It was a typical “overdue” pregnant Wednesday morning for me on May 28, 2014. I had taken my maternity leave a couple weeks beforehand and was thoroughly enjoying full fledged nesting and resting. My due date had come and gone (May 23) and I was content in knowing that our little boy was safe, healthy and still tucked away inside of the safest place on earth. As much as I was over the back and hip aches, heart burn, constant exhaustion and frequent bathroom trips, I truly enjoyed my pregnancy and I was soaking in as much as I could the last few days of it. Every little kick and movement shared just between my baby and I was priceless and savored as I knew the journey of pregnancy was ending and the unknown adventure of motherhood was soon to begin. The excitement in my heart to meet my precious baby face to face was unreal and the fear of the unknown of labor and delivery began to surface. My husband and I did everything that we possibly could in preparing for the birth of our first child. We attended 12 weeks of Bradley method classes, went through books, watched countless videos and documentaries on the natural birth process and we chose a birth center with midwives to deliver Everett at. I felt empowered, encouraged and educated throughout my entire pregnancy as I surrounded myself with an incredible birth team! I was so excited to FINALLY experience the miracle of birth for myself.
At around 10:30 AM on Wednesday morning (May 28), I got out of bed to make breakfast and felt a significant gush of fluid. I immediately thought “DID MY WATER JUST BREAK?” but then started to dismiss this fact as I had learned that only a small percent of women’s water breaks before labor (especially first time pregnant moms). My mother-in-law called me that morning and jokingly said “Is there anyway you can go into labor today so that I can get out of going to church tonight?” We laughed and I said “Hey, you never know!”. I went about my business of bed-making, breakfast eating and experienced a sudden burst of energy which made me start cleaning like a mad person. I was scrubbing floors, walls, counter tops and making sure my birth center bag was packed with everything I needed (even though I had packed it 3 weeks prior), our birth plan was typed neatly and I ensured that we had multiple copies JUST IN CASE today happened to be BIRTH day. Soon after my cleaning craze began, I felt another gush of fluid. I then started to really feel like my water had broken due to the amount of fluid I had lost in a short amount of time. I called my husband at work and informed him of what was going on and then called my midwife who instructed me to come into the birth center right away. I tested positive for GBS (group b streptococcus) during my pregnancy which is a bacteria found in about 25% of healthy, adult women and can be passed to the baby through delivery. It is dangerous for a new baby to be exposed to GBS so I was informed that I would have to have IV antibiotics administered every 8 hours during my labor in order to make sure that it didn’t transfer. This was initially a bummer as we had planned to have a labor and delivery COMPLETELY free of any medicine whatsoever but I trusted my midwives expertise and they assured me that I would still have my natural birth experience.
At 1:20 PM, Ben and I packed our birth bag and birth essentials and started off to Natural Beginnings Birth Center in Statesville, NC (about 45 mins away from us). We talked excitedly as we drove, Ben prayed over the baby and I and we were so overwhelmed with joy as we realized that we would be meeting our baby boy SOON- the anticipation and excitement was palpable. This was actually happening! I was having minor contractions that were spread out, I could talk through them and I was all smiles so it was very apparent that we were in the early 1st stage of labor. We stopped and grabbed a bite on the way and I was chugging water like a champ! I kept remembering the “eat, drink, sleep, shower and walk” routine and I was definitely killing the eat and drink portion!
We arrived at Natural Beginnings at around 2:15 PM, I was ported and they started the IV drip of antibiotics. My midwife came in and I laughingly said “So, now what?” to which she laughingly replied “you have 24 hours from the time your water broke to go into active labor due to you being GBS positive”. We couldn’t stay at the birth center because you have to be at least 4-5 cm dilated and in “active” labor in order to labor there. She sent me home with black and blue cohosh (herbs used to induce labor) and instructed me on a myriad of “labor cocktails” to try and get things really moving!
Ben and I started back home around 3:00 PM and arrived back home at about 4:00 PM. My contractions on the way home were starting to intensify some but I could still talk through them. I lost my mucous plug at 4:04 PM. started the black and blue cohosh and alternated use every 30 minutes for the next few hours, I did the unthinkable and DRANK CASTOR OIL (YUCK! YUCK! YUCK!), I borrowed a breast pump from my bradley instructor and pumped to try nipple stimulation. Sure enough, my contractions began to come more frequently and were starting to get more intense. There were ones that were difficult to talk through at this point. Ben called the family at 5:35 PM and informed everyone of what was going on. I labored on our birth ball some, laid down to rest and walked a little bit. I lost more of my plug soon after. I was feeling more tired at this point and my contractions were becoming a little more frequent (3-4 mins apart) and I just KNEW I was approaching “active labor” and that I HAD to be dilating.
At 10:00 PM, Ben and I left our house to go back to the birth center for my second round of antibiotics as I had to have them administered every 8 hours during labor. We decided that instead of coming back home if I was not in “active labor that we would get a hotel room in Statesville to be close. I was hoping that I was at least 4-5 cm dilated and that I could just stay and labor at the birth center. I had to be. We arrived at Natural Beginnings at 10:50 PM and they began the second dose of IV antibiotics and my midwife checked my cervix. I was only 1 cm dilated. I was starting to feel really discouraged at this point, my contractions were still intensifying and I felt a lot of pressure in my pelvis. How could I only be ONE CENTIMETER? Nicole (my midwife) was super sweet and encouraging and told us to go to the Holiday Inn express nearby and tell them we were laboring and they would give us a discount. She told us to call her and keep her updated. We left the birth center and arrived at Holiday Inn Express at about 12:00 AM. At this point, I was unable to talk through my contractions, I was VERY focused, serious and did lots of moaning and groaning to get though each one. I tried to lay on my side but was very uncomfortable so I got on the birth ball on the edge of the bed and pretty much stayed there ALL night. My contractions were about 2-3 mins apart and were lasting 60-90 seconds. I was feeling exhausted and just kept wanting to sleep but there was no way I could sleep through them. Ben put pressure on my back, squeezed my hips and coached me beautifully through each one. We had an app on his phone to monitor them and he talked me through each one. He was so encouraging and kept telling me how amazing I was doing and how exciting it was that we were going to be holding our baby so soon! At one point, he looked at me and said “babe, you’re incredible and you are doing such an amazing job and I am gonna be here every step of the way BUT I have got to go and take care of something right now” and he walked into the bathroom and started throwing up! I kinda freaked out a little bit at that point and thought he was getting sick but later learned that it was just nerves and the fact that he hated seeing me in so much discomfort. We laugh about that little detail to this day 😉 Needless to say, it was a VERY LONG night.
Ben called Nicole a couple of times and informed her of my progression. We ended up leaving the hotel at around 5:50 AM to go back to the birth center. I could barely walk out of the room and found myself stopping in the halls and lobby to moan and get through the contractions. I know people were looking at me funny but I didn’t care AT ALL. Ben helped me into the car and we started back to the birth center. I just knew that this was active labor and that we would be staying there! We arrived and Nicole started the IV drip and checked me and I was only TWO cm dilated. At this point, I don’t even think discouragement is the right word to describe how I felt. I was utterly disappointed and so upset. I cried and kept asking “is my body broken?”. I was so sad because I knew that this meant my beautiful water birth experience was not going to happen as we would have to go to the hospital and they would start pitocin soon. Pitocin- the word and idea that I so hated and so planned against. I had heard horror stories. As if the comments toward my perfectly planned natural birth were harsh enough from people who told me “you probably won’t be able to do it without the epidural” there were ones who had told me of their own hell-ish experiences with the agonizing PITOCIN and that is was indeed, impossible. I felt swallowed and trapped. I was trying to breathe through contractions, tears and fears and I was completely overwhelmed.
The ride there felt like an eternal mile and a half. My husband was so precious and kept encouraging me and telling me how proud he was of me and that soon I would have our perfect baby in my arms. We arrived at Davis Regional Medical Center at 7:30 AM and I could still barely walk and talk. They started the pitocin at 8:45 AM and man oh man, did things REALLY start to intensify. I thought my previous contractions were intense but compared to these, they were a brisk walk in the park on a sunny afternoon. These were NO JOKE and they were coming in waves that felt unbearable. I kept thinking how bad I wanted relief and rest- I was exhausted. Ben and Nicole were excellent at talking me through them. They kept saying “that is one more you don’t have to have and one closer to having your baby!”. Some were 1 min apart and others were 30-45 seconds apart. At 10:30 AM, I got in the tub to labor. The water was my friend. I wanted to stay there. I got an urge to push and they made me get out. I started to labor on the birth ball again and my midwife put heat and counter pressure on my lower back during contractions and it definitely helped! I got back into the tub at around 11:45 PM and got another urge to push. I remember wanting to just stay in the water so bad and I was so upset that they kept making me get out when I wanted to push! My labor and delivery nurse helped me out of the tub at 12:30 PM and due to the fact that my midwife had left for a little bit to go to an appointment, she checked me, told me I was 10 cm and that we were getting ready to have a baby! She called Nicole to come back, Ben called all the family who started the track to Statesville from Concord and they began to set up the room for a baby! We were so excited!
My midwife arrived at at 12:50 PM and she checked me and informed me that I was actually only 3 cm. Hello, Natural Alignment Plateau. Within the Bradley Method, we learned of this. It is sometime during labor when there is a ‘stall’ in cervical dilation. Sometimes this occurs just before transition, but can happen at any time when it looks like nothing is happening! It is often misdiagnosed as the all too commonly heard “failure to progress” or “CPD” (big baby, small mama). According to textbooks, a woman should dilate in a specific way, usually so many centimeters per hour after she has reached active labor. However, we learned that judging progress by dilation is totally irrelevant as there are MANY things working together within the amazing human body to prepare for the birth of a baby. Unfortunately, modern medicine and many OB/Gyns will make mothers feel as though their bodies are broken during this time and that they “just won’t dilate” which isn’t always the case (or is rarely the case, I should say) and then it usually ends in a c-section. I am SO thankful that Ben and I educated ourselves and that we had a midwife who was PATIENT, believed in natural birth, encouraging and allowed me to continue to labor. Also, dilation is measured differently by most everyone. It is so tricky to gauge true dilation. I won’t lie to you and say that I didn’t feel discouraged and totally defeated at this point in my labor. Again, I can’t say enough how tremendous my husband was during this phase. He knew what was happening and he kept reminding me that my body was doing what it needed to do for me and for the baby and that I was a champ. These words and reminders were powerful to me during this stage.
My midwife suggested that I start trying some other positions and let gravity work with me. From 1:00 PM- 2:00 PM, I labored in many different positions such as hands and knees, the birth ball, squatting, side lying. At this point, I started to majorly doubt myself. I started saying things like “I can’t do this anymore”, “I need relief” and “I think I want the epidural now”. I was crying and really started wanting drugs at this point. Ben and Nicole kept talking me through each contraction and were so sweet and supportive.
At 2:00 PM I asked to get into the tub again and after about 15 minutes, I felt an overwhelming urge to push. I couldn’t not push. It was impossible. This baby was coming whether I was 10 cm or not! I knew it. The pressure was intense and the urge would not subside. I got out of the tub at 2:15 PM and sat on the toilet. This is when I hit transition. It was intense. I was shaking, throwing up and crying. Nicole and Ben kept saying, “remember this is the shortest part- you’re doing amazing!”. It felt like I couldn’t go on. Where was I going to find the energy to push? Nicole had me get on hands and knees on the bed again and I pushed a couple of times. I had an intense need to bear down through each contraction. I stayed on hands and knees for about 15 mins and then I wanted to change to the classic pushing position (sitting up with knees back). This detail is funny to me because during our labor rehearsals, I thought for sure I would HATE that position for pushing but sure enough, it’s what I wanted. I started pushing in classic position at 2:45 and pushed through each contraction for a little over an hour. My pushing contractions were way more spread out and I was talking, joking and laughing through them. When they came though, I HAD to push with my body. I remember wanting to groan really loud when I pushed but my midwife kept telling me to focus all of my energy on pushing. She massaged my perineum with oil between and during my pushes to keep me from tearing. I remember feeling the “ring of fire” as the head was crowning and they kept saying “He has hair!”. This was so motivating to me, I wanted my baby in my arms. I pushed through the burning a few times and at 3:56 PM on May 29, 2014, Everett Benjamin Rhodes was born! They placed him on my chest immediately and the most overwhelming sense of joy, love, relief, excitement, happiness and pure peace came crashing over me. Never in my life have I experienced a rush like that. Ben and I couldn’t take our eyes off of him as he nuzzled into me and let out the most precious cries I have ever heard in my life.
We did it! We had birthed our baby as a team and I was so shocked and in disbelief that I made it through without ANY pain meds. I felt like I could literally do ANYTHING. The moments after his birth were precious and I will never forget how precious the skin-to-skin contact and the first time breastfeeding was. It was surely love at first sight- this child whom we had prayed for, prepared for and had already grown to love on the inside came into our world and radically changed our lives in an instant. We were a family.
If this experience taught me anything at all, it surely was a beautiful lesson in trust. Trusting the Lord, my husband, my midwife, my body and my baby. I realized that my “plans” were surely secondary and I learned to “roll with the punches” per se. We didn’t get to have the water birth at a birth center that we so desired and planned for but our birth story is beautiful in every way, filled with adventure and is a journey that I would absolutely change nothing about. Everett ended up having a pretty severe jaundice case and we had to stay in the hospital 4 extra days. I was able to stay even though discharged because the hospital was very small and they didn’t need the rooms, the medical staff were complete angels and we were very well taken care of. I can’t say enough how wonderful the entire experience was there.
I am so grateful for everyone who participated in Everett’s birth and especially for the support that I felt in my husband. We were truly a team and I learned that he really did listen to all 12 classes that we went through 😉 We will try for the water birth next time, my body is NOT broken, it IS possible to have a pitocin induction and not have to have an epidural!
The end of the best beginning. ❤