For most mamas, transition only lasts for 30 minutes to an hour, our friend Jamie persevered through almost FIVE hours of transition. Incredible! She's sharing her birth story with us today (and I just love how she broke down the time of each stage of her labor).
When I was first pregnant, I knew immediately I wanted a drug-free birth—for no other reason than to simply have my baby and trust my body to do the work. After losing two little ones to early miscarriage in 2012 and 2013 there was nothing I wanted more than to feel everything there was to feel, whatever that meant. There are no awards for giving birth any certain way, and had I known what "drug-free" truly meant for us that day, I might have chosen differently. But now I wouldn't change a thing..
Toby's birthday was August 20th, 2014. It was the hardest and best day of my life to date, a marathon of all marathons. After over 20 hours of active labor he arrived, all 9 lb 2 oz of him.
As a first time mom I had most everything ready to go before my due date, and I reached 41 weeks of pregnancy on Aug 18th feeling very discouraged. At my OB appointment that morning I buckled and asked for a membrane sweep to try to get things going, and my doctor kindly obliged. I felt a bit crampy afterwards but tried not to expect labor that day or anytime too soon.
Early labor (18 hours): That night I woke up more than usual to use the bathroom and noticed faint cramps in my back. Around 4:30AM the crampiness came at a noticeable and predictable rate (45 sec every 10 min). I again tried not to read into the little pains but my heart leapt at the thought of being in early labor. An hour or so later I took a shower and got myself ready. I took it easy through the day, watched movies and tried to rest and keep distracted, napping on the couch and hanging over the ball. Josh and I went on a couple walks around the neighborhood. Our doula Candace recommended I do some pelvic rocks to ensure Toby was in the right position for birth.
Active labor (21 hours): After dinner around 9:30PM I took 1/2 a glass of wine into the shower and stood and sipped for a good 20 minutes. The hot water felt so nice on my back. At this point I remember not feeling social anymore. Contractions were now 1-1 1/2 minutes long and every 5-6 minutes. When Josh came up, we distracted ourselves with movies while I rested in child's pose on the bed or draped myself over the ball. By now I realized it was truly happening; I told Josh to try and get some sleep, but I couldn't see myself resting any more at this point. Around midnight I began losing my mucus plug and reached the 5-1-1 pattern. I texted Candace to ask whether this meant we should drive to the hospital. Her advice was to wait until I reached 3-1-1, which happened by 3:00AM, and I found myself wanting to finish packing bags. It felt good to breathe through contractions standing up, and by now Josh was fully up and awake and supporting my standing position. I started vocalizing more, which really helped me focus. Candace asked if we could wait for her to arrive at our house so she could observe me. She arrived around 4:00AM and brought such a calm presence. I still labored standing up, hugging (clenching) Josh and swaying side to side while Candace put counter-pressure on my back. Between contractions she felt my belly and he seemed to be in just the right position for birth. I progressed a bit more at home until contractions made me feel like I needed to push; from the sound of my grunting around 7:00AM, Candace suggested we make our way in.
The 5-minute ride to the hospital felt so long! I had another vocal contraction right in the lobby which signaled the triage nurses to check me right away around 7:30AM; I was an open 6 cm. I got the requested saline lock put in, changed into my own long t-shirt, and we walked to our delivery room. A few more contractions came and I alternated between squatting and sitting on the birth ball. I sat in the tub for a bit; the warm water cushioned my belly, and contractions were becoming increasingly intense.
Transition (10:00AM-3:50 PM): The nurse checked me around 10:00AM; I had reached 8 cm, and baby was at zero station. By now the doctor asked me to consider having my water broken to speed things along; she broke my water and I tried the side-lying position for a bit. This is when I started to feel the true intensity of transition. Around noon I felt like pushing and started grunting with each contraction. The nurse stopped in and strongly advised I not act on the urge to push just yet, because I would stress/swell my cervix and “complicate” the birth. I understood, but her tone really deflated me! This was one of the only distinctly negative memories I have of my labor.
Bearing down now seemed to be the only relief at this point, and contractions were only becoming stronger and closer together. I managed to resist the urge to push until getting another exam. Between 1:30-2:00 PM I had reached 9 and then 9/12 cm. The internal exams spurred on intense pain. The nurse and doctor kept noting "a little bit of cervix" left before I could push. That phrase “little bit of cervix” began to irritate me, because it seemed to be the one pesky thing between this baby and I. I had been in transition for hours, giving every bit of energy I had. I expressed a lot of emotions to Josh and Candace during this time, feeling like I had nothing left. I felt like I was just surviving and making it through and not giving enough to the process to get our baby out, which brought some feelings of helplessness and guilt. At 3:00PM I had a new nurse (game-changer—she was so warm and encouraging) and a strong recommendation from the doctor to look into pain management options. An epidural sounded quite nice to just allow me to rest. There was one problem: I would have to stay still for several minutes while I received the injection. At this point in my labor I couldn't see this happening. This was my rock/hard place moment, which lasted minutes yet seemed like hours. Through all this Candace and Josh continued to encourage me to vocalize lower and fully cooperate with my body in the meantime.
Second stage/pushing (3:50 PM-7:28 PM): I had one final exam and was 10 cm! Finally time to push. I felt I could participate in my labor once again after feeling a bit helpless. I pushed in several positions: side-lying on both sides, squatting on the bed, and on my back. No position felt particularly better than another, but it felt good to change things up. I pushed the most on my back, with Candace supporting one leg and Josh the other. With each contraction I pushed 3 times—4 if I had it in me. When it came time for him to fully emerge I pushed tirelessly 5-6 times per contraction. Josh was so excited and encouraged me as our son's head started descending. The nurses put up a mirror for me to catch a glimpse of his head, and I was able to reach down and feel him beginning to emerge (I didn’t think I’d want to do this, but SO WORTH IT). I pushed and pushed until his head finally popped out. I felt the doctor maneuver his body out of me as I gave a few half-pushes. Such forceful and weird relief as his squishy body slid out of me at 7:28 PM. The doctor put our precious Tobias Jude Green right on me; he cried and I cried. He was warm and smelled so amazing.
We found out our boy was 9 pounds 2 ounces. In the minutes after his birth I processed what just happened; I wouldn’t say I immediately forgot the intensity of the day, but after meeting our son, every minute of his birthday was worth it. He and I enjoyed some alertness for a while, and I stared at him into the wee hours of the morning.
Call me crazy but I can’t wait to do this birth thing again.