I think that knowing this was the only time I'd ever be pregnant, feel my baby kick, go through the birthing process, etc. helped me appreciate every party of it that much more. Knowing this would be my only birth, I became obsessed with reading about the birthing process. I wanted to know what others had gone through and what they wished they had done differently. I decided I wanted a natural birth, and found an amazing hospital in my area with a team of midwives that specializes in natural births, but makes other options available.
Fast forward to 2 days past my due date. I wasn't just pregnant, I was SUPER-PREGNANT. I had chipmunk cheeks, cankles, giganto feet, the whole deal. I was ready to get this labor thing on! Sadly, as my due date came and went, I started feeling less and less like labor was approaching. That night, I watched TV, rolled into bed, and fell asleep. I awoke at 1AM to the realization that my pants were wt. I jumped up and waddled to the bathroom thinking, "surely I didn't wet myself...? Could it really be...?" After hovering over the toilet for 5 minutes while liquid continued to trickle out, I alerted my husband. My water had broken, it was finally happening. Today we would meet our baby girl!
I eagerly called my midwife, and her advice was to put on a pad and see if I could go back to bed because I would need my rest. Well, a pad was really NOT going to cut it because the fluid just kept on coming. So I fashioned myself a diaper out of a towel (think Sumo wrestler style), and sat on the edge of the bed grinning. Today I would meet my baby!
Then the contractions came: 3-5 minutes apart right from the get-go, although the pain was tolerable at first. My husband and I chose to labor as long as possible at home, so we set about doing laundry, cleaning the house, and chatting excitedly about what was to come. The pain went from bad to worse. When I could no longer talk through contractions (at about 5AM), we decided we would both feel better if we headed to the hospital.
As soon as we made it to the room, I got checked (almost completely effaced but only dilated to a 1. Boo!), then hopped into the water therapy tub. It was like heaven. I labored on all fours in the tub and moaned my way through each wave of pain and pressure that coursed through my back and lower abdomen. Every hour I had to hop back on the bed for some monitoring. I hated this time because laboring on the bed was intensely painful without any means of moving through the contractions.
After 5 hours of this off and on monitoring, they check me again--dilated to a 3. This was not good. I began walking the halls with my husband, pausing during contractions to lean forward against the railing and roll my hips like i was hula hooping. This was the only thing that seemed to help. I was in a meditative state and kept telling myself, "your body was MEANT to do this!"
At my next monitoring session (about noon...hour 11 of labor), i was told that the baby's heart rate was dipping drastically every time my contractions peaked, and i would need to stay in the bed so they could keep an eye on baby. Stay in the bed? But I HATE the bed! The bed inhibits me! But I knew this was no longer about me--it was about my baby. So I lay in the bed, enduring each contraction without the ability to move. i began vomiting when my contractions peaked and was told if i kept vomiting I would have to get an IV of fluid (something I did not want...I wanted to be able to stay in the water therapy tub!) I threw up. They gave me the IV. Then baby's heart rate dropped low enough to alert the nurses. Things got blurry. i was told to turn on my side and bring my knees up to my chest. I was given oxygen. I began to cry.
This was NOT the birth experience I had in mind--crying, scrunched up in an uncomfortable position with an IV in my arm and an oxygen mask on while my family looked on in horror. I asked about pain management options. My midwife encouraged me to weigh the decision before jumping in, since my birth plan dictated that I wanted a natural birth. I opted to check my progress first and then decide. After 12 hours of labor I was dilated to a 5 (the halfway point). Epidural PLEASE.
I was afraid I would be disappointed in myself or that I would disappoint others by this decision. But you know what? After my epidural, I was more present. My husband actually said, "welcome back." Apparently, I had not spoken in hours. While I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, my epidural gave me the opportunity to spend those last quiet moments alone with my family and husband before bringing my one and only child into the world. We dimmed the lights, cleared the room, and turned up the music--Ray LaMontagne's "Let it be Me". As the song played, my husband and I looked into each other's eyes and cried. We knew our lives were about to change in the most amazing way.
Looking back, I'm glad my birth went exactly as it did. I got to experience the intensity of natural labor, and then have the soft, sweet, quiet moments that the epidural afforded before the pushing started. I couldn't have planned it better myself.