At about 9:45 on Wednesday night we were laying in bed trying to get to sleep. I turned on my left side to settle into my body pillow when there was a big POP sound accompanied by what felt like something breaking inside me. The only thing it could be in my mind was my water breaking so I got up but there was no fluid so I just assumed it was just my pelvic bones or something preparing me for labor. No more than 5 minutes after I got back in bed fluid started gushing out, it felt like gallons. The adrenaline started pumping as soon as I told Josh my water had broken and he was in full daddy mode. He paged our midwife, called our parents, and got everything prepared to leave while I took a bath and shaved my legs. The contractions didn't start until around 10:15 and were only around 30 seconds long and 18-20 minutes apart. Josh was with me the whole time keeping track of them, and my little beagle, Tulip, did not leave my side. After my bath the contractions picked up in pace but were still very manageable and I breathed through them easily using my HypnoBirthing techniques and going back and forth between laboring on the toilet (my favorite position the entire time actually) and laboring in bed. We live about an hour from our birth center so we called and updated our midwife and she said she was already at the birth center so we should come when we feel we needed to, to listen to my body. The contractions steadily increased in frequency and were around 5-6 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long by around 12:30am when all of a sudden WHAM I got hit with the contraction that changed my entire perspective of what "real" contractions were all about. Josh was holding me and rubbing my back when it happened and that was the turning point for him. He said "That's it, we are going NOW". I tried to bargain with him that I was going to take another bath and relax and get through some more contractions before leaving. He said no (as he learned from HypnoBirthing, you don't ask a laboring woman what she wants, you tell her and give her what she needs, nicely done Josh!) so I slowly packed up last minute items and we were on the road by 1am. Looking back I am glad we left when we did because I can't imagine making that drive with stronger contractions.
We got to the birth center around 2am and the Ocean Suite I had chosen ahead of time was all set up for us. My midwife checked my dilation and I was only 2 centimeters so she left us to labor in peace as she knew this was only the beginning. I was pretty much glued to the toilet as that was the position most confortable to work through the contractions. I was experiencing back labor and Josh had to do deep massage on my lower back to help me through each surge and about that time is when I asked that he start to fill the garden tub. About 5 hours had passed since my water had broken and when checked again I had progressed to 5 centimeters.
My mom and dad arrived at the birth center around 3am and not a minute too soon. My dad stayed in the waiting room (a comfy room with couches, pillows, and most important - - The Tennis Channel) and ran many errands throughout the labor for food, coffee (Josh's lifeline since we got zero sleep in 36 hours by the time we got our first family nap in), and to the airport to pick up Josh's mom. We called her when my water broke and she was able to hop on a plane from Michigan and arrive in time to see her first grandchild being born. My mom came to my side immediately and gave Josh a break so he could have some coffee and recharge. Fortunate for me this is my mom's third experience with natural birth; her instincts and assistance were invaluable to both Josh and I; they were the perfect team. Over the next hour or so, it's kind of a blur, I went back and forth between laboring in the tub and on the toilet. When I was checked again my midwife told me my cervix was starting to swell and I needed to avoid any positions which put additional pressure on it until it was time to push. She gave me some medicine to reduce the swelling and reminded me of the importance of breathing through my contractions and not to let my body push prematurely. Up until this point I had been using the HypnoBirthing breathing techniques but hadn't completely tapped into the practice I had done. I focused and went completely into myself and the room turned very very quiet. My contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and about a minute and a half long. I needed the water in the tub to be as hot as possible because the lower back massage wasn't enough to get through the contractions alone. Because the water was so hot I needed iced washcloths applied to my neck and face constantly to avoid overheating. Josh and my mom alternated as my birth companion, forcing me to drink water and Gatorade after each contraction, applying light touch massage, and kneading my lower back. Near the end of this period they were both attending to me at the same time. The only communication in this period was when I needed more pressure on certain body parts and my doula telling me when to change positions. It was as serene as it gets.
I was examined again and progress was being delayed slightly because Tegan was sucking her hand (which I find so adorable now when she does it) causing her head to be turned sideways and unable to enter the birth canal. I had to get in hands and knees position in the tub and sway my hips from side to side, and alternating lunging/squatting positions while swaying to get her to turn her head. Success! Her head was engaged but I still had a lip on my cervix. I had to get on the bed and bear down through 2 contractions while my midwife manually held down my cervix to get Tegan's head passed that point and hopefully be able to start pushing. It was mostly successful and I got back in the tub to push through more contractions while my midwife repeated the process of holding down on the cervix lip, it worked this time and I was given the green light to push when my body told me to. This was it! When each contraction started I let it build, took a deep breath in, and then pushed that breath downward while bearing down; repeat this two more times and then wait for the next contraction. I was mindful to keep my face relaxed while bearing down as taught in HypnoBirthing, and breath through everything. If I wasn't taking a deep breath in I was pushing it out. Always breathing. The room smelled like peppermint and lavender oils, the lighting was low, candles lit, my mom, Josh, my mother in law, doula, and assistant were patiently watching me get through one contraction at a time. The contractions became one long surge with peaks and waves. My doula was a constant source of encouragement. In the midst of pushing she would tell me to use my power and gave me the confidence that I was using every ounce of my being to delivery my baby the way I wanted to. There were a few moments when I doubted myself and my ability. I started having thoughts that she was never going to come, that she was stuck, and that if I had to experience one more peak I would die. As soon as these thoughts came into my mind I would force them out with the affirmations I had been listening to for months. "I am relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me", "I trust in my baby and my body", "I feel confident, I feel safe, I feel secure". When my doula saw that I was coming out of my deepening she read me some visualizations and put me that much deeper and I regained my focus. I wasn't really present in my body. I could feel the pain and it wasn't easy but I was able to disconnect from everything and just focus on my breathing. Speaking to my mom and mother in law after the fact they thought I had completely lost all energy because when I wasn't in the midst of a surge I was basically catatonic. It wasn't that I was exhausted because really I didn't feel exhaustion at all, it was just that I was so limp and just let my body do what it needed to do while I focused on relaxing.
After 3 ½ hours had passed since I started pushing my midwife told me I needed to get on the bed. This frightened me for a moment but I reminded myself that it just means I am one step closer to seeing Tegan. Josh got behind me on the bed to support my body while my mom and a few of the others held my legs back and my midwife was at front and center. I continued the same pushing; three pushes per contraction. On the first push her head was visible but not yet crowning. It took about an hour of pushing for her to finally crown and it was MUCH more intense than I expected, even after the strenuous labor I had already gone through. It was more than just a "ring of fire", I felt like I was going to break in two. They put me on an oxygen tank to make sure that baby and I were getting enough and it also gave me a bit of energy to get through the last few contractions. My mother in law was holding a mirror so I could see her head and once I did I pushed and pushed that little one out....