I'll start by saying that the last few weeks of this pregnancy were not fun. In fact, I was in a great deal of pain. My hands did not work, and they hurt all of the time. My hips and pelvis were pained to the extent that getting out of bed or up and down from chairs was excruciating. Yes, excruciating. There were times in the night Mark thought I was in labor because of how much groaning and moaning it took to get in and out of bed. I tried as hard as I could not to complain about it, but it was definitely taking its emotional toll on me, and my family.
Exactly a week before labor, I began to show more significant signs of impending labor. I was only 37 weeks, but I was feeling so incredibly awful, that I believed the signs whole-heartedly and hung on for what I believed to be the last few days or week of pregnancy. Each night, in addition to the signs of labor, I had painless but very intense contractions for hours at a time, fizzling out as I went to bed. Inevitably, the progress these contractions were making only made me more miserable moving around during the day.
I emailed my mom, who was on call for the birth. I warned that although I might be getting my hopes up, that I didn't think I was going to hold on to this baby much longer. Reaching a breaking point, I even emailed Mark to possibly take a sick day BEFORE the baby came to help me care for the kids because I was having such a difficult time. After a few emotional breakdowns, an incredible day-long burst of energy where not only the house got cleaned but the freezer and pantry got stocked, and finally, a last dinner night out, Monday night came.
I went to bed and began to pray a Rosary. I had just finished the third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity of our Lord, when I felt a small pop on the top of my belly. I smiled and said to myself, "So, this, is how it's going to happen." Mark was upstairs exercising, and I took twenty minutes or more downstairs collecting my thoughts, changing my clothes, slowing my mind down and preparing for all that lay ahead in the night to come. I even blogged ;-) .
"Mark," I said as I interrupted his workout. He looked confused. It's rare for me to be up this late. "The baby's coming," I said calmly. After some disbelief, we got down to business. Contractions hadn't started yet, and we had some work to do. I called the midwife, and Mark began inflating the birthing pool and arranging the birth kit on the dresser. We had the sheets changed and ready to. After an hour or so, we began to time contractions, which were starting to come more frequently and requiring more concentration.
By the way, there's an iPhone contraction app. There's an app for that!
In the two hours it took for the midwife to arrive, contractions went from 6 minutes apart to two. When she arrived the room was dark, and I was being kept warm on the bed. The mood would have had you thinking there was a sleeping baby, not a laboring woman, in the room. She whispered tender words to me, encouraged Mark, and got me moving around for the last stretch of labor. I focused intently on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, and, taking every bit of Bradley knowledge in my head, worked tirelessly at relaxing every bit of tension in my body. It was strong, hard work, and very intense, but at the same time relaxing, peaceful and productive. The contractions came every minute now, and I accepted them with imagery of peddling up a hill and then coasting down. Every part of it was controlled and calm.
I got in the tub an hour after the midwife arrived. Afraid to know, I finally asked her how far she thought I had progressed (she hadn't checked). She smiled and said, "Mallory, you were fully dilated before you got in the tub." I could hardly believe it. What? The hard part was over? That quickly? With no yelling or screaming or moaning and groaning, packing and pacing and craziness? What? It's over that easily? Wow!
The next twenty minutes were the most difficult part of the labor. Baby was descending, but I couldn't push him. Trying to push was very painful, as if I was pushing against a strong, painful resistance. I couldn't do it, and I even said out loud that I couldn't do it. Having been able to push two previous children out rapidly, this was very frustrating. My midwife was constantly reassuring, saying that even though I wasn't able to push, that I making progress nonetheless. She was right, and twenty minutes later, even without me pushing, the baby was visible and I was finally able to productively push. (Baby came out with a blister on his finger and immediately sucked on his fingers after birth. Although we can't be certain, we think he may have been sucking on his hand during his descent and was somewhat lodged, which is why I couldn't effectively push during that phase).
For a small moment I lost my focus, clenched my teeth and let out a high-pitched "Eek." My midwife calmly reminded me to relax my mouth, to make low groans and grunts, and I was back on track. Before I knew it I heard the words, "Grab your baby," and Michael came up from the water and onto my chest. Mark and I were overcome with emotion. For the next twenty minutes we sat, me in the tub with the baby, and Mark right outside of it, gazing and loving our precious son. After that, we cleaned up while the midwife examined the baby, we crawled into bed and shut our eyes when the older boys woke up to their new brother.
What a positive experience this was! My first birth was full of necessary interventions and I was very grateful to have the medication that the hospital provided me. It was a difficult labor though, and fear of labor is what caused me to delay so badly in getting to the hospital with the second delivery. Through my own fault, the second delivery ended up being more traumatic than the first because of how quickly it went and how uncontrolled and hectic it was. Everyone was in a panic and the recovery took months. This, my third delivery, was not only an incredible confirmation of how my body was capable of having a child without emotional trauma, but it also forced me to face my fears and accept them. I've been healed of old wounds and left with only peace and excitement over our new baby.
Another quick labor for me (from the start of contractions to delivery was less than 3 hours, closer to five from the start of my water breaking), but I can't complain. All went well and better than I could have imagined.
In this case, the third time really was the charm :-)