Jacqui & Mark
I woke up Saturday morning (40w5d, 6/22) early and restless, as had been common late in pregnancy. I noticed that I was having some contractions, which wasn’t new, and that they were fairly regular, which was. Mark and I took the dogs for a walk and I shared with him and Linsey that I was having regular contractions, but that they were not difficult at all, so I wasn’t sure what they meant. We pretty much ignored them for the rest of the morning, which was not hard to do.
After a trip to the farmers market, lunch and a shower, I was going to settle in for a nap when I noticed a little gush. It was such a small volume I thought I must have peed a little, and went back to the bathroom to clean up and try to empty my bladder more fully. However, when I looked at what came out, it was clear that it was not urine but meconium stained amniotic fluid, though I didn’t fully accept that at the time.
I texted Linsey and told her, and she said she’d be by to listen to baby soon. I told Mark and my mom and everyone got really excited. I was still a little apprehensive that I’d cried labor too early, but pretty soon I was having lots of much larger gushes of fluid, which convinced me that things really were happening.
Pretty shortly after my water broke the contractions started getting much more intense. I liked to lean over the kitchen island and sway during them. Any sitting or laying down position was completely unbearable (bye bye birth ball). By the time Linsey got there around 2pm I was pretty clearly heading down the road to labor as the contractions did require a fair bit of my attention.
She checked on baby and me, pronounced us healthy, confirmed the presence of light meconium, said that it looked like things were moving pretty quickly and to call her back if we needed anything. I continued to labor another couple hours, at an increasing intensity. I tried to bake the birthday cake we’d planned on making, and did successfully get it in the oven (thank god it was a mix!), but just barely.
Around 4:00pm my mom and husband felt that we needed to call Linsey back so that I could get my first dose of antibiotics (I was GBS+ and decided to go for the ampicillin), but I was still convinced it was too early. We did call and Linsey came over shortly after, and I was clearly working fairly hard by then.
We tried multiple times to get an IV in on me, and finally got most of the dose in (it was a total disaster). My labor really slowed down during this time, but luckily picked right back up as soon as it was over. That really was incredible- to see my body respond like that to my surroundings.
I moved back into the bedroom while Linsey and Jen (the assistant who had arrived in the meantime) got set up in the house. I think everyone was anticipating a pretty quick delivery based on how rapidly I’d progressed from ‘light contractions’ to working hard. We came back out into the rest of the house where the pool was nearly set up and I was desperate to get in.
This is where things start to get fuzzy. I have lots of disjointed memories, but I don’t know what order they should be in. I really didn’t want anyone else to help me other than Mark. He knew where to press on my back and how, and no one else did. I labored in the pool, on the toilet (which I LOVED, plus I was alone in there, alone was nice), leaning over the couch, in all kinds of positions on the bed.
I remember being on the bed on my knees leaning against the wall when a contraction came at the same time as a big thunder clap (there was a storm going on for the first part of labor) and saying out loud ‘that was fucking awesome’. It was like hearing the power of my own contraction out loud. I liked putting my hands over my ears so that I couldn’t hear anyone else and so that I could hear my own moans louder in my head. I remember growling even louder trying to be louder than the contractions were.
At some point I started throwing up, which seemed to be further evidence that labor was moving along pretty quickly. I know I was starting to use mantras in my head more, especially telling myself over and over that the contraction couldn’t be stronger than me, as well as repeating ‘I can, I am and I WILL’.
In general I remember feeling mentally good during this time, it hurt, that’s for damn sure, but I felt generally in control and like I knew what I was doing and where things were going. I felt strong like the super mama warrior I always thought women in labor were. I was going to rock it.
Around 9pm I asked to be checked. I’m really not sure why. I think maybe I had it in my head that I was going to get checked once in labor, so now should be it. I really hoped that I was getting close and could start pushing soon. As soon as the exam started I knew it wasn’t good. Linsey had to reach way too far in and back to feel my cervix for me to have made much progress, and I said ‘that’s not good’ out loud. She tried to reassure me that really it was and not to worry, but that didn’t make it much better.
Linsey told me that I was almost completely effaced and that the baby was really low (+1), but that she didn’t want to discourage me by giving me a dilation number. If I really wanted to know, she’d tell me, but I knew she was right not to and I didn’t ask. I was pretty discouraged at this point though, and I felt like a bit of the wind was taken out of my ‘super mama warrior’ sails. Labor was already so hard and I really didn’t know how I was going to make it through.
Jen and Linsey suggested I stay in bed on my side with my knee up for a while since I’d been in upright positions for a long time and they wanted me to be changing positions often. So Mark and I did that with him pushing on my back, and it was kinda torture. I was resting really nicely between contractions, but as a result when they hit me I was totally unprepared, so it was extremely hard to get and stay on top of them.
The whole energy in the house changed after the exam too. Everybody was napping anticipating having a long time to go, the music got turned off and the whole house was quiet.
After a while I simply couldn’t be in bed anymore and came out into the kitchen. I had several contractions leaning over the island again and the back of my pelvis was on fire. Mark was sleeping though and no one else knew where to press so I just got through it. I was much more quiet during this time, I think everyone thought my labor had slowed down, but it hadn’t. I just didn’t have the fire or energy to fight and growl through my contractions as much as I had earlier (now, I was by no means silent, just softer).
Around this time I started getting to the point where I really had no idea how I was going to make it through. I had no plan anymore, and I just fell back on the things I had learned to do in order to cope through each contraction. I swayed, I squatted, I vocalized in low tones, I kept repeating mantras in my head and I tried as hard as I could to keep my body relaxed. I was glad to have those things to fall back on when I didn’t know what else to do.
I got back in the pool and labored with my mom’s support for a while longer. While I was in the pool Mark came out from his nap and I continued while knuckling it through the contractions. Looking back I wonder if I was in ‘transition’ at this point, because I sure felt like I was hanging on by a thread. I know I told me mom that I didn’t think I could do it anymore.
I kept saying my mantras over and over again, while simultaneously trying to figure out how I could get pain relief faster and wondering why no one had invented at-home anesthesia. Even then though, I knew that any kind of transfer would be ridiculous since it would take to long to get relief anyway!
At the top of a few contractions I started feeling like I wanted to push, but I was completely convinced that it had to be wishful thinking. I had just been checked a 3 hours before and had not made much progress, so there was no way I could be ready to push. No one really said anything to me, so I thought that maybe I was just imagining that I was pushing and that they didn’t notice (this was not the case).
This went on this way for a few contractions before I said out loud that I thought I was starting to push. Linsey told me to go ahead and listen to my body but not force it, if I needed to push, push, and if I could hold off, do that. So I tried to push as little as I needed to through several contractions.
I was feeling like I probably also needed to go to the bathroom and really didn’t want to do so in the pool, so I moved over to the toilet to see if I could go, but the vast majority of the pressure I was feeling at that point was the baby’s head. Strangely, I didn’t feel as much like I needed to push while on the toilet, so I figured that I’d been right and I really wasn’t pushing yet.
At ten to 1am I got up to head back to the pool. On the way I got stuck in a contraction on the way and grabbed onto Mark for support. Then I started really pushing. I’m not sure if it was the upright position or what, but I couldn’t really stop it at that point. Linsey checked as best she could with me standing and said she felt a little cervical lip but that I could probably push through it, and that if I wanted I could lie down for a better exam. There was NO way I could have done that. She suggested that we try as we were and if we weren’t making good progress in a half hour or so we’d try something else.
Things were so intense at this point, but I remember mostly just feeling the need to push, not the contractions so much. As one would come I would hang on Mark and pretty much make him support my whole weight, poor guy. My mom stood behind him to hold my hands and keep him steady. After only a few contractions I could really feel the baby’s head moving down, so I finally knew that it was time to go for it, clearly there was no turning back. So I pushed, hard, standing, in my dining room, hanging off of my husband with each contraction.
Mark got really choked up at this point, the reality that he was about to meet his child really hit him. That response was incredibly encouraging so me, to hear someone else be so excited that the baby was almost here made it more real (although at the time I told him not to get too excited because surely it was going to be a while, ha).
There were a few times that I felt like the head had been in the same place for a long time but Linsey assured me that it was coming down with each push. The sensations of the head moving through my birth canal were intense. Especially the further the baby moved down, the pain and intensity of it just being there was almost as much as that of continuing to push it out. Linsey told me to reach down and feel the head, and I can’t even describe how powerful that was.
Now, two months later, I remember clearly how that felt every time I stroke his hair. As he crowned it hurt and stung so much, it felt like the ‘ring of fire’ just went on forever and moved from location to location. Finally with one last incredibly strong push his head was out! Compared to the size of the head, the size of the body still inside of me felt like nothing. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to push against in order to get it out the rest of the way!
Linsey assured me that it was ok to wait for the next contraction, and sure enough with the next contraction I gave birth to our baby at 1:16am. I asked my husband if it was a boy or a girl, and in answer Linsey said ‘see for yourself’ and handed HIM up to me, of course he was a boy! Archer Francis Salsbury. It seemed like we must have always known that.
He was covered in blood (expected) and thick vernix (unexpected given that he was past his due date!) and we were all so in awe and love. He was (is) perfect. Eventually I managed to waddle myself back to bed holding my son as far up as his cord would allow. I delivered the placenta there and started trying to feed him, which he didn’t take to immediately but figured out fairly quickly over the next day.
I did have some pretty extensive tearing (big baby+first baby+standing to push+ really pushing for only 30min = recipe for tearing) and needed to be sutured for quite a while so Mark spend some time with his son. When we finally got to weigh him and he was 9lbs 13oz! I had expected a baby on the larger side but that was way more chunk than even I planned on!