This Sunday, our little girl joined our family. Her birth was an amazing and, by all accounts, unique experience, and enough people have asked to hear it that I thought I would document it here (Facebook limits characters in posts!). There's a moderate amount of labour details in this post, so be warned if you don't like reading that kind of stuff.
First some background: Before we got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have a natural birth. I had decided on this for a number of reasons, but the benefits to my child were the main motivation. I was also looking forward to having a profound birthing experience with my husband and child, which I have learned anecdotally comes best with natural births. To prepare for this goal, we did a lot of things but the main preparations were a Hypnobirthing course that my husband I took, and reading "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Childbirth and Labour" by Stephanie Goer. Both of these resources suggesting writing a detailed birth plan for both yourself and your health care providers. We wrote out all our wishes concerning medical interventions, the delivery, how people treat us at the hospital etc. However, hospitals have set protocols, and health care providers are humans with their own opinions, so there's only so much a birth plan can control. This was something that weighed on me as the pregnancy progressed, and I learned about certain things that I would not be able to negotiate.
Another issue that crept up was the risk of being induced. I had made it to term with no sign of going into labour. At my 40 week appointment, I was told that the standard practice is to induce by 42 weeks. I had to book a biophysical foetal profile at 41 weeks (which allowed us to see Vivienne on Ultrasound, so that was good), and a stress test for the middle of the next week. If I had made it to the stress test, I would have booked the induction at that appointment. At this point, I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, so time was really running out for a naturally occurring labour. My resistance to being induced is also lengthy, but briefly, it can harm the child, and the chances of a natural labour plummet. We were basically being faced with the option of 1) rejecting medical advice and going it alone, either a birthing center that we would have to track down in a matter of days or at home, with a homebirth midwife, which we would have to hire by the birth, or 2) foregoing our wishes for the labour and doing what the medical profession told us to. Neither option was particularly appealing, so we went into overdrive of trying to get labour to start. I solicited wives-tales from friends on Facebook, read internet forums and asked my Doula and midwife. I followed them all at least once, but the main attempts were lots of Evening Primrose Oil, exercise, and spicy foods.
On Saturday, we went on a 3 mile trail around the Holyoke reservoir (which was a lovely walk that I highly recommend to fans of the outdoors). We then went to get Thai food with a friend and I ordered a blazingly hot curry, and the good folks at Thai Place certainly delivered.
On Sunday morning, I woke up a couple of times around 5am feeling a little crampy, which I attributed to my ambitious curry consumption. I went in and out of the toilet a few times, but each time I got into bed I became uncomfortable again and had to get up again. It occurred to me that this may be early labour, but I had spent the week thinking any minor movement in my belly was labour, so I was trying not to get my hopes up. Also, the curry was the more logical candidate. I decided against waking my husband until I was sure, and in lieu of being able to get into bed, I ran a bath and listened to my hypnobirthing CDs. I noticed that the cramps were spaced out evenly so documented their frequency which was at about 7 minutes. These were on the level of period pains, so I decided to let Nick sleep until I was sure I was in real labour, and, if I was, to keep his energy for when I had lost mine.
I got bored (and pruney) in the bath by about 8am, so woke Nick up and told him I was pretty sure things were starting. I got back into bed and Nick patiently massaged my back (and watched basketball on mute) as I worked on hypnosis and napped between each contraction. Nick called our Doula, Marie, who arrived at about 10am, and for the next few hours I stayed in bed sleeping between each contraction. The contractions were holding at 6-7 minutes apart and still within the level of period pains. Had I been in a hospital, they would have called this Early Labour, and likely would have said it had stalled. However, you're not even meant to go to the hospital until contractions are at least 5 minutes apart. The contractions weren't getting closer or stronger, and Nick and Marie tried to convince me to got for a short walk but I really didn't want to be out of bed. Eventually, they haggled for me to walk to the bathroom which is next door to our bedroom.
Marie suggested that I may be comfortable sitting on the toilet, and I am lucky that she did, because during one of my next contractions my water broke. That was about 1.15pm. All of a sudden, I went from having mild cramps that I could sleep between to having immense contractions with no real break in-between. The next 20 minutes are a blur to me, but pieced together from Nick and Marie's accounts. The next contraction was 5 minutes apart, then four minutes apart, then three then two. They were also extremely intense and I had to grab onto Nick's arms and dangle from him while they lasted. There was talk of getting to the hospital and the midwives were phoned to be told we were on our way. I was sure I could feel the baby coming, but Nick and Marie (as well as the birthing classes we took) assured me that it just felt that way, and that I was hours away from the baby actually arriving. Nevertheless, I felt like the baby may have been crowning. After the next contraction, I knew she was coming. Marie looked to see what was going on, and instantly told Nick to call 911. The next contraction brought the baby's head. I couldn't see, but Marie said the baby was trying to cry. During that contraction Nick was out of the room to call 911 and it was awful doing it without him. He was back in the room for the next one, which brought the rest of the baby and Nick delivered his daughter at 1.38pm. She was handed to me, and we heard the EMTs arriving.
The main EMT was a really nice guy, and he checked out Vivienne with Nick. She had a great colour, and an Apgar score of 9 (at the hospital we found out that she is 22" long and weighed in at 9lb 7oz). I should point out that given my day started in a bathtub, I wasn't wearing any clothes at this point, which now had 3 EMTS and a cop standing around me. It sounds weird, but I really didn't care. I think I was so amazed by what had just happened, and in awe of holding my daughter that vanity fell by the wayside. I was given a little hospital robe and we walked downstairs to the stretcher. I hopped on, and held Vivienne as we rode to the hospital - definitely a more comfortable alternative to being stuck having contractions in a car. The hospital staff greeted us, and everyone was amazed by our story. The midwife who settled us in said in thirty years she had never heard of anything like this.
So, that's pretty much the story of our birth. Typing the portion of the active labour took longer than the active labour itself. I have no idea how it went so fast, but Hypnobirthing promises a shorter labour (though, I don't think they meant only 20 minutes of active labour!). Either way, it was an amazing experience, and looking over the birth plan we wrote, we got every single thing we asked for, just not how we expected it.