I woke up at 5:30am, and felt the dampness on my skirt. I could feel water leaking and as I headed to the bathroom, I mentally calculated... just barely 36 weeks.
I knew it wasn't time for my baby to come.
I don't feel unbearably huge yet. My babies don't come early. Joshua had brain surgery last week and can't lift or drive. And the house is a mess.
Despite my hopes that the "little leak" would just go away, it didn't. A visit with my midwife confirmed that it was really leaking (not that I had any doubts!) and also that...
"Your baby isn't head-down. And I can't change that for you."
No wonder I didn't feel any pressure. My midwife was concerned about the risk of cord prolapse, and had me lie down while we discussed my options. I decided to go to the hospital nearby and have the doctor there try to turn the baby. My midwife knew the doctor who was working that day, and said she would be understanding and accommodating.
While lying down after getting to the hospital (but before seeing the doctor), my water really broke, with several big gushes. My midwife felt my abdomen and exclaimed, "I think the baby turned! It feels head-down now!" And indeed, the baby had turned. I was so relieved!
I had thought that I would be ready to go home to have the baby, right then and there, and I could have. But I didn't.
I could spend paragraphs rehashing all the things my midwife and I discussed, about whether to stay or go. All the what-ifs and the things we just weren't sure about. She kept asking me what I thought and felt and wanted.
I knew I wanted to go home, but it wasn't about what I wanted, of course. So I did the grown-up thing and put my preferences aside and chose a hospital birth... because I decided it was the right thing to do.
Even though I chose to be there, it wasn't easy for me. For most of my very long and slow labor, I was on the verge of tears. I didn't want to talk to anyone.
The doctor working that first day was really nice. I was having very light contractions all day and tried to rest (and did nap some), thinking active labor would pick up before too long.
At about the 12-hour mark, labor was still not picking up, so we tried some natural things like walking (several hours) and nipple stimulation (4 hours) but neither was very effective. Slightly effective, but just nothing even close to active labor.
I was very conflicted this whole time, because I felt like my body just wasn't ready for labor. It seemed so wrong to be trying to encourage labor, but yet my water had broken (and was continuing to leak), and I was having bloody show. I was quite pessimistic about the whole ordeal, even though my midwife and the doctor seemed confident that labor would pick up and go just fine.
I was also very bored, in between periods of feeling hopeless. I wished I were at home, spending the long hours cleaning the house or getting baby stuff ready or just doing something productive besides resting and walking.
And I really missed my children at home! I've never been away from them that long (2+ days total) and I really, really missed them. I so wished I could have labored at home, especially for such a long and slow labor.
So at the 24-hour mark, labor was still very mild. I asked the doctor to check me (I had one other check when I first arrived), and the baby was even higher than earlier.
Both the doctor and my midwife thought that a small amount of Pitocin would put me into active labor. They encouraged me that it probably wouldn't be too bad (since I wasn't a first-time mom), it probably wouldn't take much, and my body might even take over and I'd be able to finish laboring without staying on Pitocin. That sounded appealing to me, especially since being on Pitocin meant they would want continuous monitoring.
Being hooked up to monitors and an I.V. felt confining, but they told me I would still be able to walk around and stuff like that. When I actually decided to walk around, I found out I would be pushing an I.V. pole with the Pitocin plus have two monitor cords going from my abdomen to the pole.
I felt a bit annoyed with all that... they call that "mobility" in the hospital?! ;) But, I got over it. Not without tears, but I did push past it and then I pushed that ridiculous I.V. pole around the hospital halls as I walked for hours.
We started with 1 ml of Pitocin, and increased it every hour by another ml. And I didn't start feeling truly labor-ish until we were at 13! The very nice nurse kept asking me how contractions were feeling and I kept saying "only slightly uncomfortable" which to me meant "not doing much". So much for just needing a little bit of Pitocin to get labor started... here I was napping while at 10 ml. Crazy, and only nice in retrospect.
But finally, at 13 ml of Pitocin, the contractions were feeling more uncomfortable. I did more walking. We left the Pitocin at 13 because the contractions were continuing to get more uncomfortable. (I refuse to say "painful"!) I stayed on Pitocin for the rest of labor, not confident that I would stay in active labor if we turned it down or off.
It had been about 36 hours since my water broke. I felt like I was really in labor. Walking was definitely bringing the contractions closer together, but also making them easier to manage. I decided to walk the halls until I had to have privacy.
So I walked for about 90 minutes. My nurse wanted me to stop at the nurses' station every lap to get a good reading of the baby's heart beat. I told Joshua "I am going to walk these laps so fast, she will get tired of me stopping." Haha! Each lap did only take about 3 minutes, but she never got tired of me stopping and her having to look at the monitor while it picked up a reading. ;)
Toward the end, I could hardly make it through contractions without crying (not from being in pain, oddly enough) and I couldn't talk without crying, either. I made my stops at the nurses' station and didn't talk. I tried to manage a fake smile each time though. :)
I stopped at my room, where Joshua was resting, and asked him to call my midwife, who wanted to be there, and tell her that I was in active labor. I started crying as I talked but wiped away the tears and went back to walking.
I only walked for another handful of laps before deciding that I probably wouldn't make it another full lap without embarrassing myself in some way out in the hall. Haha! So I walked into my room and used the bed for support as I had a couple more contractions. It was dark by now, and the room was only dimly lit. My nurse came in the room but kindly stayed way back in the shadows by the door and just quietly observed.
I didn't say much to Joshua, and he wisely didn't try to talk to me, either. ;) At one point, I asked him to close a drawer by the bed that had been hanging open a few inches. It had been slightly open the whole time, but at that point it was in my line of sight and bothering me. Haha! Joshua said when I asked him to shut the drawer he knew I was almost there. What sane person uses their last bit of energy to worry about an open drawer? ;)
I thought I would feel "pushy" for a few contractions before having to push, but without warning, my body started pushing during a contraction and right away I could feel the baby's head descending! That surprised me, and I said, "I can feel the baby coming!"
I wanted to labor alone, so up until that point I had tried to keep to myself and was so thankful for the nice, understanding nurses who left me alone as much as possible. But when I said the baby was coming, the nurse called in other nurses and when they saw I was pushing they called for the doctor. (Joshua told me he heard them discussing it and they said "We better call the doctor... we don't want to get in trouble for another nurse-delivery." I found that amusing!)
I hadn't even met this doctor, because the nurse just kept telling him "She's doing great, we're making progress" and kept him away. That was probably a good thing. ;)
The doctor came in and said "What is she doing?!" and the nurse said "She's going to give birth standing up." and he said "...oh!"
My midwife had gotten there a few minutes earlier and gave some helpful coaching at the end. "Bend your knees... relax..."
I didn't push long -- maybe with 5 contractions. The baby's head came, and then the shoulders and body. They unwrapped the cord from her neck, and then I must have heard them talking about cutting the cord, because I called out "Wait to cut the cord!".
Ruth (4) with Channah
Talk about cords! I now had not only the I.V. and two monitors attached to me with cords, but also a baby! I managed to climb into bed and they handed me my baby.
They rubbed her back vigorously and she was breathing great. And for several minutes I just kept saying "Oh, my baby! My baby!" I had thought I would cry tears of joy when my baby was finally born, but suddenly I didn't feel teary at all, only happy. :D
The doctor asked me, "So what did you read on the internet about the cord?"
I was very confused. Huh? "What?"
"How long do we have to wait to cut the cord?"
"Oh, um, just until it stops pulsating." I wasn't prepared to have to explain that one, and the part about the internet really threw me off. This was not the same doctor who had been there my first day... obviously. ;)
Joshua cut the cord, and then the doctor told me he was going to deliver my placenta. What? My midwife said "You can push with this" which I had forgotten, and it came right out.
THEN, the doctor told me he was going to put his hand in and clear out all the little clots still inside me. WHAT??!! I've had 4 other babies and no one's ever needed to do that.
Since he was telling me, not asking, I tried to be polite (as I started pulling my knees together, haha!) and said "What are the risks of just letting them come out on their own?"
"You could hemorrhage!" I looked at my midwife for input.
"We usually just massage from the outside." She reached over and gave a few pushes on my uterus and some blood and clots came out.
"See! That was still inside," said the doctor. Umm, okay, but now it's not. :P
Then the doctor looked to see if I had any tears. Joshua says he was just doing a thorough job of checking for tears, but ouch! My midwives have always been very gentle doing that. No tears, and then I was left alone. :)
(I am appreciative of the doctor's expertise, should there have been complications, and thankful that he was respectful of my requests to do things different from his "normal".)
Channah (1 day old)
The nurses left Channah in my arms, skin to skin, for over 2 hours after birth! I loved that they didn't try to hurry with weighing her, etc. She never even left our room, which was very nice.
Channah weighed 6 lbs. 5 oz., and the doctors estimated that she looked about 37 weeks gestation. (My other babies weighed around 8 lbs.)
From the time my water broke, labor was 38 hours, with Pitocin for 15 of those hours. Truly intense, active labor was only about 3-4 hours.
We went home late the next morning. It was so nice to be home! Channah is doing well, and gets lots of love from all of us.
Eliyahu (6) with Channah
Recovery has gone amazingly well, despite Joshua's limitations in what he can do to help (he wasn't supposed to lift or bend over). I think a big part of that has been our oldest boys, Yehoshua (almost 8) and Eliyahu (6). They have stepped up and done so much more than normal, and mostly without complaining.
With minimal supervision, they've done kitchen clean-up, vacuuming and mopping the floors, gathering, sorting, folding and putting away laundry, taking trash and recyclables out, checking the mail, helping with showers/baths and diaper changes for Moshe, filling the Berkey with water, starting beans in the crock pot, and helping keep the house tidy. Normally they wouldn't have quite so many chores, but their extra help has been a blessing during a time when Joshua and I can't just "do it all". :)
Yehoshua (7) and Channah
Here are a few more notes about my birth and hospital experience.
I stayed in my own clothes all during labor and delivery. HUGE plus in my book! I was comfortable, could walk the halls without looking ridiculous (well, any more than normal ;D), and it just helped me feel NORMAL.
I also ate and drank during labor. After I started on Pitocin, the doctor there that day didn't want me to eat (only clear liquids), so I ate the stuff they gave me (chicken broth, jello, fruit juice) and then snitched some oatmeal and fruit from the breakfast tray that had been mistakenly delivered to my room. I didn't eat a lot, but it was enough to give me some energy for the rest of labor. Later in labor, I didn't feel like eating anyway.
"My babies don't come early"
Channah's arrival at ~37 weeks was such a surprise to me. I have been used to waiting on babies that took much longer than 40 weeks to be ready to be born, and I really never entertained the idea that it was even possible for one of my babies to come early. In the future (if we are blessed with more children!), I will be more prepared sooner.
And part of "being prepared sooner" will mean making sure I have the Group B Strep (GBS) test at 36 weeks rather than waiting longer. (I had an appointment scheduled for the day after Channah's birth, when we would have done the GBS test.) With an early baby and premature rupture of membranes (PROM), having the GBS test results would have been helpful information in our decision-making process.
Channah and Ruth (4)
I feel like my body has had an easier recovery this time. The after-pains, which I expected to be horrible and last for days (as they have before), weren't nearly as numerous and only lasted a day or two. Nice!!
I also didn't spend days painfully engorged when my milk came in this time, and Channah is nursing well with a minimal adjustment period of soreness.
And, Channah is such an agreeable baby. She eats well and sleeps well, and since I sleep great on our couch's recliner with her in my arms, we make a great pair. :) Joshua has been caring for the other children each afternoon while I take a nice long nap, which is also a tremendous help. :)
I can't believe Channah is almost 3 weeks old already! I told Joshua, "I thought time wouldn't pass so quickly if I held Channah every minute... but it's still going too fast!"
My (unused) home birth supplies
The "hospital experience"
I have always said we were "planning" to have a home birth with each of our babies, because I do know there are no guarantees of a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. I feel so thankful each time we are blessed with a beautiful birth experience and a healthy baby!
I feel like I had a very good hospital experience. Looking back, I wouldn't change any of my decisions, because I feel like we did our best with the information we had and the given circumstances.
I definitely prefer giving birth at home (when possible), but yet I also can say I had a good hospital birth -- and I have a new understanding of why people would prefer a hospital birth. :)
Waking up my first morning back at home :)