My water broke unexpectedly just before 9p on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. I was in the midst of the bedtime routine with my older 3 kids and tried to downplay it so that they wouldn’t get too excited and stay awake. Labor did not begin immediately, though I continued to have contractions off and on as I had been for weeks. I got the kids to bed and started preparing myself mentally for labor. I spoke with my midwife who had just gotten back onto town from vacation a couple of hours previously. She had me play Aubrey’s heartbeat on my Doppler over the phone (it was perfect) and told me to call her if things kicked up, that she was going to try to get some rest. My mom got in the car to make the drive here around 10:30p and arrived around 3a. Not much was happening other than me attempting to sleep through my excitement and irregular contractions that were becoming less frequent by the hour.
I dozed off and on until morning when it was time to get the kids up and off to school. Matt fed the crew and got the older two off and the midwife came over to check me before deciding if she was going to head into work. I was still pretty thick and only at 1-2cm. She did a cervical stretch/swipe to try to get things going and also gave me a bottle of herbs to initiate labor and instructions to walk and do self-acupuncture. Then she left to go to her birth center and see patients all day. I did acupuncture on induction points, and massage with essential oils to help move things along. Matt and I went for a walk and I took my herbs.
I realized at some point that I was way too up in my head and trying to *make* things happen, rather than *allow* them to happen. I retreated into a dark closet by myself to meditate, connect with Aubrey, and get in my heart. The meditation was pretty intense and I ended up doing a lot of internal and very deep processing of the entire pregnancy experience. I realized how much the first few months of pregnancy, which were very rough emotionally and physically, had truly affected me. I had not allowed myself to fully connect with my baby and the pregnancy and the flow between me and the baby was blocked. I had a good cry and let go of so much emotional baggage and really, truly connected with my daughter for the first time. It was a major shift in my consciousness and a turning point for me in the labor. It was also the point where the contractions started coming back regularly and strongly, and I was grateful for every one.
The kids came home from school and preparations began to convert the apartment into a birthing zone. Matt and the kids duct taped drop cloths all over the apartment so I had my own little “roads” between the tub, bathroom, and the futon, where I would go to deliver the placenta. The birth pool was also set up and water began to fill it. Somewhere amidst the chaos, fresh flowers arrived that Matt had ordered for me because he was amazed that I was able to get up and go to work on Tuesday after a really hard day of feeling under the weather on Monday. So the flowers were put in the kitchen where I would deliver.
The midwife arrived back ay my place after 6p to see how things were progressing. I had been contracting strongly and regularly for hours and was disappointed to find out that not much had been happening in the cervix department. I began another round of herbal induction and got another membrane sweep/cervix stretch as well as Evening Primrose Oil applied directly on/in the cervix. I also had a good cry with Matt before a really big laugh because the midwife instructed him to do nipple stimulation to help things along. We both felt ridiculous and there was much giggling. Things were finally feeling strong enough for me to want to get in the water, so I set up my laptop on the counter to video the birth and got in the tub. We ordered a pizza and I ate several pieces in between breathing through contractions in the water. I would get out and walk, and the midwife would do acupressure on induction points with essential oils for labor, then I would get back in the tub. And so I labored on for hours…
I did not get checked again until around 11p when I was really, really disappointed to find out that I was barely at 4cm and still quite thick. Some people are just starting their labors at this point, and I had already had ruptured membranes for 26 hours and my midwife was starting to want to give me antibiotics to avoid infection because of the length of time that had passed. I felt like I had been working so hard, for so long, and things just were not happening on my schedule!
While I was very grateful to be at home instead of in a hospital where I would have surely had been pressured into Pitocin or even a C-section by this point, I was just really tired and ready to be holding my baby girl. I also found out at this point that she had turned posterior, which was slowing things down and causing me to experience painful back labor. The midwife did another (very painful) cervix stretch/sweep and I literally cried and begged her to stop the whole time. This was definitely the low point of the experience for me emotionally.
After the midwife applied more Evening Primrose Oil to the cervix, and instructed me to get on all fours on the birth ball, I kicked everyone out of my room and asked for Matt. He came in and just held me while I cried for a long time and just let it all out. I got up and leaned over the ball on all fours and the midwife came in and did some manipulation of my belly to get Aubrey to spin into an anterior position. We did this through several contractions and then I needed to go to the bathroom so she had me sit on the toilet facing the back and leaning on a pillow to help with baby’s position. After a couple of contractions like this, I got back into bed and Transition labor hit me very suddenly and very intensely.
I was on my knees on my bed leaning forward over a stack of pillows and the contractions started coming one after another after another. I couldn’t mentally “get ahead” of them enough to breath them down and out, so I ended up vocalizing a lot. For me, vocalizing is an escape mechanism and is not harnessing the power of the contractions to move the energy down through my body and progress labor. I asked to get back in the tub for some relief so I could get ahead of them and breathe more effectively.
After confirming that Aubrey had spun into an anterior position, I got back in the tub and the real work began: mastering the contractions. Later, my mom told me that I was getting barely a minute rest in between the contractions, but at this point I was so fatigued that I was literally falling asleep in that time. It was by sheer force of will that I made myself breathe those contractions down and out, and I started to feel Aubrey descend into the birth canal and felt the urges to push. I pushed as my body dictated through several contractions and then felt her begin to crown. For reference, I had gone from 4cm to complete (10cm) in around 2 hours, a process which can take 6 hours or more in a “normal” labor.
I had asked for specific help and coaching through this part of the process in order to allow my body to take the crowning and birthing process more slowly than I had in the past so that my body would experience as little trauma as possible. As she was crowning, I took a couple of contractions to “pant breathe” and keep her just inside so that my skin would be allowed time to stretch. After a couple of contractions, at 1:02a on Thursday February 28th, I gave one last gentle push and her head and body were born all at once. I was kneeling and birthed her right into my own hands without assistance. I scooped her up out of the water and Matt jumped in with me and we both just cried and stared at how beautiful she was!
After a few minutes of starting at her, the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing and Matt cut the cord so we could get out to deliver the placenta. As I stood up to get out of the tub, I instinctively felt along the length of the cord and my hand came upon a true knot in the cord. I gasped and held it out for everyone to see. My midwife exclaimed “Praise God she is ok. She knew she needed to come early before she ran out of room and that got pulled tight!” It was just one of those moments where you realize what a miracle the whole experience truly is.
We moved to the futon and delivered the placenta and then went to my bed to snuggle up and nurse. Aubrey was instantly a champ and did so well with nursing! My 8yo woke up at some point and was able to come greet her new sister and be a part of the aftermath. Baby was weighed and measured and came in at 7lbs on the nose, and 20 inches long and covered in creamy vernix due to being born at 38 weeks exactly. The midwife did a presentation to us of the placenta for us, which my 8yo found to be extremely interesting. It was fascinating to see where my daughter had spent the last 9 months! My body had made out pretty well, with very minimal trauma and no stitches needed. Even 24 hours later, everything was doing so much better for me physically than with any of my other births. Aubrey Elen Thompson was officially named and we all finally settled in for some rest!