Labor, It Takes Time- A Birth Story
You know, I think one thing that people are surprised (and not pleasantly) about when they go into labor is the sheer amount of TIME it takes. Sure, some people have a four hour labor- but they are RARE. Every time I talk in birth classes about the average first time mom laboring for about 17 hours people are shocked. And they are hopeful that their labor won't be that long.
And then, when you watch birth videos or read birth stories, everything seems to last about five minutes. Crowning, and then, BAM- BABY!
The truth is that the best things come to those who wait. I love the way this birth story notes the times and the perspective of both mom and dad.
Birth is work. It requires adequate and serious preparation.
The Birth Story of Baby *K*
First time mama, 9 lb. baby- no drugs!
* A’s perspective (Father)
*E’s perspective (Mother)
Once we found out that we were pregnant, I knew I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth. I knew that my body was designed to give birth and I had total confidence that it would do its thing when the time was right. However, I wanted to be prepared and learn more about labor, natural pain management, and medical interventions that we would face. I also wanted *A* to be prepared and knowledgeable to make decisions with me. Originally I was receiving prenatal care at a hospital. It was close to home, and they had midwives in the practice. However, once we learned about the hospital policies and practices, I decided to look into other options. This was when I found the birth center. They view birth as a natural process and were much more in line with what we desired for our birth experience (laboring in a tub, eating and drinking during labor, no epidural or IV drugs, minimal vaginal exams, intermittent fetal heart rate monitoring, etc.). I switched to the practice when I was 31 weeks pregnant. *A* and I started taking a class to help us learn more and prepare for the birth (The Bradley Method: Husband-Coached Natural Childbirth). This aided in our decision to switch practices and to have a say in where we give birth.
Friday, August 31st (40 weeks, 2 days pregnant )
I woke up with pre-labor contractions at 3:30am and they stayed somewhat consistent. *A* decided to work from home for the day just in case it was the real deal. He was also tired of people at work asking him if the baby was here yet J We went for a 2 mile walk around 7am. After all that, I was still contracting. They stopped around 9am.
Monday, September 5th (40 weeks, 5 days pregnant) Labor Day!
Tuesday, September 4th (40 weeks, 6 days pregnant)
Wednesday, September 5th (41 weeks pregnant)
*A* worked from home so he could go with me to see *M* for our 41 week appointment. I told her about the ear infection and the antibiotic and ear drops. She said that it was fine to take the antibiotic (while pregnant and breastfeeding) and even a Tylenol to get rid of the pain so I could get some sleep in case I went into labor. She checked my cervix and I was 2 cm dilated. My cervix was thinning out and baby’s head was down and very low. She was thinking about doing a cervical massage to help get things going, but we decided to wait until my ear infection was a little better. She thought that after a few days of being on the antibiotic and getting some rest, my body would go into labor on its own. *M* did the fetal Non-Stress Test (NST) to check the baby’s heart rate against contractions and an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid levels. Both were good. Baby was estimated at 8 lbs. 14 oz. and the ultrasound tech said baby had some hair! *M* said to get some acupuncture done to help induce labor naturally. She also wanted us to come in for another NST on Saturday, if we didn’t have the baby by then. We could wait one more week and then had to start thinking about induction, which I wanted to avoid at all costs (statistics show that your risk of having a c-section is much greater with an induced labor).
Thursday, September 6th – (41 weeks 1 day pregnant)
Contractions were easier with the warm water from the shower, or maybe just because I stopped paying attention to them. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. *A* and I ate eggplant lasagna for dinner (we read somewhere that eggplant helps induce labor) and had boston coolers for dessert (my new favorite!). We watched some TV and just relaxed for a while. Contractions continued, somewhat irregularly, but definitely still there.
*E* began to experience consistent regular and repeatable contractions starting around 5:00 pm. We figured it was another set of pre-labor contractions that would soon fizzle, just like the past 3 weeks of daily pre-labor contractions. After a couple hours though, and many timed contractions, it was apparent *E* was in the early stages of labor. Contractions occurred anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes apart at first. Usually two or three contractions in a row were pretty evenly spaced apart. But this variability meant that contractions could soon disappear.
I decided to lay down and try to sleep for a bit. But first I went to the bathroom to go pee, and lost some of my mucous plug. It was so exciting- I knew that my body was doing something and making progress! Finally. I got in bed to try to sleep, and contractions were still strong and about 5 minutes apart. I was able to sleep in between them for maybe an hour. Eventually I got up and watched some TV, read birth stories (at mamabirth!), and just waited for morning. *A* got up at some point, and I started walking around the house, just to keep things moving.
EARLY FIRST STAGE (~ 6 hours)
*A* timed a few more contractions, and they were about 2-3 minutes apart. We waited another hour or so, and *A* slowly started packing the car. He called the birth center around 5am, and spoke with a nurse. He told her what had been happening all night, and she said it would be fine to come on in whenever we were ready. I had been in labor for 12 hours already. We had a 25 minute drive and I didn’t want to wait much longer. Contractions were getting more and more uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to be in much worse pain during the car ride. On the way, we passed at least 5 hospitals that didn’t make the cut. A lot of people don’t know that they are the consumer and have a say in where they give birth. We did not want unnecessary interventions, as we were striving for the most natural birth possible, and knew that the birth center would be fully supportive of our choices and our birth plan.
ACTIVE FIRST STAGE (~ 6 hours)
We got to the birth center, parked the car, and started walking inside. It took about 20 minutes to walk all the way to where we were going, since I had to stop every two minutes and have a contraction. I also wasn’t moving very fast. We finally made it and were given our choice of birthing rooms. By this point, I had to focus more through each contraction. I believe we got there at the perfect time. Any earlier and I would’ve had too much time to labor there. Any later and I would’ve been too uncomfortable during the car ride.
We arrived after a fairly short but uncomfortable 25 minute drive from our house. *E* had about 6 to 10 contractions while walking into the hospital, which turned a quick 5 minute walk into a 20 minute journey. The nurse helped us to get settled.
She proceeded to check *E* and baby’s vitals, which both checked out “good”. She also checked *E*’s cervix dilation status. She determined *E* was about 4 to 5 centimeters dilated. We were happy to hear this since we were shooting for 5 cm of dilation before leaving home so that we wouldn’t be laboring for hours and days in the birth center. *E* continued to have consistent and stronger contractions from there on. Once we got settled into our room she was no longer interested in walking. She actually never left the room until the next day (after the baby was born). She would have a few sips of water from time to time, but really wasn’t interested in food anymore. Her conversations started to dwindle down as she mentally prepared for each contraction and the discomfort accompanying each. I would classify her move from the car to birth center the slow transition between active first stage labor and late first stage (hard labor).
This is where things start to get a little fuzzy in my mind, so I have to rely on *A* for clarity. Here’s what I do remember. I remember laboring standing up with *A*, my arms around his neck supporting me through each contraction.
The next 6 hours were spent laboring. *E* never really liked to move out of the position she was in. I started suggesting different options, which were quickly turned down. I then began to simply tell her what the next position was going to be, which was also turned down. So I stuck around for moral support, fed her water in between contractions, and talked her through taking deep breaths to help focus her mind on relaxing. We initially labored for a while standing up, with her arms around my shoulders and neck. We made many trips to the bathroom, *E* using the bathroom on her own at this point.
I remember sitting on the bed, laboring the same way, with my arms around *A*'s neck. I know I laid down in the bed for a while, and we got into the shower at some point. That felt really nice, the warm water was really relaxing and helped me through a bunch of contractions. I stayed in there as long as I could, until it got too warm and muggy to breathe well.
Eventually we got into the tub and labored. *A* sat behind me and I was able to relax very easily in the warm water, leaning back on *A*’s chest. He prayed over me, the baby and our labor while we were in the tub. I started feeling really nauseous and threw up while I was in the tub. I got out to use the bathroom, and just never got back in. I wish I would have labored in the tub again. It really seemed to help the pain.
*E* really enjoyed the pressure relief brought on by the buoyancy of the water. I sat behind her and she leaned back onto my chest, resting her arms on my legs. She was very relaxed and did a great job breathing through contractions while in the tub. We had a chance to pray briefly together, maybe only for the second or third time during labor. Contractions were only about a minute or two apart the entire time we were at the birth center. We got out of the tub after about an hour for a bathroom break.
TRANSITION (~ 2 ½ hours)
After getting out of the tub and using the bathroom, I went back to the bed and labored on my side. This was the easiest position for me to completely relax in. I have no idea how long this was for. I lost all track of time. At one point on the bed, my whole body began to shake. I felt nauseous and threw up again. I thought that this had to be the beginning of transition, because I had heard that nausea and shaking were signs of it. However, this was hours before the baby was born, so who really knows. I got up to go the bathroom frequently, but did not leave the bed other than that. The pain was really intense, and was just getting worse. At one point, I remember *A* eating something really close to my ear, and snapping at him, telling him not to chew next to me. I was so hungry but I didn’t feel like eating anything.
At this point we were definitely in the transition phase as *E* threw up, was very shaky, and contractions were very intense, sometimes one on top of another. I’m not positive, but the transition phase lasted much longer than we ever expected. Definitely for 2+ hours! She began to moan much more intensely and did not want to be touched at all. This was very hard for me as I had been trained to provide encouragement and to support her relaxation by rubbing and massaging her muscles. She was not interested at all. In fact, the only time I touched her was to hold her hand so she knew she had my moral support through this life changing process. This was essential as her eyes were closed all the time from now on until the birth. Fortunately, I was able to coach her a little with her breathing and providing words of encouragement, as well as bringing up good memories from the past. *E* never really liked to be rubbed or massaged at any time during labor, not just transition, so these other techniques were beneficial.
At this point during labor, I remember starting to feel really discouraged, exhausted, and in more pain than I had ever expected. It was almost impossible to relax through contractions. I did not want *A* to touch me to help me relax- I thought that I could do it better on my own. I would just keep my eyes closed, reach for his hand to squeeze, and concentrate on breathing and relaxing my whole body during each contraction. I was being very vocal and wanting to moan through each one. It seemed to help the pain and calm my mind, but I do think it made me more tense. And then we met *H*… J
*H* was so helpful to me during this point in labor. Even thought she was a nurse, I am a firm believer in doulas now! She was closer to my grandma's age and had the most soothing voice. She was so calm and so reassuring. She would just lightly touch my body to help me relax, and it seemed to be just what I needed. I was frustrated because *A* couldn’t do for me what *H* had done, but at that point, I didn’t care who was helping me through each contraction, I was just thankful she was there.
SECOND STAGE (~ 3 ½ hours)
At this time, *E* used the bathroom quite frequently. I started to help her in and out of the bathroom and sat on a stool in front of her for support while she had contractions on the toilet. All sense of modesty was lost. I knew this because she never lets me in the bathroom when she is on the toilet. This was when I sensed she was pushing a little. I was confused by this because we had been trained not to push until you can’t do anything BUT push. I quickly found out that’s exactly the feeling *E* was experiencing. She was not breathing well and even holding breaths in from time to time. I was frustrated because I was doing all I could to help her take deep repeatable breaths, and she simply was holding them in. Well, I quickly learned that she had started pushing, so I recalibrated myself to realize that’s what she needed to be doing at that time.
I went and labored on the toilet for a while, hoping that a change in position would help move things along. I had been in labor for an entire day and was ready to be done. I wasn’t even thinking that all this hard work would bring us our baby. I was in labor land and just focused on what I had to do. After sitting on the toilet for a while, I started feeling some pressure, kind of like I wanted to push. I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like, but it felt better to be pushing during each contraction, so I knew we must be getting closer.
We proceeded to have her cervix checked by *M* to ensure it was safe to have her push. We didn’t want any lip of cervix to be getting in the way and have it inflamed. *M* checked her cervix and said she was fully dilated with just a lip of cervix in the way. However, she encouraged us, and said that it should be fine to push because it was thinning out nicely and the baby’s head would push whatever was left out of the way. *E* began to actively push and moved the baby along through the birth canal with each and every push. With a little coaching on how to hold in her breath during a push, she quickly became a seasoned pro.
I had moved from the toilet back to the bed to get my cervix checked and start pushing. This was the part of labor that I was most afraid of. I started to get the hang of it and pushed for about an hour or so with little progress. I started pushing in the squatting position, and pooped on the floor. I was afraid that would happen. I was too tired to care. *M* told me that my bag of waters hadn’t broken yet, and if we broke them, it would help to speed things up. I was ready to try anything at that point. I had been up for an entire day and was physically and mentally exhausted.
This one hour was probably the hardest hour of my labor. I had been fully dilated, but had to dilate again one last centimeter.
The contractions were really hard, but my body gave me more of a break in between them. I was able to lay down on my side and sleep for a few minutes between contractions. The pain would wake me up, I would try to relax through it, and when it subsided, I could go back to sleep for a few more minutes. I was so thankful for the rest and knew I would need it when it came time to push again.
After that hour of intense contractions, *E* started pushing again for about an hour and a half. The baby was slowly progressing, but it was obvious that *E* was completely out of energy. We tried to stand up as she had been laying on the bed on her side for some time. However, as soon as she stood and began to push standing up, the baby’s heartbeat slowed down rather quickly. The nurses quickly put *E* back in bed on her side, where the baby was doing great, and hooked her up to an oxygen mask and the monitor to continually watch the baby’s heartbeat. Praise God, as soon as *E* transitioned back to her side the baby reacted just fine to consequent contractions and pushes.
They were strongly suggesting that I get out of the bed and try pushing in the squatting position. I knew that pushing on my back was the worst position to push in, but I was physically so exhausted I couldn’t do anything else. They made me get up and try squatting next to the bed to push. I was so thankful when they rushed me back into the bed! At the time, I had no idea that the baby’s heart rate had gone down.
The nurse hooked up an IV and gave *E* a little sugar water to help give her a boost. They called it a Snickers Bar. The sugar water helped, and after another hour of pushing, the baby was stuck again. Her pushing process was like climbing a mountain, and then reaching a plateau before another steeper part of the mountain could be climbed. After five or six strong contractions it was apparent that *E*’s perineum needed to tear.
The baby’s head was stuck. It kind of looked like a softball at this point. It would not go any further.
After pushing again for another hour, I was exhausted, and everyone could tell. I didn’t have much energy left in me to push. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. They told me they wanted to give me an IV of sugar water. I didn’t want it, but they said that it would really help. I figured it was smarter to do that than to wear myself out and have to have a c-section because I couldn’t push out my giant baby. So they stuck in the IV and I kept on pushing. I remember *M* asking me if I really thought that there was a baby in there. I told her no, I didn’t really believe it. She said that she knew, and started asking me about the marathon I had ran a few years before.
She asked when it got really tough, and I said around mile 18. She said that we were around mile 23, that the hardest part was over, and we were almost to the finish line, ready to meet our baby. She gave me a mirror to look at the baby’s head, and told me to reach down and touch our baby. That gave me a little extra energy to push a while longer. However, after more pushing, the baby was still not coming out. *M* suggested an episiotomy. I said no, that I would rather keep pushing for a little while longer, and she let me. After about another half an hour, she said that I wasn’t making any progress and she really thought the episiotomy would get our baby out. I was also afraid of having an episiotomy, but I knew it was necessary at this point. I had been pushing for 3 ½ hours, been in labor for more than a day, hadn’t slept for more than an hour, and hadn’t eaten much at all.
*M* performed a pressure episiotomy during the next contraction, and after the birth, *E* mentioned how she never felt the incision. The episiotomy was critical as *E* was completely exhausted and her body needed the extra help.
After the episiotomy, which was done while I was pushing, and was painless, I pushed through two contractions and the baby’s head was out. This was the most painful part. Once the head was out, I pushed through one more contraction, and the baby’s whole body was out. *A* helped to catch the baby and put the baby on my chest. Our baby was huge and it was a BOY!
Baby *K* was born! It was 8:47 pm on Friday, September 7th. I helped catch *K* and put him to his mother’s chest for immediate skin to skin contact with the hopes of an immediate nursing session. He was wide eyed and alert- exactly what you would expect from a naturally birthed baby. I was overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t hold back the tears of joy and excitement. I have no idea what went on the two to three minutes after the birth. All I could do was stare at my beautiful baby boy and his superstar mother. *E* and I were crying, looking at each other, looking at *K*, holding each other and our baby. The emotional roller coaster of labor and birth was not a fun ride, but the climax was well worth every minute.
I was so relieved that he was here and that he was healthy. I loved that first look at our baby, with his daddy’s strong hands holding him on his mommy’s chest. His eyes were wide open and he was so alert and content. I don’t remember him crying much at all. I looked at *A* and was so full of love and amazement at our little miracle.
About five minutes later, *M* instructed *E* that it was time to birth the placenta. She pushed out the placenta in two contractions. I was able to get a couple quick pictures of the placenta, and then proceeded to cut the umbilical cord. We have a picture of this as well. In fact, we have a couple pictures because it took me three snips to get all the way through the cord with the small scissors they gave me.
I was also afraid of this part of labor, but it was nothing compared to the 3 ½ hours it took to get baby *K* out. I didn’t feel any pain, just pressure through a couple of contractions. I pushed out the placenta easily and was able to go back to staring at our baby boy J
Once *K* was completely free from his mother’s womb I prayed over him and thanked God for the beautiful and healthy life that He blessed us with. The birth of our child is God’s greatest miracle I have experienced firsthand.
I am so amazed at the miracle of pregnancy and birth and so thankful I trusted my body to give birth the way God intended. It never once crossed my mind to ask for drugs. I am so blessed to have been able to give our son the best start to life and want to tell every woman I know to do your research and trust your body! We were made for this and I am stronger because of it. I birthed a 9 pound baby on my own with no drugs or unnecessary interventions with the help of my husband and the strength from my God. Praise Him!