At 2:30 AM on October 6th -- my official due date -- I woke to a slight cramping feeling in my abdomen. They weren't terribly painful, but for some reason, I knew I should pay attention to them. They didn't last long, but as I laid in bed, I noticed that they seemed to come and go every 10 minutes or so. Circa 4:00 AM, the cramping became more intense and I started shivering. At this point, Michael woke and asked if I was OK. I tried to play it off, but as soon as he asked, "Do you think these are contractions?" I was fairly certain that labor had begun. (I didn't have a ton of Braxton-Hicks, but I was surprised that my actual contractions actually felt quite different from those "practice" ones. The real deal reminded me more of your run-of-the-mill PMS cramps, actually.) I started keeping track of things on my phone, just in case, as the hours and minutes quickly started to blur...which would be true of the entire labor.
Laboring at Home
Around 4:30 AM, we reached out to our amazing doula, Sarah, who advised us to get some rest and try taking a bath. I got in the tub and tried to relax a bit, but it was admittedly hard with the nervous excitement I was experiencing. By 8:00 AM, I was still having sporadic contractions, but I started feeling some back pain as well. Sarah was concerned about baby's position potentially contributing to the back pain, and advised that we call our chiropractor. We reached out to our wonderful chiro team at New Beginnings Family Chiropractic, who were totally ready for our call (I went twice a week the few months leading up to my due date), and by 9:00 AM we had Dr. Crisp at the house attempting to help baby turn, as she also suspected he was posterior. (Everyone made it seem like breech was the only less-than-optimal position, so I had no idea what I was in for. But back labor...yeah, they should put a warning on that shiz.) Shortly before her arrival, the pain was getting pretty intense, and I even vomited. (Throwing up while contracting should be illegal. Not fun at all, and I braced myself for the long road ahead given that things were already a little less magical than anticipated.)
When I had my bloody show around 10:00 AM, M reached out again to Sarah. (Side note: for those of you who are preggers and concerned you won't know when you pass your mucus plug...trust, you'll know.) Just before noon, she arrived to find me laboring in the dark den and sipping Gatorade. I took a shower to try to get some relief to my back, but that didn't help much. Things were starting to get more intense, and while I was focusing on my breathing, the pain was mounting already.
Heading to the Birth Center
We arrived at the Fort Worth Birth Center at 2:30 PM, and while I was relieved to learn that I was 100% effaced, baby was in fact posterior (ROP, in fact) and I was only 2 cm at this point...12 hours in, if you're counting. To help with positioning, I was sent to the chiro office for more adjustments. After 4 hours of adjustments, I was finally contracting normally, back labor let up, and baby had flipped to anterior. I went ahead and agreed to therapeutic rest at the birth center at this point (around 7:30 PM), and because I was still only 2 cm, we were sent home for the night.
Without spoiling the rest, I will at least say that therapeutic rest was the first intervention to which I agreed outside of our anticipated birth plan, but it would certainly not be the last. We wanted a drug-free delivery at the birth center, and anticipated a relatively-quick, straightforward L&D in our cozy little bubble. Everyone kept saying to stay flexible and just be prepared for the unexpected, and they're so right...
By 11:00 PM on the 6th, we reached back out to our doula, as we were all now in our respective homes under orders from the midwives to rest. But I couldn't rest. Contractions were still sporadic, but more intense. Baby had flipped back to posterior, and I was miserable. Sarah came back over at 12:30 AM that morning (Friday the 7th), bless her heart, and helped us track the contractions to approximately every 3 minutes. She had me doing the Miles circuit and walking around at 3:00 AM, and by 4:00 I was back in bed. But I still couldn't sleep. With every contraction, I had to wake up M and ask him to press firmly on my lower back. (Yes, the extreme pain in my tailbone was back in full force at this point.)
The midwives had asked us to come back for a check-up on Friday morning, so I was relieved to be back there by 10:00 AM that day. Unfortunately, I was only 3-4 cm after over 30 hours of labor thus far. They went ahead and admitted me to the birth center given how long I had been going at that point, and I agreed to some nitrous to help me (hopefully) get some progress despite the pain. I was laying in the bed with the peanut ball, rolling from side to side, hoping he'd move. No dice. By noon I was bouncing on the birth ball, hooked up to a pump for stimulation, and taking herbs every 15 minutes in an attempt to move things forward. I squatted, I walked around, I attempted to keep down Saltines and Gatorade (since I hadn't eaten anything in over 24 hours at this point...because I wanted to die, let's be honest). We tried it all, but I was still scarcely at 4 cm.
M's family came to the birth center to pray over me during this time, and I honestly barely remember them coming by. I was so exhausted and trying to get past the seemingly endless pain in my tailbone. There is no pain like that, and it's unrelenting nature was wearing me down.
This was the first of many moments in this journey that was so incredibly humbling. I admittedly thought I had this whole baby thing figured out given all the classes we took, books we read, and general knowledge I thought I had acquired. I had strong opinions, and I couldn't wait to tell our birth story, replete with rainbows and unicorns and the light of a million fairies. God knew better, and I can repeat the words I said before our experience -- "All that matters is that the baby gets here...doesn't matter how" -- but I actually mean them now.
By 5:00 PM on the 7th, we were admitted at the hospital. They gave me fluids via IV since I was so dehydrated and weak. At 7:30 PM, the anesthesiologist arrived, almost got punched in the face by my beloved (bedside manner fail), but he delivered the epidural.
Yes, that's right, this mama, who fiercely desired an all-natural birth, opted for drugs. I would have given anything to have avoided that route, but I don't regret my decision. As soon as it kicked in, I could breathe. I could eat. I could smile. I could rest. I desperately needed that to be able to finish out the whole giving birth thing, and I'm so thankful for the access to that help.
I finally slept for a bit, but still wasn't progressing much. Just before 10:00 PM, my midwife recommended breaking my water to hopefully move things along (since I had been in labor for almost 45 hours now), and I reluctantly agreed. I knew something had to give, and at this point, the interventions just started stacking up. I instantly jumped to 6 cm when she broke my water, but we didn't take long to celebrate as the news of meconium instantly had us concerned (though not surprised). The baby's heart rate took a dip at that point, but we were able to get me repositioned and it came back up.
For the next few hours, I rested. Finally. I only woke up when the nurse gently helped me reposition on the peanut ball, and I couldn't believe that I didn't feel a single thing as contractions progressed. (That epidural was legit, y'all. I felt nothing. Zero.)
At 12:30 AM on Saturday the 8th, our sweet nurse Ali woke me to tell me it was time to start pushing. I was 10 cm and +1 station. I couldn't believe it! The last bit progressed so quickly, and because I was sleeping, it felt like they had just broken my water. But, again, we were on L&D time, so everything felt like a half hour. So bizarre.
Time to Push
My awesome midwife Meagan (who was thankfully able to catch the baby even at the hospital) advised that it was time to practice pushing, which I realized later was an incredibly honest way to put it. She needed to see me push to determine if I would be able to do it well with the epidural. As expected, I was too drugged to effectively push, so they turned off the epidural. This, friends, is when I lost my s*#@. The pain returned with a vengeance, all to my back, reminding me that even though I hadn't felt it, my body had still been doing all that hard work. I thrashed about, sobbing, crying out to God, and insisted they do something to help me. It felt like my back was breaking, over and over. They brought in some nitrous and restarted the epidural drip on a lower setting. Baby's bp fluctuated a bit at this point, and we narrowly escaped having to use an internal monitor, but I got oxygen with the nitrous to help stabilize things. The gas helped take the edge off, but made me so sleepy.
Nevertheless, I eventually figured out how to effectively push, and reaching down at one point at my midwife's encouragement to feel baby's head progressing was really helpful. We were finally on a roll and getting this baby out! I played tug of war with a sheet with several folks to help me push better, and finally, at 5:21am on October 8th, he was here...
I am so thankful for our amazing birth team who helped us navigate the journey leading up to Asher's arrival, and I can't say enough about how incredible my husband was throughout. I can't imagine that was easy to endure, and he was right there with me every second, so I know it was arduous for him too. But it takes such things to forge a family, and I'm so blessed by mine.