I was due on March 29th, 2012, and my partner Jordan and I were planning on having an unmedicated birth at our home with a midwife we both loved. We had taken the Bradley Method classes and Jordan was a certified Bradley birth coach, so we were excited and felt prepared! This is our story of how our son, Benson came into the world.
On March 16th I had gone to painting class and didn’t feel well at all. My feet were so swollen and I was feeling puny and tired. Late that night, I began experiencing very mild contractions every 7-8 minutes. After weeks of random Braxton-Hicks contractions, it was kind of exciting to have something going on that felt a little more productive. After another sign of impending labor, I let Jordan know what was going on and he thought we had better let our midwife know just so she would be aware that things might be only days away. Turns out, our midwife was actually out-of-town which wouldn’t have been a big deal because I was still nearly 2 weeks away from my due date. She let us know that she’d make her way home soon and that she had a back-up for us just in case.
On the 17th, the contractions continued and my in-laws came up to take me out in celebration of my birthday. I walked around a lot, having to pause every contraction. Later that night, my family came up to visit and stay the night. The contractions fizzled out that night after 24 hours. I was a little frustrated, but it had felt too early to meet our little baby anyway.
The next day (March 18th) was a Sunday and we attended church with my family. Several people commented on how swollen my feet were, and my mom noticed that my flip flops were making deep red lines on the top of my feet. I was scheduled for an appointment with my midwife that Wednesday, but she recommended I go ahead and get my blood pressure checked at a clinic just to be safe. (For those who don’t know, high blood pressure during pregnancy along with swelling, sudden weight gain, and protein excreted in your urine are all indicators of pre-eclampsia which is very dangerous for mom and baby.)
At the clinic, my blood pressure was very high in comparison to what it had been at all my check-ups, so I was instructed by my mom, midwife, and husband (who were all communicating behind my back so not to make me anxious) to lay on my left side in bed, drink water, keep my feet up, and rest. My midwife sent us to one of her fellow midwives to get my urine checked for protein. There wasn’t a trace of it which was reassuring but the blood pressure was still a concern. Jordan monitored my blood pressure with an at-home machine every 2-3 hours that night and kept a record of it.
The next morning (the 19th, my 22nd birthday) he was in contact with my mom and midwife. After telling the results of the monitoring me, and the fact that I had a headache, was still very swollen in my face, and realized I had gained 15 pounds of fluid in less than a week, they insisted I go to the hospital to at least get monitored (they all knew I would most likely be induced, but decided not to tell me this fact.) We also touched base with our birth class instructor who gave Jordan some last-minute encouragement.
At first, I was absolutely heartbroken. I had planned on having a beautiful, low-key home birth, and through my whole pregnancy, there was never an indicator that I was going to be high-risk. After an emotional breakdown, I pulled myself together and packed a hospital bag, rewrote our birth-plan to fit a hospital setting, and then remained on my left side until my parents showed up and followed us to the hospital. We prayed all the way there that things would go well, that I might magically be fine and get to come home, and especially that we would be put with a good medical team. At this point we were still in denial that we might come home with a baby.
I got checked into triage where they monitored my (mild and random) contractions and blood pressure. At this point, I was sick of being monitored and pouting that my birthday involved hospital gowns. After nearly three hours, we were told that induction was necessary. They called it gestational hypertension which would likely turn into pre-eclampsia, and the only cure was to get the baby out.
After throwing a fit about this not being how I wanted things to go, I was checked in to labor and delivery and told my options for induction. The one that sounded the best was a pill called cytotec, which is placed in the cervix to soften it. A dose is given every four hours as needed until I go into labor on my own.
I was already a centimeter and a half dilated upon arriving (so the 24 hours of random contractions definitely did something!). A half dose of cytotec was given at 8pm, and I was told that it probably wouldn’t do anything until the second or third dose, so not to get too excited.
At 12am I was checked again and had made it to 3cm and my contractions were steady and consistent. The hospital midwife said that because I had made such progress, I could go off the fetal monitoring for a while and walk around to see if things continued to get stronger. (If they fizzled out after about 2 hours, I would be given another dose.) I was sick of sitting around so I definitely opted to be on my own. The cytotec was completely out of my system so I knew if things progressed, it was my own body taking over.
I walked the halls with Jordan for a long time, and took a shower at 2am. In the shower, I did squats mostly because I was antsy and wanted to move around as much as possible, but also hoping that would help things progress so I wouldn’t need another dose. As soon as I got out of the shower, my water broke. The nurses didn’t believe me at first (they had told me that hardly anyone goes into labor on their own after only a half dose).
I was chipper in between the contractions, but they were steadily getting harder and I wasn’t able to talk during them.
I was very excited and continued to walk the halls with Jordan, now having to lean on him or the railing during contractions which were about 4 minutes apart. I was chipper in between the contractions, but they were steadily getting harder and I wasn’t able to talk during them (though apparently a few F words slipped out. Oops.).
I spent a few contractions bouncing on the birthing ball, sitting over the toilet, and standing. After a few hours, sometime around 4am, I was so tired and in a lot of discomfort, I curled up on my side in bed and kept my eyes closed. I felt so much pressure, and the contractions were coming harder and faster. They felt like huge waves hitting me, which in a way was actually nice because I could feel the gradually building in strength, peak, and fade away. I appreciated the breaks between so much and actually fell into a deep sleep in between them. I could only say short sentences, like “this is hard”, “shut-up”, “don’t touch me”, etc. Cool wash cloths, ice chips, Gatorade, and small bits of food like fruit and yogurt were all much appreciated.
Jordan, my midwife, and my mom were SO awesome at encouraging me. They stood around me coaching me in my breathing and telling me I was doing awesome. So much of this part was mental. I had to really control my thoughts, because if I focused on how bad it hurt and how much I wanted it to just STOP, it would actually hurt worse. I had to keep breathing steady and concentrating on completely relaxing every part of my body.
I can’t tell you accurately what time things happened, who all was in the room at what point, or how often I got up and tried different positions. I was so internally focused and on auto pilot, I felt like nothing around me mattered! I didn’t even pay attention to how many centimeters they told me I was at what point because I knew I was making progress (I could feel it!) and I knew my body would tell me when to push.
Sometime later in the morning, the contractions got even harder and they were hitting me two at a time (I remember thinking “this isn’t even fair!”) I threw-up about 5 times, and each time I heaved, I felt the baby settling lower and lower in my pelvis (very bizarre feeling by the way.)
At some point, probably around 10am, my body started pushing on its own! It freaked me out, and I actually announced “I’m NOT doing this, you guys, I can’t help it!” It felt too early to be pushing (As much pain as I was in, I felt like it went by too fast and I should be in labor longer!) I felt like my body was being wrung out like a dishrag and I couldn’t help but grunt. I insisted I needed to go to the bathroom, and as I was sitting on the toilet, having those crazy pushing contractions, the nurse told me to get off the toilet and back into the bed because the baby was definitely coming!
I came out of the bathroom complaining to the entire room that I REALLY needed to go to the bathroom, that they put the squatting bar on the bed wrong, that my hospital gown was itchy, and probably complaining about a dozen other things. I ended up sitting on the foot of the bed, holding onto the squatting bar, and finally FINALLY I got to work WITH my contractions, not against them! It honestly felt so good to push. The pain of the contractions felt so productive, and I had such a surge of energy! Each contraction, I would lean against the squatting bar, and push about 3 times, then I would relax back onto Jordan who was sitting behind me. I felt like only after a few hard pushes, I could see the head in a mirror they had brought out for me.
At 11:14am on March 20th, after about 30 minutes of pushing/relaxing, and some great breathing instructions from my own midwife, I was told to reach down and pick up my baby. I scooped him up and held him to my chest and completely forgot about the pain! He was bright-eyed and stared right at me. I burst into tears of joy, Jordan announced it was a boy, and after what seemed like forever, little Benson cried for the first time and then started breastfeeding. After the chord stopped pulsing, Jordan cut it, and at some point I delivered the placenta. But I was so in awe of the little tiny life in my arms, I hardly remember any details.
I sat back in bed and got to hold my little baby skin-on-skin on my chest for two whole hours. Eventually Jordan carried him over to be washed off and weighed. I made a few phone calls, announced the arrival online, and then we were taken to a smaller room where I curled up with my baby and watched the sunset through the window.
I’m so glad we took the Bradley Method classes because even though we planned on delivering at home in a low-risk situation, it really prepared us for a good hospital birth. The classes put a huge emphasis on learning to relax deeply, control your breathing, how to avoid unnecessary interventions at the hospital, and especially husbands being the main birth coach! I couldn’t have done this without Jordan’s strength and encouragement. Every time I opened my eyes during labor to look at Jordan, he would be smiling and gently telling me that I was doing great.
Watching Jordan become a father and seeing this little baby depend on me so much has been two of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.