I am strong because I labored for 27 hours and pushed for an hour and a half on three hours of sleep and without any pain medication.
WARNING: This is a birth story. If reading about childbirth isn’t your thing, you might want to skip this post.
Labor was harder than I expected. Yes, I had done plenty of reading since I wanted to give birth without pain medication and plenty of people had told me it was the hardest thing they had ever done. But going into labor I didn’t want to have a lot of preconceived notions since every labor is different.
I told others I was trying to prepare myself mentally for a long (maybe 24 hour labor?) that I had heard other first time moms have had. But I wasn’t really. I didn’t know how to prepare for the mental and physical stamina it takes. You can’t really prepare for it, can you? Thankfully, adrenaline and hormones kicked in to help. Plus…
I am SO glad that I went into labor with a wonderful support team!! I had a wonderful Doula, Brooke, who had given me great resources and helped me think through how she and Matt could be a support for me during labor. Normally, when I’m in pain I bottle it all up and draw into myself. Brooke said that would not work with labor – and she was right!
Baby Pool’s due date came and went and I wasn’t concerned. I knew I would go late with the pregnancy. Actually, early on in the pregnancy I had told Matt I thought our baby would come on June 24th, because that would be at 41 weeks and 3 days. One of the articles my doula Brooke sent me stated that it is very common for women to give birth during their 41st week.
The week of my due date extended family on my mom’s side all came down to Lawrence briefly on their way to Branson. I really wanted to go on the vacation as well, but I would be too far away from New Birth Company where I was to deliver. After my due date came and went, practically everyone in the family decided to try and guess what day Baby Pool would be born. Everyone’s guess was within the 40th week. My husband wanted the baby to be born June 16th (2 days late), Father’s Day. I decided to go ahead and bet on the 20th (still thinking in my mind that the baby would come after that).
After the 20th came and went, our next hope was that the full moon on Sunday, June 23rd would cause me to go into labor. Not only was it a full moon, but it was a super moon, and the biggest super moon of the year! Surely that will cause our baby to come out! I think it did…
Ain’s Birth Story and How I Realized I am Strong
Friday, June 21st (exactly 41 weeks) we had a non-stress test for Baby Pool and also a bio-physical sonogram. Our Baby was very healthy, scoring 8 out 8! At the sonogram we asked for them to verify the sex of the baby. (We had a sonogram at 18 weeks and the sonographer had said he was 90% sure it was a girl. I had even decorated our “Baby Girl’s” nursery). At 41 weeks, the womb was very crowded and the sonographer had a hard time telling, but she thought it was a boy! We were shocked. We decided not to tell family and realized that this baby is going to be a mystery baby after all.
Since I was not dilated at all, we made a plan of action for the weekend – lots more walking, some lunges, etc. We would come back in on Sunday for a membrane sweep. I also made plans for an acupuncture session on Sunday. We wanted this baby to come within the week so I could deliver at the New Birth Company (and not be transferred to a hospital).
Thankfully, we did not have to wait long and we did not need to take any measures to start labor. I awoke at 4am on Sunday, June 23rd with a contraction. More contractions followed, as did the full moon. Contractions were nine minutes apart for the first hour, but then they quickly progressed to about six minutes apart.
I called Brooke at 5:15am and she suggested I hop in the shower to see if that would slow them down. It didn’t. At about 6:45 am contractions were about four and a half minutes apart and a little stronger than before. We had called the New Birth Company and knew Brooke was on her way, so we decided to try and go for a walk. We didn’t get very far when a contraction came pretty quickly and I felt my water leak.
We called the New Birth Company again and they wanted me to come in at 10am and check to see if my water had started to break. Brooke arrived right before 8am and since we didn’t have to worry about packing the car (it had been packed since week 39), we decided to distract ourselves in other ways. I tried to eat a breakfast. Then we went to Ace Hardware and walked around the outside tents full of flowers. I picked out something we would bring with us to the birth suite to be my focal point for contractions.
At the New Birth Company
After that, we headed to the New Birth Company (NBC). As soon as we got in the car my water broke. Thankfully we were prepared with a towel in the car! The midwife on call, Sarah, met us at the NBC at 10am and checked my dilation (which caused the rest of my water to break). I was between 4 and 5 cm so we were admitted to the birthing suite.
Once we got settled, Sarah urged me to continue walking since my contractions seemed to be spacing out a bit. Unfortunately it was way too hot and humid to walk outside, so we just walked the halls. I was pretty tired as I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before so I also rested a bit, leaning over an exercise ball through contractions. At 1pm when Sarah checked I was between 5 and 6 cm. We were happy with the progress, but there was still work to do!
As I expected, back pain and thus back labor was the hardest. Through every contraction, my back was hurting me the most. What got me through it was definitely either Matt or Brooke providing counter pressure on my back through every contraction. As the contractions got stronger I also had to use one of the pain coping techniques I had practiced: non-focused awareness. Instead of focusing on the pain I would focus my attention and mind on something else – usually a leaf blowing right outside the window, or an object we had brought with us (like the flowers or a candle).
At 3pm Sarah checked back in and I was at 6 cm dilated. We tried various things to try and get my body produce stronger contractions. Brooke suggested to the midwife that maybe the baby was asynclitic, meaning the head was cocked to one side and not applying strong, even pressure. Sarah checked me at 5pm and confirmed that this was the case.
So Sarah and another midwife, Melissa, thought up some specific laboring positions I could try to get the baby’s head straightened out. I was laboring in each of these positions for about 20 minutes. The most painful, but probably the most effective position was lunging against the side of the tub during contractions. Matt was supporting me on one side and Brooke on the other. Pushing into a deep lunge while having a contraction – not fun, but I did feel the baby move!!
Laboring for this long time was hard. Brooke was so helpful and encouraging (so were the midwife and nurses)! NBC was definitely an environment in which the woman laboring is constantly feeling encouraged and empowered!
I felt empowered! I kept hearing words like ‘strong’, ‘amazing’, ‘brave’, and ‘determined’ as they encouraged me. I became more brave as I heard those words. I believed I had the strength and power to do this as I heard those words over and over.
Did I say how amazing my doula was?
Brooke was great about thinking of little things that would help me: stroking my hair, holding my water bottle so I could get a sip, pressing a cold cloth to my forehead, or suggesting a heat pack for my back.
When I said, “I can’t do this” my husband was really encouraging and would reply with, “I KNOW you can do this. You’ve been doing it for 6 hours. It’s really tough and you are tired, but Betsy you are doing amazing.” I didn’t have much to eat because it didn’t sound good. I tried eating a protein bar, but after the first bite my mouth dried up so much it wasn’t appetizing. I survived on water, smoothies, and juice.
After all the hard work of trying to move the baby’s head, I was able to hop in the shower to relax a bit. Matt was there because even in the shower I wanted the counter pressure on my back through every contraction. After the shower I continued to labor in different positions. My favorite positions were either on my hands and knees on the bed, or just hanging over the ball on the bed.
By 8:30pm I had finally reached 8 cm! I was exhausted and they said I could relax and labor in the tub for a couple of hours. We hoped that by waiting until I at 8 cm to get into the tub that my contractions would not slow down any, but that I could give birth in the tub. But my body really did relax in the tub – it slowed my contractions down.
To get the contractions going again I walked the halls. When I felt a contraction come I would squat, leaning on Matt. Brooke, meanwhile would give me encouragement and provide counter pressure on my back. It was definitely taking a team to coax this baby out!! Everyone was working so hard.
At 1:30am we were all tired and I was at the point were something had to be done. My water had been broken for about 16 hours, which put me at a slight risk for infection. So Sarah recommended antibiotics, castor oil (to stimulate the bowels and in turn stimulate the uterus to get labor going again), and then IV fluids so I wouldn’t get dehydrated. We agreed.
Thankfully, even though it was on everyone else’s minds, it wasn’t nagging me that we could possibly be sent to the hospital (and likely put on Pitocin) if this took longer than 24 hours. I was just focused on doing what needed to be done, moment by moment. Matt later said I was “a different beast during labor”.
They wanted me to drink 4 ounces of castor oil, but I only got a little less than half down! Then they gave me the IV and I settled in to rest in bed with Matt (since the castor oil would take about 2 hours to kick in). It was so nice to rest, even though it was still interrupted every 7-10 minutes with a contraction. Matt was so awesome – I woke him with every contraction so he could apply the counter pressure I needed on my back – for two hours!
I was so glad for the rest – my body really needed it in or for labor to continue. Near the end of the couple of hours rest, each time I had a contraction I also felt the urge to push three times. I couldn’t stop my body from pushing. So when Sarah finally checked me at 5am I was dilated to about 11 cm!!
I started pushing at 5:30 am. This was the hardest part for me. Brooke was by my side with encouragement and a cool rag, and Matt was on my other side holding my hand, maintaining eye contact and urging me to give it my all during pushes. Our midwife, Sarah, was coaching me on how to push. I was encouraged to groan and make low, open noises to help me push. Even with the rest, I was still so physically worn out and pushing was very hard work! I was pushing in a semi-reclined position (which was not helping my back pain). The nurse kept checking Baby Pool’s heartbeat with a dopplar between contractions and the heartbeat was good for most of the hour and a half of pushing. I made good progress for the first hour and then when the top of our baby’s head was visible we seemed to get stuck. Baby Pool’s heartbeat then was at 90, showing signs of distress.
Sarah asked me to get on my hands and knees. She recommended an episiotomy (which is not routine at the NBC) since our baby seemed stuck and needed to come out soon. We agreed and in the next two pushes after our baby’s head was out! Two more pushes and the rest of our baby was born!! It was so amazing how fast it all went once I had the episiotomy!! I kept waiting to feel the “ring of fire” during one of my pushes, but between feeling back pain and just the exertion and concentration of pushing, I didn’t feel it.
Our little one was born at 7:10am on Monday, June 24th! Sarah handed me the baby through my legs and it was so amazing to lift my baby onto my stomach. I think I said something like, “Wow – I can’t believe I’m holding our baby!” I just couldn’t stop marveling at what had just happened. I was in awe and definitely feeling empowered. It’s really hard to describe the feeling.
Looking back and pondering on it, I had been afraid of what I would act like while in labor. I wondered what kind of person would I be – would I shout and scream at my husband? Would I lose control? None of that happened. Even during the hard pushing phase I was very focused on the task at hand and determined to give it my all – I was “in laborland” as they say. I had persevered through a 27-hour-long labor without pain medication. I had not “lost control”.
When I held our baby in my arms I was just so relieved for it to be over. Sarah asked if it was a boy or girl and I held the baby up and said, “It’s a boy!” We were surprised and it was a total shock to all our family.
I admired our son, and it was nothing to deliver the placenta or to be stitched up. Once the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing Matt cut the cord. The nurse just patted him dry with a towel while he was on my chest. Matt and I stared and got acquainted with our son, who had a lot of dark hair and a very precious face – with lips just like mine and eyes like his father’s! He was 7 lbs. 12 oz. and 21 inches long – same size as his father when he was born! We had time together, just the three of us as a family before extended family came to visit at 10am.
Once family arrived, everyone sung “Happy Birth Day” to me and NBC provided us with Apple Crisp (the song and cake NBC does with every birth – isn’t that special?). We announced his name to family: Ain Levi Pool (pronounced like the letter ‘A’ and ‘N’). His names mean ‘Merciful’ and “Gift of God’. He certainly is a very precious gift!
NOTE: I would highly recommend reading these two books in preparation for labor:
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
by Pam England – I did not read this book word for word and actually wish I had more time to read it because I think it’s a very good book to read to help you prepare mentally for childbirth.