I think the most common question people ask after you’ve had a baby is: how long was your labor? With both of my kids that’s been a tough question to answer because, in my case, labor has been more like weeks long rather than hours.
My son arrived 8 days “late” and his natural, unmedicated birth was mostly easy until the end when I faced the most horrific contractions, a last minute drive to the hospital in a snow storm and a vacuum extraction. He was 8 pounds 9 ounces of solid boy with an almost 15 inch head. I had walked around at 3+ cm for two weeks with him, expecting to go into labor at any minute. I didn’t. When labor began it was easy and almost enjoyable. I joked. I laughed. I thought about how amazing I was and how I didn’t understand why labor was always portrayed as being so awful. I relied on my hypnobirthing training to get me through. Until I hit transition. Then I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and I thought about how great that epidural would have been. I was elated emotionally after his birth. High from the amazing birth endorphins and more proud of myself than I had ever been before, but physically I was exhausted and it would take months to recover and feel normal again.
After my son’s birth I looked back and was disappointed in the care providers that I had chosen. My OB had gone MIA when I was about 6 months pregnant and I didn’t see her again until the end of my pregnancy and my midwife had not provided the support I had expected at my son’s birth.
Knowing that my husband and I would be having another baby I sought out a care provider who would give me the best of both worlds – I wanted the care and relationship of a midwife with the expertise of an OB and safety of a hospital. I found what I was looking for in Lynn Anderson and Denise Rubinfeld at Women’s Health Specialists.
But you’re here for a birth story so let’s get to that…
I was such a granola-hippie-la-la during my first pregnancy that you would assume that I would have been the same this time around, but from the beginning I felt like this time the epidural wouldn’t be out of the question. When my midwife asked what my birth plan was I said, “Show up at the hospital. Have a baby.”
I didn’t take any classes, didn’t do any yoga and I didn’t read everything ever written about natural birth. At 35 weeks I had to be admitted to L&D with horrible back pain, a stomach bug and some sort of upper respiratory thing-a-ma-jig. On top of all of that I was having contractions every 2 minutes. At one point my midwife thought that I might be in early labor. I was super sick and that night alone convinced me that the epidural would be a great idea. After having two bags of fluid pushed into my super dehydrated body, I spent the next two weeks trying to recover. I didn’t think I had what it took to have another natural birth.
Fast forward to 37 weeks and at my weekly appointment I was 2 cm. No big news and nothing to do except sit and wait. The next week there was no change, but at week 39 I endured 9 hours of false labor. We thought it might be the real thing, but it wasn’t. False labor is a big pain in the butt, but it did give me a chance to brush off my hypnobirthing breathing skills and made me get my head back in the game.
Luckily, all of that false labor had actually helped my cervix make some progress. At my 40 week appointment my midwife said I was 4+ cm and 80% effaced. The next day was my due date and I was still feeling pretty good. I decided that instead of feeling down about once again hitting my due date and being “late” that I would focus on enjoying what would most likely be my last weekend being a parent of only one child. The weekend came and by Saturday evening I was pretty sure that labor was coming. I felt more cramping and pressure and just a general weirdness. By Sunday I was confident that labor would be happening in the next few days.
Monday came around and I got my son ready for school. I was working from home so once I dropped him off I ran and got the best Chai in Reno and then headed home to get on my computer. I even joked with the ladies at daycare that babies aren’t born during the day when they asked when I was going to have that baby. Once at home I got back on the computer and started working, ignoring the obnoxious comments from coworkers about the fact that I was still at work.
As the day progressed I chatted with some friends online and I mentioned to my friend Shelle that I was feeling crampy and had been for two days. Since my next appointment wasn’t until Thursday she urged me to call and see if my midwife could get me in. When I spoke to the nurse at my midwife’s office she thought the cramping might be a bladder infection so she advised that I come in and get checked out. Well, about 2 seconds into my appointment my midwife ruled out a bladder infection, as she announced to me that my baby’s head was lower than low and that over the weekend I had advanced to 6+ cm. She mentioned that she once had a patient who walked around at 6 cm for a week. “Great, I thought. That will probably be me.”
I wasn’t having regular contractions so we talked about inducing on Thursday and she gave me a castor oil recipe to try if I was really feeling antsy. I left the appointment pondering the castor oil and decided to go for it. I headed to Walmart to buy the supplies – castor oil, eggs, and a huge bottle of Smart water. While at Walmart I started to feel more painful cramps and said aloud, “Owwww…Oh…Ouchie…Ouchie….Oh” as I walked around the store.
Stay tuned for Part II of Claire’s birth story where I promise I actually have a baby!