This is a long story. But it has to be since, as my midwife says, I was in labor for 36 hours…and 1 week.
This tale begins on Thursday, April 19 at 4 AM. I had planned to work until Fri., April 20 (the day before my due date), but I woke up to contractions on Thursday and knew I had to call it quits. I emailed work to let them know and patiently waited for things to pick up.
And I waited.
And waited some more.
Labor stalled so Rods went to work. He came home and Thursday night, the same pattern started. Contractions picked up and kept on coming. I tried to sleep and woke up at 6 AM, shaking Rods. “I think this is it.”
He stayed home from work and we went for a walk, hoping things would pick up.
And they didn’t.
This pattern continued for DAYS.
On Wednesday night (4/25), the contractions had been coming pretty consistently. We were timing them and getting excited. It really seemed like things were happening. We called our families and put the midwife on notice. We went to bed and watched 40 Year Old Virgin to take our mind off of things. I got up to use the restroom and when I came back, I knew things had stalled.
Disheartened, I went to sleep and the next morning Rods went off to work. His oldest sister called to see if I wanted company. At first, I hesitated because I didn’t want her to have to take off of work and I wasn’t sure if I was up for entertaining anyone since I was in such a crummy mood from all the starting and stopping of contractions. Ultimately, I decided that company was probably what I did need since I was just stewing by myself at home all day.
It was the best decision I made next to having a home birth.
She came in that afternoon and we chatted and went for walks. She is 30 weeks pregnant with her first so it was nice to have someone around to talk babies and birth with.
On Thursday, Rods stayed home because I was having mild contractions that woke me up at 4:47 AM. We ate breakfast and went for a walk. My contractions were staying pretty consistent. I texted my midwife and she told me not to time them and just let them happen. We had determined that I was so fixated on timing them, that I may have actually caused a few mild ones simply because I was expecting to have them every 10 minutes or so.
I bounced on my birth ball as we watched Toddlers and Tiaras. I know. Classy stuff. As a contraction hit, I would stop talking and close my eyes, breathing through it. Once it passed, I would return to normal. This continued all afternoon and into the early evening. My sister-in-law, Stacy, was paying attention to the timing and frequency and noticed that she felt they were picking up.
As the night went on, they definitely started to get stronger. As I felt one come on, I could no longer sit still. I would have to get up and sway through them. We called the midwife who assured us that we would know when it was time for her to come.
I tried to rest but couldn’t get comfortable – the contractions got worse when I was laying down so I knew sleep was out of the question at this point, which worried me. I didn’t want to be exhausted when it came time to actually push this little guy out.
Rods and I took a shower so I could lean on him during a contraction. I had started to wiggle my fingers at him as a “hey-get the hell over here” sign when a contraction came on. He would then take me in his arms and sway with me as I frantically tapped on his shoulder. This was my spontaneous coping mechanism that got me through those earlier contractions. I also started moaning in a low voice.
I started to withdraw myself from everyone and move into another room to work through my contractions. Even though we were in the midst of an awesome Paul Rudd movie marathon. Still unsure about whether to call the midwife, Rods texted her and she decided to come early. This was around 10 PM on Thursday (4/26).
I was obsessed with timing and figuring out the point I was at and how much longer I would have. Looking back on it, this was totally ridiculous since there is no real “time table” for labor and everyone progresses differently. I think I knew this in the back of my head but I wanted someone to say, “Oh, you only have 3 more hours” or something along those lines.
Pacing around the house was no longer cutting it, so I got into our bathtub. The midwife showed up and peeked in.
“I’m going to take a nap but I’ll be listening,” she said.
“I’m sorry I’m moaning so loud.”
“Oh, you’ll get much louder…” she said, smiling.
I tried to wrap my head around that. Is it going to get much worse? It seemed like it from her tone. While the contractions were bearable, I couldn’t fathom being louder and more uncomfortable. The initial contractions felt like intense cramps. I honestly cannot even recall how the worse ones felt now that a few days have passed. I just remember having to remind myself that my body was doing what it was designed to do and that I was not in any danger. This helped me stay relaxed and not fight the contractions.
I got out of the tub and started walking a circuit around the house. I would walk from the front of the house to the back, trying to speed things up. Rods began filling the birthing tub and every few hours, my midwife would poke her head out to check on me. I know we had called her way too early but was so grateful that she decided to come early and just hang out. It made me feel better just having her there.
I can’t remember the time, but finally my midwife told me I could get into the birth tub and stay there if I wanted to. I was very worried about stalling out labor by getting in too soon but apparently by the sounds I was making, she determined I was in active labor and that I was safe to be in the pool.
Rods and I went into Oliver’s room and I listened to my Blissborn labor hypnosis while he napped on the guest bed. I have no idea how many hours I stayed in that pool, draped over the side, moaning. I only got up to pee every few hours but it would make me so cold, that finally my midwife told me just to pee in the pool since urine was sterile.
Around 6 AM, Rods went to take a nap at the insistence of my midwife. I didn’t want him to go but I knew he needed rest. I continued to moan through my contractions but I stayed rather social in between. When someone would enter the room, I was very chatty – asking how much longer I had. I’m sure I drove everyone crazy.
Time pretty much lost all meaning past midnight. I told my midwife I would give it 24 hours – which meant 4 AM since I had been up since 4:47 AM on Thursday. But it’s not like I had a watch on or anything so I’m not sure what I was thinking.
Rods came back in the room and apologized for sleeping so long.
I held up a hand, “don’t tell me how long it’s been. In my head you’ve only been sleeping 30 minutes.”
But in reality, he had a two hour nap. After he checked on me, he went to use the restroom and I felt my water break in the pool. I was on my knees, talking to my midwife, when I felt a gush.
“I think my water broke…” I said.
“Good!” she replied.
“So, it will be soon, right?” I asked, hopeful.
“It’s a good sign of progress,” she carefully replied.
As the contractions went on, she kept waiting for a sign of grunting or pushing but I wasn’t feeling any. Rods got in the pool with me to help and around 10 AM, I felt like pushing a little. At least, I thought I did.
The midwife said it was time to call my best friend to let her know since I wanted her to be there when he was born. This brightened my spirits since it made me feel like I was close. Also, around this time, the midwife’s assistant showed up.
This is when things got rather intense. I started to push but nothing was really happening. After an hour or so, my midwife asked me to get out of the pool to give me my first cervical check. It sounded like the worst idea ever – I did not want to get out of the pool but I also wanted to know if I was pushing for no reason.
“You’re almost to a 10 – you just have a small cervical lip left,” she said.
Once I got up from the check, I started to lose it a bit. I gripped on to Rods and started shaking my head.
“I can’t do this. I can’t cope,” I said, as I clawed at him.
“You can. You are.” he replied.
The contractions were so much bigger and so much closer together at this point. In between contractions, I booked it back to the pool. Over the next few hours, I was draped over the side holding onto my midwife as I moaned loudly through the contractions. Tapping wasn’t helping me cope with these contractions anymore and I knew I needed another distraction. Thankfully, she had buttons on her shirt.
I stared at those buttons at the height of each contraction. There was nothing keeping me tethered to the world except those buttons. At one point, her phone rang and she reached up but I pulled her back to me. I felt badly about that but as I said – those buttons were the only thing keeping me together.
In between contractions, she got up and I scooted over the to midwife’s assistant. I gave her the saddest puppy dog eyes and couldn’t even express what I wanted but luckily she knew and took my midwife’s place.
And luckily she also had buttons on her shirt.
This continued for hours. The pain sent me into another part of myself that I didn’t know existed. I completely shut down and started to withdraw. I had now been awake for 30 hours and was downright exhausted. I was so tired that I couldn’t even really feel the contractions anymore. Eventually, I slumped over Rods and dozed a bit.
I remember my mom telling me about my birth and how she didn’t have any drugs. At the time, I thought it sounded awful. “HOW?” I asked. “I had a job to do, I didn’t think about it,” she replied.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. I retreated into myself. I really wasn’t me anymore. It was the animal part of me, just trying to survive. It took over though it totally sucked at pushing.
Eventually my midwife and her assistant left the room to discuss the situation. When they came back in and we heard, “So, we’ve made a decision…” I thought for sure we were going to have to go to the hospital. Luckily, that was not the case.
“We’ve decided to try directed pushing.” my midwife said.
OK – so much better than a hospital transfer – I was willing to try anything.
But the problem was, I wasn’t really feeling my contractions any more. So it was hard to tell her when they were occurring.
“Try laying on Rodney and pushing on your back,” she suggested.
“No – that doesn’t sound good.” I said.
I was a little stubborn at that point, but I knew that wouldn’t feel good to me. So I tried pushing on all fours, my side, leaning over the tub, etc. At each contraction, my midwife would apply pressure to let me know where to push. After each push, they used the doppler to check Ollie’s heart rate which was always healthy. However, the contractions were on top of each other and I wanted to swat the doppler away each time it was near.
“Just try ONE push on your back against Rodney…” she implored.
I rolled on my back and obliged, to tired to protest. Right after that push, they checked Ollie’s heart rate. His heart rate had dropped drastically.
“OK – you were right, roll back on all fours!” my midwife said.
That was the only time his heart rate dropped and it’s crazy how my body knew that this would not the right position for me or for him.
After HOURS of directed pushing, he finally started to crown. I didn’t even feel it. I felt him slip forward and then slip back. Everyone kept telling me that they could see his hair and I kept replying, “Then reach in and grab him, please! I’m so tired!”
Rods could tell my stamina – what was left of it – was wavering. So, this man – this absolute saint and my very best friend in the world- started to push with me. As I bared down, his arms constricted around me, giving me extra strength with each push. I dont know how he knew that I needed this but I’m confident that this is the only was our son was going to be born. And I have no hesitation in saying that, together, we both brought our boy into the world.
After one big push, Oliver no longer slipped back and I knew that this was really happening. I pushed harder and half his head came out. I pushed again and felt the brief relief of his entire head coming out.
I have to take a moment here to say that I do not like pushing! It is like throwing up in reverse – your body just bears down and you go along with it. However, I was afraid of the “ring of fire” but didn’t feel that since I was in another land entirely. All I felt was pressure and the presence of something coming out of me.
“One more push for the shoulders!” my midwife said.
I gave it my all and felt the sweet relief as his body left mine. It was 3:24 PM.
My midwife tried to pass him through my legs as I was on all fours, but I was so out of it that I didn’t realize.
“Turn around and get your baby!” She said.
My first thought was, “just give me a second – I need to rest a bit…” but Rods was more or less pushing me out of the way. I turned around and he locked eyes with me and then looked at Rods. He didn’t cry and was so aware of everything.
“You look like Rods!!” I said, as he was handed to me.
I kept thanking him for finally coming out.
Anyway. I was a new person. I had so much energy and was chatting up a storm with everyone. I moved from the tub to the bed – which was interesting considering I had a big old cord coming out of me, still tethering me to my baby.
Once it stopped pulsating, Rods cut it and I moved into the bathroom to deliver the placenta. It was about an hour post-birth and I did NOT want to do any more pushing after having pushed for the past FIVE hours.
My midwife gave me a shot glass of Angelica Root (gross) and I gave a few pithy grunts. Thankfully, the placenta just flopped out.
“OK, I didn’t want to tell you this until the placenta was out but…I have another mom in labor.” My midwife said.
“Ohmygosh! Go!” I said.
The midwife’s assistant finished up checking me and Ollie to make sure we were all good. We tried our hand at breastfeeding – he was not interested.
They kept calling Oliver “Old Baby” because he was so big and had huge hands and feet which were wrinkly from being “on the inside” too long. He weighed 8lbs. 5 oz. and measured 20.5 inches long.
I moved into my own bed around 7:30 PM and slept for the next TEN hours. Best sleep of my life.
In the end, it was not what I expected. A 36 hour labor with 5 hours of pushing? No. Also, I’m so glad my sister in law was there since she was able to keep the rest of the family updated via text, leaving Rods to focus on me, which I really needed. Also, she and my best friend took the above photos – which we are so happy to have. We weren’t planning on either of those things- naively thinking that Rods would be able to snap photos and text people. Oh ahahaha. Best laid plans and whatnot.
Would I do it again? If you had asked me right after, I would have said NEVER again. But with each passing day, the experience has ebbed from “tiresome and painful” to “wonderfully liberating and amazing.” Looking back on it with almost two weeks between us, I can easily say that my homebirth was absolutely perfect. Now, when something seems insurmountable, I just say to myself, “well–if you can do that you can do this.”
Plus, if I had been in a hospital, I would have most certainly gotten pitocin, and possibly a c-section. And I would have been pushing on my back which was not what Ollie or I wanted to do. So even though it was long and intense, it was exactly what my body and Oliver needed to go through for him to get here.
And the bonus? I inspired my sister-in-law to have a home birth. Which is great because I was certain I had traumatized her.
Oh. And as promised…yes. I did poop. And no, I didn’t care one bit – just like you all said!