Labouring at Home
The contractions hit me subtly at first. All afternoon I'd felt a consistent dull aching after a midwife visit where she determined I was in a very favourable position for labour.
I will forever be an advocate for the various means of preparation I took during the third trimester that helped our labour progress so fast- from eating 6-10 Medjool Dates, drinking several cups of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, taking Evening Primrose Oil, Acupuncture, and keeping up my workouts (plenty o' squats, especially) until over 40 weeks pregnant. With labour lasting roughly 8 hours, I can safely say these things are not just old wives tales and were easy to incorporate.
At 10:00pm we went to bed and the slowly building waves were gentle and manageable enough to breath, speak, and even lay down throughout. From 20-30 second moments of thinking "holy shit, what's my body doing?" they grew within the hour into lengthier waves with intense peaks of pain that caused me to throw up frequently. Yep, I probably threw up about a dozen times in the 6 hours I was in labour prior to pushing.
After nearly an hour of these somewhat manageable waves, movement became necessary. I swayed side to side, from leg to leg, while resting my upper body either on the bathroom counter or the bed. Each one came more quickly than the last and put more pressure around my midsection.
As the pressure continued to increase I doubted my ability to go through with a natural birth- but had to remind myself that I'd done my research, read some great books (the favourite being Ina May Gaskin's 'Guide to Childbirth'), had advice from my mentor (a yoga teacher extraordinaire and dear friend Joy), and determination to see the baby earthside while fully aware during each moment of the experience. Plus, I'm extremely fucking stubborn!
My husband tried to soothe me in every way possible, and I could do little but tune out all external stimulation and moan, yell, and breathe through the sensations. Despite my begging him to call the midwife several times throughout the night, he abided by the 3-1-1 contraction rule and held off on making the call too soon. Something I despised at the time, but afterwards appreciated since I wanted to labour in the comfort of our home first.
When contractions lasted roughly a minute with less than 3 spare minutes between each to lay down on the bed, try to rest, and preserve my energy, my husband called the midwife. She made her way over to our house and by 2:30am determined I was 6cm dilated and fully effaced, so off we went to the hospital.
Labouring at the Hospital
Between arriving at the hospital and the sun coming up I laboured in the tub in our private room. The warm water felt so good to rest in, and as each contraction hit I felt the smallest bit of relief leaning forward with my stomach immersed in the bath water as my husband kept a cold cloth on the back of my neck. I continued to vomit as things intensified, but replenished in between with plenty of water and coconut water (hydrating electrolytes FTW!).
By 5:00am I had dilated to a full 10cm as the contractions increased until I felt an immense pressure below. The midwife said the baby's head made its way down, fully engaged, and it was time to push. Actually, her way of putting it was to see if the pressure was on my rectum (yes, it definitely was) and then to push "as if I were taking the biggest poop of my life." They really don't explain it like that in any birth you've seen on TV or the movies! Nice visual... But, it's all the same area I suppose.
I had zero idea how to push during birth. Even when I finally got the hang of "pushing" after trying various positions, I opted for the traditional place in my back with the bed raised so I was leaning forward, and the entire process took ages.
Even with how quickly labour progressed, pushing took a quarter of the time.
For two hours I slowly found my pushing groove, while we threw on some background noise in the ways of Explosions in the Sky during labour, then Incubus during the pushing phase in order to great our little one with the same soundtrack that helped my husband and I bond during our early dating days.
As uncomfortable (nay, excruciating) as it was to have his head crown, and feel that "ring of fire" (who knew a term could be so fitting?) the most uncomfortable part was feeling baby frantically kicking upwards toward my stomach in an attempt to assist himself out. The midwife setup a mirror as we watched his head come out... very slowly. It helped to see the progress in action, as there were times where I was feeling hopeless, thinking I wasn't getting anywhere with the amount of effort I was putting in and wondering when the midwife would give up and suggest an alternative means of bringing him out.
The last few pushes were the most intense and challenging sensation I will ever know. When they asked me to give them two solid pushes, I opted to give them at least five in a row- it felt like the right moment to bring his head down passed my pelvis and out. As it finally did, his body followed immediately... No slowly easing out a shoulder here or there. His big noggin made enough space to accommodate the rest of him.
Turns out our baby had one of the biggest heads they'd delivered in some time. No fucking wonder it took two hours! 37.5 cm of beautiful baby skull.
As soon as he hit the cool air he was wailing and moving around. The attending nurse did his Apgar test- scoring him a solid 9 out of 10- wiped him down, weighed him and put him directly onto my chest for some bare skin-to-skin contact to help adjust his body temperature and transfer some good bacteria from me to he.
We spent the afternoon in our room with multiple nurses roaming in and out, and our midwife let us decide whether we wanted to stay there overnight or to head home. We opted to head home that evening to try and get a comfortable night's sleep, and we were out the door by 8:00pm that same night.
Having our baby finally there with us was surreal. Here was this living, breathing thing that up until that morning was still a goal we'd been working towards for nearly a year.
Everything slowed down, nothing else mattered, and our lives had changed for the better.