There were two things I wanted for my daughter's birth. I wanted her to be able to choose her own birthday (no induction) and I longed for a non-traumatic birthing experience. I knew delivering in a hospital could have the odds increased of unwanted medical interventions, so I prepared the best I could. That meant hiring a doula team my husband and I loved, prenatal yoga, taking birth prep classes and re-reading the wisdom of Ina May Gaskin.
My due date of 5/31 came and passed. I kept going out to brunch and walking a ton to pass the time. I made a big batch of laboraide and froze some into popsicles. As my next OB appointment and talk of a scheduled induction approached, I set up an acupuncture session 1 day past my estimated due date to stimulate the points that could kickstart labor. The very next evening bloody show made an appearance. It was followed by the loss of my mucus plug about 12 hours later. Very irregular contractions started around this time and lasted for 24 hours.
On the evening of 40 weeks, 4 days my contractions kicked in at a more regular frequency around 1am. I remember my doula advised me to relax and go to bed early that night and I decided to stay up and watch the series finale of a television show I watched over the past few years. I now regret this as I couldn't focus on the show and I could have used all the rest I could get. My husband and I didn't sleep at all that evening and when we woke up at 40 weeks, 5 days, the contractions were more frequent and intense at around 4 minutes apart. That morning we asked that one of our doulas join us at home.
When our doula arrived around 11am I was halfway into the shower thinking it would help with my contractions. It did help me take my mind off of things. I was glad the doula joined us as my breath was veering off into hyperventilation territory and I had lost my mindful breath. She got me back on track. My doula, husband and I breathed through so many contractions mainly with me leaning over an exercise ball.
As we approached 3-1-1 (3 minutes apart, 1 minute in length, for 1 hour) and I started to wonder when we should go to the hospital. Our doula mentioned there was still some work to be done at home. She was right. I was still talking in between contractions, trying to make jokes. It didn't take long for me to go to a deeper place where I was in my own zone.
This helped when we called a car to drive us from Brooklyn to our hospital in Manhattan. I labored so loudly in that car. I was on my knees, with my body facing the rear of the car holding on the car seat headrest. As we drove over the Williamsburg Bridge I remember opening my eyes at one point and looking out the back seat window to make eye contact with a driver right behind us. I didn't even care at that point.
We finally made it to the hospital around 1pm. I remember I had two contractions (with me moaning very loudly) before I could even make it to the check-in desk upstairs. In triage I learned I was already 8cm dilated and fully effaced. This didn't mean I would get to my labor and delivery room anytime soon.
I was still stuck in triage for about two hours. While there I had two medical inventions I didn't initially plan on (my water being artificially broken and internal fetal heart monitoring being attached to my daughter). I also was initially feeling an urge to push when an anesthesiologist showed up and wanted to discuss options with me. I remember it was so easy to block him out and sign whatever paperwork he wanted so I could focus on my contractions.
At one point I started crying because I thought I'd be giving birth in triage it was taking so long. My doctor, who was also in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy, advocated for me to get into my labor and delivery room. When we finally moved to the room, I remember complaining as to why so many fans were blowing as it was distracting and making me cold. Turns out they were frantically trying to dry the floors as they had just finished cleaning the room. I'm glad I was too deep in my contractions to notice how close we were to not getting a room to deliver in at all.
Once we were in the room it felt like things moved rather quickly. I waited for my daughter to get to the proper station while on my knees in the bed, leaning over the back of it. When it finally came time to push, my doctor convinced me to get on my back with my feet in stirrups and they "broke the bed" and encouraged me to push when I felt the urge with each contraction.
Pushing was the hardest part of labor for me and I ended up doing so for 50 minutes. The whole idea of pushing extremely hard without expelling any breath was foreign to me and I wasn't prepared for the sensation and intensity. The doctor asked if I wanted to reach down and feel her head while she was crowning and I surprised myself by doing so. I don't think I realized how close I was to being finished at that point.
A few last pushes and Adeline was born at 4:10pm, approximately 15 hours after my regular contractions started. The doctor let me naturally tear which was fine except for the fact a resident did the repair afterwards and I felt the teaching moment took what felt like forever. It also made me so uncomfortable that Adeline was eventually taken from me and given to my husband while they finished up.
Looking back, my labor and delivery experience makes me so proud of myself. I had told myself beforehand that the sensations associated with labor are normal. It's not pain. It's my body doing what it naturally knows to do. Accomplishing the birth I wanted was due to my prep work, but I know it was also up to a little luck as there are often circumstances out of one's control.
If I decide to have another child, I've already decided to look to do so at home given it's a low-risk pregnancy. Even though my labor and delivery was what I had in mind, the postpartum period in the hospital setting was uncomfortable and unsettling. The hospital room I had was shared and if I stuck my arm out into the curtain right next to me, I'd be in my neighbor's bed. Not really the best environment to rest and get your bearings. I was so happy when it was time to leave and return back to our safe haven at home to start recovery and spend time alone as a new family.