A friend of mine had introduced me to the Bradley Birthing Method when we were searching out child birth classes. Of course (if you know me, this is absolutely NO surprise to you), I had done quite a bit of research on child birth, different methods and techniques and our options prior to the class but I felt like it would be a great experience for Joe and I together. As much as I wonder if I really needed the class, I know that it cemented good things into our heads and best prepared us for what was to come. Our Bradley instructor assigned different topics to each couple to give a pro/con and information about. Ours happened to be vaginal exams. Interestingly, very few couples know that this is an actual option. You do not need to start vaginal exams at 36 weeks or really ever. They are not perfect, always helpful or always predictive of how things will end up.
Our hospital OBGYN clinic rotates you through doctors towards the middle/end of your pregnancy so you meet each one just in case your doctor cannot make it. We had 2 appointments left before we went back to our doctor at 38 weeks and decided to not have the exams at either one of these. At 36 weeks they did a quick ultrasound to confirm she was heads down and the doctor commented on how low she was in my pelvis. Again at 37 weeks the next doctor was surprised at how low she was. 38 weeks we were back with our preferred doctor (who really was awesome and a super blessing as she fit us as a couple great), and we decided to do a vaginal exam to see how far I was progressed. The guess that everyone had that baby was low was no joke as she was at 0 station at 38 weeks. I was also 2cm dilated and 90% effaced. This really brought hope that she might come early but I tried not to get my hopes up knowing that she could also come 2 weeks late! My mom arrived just days later for her scheduled trip. She bought an one way ticket to come help me prepare, be here for delivery and help transition into motherhood after. Since it was just a couple weeks before Christmas we finished up our Christmas shopping which really doubled as a great workout and exercise with all the walking!
At 39 weeks I was checked again and was at 3 cm, +1 station and 100% effaced. We were given the option to have a membrane sweep which basically stimulates the prostglandins which help jump start labor (that is IF and ONLY IF your body is actually ready- otherwise you're just uncomfortable for a couple days). Our doctor cautioned us that if it worked then we would be in labor within 24 hours. Again, it was hard not to hope but just wait it out...
This appointment was on a Tuesday and I continued to have cramps that I likened to period cramps until Thursday. Around noon I called L&D and asked how long the cramps should continue and they gave me the heads up that these were contractions and I should start timing them. For the next two hours I did so and realized that they were coming about 1 min apart and 1 min long... We piled everything up and headed to the hospital to get checked out. They confirmed that I was indeed having contractions, that baby was fine but I was only 3.5 cm and they wouldn't admit me until at least 4. Back home we went to wait! In the meantime I took a nap, played cards and tried to relax. The contractions quit for a while so I had a slumping feeling that maybe baby wasn't going to come that night. My sweet hubby decided not to go to work as he had the hopes that baby was going to come even still... Around 10 everyone decided to try to get some sleep, which they did successfully but I started having strong contractions again. After laying in bed for awhile I decided to get up and start timing the contractions. I was having them again 1 min apart and for 1 min long but this time MUCH stronger. After about an hour of them I went upstairs to let my mom know what was going on. She reminded me to have patience and wait (so hard when you just want to meet your little girl!) so back downstairs I went to continue to time the contractions. On my way down the stairs however, I had another contraction. My mind immediately thought of the fact that real contractions happen while in movement and Braxton-Hicks do not. Of course this gave me some hope and I continued to time... About half an hour later I decided to wake up Joe since I had continued to have contractions while I knelt, stood, swayed etc. I wanted him to time me while I took a bath. This really was for two parts- I couldn't get warm and I wanted to see what the contractions did with water. They continued to go strong and at the same rate if not go faster so we decided to wake Mom up and head back to the hospital.
We arrived at the emergency entrance (all others were locked at that time of night) at 2am, filled out paperwork and headed upstairs to L&D triage again to get checked out. They again confirmed that I was having contractions, baby was well but I had only progressed to 4 centimeters which wasn't enough to admit me. After an hour of waiting they They gave 2 options: 1- go home or 2- get a sleeping "cocktail" if you will. This cocktail was a shot of morphine and an ambien to help me sleep in hopes of dilating more. It was real labor at this point so it really was just a matter of time and I couldn't help but think that there was no resting for me with the strength of contractions and that I really needed my sleep. We asked numerous questions about the safety of the drugs and I had Joe help me make the decision. As I told him: "My head is just not clear". We decided to go ahead and get the medication. I'm sure the nurses at this point were probably shaking their head thinking that I wasn't going to follow through with the drug free birth since I was taking these meds. They moved us to an actual room at 3am where Mom settled in on the sofa bed, Joe on cushions on the floor and I in the hospital bed. I was given the medication and tried to relax through the contractions. They continued to be strong and strong enough that I vocalized through each one. Long low oooooo's. In between I would go to the bathroom just from being uncomfortable and feeling like I constantly had to go. Between about 4:30-5 on one of these bathroom trips my water just burst as I was sitting on the toilet. I likened the feeling to a water balloon being popped with a pin. After finishing a contraction I called the nurse who came and checked for amniotic fluid. She confirmed that it was my water and did another check. To her surprise I had jumped to 7 cm. She quickly realized that this was indeed labor and was going to going to happen soon. She gave the doctor a heads up and let me labor. During one of her stops around 5:15-5:30 I told her I felt like I needed to push so she checked and was completely taken aback that I was now at 9 3/4 cm and really could have the baby at anytime. At this point she called the doc and told her to hurry and suited up just in case she needed to deliver. A respiratory specialist was called in just in case since the labor progressed way more quickly than they imagined it could (especially for a first time mom) and I had the morphine only about 4 hours before. The nurse kept having me breath through the contractions in order to resist pushing. It was probably the hardest thing to do and felt like hours even though it was probably only 20 minutes. About 5 till 6 our Doctor came running in. She tied up her hair with a big smile and asked how I was. Within minutes she was suited up and the bed was transitioned so I could push. We had already discussed with the doctor not wanting to push while being flat on my back since it is better to lessen the chances of tearing as well as quicken labor. Within minutes of pushing the doctor told me that she could already see the head and to keep on going. At 6:15 our little Sophia Grace was born. She was able to be immediately on my chest for some loving before being checked out. She had absolutely no respiratory issues and was as alert as could be. We had asked to delay the vitamin K shot and the eye ointment so in the meantime while waiting for the placenta to be delivered and for me to get some stitches (I had torn some) we just got to love on her.
We couldn't have asked for a better crew to work with in the hospital. We had several nurses that weren't assigned to us stop in and check out the "beautiful baby". We were told that she was the prettiest baby in L&D, which of course we are biased and agreed. She was born without a cone shaped head since she didn't sit in my pelvis for long and had the prettiest skin. Even though they were all so supportive of our plan and never once asked if I wanted pain medication everyone was very surprised that we made it without an epidural, Demerol etc. They were never intrusive or rude and just worked with our hopes and wishes. I actually felt very comfortable and relaxed in the environment despite labor pains. They were wonderful helping assist in nursing and teaching me about little tricks and tips which I really believe helped in me wanting to continue even with having to use a nursing shield. Not everyone has this experience in a hospital but we were truly blessed.