Baby came early. I woke up at 1:00 a.m. on a Monday morning to a contraction. Okay, so this might be it. I was determined to sleep, or at least get as much rest as possible. I went into labor at night with my first and was so exhausted from lack of sleep by the time he was born I thought I might just pass out. I got my Rainbow Relaxation recording in my ears and stayed in bed. I flipped on my iPhone contraction tracker app and tracked maybe the first hour. Ten minutes apart. Hmm. Same as the first time. But I wasn’t feeling any sensation in my lower back. Win!
After a few hours of contractions I attached the TENS unit and used that for several hours, increasing the intensity as the sensations entered my lower back. It was mildly helpful. I started taking Arnica 200c. At 6:00 a.m. I texted my midwife to let her know I had been having contractions. By 10:00 a.m. I had my doula and my Aunt there with me. I had stopped using the TENS. It wasn’t making much of a difference. My contractions were about seven minutes apart, back labor in conjunction with abdominal sensations were in full swing. We went for a long walk to pick up the pace of the contractions. The frequency got nearer to five minutes apart, but they were still a bit irregular, hovering between five and seven minutes.
When we got back to my house after the walk my doula told me she was going to leave.
I was still in early labor.
She would come back later.
Say wha?!!! Now folks, if you know anything about doulas, you know that you pay them to be there with you when you want them to be there with you. I wasn’t sure what she was saying. How could she be leaving? I paid her to be here. This didn’t make any sense. I just said, “Okay,” and started to cry. She asked me what was going on in my head. I had looked at the clock. It was 1:00 p.m. My midwife during my first birth came about this time of day, told me I was still in early labor, to get some rest and that she would come back. Again. It was happening again. I was going to be in labor the rest of the day, into the night, into the next day. What was wrong with my body? How could I possibly be this inefficient at childbirth? It’s supposed to be “easier” the second time, right?! It’s been twelve hours already. My guess was that I probably wasn’t past 2 cm dilated. I was at 2 cm dilated with #1 at this time, after laboring all night and into the afternoon. Same, same, same.
I went to take a shower to get some heat relief on my body, a change of scene and away from my doula. She was still there when I came out and gave me counter pressure on my lower back while I sat on the exercise ball. My midwife texted to see how I was doing. I told her my doula was leaving and that I was still in early labor. She asked me if I was okay.
One word: No.
My phone rang two seconds later. I just fell apart on her. It’s happening all over again. I’m going to be in labor all day long, this baby isn’t coming out until tomorrow. I can’t do this again. She gently reminded me, knowing that I was probably thinking about the hospital/epidural option, that if I decided to go in that they would give me pitocin to push my body into more intense labor. So here are my options: Stay home and suffer for another 15+ hours, or go to the hospital and have drugs artificially make it all happen for me. I was not excited about either option. Her recommendation was for me to take a bath, drink a glass of wine, take benadryl and go lay down to get some sleep since I had been awake most of the night. I was not happy about this. At all.
Fine. I’ll do it. My doula stayed long enough to make sure I had everything I needed, made sure I took the benadryl, and then left. I sat in the tub sulking and drinking my wine, fuming over how this could possibly be happening this way. I thought all births were different? What the heck?! My husband actually took a picture of the look on my face at this point, he was so amused by it. At least someone was enjoying themselves. I had my friend and acupuncturist coming in an hour or so to give me a needle treatment. I was crossing my fingers her magic could kick this baby out of my body, and fast.
I went to lay down in the black-out curtained baby room with my Aunt. I am so grateful she was there with me. She gave me a massage and did some healing touch on me. I rested, but never fell asleep. It’s hard to do when contractions are coming and going every seven to ten minutes.
Forty-five minutes or so into resting, my water leaked. I went to the bathroom to clean myself off and to get a new pad. This was new. This was different. I had my midwife break my water with #1 in hopes of speeding up the labor process when I was only at 7 cm after 28 hours of labor. I went back to lay down. Three intense contractions followed, about two or three minutes apart, then a huge gush when my water officially broke. I waddled back to the bathroom, the pad miraculously holding most of the fluid in until I reached the toilet. I sat down. Three more really intense contractions. My body started tremoring. Laborland was on its way. I managed a few quick and breathless instructions to my Aunt:
Get my phone. Call Kerin. Tell her to come. My water broke. I am shaking. Call doula, Tell her to come back. Turn on hose. Fill birth tub.
This was happening, and happening fast. My midwife lives potentially an hour away in Los Angeles traffic. I had visions of my Aunt and I, alone, delivering this baby. My vocal exhaling techniques got louder and longer. I got in the shower, leaning against the wall and making a lot of noise with every contraction. I threw up about eight times. I sat on the birth ball, head on bathroom sink, eyes closed. With every single contraction I screamed at myself in my head, “What the heck is wrong with you? How did you talk yourself into doing this again? Why are you not at the hospital with an epidural? You are such an idiot! Why did you think this was a good idea?,” etc., etc. The contraction would stop and I would calmly tell myself, “This is good. The baby’s coming. The harder they come, the closer they come, the faster my baby will come. This is good.” And then the contraction would start and I would start the screaming in my head again at what an idiot I am, etc., etc., repeat, repeat.
Midwife and doula show up at about the same time, about an hour after the calls. My midwife wanted to check me. I did not want to move. I grudgingly dragged my body to my bed and after her gentle inspection she let me know I was at about a six or seven and really soft. Okay, whatever. I guess that’s good. I felt like I was at a nine or a ten, these contractions were as intense as my transition contractions with #1. All I knew was I wanted this to be over. I had a contraction that felt like it lasted for three minutes, an eternity. After the tenth breath I moaned, “Why won’t this contraction stop?!” My sweet midwife responded calmly, “That contraction won’t end because your baby is coming soon.” She invited me into the birth tub. Again, I did not want to move.
I suddenly felt the sensation of being punched in the vagina from the inside – baby’s head? – and a gush. Uh oh. If I don’t get out of this bed and into the tub right now this baby will be born right here. So again, I grudgingly dragged my enormous belly out of bed and got in the tub. It wasn’t long after entering the water I got the urge to push. I attempted to feel for my baby’s head. Whoa, mama, this baby was right there! I couldn’t believe it!
After about two or three contractions I got the head halfway out. And it stopped. The head stopped. The contraction stopped. And I screamed. Like shrieking at the top of my lungs and octaves and volumes. For sure I was being ripped front to back. “Ring of fire” does not aptly describe what this felt like. My doula was on the floor next to me, reminding me gently to bring it down, bring the tone down (like by octaves), keep it low, bring it all the way down to the baby. Thankfully, and somehow with very little effort on my part, my body gently pushed the head the rest of the way out with the next contraction. Body came next with one long and hard contraction. I leaned back in the water trying to find and catch my baby. My midwife helped me scoop up her slippery body. Her! It was a girl! With a full head of black hair! I was shocked. I had been convinced this one was a boy.
I sat there holding her, stunned and panting, wondering what the heck just happened. She was gray and covered in vernix and screaming. And the water was clear. Why was the water clear? I must have had a bit of a deer in the headlights look on my face since my midwife asked, “JoAnne, are you okay?” I mumbled that I was okay, but still just sat there sort of shocked over what had just happened.
My husband cut the cord after it stopped pulsing and took her on his bare chest so I could climb out of the tub and into bed to get the placenta out. Upon inspection after birthing the placenta my midwife told me I did not tear. She told me I pushed her out perfectly, nice and slowly, which prevented tearing. Ha! Um, I didn’t actually try to do that. In fact I panicked at high shrieking volumes over it. But hey, I’ll take it.
When baby came back to my chest she got right down to business and started nursing, aggressively, right away. Well, this is new!
And it was. The end of the story was. My total time in labor was 15 1/2 hours. My total time in active labor was maybe 90 minutes. Just five pushes to get her out! My midwife was at my house for maybe forty minutes before the birth. It was crazy. Like a freight train, and that’s what I wanted.
This birth was a victory for me. I look back on it with awe and wonder. It was healing to my traumatized soul. I can now see how some women feel empowered by birth, and although I’m not sure that is what my feelings are towards it, I no longer have fear and anxiety over going through it again. We may or may not have more children, but I now know I can do it and not come out the other side feeling traumatized and like I barely survived. The second time really is easier.
For those of you still pissed that my doula left me, she later explained that she did it intentionally because sometimes when there seems to be something blocking progress, the doula leaving can cause an emotional break-down and break-through that can help push the mother past whatever is holding her back.