This birth story starts a couple weeks before delivery, when I ended up getting the flu 38 weeks pregnant. After a miserable week or so, I was left with a strained rib muscle from coughing. I couldn't imagine going into labor when my body was already in less than optimal shape. Aimée recommended I see a chiropractor, and I finally did the day after my due date. The chiropractor (the fabulous Dr. Abby Irwin!) taped me up to make my muscle strain less uncomfortable and generally reassured me that nothing else was too out of whack. That might have been what "freed" my body to go into labor.
Around 2am the next morning, I woke up to a mild contraction -- nothing new, since I'd been having Braxton Hicks fairly regularly. But this time, I had another one 10 minutes later. And another one about 10 minutes after that. I thought it might be the start of very early labor, and I was advised to ignore that as long as possible. I tried to go back to sleep, but sleep was already quite elusive at that point in my pregnancy, and the excitement of impending labor made it even more unlikely. I decided to watch some TV and relax, not wanting to wake my husband or mom, who was in town for the birth. I also got the sudden urge to do laundry!
My husband and mom both woke up at some point, and I told them I thought I might be in labor but not to get excited because I knew it was still so early. We had a pretty normal day -- we watched a movie, took a walk, and I ate a lot (I suddenly felt very hungry!). My contractions came regularly every 10-15 minutes, gradually coming closer together toward the evening. My doula, Katelyn Davis, came over to observe me that evening and said I looked "good." What she didn't quite say was that I looked too good to be in active labor, so she knew I still had some work to do.
Around 24 hours after I woke to the first contraction, I was timing my contractions at about 4 minutes apart lasting for one minute. They were starting to get intense enough that I had to focus and breathe to get through them. Since they were following the 4-1-1 pattern, we finally decided to have Aimée come check me. I wanted to know if I would be headed to the hospital soon or in for a long night. It would be the latter -- I was only 1 centimeter dilated. But Aimée reassured me that I was fairly effaced, and things could speed up quickly. Of course, I was discouraged, but it was also helpful to know that I needed to hunker down and keep laboring. Aimée encouraged me to rest and talked me through lying down during contractions. That lasted about as long as she stayed with me. As soon as I tried it on my own, I felt the undeniable urge to stand up during contractions. I ended up laboring most of that night in the bathroom alone, pressing my back and hips against a wall during contractions.
I had a feeling I might prefer to labor alone, in the dark, and the bathroom has always been a safe space for me. At times, my husband and doula both tried to apply pressure in a helpful way, but ultimately, I preferred to be alone.
At around 5am that morning, I lost my mucus plug and saw some bloody show. I was relieved that things seemed to be moving, and contractions continued to gain intensity. I decided to take a bath, and my water promptly broke after I got in the tub around 6am. For anyone wondering, you can absolutely feel your water breaking even if you're submerged in a bath! After that, my contractions were basically on top of each other without much of a break. My doula came back to check on me again around 7am, and this time, I didn't look so "good." She noticed a definite change in my demeanor, and she knew I was probably in active labor. We decided to meet Aimée at her office so she could check me one more time to make sure I could be admitted to the hospital. We ended up moving up the meeting time since my doula could tell things were progressing quickly! I remember thinking, "If we don't leave now, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go." It took a lot to get to the car, trying to move as quickly as possible in the few seconds I had between contractions.
The car ride to Aimée's office/hospital area (Alta Bates Summit Berkeley) was one I had pictured many times, and it lived up to my expectations. I was completely in the zone, just trying to make it through each contraction while seated. I remember grabbing the handle above the door and lifting myself as high as I could. I also started getting the urge to push and had to work through that. I told my husband and mom, "If I'm not almost fully dilated at this point, they'll have to give me a C-section!" Saying things like this is apparently a sign of transition, which it turned out I was definitely in. When Aimée checked me at her office, I was 9 centimeters dilated, which meant I was going through transition in the car. We all made our way across the street to the hospital's labor and delivery floor, with me moving as quickly as possible between contractions, pausing wherever I had to for each one.
Once we made it to the room, nurses quickly put monitors on me and I was able to stand up and lean over the bed so they could insert the IV lock. At this point, I still couldn't imagine sitting or lying down for any length of time. After that, Aimée told me to labor on the toilet. She turned off the lights and brought in some fake tea candles for ambiance. She told me to just go with my body and push if I felt like pushing. The bathroom ended up being the perfect dark cave to labor in (again, I wanted to be alone), and I spent around 45 minutes in there, pushing whenever I felt the urge and sitting on the toilet for breaks when I could. It was lovely to be able to freely move around and do whatever came naturally. Aimée then asked if I wanted to continue in the bathroom or "get more active" with more focused pushing. I remember saying I felt tired and would like to try to move things along. I was determined to get the baby out as quickly as I could at that point, so I wanted to dig in and do it.
I got on the bed, and finally lying down felt okay. It actually felt so comfortable to be lying on my back after not doing it for so long! Aimée checked to make sure I was fully dilated and effaced, which I was. The baby was at +1 station, and everyone thought all the standing I did helped the baby move down. I also started getting a short break (1-2 minutes) between contractions. My doula and husband helped hold my legs back, and Aimée told me to push as much as I felt like during each contraction.
Once I started pushing, the baby was coming out quickly, so Aimée and the nurses hurried to get ready for her to come. After 22 minutes of guided pushing, Anaiya was born! My husband announced that she was a girl (we were keeping it a surprise) and everyone was shocked since we were expecting a boy. Feelings of elation, relief, astonishment, and joy washed over me. Immediately after her birth, I just remember feeling so comfortable. After 33 hours of labor, not having contractions feels pretty comfortable!
My labor ended up being exactly what it needed to be. I was slowly eased into contractions with a long pre/early labor, and then I was able to go with the intensity so the second half of labor moved much more quickly. I loved being able to labor for so long at home, alone and in the dark just how I wanted. I have Aimée to thank for her reassurance that everything I was experiencing was natural and needed.