(One of my favorite pregnancy photos)
The evening of Friday, January 13th 2012 I started feeling cramping while out at dinner with friends. I decided to ignore it and not say anything as I wasn’t sure if it meant anything. Shortly before midnight as I was trying to fall asleep the cramps started to intensify for short bursts. I watched on the bedside clock and saw that they were coming about every 8 minutes. I was so excited! I decided that since I couldn’t sleep would get up and have a half glass of wine and take a bath as my midwife said the best thing to do during early labor was to try to sleep. I also filled a big sock with rice and heated it in the microwave to use to ease the contractions while I tried to sleep. I was pleased with myself for thinking to use my belly band to hold it in place and it remained banded to me for most of my labor.
I was able to sleep on and off until about 5am. Zeke woke up soon after and we were both really excited. He decided to go up to the roof and film the sun rising on the morning of what we assumed would be the day our child was born. We then went out to breakfast and to pick up some things from the farmers market. I was in pain but it was pretty manageable at this point.
We had been planning to have a home birth. I had done a lot of research and found that it was just as safe as a hospital birth and carried less of a chance of infection. I also really wanted the chance to have a natural birth and knew that hospital births often involve lots of interventions that I wanted to avoid. My biggest fear wasn’t the pain, but having to go to the hospital. I was especially afraid of having to have a c-section but I knew that by attempting a home birth I would only end up having one if it was really necessary.
We called my midwife at some point during the morning to let her know that labor had started. She asked that we call back when things intensified more. Zeke and I spent the day laboring at home and took several long walks around the neighborhood. We found that the contractions sped up when we were walking. I loved the feeling of laboring and walking and made up lots of strange ways to handle the pain through vocalizations and dance-walking. The hormones were surging through me and I felt as if I was on top of the world.
That evening the contractions started to intensify. My midwife, Stacey came over around 9 pm to assess where we were. She did an exam and found that I was only dilated to 2cm. This was somewhat upsetting news. She said that it was impossible to say, but I would probably would have between 6- 18 hours of labor left. We felt somewhat deflated by this and Zeke and I were both pretty tired after not sleeping much the night before and laboring all day. My midwife left and we decided to call my friend Rebecca, who is a doula, to see if she could come over and assist.
Rebecca got there around 1am and soon after Zeke was able to get some sleep while Rebecca helped me through the contractions. After a few hours Zeke woke up and I decided to labor in bed for a while with Zeke helping me. I was able to sleep between the contractions but would wake up writhing in pain every 5 minutes of so when another would come. Zeke helped by massaging me and talking to me.
The next morning, which was Sunday, Zeke went up to the roof to film the sunrise again, as we were pretty sure today would be the day! The contractions had been getting longer, lasting about a minute and a half to two minutes but were still coming only about every 5 minutes. Stacey came back mid morning and at this exam found me to be 3-4 cm. She stripped my membranes, and tried to stretch me out a bit, which was extremely painful. It was pretty disheartening that in the past 12 hours I had only dilated a little more than a centimeter. She gave me some positions to try out (including standing on my head off the couch) to try to move things along as she thought the baby might be in a less than optimal position. She gave me black cohosh to take every hour and also told us to contact an acupuncturist.
Knowing that this could be going on for a lot longer we sent Rebecca home to get some rest and decided to take another walk while we waited for the acupuncturist to arrive. It felt good to be outside but we had a lot less energy than the day before. The acupuncturist came and did her thing, I’m not sure if it helped but it gave us some hope.
I’d been laboring for so long everything was becoming foggy. All of my previous life was erased, and this was the only existence I knew. Zeke and I decided to labor just the two of us for a while. At some point on Sunday night/ Monday morning I insisted that Zeke try to sleep. I knew that he needed to rest and was glad that he was sleeping, but laboring on my own was physically draining and my energy was starting to fade.
Monday morning the pain started to become really intense. I was having continuous back pain between and during contractions. I decided to take another bath which really helped with the pain. The contractions were coming about every four minutes or so and still lasting over a minute. Rebecca and Stacey both arrived during my bath. We were all frustrated that the contractions weren’t getting closer together. This is when I first voiced my desire to go to the hospital. I was totally exhausted after several nights of not sleeping. We decided to go for a walk together to see if a change of scenery might move things along and to consider our options.
Walking was becoming difficult. I felt like I had cement between my legs and in my pelvis. We walked for a while and agreed that Stacey would examine me when we got back. It was around 2pm on Monday and I was measuring at 5cm. I realized that I had been laboring for 62 hours. I was really frustrated and tired. We talked to Stacey about how much longer I might have. She said it was impossible to say for sure but that upon examining me she had been able to feel the baby’s head and that it was turned occipital posterior, or “sunny side up”. I couldn’t believe it! I had been sitting with good posture for the past month to try to avoid having the baby in this position! Stacey said that sometimes it just happens. She explained that labor with occipital posterior babies is often very long and painful as the head doesn’t push properly on the cervix to help it to open. She also said it would explain my back pain as this position causes what’s known as “back labor”. We could continue to do the exercises to try to moving the baby but until it repositioned, labor would likely continue to progress slowly.
Zeke and I agreed that it was time to abandon Plan A and move on to Plan B which included a large dose of pitocin and an epidural so I could rest. We called a car service and soon we were at our Brooklyn neighborhood hospital, Woodhull.
Dealing with contractions while filling out paper work was kind of strange, but before I knew it, I was in the labor and delivery room getting my epidural. They pumped me full of pitocin and we all watched the contractions and the baby’s heart rate on the monitor. Everything was going well and the baby was tolerating the contractions without an issue. My hospital midwife, Nicole, examined me at around 8pm. She found that my waters had broken somewhat on their own but then during the exam had broke more fully. She had me rest on my side in an effort to get the baby to move. I was finally comfortable, and talkative again. Zeke commanded me to pipe down and get some sleep since I hadn’t truly rested in 3 days. I napped on and off as my contractions intensified and became more frequent…
Around 11pm I started to feel the pain of the contractions again. I was somewhat surprised when I had to start breathing through them. Not being able to get out of bed made it really difficult to manage. Around 11:30 I expressed this to Nicole who said that she wanted to check me out before bringing back the anesthesiologist as the epidural had run out. She examined me and said that I was at 10cm and it was time to push!
I was so excited! I was also happy to see that it wasn’t midnight yet and was still the 16th as I liked the idea of my baby sharing a birthday with my friend Lydia. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really could feel the contractions and was able to use that to know when to push. Everyone gathered around and they put a large mirror in front of me so I could watch my baby emerge. I was sitting up with my legs pulled out to the side but bent, which actually felt pretty good. I pushed for about 10-15 minutes and then the baby slid out. The baby had moved positions luckily making the delivery much less difficult. I only tore a little and required 3 stitches.
Nicole put her on the bed in front of me as I had requested so I could check her out before picking her up. We looked down at her and Zeke announced that she was a girl. We were both pretty surprised by this as we had guessed we were having a boy. She was so cute! I was surprised that she didn’t look more squished up! I picked her up and cuddled her.
The next three days were spent in the hospital negotiating the bureaucracy of policy, some of which we refused, some of which we begrudgingly accepted. Some of the hospital staff was wonderful, while others blindly wielded hospital policy. Finally, after three days of negotiation, a bout of post-partum pre-eclampsia for me (high blood pressure), a touch of Jaundice for Ada, and Zeke sleeping on a chair, we were able to bring our sweet baby home.
It certainly wasn’t how I had imagined Ada’s birth to play out, but ultimately I’m just happy to have a healthy baby. Birth is an amazing experience and I still strongly believe in attempting home birth, although next time I hope it can play out a little more smoothly!