If you have not read Part 1 of Felix’s birth story, you can read it here. Also, this was our birth plan. Warning: The following contains a few graphic details of my experience. If you don’t like hearing about the gory details of childbirth, then don’t read it:) Also, please be aware that what I’ve written is either how I remember things happening or what I was told afterwards by Eric and our doula. The order of events, especially during transition and pushing, is a little hazy to me. Felix Todd April 3, 2013 3:37 am 8 pounds, 9 ounces; 21 inches Born at 41 weeks according to ovulation charting (41 weeks and 1 day according to dating ultrasound)
After realizing that my water had not broken, we went home and had dinner. I didn’t eat much because I wasn’t very hungry and I was kind of afraid to get too much in my stomach. Our daughter was still with my in laws and we told them to go ahead and keep her because we thought tonight would be the night. After dinner, I was chatting online and sitting on an exercise ball when I noticed that the contractions seemed to be getting stronger and were now coming more like 2 to 3 minutes apart. I could still talk through them but they were definitely getting more intense. I decided to go ahead and take a shower so that we could head to the hospital at some point. Also, I knew it would help to relax me through the contractions. While I was in the shower, Megan (our doula) texted me to see how things were going and my husband texted back that our contractions were now 2 to 3 minutes apart. She suggested that we go ahead and head to the hospital once we got out of the shower. I was glad that she had suggested that because I was feeling a little lightheaded and slightly nauseous, probably more from being anxious than from anything else, but it did worry me a little and I felt like there had been some changes. I also did not want to have to sit through all the stuff they do in triage while I was in a lot of pain, and I knew the hard stuff was coming soon.
When we got to triage, we were sent back so that I could be checked again. The same ER doctor from our first visit was there and she asked if I was going to let them keep me this time. At this point I was 6 cm, so I was admitted. We gave the nursing staff our birth plan and from there on out, they followed everything completely. I wasn’t sure how it all would work, but I was pleasantly surprised. We never had to ask for them to do anything specific because they followed it perfectly. They then inserted a heplock (instead of an IV) and then took us to our room. The heplock made it so there was a place to give me fluids or medication if needed, but I didn’t have to be hooked up to the IV pole the entire time.At this point, I was still feeling the contractions but I could easily breathe through them.
When we got to the room, I decided I wanted to rest just a little while the contractions weren’t so bad. I got into the bed so they could monitor the baby. (We had requested intermittent monitoring which translated to about 20 minutes of monitoring every hour.) My husband was using heat packs on my back while Megan rubbed my feet to keep me relaxed. I also turned on our “Early Labor” playlist. Even though I may have technically been in active labor, I felt like calming music would be more effective at that point. I kept thinking about how different this labor already was from the first time. I couldn’t believe that I was able to tolerate these contractions so easily. Even the nurse commented about how relaxed I was when she came to check in on us.
A little later, I decided to get up and try to get things moving. During that time, I got in the shower several times, used the birthing ball, and tried to do some squats, though squatting during contractions got more and more painful as the contractions got more intense. I also used my “Active Labor” playlist I had put together beforehand. It finally got to the point where I couldn’t talk through the contractions very easily. The nurse came in to check for progress and I was in between a 6 and a 7. I remember feeling very discouraged and saying that I didn’t think I could do this anymore, but Megan and Eric kept reassuring me that I could. Things continued to get more intense and more painful, and at the next cervical check, I was finally at 7 cm and my cervix had completely moved forward. I felt like it took forever to get from 6 to 7 but Megan continued to assure me that things would probably (hopefully) move more quickly at this point.
Throughout the night, our doctor had been dropping in just to see how things were going. I found out later he had at least 2 other VBAC’s going on and other doctors kept asking him to scrub in on their c sections because he was there, so he had a really busy night! Around 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning, he stopped in and was trying to decide if he should go home or just crash there at the hospital. When he was told my water was still intact, he opted to go home. He told the nurse to call if anything changed and if not, he would see me in the morning. As he was leaving, I remember saying “I am NOT doing this until morning!” Megan had to remind me that things could change very quickly and that I may not be doing this until morning.
By this time, we were trying to get my water to break so that things would pick up. I kept wanting to get in the shower but even that wasn’t working as well as it had been to cope with the contractions. I was really worn out and tired and all I really wanted to do was lay down and rest, but that was no longer an option because the contractions were too intense and it took a lot of focus and concentration to get through them. I also remember feeling really hot from the hot showers and the heat packs. Megan and Eric kept turning the air up for me even though they were both freezing. I laughed when they finally told me they were cold, because I am typically cold and Eric is almost always hot, so for him to be cold meant that it must have really been cold.
At one point, I ended up back in the shower and begging both Megan and Eric for “funny stories” to try to distract myself from the pain. Megan kept asking me to do the squats during the contractions to get my water to break, but it was so painful that I either “couldn’t” do it or “couldn’t” do it for very long. Luckily, after just a few of them, my water broke part of the way. I remember standing in the shower and all of a sudden seeing a big rush of blood going down the drain. Immediately afterwards, I started to feel a lot of pressure and felt almost like I had to push. Megan insisted that I get out of the shower as soon as the contraction was over. She told me to make my way to the bed and she would call the nurse so that I could be checked again. We thought we were getting close and if so, we needed to call the doctor as soon as possible so that he could get back to the hospital in time to deliver the baby. While I know another doctor could have done it, we had developed a really positive relationship with our doctor and we knew he was ok with everything we had planned. When the nurse came in and checked me again, she said I was 9 cm, and my water finished breaking while I was lying in the bed. I knew we had to be getting close, because I felt really strong urges to push and I wasn’t really able to keep from pushing. My doctor was called and I was told that he would be there shortly and that he was only 10 minutes away. At that point, the whole “team” started to show up for the birth. I remember trying to make jokes to distract myself from the pain. I’m pretty sure I said this was our last child because I “wasn’t going to do this again.” Then, I said something like “I guess it’s too late for the epidural.”
I remember being on the bed on my hands and knees and trying to breath in such a way to keep myself from pushing until I was in a position I could easily deliver in. I ended up in this position only because it allowed me to rock back and forth to cope with the contractions. I was in this position for quite awhile but the nurse couldn’t get a good heart rate on the baby. I also did not plan to deliver in this position but felt like I was stuck and couldn’t get turned around very easily. The ER doctor (the same one from before!) was called to my room in case my doctor didn’t make it. Apparently (though I didn’t hear it), she made a comment that that position was a hard one to deliver in and that she would need me to be on my back if she was going to deliver the baby. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t hear that comment, because even though I wasn’t sure of the position I wanted to be in when I delivered, I knew for sure that I did not want to be on my back. (I delivered Anya while on my back and it felt really unnatural to do it that way.) While I was waiting for my doctor to arrive, I couldn’t not push. I will never understand how some women are told to wait to push for whatever reason because it really was not an option. At that point, it was involuntary and the contractions pushed the baby down further even if I didn’t consciously try to bear down. I remember saying that I had to push, though Megan was trying to get me to just “nudge” a little. She knew it was important to me that our doctor be the one to deliver the baby so she was trying to help me buy a little more time until he could get there.
It’s really funny what I remember and the thoughts that ran through my head while I was in transition and pushing. I was trying so hard to focus but I heard bits and pieces of conversations going on around me. I remember walking out of the bathroom completely naked even though a bunch of nurses were showing up for the birth. I remember not caring until they told me my doctor was in the building, and then all of a sudden, I was worried about making sure I had some kind of clothing on. Apparently, that was all in my head, though, because no one else remembers me saying anything about it. I also remember hearing some of the nurses comment that I was “so controlled.” I remember thinking it was funny, because I didn’t always feel “controlled!” Afterwards, one of them said I did better than some of their epidural patients, so at least I didn’t get mean or anything at the end.
When my doctor finally arrived, he made some joke about being confused and almost driving to the wrong hospital. I was told later that he also commented about having never delivered a baby in the position I was pushing in. However, Megan thought he would have been up for it but wasn’t sure how he was going to do it at that point. As I was pushing, I remember Megan saying that I could make noise but to make low sounds. I remember reading about that in an Ina May Gaskin book…something about how low sounds help to open things up down below, so I tried my best to do that.
I remember bits and pieces of the music that was playing at certain times. Bob Marley was on at some point after our doctor arrived, because I remember him commenting on it. It’s Time by Imagine Dragons came on right as we were getting ready to push the baby out and I remember Eric and Megan commenting that it was fitting. At some point, we switched to my “Pushing” playlist and I think a Bon Jovi song was playing when Felix was born, just because I remember our doctor saying something about really liking that song. Unfortunately, we totally forgot to switch the music to the “After” playlist once Felix was here, but we have been listening to that in the mornings at our house instead.
Eventually I was able to turn on my side so that they could get a heart rate to be sure the baby was tolerating this stage of labor, and thankfully, he was. He crowned while I was in a side-lying position but I eventually ended up sitting up at the edge of the bed with my feet in the pedals. Just being able to sit up made it so much easier than being flat on my back. Our son was delivered in this position. It felt like it took forever to push him out, but my husband swears it was only 10 or 20 minutes. I remember the doctor saying “hold on” and then saying that he had to move Felix’s hand out of the way. Apparently, our little guy tried to come out with his hand up by his face. The doctor moved his hand out of the way so he wouldn’t twist his arm when he came out and then Felix reached out and grabbed the doctor’s hand. I remember hearing the doctor say something like “he’s strong!”
They handed me our son immediately afterwards while he was still attached. I remember wondering why he wasn’t crying as someone suctioned him, but it took only a few seconds after that for him to open his mouth and cry a little. I kept trying to pull him closer to me because I forgot that we had asked them to pulse the cord for at least 3 minutes. After about 3 minutes, my husband cut the cord and I was able to pull him closer to me so we could nurse. Looking back, it’s a good thing I wasn’t on my back or the cord probably wouldn’t have stretched far enough for me to hold him immediately after he was born. I either wouldn’t have gotten him right away or they wouldn’t have been able to pulse the cord.
One thing I hadn’t given much thought to when planning a natural birth is that I would be able to feel everything afterwards so much more. For example, this time I could actually feel the placenta being delivered and they even asked me to push a little to help get it out. I had some second degree tears that needed to be repaired and because I didn’t have an epidural, I was able to feel the needle go in that would numb things while my doctor did the repairs. It wasn’t nearly as bad as what I had just gone through and it wouldn’t have changed my mind about how we wanted to do things, but I had totally forgotten about this part. Luckily, I was holding my son, so I was very easily distracted. The staff delayed all of the newborn procedures until after we had had a chance to bond, as was stated in our birth plan. It was so cool to know that I was one of the first things Felix saw when he entered the world as his own little person.
When people ask me how long our labor was, I don’t really know what to say. I feel like we had bouts of early labor for weeks beforehand, but none of it was too intense or difficult. I think we arrived at the hospital around 9:30 in the evening and Felix was born at 3:37 am, which comes out to be about 6 hours of labor at the hospital. However, the hard stuff didn’t start until I was halfway between 6 and 7 cm. My guess is that the difficult part of my labor was probably something like 4 hours. Ultimately, our doctor was totally right about things going quickly once my water was broken. I don’t know the exact times, but I would guess that Felix was probably born within an hour after my water broke in the shower.
I do have to admit that immediately after Felix’s birth, I remember thinking that I didn’t know if I ever wanted to do that again. That being said, once I had the time to process the whole experience over the next week, the more I realized how glad I was to have had the experience we had. Even now, a little over 3 weeks later, I still can’t believe we were able to do everything completely naturally and without medical intervention. It was really cool to allow things to happen the way they are supposed to and to not be made to feel that we needed any kind of medical intervention. And while it was frustrating to wait to have our baby until 41 weeks, it was well worth the wait to be able to have the experience we had. While we were waiting for Felix, almost everyone we knew who was pregnant had all had their babies, either due to elective inductions or inductions related to medical reasons. Though we didn’t feel so lucky, I suppose we really should be thankful that I was healthy enough throughout our pregnancies to carry both our children past 40 weeks and that I was able to work right up until we had them. We should also be grateful that both our children were healthy enough that we could wait it out. Having had two completely different birth experiences, I noticed a lot of differences between the two. Stay tuned for another post discussing my comparison between the two births and reflections on my postpartum recovery with Felix.