Natural Childbirth With First Baby: The Drug-free Labor & Delivery of My Son on His Due Date by Elisa Schmitz
Only four of 100 babies are born on their due date, so my son, CJ, is already special in that way. He was born on his due date, May 9.
I awoke at 3:45 a.m. that morning feeling as if I had to go to the bathroom. I felt a pain/pressure down low, so I tried to go, but no avail. I got back in bed and tried to sleep. A few minutes later I felt the same pain, so I tried to go again. This time I was successful, so I figured I'd be feeling better. I got back in bed, then a few moments later I felt the pain again. Not really a pain, but a strong pressure. I told my husband about these pains and he suggested timing them to see how far apart they were. I didn't really think it was labor yet because the pains weren't what I was expecting them to be. I thought they would be sharp, contracting pains across my stomach/uterus that would double me over. I thought they would be like Braxton Hicks contractions, only a lot worse. But they weren't like that. They were “pressure pains.”
My husband began timing the contractions. The first two were about six minutes apart, then five minutes, then about three minutes. We decided we were definitely in labor and we'd better call the midwife-on-call, who happened to be one of our two favorites, who had given me most of my prenatal care. When she called us back after being paged, at 4:45 a.m., she asked me some questions about my pains. I answered her while having some of them, and even laughed a bit with her. She said that she'd never seen a woman able to speak through hard labor contractions, so I was probably not in active labor. She advised taking a bath and having something to eat and drink, then told us to call if things got worse.
My husband helped me into the bathtub with a glass of juice and some toast then went back to bed. I sat in the tub having these contractions for about an hour, until they got so bad that I was moaning out loud. I got out of the tub carefully, which was so hard by myself because of the weight and pressure, and got back into bed. The pains/contractions were so close together that I barely got a chance to breathe in between them. After about two or three more, at 5:45 a.m. I told my husband to call the midwife back. He spoke with her briefly then put me on the phone. I was almost in tears as I explained how I felt, and she realized that it was time for me to go to the hospital. She said she would call the hospital and meet us there.
My husband helped me finish dressing, then he changed his clothes and got ready. He gathered our bags and loaded the car and I made one last trip to the bathroom. When I wiped, there was blood on the paper – the bloody show. I guess the reality that I was about to have a baby hit me then. I waddled to the door and made my way down the steps and out the front door. I let myself in the car and closed the door, every action feeling like it took all my strength. My husband took off like a bat out of hell, and I assured him we'd be OK if he slowed down a bit.
We arrived at the hospital at about 6:20 a.m. I waited for my husband in the lobby as he got our bags and brought them in. We walked to the nurse receptionist and she asked if I was Elisa. I said yes, then another nurse came over – to me it seemed as if she was moving in slow motion – and led us to a labor and delivery room. She and my husband helped me off with my pants and got me into bed, where I was when my midwife entered a few minutes later.
She gave me an internal exam. She couldn't believe it when she realized that I was already completely dilated – only a bit of cervical rim/lip remained. She said I was going to break all of her records for a first-time mom, that I had just accomplished my dilating and transition at home alone in two hours. I was hooked up to an external fetal monitor, which measured CJ's heart rate as well as the contractions, and printed them out on a running tape log. He was doing just fine.
At this point, pain medication – such as an epidural – wasn't even an option. Good thing I had wanted to have a natural birth, anyway. My midwife told me the next time I had a contraction to "push through the pain." I guess she meant that I could start trying to push the baby out, but I didn't really comprehend that at the time. I did try to push, but not to the extreme. I did not really feel the “urge to push” that you often hear about. I was in the semi-seated position on the bed, and I kept telling my midwife about the pressure I was feeling. The pain came as a result of this low pressure. She suggested I try to go to the bathroom again. No luck, so she suggested breaking the bag of waters to try and relieve the pressure. I agreed – anything at this point – and got back in bed.
At 7:05 a.m., she reached inside me with a long metal or plastic hook thing and broke the bag, and hot water flooded out of me. She said the water looked great. I felt out of control, as if I had peed on myself, but a lot worse. I guess that was one of the worst feelings about the whole thing – the fear of being out of control of your body and not really knowing what's going on.
Now I was ready to push again. I was seated in a halfway upright position, My husband had one of my legs up in the air and pushed back toward my head, and the nurse, who had replaced the first nurse when the shift changed at 7:00 a.m., had the other leg pressed back toward me, and my midwife was down at the bottom telling me to push. This was so uncomfortable, I can't even describe it. Everything hurt, especially my back. I tried to push harder than before, but progress was slow in coming. My midwife suggested we try a different position. She brought out a birthing stool. I felt kind of off balance and so very uncomfortable.
After a few moments of that, the nurse suggested we try lying on my back to get CJ's head under my pelvis. The contractions were coming quickly, but they didn't give me this overwhelming urge to push that many women get. My midwife told me later that she thought I was having to use more of my own strength to push, that for some reason my uterus wasn't giving me as much help as it could have. While on my back, I made significant progress pushing CJ down under my pelvis, but in doing so, they lost track of his heart rate with the external monitor.
My midwife inserted an internal fetal monitor. Once attached, they saw that CJ was doing fine. We decided to try yet another position for pushing – lying on my right side. This was also extremely uncomfortable, but in reality, no position would have been comfortable. I just had to get the baby out. At this point, I realized that there was a certain point I had to reach with the pushing – a zone I had to enter. With the nurse counting to 10 for me to hold the push, OK now 1, 2, 3, etc. I would try and hold it for 10 seconds, but that was an eternity. And they wanted me to do that three times per contraction. Exhale, then do it again for a count of 10. So tiring. In between contractions my eyes would close so heavily, like they were cemented shut, and wouldn't open again until the next one, but barely open even then. I felt more exhausted than I ever had in my life.
We then shifted me onto my left side, which of course felt no better. But I kept pushing, my legs braced against my nurse, midwife and husband. We finally decided that the seated upright position might be best, so I again shifted. While pushing in this position, my other favorite midwife came into the room. She had been in the hospital for some kind of meeting on her day off and had seen my name on the board of who was in labor and delivery. Finally, CJ's head was visible on its own. My midwife brought a mirror over to the foot of the bed so I could see it. His dark hair was clearly visible, and the rounding of his head showed through.
Then, my midwife noticed that CJ's heart rate would drop after the contraction was over. She said it would be OK for it to drop during the contraction, but not after. She decided CJ needed to come out as soon as possible, which meant cutting an episiotomy to relieve the pressure. I told her that I didn't want one, but she said that although I would probably be able to push the baby out with no intervention within 20 minutes, the baby needed to come out now.
So she numbed my perineum with a local anesthetic and then cut a second-degree episiotomy. Within a push or two, CJ's head was out. My midwife said, Oh, here's the problem. CJ had the cord wrapped around his neck, which is why his heart rate was dropping. Also, his hand was up behind his ear, which made for a more difficult shape to push out. I remember the pressure let up, and then I didn't know what to do next.
They told me not to push as they suctioned his nose and mouth, then to push again for the rest of his body. He came out quickly after that, and I felt so much better down there, but very shaky – emotionally and physically. I was trembling. My midwife checked me to make sure the episiotomy hadn't ripped further because of CJ's hand being there, and it looked like it hadn't.
I remember as they placed my baby on my belly that he looked a little bit gray, and that he looked so big to have been inside of me. My midwife helped my husband cut the cord, then the nurse took him to clean him and get Apgars, which were 9 and 9. After my midwife finished stitching the episiotomy, she somehow noticed that I had two blood clots inside me. She massaged my belly again, then put her fingers inside of me to get the clots out. Her hand was so big inside me and it hurt so much that I thought she was going to rip open the stitches she had just put in. I screamed as they worked on me, and I remember that I just wanted it all to stop. I lost a lot of blood, but I was OK in the end. And, of course, it was all worth it.
They brought CJ back to me for his first chance to breastfeed. He latched on well, though I remember feeling confused about how to do it and if he was doing it right. I asked for a lactation consultant to help me learn how to nurse my baby (one of the best decisions ever).
I'll never forget the day CJ was born. The sun rose that morning as I struggled to push him out, and it was as if the day was greeting him. He grew my heart and then filled it to overflowing. His birth was a blessing, and he continues to be a blessing to this day.
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