The Birth Story of Jonesy!
Monday night/Tuesday morning (May 28th) I woke up at 3 am to my water breaking – a slow leak that continued for a couple of hours. Contractions started immediately but were spaced apart and not too intense. I tried to sleep but was too jazzed up so I couldn’t for a couple of hours. I told Alex to go to work because my labor was still pretty mild and didn’t want him to meaninglessly miss a day, especially since we wanted him to take a week off after the baby came. I labored throughout the day, but was able to take care of some things. I bought a baby swing and took Otis to the park for a walk at the park, where I had to stop several times because the contractions were pretty hard. Alex got home from work and in the early evening the contractions started getting more intense and closer together. I had been timing them for most of the day (on a handy-dandy app on my phone) and they were now averaging under 5 minutes apart, usually closer to 3 minutes, and I was having to breathe through them. All I wanted to eat was some tortilla soup from Café Rio so we headed over there but on the way I realized it was a bad idea because my contractions were becoming really uncomfortable. Alex ran in and grabbed the food and we came home to eat. I couldn’t eat much and this is kind of the time I have in my mind for when I thought, “ok, we’re going to have a baby tonight”.
For the next several hours I labored pretty hard but with my water having broken, we wanted to wait as long as possible for the first vaginal exam due to risk of infection. My midwife said that once she did the first exam, we had 12 hours until the baby had to come out. I felt like I had labored pretty hard for several hours so at 11:30 pm she checked me: baby was still high, only 3 cm, 50% effaced. That was SO disheartening and I cried at the lack of progress I had made. I continued to labor, even more intensely, over the next several hours. (My midwife later described this time as “brutal labor” to the doctor, which was incredibly validating!) The contractions were so hard and I felt that for sure I was making amazing progress: I was picturing my baby moving down, my cervix opening. I labored backwards on the toilet for a while and that was one of my favorite positions. If I was not on the toilet I almost always wanted to squat through a contraction, and I felt like it helped me picture the baby coming down and out. Alex was beyond amazing through this whole process. He pushed on my back, supported me while I was squatting, held me and talked me through what I needed to do. Labor was so intimate for us and we kissed often, though we were both exhausted.
My two sisters and sister-in-law were also there and they were an amazing support to me. My sister-in-law has studied massage therapy and she did some fantastic work on my back and showed Alex what to do as well. I was incredibly grateful for her and my sisters – it was comforting to be there with women who had done this before and knew what I was going through.
I’m not sure the exact time, but somewhere around 2 or 3 my midwife got called on another birth - #11 for the woman, so it would be incredibly fast and she would be back within a few hours, even though she had to drive to Cedar City. I felt comfortable with her leaving because my sister has delivered babies before so if it came to that, we could handle it. And secretly I hoped it would come to that. Before she left I was checked again and I was at 4cm and 70%. I wanted more, but let myself bask in the progress and kept a positive attitude. By now I had been laboring for 24 hours and had gotten only a few hours of sleep during that time, so everyone suggested we try to get some sleep. We laid down and slept for maybe an hour. The contractions were still hard but they got a little farther apart. When I worried they were getting too far apart I made myself get out of bed and went to the bathtub, where they slowed even more. So I got out and walked around the whole house, willing them to come back. But much to my dismay, they slowed even more, and became so mild I could talk through them. I chatted with my sister about what to do and all the while felt incredibly calm about the decision I was about to make.
My midwife returned and checked me again and I had made no progress at all. By this point it was about 6 hours since the first exam and I had been in labor for about 27 hours. I was exhausted, Alex was exhausted, my body was done. I felt that if we didn’t go to the hospital and just tried to ride it out that I would wait too long, get too exhausted and would have to have a c-section because of the length of time since the water had broken. I asked everyone to give Alex and me some time to discuss our decision, and we cried together as we decided that we needed to go to the hospital. I said to him that I was disappointed I would not have the birth I have always dreamed of, but we were getting the baby boy we had dreamed of, and that was what was most important. We were both incredibly calm about it, knowing that it was the right choice for us.
We got to the hospital and went through a good hour of processing and the doctor telling us our options and such. During which I wanted to yell: blah, blah, just give me the Pitocin and epidural, we’ve already made our decision! I think around 7 or 8 we finally got going on the Pitocin and got the epidural. One of the worst parts about the whole labor: the stinging from the numbing stuff for the epidural! Gosh, that was painful. Alex was facing the anesthesiologist as he did all his work, holding me, and I almost had to ask him to close his eyes because his energy was so anxious as he watched all the big ol’ needles going into me! It was a very different experience than laboring naturally at home, where I felt nothing but peace, calm and support from him. From there we were able to sleep for a couple of hours and I got a break from the pain. I wasn’t a fan of not being able to move my legs, especially after being so mobile while laboring at home. I also HATED all the stuff that was attached to me! IV, two monitors on my tummy that were itchy, THREE plastic bracelets on my wrist (THREE?!) and, worst of all: the dreaded blood pressure cuff. I hated that thing so much.
The doctor and nurse weren’t super happy with my labor pattern, but I had progressed to a 5 when they checked me first. When I woke up my sister suggested I watch the monitor and start breathing through the contractions as if I could feel them. I think that really helped move my labor along. Also the doctor’s last visit before I got rocking and rolling was a catalyst because I could see the “we might have to do a c-section if you don’t start progressing soon” in his eyes.
Pretty soon I was at a 6, then 7. The nurse gave me surprised eyes when she checked me and I was progressing so quickly, probably because my contractions were still not super regular. By now I had started to feel the epidural wearing off, and I pushed the button to increase the drugs a few times, but it didn’t seem to help. And I’m glad, because that made me decide that I was getting close enough that I wanted it to wear off. One of my biggest concerns about epidurals has always been that they take the control away from me because I can’t feel what my body is doing, so I’m super glad that the epidural had worn off almost completely by the time I was pushing – it allowed me to have some semblance of the natural birth that I wanted.
Not long after that I went through transition. Mostly what I remember is ferociously tearing the blood pressure cuff from my arm, swearing a good few times and sobbing uncontrollably at least twice.
I was at a 9 (maybe he even said 9 ½) and he said he would come back in a little while and check. My midwife came to my bedside and said “you can push yourself to a 10”. So I did – I gave little pushes with each contraction and visualized my baby coming down and my cervix opening. I was pretty exhausted at this point, but determined to not have a c-section, so I kept going. The nurses changed almost exactly at the time I was ready to push, but I’m grateful because the sweet nurse who helped me push was amazing. She was 38 weeks pregnant! Bless her heart. No one timed, but we think it was about an hour and 15 minutes that I pushed.
THAT was a crazy experience. I was hardly aware of any coherent thoughts during that time, other than “I don’t think I can do this” and “I’m pretty sure I’m going to pop my eyes out of my head”. It was pretty frustrating to push, push, push and then have them say, “ok, keep him down on this next contraction”, which translated in my head to “that last push didn’t do it”. I remember between contractions just lying back on the bed and looking at my birth team around me, pleading with them with my eyes. I don’t know what I was pleading for, but I did say out loud to Alex at least once that I didn’t think I could do it. He assured me I could and told me I was the strongest woman he knew.
I remember the last several pushes before he was really close, taking the deep breath before the push, bearing down and thinking that I wouldn’t be able to push – I was just going to have to skip this contraction, but somehow I was pushing. Finally the nurse called the doctor in and this is the most coherent I was during all of pushing, because all of a sudden there were 20 freaking people in my room, pushing stuff around and talking amongst themselves. Very clearly I thought, “THIS is why I wanted a home birth”. Just another day on the job for these people – only the biggest day of our lives. Alex was really affected by it, too. He said he heard two of the nurses talking like “oh, you HAVE to tell me where you got your hair done!” And two janitor guys coming in to move, like, one trash can. No worries – I’m just birthing a child here, my vagina out for everyone to see. No big deal.
A few more pushes and all of a sudden I could feel him coming out. They kept telling me they could see the head, could see his blonde(!) hair. This part was so easy for me – it almost seemed like the doctor was doing all the work. Maybe it was just a huge rush of adrenaline but I don’t remember even getting the head out being half as hard as the pushes I had done before that. Then one more little push (I think, maybe the doctor sort of just wiggled him out – that’s kind of what it felt like) and there was my baby boy!
Such a flood of emotions: relief, love, joy, pride! I looked up and there was Alex at my side, and we cried together as we looked at our precious little son. He was here, he was finally here and he was perfect.