I’m going to post some labor pictures in the next 2 blogs . . . but I promise to stay within the bounds of my PG-13 rating. I left off the previous one when I had just checked in to the hospital. I was in pretty intense pain with the contractions by that point, and I remember feeling sure that the baby would come soon. When I see this picture it makes me want to cry. It perfectly represents my husband during labor. . . he was like a rock. So attentive and caring and never wavered the whole time. He says he had moments of tiredness and emotion but I never saw them. And not only that, but he actually knew what to do to help me. We had done the preparing we needed to do . . . a great birth class and the Bradley book “Husband-Coached Childbirth.”
Honestly much of the labor process is a blur to me. Especially the timeline. . . I know that not long after we arrived I got into the hot tub and stayed there for over an hour, maybe two. My doula had brought some battery operated candles to make it feel relaxing in there, and I would just try to ride out the contractions calmly. I had learned that the best way to cope was to accommodate the pain. To not run from it or resist it, but allow my body to succumb to it on purpose. Sounds crazy but with the hormones at work in your body during labor this is the most effective way to manage contractions. When I felt a contraction coming I would imagine my body was a 13 x 9 pyrex and the pain was pouring in like a cup of warm honey. It never filled up, I always had more room to accommodate more pain. I know it sounds weird but it helped me cope!
We got out of the tub and did another cervical exam I’m guessing around 11:30pm and I was only 6 centimeters! If you’ve been through labor you know how much of an emotional risk it is to know the results of your cervical exam! It is so disheartening to know you’ve been working so hard to have made such little progress.
What I didn’t know (and I’m glad I didn’t) was that the baby at some point during labor had turned back into the posterior position. This can really slow things down and make contractions irregular. Our doula and midwife made it a point not to share this information with me which was actually the best thing. They did tell me that my water had not broken and that it was really strong and unlikely to break on its own, at least for awhile. When my midwife Lin realized things were not progressing as they should she gave me two options. Option 1: break the bag and hope it progresses me faster; Option 2: start an IV with a small amount of pitocin to induce stronger contractions.
I would have picked breaking the bag. . . I did not want to have pitocin because i knew it could bring on the contractions faster and stronger. . . and also because it commonly leads to an epidural which I also didn’t want! I asked Lin what she would suggest. She said pitocin, but said she would do a very small dose, and that although it was an IV I would still be able to move around and not be confined to the bed. I decided to trust her 30 years experience and go with the pitocin. The contractions did come stronger. They continued to intensify throughout the early morning. After hours of this around 6:30am I believe is when I started entering the transition stage. I became so physically and emotionally exhausted that I simply could not find the strength to go on. I also hadn’t eaten hardly anything since breakfast the day before. Transition was difficult for me because the contractions did feel so much more intense and unlike before I could not find any position at all to cope with them well. We tried everything!
Finally I asked if I could go back into the tub. That was the only place I thought might help. So they let me go back in there. At this time I was still trying to be passive with the contractions. To relax myself and let the pain come like I did before. But it was getting so hard! They were taking control of my body. It was the weirdest feeling, like your abdomen is on autopilot.
Not a moment too soon Lin came in and said “go ahead and just push through them.” It was the green light I needed. She knew I was starting to feel the urge to push. I was finally able to do something during the contractions! I was pushing which helped me take an active posture towards them and this made a world of difference emotionally. Something came out of me at that point, an aggressive attitude that decided to hang in there. Honestly I think it was an answer to prayer. God gave me that boost of motivation I needed at just the right time.
To illustrate how disoriented and out of it I was I remember sitting on the toilet after I got out of the tub (one of the best places to be in active labor!) taking one contraction after the other around 7:30am; someone opened the door and I looked out into the labor room from the bathroom and said “who turned the lights on?!” I thought one of the nurses had come in at shift change and flicked on all the lights. It sort of made mad! Then Tara looked at me and said “thats the sun sweetie”. She and David got a good laugh out of that.
I got back on the bed for a cervical exam. I didn’t see this but apparently Lin checked me and looked at David with a thumbs up. The official pushing stage began! It was definitely the climax of the whole experience. I think I’ll have to continue in a 3rd blog . . . the pushing stage was way too significant to describe in a paragraph! Plus I have pictures . . .