My labour with Paul began in my sleep. I was awoken at 4am with mild, irregular contractions. I was just one day past my due date but very ready to meet this baby. Paul is my third baby and I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as my labour was concerned because my other two labours had been so different from one another. My first labour had been long and hard as my daughter was “sunnyside up” or posterior. My second labour had been very fast with us just barely making it to hospital before my son was born. I had used almost every medication available to a labouring woman, including having an epidural, for my daughter and no medications with my son. I decided ahead of time that I did not want to use any medications this time around again as I had found my recovery as well as my son’s was much easier and quicker with no medications in our system.
I lay in bed and waited through a few more contractions just to make sure I was in labour. Once I figured that out I woke my husband and got in the shower. With all three labours I found having a shower at the beginning was a way of marking the beginning of labour. My Dr. had told us to call once I knew I was in labour and so we paged him at 5am. By 6am I was ready to head into the hospital. My contractions were getting stronger in intensity and closer together although they still were somewhat irregular.
We arrived at the hospital just before 7am and baby and I were assessed by my nurse. I was 4cm dilated and baby’s heart rate was strong and regular. Everything was plugging along well. I was tired but knew that I needed to keep moving and upright in order to keep my labour progressing so I spent a lot of that early morning walking around the unit. My husband and I were nervously excited thinking about the work to come and wonderful end result- a new baby. We talked a lot about what we thought he might look like, if he would be a boy or girl, how much he would weigh, what kind of personality he would have and how our family would adapt. Keeping my mind focussed on baby helped me stay relaxed through my labour.
As the morning went along so did my labour. By 10am my contractions were regular every two minutes, some were really strong and some were mild. I had decided to lie down and rest just before this but now I found that I wanted to be up and moving again as it helped me cope with my painful contractions much easier. I was starting to really need to focus on my breathing and movements during most contractions in order to keep my mind focussed positively on the work. My husband was always at my side encouraging me and using his sense of humour to keep my smiling. I made sure to drink and rest in between contractions now so I had no distractions when those hard contractions came.
By noon I was 7cm, heading into transition, the most difficult but short lived part of labour. My contractions were all intense now. I felt them all over- my abdomen, back, hips and thighs. My nurse suggested I try the birthing ball and taught my husband how to squeeze my hips. Both brought great relief during each contraction. Having my husband’s strong, warm hands was so comforting and helped keep me focussed. I did a lot of low, loud moaning and groaning through transition too. This part is so much about mind over matter- not losing yourself and losing control but using breathing, position changes, your labour support and that picture of baby you have stored up in your brain to keep you moving forward towards the end. A few times in transition I felt like I might lose it, like it was too much but I just brought back that visual of me holding my baby in my arms and kept going.
Soon enough, I felt like I needed to push with my contractions. My nurse examined me and I was fully dilated. Now it was 1:50pm. She called my Dr. and prepared for baby’s birth. My contractions were still very intense but I knew it was almost over now which was very exciting.
Pushing took a lot longer than I thought it would and ended up being the hardest part of my labour with Paul. I had assumed that I would only have to push through a couple of contractions (a few minutes) as that was how it was for my second birth. It turned out that I had to push for 25 long minutes. I had a lot of pain in my tailbone during this time and felt discouraged as it was taking so much longer than I thought it would. My husband used hot compresses and counter-pressure on my tailbone which helped a lot. My waters finally broke at this time too. I had to really get over the pain mentally and get on with the work physically in order to keep going with pushing. I just kept telling myself that this was normal even though it didn’t feel like it and that it would be over soon. Everyone in the room kept encouraging me which gave me extra energy to keep going and not give up.
Finally at 2:25 pm little Paul Edward was born right up onto my chest skin to skin. He gave a loud cry and then settled right into me. He weighed 8’11” and was born with his hand up at his face both of which explained why I had to push so much longer than I had expected. He was alert and looking around and latched on almost right away. What a precious and unforgettable moment.
I have heard it said the birth is a labour of love- I couldn’t agree more. Labour hurts and there were a lot of moments when I felt like I wouldn’t get through it but I did. When I finally got to hold my little one in my arms, to look at his beautiful face and feel him skin to skin on my chest I knew that it was all worth it. I will never forget the pain of any of my labours but the reward was far greater making it all worth it in the end.
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