By: Erin Hinger
It all started on Thursday morning. I was 39 weeks and 3 days. I woke up feeling slightly crampy. It was the same type of cramps I would get with my period. I didn’t think much of it and carried on like any other day. I got ready and Steven dropped me off at work. I told him to keep his phone near just in case this was the real deal. I doubted it though. I had experienced lots of Braxton Hicks through almost the entire third trimester, which was frustrating because many times I would mistake them for real labor contractions. Honestly, I had no idea at this point that this was the beginning of early labor.I started getting contractions at work that felt different than BH. These were painful and hurt mostly in my back. They started coming regularly around 1 pm, but were 10-20 minutes apart. This continued on for the rest of my workday. I could’ve gone home early, but felt that the contractions were bearable enough to finish my shift. I didn’t say a word to my boss or any co-workers because I still wasn’t convinced that I was in labor and didn’t want to give them all a false alarm. Steven picked me up at 4:30 and we headed home. We had dinner around 6 and went for a walk. During the walk I felt lots of pressure, but the contractions spaced out a little bit. At 9 I decided to try to get some sleep. I used the bathroom first and saw a small amount of blood on the toilet paper. This was the moment when I realized that I was truly in labor. That bloody show was the evidence I needed. I knew I would need energy later so I laid down and tried to rest, but the contractions started becoming more painful. Plus, I had so many thoughts racing through my mind, “Am I going to be able to do this naturally?” “How long is my labor going to last?” “Oh my goodness, I might get to meet my baby girl in a few hours!” I was filled with such a mixture of emotions from excitement one minute to nervousness the next. The contractions were still 15-20 minutes apart. I was sleepy, but when I would just be dozing off each contraction would wake me back up. By 11 pm I gave up on trying to sleep and went to the couch. I watched a comedy show (Impractical Jokers) to distract myself. I had been texting Merrill, my doula, all day letting her know how things were progressing. She told me she would come over as soon as I said I was ready for her. I felt that I was still in the early stage of labor and was comfortable working through it on my own. I also wanted Merrill and Steven to get sleep so they would have energy to help me when things got more intense.Friday May 9, 2014 (39 weeks and 4 days)
I woke Steven up at midnight and asked him to go on another walk with me. I was hoping this would help to pick things up a bit. When we got back home I told Steven to go back to bed and I would wake him when I was ready. He would have stayed up with me, but I wanted him well rested. I sat back down on the couch and opened the contraction timer on my phone. They were ranging between 6-13 minutes apart. They were quite painful at this point and each time one would come I either walked around in the house or got down on all fours to ease the pain in my back. I was still able to work through them on my own because there was enough time in between to relax. Each contraction lasted less than a minute so I would watch the timer on my phone and with each passing second I knew I was that much closer to it being over. Given the timing in between each one, I figured I was still in early labor. What we had learned in our birthing class and from our midwife was that typically active labor begins when contractions are consistently 5 minutes apart lasting at least 1 minute for 1-2 hours.
By 5 am the contractions were 6 minutes apart. I was very uncomfortable by now and woke Steven up to go on one last walk with me. The walk was tough to get through. I had to stop with each contraction and Steven did counter pressure on my back. It felt good to walk around in hopes of moving the baby down. After the walk Steven took off to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab us some egg sandwiches and hash browns. We figured we had a long day ahead of us and needed to eat a decent breakfast before heading to the hospital. I called the midwife at 6 am because by now the contractions were pretty consistently 5 minutes apart and had definitely gotten more intense. I was anxious to find out how far along I was. The midwife advised me to go to the clinic to get checked. I was thinking I’d probably only be dilated to 2 cm or so and they would send me back home until I was further along.
We got to the clinic at 7 am and there wasn’t a single midwife there yet. Oh, I must add that the drive there was the worst car ride of my life. Every bump in the road, even the small ones, made the contractions tremendously more painful. I was fighting back the tears so bad. Steven felt horrible, but there wasn’t anything he could do. One midwife finally arrived at 7:30. I was in so much pain at this point that I was ready to get an epidural. I needed Merrill’s support now! The midwife checked me and made a funny face. I nervously asked, “What is it?” She says, “You’re at 7 cm!” I exclaimed, “Are you serious?!” I was completely shocked! She quickly says, “Girl, you get to the hospital now!” Apparently the timing rule for contractions was different for me. Here I was in active labor most of the night and had no clue because the contractions weren’t 5 minutes apart. After the midwife left the room I told Steven, “No wonder these contractions have been hurting so extremely bad.”
My mindset completely changed after realizing how far I had made it. I felt encouraged that I could totally finish this without an epidural. I called Merrill right away and told her to meet me at the hospital. Steven called the hospital and told them we were on our way and asked for a room with a labor tub. They said, “It will be waiting for you.” I was so thrilled to hear this because I knew the tub would be a huge relief for me. We learned in our birthing class that hydrotherapy can relieve up to 70% of the pain! That’s huge! Steven also called our parents to let them know.
At 8 am I was admitted into labor & delivery. My nurses were incredible from the get go. The midwife on call, who I had never met before, was wonderful as well. I had to be on the monitor for 20 minutes. They put a heplock IV in and filled out some paperwork. Merrill arrived at 8:30 and immediately started doing counter pressure on my back while I was in the bed. I was so ready to get in the tub. Around 9 am everything looked good on the monitor and I got in the tub. Oh man it felt so wonderful and quickly eased my tension. Merrill & Steven took turns doing counter pressure with each contraction and the other would stand by my head rubbing my shoulders and arms. The nurses left the room to give us peace. Steven played some relaxing classical music and Merrill rubbed lavender oil on my neck. They prepared the perfect setting for me. All this allowed me to just let go and let my body do what it needed to do naturally.
My mom and sister arrived at 9:45 and came in to say hi. They only stayed in the room for a minute to give us space. Steven and Merrill never left my side. Steven became the pro at counter pressure and Merrill would softly whisper “breathe” in my ear through each contraction while rubbing my neck and shoulders. She also kept handing me my water bottle to make sure I stayed hydrated. Every contraction was so excruciating and I had to deep breathe through each one. With each breath I reminded myself that it was almost over and I was that much closer. I was solely focused on the moment. At 10 the nurse used the waterproof Doppler to check the baby’s heart rate and everything looked good. At 10:15 I was feeling tons of intense pressure. Merrill reassured me that this meant the baby’s head was very low and I was so close. I had to get out of the tub to use the bathroom and had some bloody show. I got back in the tub and continued to deep breathe through each contraction. They were intensifying and coming every couple minutes, but honestly I wasn’t even thinking about how frequent they were. I just concentrated on getting through each one and reminding myself that each one was bringing us closer to meeting our baby.
My water broke at 10:30 during a contraction while in the tub. I wasn’t even positive what had happened, but then the pressure got overwhelmingly intense and I felt a huge urge to push. I got out of the tub at 10:45 to be checked and I was 9 cm, station +2, 100% effaced. So super close! I stayed in the bed from this point on and this was the absolute hardest part. I got on all fours in the bed because that was the best position to ease the back pain. I was struggling to keep my composure and almost threw up with each contraction. My nurse, midwife, and Merrill kept reminding me that I was so strong and doing such a great job. Steven continued doing counter pressure. I know it was wearing him out, but he was such a champ and never stopped. In between, he wrapped his arms around me and gently rubbed my legs. His touch was so comforting. The urge to push was so hard to manage at this point, but at the same time I was terrified with the thought of pushing the baby out. I voiced my concern and Merrill and my midwife reassured me that the pushing phase was a relief and gives you a sense of control since you’re actively participating in moving the baby out.
At 11:25 my midwife checked me and I was fully dilated at 10 cm! I remember saying, “Thank God”. I began pushing at 11:30 and they put a mirror in front of me, which helped tremendously because I could see how effective each push was as the baby moved down. I could literally feel her moving through the birth canal. It was incredible! Everyone was so hands off and just let me push as I felt each contraction. It was so awesome to let my body lead and not have anyone telling me what to do. I was pushing as hard as I could with every ounce of energy I had left hoping to get the baby out as quickly as possible. I just wanted to be done and was so exhausted. My midwife kept reminding me to look in the mirror, saying, “Erin, look her head is right there!” At noon I felt like I still had several more pushes to go to get her out, but with my next push I felt the severe burning “ring of fire” sensation that I was warned would happen when the head crowns. Within a matter of seconds after that feeling, out came my baby girl.
Nora Kate was born at 12:01 pm. Only 30 minutes of pushing and she was here! My midwife immediately put her on my chest and I was in complete awe. There is not a word that can describe what this moment feels like. As I was holding Nora skin to skin I remember saying, “Hi baby” “Hi sweetie” “Steven look, this is our baby.” It was the most surreal moment of my life. Even after being pregnant for 9 months and going through labor and birth it was still unbelievable that the baby in my arms was mine. Yet, at the same time I already loved her so much.
Steven cut the cord and I pushed out the placenta within 10 minutes of Nora’s birth. I had a significant amount of bleeding and tore in three places so my nurse gave me Pitocin in the IV and then again as a shot in my thigh to get the bleeding under control. My midwife was stitching up the tears. All this time I was hardly aware of what was going on and didn’t really care about anything other than holding my sweet baby. By 1:00, my midwife was still concerned about the bleeding and asked me to try to use the bathroom as my bladder felt really full. Steven was able to hold Nora skin to skin while I got up to the bathroom. I wasn’t able to go since things were swollen down there and they had to put an in-and-out catheter in. After they emptied my bladder, the bleeding slowed down. They handed Nora back to me and helped her to begin nursing. It took a few minutes, but once she latched on she nursed for 20 minutes!
By 2:20 I was transferred and settled into the postpartum room. My mom, sister, dad, and stepmom had been anxiously waiting the whole time and finally got to meet Nora. It was so wonderful having those first couple hours to ourselves to bond with our baby before the family came in. We had told them several weeks previously that we didn’t want them in the room during the birth or for the “golden hour” as Steven and I felt that this was our own special time with our girl. We were so glad to have made that decision.
When people ask me how I went through labor and delivery without any pain medication, I simply say, “You know what, our bodies were designed to do this and honestly God gives you this amazing inner strength to get through it.” Giving birth naturally is the most empowering thing I will ever experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. There is nothing better than experiencing the miracle of life.