Here’s a post I definitely didn’t think I’d be typing up this soon! I’m still a bit in shock that our sweet Mathias joined our family a full three weeks before his due date, but I’m not complaining about the extra time to snuggle him on the outside AND the fact that I don’t have to be pregnant anymore this summer!
Warning: If you are sensitive to medical information, oversharing of medical information, or you’re only wanting super positive natural birth stories with no complications whatsoever, I would not recommend you keep reading. I know my first natural birth story freaked out some of my friends who were also hoping for natural births, and I don’t want this birth story to do that (as I obviously am super supportive and positive about the idea of unmedicated birth, as I opted to do another one!). However, I’m not going to sugarcoat some of what happened here, so consider yourself warned.
As I’d mentioned in my last pregnancy update (which was, aptly named, Probably My Last Pregnancy Update), I’d had my first internal exam at 36 weeks and found out that I was already dilated to a 3 and was 80% effaced. Seeing as how I’d sat around that same point for a couple weeks when pregnant with Raven, however, I was thinking I wouldn’t go into labor before 38 weeks or so (and that I could still even go the full 40, if I was like one of my sisters!).
However, one thing that was markedly different at the end of this pregnancy was that all that prelabor/early labor was very NOTICEABLE this time around. With my first, I dilated to a 3 over a period of about three or four weeks, and I hardly noticed much beyond more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions (which were rarely uncomfortable). This time, the Braxton Hicks were nearly constant (literally, I was in the middle of one the vast majority of the time for the last two weeks of the pregnancy), and I noticed a LOT of cramping, which was a symptom I hadn’t had with Raven’s birth until I was going into active labor. I also just felt like more was going ON inside, or maybe I was just more aware of the baby dropping down lower and lower with each passing week.
My doctor had predicted the baby probably would come around 38 weeks, so I didn’t expect too much before that. She was nervous, however, about me leaving Cache Valley after she checked me at 36 weeks, and I had to get special permission to drive down to Bountiful for Father’s Day this last Sunday (and was forbidden to make any trips after that out of the county). I’d been intending to do all the pre-baby prep work early on in the month (install the car seat, pack the hospital bag, set up his bed in our room, etc.), but hadn’t gotten around to any of it as of Sunday. Finally on Monday, I decided I’d at least better pack the bag just in case, as well as create a list of all the last-minute stuff to grab on our way out (phones, camera, etc.). On Tuesday, I planned to print out our birth plan, pick up a toy for the baby to “give” to Raven (since she was going to bring his new “wubby” to him when she met him for the first time), and install the car seat and set up the Pack ‘n Play for him to sleep in. Well, thank goodness the bag was already packed because as you’ll see, I didn’t get a chance to get to any of my original plans for Tuesday!
Monday night I went to bed around my typical time (10:00 or so), but I just couldn’t fall asleep (which is actually pretty unusual for me–throughout the pregnancy, I’ve been able to fall asleep relatively easily, even though staying asleep or not waking up multiple times a night have sometimes been problems). Honestly, I felt like I just had a lot of adrenaline going through me that night–call it the nesting urge or what, but I just had all this energy and wanted to get stuff done. So after trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep for almost two hours, I just hopped out of bed and started straightening up some stuff in the kitchen, looking over my to-do list, and drafting a future blog post. Finally around 1:30 (with another almost-completed blog post in my drafts folder), I felt sleepy enough to maybe try going back to bed, which I did.
Fifteen minutes later, I hopped out of bed to go to the bathroom quickly because I thought I felt a little trickle come out of me. I thought I just had to go pee, so I did that and went back to bed (because I hadn’t noticed anything else unusual). I drifted off for maybe an hour but then was awakened suddenly again by a distinct “pinging” sensation in my body, followed by another trickle. Thinking my water might have broken, I carefully got out of bed, but nothing more came out, so I decided to just go to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t see anything weird. As I sat down, I felt a drizzle of liquid that was not spurred on by any action on my part, so I was pretty sure something had happened with my membranes rupturing (which was confirmed further when I saw that the water was tinged pink). However, I thought that most of the time, when your water breaks, it comes out as a huge gush, and these were tiny trickles, so I was pretty confused at this point.
Up until that moment, I had been just having my normal early labor symptoms–cramps, pressure, Braxton Hicks contractions–so I wasn’t sure what to do (since I hadn’t had any “real” contractions yet). I woke up Matt and told him my water might have broken, but I wasn’t sure. (The time at this point was about 3:15 a.m., by the way.) I called the Labor and Delivery floor at the hospital and explained my situation, trying to get a second opinion. The nurse on staff said that it was pretty unusual to have membranes rupture and have there just be a gradual trickle, but that it wasn’t unheard of–it just meant that they called it a “high leak” or something like that (because it ruptures up higher than normal). She said that the only way to know for sure would be to come in, and that I could either come into the hospital now or that I could wait until my doctor’s office opened in the morning.
I now had a decision to make–my mom was going to be handling childcare for Raven for us and my sister had agreed to come up as my birth coach. Problem was, both of them had a drive ahead of them–my mom had about an hour and ten minute drive, my sister closer to two hours. I didn’t want to make them drive up for nothing; however, I also didn’t want to wait too long and not have either of them up with me. Around this point (about ten minutes after my water initially broke), I got my first definite “real” contraction, which decided it for me–I called my mom and sister in rapid succession, and they both agreed to come up immediately.
At this point, the plan was to wait for my mom to get there before we left for the hospital. I’d only had the one contraction, and I was thinking the labor would follow a similar pattern to my first (with maybe 5 or 6 hours shaved off my first labor’s time of 12 hours). I told Matt where the list of last-minute stuff to pack was, and I actually put on some makeup, as I knew it would distract me AND allow me to be close to the toilet (as fluid was still trickling out of me).
During the space of about the next 20 minutes, I got my second contraction about 7 minutes after the first, and then another about 4 minutes after that. When I got one 3 minutes after that, I knew we were going to have to modify our plan, and quick (especially as these first contractions were already much stronger than the first contractions I’d had the first time, perhaps because my membranes had already ruptured, so there was nothing to cushion them). I told Matt to call our friends in Logan who had agreed months ago to step in as back-up sitters, and luckily after placing three calls to them (they didn’t pick up on the first two), our friend Rob picked up and was out the door immediately (and speeding our way!).
By the time he got to our house (turning a 15-minute drive into about an 8-minute drive), I was already in the passenger seat of our car and starting to get a bit nervous–by this point, the contractions were coming hard and only two minutes apart, and we still had a 20-minute drive to the hospital (which was more like 12, with how Matt drove). I tried to get into my meditation practice (the hypnobirthing techniques I’d been practicing for months) and managed to stay semi-relaxed and calm for most of the drive, though in the back of the mind I was getting nervous with how fast my contractions were coming on (and with how intense they already were).
I remarked to Matt on the drive there (between contractions) that if we got there and I was only dilated to something ridiculous like a 4, I was going to get immediately into the tub, as that was what got me past the point where I stalled big time the last go-around (when I stalled at a 7 for six hours). I called the hospital (also between contractions) to let them know we were on our way and to also alert our doctor immediately, as my contractions were much closer together than they were supposed to be (I was supposed to go in when they were 5-7 minutes apart).
We somehow walked up to the second floor of the hospital to the labor and delivery unit (with me having to pause a couple times to breathe through hard contractions), and I was checked into a room. While the nurses gathered information and I changed into a gown, we had to pause several times in our passing back-and-forth of information in order for me to breathe through contractions. Sure enough, though, when the nurses checked to see what I’d dilated to, I was only at a 4. Truthfully, I was a bit surprised (just because the surges were quite strong already at this point), but I told Matt to run the tub like we’d planned while I got out of the hospital gown I’d just changed into and into the nursing bra I’d packed so I could get in the water (all while the surges kept coming on faster and stronger–much, MUCH more intensely than they had during my first labor, at least until the end).
While we were waiting for the tub to fill, the contractions started to get incredibly intense, and I was honestly nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to go through with a natural labor this time around–I couldn’t believe how strong and fast they were coming on (and I could not believe I was only at a 4!), and with each one, I would just call out to Matt (who was still trying to fill the tub) to run to me and hold me so that I could make it through another one. With my first labor, I’d wanted to labor mostly lying down, but I tried lying down and sitting on a birthing ball with this one while I waited for the tub, and they were both excruciating, so I was relying on the only position that felt at all do-able, which was sinking down into kind of a semi-squat (supported by Matt). With each surge coming on, Matt held me up and told me I was doing great and that I was strong and that Mathias was on his way, and his words were kind of the only things that were keeping me sane, to be truthful.
With my first labor, it must be noted that when I went to the hospital, I was already dilated to a 5 and my water hadn’t broken, so the first several hours of labor that first time had been very manageable—I was able to effectively get into the state of semi-hypnosis I’d been practicing for months (through the hypnobirthing method) and when things did get much harder later on, I was still at least able to go in and out of the trance, with coaching. Honestly, with this labor, I had NO TIME to get into the right headspace. I had tried to get into it on the car ride over but was so nervous about how fast the contractions were coming and was worried we might not make it to the hospital in time, and then when we got there, the surges were coming about a minute to a minute and a half apart and were so hard and intense that it was all I could do to not scream/moan through them all, much less try to get myself into a state of trance.
At this point, the timeline starts to get a bit blurry, as everything happened pretty fast. I sank down into the water and experienced maybe 15 seconds of pure relaxation before I was hit with a double-peak contraction that pulled a pretty intense moan right out of me (and I’d been trying so hard up to this point to keep relatively quiet as I breathed through them!). Matt came in and kind of caught me up in that semi-squat as I breathed/moaned through it, and I definitely pushed a little bit near the end of the contraction. I’d already pushed a bit through a few contractions just before this one (and the nurse had checked me and I’d still been at a 4), so I couldn’t believe she wanted to check me again just a couple contractions later. But she checked me real quick while I was standing out of the tub and sure enough, I was nearly at a 7.
At this point, the nurses insisted I get over to the bed, but halfway through, I got hit with another double-peak contraction and once again, Matt caught me by the armpits as I sank into a semi-squat and literally basically screamed through another one (just because it was so intense, though I was still calm-ish enough to listen to Matt as he directed me through the intensity of it). During this one, I pushed (involuntarily) quite a lot, and fluid started going down my legs and Matt and the nurses kind of had to half-drag me the rest of the way to the bed because the nurses were worried the baby was just going to slip right out of me like that. The nurse checked me in the 30 seconds we had before another one hit, and sure enough, I was fully dilated.
At this point, the doctor still hadn’t arrived in the room, though she had just gotten to the hospital. The nurses tried to tell me to not push and to pant (and Matt kept me calm-ish so that I was able to follow through a little—for about 10-15 seconds anyway, at which point I literally yelled in the direction of the door for my doctor to RUN, ha ha), but with the next one, I couldn’t help it–my body wanted to push, and it wanted to keep pushing. (At this point, I’m pretty sure the last thing I yelled was, “I’m sorry!” because I knew I was going to be pushing whether they wanted me to or not!) After about two or three pushes (on the same looooong contraction), I felt the “ring of fire” and knew that the baby’s head was coming out. (Note: the nurses hadn’t even had time to break down the bed, get my feet into stirrups, nothing—I basically was hoisted as much onto the bed as they could and that was that.)
(Matt has to fill in some of the story for me here. While I had basically let my body’s instincts take over at this point and was a bit out of my mind with the pain and intensity of it all, the nurses quickly realized that this baby was not going to wait for any doctor. Apparently, one of the nurses told the other nurse, “You know you’re going to have to catch this baby,” and so the other nurse nervously pulled on gloves and caught the head as it emerged. Right then, the doctor showed up and had just enough time to pull on one glove and grab a disposable paper bed liner to catch the rest of the baby as I pushed him the rest of the way out. Matt said that he’d never seen a nurse look so absolutely relieved to see a doctor before, ha ha.)
With my first labor, I’d had to push for an hour and a half (which is pretty unusual for an unmedicated birth), but the contractions with this second labor were so intense with almost no breaks in between that my body just kept wanting to push and push until he was out (so it took only two total–one for the head, one for the body). I also was incredibly motivated to stop the intensity of the labor and get to the other side of it, as I still clearly remembered the intense level of relief I’d felt when Raven finally came out of me, which I’m sure motivated me further to push hard and push through (no matter what the nurses were trying to tell me). All told, I probably pushed for all of about 90 seconds total (if even that).
So, after only about 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital (though checking my medical records online, it actually might have even be shorter–around just a half hour or so), I’d had my baby (and my sister arrived to help me about fifteen minutes later, so she’d unfortunately missed it).
However, as my last birth experience had taught me, the labor experience is far from over when the baby’s out. In fact, it was the after-baby part–the delivery of the placenta–that had been causing me intense anxiety ever since my last time going through all this. For those who don’t know, during my first delivery, when the doctor tried to deliver the placenta, I had what’s called a uterine inversion, which is where the entire uterus flips inside out and actually comes out of the body. It’s incredibly rare, and there’s only two options–push the uterus back into the body and hold it there until it contracts back down into place, or perform an emergency hysterectomy. The doctor on call that night (as my own doctor wasn’t there for that first birth) chose the former option, which I’m obviously (ultimately) grateful for. However, it meant that he had to put his fist into my body and push it in there for about a minute or two until it had contracted back into place. I was totally unmedicated and no emergency painkillers were in the room at the time, so I had to endure some of the most intense agony I’ve ever experienced in my life (until a nurse finally ran in with an emergency narcotic and knocked me out after about a minute and a half).
So you could understand why I was understandably nervous going into that part of the process. Luckily, I got good news before this point to help me revel a bit in the after-birth rush of endorphins—I hadn’t torn and so didn’t need any stitches or repair work! The baby looked fantastic, even though he was only 37 weeks! He had some hair and was absolutely adorable!
But then, the familiar anxiety crept right back up as my doctor confirmed that the placenta wasn’t wanting to separate from the uterine wall and that she didn’t want to wait any longer because I was already bleeding so heavily. She told me there was no time for any pain medication except narcotics (which I’d already refused as I hated how they took away all my endorphins the first time around) and that I would have to endure about 15 seconds of intense discomfort.
Honestly, it hurt just as much as the first time, but with two things that made it (slightly) more bearable to deal with: 1) it lasted for 15 seconds rather than a minute or two and involved scooping something out rather than pushing something in, and 2) I knew what was going on this time. But I’m not going to sugarcoat it—it was awful. I screamed (loudly). I also screamed when they had to push down hard several times on my stomach to try and get some of the blood clots out, and fast. All in all, I screamed a LOT during the last ten or so minutes of this labor and delivery experience (and probably scared anyone who was out in the hall at the time). Later, when I was looking online at my medical records and checking the doctor’s notes, I somewhat had to laugh to myself when she wrote that “the patient did not tolerate the procedure well.” (Well, duh.)
But, for about fifteen minutes while we waited on the placenta to maybe disengage itself on its own, I had some blissful moments of solid relief and joy as I snuggled my newborn son (and bawled my eyes out) and watched Matt hold him for the first time. I felt the intense rush of adrenaline and endorphins that made me feel like a champion for pushing through the pain and the intensity (especially when I’d long since given up trying to put myself into the state of meditative trance I’d been meaning to, just because I never got the chance to work my way into it fully).
And, though the delivery of the placenta was excruciating, I was still greatly comforted this time having known exactly what was going on and what was being done to me as a result and why.
All in all, it might seem that a super quick labor and delivery process is the way to go (as I’d always thought before). But it definitely has its costs–with Raven, I’d had time to work my way up to the harder stuff, and I’d had plenty of hours to practice the deep relaxation techniques I’d worked on so that I stayed fairly calm throughout much of it. With this one, there was no time at all to work my way up to anything–I went from 0 to about 100 in a super short time span, and my whole labor took all of two hours from start to finish. Basically, you pay for that short of a labor in intensity, and it’s a level of intensity I’m definitely going to need to allow some time to forget before I try again, ha ha.
However, lest you think I had a negative birthing experience, I didn’t–not overall, anyway (I could have done without the placenta nonsense, let’s be honest). I had a super supportive husband who literally carried me through my labor, and I had nurses who were in the room the whole time and who took me totally seriously when I told them how fast I felt things were going to happen (and who didn’t wait to call my doctor but who called right when I requested that she be called).
I also LOVE the benefits of a natural labor—I was able to walk up to the third floor to my mother & baby room all by myself (which made all the nurses stare as if they’d never seen anything so crazy before), I was able to go to the bathroom unassisted every time (which didn’t hurt at all this time as I’d had no tearing!), and even though I was running on about an hour and a half of sleep (or less), my body was pumped so full of energy that I was able to soak up all the newborn snuggles and the experience of the first skin-to-skin contact and the first try at nursing…last time, with my daughter’s birth, I got robbed of a lot of that because I’d had to be given an emergency narcotic, which left me groggy over several hours and pretty grumpy about a lot of things. This time, I was able to enjoy my sister being there in all the after-math of the birth, and she was able to get lots of cute pictures for us.
Natural births tend to be hard for most women, even if you’ve practiced and prepared for them. This one was no exception (and trust me, I definitely thought to myself at multiple points throughout this one if I was crazy for doing this and if I would be able to handle it). But for me, the after-stuff makes it all worth it (and I loved how, as intense as everything was, I could still recognize with astonishing clarity that my body knew how to do this). I could see that my body knew when to push, it knew that standing and squatting would aid the baby’s descent, and it made me want to do those things in the moment because I was in tune with everything.
And, because I don’t want to forget them, there were two birth affirmations that really helped me to push on through when it got harder and harder to do so:
First, the birth affirmation: It’s not pain, it’s power.
Second, the thought that I can do anything for a minute.
The fact is, birthing is hard, no matter how you do it. But when you get to meet this being that you’ve been bonding with over the past 9 months (or 8.25 months, in our case), it makes it all worth it.
And it’s why we women are crazy enough to be willing to go through it all again.
All in all, I’m grateful that this birth experience went as smoothly as it did–that we got to the hospital in time, that we had anticipated the complication that might come up and that we were able to prevent it from happening again (even though the prevention hurt too, it was better than the alternative!). I’m super grateful I was able to go through with a natural birth again and that this time, I was able to enjoy all the after-benefits of having done one, as well.
And of course, we’re the MOST grateful for Mathias, who is already so beloved by us all, and who Raven is just smitten over (seriously, the two together melt us with their cuteness).
Feeling pretty blessed over here.