It was 4am on Thursday (the day after my due date) when I woke to my first contraction. I had been feeling aches and cramps for the past couple nights, so I wasn’t too surprised or worried when contractions started. The contraction eased pretty quickly, and the next one didn’t hit for over 20 minutes. So I slept as long as I could that morning, in between the contractions, knowing that I would need to conserve my energy for the journey ahead.
My husband, David, asked me on Thursday morning if he should stay home from work. He was worried to leave me home alone when I was having contractions. I assured him that I would call if they got closer together or more intense and insisted that he go to work. The rest of Thursday passed slowly, as I tried to keep myself distracted with last minute errands that needed to be done before the baby arrived.
Thursday night the contractions were still anywhere from 20-45 minutes apart. I didn’t get much sleep that night, because contractions kept waking me.
On Friday David didn’t have to go to work. He does commercial heating/AC work, and, due to the warm winter we’ve been having, there wasn’t much service work that day. I was so thankful that he was able to stay with me! Even though contractions were infrequent, I was starting to feel the pain in my back, so it was wonderful to have David massage my back during contractions.
By Friday afternoon the contractions were getting much more intense, even though they were about 10 minutes apart. I was no longer feeling the contractions as cramps, but rather all as back pain. Even though David and I had taken a Bradley Method class which taught that the laboring woman should relax through the contractions, since the baby had turned into a posterior position it was practically impossible to relax.
At 7:30pm, with contractions about every 5 minutes, we called David’s parents who were going to be taking care of our dog while we were at The Birth Center. We then called The Birth Center to give notice about my contractions.
By 10pm we’d reached the “4-1-1”… contractions 4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute for a full hour. David’s parents had just arrived, so we figured we were ready to go. However, when I talked to Katie at The Birth Center she said she still could hear a smile in my voice between contractions and she wasn’t sure if I was ready to come in yet. (I have been accused of being “too nice,” and my husband later told me that this was another instance of me covering my true emotions in an effort to be polite.) Also, she told us that another baby had been born earlier in the evening, and that the family was in the water birth room. This is the room that we had picked for our labor, so we labored at home for another 3 hours before calling The Birth Center again. This time I was ready to go!
We got to The Birth Center around 1:30am (and I was thankful to see that the other family was getting ready to leave the water birth room). When Katie checked me I was astonished to hear that I was already 7cm!! I was excited to be so far into labor, and I thought that surely I would be holding my baby by dawn!
But dilation is not necessarily a gauge for how labor will progress, and, after almost 5 hours of laboring in the tub, Katie asked to check me again. I almost started to cry when she told me I was at 8cm. All those hours of intense labor only gained me 1cm? My water hadn’t broken, and Katie believed that was one reason why it was taking longer than anticipated. She asked to break my water around 7am, and I gladly agreed! This helped a lot, and suddenly I was almost completely dilated.
At 8am there was a shift in the on-call staff, with Midwife Dorinda and Nurses Tyler and Peggy joining us in the water birth room. The baby was still posterior, so Dorinda suggested I try different positions to help encourage the baby to turn. The next 1 ½ hours passed slowly for me. I was completely focused on the task at hand and I didn’t notice the people moving around me at all. David later told me that I even started to fall asleep and snore between the contractions! By this point I’d been in active labor for over 12 hours, and hadn’t had much sleep for the past 50 hours. I was so exhausted, and I doubted myself with almost every contraction. But Dorinda, Tyler and Peggy, along with David, continued to encourage me and give me reassurance. Without their support (or, in other words, if I had been trying to do this naturally in a hospital) I think I probably would’ve given up!
At last, at 9:30am, I was in stage 2 of labor – it was time to push! However, the baby continued to be posterior, so with every push the pain in my back was strong. I was grateful to have Tyler putting pressure on my back during each contraction. Around 10:30am, since I was completely unmedicated, I felt the baby turn into the anterior position. Of course I was still exhausted, but it was nice to have the pressure off my back.
At 11:13am, I pushed 4 final times, and suddenly was holding my baby! Both David and I were astonished that she started to cry when only her head was out. She was so alert! Only for the first minute I didn’t know it was a she, so I suppose I should still be referring to her as the baby. I remember I turned to David, delighted that it was finally over, and announced “I did it!” Up until the end I still doubted that I had the strength to do this without pain relief or medical assistance. And then Dorinda turned to my husband and said, “David, tell Alvana what it is”, and David got to announce “IT’S A GIRL!” It was so exciting to finally learn the gender of this baby! After a few moments of holding our baby and crying some tears of joy, I asked David if we were set on the name. He said he was happy with what we had picked out, and I agreed. Then I was able to introduce our daughter, Audra Leigh, to Dorinda, Tyler and Peggy.
Looking back, this is not the birth I had planned to have. I had heard about back labor, but I really didn’t have any idea how severe the pain would be. Also, I wasn’t expecting to be in labor for that long, though I know that 15 hours is around average. However, David and I both view this experience as an amazing and beautiful event. We are so glad we chose to experience natural childbirth outside of a hospital, where a staff of loving women worked so hard to make this an enriching occasion. Our hearts are grateful for The Birth Center!