Seven years ago I had my first child. My son, Grant, was born in the hospital after a fast and easy 7 hours of labor. This included getting an epidural almost as soon as I got to the hospital because my contractions were so uncomfortable that I couldn’t enjoy the process of labor. After the epidural I felt NOTHING! and my nurse reassured me that I “didn’t want to feel it” when I asked if we should turn it down a bit. It also resulted in an extremely low blood pressure for which they loaded me up with IV fluids. When I was fully dilated the nurse had to tell me when to push and assured me that I was doing a good job. However, after about an hour and half of pushing the doctor ended up using “slight” vacuum assistance to get Grant out. He was placed on my chest right away, but only briefly. They took him away to weigh, measure, bathe and med icate him before giving him back all swaddled up to nurse him. Luckily he latched right on and we had a great experience with breastfeeding. After being moved to the postpartum room I allowed Grant to go to the nursery during the night and they brought him in to breastfeed every 4 hours. I realize looking back that we missed a lot of bonding time during those first couple of days in the hospital while we were separated.
A year after having Grant I transferred from being an ICU nurse to working in a NICU. I gained a whole new perspective on pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery while working not only in the special care nursery, but also having to attend high risk deliveries and take care of postpartum moms and their newborns. I also continued to gain a deeper passion for helping breastfeeding mothers and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant two years ago. Despite all of the situations that require medical intervention that I observe in my job, I still believed that pregnancy and childbirth could be “normal” and that a lot of the practices in the hospital setting are unnecessary. So, when I became pregnant with my second child last year, I decided to look into The Birth Center in Wilmington. My husband, Adam, was concerned that I would regret not having the opportunity to get an epidural, but was otherwise on board with it. I felt like I was better prepared mentally to deal with the discomforts of labor and that given the opportunities to labor in different positions as well as the possibility of laboring in the water I would be able to handle it better this time around. The 45 minute drive to TBC was worth it for the wonderful care they provided. The midwives and everyone else I met at TBC were all amazing and I loved the laid-back approach to pregnancy and childbirth.
My due date was approaching and my parents made the 7 hour drive to our house the weekend I was due and we spent the next several days just waiting for something to happen. I decided to have my membranes stripped when I was 40 3/7 weeks since my parents were only going to be here for the next week to help with the new baby. I had scant spotting after the stripping but nothing really else that day. However, the next morning I was in and out of sleep, vaguely aware of the feeling of “waves” of cramping low in my abdomen. I was able to sleep through them but I did notice that they were very regular and very frequent. I think they started sometime around 5am. I stayed in bed until I had to get up to get Grant ready for school at 6:30 and was able to walk around and do our normal morning routine even though they continued regularly the entire time. I started watching the clock and noticed these “waves” were happening every 2 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds. . I also had a huge bloody/mucous show that morning, but was not sure if it had to do with the membrane stripping or if it was a sign of “the real thing.” So, after putting Grant on the bus, I got a bite to eat and decided to take a warm bath to see if that slowed things down. I think I was in denial that it was really happening. And even though I knew that when I did go into labor I would have to make my way to TBC rather quickly based on my fast labor with my first, I wasn’t really in any hurry to wake up my husband or my mom to tell them I thought we should get moving. While I was in the bath, the contractions did slow down and became less regular, but as soon as I got out, they were back to every 2 minutes and getting a bit stronger.
I finally called the on-call midwife at about 8:45am to let her know what was going on. Dorinda was on-call and told me I should come on in. I woke everyone up and sent my parents to get Grant from school. We ended up not getting on the road until about 9:45am but made it there in record time and got checked in at about 10:15am. The ride to TBC was a bit uncomfortable as the contractions were getting stronger and longer, but I was able to breathe through them pretty well. I had a feeling I was in “transition” at this point as I started having hot flashes with the contractions and then chills in between. I was also having slight waves of nausea now and then. By the time we got to TBC, I found the best position when I had a contraction was bending forward and doing deep breathing. Dorinda wanted to check my BP, dilation and the baby’s HR but I was having a hard time relaxing long enough between the contractions since they were coming so quickly. She got a good HR on the baby during a contraction and I finally settled onto the bed and let her check me. She told me I was at about 7 cm but wanted to check one more time after my next contraction to get a better feel for the baby’s head position and told me to let her know when my next contraction was done. Well, the next contraction came…and continued…and continued, and didn’t seem like it was ever going to end. I became vocal at this point with a low moan instead of being able to just breathe through it. And then all of a sudden I felt like my whole body just had a mind of its own and started pushing! The best description I can give for this overwhelming feeling is like having dry heaves and not being able to control that full body convulsion. It was very uncomfortable but at the same time it kind of felt good. In the midst of this “push” my water broke and I felt a huge relief. Dorinda quickly checked me and said “you’re at 10!” and told Adam “Go get the nu rse!” She then told me “If you want to have this baby in the water you need to get in there right now!” It was all happening so fast!
I got into the tub and sank into a semi-squatting position and with every contraction I felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside as the baby made her way down very quickly! The famous “ring of fire” was more like an entire tunnel of fire! I was moaning and blocking everything out and feeling like I was not in control as my body just did its own thing, but Dorinda and the nurse, Tyler, were very encouraging. Dorinda, however, was trying to get me into a position that was better for her to be able to reach me and to support my perineum but I was being stubborn as I was very comfortable the way I was squatting. She ended up taking a shoe off and putting her leg in the tub with me! She later told us that we were birth number 554 for her and that was the first time she ended up in the tub!
Carli Jane made her entrance into the world only 12 minutes after my water broke and after only a handful of pushes. Before I went into labor I was never sure if I was really going to want to deliver in the water, but as it was happening I was grateful for the warm water and it was a very cool experience to have her transition into the world in that way. She was placed on my chest immediately and I noticed that her head was perfectly round…she came so quickly that her head did not have time to mold (which was probably why I felt like she was ripping me apart!).
I didn’t really notice anything that was going on around me during the height of the labor/pushing as I kind of went into a zone and closed my eyes and blocked everything else out but as soon as she was born I heard Adam say one word…“Wow.” He later told me that he got a little choked up watching me labor and then watching his daughter being born (which is not like him at all). I later told him I wished we had recorded it so I could watch it from the outside looking in. I kept apologizing for not being in control and for hollering and moaning but everyone assured me that I did great.
They all helped me get out of the tub with Carli on my chest and helped me get back into the bed. Carli stayed skin-to-skin with me for nearly 2 hours before getting measurements and meds. She was alert and calm laying on my chest while I was being stitched up and then she nursed well for nearly 45 minutes during the second hour. Grant and my parents missed the birth, getting there about 20 minutes afterward. Grant had wanted to be there for the birth but he was so excited to meet his baby sister and his face just lit up when he saw her. Tyler was awesome in letting him weigh his baby sister and including him in her care. She even made him a package of items like a copy of the footprints and birth certificate to take to school to show his class. I had not met Tyler in any of my prenatal visits, but I felt like I had known her forever already!
After Carli was done nursing, I had something to eat and 3 hours after the birth I was able to get up and take a shower. We were ready to go home only 4 hours after she was born!
I joked about my birth plan…the only thing in my plan was to make it to TBC in time! And we barely did!! It was all kind of surreal to have gotten there only half an hour before the final stage of labor and to be ready to take our new baby home so quickly.
I am so happy that we chose TBC and that I was able to experience an all-natural, un-medicated water birth.