I woke up this morning after an evening of cramping last night. I’ve only had a couple nights and/or acupuncture appointments in the past with Braxton Hicks contractions (I never got those very much) – but this seemed more persistent. Each of the seven (!) times I used the restroom last night, I noticed the cramping. At 8am this morning, after 9 hours of sleep, upon using the restroom for the 8 (!!) time, I lost my mucus plug. It was much less gross than I anticipated, and from what I learned signaled that labor could eventually come within a day – to many days – beyond this point. But, I knew this was a sign of progress, and I was excited, a little nervous, and thought it would be a good time to finish the last preparations for our hospital visit.

I woke up Cameron. He was excited, surprised, and available for whatever was needed. He cleaned our room, made us both breakfast, and called our doula, Kadie, to give her the heads up. I got myself ready and emailed the ladies of our centering group the newest update. We’ve been rooting each other on from the very beginning of our pregnancies – and as the babies start coming, each of us is keeping open communication in regards to our progression through labor. Two babies have been born so far. If Amelia comes, she’ll be the third of six.

After breakfast, we finished packing our labor bag, did some laundry, and tidied up the house. At 10:30am, Kadie called. All sounded fine, so we scheduled another check-in for 2:00pm. I remembered thinking of all the lovely things I would like to do on this day – like go for a walk, drive up to a lookout point…. But, honestly, all I wanted to do was focus and prepare for what I know is ahead. So, I did all the acupressure points I got from my last acupuncture appointment (including the ones to help begin/strengthen my contractions), hung over the medicine ball for 40 minutes (like I’ve been doing every day for the past month), stretched, and all the other things I had been taught to increase the odds of good fetal positioning. Since our plan is no drugs, a good fetal position could make a huge difference in our chance to avoid back labor or a long labor that might lead to intervention. After my “labor homework,” it was nap time.

When I woke up, I was hungry. So, we took full advantage and ate a big lunch of veggie stew. At the 2:00pm follow up, Kadie confirmed that I was making progress. While my contractions were still sporadic, they were requiring more of my attention. After a few suggestions of how to deal with the new sensations, we agreed on another post-dinner call at 8:00pm. After touching base with Cameron, we settled into an afternoon and evening of drinking lot of water, eating snacks, trying to relax, and napping.

As the evening progressed, so did my contractions. At 8:00pm, what was low and in front, was now reaching to my hips. Our doula validated my progression, gave some comfort measures, and tips on dealing with a night labor. Then, we moved into the evening hours. Before bed, while the contractions were still reasonable, I sat on my meditation cushion and practiced opening up to the sensations, like we had learned in our birthing class. After checking with me, Cameron went to bed.

At 10:30pm, I called the hospital. I spoke with one of our midwives (the woman who taught our water birth class) and determined that I was in early labor. She requested I rest, drink lots of water, and call back again around 2am. Between contractions I read through all the information I had put together. It was a little ridiculous how much I had: inspiring birth stories from birthing center websites, a summary of all the notes I took at each of our prenatal group appointments, notes from our birthing class, notes from the meetings with our doula, notes from the water birth class, advice I wrote for myself. Whenever I felt silly about it, I would joke with Cameron and tell him this was the most important test I would ever study for. And, wouldn’t he want to be prepared for the most important test of his life? I’m so thankful I have a patient husband.

At 2:00am, I called and spoke with Linda again to let them know I did not want to wait longer. She said to try and hold out a bit longer if I could. I agreed, and returned to my place on the couch. After 20 minutes, I called Kadie and asked if she could come over – I was having a hard time. About 5 minutes later, I went in and spoke with Cameron. We decided that it was probably the time to head to the hospital. We called Kadie back, and she was able to take the right exit just in time.

Draping over the bathroom sink at home, I started verbalizing my difficulty. Cameron came in, tightly squeezed my hand, put pressure on my lower back, and held a low pitched hum for the duration of my contraction. I would hum/groan along with him, and that’s how I got through my contractions from that point on, until things progressed more at the hospital. I’m not quite sure how Cameron got the house picked up, the car packed, me in the car, and Hunter fed, all while being present for each contraction, but he did. I’m pretty sure he became superhuman when I went into labor – I’m pretty sure.

At OHSU, Linda greeted us in Labor and Delivery. After a checkup, she advised that Amelia was looking sideways versus towards my back, and commonly indicated a long early labor and a fast active labor, once her head turned. This was a little concerning because, first, a long early labor could mean I could be very tired once active labor began, and a fast active labor could demand more physically. Both factors worried me a bit, but knowing what we were up against was liberating as well. Linda explained that I was within the long early labor phase (it had been 19 hours at this point) and we could choose to go home and wait it out or to stay at the hospital. The idea of being at home and/or in the car when things started to progress scared me, so we decided to stay at the hospital. Linda was completely supportive and admitted us.

At that point, things became a little hazy. It was about 3:30 in the morning, I hadn’t slept, and contractions were steadily getting more intense. This was when I began trying each of the methods taught to ease discomfort in natural childbirth. I most certainly did not use my labor skirt, essential oils, calming music, flameless candles, and/or calming focus object! I did continue to drink as much water and protein goo that I could stomach, and welcome suggestions from our doula and midwives. At this point, Cameron presence was very important to me. I could feel him there, and needed to know he was present, but we interacted only briefly from this point until Amelia’s birth. Among the blur, I recall laboring in the hot shower, laboring in bed, trying to find positions to rest between contractions, going back into the shower, sitting on the birthing ball, seeing the sun rise, hearing Linda go off duty, meeting Laura and Kim (the new midwives) coming on duty, and all the while the contractions and my body working harder and harder.

At 10:00am, I hobbled to the bed. I wasn’t sure how to keep going, and voiced my concern. Cameron stepped in and gave some encouragement, and we asked if I could get into the birthing tub. Kim checked me, and alas, I was entering active labor. While things would be getting much harder, I could also fully immerse myself in hot water for relief from my muscles and gravity.

In a flurry, two midwives, Cameron, and a nurse worked to blow up the tub and fill it. The hose was working too slowly, so they had to set up a bucket brigade from the sink to the tub. I jumped in naked with six inches of water in the bottom. Funny how all those inhibitions fly out the window, in times of desperate need.

At this point, I was resisting the contractions – big time! They were really strong, and I started to panic. Kadie was able to calm me, to a point, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable for long. Admitting to myself that I was not coping cleared the air a bit. I knew it would only get harder, and realized I needed to do something differently. At that point something shifted. I think I realized that nothing beyond myself ( short of drugs! ) could help from that point on. And this was where Amelia and I took over. Our two bodies were going to work harder than they ever had before, and together, would bring her into this world. Realizing that was very freeing for me. I asked for the room to be absolutely silent, and for Cameron to sit off to the side – to give us some little space. Then I closed my eyes, and started repeating a mantra to myself – over and over and over, and off I went off to Labor Land.

Cameron said he thought I went to sleep.

After two hours, I opened my eyes. I was floating in the water, and it felt like time had stopped. I realized I was in transition, and tried as hard as I could to take deep breaths and rest, before…

I whispered, “I think I need to push.” Kim and Laura quickly mobilized to check me, and then broke the absolute silence in the room. Laura looked right at me and said, “Girl you’re fully dilated and +2!! You’re baby’s right there! Reach down and feel her head!!” In disbelief I looked at Kadie, who said, “You’re going to meet your baby soon.”

All of a sudden, all my cells woke up. I was starting to wonder if I would ever meet my baby, and now I could see a light at the end of the tunnel (actually, that was probably Amelia’s view)! I was present, alert, and felt like a wide-eyed animal. After an hour of intense pushing, Amelia’s head emerged, followed quickly by her little body. The midwives caught her under water and handed her to Cameron. His arms, gloved to the elbow and immersed in the tub, pulled Amelia out of the water for her first breath. She quickly gasped, and he laid her directly on my chest. At that point the rest of the world disappeared. She was wide-eyed, looking straight at me, crying. After a bit, Cameron cut the cord, and they took Amelia to the other half of our room for her initial tests. After Amelia was wiped off, weighed, tested, and swaddled, she was placed on my chest and nursed the entire time the medical team finished with me.

Afterwards, we were taken to our room in Mother Baby, to see many a doctor, lactation consultant, nurse, and midwife. Those few days were some of the best we’ve ever had together. It’s not often you feel so loved and supported, all the while as you’re falling in love yourselves. We welcomed our daughter, Amelia, into our lives at 1:04pm on January 31.

And, you know what they say….In that little hospital room, on the hill, in Portland, Oregon, all of our little hearts grew three sizes that day.

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