My daughter Alice was born at 3:44am on Wednesday August, 8th 2012. This is the story of her birth. Photos are at the end if you aren't into long-winded, super-detailed birth stories.
At 39 weeks past with my August 8th due date looming, my husband and I were getting very eager to meet our baby. My mother had arrived Friday from the United States to spend 3 weeks with us in Paris and meet her first grandchild. Over the weekend we tried many techniques to start labor: reflexology that we found online, baking “labor inducing” cookies that I ate by the dozen, drinking raspberry leaf tea, taking long walks…
On Sunday evening I started having almost constant Braxton hicks contractions. They started up again on Monday afternoon while my husband and I were at a birth class about “when to come to the hospital”. By Monday evening the contractions started to become painful. They were very irregular and the pain was really only slight discomfort, so we didn’t think much of them. Especially after our birth class that afternoon where it was stressed that these early stages of labor can go on for several days and even weeks in some cases.
The contractions continued throughout the night, but they did not prevent me from sleeping and remained irregular. On Tuesday around 4pm, my contractions were still painful and irregular, coming maybe every 20 minutes or so. My mother and I decided to go for a walk and do some window-shopping. We walked from my house to the Printemps department store, then stopped in a few sunglass stores and walked up the rue des Martyrs towards Montmartre. We walked for over three hours and in that time the contractions became more and more regular.
At 7pm, my husband joined us and we found a terrace in Montmartre where we sat and had cheese and wine and chatted with the elderly man seated next to us who was quite a character. I started timing the contractions at that point and they had progressed to about 1 minute long and were coming every 3-5 minutes. They weren’t particularly painful though, I would just breathe through them and return to the conversation when the wave was over. So we still thought we had a lot of time. We left the terrace around 9pm and walked half an hour home.
Once home, we decided to call my mid-wife and let her know that I was in labor, but that we were going to stay home and I would labor in the tub for awhile and we would call her when we were ready to come to the hospital. I never actually made it to the tub. At this point we were still convinced that we had plenty of time. My husband started making dinner, sitting himself in the living room to snap green beans. And my mother timed my contractions as I began packing my hospital bag (I was so sure labor would last for hours that I thought I would have time to do this while laboring and had procrastinated, although I did have a detailed list). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to concentrate very well on packing with contractions coming about every 3 minutes at that point. I tried to pack for maybe 15 minutes, but the pain of the contractions had increased. My husband realized at that point that he was not going to be making dinner after all. He put the beans away and came to the bedroom where he and my mother scrambled to pack the bag while I tried to explain to them where various items were in between contractions. It was quite comical! Finally, the bag was packed and we were ready to go. My husband called the mid-wife to let her know we were on our way and called a taxi to come get us.
The taxi arrived and my mom and husband brought all the bags downstairs. I went to the bathroom one last time and was surprised to see I was bleeding. This worried me, but my mother told me it was normal. I went down to the taxi, stopping for a contraction on the way. We then drove clear across Paris with me laboring in the back, my mother trying to time contractions (I don’t know why we thought this was important at this point!) and my husband chatting up the taxi driver.
We arrived at the clinic at around midnight and went upstairs. My mid-wife met us and showed us to the delivery room. My mother set up in the waiting room with her knitting.
In the delivery room, I was strapped to the monitors to check the fetal heart rate and my blood pressure. At this point the pain of the contractions started to become too much for me, before I had been able to breathe and moan through them. But now, they were much stronger and I was having a hard time relaxing. My mid-wife kept telling me to breathe more slowly and not to fight the pain because I could not control it. I tried very hard to listen and slow my breathing and relax my muscles but the pain was intense and I really struggled. I would do what I thought was good job relaxing for one contraction and then tense up and fight the next one. I was also shaking uncontrollably, I felt hot and cold at once and like I might throw up. My mid-wife assured me all this was normal, and that my body was going through a lot.
After we had been at the hospital for about 30 minutes, my mid-wife checked my dilation and I was at 5 cm, she also told me that my blood pressure was very high and that she was going to check it again. If it stayed high, I would not be able to have the natural birth I had hoped for, I would need an epidural to reduce my blood pressure. This was not what I wanted to hear, but I was in so much pain at that point that I didn’t really care, if I needed an epidural for medical reasons, then I would get the epidural. About 5 minutes after she first checked my dilation, I felt an unmistakable gush of warm liquid, I yelled out “my water is breaking”. She checked me again and my dilation had gone from 5 to 8 cm with my water breaking. This was great news; I was almost there! The pain then became really unbearable and I whimpered through the contractions when I wasn’t successful in relaxing and listening to my mid-wife’s calming voice. She checked my blood pressure again, and it was even higher. Over 210! So, the decision was made to call the anesthesiologist. While we waited for him, I reached full dilation. So I labored to 10 on my own and almost had my natural delivery… But not quite.
The anesthesiologist arrived and I braced myself, trying very hard not to move as he placed the epidural. I felt almost immediate relief. I went from writhing in pain, not being able to speak as I was so concentrated on dealing with the pain, to chatting away with my husband and mid-wife and not feeling a thing! The baby was in posterior position and its heart rate was strong, so my midwife decided we should wait for my blood pressure to drop with the epidural and let the baby take the time to turn. We waited for about an hour with me at full dilation and not feeling a thing. My mother came into the room at that point since we were just waiting around and we decided that she should stay for the birth after all.
Finally the baby had turned and my mid-wife told me to start pushing. I pushed for about an hour, we turned down the epidural and I could feel the contractions coming on, but not the pain. My mid-wife told me to turn on my side, I did, and my mother and husband switched places so my mother could hold my leg (which was dead weight with the epidural) and my husband held my hand and coached me while facing me. I felt the baby crown and come out. I was told to look down and I saw my baby come out as my mid-wife placed her on my stomach and my husband stared at this gooey, cone-headed beauty (her head was very oddly shaped from all the turning she had to do) in awe! She cried a little sweet cry as she came out. Tears were in my husband’s eyes (I didn’t cry although I thought I would). It took us a moment to even think to ask: is it a boy or a girl?! My mid-wife said: “look!”. So we did and discovered we had a beautiful daughter.
We stayed doing skin-to-skin and taking in our daughter in all her glory for a good hour. My mid-wife delivered the placenta, which I remember as feeling like a “plop!” and it was out. She clamped the cord once it stopped pulsing, my husband cut it. We looked our little girl over and discovered she had blue eyes when she opened them.
I had a minor 1st degree tear due to the fact that my daughter had her hand by her head. My mid-wife stitched me up while we continued to enjoy our daughter and get acquainted with her outside the womb.
Although I had to have an epidural and didn’t get the 100% natural birth I wanted, my experience was still very good. I felt very supported with my husband and mother there helping me along. I was also very happy with my choice of mid-wife, she was such a calming presence and I loved that she was the only person in the room with us. My daughter was born into a calm environment in a room filled with love. I wouldn’t want it any other way.