Preparation + Expectations
Both Caleb and I come from families who really support and affirm natural childbirth. His mom had many homebirths (including a set of twins! and carried another set of twins 42 weeks without induction!) and my mom took Bradley classes, labored
at home and then delivered at a now-closed area birth center. The dads were always very and eagerly involved in the entire process. Because this happened to be "normal" and "what we were used to" growing up, it just seemed natural (ha.) to investigate this option first, and was also what we both automatically desired - more out of familiarity than anything else.
Movies like "
The Business of Being Born
," friends who delivered naturally, our moms, Bradley classes and the book "
" were all brilliantly helpful in educating us and helping us talk through what we hoped, wanted and expected out of "the birthing process."
We learned more about the "domino effect" of medical intervention in healthy women and babies, the approach most hospitals take, what birthing has been like in history and in most places around the world, what l&d medicine has been in America the past 100 years (actually quite scary...
chloroform and twilight sleep
?!), the biology of the body, the details of natural and synthetic hormones used in labor, animal/mammal instinct in labor, benefits of laboring in a "home/home-like" environment, definitions of all things "birthing," etc.
"Comparing birthing to swimming, the doctor is the lifeguard. Both swimming and birthing carry irreducible and minimal risk, and doctors and lifeguards are necessary, but only for complications. Good swimmers and good birthers need them to be present, but just in case problems arise."
"Their happy chatter as they strolled together in the early stages of labor would be rhythmically interrupted by contractions... Whenever a contraction occurred, the same calm pattern of relaxation, abdominal breathing and affirming talk would be automatically repeated. The couple performed their respective tasks calmly - observers were impressed by the obvious fact that here were two people, who knew each other well, happily working together. The close relationship between husband and wife, the total trust and dependence on each other, was heartwarming to see... even seemingly trivial acts reduce the tasks of nurses, and instead direct the gratitude of a mother to the one she loves: her husband."
We really think mamas and couples need to make decisions for themselves, and we think being educated is the best way to make decisions. The goal is healthy mama, healthy baby. It really is. And there are lots of ways to get there, and no matter what you "want" life seems to throw change-ups like a Hall of Famer. There is no "right" or "wrong" and there is mostly no judgement. Every story and birth and mama is so different. As it should be.
We spent time figuring out what was best for us - and we really enjoyed the process! I, personally, wanted not just Caleb's
, but for him to not be
. I hated the idea of him standing there, watching me suffer, with no idea what to do and no idea what was going on or with nearly noway to practically help. I would struggle being tossed into a traumatic situation I knew
about! I didn't want him to feel like a bystander or observer. I wanted to have
together. We both also wanted to do everything we could to let my body do what God made it able to do by itself. We both WHOLEHEARTEDLY wanted medical help and intervention if my body wasn't able to do it on it's own. We are so grateful for drugs, hormones, needles, surgeries and procedures that can protect, keep and save life. But unless those were
we didn't want to take 'advantage' of them. We felt like this was the healthiest and best 'plan' for me as a woman, and also for our little BorisMorrisBoy.
We learned in our Bradley Class about the reasons medical intervention should be used. We talked about - to the best of our ability - "what if ______ happens?" We knew it might not be possible for us to have a totally natural birth - heck, Dr. Bradley's own daughter had an emergency (life-saving!) c-section! These things are not evil or something we were trying to avoid. It was more of a mindset: we want to
these other things first, and go to those grace-of-God medical interventions if we
I've heard/read/seen women say something along the lines of "I'm too wimpy for a natural birth/I have a low pain tolerance/I don't need to be the hero!/We have the drugs for a reason!" and truly: I'm too wimpy too
try a natural birth ;) I'm a tough woman, I really am. But I'm terrified of needles and drugs and "the works" (really, I get cavities drilled without novacaine... Because I'm more afraid of the shot than the drilling. I'm weird.) I'm more scared of epidurals and c-sections (and the recoveries after them) than I am of the pain of natural birth. Again, proof that eeeevery mama is different! Haha! So as natural as possible was the plan :)
The Back Story
Most of the 20 Morris and Snyder children were late. Caleb, a twin, was 14 days late and I was 11 days late. My mom's last baby was 14 days late. Basically, I was expecting to pass my due date with a baby inside me ;)
I shot a wedding on June 1, and made it to due date - June 6 - with very, very nothing exciting to report. The "craziest" thing to happen was just so.much.mucus. Like. SO. much. Enough that I was almost daily wondering if my water broke, but instead of the liquid being clear, unscented, and watery it was always slippery, yellow and smelly. I called the office two different times to ask
"Should I come in? Not sure what's going on..."
but from my descriptions I was reassured: nope, just sounds like your body is getting ready - when your water breaks, you will know! At my midwife appointment on June 6 I found out I was 3cm dilated and about 70% effaced. Encouraging news - yes! But not all that exciting - I know women can be 3-4 cm dilated for weeks before going into labor. I carried on with my week, waiting for something to happen. On June 10 I discovered two different super-leaks in bed. But it was all slippery mucus, as usual, and not watery. I felt no burst or pop, and it didn't keep "leaking" throughout the following hours or day.
My body is just getting ready
, I told myself.
On June 12, around 1:00 pm I started having consistent, trackable, painful contractions. They were about 8-10 minutes apart, with varying degrees of pain. It felt like everyone said: bad menstrual cramps. I went out with my mom to run some errands. Maybe once an hour I had a "strong" contraction (had to stop and focus and breath through it). Caleb started timing them around 4:30 pm and they were happening about every 2-3 minutes, lasting a minute each. It was confusing because I couldn't usually tell when one contraction would start and another would end. It kind of always felt tight and crampy and then it would just "peak" and I could say
"Oh! Okay! Yeah, something just happened!"
but I couldn't predict when it would happen. The hard, churning was just sort of "there." I texted a few friends to give them a heads-up. Did some laundry. Went to the grocery store with C to walk and get a few last minute hospital items. After 7:00 pm things were still moving and grooving. The painful peaks hurt more and more. This seemed very likely to be "it." And then all of a sudden, right after 8:00 pm, everything stopped. EVERYTHING. No more tightness. No crampy-ness. No peaks. Nothing. One good hard painful peak, and in a *snap* it was all gone.
I was confused and a little discouraged going to bed that night.
What the frick
that? That was not a few Braxton Hicks. No way.
I did some googling and came across the term "
." Not false labor, not pre-labor - no, no, prodromal labor is it's own animal. REAL labor that takes place over days or weeks, not hours. The analogy used was one of running a race. Many labors have a distinct (ish) start. Looking back a woman could say
"I started active labor contractions here, and ____ hours later the baby was born."
Start, run, finish. 30 minutes. 8 hours. 36 hours. Whatever the length of time, it is definitive "active" labor.
But prodromal labor is apparently more like a race that begins, and you have no idea how long the race is, mile-markers are prohibited, and you are forced by a race official to sprint for as long as he says so, and then forced to stop racing and sit and wait until he says so, and then to walk when he says so. You're really "in the race" and can have genuine, intense, even transition-esque contractions for a full day, only to be told
"Okay, sit down and stop now."
and be left sitting on the side of the track for two full days, waiting all over again.
It's quite mentally, emotionally and physically grueling.
And I read all kinds of blog posts and testimonies of mom's who experienced this kind of labor, getting my mind around the idea that this was probably going to be me as well. I was relieved to know I wasn't a dramatic or stupid first time mom: I was feeling something more than "false labor." I fell asleep assuming I had a solid few days ahead of me before I'd be checking into the hospital to deliver.
The Curve Ball - Hospital Day 1
I had a pre-scheduled appointment with my midwife for June 13 - one week past my due date "just in case" I was late. Caleb and I left for our 10:00 am appointment and on the ride over discussed where we wanted to stop for lunch on the way home. Long story short, while I was there I told the midwife about the night before and I repeated the "SO MUCH MUCUS" story I always tell them when I'm there ;) She seemed somewhat head-pat-y and polite, and not even slightly rushed or curious or "intrigued." After chatting I laid down to hear baby's heart, be measured and see what dilation was looking like. As soon as she "took a look" the midwife said, I quoth,
"Oh wow, there IS a lot of mucus down here."
I trriiiied to tell you! She ran over and grabbed one of those paper-strips to see if this was amniotic fluid (from a broken water bag) or just above-average-lady-part-scuzz.
"If it turns blue, it's amniotic fluid,"
she said as the strip turned a brilliant shade of deep royal cobalt.
"Hmmm. We're going to need to send you to the hospital to do another test. I'll let the midwife on call there know you're coming. And I can't check your dilation here because if this really *is* amniotic fluid, then we don't want to risk infection."
And with that, we were off to the hospital. A few things were going through my head, but mostly that "24-hour-rule." I knew that aside from the odd-case, most hospitals wanted babies out no later than 24 hours after broken water (because of, yes, infection and the chance of risking the baby's health.) But
if this was
amniotic fluid, I was fairly sure it had started coming out three days ago... at least! Maybe longer! I was just praying that I wouldn't be rushed into an emergency c-section. Interestingly enough, as we walked back to the car, contractions started up again. They'd been ALL TOTALLY NOTHING since 8:00 pm the night before, but now they were rearing up, roaring in my nice-sized middle. I breathed and counted and instructed Caleb to
We checked into the hospital a little before noon, scooted over to triage, had a more "official" test done and it was confirmed: this was amniotic fluid. My water bag had broken or ripped enough to leak and I wasn't leaving without a baby. It was weird laying there in my gold hoop earrings and cotton wrap dress trying to understand what was happening as they started strapping arm bands and stickers on us.