by Sarah Beth Nelson
My due date was December 10. I had stopped working (substitute teaching) at the beginning of December and was just awaiting the birth of my baby. On December 6, around 8:30 in the morning I got up to use the bathroom. I got back into bed knowing that I wasn’t going back to sleep, but just wanting to lie there for a few more minutes. I was talking to John (my husband) when I suddenly felt my water break. I looked at him in disgust, but he was excited.
I took a shower and then called Debbie. She wanted me to try and get things moving so I agreed to do what I could. John and I ate breakfast and then went for a walk around the neighborhood. John talked at length about the problems with the Bowl Championship Series and I drifted in and out of paying attention. I was feeling contractions, but they weren’t bothersome. I talked to Debbie again when we got home and she wanted me to try nipple stimulation. John and I got started on that and it wasn’t long before I had to ask him to stop because I was in pain. Debbie said the contractions might be more intense during the stimulation, but would lessen once it stopped.
We were interrupted by Amanda’s arrival (my sister). She was going to come to the house after church anyway (she plays piano for a church nearby) but I had also texted her letting her know the baby was on its way. The contractions continued to be a little more painful. We ate lunch and then decided to walk around Discover Mills. If I stood up during the middle of a contraction it hurt a lot, but I found that if I was already standing it wasn’t so bad, so I felt up for the trip.
Amanda and I wandered through a few stores and John went off to look for a sporting store that would have baby sized UGA clothes. I was wearing my exercise watch and timing contractions. About halfway around the mall I was getting pretty uncomfortable and the contractions were four minutes apart lasting 45 seconds to a minute. Amanda and I turned around, met up with John, and drove home.
I still thought I was going to be in for a long day and night, so when we got home, John left to get some movies. I was in enough pain to want to stay home, but I wanted to be distracted. However, as soon as I got in the door I had to kneel in front of the futon through about three contractions in quick succession. I almost started to panic because they were coming so fast and I was having trouble coping. I got upstairs and into the shower. I warned Amanda that I was going to start making noise. I didn’t want to frighten her, and I knew somehow that it would help. I asked her to call Debbie and John. Both of them headed to the house.
John was back right away. He very sweetly tried a variety of things to help me through the pain, massage, kissing (this was recommended in a book I had just finished – it doesn’t work for everyone). Then he and Amanda set up the pool in the master bedroom. I got out of the shower to conserve hot water and moved onto the birthing ball, which had also been moved to the bedroom. I continued moaning through the contractions.
Once the pool had a good depth of warm water, I got in. Debbie arrived and she wanted to examine me to determine my progress. At the end of a contraction I got onto the bed. The exam seemed to bring on a contraction and it was extremely painful. I wanted to move but also felt like I couldn’t. As soon as it was over I got back in the water. She said I was 90% effaced, but didn’t tell me how far dilated. I found out later it was only 3 cm. I’m glad she didn’t tell me at the time, because just then I wouldn’t have believed I could get through the rest of the labor.
I didn’t want to move much. The contractions were still very close together and I was afraid of doing anything that would initiate a contraction if I could have another moment to rest. Amanda and John got me water and Gatorade and put a cold washcloth on my face. At some point both apprentices showed up. I remember John taking a couple of phone calls, and my asking him to leave the room so whoever was on the phone wouldn’t hear me moaning. I could see the clocks by the bed from the pool, but I didn’t really look at them. I didn’t want to think about how long I had been in labor or how much longer it might be. All I could do was just try to get through each contraction. I had a dull pain in the left side of my lower back. It didn’t really bother me, but I was constantly aware of it.
After several hours I started to really struggle. I actually said, “It’s too much!” which brought reassurance from everyone that I could, indeed, handle even this. In another couple of contractions I became aware that I was feeling pressure and perhaps I was so uncomfortable because I needed to push. I asked Debbie about this and she said I should try it. The beginning of the next contraction was very painful and brought no urge to push, but towards the end of the contraction I did feel the need and pushing made me feel somewhat better.
After I started getting the hang of it, Debbie wanted to check me again to make sure I was ready to push the baby out. I dreaded being examined again, but she did allow me to stay in the water. Sure enough, the exam initiated a contraction and I had to beg her to stop. I was worried that she hadn’t had a chance to properly feel what was going on and might want to do it again. She said she hadn’t been able to feel anything, meaning I was either fully dilated or not dilated at all. We were all pretty certain which one it was.
Within another contraction or two I felt the baby moving down. It was a powerful and terrifying feeling. I realized I needed to be more grounded and in control. I wanted to move to the birth stool. Another contraction came before I could get out of the water, but after that one I hopped onto the stool. John sat on the bed behind me.
Once I started pushing on the stool I could really feel the baby moving down well. My moans turned into screams. It wasn’t that it was more painful (not that it was less, either) just that screaming was what I needed to do. Kind of like screaming on a roller coaster. After a contraction I felt the baby moving back up and it hurt too much. So I kept constant pressure and screamed non-stop. Sometimes I just held the baby in place and sometimes I pushed it down further and I hardly knew what I was doing. Debbie reminded me that holding my breath would help me push and I did manage that a few times.
It seemed like only a few minutes before Debbie was warning me that she would be asking me to hold back during the crowning. I couldn’t believe the baby was coming already, but knew that the crowning stage can sometimes be very slow. If she did ask me to slow down I don’t remember. I could feel what was happening and pushed the way that felt best to me. The baby’s head came out! I gave another push thinking the rest would be easy, but it wasn’t easy at all. I stopped for a second because of how much it hurt. I knew I had to get the baby out so I pushed again and the body slid out hurting just as much as the head did.
Debbie and Amanda tried to move the baby to my chest, but I felt something pulling. The cord was too short. John helped me to lie back on the bed and the baby came onto my stomach. I could barely comprehend what was going on. There was a wet screaming baby on me and I was bleeding more than Debbie wanted, so she and the apprentices were injecting me and massaging my uterus. She told me to picture my uterus shrinking. John had to keep reminding me to focus on this because I was distracted by everything going on around me.
The placenta was born quickly and then the baby could be moved up to my chest. I asked John what we had. He looked and said “A girl?” We named her Virginia Elizabeth. There was still some fuss over my blood loss so I lay there with my baby girl for a while taking it all in. Soon everything was under control and I sat up to nurse. I asked if I had had any tearing. Debbie said the head had come out fine, but Virginia had a hand up. Her elbow came out at the same time as her shoulders and gave me a small tear. This same elbow had been poking me in the back causing that ache I had had throughout labor.
After Virginia was done eating and I had used the bathroom Debbie stitched me up and Virginia got her first exam. She was eight pounds ten ounces and twenty-one inches long. She was born at 7:44 pm December 6, 2009.