How do you sum up a birth story when labor lasted 82 hours?
For starters, I want to make sure no one compares their potential birth story to mine. My amazing Doula (also a certified Midwife: Tiffany Wilson), at the time had helped deliver over 650 births said mine was the second longest labor any of her clients had endured, so new mamas, this is not the norm.
Let’s dive in shall we?
I did everything prior to conception, and during labor “correctly.” I worked out from home on average 5-6 days a week, ate clean following specific nutrition plans, went to all my appointments including chiropractic, massage, regular visits with my Midwife, signed up for all of the child birthing classes that I was able to attend, and read as many books and blogs I could. And I would still do it all, all over again as I do believe it helped prepare my mind and my body for what it was about to go through, which no-one was expecting, nor should you.
My birth plan included me giving birth naturally in a birthing center that is attached to the hospital. It also included a plan in case things went “sideways” because you just never know what will happen.
There is something so beautiful about having a natural birth, to step into my divine femininity, and do as my ancestors had done. It was a challenge. It was empowering. It was something we wanted. Plus, I don’t do well with needles, and understand the side-effects modern medicine can have when implemented incorrectly or too quickly. Your body is a beautiful, smart specimen, and was literally made to do this. To procreate.
The estimated due date was Sunday, July 7th. This date was surpassed.
Friday, July 12 (40 weeks and 5 Days):
We had an appointment with our Midwife. Since I was “passed due” we allowed her to check my cervix* with the possibility of sweeping my membrane if I was at least 1cm dilated. She also had us schedule an induction date, and the only date available in the 41st week was Wednesday, July 17th – which we took.
I went home .5 cm dilated, membrane NOT swept, and an uneasy feeling in my stomach knowing I had an induction date – something I didn’t want.
*We opted not to have my cervix checked until after my estimated due date. Being dilated is just one indicator regarding your delivery and your body can sit at 1cm for weeks or months, plus I didn’t want to disturb my body and just let it do it’s thing.
Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14 (40 weeks and 6 days and 41 weeks):
All the pumping. All the supplements. All the walks. All the stairs. All the squats. All the lunges… EVERYTHING we could do to get my cervix to 1cm dilation.
Monday, July 15th (41 weeks and 1 day):
We had our next prenatal appointment with our Midwife for a check-up and non-stress test (checking the baby, my contractions, and uterus). Everything I did over the weekend worked! I was dilated to 1cm, and she was able to do a membrane sweep. She said this typically starts labor within 48 hours 75-80% of the time. Some mention that the membrane sweep is painful. To me it felt like a period cramp and allowed me to practice my breathing techniques. Because she was able to sweep my membrane, we decided to cancel the induction that was scheduled two days from now because we so desperately wanted to do all that we could to have a natural labor, and avoid getting induced. And if I could beat the hospital’s timeline, I was in! It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
That night contractions started picking up stronger than the normal Braxton Hicks. Around midnight I woke up to regular, and stronger contractions about 20 minutes apart. Per my amazing Doula’s instructions, I ignored them, and went back to sleep to get as much rest as I could.
Tuesday, July, 16th (41 weeks and 2 days):
Overnight my contractions picked up to 15 minutes apart, so Dave took the day off of work because this baby was on his way! Continuing to ignore the contractions, we went to breakfast to get a good meal in because who knows when I’ll be able to eat a large meal again. We then went to his office to get adjusted making sure my body/pelvis was prepared and appropriately functioning for the birthing process. After the adjustment my contractions picked up to every 10 minutes. At this point my back labor was so severe that I needed Dave to begin applying counter pressure to help ease what pain he could.
In the afternoon/early evening my contractions picked up to 5-8 minutes apart. As planned we alerted our family, Tiffany, and the Birthing Center. The Birthing Center needed to ready a room and a birthing team for delivery* and Tiffany was planning on meeting us at our home. The plan was to labor at home for as long as possible (ideally until I was about 5cm), so we got comfortable and set the environment.
*I should also note that the Birthing Center has one of the lowest transfer and cesarean rates in the nation as well as an average of 6-8 hour labors once admitted (once contractions are every 3-4 minutes apart and you are 5 cms dilated).
Tiffany arrived that evening and despite my contractions being very regular, my body wasn’t making progress. She made the decision to stay with us at our apartment to monitor my progress throughout the night. We were all in great spirits trying to breathe, eat, and sleep through it all!
Wednesday, July 17th (41 weeks and 3 days):
No one really slept. I spent the majority of the night laboring in the epsom salt filled bathtub with Dave’s watchful eye, and him applying counter pressure to my back with every contraction. We were both exhausted. That morning Tiffany suggested we head to the birthing center to check my cervix and at the very least get some therapeutic rest. Once arriving they confirmed I was getting strong and regular contractions every 5-8 minutes, but my cervix was only dilated 3cm. They gave me a shot of morphine, and sent me home to rest. Ideally this would give me the necessary sleep I needed to store up energy for labor, but also allow my body to relax enough to focus on progressing my cervix. And MAN did that shot work. I was OUT COLD for about 5 hours even through the contractions. Tiffany went home to get some sleep herself and be with her family, so we were instructed to call her with any updates. Once the shot wore off, we noticed the contractions went from 5-8 minutes apart to 10-12 minutes apart into Wednesday night only to pick back up very early Thursday morning.
*Insert Backstreet Boys, “Quit Playing Games with my Heart”…
Thursday, July 18th (41 weeks and 4 days):
Yes, we continue on…
The contractions were back to 4-6 minutes and with another day passed, we decided to go back to the Birthing Center to get checked again. My energy was slowly dipping again, and the conversations had begun with how long we would let this go on before we just go into the hospital to get induced. Little did I know Dave and Tiffany had this discussion already Wednesday morning. And Dave being the amazing and supportive partner through all of this said to let me ride it out as long as I’m still staying strong because I really wanted to be in the birthing center.
At around 3:30pm, my cervix was only at 3.5cm and the new Midwife on call wouldn’t issue me another shot of therapeutic rest because it increased the time between my contractions the last time and we wanted the time to decrease. I argued that if I went into labor that night, I wouldn’t have energy to push through and I was willing to take that risk and go a bit longer laboring.
But I was sent home to weather the storm. Looking back, I would still sacrifice the contractions increasing for some rest to gain energy. Especially with a natural birth.
I went home defeated. Not only was my energy depleted, but my mental strength was starting to go down as well. I sat in my bedroom on Sean’s rocking chair. I was hopelessly staring out the window for about an hour and a half breathing through the 4-6 minutes contractions contemplating what I should do, and if I should just go to the hospital.
Then my water broke around 5pm…
Not just that, but there was meconium EVERYWHERE. Thankfully my mother had put a towel at my chair (and a few other places) a few days earlier so I was able catch some of it, but there was a nice trail leading into the restroom as the fluids kept coming. Hey, no one said birth was pretty and glamorous. Also, thanks to my mom for cleaning it up while we were gone.
MAN! Once that water broke my back labor pain increased by at least 10. Yes, Dave was still doing work on my back this entire time.
Again, warned not to rush to the birthing center, Dave set up an epsom salt bath for me to begin laboring in.
Somehow through the pain I remembered that now that my water had broken, nothing was protecting Sean from the outside world and I wasn’t sure if epsom salt was safe even though we had been doing epsom salt baths almost daily for an entire week. We called Tiffany to keep her updated and she said drain the tub immediately and it should JUST be water. Why? Because epsom salt calms your body… including your uterus something that shouldn’t be relaxed what so ever and which could have contributed to my body not dilating all week long once labor started.
We labored at home until about 7 pm until it was too much for me to handle, and my contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart. Upon arriving to the Birthing Center the on call providers came out and the Midwife from earlier (you know, the one who refused to give me therapeutic rest) was SO excited when she discovered I had progressed to 5cm dilation in such a “short amount of time” and my water being broken saying, “see, good thing we didn’t give you that rest so your body could progress!”
*I almost punched her*
I was so tired and realized I still had 5 more cm to go and it took 4 days to progress to 5. All I wanted was sleep and to get this baby out with a side of adrenaline keeping my spirits up.
Upon being admitted I was set up in triage to make sure all of our vitals were good and I was still a low risk pregnancy (a rule to give birth in the birthing center). However upon examination we discovered I was very dehydrated, Sean’s heart wasn’t accelerating like they wanted, and it would decelerate from time to time. So they immediately hooked me up to a few IVs (I was able to count 3 different IVs) and monitored me for what seemed like forever (it was 45 minutes to an hour tops). In that time, a few nurses we met through the week, and a Doula that had facilitated our childbirth classes stayed past their shift time to be with Dave and I, which meant SO much to us.
Thankfully the IVs did their job and we were finally able to transfer into a birthing suite (which were SO comfortable and resembled a mini hotel room). I immediately had Dave turn on my labor playlist and settle in finding relief in the tub while Dave continued to apply counter pressure.
Tiffany had me moving around the room (tub, shower, bed, rocking chair, labor ball, and my least favorite… the peanut ball) at least once an hour to help progress my cervix and push him further down. The Midwife would come in every 30 minutes to check Sean’s heart rate and make sure he was doing alright. And every few hours they would check my cervix and after about 3-4 hours I had only progressed 1 more centimeter to 6cms…
Friday, July 19th (41 weeks and 5 days):
By around 3:30am not only had I been in labor for around 70 hours with consistent contractions, my water broken 10 hours prior, but I was exhausted with zero energy and only dilated to 6cm with 4cm more to go. Feeling defeated, determined because we were so close to our birth we prepped so much for, and somewhat complacent sitting in a feeling I had come all too familiar with throughout the week. Contractions at that point were part of my every day life. I found myself breathing and moaning through the contraction and falling into a mini deep sleep between clinching to any energy I had left.
It was at the moment that Tiffany and Dave made the decision for me to transfer to the hospital to get induced. In my birth plan I wrote that they are allowed to make medical decisions on my behalf since I wouldn’t be of sound mind to do so.
While the 3 of us waited for the hospital nurses to come get me, Tiffany and Dave began talking to me and encouraging me to release any expectations I had with the birthing center. They wanted to make sure I knew I didn’t fail and that my body just needed more help. This is why there is modern medicine. This all helped me fully understand what would happen once we got there to get rid of my fear of unknown.
Once admitted into my new laboring room, they immediately hooked me up to more IVs, gave me a shot of fentanyl (which Tiffany described to me as slamming a bottle of wine when administered correctly and by professionals) while we waited for the Anesthesiologist to administer an epidural, and then get the pitocin started. The two things I was highly against originally, but after my little pep talk with Tiffany, I knew at this point it was necessary and would give my uterus and body the rest it needed. The Nursing Student on call, Tim, took over for Dave providing me with physical support. Tim massaged and applied counter pressure to my lower back, giving him a much needed break after a 4 days of working on me.
Upon examination, we figured out Sean was jammed pretty good in my left pelvis which was also contributing to my slow progress. It also explains the back labor and left sided pelvic pain I had been experiencing. So with the epidural in place, they were shifting me from side to side to encourage him to move.
As the day went on, I was being pumped with the highest level of pitocin, my body was slowly progressing and we were now on on Midwife number 3. Around 4:30pm Dave took the newest Midwife into the hallway and had a very “passionate” conversation with her questioning when they would call it and do a cesarean, especially since it was now almost 24 hours since my water had broken and 4 days since labor had started. Meanwhile, in the room, Tiffany was giving me another pep talk preparing me for a potential cesarean. She explained if I hadn’t progressed beyond an 8, then we really need to look to that option for both mine and Sean’s safety. When Dave and the new Midwife came back in the room, she checked me and I was at a 9 and just nearly there!
*CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?
That was the good news we all finally needed to hear. About 5:15pm my body finally had it and for about the 3rd time the epidural had worn off and I could feel EVERYTHING on my left side. The delivering Midwife was out of the room and I looked at Tiffany and immediately put my leg up as if I were about to push and said, “I feel pressure like I need to poop.” Something she kept telling me to let her know immediately throughout the week as that was the sign that it was go time.
She looked at me dead serious saying, “If you feel the need to push and I need to catch a baby before the Midwife gets back in here, I am ready.” Almost immediately after, the Midwife came back in the room and declared, “It’s time to deliver a baby, let’s do this! When you go through a contraction, focus your pushing on the area where my hand is [which I could feel her applying pressure]. Between contractions you can rest, but if you feel strong enough, go ahead and push. However; I will stop you if I feel like you will tear too much.”
Umm… after 82 hours, I’m giving this all I got lady. Don’t challenge me with “If I feel strong enough”.
She told me to start pushing, 5 pushes and just over 5 minutes later, Sean was in this world, and had joined us in the room with Dave, Tiffany, the Midwife, nurse and a few others.
I looked at him crying and blurted out, “You stubborn little asshole” shocking the room. Because really, what new mom has that as her first words? “You stubborn little asshole”? A mom who went 41 weeks and 5 days and 82 hours in labor – that’s who!
As soon as they placed him on my chest, and started massaging my placenta out, I looked up and the room almost had doubled with doctors and nurses, and my delivering Midwife went from gleeful and cheery to very stern, serious, and barking orders like a drill sergeant. Something was happening.
Apparently Sean’s oxygen and heart levels weren’t strong, but strong enough to allow for delayed cord clamping, and I was hemorrhaging pretty bad. But this was all unbeknownst to me until later that night when the Midwife I had been working with throughout my entire pregnancy came to visit me in the hospital and told me what happened after her colleagues reached out to her regarding my delivery. I was just in a state of Euphoria knowing my son was finally here with us and the labor was over.
What we thought would be 6-8 hours of labor in the Birthing Center and home within 6-12 hours turned into 82 hours of labor at home, the Birthing Center, and in the Hospital and home after 3 days after careful monitoring and adequate recovery.
Would I have another baby after all of this? 100%.
At the end of the day, I don’t regret one thing about my labor and delivery. I truly believe that the ONLY way I physically and mentally got through it was all the prep I put into my health (body and mind). So to the new mom-to-be, don’t skip out on the childbirth classes, you never know what you’ll get out of it. Invest your time and money into your health with your fitness, diet, massages, chiropractic care, etc. It will only benefit you in the long run.