The births of my girls were as different as night and day. Ivy was my night birth, born on June 30, 2001.
I woke up for a bathroom break at 12:30am, at 39 weeks. I felt warm water running down my leg and confirmed that it wasn't just the effects of an over-stressed bladder. We paged the midwife and she requested that we come down to the clinic to check fetal heart tones and confirm that the water had indeed broken. After a short visit she told us to head home and get some sleep before labour started! Not much of a possibility when you're hopped up on adrenaline, giggly and more than a little nervous. We did sleep a bit in the end.
By morning contractions hadn't really started although I gushed copious amounts of water at random intervals. We took advantage of the hot weather and headed down to the nearest beach to wade in the water. I still only half believed it was happening but was also wondering when it was going to kick in.
Shortly after lunch I had a few distracting contractions but was fairly social until 2:30. By 3:30 contractions were 2-3 and a half minutes apart and lasting 35-50 seconds. Technically irregular but pretty frequent as far as I was concerned. I was rather uncomfortable already and experimented with various positions but it seemed to be best if I moved less. By 4:30 I hit the tub where I found some relief although it was obviously getting more intense. The midwives arrived around this time I think and officially labelled it the beginning of "active labour".
My memory may not be right, but I'm pretty sure that at this point Ivy was "sunny side up". She managed to rotate herself in time for the trip out - does anyone know if that might have slowed things down? That may also be the reason I didn't feel relaxed or comfortable even between contractions. Mental note to ask the midwife. (she says yes, it can slow things down and make it harder between contractions although it didn't cause problems during my labour)
I wondered often how long it would go on and how I'd be able to stand it. Other than being dehydrated the midwives said that both baby and I were doing great. One of them was kind enough to say I looked like a goddess as I laboured in the tub. I made a colourful side comment to Jer at that point about how I actually felt (which wasn't remotely related to a goddess). He was nice enough to make a note of the exchange for posterity.
Throughout the labour I didn't want much attention although I vaguely resented the pizza party I knew was taking place upstairs. I found that any kind of backrubs etc. increased the sensations and made it harder. Jer was great at adapting to what I needed, which was basically for him to be fully "there" with me. The midwife was also fabulous, occasionally offering quiet suggestions but always betwen contractions and never in a pushy or directive way.
6pm? I lost all sense of time but I know I spent a long time leaning on the bathroom counter, rocking my hips and throwing in an occasional squat when I could bear to do it. I threw up a few times and got a nasty case of the shakes. I thought I was in transition and got excited about my progress. Guess not.
Sometime in the early evening (I think) they checked my dilation for the first time. I was 5cm and 85% effaced. This knowledge had the effect of me wanting to bash my head against the wall hard enough to pass out. I had been working at it for hours, several of which were a lot more than I thought I could ever deal with already. I gave up. Lots of times. Funny thing is, labour didn't stop. The gears kept grinding and all I was aware of was that the only way to make it go away was through it, not away from it.
Here's a plug for home birth (or the terror of it, depending on your point of view). If I'd been in the hospital without the comforts of a familiar home with strange people attending me, I would have most certainly accepted any drug at that point. Legal or not. At the time it may have been bliss but on the other hand I did manage to make it on my own after I thought I couldn't. There were no uncomfortable side effects to wear off and the baby wasn't doped up. It made me feel powerful and I got the full benefit of the euphoria later.
9pm? At some point I registered that the sunlight was fading and was shocked that time was still passing. This labour thing seemed to be both endless and timeless. I took a long, nasty shower. I didn't know at the time that I was at the peak of pain and intensity and I whined at the midwife, asking her if it would ever end. Much to her credit she answered me politely and took it in stride. I was physically and mentally beat.
10pm? I plunked myself down on the nearest seating which happened to be the toilet. Oddly it was the perfect place. Over the course of about an hour my contractions started spacing out and I started to feel involuntary little pushes. I got my dilation checked again only to find I was full except for a swollen lip of the cervix that the baby had been pushing against. The exam was painful but nothing compared to the feeling of the midwife pushing back on the lip while I pushed. I think I almost passed out. In any case it turned out to be more successful than either of us had expected.
11pm-12:30am. Learning the pushing thing. I was totally wiped and had no urge to push anymore. The contractions were so much easier to deal with I honestly wanted to take a nap. In retrospect, I probably should have rested for a while, rather than trying to push right away. At some point the midwife explained that I was pushing the baby down each time but not holding her there between pushes so she kept sliding back up. Back and forth. From that point on I would say I made progress with a vengeance. Apologies to Ina May (whom I greatly respect and admire) and the "birth as bliss" folk, but it honestly had little to do with bringing a lovely child into the world at that time, it was about making the hell go away as quickly as possible. I felt and sounded more and more like an angry moose. Jer knows that the best way to get me to do anything hard is to get me mad. I hit that point and pushed HARD.
When Ivy's head crowned I remember thinking what a joke that whole stinging thing was - it seemed so insignificant compared to all the other sensations. Just one more push and those shoulders should slide right out. Or not. Ivy made another half rotation before she decided to show us the little hand beside her head. After that it was still a lot of effort to get those shoulders out. (It wasn't bad enough to be "shoulder dystocia" but the midwife did call it "sticky shoulders".) Ivy's head came out a deep shade of blue and she took almost a half minute to breathe on her own. I was oblivious and saw only her eyes. I would have sworn she started screaming immediately and was pink within seconds. When she weighed in at 8lbs, 15 oz and I saw the video of how her little hand was in a strange spot the long pushing seemed to make more sense.
The placenta and one stitch seemed kind of insulting after all the hard work and I already had a baby in my arms but it was minor. The relief from the stress of labour was immediate and overwhelming. I went back to giggling and delerious. After everything was cleaned up and the midwives had gone home Jer and I looked at each other in terror and awe as we realized that we were essentially on our own with a small human to care for. We were so tired, totally clueless and laughing at the bizarreness of it all.
Learning to breastfeed Ivy would be another long, painful post that I'll save for a very rainy day. The short of it is that it was that after two weeks of brutal effort with intense support and another month of working hard we hit that sweet spot and then made it successfully to 19 months.