When we found out that we were pregnant with our second child, Big Papa and I knew that we wanted to approach the labor and delivery differently than we did with Goober. Goobie's birthday, as beautiful as it was, was a bit scary. My body reacted poorly to the epidural--causing my already low blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels. I also felt a lot of painful contractions -- something I hadn't prepared for. I just assumed that I would be numb and did very minimal labor prep. Big Papa and I both felt a little helpless in how to deal with what was going on. In the end, Goober was delivered safely and healthfully -- but after that day we knew we wanted to try something differently for our next child.
After doing some research on various natural birthing methods, Big Papa and I decided to take a Bradley Method birthing class. We liked how it focused on a husband coached child-birth approach, making Big Papa not a spectator in the birth, but my partner and coach. We spent the six months leading up to Peanut's birth in "training": tracking my diet, going to classes, and doing all sorts of exercises to get my body ready to deliver. I think that the most valuable thing we gained during this process though was confidence -- confidence in our knowledge of what would/could happen when I began labor, and confidence that my body could do it naturally. Neither of us felt scared in the days leading up to delivery, in fact I think both of us were ready and excited to use our training for the "big game" (Big Papa got really into the athlete analogy that Dr. Bradley liked to use).
At around 39 weeks pregnant, I started having one or two real contractions a day. I had been telling myself not to focus on my due date because realistically I could have the baby any time + or - 2 weeks around it, but on July 1st I still mourned the passing of my due date with no baby. That week I continued to have a contraction or two and started feeling more and more "done". We spent the week (the hottest week of the summer) walking the mall and Costco, trying to convince baby to come. I was super hot, uncomfortable, tired, and ready to have that baby!
My mom came into town on July 4th and the next day I had my midwife appointment. She checked me (2 cm) and swept my membranes, telling me that there was a 50/50 chance this could start something. I felt a little cramping that evening, but nothing more. My mom treated me to a luxurious pedicure the next morning and the pedicurist even showed us where to massage to start labor. Saturday morning I cried and cried -- why was I not having my baby? Honestly, I think the thing I was so frustrated with was the idea of having to go to church the next day at 41 weeks pregnant and tell everyone that yes, I was indeed still pregnant.
But around 2:00 pm that day, I started having contractions. They were far apart, but happening regularly (yay!) Big Papa and I decided to take a trip to Costco and Hyvee to get some walking in and get some last minute groceries (because hopefully, this was the real thing). I continued contracting throughout our trip, making me happy that yes, this was real, early labor!!! When we went to bed that night at around 10:00 pm, the contractions were about 10-12 minutes apart. We both got some pretty good sleep in and at around 3:00 am I had a contraction that really woke me up. They were still about 8-10 minutes apart, but they were picking up in intensity. Big Papa quickly turned into my coach and we worked on really relaxing during contractions. I ate some cottage cheese on toast, we both had a shower, and finished packing our hospital bag between contractions.
At 5:00 am, I was starting to get a little frustrated and confused, because although they were picking up in intensity, the contractions were still 8 minutes apart. Big Papa had me call labor and delivery to tell them what was going on, and they told me to wait until they were 3-5 minutes apart -- I could come earlier but I might be sent home, and since I wanted a natural and intervention free birth, I should probably stay home as long as possible (unless my water broke, etc.)
The next two hours I spent laboring on my bed, with Big Papa helping me relax through the contractions, telling me to breathe deeply while he massaged my back with his palms, fists, fingers, and a tennis ball (SO GOOD). At around 6:40 am, our little Goober woke up, and trotted into our bedroom like she usually does with a "Hi Momma! Hi Dadda!". She tried to jump into bed with me, but being mid-contraction, I wouldn't let her. I felt bad when my mom had to come get her and pull her from our room (Goober was pretty upset), but she was ok as soon as Disney Jr. got turned on :)
At that point, Big Papa and I decided it was time to get up and get moving, so we took a walk around our apartment complex. The heat wave that had been plaguing us all week had finally broken, and so the walk was incredibly refreshing and relaxing (well, the contractions weren't but between contractions I enjoyed it :)). During these contractions I leaned my head into Big Papa's chest and we did the "labor dance", just swaying back and forth. It was around this point in my labor that I realized I needed him to be with me through every contraction. When he wasn't there, I had a hard time relaxing, making the contractions really hard to get through.
Pretty quickly, my contractions went from 8 minutes apart to 4-5 minutes. We went back into the apartment so that Big Papa could grab something to eat (I could only eat one lone frosted mini wheat at that point). I had a really powerful contraction and it was decided that it was time for us to head to the hospital. We waved bye-bye to our sweet girl and grandma, then headed out!
We parked in the ramp, and then realized we didn't know how to get to labor and delivery from there. Luckily, a woman who must have worked at the hospital noticed my laboring state and got us to the correct elevator. We met up with a L/D nurse there and she walked us right into triage, saying that she remembered seeing that I'd called that morning and that they were expecting me. I got hooked up to some monitors to see how baby was doing and to time the contractions, which had decided to slow back down to 8 minutes apart. We both couldn't believe it, and really hoped they would pick back up or that I would be far enough along dilation-wise that they wouldn't send me home. I had some whoppers of contractions during that point (the hardest ones I'd had so far), so I was pretty sure we were there to stay. It was nice to see how well baby was handling the contractions. Goober's heart rate had dropped dramatically during each one, but our Peanut was thriving. After about 30-45 minutes in triage one of my midwives, Liz, came to see how I was doing. I was dilated to 4-5 cm and my contractions were back to 4 minutes apart. She said that I could stay at the hospital or even go home if I wanted to, but knowing that my toddler was awake I decided that I'd much rather get checked in and continue to labor in a quiet hospital room.
I think it was around 9:00 am when we got into our L/D room. Big Papa and I were really impressed with the hospital facilities there -- nice big, open room with windows that brought in some soothing natural light. The bathrooms had GIANT jacuzzi tubs, which I was excited to use. I hopped in the shower while Big Papa ordered me some italian ice. It was such a relief to get off that triage bed as I was not handling the contractions super well laying down anymore. We continued to do our labor dance around the room, with Liz and Rita (my nurse) popping in and out to make sure we were doing ok. Rita would check the baby's heart rate every half hour or so, but other than intermittent monitoring, I wasn't hooked up to anything, allowing me a lot of freedom to move. Liz brought me a birthing ball to try out and I sat on it while leaning against the raised hospital bed. That birthing ball was my saving grace. I'd used it in Bradley class during labor practice, but didn't really get the point until then. Big Papa would come around and massage my back during contractions and I could do pelvic rocks between them to help ease my back pain. I fell asleep between contractions a couple times while on the ball too.
I didn't really notice the time much at that point, except for the fact that my contractions just kept getting closer and closer together. I had started vocalizing through them, making some good cavewoman sounds (that's for you Dr. Reich!). When I wasn't as focused or relaxed during a contraction, I would start doing much higher sounds and then Big Papa and Liz would encourage me to lower my voice. It was really interesting to see how just grounding my voice helped to manage the pain.
Time passed, I guess (I really wasn't paying any attention to it), and the contractions kept getting harder and harder. I really didn't think I could do it for much longer, but Big Papa and Liz kept encouraging me. I decided that I wanted to get in the tub, so Liz checked me to make sure I was progressing well enough. She told me that I was at 7 cm -- transition time! I knew that I might not have a ton of time in the tub, but I still wanted to get in. The warm water relaxed me just enough, and about 2 minutes later I felt like my body was getting ready to push. In Iowa, it is against the law to do a water birth in the hospital, so I frantically asked Liz and James to help me out. Liz checked me again and told me that things were changing fast, so we moved over to the hospital bed where they had set up the squat bar for me. I had a few more contractions using the squat bar and then the urge to push really came. It was the craziest feeling because my body just needed to push and I couldn't stop it.
So with Big Papa at my side, Liz, Rita, and the resident who was observing (it was his first natural birth), I began pushing up at the bar. It was hard to understand how to do it at first, but my body started working for me and I heard Liz say, "Rita, we're going to have a baby" signaling her to get another nurse or two. Hearing this gave me the drive I needed. I started to really push, vocalizing pretty loudly. The nurses kept telling me to keep my voice low -- Big Papa said it was crazy to hear me make so many different sounds: the higher pitched ones were more frantic, but the lower ones almost operatic (I've gotta use my training somewhere ;)).
Then, Liz said to me, "let's have a baby with this next one" and I gave it everything I could. I never thought I'd be a yeller, but... well... I yelled! I really can't describe how it felt in words, but the relief I felt as I pushed our little girl out was the most incredible relief I have ever felt. After just three minutes of pushing, at 1:08 pm, our sweet little Peanut was born and placed right on my chest.
We spent the next 45 minutes or so delivering the placenta and stitching me up (I tore a bit where my episiotomy was last time), while Big Papa and I stared at our sweet girl. Eventually, the pediatrician came in to check her out clean her up a little -- she was perfect. I breast-fed her and then we went to our room in mother/baby and got settled in.
Looking back, I am still amazed that I did it. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I know that without my incredible husband, I could never have done it. He was the best couch and partner and allowed me to bring our daughter into the world so safely and so healthfully. I feel so blessed that I was healthy enough and had such a low risk pregnancy that I was able to do it in such a private, personal way. It really was amazing and awesome and just incredible.
So, would I do it again? Ask me in a year or two ;) because it was HARD. It hurt a ton. But it was worth it.