I had no signs of imminent labor. I went to my weekly midwife appointment and decided to get checked just to see the condition of my cervix and make a judgment call about any interventions we may want to take. Understandably, I was a little disappointed to hear that I wasn’t even dilated to 1cm and the baby’s station was up around -3 somewhere.
Being 9 days overdue at that point, I was sure this kid was never getting born. My biggest concern was for the potential complications that sometimes come with being more than 2 weeks overdue. So, we decided to use a foley catheter to help my cervix along a little. It’s called a foley catheter “induction”, but the mass majority of the time, it doesn’t induce labor, it simply prepares the body a little, which allows for further interventions to take place if necessary.
A foley catheter induction is when they place a narrow rubber tube up through the cervix into the very base of the uterus. Saline is then injected into the tube, which causes it to balloon out above the cervix. This creates pressure on the cervix, as well as irritates the uterus and causes cramping, both of which dilate the cervix. It takes between several hours to a day or two to create a 4cm dilation. Once that happens, the balloon simply falls out. It didn’t hurt to get done, but I was definitely feeling some pressure down there while leaving the midwife’s office. This was around 9am.
A little side note. I did feel like I was cheating just a little for choosing to do any intervention at all, even one as simple as a foley catheter induction. A huge part of me really wanted this to all happen totally on its own, without any outside assistance. I suppose I could have gone several days more without any problem. I figured the foley wouldn’t do much except dilate me anyway. Little did I know…
By the time I was pulling into the driveway of our house after my appointment, I was feeling some fairly intense cramping on and off. Over the next hour or two, it was intensifying. I even tried timing the cramps because I wondered if they were contractions. There was no distinguishable pattern, so I just attributed it to the foley. I listened to a hypnobabies cd to try to relax, and I did manage to catch a quick 20 minute nap. The rest of the time I walked around the house, both to try and ignore the pain and to try to help the dilation move along. I wanted that catheter out, because that meant the cramping would probably stop.
By about 1pm, the discomfort was significant enough that I decided to call my midwife to make sure it was normal. I was thinking that if this was just cramping because of the foley, I was in trouble when real labor kicked in. Lynda, my midwife said it was normal and later told me that she was thinking since I was a first time mom, the pain probably wasn’t as bad as I was saying it was. Little did she know…
No less than a half hour later, I was walking to the bathroom and felt a pretty significant gush into my sweatpants. I checked this out and I was most definitely leaking. A lot. The problem was, it was a mix of a lot of fluid with a lot of blood. Blood is never a good thing. It was pretty obvious my water had broken. Suddenly, it became clear to me that this baby was coming and soon. Back on the phone with Lynda immediately, and it was determined that I should head back into her office to get checked out, especially because of the bleeding. I drove the 2o minute drive, speeding because of the contractions I was feeling and thinking that if a cop tried to pull me over I’d have to try and outrun him.
Brian left work at the same time and met me at Lynda’s office and she checked me out. This was just after 2pm. She confirmed that my water had indeed broken and that I was dilated to 7cm and in active labor. It turned out the bleeding, which quickly subsided, was only from my cervix dilating so much so quickly. Yes, I had dilated 7cm in 5 hours. Talk about going from 0 to 60! Lynda said it was one of the only times she had seen a foley catheter induction actually induce labor.
At this point, a decision needed to be made. My contractions were about 1 minute long each, and about 2 minutes apart. Lynda runs a birthing center directly upstairs from her midwife clinic. So, did we want to risk driving home to birth, which is what we had planned on, or did we want to just head upstairs to the birthing center? Brian wanted to try to make it home. I was leaning towards staying. My main argument was that it only took 5 hours to dilate 7 cm, and usually after your water breaks, things speed up, which means that baby was probably coming sooner than we expected. Also, the idea of having more contractions in a car did not appeal to me at all. Plus, I wanted Brian’s undisturbed support from then on out, and didn’t want to have to worry about him setting up a birthing tub and rushing around at home when we got there. The longer Lynda was with us as we discussed the options, the more she was also leaning towards just going upstairs to the birthing center.
By 2:30 I was in the tub upstairs. I was relieved to finally be “settled” for the long haul. It’s crazy how quickly your plans can change. We had everything planned out for the home birth. Where the tub would go, what I would wear, which candles we would light, which hypnobabies tracks I would listen to, all the way down to the food I would eat afterward and how I wanted my hair (and I had planned on putting on at least a little mascara). Everything was out the window. But, I really was totally okay with the situation. The one thing that it really threw a kink in was the hypnobabies. The fact that I couldn’t get into it until way into my labor, plus the change in plans and the rushed nature of everything, plus I didn’t have any of my hypnosis or birthing cd’s to listen to made it quite difficult to utilize the techniques I had learned. So no, I would say it most definitely was not a pain free childbirth. It was, in fact, a rather painful childbirth. But, I will say that when I could really focus and relax, it did help.
Fast forward an hour, 3:30pm. My contractions were actually getting a little further apart, but not lessening in intensity. They were sort of an odd pattern at that point. I would have one really intense one, and another lighter one almost immediately afterward, then go a few minutes before getting another intense one, starting the pattern over. Lynda assured me that wasn’t too uncommon and they were still doing their job, despite the pattern. So, I asked her to check me and she reports that I’m still at a 7. Not what I was needing to hear. So much for things accelerating when your water breaks, right? It was shortly after that point that thoughts of going to a hospital and getting an epidural began running through my head. How late is too late to ask to be transferred to a hospital? How late is too late to be able to get an epidural in a hospital? Heck, even a c-section was looking okay at that point. Crazy, I know!
I tried some different positions and stuck with it for another hour until 4:30pm, as my contractions were becoming very intense. I asked to be checked again. I was terrified that I would still be at a 7. I needed to feel like I was making progress. I was an 8 at that point. Whew! Getting to a 10 went pretty quickly, and it was about another hour (5:30pm) before I starting feeling the urge to push.
I think it took a little while to get the hang of pushing and where to channel the force, where to relax, etc. But Janice (the other midwife) assured me again and again after each push that I was making progress. It sure didn’t feel like it! But, I so appreciated the encouragement.
Up until this point each heart rate check of the baby had been perfect. About an hour into pushing, his heart rate was dropping and not coming back up in between contractions. I was “gently” encouraged to push harder and longer. I tried a squatting position because I felt it would be more conducive to the downward force, but I couldn’t maintain that position for long in the tub. His heart rate was down in the 80’s, which is okay as long as it recovers in between contractions, which it wasn’t. So, Lynda “gently” encouraged me to get out of the tub and try on a birthing stool.
A birthing stool is basically a big cushioned sort of glorified toilet seat. It mimics the squatting position, without requiring the mom to support herself. Plus, it gives the midwives easy access to everything. We quickly moved to the stool and that’s when everything gets blurry. Seriously. Closest thing to an out of body experience I can think of. Except it’s sort of the exact opposite. You’re so far in your body that you’re completely oblivious to everything else.
At this point, his heart rate was in the 60’s, but he was very close to crowning. I was totally hyperventilating because of the non-stop vigor of pushing, which is not a good combo with a baby with a low heart rate. So, they slapped an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. I wasn’t even human at this point. I was one huge screaming push. With my eyes clenched shut, I could feel them hoist my feet off the floor and brace them against their shoulders. I could feel Brian against my back. Everything was happening like I wasn’t even a part of it. Truly an indescribable, unique experience. I was close. I could tell (mainly because it felt like my hips were going to rip apart). Not close enough though, because Lynda decided to give me an episiotomy to get him out quicker. With around 900 births attended, she’s only felt the need to give an episiotomy about 5 times. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess. But it worked. About 30 seconds later, he was out. 6:42pm.
I was still groaning and hyperventilating with eyes squeezed shut as I felt a slimy warm thing get placed on my chest. I opened my eyes and there he was, facing me. Crying. I could feel Brian shake as he cried behind me. There he was.
I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even react. I just breathed and looked.
His heart rate returned to normal and he pinked right up once he was out. I did end up tearing through the episiotomy, unfortunately. After a few minutes I carried him (cord still attached) and was helped to the bed. I was in the zone, feeling completely out of it, exhausted, and weak. I hadn’t eaten since that morning. I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before. So, I didn’t say much or react as the placenta was delivered, stitches were given, Brian cut the cord, Baby was measured, etc. My mom showed up after flying in from Denver around 8:30. By 9:30pm, we were out the door and heading home. We were allowed to stay until the next morning, but chose not to.
I’m actually glad we were in the birth center and not at home for several reasons. The birthing stool is probably the main reason. It was perfect for my situation.
This was definitely not the peaceful, serene, calm homebirth I had envisioned for myself. But, that doesn’t mean it was any less spiritual, amazing, and life changing.
Supporter of natural birth and lover of natural birth stories.
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
Birth is inspiring, amazing, and empowering. This website shares a collection of real natural birth experiences from you, the readers. Births the way nature intended. No pitocin. No epidural. Just the beauty (and intensity!) of the human body at work. Whether you've had one natural birth, five natural births, or are considering natural birth in the future, our hope is you will find courage and joy in these stories. Enjoy.
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation