Penelope’s way into this world starts literally days before her actual arrival, which was just greeeeat. Lol. Early Friday morning around 3 a.m. I had my first bout of “false” labor, contractions every 7-10 minutes. I really thought that it was the day with the upcoming full moon and all so I got up around 6 and did my hair & make up all in time for my contractions to… STOP! Ugh! Good thing though, because when I had my appt with my midwife, Darlene, that afternoon we found that I had quite a spike in my b/p, eek! To combat it we started me on calcium-magnesium 3 times a day, lots of protein & water, and rest! It worked great and I was once again ready for labor to start. Great for me I had a repeat of Thursday night on Friday night and the next night and the next night AND the next night! Only Monday night/Tuesday morning they didn’t stop! YAY right?… WRONG! I had contractions every 10-15 minutes from Tuesday 3 a.m. until I finally kicked into active labor on WEDNESDAY!
This time was different though because around 9 p.m. DH and I decided we should check to see if I had made any progress. There wasn’t any difference, BUT I did lose my mucus plug… per DH’s hand! BWAHAHA (Totally tmi but it was hilarious to see his face!) From there my contractions continued so I called Darlene to give her an update. She told me that when I got to the infamous 5-1-1 to give her a call and she’d head our way. Well all through the night my contractions picked up, got closer, got stronger, but never got to the 5-1-1. I did my best to rest between them and would get up, sit on the side of the bed, and hum through them because lying just hurt too much. Around 6am Darlene called me back to let me know she was going to go ahead and head our way since she was 2 hours away. It was finally starting to feel real! DH and I decided to go ahead and get up to get things ready. He got everything cleaned and got the pool set-up while I rested in between contractions on the couch on all 4’s with my head rested on the arm swaying my hips through the contractions that were now about 6 minutes apart…. Days of not having adequate sleep had me quite tired. This continued for quite some time, all the way up until Darlene got to us around 10.
YAY, time for a cervical check! I was 2cm and 50% effaced. Not nearly as much progress as we had all hoped BUT it was still progress. At this point Darlene told another MW that was coming, Liz, that she could go ahead and make the other stops she needed because we were going to rest. I headed upstairs and tried to get some sleep for a little while. After about an hour I decided rest wasn’t really working so I headed back downstairs. It was about this time that Liz came by and we spent some time all chatting while I sat on my birthing ball through contractions. I started getting hungry so I had some good ol’ pb&j with some milk. It sounded good at the time but the peanut butter didn’t exactly settle with me well. Ugh, nausea in labor is no good! The next couple of hours were pretty relaxed and we chatted while I hummed through contractions that were about 7 minutes apart and just over a minute long (my contractions stayed pretty spaced out the majority of my labor). About mid afternoon all three of us decided that a nap would probably be a good idea since none of us had really slept the night before and we were looking as a long day. DH took this time to go grocery shopping so we wouldn’t have to worry about it later. My contractions were nice too and spaced out to 10-12 minutes apart… Looking back now I’m so glad that I didn’t stress about my contractions not “cooperating” and rested while I still could.
After DH got back from the store Darlene came up and checked me about 4:30…. I was now at 3cm. Still slow progress, but we were all glad to see that even with contractions spacing out I was continuing to dilate. I decided to go back to resting since my contractions were still spaced out. (I wanted to take advantage while I could) It was while I was trying to rest this time that I REALLY found out how much contraction are TERRIBLE while laying down and remember thinking to myself “No wonder women cave & get pain meds!”… every contraction I would literally jump up either on my hands & knees or in a child’s pose/frog position. After about an hour I decided that my sleep/jump up/sleep/jump up cycle was enough so I decided to get up.
Darlene thought that this would be a good time to show Liz how to use a rebozo to get baby into better position, which was REALLY neat and felt great! I laid down on it has Darlene shifted my weight from one side to the other until Penelope was nice and straight right down the center of my tummy. Then I went back to resting, well at least tried. It wasn’t long after lying down though that my contractions kicked up their intensity level and I found myself up out of bed and running to the bathroom… this was the first time I threw up since the dreaded first trimester morning sickness. UGH! The good thing though is the next time I got checked at 6:30 I was FINALLY at 4cm and I was officially in “active” labor…. it only took some 37 hours! On the downside my blood pressure was elevated again, so we started combating it again with the calcium-magnesium spray. From here on out each contraction definitely took more concentration but once it was over I was able to get back to chatting with Darlene & Liz. This is also when we let our family know that I was officially in labor!
The next couple of hours things picked up and keeping track of time definitely went out the window at this point! (Thankfully Darlene was charting everything so I could reference later or I wouldn’t be able to write this) The next time that Darlene checked my vitals my blood pressure was still elevated so she wanted me to get some protein in me since I hadn’t eaten in quite awhile. I managed a few bites from a protein bar and 2 boiled eggs before my stomach warned me if I had anymore it wouldn’t be staying down. After eating I texted a few friends to start praying for my blood pressure again and also texted my mom telling her I would feel so much better if a couple of our friends from church, T & D, would come pray over me. A few contractions later Darlene suggested that I go take a bath with some magnesium flakes and Epsom salt to further help my blood pressure… it was about 7:30 at this point.
The water felt AMAZING and I recall telling DH that quite a few times! Since I couldn’t get completely submerged DH poured water over my belly through each contraction…. Oh it was heaven! Shortly after getting into the tub my mom arrived with my other little one and she poked her head in to see how things were going….. I told her the water was AMAZING too! 8:30, time for another vitals and cervical check…. I was a whopping 5 cm & my blood pressure was coming down! I stayed in the tub for a bit longer and then my mom poked her head in to let DH and I know that T & D had arrived and were ready to come up and pray over me so I needed to get out and get moving around again.
I didn’t make it to moving very far though and headed to the bed where I got back to my hands and knees & leaning over. T & D headed up and I let them know between contractions that I was so happy they were able to come by and to not mind me if I made any moans or anything through contractions. As T started praying D, his wife, came over to where I was and rubbed my back. It was one of the most amazing moments of my entire birth experience. Not long after T & D left, the contractions got incredibly intense with only about a minute of rest between each and I threw up again. I thought to myself, “Okay, now I hate life…….. this is transition”. Hands and knees position wasn’t working anymore & I found myself leaning over DH putting all my weight on him so I could use all my energy to concentrate. I started to vocalize A LOT more as well…. I thought to myself a couple times that I must be hurting DH’s ear from practically yelling in it each contraction. I went from leaning on him while kneeling on the bed to standing and neither was giving me much relief. I let mom know that I was ready to get in the pool and to start getting it warm again. In the meantime I headed back to the tub.
This time the tub wasn’t nearly as heavenly but it still helped TREMENDOUSLY. DH did a wonderful job helping me through each contraction despite my very short and sharp directions I was giving. I couldn’t talk between contractions anymore and found myself zoning in to my worship music and singing when I could. I also prayed, well kinda yelled, that I desperately needed a break. Thankfully the time between the next contraction was just over 5 minutes….. even so I thought that I really wasn’t ready for the next contraction even though I knew it had to come. Around this time (9:20 to be exact) I recall getting checked again and only being ABOUT 7 cm….. of course I had to hit transition at 7 cm as opposed to 8. It was also at this time that Penelope’s heart rate started getting a bit high through contractions. Discouragement definitely started to set in at this point and I wondered if I was ever going to get in the birth pool. L suggested that I head down that way but mom said it still wasn’t warm and I refused to get out of the tub and go anywhere but straight to the pool.
I started feeling like it had been forever and I needed a change so I headed downstairs before the pool was quite ready. Everyone was doing their job to get things prepared: Mom was boiling water, Darlene was getting her supplies out, Liz was keeping a watchful eye on my & Penelope’s heart rate, and DH was at a constant arms length away (I didn’t let him go very far once I hit transition). I had a few contractions standing while leaning on DH and that was about all I could take… I headed to the pool even though it still wasn’t all that warm. Ahhhhhhhhhh, water! Liz continued to monitor Penelope’s heart rate while Darlene got everything ready. Still high through contractions and now it was also high between them. Darlene was starting to get concerned, especially since I was having more and more trouble concentrating and breathing through contractions. Darlene gave me some Oxygen and checked me hoping that we’d be able to start pushing. I was finally a good 9 cm, but my cervix was also getting swollen and I had an “anterior lip”.
At this moment I think it’s safe to say I officially threw my hands up and declared that I couldn’t do anymore and that I wanted to go to the hospital (even knowing this meant I was having a cesarean). The next few minutes got to be really hard and I was having a alot trouble staying positive and calm. Everyone continued encouraging me to breathe deep and Darlene told me to try squatting or laying on my side in the pool to help my cervix. I wasn’t very compliant at this point because I was really struggling moving around at all so Darlene had me get out of the pool and onto the couch on my hands and knees so she could try massaging some natural oils on my cervix to help the swelling. We tried for a minute but I was having a harder and harder time concentrating and started getting really discouraged. At 11:15 we decided that it would be best for me to go ahead and make the transfer due to the lip, my blood pressure and Penelope’s heart rate.
The minutes following the decision felt like some of the longest minutes of my life and I’ll be completely honest that I was devastated despite me asking to go. Darlene was calling ahead to the hospital & to an O.B. in the area that agreed to be on standby for us, Dr. W.
I was more than ready to leave and get this over with. At one point I told my mom that I didn’t need any clothes and just wanted to get in the car already. My logic told me since I was going to have to strip and get into a gown at the hospital anyways what was the point of me trying to put ON clothes while I was in the middle of transition contractions. Thankfully my mom didn’t let me walk out of the house naked and made me put some shorts and a tank on, shoes never made it to my feet though. Lol. Darlene gave DH the information we’d need to relay to the nurses and we got on our way. The car ride didn’t seem all that long, but I did continually pray for the contractions to stop since in my mind I no longer needed them, again the logic of a woman in transition.
As soon as we got to the hospital the nurses were waiting to get me registered and prepped for surgery. I immediately said, “Give me something for pain; I don’t need to feel these anymore!” When I was told that I couldn’t have anything but an epidural because I was already 9-10cm I wasn’t exactly a happy camper considering I knew that getting an epi would take time and well I wanted to stop feeling contractions like yesterday! Lol. Everything after getting in my room got very foggy, I was completely engrossed in dealing with contractions and paid little attention to who was there and what was going on. The nurses asked me the needed questions to get me in the computer, got me hooked up to the monitors, and took the necessary lab work to prep me. They also kept turning me from side to side which was really annoying because Penelope’s heart rate kept dropping and they needed to keep adjusting the monitor. It felt like I was having contractions practically on top of each other at this point and I was feeling A LOT of pressure! I remember the girl from the lab going to stick me right as a contraction was starting, my hand gripped on the bed rail, and me snapping at her very forcefully asking if she could please, “WAIT?!” Not my finest moment, but I’m sure that no one blamed me.
Just about this time I felt my contractions change and I started bearing down. Pushing was something that I was trying to avoid doing though because last I had heard my cervix was swollen and I didn’t want to injure myself internally. After 4 or 5 contractions like this I started to feel a slight burning internally and vocalized to Darlene that I felt like I needed to push, still trying not to out of fear. (I found out later that being turned from one side to the other helped the swelling of my cervix go down.) Sure enough when the nurses looked they saw Penelope’s head come down and then go back up. Liz and Darlene stepped in at this point and gave me some last, very much needed, words of encouragement before the nurses took me off to surgery. Liz came over to my right side and told me “Now the nurses can’t tell you this, but I can, and you could push your baby out.” and Darlene followed on my left side telling me, “You can push your baby out if you want to Amnysti, the next contraction you have if you feel like you need to push you push. Put your chin to your chest and you puuuuuuuush your baby out”. Next minute the nurses said they were ready to go.
It was 12:08 when the nurses started wheeling me toward the O.R. I remember going down the hall and around a corner with DH following behind us when the next contraction started coming on. Still laying on my left side I gave into my fear of pushing, I beared down, and pushed as hard as I could…. this was my last chance. Still being wheeled down the hall I saw the doors to the O.R. and felt my contraction starting to pass so I pushed harder and started to feel Penelope’s head which I yelled out, “I feel the head, somebody hold my leg!” The nurses lifted the cover and sure enough “She’s crowning!” Right then at 12:14 only 6 minutes from the time I left the room, I pushed Penelope out with one long push just inches from the O.R door…. in the HALLWAY!
Immediately I felt like a completely different person. I was awake, felt completely rested, and was overwhelmed with a very calm and collected demeanor. I didn’t get my immediate STS, but since we were in the middle of the hall and there were no clamps or scissors around I most certainly got delayed cord clamping! They rubbed Penelope a bit to get her moving and she started to cry! It was the best sound in the world. The nurses went ahead and wheeled me into the O.R. to get Penelope and I cleaned up and it was officially announced that we had a baby girl!
Right about that time Dr. W came in saying, “Did she do it?!” and put her hands up in joy for me and my VBAC. It was such a surreal moment! Everyone was excited and the nurses were all very acceptant of my many apologies for having been snappy back in the room… They assured me that I did great considering I was unmedicated and they had heard worse. The nurses continued to clean up Penelope while Dr. W checked to see if I had any “damage” that needed repair. Thankfully I had zero tearing with just a small scrape that stopped bleeding when a bit of pressure was put on it. Because Penelope was born with a slight fever she needed to go to the NICU to be observed so Dr. W went ahead and suggested giving me a small amount of Pitocin since I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed to promote my uterus to contract… We both agreed that was the best option with my very tired uterus.
As they took me back to my room I remember thinking just before entering, “I know no one is going to expect me back yet… this is great!” Everyone was immediately thrilled to see me so soon having avoided another cesarean and that Penelope and I were doing well! I couldn’t believe it myself, and as great as I felt I told Darlene that I couldn’t wait till next time since I had officially had a successful vbac! She told me to just worry about my new baby and we’d get to the next one later. LOL. When Penelope was brought back to the room she came ready to eat, looking like a little bird opening and closing her mouth. She latched great and my already ample supply of colostrum made for a great first breastfeeding session. I seriously couldn’t have asked for a more amazing birth. I got the wonderful experience of being home and a great experience with a supportive hospital team… definitely the best of both worlds and I can’t wait till next time when I get to go for a homebirth again!