I think that laboring at home as long as we could made laboring at the hospital so successful in regards to fulfilling an intervention free birth. Because this was my first baby, I had no idea what labor was going to feel like. Being able to manage labor at home with my husband in the beginning gave me confidence when we got to the hospital. Together we figured out how to work through my contractions to find my most comfortable position without anyone else… just the two of us.
When contractions became 4 minutes apart, lasting longer than a minute and consistently for an hour we decided to make our way to the hospital. Part Two: At the Hospital
We climbed in the car and made the 20 minute trip to the hospial. The car ride was okay, but I had to sit upright, wearing my seat belt as each contraction rolled through my body. More than anything, I just wanted to get there and get centered on the task that lay ahead of me.
It was around 12am by the time I had checked in, dressed in the the comfy clothes I had brought with me, and gotten settled in the labor and delivery room. The lights were dim and the music we brought to play filled our room. The nurse confirmed that I was dilated to 5 cm, halfway there, and my husband wrapped his arms around me. I felt encouraged by that thought. As a first time mother, I knew my labor could be long – but knowing I had come so far already gave me renewed energy.
It is hard to really understand what a contraction feels like until you are in the middle of one. It isn’t like menstrual cramps, it isn’t a head to toe ache – it’s a deep, active pain that rolled from my lower belly and spread through my body. Every contraction had a steady increase in strength, a peak, and then a forgiving end – giving me enough time to gather my breath and strength to prepare for the next one.
It felt so good between each contraction. I took that time to just lay there and relax my mind and body or even crack a joke here and there. After one contraction that seemed to be a little more intense than the ones before, I said, “whoa! that was a good one!” – I wanted to stay positive knowing that each contraction was bringing me my baby girl. I remember our doula turning to my husband at one point and ask, “Is she always this much fun?”
As part of our birth plan, I requested as little medical intervention as possible. No IV, intermittent fetal monitoring only and no internal exam until I requested. A lot of women have a strong desire to know exactly how far they have progressed in their labor, but for me – I didn’t want a number of centimeters dilated to effect my focus. I was afraid that hearing I progressed only a few centimeters would shake my courage. With nothing connecting me to my environment, I was free to move and find a comfortable position to labor. Surprisingly, being on my hands and knees felt the most comfortable and I stayed that way in bed for over the next hour.
At 1am my water broke during a contraction. What a weird feeling. I think I was giggling a little while informing the room, “uhhhh… I am pretty sure my water just broke.” That gave me about a five minute break before my next contraction… However, when they returned they became much more intense from the ones I had before. The jokes began to fade and my eyes remained closed for the rest of my labor. I had to let go of trying to control the pain of each contraction and went deep within myself to find strong breaths and allow my body take over.
By 2:30am, I was asking to use the birthing tub for the remainder of my laboring. I rode each contraction up and down – laying sideways in the tub leaning over the edge as I focused on each wave. My husband stayed right there next to me, holding my hand, rubbing my arms and encouraging me over and over again that I was doing a good job. “You are doing so good, honey. I am so proud of you,” he would say – and even those few and simple words made me even more determined. I was doing this for him as much as I was doing it for myself – I focused on the image of AL in her father’s arms and the intensity of my desire to bring his little girl into the world.
The pain had become so deep and active that I began to vocalize with a deep soft moan with every contraction – it wasn’t a sound of fear or even one of raw, physical pain – it was a sound of full and complete effort – a focused, primal sound that carried me to each wave – over each peak and down again.
At some point, I felt my body change – there was a new type of pressure – it was not any more painful, but I could tell something was different. “Can I get out and push now?” I asked. Our doula encouraged me to go through 3 more contractions and then I could get out and push. This was very encouraging to me and I knew I could get through 3 more.
It was 4:15am when I got out of the labor tub. We called the nurse to come in, check me again and found out that I was a full 10 cm dilated and ready to push. In the dim light of our room and the soft sounds of our music, I let go of my body and let it lead me. The nurse said I could push with the next contraction, whenever I was ready. I pushed three times during my next contraction. “We need to get the doctor!” – we were shocked but thrilled that we would soon be face-to-face with our little girl.
It was so hard to breathe through the contractions while we waited for the doctor. I started pushing and couldn’t have stopped it if I wanted to. Thank goodness the doctor had arrived! It felt so good to push through each contraction.
I soon began to feel the pressure of AL’s head moving out a little more with every contraction. My husband held my hand as I grunted through each contraction – it felt good to let the sound go with each push. Our doula, worked to keep me focused on releasing after each contraction. Because I could actually feel my daughter moving forward with each contraction, I found myself not wanting to release at the end of each one. I wanted to keep moving her forward but my body needed those small breaks between waves to regroup.
Because I had no pain relief, every nerve and fiber of my body was tuned into the experience. I could feel every time her head pushed forward. I experienced her journey. I knew exactly where she was at each moment and as we approached the final pushes of my labor – I found myself consumed with the need to bring her through me and into the world. I was filled with an overwhelming joy – my life changed forever in one final burst of effort. I heard someone in the room say, “Open your eyes and look at your baby.”
At 4:56am, a mere 15 minutes of pushing, she was laid, wet and pink on my chest. Her eyes blinked, her small hands clasped at my skin. She never screamed, but instead cried out for a few seconds then settled against my heart beating through my chest. My husband curled around us and the three of us laid there consumed by the new definition of who we were: new parents – a new family. She was so beautiful. Beyond beautiful. Perfect in every way.
No one took her away for tests. No one disturbed us. My husband cut AL’s umbilical cord and we laid there in bliss while our eyes memorized her every inch. I tucked her in my robe to relish in the benefits of being skin to skin. We stayed that way for over an hour while Bob Marley sang in the background. And eventually, when we were good and ready – they bathed her, measured and weighed her. A very healthy 9 pounds, 1.1 ounces and 19.75 inches long.
I breastfed her for the first time as I lay there recovering and an hour after that I was out of the bed and standing. My recovery was wonderful, despite a few stitches and a sore body (my muscles felt like I had done a tough workout at the gym). The whole rest of the day I had too much love in my heart to sleep. I had been given two wonderful gifts: the first, a beautiful healthy baby and the second, experiencing of the power of delivery. I have thanked God every day since.
I’ll never be the same again. Not after this. To come face to face with the most intense pain, the strongest desire, the deepest love… Motherhood is a gift unlike any other.