Christina’s First Birth: 24 hour relaxed labor, totally unmedicated, arrived at hospital at 10 cm dilation

December 13, 2011

I was Christina’s doula, and I have a lot of amazing memories of this birth. One thing that stands out to me as a truly beautiful moment was her husband, Darren, telling the story of how they met and fell and love, as Christina was pushing. It had everyone in the room smiling, and the love between the two of them was palpable. Christina was amazingly calm and relaxed throughout her long labor and two-and-a-half hours of breathing down and pushing.

So I have to start a little farther back, just to remember everything I was feeling in the days leading up to my sweet little girl’s birth. I was panicking early on that I would go early, simply because I planned to work up to my 39th week because I still had a lot to do before I took my leave. It seemed every pregnant person I knew this year was going early, and I didn’t want to! I was eating lots of protein and even avoiding things that I thought might start labor. Once I passed 37 weeks (which was when everyone seemed to be going), I calmed down and decided that my baby was going to come right on time, actually I was convinced she would come 3 days early on Sept 30 – the day between my birthday and my husband’s.

I went to my doctor on Monday, Sept 26 and knew I was dilated to 1 cm and only about 50% effaced. No big deal, my husband and step son had plans for a concert on Wednesday night, so I was not worried at all about this “status”. We scheduled an appointment for the following Monday (one day after my guess date) but I just knew we wouldn’t need it. Well, the concert came and went – and then I was so ready! My husband and I were doing everything to try and get labor going and have our birthdays all together! I had some good surges on Thursday night, but they turned out to be practice surges. I thought Friday night for a bit that I had started labor in the middle of the night with 3 hours or so of some good surges, but as soon as I would lie down the contractions would stop. Also, I didn’t find them particularly uncomfortable and I just knew they needed to be more painful. From all my hypnobirthing practice and classes, I was expecting to labor without fear and intervention, but I did expect pain. Saturday (my birthday) was especially hard because everyone would call to wish me happy birthday and ask about the baby. Darren kept asking what I wanted to do since it was my birthday, and my plan had been that I would be getting home from the hospital with my sweet baby and having visitors over! Maybe I’m a little obsessed with planning? We decided to head out to IKEA and walk around for a distraction. I knew the walking would be good, and there is so much stuff to look at…it was just what we needed. We just kind of secluded ourselves that night, and I changed my outlook and decided everything was just fine and that my baby would pick her own birthday. On Sunday (my guess date) I only had a few surges here and there, nothing consistent. I read my mom’s pregnancy journal and discovered that I was 5 days late for her, so I just needed to be patient!

So there we were Monday morning at the doctor again, an appointment I thought would be unnecessary because I thought our baby would be here. Again, I was OK to wait and just let my baby progress as she wanted. However, I was at least hoping to hear I had progressed some from the week prior what with all the Braxton Hicks over the weekend, but in fact I was exactly the same. At that point, my doctor wanted to schedule an induction for Saturday or Sunday (41 weeks). I agreed (to set the appointment) because I’m too passive, but in my mind I was freaking out and so was my husband. However, we also scheduled to have my membranes stripped on Thursday if nothing changed by that point. That was far more acceptable to me to move labor along than an induction! Did I mention we were freaking out?

Thank heavens our doula Laura came over that same Monday afternoon. She spent some time giving me a glorious foot massage, working some acupressure points. She really made Darren and I feel better about everything, and gave us some other recommendations for natural labor induction, including a labor stimulation massage. After she left, I decided to call and schedule the massage, and they were able to fit me in the next morning at 9:30. Perfect! We went and picked up some Borage oil and homeopathics that I used before bed. That night, Darren made SPICY curry for dinner, and we all relaxed and watched a movie.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning (October 4), and decided since I was laying there I might as well do some nipple stimulation….and I had a contraction right away! I was so excited, it was different than the BH contractions I had been feeling. About 30 minutes later I got up to use the bathroom, to discover my birth show. Hooray! I was so excited; I knew I was going into labor today. My baby was coming! I continued to have contractions about every 20-30 minutes that morning, not too strong but I could tell it was starting. I took a shower and got ready for my massage.

When I arrived for my appointment, I let Rebecca know that I thought labor had started around 2:30 AM with some surges that were around 20-30 minutes apart, 30 seconds long or so. But I wanted the massage to keep things going in the right direction!

The massage was wonderful! It really got things moving. I arrived home around 11 AM, put on a comfort movie and just went into labor heaven. I just relaxed on the couch on my left side, in and out of sleep through the movie and surges and felt amazing. I was totally euphoric, so happy to be in labor and just feeling wonderful. Every surge meant that my baby was coming and I would not need interventions! I also had some lunch, which was just amazing…..food tasted wonderful! I really can’t express how much I enjoyed this part of labor. It was an unforgettable experience, and it really was heavenly. The hormones and oxytocin were totally working for me, and it was just wonderful.

I continued to progress this way until around 4:30 or 5, when I checked my email and started worrying about things that should not matter at a time like this! (Bills, mail, last minute things) It brought up the intensity of the surges, so I decided to stop all the nonsense and go take a bath. I have a huge soaker tub and always imagined laboring in it. I had not gotten in yet, because I didn’t want it to slow anything down. Sadly, I put too much essential oil in it…and my skin was not happy! So I quickly rinsed off and lay down and listened to a hypnobirthing session.

This totally helped and things started to pick up even more. It was a bit confusing though, because the surges were only lasting 35-45 seconds but started coming between 6-7 minutes apart. The last thing I wanted was to go to the hospital too early and have a “false alarm”. So I just continued to relax and do my breathing. My husband was totally supportive and awesome, making homemade spaghetti in the kitchen and checking on me. He is teaching his 14 year old son Kayden all about cooking and it was fun to listen to them from across the room.

At about 7 PM, I had some surges that were closer to a minute long and some were even coming 3-4 minutes apart. I decided it was time to call Laura, our doula and hypnobirthing instructor. We are so grateful that she was willing to take us on as clients, because we are about 40 minutes away. She was at our house within an hour, and was wonderful! When she got there, she needed to change into her doula uniform, and I remember Darren asking her if that was like superman getting in the phone booth or her super hero costume, which made us all laugh. The next few hours passed as though it was 20 minutes! I walked around the house a bit and waited through a few surges standing, because they were still not lasting a minute long. Darren turned on some of our favorite music, and I relaxed over a birthing ball while Laura and Darren did some light touch massage.

After a while, Darren drew another bath for me which looked beautiful. He lit candles and put them all around the tub. I went in to get in the bath, and decided I needed to go lay down on the bed instead….again no tub! (I love baths!) Laura came in a read a hypno session to me, something about a balloon? And Darren massaged my legs and feet.

Something definitely changed during this time. I sat up and said that I felt warm. Something felt warmer, not my water breaking though. I was not sure? I could tell my body was definitely working, but I just felt the pain was totally manageable. Still irregular contractions, and I was still afraid of going to the hospital and being told I was not ready. Laura offered to “check” me, but made it clear that she would not know for sure. I really appreciated her doing this, because it was a special moment in my memory. She checked and said she couldn’t feel anything but baby’s head and that I seemed totally dilated and ready. And then Darren had the opportunity to check too and feel our sweet baby’s head ready to come down. He was so excited, and it was really precious. He would not have had that moment if we had been at the hospital already.

I waited for another few minutes trying to decide if we should go, and I finally “gave in” and decided it was time. Funny, as soon as I made my mind up with that the surges were very powerful. (TRANSITION!) Laura suggested I get some calories in me for the next wave of labor, so I ate a spoonful of peanut butter on the chair in my front room while Darren packed the car up. Laura walked me out to the car, then Darren was there and we were off.

For how heavenly my early labor was, this was the worst car ride ever!! The hospital is only about 10 minutes away, but if you miss every light and are behind a freaking UTA bus (at 11:45 at night?!) it takes an ETERNITY!!! I think I was pretty vocal in the car, not so much with words but AHs and OHs and was so grateful when we pulled up at the hospital. Locked door? Buzzed in, wheelchair? OK. And then we are haggling over the room, hahaha! Let me explain though, the nurse who gave us the tour of the hospital said to ask for the Jacuzzi room since I was having a natural labor. She did not show us that room during the tour though, and going in that room was TINY, and the other rooms were twice the size. I have a huge family, and the space would be better once I was in recovery stage. I could barely talk at this point, but the nurse was awesome! She said they would put me in a bigger room, and if I wanted to get in the tub she would walk me across the hall ☺ Perfect. I was not feeling the urge to push at this point, but based on my reactions every one was hurrying to get me settled.

Well, that tub just didn’t happen at all. I quickly took my clothes off and put on the delivery gown I brought with me. They checked me and I was already at a 10! Everyone was rushing around to get prepared; Darren was on the phone getting us checked in. I think I took the gown off right away because I was just getting really hot. I still had on a sports bra, and that was all I wanted. I still was not feeling the urge to push, and looking back I think some of it was a bit of denial that I was here! I was sweating more than I ever have in my life, it was unbelievable.

Once again, this time flew by. My doctor was there within 15 minutes, and very encouraging from the start and happy to see we would not need the induction. Since I was complete, it was now time to bear down and have this baby.

First I sat on a birthing stool for about 30 minutes and just could not feel the baby moving down. My doctor offered to break my water, and my mom had told me this always moved her labors along so I agreed. After another 10 minutes or so, I was still feeling like this position was not working, so I tried standing over the bed for a few surges hoping gravity would help move her down. This position didn’t feel any better either. They lowered the foot of the bed, and I turned around facing the back wall continued to try to breathe the baby down with each surge. Everyone was so kind and patient with me working through all these positions! I felt very indecisive about where to be. Looking back on it now and all my practice and preparation, I did not think this was where my fear would have come out….at bearing down phase. But I really was stalling subconsciously, I was definitely holding back waiting for her to just slip out on her own….not wanting to end my pregnancy that had been so safe and automatic.

The surges were very strong here, and I was breathing down and getting very frustrated. I could feel her head right there, and moving down, but at the end of each surge coming back up. As the surge would finish, I would think to myself, “Why is no one saying ‘I can see the head!’?!” and “OK, they will say it with this next one!” and still….nothing. I was working so hard (I thought!), what’s the deal? I have no idea how long this went on….but I was getting tired. I was still sweating more than I ever have in my life. I was able to ignore the intermittent monitoring simply for the fact that my heplock was slipping all over because of all the sweat.

I asked if I should turn around, thinking in my mind – to the position I never thought I would embrace. I guess I was not on my back, but pretty close to the classic legs up position I associated with “medical birth”. My doctor, very calmly and politely asked if she could direct me through some pushing. She explained that it had been about an hour and 30 minutes, and that she thought I needed to really push this baby out. I agreed to try this, because I needed to get this done or I was not going to be able to do it!

My doctor was so helpful at this point; we went through a couple of contractions and pushes as she counted to 10 with each one. She confirmed what I was feeling, that her head was moving back up when the contraction ended and I stopped pushing. Once again, she asked my permission and approval to get a mirror so that I could see what a productive push would do and try to hang on to it, and I agreed. The mirror was so helpful!! It definitely gave me motivation to keep pushing harder, harder. I thought I was working hard before, not so!! I thought my job was hard, no way! This was it!! This was my moment of work, and I pushed and pushed and finally….we can see the head! It was like the size of a quarter, but I just refused to let that discourage me. I realized that I had not been pushing or breathing down to my fullest before.

With my husband holding my left leg, and Laura holding my right they would wait for my vague cues and pull back with each surge while my doctor counted to 10 for the push. I think it took about 10 good surges and pushing to finally get her head full crowned, and at this point came the pain I had been anticipating. It was definitely intense! Thank heavens at this point my doctor said they could turn off the monitoring, it was driving my husband crazy! I started pushing even between the contractions because I did not want to lose any ground or let her slip back. At this incredible time and in between pushes my sweet husband was telling the story of how we met and fell in love….one of our favorites. I’ll pause from the birth here, and say we have been married for 11 years, truly love at first sight and inseparable.

Then it happened so fast…with 2 surges I had her head fully out and then just one more push and she was here! On my chest before I could even catch my breath, crying instantly so healthy and pure. She was perfect and beautiful, more than I could have imagined, overwhelmed with joy. I don’t remember the sounds around us, just us….Darren right next to me, all 3 of our heads together in cloud of happiness. I had been so nervous about this moment, wanting to make sure we had our opportunity to bond, and it was more than I could have expected. I just held her and watched her so intently, taking in all her perfection…sweet Evelyn. My doctor was in no rush, and just let us bond. She let all of us feel the cord to confirm it had stopped pulsing…Darren cut it after 20 minutes or so.

And then they took her just across the room to weigh and measure her. Darren was so close he actually tipped the scale! The nurse said 9 pounds something, and we all questioned, “Really?”…then Darren said, “Oh, I had my hand on her….you better do that again!” and we all laughed. It was so great. Then Darren held her for the next 30 minutes or so while my doctor assisted with the placenta delivery and gave me a few of stitches. And then everyone cleared out for a while so we could all just be together.

Thanks to my un-medicated birth, I carried my daughter down the hall to the nursery about an hour later, and stood and watched as they checked her never leaving her side. I was also able to sit and watch as Darren gave Evelyn her first bath. These moments are also special in my memory – I am so grateful that my doctor, my doula, the hospital, and most of all my husband supported this journey.

I thank my body for growing this baby inside me, for handling everything with such precision that I now have a beautiful daughter. And now it’s up to me! To nurture and care for my sweet baby. The things I have learned about myself and about life are invaluable. That is the real transition, because before I was a pregnant woman, and now I am a mother.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Krysti March 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Wow, what a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. I really like your quote about the transition from being a pregnant woman to a mother. Awesome!

George March 29, 2012 at 8:21 am

This was a really nice story and I can see that you have a great family. Thank you for sharing this story with me & my wife Christina.

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