The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Well, as you may have seen from the announcement here, Tucker was born almost two weeks ago! The days since have passed in the expected blur, with my mother-in-law coming to cook and help out when we got home from the hospital, and then my mom coming out from Oregon this week. We are sleep deprived and in a bit of shock, I think, but elated.
I thought I’d share my birth story, in case anyone was interested.
To start with, I spent most of my pregnancy researching and obsessing about natural childbirth. I bored way too many of my friends to tears going on and on about it, and for that I apologize. I read endless midwife memoirs full of birth stories, I studied up on my Ina May Gaskin (I highly recommend starting with “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth" and then if you want to read a really well-written midwife memoir, try “Baby Catcher,” by Peggy Vincent), I made Ben and my parents watch “The Business of Being Born.” We went to hypnobirthing classes, for god’s sake. I also, I must admit, got a bit judgy about people who didn’t even consider going drug-free. That last part? Never again. Not to blow the ending, but I did go natural, and halfway through I turned to Ben and said, “I see why people get the epidural. No more judgement, ever.” I’m glad I did it, but it’s not something to breeze into unprepared.
What I didn’t do was give up, like so many people had predicted I would. The off-hand “Oh, you’ll change your tune once you’re in labor,” comments I’d gotten from all sides were a major pain and frustration point for me, especially early on.
Anyway, what happened:
I was due August 15, and though I’d started to efface a couple weeks earlier, there was no sign of an imminent arrival the 15th or 16th. Early, early Tuesday morning (the 17th) I woke up with mild contractions, well-spaced out, which tapered off during the day. I got a pedicure, walked to pick up the vegetable share (the 26-year-old farmer, seeing me waddle up: “STILL no baby??”), made BLTs for dinner, and generally went about my day. Like clockwork, at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday the contractions kicked in again, this time stronger. Ben stayed home from work and the contractions kept strengthening, getting more regular and then spacing out, more regular, spacing out. I had a midwife appointment scheduled for that day, and when she checked me I was only 1 cm dilated, so we headed home to wait.
As I said in an email to some friends that day, “If this is false labor, I’ll be pissed.” The contractions didn’t feel like anything anyone had described. Tuesday they had felt like menstrual cramps, which I expected. But as they got stronger there was no wave or hill in each one; instead there was a strong, repeated stabbing sensation right over my pelvis.
We ate out on the deck that night, but I could barely touch my food. I kept standing up to lean on the porch railing with each contraction, continuing in the living room while we watched a movie and I paced around, leaning on the radiator or mantel with each one. I talked to one of the midwives around 10 or 11, and she said to keep it going as long as I could at home, waiting for the contractions to get more regular (they were around 6 minutes apart, but then changed if I laid down--very odd). Mid-conversation I handed Ben the phone and threw up dinner, and over the course of the night I kept throwing up. Finally at 3 or so Ben called the midwife back, and she said we should come in to get fluids, since I couldn’t keep water down.
We checked in at the hospital, I made my way painfully to Labor and Delivery, and they checked me again--1.5 cm. Extremely painful contractions all afternoon and night, with no dilation. The midwife on call had me hook up for IV fluids to get re-hydrated, and then prescribed a dose of morphine to help me sleep through the night, along with anti-nausea meds. I had bad adrenaline shakes, and the morphine only kind of worked; I dozed on and off. In the morning (Thursday) I was only at 3 cm, and still having the same semi-irregular but very painful contractions. They sent us home for the day around one p.m.
I slept between contractions for most of the afternoon. The contractions kept getting stronger and closer together, though never regular. By 9:30 or so they were holding steady at four minutes, and I was in serious pain with each contraction. They were still nothing like what I’d imagined; a jagged series of stabs instead of a gradual build, peak and diminishing intensity. I was breathing through them but felt taken off-guard each time. We decided to go back to the hospital.
And I was still not much more dilated--4 cm. They gave me more morphine, hoping that rest would let my body relax and get going. We slept in the post-partum wing, in a double room so Ben had a bed too. I spent the night waking up and gripping onto the side of the bed through every contraction.
In the morning they moved us to the triage room in Labor & Delivery; a tiny little interior room with a narrow exam table in it. When the midwife from the night before checked me, I was still around the same point.