My labor with Willow was definitely an experience. When I think back on it, I feel like it was such an adventure. It was a new experience in some ways, and familiar in others. I would say it was a healing experience from my last birth, even though it was much longer. My last birth left me feeling completely out of control and scared. While with this one, even though it didn’t go as planned, I felt so much more supported by my care provider, and the decisions were ultimately left up to me.
I had prodromal labor just about every night for weeks. I would have contractions for hours that were uncomfortable, but not extremely painful. Then eventually I would fall asleep or they would stop! This started around 37 weeks so it got my hopes up more than once and was super frustrating. With the boys, my water broke in my 38th week of pregnancy, but Willow apparently wanted to wait longer. Being that it was my longest pregnancy with the most prodromal labor I ever experienced, I was so done by the time real labor started.
On a Monday night (July 12th) I started having my typical prodromal labor. It was two days before my due date so I was hopeful, but at this point I had kind of started to believe I would never have the baby. I had a few contractions that felt a little more intense, but that was pretty typical so I managed to get comfortable and just fall asleep around 11:30. At 1:30 in the morning, Wesley woke up crying and complaining that his legs hurt. He came into our bed and I rubbed his legs for a few minutes, gave him some melatonin, and tucked him back in. After this, I could NOT fall asleep. I just felt totally wired. I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable until around 3 AM, and then things got weird lol. I started having stomach cramps and feeling really uneasy. If you’ve been pregnant and gone through labor, you know this is sometimes the first sign that labor is near. But it can also be totally normal. I tried not to think much of it, but it got to where I could not lay down. I felt very jittery. I was still having some mild contractions so I started timing them and realized they were very consistently 4 minutes apart. Whoa. So I sat on my ball and for the next hour and a half, they were 4 minutes apart and beginning to feel painful. I just had a feeling this was it. I couldn’t lay down through them or sleep at all so I put my headphones in and just tried to relax. Around 4:30 I woke Brian up because they started to get closer together. They had also started to become more painful. I was getting a little nervous that things were going faster than I expected (boy was I wrong). At 5 I called my midwife who said to come in, but take our time so I got in the shower and tried to relax. At this point I could still talk through them, but it wasn’t pleasant. My instinct was to pull down on something hard and focus on my breathing. At 6 I called all of my family and by 7 we were in the car on the way to the birth center! I had been in labor for about 4 hours by now with consistent contractions that were definitely getting stronger. The car ride was miserable. I swear contractions get so much harder when you’re in the car.
When we got to the birth center, I didn’t want to be checked. I tend to dilate very slowly so I knew even though I was having good consistent contractions, my body may still not be where I felt it should be, and I didn’t want that getting in my head. For a few hours after we got there, contractions slowed to 5 minutes apart, but eventually picked back up once I was able to get comfortable and focus. Baby was doing great during all of her monitoring. They checked her heart rate every 30 minutes or so and all was good. They had me get into different positions every 3 contractions. These were supposed to help the baby get into a good position for birth. After a couple of hours of that, we were left to kind of labor on our own and do what felt comfortable. My contractions continued throughout the whole day. I kissed my dream of a short labor goodbye, but I was still firm in my desire for this birth to happen here, so I continued. Things were continuing to intensify so I was so sure I had to be making progress. I was becoming very vocal with contractions and needing the help of Brian and the doula to get through contractions. Hours and hours of heating pads, hip squeezes, back rubs, oils applied, affirming me, etc. (my husband is a super hero). Finally around 4 PM I decided to get checked. It had been 13 hours of labor at this point and I was positive there had to be some progress.
I was 2-3 centimeters dilated. That was extremely disappointing. Baby was low at least, but I was starting to get very nervous. I hadn’t slept most of the previous night and I was very slowly progressing, even with my contractions being so close together and getting harder and harder. I decided to listen to some hypnobirthing tracks and get in the shower. I spent an hour and a half in there and really tried to focus my mind on surrendering to the pain and not fighting against it. At 5:30 my midwife suggested we all go home and try to get some rest. I was super disappointed, but I knew Brian and I needed to rest and thought the comfort of my home might allow my body to relax and dilate more.
Once we got home, Brian ordered food. I tried to eat but couldn’t keep anything but water down. After a while I laid down in bed. Brian and I were both so exhausted. I would fall asleep during the brief break between contractions. This really wasn’t the best way for me to labor because I couldn’t mentally prepare between contractions, so I would wake up to the pain and feel extremely panicked. But I was just so exhausted that if I laid down, I fell asleep. So I got up and got in a bath, but again I could not keep my eyes open between contractions. The warm water was too relaxing when the pain would finally subside, but again I would wake up so panicked and stressed when another contraction hit. So I got out and got on my ball. This is when things got so crazy. Brian has had to help fill in some of the gaps for me because I was so out of it. While on my ball, I started having contractions that would double or triple peak. My only other experience with contractions like this was when I was on pitocin during my labor with Lincoln (literally the worst). I couldn’t talk or think through them and honestly I was really struggling to cope. I remember Brian trying to time them and he kept saying “is it over yet??” And I couldn’t respond until it was over and I told him they were lasting so long because just as it started to ease, another one started. After a while of this, instinct sort of took over and I had to get on my hands and knees. Brian was texting the midwife who told us to come in, but I told him I didn’t want to leave. I told him I had to stay just like this. Finally he somehow convinced me to get to the car, it took me forever to get there because I kept having contractions on the way and couldn’t walk through them. The car ride there is honestly a blur, all I remember is being in so much pain. Once we got there, I immediately got on all fours. I couldn’t talk to anyone, all I could do was make noises very similar to a cow mooing lol. At 10 PM my doula suggested getting checked. I was at a 4. A little disappointing, but I kept telling myself progress is progress. Plus baby was very very low and getting lower. My midwife said sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to get through the first 4 centimeters, and then it speeds up. So that’s what I kept telling myself. At this point she gave us the okay to get in the birthing tub.
I got in, and again, things got weird lol. The water felt soooo good and so bad at the same time. It relaxed me so much in between contractions, that again, I could barely keep my head up. Brian had to lift me up at times and wake me up. It seemed to slow down my contractions also, but also intensify them. They were getting so intense that Brian had to remind me to breathe. I was really struggling to stay in control of myself and I wanted to just scream, although I didn’t. After a couple of hours I just couldn’t take it anymore. The feeling of needing to sleep was so strong that I was seriously worried I would fall under the water! I got out and my doula suggested using a rebozo. A rebozo is a long piece of fabric that you can use during labor in a few different ways. At first, my doula used it to shake my belly during contractions which is supposed to help with the baby’s position. After a while of that I put it around Brian’s shoulders and used it to pull down on during contractions. Between my last check and 6 AM we did a lot. The tub, rebozo, a very short and painful walk, and finally we tried sitting backwards on the toilet. I put a pillow on the back and laid my head down between contractions. At first, this was magical. It felt so good. But soon it turned even more painful. I would have to literally jump off of the toilet when a contraction started and hold onto Brian. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I was starting to feel extremely desperate. After a few hours of this (around 6 AM), I hit a breaking point. It had been 27 hours since my contractions started. I was starving, but couldn’t eat. Exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. Brian had barely ate or drank anything and hadn’t slept either. He hadn’t left my side for more than a minute or two the entire time and he was physically helping me during the contractions so I knew he was exhausted. Brian and I talked and decided I should be checked. I didn’t say it out loud, but I decided if I hadn’t made any progress, we would go to a hospital so I could get an epidural and we could rest.
Well, absolutely no progress. 4 centimeters still. I was 4 cm the previous night at 10 PM and it was now 6 AM. That’s 8 hours of intense hard labor with NO PROGRESS. To say I felt defeated is an understatement. I told my midwife what I wanted and she called the nearest hospital. We got in the car and left. Once there, I was quickly signed in and given a room. I told the nurses repeatedly (more like begged) that I wanted an epidural. That we had been in labor for over 24 hours and we needed rest. They REALLY beat around the bush. Meanwhile, they were putting IVs in me and hooking me up to monitors. Let me just say, a birth center is the way to go if you can do it. Laboring was MUCH more pleasant without all of the wires and monitors surrounding me and keeping me in the bed. One of the nurses even put my IV in wrong and blood started spraying out of my arm onto their clothes and mine. At that point I lost it and just started sobbing. I was so ready to meet my baby and for my body to rest. I made it clear to them that my preference was to get an epidural and for Brian and I to get rest before the baby arrived. I didn’t want to be rushed into an OR for an “emergency” c section. Then the doctor came in. Lucky me, it was the same impatient and rude doctor that I ended up with in my labor with Lincoln. She flat out told me she wouldn’t allow me to get an epidural and I needed to consent to a c section immediately. I told her no I did not want a c section and asked if there was another doctor that could attend to me. She said no (um okay yeah you’re totally the only doctor here). So I asked her to leave so I could talk to my husband and midwife who had come with us to make sure we didn’t get bullied into a c section. My midwife called another hospital and talked to a doctor there who agreed that I could come and get an epidural and not have a c section. But y’all, I couldn’t do it. I could not get unhooked from the IVs here, get in a car and drive 30 minutes to another hospital, and get hooked back up to all the IVs and monitors there. I thought about why I wanted this natural birth in the first place. I wanted a faster recovery and I wanted a less traumatizing experience from my last birth. Those were my main reasons. I also wanted to hold my baby right away. I didn’t want to be scared or worried. But at this point, I felt like pursuing a natural birth was becoming more traumatizing than the alternative. I’ve had two c sections, I know the process. I’ve had one really great experience and I knew it’s not always scary. My baby was fine and this was not an emergency, my body simply does not handle labor well. I turned down the offer to go to the other hospital and asked the doctor to come back. I consented to the c section with a few requests (to hold my baby and get skin to skin in the OR, to let the cord stop pulsing before they cut it, and to let Brian stay in the OR the whole time and not have to leave at the end).
So off we went to the c section. This was easily my fastest and smoothest c section. I had less shaking and less anxiety than I’ve had in the past. She was very quickly born where I was informed that she was sunny side up and there was also meconium in the water. They let the cord stop pulsing, wiped the meconium off of her, and put her right on my chest! That’s the moment I met my girl. It was an incredible feeling finally meeting my baby. This baby that I worked so hard to bring into this world was finally here and she was amazing. She was instantly pecking at my chest looking for food. I let them get her and weigh her and she weighed in at nine pounds seven ounces!! My biggest baby by nearly a pound!! They swaddled her and gave her to Brian and it was like it was just the three of us in that OR! They let Brian and Willow stay with me while they stitched me back up, and we got pictures and lots of snuggles.
It was quite the journey to getting our girl in our arms, but we did it. I could not have made it through labor or the c section without Brian. He literally held me through the whole thing. He comforted me during the c section. He stayed positive for me even when he was exhausted and hungry. And in the end, we got our girl. Not how I planned, and not birthed the way I wanted, but I felt good about it. I had options and I had support and in the end, that made such a big difference to me. What a crazy and wonderful experience and I’m so thankful to have had it!