After an intense week of pre-labor, and several false labor starts, Brent and I were feeling pretty exhausted and defeated. We didn’t know when this little baby would decide to join us, if it would be soon, or another week of the same things. I was having repeated contractions, consistent throughout the day, they would intensify in the evening, and then pretty much stop once I got in bed, this went on for 5 days straight! I was making sure I slept a ton, going to bed early, sleeping in if I could, and trying not to let myself get too tired, because I knew it would take all of my energy to get through labor and birth, and if I didn’t have that energy stored up, I might not recover so well or be successful with our unmedicated wishes.
During the week, I was feeling very tense, so I booked an Acupuncture treatment, a massage, and a trip to the chiropractor, all to help my body relax and ease into labor. I also went to my midwife on Wednesday to be checked, I was 3cm, 80% effaced, -1 to -2 station, and medium consistency (soft is where we wanted to be), I had her strip my membranes to try to get things moving, I had been contracting since Saturday, and my abdomen was getting extremely sore. Friday afternoon I had my Chiropractic appointment, which I was most excited about because of a nagging sharp pain in my back. She adjusted my spine and hips, and did a couple of trigger point releases in some muscles in my hips and thigh, I was so tight I couldn’t relax my hips, which was stalling the labor more and making me more uncomfortable. I want to kiss my chiropractor for what she did!
That night I felt wonderful! Slept great, and woke up at 4am Saturday morning, March 12th, with strong contractions. I couldn’t handle them lying down, so I got up around 4:30am, and went and rocked on the birth ball for awhile. Brent was so excited things were finally possibly happening! He got up about half hour after me, and showered and started getting things ready for the hospital, just in case. We labored at home for about 5 hours before deciding it was probably a good idea to head in to the hospital soon. My contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart, but lasting 70 seconds to almost 2 minutes, so the intensity was there, but they were not getting closer, we debated, but decided that if anything, we could get there and use the awesomely huge Jacuzzi tub for a couple hours, it was better than our little bath tub. So we loaded up the truck, and headed in, I had 3 or 4 contractions on the way in, and they were uncomfortable but not too bad, I was able to rock in the seat and that helped, thankfully.
When we arrived at the hospital we had to walk down the corridor to the labor and delivery entrance, I had 2 contractions on the way in, which were not bad, but definitely slowed me down a little, and we passed a private tour where we knew the lady, she gave us our tour a few weeks ago and remembered us, she was so excited for us! While waiting for the nurses to open the secure door to Labor and delivery, I was rocking through a contraction, so when we walked in, the nurses all just smiled and told me how calm I was, that was extremely reassuring to hear, I wanted to stay calm, to be focused, to not be panicking or nervous. Well, that was the plan until the charge nurse took us our room, and it turned out to be the room that I had had a slight panic attack in during our first tour… I refused to go in, and immediately asked for a room on the other side of the floor, one with a shower and not anywhere near this particular room. She gave me an annoyed look, but I didn’t care, I was the one in labor, and things were going to go my way, so the nurses had better be ready for it. I’m realizing now that was going to be my attitude during the entire process. Not once did I do anything the nurses told me… I was pretty bossy also, I refused to do things when they asked, sometimes it would take me 20 minutes to let them finally check me for dilation, because I would be so wrapped up in contractions that I refused to lay down.
We finally got settled into our room and after telling the charge nurse our wishes for no medication and a completely natural birth, she decided to place us with Sarah, an awesomely sweet nurse who was extremely support of natural childbirth. She was a blessing throughout the entire day, ignoring my requests for an epidural during transition, being completely patient with my defiance of the rules, and helping in ways that I’m sure she didn’t even realize she was helping me. She checked me on admission and I was dilated to 4 cm, not as far as we had hoped I would be. We actually debated leaving the hospital for a few hours to labor at home more, but I really wanted to use the tub, so we stayed and said we would wait and see how things went. It was a good choice. We had to do 20 minutes of continuous monitoring once we were settled into the room, I hated that belt! It’s uncomfortable, and I hated being hooked up to monitors, but, if that was the only thing I needed to be hooked up to, I was ok with it for 20 minutes. After the strip, which measures the baby’s heartbeat, and my contractions, we were allowed to get in the tub, which was heaven! I labored in there for over an hour before we had to return to our room to be checked and monitored again. Hot water can cause what is known as a ‘labor fever’, similar to an ‘epidural fever’, because the body is submerged you won’t sweat very much, so your upper body starts to overheat. It also can cause the baby’s heartbeat to spike, so we had to be monitored after every trip to the tub. We were also checked at this time, and I was at 5 cm, not bad for 1 hour I thought.
While in the room, my contractions started to really pick up, to the point where twice they made me vomit, they were so strong! I was getting incredibly uncomfortable and just wanted to get back in the tub, so off we went, for another hour of bliss in the huge Jacuzzi tub. I truly wish I could have stayed in there the whole time and given birth in there… that’s not allowed though. Brent noticed immediately a change in my laboring. I had to stop twice on the way to the room, and it was only about 50 feet. And when I got to the room I wanted to labor on the toilet… and that’s it, they could not get me away from it. My contractions were coming 3 at once, back to back, then I would get about a 2 minute break to recover… 5-6 minutes straight of contractions, and a 2 minute recovery was not fun, and I was not happy with them at all. The nurse finally was able to check me and I was almost at 7 cm! I was progressing perfectly! I knew we would be having this little girl tonight, and that made me incredibly happy and encouraged. I also realized that being at a 7 meant I was heading into transition, the hardest part of labor. I knew that if I could get through this, the pain would not get any worse, and we would be done very shortly, unfortunately, I forgot this with every contraction. Brent was trying his hardest to help me through the coming contractions. He held me up and I continuously pressed my head into his abdomen to take my mind off the pain, he kept stepping back when I did this though, and I finally had to tell him he needed to step into me and press back, it was helping. He admitted that once these contractions started he got a little scared, I turned into another person I guess… zoned out completely, wouldn’t respond to them when I was asked questions, and was very forceful with where I wanted him to stand and what I needed him to do. Our nurse, Sarah, finally gave in to my not wanting the strip monitor, and brought the Doppler to monitor the baby while I was on the toilet, I loved her for this! I should explain that the reason I was on the toilet was because It allowed me to fully relax everything down there, which then allowed me to focus solely on the contraction that was happening. I didn’t want to stand up or bend over; they were so concentrated in my lower abdomen that I wanted to just cut that whole piece of me off! I kept wishing they would spread out to my back or upper body… anything to make them better and more tolerable! At this point Sarah went to call the midwife, Jo, who was on call that weekend. Our midwife, Georgiana was not. I was pretty bummed about this at first, but in the end Jo did an amazing job, kept me focused and truly helped me through something amazing. Brent and I decided to get into the shower with the birth ball, I was able to sit with my back leaning against one wall, and my feet holding me up by the other wall, Brent stood next to me to make sure I didn’t fall to the side, and he held the shower handle with hot, hot water on my belly, moving it all over randomly to help break my focus off the contractions. I LOVED the shower, it made me so much more comfortable, and the sensation of the hot water hitting my belly and legs was just what I needed to get through the pain, although, I’m sure it didn’t seem like it at the time. We were only in the shower about half an hour or so when Jo showed up, she wanted to check me at some point, but I refused to get out of the shower, so she just hung out and waited in the room I think, she came in and out of the bathroom just a few times. At this point my water broke, and it was the most audible ‘POP!’ I’ve ever heard! I also heard the gush of waters drain out of me and hit the birth ball with a huge splash. We knew this was what the nurse and midwife had been waiting for, I hadn't wanted anyone to break my waters before they were ready to go on their own, even though at every check they were bulging more and more and it was getting more difficult to check without hitting them. We pulled the little "help" cord next to the shower to let our nurse know something was up, she came in immediately to see what was going on, and when we told her the waters had broken, she asked if we had seen any meconium or if they were clear, we were both pretty sure they were clear, thankfully! She asked if I would be able to move to the bed to be checked again to see how things were progressing, which didn't make me happy. I did not want to get out of the shower, ever, until after the baby was born.
Finally, after several minutes of coaxing, I moved to the bed, then jumped up to have another contraction, and a few minutes later, I let Jo Check me, I was 9.5 cm!!! Only just a slight lip of cervix left, which she said would move out of the way very quickly now that my water had broken. She allowed me to move back to the toilet, but assured me she did not catch babies being born into the toilet, I would have to move to the bed to deliver, which of course I had planned to do... I just needed to get past the horrible contractions and get to the point of pushing. That didn't take long at all. No more than 5 minutes after sitting down, and maybe 2 or 3 contractions, I was feeling a huge urge to push with all my might! They had put up the birth bar on the bed, which is just a bar that is put into the end of the bed for me to hang on or support myself while squatting to push, it was the most comfortable position for me, I refused to lay down. I loved the bar, I could hang, put my arms over it and rest my forehead on it between pushes, I loved it. Unfortunately, squatting wasn't working, my pelvis was tilting forward too much to allow the baby to drop out properly. So, Jo asked for the birthing stool, and I love her for it! It was pretty much just like sitting on the toilet, I could relax all of my vaginal muscles and hips and just let gravity take over.
At this point the contractions were starting to feel better, because I was pushing with them, I was actually getting some relief from the pain. I believe this is when I decided that this baby was coming out very quickly, and I needed to relax as much as possible to let her do her thing. Jo told me she was starting to crown, she could see hair, a ton of hair, and I was to ease off and push slowly, but take breaks between contractions to let her ease out slowly. It felt like forever, I thought I was pushing for hours, but, in the end it was less than half an hour from the first urge to push, to Stella's amazing arrival. The birth bar and stool were perfect for me, and she came out with such ease, I couldn't believe it! I totally felt the ring of fire that everyone had warned me about, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Stella Jean Norris arrived at 5pm on Saturday, March 12th, after 1 full week of pre-labor, and 12 1/2 hours of active labor. She had the cord around her neck once, and Jo slipped that off before her shoulders were even delivered, she also had her hand up on her cheek, which meant I would be getting several internal stitches to repair the damage her little fist caused upon exit, but I didn't feel a thing, and it was completely worth it. They placed her right onto my abdomen, Brent helped me lean back and sit on the bed, and we reminded them to not clamp the cord right away, which didn't really do anything at all because no more than 2 minutes after she came out my placenta followed, we were all shocked! Stella was quiet when she came out, didn't cry, she actually seemed to be asleep, and slowly woke up to be very alert and aware of what was going on, and who we were. The baby nurse had to rough her up a little with a towel to get her to cry, no biggie, she was just very relaxed. Not once during birth did her heart rate dip, she was so calm and such a trooper! Once she was on my chest she stayed there for the first hour or two, She nursed not even half an hour after birth, it was amazing to just be able to snuggle her and love her and be a family finally. They weight her really quick after an hour and a half, 7 lbs 7.6 ounces, and made sure she looked good and handed her right back to me. We opted out of all of the newborn stuff, no erythromycin (eye goop), no Vitamin k shot, no Hep B shot, we wanted her to be left alone with how God created her, and since labor had gone so smoothly we didn't feel she needed any of those interventions. I also labored and birthed completely medicine free! Not even an I.V. or Hep-lock were placed, I didn't even have hospital bands put on until after she was born, and it was wonderful! We had planned and prepared for a natural unmedicated birth, and I am so happy with how it all went.
Brent was incredible throughout the whole process, I would not have been successful without him. I am so thankful for him as my support, and he's pretty darn proud of how the whole day went. Not once did he consider giving into my begging for an epidural, which only happened for that one hour during transition, not once did he not know what to do, although i'm sure he felt a little lost at points, I did have to remind him or ask him to do something else if what we were trying for a coping technique wasn't working, but again, that was really only during transition. I could not have asked for a more perfect birth, a better labor partner, and a more amazing child than Stella.