My water broke without any real warning or drama on Friday afternoon. I was pretty sure I knew what had happened, but I wasn't having any contractions, and there were no signs of a problem, so I carried on with my day, ran a few errands and waited for Alex to get home. When Alex got the news he immediately went into preparation mode, cutting up fruit for snacks during labour and packing the bags. My contractions hadn't started, but considering how much fluid I had lost, it seemed like labour was imminent. I called my midwife to give her the update and she suggested we have a good dinner and go to bed early. My contractions started out at midnight, coming on every 10 minutes or so, at a level of pain that was very manageable, but intense enough that my last few hours of sleep were behind me.
By the time the mid-wife called to check-in in the morning, the contractions had intensified. Alex needed to go and pick-up a rental car, and I didn't want to be alone, so I called my best friend, Ellen, who had offered to be on hand in any way she could help. When I called her I told her, "It's pretty real", which was my way of saying that things were getting ugly and I completely understood if she didn't want to be around while all this was going on. Quite the opposite, she seemed ready and willing and showed up shortly after with a bag. She immediately looked for ways to make me more comfortable, rubbing my back and getting me to drink water.
Alex and I had planned to have the baby with the midwife in the hospital, but I reached a point in my labour that I did not want to leave the safety and security of my home, so midway through the day on Saturday we decided to have a home birth. Ellen was with us the whole time and Alex was amazing, so I felt so supported and loved. By Saturday afternoon I was 8cm dilated. The contractions were still manageable, my real challenges were nausea, which came on when I had the most intense contractions, and extreme back pain, which was very painful, but was helped by breathing exercises, a heating pad and my wonderful support people. My two midwives were excited by my progress, and I couldn't believe that I was so close to having our baby in our own bedroom with nothing but love, sheer will power, the two people in the world dearest two me and the guiding hands of two wise women. I felt so safe and supported and powerful. I made it to 9.5cm around 7PM and the pushing stage was just around the corner.
Things took a turn at that point, and we realized that I wasn't progressing, despite my best efforts. The midwives examined me and determined that the baby could not seem to get out. I could already feel the baby's head from the outside, he seemed so close to coming out, but didn't seem to want to budge. So we tried everything. I walked up and down the stairs in our building for intervals, we tried pushing from different positions, I did lunges, I did more stairs. After four hours of trying, my midwife told me very calmly that we were going to the hospital to get a consultation with an OB. So we got in the car--honestly the most uncomfortable point of the day to that point, and drove to the hospital. I took the stairs to the birthing wing, still determined that this baby could come down. The OB on call examined me and confirmed what the midwives had suspected, that the baby could not get past the last bit of cervix and was in a posterior position, meaning his back was against my back (hence the back pain) and was trying to come out face up, when almost all babies are born face down. He said I would likely require a c-section, but he was willing to try to manually turn the baby. I told him I would like to try. He said I would need to get an epidural for the procedure, so at this point my hope of having an unmedicated birth was gone. The OB tried the technique, which was quite uncomfortable, but not painful due to the epidural, and concluded that the baby could not be turned and I would be having a c-section. It was not the news I was hoping for, but at this point I was mainly concerned about the baby's health. I went in for surgery shortly after, and Oliver was born at 3:03 AM, about 27 hours after my labour had started.
It definitely wasn't the birth that we had planned, or the birth that we wanted, but as soon as we heard him cry for the first time, we knew that we had the baby that we wanted. It was a rough start, but we are so happy with our new little family. We think he's pretty cute. The last few days have been kind of a blur, just learning the ropes and recovering from major surgery. Because of the c-section, Alex is basically doing everything except breast feeding--and he has helped tremendously with that since I have trouble getting into comfortable positions because of the incision and the fact that I can't use any of my core muscles (not to mention the IV, etc. that they had me hooked up to). He does all the diaper changes, puts the baby to bed, and now that we're home will have to do all the housework (although to be fair, that's not much of a departure from the norm). He has been my hero and I am so proud to call him my baby's daddy.
Speaking of heroes, Ellen stayed with us right up to the end and even waited for me to come out of the recovery room after surgery. She's been to see us every day, bringing Alex food, picking up stuff from our apartment. Considering Oliver is not even three days old, she has been with him most of his life, so it kind of feels like he's hers, too. We didn't have any visitors to the hospital--we asked family and friends to respect our desire to be on our own in the beginning--but we asked Ellen to bring her husband and 13 month old daughter to meet Oliver. Eventhough they weren't with us during labour, I still owe them a debt of gratitude for taking so much of Ellen's time over the last few days. It felt so right having us all there in the same room, two families who had grown in size and grown together.
Opting for a homebirth may seem like a radical decision to a lot of people, but for us, it just felt right. I trusted everyone in that room, and I trusted my body to know what to do. Having a natural birth was almost a primitive experience for me. I lost all sense of time and place, sometimes I moaned deep in my throat and sometimes I repeated positive affirmations. I knew that as soon as I arrived at the hospital, my chances for a natural birth would diminish. I know myself enough to know that if I go to a restaurant and the server offers me fries or a salad, I may not be able to refuse the fries, even though I know that I will likely regret it later. A home birth ensured that I would not as easily be tempted by drugs or other interventions. And because of where I live, the midwives carry all the equipment of a Level I hospital, and the hospital where I eventually delivered is only a short drive away.
Some of the nurses that cared for us during our stay at the hospital commented, "if only you would have known, you could have had the c-section from the start, and saved yourself from all that." I couldn't disagree with them more. I am so grateful to have had the experience that I did, labouring at home. I know that we did everything possible to avoid a c-section, which is very important to me. Going through labour the way I did, I learned to trust my body, to listen to what it was telling me, and when the time came to go the hospital, I already knew that it was what had to happen. When I reached 9.5 cm, something changed and I knew I couldn't do it on my own anymore. I still had hope that we could make the adjustments at home, or perhaps have the baby at the hospital with something less invasive than a c-section, but I knew that the rhythm of my birth had been abruptly stopped. This awareness has helped me tremendously in dealing with my birth experience. One of the affirmations that I repeated during labour was, "let go", and when I received the news that I would have a c-section, I let go of my attachment to my plan for my baby's birthday and focused on what was important: every day after.
When we arrived home from the hospital--it's funny how spacious our condo seems after being in a hospital room for three days--Alex asked, "what do we do now?"
"We get on with our lives," I told him.
And we couldn't be happier about it.