On November 5th we had an appointment scheduled with the midwife — one we had never intended to keep. Thompson was 5 days past due date and I was very tired. I had been starting to feel discouraged and worried about his late arrival.
At the appointment, we were given the option to have my membranes stripped as a way to speed up labor. Just before stripping the membranes, the cervical check revealed that I was already 5cm dilated. That alone was very encouraging! We felt like labor could finally start, but I was still afraid to get my hopes up too much.
I had cramping and bleeding throughout the afternoon—common symptoms after a membrane sweep. The cramps were legit, though.
We went about our day, albeit a little more slowly than usual. My body felt different. I felt like I had less mobility and was very sore. I laid down to go to bed around 10 but never fell asleep. I started timing contractions, and they were coming in strong, less than 3 minutes apart. I decided it was probably the real deal.
I woke Nick up, who had been snoring for only 15 minutes. He woke up in a daze and was throwing clothes on when he asked me what time it is. When he realized he hadn’t slept, he said “shit” which made me laugh. As if Thompson were going to wait until business hours!
We had planned to labor at home, but I think we were past that. I still don’t know if things were progressive fast or if I made things progress fast. I have this weird feeling that I was in control of the entire labor and birth. What I told my body to do, it did. The timeline I set for the labor was the pace that unfolded. Is that possible? I think so.
We called the midwife, woke up Hudson, and packed up. It took longer to pack than I had wanted, and I was anxious to get to the birthing center. Once in the car, Nick started driving the long way. I asked him where the heck he was going, and we argued about the best route. There’s no argument though, he was going the long way. I asked him to turn around and instead of turning around, he started taking back roads in the neighborhood, which made me give him an even harder time. I was irritated but also in a silly mood, I guess from relief and excitement. Hudson thought it was very exciting going on a late-night drive. He was very tired, but in good spirits.
Once at the birth center, I felt things slow down. Contractions stopped for a bit while I settled into a new environment. They started coming back, though. Each time, I needed to hang around Nick’s neck while he pressed his hands into my lower back. It wasn’t back labor like with Hudson’s birth. It was pressure and pain around my whole torso. Mostly the front, but I could feel the pain/power radiating into my back.
During every contraction, I worked to stop calling it a “contraction” in my head and think of it as something else. Like a rush or a wave. I pictured myself opening up and I tried to relax into each rush. What felt like the most helpful thing was to remember that the sensations were ME and coming FROM me— not something that was happening to me. I reminded myself that I was in control and I was choosing this.
At one point we realized Hudson needed to be somewhere else. He stayed with us maybe the first hour before my mom got there - he was happy to go with her. I’m grateful that he got to be there for the first half of labor. When I would hang on Nick for each contraction, Hudson would slide in between us and hug my legs. I will never forget that feeling. It was a group hug that was literally bringing our 4th family member into the world.
Emily took photos and was a huge blessing to have there. She broke the ice and kept conversations going between Nick, Jean the Midwife, and myself. I appreciate that, because I would have been self-conscious if it had been silent except for my groans and self-talk. Emily was a constant stream of affirmations and positivity. Nick made the comment that she sounded like an audio book — that made me laugh. And it was true. She was incredible.
Nick held me physically, Emily supported me emotionally, with my mindset.
The second Hudson left with my mom, I felt an overwhelming wave of nausea. I had HG the first half of pregnancy, but this nausea was different. Like a huge blanket. I threw up. I immediately said “that’s good. This is transition.” And started looking around for a place/position to push. I wanted to get it going, but couldn’t think of how or what to do. I thought the tub, and we filled it up. The warm water felt great, but I needed to hold onto Nick. I couldn’t get through the rushes by myself in the tub. I abandoned it and went for the bed.
On the bed is where I learned HOW to push. I didn’t feel the “urge” to push at this time, but I felt like it was the next step and wanted to get things moving. I asked Nick to lay behind me so he could apply the counter pressure on my back. I laid back on him and assumed the classic pushing position.
I would push during contractions, but it didn’t feel successful. Jean and the assistant midwife, Dawn, explained that I needed to make different noises. When I made my voice deeper, it allows me to push from a deeper place.
My legs were weak and shaking from adrenaline. I was told I needed to curl into each push, but I didn’t feel like I had the strength. To simulate this, both Dawn and Emily pushed on my feet as my legs were bent. It was the equivalent of me doing a curl up, but I had help 50% of the way. It made it much easier. I could feel now what a good push felt like, but I was unsatisfied with the position. I remembered that gravity was my friend, and I wanted to find a spot that I could use gravity.
I moved from the bed and squatted next to it. My legs still felt too weak to hold myself up, though. There was an old, traditional birthing chair that looks like some kind of medieval device. We had noticed it and possibly even joked about it in the past. But at this moment, it got moved in and was a big help. Nick was still behind me at this point, and he helped me hover into a squat position during contractions, and then rest on the chair between them.
I announced to the room that I had to poop. I remember going into the most detailed explanation of how I really needed to poop before Thompson could come out. I said “there’s a poop, and there’s a Thompson. I can’t get them both out at the same time—I have to poop first!”
No one argued with me, that I can remember, but I assume they all knew that there wasn’t a poop. The poop I was feeling was Thompson. He was ready to come out. I could feel the pressure.
At this point it was nice to be able to both feel and visualize the mission. I could feel the pushes being successful, and I liked that. When he started to crown, I felt very motivated. I remember thinking that I should slow down to avoid tearing, but the desire to get him OUT was stronger than the desire to avoid damage.
My inner and external mantra moved from positive affirmations or “opening up” to more of a harsh, determined, aggressive “GET HIM OUT.”
Somewhere in here there was a moment where I surrendered to the pain and said “I can’t do it. It hurts. I’ve got to get out of here.” And my mind went to the the epidural that brought me relief during Hudson’s extended labor. I wanted that, in that moment. But the thought didn’t stay long, because I realized that wasn’t going to happen. This was it and the only way out was through. Because I had no choice, this WAS the choice. I was the only one who could get this baby out.
With that realization, and that short rest, I came back with a vengeance and pushed him out. It felt like a giant hole opening in my body. Like, giant. His head came through and I felt an almost-relief. The shoulders were an annoyance, knowing I had already gotten the big part out. I kept pushing. He was free, and I held him. I was shaking so badly I was afraid to hold him, but I did. I eventually was helped to the bed where I laid there shaking for awhile, holding him.
I did it. He did it. We did it. I will never forget that power and that pride. I’m so grateful to have had that experience, and I feel like it has helped me heal from my first birth in so many ways.
We were home within 2-3 hours of the birth, and Thompson is eating and pooping and sleeping like a champ.