Note: This is long. The short version is that we had a long labor with several unexpected twists and turns, but in the end, Daniel was born vaginally and without any drugs, thanks to lots of work by my amazing birth team. He was born Tuesday, August 11, weighed 8 lbs 12oz and was 22 inches long.
I'd been having a lot of prodromal labor for a couple weeks with regular mild contractions for several hours at a time, but nothing progressing into stronger labor. On Sunday (Aug 9), labor did get going for real. By late afternoon Dave and I were working harder and our doula Alicia came in the evening. By 2am or so labor had pretty much subsided and contractions weren't very regular anymore. I was still feeling it in my lower back so we concluded that he needed to get into a better position before labor picked up again. Even though I know it happens all the time and that my body was doing good work during that time, it was pretty discouraging not to keep going. Alicia went home and we went to bed about 3am.
Monday morning we went in for an ultrasound to check fluid levels and then went for a walk in the woods at Kensington Metropark before our appointment with my midwife Mary in the afternoon. At the ultrasound, he looked great and was in a good position - not posterior like we'd assumed. We'd also made good progress during the night before - more effaced, baby had moved down a bit and dilated to 3cm. On Mary's recommendation, we got castor oil to take Monday night and then went home and took a nap. I woke up to stronger contractions that had pretty much just picked up from the night before at 3-4 min apart. Dave labored with me in the shower and Alicia was on her way over when we felt like things were moving along well and it was time to go in. We knew we needed to be there early enough to get in two doses of antibiotics since I had positive cultures for Group B Strep (Ha - in the end I got four doses and almost got a fifth!). Mary and Alicia both heard me laboring on the phone and thought it sounded like time to go.
We got to the ABC around 7pm and labored walking around, on the birth ball, on hands in knees in bed, etc. I was dilating pretty slowly but the baby moved down a lot more in the next few hours. Slow progress, but at least making progress. It was at this point that I knew I needed to let go and let labor get more intense, but I had a lot of fear and had a really hard time turning my mind off. I was afraid of how it would be and how I would handle labor kicking up a notch, since it was hard enough as it was. I think that had a lot to do with keeping the labor slow. Looking back now, I didn't have anything to be afraid of, and the more intense labor after I let go was actually easier in a lot of ways since I was really entering into it instead of holding myself back. Good lessons learned for the next time!
Anyway, I was laboring really well by morning and we thought I was making a lot of progress (the nurse called Mary to come), but we got stuck somewhere around 8 cm for quite a while. My water was still intact and Mary thought that breaking it at that point would help bring the baby down onto my cervix and open it up the rest of the way. There was light meconium staining, but not enough to change anything. My contractions did get stronger and Mary checked again since I was beginning to feel the urge to push. I wasn't any more open and his head had turned a bit, which seemed to be keeping things from progressing. We needed to get the contractions stronger to get him turned and out. With the water broken, meconium present and birth no longer seeming imminent, she said we needed to start thinking about what to do next. We might need to move down to labor and delivery and start a pitocin drip to bump the contractions up while getting me into some different positions to get him turned.
She went to go get the monitor from L&D to put me on it and therefore buy us some more time at the ABC. That's when I pretty much lost it and all I wanted to do was go down the hall and get an epidural so I could rest. I knew that it wouldn't do a thing to change the situation, it would not help him turn and that I would really regret it later but I didn't think I could go on anymore if we weren't almost done. My nurse Dee and Alicia reminded me that the only thing that had changed was the information. I was doing great before and I still had reserves of power that I didn't know I had.
Mary called Dee on her way to L&D and told her to get my chest down, bottom in the air and hips moving to try and get this baby turned. I just did what they told me to do, which got me over the hump of giving in. We had 4 people up with me on the bed (Dee, Alicia, Dave and my mom) with one person jiggling my bum, one feeding me homeopathics, another on my pressure points and Dave on my nipples. It worked to get my contractions stronger and I felt his head turn. We kept laboring like this (you should see the picture!) and I had to work really hard not to push. Mary checked again and there was just a little bit of cervix left in the way. With the next contraction, she had me bear down and she was able to get it up and over his head. What a relief.
I got in a couple different positions to push and he would have been out pretty quickly, except I had a really tight band across my perineum. I ended up in a semi-reclining position with Dee and my mom holding my legs and me pulling back on their arms as I pushed. As much as I didn't want to push that way, I felt really powerful in that position. I pushed and pushed (really well - I was really proud of how I pushed!) but even with Mary stretching it and applying oil and warm compresses, he was not coming past that band. Mary suggested that we needed to cut it a little to get him out. The beautiful thing about working with someone that I know and trust so much is that I didn't have to question all of the things she suggested, I know Mary and her birthing philosophy and know she wouldn't suggest pitocin or an episiotomy unless she really felt like they were necessary. I didn't have to judge whether we really needed it or if it was just the doctor's way of doing things. She made a small cut and he came out in a few pushes after that, then up and onto my chest! He had his hand up by his head, which might be another thing that kept labor moving slowly, and which might have resulted in tearing anyway as he came out.
It was such a wonderful feeling to have him out and on my chest, to be able to look and see that he was a he and to get him nursing right away. It was such a relief to be done and it felt so good knowing that we stuck with it and he was born vaginally with no drugs. I know that I worked hard, but I also know that I couldn't have done it without my amazing birth team!
In the end, Daniel was born on Tuesday, August 11 at 3:40 pm. He weighed 8 pounds 12 ounces and was 22 inches long.