It’s happening again. It’s midnight and I’m getting some uncomfortable contractions. Are they real this time? I think they are. My low back has been throbbing and achy all day. This has to be it. It better be because I’m over this shit. Okay let’s get up like we did last night and do the Braxton Hicks test. If I head downstairs and grab some water and walk around and the contractions persist, we are having a baby.
It’s been an hour and they are still coming in like hot fire against my back and every 10 minutes. Okay, this is it. Let’s wake up Walter and get this party started. I’m feeling excited and confident more than I am dreading the discomfort. I’m ready. Let’s roar.
After this first hour of labour, my husband got up and went to pick his mother up and bring her back to our place so she could stay with Eliana. We didn’t want to wake her and if I’m being quite honest, I wanted to avoid the whole “goodbye and when I see you again you’ll be a big sister” ordeal. I had already been super emotional about E all week.
So he left and would be close to an hour gone with the drive there and back. Not long after he left, my contractions went from being 10 minutes apart to 5. And they were getting more intense. Well, shit. To avoid progressing any more than the minimal amount, I forced myself to labour lying down in bed. I was scared to get up and walk around and perhaps speed things up. Although I love the idea of home births, it just wasn’t our plan and surely, I didn’t want to do it all alone. So for the next hour, I battled the dreadful back labour waves that came in strong and every 5 minutes while lying down in bed (and if you’ve experienced back labour, you know lying down doesn’t feel the greatest). When I couldn’t take it anymore and when I knew they’d be back any moment, I got up and started gathering our items. As soon as Walter got home I said “we need to call the midwife. Now.”
Half an hour later we were at the birth center. Our midwife checked me and just as I’d assumed-I was 9 centimetres dilated already. She admitted us to our quiet, dim, private room all to ourselves. I jumped in the shower right away. This shower was heaven. I had Walter run the shower head along my lower abdomen during contractions and there was hot water hitting my back the whole time coming from another jet.
I don’t know how long it had been but I got this feeling I had when I was in labor with Eliana. Something inside me just told me to move on and try something else to help things progress. I really didn’t want to get out of the shower but I just felt as if I should. So we went walking, I used the vertical ladders to hang onto and did some squats and lunges. It felt absolutely awful but it was working. I could feel my baby descend further and further after each violent contraction. The midwife showed Walter how to apply counter pressure on my hips during the contractions which is all that got me through until I had the urge to push. Things were really heated at this point and I was so uncomfortable.
The midwives suggested I try the tub which I desperately wanted to but was equally scared to. I had laboured in the tub with Eliana for 7 hours with absolutely no progression. Not a damn thing happened until I got out. That was the last thing I wanted to repeat.
Then I levelled with myself. “Chantal, every birth is different. You know this. You know that you have to stop comparing. Let’s go for a bit and see what happens, take a break from standing. Overcome this heavy fear of “lack of progression.” Without saying any of these running thoughts aloud, it was almost as if the midwives heard them. They ushered me along in the direction of the ready and welcoming tub. I climbed in and felt immediate relief.
I’m not sure how long had passed before that fear of lack of progression returned and just pure impatience at this point. The midwife said she could break my waters and things would fire right up but should meconium be present, I’d have to transfer to the hospital. Seeing as that is what happened with Eliana, that option was a hard no. I could stand to wait for my waters to rupture naturally. After a few more contractions I looked at her desperately and asked if it was normal to take this long when I was checked in at 9 centimetres dilated already. I don’t recall what her answer was but that next contraction shot me out of the water. I howled. I felt a pop. My waters broke. I looked down hoping to confirm what I was confident of-no meconium. I sighed with relief followed by another loud, uncontrollable howl. The urge to push had arrived and I remember thinking “how long is this going take now?” I could feel that Emilia was low but felt as if there was still some distance to go.
I was asked to finish labouring out of the tub. Eliana was a vacuum assisted 9 pounder. The midwives were taking precautionary measures in case this baby also needed some assistance making her way out safely. I surprisingly got comfortable on my back, laying down in the bed just as they do in the hospital. I pushed, I dug my nails into Walters arms as far as I could and gasped for air. I was reminded to breathe. I pushed a couple more times and naturally took on a bicycle motion, alternating one leg up with my knee to my chest until everyone said they could see her jet black hair. I pushed again and felt that burning ring of fire. Out came her head. I took another breath to immediately push again but was stopped. “Wait until the next contraction, if you keep pushing now you may tear way more than necessary.” What. Seriously. She’s out. Her head is just there outside my vagina. I’m so close. Okay I’ll wait. Fuck, I’m sick of waiting. Ok here’s the contraction. Her shoulder was a little stuck so I was assisted by having both my legs pushed back against me. That was the last of the pain, the last burn. I immediately looked up and remember seeing a perfect baby girl with a full head of hair. She was placed on me right away. I felt nothing but love and pride.
My husband got to cut the cord after some delay. We cuddled and admired her as I was cleaned and stitched up. Everything was so peaceful and the atmosphere made it really easy to forget what just happened minutes, hours ago.
We were released and in the comfort of our own home 4 hours later. I felt so much more relaxed, rested, and at ease this time. My first week of healing was pretty rough but it was much quicker the second time around. Breastfeeding was a smooth ride which I’ll forever be grateful for. I learned that labour doesn’t have to be all pain all the time. The more we relax when we can, the better the outcome. My contractions were fucking brutal but in between them I was my normal self. Conversing and joking as if I was out on a coffee date. I remember feeling like it was taking forever but it was really only 6 hours of active labour (and 2 hours of inactive) with consistent contractions even though I felt like they were drifting apart. I really learned to overcome a huge fear I hung onto from my first experience, lack of progression. I learned how to reason with myself in the hardest of times and eventually trust my instincts and let my body guide myself. And nothing can take that strength away.