Going into labor was something I was completely paranoid about during my second pregnancy. Since I had no idea I was actually in labor for most of my labor with my first child, Gregory, I found myself evaluating every cramp as a possible contraction and every twinge as possible cervical changes... I didn't want to be obnoxious about it, so I didn't call the midwife every time I thought something might be happening. I didn't even bug my husband, Jay, about it every time. I mostly just dealt with my paranoia in silent contemplation. Not the best solution, to be sure, but I saved other people some major frustration in having to listen to me waffle about whether or not it could mean I was in labor.
At about 10pm on Monday, January 25th, I was having some pretty regular cramping, so I decided I needed to call my midwife, Michelle. Because of my history of “fast labor,” she came over to check me out. It turned out that I was having contractions, but I was not really dilated too much. At about 3am, Michelle went to bed in our spare room and I went up to my own bed. In the morning, I was still having contractions, so we called over Wendy [the friend who would be helping out with Gregory during labor]. We kept track of contractions and everything, but nothing was really changing… Michelle tried stripping my membranes, but it wasn’t effective. 3cm dilated and 75% effaced was about all I would see that day. At about lunch time, even the contractions went away, so Michelle left and said to call her if things picked back up again. I cried pretty hard right after she left, and then I cried on and off for the whole rest of the day. I was so disappointed that my labor had "stalled." I had no idea that was even a possibility, really. I had heard of false labor, but not real labor that just stopped, so it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I went to bed Tuesday night feeling pretty down, but determined not to let it get me down the next day. I would just wake up and force myself to get on with the day. Fate, however, had different plans. I woke up at about 3am with crazy shakes [like I had fever chills] and a very cramped lower back. I made myself go back to sleep, but I woke up again at 4am with the same thing. I decided I should probably call Michelle when I noticed that I was also having contractions. Because I felt bad calling again, though, I tried calling the Seton Childbirth Center (where I had gone for Gregory's birth). I figured those nurses were already awake, and they should know if this sounded like labor! They told me to stop feeling bad and to just call Michelle. She thought it was pretty funny that I called the hospital and insisted I should not worry about "bothering" her, especially since it sounded like I would need her to return. She said to drink some water, take a shower, and call her back to let her know how I was feeling. When I was in the shower, I started feeling pressure from the baby hunkering down really low, so I had Jay call and let her know. She decided it was time to come back, and suggested we might want to call Wendy and see if she would be able to stay home from work again.
All day, Wednesday, I was having contractions but not getting anywhere with dilation… At about lunch time, Michelle suggested that we try a homeopathic additive in my water bottle to see if that would do anything. Nothing. We tried a hot shower with “nipple stim.” Nada. She suggested castor oil, and I almost threw up from the very thought of it. She said that maybe an enema would work as well as castor oil but without making me puke, so I conceded. ::shudder:: Sadly, it did not work. She also said she could try to strip my membranes again. She said that she could try to do that every 15 minutes for 2 hours but that we had to admit defeat if that did nothing. Well, it got me up to 5-6cm dilated and I was having contractions every 3 minutes like clockwork. Everything seemed to be working again! At about 9pm, Michelle said I should go up to bed to try and get some rest before the final stages of labor kicked in. I wondered how I would get myself to fall asleep while having contractions every 3 minutes, but exhaustion took over and I did fall asleep… Only to awaken at nearly 7am. Labor had stopped again. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. I just knew that I was not likely having the baby that day either. After breakfast, Michelle left. Wendy went to work, but Jay stayed home with me in case labor kicked back into gear. I updated Michelle later that night that there was still nothing going on, and we went to bed.
When I woke up on Friday morning, I knew that there was little chance of anything happening labor-wise. Jay went to work, and Gregory and I stayed home. I wanted desperately to be able to call Jay and tell him to come home, but I knew that he had to try and get some work done because he had missed most of the week. At work, everyone kept congratulating him – under the assumption that I MUST have had the baby by that time. On Facebook and via e-mail, I kept getting requests for updates, but there was nothing to update other than the fact that I had one of the most frustrating weeks ever and no baby to show for it. I went to bed Friday night praying that I would finally go into labor but wondering if it would still be days until that finally happened.
When Gregory woke up with a nightmare at about 1:45am, though, we were about to jump back into labor-mode. After getting him settled back into bed, I tried to get myself settled in and felt a “pop” as my water broke. When I got back out of bed, I felt a little gush. I went into the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and had another little gush. This was it! I was so excited because my water breaking was what finally made me realize I was in labor for Gregory, and that was only about 2 hours before he was born. So, we called Michelle and Wendy. They both came rushing over, and we got into preparation mode to make sure that everything would be set out and available as needed. Michelle even contacted her assistant, Maureen, to let her know that we were going to need her that day – definitely progress!
It was slightly disappointing to find out that my cervix was still not really dilating, but at least I knew that the baby HAD to be coming along now that my water had broken… Right?!? When we hit lunch time without gains in dilation, Michelle and Maureen started to formulate plans to kick things up a notch. We started with the homeopathic stuff [what they referred to as natural equivalents of pitocin and cervadil] – but in more concentrated drop form, and every 15 minutes instead of just being mixed in to drink casually via water bottle – along with more “nipple stim”… When that didn’t do much, they mixed up the much harsher herbal tinctures of the same stuff. They said I would just have to take it like shots and use a juice chaser to get rid of the nasty taste. Just one major problem with that plan – I CAN’T DO SHOTS! So, I had to do my best to get it down quickly without puking it up. Doesn’t sound too difficult, but take this into consideration – I was already being medicated for hyperemesis and the stuff smelled like Witch Hazel… Literally. Go get a bottle of Witch Hazel, unscrew the top, and take a good whiff. I got down two treatments, and I swore I could take no more.
We were starting to run out of options, and the clock was ticking. If we got near 30 hours post-rupture, we were going to have to talk about heading to a hospital for a c-section. I asked Michelle what she would do and she said we had two remaining “natural” remedies besides the herbal stuff – the castor oil and another enema. I didn’t think I could even look at the castor oil after the herbal tinctures, but the enema wasn’t exactly a fun option either. Jay ran and hid in the basement with Wendy and Gregory while I had my “prison date with Bubba,” as I jokingly called it. I had to maintain humor or I was going to start freaking out soon… What if this didn’t work? What would I do? What COULD I do?
Since things were not exactly rolling, Maureen went home to nap, feed her kids dinner, and get them ready for bed. Wendy went home to shower and rest, too. We didn’t know when we would need them back, but we figured we would probably have enough notice to get them back and at least had the midwife with us if things blew up all at once. Getting to that point was still a mystery, though. Until, suddenly, a light bulb went off in Michelle’s head… She turned to me with eyes the size of saucers and said, “You have an electric, dual breast pump, don’t you?” When I said I did, she told Jay to go and get it.
It had suddenly occurred to her that we could get a whole lot more oxytocin [the stuff pitocin simulates] into my system if we had me hooked up to a breast pump. Unfortunately, though, I hadn’t yet bought new storage bottles – so we improvised and balanced some of Gregory’s plastic Star Wars cups under the units to collect the colostrum that would inevitably leak out in the process. We kept turning the unit on high for the let-down-induction mode and turning it off when it switched over to the long-draw. We would wait about 3 minutes and start it up again. All of the sudden, the contractions started to hit me hard, and we knew we had done it! Labor was in full-swing, and we didn’t have to worry about giving up on the home birth! For the next couple of hours, we just breathed through contractions, got Gregory into bed so he could get some rest before his baby sister came, and waited for things to get closer to the pushing phase.
At about 9:45pm, I started to feel like I would have to push soon… It was time to call Wendy and Maureen and ask them to come back. The most notable thing at this point was the fact that I was, in fact, feeling the contractions – actually hurting from them – which is something I never actually experienced with Gregory’s labor and delivery. It wasn’t terrible pain like you’d expect from the women on TV or in movies who scream and beg for painkillers, but it was certainly a lot more painful than my first labor had been. And, while I knew it was unlikely to even take the edge off, I did ask Jay to get me some Tylenol to help deal with the aching in my lower back. Figured it couldn’t hurt, right?!? When Wendy and Maureen got back, we woke Gregory and told him that his baby sister was finally ready to arrive. Towels and disposable liner pads went down all over the place, Jay literally rolled up the legs of his jeans, and I ditched my nightgown so it would be easier to just roll with it. I started to push at about 10:45pm, so I figured I would have a daughter by midnight. Ha! Wrong again! This little girl was willful right from the start…
While I had only pushed for about 20 minutes with Gregory, it turns out that there was a bit longer to go for Kiley. When Kiley changed positions, my cervix could go from 9.75cm back down to 6cm, so Michelle had to keep holding my cervix open to allow for pushing. Add that to the fact that Kiley’s head never molded AND the fact that she was resting her fist up against her chin the whole time, and you get a way more difficult baby to push out! I had planned on squatting so that gravity would help, but I ended up too tired and had to lie down on the couch for the final bit of pushing. The one thing I didn’t have to miss this time, though, was being able to see as the baby came out. We had the mirror ready and waiting because this was my last baby and, therefore, my last chance to watch myself give birth. It was definitely surreal, but I am so glad I was able to have that extra bit of incentive to keep going when it got tough at the end. Seeing my beautiful daughter’s tiny little face before she was even fully born was simply amazing!
Kiley was born at 1:21am on Sunday, January 31. The fact that we had a daughter was actually not confirmed until a few minutes after her birth, though, because we were all busy fawning over her and cleaning her up. I kept saying “baby girl” and calling her by name when Jay suddenly asked, “Has anyone actually checked to see if it’s a Kiley or Colin?” Michelle replied that it was our job to check, so I (rather unceremoniously) grabbed and lifted a leg to see that we did, in fact, have a baby girl!
Many people were sure that I would likely have another “quick/easy” labor. After all, the first time around, I only realized I might be in labor when my water broke – and I wasn’t even sure of that because it had happened when I was peeing. We went to the hospital just to be sure, and Gregory was born just over 2 hours later. Though my contractions registered as normal on the monitor, it never really “hurt” to be in labor, and I had to be told when to push. It was easy to forgo pain meds, and pushing didn’t even take very long. That labor and delivery almost seemed too good to be true, and I like to joke that Kiley felt it necessary to “even the score” since her brother went so easy on me.
When they heard about the week-long ordeal that this second labor had become, many people asked if I regretted my decision to have a home birth this time around. My honest reply was – and still is – a resounding, “No! I am even happier that I chose to have a home birth!” Not only was I able to labor and deliver in the most comfortable environment possible [my own home], but I didn’t feel at all pressured to hurry up and have my baby according to some doctor’s preferred timeline. And, as someone who loves food almost as much as life itself, I was also ecstatic that being in labor didn’t equal starvation, as it often does in the hospital. In fact, one of my favorite pictures from that week was one Michelle took of me balancing a plate of pizza and wings on my belly as I breathed through a contraction.
But, seriously… I was extremely grateful that I was able to avoid many of the common medical interventions that could have easily spiraled into a c-section, and that my 4 ½ year old son was able to be there when his baby sister was born. After all, H1N1 restrictions at the hospital were the entire reason we looked into and switched to a home birth practice half-way through this pregnancy. Gregory wanted to be there to see his sister being born, and I didn’t want to spend several days away from my first child just to give birth to my second. So, everything worked out in the end. Gregory was not only there to see his little sister come into the world, but he also did an excellent job as a birth coach – although he bowed out of cutting the umbilical cord with Jay. Rather than being kept away from her for several days, Gregory was able to hold his baby sister within an hour of her birth. And rather than worrying about the logistics of finding care for Gregory while I went in and out of labor all week, we were able to simply spend time together while we waited [as patiently as we could] for Kiley to make her grand entrance into the world. Being able to experience Kiley’s birth as a family was simply magical, and I am so thankful that Michelle was able to make it possible. Even knowing now what I didn’t know then – heck, BECAUSE of what I know now – I would undoubtedly make the same choice again!