The menstrual-like cramp rippled through my body. “Could this really be it?”
I woke up with a start around 8:00 on the morning of Monday, March 26, 2012. I laid there for about twenty minutes timing the contractions. They were ten minutes apart and I prayed they were real. Maybe, Little Man would become a big brother today? I made my way to the bathroom for confirmation and was thrilled to find a little spotting. (Probably the only situation in which I would find this news so exciting)
I called my midwives’ answering service and notified my doula and a few friends via text. Pam, one of my two CNMs (Certified Nurse Midwives), called me back within a few minutes to gather the facts. She decided she would go to the hospital to discharge another patient of theirs and then make her way over to our house. Dana, my doula, requested I keep her updated. I went downstairs for breakfast around 10AM and the contractions sped up to five minutes apart. This might not alarm most laboring woman as it usually just signifies the switch from early, latent labor to active labor which can last all day. I, however, delivered my last baby within three hours of this switch, so my midwife and doula both opted to come over immediately.
Once everyone arrived (midwife, assistant, and doula), around 1PM*, I requested that Pam check me. The contractions were somewhat erratic and I began to wonder if I had jumped the gun. She found me at 5-6cm dilation, a soft and fully effaced cervix, and fully engaged baby.
Okay, yes. I might be a freak of nature as I realize many woman request their epidural around 5cm. But, I should share that I don’t exactly have a high tolerance for pain. What I do have is a long track record of losing consciousness quickly over tiny injuries like biting my tongue (I’m not exaggerating). Though I didn’t take Hypnobabies or Hypnobirthing, I believe I used some degree of self-hypnosis. With both labors, I felt discomfort and the intensity frightened me at times, but I refused to acknowledge it as pain.
Around 2 or 3PM*, I decided I wanted to spend some time in the pool Hubby set up in our bedroom earlier that morning. A shower sped things up for me with LM, so I thought the tub might do the same. Though the intensity of each contraction increased, the frequency slowed to a stop. Around 3 or 4PM*, I decided to dry off and come downstairs to bounce on the ball and do some stair lunges. The contractions returned and continued to increase in intensity but remained ten minutes apart.
In an effort to get things moving, I went for a walk around the block probably around 5PM*, during which my contractions jumped to approximately 3 minutes apart and there was a dramatic change in my comfort level. When we returned, the contractions were hard and frequent and I felt a dramatic shift in my emotions from excited to irritable and scared.
Before getting back in the pool, Pam checked me again, at my request, and found me to be a “stretchy” 9cm. I was ready. I got back in the pool, breathed through about three very challenging contractions before finding the courage to push.
Towards the end of one contraction, I pushed and felt my waters break. I pushed Littlest Man out in the next two contractions which happened in about 6 minutes (6:06PM).
This was a very different story than my labor with Little Man a little over two years ago. With LM, I slept through seven hours of early labor, shifted into active labor as soon as I got out of bed, and, including a hurried trip to the birth center, delivered LM three hours later after twenty minutes of pushing. I’ve never really shared this before but I found my first, very rapid labor both scary and extremely draining. I had a pretty bad tear and I felt completely wiped for several days. Though my recovery time, as far as the ability to perform the normal day to day tasks, was pretty standard, it was months before my body felt close to normal again. My second labor, on the other hand, left me feeling peaceful yet energized and excited and I’m finding the recovery much faster.
I hope this story encourages the first-time mother not to fear the “standard” longer labor. My first experience was completely abnormal for a first labor and, in retrospect and after a much different story this time, I feel having the time to let your body and mind prepare for delivery makes for a beautiful experience.
*I wasn’t watching the clock so most times are approximate.
**none of this would have been possible without my parents and best friend, Diana, who helped with LM while all this happened. I am so thankful.