and you have to stay at the birth center? What do I do with Natalie?” I laughed (oh, how I laughed) and told her not to worry about it; there was no way that was happening.
Tuesday, July 7. 12:30 a.m.
A tightening feeling in my lower back wrapped around my belly and woke me up. I’d been having contractions at night for days and days, so I didn’t think much of it. I had more pressing things on my mind, like the fact that my teaspoon-sized bladder was full. I tried to get settled and go back to sleep after I returned from the bathroom, but I had another contraction. And that one, hmm, maybe it feels a bit stronger than before? I stayed awake for about half an hour timing my contractions. They certainly didn’t feel like Braxton-Hicks, but I spent an entire night when I was pregnant with Natalie feeling the exact same way, only to have all the contractions fizzle out in the light of day.
Ten to twelve minutes apart. Nothing serious. GO BACK TO SLEEP.
More contractions woke me up. I whipped out my handy contraction timer app (Seriously, what did we do before this technology? My parents used a regular watch and wrote down the times of my mom’s contractions on a yellow legal pad. #so30yearsago) and was delighted to find that they were now 8-10 minutes apart and lasting around 45 seconds to a minute. They were fairly strong, not quite what I’d describe as painful, but I was thinking that this might be the Real Deal.
I timed contractions for an hour and they never wavered in timing or intensity. Yeah, this was definitely it.
With nothing else to do, I got out of bed, picked up the toys and crayons and stickers that Natalie had left strewn about the living room, cleaned the kitchen, and did a final check of my bags. I continued this surprisingly domestic streak through most of the contractions, although a few of them had me leaning against the kitchen island and breathing through them. With the house in decent-enough shape, I figured I should take a shower.
I’d had the good sense not to wake Will through any of this. I was definitely in labor, but I needed him to be as well-rested as possible. So you can imagine his surprise when his would-sleep-til-noon-most-days-if-you-let-her, massively pregnant, freshly showered wife woke him up at 5:30 in the morning by stumbling around in the dark trying to get dressed.
He blinked at me from the bed and mumbled, “What are you doing?”
“We’re going to have a baby today!” I whispered excitedly.
“Ugh.” He dropped his head back to the pillow. (I did wake him up from a sound sleep; I’m giving him a pass for that reaction.) “So what does that mean?”
“Nothing right now. Except you should probably get up. Maybe. Take a shower?”
He started waking up and processing what was going on while I texted my parents (early risers, thankfully) to see if I could pop over for a visit. I probably should have prefaced that question by saying that everything was A-OK, because my mom answered the door with a very worried look on her face, asking if everything was alright.
Sorry, mom. But all was forgiven when I told them that I was quite sure I was in labor, and today was the day they’d be getting another granddaughter.
“Did you call the midwives?” my mom asked as she scrambled some eggs for me.
“Ah, not yet. I will soon.”
(At this point my contractions were 6-7 minutes apart, and I was leaning against a chair or counter every time I had one and not saying a word to anyone until it had passed. In hindsight I’m surprised my mom didn’t throw me in the car and drive me to the birth center herself that very minute.)
…so I called the midwife. Explained the timing and intensity of contractions, but felt very strongly that I didn’t want to go to the birth center yet, since I’d only had a few that were at least a minute long. She strongly encouraged me not to wait too much longer, and we agreed to meet at the birth center at 7:30.
At this point I was still a little bit in denial that I was actually in labor, or at least I didn’t think that it was advanced enough to warrant leaving the house. I remembered early labor with Natalie quite clearly, and it was way more painful than what I was feeling.
I walked back to the house (my parents are literally right across the street, lest anyone is picturing me casually strolling the streets of Knoxville at 6 a.m.) and told Will that, yeah, what I said earlier? About not having to do anything right now? Wellllll actually that is 100% not true at all, you have about half an hour to get your stuff together and then we have to leave. Chop chop. Kthxbai.
We finished gathering our things. Natalie woke up and we walked her next door with the promise of getting to spend time with Grammy and Grandpa. Will fed the cats, we double-checked that the car seat was in the car, and then we were off.
The birth center is about 30-40 minutes away from our house, depending on traffic, but we were juuuuust ahead of the start of rush hour and our drive was smooth and uneventful. Having made a long-ish drive to birth centers in active labor twice, I can say this for certain: a car is the WORST place to be in labor. Something about the angle of the seat (which I couldn’t recline because there was a stupid car seat in the way, THANKS NATALIE), or maybe the seat belt, I’m not sure…but having contractions in the car is torturous for me and I was beyond relieved when we arrived.
The midwife let us in and invited me to choose whichever room I wanted, since I was the only one there. Sure, how about this one; seems like a nice place to have a baby. And then it was time for the moment of truth: was I actually dilated enough to stay? I was genuinely concerned I wasn’t. And if I was, my guess was 3-4 cm. When I was admitted to the birth center with Natalie I was at 5 cm, and I definitely hadn’t labored hard enough to get to that point yet.
Except…surprise! 5 cm!
OMG THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.
I beamed at Will as the midwife set up the IV for my antibiotics (since I tested positive for Group B strep, I needed to get a dose of antibiotics every four hours). We all laughed about how long the drip took when I was in labor with Natalie, and the midwife assured me that it would be done in fifteen, twenty minutes, tops.
I take great pride in coordinating both my size and my shirt with my exercise ball.
I sat back in the recliner while the clear fluid drip-drip-dripped through the tubing and into the vein in my hand, continuing to do my hypnobirthing breathing, contractions now about four minutes apart, and smiling and chatting with Will in between.
And then I sat some more. And some more. And still the fluid dripped. Feebly. Drip. Drip….drip. The midwife came in and out several times to listen to the baby with the doppler, squeeze the bag of antibiotics, frown slightly, and express surprise that it wasn’t going any faster.
Well, it’s not like we were going anywhere. I was quite happy in the recliner and felt good enough to listen to actual music. Remember how I joked about Katy Perry? The only playlist I had synced on my phone (other than Hypnobirthing, and I didn’t feel like I needed it at that point) was my workout playlist, so that’s what I listened to for most of labor. I had to laugh at that one.
I wheeled my IV stand to the bathroom a few times, had a snack, and was texting people to let them know I was at the birth center. I played a puzzle game on my phone, dropping the phone into my lap and letting my entire body go completely limp whenever I felt the tight squeeze of a contraction starting and breathing slowly and deeply until it was over.
AN HOUR AND A HALF after it started the drip still wasn’t done. The midwives had changed shifts, and the new midwife finally offered to put the saline lock in my other arm and get this show on the road. I agreed before she even finished talking, and two minutes later I was all done with my antibiotics.
We’d paid an extra deposit for the use of the birthing tub, since I was reasonably sure I wanted to try for a water birth. The midwife suggested we wait until things had progressed a little further to start filling it up, since the water temperature wouldn’t stay warm for too long. I thought that was a very reasonable idea, since who knows how much longer before baby arrived (SPOILER ALERT: NOT LONG) and the thought of giving birth in a tub of cold water did not sound very inviting.
Will suggested taking a regular bath for a bit, and that sounded splendid.
The warm water definitely felt nice, but I was having a really hard time managing my contractions in the tub. I couldn’t fully relax without sliding down into the water or whacking my head on the wall, and holding myself in a sitting position made the contractions a lot worse. Even though I was only in the tub for 3-4 contractions and they were intense, it felt like as soon as I sat down the contractions immediately got further apart.
We’d only been at the birth center for two hours, and I was really concerned about slowing things down. That plus not being able to manage the contractions well in the tub made it an easy decision to abandon the bath and try something else.
I started by settling back into my old friend, the recliner. Nope, didn’t feel right. Maybe sitting on the exercise ball? Ugh, definitely not. Lying on my left side in bed? NO NO NO THAT’S THE WORST. Standing up and walking around? Difficult, but tolerable.
Will and I continued to joke about how this was the most boring labor ever. I paced the small room while he was chillin’ like a villian and checking sports scores on his phone — with my full blessing, because what else was he supposed to do? He had filled up the tub for me, unwrapped larabars, and brought me my water bottle at regular intervals. Having him right there with me and being his normal, incredibly calm, level-headed self was exactly what I needed.
And then my contractions took an abrupt turn towards OWWWWW, and I did need more than moral support. I felt intense pressure in my lower back and hips that radiated down the backs of my legs, and no amount of visualizing myself as numb or deep breathing did anything to make it better. I did my best to keep my jaw relaxed (it really helps — if you can relax the muscles of your face, the rest of your body follows suit…mostly) and breathe through it, but I was failing miserably at riding them out calmly.
Somewhere deep in my brain a little voice piped up, “Counterpressure!” Will helped me through the next couple of contractions by squeezing my hips together and pressing his thumbs into my lower back as hard as he could, and that took enough of the edge off that I didn’t feel like I was drowning under the contractions.
And then I had to pee, because of course I did.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging like I did with Natalie’s birth story. Part 2 is already written and scheduled for tomorrow morning. So I’ll see you back here then? Cool.