Last Wednesday, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with a somewhat painful contraction. Since I’d had three weeks of off and on contractions, I didn’t give it much thought. I went back to sleep.
Later that morning, my neighbor, Jan, came over. We sat in the living room and had a nice chat. During our chat, I had several contractions. They were very mild, but they sent funny shooting pains down the middle/front parts of my legs. That was odd and definitely different from the Braxton Hicks and false labor I’d experienced. She left and I went upstairs and went back to work.The pains kept coming. But, they were very manageable. They did hurt a bit, but nothing like labor pains so I assumed it was, once again, false labor. I got quite a few and even wrote them down. They were not coming in any set pattern (which is how my labor went with my last two pregnancies).
Around 4:00 p.m., I was contacted by a major news show that had emailed me and I was so excited about the potential interview that the pains stopped completely. We weren’t chosen to appear on the show (they’re looking for a family that RVs 12 months out the year), but I was able to give the reporter lots of information about traveling with children, homeschooling, and more.
A dormant and distant, but definitely not conscious, part of my brain thought maybe I was in the early stages of labor. I even said to someone earlier that day that I thought Mason had sent his message to my body that he was ready but that my body was still trying to get into gear.
After the interview, I told Richard I wanted to go to the grocery story so I could get some walking in, thinking the contractions would start back up again. We dropped Ali off at her basketball camp game at 7:00 p.m. and went to the grocery store, which is right next to the high school where she was playing. We had Max and Frank with us. I was glad we were all in close proximity to each other. And, Zach was having dinner in Orono with his girlfriend, not far away.
As soon as we walked in, right next to the strawberries in the produce section, I had a contraction that sent those shooting pains down my legs and I had to stop walking while it hit me. I was glad things were moving again! We spent an hour at the store and I had another contraction while we were there that also made me stop walking. But, that was only two contractions in one hour.
We left at 8:00 p.m. and parked at the gym to wait for Ali. I had two contractions while we were waiting. She came out around 8:15. We dropped Frank off at the park on the way home because he was supposed to play flashlight hide ‘n seek with some friends at 8:30. We told him we’d pick him up at 9:30. I had three contractions on the way home. They were getting a bit more painful, but were absolutely manageable and I was disappointed and kept insisting it was false labor because it didn’t ‘really hurt.” Ali and Richard kept looking at me funny and, now that I look back on the evening, they were acting very agitated. I, on the otherhand, wasn’t worried at all. We came home and Richard and Ali unloaded all the groceries while I took Max outside. There were too many mosquitos so we came right back inside. Richard and Ali were making our late dinner. While still insisting I wasn’t in labor, I told Ali I didn’t want to eat much, just in case. I ate part of a nectarine but couldn’t finish it. I later tried to eat some raspberries in cream, but couldn’t finish those, either. I had started timing the contractions again when we got home and they were definitely getting closer together, but I didn’t give that much thought because, again, they just didn’t hurt that much. Ali started recording them for me and she noticed. Richard noticed, too. He’d moved his laptop down to the dining room table and was typing the preliminary “Angie’s in labor” email to send to friends and family. He also got some clothes together for Max and made sure everything was in the van that we’d need.
Matt, our informally adopted son (the same Matt who works for us) and his girlfriend, Aubri, arrived. We were all sitting in the living room watching TV. Well, I was watching TV. Everybody else was watching me. I thought that was terribly amusing at the time. At one point, I took a quick shower and didn’t have a contraction the whole time. They started up again after I got out. I was still insisting, “It’s false labor! It doesn’t even hurt much! These are NOT real labor pains!” Nobody believed me. They just kept looking at me like I was daft.
At 9:30, Richard called Frank, who had my cell phone, and said he was coming to pick him up. Frank whined and asked for more time and Richard replied, “Mom’s contractions are getting closer together. I’m coming to get you NOW.” Frank didn’t argue.
They got back home very quickly. It was getting late and I wanted to go to bed but everybody else wanted to go to the hospital. It was like everybody was waiting for me to figure out what they already knew – that I was in labor. I finally decided to call Labor and Delivery at the hospital. I talked to the nurse on duty, Becky, and read my contraction pattern to her (10 minutes apart, 5 minutes, 12 minutes, 7 minutes, 17 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, etc.) I told her it was my fifth kid and that I honestly didn’t know if I was in labor or not. I told her I was VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). That could cause uterine rupture but she didn’t seem concerned about that. I was laughing and she said that was “not a good sign.” I guess most women in labor don’t laugh. I was having a good time and was laughing quite a bit all evening long!
She asked if I was bleeding. No. She asked if I’d had my “bloody show.” I told her I lost my mucus plug a week earlier. She said that, until the contractions come closer together and develop a pattern, I really didn’t need to come in. I told her we’d time them for another hour or two and then head in if they got closer together. She said that sounded fine and that we could come in at anytime if we felt more comfortable doing that. At that point, I had Richard check me. I said that would be the only way we’d know if I was in real labor or not. I should definitely be dilating with all these contractions! Poor Richard couldn’t tell heads from tails in there, literally (my tail, baby’s head, cervix, water bag, huh?!), and couldn’t tell if I was dilated or if it was my bag of waters he felt or what, so after that comedy of errors, we went back downstairs laughing.
A minute or so after I sat back down on the sofa, I had a really, REALLY big contraction that rendered me senseless. When it ended, I opened my eyes and everybody was staring at me in silence.
That’s all it took. I was absolutely, definitely in labor. No doubts and no question about it. THAT was a real labor pain. I stood up and said, “Okay, let’s go.”
Everybody jumped up and they all seemed terribly relieved that the labor lightbulb had finally clicked above my head.
We got in the van just as Zach and his girlfriend arrived. They followed us.
I called my mom and told her we were on our way to the hospital, and said, “Everybody’s way more nervous that I am.”
She replied, ‘that’s how it always is…”
We had a contest in the car to see how far dilated everybody thought I was. I guessed 4, Ali guessed 6, Richard guessed 7, and Frank (age 13) guessed 14. 😉
Max (age 4) has been waiting for Mason to come out for so long and he was SO excited that it was finally the day!! Then he fell asleep in his car seat. That was precious. I had the labor log in my hands and, whenever I had a contraction, I’d flip my cell phone open to see the time and would write it down. Next to the time, I’d write down how much time had elapsed between the last contraction and the current one. I’d then read it aloud for all to hear. It seems the big BANG contraction in the living room is what finally put my body on a schedule. They started coming like clock-work after that. Seven minutes apart, six minutes, five minutes, four minutes, three minutes (uh oh!)… We were almost to Ellsworth, but not quite, and the contractions were coming 2 to 3 minutes apart. I quickly went from wishing the contractions would come closer together to praying they’d slow down until we got to the hospital. They weren’t unbearably painful, but they were getting noticeably stronger and more painful with each contraction. Richard, who was speeding by this time (he never speeds!), said, “Uh, at what point do I need to get nervous?”
I had just announced two minutes since the last contraction. I replied, “If they’re coming one minute apart, we have a problem.” Richard started going faster.
We arrived at the hospital just fine, around 11:30 p.m.. Ali, Max and I walked into the emergency room and Richard and Frank went to park and get our bags. We were ushered up to Labor and Delivery (L&D) and I quickly undressed, put on a lovely hospital gown, and got hooked up to monitors. Richard, Frank, Zach and Sarah came in very quickly. The room was pretty full and I was thankful that, after all the worrying about how we’d round everybody up at the right time, everybody I wanted to be present was there. I was surrounded by my family and I was safe. They were all VERY nervous, and I was very calm…until I realized that the contractions were really starting to hurt! The nurse, Becky, checked me. I was dilated to three. Three centimeters!! Only three?! She called the midwife, Renata, and they determined I was not in active labor. Richard thought they might send me home. Ha ha. I told him they would never send someone in that much pain home. I knew Mason was well on his way and that he’d arrive in a few hours, hopefully by morning. (Little did we know how quickly things would go!) I wanted to sit up, but Renata said a reclining position would make it easier for Mason’s head to get past my pubic bone. That sounded just fine to me! At one point, Renata was pushing on my stomach during contractions and that really, REALLY hurt.
The contractions came closer together and I needed my ipod to get through them. I’d crank up the volume during a contraction, concentrate on the music, wait for it the contraction to subside, and then open my eyes to find everybody staring at me in silence. I, again, found that immensely entertaining.
At one point, I cracked a joke and Becky said to Renata, “You see? I told you she was animated.” I took that to mean that my personality told them I still wasn’t in active labor. I’d told Becky on the phone that I was coherent to 10 cm with my last two births. In fact, I didn’t zone out during this labor until I started pushing.
Renata arrived and I was dilated to four. A little while later, I was dilated to five. She had to call the surgery team in. I felt bad about them all being pulled from their beds. Renata told me she, too, had been in bed. I uttered a few apologies. She said no problem. When you have a VBAC, Maine Coast Memorial Hospital calls in the surgery team and anesthesiologist when you get to 5 cm in case you need an emergency c-section.I admit I stopped worrying about my uterus exploding and the consequences knowing they could cut me open within moments if need be.
They filled up the hot tub for me and I changed into my pushing outfit (a swimsuit cover up) and said I needed to go to the bathroom first. They left the room and it was just Ali and I. I walked into the bathroom and, while I was peeing, I had a really, REALLY strong contraction that took me to some other place and back. As I stood up, it hit me again and I felt the undeniable, irresistable urge to push. Oh NO!! It was too early! I’d heard that if you push too early, your cervix would swell and, if that happened, Mason would never come out the right way.
I hugged the toilet and squatted to get through the contraction. I couldn’t stop myself. I had to push!! But, I pushed in little spurts, hoping I wasn’t doing any damage, only waiting for the contraction to pass and the urge to go away. Poor Ali was outside the bathroom listening to me moan and groan, not knowing WHAT I was doing in there.
It passed and I quickly waddled into the hot tub room, knowing another one was right behind it. I told Renata what had happened in the bathroom. She said, “Well that’s good!” Good? I got another contraction when I hit the water and didn’t have time to ask her what she meant. The contractions were coming one on top of another then. I was concious of what was happening but I was in SO much pain. The water helped, it truly did, but the pains kept getting worse and coming faster. What’s more, the waterproof fetal monitor wasn’t working right and Renata would have to push on my belly during contractions to get a reading and I swear that made the contractions unbearable (thinking back, they were probably unbearable no matter what).
I don’t think I can describe the pain with mere words, but I’ll try. I was on my back, holding onto the metal handgrips on the sides of the jacuzzi. Richard and Ali were in there and the others were in my room. My legs and butt were pretty much floating. Renata was bending over, getting terribly wet, holding a hand-held waterproof monitor to continuously monitor the baby. The pains would start everywhere in my belly and travel all the way down the front/middle of my legs. That was the worst part – the leg pain. My legs were shaking and I couldn’t control them. Ali kept trying hold my ipod over my ears but that was difficult. I was moaning in earnest now and I was getting louder. Renata checked me. It was about 1:05 a.m. I remember there were six clocks on the wall in there and they all showed different times. I couldn’t remember which one I’d looked at last so I couldn’t time my contractions. I guess that was a good thing. Maybe they set the clocks like that on purpose. Anyway, I was only 6 cm.
After that contraction, I grunted, “I might be rethinking that pain medication thing!!”
I was seriously having a hard time by now and didn’t know if I could go another 4 cm without some help. A few contractions later, the pains were absolutely unbearable and I couldn’t do it anymore. I said, “I need something. Give me something!”
Renata calmly reminded me that I wanted a natural childbirth. I desperately told her that I couldn’t do it anymore. I think I started crying at this point but it could have just been panicked, high-pitched grunting. I begged for help. Renata asked if I wanted Stadol. I now find it funny that I could concentrate on a conversation at this point because the pain was eating me alive, physically and mentally. But, I knew from watching Birth Stories and other birth shows that Stadol is a narcotic. A narcotic is what we believe played a significant role in my needing a c-section last time around. And, I remembered that the narcotic at that time did nothing for the pain. It just made me not care about the pain. And, I remembered what the narcotic had done to Max. He’d been born high and didn’t really wake up for two days.
I said, “No! I want the spinal thing!”
Renata said that would mean I’d have to get out of the tub. I said I didn’t care. At this point, Renata said something like, “Let me just check you really quick. You might be ready to push.”
She checked me (man, did that hurt!) and she said, “You’re just about fully dilated. You’re at 9 1/2. You can push when you feel like it.”
I remember thinking ‘Dang! I waited too long! If I can just ride it out to the end, it’ll hopefully be over soon…’
I was relieved that I could finally push because pushing has, in the past, felt good and has not been painful. I got a contraction and I pushed. It hurt and it did NOT feel good. For some reason, I had my eyes open at that moment (My eyes were glued shut most of the time in the tub) and I’m glad I did. I felt a Pop! and my water broke like a torpedo. Boom!! It shot out of me toward the other end up the tub. You could see it under the water because it included water, membrane, and just a bit of blood. Lord have mercy, what relief!! The slight decrease in pressure was just enough to take the worst edge off the contractions. Aaahhh…
Richard ran out to get the rest of the kids and they were all there, surrounding me. Zach’s girlfriend, Sarah, started the videotape. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ve been told it’s quite graphic. That’s good…because I didn’t get to see the birth from that angle.
I pushed with the next contraction, even though I really didn’t have an urge right then. Renata reached in to move a last piece of my cervix aside. That hurt, too! I was still kind of floating on my back and holding on to the tub. The pains were still shooting down my legs. I was pushing just like that. Renata suggested I put my feet in the other handles on the sides of the tub. I was pushing a few times with each contraction. In my birth plan, I specifically said I did not want anyone counting to 10 and yelling at me to push (the nurses later told me they really liked that part of my birth plan). I wanted to push according to how my body told me to push. So, I would push, inhale, push, inhale, etc., a few times during each contraction. I just did what felt right.
I was pushing while looking up toward the ceiling and Renata told me to tuck my chin down instead. I did.
It was getting more painful and Renata said, “Angela, reach down and touch your baby’s head.”
I had my eyes closed and, for some reason, I thought that meant the head was out. Hallelujah! I thought. It’s almost over! I reached down and was pretty downhearted to feel about a half-dollar size circle of head and hair. Only that far?!
I pushed a couple more times and Renata told me to open my eyes and look at her. She said something like, “If we’re going to do this water birth together successfully, you need to do exactly what I tell you to do.”
I told her later that this was the most helpful thing she said to me throughout the entire birth. I actually, consciously thought ‘Oh, thank God! She’s taking over! If I just do what she says, I can get through this. My body isn’t in charge anymore. She is!” Taking the responsibility of getting through the birth off of my body and putting it on someone else gave me just the kick I needed to keep going.
Renata said she was stetching my vagina and to push slowly. I consciously thought at that time that I didn’t care about ripping. I just wanted this over with so the pain would stop! I pushed with all my might.
She then said, “I think a squatting position would be best.” I knew what she meant was that Mason wasn’t going to come out with me floating on my back that way. I immediately spun around, grabbed some handles at the end of the tub, and squatted. She was letting some water out of the tub. With each contraction, I pushed and yelled, a deep grunting yell that Renata later said was “primal.” In fact, the next day, I had a sore throat. I was making a LOT of noise but I didn’t care. I didn’t think about other people hearing me or what other people were thinking at all. I just gave my body and my vocal cords over to nature and semi/sub-consciously rode along with the waves, not wanting to be there but knowing I had to ride the ride to get to that distant shore with my baby.
I couldn’t tell by the pain or sensations, but the head was coming out. I did feel pain down there, but nothing like the labor pains. I didn’t feel a “ring of fire” that other women have written about. I didn’t even really know his head came out when it did. But, then Renata got stern at one point and said, “I want you to push really hard RIGHT NOW. Push as hard as you can!” I knew then that the head was out and that she was trying to get the shoulders out.
I didn’t really have the urge to push at that moment but I did exactly what she said and I pushed like I’ve never pushed before and WHOOOM! I felt Mason’s body dart out of mine like a fish.
I don’t know how but I instantly turned over and landed on my rump in a flash and grabbed him and hugged him and got my leg tangled in the umbilical cord all at the same time. I managed to untangle my leg and keep hugging him at the same time, crying and kissing my beautiful, perfect baby boy. God, he was beautiful and every second of pain was worth it! I can tell you there wasn’t a dry eye around the hot tub. Mason quickly started breathing on his own, making a mewling noise, but keeping his eyes closed. We rubbed him with towels, and I thumped his feet under the water, but he didn’t cry. He just lay there, quickly turning pink and cuddled in my arms with his eyes closed.
Renata told me to put him down further in the water because he might be getting cold. I did and his cord eventually stopped pulsing and Richard cut it. (I’d specified not to cut a pulsing cord in my birth plan, too.)
Mason was born at 1:25 a.m., only 2 hours after we arrived at the hospital! The doctor later said, “Now, that’s the way to have a VBAC!”
I eventually had to hand Mason to the nurse and get out of the tub. Renata wanted me on the table ASAP for the placenta delivery, in case I was going to hemorrage. I had a condition called polyhydramnios(too much amniotic fluid) which increased my risk of hemorrage. Probably 15 minutes or so after Mason arrived, the placenta came out intact. I didn’t hemorrage or have any problems at all. I did tear but I didn’t care. Renata stitched me up. Zach (age 19) came in and hugged me for several minutes. We had a good cry together. He had been very nervous when I was in so much pain and he’d been so worried about me. I assured him it was all natural and normal and repeated over and over again, “Look, honey! I’m just fine!”
Mason was in the nursery with everybody else. They were trying to get him to cry so his lungs would really open up. He wouldn’t and didn’t. But, he was just fine. The nurse told me later that water birth babies are so calm when they come into the world that they often don’t cry. That was nice and I was so glad we’d chosen this way to give birth to Mason. I did notice later that night that Mason was breathing fast. I called the nurse in and she wasn’t concerned, saying they breathe about 60 breaths per minute. Later, they discovered he was breathing 70 per minute and ordered a chest x-ray, but again, all was fine.
He stayed in our room almost the entire time and we got to come home when Mason was about 30 hours old. He enjoyed his first car ride and he only cries when you use a cold wipie on his butt. He’s is, by far, the most content baby we’ve ever seen. He eats about every hour during the day (no kidding!) but I don’t mind at all. Everybody’s always arguing over whose turn it is to hold him and the house is once again full of baby sounds and baby smells. We’re in heaven!!
This week’s Maxism:
When they finally brought Mason to my room after the birth, they said he was hungry. As I got ready to nurse him, Max ran over to his backpack and came back with a bag of peanut butter crackers. He started to open them. I said, “Oh, honey, he can’t eat crackers. He doesn’t have any teeth yet.”
Max looked very sad. He asked, “Well, can he lick ’em?”
“No, honey, he can’t, not until he’s older.”
Max replied, “Why not? Doesn’t he have a tongue?”
Not to be deterred in the least, when I pulled my johnnie open to feed Mason, who was rooting around with his mouth open, quicker than a flash, Max grabbed my boob and put my nipple in Mason’s mouth. The nurses roared with laughter. 😉
And, today, we have a Frankism for you:
After they stitched me up, I walked to my hospital room, where the older children were waiting for me. When I walked in the door, Frank (age 13), said, “Why are you still fat?”
Hugs to everybody!
P.S. Remember the pushing in the bathroom part? I later asked Renata about that. She said something to the effect that laboring women who have already had a child can sometimes speed the dilation along by giving in to some of those early pushing urges. Ahhh, if only I’d known! 🙂