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My first painful contractions came at about 6 pm on December 9 after weeks of on again, off again prelabor. I was 40 weeks and 2 days with our third child. The twins were two years old (their due date was December 10 two years prior) and I was planning a VBAC with a local licensed homebirth midwife (Heather) and an Albuquerque midwife (Connie). We planned on traveling to Connie’s birth center in Albuquerque to get us close to a good hospital in case a transfer was needed.
I started timing my contractions through dinner and they were regular and crampy, so I let Heather and my doula (Amy) know that there was a good chance that we would be headed to the birth center a few hours away if they didn’t stop or slow down when I showered. They didn’t, so Jed and I packed the twins up into the truck, called the people who needed to know we were coming and then hit the road.
My contractions weren’t incredibly regular or terribly painful on the drive up, but they were definitely not going away and I was thankful to not be in transition while wearing a seat belt. They were still about 6 minutes apart for most of the drive, but when we got to the birth center they quickly sped up to about 3 minutes apart. My back was absolutely killing me, but the baby was in a good position, so I’m not sure why my back labor was so intense. I couldn’t really sit down and relax because they hurt so much. Amy did some wonderful things with counter pressure that worked well for awhile, but eventually that stopped helping as well and I spent some time pacing and walking and just being in labor.
We had gotten to Albuquerque around 10 pm and my mom got there at around midnight to watch the twins and hopefully sleep through all the commotion. At 2 am the kids were still up (I was still laboring along) and I tried to lay down to help them sleep. Laying on my side through two contractions was absolute torture. I couldn’t make it through three, but Jed got them to sleep and I just kept getting counter pressure and working through each contraction as it came.
At some point I wanted to try to labor in the tub for a bit, but I wanted to know that I was far enough along that it wouldn’t impact the progress I was making. I asked Heather for a dilation check and she agreed. While she was gloving up and getting ready I had two contractions that felt multi-peaked, but still tolerable. I laid back on the bed, she checked, then rechecked while saying something about wanting to be sure. She told me that my cervix was nearly gone. I was about 9 cm. A frenzy to fill the birth/labor pool ensued and I leaned on Jed for support for a few more contractions. I didn’t feel any urge to vocalize through contractions except for a few quiet moans here and there, so I just went with that.
When there was about 12 inches of water in the pool I got in and immediately began vomiting. I threw up a few times and Heather and Connie added cooler water to the pool to hopefully help my nausea. It subsided a little bit, but mostly I didn’t like the birth pool. I got out at some point shortly after that and kept pacing and asking for dilation checks for some reason.
At almost 5 am I started pushing in earnest. I grunted through pushes, but never felt an incredibly stong urge to bear down and push hard. My pushes were short and after an hour of that, I felt, ineffective. My water still hadn’t broke and while I was fully dilated, the baby was still at zero station. Heather asked me to push really really hard and see if I could break the water, but despite me giving it everything I had, I couldn’t break it. I was stuck. Connie suggested artificial rupture of membranes, which was on my NO list as far as birth plan, and I asked Heather to make sure that the baby’s head was well engaged and that there was no cord that she could feel, but that yes, I needed some help.
She broke my bag of waters and continued to feel to make sure there was only a head and no cord prolapse. Doppler confirmed that the baby was still happy as could be and I went on pushing. At this point I could finally feel the baby and it helped me to regroup and keep working. I labored in the shower with the water spraying my back. Jed watched, but this was the part of my labor where I knew I was truly on my own. Nothing helped. Nothing made it go away. Pushing was hard. I was fighting my own battles in my head. I knew that if I was in a hospital I would have asked for an epidural. I commiserated with women who scheduled their second cesarean rather than fighting a battle to have a VBAC. I wondered if I had it in me to do this. I heard Heather mention something in the other room about directed pushing if I didn’t seem to be progressing and I started directing my own pushing.
I pushed longer. I counted in my head. I pushed harder. I pushed with everything I had then let the water relax me for another minute. Then when it was time I tucked my chin and grunted and counted in my head. I lifted one leg up in the shower and pushed, then lifted the other leg and pushed. I pushed squatting. I pushed standing. I knew the baby was coming down with each push and I had gotten to a very primal place. There was no more internal struggle, no more talking myself through contractions. There was only pushing.
Heather and Amy came into the bathroom at some point and asked if I could get out of the tub. The water was starting to get cold and I nodded. They pulled the birth stool into the bathroom and I squatted while I held onto it and pushed. I just kept giving it everything I had for some time. I knew the baby was deep in my birth canal and I could feel more pressure with each strong push. The closer we got to crowning, the more uncomfortable it was. I knew that pushing through that pain would be hard, but I was so so tired. I felt someone stroking my lower back and it felt so nice and relaxing compared to the waves of pushing.
As the baby crowned, Heather gave me significant perineal support. The head was coming out with each push, then retreating, but she told me that with one more good contraction we could get it to stay and not go back in. I bore down and gave it all I had and it stayed out! I reached down and felt it. With the next contraction I pushed the head out all the way, then one shoulder, then the other, then a butt and whole baby. I felt each “plop” as the big parts came free. Jed caught the baby and passed him to me and I immediately saw that we had a boy. I was so thankful to be done and so aware of him from that second. Heather helped him to get those first breaths of air with a little back rubbing and suction, and then he cried. He needed a little bit of help breathing after a few minutes, but he worked the goop out and looked great. We named him Bridger Rawlin Murphy. He was born at 7:17 am.
A very short few minutes later I had a raging contraction and pushed the placenta out. I was shocked by how intense the contraction was – it was every bit as strong as the contractions that pushed Bridger out. We tied the cord and I cut it. My mom brought the twins in and they got to meet Bridger. After a few minutes they went back into the living room area. Someone took Bridger and I attempted to stand up and move to the bedroom, but I got dizzy and sat back down. There was a lot of blood on the floor. A lot. A bunch of arms picked me up and carried me into the bedroom and put me on the bed. Heather lifted my legs up and Connie gave me oxygen. Jed took his shirt off and sat next to me holding Bridger and doing skin to skin.
I started feeling better, so Heather started examining the placenta. I started feeling woozy again. My uterus felt firm, but with some serious massaging big clots came out. A few times. I heard Connie and Heather discussing a transfer. I was still bleeding. Still fighting to stay conscious. They gave me a shot of pitocin. More clots. I remember thinking that if I passed out I might never wake up again and I roused myself enough to ask for a hospital transfer. One thing that I know about birth and instinct is that you never ignore serious feelings of doom. 911 was called, paramedics came in, I was moved onto a stretcher and I passed out for a few seconds.
Jed stayed with Bridger at the birth center and Connie did the newborn checkup with them. Heather rode to the hospital with me in the ambulance. In the hospital I was given cytotec, more pitocin, clotting drugs and had an ultrasound. There were a few clots stuck in my lower uterus that just wouldn’t come out and were preventing my uterus from clamping down fully. A doctor came in and explained it all to me, with the main points being that I would need a manual extraction and that they recommended an IV narcotic. If the manual extraction didn’t work, the next option was a D&C. I declined the narcotic under the agreement that if it was too much I would get it and we would try again. She barely touched me and I nearly jumped out of my skin, so I got the narcotic and she manually removed the clots.
It was fast, but it was hard. I remember them telling me to try and relax right before they did it. Ha! She bore down on my fundus from the outside as well. It was an incredibly painful couple of seconds, but then it was done. The clots were out. My uterus was clamping. My bleeding was under control. I slept for a bit and Heather told Jed that he could bring Bridger to me. He told her that Bridger was 7 lbs. 10 oz. and 21 inches long.
I think it was about 4 hours after he was born when I first got to nurse him, and he latched immediately. I was so worried that he would not do it right away, but he did. His latch was beautiful and he had a few precious swallows and I was thrilled. He stayed with me from then on.
My hemoglobin and hematocrit dropped to below thresholds for blood transfusion and I couldn’t stand up without passing out, so after our first night I consented to a transfusion. I was terrified, but it made all the difference and I could finally walk to the bathroom and pee. One more night of recovery, then I was released and we came home to my mom and the twins.
I told Jed that I was jealous that he got the newborn bonding time, but I’m so thankful that he was there to do that. I have had zero bonding problems and while a hospital transfer clearly wasn’t in my plan, I am so thankful that we made the drive up there to be close to a hospital just in case. It was the right choice for us, no doubt. I don’t have any negative feelings about my birth experience and I am so proud of what we accomplished. I couldn’t be more thankful for the people who were at the birth with me and their support during one of the hardest things I have ever done.