I was pretty excited that things were really finally happening—and on a weekend no less! (All of my children have been born on weekends, and I was hoping that it would work out that way again, so my dad would be able to come down for longer than an hour.) I called my parents, and they said they would leave Michigan as soon as they were done babysitting.
Then I tried to calmly wait for Jeff to come home. He took forever. :) Our kids woke up, and I announced that we were going to go on a nice brisk walk. (This was pretty painful for Jeff, because he had played basketball longer than usual and pushed himself really hard—he had not been expecting his wife to want to go on such a long, fast walk.)
Jeff pushed Jill and Danny in the stroller, and we walked from my in-laws' house to the duck pond and back. I was feeling something crampy that I had recently learned were actually contractions. (I had not previously recognized them as contractions, because they were so mild compared to Pitocin-induced contractions.)
We got back to the house, and the kids got out the kites I had purchased on a recent shopping trip. Jeff and I tried to get them flying, but we had little success. It just wasn't quite windy enough. The kids enjoyed it still though.
I went back inside and spoke to my doula again. She told me that with how frequently I was feeling these crampy contractions it would be wise for us to go on up to Dayton, so I got on the computer to look up places to go in Dayton. Meanwhile it was decided that the kids would stay in Cincinnati, so Danny could take a nap. Jeff fed Jill and Danny lunch and then put Danny down for his nap while I packed the hospital bag. (Sadly, I neglected to pack Jeff pajamas.) I put on a Dora DVD for Jill, and we were off.
We decided to go to the National Museum of the US Air Force and walk around while we waited for my contractions to become more "serious." However, Jeff was pretty sure they already were serious due to how frequently they were occurring. (He was keeping time for me, which was good, because I really couldn't keep my mind on the clock even when I tried. Time was meaningless to me that day.)
Suddenly, I really wanted Taco Bell. So, we drove to the Taco Bell across the street from the hospital, and I fulfilled that craving. My doula met us in the parking lot there and suggested that we walk around the main part of the hospital instead of going to the museum. (During the car ride, my contractions had quickened to being about four minutes apart instead of the seven minutes apart they had been when we left the house; however, I was still not impressed by their strength and did not take them as seriously as Jeff and my doula (Eileen) were taking them.)
We walked around the main part of the hospital, and Eileen had lots of suggestions for me. She had me go down stairs sideways (to help the baby descend since it would put my pelvic bones off kilter) and she had me sort of roll through the contractions when they occurred. We talked the whole time, and it was really quite enjoyable.
At this time, when Eileen or Jeff would ask me about a contraction, if it was a more serious one, I would say that it was "less than delightful." At some point, I switched from that somewhat negative phrase to comparing the contractions to each other as more or less "productive" or "useful." (We had watched a Thomas the Train DVD the night before.) So I would tell them how "productive" a contraction was, because contractions really are productive—when you stop thinking of it as pain and start recognizing it for what it is: It is your muscles contracting and moving the baby down and birth beginning. So that was one moment where I switched from a negative mindset to a positive mindset.
Eileen had us rest for a bit. She would place her hand on my belly during contractions, so she could gauge how "serious" the contraction was. She showed Jeff how to tell, too—how my belly would go from feeling more like a volleyball to feeling like a basketball. It was pretty cool to be so in charge of monitoring my own labor and doing what I wanted. We sat for a while, and I showed other signs of labor. I was really flushed and breathless. My contractions were about three minutes apart. I was a little concerned about the fact that the amniotic fluid wasn't continuing to trickle out of me, as it should have with a slow leak, but I was so obviously in labor that I didn't think too much about it.
I really wanted to take my shoes off, because my feet were getting really uncomfortable, so I asked if we could go over and check in at the birth center, and Eileen agreed that it didn't seem too soon, so off we went. I was admitted around 2:00 pm and checked when I learned that my water was not broken, or if it was, it was a really high leak. (Two fern tests determined that my bag was indeed still intact. There are two reasons that could explain why I thought my water had broken when it wasn't.) The nurse wasn't sure whether I should stay or not, because I was only dilated to a four, and while my contractions were very frequent, I didn't really act like I was in labor or like they were very strong (because they weren't really—in my opinion). She agreed that I could stay though, and she would check again in a few hours, and then she would call the doctor to see what he thought.
I got in the shower, and that felt amazing. I lost my mucus plug, and that was cool, because I had never seen it before with my other pregnancies, and I had kind of wondered about it, because it is always mentioned in the books and classes.
Then we walked some more. I bounced and rolled on a birthing ball. Jeff's family showed up with my kids, and we spent some time together. Then they went to go eat dinner. My parents arrived from Michigan, and we ordered dinner to our room. I ate chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I ordered applesauce as well, but I was given angel food cake instead. Bonus! I also ordered a chocolate mousse for dessert, but for some reason I didn't want it. (I ate it later though, and it was amazing!) It was so great to sit in the beautiful room they had given me, bouncing through my contractions on the ball, eating a full meal, and talking to my parents. Fabulous.
During some of the walking, Eileen suggested I "roll" my hips during the contractions. At other times, she encouraged me to rock during them, and near the end, she suggested that I do side lunges during them. All were very helpful!
I was checked again around 7:00 and was pronounced to be dilated to a 4 or 5, but my cervix was really thinned, and it was pronounced that I might as well stay, because by the time I drove back to Cincinnati, it would probably be too late to get back to Dayton. So, I stayed!
During this check, the nurse asked me a few questions, and I was describing the contractions as "assaulting" my body. In the middle of saying the word "assaulting" though, I realized how really negative that word was and stopped myself and said "enveloping" instead. It is amazing what a difference a positive attitude can make!
The contractions were definitely getting more productive, and I could no longer really ignore them, like talk during them, but I could have a conversation in between them. I was shocked at how much more difficult they were to manage when I had to lie on my back for the few checks that I did have.
I kept using the balls, and I got in the shower two times. One of my favorite memories is of Jill coming into the bathroom and mooing with me during my contractions. Low noises are really helpful for managing contractions and relaxing your muscles, so the "moo" sound of a cow is a great one to make. Jill would get right in my face and lean in and moo with me throughout the entire contraction. It was beautiful.
Another sound I made when I was standing up and leaning on Jeff's shoulders during a contraction was kind of a humming, moaning sound. It was also very helpful.
Eventually the kids got cranky, so it was determined that they should go home to be put to bed, so Jeff's family left. This was around 8:00. (Alice was born before they made it home.) A little bit later, I was checked again, and all of a sudden I was dilated to an 8! Eileen could tell that I was nearing the end, and she told the nurse that they should start filling up the tub. I thought they were filling up the tub too soon, because I wasn't in nearly enough pain for it to be the end. She suggested I go on another walk.
My dad, Jeff, and I started going on a walk, but we didn't make it very far, because I starting feeling like I needed to push and go to the bathroom. It was very difficult to walk with that feeling. I also started feeling terrified, because I had read enough to know that feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom was a sure sign that labor was soon, and all of a sudden I was terrified of pushing. (Even with my terror though, I was very careful to not let my body tense up.) I told my dad and husband that we needed to go back to the room. I found Eileen and told her about the pushing urge and told her that I was feeling nauseous. She got a bucket just in case (I never needed it though).
I got in the tub. That was awesome. During contractions I would flip over into a kind of frog position. I would put my lips in the water and blow bubbles. In between contractions I would flip back over to float on my back. My head and toes could each reach a side of the tub, and I was kind of bouncing. At this point, my contractions were like 30 to 40 seconds long, and I had about two minutes in between them, and with each contraction I felt an unbelievable urge to push, but I was still terrified to push, so I didn't.
Around 9:00 (I had been in the tub for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes), I could no longer ignore the need to push and my terror was overcome by the inability to not push. So I started moaning/yelling (I found my war cry, Ames!) and pushing. The noise got my doctor's attention. (He had been waiting with my dad in the "family room" of the birth center.) He advised me of a better position for birthing the baby. (In the frog position, I would have had to catch the baby myself, but I was using my hands to support my weight, so I didn't think I could catch the baby.) I settled in a corner of the tub, partially reclining. I pushed through two contractions in the frog position and two contractions in the reclining position, and then Alice was born!
It is amazing to look back and realize how quickly she actually came. The pushing only lasted a few minutes, but during the pushing, I was convinced that it would never end and had already lasted an unbearable amount of time. The pain and agony was excruciating, but it didn't matter, because I was no longer in control really. I couldn't not push. It was very encouraging to hear Jeff, my mom, Eileen, and the doctor telling me that they could feel or see Alice's head, because I really felt like I was making no progress and Alice would never be born and I would be pushing for the rest of my life or die or something.
And then suddenly, it actually did end. Unbelievable at the time, because I thought it never would end, but it did end, and I didn't die, and I was holding a baby! It was amazing. I felt amazing. I felt powerful. I felt euphoric. I was in shock and ecstatic and overwhelmingly happy. I was so impressed with myself and proud and so in love with my daughter and husband. It was everything that I wanted. My doula was amazing. My husband was amazing. My doctor was amazing. I had the best support team—better than I could have even imagined or wished for, and I got to have my parents there. It was just perfect in so many ways.
(My water did finally break when Alice was crowning.)
Eventually, the umbilical cord stopped pulsating, and Jeff cut the last remaining physical connection between me and my daughter. We discovered that Alice weighed a whopping (for my babies at least!) 9 pounds 1 ounce. I did not tear; I just had a slight abrasion on my urethra. My placenta was delivered intact with just one practically effortless push, and Alice and I were left alone (well Jeff was still there of course) to try to figure out how to nurse. (Why do I always forget how painful that is at first?!)
Oh, and I haven't mentioned it yet, but I found the hypnobirthing skills to be very useful. During the contractions when I could no longer talk and couldn't ignore them, I would think of the various affirmations that I could remember. I also remembered lines from a script my sister prepared for me. Those were the thoughts that got me through the contractions before getting in the tub. Then once I was in the tub, I had the Affirmations track playing from the hypnobirthing CD, and that is what I honed in on during the contractions. So it was very, very helpful. And just the education you receive in general helped me be relaxed and gave me lots of great tips, so I am very glad that I attended.
During a contraction: Twenty-six minutes away from Alice's birth
During a contraction: Twenty minutes away from Alice's birth
In between contractions: Sixteen minutes away from Alice's birth
With my mom: Fifteen minutes away from Alice's birth
With my doula: Eleven minutes away from Alice's birth
During pushing: Two minutes away from Alice's birth
And she's born! (One minute after Alice's birth)
I couldn't have done it without Jeff!
As I held Alice right after giving birth, I kept repeating one phrase over and over again: "I can't believe I did it." I also said, once, "I am never going to do that again." However, even just three days later, I already couldn't really remember how much it hurt and could only remember how awesome it was, and I'm pretty positive I'm going to do it again! :)
Since the birth, I have wondered what made this birth possible. With Jill and Daniel, I approached both births with the mindset that I was going to "try" to go natural. That's what I would always say when someone would ask. "Well, I'm going to try and not get an epidural." "I'm going to try to have a natural birth." "Well, I'm going to try, and we'll see what happens."
With Alice, I obviously did more than try—I finally succeeded.
What made the difference?
- I had a complication free, low risk, healthy birth, unlike my first two.
- I educated myself. I read a lot of books. I watched movies. I read a lot of birth experiences. I joined a home birthing group (because home births have to be natural) and learned from their experiences. I read and listened until natural child birth became my "norm" instead of viewing it was something crazy or martyr-like.
- I found my ideal practitioner and location. I considered home birth, hospital birth, and birth center birth. I interviewed multiple direct entry midwives, certified nurse midwives, and obstetricians. I called various hospitals and spoke to nurses. I searched until I found exactly what I was looking for.
- I attended a natural child birthing class. I am sure I could have done well with the Bradley Method or hypnobabies, but I ended up choosing the hypnobirthing Mongan Method, and it worked fabulously for me. The book had great information, the CDs were a wonderful birthing tool, my instructor had lots of great tips and insight, the classes reinforced everything I had gained from my reading, and my classmates helped me reassure myself that I was not crazy and alone in my desire for a natural birth.
- I hired a doula. I found a companion who would stay with me during the entire labor and coach me along. I view the doctor as the life guard and the doula as the coach. She supported me and was always ready with a suggestion for a new technique for managing the contractions, and she could read my body language very well and always seemed to be one step ahead of me, anticipating what my next need would be.
- I have an amazing husband. Granted, I had the same amazing husband with each birth, but Jeff went on this journey with me. He watched what I asked him to watch; he read what I asked him to read; he attended the classes when I asked him to; he listened to my ramblings; he was patient during all of the times that I changed my mind about what I wanted; he supported all of my decisions. He told me over and over again during my pregnancy that he would do anything I asked, but that I couldn't expect him to be a cheerleader, because that just wasn't in his personality, but he ended up being a perfect "cheerleader."
- I reconstructed my entire opinion of pain. I began to view labor pain as necessary and productive rather than injurious and harmful. I viewed it as something worthwhile, something that through contrast would make my joy even greater. And I realized that fear and tension are a birthing woman's biggest enemies.
That is what I did, and it obviously worked for me. All of those steps combined to assisting me in having the birth I had always tried for and failed to achieve. I hope that all woman are able to have the births that they desire, whatever that may be.