On December 13th I was 35 weeks and 4 days pregnant. Despite being uncomfortably large and tired, I was restless. I decided to get that pile of baby clothes and linens washed, stock up on groceries, and clean the house. Feeling rather accomplished at 6:00pm I settled into my usual evening routine, an hour of yoga and meditation, cooked and ate dinner and by 9:30pm I was ready to relax on the lounge and read for a bit before bed. Just as I settled down I felt a familiar kick in the lower right rib, then an unfamiliar pop and a gush. For the first time in my life I hoped that I had just peed myself. I grabbed my cell phone and waddled to the bathroom. I called my other half, Alex, who was working the night shift 2 and half hours away. I left a message with his supervisor to have him call me as soon as possible and then hung up and called my midwife, Jen. We had planned a home water birth but now everything had changed.
It’s not like me to panic but for a few moments that’s exactly what I did. Jen helped me to calm down and formulate a plan. Suddenly it seemed possible to me that I was further along than we had thought, and I hoped beyond hope that I would not have to submit to a hospital birth but that was not a logical possibility. I was in preterm labor and there was a risk of giving birth to a baby who needed life support. Jen advised me to go to the hospital and get checked out, if they found me to be further along, great, I would check out and head home where she would meet me with the birthing pool, but I knew that was only a pipe dream now. As Alex returned my call, Jen hung up and called her apprentice, Lisa, a doula who is training to become a midwife. I had only just met her the week before but immediately knew that she would be an important figure during my delivery. She has a strong but calm and nurturing presence, exactly what I needed at that moment. As I explained to Alex that it was happening and he needed to come home right now, Lisa gathered her supplies and headed to the car. She would meet me at my home and take me to the hospital. It took her just under an hour to get from her house to mine and while I waited for her I talked to Alex on the phone. We comforted and encouraged each other, trying to quiet all the fears of our little one coming too soon.
By the time Lisa arrived the contractions had begun. They were 5 – 7 minutes apart and lasted 20 – 40 seconds. I hugged her and thanked her for coming. Since I thought that I had a few weeks to go I had not packed a hospital bag yet, she helped me to focus on gathering a few things, a water bottle, slippers, a change of clothes, and toiletries. It is a very short drive to the hospital from my house, about 8 city blocks from Williamsport Regional Hospital, and we were there by 11:30pm. I was so relieved that although I had not expected to go to the hospital, I had done my homework. I had called only 2 days earlier and spoken to the L & D nursing supervisor. For at least half an hour I grilled her with questions on policies and procedures, statistics and her own personal experiences in the hospital. I had some idea of what to expect and what I wanted to happen, and I was able to clearly communicate with the nursing staff before my contractions completely took over. I wanted this birth to be natural. As far as I was concerned, Pitocin and epidurals were not an option. They didn’t push the issue. I was hooked up to the monitors and given an IV for fluids. It was 1:00am when the resident on duty came in to check me she found me to be 1cm dilated, 50% effaced. Just as she was demonstrating how much further I had to go, Alex walked in. I felt such a relief, it was like I could finally let the process begin. We were then left alone to labor. Only Lisa and occasionally a nurse were there with us. We kissed and talked about the changes that were about to take place in our life. We weren’t prepared but we were ready.
I took my contractions on my knees and elbows. The hospital had tubs but since my water had broken it was against their policy to allow me to use them, to minimize exposure to bacteria. There would be no water labor or birth. I was offered a balance ball to use and encouraged to try different positions, I tried it but with every contraction I gave into the urge to be down on all fours. It went on like this for a couple of hours. As the contractions became stronger I went into a trance like state, barely speaking to anyone, focused completely inward. Breathing and ohming through each contraction as it rolled over me. The only time I wanted to be off my knees was when I had to pee, which was frequent. Around 3:00am the resident checked me again, 4cm 90% effaced. I was back on my knees and into my trance immediately. The pain was incredible but I just continued to remind myself that you can’t quit contractions, you can’t give up until it’s over. I decided that if I had to have contractions that I was going to have as few as possible and I would make each one count. It wasn’t easy and as they became more powerful I had to remind myself constantly not to fight it, but to work with it. The gentle massaging from Alex and Lisa and their encouragement to take deep slow breaths helped me to remain focused, present, and not allow the pain to overpower my will.
At 6:00am I was 6cm and 90%, but still at station 2. The doctor told me to relax, it would be a while, but I was desperate to finish this process and accepted those last 4cm as a challenge to overcome. I took each contraction with a renewed motivation. The intensity felt overwhelming and at one point, which I know now was the moment of transition, I considered giving up and asking for an epidural. I asked Alex to say that it was ok if I couldn’t do it, he said “But you are doing it. You’re doing great.”, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear, I wanted permission to quit. This time I didn’t ask for him to tell me it was ok, I told him to tell me it was ok for me to give up. He said “It’s ok.”, that was all I needed, almost immediately I forgot the idea of quitting and went back to working through each contraction with all the strength and fervor I had. I was helping to move my baby downward with each wave, arching my back, flexing my hips, opening my pelvis. All the things I had been doing to prepare for this moment for weeks during my yoga practice. I wanted this to be over and I was doing everything in my power to bring it to an end.
What seemed like several minutes, but was actually several hours, passed and I asked to be checked again. This time I was ready. It was 9:00am. I had turned over onto my back to be checked, but knowing that I preferred to be on my knees, Alex asked if I could turn over again to push. The answer was yes but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to waste time moving I wanted to push right then and there. Suddenly the room was full of people I hadn’t seen all night long. I growled “Get these people out of here!” but the midwife told me that they needed to be there, some of them were doctors for me and some were there for the baby, in case he needed some help. I didn’t care anymore, it was time. She told me to push. I pushed a few times through a contraction and when it ended I reached down expecting to feel the baby’s head, but there was nothing. Another contraction and I pushed again, then I reached again and again there was nothing. At 9:17am the next contraction started at that was all I needed. I felt the “ring of fire” and I pushed with everything I had, I felt his head pop out and then with a final push it was over and he was placed in my arms. I had done it. I was holding my baby. The little man who had been kicking me in the ribs for months was now lying on my chest.
The umbilical cord was cut, and I was disappointed that they hadn’t waited till it stopped pulsing. This fact still bothers me but I hadn’t made my wishes to have it left intact clear. Neither Alex or I had thought to say anything until it was too late. After the placenta was delivered I was checked for tearing, there was none. Not only had I managed to have a natural delivery in a hospital, I had done it all in less than 12 hours and without tearing. I felt like a rock star. I still do.
My baby boy weighed 6lbs 0oz and was 19 inches long. We named him Baron Alexander. He was perfect and didn’t need any emergency medical attention. We were allowed to bond as a family for a little while before moving to a recovery room where we spent the next 2 days.
Later we found out that Baron had a slight heart murmur, which corrected itself within 24 hours, I’m told this is common for late stage premmies. He also had jaundice and spent 24 hours under phototherapy lights. That was hard emotionally as I only got to hold him during feedings every few hours. But it’s what he needed to be strong and he has a clean bill of health now.
Recovery was almost too easy, my tail bone was sore and my knees were a little swollen but I felt strong and didn’t suffer. In the weeks leading up to the delivery I felt like I was preparing for a marathon, a very sacred and spiritual marathon. I used yoga and meditation to strengthen my body and mind for this intense journey and all the hard work paid off, allowing me to deliver my baby without intervention, quickly and efficiently.