Sunday, November 18th, was my due date. That afternoon, as I sat in church, I had a few contractions that felt different from the usual Braxton Hicks. They were sharper, and they wrapped around my whole lower back and abdomen, instead of coming just in front. They weren't anything to pay serious attention to, so I went on with my day and didn't say anything. About two hours later we were driving out to Tyler's parents' house for Sunday dinner. I noticed the funny contractions again, and mentioned it to Tyler. By the time we got to my in-laws' house, I was starting to feel like this might be the beginning of labor. Not wanting the contractions to go away, we left Noah with Cort and ElLois and took a walk around their neighborhood. It was very cold outside, but I didn't mind. I was excited that our baby might be coming soon, and I sincerely hoped all that walking would encourage my body to keep those contractions coming!
We only stayed at my in-laws' house for about an hour before I decided we needed to go home. The contractions continued all the way home, and I whipped out my handy-dandy iPhone contraction timer app to see how far apart they were. If I remember correctly, they were about 5-7 minutes apart and lasting for about 50 seconds, and definitely different from Braxton-Hicks.
Once we got home, they seemed to slow down a little bit and came a little less regularly. We went to bed and tried to act like everything was normal, just in case nothing came of it after all. Thankfully, normal was not in the cards for us that night! My contractions woke me up at about 1:30 am, and they were definitely getting stronger and more regular. I woke Tyler up to tell him, and he advised me to try to go back to sleep. I tried for another hour and a half to sleep, but was unsuccessful. After timing my contractions for a little while longer, I got up to get a snack. I was starving! I got some applesauce and some toast, but as soon as I ate a little, my appetite went completely away. I started feeling a little nauseous, and my bowels started moving quite efficiently (how's that for putting things delicately, eh?).
I decided that taking a bath would help relax my body and my nerves. I stayed in the tub for an hour or so, timing contractions and reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. At this point, my contractions were about five minutes apart and lasting for about a minute, and I had to start concentrate to relax through each one. I called the midwife at the hospital to tell her what was going on, and she advised us to come within the next hour and a half. I woke Tyler up and told him to start getting things together to to go the hospital. I didn't feel the need to rush, so we took things slowly and calmly.
About 30 minutes later, I realized that we needed to leave for the hospital ASAP! I couldn't talk through contractions anymore, and they had really started to hurt. The center of the pain was right in my lower back, and I asked Tyler to come and push on it when each wave came. We got Noah up and got our bags in the car, and by 6:10 we were on our way to the hospital. It was a 40 minute drive to the hospital, and I wished that we had left an hour before we did. Each contraction was getting harder and harder to handle, and during that car ride, things intensified really quickly. The only way I could keep my body relaxed was to sort of hum and moan through each wave of pressure.
By the time we handed Noah off to my father-in-law in the parking lot and got into the L&D lobby at 7:00, I was really having a hard time. It was all I could do just to remain standing as we checked in. They got us into a room very quickly, and I changed into a long, grey nightshirt that I had picked up at the DI (last time I had to wear the hospital gowns and I HATED it!). The nurse, Cathie, checked me and told me I was 8 centimeters dilated. I felt so relieved and elated! I was terrified that she would tell me I was only at a 4, and even my best-case-scenario thoughts imgined I was only at a 6. Without saying another word, the nurse zoomed out of the room to see if the midwife was there. Since everyone was in the middle of shift change, the midwife I had spoken to was already gone, and the new midwife was 30 minutes away. Cathie got a resident doctor to be on standby, and she came back to get my IV for antibiotics started (I was strep positive). About five minutes later, I told the nurse I felt like I needed to push. The nurse checked me again, and told me I was at a 9. Since the midwife wasn't there yet, she said I could push "a little" to make me feel better. Any woman who's given birth naturally knows there's no such thing as pushing "a little" when your body is truly ready to push. I tried pushing and my body completely took over, pushing harder and longer than I even imagined possible. Just as the resident doctor was getting ready to come and break my water, the midwife, Martie, ran in and started coaching me through my contractions. Three contractions later, my water broke as I was pushing and the baby really started moving down. Martie and Cathie did such a great job coaching me through this pushing stage. I was not a very calm and quiet laboring mother, that's for sure! The contractions were so very intense that the moaning and humming had long given way to a very loud groan that was closer to yelling than anything else. As I pushed and the pain intensified, my groans started getting higher in pitch, and it took a lot of reminders from the nurse and midwife to keep it in a lower octave. Apparently, when I let my voice get higher, it tightened my vagina. Keeping my voice low allowed my vagina to remain relaxed as the baby descended.
It seemed like the "ring of fire" stage lasted forever. For a few minutes, I felt like I couldn't do it anymore and that the pain would never go away. But Tyler, Cathie, and Martie gave me lots and lots of encouragement, and I kept pushing. After only 20 minutes of pushing, Bethany Elise Bailey emerged at 7:55 am, and Martie put her right on my chest. I couldn't believe it was all over and Bethany was here at last!
That hour after Bethany was born was completely opposite from Noah's first hour. Because there had been some minor complications with Noah's birth, they had to whisk him right away after I had only held him for a few moments. They had cut the cord immediately and started doing his assessments quickly. The room was full of nurses and lights and talking. When Bethany was born, the room was completely devoid of rush and worry. It was just us, Cathie, Martie, and maybe one other nurse. Everything was just as it should be. I held and tried to nurse her for a good 20 minutes before anyone talked of taking her anywhere. When I was good and ready, the nurse did her assessments and gave her right back to us. Everything was calm and peaceful. In fact, the only uncomfortable thing that was going on was the attention Cathie and Martie had to give to my body. Just as with Noah's birth, I came close to hemorraging, and I needed medicine right away to stop it. I also had a 2nd-degree tear which took a while to stitch up. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to be alert, with no epidural to restrict my movements, and to have Tyler and my baby right there with me the whole time.
My recovery was a hundred times better this time around, thanks to the lack of drugs. Last time I felt like a train had hit my body, and it took two full days before I was strong enough to walk around comfortably. This time, I was able to get up and go to the bathroom a few short hours after giving birth, and by that evening I could stand up long enough to shower and make myself look presentable for my parents and Tyler's parents to visit us. I was definitely on a birth-high, and I felt happy, energetic, and pleasant. In short, everything that I had wanted for this birth came true. It was intense, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle with the great support that Tyler, Martie, and Cathie gave me.