Things started the exact same way this time as they did with my first son, only difference being it was a couple weeks earlier in pregnancy. My water broke on Tuesday morning. I woke up around 3am and felt a bit damp, but figured it was just sweat since our place is hideously hot. Around 4:30am, my husband came to bed. We talked for a few minutes and I thought I felt something. I thought maybe I was losing my plug, so I went to the washroom and realized that I was getting gushes of fluid. I really hadn’t expected things to start this way and had been taking vitamin c for most of the pregnancy to try to avoid it, but was hopeful that labour would start in a few hours.
During the day on Tuesday, I would get an occasional contraction, but never more than about 1 an hour, sometimes I wouldn’t get one for several hours. Wednesday was more of the same, although I was getting one almost every hour. There were even a few that were closer together than that. I kind of lost it on Wednesday night. Between the leaking and the fear that I was looking at a repeat cesarean because labour would never start (which I know was completely irrational, but I was tired and desperate for it to start). I lost it so bad I seriously considered going to the hospital. My husband very bluntly asked me would I rather leak or be cut open again? That quickly brought me back down.
About 10pm on Thursday, I went to take a shower (aka hiding out from my mom phoning to find out what was going on). While I was in there, I also scrubbed the tub a bit, since it had been driving me nuts for days. Near the end of my shower or just after I got out, labour suddenly kicked into high gear. From every twenty minutes or so (we weren’t really timing, except for one or two contractions occasionally), contractions moved to 15 minutes, then 7, then 2, in less than a couple of hours.
Sometime around 3/4am on Friday, I started getting pain in my back, too. Until this point, all the contractions had been in a band extremely low down in my belly. Once they started hurting in my back too, I just couldn’t take anymore and decided to try sitting in the tub and using the sprayer during contractions. Unfortunately, we only had one and it didn’t stretch very far, so either my back or my belly got sprayed, and it was very difficult to get my back without standing up, which I didn’t want to do. My husband put a pillow in the tub with me and I alternated between sitting up and leaning back. Sometimes one seemed to work, then the next time it would make it hurt worse.
I finally got my husband to put the plug in (I couldn’t reach and didn’t really have room to move) and let the tub fill while I used the sprayer. Once there was enough water, my husband started using a cup to pour it over my back during contractions while I sprayed my belly. The pouring didn’t really do anything to lessen the pain, but it did give me something that briefly distracted from it, which was nice.
By around 7 or a bit later, I’d been out of the tub for while and the only way I could endure the contractions was to push during them. I don’t know if I was fully dilated or not and I didn’t feel what I would call an “urge”, but the pain was manageable when I was pushing and excruciating when I wasn’t.
Sometime after this, my husband checked me and said it felt like the baby’s head was jammed against my bones. I think the baby must have been stuck for awhile, because on several pushes my husband and I noticed that my stomach was bulging out, which it didn’t do when I pushed later, after he was unstuck. I spent several contractions on my hands and knees, no idea how long, but when husband checked again, he said it seemed like the baby was even more stuck and had moved back. I decided to try lying on my back for awhile to see if that made any difference.
I don’t remember if I did it because I remembered someone mentioning it, because it felt better or because husband had written to the ICAN list and a couple people mentioned it to him, but I started arching my back during the contractions, occasionally alternating with sitting up and leaning forward, which seemed to also make it hurt a bit less.
The arching seemed to be working, but I couldn’t really do it very well due to the problems with sciatica I’d been having for months (I was going to be going to the chiropractor that week, but never went because of the leaking). I had some pillows and a cushion under my head, so I got rid of the pillows, which helped me arch a bit better and I heard a slight sound kind of like bone on bone.
I knew then that the arching was probably making a difference and I wanted to be able to do more of an arch, so I left my cushion where it was and slid so that my head was on the floor (our bed was just a mattress on the floor). I then planted my feet on the bed and used the cushion to help me get a bit more arch. After a few times of this, there was a loud, several second long, sound of bone on bone. I didn’t feel anything, but I must have noticed something, because I don’t recall doing much, if any, arching after this point.
During all this, my husband and son were in and out of the room and shortly after my husband came and lay down on the bed next to me. I seemed to be getting a bit of a break between contractions at this point, though they were still extremely painful. My husband was so wiped, he fell asleep for several contractions. At some point, they must have eased off enough that I was able to sleep briefly, too. I have no idea how long we slept, my husband seems to think he only slept about 20 minutes, but he actually fell asleep twice, once was when I was asleep too, so it was probably longer than that. I woke up and dealt with a few contractions before they got bad enough that my moaning woke my husband up.
I continued labouring in the bedroom for awhile. My friend, J, called around 12:30 to see how things were going. We had planned for her to come watch our son if needed and maybe offer some reassurance to husband (since she had had a VBAC herself), but our son was doing really well and my husband had been coping pretty well, too, until it seemed like things were dragging on forever. She managed to reassure my husband some. Around 1pm, my son fell asleep on the couch in the living room, so my husband no longer had to go back and forth between us.
By this point, I was just thinking about the next break between contractions, they hurt so much. When I was between them, I just enjoyed the relief and didn’t worry about the next one, didn’t think about anything. There were several points, and this was one of them, when I really, really wanted my husband to just call the ambulance and let them make the pain stop. I really didn’t believe I could take it anymore, but I did. [The first time I felt like that was when I was in the bath and started pushing the first time. I also felt like I couldn't take it anymore around when I was arching my back, especially before I figured out that doing that would help.] Changing positions didn’t seem to help at all, but I kept trying anyway. I alternated lying down on my back, my sides, kneeling against a pile of cushions, sitting on the toilet, leaning against the wall and hanging onto my husband.
I decided to try the tub again for awhile. I don’t know exactly what time that was, probably about 2:30 or 3. I think it helped a bit. I started pushing some again while I was in the tub, but I couldn’t really get comfortable in there and had to keep moving around.
My husband was completely exhausted and in agony, so when he talked to J again, and she offered to come over, he was very willing to have her. She had to get someone to watch the kids and then she got stuck in traffic, so she didn’t make it here until about 5, at which point I was back in the bedroom and I’d been pushing again. Just before she got here, husband checked me again and the top of the baby’s head was only about a knuckle in.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I was actually making progress this time. I couldn’t feel him moving down at all, but obviously this time the pushing was working and he hadn’t gotten stuck again.
When J got here, my son woke up and my husband stayed with him for a bit while J came to support me. I was pushing on the toilet when she got here and didn’t really want to move, but I also didn’t want to have the baby there, so eventually I moved back to the bedroom.
I alternated pushing in kneeling, hands and knees and reclining positions. I couldn’t get enough leverage in either of the first two positions and it was taking forever. Knowing I was so close, I really wanted to get it over with.
When the head was visible and not really sliding back anymore, I switched to a mostly sitting position, with a huge pile of pillows behind me. J told my husband she didn’t think it would be very much longer, so my husband and son came into the bedroom, too. We had promised our son that he could watch the baby be born, but he didn’t want to be around the rest of the time.
J suggested that I plant my feet on the bed against the bed to try to get a bit more leverage. I did this for quite awhile and the baby was very slowly moving down more, but I still felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. J then suggested that I try holding my husband’s hands, since I kept grabbing at my arms to try to use my whole self to push. Holding my husband’s hands really helped with the pushing, since I really yanked on him and I actually started feeling like I was making progress.
I reached down to feel the baby’s head and there was quite a bit out. I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to get his head out, but after he was born I realized that what felt like it must have been all of his head above the eyes was actually only about the top half of his head, it had moulded so much.
I kept pushing and I started screaming with every push. I’m not entirely sure why, since it didn’t hurt that much, it just felt like the right thing to do. Really surprised we didn’t have anyone coming to check on things here (apartment). I was determined not to tear, so I regularly paused between pushes to have time to stretch. It was uncomfortable, but I figured it was better than recovering from a tear, especially since I had no one to sew one.
It was really weird how I was thinking rationally, but I wasn’t able to articulate anything while I was labouring.
I finally felt his head come out and knew that one or two more pushes and I’d be done. The cord was around his neck loosely, but I just couldn’t handle having anyone’s hands there long enough to unloop it, so I just pushed the rest of him out into my husband’s hands and J unlooped the cord. Then I got to hold my new little boy! He let out a little whimper and pinked up right away. We didn’t suction him at all since he obviously was breathing fine on his own.
I found out later that he had come out facing my right hip and he hadn’t rotated at all after his head was out, he just came straight out the next time I pushed.
My husband got a towel to cover him and I sat there and held my new son for quite awhile, at least an hour. J left right away, since she had only planned to come over for a little bit to give my husband a break and she had to get back to her kids.
Eventually my tailbone started really hurting from the way I was sitting, so I got my husband to come tie the cord. He tied it off with a couple of shoelaces that had been boiled and then cut it with a pair of scissors that had also been boiled.
The placenta still hadn’t come out, so I got my husband to tie the cord again closer to my body and cut it short so I didn’t have to have it dragging around until the placenta decided to come out. My husband took our new little boy and I went to have a shower. I was a bit woozy, though, so I sat down in the tub and used the sprayer to wash myself.
Eventually we had some nuked chili for a very late supper, around about 9:30. After that, I went to get ready for bed. I went to the washroom and the placenta came out, about 4 hours after the birth. It really stung coming out because it was huge. We were all too exhausted to deal with it, so we put it in the fridge overnight, and then froze it. Eventually, we’ll be getting a tree and planting it at my mom’s place.
We weren’t expecting the baby quite so soon, I have no idea why, when I’d been leaking for days, but we had no diapers. We just kept the baby wrapped up in a towel until the next day, when my husband went and bought some diapers. We didn’t dress him or bathe him until Monday morning, when I gave him a quick sponge bath to get rid of the little bit of blood that was still on him. Except for a tiny bit in the creases, all the vernix got rubbed into his skin, like it’s supposed to be.
We weighed him by putting him in a sling and hanging it on a fish scale the day after he was born and he was 8lbs 8oz. His head was 35cm and he was about 19 1/2 inches long. Really hard to measure, though, since he was so curled up and not at all happy about me trying to straighten him a bit. It turned out that the fish scale was off by quite some way, since when I took him to the health nurse at 10 days old, he was only 6lb 12oz.
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions
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