I had been waiting to go into labor “any minute now” since my 36 week appointment, when we found out I was 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. By 39 weeks, those numbers were 4cm and 80-90%. February 27th I was 39w5d. Apparently the time was right. Friday, February 27th was a stormy day on Oahu. Rain was falling in buckets, roads on/off base were closed, and traffic was at a stand still. Aside from the weather, Jesse had a three hour class to attend, followed immediately by an 8 hour shift at work. I told Liam that today would not be a good day to make his entry into the world. So naturally…..
Around 2:30PM Jesse came home from his class to grab a meal to take to work. Roads on base were closed due to the flooding, so he had to be creative in trying to get home. It occurred to me in passing that if he left and I went into labor, he might not be able to get to me when I needed him. Around this time I was starting to notice fairly regular contractions, although they weren’t bothersome enough to start timing. The books always say to ignore them as long as you can. So after he left for work I read, watched TV, worked on the computer — just keeping my mind from the mild twinges of backache I was beginning to have.
Around 4:30PM the backache was coming more regularly and getting a little more uncomfortable. I decided to take a hot bath and let the water work its magic. It helped, but not as much as expected. It’s hard to get comfortable in a standard-sized bathtub when you’re nine months’ pregnant anyway, let alone when you’re having contractions. Around this time I called Jesse to let him know that I was contracting regularly and this might be it, but that there was no hurry to come home. He was, naturally, having a very busy night at work and couldn’t talk. About 10 minutes later he called back to make sure all was okay. I told him about the contractions, but that “if” this was it the baby probably wouldn’t be coming till the early morning hours. I decided to walk the dog and then come home and start timing the contractions.
Walking is supposed to be great in labor, but it was pretty uncomfortable for me. In the back of my mind was the suspicion that I might be further along than the length of labor indicated, but nahhh. Poor Meisje (our dog). That was about the shortest walk she ever took. After about an eighth of a mile I decided I was hurting too much to continue. That combined with the still torrential rains did not make for an enjoyable experience. We went home and I took a quick shower, both to warm up from the rain and to combat the back pain. Around 5:30PM I sat down to time contractions. I figured I’d count them for an hour and then call Jesse with an update.
I was surprised to see that they were coming about every four minutes and lasting right around a minute. Jesse called me before I called him and asked for a progress report. When I told him about the frequency he asked, rather caustically, “Well, were you planning on telling me?!” Maybe I should have called a little sooner, but I hated to call him home and inconvenience the crew at work on a false alarm. He wasn’t all that concerned with inconveniencing them! So he called a colleague to stand in for him and headed home.
In the half hour it took for him to get there the contractions greatly increased in strength and I began to have to work with them. I thought I was moving into what the Bradley Method refers to as the “serious” signpost, a sign that I really am in labor and things are starting to happen. But, still, I was smiling and still had a sense of humor between contractions, so maybe not.
When Jess arrived home we tried applying some of the coping measures Bradley recommends — back rubs, relaxation, different positions, etc. Nothing offered much relief. We called the on-call midwife, Carmen, around 7:30PM to give her the heads up. She thanked us for the call but reminded us that first labors usually last 12+ hours, so not to head to the hospital too soon. More relaxation, then back in the tub. I was extremely uncomfortable (yes, I would describe it as pain) at this point and starting to question my ability to make it through without pain medication. I was also starting to feel some rectal pressure, a possible sign that I might need to start pushing. I still thought it was too early for that, but was not comfortable staying home just in case, so we called Carmen back around 8:15. She said we could go to triage and they would page her with my stats. We left for Tripler Army Medical Center around 8:30.
The car ride was very uncomfortable. The books say usually when you leave for the hospital the adrenalin resulting from the excitement can slow down your contractions. I was not granted that reprieve! They kept coming hard and fast, about every two minutes at this point, and were accompanied by tremendous amounts of pressure. Jesse was doing his best to drive safely, help me work through the contractions, and keep my spirits up, He even tried a few jokes, but apparently my sense of humor was a little lacking at that point. I kept trying to barter with him about pain meds. If I’m 6cm or less, can I have something?? He said he forbid me nothing, but to remember what we were trying to accomplish and what was best for Liam. He would have to bring reason into it, wouldn’t he?!
We finally got to the L&D triage area around 9PM. Wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t have a room to check me in. So it was off to the waiting room to labor there. That was about the worst, as the seats were uncomfortable, the lights were bright, and there were other people milling about. It seemed like forever, but was probably about ten minutes before they could check me. Thank God I was 10cm and complete!! The staff was a little surprised by this and I was checked by three different people to confirm. So the nurse went off to page Carmen and I was wheeled to an LDR room.
Carmen arrived about twenty minutes later and, thankfully, I started pushing. Pushing wasn’t the great relief it’s touted to be, but it certainly felt far better than just coping with the pain. Initially I pushed in a semi-squatting position. Carmen was trying to break my water in between contractions, so they kept raising and lowering the bed, which was fairly uncomfortable. It took here some minutes to finally break the bag. Pushing in this position was making my back ache badly, so we tried turning onto hands and knees, sort of hanging over the back of the bed. This helped with the back pain, and according to Jesse I slept draped over the back of the bed between contractions. However, I didn’t feel like I was making good progress. So we switched positions again, this time with me lying on my side. Jesse hooked his arm behind my knee and reached across the bed, bracing against the far rail. We found this position to be the best and Liam really started to move down and out. All told I pushed for 30-40 minutes.
Funny. The pain was intense, but now two weeks later I can barely recall it. When he was crowning was about the worst, but at that point my body had completely taken over and he was out within minutes. What a relief when his head finally emerged! Liam breathed immediately on his own — I don’t even recall them suctioning his mouth/nose. The midwife gave him to me immediately to nurse and, like the little genius we knew he’d be, he knew just what to do. Jesse cut the cord a few minutes after birth, once it stopped pulsing. I had one small internal tear that required a couple of stitches, but it wasn’t even classified as a first degree tear. Within half an hour I was up walking around the LDR room.
36 hours after Liam’s birth we came home. We are now settling in and becoming a family.