We would like to thank Marcy (@mightymarce) of Life is Good for sharing her first birth story with us. And we’d like to congratulate her on her recent home birth and healthy baby. We look forward to story #2!
I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 2, 2008, (2 days before my due date) with what felt like menstrual cramps. I’d been having them off-and-on for a few days already, so I didn’t think much of it until I realized they had the classic labor-contraction pattern of intensifying to a peak, then fading away. I tried to sleep through them for a bit, but eventually got up and started timing them. They were coming anywhere between 4 and 10 minutes apart, and were inconsistent in intensity. Interestingly, I also noticed they lessened somewhat as soon as I was upright instead of lying down.
Not really knowing if this was “real” labor or a “false start” as I knew sometimes happens, I figured I’d go about my day. After a few hours, I called my midwife to let her know what was going on. Around noon my husband, Zach, and I went for a long walk around our neighborhood, figuring that might help things along. Afterwards he left for the airport to pick up my mom (who was flying in to stay with us for a month to help with the baby) and I tried to get a bit of rest. At around 2 p.m., I tried timing my contractions again and at first they were still at the same rate of every 5-10 minutes. Then suddenly they started coming regularly every 3 minutes. By then I had to stop what I was doing when a contraction came on, as they were getting stronger. I got myself a bite to eat and again tried to rest as I figured I was in for a long day/night ahead.
The contractions stayed steady at every 3 minutes and after an hour I called my midwife again and she came to check me. She said I was already at 4-5 cm, which made me pretty happy as things hadn’t felt very difficult at all up to that point. By this time Zach and my mom had gotten back from the airport, and we all got our things together and drove to the birth center. It was a longish drive (45 minutes) and sitting in the car definitely made the contractions harder to deal with. Once at the center my midwife checked me again, this time saying I was only at 3-4 cm. I don’t know if she made a mistake the first time or if the drive caused me to “close up” somewhat (thinking of Ina May Gaskin’s “sphincter law”).
My midwife had the tub filled and ready, and I eagerly hopped in. Getting into that warm water was HEAVENLY! I didn’t realize how much tension I was holding onto between contractions until I got into the water and felt it all melt away. Looking back, I maybe should have waited until I was further dilated to get in the water as I do think it ended up stalling my labor a little, but the relaxation really was amazing.
I stayed in the water for a good hour or 2, then my midwife suggested I get out and move around a bit. Zach and my mom took turns supporting and encouraging me, reminding me to try different positions and walk around. My midwife offered me a TENS machine which helped for a while, then it eventually started feeling more like an annoyance than a help. So I took it off and got back in the tub where I spent the rest of my labor. I have no idea what the timing of my contractions was by this time, but they were pretty intense and the only position that felt okay was in the water on my hands and knees. I don’t think I ever wished for pain medication, but I do remember thinking, “I don’t ever want to do this again!”
Eventually, I reached 10 cm. This was WONDERFUL news, as everything I’d read had told me that transition (dilating from 7-10 cm) was the hardest part of labor, and I should now be ready to push which should feel much better. Unfortunately, I was in for some disappointment. For one thing, I didn’t feel the urge to push at all yet. I tried a few times, but had no idea what I was doing. I spent another hour laboring at 10 cm, walking around the room, waiting for my son’s head to descend and align properly before I finally felt the urge to push.
And then I was hit with my second cruel realization–pushing was HARD. My midwife was concerned about the way my baby’s heartbeat was dipping when I pushed, so she only had me push every other contraction. NOT pushing when every fiber in my body was willing me to do so was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In the end I pushed for an hour, and then finally at 1:30 a.m. my baby boy came out in one big push.
I felt the most immense relief. My first thought was, “I’m so glad that’s over!!” Upon lying down on the bed and holding my newborn child to my chest, my second thought was, “I can’t believe he fit inside my belly!” I was kind of in shock at this point. It all seemed so surreal. Zach was beside me and all he could say was, “He’s so cool!” After a few minutes, Zach cut the cord and I tried breastfeeding (feeling like I had no clue what I was doing). My perineum was intact, but I did have several (5-6?) small tears around my labia that each required a single stitch. Then I got a bite to eat and showered, while they weighed, checked and cleaned my son up. In all, I think we stayed at the birth center for about 5 hours after the birth before heading home. I was tired and sore, but happy to be home. It definitely helped to have my mom around, who cooked and cleaned and took great care of all of us.
I will confess that right after giving birth naturally, I did wonder about what I’d do for my next birth, and if perhaps I’d try the full hospital/epidural route to see how that would go. But I am very glad that I was able to birth my son the way I did, and deep down I always knew I’d choose the same for my subsequent births. I’m currently 8 months pregnant with my second son and planning for a home birth. Part of me is a little nervous, but I feel so much more confident this time knowing that I can do this, and am honestly really looking forward to giving birth again.