Birthing our precious baby girl was by far the coolest experience of my entire life. Let’s start there. My body amazed me all throughout pregnancy and going into labor and delivery- I was excited about the experience. I know a lot of people have fear or anxiety around the pain of labor, but I knew my body could handle it and that my only job was to keep calm and trust it.
Labor lasted 44 hours – so now let’s rewind.
Justin and I went to brunch Sunday morning (I was 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant). While at brunch (around 9am) I started feeling cramps that were not going away and I had an inkling I might be in labor, but it was pretty low-key. On the drive home I started feeling contractions anywhere from 5-8 minutes apart, but still bearable.
By the time we got home, we decided that I was in fact, in early labor. We took Bentley for a long walk and cleaned up the house a bit. Justin and I were both very calm and relaxed throughout. My contractions were consistently 30 seconds long and 5 minutes apart pretty much all day. The birth center instructs that 1 minute long and 4 minutes apart constitutes as active labor and that’s when you should make your way to the center.
This was a pretty relaxed day. We grilled burgers for dinner and watched Yes Day on Netflix, including a pause for every contraction, but I still enjoyed the movie.
I started to have some really intense and uncomfortable back pain that night. Around 10pm I realized my water had broken and simultaneously lost my mucus plug. My water was leaking consistently and we called the midwife just after midnight to let her know. She had me send a picture of the color of the amniotic fluid (that’s what ‘breaks’) just to make sure everything was okay with baby. It was a little green-tinted, which she said was fine and normal for babies delivered after due date- that she had probably passed meconium already (her first bowel movement). The midwife suggested that because I wasn’t in active labor yet, we try and get some rest that night.
Well I certainly did not rest. I was having so much back pain and even if I sat down, I jumped up to pace through each of my contractions because that’s what felt best. I spent all night in the living room, trying to let Justin squeeze some sleep in. I occasionally timed my contractions and kept hot wash cloths on my back.
By the morning I was still having 30-second contractions every 5 minutes. The midwife called and suggested a few positions, called the Miles Circuit, to help move me into active labor- inversions and bouncing on my exercise ball as well as pumping. I let her know I was having back pain and she thought Sloane could be posterior (when baby’s back is to your back, not the ideal position!). She instructed to call back if I was in active labor, but if not, we should come to the birth center at 2pm to see what’s going on.
We continued to try these positions. By this time Justin was trying to convince me to curb walk outside and I was way too loud through my contractions to feel comfortable walking around in public.
Contractions were still 30 seconds long and 5 minutes apart, but getting much more intense.
By the time we got to the birth center at 2pm, I was basically huffing and puffing my words out to speak. My back pain was non-stop, I hadn’t had rest even between my contractions since the night before.
The midwife did a cervical exam and I was 5 cm dilated and 85% effaced. Dilation is the opening and effacement is the thinning of your cervix. Eventually, you’ll be 10 cm and 100% effaced when you deliver.
She also said my bladder was beyond full and although I had noticed, we realized that I hadn’t been able to empty it since the night before because I had so much back pain. Every time I tried and sat down I was in enormous pain. She said Sloane’s back was to my side and that was causing me back pain, but not emptying my bladder was just making the pain worse and keeping baby from moving down into my pelvis. After lots of time and patience squatting in the shower, I was finally able to pee. (Sorry if this is TMI, but I think it’s the biggest contributing factor to why my labor was so long and I hope if you’re having a baby soon you learn from me and empty your bladder often!).
After my bladder emptied a bit, we were able to focus on moving Sloane to a better position. The midwife had me breathe through a few contractions in inversions, in a side-lying position with a peanut ball, and then we went for a curb walk outside. When we came back I was 6 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Baby girl was in a perfect position for birth and my back pain was relieved a bit. We decided to go grab some dinner and rest, then return to the birth center when I was in active labor. My contractions were about 45 seconds long and 5 minutes apart still. We’re clocking about 6 pm now.
This was when we finally told family I was in labor. The previous 32 hours had felt so unsure- I honestly thought I might end up in the hospital or with a c-section because of Sloane’s position or how long I’d been laboring, so we had put off saying anything. Now that we had spent some time at the birth center, I was feeling more confident and comfortable in our original natural birth plan.
We grabbed some dinner, but I barely ate (this was constant all day… I literally ate one egg and three bites of steak this day… not advised). Then I tried to take a nap to rest up for delivery. My attempt at a nap slowed my contractions down to 8 minutes apart, so after an hour of awful half-sleep, we decided to make some moves. We went for a super long curb walk and I bounced around on my exercise ball. Justin continued to massage my back with tennis balls which was super helpful. We even took them curb walking with us and stopped on the sidewalk for him to massage my back through contractions. Right after midnight I finally reached active labor and my contractions were 1 minute long and 4 minutes apart.
When we called the midwife on-call she suggested we continue laboring at home until my contractions were closer to 2 or 3 minutes apart. I took a hot shower and paced our living room for an hour and a half through contractions and we called again a little before 2am with contractions 2 minutes apart. By the time we met the midwife at the birth center 20 minutes later, my contractions were 1 minute long and 1 minute apart. When she checked my cervix I was 10 cm dilated and baby was at 0 station (bottom of my pelvis, +5 is crowning).
I finally got in the nice warm tub which felt like such a reward and relief. We had planned on a water birth and I immediately felt reaffirmed that contractions were a bit more tolerable in the water. I pushed for 2 hours in the tub and eventually felt a little disappointed at how long pushing was taking. The midwives suggested some squatting positions and a side-lying position with the peanut ball outside of the tub. After 30-45 minutes of these various positions, I felt that Sloane was coming and hopped back into the tub for delivery.
These last 20 minutes of delivery I was relieved and excited. I attribute all of this strength to my incredible support team, confidence in my body, and a positive outlook going into labor. Of course, the contractions were intense, but the time in-between was exciting and adrenaline-full.
So my beautiful baby girl, Sloane, arrived at 5:12am and Justin caught her in the water from the midwife (who was behind me, Justin was in front of me) and brought her to my chest and it was the most spectacular moment of my entire life. I became a mama.
I was filled with love and strength and so much joy in this moment. We moved to the bed (it’s not recommended to stay in the tub, because midwives can’t see how much bleeding is actually occurring in the water) and our family of three cuddled in bed, soaking in golden hour. After about a half hour, Justin cut Sloane’s umbilical cord. We sipped on labor soup, Sloane’s and my vitals were checked and re-checked and the midwives let Justin weigh her.
After some time, the midwives ran a bath of herbal tea for Sloane and myself. The herbal bath is healing for mama and was a really special bonding moment, it was also where Sloane first latched.
We rested for about three hours after Sloane’s birth before packing up and heading home for some naps! (The pictures above were on our way out!). It was a long, tiring, but incredible experience for us all!