I never thought I would actually go into labor on my due date. Everyone said I was still carrying very high so I had anticipated Will arriving sometime over the weekend. However, in the middle of the night on Nov 15 I lost my mucous plug and shortly after that I began to feel the signs of early labor. My contractions were still very far apart and barely noticeable so I went back to sleep for the rest of the night. In the morning things started to pick up a bit and I downloaded a contraction timer app for my iPhone. Each contraction was so exciting. This is what I had been waiting for! As my contractions grew stronger and more intense I telephoned Liz and asked her to come by. She came over and observed me through my a few contractions. I was still able to talk through them, so we used this time to begin practice the techniques I had learned. I sat on my exercise ball and breathed through the contractions as they came on and relaxed when they passed.
As evening approached my labor seemed to progress and by the middle of the night I was sure I was approaching active labor. Contractions were closer together and much more intense. It was nearing midnight so I lay on the bed with a heating pad and tried to sleep in between contractions. However, contractions soon increased to every two to three minutes and Liz and I made the decision to head to the hospital. I nibbled on an apple and peanut butter toast quickly before we gathered my things. I alerted my parents and we loaded me and my bags in the car. I thought this was it!
I had pre-registered at the hospital so check-in was supposed to go quickly, but it seemed to last forever. I remember putting my head down at the check in desk and breathing through a contraction. Then the nurse took my vitals and wheeled me to a delivery room. It was my first ride ever in a wheel chair! When I got to the room the nurse hooked me up to the fetal monitors. She tightened the bands firmly across my belly and they were quite uncomfortable. Next she performed a cervical check and found that I was dilated only 3 cm. I was really shocked because I was certain that I was on the edge of active labor and would have the baby that night. I was really bummed to hear that after all that work I was just barely dilated.
Now I had to make the decision to stay at the hospital and run the risk of being induced if I didn’t make cervical change fast enough for the doctors or see if the doctor on call would let me go home and continue to labor in a more comfy environment. Thankfully, the doc on call agreed to send me home so we packed up my things and headed back. My parents weren’t too keen on the idea, but it ended up working out for the best. The rest of the evening my contractions spaced out and I was able to sleep a couple hours.
The next morning (November 16) I awoke to contractions that were still spaced out. I ate a small breakfast and walked around outside for a bit, sat on my ball, and did pelvic tilts to try to speed up my labor and help my cervix work itself open. By the end of the day my contractions picked up again. Throughout the night they continued and I was very uncomfortable. Soaking in the tub seemed to help for a while, but eventually no matter what I did the contractions kept getting stronger and I couldn’t find a way to relax through them.
By now I had been up all night and it was the morning of the 17th. Things felt a lot different this morning. For one, I was physically weak for laboring the past two days, but I also felt like this could be the day – or at least I hoped it was. I began to doubt if my body would last a third day of labor. I remember crying at one point because I just couldn’t find a position to get comfortable and relaxed. Once Liz arrived she helped calm me down and get me back into “the groove” of anticipating a contraction and breathing through it. This helped tremendously. She heated up a cup of raspberry tea and I ate a small breakfast. Afterward I felt things really begin to pick up. Contractions grew closer together and then I vomited! As weird as it sounds vomiting seemed to really help. I felt a lot better afterward and more confident that this was it. My water still had not broken so I continued to labor at home. However, my parents grew more uncomfortable with me staying at home because they worried about the baby’s health. The really wanted me to head to the hospital soon and get hooked up to a monitor. To put them at ease, we listened to baby’s heartbeat and all sounded fine.
I took a nap and when I woke up I felt like it was time. We headed to the hospital for the second time around at 11am on the 17th. I anxiously awaited my cervical check, hoping and praying that I made some sort of progress. What great news it was to hear I was 5 cm! We all rejoiced! I was half way there! The nurse hooked me up to the monitors and I remember feeling a warm gushing sensation between my legs – my water broke naturally! More great news! Today would be the day for sure!
Yet, despite all this good news I still had one huge concern – I hadn’t heard from my husband, Aaron. Aaron was deployed to Afghanistan and could not be sent home for the birth. We had planned for him to watch via Skype and had done a trial run with the laptop in the hospital just to be prepared. However, I hadn’t heard from him in several days and I was beginning to get worried. He had not replied to any of the messages I sent him to let him know I was in early labor. I know he wouldn’t dream of missing the birth of our first child so I knew something had to be up.
Tracey, my stepmom and wonderfully supportive coach had set up the laptop next to my bed and we all anxiously waiting for Aaron to show up. About that time my cell phone rang and I was right in the middle of a contraction so I ignored the call. It was a number I didn’t recognize anyway. The next thing I knew my dad walked in and handed me HIS phone and told me someone wanted to say hello. It was Aaron! He acquired a satellite phone and that was the strange number that dialed me moments earlier. Thankfully he knew to get a hold of my dad. It was so comforting to hear his voice. Aaron had been sent on a last minute mission at a different base and was stuck on a helicopter pad waiting for his flight back to his home base where he could Skype. Somehow he managed to get a computer while he was waiting and connected to Skype and was there for the entire birth. What an awesome answer to prayer! I look back on this series of events and can’t help but think the first 48 hours or so of my labor was just Will stalling and waiting to make more progress so his dad could be there to watch. God’s timing is truly perfect!
Over the next few hours I alternated various positions and remained relatively relaxed. Having Aaron there gave me a new surge of energy and confidence. However, Dr. Gentile came in and shared some discouraging news – the baby was transverse and if he didn’t rotate I would be c-sectioned. I was so determined to have a natural birth, and I wasn’t going to let this stop me. Liz turned me on my side and I began rubbing my stomach and asking Will to turn for me. Sooner or later he did! I lost track of time, but I knew I was making progress because I felt an increased of pressure in my pelvis.
Then I hit my breaking point. I remember sitting on the toilet, with my legs quivering, my body physically exhausted after over 50 hours of labor and thinking I just can’t do it. My poor legs were not going to make it. They could barely hold my body up and questioned whether I had the strength to go on. Somewhere down deep I found it and made it to the pushing stage.
Pushing was a whole new sensation. I don’t remember having any pain or really even feeling the contractions at all during this part. I kept asking, “Do I push now?” I was so excited and overwhelmed once I started to see Will’s head that I was just determined to push and push until I could see more of him. I made sounds I never thought I could make. My voice became horse, but I didn’t care because it all moved me closer to seeing my baby. Using the mirror to see my progress helped me find new energy to push on. When Will finally arrived and I heard his first cry I could not believe it was all over. The nurses laid him on my breast and all I could do was cry happy tears and thank the Lord and all those around me for their support. Everyone worked together so beautifully to make Will’s Birthday one of the most special moments in my life!
I think back on this moment and am amazed how someone as shy and reserved as myself could be this open and exposed. My fears of the IV and blood draw were all pushed aside once labor began and I was poked and prodded without even a flinch! Will’s birth helped me discover a new strength I never knew I had and made me develop an even greater appreciation for the support of my family, (especially my stepmom, Tracey) while my husband is gone. I could not have done this without all their loving assistance.
Having endured over 60 hours of labor has given me confidence to do almost anything! In fact, I am considering running a marathon this next year. The great thing about natural childbirth is that my body is healing so quickly that I’ll be back to running in no time!