We had a wonderful day on Saturday (May 15th). That weekend was the last weekend before my due date (May 31st) that Rich and I were both off work together, so we made plans for it to be our last fun couple day before baby. We got up and went to a spa for a couple's massage, which was fantastic. The massage table had a big hole for my belly to fit in. After the massage we went to the beach for a few hours and layed out, read, walked and just enjoyed some quiet time together. Then later that night we went out for a nice dinner in downtown Charleston, the first fancy dinner date we'd been on in months. I had scallops with lobster risotto and coconut cake, and Rich had a filet and a chocolate orange dreamcicle dessert. We also had some nice red wine, just a glass for me of course. I tried to put on heels to go out in, but my feet didn't fit into any of them so I wore rhinestone flip flops with my black dress:) I had a couple of contractions during dinner that were slightly more intense than the usual Braxton Hicks tightening, but didn't think too much about it. We got home and I began to have more and more, about every 15 minutes apart. I tried to go to bed around 9pm but the contractions kept waking me up, then I would just lay awake waiting on the next one. They were strong enough that I would have to focus on breathing to relax during them. After 3 hours, I got Rich up and we decided to go outside and walk. Walking helps to make the contractions more regular, and also just the movement is soothing and contractions (ctx from here on) are actually much more bearable when I was up and moving like that than laying in bed. After the walk, I got in the bathtub for an hour or so because the warm water is also very therapeutic and helps relieve the ctx pain. I was able to read between ctx in the tub, then just focus on deep relaxing breaths during them. Throughout the night they continued to get closer together, albeit slowly, and by morning they were about every 7-9 minutes apart and lasting between 30 seconds and about 2 minutes. I expected them to go away in the morning the way they had the night before and Wednesday before. They didn't go away, although they did space back out and almost disappear from about 5am-7am and we slept then. After I woke up with more ctx, we decided that maybe this was going to turn into something real so we called our doula, a wonderful woman named Mandy. My plan was to have a natural (unmedicated) labor and delivery..no induction, no pitocin, no epidural or IV meds.
Her website explains exactly what a doula is, but basically it is someonewho serves as a labor helper, coach and support person. It is not the same as a midwife in that a doula is not a medical professional and doesn't do things like deliver babies or perform monitoring or cervical checks. We had met with Mandy for a few prenatal visits and the plan was for her to come to our house and labor with us, help us decide when it was time to go the hospital, provide massage, acupressure and aromatherapy, and just in general to be there for Richard and I in whatever way we might need during labor.
Mandy suggested trying to take some benadryl and get some rest in case this was the beginning of real labor, and to keep laboring using walks, baths and breathing, and to call her back when contractions were about 5 minutes apart and we were ready for her to come over. I didn't want to be groggy so I only took half a benadryl, and it did nothing so I wound up taking the other half but it still didn't help me sleep at all. I was so excited, nervous and focused on relaxing thru ctx that I really wasn't able to sleep. We spent the day alternating between laying in bed, in the bathtub and shower, and walking the neighborhood. I think the neighbors thought I was going to squat on the streetcorner and deliver the baby right there...we got some funny looks since I was obviously in pain as we were walking. I don't think even at this point that I really believed I was in labor since the same thing had happened a few times before and ended up going away, although it had never lasted this long. We had called my mom that morning and she decided to go ahead and fly out, and if I had her then great and if not she would just be here with us until I did. I still really thought it would stop and I would be pregnant still today. By midafternoon I began to think maybe this was really happening as ctx got closer together and more powerful. About 5:30 or so we went for a walk and ctx got to less than 3 minutes apart and Rich got pretty freaked out and made us go straight back to the house. We called Mandy and said it was time and she said she'd be there in about 45 minutes. We spent the next 45 minutes walking around the downstairs of our house, more like shuffling actually, with Rich right behind me to hold onto me and rub my back whenever I would stop for a ctx. I was getting pretty scared about everything but when Mandy showed up with her bag of tricks, I was able to refocus and relax. I had read several books on natural birth, and I knew that I had to be prepared to relax and embrace pain when everything in my body would want to fight and run from it. I just kept reminding myself that this was pain with a purpose, not pain that was hurting me in any permanent way and that I had a set number of ctx that I would have to go through to get my baby and I could either dread and fear them or welcome and embrace them. I think I even chanted "welcome" during a lot of them, at least in my head, as a reminder that welcoming the pain and intensity of the ctx was necessary in order to get to the end result of that baby in my arms.
After Mandy arrived, we discussed the fact that baby Lucy was likely malpositioned (not in the desirable position of head down with her face towards my back) and that she was probably facing sunny-side up with her head towards my back which can cause longer, more painful labors that don't progress as quickly as expected. There are certain positions you can labor in to encourage babies to rotate into the better postion so we tried those, including laying on the ground on my elbows and knees with my booty in the air, climbing stairs two at a time, doing side lunges, and rocking on the birth ball (just a regular exercise ball). Let me tell ya, lunges and stairs are NOT what I felt like doing in that moment, but also if you want unmedicated childbirth you gotta do whatever you can to try to get labor progressing naturally to avoid having drugs to help you progress. Mandy would also massage my lower back during ctx which was very helpful by providing counter pressure to the internal back pain I was having.
This walk, bath, lunge, stairs, ball, rotation continued until midnight when my Mom arrived. We hadn't talked to her in hours so she had no idea that I was actually in active labor and she showed up ready to go to bed, but instead we said "thank goodness you're here, we're heading to the hospital." At this point ctx were consistently 5 minutes apart, about a minute long, and very painful in my back and lower abdomen. So at this point, it's midnight Sunday night and been about 28 hours since contractions had started and we hadn't really slept since Friday night.
Whew, ok that's enough for part 2!
Here's a pic of her about 3 days old.