I woke up to pee at 5:13 a.m. on Thursday the 26th, shocked that I had just slept from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. without waking for the first time in about a month. After using the bathroom, I decided to refill my water cup on the nightstand by my bed, but literally two feet from the table, I heard a small pop and felt a warm gush. My water broke on the carpet next to the bed. I don't know why I was surprised that the fluid was so warm--I realize it's body temperature, etc. etc.--but it was so weird to just have this constant trickle of warm liquid running down my leg. I waddled back to the bathroom and stood there for a minute, thinking, "How could I have peed myself when I just used the bathroom?" The fluid was clear and starting to puddle on the bathroom floor, so I decided it was time to wake Travis.
"Trav, I think my water broke," I called.
He sleepily rolled over and said, "Really?"
Staring at him incredulously, I said, "Um, yes," (No, this is just a 5 a.m. prank at almost 40 weeks pregnant!) and he turned into a flurry of activity!
We called my midwife group (an hour away), my mom (three hours away and planning to come into town with my little sister the next day to wait for me to go into labour), and my sister-in-law/doula (three hours away who was in from Iowa and staying with/visiting family while waiting for my to go into labour). The midwife on call was in the middle of cathching a baby when I called, so I spoke to the nurse who told us to bring everything and come on in so they could see what progress I was making since I had yet to have a single contraction. Mom and Emily started packing up to come down and meet us at the birth center.
When we got to the birth center, the nurse hooked me up to a monitor for a few minutes, just to see if I was having any contractions and to check the baby's heart rate. There were some mild blips on the radar, so to speak, but they were so mild the midwife said it could easily have been the baby's movements showing up rather than the beginning of contractions. At this point, Trav and I got a little nervous, since having your water break before going into labour only happens in about 12% of women AND it puts you on the clock. Because of the OB rules and guidelines, I now had 24 hours to go into active labour or be transferred to the hospital and have contractions induced--something I desperately wanted to avoid. My midwife Nancy suggested we get a hotel room, take a nap, and then start trying some natural induction methods from the midwives' bag of tricks. So off we went with an herbal tincture called Childbirth Combo, castor oil, and the intention of doing lots of walking.
After hitting the grocery store for snacks and gatorade, trying two different hotels, and encountering some ridiculous policy about not doing any check-in until 3 p.m. (it was now about 8 a.m.), we ended up at the elegant Travelodge of Pooler. Lord have mercy. Let's just say paying $30 a night for that room would've been overkill (and we of course had to pay about three times that). But it had a functioning shower and bed, so in we went. Naturally, no sooner had I laid down to take a nap than I started feeling "crampy" and suspected I might be having contractions. Fifteen minutes later, I was sure I was having contractions. They started at about 6-10 minutes apart and lasted for about 30 seconds. I hopped in the shower and realized after about ten minutes that things were picking up. Having my handy iPhone around as I did, I downloaded a free app to time contractions (they DO have an app for that) and set Travis on the job. Over the next hour to an hour and a half, my contractions increased until they were just 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds consistently. Travis called the midwife, who was incidentally catching yet another baby, and the daytime nurse told us to come on in and get checked.
We left a couple things at the hotel, not knowing whether we'd be sent back to labor some more or not, and headed in. Turns out I was 3-4 cm dilated and fully effaced, so they decided to let us stay! Unfortunately, the birth center only houses two birthing rooms, and the family who had been there when my water broke was just getting headed out. While they cleaned up the room so that we could move in, I laboured in one of the exam rooms. It was one of my least favorite parts of the day, honestly, as I was dying to get back in the shower and wasn't terribly comfortable leaning on an exam table or sitting on the swivel stool. Luckily, an hour later my Mom and Emily arrived within 20 minutes of each other and helped me through the next hour or so of waiting.
Finally, we got back into the birthing room (my favorite one!), and I beelined for the shower! Trav, my Mom, and Emily set to work getting things unpacked and situated, and it looked like we were in business. At this point it bears saying that I don't know how anyone, ever goes/went through labour without the amazing support team that I had. My SIL/doula has the most amazing arsenal of tricks up her sleeve, and her calming presence and constant but gentle reminders and cues to me to utilize the hypnobirthing techniques I'd been studying for so many months was invaluable. My Mom was always there, getting me to take another sip of Gatorade, offering anything I needed. And just seeing Travis's face was enough to keep me from panicking as things got very intense, very quickly. I spend the next few hours in and out of the shower, leaning (literally) on my support team, leaning on cabinets and doorways, and even a very brief stint in the birthing tub. Actually, I didn't like that last one at all, much to my surprise as we had planned a water birth! I just couldn't get comfortable in the tub, the contractions seemed far more intense, and I found I much preferred to be on my feet and moving around.
At some point, I remember being checked and happy to hear that I was 8 cm dilated. The midwife and nurse were in and out of the room very briefly throughout the whole process. They would've been in more, if I'd needed them, but were very respectful of letting my "team" do their thing. They checked the baby via doppler every hour or so, and Baby T sailed through labour like a champ. The heartrate stayed strong the entire time, including during pushing. Finally, I recall being checked again, and told that I could push whenever I felt the urge. By this time, I was exhausted and had low energy--I recall there being a lot of talk about me looking pale, having not eaten enough throughout the day, and needing calories. I had been on a steady stream of Gatorade, but everytime I tried to eat, I just felt nauseated. Luckily, Emily was packin' honey straws and proceeded to force a few of those one me :-) She and the midwife offered me the tub (I declined) and suggested some possible pushing positions in an attempt to get me a bit more comfortable and relaxed. In my exhaustion, this was the point at which I began to doubt my ability to do this. Each time I voiced these thoughts, though, my Mom and Emily would reiterate my relaxation techniques and get me back on track. Travis would whisper in my ear, "You're doing great, baby. I'm so proud of you." And I would feel a new sense of calm. Finally, the midwife suggested I start pushing--and I did. For the next hour and a half or so. It was not in my original birthplan to push, as Hypnobirthing encourages you to utilize your body's contractions to bring the baby down and out without added effort and therefore wasted energy on your part. I think, though, that I was too tired to care much anymore, although, I do remember it registering with me that this was not exactly what I wanted. I did, however, just want the baby out.
A few different pushing positions later, and I was shocked to find myself on my back, holding my legs back, and pushing through each contraction--in exactly the position I had hoped to avoid as it is not physiologically very beneficial to a gentle and relaxed birth. It turned out that Baby T had some plans of its own, though, and kept trying to turn face up. That makes for a far more complicated delivery, so the nurse ended up using her hands on my belly to hold Baby T's back in place. And, finally, at 6:16 p.m. we had a baby.
Travis kissed my cheek, leaned forward and told me, "It's a girl!" And as everyone knows I was hoping for a girl, I was immediately ecstatic. It really is amazing how that moment of seeing your baby, seeing this little person lying on your belly instead of growing inside of it, takes away every ounce of exhaustion, every bit of discomfort. I recall lying there feeling completely and totally in awe.
After that, the flurry of post-birth activity began. Avalee started to nurse, latching well immediately, and was later weighed, measured, and footprinted. I did end up with six little stitches, but they were quick and the discomfort was minimal. The midwife insisted that I eat some serious food, stat, since I apparently still looked pretty pale, so my Mom got me several bottles of juice and a chicken pot pie from KFC. It was pretty good. :-) Though we could have stayed at the birth center for the next twelve hours, we ended up only staying about seven. We were both checked out and cleared to go home, and since Trav and I couldn't sleep (too much excitement!) we decided to go ahead and make the hour drive home. Mom and Emily had headed to check us out of our hotel room and then on to our house at around 10:30 or 11 p.m. By the time we got there at 1:45-ish a.m., they had cleaned the whole house and had our room all set up with fresh sheets and the bassinet by the bed.
In retrospect, I think that I was successful in having a Hypnobirthing labor but not necessarily a Hypnobirthing birth. I found the relaxation techniques to be completely invaluable. There were definitely times when I did not think I could do it, but every time the deep breathing and relaxation were what go me through it. And having a doula to remind me of those things was, I think, a large part of the reason they worked. I do wish I had practiced some of the relaxations standing up rather than always lying down, since I ended up spending so much time in labour on my feet. In the end, I could not be more grateful to have had the fairly gentle, all natural, and medication- and intervention-free labour and birth that I wanted. I find, too, that I don't agree with the common summation of childbirth as the most painful experience of one's life. I think, for me, its far more accurately described as the most intense experience of my life. The incredible pain I felt last year while dealing with recurrent gallstone attacks was actually worse. The difference, though, I think, is that most of the pain you feel in your life is very short-term, while the intensity of childbirth is prolonged and cannot be gauged with a finite end in sight. Knowing that you'll have the baby in the end propels you forward, but knowing that could be in 3 hours or 23 hours makes it feel more infinite. I would definitely categorize my experience as physical and intense, but not purely painful as many others do. And now almost two weeks later, I just feel amazed and proud of myself for doing it.
Oh, and because Nathan would be disappointed if I didn't mention this at least once: mucus plug.