Like many moms, I had imagined that Penelope would become before her due date…certainly not after. So I was very eager for things to get started once I passed my due date of November 27th. On Thursday, December 5th, I finally felt my first real contractions. They began in the evening and intensified throughout the night. Around 3 am, I felt uncertain. “Should we go to the hospital now?” “Should we wait until morning?” I called my doula and she suggested I take a warm bath. I ended up staying in that bathtub until 6 am. The water felt heavenly as my body contracted. Around 9 am, my discomfort convinced me it was finally time to head to the hospital. A nurse examined me in the triage room and delivered the first of what would be many psychological blows: “You’re only dilated three centimeters.” In my birth plan, I had specified that I wanted the option to go back and labor at home if I was less than 4 centimeters dilated. But when they offered to go ahead and admit me, I was grateful. I wanted the comfort of knowing that help was right around the corner if I needed it.
We got situated into our room and I labored quietly. We took several walks through the halls of the hospital and bounced and rocked on the birthing ball. We wanted the room to be dark and relaxed. My husband and I even caught an episode of Scandal as we waited for labor to progress. The contractions begin to intensify again, and my husband held me to help move through the pain. My doula and nurse suggested a warm bath when the pain became unbearable. We all thought and hoped I was going through transition. I eagerly sunk into the warm water again. The bathroom was full of candles, the smell of lavender and meditation music. It was just the relaxing environment that I wanted to labor in. After an hour or so in the bath, it was time for me to get out and be checked again. I was convinced that I was at least 7 or 8 centimeters dilated. But no, I was only at a five. The disappointment I felt was intense. I had been working so hard to stay focused and relaxed but this news was frustrating as I was physically exhausted from laboring throughout the night. Penelope also was keeping her hand up by her face, which was stalling labor further due to some back labor. My very naturally-minded doctor became concerned that I’d reached a point of complete exhaustion—which meant I could be in danger of a C-section. Although the epidural wasn’t in my birth plan, it became apparent that it was what I needed to get some rest and gain strength. She also told us that this type of epidural could be turned off and removed at any point, so I could still have the natural delivery that was so important to me. That was all I needed to hear to make the decision.
The epidural worked almost immediately, and I was finally able to get some much-needed sleep. Throughout the night, my body slowly but surely dilated. At six am, the doctor came in to announce the good news; I was finally at a ten! My doctor asked me if I wanted to come off the epidural so that I could birth Penelope naturally. I was touched that my doctor wanted to help me have the birth I had planned for, and I eagerly agreed to get off. As soon as they turned it off and removed the catheter, I felt the contractions strong and steady again. I was ready to have this baby.
At first, I tried pushing with a squat bar, which didn’t feel comfortable. My doctor asked me to get into the typical, on-the-back, position, which I wasn’t thrilled about. But at that time, I was just ready for my baby. My doula provided hot lavender oil compresses to place on my perineum between pushing. The compresses felt heavenly, and I’d recommend them to any laboring mom. My doctor and my doula worked to slowly stretch my perineum out; they alternated with compresses, oil, and stretching. Thanks to this slow and gentle pattern, I didn’t tear at all! Even though I didn’t get the natural labor I had wanted, I was able to birth my baby without any drugs. The pain was intense but bearable, and I listened to the counting of my birth team to bring me closer and closer to my baby. After an hour of pushing, my sweet girl finally came into the world. Penelope Willow was born on December 7th, 2013, weighing 7lbs 2 oz. She was healthy and perfect in every way. We delayed cord clamping for several minutes, and she was placed immediately on my chest. Within minutes of first contact, she latched quickly and easily onto my breast. What a blessing! My husband and I couldn’t have been more in love.