On Wednesday morning (January 16, just four days before his due date), I woke up and realized I was losing my mucus plug. There were these crampy pains in my lower abdomen that seemed to pull at my lower back--they were different than the squeezes I'd been experiencing for several weeks. Coincidentally, I had my 39 week OB appointment in just a couple of hours, so I didn't get too excited, knowing that if anything were happening, I'd know soon. Trevvor accompanied me as he faithfully had done throughout the pregnancy, but we left with the unsatisfying, "He could be here tonight, he could be here next week." I was pretty sure that this was the beginning of labor, though.. I just wasn't sure how far we were from the end!
I went throughout my day as planned, running last-minute pre-baby errands and doing some last-minute nesting. Trevvor would be working late, so I headed off to Wednesday night Bible class on my own. About halfway through, the "pains" really started picking up. It was hard to chatter with folks after class was over, and I headed home. My good friend Amy came home with me until Trevvor could arrive; I was so thankful for my experienced mommy-friend's presence! My lower back was really starting to hurt during the cramps now, and when Trevvor got home he made sure I had heat-packs throughout the night. We ate pasta for a late dinner (I hear carbs are good for pre-labor munching?) and tried to get some rest.
Sleep, however, eluded us. Trevvor got more than me, but he was still up and down warming up heat-packs. I found it hard to sleep through the contractions (which I finally decided they definitely were), and sleeping between them was difficult because they were already so close together. Some were almost a minute long and most were well under five minutes apart... I had a niggling thought that I must be really far along, because that's when my OB had said to come in. We decided it was unlikely he was about to fall out, so we kept trying to rest, more or less unsuccessfully.
In the morning, my contractions were still steady. They were definitely quite uncomfortable, and they were still close and long. After a last-minute scurry to gather the last few things for our bags, we made the 40-minute, somewhat bumpy, rather snowy drive to the hospital, arriving about 9:30. At my appointment the morning before I'd been a little over 1 cm dilated, now I was three. THREE. All day and all night of contractions, some worse than others, and I'd progressed less than two centimeters?? I was discouraged, and already exhausted. My OB predicted the baby could arrive around 5:00 or 6:00, so we went ahead and checked in.
Our nurse, Carolyn, was very familiar with natural childbirth. She had no problem with my birth plan and seemed to look forward to working with me. After a hot shower (which helped sooo much with the back pain), they had to do some blood-work and start me on a fetal monitor for 20 minutes every hour or so. (These periods on the monitor were the worst minutes of labor, and luckily Carolyn didn't make me do it every single hour, though her successor did.)
As the hours ticked by, besides standing in the shower with the hot water on my back, I mostly just wanted to rest. But it was the same deal as the night before, and moments of sleep were few and far between. I was able to relax early on, but once evening came I found it extremely difficult. I didn't have the energy or will to "walk the halls" to get things going, or to assume any position besides supine to help Charles descend (though he was already low in my pelvis weeks before labor). I was still determined to refuse medication, though I was coming to sympathize more and more with the mothers who chose it. Trevvor began having to press hard on two spots in my lower back during every contraction, and that (plus heat) made them bearable. Throughout labor, it wasn't so much my abdomen that hurt, but those two spots on my back.
Six o'clock approached, and I knew that if I didn't have him soon, my OB wouldn't be the one to deliver him. I also knew that if I didn't have him before 7:00, I'd have a new nurse. But my body didn't care about my time table, and the minutes ticked on. My family arrived that evening, and my mom spent a couple of hours helping Trevvor help me before they all went to the motel for the night. Not long after she left, probably around 10:00, I hit the dreaded "transition stage." I was 7 cm and really beginning to doubt this whole "no meds" thing. It was pretty textbook; I even threw up my applesauce and pretzels and asked (okay, begged) Trevvor to let them give me something "just to take the edge off."
This whole time my water still hadn't broken, and after I threw up I began having the "urge to push." Jennifer, my new nurse, checked me, and I was only 9 cm. She stayed in my room from then on, and she and Trevvor tried to help me redirect that urge through my breath. It wasn't fun. I was loud. I was unhappy. I started feeling desperate. I think if someone had offered me a C-section at that moment, I just may have had one. Finally during one of my misdirected pushes, my water broke. I was actually encouraged--finally something definite had happened! It was ~1:00 AM Friday morning, Jennifer checked me again, and I was finally 10 cm. I could push! Hallelujah!
But though the contractions came, and they were different than before, I didn't have the urge anymore. I started pushing during the contractions despite not feeling the need to. After the first couple pushes, my body seemed to realize, "Oh, I should help her." But then the next contraction would come, no urge, I would push a couple times, and then my body would jump in. Jennifer encouraged me to breathe a little differently, but it was still the same deal. "You do great on the last couple pushes," she and Trevvor said several times. "Now do the same thing for the first couple." It was frustrating. I couldn't do the same thing--my body wasn't with me. Also frustrating was that Jennifer would hold the monitor over Charles between each contraction (he was always fine) and Trevvor kept dabbing my forehead with a cool cloth. I'm not sure why it bothered me so much; I just didn't really want anyone touching me.
I really started to feel his head move down through the birth canal. It was exciting and terrifying. My initial high at this realization soon turned into discouragement and nearly despair: I felt like I was pushing him one step forward, then he would retreat two steps back. And he kind of was. After nearly two hours of pushing, he was finally "right there." Jennifer summoned the OB on call, and some techs and a nursery nurse came in too. At first I was annoyed, but all the ladies were so encouraging. They offered to let me see his head with a mirror, they asked me if I wanted to touch his hair, but I said no. I'm not sure why I didn't want to, and I felt like a bad mommy for not wanting to, but I didn't. I just wanted him out. At this point I kept asking for the doctor to use the vacuum; I just knew he was "stuck" and I desperately wanted her to help him out. But she only uses forceps, and even in my desperation I knew I didn't want that for my baby (or myself).
I was it. I was the only person that could get this baby out. And amidst much cheering, I did.
It hurt. Burned, even. I was still being loud. I had the background thoughts that, "I hope I'm not scaring any of the other women in labor near me" and "wow, am I ever being a bad representative of natural childbirth." But I did it. His head was out, the doctor wiggled out his shoulders, and then, at 3:36 Friday morning, he was in my arms.
The pain was gone. The sounds were gone. The hours of discomfort and discouragement were just... gone. And in their place lay this little child. He was quiet. His eyes were bright and wide. He had dark hair on his head, flat ears, long fingers, and adorable toes. He had a tiny freckle above his right ear. I took all this in in moments. Within minutes, he latched on like a pro. The nursery nurse gave him a 1-minute APGAR score of 7, and a 5-minute score of 8. I had a medium tear, but I was smiling and laughing as the OB stitched it up.
They all left after that, and for a while it was just the three of us. Trevvor was exhausted, I was high on adrenaline, and Charles was just.. with us. We discovered to our bemusement that the first batch of meconium had arrived.. right on my belly. Trevvor ably took Charles and got him cleaned up, and Jennifer came in shortly thereafter to help me clean up too and to weigh and measure Charles. He was 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 inches long. That first night there was some concern because I seemed to be bleeding excessively and his temperature was a bit low, but thankfully they let me do skin-to-skin and didn't whisk him away to the heat lamps.
We stayed in the hospital through Sunday. Charles did fantastic at all his check-ups with the hospital pediatrician, and my bleeding subsided to their satisfaction. My family was there to share the time with us and bring us decent food from the outside world. Those days were a blur. Charles continued to breastfeed well and often. Between him and the nurses, we didn't get much sleep. We were definitely glad to get outside and finally get home.
So that was how it all went down. I absolutely could not have done it without Trevvor. He was my rock. I can't say I'm not disappointed in myself, despite the happy ending. I really thought I'd handle it better. I'm not sure why I'm surprised though: I did tons of reading about natural childbirth but put very little time into practicing relaxation to prepare my mind or doing exercises and stretches to prepare my body. But now I know how to prepare better for Baby #2, because as hard as it was, Lord willing, I'll definitely "go natural" again.