This birth rounds out the labors for me—in many ways fulfilling things Id never experienced until this labor. Fast, furious, my water breaking before any contractions begin, my final baby … But before I get ahead of myself, lets back up to being 35 weeks pregnant.
Near the end of my 35th week I started to experience some worrying signs that labor was coming, spotting that got heavier and continued for several days, lower energy and eventually losing what looked like my mucus plug at 36 weeks… since the latter happened at 36 weeks my ob office was not concerned and said it could all be early labor signs. I was feeling completely unprepared to meet my daughter that early, I worried about having a preemie and asked lots of ladies to pray that baby would stay put and healthy. It worked. All the pre-labor signs went away, I became more emotionally ready and baby girl stayed put.
Since I had one son born at 41 weeks (after an induction) and my second son born at 39 weeks, I was certain she’d arrive before her due date! Especially with some cramping and belly tightening starting around week 38. At that point, I was sleeping pretty badly… not out of discomfort, but anticipation of every feeling and movement… “could this be the start of something?” The answer night after night, was “not yet…” as I’d make it through yet another day and another night…
A couple days before I was 40 weeks pregnant, I asked my doula Susan about options for inducing labor naturally. She reminded me that I could easily go another couple weeks, but sent information about acupressure and acupuncture. I watched a few videos online but decided not to do anything with the information until I truly reached 40 weeks and my sick husband hopefully started to feel a little better. I needed the other half of my labor team in full health!
When my 40 week OB appointment rolled around, I was a bit disappointed to be heading in to see my doctor for another routine visit. At that appointment she gave me a rundown of being “post-date” and while she was not pressuring in doing anything to start labor then, she was telling me some scary things that can happen when babies get to 41, 42 weeks and beyond. And we set up an appointment for 41 weeks to do a non-stress test and ultrasound. I hoped not to need either as it all reminded me of my first birth where the outcome of that ultrasound sent me to the hospital for induction!
When I told my husband about my appointment, he agreed that it was time to try the “next level” of options to get labor started. Aside from all the usual things we’d already been doing – exercise, evening primrose, marital activities : ), chiropractic adjustments … So on the afternoon of my due date (December 1st) I called and got an appointment for my first ever acupuncture appointment (treatment?) for 4:30 that same evening. As soon as I walked in the girl at the desk asked when I was due—I told her, “well, today…” and she laughed and asked if that’s why I was there. I smiled and said that it was.
After filling out paper work, I met my acupuncturist, Karen, who was super chatty and kind and led me to a dim room with music playing softly overhead. I started to relax as we talked and she explained the process a little. She was causiously optimistic since I was already 40 weeks but explained that the soonest she’d had a mom go into labor after a treatment was 12 hours.
She had me lay back on pillows on the table and started treatment on my front side by placing 10 tiny needles at various pressure points in my arms and legs. I could not feel the needles going in—I just felt really relaxed. Then she warmed some kind of herb over a pressure point just above my ankle on each leg. I wanted to fall asleep. It was so quiet and relaxing. She left me for a while to left the needles do their thing a while, where I closed my eyes and almost did fall asleep. When she returned she took them out and prepped to do points on my back and shoulders. As I straddled a chair, she inserted a couple needles in my shoulders, then about 8 around the middle of my lower back. For maybe 10 minutes, she did what she called “stimulating” the needles she’d inserted in my lower back. As she did, my belly would tighten. That’s the closest I came to feeling like something was “working.”
Finally, she showed me how to stimulate my own pressure points if and when I felt contractions or baby movement.
Before my appointment, hubby (Mark) and I had briefly worked out to have Mexican dinner together afterwards. I felt in my gut like it was going to be our last meal as a family of 4. I pictured us enjoying our meal and talking about my crazy appointment to induce labor. Due to a series of bad events and miscommunication, they ate at a different Mexican restaurant than I intended for us to meet and I proceeded to flip out as to where my family was after calling many times and not finding them at home or at the restaurant.
Finally an hour after we were supposed to meet (and they had eaten) Mark called me and asked where I was? I went from relief that they were ok to raging mad, to sadness in the course of a few minutes over missing the meal and time together. When they returned home, I was still a ball of emotions. I eventually made myself calm down to help put the boys to bed and we talked about all going to breakfast the next morning instead. Internally, I just knew, breakfast wasn’t going to happen.
After getting the boys to bed and making up with my husband who apologized profusely for forgetting his phone and not going to the right restaurant, I started to get ready for bed and laid out clothes to run early the next morning. As I moved about I had some belly tightening and I’d rub my back on the pressure point that the acupuncturist had also stimulated. As soon as I got into bed, I felt a tightening of my stomach and decided to stand to see if it would change the contraction… as soon as I stood, I heard a soft pop and felt a warm gush. I just stood in shock and calmly yelled for Mark (who was downstairs) – “Mark, my water just broke!” and texted a friend I’d just been texting with “Oh my gosh! My water just broke!” Then I called my mom to tell her the news and to have her come over and stay with the boys.
We started buzzing around and prepping and packing as *nothing was happening for me. We texted family and friends and called the doula to warn her labor was ahead. Then we tried to wait and rest. (Ha!) While knowing I had about a 24 clock that just started. So I didn’t want to rest too much!
My mom showed up, we talked a while and then we all went to bed. I technically laid down too, but crept back up to walk, pace and time contractions. They were around 6 minutes apart but not very strong. Around 11 Mark got up with me and he wanted us to leave for the hospital. I wasn’t to that point yet and after watching me a while, he agreed.
We started watching the Tonight Show and my contractions practically stopped. Then I went to the bathroom and they started again. I stayed upstairs on the birthing ball and leaning over the counter for contractions as he timed them around 5 minutes apart. I went to the bathroom again and with more pressure, I told Mark “it’s time to go!”
We got to the hospital around 1 am and met my doula Susan there. I was mostly still having very manageable contractions, I had to pause for them and not talk, but it was most uncomfortable just due to the lower abdomen pressure. They got me set up in a triage room and monitored me. When they checked me, I was 4cm dilated, 80% effaced and baby girl was in the posterior position. Contractions weren’t feeling like they were coming as often but were getting stronger when they did.
Around 2am, they moved us into Labor and Delivery Room 3. Once we were alone again, things really started to kick up and I felt in full labor mode very quickly. I mostly stood and leaned over the rolling cart and labored but moved to the toilet and bed for short spurts. The nurse came in a time or two to check on me and reminded me that she could check me any time. As contractions kept up and got closer and stronger, I thought that sounded awful and kept refusing.
The contractions started to be so intense and so pressured that I remember saying—“I need a pep talk.”
Doula Susan firmly responded with “You can do this Rachel. You want to do this!”
Internally, I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t puking or having loose stools, so I was pretty sure I hadn’t even reached transition which has been peak discomfort for me in the past labors. If this wasn’t transition, I wasn’t sure I could go on. I never puked or had any sign that it was. I was getting hot and increasingly uncomfortable in every position. I was moaning, praying and crying and trying to think about meeting my sweet baby—all while wanting to crawl out of my skin and feeling increasingly unpleasant.
About the time I was feeling like I couldn’t do it and the pain was too intense… the nurse came in to monitor me. She hovered around my belly adjusting straps and readjusting and moving them--- all while I was in the height of discomfort (apparently the monitors were not working). I kept asking between contractions—can you please stop and take them off??!! Bless her heart, I wanted to kick her! She sweetly answered that it was important to monitor at that moment. And then it happened. The pressure was so much that I involuntarily pushed. Susan asked (to which she got no audible response from me) “Are you pushing?!! Someone needs to get Dr. Nett!” A minute and next contraction later I had moved to the bed on my knees and laying over a birthing ball and pushed again. I started to feel the burn and knew she was close. It surprised me to feel that only a couple pushes in.
I heard the room start to buzz and I pushed another minute and the next contraction later, yelling-- “She’s here!” (I’m not sure how I found a voice then, but I could feel her coming out and felt my gown still over my legs and knew no one was seeing it or there to catch her yet.)
My doctor was apparently only half gowned up but lifted up my hospital gown and a few people yelled, “You need to keep pushing, Rachel!” I did and felt the burning and pressure continue. The plea got a bit more urgent as it was repeated… “Keep pushing, we need to get her shoulders out!”
My doctor yelled, get that ball out of here! It was moved off the bed and I was then on all fours. I pushed anther time. Finally, my doctor said, we need to flip her over! It felt like 5 people quickly flipped me to my back (with a baby coming out, mind you!), my legs were held back, I pushed once more and out came my baby girl and sweet, sweet relief! I heard someone say—“3:27am!” Just a short hour and a half after arriving in the Labor and Delivery room. It was the longest and shortest hour and a half of my life!
They plopped her on my chest, right under my chin, in all her slimy, bloody glory. I couldn’t see her but just feeling her there was amazing. I had a daughter and labor was over! The room buzzed around me and I welcomed people cleaning us both up! The cord pulsed out and Mark cut it. I delivered the placenta and Mark was excited he got to see it. The doctors checked on our daughter and noted that her overall color was great but her face was pretty purple and bruised due to the quick exit. (Later in recovery a nurse would say she looked like a c-section baby because her head was still perfectly round—also from the quick exit).
I couldn’t believe the immediate love I felt towards her. I guessed her at around 8lbs and was excited to hear that first newborn cry.
I asked Mark what she looked like since she was tucked under my chin, and he said, “she looks like herself—her own person.” He took a picture and showed her to me and I remember agreeing and also being shocked by how bruised and purple she looked. He congratulated me and I congratulated him on his daughter. We had done it!
Mark quickly put on his pink name shirt and we introduced our sweet Lydia Ella to the team around us. Back story-- When my first son was born we had waited until birth to find out his gender and reveal a name. So we’d made a pink shirt with a name on it and a blue shirt with a name on it. We left that time happily wearing a blue shirt but always feeling a bit like we left our daughter behind. This time, Mark put on his pink shirt right after labor and we joked about picking up our daughter 4 years later!
After getting cleaned up, my doctor checked me and said I had not torn at all and required no repair work (praise God!).
About an hour after delivery I nursed my sweet baby girl. Shortly after, she was weighed in at 7lbs 14 oz and 20” long. Perfect in every way! Each hour after, she started to look less bruised and more and more beautiful than she already was.
We were moved into the post-partum floor (room 377) and after all the nurses’ introductions, paperwork and checks, we were exhausted. We finally settled in to sleep and as soon as the room was quiet we heard our sweet baby making odd noises when she breathed. They wanted to monitor her in the nursery. I let her go but paged the nurse shortly after and proceeded to sit outside the nursery staring at her through a window as she was monitored. I received periodic updates and got more and more emotional so I called for Mark (who was sleeping) and he joined me in waiting. Finally they said she was ok and released her again and blamed the quick delivery to her having trouble transitioning.
It was a fast and furious and eventful night. Mark later admitted that if I’d asked for an epidural, he would not have tried to change my mind. He’d seen firsthand how much my water breaking had intensified labors in the past and knew that I was starting from that point in this labor. I was glad I didn’t know that in the moment and thankful for my third (and final) natural delivery.