My labor started around 2am on Tuesday, July 29. I woke up with what felt like strong menstrual cramps, went to the bathroom and went back to bed. I had been having contractions since the day prior and since I could still rest, thought I should get sleep while I could. That only lasted 20 minutes. I woke back up and knew that day would be the day we would welcome our baby.
I got up, trying not to wake my husband or the dogs. I wanted to walk around and let gravity do it's job. I paced around the kitchen for an hour or so before sitting on the exercise ball. The contractions were anywhere from 3-5 min apart and lasting about a minute each. I called my midwife around 4am and we decided I would continue to labor at home and call her back in an hour or so. I was able to rest on the couch in between the contractions, but around 4:30 I thought I should wake up my husband.
What an exciting morning! We called our parents and told them the news - I remember my mom crying to me because she had been sick and was so sad that she wasn't feeling well and I was going in to labor. I told her it would be fine and I would call her when the baby had arrived. My inlaws prepared to get on the road and make the drive from Illinois to stay with our dogs. My husband and I showered and packed up the remaining items we would need to take with us.
At around 5:30 I lost my plug and knew that things were progressing. I had no idea how far along I actually was as I hadn't been checked internally at any of my prenatal visits. We left for the birthing center around 6am. I remember saying goodbye to our dogs - and promising them that we'd return with their baby brother or sister.
I knew I needed to eat something, but wasn't hungry. Traffic wasn't too bad, but I remember wondering what I looked like to cars that passed by - holding onto the side bar of the door, the faces I was probably making. I tried to eat some frozen berries in between contractions and drank as much water as I could.
We arrived to the birthing center and my midwife checked me. I was 100% effaced and 4.5 centimeters dilated. She wanted me to walk around as much as I could - and I knew it would be good for me, but the last thing I wanted to do was walk. We settled in to our room and stayed put. My husband got me some food and kept refilling my water bottle. I sat in the rocking chair listening to the Mumford & Sons Pandora station - rocking and saying to myself "down and open". I wanted to move the baby down and allow my body to open to welcome her. After drinking so much water, I needed to use the bathroom - at that point walking was difficult. I decided to just stay on the toilet and labor there.
Sitting there allowed my hips to open more and there was a nice cold wall I could rest my head on in between contractions. I actually fell asleep in between each one. My poor husband - just sat there with me. We didn't talk much but I knew he was there and that was all that mattered to me. At some point a midwife came and asked if I wanted to take a shower. We thought the water hitting my back and belly may feel good - and boy was she right. I was able to stay in there for awhile and could hold onto the shower bars while doing lunges to try and move the baby - as she had flipped to a different side and wasn't quite in the position we wanted her in. After the shower I returned to the toilet - "down and open".
Around 1pm I moved to the tub to labor there. Oh, what a wonderful feeling. I felt like I was floating and could just sit and let my belly feel the water around it. I don't recall how long I labored there for, but I believe it was a couple hours. All throughout the day, both mine and baby's heart rates were good and strong - no signs of distress from either of us. My husband just continued to fill up my water bottle - the last thing I wanted was to drink water, but the midwives kept telling me that I would feel better after delivery if I was well hydrated. From the time I was on the toilet my body was bearing down - I wasn't pushing, but I could feel my body tense up and bear down through each contraction - almost like a dry heave. Since I had been doing that for hours, the water I was drinking was burning as I felt almost like I was experiencing acid reflux. They brought me in something else to drink to try and help with that.
After the tub I went back to the bed to try and get in different positions to move the baby. She still hadn't flipped to the other side and the lip of my cervix was over her head. I remember being shifted into different positions to try and move her and when that didn't work my midwife had to reach in, while I was pushing, to try and slide it over her head. It took awhile, but eventually we made it. Since the baby was now in a better position I moved back to the shower. This time I just used the bars in the shower to hold onto while I pushed in a squatting position. The gravity helped, although this was, by far, the hardest part of my labor.
There were only a few times that my head would start to wonder how much longer this would take - never once did it tell me I couldn't do it though. As soon as I would let my mind wander, I'd bring it back - "down and open". There were times I felt like my body would rip in two, it hurt and it burned but I knew I could do this, I felt strong and confident in my body's ability to birth her. I remember one midwife telling me that after 2 more contractions I could move back to the tub and deliver my baby. Those 2 contractions seemed to take forever, but when she told me that we'd be eating dinner with our baby that night, I knew I was in the home stretch and I just wanted to hold that sweet child!
After those two contractions were through and her head was crowning, we began to move (waddle) back to the tub. Just before I was to get into the tub I started to bleed so they moved me back to the bed and told me I could get in the tub and soak after I had the baby. My dreams for having a water birth were gone, but at that point I didn't care - I just wanted to meet my baby.
There were no clocks in our rooms, so I had no idea what time it was - other than the midwife's reference to dinner time, I assumed it was between 4-6pm. I remember being extremely sweaty, and feeling like I smelled awful - I believe I even apologized for that (of course, I would!). I continued to push and her hand came out with her head and I was so relieved that her head was out. I felt my midwife wiggling her around and turning her to get the rest of her body out. At 5:18pm they laid that slippery baby on my chest. I couldn't believe it - we were parents! We just held each other, held her and cried.
At one point the midwife referred to Olive as 'buddy' so I thought she was a boy. I kept asking what we had, what was it? One midwife replied, "didn't you look?" Finally I saw that she was a girl - "we have a daughter? It's a girl?" I was overjoyed. Most people, including us for awhile, thought we were having a boy. Secretly I was dreaming for a daughter, so when I realized she was a girl, my heart rejoiced! This is exactly how I imagined it - a peaceful labor, a strong and confident delivery and a baby girl with a strong heart rate. She looked at us, but she didn't cry.
We would never hear her cry.
*I'm choosing to end this part of the story here - as the 29th of the month seems to be a tough enough day for me. I will share the remaining moments in Olive's life in another post. Today, on her 2 month birthday, it's important for me to focus on the positives of her birth story.