Speaking of which, here's my biggest advice to a new mother: SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. This is not easy to do because you feel like you have so much to do or even just downtime to enjoy. However, you pay for it later when the little booger won't go to sleep for four hours, and it's usually during key sleep hours like 1 - 4 a.m. Ah the joys of a newborn, but it really is all worth it.
If you've been reading my blog, I had been having contractions for a few weeks off and on before the delivery date, which was May 26. On May 25, the baby's due date, I began having contractions at 2 p.m., but more consistently and stronger than before. I pondered, could this baby have impeccable timing and arrive on the predicted date, a feat only a small percentage of newborns accomplish? She's already an overachiever!
The contractions continued to vary the entire day she was due - between 10-15 minutes and about 30-45 seconds a piece. However, they never sped up. By 10 p.m., I was a little perturbed and decided to just head to bed. In my many trips to the restroom that night, I believe I felt a few contractions as well, but I figured if I was really in labor it would wake me up, right? (And this is a VERY true statement!).
I woke up on Memorial Day at 8 a.m. and about 10 minutes after rising, I had a contraction that felt stronger than the previous day's. Then I had another one about eight minutes later and another after seven minutes. Hmmm, could this be going somewhere?
I began to keep track of the time between contractions and how long each one lasted. I left my hubby to sleep since I didn't want it to be another false alarm. By about 10 a.m. when he still was peacefully sleeping, I informed him I had been having more contractions, and they were averaging about six minutes apart for about 45 seconds to a minute. The contractions sailed on, and I continued breathing through them with ujjayi breath and doing cat/dog and other various pelvic tilts. Child's pose was also very comforting during the contractions for me during this time, but these contractions really weren't that painful. Slightly uncomfortable is a better description for them.
Towards the end of an hour-long bath, I seemed to have three contractions within two minutes for about 45 seconds. Once I climbed out of the tub, I told my hub I thought it was time to phone the on-call midwife. Once she called me back, which was only about five or 10 minutes later, she asked me if I was dilated or effaced at all. I said at my last appointment a few days before, I was dilated to a three and effaced about 80 percent. She said, "Honey, if you're dilated to a three and feel it's time to go to the hospital, GO TO THE HOSPITAL." So that's what we did. However my husband reminded me I wouldn't be able to eat once we arrived at the hospital so I ended up shoving a few pieces of pizza from last night's takeout into my mouth.
During the 20-minute drive, I called my mom and said, "It's baby time!" She had been asking me this for the last several weeks before my due date so she was a little hesitant to believe it was the real thing. Once I confirmed I was telling the truth, she was very excited (first grandchild!). I continued having contractions about every four to five minutes along the way and became more excited that I was going to finally meet our baby.
Once we arrived at the hospital, a nurse gave me a room and a gown to change into and hooked me up to a monitor. Of course, once she finally got me hooked up, my contractions suddenly slowed down to every 10-15 minutes. I SWEAR I'M IN LABOR MISS NURSE!
So she sent me and hubby to walk the halls for 45 minutes - the most exercise I had had in at least a month. Good thing I wore my sporty sandals. By the end of the walk, my contractions had picked up again but still weren't close enough together so we were sent on yet ANOTHER 45 minute walk. This time the contractions were much stronger. Hubby and I did various labor positions, like the slow dance. I also did half-down dog along the wall - I'm sure the visitors on the floor thought I was NUTS - which really helped because I was having back labor horribly! Apparently this happens when the baby's face is "sunny-side up" or facing up towards your stomach versus facing your spine. The baby's spine is against your spine causing the back labor.
About 30 minutes into this walk, I couldn't take it anymore, and we trekked back to our room. The nurse and midwife seemed please that I was in more agony this time around and decided to see how I had progressed. My midwife said I was now at five centimeters and was officially in labor. I wasn't truly admitted until this point, which was about three to four hours after we arrived. Now it was about 4:30 or 5 p.m.
This was when I truly understood what the pain of labor feels like. For the next hour until my epidural was administered, I never knew such pain. Granted it did come in waves and spurts, but during the contraction, I felt like the core of my body was exploding. I described it to my friend as maybe being how God felt when he was giving birth to the universe - who knows, maybe I'm right!
Fortunately I never called my husband names or swore him out. Mainly I threw out random cuss words at no particular person. The hubby was great though; he really stepped up as my partner during the labor and put my needs first. Whenever he thought I was in pain and didn't know what to do, he would go grab a cool washcloth and pat my face - it was very cute. I think he got that tip from the book "Don't just Stand There" that's all about how the father can help out during delivery. I thought it really helped my husband feel more informed and helpful through the process.
My midwife had been out of town all weekend but fortunately made it back in when we had originally arrived at the hospital. The on-call midwife told her to take her time while I was walking the halls but by the time the epidural had kicked in, I was in the third stage of labor and my midwife had not yet arrived. The midwife in training who was hanging out with me even called her on her cell phone because the baby was ready to come out.
Once the epidural was in, which by the way wasn't nearly as painful or scary as I had imagined, LIFE WAS GOOD! I was feeling no pain but still feeling the contractions. When my midwife arrived, we began pushing with my contractions, three times for ten seconds. Basically you bear down like you're taking the biggest crap of your life. Apparently I was a rock star at pushing and it really wasn't hard or tiring - not sure if my yoga practice had prepared me or what. My husband was truly impressed by my strength and tenacity. He thought it was so funny how chill I was between pushes - even chatted it up about KFC and the bowl meals the chain now serves. In fact, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were standing outside the door and heard the conversation as well and thought it was hilarious how normal I was.
After pushing for a little over an hour, Brijin Joy was born at 9:04 pm. on Memorial Day! We had kept her gender a surprise so it was very exciting to hear my husband announce "It's a girl!" Actually at first my husband said, I can't tell, which made me a little nervous. But a moment later he said "It's a girl" as I held my new baby girl on my chest and noticed her lovely, big lips. I'll never forget that moment... feel like crying now as I remember it.
A few tips from my labor experience
First insight: stay home as long as you can in the early stage of labor.
Most books and my midwife said not to call until contractions are at least five minutes apart for over an hour at a duration of one minute. Staying home also allows you to eat whatever you want (and eat anything at all) and you may roam free without being hooked to monitor. Also, I was able to do various yoga postures and positions to aid me in the pain management and move the baby along the birth canal in the comforts of my own home. An hour before I made the call to the on-call midwife to see if it was time, I even took a nice, long bath. If you're a bath lover like me, try to do this because after labor, no more baths for six weeks.
Second insight: take the epidural!
It's a beautiful thing. From the research I've done, there's really nothing to fear in terms of it affecting the baby. Apparently because it is administered directly to the spine, there is a chance the mother may become paralyzed, but it's a 1% chance (Don't quote me or take my word! Ask your doctor!).
Third insight: pushing is a breeze with an epidural; at least it was for me.
Maybe this was due to my yoga practice, but the pushing was a piece of pie with the aid of my BFF, the epidural. My hubby was so impressed by how strong and laid back I was during the hour of pushing - major admiration points scored! ;)
Fourth and MOST IMPORTANT insight: prenatal yoga works
I really attribute my low-key pregnancy and relatively easy labor to my yoga practice. It provided me strength, relaxation, stamina, peace and so much more. Even doing five minutes whenever you can squeeze it in can do miracles. Trust me, I'm holding my miracle now.