We’ve been conditioned in America to think that once you hit 40 weeks pregnant, the magical baby cooking timer automatically goes off, labor starts up, and is followed by producing a baby. Welp, that’s not often the case. Most first time mothers are pregnant for an average of 41.5 weeks if let go until their bodies naturally induce labor (which recent studies show is initiated by the baby signalling she’s reached full lung development – pretty fascinating stuff).
After my 40 week mark, a lot of people kept texting and emailing me, asking “Have you had that baby yet?”. My response was usually a factual “Nope, and I’m not expecting to for another week or two. Did you know that the average length of pregnancy is 41.5 weeks for a first time mother?” That usually quieted most inquirers, and I had hoped, gave them a grace period in which they knew not to ask me again.
Having accepted a new position doing work for a non-profit organization at 40 weeks pregnant, there were a couple upcoming meetings the next week that I had really hoped to attend. I asked Veda if she wouldn’t mind until waiting until after the 41 week mark to make her debut. I wasn’t your typical 40 week pregnant lady. I didn’t feel super impatient, and I wasn’t SO SICK of being pregnant. Thanks to my long torso, I had just in the past week started to become physically uncomfortable and started having to wake up during the night to run to the bathroom. I felt pretty patient and was determined to leave her arrival time up to her.
At 12:01am on Friday, July 17 at 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I woke up with my first real (ie: painful) contraction. I remember thinking it was funny because she had been a good baby and waited until after my meetings were over to get this party started. Also, I thought it was interesting because my mother-in-law had also started labor at 12:01am with my husband, Kelly.
Due to my last week of smashed lungs and amped up snoring, Kelly had been sleeping in the other bedroom. I knew labor would most likely take a while so I just turned on my phone, fired up my contraction app, and tried to go back to sleep, remembering what my midwife, Cheryl, had said about sleep in early labor being key for good birth outcomes. Well, the idea of trying to sleep seemed to be a cruel joke. A few contractions in, Kelly had heard me moaning through them from the other room and came to check on me. I let him know that I had been having contractions since midnight and showed him the log on the contractions app where he then took over tracking them. He seemed kind of surprised. It was almost like we had forgotten that this was actually going to happen, we were just so used to being pregnant, I had almost thought I’d stay pregnant forever.
8:00am – 8 Hours In
I stayed in bed until around 8am with consistent 1 minute contractions about every 8 to 10 minutes. Kelly went upstairs to his office and notified his work that he wouldn’t be at work due to me being in labor. I texted my friend Nicole who was set to take birth photos and let her know the scoop. She offered to come over around 9:30am and I told her not to worry about it yet, since I was averaging around 8 minutes apart and had been told that contractions needed to be 5 minutes apart or less before shit gets real. I moved into the living room and took a few minutes to re-read my birth affirmations and let them really sink in.
1:00pm – 13 Hours In
I knew not to get too excited during early labor because these things can take a long while, especially for first time moms. So, Nicole and I strung up my labor beads while I read through the positive and uplifting messages in between contractions. Kelly baked some bacon for BLTs and Nicole and I watched some Grand Hotel on Netflix for a couple episodes.
I had mentioned to Kelly earlier that morning (actually, shouted from the toilet) that our toilet seat was very uncomfortable. I didn’t really think much about it other than that. When Nicole and I were hanging out with Netflix, Kelly ran out to run some pre-birth errands. He came back with a new, far more comfortable toilet seat! As soon as I saw him walk through the front door holding a new toilet seat I squealed, “I love you so much!”. I was really surprised and I felt really loved and listened to. It’s the little things this man does for me that makes me feel appreciated and valued. Contractions were a little more spaced out during the day, but still consistent.
10:30pm – 22.5 Hours In
Once darkness hit, it seemed like contractions started getting more intense and closer together. Throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning, contractions were about 5 to 7 minutes apart and lasting for 1 to 2 minutes each.
2:00am – Saturday July 18 – 26 Hours In
I had a really hard time getting any sleep. My lower back started to become really uncomfortable when I tried to lay down even between contractions and I had to move from our bed to the couch to sleep. We basically created a pillow throne on the couch with stacked pillows on my back and sides to create a softer sitting-up sleeping position with my legs extended out onto the coffee table. I’d like to say I got a few minutes of sleep, but I don’t recall any.
7:00am – 31 Hours In
After another sleepless night of constant contractions about 5 to 7 minutes apart I was feeling pretty worn down. We called my doula, Jessica, over to see if she could do some acupressure to help progress labor and/or help me relax in order to get some sleep. I got as comfortable as possible on my couch pillow throne and she used lavender oil while she massaged me and helped me relax through acupressure. I wasn’t able to get any sleep in, but I was able to calm my mind and rest in between contractions.
Jessica suggested that we inflate the pool and fill it with some warm water to relax in. We wanted to keep the water warm up until delivery to save us from having to empty and refill the pool multiple times so Kelly ran to the pet store, bought a fish tank heater, and rigged up a way to dangle it in the water without touching and melting the plastic. On his way home, Kelly stopped at McGonigal’s and brought back a bunch of delicious smoked brisket and turkey to munch on.
1:00pm – 37 hours In
Jessica and Nicole both left and with the afternoon came more spaced out contractions. I focused on sitting on my couch pillow-throne and getting as much rest as possible.
8:00pm – 44 Hours In
Nicole came back over after an afternoon at home refreshing. A little while after Nicole got back, my midwife, Cheryl and her assistant Shoaf arrived, followed shortly by the arrival of Jessica. We all gathered in the living room to talk. Cheryl and Jessica both explained to me that they thought I was experiencing “prodromal labor” which is basically like practice labor that isn’t progressive. Inside my head, I was saying “yeah right!”. I knew that I was in active labor, and had been having regular contractions, at times less than 5 minutes apart, going on 43 hours. In my research of prodromal labor, it said that contractions can space out from a few hours or stop all together for a few days and pick back up again. The longest span I had between contractions by that point was about 18 minutes.
This was my first pregnancy and delivery though, so I deferred to what the professionals were saying. I was cringing at the thought of these contractions lasting for a week. These contractions were extremely painful and I was unable to sleep through them. I knew that long term, this wouldn’t be sustainable.
Kelly and I decided to go on an uphill walk in our neighborhood to try to progress things. I was feeling frustrated about the prodromal labor conversation and while we were on our walk, I only had one contraction. When we got back to the house I decided that I’d try to get some rest and everyone except Nicole left.
2:00am Sunday – 50 Hours In
Pretty much as soon as my midwife and doula left, contractions started kicking into full gear again. They were always more intense at night, and this one seemed to be more intense than the last two nights. I was having contractions that were lasting about 2 minutes every 4 to 6 minutes. I hadn’t gotten any sleep yet and was starting to really feel exhausted. Kelly and Nicole were taking turns having sleeping shifts. Whoever was awake would sit with me, rub me, give me water and offer me food. I was thinking that surely it was getting closer.
5:00am – 53 Hours In
Kelly called Cheryl and Shoaf to come back over. I knew that my contractions weren’t close enough, but they were lasting for much longer and were becoming more painful. Cheryl checked my cervix and said that it was 70% effaced and that I was dilated to 4cm. Which, in the grand scheme of things didn’t mean a lot because often women will walk around dilated to 4cm weeks before delivery. She mentioned the awful “prodromal” word and again, I refused to take it to heart. They left shortly after but assured me that they would be in town close by if I were to need them.
I could tell that Cheryl still didn’t think I was in active labor. I think for the most part I had been handling the pain more internally during contractions. My awesome pre-natal yoga class had taught me some excellent techniques for dealing with pain as well as amazing breathing exercises so I feel like from an outside view, it may have just looked like I was experiencing some mild contractions, while inside I felt something very different.
7:00am – 55 Hours In
Jessica came back over Sunday morning and stayed with me for most of the day. As previously, contractions slowed to around 6-8 minutes apart throughout the day time. Jessica stayed with me while I spent most of the day in the pool. She massaged me, poured water over me and spoke encouraging words. Kelly held my hand, hugged me when I cried, and reminded me that soon Veda would be here and this pain would be over. Nicole made me what was basically the most delicious egg sandwich ever created, too bad I could only eat a few bites.
5:00pm – 65 Hours In
Jessica left to have dinner with her family while Kelly, Nicole, and I tried to get a wink of sleep in where ever we could. Kelly took shifts sleeping in the back room on an air mattress and while I sat propped up on my pillow throne, Nicole curled up in the chair.
7:00pm – 67 Hours In
Around this time Sunday evening while Kelly was sleeping and Nicole and I were sitting in the living room, I decided I was so very tired of being in labor. I knew that if something didn’t change I was going to majorly crash out and might not be able to finish this delivery at home. I was on day three of no sleep, intense back labor, and I was wearing out, fast. I had been in relatively good spirits through this entire process so far, keeping a positive attitude, doing a good job of managing my pain, and even staying lighthearted and joking around between contractions but I knew Veda needed to come out sooner than later.
I had a quiet talk with Veda and I told her that she needed to get serious about working her way down and out. I told her that I would help her as much as I could but that we needed to get this show on the road as a team and that I needed her help, too. Nicole and I gathered some of her baby clothes and hung them on a lamp by the birthing pool. I wanted to be able to look at them and visualize her being here with me and wearing them.
I had Kelly put on a playlist of all of my favorite fast paced girl jam workout songs and turn it up pretty loud. Copper looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t care for the noise much. :)
I then got into the pool and loudly sang my way through my contractions while I squatted and moved my hips in a figure 8. It was time Veda and I got serious about doing this thing. I started to be able to feel her moving down more, which unfortunately came with an intense amount of pressure my sacrum, but I could tell we were making more progress. I was happy.
10:00pm – 70 Hours In
Jessica returned to a livingroom of bright lights, loud music, and a happily in pain laboring woman. I saw the look of surprise on her face as she walked through the front door. She smiled back at me.
Shortly after, Cheryl and Shoaf returned as well. I was still in the pool, music cranked up, figure 8 squats swishing the pool water around. Cheryl pulled up a chair next to the pool. The expression on her face said she had information that she didn’t want to disappoint me with, I knew she still had in mind that awful “prodromal” idea. She asked me how I was feeling and I had explained to her what I had been working on the last few hours. She reluctantly asked if I wanted her to check my cervix. I told her that I did, I was curious about what kind of progress Veda and I had made that evening.
As she was checking my cervix I had a contraction. I saw the expression on Cheryl’s face turn to that of surprise. Without saying anything to me, she and Shoaf left the bedroom and went back into the living room to talk to Kelly, Nicole and Jessica. When I walked into the room everyone was smiling as Cheryl and Shoaf started scurrying around unloading the birth kit and setting up supplies.
“What? What did she say!?” I asked. She said I was dialed to 7cm and when I was contracting I went to 9cm. She said we were getting ready to have a baby. OH THANK GOD, I thought as I breathed a sigh of relief right before I started having another contraction. I got back in the pool and started my rest/squat 8’s cycle.
3:00am – 75 Hours In
Cheryl asked me what I thought about getting out of the pool. By this time my lower back pain was absolutely unbearable. Every contraction I had was overly intensified and it felt like a thousand ice picks were being stabbed in along my lower back and sacrum. At this point my water had still not broken. Cheryl and I talked about how we needed the water to break to kick start the delivery process and how that needed to happen very soon because Veda and I have been in labor for a long time and her heart rate was starting to vary. She told me that either she could break my water or I could. My entire birth plan had centered around non-intervention so I asked her how I could do it on my own. She instructed me to squat and push.
I tried squatting on the living room floor and I couldn’t stand the back pain in that position. I tried squatting at the edge of the couch and that was too much. I tried getting on my hands and knees, getting on just my knees, sitting on one knee and one foot, and sitting on the toilet. I couldn’t stay in any of those positions for more than a few seconds, let alone long enough to push. The pain was absolutely unreal.
Up until this point I had kept a considerable amount of control over my pain, but at this point I really started to lose it. Finally, I decided that I absolutely had to break this water and I returned to the living room, squatted holding the coffee table, and pushed through the pain. It felt like a water balloon had popped out of me and onto the floor. Cheryl looked at the fluid with her flash light and I saw the expression on her face change. I asked her what was going on.
She said that there was meconium in the sack with Veda and that she was breathing it in. It meant that she was under stress and that I would have to push her out as soon as possible. Fear and anxiety started to set in just as this huge storm rolled in, complete with loud thunder, lightening, and what sounded like a monsoon downpour. It was so surreal, it felt like we were all in a dramatic movie.
4:00am – 76 Hours In
My lower back pain intensified. I tried to mentally focus on bringing Veda earthside instead of the pain, but it was becoming impossible. I’m the type of person who absolutely can’t stand whining or people who complain. Up to this point I hadn’t whined or complained and had mostly kept a positive attitude but I started to mentally lose my composure. Because of the meconium, I was unable to get back in the pool. Again, I tried what seemed like a million different birthing positions and I couldn’t stand the pain while in any of them. I started complaining about my back pain and they reassured me that it was normal. Intuitively though, I didn’t feel like everything was ok. I had felt like Veda had moved or changed positions and was putting even more pressure on my sacrum. I took a time out for myself and walked into the kitchen to lean on the counter. I had to give myself a pep-talk. I told myself that I could do this and that I HAD to. Jessica and Nicole came in to reassure me through my tears that I was doing a good job even when I told them “I felt like I was being a baby”. Nicole said, “Labor is hard, you’re allowed to feel pain, this is very painful. You aren’t a baby. You’ve handled this amazingly so far.” That made me feel better. I tried sitting on the toilet, but that seemed to be the worst position for back pressure. I again tried squatting in the living room, on hands and knees, and on the edge of the couch. Nothing was working.
5:00am – 77 Hours In
Cheryl told me to come into the bedroom. Kelly held my hand while I tried pushing on my knees, pushing on my hands and knees and on my back. I didn’t feel like anything was working and the fear was at an all time high. I started thinking that I wasn’t sure if I could do this and I was worried about what was happening to Veda. Was she ok? Would she come out? Would I have to go to the hospital?
I could tell that Cheryl was concerned. After Shoaf would check her heart rate with the monitor, they would look at each other and I would just be instructed to push. I could no longer tell when I was having a contraction because of the back pain. I just had to push whether I was having a contraction or not.
Cheryl told me to get on my hands and knees. She checked the position of Veda and said that she had turned again. Cheryl turned her head and that seemed to let up a little bit of the back pressure.
I returned to my back and Kelly gripped my hand as he and Cheryl counted for me to push. Having never been through this before, I had no idea what muscles to use or in what area I was supposed to push. Cheryl told me to push like I was taking the biggest poop of my life. As I was pushing they were all shouting at me to hold my breath. In my mind, I thought I was holding my breath. Kelly kept saying “Hold it! Hold it!” as I was pushing. I thought I was holding it but I couldn’t feel her coming down at all.
6:00am – 78 Hours In
Cheryl told me that if I didn’t get her out ASAP we were going to have to go to the hospital. Through my tears I said, “No, I can do this. I know I can!”. Cheryl said “Ok, then, let’s do this.” Jessica ran to grab an extra top sheet that was in our birth kit. She twisted up the sheet and handed one end to Cheryl and one end to me. Cheryl wrapped the sheet around her waist, sat criss-cross in front of me and had my put my feet on her knees. Kelly and Shoaf held my shoulders up as I pulled on the sheet and pushed with all my might. I finally realized that I hadn’t been fully holding my breath, that some had been leaking out my nose as I pushed. So this time I pulled, pushed, and held my breath for the entire duration of the push. For the first time, I felt Veda move down and I thought “OH! THIS is how to do it!”. It literally felt like I was moving a parked tractor with my body.
I pushed again and as I was pushing I heard everyone say “I see the head! There’s her hair! I see her nose! There’s an ear! Her head is out!” After she unwound the umbilical cord from Veda’s neck, Cheryl asked me if I wanted to take a break and I shouted “No!”. With another strong push, the rest of Veda’s little body came rocketing out toward Cheryl (along with a bunch of other disgusting bodily fluids) and she was finally here at 6:26am! Because of the back pain, I didn’t feel burning or stretching from her head or body coming out and I only had a couple small tears that didn’t require stitches.
Cheryl placed Veda on my stomach and started sucking the meconium out of her mouth and nose as Shoaf rubbed her with the towel. She was pink, alert and started crying. She opened her eyes and looked at me and instantly all the fear I had about her health and well being disappeared, I knew she was just fine. It was the most amazing feeling to finally gaze upon her with her looking back at me. Her umbilical cord was pretty short, so she lay on my stomach until it stopped pulsing while Cheryl checked her vitals and breath. I then easily pushed out the placenta, which felt like a slippery blob of jello coming out. Kelly cut the umbilical cord and then Veda was wrapped up in a towel and handed to him. I absolutely loved seeing him hold her for the first time.
Cheryl, Shoaf, Nicole and Jessica left the room to clean up the rest of the house and take down the pool. Kelly, Veda, and I just layed in the bed together swimming in a sea of endorphins. Finally, the past 78.5 hours of pain, uncertainty, and fear were over. We were together at last basking in pure happiness and relief.
After the house was clean and everything was back in it’s place (which, this in itself was the most amazing thing to wake up to the next day), everyone returned to the bedroom for the assessment and weighing of Veda. I had guessed she’d be 7lbs because to me she looked small. Turns out she was just a long 21 inches, and weighed in at 8lbs 9oz.
She was healthy and we were all happy.
It was a long, painful, and exhausting experience but it was truly amazing. My doula has this saying that I love, “Not everyone gets the birth that they want, but they get the birth that they need.” I definitely didn’t want to be in that position for 78.5 hours, but it really taught me a lot about myself. I went into this home birth naively thinking that I’d be able to handle it well and that everything would be right as rain (which, speaking of, there was a LOT of it during delivery). I didn’t think that I’d come to the point where I was doubting myself and my ability to actually do what needed to be done. If it wasn’t for the amazing support of Nicole who helped me to see that it’s alright to be vulnerable and surrender to pain, the comfort provided by my doula Jessica, and the confidence and encouragement of my amazing husband, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through those very tough final hours. When it’s all said and done, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Not only did this experience help me to share life with this amazingly beautiful small person, but it taught me a lot about myself in the process.
Below is a collection of pictures that I accumulated through a variety of 4 devices throughout the birth. Some of them are dark and some of them are blurry. Real life.