For Aurelia’s birth, we planned to deliver at home. I had absolutely nothing against hospital births; I simply thought that I would be more relaxed and comfortable at home. Some people find comfort around doctors and clinical settings because they feel safe there. I’m an empath and very sensitive to sounds, lights, loud voices, cold and energy. I felt that to have the empowered birth that I wanted, I would need to go inward to get my strength and progress my labor, and it didn’t seem likely that a hospital setting would be right for me.
In the two weeks leading up to my due date (June 8, 2021), Braxton Hicks came and went. I never believed I was actually in labor because the contractions were very irregular and would dissipate if I moved around, but I knew that the day was coming soon!
The day before my due date, I woke up at 4:00 am and immediately noticed light contractions. They were about 20 seconds long and eight minutes apart. There are two perspectives on what’s best during the early stages of labor: some believe that rest is key to prepare for the long hours of labor, particularly for the first born, while others believe that going about the day and moving around help progress and shorten labor. I asked my midwife which she recommended, and she said that almost all of the hospital transfers she sees are first-time moms who simply tire our during labor. I was worried about my stamina, so I decided to rest and hydrate as much as I could.
At 8:00 am, I texted my midwife to let her know I was in labor and give her stats on my contractions. She told me to keep her posted on my progress. By noon, my contractions were still irregular, but they had gone from 20 seconds long to a minute. My husband gave me a foot massage and made sure I was hydrated and using the bathroom regularly. Around 2:00 pm, the frequency and intensity of the contractions picked up, so we decided to call my midwife and update her. She asked my husband to put her on speaker phone during one of my contractions so she could assess the intensity. She said it sounded like things were moving along and that she would be at our house with her assistant by 4:00 pm.
My husband double-layered our bed and started setting out our towels, birth pool equipment, a diffuser with essential oils and snacks for everyone. Once my birth team arrived, my contractions became more intense….more like what I expected for labor. I thought a shower might help ease my discomfort, but it didn’t help, so we tried a few different positions in my bedroom to progress labor, including kneeling on my bed and then standing beside the bed with alternating feet on the footboard. Then they suggested that I sit backwards on the toilet, which is a favorite position for midwives. This was by far the most difficult position because my contractions were the strongest they’d been. I was on the toilet for an hour or more and started vomiting from the intensity. We had planned for a water birth, but my midwife said we should wait because the warm water might make me more tired.
By now, it was about 10:00 pm. We decided to do a cervical check, but I told my midwife that I didn’t want to know the number in case it was low. She checked to see how much I was dilated; I found out later, I was only 4 cm. While she was checking, she inadvertently broke my waters. She said it was the most fluid she’d ever seen and later told me she thought that the waters were cushioning the baby’s head so that my cervix wasn’t being pushed to open as quickly as it should. There was also meconium, stools from the baby, in the fluid, which usually indicates that the baby is under stress. She said that wasn’t a cause for concern, but that we wanted the baby out in the next 24 hours to be safe.
The baby wasn’t in an optimal position, so the birth team moved me around a lot on the bed. In the process of moving, there was one terrifying moment when the baby’s heart rate dropped. My midwife said the baby didn’t like the position we were in, so I moved and that resolved it immediately. I was vomiting frequently, and we all began to worry about dehydration since I couldn’t keep fluids down. My contractions were coming back-to-back, for about four minutes total, so I wasn’t getting many breaks to recover. I definitely went inward during this phase of labor. At one point, my midwife announced that it was officially Tuesday, my due date, and I was shocked that it was past midnight. Around 2:00 am, I began shaking uncontrollably, which my midwife’s assistant said was perfectly normal and due to the baby putting pressure on one of my nerves.
I continued to labor like that until 3:00 am. Despite feeling like I was in very intense labor, I had a sinking feeling that my progress had stalled. I asked my midwife to check my cervix again but not to tell me how far along I was. I was afraid that I would be disappointed and lose even more momentum. She checked and then left the room with her assistant and my husband so that they could discuss. When they came back into our bedroom, I told them that I thought we should transfer to the hospital. My midwife and her assistant agreed. The assistant said that there was a difference between laboring and suffering, and I was suffering. What I learned later was that I was still only 6 cm dilated.
My midwife said that we could either go to the hospital closest to us, or a hospital that’s about 25 minutes away that she highly recommended since it was more aligned to the birth experience I wanted. I decided I could stay in the car longer for more supportive care, so we got ready to leave. In hindsight, I regret not packing a hospital bag in advance because we left our house with absolutely nothing. I was in my husband’s workout clothes and a diaper…not my best look! Moving from our bedroom to my car was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.
We got to the hospital at 4:00 am, 24 hours after labor began. The nurses immediately put me on a saline drip to hydrate me. They also gave me anti-nausea medicine and a pain reliever to try to take the edge off of my contractions. I was trying to avoid getting an epidural and hoped I could get some rest and try again. Unfortunately, they didn’t help and I continued to vomit. (The nurses were very surprised because that’s not at all common.)
At 5:00 am, I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist administered it a little before 6:00 am. I’m pretty sure I told him I loved him. The epidural made my contractions more manageable and allowed my body to relax. I remember being surprised by how much I could still feel since I expected to be completely numb. My husband and midwife got some much-needed sleep for the next few hours. The nurses had hooked up the fetal heart monitor, so I stayed awake and listened to my baby’s heartbeat.
A little after 10:30 am, my nurse came in to check my cervix and said that I was fully dilated and that it was time to start pushing soon. I was so overjoyed and couldn’t believe my ears! The pushing phase was so rewarding. The nurses set up a mirror at the end of my bed so that I could see as the baby’s head emerged.
The hospital midwife who was helping with delivery said that the NICU team was going to be in my room for delivery as a safety precaution since there was meconium in my waters. We told her we really wanted a delayed cord clamping and that if they need to resuscitate the baby, we’d prefer for them to do it in my arms (with cord intact) if possible. She said that our best bet was to make the baby cry immediately once she was born so that resuscitation wouldn’t be necessary.
My contractions were still coming right on top of each other, which was great because I could push for four minutes straight and make a ton of progress, but they were spaced several minutes apart so we were spending a lot of time in between just waiting. The hospital midwife suggested just “a tiny hit of Pitocin” to speed up the contractions, and in the next few pushes, our sweet little girl was earth side! She was born (screaming loudly!) at 12:37 pm. She was 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 21 3/4 inches long.
While the details of our birth plan didn’t turn out the way we expected, I was incredibly happy with my care at the hospital and how empowered I felt throughout the process. I listened to my body and made every decision based on what I knew was best for me and my baby.