Tuesday, November 23rd, was our last Bradley natural childbirth class meeting. We went to class, one of four remaining couples that hadn’t had their babies yet from the original seven. We were the only ones who were overdue, and in fact, the three couples that had had their babies already had each given birth 3 weeks early, so we’d already seen 2 couples jump ahead of us in the due date/birth order. The last Bradley class was fun, and covered things like newborn care and labor relaxation practice. I had remarked to Daniel earlier that day, “wouldn’t it be funny if we went into labor during birth class tonight?” Well we didn’t. However, at the end of class, I went to the bathroom because I felt like I was leaking. It turned out I was losing my mucous plug. I was excited because I knew it meant something would be happening soon, but I tried not to get too excited because I also knew that it can take from several hours to several weeks after that for labor to start, and I didn’t know which one we would be. We went to Walmart on our way home that night, and bought some rice for our microwaveable rice sock, and a wristwatch for Daniel so he could more easily time contractions. When we got home, I fussbudgeted around doing things before bed that night, thinking in the back of my mind that contractions could start at anytime, so I wanted to get a few things done for sure. I finished putting together our baby’s quilt top, pinning the final pieces in place. I took pictures of it, the bird mobile I’d been working on, and of the rest of her nursery and posted them on facebook. When I finally went to bed it was past 2 am.
Wednesday, November 24th, I woke up at 5am with contractions. They weren’t very strong at first, just strong enough to wake me up and consistent enough for me to realize what they were. I lay in bed for another hour, trying to drift back to sleep to try to sleep through them. It didn’t really work. I wasn’t sure yet if this was “real” labor, or Braxton Hicks “practice” labor, so I decided to change positions and see if that made a difference. I got up, went to the bathroom and took a warm bath. It was really soothing, but the contractions continued throughout it. When I got out of the tub, I’d heard Daniel’s 6:45am alarm go off for work, so I crawled back in bed with him as he hit snooze. When he woke up at 7, he was a little surprised that I was already awake and looking at him. I snuggled up with him as he turned his alarm off, and asked him, “What if I told you that there’s a good chance we’ll be holding our daughter in our arms in the next 24 hours?” He looked at me and said, “Well, then I’d smile”. I said, “Well, start smiling!” He looked puzzled and asked, “Are you in labor?” I replied, “I’ve been having contractions for about 2 hours now.” He quickly called into work and told them he wouldn’t be coming in to work that day. I called my parents about 7:30 and asked about Grandma, who was having a procedure done. She was doing really well they said, and when I informed them that I was having contractions, they were really excited. We promised to keep each other updated throughout the day. I called my brother next, as he and Sarah and their daughter, 2-year-old Katie were coming to visit us for Thanksgiving. I told them that it was likely they would be the first Millers to meet my daughter, and they were excited. They were eating breakfast on their way out the door, and we promised to keep each other updated as well.
Labor that morning was pretty easy. While he cooked us breakfast burritos, I read to Daniel from “Babycatcher”, a book about a modern day midwife and some of the births she’d encountered. I was easily able to talk through the contractions that morning, and we laughed together over many of the book’s antics. About 10:00, I called our midwife Kim Kmita’s office and asked if I should keep my 10:45 appointment. They asked if I’d been having 5 contractions an hour. I’d been having them every 5 minutes at that point, and they said I should just go to the hospital. Though my contractions were close together, and lasting about 45 seconds, I still didn’t feel like they were very strong, maybe like menstrual cramps. I could still talk through them with only a little difficulty. We made a list of things we wanted to do before heading to the hospital, and took our time doing them. Daniel cleaned up the house in preparation for Chad, Sarah and Katie, and I stood at the sink and washed dishes, turning the water off whenever I had a contraction. With only one dish left, I felt emotional and practically cried, “I don’t want to do dishes anymore!” Daniel assured me I didn’t have to, and he hurriedly finished packing our bags in the car. At this point, I had hit the 3/1/1 signpost (contractions 3 minutes apart, lasting a minute each and continuing for an hour). I still didn’t feel they were awful, but I’d been in labor for 7.5 hours at that point, and was becoming a bit more serious about it.
We arrived at the hospital at about 12:30, and walked right in to the Labor and Delivery wing. On the way there, I’d said to Daniel, “if I’m less than 3cm, I just want to go back home.” He agreed. The nurses checked me in to room 1, and did an exam. At that point I was 90% effaced, but only 1cm dilated. I was disappointed that I wasn’t further along, but I was glad to see the progress, since at my last appointment the previous Wednesday I’d only been 50% effaced and not dilated at all. At least there was some progress made towards having that baby, which meant that she was coming, sooner or later, but coming nonetheless. We went back home, phoning Kathy on the way. She advised me to try to get some sleep, so as soon as I got home I went to bed to try to nap.
I was able to doze, since my contractions weren’t excruciating, just painful at that point. I did wake most of the way up with each contraction, but was able to maintain a sleepy attitude and the same side-lying position for the whole nap. During my nap, my contractions slowed down to about 7 minutes apart and slackened off intensity-wise for a little bit. Finally, after a few hours, the sounds of people in the house woke me along with some stronger contractions. Daniel was gone.
I walked into the living room to discover my in-laws had made a surprise visit to our house while I was in labor. They had been planning to visit with Daniel’s Aunt Corine and us for Thanksgiving, and Daniel had called them when they were on their way, informed them I was having contractions, and asked them to go straight to his Aunt’s house since he needed to be with me. They didn’t listen, however, and decided to just “stop by” for an hour or so on their way up to his Aunt’s house. It was frustrating to feel like we had to play host while they toured the baby nursery, got directions to the Aunt’s, and ignored every subtle hint we threw at them that we needed our alone time for labor. We finally decided to go for a walk, hoping that they’d be gone by the time we got back. At this point, the labor pains were like really bad menstrual cramps. 10 minutes later, we returned from our walk, the entirety of which was spent by me complaining about their rudeness, and Daniel sympathizing, despite the fact that it was his parents I was talking about. He knew I was in pain and didn’t mean half the things I was saying. He was so understanding and amazing. When we got back, he gave them a not-so-subtle hint that we really needed to do this alone and they needed to hit the road. They left, and we went for another walk.
By the time we got back, Chad, Sarah and Katie had arrived. I felt guilty welcoming their arrival after shooing away my in-laws, but I knew that they would be perfect houseguests, not requiring any entertaining whatsoever, and only interacting with us as much as we wanted and not a speck more. And I was right. I had made a turkey bean soup earlier that day so it was in the crockpot ready to go, so we all sat around the table eating and talking. I ate a smaller bowl of soup, and it was so good I ate a second. I sat on the exercise ball at the table, and didn’t talk during contractions, but just breathed through them. I talked between them though, and was able to thoroughly enjoy Katie as she sat in Sarah’s lap. “Yum, turkey soup!” said Sarah. “Yum, turkey poop!” echoed Katie. I almost fell off my exercise ball.
After dinner, Sarah washed all the dishes and Daniel and I decided to go for another walk. We walked around the block this time, and around and around it. We walked for several hours, coming back for occasional bathroom breaks. Any time I had a contraction, we stopped, faced each other and became partners in the “labor dance”: with my arms tightly wrapped around the back of his neck, I leaned my forehead into his chest, following his cues to relax various parts of my body and focus on deep, abdominal breathing. We had been watching a lightning storm come in during our walk around the block, and seemingly all of a sudden, the weather took a turn for the worse. We had barely reached our driveway when a contraction hit me, just as it started to hail. Daniel covered me with his arm and jacket and scooted me as quickly as it’s possible to hurry a woman in labor, up under the eaves where we’d be somewhat protected from the large quarter-sized hail. I know he took a few hits from it, because I heard an “ouch!” or two. As we finished the contraction and went inside, Daniel said, “I sure am glad we were right by the house when that hit!” I agreed.
It was probably around 8:30 when the bad weather started, and with its onset there was no more walking around outside. However, I really felt like walking helped the progress of my labor best, so I paced the house. Chad, Sarah and Katie were watching Monsters, Inc. in the living room, but thankfully my “caged lion at the zoo” path didn’t pass in front of the screen. I dreaded going to the bathroom because it always brought on a contraction, but I faithfully went every hour or so, and took sips of water to stay hydrated between contractions. Katie loved watching Aunt Shelley go up and down the stairs and wanted to go with me on my trek. I needed to go a bit faster than her 2-year-old legs could, however, so she soon gave up on me, since I was already halfway down by the time she was halfway up. Finally, Sarah put Katie to bed. I kept up my routine, pacing, going to the bathroom, pausing to lean on whatever wall was handy during my contractions.
At 11:30 or so, Daniel and I decided, once again, to head to the hospital. He called Kathy to update her on our progress, and she agreed to meet us there in a little bit. At this point, I’d been in labor for about 18 hours, and was really getting tired of it. We walked right up to Labor and Delivery and checked in, once again, to room 1. We had forgotten to bring the exercise ball, so Daniel called Chad, who brought it by. I put on the gown, they hooked me up to the monitor, and checked me. I was finally fully effaced, but only 3 cm dilated! It was so frustrating. They wanted to keep me, but I knew my progress was slow, and faced with the prospect of spending all night in that uncomfortable labor bed, with nurses coming in to monitor for 15 minutes out of every hour, and poking and prodding me to start my hep-lock, do lab work, etc. we decided I’d be much more comfortable laboring at home in my own bed, so we signed my discharge papers once again. Kathy went home, and Daniel promised to call her with any change.
We got home about 12:30 or 1, and I tried to get some sleep again, but this time it didn’t work at all. My labor pains were too strong. I can’t remember exactly how long I stayed in bed, but after a bit, I had Daniel call Kathy. Labor kept picking up in intensity, though my contractions never really got closer together. I was exhausted at this point, though, and really running out of ideas on coping techniques, so we were both glad when Kathy got here. She helped us try different positions, like hands and knees, and taking a bath. She poured water over my stomach at each contraction, and Daniel kept adding hot water to the bath whenever it cooled off. By 9 Thursday morning, we decided to go back to the hospital. Sarah had been up cooking in the kitchen, and I asked if they knew we’d come back in the middle of the night. They said they’d eventually figured it out. We headed out the door yet again, saying that we hoped this would be the last time we came home without a baby. Chad and Sarah said they’d come by the hospital in a bit to bring us some breakfast.
When I got to the hospital around 9:30, having already been in labor 28-1/2 hours, I was thankful to find that I was 5cm dilated, and they were going to keep me until I had the baby. There was a nurse on duty who told Daniel that he had to go back downstairs and fill out more paperwork before I could be admitted. We told her that we had already been admitted to a room twice before, and had pre-registered online, but she didn’t care and made him do it again anyway. Since it was Thanksgiving day, the nurses informed me that my midwife, Kim, was no longer on call, and another doctor would be delivering me. I was a bit upset about this, mostly because I didn’t know this new doctor, and didn’t know if he would be agreeable or antagonistic to my natural birth plan. I later got to meet this doctor, and he had read my birth plan through and said he was happy to comply with our wishes. This gave me a bit of relief. We walked and walked the hallways to help labor progress. We went down every single hallway multiple times, in our wing, in the wing that was empty, and in the postpartum wing. Hearing the cries of newborns in the postpartum wing really helped me focus on why I was there.
Labor progressed slowly. In the afternoon I was so exhausted that as Daniel napped on the couch, I sat on the birthing ball with my head in my arms on the bed. I would fall asleep for two or three minutes, only to be woken by a contraction. I hated going to the bathroom because every time I sat on the toilet, I had a contraction, which was painful and beginning to be exhausting. Later, I took a shower to help me cope with the contractions and exhaustion, but that seemed to slow down my contractions and my progress, so I only stayed in about 20 minutes.
As the day moved towards evening, Kim came and checked on me, even though she wasn’t on call. She said that she was going to try to be there for my birth after all, which made me feel a lot better! She left to go put her kids to bed. Daniel and I kept walking the halls. Every time I had a contraction, we swayed “the labor dance”. I started telling myself “Open, open, open. Down, down, down” at each contraction, picturing my cervix opening and my baby moving down. Kim returned and checked me, and I was at a 7 or so. We decided to try using the squat bar for several contractions to see if that position helped me open up any faster, so the nurses brought it in and hooked it up to my bed. It did! It was painful, but pain was progress, and I dilated to an 8 with only a few contractions in the squatting position. At this point, it was around 7pm, and I had been in labor for 38 hours and was getting really exhausted.
Kim checked my dilation, and said she could feel my bag of waters bulging. She asked if I wanted her to break my water. She said it was near rupturing on its own, but her breaking it could help my labor progress. I was so exhausted at this point that I was willing to try anything non-drug related to help labor progress. She broke it and I felt a warm gush of water. “That’s it?” I asked. I was expecting more of a bang, or at the very least, more pain. “That’s it,” she said. I labored on the squat bar for another hour, dilating from 8 to nearly 10. After the hour, Kim checked me again and there was still a lip of cervix preventing me from progressing to the point of pushing. She asked if I was ok with her helping manually dilate me the rest of the way, which had to be done during a contraction. I agreed, since I was at the point of exhaustion. It was extremely painful, but after she finished, a couple of contractions on the squat bar later and I felt ready to push.
I tried pushing while holding the squat bar at first, but wasn’t very productive, so Kim asked if I would try the traditional pushing position, semi-reclined with Kathy holding one leg and Daniel holding the other. It worked! I pushed for around an hour and 10 minutes, with Kim supporting my perineum, Daniel and Kathy holding my legs and encouraging me. I expected Naomi’s head to be born in one push and the rest of her in another, like we’d seen on the birthing videos, but no, when I finally pushed her head out, the rest of her came out too! She was so warm. They wiped her a tiny bit and immediately placed her on my chest. As she was born, Kim realized that she was O.P. (occipital Posterior) or sunny-side up, (most babies are born facing downward) and also asynclitic, meaning her head was tilted to the side. We think this is probably what contributed to my extra-long labor, but it was unusual to have an O.P. baby and not have back labor, so I guess I was “lucky”. Poor Naomi had a big, wonky cone head on the back corner of her head from her unusual presentation, but thankfully by morning, most of the swelling had gone down. She made her way into the world on Thanksgiving, and the nurses were kind enough to bring me a turkey sandwich around 11pm so I got my turkey on Thanksgiving!
Naomi Ellen Clem was born 4 days late on Thanksgiving day, Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 10:03pm. Her APGARS were 8/8 and she weighed 8lbs, 8oz and was 22” long.