I woke up on my due date feeling very, very sick. I checked in with Kristian, our doula , who let me know that it is common to experience flu like symptoms just prior to labor. It seemed like these were good signs, and while I had never been excited to feel sick before, I was really starting to get my hopes up. My husband called out of work for the day, and we spent that morning doing all the things they tell you to do during early labor. We walked in the neighborhood, made a short trip to the grocery store, and made sure our hospital bags had everything we needed in case things started to progress. We were all set, but apparently Baby Boy was not. Turns out I just had a stomach bug, and, much to my dismay, I was feeling totally fine by the next morning.
But surely labor couldn't be too far off, right?! At the advice of my doctor, I went ahead and started my maternity leave, thinking that any day now this baby would be ready to make his appearance. But the days just kept ticking by. By 41 weeks, 3 days, I was beginning to seriously prepare myself for the possibility of induction. I had really hoped to avoid this, as I wanted a water birth and wasn't sure I would be able to labor without pain medication if I had to use Pitocin. All I could do was try and be patient and let things unfold.
I had an NST (non-stress test) and an ultrasound scheduled for 41 weeks, 5 days, and I was sure the midwife was going to tell me we needed to set an induction date. But I guess our little guy decided he had hung in there long enough, because it turns out that I was experiencing signs of early labor during the appointment. Instead of scheduling the induction, the midwife instructed me to go home, get some rest, and try drinking castor oil the next morning to see if it would kick things into motion. I followed her advice, and sure enough, by Tuesday afternoon I was beginning to feel regular contractions. They were mild, but definitely detectable. Around 3:30 that afternoon I was sitting on the front porch when I felt the strongest contraction I'd had yet. I stood up to go inside, but all of a sudden I felt my water break.
I called the midwife's office and was instructed to go ahead and go to the hospital. Since I had tested positive for Group B Strep and since my water had broken, I needed antibiotics and couldn't labor at home. We were taken to a labor and delivery room where we basically just waited. I was beginning to worry that I would need Pitocin after all, but around 9:00 am Wednesday morning, at 42 weeks exactly, things really started to pick up. I spent most of that day on my hands and knees, butt in the air, face in my pillow. For whatever reason, this position was most tolerable for me.
Around 1:00 or so, Kristian arrived and began setting up the tub. I tried laboring in the tub for a while, but I was so hot that I couldn't stay in for very long. My rockstar husband kept fanning me with pillows and putting cold washcloths on my neck and shoulders, but before I knew it, I had abandoned the tub and was back on my hands and knees. I think it must have been around 3:00 in the afternoon when I began to waver internally on my decision to have a natural birth.
Around 4:00, I started mentioning an epidural to my team, and by about 5:00, I had decided that I was insane to ever have wanted an unmedicated birth, and that if we ever had a second child, I was, under no circumstances, to try this again. But my doula knew me better than I knew myself in that moment. She didn't let me give up. She reminded me how badly I had wanted a water birth and how far I had come. And when this didn't seem to completely solidify my resolve, she gently explained that it was basically too late for an epidural. I saw my husband's eyes get wide, and then relief register on his face as he realized that he didn't have to be the bearer of this news. But it was exactly what I needed to hear. I had come so far that there was no turning back, and I knew I could make it to the end.
I used nitrous oxide to help with the transition until finally, around 6:00 pm, it was time to deliver. After some coaching from my midwife, I got back in the tub and started to push. As things progressed, my midwife told me that, at the next contraction, I could reach down and actually feel my baby's head. I did as she said, and I can tell you that touching my baby's head for the first time is a moment I will never forget or be able to put into words. It gave me strength and encouragement, and after that, things moved much more quickly.
An hour after I started pushing, at 7:00 pm on the nose, Nathan Jackson Swink was born in the water, weighing in at 8 lbs, 5 oz, wide eyed and ready to take in the world. He wasn't even crying, but my doula, who is now my friend, sure was. I was in too much awe to cry. Instead, my son and I just looked at each other, taking each other in for the first time. Kristian got a beautiful photograph of this moment and I cry now when I see it.
My family and I are so fortunate and so grateful to have the birth experience that we did, but I have to say, we would not have been able to do it without our amazing team. Between my husband, our midwives Daniela and Meredith (at Wendover OBGYN), our doula, Kristian, and multiple AMAZING nurses at Women's Hospital, we had the most rockstar birthing team ever. I would not have been able to stay the course without them, and I am forever grateful to them for their support, wisdom, and encouragement. I am so glad that I did not opt to change our plan, and for the record, I would absolutely attempt a natural birth again :)