Alright, this is a long, detailed version of my birth story. If you have a problem with blood or bodily functions, or body parts, you might not want to read this!
Tuesday, June 10, as I was knitting like a mad woman to finish a prayer shawl for my aunt, I was having Braxton Hicks contractions as close as every five minutes lasting from 30 seconds to a minute in length. I thought labour might start at any minute that day, but it was not to be! I finished sewing up the prayer shawl and washed it; ready for my mom to pick up the next day and send to my aunt.
I woke up on Wednesday and the contractions were definitely gone. I made fruit and yogurt popsicles to eat during labour and finished sewing up the cloth wipes I was making. Around 4:00 pm, I started feeling some crampy sensations, but I brushed them off. During dinner, they were coming a bit more regularly, but I didn’t say anything to Brad because I was honestly not expecting anything to come of them!
At 8:00 pm, I went to the bathroom and noticed some blood on the tissue when I wiped – and got some crazy butterflies in my stomach! I went downstairs and mentioned to Brad that I was having some bloody show and that most people say that means a baby within a day or two. Brad wasn’t feeling very well, but I think he realized that it was a bit more urgent for us to get our bedroom and the library (where we were to set up the pool) in order. I got more regularly crampy – but still quite infrequent. My mom came shortly thereafter to pick up the shawl and noticed that something was a bit off. I told her about the show and she got all excited. I begged her not to tell my sisters because it could still be days before baby arrived, and she agreed. I told her I’d call her whenever the midwives were heading over so that she could be on high alert.
Brad sequestered some help to set up the pool and rig up a system to fill it (garden hose from the basement laundry tub up two flights of stairs!). We worked on cleaning up our room and de-cluttering so the midwives would have space for their equipment. By about 10:00 pm, contractions were coming between 6 – 10 minutes apart lasting 1 – 1.5 minutes each. I could still talk through them, although I was beginning to sway with them. By 11:00, I was breathing through contractions that were 7 – 8 minutes apart lasting around one minute each.
Around midnight, we finished what preparations we could and we tried to lay down and get some sleep. As soon as I laid down, the contractions were excruciating! I worked through one or two in bed and decided that it was better to have no rest than deal with them in that position. After getting up, I realized that my contractions had changed significantly – instead of low menstrual-type cramps, they were centred in my back. I let Brad sleep from 12:30 am until about 4:00 am, when I timed my contractions at 3 – 5 minutes apart lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. I was concentrating hard and breathing through them while walking and swaying and applying pressure to my back. I woke Brad up and let him know I was calling the midwives. I called the student midwife, K, and she listened to me through some contractions, reassured me that I was doing great coping with them, to keep it up, and to call if we needed them. She said she thought it was likely still early, and that she’d check with my primary, A, and let me know if she agreed. She called back a few minutes later and verified that A agreed with her assessment and that she would call back to check on me around 7:00 am.
I told Brad he might want to start filling the pool because baby was definitely coming today (Thursday, June 12) at some point! It was starting to get more difficult to work through the contractions, so Brad and I tried some different ways to cope with the back pain – counter pressure, leaning over the birth ball with a double-hip squeeze, etc. Anything that involved leaning over or being on all fours was unbearable, so we settled on me leaning on the wall with Brad applying a mix between constant counter pressure and the double hip squeeze. So, Brad filled the pool while trying to help me through contractions – not an easy task!
K called back at 7:30 am and listened to me through some contractions that were every three minutes lasting 45 seconds – one minute. and said that it sounded like things were moving along nicely and that we were still coping quite well. I told her that I wanted them to come over because we were filling the pool, but I didn’t want to get in it until I knew I was in active labour and it wouldn’t make my labour stall out. She said that they would be over within the hour and suggested a shower to help with the pain. Although the shower felt nice, it didn’t do much to help with the contractions, but I believe it did help to move them along!
I got out of the shower and laboured for a while on the toilet with Brad coaching me through the contractions until the midwives arrived at about 8:30 am. K came into the bathroom and talked me through one and did a quick assessment of how we were doing. We moved to the bedroom, where they checked me. K checked me first and then conferred with A, who said that K wanted her to check me to confirm how far dilated I was. I was terrified that I would only between 2 or 3 cm, but to my surprise, I was 6 cm dilated! I was given the all-clear to get in the tub, which I did promptly.
I laboured in the tub for what felt like forever, taking each contraction as it came and working through it. I was vocalizing a lot through the contractions at this point – and by the end of my stay in the tub, so were Brad and the two midwives! They were coming very frequently and peaking quite quickly. The midwives were guessing I was in transition by the intensity of the contractions and my feelings that I couldn’t do it anymore! I was also hiccupping at the end of each contraction – a sure sign for everyone that the contraction was ending. I was on my hands and knees with Brad coaching me and holding me from my head and K apply the counter-pressure/hip squeeze from the back. By 11:00 am, my contractions were 60 – 70 seconds long and every 3 minutes. At 11:45 am, I was checked and found to be 9.5 cm with a small anterior lip of cervix, baby at +1 station, and a very bulging bag of waters. I requested that they not break my water because I was afraid of an increase in intensity of the contractions – and I really wanted an intervention-free labour! A few contractions later, A asked if I wanted them to break my water if it didn’t break soon. I agreed, but with the next contraction, at 12:00 pm, it broke and I was complete! I remember A checking me and it felt like her fingers were so far up I couldn’t believe that the baby had to move that far, when she reassured me that the head was maybe 2 – 3 inches up and we were almost done!
The contractions changed significantly, and it felt like I was going to be sick at the peak of each one – I think it was my body’s “urge” to push – but I didn’t really know how to work with it. I tried pushing in the pool for a bit, but it wasn’t feeling right, so they had me try to empty my bladder and then we would move to the bedroom. I pushed for a bit on the toilet and still was not understanding what to do. We moved to the bedroom, and I had a big contraction while half on the bed – and one of our cats had come in the room and was rubbing her head on my leg. I remember yelling, “Get the cat out of here!!”
Around 12:55 pm, baby was +2 station and I began pushing in a side-lying position on our bed with myself and Brad holding up my left leg. It took a LOT of coaching for me to not only really understand where I was supposed to be pushing, but also to give myself permission to push – I was terrified of giving myself hemorrhoids! I really didn’t enjoy the pushing phase – I found the pushing to be quite an unpleasant sensation, but once I got the hang of it, I did pretty good! When the head was visible in between contractions, Brad took a look at seemed pretty excited – she was low enough that I could feel her head – and all her hair!! That got me really excited to get her out – and good thing, because her heart rate was in the 100’s and the midwives were anxious to get her out. My primary cautioned me that if it took too long, they would have to help me with an episiotomy … and that was enough to get the motivated! Brad grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “We can do this!” and I had her head out with the next contraction. The cord was wrapped around her neck and wasn’t long enough to loop over her to deliver her through, so they had me pant while they clamped and cut it. Then, at 1:38 pm, after 10 hours of active labour and 45 minutes of pushing, our baby was born up onto my chest. Brad gave me the honour of choosing which long form of Gwen we were going to use – Gweneth or Gwendolyn – I chose to name her Gwendolyn Eleanor. Her APGARs were 8 at one minute and 9 at five minutes.
The placenta came 3 minutes later, helped by a shot of oxytocin. I was given a second shot of oxytocin because I gushed a bit afterwards and the bleeding slowed considerably. They took Gwen to give her some oxygen about 10 minutes after she was born to help her ‘pink up’ while they inspected my perineum for tearing. I had a small 2nd degree tear that required only two stitches – so while they fixed me up, Brad got to spend some time holding his baby girl!
They also weighed her – 5 lbs, 15 oz – and measured her – 19.5 inches. After they were done, I got her back and latched her on right away – she ate/suckled for almost a full hour!
We are so thankful that we were able to have the home birth that both of us wanted – God has truly blessed us with a fantastic labour and birth and our beautiful baby girl. All our midwives desperately want us to have more babies soon because the labour/birth went so well! =)