Born at 6:53 on Monday, January 4, 2016
Weight: 7 lbs 14.6 oz
Riley’s story begins on Saturday, January 2. I was having pretty bad cramps and was fairly concerned something was amiss. On top of that, I was experiencing some light bleeding. Not typically a good sign at any time during a pregnancy. After attempting to suppress panic most of the day, I finally decided to call the midwife Saturday evening. Kim was on duty, and assured me that it sounded normal. In fact, she believed that I was losing my mucus plug. The good news was that if she was correct, she thought I should go into labor fairly soon; something that I was ready to welcome with open arms. I was ready for Riley’s and my journey via pregnancy to come to a close and finally be able to hold her in my arms. While I was thankful for Kim’s reassurance that all was well, I could not shake the fact that I felt I was not explaining my symptoms well, and that something was indeed wrong.
That night was restless. I think I spent most of it in tears on and off, with Matt holding me and reassuring me that it was all going to be okay. We got a few periods of intermittent sleep, but not much more. When I woke the next morning, I was still experiencing some bleeding. Still anxious, I called the midwife again. Kim was still on duty, and once again reassured me that everything was just fine. She asked if I was experiencing any contractions. I didn’t think I was, but was very aware I was still having consistent cramps. Her bet was that I would be in to see her by the end of the day in active labor. She wasn’t far off. The rest of the day, the cramps phased out, and I did lose my mucus plug. Now excitement and anticipation replaced fear and anxiety. I knew it was only a matter of time before we met our baby girl.
I spent the remainder of the day in a great mood. For days, maybe even a week, I had been so ready to begin labor. Now that I was in early labor, I was anxious to face labor head on. But bed time came and went without any contractions. Normally, I would be discouraged, but reassurance swelled in me that we would be meeting our daughter sooner rather than later. We went to bed sometime around ten and slept deeply for a brief amount of time when I was awoken around 11:45 with a contraction. They weren’t very strong, but it must have been enough to wake me. This was the first one I was aware of, and is what I consider the kick off towards active labor. I was exhausted. The night before had resulted in virtually no sleep, and I was emotionally drained from having experienced contractions previously that did not result in labor. Yet I knew this had to be it. After undergoing several more contractions about 15 minutes apart, I told Matt I had had a few contractions, but wasn’t absolutely positive they would lead anywhere. The night is now a blur, but I do know they stayed about fifteen minutes apart most of the night. We slept in between when we could, and I got dressed into yoga pants and a maternity sweatshirt around 5 in the morning. The contractions were definitely getting stronger. Labor was under way.
Knowing I would be able to meet our daughter later that day had me too excited to continue trying to sleep any longer. I went out to the living room and kept the lighting low, rocking on a birthing ball while watching Glee. Matt continued to sleep a little longer since the contractions weren’t too bad yet and I was managing well on my own. Throughout the morning, I snacked on clementines…a lot of clementines. I continued to use the birthing ball, but also found that squatting on the floor while resting my forearms and forehead on the couch helped with contractions as well. I found deep moaning through contractions was my way of riding each one, something I continued to do for the remainder of my labor. I tried to nap on the couch at various points. The contractions continued to grow steadily in intensity, and were perhaps 10 minutes apart by mid-morning. Matt called the midwives for me to let them know I was in labor, and inform them of how I was progressing to see if we could get a feel for when to come in. I knew I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, but was also Group B strep positive, so I knew they would want me in for at least one round of antibiotics. We decided to stay home a little longer, since the contractions were still more than five minutes apart.
Around this time, I decided I wanted to try to get in the tub to help relax me and maybe get a little more rest. We filled the tub up, but the water did not cover my stomach and was not as effective as I had hopped. I was longing to get in the deep soaker tub I knew was waiting for me at the hospital. After a little while of soaking in the tub, I finally decided it was not meeting my expectations and took a quick shower instead. Matt stayed by my side, holding my hand and encouraging me through contractions. At this point, it was a little before noon, and my contractions were roughly seven minutes apart. We decided we would head in and see how my labor was progressing. More importantly, I wanted to see if I could get into one of those tubs.
Once we got to the hospital, they checked me into triage to monitor the contractions I was having. The midwife, Linda, assessed that I was in active labor. I was told I was 3 cm dilated, 100% effaced and at zero station. Since I was only measuring at 3 cm, she gave us the option of going back home or finding us a room as she believed I was in active labor. I opted for a room so I could utilize the tub. Apparently, that was just what I needed too. After two nights of little sleep, my time in the labor suite is blurry in my mind, so I am not sure how long I lounged in the tub. According to my midwife, though, it was a great option as it helped me to relax so that my body could do what it needed to dilate further and prep for birth. My body was given a chance to rest, contractions spaced back out, and I recovered some after the exhausting past couple days and the excitement of being in labor.
When I was ready to get out of the tub, I found I was most comfortable sitting on the toilet. Again, I have no idea about the passage of time after entering the suite, but it didn’t feel like too much longer before I entered transition. I remember getting hot, and alternating between shedding my clothes while riding out contractions to needing to be covered up, shivering after a contraction passed. I do remember Matt asking if he could go run to the bathroom around this time, and me firmly telling him no. All I knew is that I needed him and what we were doing to ride through each contraction was working. I didn’t want to face one without him, and so he stayed by my side.
About when I was asking Matt if I could push the baby out soon and be finished, he knew I was going through transition. Linda wanted to check my dilation to make sure it was safe to begin pushing. She barely had begun to check when my water broke. Sure enough, I was measuring at 9 cm by this point and beginning to feel the urge to push.
Linda helped to coach me with pushing. With her guidance and listening to my body tell me when it was time to push, phase two of labor began. I labored this way for a while longer on the toilet, not wanting to move. Matt was my rock. He let me hold on to him through each contraction and while pushing, offering encouragement and praise throughout. When the midwife thought we wouldn’t have much longer, she gave me the option of continuing on the toilet or moving out into the room. I opted for the room. With the help of Matt and my friend Madelyn, we moved towards the bed where I pushed on my side for a short time. When I was ready to switch sides, I only made it to my back before another contraction began and it was time to push again. I held my legs behind my knees, pulling my legs back as I leaned forward with the momentum of pushing. The contractions and urge to push was almost constant at this point. I had recognized that labor would be hard work and was mentally prepared to face the contractions, but the pushing was much more intense physically than I was anticipating. I remember thinking she had to be close to crowning and coming out only to be told she was still working her way down. The pressure was so intense and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up, especially with the urge to push almost nonstop. But I was determined to finally hold her, a moment I had been dreaming of for 9 months.
I am told I ended up pushing for a total of about 90 minutes, but I don’t remember it feeling that long. I remember Matt taking a peek and commenting excitedly, voice filled with joy and expectation, on how much hair our daughter had. It was motivation I definitely needed at that time. We knew it wouldn’t be much longer before we got to hold her in our arms. With each urge to push, I continued my work. Towards the end, I felt myself tear, asking what had just happened, dreading yet knowing what the answer would be. Thankfully, it was only a couple pushes later and our daughter was born.
I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gone from pushing to her being on my chest. It happened so fast, it took a minute for my brain to catch up and realize I was finally holding my daughter. Riley was born at 6:53 PM. She was immediately placed on my chest, and we delayed the cord cutting. We did skin to skin for the first two hours of her life, which included her breastfeeding for the first time. It took an hour for the OB to stitch me up (I had torn badly enough that she was brought in to do the stitches). I was exhausted from two nights of little sleep, a long labor, and had been caught off guard by the intensity of pushing. Despite my exhaustion, nothing could top the high of holding your baby for the first time. It is the most incredible moment of my life, and one I will never forget.
I am so thankful to have experienced a natural birth. I am in awe of how knowledgeable, supportive, and encouraging Matt was, through our Bradley classes up until our daughter was born. I am thrilled to feel excitement at sharing my positive birth story with others. Most importantly, I feel incredibly blessed and empowered to be able to say that I brought my baby into this world with the strength of my own body by trusting my own abilities. Labor is intense, painful and definitely the most challenging thing I have ever experienced, but it is also the most rewarding and fulfilling experience I have ever had. I would choose natural childbirth every time.