At 7:30 am I felt a pop in my belly. I thought ‘This is either him punching me down low or this is water breaking’. I tentatively stood up and expected the water to start falling out but it didn’t. I went to the toilet and there didn’t seem to be anything to indicate there was water but then on the way back there was a little dribble. I sent a text to my midwife. She called me back and asked me to do a lay down/sit up test where I let the water pool and then sit up to see if it drains. This confirmed to her (and to us) that there was no mistaking it. Waters had broken.
Julien and I decided to get organized as we knew this baby was now coming. He had to go to work so we wrote out a shopping list of things for me to get and he also called a good friend to come sit with me while he was at work. When I came home I lay out on my towel on the sofa and waited for contractions to arrive whilst trying to rest as much as possible (knowing that I needed to conserve energy for later).
At around 2pm I started feeling cramping that could be described as more regular but this still felt like cramping rather than a contraction. At around 2.30 I decided to start timing these. They were about 4-8 mins apart and around 60-90s in duration. This was confusing to me as I was expecting to start with contractions that were more spread apart and indeed they were just like cramps and could totally be internalized (i.e. Someone looking at me wouldn’t have any idea).
At around 5pm I decided to start side lying and closing my eyes seemed to be most relaxing for me. Around this time my husband came home from work and over the next couple hours while he got the house ready (inflated the tub, laid out birth kit etc) I noticed the contractions becoming slightly stronger. I moved when I could and then lay down on either my bed or the sofa when the contraction came. My method for a long time was just to take 10 deep breaths counting down slowly. By the time I had reached number 1 the contraction was either over or I was over the peak of it. I would describe the feeling of the contraction as like a wave of discomfort rather than pain. Totally relaxing my body while side lying worked well for me as I had no need to use any muscles in my body and just allow the wave to pass over me.
At one point in the evening I decided that I wanted to lay in the bath tub. Julien ran the water over my body from the shower attachment. This felt really nice and it was good to have a change of position and different sensations (the water) to focus on. While Julien ate dinner (I wasn’t hungry) we lay out on the sofa and he watched a movie and I kind of half-watched. The contractions at this point were not painful but required some concentration to get through them. I continued to take big deep breaths and countdown from 10. I found the harder they got the more I would try and drag the numbers out. Sometimes I would visualize the number being painted on a wall with big long brushstrokes. This was just my attempt at slowing down the countdown and therefore getting through the contraction before hitting ‘1’. From time to time the contractions would make me vomit and I had a bin nearby which Julien would hold under my mouth when needed.
At around 11pm we went to bed. We had spoken to the midwife and she had said to me that we were going to be laboring all day next day and this is just the beginning (not really something I wanted to hear). She suggested I try and sleep as much as possible in between contractions or if not just doze to retain energy. She told me she would come by at 8am the next morning (also something I didn’t want to hear!) Whilst in bed, although I was doing well managing the contractions there wasn’t really enough space on the bed to be able to move around and not kick Julien. I also wanted him to sleep as I was going to need him to be rested for the next day so I moved into the living room and on my own labored on the sofa for a while. I also figured being out there was closer to the bathroom and the shorter distance made sense to me.
Wednesday June 20th
At about midnight I started to feel within the contractions the urge to bear down. It was almost like a vomit or gag reflex and was hard to control. I thought this was an urge to empty my bowels so I went to the bathroom frequently and then whenever I would sit on the seat I would get another contraction. So for the next couple hours I labored on my own between the sofa and the bathroom. At one point I went in the bath again and lay down and sprayed my body with warm water. I was concerned that I shouldn’t allow the ‘bearing down’ to push the baby because as far as I knew I wasn’t fully dilated. As my contractions were still 3-4 mins apart I assumed this to be the case.
In addition to our midwife we had been offered the services of a midwifery student who was looking to gain more birth experience and had had a homebirth herself. I had kept her up to date with the progressions up to that point and when it reached about 2.30am I texted her saying that I needed help and didn’t feel like I was coping well fighting with the urges to bear down. She said she would make her way over to help.
I woke Julien up and he helped me labor for the next couple hours. At this point the contractions didn’t even register. They were just the cloud that contained these impossible to control urges. I don’t remember feeling any pain just incredible pressure in my bottom. Like I was constipated or had trapped gas. Because of this I felt the need to go to the bathroom very often although there was no real ‘result’ – just an urge to sit on the seat just in case. At this point I spoke to Tania again and she listened to my contractions again. She said that if I wanted to relieve the urge to bear down that I should go on all fours. For some reason this was very uncomfortable and holding my weight on my arms felt very shaky. I much preferred side lying and not having to support my weight in any way. She also told me that I still had a long way to go and should try and rest as much as possible. Again, this was something I didn’t want to hear as the thought of doing this through to the following day didn’t seem like fun. I was still able to talk between contractions and able to move around without help.
At 5am the midwifery student arrived and she watched me go through a couple contractions and then she and Julien started to make sure we had everything ready in the apartment. I was still moving from the bedroom to the sofa to the bathroom and would rotate between these spaces. When the sun started to come up around 6am I started to question the labor. I was frustrated and tired and had been doing the same thing for almost 6 hours with little change in frequency or strength. I was asking her questions like, “How do I know if I’ve been doing good work or not?” “It’s hard not to have any idea what stage of my labor I’m at” and “Why won’t the contractions get closer together?” This was the most frustrating part. I wasn’t suffering or in pain but it just became boring coping with the same intensity and the same pattern for such a long time. I wanted to see progression and there was none. I never once worried that there was something wrong but I hadn’t been checked by anyone at this point as we were still waiting for the midwife who was due to arrive at 8am.
Julien left to go to the store (after asking me over and over if it was ok for him to go) as Tania had said we had a full day of labor ahead and he felt there wasn’t enough food for me and everyone else. I was starting to manage to doze off to sleep between some contractions which felt nice. When I would get a contraction I was able to stay quite quiet but when I would let an urge to push go I would let out a low groan as my abdominals would clench up. The contractions were still 3-4 minutes apart and I was still mentally preparing myself for transition although I was getting tired of working with the same contractions and it was hard to imagine doing this for much longer.
Once Julien returned, the student midwife suggested that more movement in my legs might help move things along. We did some high step walking (lifting knees up high) and marched through the apartment. She suggested walking up and down the stairs or going out for a walk. I didn’t feel like doing either and flat out said ‘no’. I think she had a chat with Julien and he came into the bedroom and said very gently that we should just try the stairs and if we did it once then if I didn’t like it I could come back. I reluctantly said yes but I needed to go to the bathroom first.
7:30am: I hadn’t been able to pee for a couple of hours and this concerned me so as I was sitting down I felt between my legs as I thought I may have been too swollen to pee. When I put my hand down there I felt something hard – A HEAD! I shouted for the student midwife and she asked Julien to get a glove from the birth kit. I was sitting there so excited. I needed her to confirm that this was actually his head! Finally she got the glove on and had a feel. He was there!! This was the best feeling ever. I had completely dilated, apparently gone through transition and had pushed him down and he was now crowning….all without me realizing it. I leapt out of the bathroom and said ‘Let’s call Tania!’ ‘Let’s fill up the pool!’ ‘Let’s get this baby out!’. After so many hours of holding back the urge to push it felt good to know I could finally release with the urges and go with what my body had been asking me to do – PUSH!
The student midwife called the midwife who was already on her way. When she told her I was crowning and the midwife couldn’t believe what she was hearing and had to pull over the car so she wasn’t mistaken. Julien started filling up the pool with water and I walked around, excited to be able to start having my baby.
When she arrived just after 8am I immediately asked her to check the baby’s heart rate. I wanted to know that I was safe to push and that there was no risk to the baby. She checked baby and my vitals and looked at his head and was happy with the way everything looked so at 8:40am I got in the pool. With every contraction I went with the urge to push and reached my hand down from time to time to feel more and more head come out. This was a great motivation and at one point Julien reached down too and felt his head. It was incredibly exciting to know he was almost here.
Cara arrived and was a very positive influence. She congratulated me on how well I had done and that felt good. I enjoyed the recognition that I had done a good job after having been so doubtful only a couple hours earlier.
I continued to push but only when I had the urge and not throughout the whole contraction. I tried to listen to my body as much as I could and only went with what it was telling me to do. His head progressed a little further and further out each time and then would retract at the end of the contraction. This is exactly how I wanted him to emerge, slowly and gently to avoid tearing. However, this gentle approach was getting me a little impatient and it felt like his head was enormous and I would never get it out. Cara said if I wanted to try standing up this could help him come out. Julien held on to my upper body as I rose with shaking legs out of the water and stood there knee deep. Sure enough with only a few pushes his head was out. This was quite possibly one of the best feelings in my life. His body just slipped out of me and I barely felt a thing. All of a sudden he was being passed through my legs and into my arms.
9:41am: The feeling of seeing him for the first time was very surreal. I don’t remember there being a rush of ‘love’ and I was expecting to cry or be more emotional but instead it was very calm (or seemed so in my mind) and I was just taking in his face and holding him close to me. He wasn’t crying consistently and Tania was checking him and rubbing him as I gazed at him. I just couldn’t believe that THIS was the same lump that had been in my belly moments earlier. Julien cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing and then he held him as I was taken care of by my midwife.
Then the midwives helped me up and I couldn’t believe the amount of blood that ran down my legs. It was like a horror movie! I kept asking the midwives to reassure me that this was a normal amount. I got out to the side of the pool and lay down. My midwife checked me and massaged my belly to make sure the uterus was contracting ok. She then checked me for tears. I had one small tear that they said would have healed naturally but they wanted to add a stitch just to stop the bleeding.
Once I was all cleaned up I moved slowly over to the sofa. I was a bit light headed so I didn’t stand but rather crawled very slowly. This I thought was hilarious. Julien and my son, Cassius, sitting there while I crawled across my apartment. I lay out on the sofa and Julien brought Cassius to me. This was around 10:45 and I started to breast feed him while Julien made the ladies sandwiches and then he joined us as they tidied up. We fed for an hour and then after some more checking of me and the baby we moved to the bedroom. The midwives helped us get comfortable and by midday we were all tucked up in bed ready for our first family nap.
I tried to sleep and was incredibly tired but the seeing Cassius lying next to me made it hard to sleep so I just lay and stared. He was just so perfect!
Upon reflection although my labour didn’t follow a standard pattern and it became frustrating and confusing at times it was never unbearable and what I was feeling didn’t really register as pain but more as very uncomfortable pressure. I have said to other people that I was ‘lucky’ although I know the success of my birth was due to our thorough mental preparation too. Having complete confidence in my body and our methods was key to remaining calm and relaxed and must have helped me progress without even realizing how far I had actually progressed. I was happy that just alone and with Julien’s help we drew upon our instincts and what we had learnt and managed to work through it all with no suffering, pessimistic thoughts or panic. A completely calm and healthy birth!