Background: We live in Taiwan (Asia). DH left on a long and necessary business trip to Europe and planned to return to Taiwan at 39w. While this was cutting it close, I myself was born a week late and I’d read that first babies usually take a little longer to “bake” so I figured we’d be ok.
At 38w3d, I wake up at 7am on Friday morning due to abdominal discomfort. I thought it was the baby doing his morning calisthenics again – I’d been having those same feelings off and on in the mornings over the previous week or two and thought it was him stretching out since my belly would be totally lopsided. In hindsight, I realize it may have been Braxton-Hicks contractions (which I had thought meant your tummy would get round and hard – I guess not!). Unlike previous times, it did not go away and I could not go back to sleep by changing positions or applying light pressure. This did not make me happy because I’d be up late the night before working. At 8am, the uncomfortable feeling was intensifying, so I texted my doula to ask her if these might be BH. She wrote back, “sounds like early labour! any mucousy discharge? loose bowel movements?”
I’d been having loose bowel movements since (of course) the night DH left on his business trip (~2 weeks prior), and while that is a sign that your cervix is ripening, it doesn’t tell you when you’ll start childbirth. However, that morning went from the loose bowel movements that would make a Metamucil commercial proud to something more like diarrhea. I also had the slightest tinge of pink mucousy discharge, which in retrospect was my bloody show. My doula Angie and I discussed my signs over the phone and she recommended I get in touch with DH.
I still didn’t think it was early labor because the discomfort dies down and I still cling to my belief that my daily affirmations to the baby that he will “be born easily and naturally after September 30th” will work (little do I know that he only paid attention to the first part of Mommy’s request).
DH calls me back when he gets my message at 7am his time in Belgium. It’s around noon, I think, and I relay Angie’s assessment of the situation. At her suggestion, I take a walk around the garden in our complex and the PW (“pressure waves,” Hypnobabies-speak for contractions) come about once or twice every 10 minutes. During the PW, I either slow down or stop walking and just breathe through them. DH is simultaneously on the phone with a travel agent and at that point decides to head straight to the airport to get back to Taiwan ASAP (I think he finds this crazy route to get back, something like Brussels-Helsinki-Hong Kong-Taipei) – the soonest he can get back to Taipei is before noon the next day, so roughly 24 hours away.
I still don’t think I’m in early labor, but DH and Angie agree that it’s probably best for him to come back. I really hope his last-minute plane ticket is worth it and that it really is labor, and that the baby waits until Daddy is back to arrive! During that day, I manage to have a Skype conference call with my accountant in the U.S. over my tax return (and he doesn’t realize that I’m in labor)!
At about 4pm, Angie comes over to check up on me. We sit on my couch and have a nice chat. I breathe through my PW when they come, but it’s totally manageable (still I think about every 10 minutes). Based on her experience with other births, she thinks it is totally conceivable that things won’t really get started until much later and DH has a chance to make it on time. Take a nap or a bath (water in early labor slows things down), or watch a movie, she recommends, because I want to be well-rested in case things kick in in the middle of the night. Little do we know my baby will be born in about 4 hours!
She leaves. I call my girlfriend and she offers to bring over dinner. I accept her offer since I don’t really feel like cooking. My friend says she needs to run some errands first, but she’ll be over in about an hour and a half. That’s fine, I tell her – I’m going to take a bath to relax – and she can come over, we can have dinner, maybe watch a dvd, have an early night.
I run the tub and get in with a good book. I have the presence of mind to keep my cell phone next to the tub by the bathmat. I become engrossed in the book, but realize after awhile I’m having trouble concentrating every couple of paragraphs. I call Angie. She sounds a little concerned since she’s on her way to dinner with her kids, and asks me to keep her posted. About 15 minutes later (at roughly 6pm), I call her to tell her I think my water broke (I hear a pop and there is a gush of fluid in the tub after a PW – at that point, it’s like my body is doing that breakdance move where the whole body moves in a wave on its own – so I logically conclude that either my water broke or I lost control of my bladder and peed in the tub, and I pick the former conclusion). Angie immediately turns her car around and offers to send her kids along with her nanny in a cab so she can head straight to my place, but I insist she first head home so that she can pick up her video camera as I really want to have the birth filmed since it seems like DH is going to miss it.
I’m not sure at what point I did this, but when the PW really pick up in intensity, I decided I need reinforcement of my hypnosis cues (since I just listened to the tracks at night before bed and barely practiced at all). It takes all of my focus and concentration to get out of the tub to unlock the front door and put on my Hypnobabies soundtrack. I debate between the “Positive Birthing Day Affirmations” or the “Easy First Stage” tracks, and I decide that since the PW seem pretty intense, I’m going to go straight to the “Easy First Stage” even though I don’t think I’m there yet. I get back into the tub and decide that I’m not doing any more moving. I figure once I have the CD going, I can go more easily into hypnosis and the PW won’t seem as intense and I can wait for them to die down. Except they don’t die down, but keep coming.
Angie keeps me posted on her progress to my home – she’s stuck in rush hour traffic. So is my friend. Sometime around this point I finally accept the fact that I am in childbirth, and I just let my body take over and go with the flow. I’m feeling very calm.
Angie asks if I can meet her downstairs so she can take me straight to the birth center. I can’t get out of the tub on my own, I tell her – it would take too much focus away from going through the PW. Just to answer my cell phone (which is outside the tub) and not drop it into the tub while I’m on the phone takes a lot of concentration!
She tells me that once my friend arrives, I am to tell my friend to help me out of the tub, get me dressed, and go downstairs so we can go to the birth center. Less than 5 minutes later, my friend shows up. Actually, when she arrives the doorman calls to see if I’m expecting her – and I can’t even get out of the tub to answer the cordless phone on my nightstand right next to the door to the bathroom, just one step away from the tub. I call her on her cell so that she can pass me onto the doorman for me to give him permission to let her in. He tells my friend he thinks I sound a bit ill. “She’s having a baby,” replies my friend.
When my friend shows up in my bathroom, I relay Angie’s directions to me and then I tell her, “but I’m not leaving this tub. You can go pack my birth bags.” Angie shows up about 5 minutes after my friend. I look up to her and I say, “this must be transformation (Hypnobabies-speak for transition), right?” She says she needs to check and goes to get her disposable gloves. Now, I’d read in my research that transformation is the most intense part of childbirth, and that there’s usually a natural break after mom is fully dilated to give her time to gather up energy for the pushing stage. Angie checks and says that not only am I fully dilated, she can see a quarter-size bit of head!
Now, at that point I wasn’t really sure if Hypnobabies was working, because I was not completely numb to all sensation with hypnotic anesthesia. I could definitely feel something was happening in the sense that when I was in the tub, the PW became these intense convulsions (for lack of a better word) that took over my body, but I hadn’t realized I’d already gone through transformation and was well into the pushing stage. Keep in mind that epidurals are usually given at around 3-4cm in dilation – well before transformation!
Back to the childbirth: Angie immediately calls my doctor who promptly freaks out and tells me to stop pushing and go straight to the birth center. Now when you are in active labor, there is no conscious choice. It’s like if you get traveler’s diarrhea – your body is going to expel what it doesn’t want whether you like it or not. The thought of getting into a moving vehicle is the last thing I want to do. My dr suggests calling for an ambulance. The thought of panicked paramedics mucking up my home and going to an unfamiliar hospital is even less appealing.
I have Angie and my good friend (who officiated my wedding) in my home. I am a low-risk pregnancy and the birth is obviously progressing rapidly and smoothly. I tell Angie we’ll just have the baby at home because he’s already sneaking his way out and go to the birth center afterwards. Angie goes into the nursery and tells my friend to stop packing the birth bags as we’re having the baby at home. My friend asks Angie, “so are you a midwife?” “I’m a midwife student,” replies Angie. My friend, bless her, calmly takes this in stride and asks how she can help.
They gather up all the towels in my home and I eventually get out of the tub and onto my bed. I start on my hands and knees, and then roll to my side to rest. Childbirth feels like awful constipation – I feel like I have the biggest poo ever stuck in my colon, I tell Angie, and then promptly apologize to the baby for likening him to poo. Since I’m feeling this way, I decide to move onto the toilet. Angie is great, providing support (literally – I lean on her doing PW) and my friend is photographing and filming the whole thing. In between PW I am relaxed and do things like comb and fix my hair so that it’s not in my face, and be all Martha Stewart-y by directing cleanup so that everything is neat and in place.
When the baby’s head has descended even more, Angie suggests moving off of the toilet since obviously he’ll be harder to catch. I agree and I end up standing, leaning against my closet as Angie sits of the floor to catch him. His head slowly inches out. At one point, DH calls to get an update – he’s transferring planes in Helsinki. My friend answers and tells him the head is out! Just before 9pm, his head out, he does a little turn so that his shoulders can come out and with a whoosh, his whole body slides out and Angie lifts him up to me. We are so ecstatic and it’s wonderful to have my baby in my arms! He looks just like his daddy!
We pile any remaining towels onto my bed and I go there to lie down so that the baby and I can have our skin-to-skin bonding time, he can try to latch on, and I can birth the placenta. In a short while, the placenta is birthed and we wrap it up in a old Asian WSJ. At this point, I’m starving and I want to eat that dinner that my friend brought over!
I get dressed and go to the dining room and eat my dinner – I feel a little shaky – the kind of feeling you get after a huge physical exertion (e.g. intense swim practice, tough water polo game) and your blood sugar is low. I feel like I’ve run a marathon or hiked one of Taiwan’s tallest peaks with just a few energy bars. I snarf my food down while Angie holds the baby and my friend cleans up.
We then head to the birth center (my dr is in a panic, remember). On the way over, I mention I could still eat a Whopper (not my usual order of a Whopper Jr., but a regular-sized Whopper). We arrive at the birth center – no parking spots by the entrance, so we park about 15-20 meters away and I walk into the birth center with my baby in one arm and my placenta, wrapped in newspaper and in a plastic tub, in my other arm. Later on the nurses keep commenting on how I didn’t seem like a mom who had just given birth, given how I just strolled into their reception area where they were all waiting for us.
It turns out I had a 2nd degree tear (skin & muscle) which my dr sews up (for the record, that was much more uncomfortable and stressful than childbirth, even though I had local anesthesia – I did not prepare by going into hypnosis first as it caught me off guard). When I first arrived, my dr was very upset about the home birth and the fact that I’d taken so long to arrive since Angie had first called (I thought it was perfectly reasonable for me to have a good meal after giving birth to my baby, and I obviously didn’t have that same sense of urgency she had). I’m on a high after the birth and don’t mind her freak out at all; I just keep thinking, I just had my baby and he’s the most wonderful, adorable thing ever in my arms!
Perhaps my dr had thought that I had secretly planned a home birth. I am actually one of those people that’s quite comfortable with having my natural birth in a facility with all the backup medical resources available – but as they say, the first rule of parenting is to expect the unexpected! Anyways, after she inspected me she said that my cervix showed obvious signs of fast dilation and seemed to realize that hypnosis for childbirth can work so well that everyone (myself included!) can miss the signs of how quickly its progressing.
Even though I did not get my water birth, I had an amazing childbirth experience. Ultimately, it was exactly the way I wanted – smooth, natural, and peaceful. As Angie said, the three of us women worked together to create this great environment that was as pleasant as a few girlfriends gathering together for afternoon tea – except that instead of nibbling on petit fours, we had a baby!