As Rachel and I began to think more about her pregnancy and the approaching birth, we considered the various methods and techniques of childbirth today. Throughout her pregnancy, our desire was to make the best choices for Rachel’s health and the health of the baby. After being introduced to the Bradley method by friends, we researched it on our own and promptly signed up for classes. We felt pursuing an unmedicated birth would be the best start for the baby and was the most compatible with our convictions of faith. Rachel’s knowledge in health and health education helped reinforce the merits of natural childbirth.
During our 12 weeks of classes we learned about good nutrition during pregnancy, exercise, the stages of labor, what a labor coach does, and how to be a great labor coach, how to relax during labor, and so much more. Rachel was diligent to eat well, exercise often, and to practice relaxation. We determined that staying at home as long as possible during labor would be the best way to avoid any unnecessary medical interventions.
There were no complications during the course of Rachel’s pregnancy and we were excitedly awaiting the arrival of our baby. We also chose to wait until Baby Super’s birthday to find out if he was a he, or if she was a she, so our anticipation was great.
Rachel started having contractions on a Friday afternoon that continued throughout the weekend, but were not intense and increased our anticipation of the big day. On Monday morning, Rachel woke up and cleaned the house with a vengance and did laundry too. By noon, the contractions were getting quite strong and Rachel thought “this could finally be it!” We tried to walk a bit during lunch, but it was getting hard and it was really cold outside. We visited our neighbor and bought some Girl Scout Cookies from her daughter. Mmm, mmm good.
As Monday afternoon progressed, the contractions got stronger and I left work to help at about 4:30. We continued to work through the contractions together using the relaxation techniques we learned in class. We ate dinner during this time. We even watched a movie together that evening too, which helped relax Rachel and pass some time. The contractions continued to come about 4 minutes apart and were lasting at least a minute. They were hard work, but manageable. At about 11 p.m., we decided to get in bed and see if we could sleep. This may not have been the best idea because Thomas started having a hard time staying awake and we both gradually began to doze off between contractions. At about 3 a.m., Rachel’s contractions had lessened to the point of active relaxation and coaching wasn’t needed. Rachel decided to walk around the house and see if labor would progress. After 20 minutes of walking, Rachel’s contractions became less intense and farther apart, so she decided to get in bed and rest.
We both slept until about 7 a.m. and Rachel woke up to use the bathroom and noticed a bit of bleeding — a sign of labor progressing! A few minutes later Rachel’s water broke – not a gush like movies portray, but just a slow trickle. We were definitely in active labor. We decided to take showers and clean up a bit from our long night. Contractions started back up right where they left off the night before, lasting at least a minute and coming 3-4 minutes apart. I fixed Rachel breakfast and she ate it while she dried her hair. As soon as she finished, contractions began coming one on top of another and increased dramatically in intensity. Rachel labored in bed for a handful of contractions. At this point, I realized we were getting close to, if not already in transition and began loading our remaining bags into the car and getting ready to go to the hospital. Rachel started feeling nausea and, for the first time, started doubting her ability to labor. From these signs, I knew without a doubt transition was upon us. And while classes prepared us to deliver the baby at home or even in the car, we both preferred that not to happen! Rachel’s nausea helped her to throw up in the kitchen sink on the way out the door.
We arrived at the hospital around 9 a.m. and Rachel was changed and in the labor and delivery room bed at 9:30 a.m. I went to move the car which was gratuitously illegally parked in front of St. Joseph emergency room. During this time Rachel signed many papers she doesn’t remember and the excellent nurses examined her, hooked her to an external fetal monitor and were also surprised to find that she was already around 7 or 8 centimeters dilated. As soon as I got back into the room, the nurse reexamined Rachel and saw that she was fully dilated, except for one side of her cervix, so we labored through a couple of contractions in a side-lying position to help that part of the cervix thin out. After about 15 total contractions since arriving at the hospital, Rachel began to feel the urge to push with the contractions. She waited to do so for a couple of contractions until the nurse returned to the room, which was excruciatingly difficult. Once the nurse, Paulette, returned Rachel began pushing with the contractions and after a couple of contractions our doctor, Dr. Bonds, arrived. After about 30 minutes of pushing and 8-12 contractions we had a baby boy! Bud was born at 11:04 a.m. Tuesday, February 7th, 2006, not even two hours after arriving at the hospital.
During the pushing stage our nurse Paulette was a great help – she helped remind Rachel how to push and was more stern than I was able to be at that point – otherwise we may have been pushing much longer. Our doctor and nurse were fully on board with our Birth Plan (which we had provided to them weeks in advance and again that day) and helped us accomplish our goals for the birth. Dr. Bonds helped avoid an episiotomy by stretching Rachel slightly as she pushed. This wasn’t pleasant and Rachel pleaded with Dr. Bonds to stop. After hearing Dr. Bonds’ explanation, Rachel felt she had been harsh with her (which she hadn’t) and apologized. Hardly the out of control picture of labor generally portrayed! Rachel ended up with a first degree tear and about 8 stitches. Bud was immediately placed on Rachel’s chest and he stayed with us for over around an hour and a half, even enjoying his first nursing session. He was a pro from the start.
Our birth experience was wonderful and while difficult, was enjoyable. Rachel says it was hard work and painful at times, but totally worth it. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters Rachel had shooting hip pain. The baby or something must have been pressuring the sciatic nerve on her right side. This produced a lot of pain and discomfort, the worst of which came during transition and the pushing contractions. This was the most painful aspect of labor and without it, the intensity of pushing contractions would have been even more manageable. Our doctor and all the attending nurses at St. Joseph’s were excellent and helpful. We especially appreciated Paulette’s help and encouragement. It was a joy to see many of the nurses excited to be a part of a natural birth because they don’t get to see them very often.