When Sunday’s due date came and went, I became overwhelmed with stress. I was stressed about when the baby would come, what would it interrupt, would he or she share a birthday with my sister or my mom? Saturday morning I woke up with some heavy cramping and was pretty excited thinking maybe that would be the day. The tenant living in our basement was set to move out over the weekend but I didn’t expect her to be gone until Sunday evening. When she came up Saturday around 9:00 a.m. to tell me she was all done and headed out for good, I felt such relief. While I had expected to labor with her living in the basement, it didn’t really start to bother me until the days got closer. I wondered if I would feel uncomfortable or feel like I needed to be quiet because she would be sleeping, etc. Anyway, when she left early Saturday morning I had another calming confirmation that perhaps labor really was just right around the corner.
I wanted to “get out” on Saturday… so I showered, did my hair and make up and actually put on a cute outfit complete with a scarf and earrings – something I had not done in weeks. My mom, Tommy and I all went to a local wine festival (no wine for me :)) and then I went with my mom to Sam’s for some shopping. I was on my feet for a lot of the day and had no desire to nap or otherwise rest when I got home. This was all totally out of the norm of my regular day spent moping around the house, napping, and otherwise feeling drained and uncomfortable.
When we got home that night, Tommy was exhausted. In fact, he was so tired we went to bed at 8:00 p.m. He fell asleep and I sat with my laptop until about 10:00 p.m. I finally laid down and fell asleep around 10:30 p.m. At 11:00 p.m., I woke up with strong, painful cramping in my lower back. I got up and used the bathroom and climbed back in bed, all while wondering “is this it?”
A few minutes later I had the pain again and I realized there was no way I was going to be able to fall back asleep. I got up and tried to use the bathroom again… then I walked around the house for a bit. After a while, I peeked into the room where my mom was sleeping and I woke her up. I asked her to keep me company because I thought maybe I was having contractions but I wasn’t sure.
She woke up and immediately went into the kitchen to make some food for me, but I was not in the mood to eat. I began timing contractions and I was not very good company for her. I was walking around the house, confused, not really talking much. I finally told her I was going to draw a bath and pour a glass of wine and try to relax. She went back to bed and I went into my bedroom and woke Tommy. I told him I was pretty sure this was it, but he didn’t have to get up yet, that I was going to take a bath.
I drew a bath, poured some wine, and settled in. Except I got hot and sweaty, fast. It was not relaxing… it was painful. At about 1:00 a.m.-ish I called my sister and woke her. She informed me happily that she had also gone to bed at 8:00 p.m. so she was ready to pack up and drive the 2.5 hours to my house to capture the event on camera for us. I hung up the phone with her, got out of the bath, and headed out into the living room by myself. Around then my sister called me again and we stayed on the phone for a good hour or so while she was driving. She told me to hang up and take a shower and call her back in a little while. Instead, I stood around and started really timing contractions. I texted my midwife who told me to text my doula. I texted my doula and then woke Tommy up. At this point, contractions were coming and going consistently, painfully, and about 2 minutes apart… and I didn’t want to be alone anymore.
After a while, I decided to call my doula because I had not heard back from her. It’s a good thing I did, because the text message had not woken her up. She told me she was going to hop in the shower and then head over. Tommy started preparing the living room: moving furniture out of the way and laying down the tarps to go under the birthing tub. My mom got up and showered and dressed for the occasion. After a bit, my doula showed up and put me in the shower.
Oooohhh the shower. How heavenly it felt to have the water pressure directed to my lower back. Once in the shower, I could relax and actually talk through contractions. Tommy kept me company and I talked through everything for a while. I stayed in the shower until the hot water ran out. Then I got out, dressed, and at that point I would not let my doula remove her hands from my lower back during contractions. She suggested I get on the bed on all fours (since all my pain was in my lower back it suggested the baby was in a weird position, getting all fours can sometimes help baby switch positions). I did that for a bit in my dark bedroom. I remember looking up at my sister who had arrived as I was getting out of the shower and I asked her if she had enough light for the pictures. She said “no” and I said “turn the light on.” At the same time, my doula (Laurie) is trying to get Tommy to turn some music on. He turned on the Wintersong Pandora station: calm, Christmas music. I immediately told him to turn it off. That music was happy. I was NOT happy. 🙂
After a few minutes on all fours, Laurie suggested I lay in the bed and Tommy lay with me. When I laid down my body started shaking and I wondered if I was headed into the transition phase of labor. I knew it was wishful thinking… but I was still hopeful. I laid in the bed for all of maybe two HORRIBLE contractions (from what I remember) and I got up and walked down the hall instead.
From there Laurie had me walk around the house, up and down the street, up and down the stairs, and get on all fours again on the couch. After a really enjoyable walk outside in which I was able to get cool air and really work through some contractions by swaying/squatting in the middle of the road, I came back in and got on all fours on the couch.
I remember this time being one of the most painful times of labor. Every contraction was intense and they were coming on so fast. Between contractions I just wanted to lay down and take a nap, I was so exhausted. But I didn’t dare move positions in fear that a contraction would hit and I’d be stuck in a terrible position. During this time, Tommy was filling the tub with water and Laurie was texting my midwife, Leslie. I remember being very aware of those text messages… I was trying to figure out if Laurie and Leslie thought it was time for Leslie to come over. Of course, her arrival would mean we were getting close to delivery.
Laurie had Tommy time a contraction at one point while I was still on the couch. I swear it felt like it lasted 2 minutes but when I said, “Okay, it’s done,” he responded “30 seconds.” I was super discouraged. I also realized the consensus was that Leslie would continue to wait a little longer before coming over. Discouraged again, but still plowing through.
I caught a glimpse of a clock somewhere around 6:00 a.m.-ish and I said to myself “Self, you will deliver this baby by 8:36 a.m.” I giggle now at my goal setting during labor.
While on the couch (remember: worst pain ever), Laurie told me I had to go through 5 more contractions and then I could get into the tub. I didn’t even have the sense to count them. I just endured them one after another until she helped me into the tub somewhere around 6:30 a.m. The sun was beginning to come up and the water soothed the pain a bit. It was a good moment… the light of dawn was another sign that I was closer to delivering the baby. Just one more thing I was waiting on (day light) checked off the list.
I was on my own in the tub for a while, no more of Laurie’s incredible touch on my back. Once I was in the tub, time kind of moved quickly. I had a few contractions and I remember Leslie, the midwife, showing up. When I heard her come in I immediately wanted, mentally, to push. My body wasn’t ready but I remember trying, hoping to get there faster.
Tommy was wonderfully affectionate and encouraging during this time, while Laurie continued comfort measures. Things really got going around the house once I was in the tub. Everyone present had a role to play and it was truly a team effort.
Liz Cook is a wedding & birth photographer by day, blogger by night. She also wears the hats of wife, mama, and friend, so she is always striving for balance. She lives by the motto “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Follow along as she captures love with her lens and celebrates life with her words at www.SincerelyLizInc.com.