By Laura G., Mother ~
The story of Sofia’s birth starts on January 15th, at 2:22 am when my water broke. I was asleep in bed and the sudden soak (BIG SOAK) woke me up. Yes, like in the movies – although they kept telling me it was not going to happen like that. I was 39 weeks pregnant on the dot and although I had been having early labor symptoms for five weeks (starting at week 34 with rhythmic contractions, a “lightning feeling”, and lots of pressure…) I really didn’t expect that day to be “the day” when I went to bed (just two hours earlier).
I immediately jumped out of bed, turned on the light and woke my husband up saying, “My water broke” to that he responded, “It must be discharge.” (ha). So, I took my pants off and threw them at him and asked, “Do you think this is discharge”? As I was saying that, more water came out (a LOT, again). He jumped out of bed and rushed to put some things together in a bag (thinking we’d leave the house right away). But I told him to slow down, as I wasn’t having big contractions just yet.
I timed them and they were five minutes apart but not painful (just like the ones I had been having for the past few weeks). So around 3 am, I decided to call the midwives. Sarah picked up the phone and she said that, since my water broke, I would probably go into labor within the next 24 hours, but that it would not be any time soon, so the best thing to do would be to try to and get some rest (since I had only slept 2 hours and it would be a long day). She told me to call her back when my contractions got more intense, instead of closer together (as they had been for so many weeks already).
I got in bed and tried to sleep, but more and more water kept leaking every 5 min (it really surprised me how much water there was!). So, a few minutes later, I got out of bed and I decided to take a shower. I could feel my contractions picking up, pain-wise, but I could still tolerate them completely. When I got out of the shower, I felt them getting more intense and woke my husband up. He went downstairs to make some food. By the time I came downstairs to eat, at around 4 am, I was in pain. Contractions were still every 5 min. and they lasted a whole minute. They were tolerable but I already breathed differently, and my body asked me to be on my hands and knees through them. So, I ate my eggs on the floor 🙂
By 4:30 am, contractions were much more painful, so we decided to call Sarah again. I told her that since they were picking up so quickly, I preferred to head out to the birthing center to see how dilated I was. We were 30 min. away without traffic (from Beverly Hills to Pasadena) and I did not want to have my baby at home or in my car. LOL.
Sarah said Hayley would meet us at the birthing center instead of her, because she had to head out to a another mama’s labor at home. My husband got everything in the car (bags, camera, tripod…) as I dealt with the pain on the floor. By 5 am, we were in the car, headed to the birthing center!
The car ride was not fun at all. It was smooth and there was no traffic, but as I mentioned, my body asked to be on my hands and knees, and sitting in the car, was the opposite! And those little road bumps and movements added made everything extra painful. The ride made my breathing and the contractions way more intense. And by the way, I kept leaking through every contraction still, my car seat was a mess and the towel I had brought got soaked too – incredible!
We got to the birthing center at 5:30 am. Hayley met us and right away helped me calm down through my breathing – it worked quickly. Then she took us to the room to check my cervix where I suddenly threw up (apparently, it’s a common labor symptom), and kept leaking water, she checked me to find out I was only 1 cm dilated. Crazy! But as I had had early labor symptoms for so long, my water had broken 3 hours prior, and my contractions were picking up very quickly, she told me she could check us in, but if I didn’t have make any progress in 2 hours, she’d have to send us back home as still would be considered ‘early labor’.
We went into the birthing room and she got the tub ready. I got in and it helped me relax immediately (since my water had broken, I couldn’t get in the tub at home because it was technically too early but since I was actively working with them it was decided it was okay). It was nice to get a bit of peace, but I was also worried that it would make my contractions slow down and we’d be sent back home! I did not want that as I was ready to have our baby!
I stayed in the tub during those two hours, where I threw up a few more times. Every contraction got more intense than the prior one. I could do nothing but wait. My body kept asking me to be on my hands and knees, so every time I had a contraction, I turned around and dealt with it, and once it was done, I turned on my back again to relax in between contractions, now only a couple minutes apart. Meanwhile, my husband slept. Seriously, there was nothing he could do to help me. Even Hayley told him to sleep. He didn’t rest that night either but since he was going to drive home later and take care of us, he needed to be well rested. During those two hours, I was focused on being present in the moment and I tried not to think. I felt my body get closer and closer to having our baby, and I trusted it would be more dilated by the time Hayley checked two hours after arriving. But of course, I was also nervous and wanted to know.
At 7:30 am, it was time to check! She had me step out of the tub to properly check my cervix, and we couldn’t believe it, I was already at 6 cm! I was so happy my body opened so quickly, and I could stay! (6 cm is considered active labor and when you can be admitted to the birthing center). I got back in the tub and the mental game began. Having expanded 5 cm in two hours did not necessarily mean that the remaining 4 cm would be dilated in the next 2 hours, so not knowing if it would be 2 or 20 hours really was hard, especially because the pain kept increasing. It was another level of pain at that point.
Hayley suggested trying the nitrous oxide gas. She said it would help relax and not tense up/fight the contractions. With a drug-free labor, and just dealing with the pain in a bathtub all alone, I thought it was a good idea to at least try, so I did. It really helped because it kept me busy and helped me inhale and exhale slowly through contractions. I also felt immediately more relaxed – given the situation! During that first hour after checking my cervix (third hour in the tub) I kept focusing on one contraction at a time. Hayley had to help me telling me things like, “Ride the contraction. Ride the wave”. It’s so true! You kind of have to let go, not fight it, and let the contraction take you to that place that feels like a cloud. It’s like your body wants to take control and if you fight it, it’s so much worse, “riding the wave” and feeling the contraction peak was somehow better. At that point, during this hour, I didn’t have any breaks in between contractions, it was one after the other, the peak was the worst part, but as one ended another one started, it was extremely exhausting. So then, I was on my hands and knees all the time inside the tub.
By 8:30 am, 3 hours after having stepped into the birthing center, 3 houts of being in the tub, 1 hour after knowing I was at 6 cm dilated, I started feeling the need to push. It was like I could not deal with the contraction anymore, I had to push through it. Hayley told me I had to hold the pushing, and she taught me how to breathe through it, so I wouldn’t push, with short and fast exhales. I did it for a few contractions but I REALLY NEEDED to push. She did not want to check my cervix again so soon (slightly after an hour of having checked me being at 6 cm) because after the water breaks there’s more risk of infection with more frequent exams. So I kept breathing through those crazy contractions and dealing with the need to push, but after 15-20 min of that, at around 9am, I told her again I just HAD TO push, and she had me get on the bed to check. I was, in fact, ready to push!
(Please note, that even through all the pain, even through all the intensity, I never ever at one point thought I wanted, or wish I had the option to get an epidural! If you go in it knowing you don’t want it, knowing you can do it, and knowing there isn’t an option, you can totally do it and not miss it, at all!)
I was so excited for push time, it was what my body had been asking me to do for the past 30 minutes and I just felt SO READY! I was already on the bed and I did not feel like pushing in the bath, so I stayed on the bed but got on my hands and knees (again, same position my body had been telling me to do since the earliest contractions in my house, and throughout all labor). I started to push at 9am.
Now midwife Margo was also in the room, assisting Hayley bring Sofia into the world. They guided me through the pushing so amazingly. Of course, it was myself who knew and told them when a contraction came (when it was time to push) as there’s no monitor telling you, however, they kept telling me when to stop pushing, even in the middle of a contraction, so I wouldn’t push too hard and I wouldn’t tear. That was the most challenging part of pushing, having to suddenly stop, completely, in the middle of a contraction. It was a little bit frustrating too because I could feel her come out a bunch, but then go back in, they kept telling me that was the only way I wouldn’t tear, so I listened and did what I was told.
The pushing part wasn’t painful (or at least not after those last hours of contractions) and I was so focused and determined, I did not think of anything else but to push. The contractions were such a mental game, and this pushing part was a total physical thing (glad I worked out through my pregnancy!). The “ring of fire” was not as bad as I thought it would be, yes, it burned, but it was manageable, again, after those contractions my tolerance level was higher, ha.
A few more contractions and a few more pushes, and the whole head was out! But now Sofia had suddenly turned and her heart rate began to slow down, so they told me I had to turn myself as well (and quickly), from my hands and knees to my back (yes, with Sofia’s head out, another challenging part), but I was blocked (how could I turn like that?!). So Hayley, Margo and my husband had to turn me around and then, as soon as I got on my back, I pushed a couple more times and just like that, Sofia was placed on my belly at 9:25 am, just 25 min. into pushing, 4 hours after arriving to the birthing center, and 7 hours after my water broke.
She stared at me immediately and I was in shock! How did my body manage to do that? Such an incredible and empowering experience, by far, the best of my life! I remember thinking: I want 10 kids!
I did skin-to-skin with Sofia for about an hour, and then she was with my husband for another hour. We ordered breakfast and enjoyed those first moments with our baby. A bit later the nurse came to check on Sofia and I, everything was great and we could go home. Four hours after pushing, we were home with our sweet little girl, and a new life began!
I did not tear, and nothing was sore, it was so unreal. Working out really did help my pelvic floor be very strong for labor, and soaking in the bath for over three hours, also helped me expand. But above all, without the guidance of the wonderful midwives at Del Mar, I would not have lived the wonderful birthing experience this way, the best way.