As much as I value the idea of a birth plan, I realize there are no guarantees when it comes to childbirth. No matter how many classes you take, how well you take care of your body during pregnancy, or who you have on your labor and delivery support team, anything can happen. After a frustrating pregnancy, I prepared myself for the possibility of a frustrating birth. But I also went into this third (and final!) experience feeling more informed and empowered.
Like my second delivery, I wanted to labor and deliver in a bathtub. Unlike my first and second deliveries, I wanted to “breathe” baby out with my contractions. With both of my boys’ births, I had pushed as hard as I could at the first contraction I was able to do so. They both came out very quickly, but I ended up tearing. This time, I knew better and was prepared to slow myself down and breathe when I started feeling pressure.
At 37 weeks and two days, on Sunday, December 9, I woke up and felt a tiny bit of wetness in my underwear. It didn’t feel like I’d peed or like discharge, so I suspected my water had broke. I got up and walked around, and sure enough, I continued to leak fluid. My midwife had told me to call as soon as I had any signs of labor, since I’d taken a Strep test at my most recent visit and if the results were positive, I’d need to come to the hospital early to start receiving antibiotics. When I called her, she confirmed that my results were in fact positive and advised me to go to the hospital. I was not having any contractions yet, but I was continuing to leak amniotic fluid and didn’t want to wait around at home in case labor started suddenly.
When I got to the hospital at around 10am, the nurse and midwife were skeptical as to whether my water actually broke, since apparently I wasn’t leaking that much fluid. They ran a test, which confirmed that I hadn’t peed my pants and that baby was on the way. Then they hooked me up to an IV to start the first round of antibiotics (ideally I was to get in two rounds, four hours apart, before delivery). After the antibiotics, I still was having zero contractions so my midwife offered me the option of trying to get labor started on my own, or using Pitocin if it didn’t seem to be working. I was determined to get things going without being induced, so I alternated between using a breast pump and walking the halls of the Labor and Delivery and Mother and Baby units. I also practiced some of the techniques I’d learned from Spinning Babies (Rebozo sifting, side lying release, hip circles on a ball) as well as squats and lunges. I was receiving my second round of antibiotics through the IV and simultaneously pumping when contractions finally started.
By now it was around 5pm. My midwife checked my cervix and confirmed that I was dilated 2cm (I was 0 when I came in). I knew that wasn’t much, but I could tell from the frequency and intensity of my contractions that things were moving fast. After about half an hour, I asked my midwife if I could get into the bathtub, but she wanted me to move around some more just to make sure the bath didn’t slow down labor. I doubted that it would (and I should have been more pushy) but I agreed to wait a while.
Within the next 30 minutes, I convinced everyone else around me that labor was in full force, and someone (maybe the nurse? Or my husband?) started running a bath for me. My midwife came back in the room and at 6:45pm I declared that I was getting in. I continued to labor in the tub, which felt a million times better (despite my contractions getting stronger) and I wish I’d gotten in sooner. I had two regular contractions in the tub before I started to feel the intense pressure I recalled from my previous births.
While in the tub, I lay on my left side and squeezed my husband’s hand. I continued to focus on breathing deeply and allowed the contractions to move my baby downward. The pressure was intense, but I was able to stay calm and avoid any intentional pushing. It felt my body was expelling baby rather than me pushing her out. I put my hand down at the opening of my vagina and felt her head! With the next contraction, I could feel her head start to emerge, but instead of pushing her out, I just kept breathing. Her head gently drew back in and I took a moment to remove my sports bra (I wanted to be able to put her to my breast). This was it. I switched to a seated position in the tub, and as the next contraction began, I felt her head emerge. I gave a gentle push to allow the rest of her body to follow, and Noela made her grand entrance at 7:18pm.
It was a perfect beginning. I lifted her out of the water and held her tight to my chest. She let out a cry to announce her arrival, then quieted as we both took it all in. “Does she have a name?” the midwife asked. “She’s Noela. Noela Lorrayne,” I said.
After a few minutes, my husband cut the umbilical cord and I moved to the hospital bed to push out the placenta. When that was done, the nurse handed Noela back to me and I put her to my breast. She latched right on and nursed like a champ. Sitting there feeding my baby, I felt awesome. I had just a little pain, but none of the burning I remembered from my first two births. Did I not tear? I wondered.
The midwife had me lie down to check for collateral damage. “You didn’t tear at all. Just a skidmark,” she said. I was thrilled.
To be continued …