S’s Birth Story: Active Labor & Transition

Note: This is a birth story… so there’s lots of stuff about bodily functions that are normally TMI. But reading birth stories was something that helped me prepare for labor and gave me ideas of what might help or other little tips so I wanted to write S’s birth story to hopefully be of help to others, as well as for our own memories.

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1. Early Labor
2. Active Labor & Transition

I don’t remember the order of the next while, but I was on and off the bed, though always on my hands and knees, sometimes elbows and knees (I felt like that was counter-productive since I was fighting gravity, but it was all that felt good). Contractions were getting stronger, but they were still “waves” – starting easy and getting intense. Even so, I couldn’t lie down between them because I usually couldn’t get back on my hands and knees before they peaked, so we put the stack of pillows under me and I rested on them between contractions.
Eventually we tried singing, since I had started humming a hymn at one point. We got through one hymn with me singing during contractions, but then it started morphing into humming/moaning the melody and then finally just moaning on the tonic. I couldn’t help laughing, though, since we’d taken cookies to the neighbors above us to apologize in advance for any baby noise… but I knew I was being much louder than the baby would be. Ezra was running his hand up and down my back, which helped me relax and felt so good.

Now contractions weren’t waves any more, but the start of them was like being hit with a wall of pain. They were still about 4 minutes apart and 40 seconds long, but were getting longer. I wanted them to get longer so they would be long enough that we could go to the Birth Center. I also wanted to be able to lie down in between them. I had no sense of time apart from Ezra timing contractions, but it always helped me to know how long and how far apart they were, so I could see the progress and mark that I’d successfully gotten through another one. I kept thinking of pain relief techniques we’d learned in class or from other reading, but none of it sounded good (in retrospect we still should have tried something!). We did try the rebozo at one point since I felt like counter pressure on my belly would feel good, but when we tried it I immediately shouted for Ezra to stop. I knew there was more we could try, but I wanted to hold off until I felt like I really needed it, since I didn’t want Ezra to be doing hip squeezes for the next 12 hours. That same mindset was also keeping me from rating contractions as anything more than just “intense.” I tried lying down in between contractions a few times, but even with Ezra’s help getting back on hands and knees during them (which I was pretty demanding about) it still wasn’t worth it.

Finally at about 3:15 they were a minute long, but were coming about 3 minutes apart. We called Erina around 4 to check in and ask if we should come in yet, since the rule of thumb we’d been told was 5-1-1 (5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour), but we’d skipped the 4 & 5 while getting to the 1-1. She said we could come now, but could wait another hour if we wanted. Part of me really wanted to go then (and I thought “wait another hour? Can’t she hear me?!?”), but I didn’t think I could handle having to come home and go back later because I wasn’t far enough along. After hearing I’d been throwing up, Erina said that I also might be dehydrated and that can cause contractions to be stronger and closer together, but that I could get in the tub to see if that eased them, as long as I kept trying to drink so I didn’t get more dehydrated being in warm water. She asked if I was still leaking fluid, and I wasn’t, which also made me think that I was dehydrated. We decided to stay home for another hour, mostly in case I was dehydrated and not as far along as it seemed.

The bath didn’t sound all that great, but it was something different and people said it gave a lot of relief, so Ezra got one ready. I didn’t feel like it helped much, but I was able to lie on my side instead of being on my hands and knees (I had to since our tub isn’t that deep), and would pull up against the edge during contractions, which at this point were coming 2 ½ minutes apart and were close to a minute and a half long. In between the cramping didn’t completely go away, which was worse to me than the contractions. At one point the thought of an epidural entered my head, but at the same time I knew I totally wasn’t interested in one. I also knew that I had told Ezra not to let me get one except for a number of pre-discussed reasons… and just being in pain wasn’t one of those. Ezra was feeding me bites of dates (I knew I should be eating protein, but only dates sounded good) and sips of water. It was painful, but everything still felt very doable… except when I thought about getting in the car. I kept saying “I can’t do the car, I can’t do the car,” which made both of us wonder if I was in transition because we knew a sign of transition was self-doubt. Even still, because of possible dehydration as well as that I still felt I could do the birth naturally but just not do the car, I doubted I was that far along.
I really had to work at keeping moaning low-pitched at this point. Ezra was good at reminding me, but I still often started a contraction higher-pitched and made my way down. Lower didn’t necessarily feel better, but I knew it was better for relaxing and opening up, and focusing on my voice helped take my mind off of the contraction. I was also obsessed with keeping the water clean. A couple of times I sat up a bit and saw some mucus plug in the water and just had to get it out.

At 4:52 Ezra called Erina and said we were going to come as soon as he finished packing. I’d written up a list of last-minute things (for my sake, not realizing I’d be so incapacitated when we were getting ready to go!), so he knew what to get. He ran back and forth between filling the suitcase and bag of food and the tub to help me with contractions, and then once he was ready would run down to the car with stuff as fast as he could and then back up, usually making it right in time for another contraction – I started moaning when he walked in the door.
And then I had to get out of the tub, which I was dreading. I had one contraction on the bathroom floor after going to the bathroom, then made it to the closet, grabbed clothes, had another, got dressed and made it to the living room, and then out of the apartment and down the stairs… where I had another, sitting on dirty concrete stairs with my head on the stairs above me.
All I noticed when we got in the car was my pillows and the trash can in case I threw up again.
Ezra says I had about 4 contractions in the 15 minute car ride. I remember having them and that they weren’t as bad as I had thought they were going to be. I lost all sense of time in the car and when I would look up to see where we were it wouldn’t register how close or far we were, just that we were getting on or off the freeway, etc.

The last contraction in the car felt a little different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why at that point. We parked and I got out of the car and started heading for the Birth Center, had a contraction on the steps (I was SO glad it was 0530 and there weren’t people and cars all over the place!), and while that was happening Erina came out. We went to one of the exam rooms and Ezra and I prayed while we waited for Erina, and we all waited through a few contractions before I could get up on the table so she could check baby’s heart and see how dilated I was. I was dreading that. All I’d ever heard about cervical checks was “painful and uncomfortable.” I’d asked Erina about that at a previous appointment and she said not everyone said that and that it would most likely be what I expected. I barely felt a thing. She said I was close, but didn’t put a number on it, and I really didn’t care, since we got to stay. I got off the table and had another contraction on the floor and at this point I realized what was different – I didn’t feel like pushing, but felt like the contractions were starting to move down, adding downward pressure. I said that I thought my body wanted to push and Erina said to try to hold off and told me how to breathe through them. I had another contraction in the waiting room and then at the top of the stairs before making it to the bed in the birthing suite. I was finally able to lie on my side in between contractions, with Ezra helping me get up once they started so I could be on my hands and knees. Erina said to lie on my right side because of how my cervix was, and a few contractions later she checked again and said I was at 9.5, but was very soft so I could start pushing if I wanted to. This was at 6:45 AM.

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