To start at the beginning, we had decided pretty early on in the pregnancy to use midwives and have the baby at the Princeton/Plainsboro hospital. Throughout the pregnancy and going to our prenatal visits and birthing classes, we fell in love with our midwife group. They were 4 wonderful women whose only goal was to care for you and empower you to do whatever you wanted to and to help educate you in those decisions. They were all so warm and caring and made us both feel so comfortable.
I was pretty flexible in what I wanted for the labor and delivery: I knew I wanted to try to have the baby unmedicated, but I was also not opposed to an epidural if I felt I needed one. For that reason, Wes and I discussed creating a code word, that only he and I knew, that meant "I'm not joking around, I want an epidural." and we asked in our written birth plan that no nurses offer it to me - I would let them know if I wanted one. Our code word was "Barry Bonds" cause…you know…he cheated by taking steroids… ;)
I went to sleep friday night Oct. 25th smiling at Wes. I said to him "Our baby is coming soon!" (as I had lost the mucus plug 2 days earlier) but I had no idea it would be early that next morning. A few nights before I went into labor I remember pondering the impending birth. I felt an incredible sense of peace and calmness about labor and delivery. "Maybe I'm just naive," I kept telling Wes "But I don't feel scared or nervous about this. I just feel so much peace around me."
At 3:00am I woke to my water breaking. I rushed to the bathroom and yelled "Wes! I'm pretty sure my water just broke!!" "It did?!" He said half asleep. I got our midwife group on the phone and Ursula was on call at that time. "Do you have contractions?" she asked. "Not yet." "Well, try to get a few hours of sleep and call back when your contractions start. You need your energy!"
I got about an hour of sleep before my contractions started at 4:00am. They were very mild at that point so I nudged Wes "Hey…my contractions started…but go back to sleep." (I knew I needed him to have energy to help me when they started getting difficult.) I rested but timed my contractions for 2 hours before waking Wes up. At that point the contractions were still very manageable but I needed help timing them. They were roughly 8 minutes a part lasting for 45 seconds and as the time went on became very inconsistent. 5 minutes a part, 8 minutes a part, 10 minutes a part, 6…ect. We were told by our midwives throughout the pregnancy to wait until the contractions were 5 minutes a part lasting for a minute for 2 hours before coming into the hospital - they are big advocates that you are most comfortable in your home so to stay there as long as possible if you want a natural birth.
Soon after my 6:00am contractions, I tried laboring in different rooms and in different positions but eventually found my sweet spot: I labored a good 8 hours in our master bathroom. I stacked all our pillows up and leaned over it with my arms crossed to lay my head on, and was on my knees. We called it my "birthing fort".
|The Birthing Fort|
At each contraction, I swayed back and forth and instinctually made tonal sounds to get through the contractions (Wes said later that he considered recording the sounds because he said "they sounded pretty" and later, after my boy was born, I whispered to him "I sang you out") with each contraction getting stronger I would tell myself that each one would bring me closer to my baby. It was actually quite amazing, because at times I could actually feel my baby wiggle and move into position. We were doing this together. It is such a beautiful miracle that my body and my baby know what to do. I just had to trust both.
Wes was a phenomenal partner for me during labor, and I have never felt closer to him. He would sweetly guide me through each contraction. At this point from about 10:30am - 12:00pm the contractions were 5 minutes a part lasting for a minute so he knew as he was keeping track of them what the time frame would be. He would gently tell me at the 30 second mark "Okay, you are half way done, you can do this," and as it neared the minute mark he would say "You are almost done. Do you feel it trailing off? It's fading away now…" Our rhythm and routine of getting through these contractions made it easy to cope, even though the pain was increasing. Around 12:00pm the contractions started to become inconsistent again ranging from 3 minutes a part to 8 minutes a part but mostly 5 minutes a part so I had Wes call our midwife (Carolyn was now the midwife on call) and told her the timing of the contractions and that we were thinking about heading to the hospital because the pain was increasing to where it was almost unbearable. "Well…" she said "If your goal is an unmedicated birth I'd really like her to stay there longer…until they are 3 minutes a part consistently. Why don't you try getting into your bath and see if that helps."
I had heard over and over again that for the first birth, you should expect to labor for 24 hours, and I had known several recent births that went 30+ hours. I kept thinking to myself "If I get to the hospital and I am only a few centimeters dilated, I really want an epidural" if only for endurance sake. I was coping well, but at that point I had only been in labor for 9 hours. I couldn't imagine twice or three times as long.
I wasn't particularly happy about hearing that she wanted me to stay home longer, as the pain was increasing, but Wes drew me a bath as I worked through a few more contractions. I got into the tub and after a few minutes the next contraction came…and I NEEDED TO PUSH. I actually had to stop my body from pushing because it instinctually starting bearing down. "Uhhh Wes…I think I have to push." Wide eyed he said "DON'T DO THAT!" I had another contraction with same feeling of needing to push. Wes called the midwife and told her about my urge to push. "Why don't you just come on down then." she said. As I started to get out of the bath I said our code word. "Wes, I'm Barry Bondsing it right now. If she checks me and I'm only 4 centimeters, I want an epidural." "Ok…" Wes said. Though he says now he didn't believe me. I had labored through contractions for 9 hours peacefully at home, and we were now headed off to the hospital.
At 1:00pm we arrived. After some difficulties getting registered in at the hospital, finally at 1:30pm my midwife arrived. She had me lay on the hospital bed to check my dilation. "Amanda..." she said, "You are fully dilated" My eyes got big. "I am?!" "Yep, you are 10cm, station 2 and I feel your baby. You don't have to breathe through your contractions anymore. You can push any time you want." I was able to push when I wanted, as many times as my body felt like it needed to, and hold it as long as my body wanted to. The midwife trusted my body, and so did I.
Carolyn, our midwife, was so wonderful! Her words were so encouraging, telling me that each push was moving my baby closer. She would shout "beautiful!" at my pushes, and it made me feel like I was so powerful!
My baby and I worked together, and I pushed for an hour before my sweet boy was born at 2:48pm. 11 hours after my contractions started. They put him immediately on me, skin to skin. I had my eyes closed as I pushed that last push, so for a minute after they laid him on me I still had them closed, just feeling him in my arms. I opened them and saw those sweet eyes looking up at me. "Hi, baby." I whispered to him over and over again. I also kept looking at Wes and saying "I did it!" it utter disbelief. Henry barely cried when he came out, he really just grunted and whimpered, which he still does now at 5 week old. I was able to have Henry on my chest for 45 minutes, and many of the newborn procedures were done while I held him.
My birth was such a beautiful experience. I knew I wanted to try to have him naturally, but in the back of my head I was never sure of myself. But I did it. We did it. All three of us. My birth has changed me in ways I still can't articulate. I felt empowered and confident. I was able to let go of the fear of child birth, and see that it is the best pain I could ever go through. It was perfect. And it was the best day of my life.
|My sweet boy|
|Henry Wayne Ellis 7lbs 10oz 19.75in|
|The day we were released from the hospital|