My husband Jay and I were lucky to have our close friend Shalini as our doula. She was with us in the days leading up to the birth. This was especially important in our situation as I ended up having a prodromal labor, which is labor that starts and stops before fully active labor begins. It’s often called “false labor,” but this is a poor description. Medical professionals recognize that the contractions are real, but they come and go and labor may not progress. Had it not been for our doula Shalini, we would have probably gone to the hospital way before my water actually broke but having her there to reassure us that everything was OK calmed us enough to stay home.
I started having contractions 3 days before I actually gave birth with the contractions getting stronger as the days progressed. On Wednesday, a week after my due date, I got acupuncture in the morning and started feeling some contractions in the evening - they were pretty light, felt similar to Braxton Hicks. Thursday afternoon I felt more Braxton-Hicks type contractions. On Thursday night, the contractions got stronger - they would consistently come every 15 minutes lasting about 1 minute and this went on the entire night. Friday morning the contractions subsided and at this point Shalini and I went out for a walk and bought a puzzle to keep my mind off the contractions. This was one of many tips I picked up from the birthing class - find an activity to distract you in early labor (it worked!). Friday afternoon I started getting contractions that were not as painful as Thursday night, but still uncomfortable. The puzzle helped keep my mind off of them.
Friday night, contractions followed the same pattern as the night before (coming every 15 minutes lasting about a minute) but this time stronger than Thursday night - it was a lonnnnngg night. Shalini and Jay took the late night shift to help me, my parents did the early AM shift. I would literally sleep for 15 minutes to then stand up and lean on someone to work through the contraction. After spending all night sleeping in intervals and then spending all of Saturday swaying through contractions during the morning and afternoon and finally having to stop doing the puzzle because the contractions got so strong, I was desperate for my water to break. Sure enough at 10 pm Saturday night, my water broke!
We were out of the house in 30 minutes and after that things progressed very quickly. Contractions were much more frequent and stronger in the car, I was vomiting and facing the back of the car, holding onto the seat while Shalini coached me to "ride the wave" and Jay nervously working his way across the Queensboro bridge and going crosstown through traffic while all this was happening in the back seat. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the hospital where they had me on a fetal monitor for 20 minutes to check on baby. At this point we still weren't sure if we would be admitted into the birth center (it wasn't a guarantee and depended on the baby and nurse staffing since it was on a different floor). After what seemed like forever the nurse came back to take me off the fetal monitor and check on me and discovered that I was 8 cm dilated! She was shocked that I was even able to stand and work through my contractions at 8 cm. This finally got the staff moving faster to get us into a room - the birth center room! The tub helped immensely, and looking back it was so nice to be able to labor in a private calm setting with my husband and friend. The toughest part of the entire experience was the transition period, contractions were the strongest and most frequent here and this was the point where I questioned my decision to go natural. My mind was in another world at this stage of labor, it felt sort of like a dream then I would snap out of it and realize I was at the hospital, laboring. But once this period passed (lasted about 1-1.5 hours), the rest was easy. I had a short period of calm after transition - which Shalini noted would be a tiny bit of rest my body was giving me before the pushing phase. Finally, I got that magical urge to push! This stage was also pretty quick - I believe I pushed for about a half hour.
My water broke at 10pm on Saturday and Vida was born on Sunday at 3:30 AM. The only issue we had was after Vida was born, instead of delivering the placenta, the delivering doctor pulled on the cord to try and pull the placenta out and it ended up tearing the placenta. Because of this she then had to use her hands to go back into my uterus to make sure there were no pieces of the placenta left inside my body. From what I'm heard after I gave birth, this is supposed to be very unpleasant but I think that the adrenaline was running high after Vida was delivered so I didn't feel too much discomfort. Nevertheless, the doctor had poor judgment in deciding to pull the placenta out instead of delivering. Looking back, I believe she did this because she was in a rush to finish but ultimately it prolonged everything since a sonogram tech had to be called up to double check that my uterus was placenta free. Another negative consequence of the placenta tearing was that I was given an antibiotic which I would have preferred not to have at all since I would be breastfeeding shortly after.
Besides the issue with the placenta, I had an amazing birth experience. Having Jay there to motivate me, console me, and work through the pain with me was an experience I could have never imagined. Having Shalini with us throughout was also very crucial, had she not been there I know we would have gone to the hospital days before and I would have most likely been induced which would have led to a very different birth story. Finally, birthing in the birth center allowed me the birth experience I desired. I was in an environment where I felt calm, and most importantly safe. It was also nice to not have to change rooms during our stay, and that Jay was allowed to stay the night, guests were unlimited and allowed 24/7 (this is not the case in labor and delivery). If I could do it over, would I have a natural vaginal birth again? Hands down yes! The two factors that stand out the most are in a birth center and with a doula.
I can't be sure, but I think the time I spent pushing was somewhere between half an hour to an hour. Baby was born at 1:16pm, less than two hours after we arrived at the hospital. Everything I had been feeling up until that moment was completely eclipsed by the relief and joy I felt finally pushing him out and when I was able to hold him for a few minutes, he was so warm and beautiful, before they needed to take him away to help his breathing by suctioning out his lungs and nose. My whole body was shaking and I needed to stay in the same position while the doctor stitched up my incision before I delivered the placenta (what a weird feeling that was! Also I feel like it took him FOREVER to stitch me up). Finally I got to hold my baby again, he was breathing easier and his eyes were open and relaxed. It was unreal.
All in all, it was not how I thought my first labor would go. It was unexpectedly fast, a lot of the preparations we had made weren't needed (distractions, playlists, laboring assistance (yoga mat, exercise ball)). I was convinced that at some point I would hit a wall and need Tom to talk me out of requesting an epidural, but I never hit it, and I'm not sure if it's because it happened quickly, or because I had mentally prepared well enough. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to deliver my baby without medication of any kind; the intense feelings following birth were unlike anything I've felt before.