I approached labor preparation with my third very differently than I had with my other two. I was overconfident and didn’t see the need to worry about prenatal exercises or practicing breathing techniques. After all, I had already had 2 un medicated births, with the last being an unassisted homebirth. I had this birthing thing down. I forgot that every labor is different.
Before I start with the birth story I need to go back to week 35 of my pregnancy. That was the week we found out our insurance had changed their policy and would no longer cover a homebirth like it had in the past. Financially speaking it would make more sense to deliver in a hospital. So, just 5 weeks from my January 17th due date and 2 weeks from Christmas I was spending all my time researching area hospitals. I knew that I wanted another natural birth and I wanted to find a natural birth-friendly hospital. I came across the Westshore Midwifery team that practiced at St John’s Medical Center. After perusing their website I immediately knew I wanted to give birth there with one of the 5 midwives on staff attending. I called and explained my situation and they quickly got me in for my first appointment. They asked me to fill out a birth plan, and when we reviewed it together they were on board 100%. Even though my plans had changed, I felt good about my choice to deliver with them.
January 6, 2016. I had my 38 week appointment and was hoping to go into labor soon. I asked the midwife to check dilation and was told I was 2 cm dilated. I left feeling excited that I had started to dilate, but also knowing it could be another week or two before labor started. However, that afternoon I started seeing some blood-tinged mucus. I tried not to get my hopes up, as I knew it is common to have that happen after a cervical check.
On the morning of January 7th I woke up feeling the same way I had on the day my daughter had been born. Some sporadic contractions, achy, and like I had just gotten over the flu. I talked to my husband and we decided to call my mom to come stay with us. If it was the start of labor she would be there to watch the kids, and if it wasn’t she would be there to help me out and allow me to rest.
My mom got to the house around lunchtime and we took the kids out to eat for lunch. Just like my last labor, most of my contractions happened in the car. By the time my husband got home from work contractions were painless and averaging about every 7-8 minutes. We were expecting another fast labor like before and even though I felt like it was too soon to head off to the hospital I listened to the advice of my husband and mom and we left for the hospital. Once again, the car ride made the contractions closer and more intense, but when I got out of the car they slowed down again. We got to the hospital around 6:30 pm and they checked my cervix. I was only 2 cm dilated and contractions had completely stopped. We were given the choice to either leave and come back later, or I could walk the halls and see if that encouraged labor to start again. We were still thinking this would be a fast labor, and not wanting to risk having a baby in the car, we decided to stay and walk the halls of the hospital.
9 pm. I had been walking the halls and utilizing the birth ball for about 2 hours. Contractions were 5 minutes apart and I was feeling it all in my lower back. I was checked again: baby was in the posterior position, very high still, but I was 4 cm dilated. I was excited to hear that I was in active labor and admitted to the hospital.
I need to interject right here and talk about the awesome nursing staff at St John’s. My nurse dimmed the lights, brought in several frameless candles, and diffused essential oils. I was free to move around freely and encouraged to eat and drink as I wanted.
Around 11 pm I asked the nurse if she could fill the tub. I was hoping that the water would help with the lower back pain. I’m not even sure how far apart my contractions were at that point, because the back pain was constant. I labored in the tub for 45 minutes. While it did help to lessen the pain somewhat, it was not what I was expecting. Around midnight I was checked again. I was still only 4 cm dilated and feeling dejected. I had asked my best friend to be there with me and she got to the hospital around this time. I really don’t know what I would have done without her there. She walked the halls with me, helped me get into positions to encourage baby to flip, and was simply a source of encouragement when I needed it most.
3 am. I was 5 cm dilated, baby had dropped and was still posterior. I had been in labor for 6 hours and only dilated 1 more cm. Lying in bed was unbearable and I spent the time leaning over the birth ball, and on my hands and knees to try to alleviate the back pain. I could hardly believe the lack of progress because contractions were now 2-3 minutes apart. My husband and friend encouraged me, read the birth affirmations out loud, and applied pressure to my lower back. We discussed different options such as breaking my water or doing a membrane sweep, but in the end the midwife and I both decided that the best thing to do was to allow labor to continue to unfold on its own.
8 am. I had been in active labor now for 11 hours. I was exhausted from being up all night and beginning to doubt in my ability to give birth. I was checked again and was told that I was 100% effaced, 6 cm dilated, and the bag of waters was bulging. My midwife saw how upset I was and quickly suggested I try getting in the shower to see if that could help speed things up. I hadn’t tried that yet and was willing to do just about anything at this point. I got in the shower at 8:30 and my husband stayed with me, adjusting the water temperature, putting pressure on my lower back, and encouraging me to breathe through the contractions. Within just a few minutes of being in the shower I felt intense pressure and the contractions seemed to have no end to them. My husband was praying over me and that was the only thing that would help me relax even a little. I got out at 9 am and went back to leaning over the birth ball. The midwife came back in a few minutes later and I told her I was feeling pressure, but didn’t think I could possibly be ready to push as I was only 6 cm dilated. She smiled and reminded me to trust my body. I gave a small push with the next contraction and told her it felt good to do that. I was quickly checked and told that I was 10 cm dilated and that the only thing keeping the baby in was the bag of waters. I turned onto my left side and pushed with the next contraction. My water broke and I felt a head. 2 more pushes and my daughter was in my arms. In the time span of 1 hour I had dilated 4 centimeters and given birth. It was an intense hour, for sure!
I will forever be grateful for the midwives and nurses at St John’s for believing in the normalcy of birth and understanding that every labor is different. They recognized that a posterior birth means a longer labor and never once put me on the clock or talked about augmenting labor. I am confident that if I hadn’t chosen them as my care providers I would have ended up with a cascade of interventions.
Even though it wasn’t the labor I had expected, I walked away feeling positive about the experience and feeling like I had been respected and my voice heard. However, I do wish I would have taken the time in pregnancy to prepare my body and mind for labor. Labor is like running a marathon–and I was running this marathon having done very little to prepare.
Iris Jean born January 8, 2016 at 9:30 am after 12 1/2 hours of posterior labor. 7 lbs 2 oz and 19 1/4 inches long. A beautiful addition to our family.