I want to preface by saying that my opinions are on my labor alone. I throw judgement out the window when it has to do with labor and babies because every situation is so different and you have to do what works for you. So, just don't get offended, okay? I don't think epidurals are evil and if you want to eat your placenta then let me get you a glass of water. Enjoy.
I ended up being almost 2 weeks overdue—11 days to be exact. And it drove me absolutely crazy. We tried everything but Castor Oil. I walked at least 3 miles every day and a few evenings I “curb walked” (one foot on the curb) and jumped off small rocks. I tried to do lunges, but how pregnant women actually pull up from a lunge is a miracle to me. My mom and I drove the Connecticut Chocolate Trail and had truffles, salted caramels, and turtles for every meal.
I relaxed, I slept, I did jumping jacks and I walked up and down the stairs in our apartment building. I had heard from several people about a restaurant in Georgia that guarantees their Eggplant Parmesan will put you into labor within 48 hours of consumption or you get free Eggplant Parmesan until you go into labor. So, Wednesday night we ordered Eggplant Parmesan from a local Italian restaurant. Also, by that point I had resigned to the idea that this baby was going to come when he was ready and so be it if that meant I would be 42 weeks pregnant with no baby. I had two non-stress tests in the past week confirming that the baby and I were doing fine.
Well, Wednesday night I felt crampy as Joel and I were going to bed--but this had happened several nights in a row so I didn’t mention it to him. I was able to sleep through the night just fine but Thursday morning I started feeling contractions. It felt like this really deep, achy, tight pressure in my back and pelvis. I still didn’t say anything though because I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. My grandma and grandpa came over to have lunch and when my grandma looked at me she said, “Hmm, something is different about you. You look like a mother.”
I ignored the contractions through lunch and a shopping trip to Target, but by the time we got home I was getting tired. I finally let Joel and my mom know and then lied down to rest. Joel came home at 4pm and my contractions were consistent enough that we started timing them. I would only time the contractions an hour at a time because I didn’t want to obsess over it. I got into a warm bath to see if they would go away or pick up once I got out. Thankfully, they picked up. This was really happening! I had a plan for what I would do once labor officially “started.” First, I would take a nap. Well, it was a little too late because I couldn’t get myself to even close my eyes. I decided to move to step two and take a shower and do my hair. It takes at least an hour to blow dry, straighten and curl my hair (which is why I rarely do it) and that would help the time pass quickly. I was also determined to have good hair after I pushed that baby out. I know that seems so vain, and it is, but I put on 45 lbs. and got pregnancy acne so I wanted at least my hair to look nice for a picture. When Joel got home from playing soccer and I was finished getting ready we all sat on the bed and double-checked that we had everything packed for the birthing center—labor supplies, after-labor supplies, food, drinks, etc. Joel and my mom ran out to buy any last minute supplies and packed the car. I called the midwives’ office to let whomever was on-call know I had started labor. She said to call again when contractions were 4 – 5 minutes apart. Ready to go at the drop of a hat, we all decided to try and get what sleep we could.
I slept for about 2 hours but couldn’t stand lying down any longer. The contractions were so much easier to manage when I was up and walking. I labored that entire night in our moon lit kitchen by myself. During contractions I walked back and forth or leaned on the counters. Between contractions I sent texts to my sister or looked at Pinterest (I couldn’t read so it was my only distraction). By 5am the contractions were 4 minutes apart and getting more intense. I knew the contractions were getting stronger because the pain seemed to focalize into one point. I would feel a warm squeeze wrap around my lower back and get stronger and stronger as it traveled into my pelvis. The pain would reach its peak as all the pressure hit one point inside my pelvis (I envisioned that point as my cervix opening) and then everything relaxed outward. Many people call contractions “pressure waves” and they really do feel like waves coming and going. I also imagined them as a roller coaster ride—probably less relaxing of an image but that’s what I was reminded of. Anyway, my mom woke up and urged me to call Katie, the midwife on-call, (feeling paranoid because the birthing center is almost an hour away from my house) and she said I didn’t sound like I was ready to come in yet. So, we watched a documentary on French pastry chefs while I labored some more. By 7am the contractions were 3 – 4 minutes apart. To manage the intensity of the pain I would squat while holding onto door frames or the baby’s dresser. I started to cry a little bit, not because of the pain but because I was getting tired and wanted to get to the birthing center. Finally, I called Katie again and she told me to come in and get checked. Laboring in the car was just like laboring lying down. I couldn’t move during the contractions so they were much harder to get through. I had 5 pillows supporting and surrounding me in the car so I did my best to close my eyes and just relax into them. It was a rough drive. When we got to the birthing center, Katie checked me to see if I was ready to be admitted. They usually admit someone when they’re about 4cm dilated. She checked my cervix (making sure to check the right one because I have two!) and I was only at a one. 17 hours of labor and only 1 cm dilated.
I knew long before this that because of my didelphic uterus there was a chance I wouldn’t dilate. Once the midwife told me I was only 1 cm dilated I was at least somewhat hopeful that my cervix had done something. At the same time I couldn’t help feeling discouraged and embarrassed. Since they couldn’t let me stay, I could either labor around town or drive another hour back home. I didn’t really like laboring in front of Joel and my mom (I preferred being alone) so the last thing I wanted to do was be out in public. I remember going through this scenario beforehand and thinking, “If I’m not ready to be admitted, then I’ll just walk around the mall!” Ha ha ha… oh, Sara. So back home we went, and apparently it took us two hours because we were stuck in rush hour traffic but I don’t remember any of it.
The next 9 hours I labored again at home. The majority of the time my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, lasting at least a minute or two and very intense. I walked back and forth, and back and forth, across our apartment. I tried to lie down but that still wasn’t my thing. I was so exhausted but staying still made the contractions practically unbearable. I was able to kneel down on top of my bed and hunch over a few pillows while hanging onto my headboard. That was the only way I could rest during contractions. When I got too tired to walk by myself, I would hold onto Joel’s or my mom’s shoulders. We walked the length of our apartment dozens of times, back and forth…back and forth. During the most intense contractions I would walk until the pain made me stop and then I would wrap my arms around Joel’s neck and hang there. Those were the only times I actually made noise. Usually I would just retreat inward and be very quiet, but during the worst of the contractions my breathing turned into a sort of howling-whimpering noise. It sounds awful, but the pain didn’t feel like anything I’d experienced before because it felt right. It felt like my body was doing something good and natural. When I had gallbladder attacks (which were worse than labor) my body felt sick and tortured. Labor is not easy and it can get really painful, but our bodies are strong and it amazed me how well mine could handle something so intense. I didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to endure unnecessary pain either—it just felt right. That’s the best way I can explain it. Also, the time seemed to fly by even though I was in labor for so dang long.
My mom was sure I was about to have the baby any minute, but I refused to get into the car because I did not want to be turned away again. At that point I was totally happy with having my baby at home. Finally, she and Joel convinced me that we needed to head to the birthing center before we hit rush hour traffic. We left the house around 4:30pm. I had my window rolled down the entire ride because I felt so hot. The cool breeze was a godsend. Hypnobabies wasn’t helping me (I will explain why later) but what did was the music of the The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I can’t explain how immediate the feeling of peace washed over me when the music came on. I wanted labor and birth to be a spiritual experience and their music helped set that tone. We arrived at the birthing center at 6pm. The midwives had switched shifts and now my favorite one, Cathy, was on-call for the weekend. A tender mercy, no doubt. She has assisted two other births where the mothers had didelphic uteruses—experience that no other doctor I’ve met has—plus she is the head midwife of the practice and she and I share very similar attitudes about birth. We came into the office and she hooked me up to the monitor to measure the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. Everything looked great. Then she checked me—which is the most uncomfortable thing someone can do to you during labor, by the way. I was not expecting to hear what I heard next. She told me I was only 1 cm dilated. 28 hours of labor and only 1 cm dilated.