While I did have some practice labor (Braxton Hicks) at various points during this pregnancy, going into the last few weeks of the pregnancy, I wasn’t feeling any practice labor. On Friday, February 26th, I had a pelvic floor PT appointment at 10 am. We were practicing Pelvic Floor relaxation for various labor positions, to see what would work best for me. Toward the end of the appointment, as I laid back to try a reclined position, I felt a stream of fluid start to pass. It was noticeable, but not a ton. I finished the appointment and even grabbed a sprinkle doughnut at the shop across the street. When I arrived home, I had more fluid when I stood up from the car, but then the fluid stopped. Having already had a “false alarm” of my water breaking the prior weekend, I was hesitant to jump the gun, so kept an eye on things for awhile. About an hour and a half later, around 12:45/1, I lost my mucus plug, and started to feel very light, intermittent contractions – 15 minutes apart or so. At this point, I called into the midwives, and they advised that I come in to check the fluid, as I was Strep B positive and needed an antibiotic IV if my water had broken. It was about 1:30pm at this point, and a half an hour drive to the birth center, so we arrived there around 2:30pm.
At my exam, they said that my waters hadn’t ruptured, and sent me home to keep an eye on things, thinking I’d be back perhaps late that evening, if not, definitely over the weekend. We left the Birth Center at 3 pm, hurrying to pickup our preschool daughter, in Friday rush hour traffic. My contractions at that point were still light, and only every 10-15 minutes. Nothing that caused me pause or discomfort – I’d just let my husband know that another one was coming.
By the time we arrived to pickup our daughter at 3:30, they had progressed to every 5-6 minutes apart, and caused pause. I still walked from the car to pick her up, pausing once to breathe through a short wave. I was feeling relaxed, and confident in the upcoming birth at this point. We decided to go to the grocery store to pick up some snacks for labor, and the birth center, but in the car as the waves were becoming more intense, I asked my husband to drop me off at home and he and my daughter could go to the store. I was home from 3:45-4:15 on my own, and hustled to pack some final items into our go-bags, anticipating that I wouldn’t be in a good position to finish this later. When I arrived home, I could still walk around the house packing last minute items, pausing occasionally to breathe through a wave. By 4:15 my husband and daughter arrived home, I was stationed next to the couch, leaning over it for contractions, with the Steeldrivers blasting on the radio, each wave required my full attention to breathe through. I was focusing on positive acceptance of what was coming to my body, changing positions occasionally to see what would work for me.
My husband quickly asked me how far apart my contractions were, but I wasn’t sure. He placed a timer app next to me, and we saw that they had reached a consistent 3 minutes apart. He called our Doula and told her to head in our direction. The next 20 minutes are a blur, but he called our friends to take our daughter. He also called the birth center back (1.5 hours after leaving) and after just hearing me on the phone, they told him to come directly in, I was in active labor. My husband got the bags in the car, and everything ready while I labored next to the couch, trying different positions. Forty five minutes later, at 5pm we were ready to leave, and things were intense. I waited until a contraction passed, then walked to the car and waited for another before getting in quickly to start the drive. With two car seats in the backseat, I had only the front passenger seat, and little room to maneuver. I tried kneeling backward and hugging the seat but it was not helpful, and settled into the seat, mostly arching my back during contractions and progressively pounding on the door. I focused my breathing between contractions, hoping to delay or soften the next wave – which helped some. Google Maps predicted the drive to be about 45 minutes (it had been a consistent 20 without traffic during the entire pregnancy). My husband managed to make it in 30 minutes. During that entire drive, I only opened my eyes once, and I would guess I went through 8-10 waves of contractions. Beyond my breathing and keeping things in the present, I was thinking about two things during the drive. 1.) If this is un-medicated childbirth, maybe I’m not cut out for this?! 2.) It will become more manageable when we get to the birth center. I’ll be able to walk, use the birth tub, our Doula will be meeting us there, etc.
My husband pulled into the parking lot around 5:30, in the front row space, and as I stepped out of the car with he and a nurse to support me, I expected a feeling of relief as I was able to move. When I stood upright, I could feel the weight of the baby drop further into my pelvis, and things only became more intense. I walked into the birth center repeating “I don’t like this. I don’t like this.” to myself like a mantra, looking for a place to stop and be able to return to my “zone”. At this point, it was just 2.5 hours after I’d been at the birth center and sent home. We entered the closest birthing suite and I saw the bed all made up, as well as papers on the floor next to it. I immediately went to my knees next to the bed, so that I could lay my upper body over the side of the bed and continue laboring. At this point, things were VERY intense, and I was beginning to feel a little panicky, thinking that I couldn’t handle this for another 6 hours. The midwives were VERY calm, and quickly got to work. Within 5 minutes of arriving the primary midwife let me know that the baby’s head was there, and I could start pushing when I was ready.
WHAT?! This was both shocking and comforting information, to know securely why things had been so intense – I’d essentially gone through transition in the car – but also shocking to know that our baby boy was ready to arrive already. In the end, it took 12 minutes of pushing for Julian to arrive, though it felt like seconds or minutes to me. The first few pushes were the most intense, it was as if I was pushing to poop, but there was nowhere for the poop to go, just this intense, intense pressure on my anus, an indescribable pressure. But then, as my baby boy moved further down in the birth canal… it was suddenly gone, entirely, and I could just feel Julian as I pushed. I could feel him move forward, as I pushed, and then backward slightly as I relaxed. After about two of these, he just slid out. In retrospect, I wish I’d reached down to feel his head as he was emerging, but I didn’t even think about it at the time, as things were moving so quickly. The midwives caught him, and passed him between my legs so that I could bring him to my chest. I was still in my street clothes, not even having had a chance to change. I brought him to my chest and began talking to him immediately so that he could hear my voice. He was talking too – he came into the world crying big healthy cries.
Julian arrived 17 minutes after arriving at the birth center, and in around 3-4 hours of labor, depending on when you’d count it as starting. The midwives classified it as a “precipitous birth”. While our doula ended up being a non-factor at the actual birth, she did get an amazing video of Julian’s arrival.