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My water broke in the morning and sort of trickled all day. I wasn't completely sure that it had broken at first: when I woke up I was just a little wet and it was totally clear, so it took me a while to be sure it wasn't just pee or sweat or something.
With my first pregnancy, I was in that minority of women whose water breaks with a gush before contractions ever start – and it happened in a restaurant while we were out to dinner, the scenario everyone told me not to worry about because it never happens.
This time around, I spent a lot of time alternately worrying about ruining the couch and worrying if the baby was OK as his fluid leaked out. I sent my husband with my son, Michael, off to his toddler gym class in the morning, sure I'd have to call them back because my contractions were minutes apart...and then nothing happened all day.
I wasn't really scared, but I had that sense of excitement and anticipation, with just a little fear mixed in, waiting for something big to happen. I also felt impatient; I kept comparing my progress to my first labor, which was so quick. I cleaned the house, made banana bread, and watched Dora the Explorer with Michael. (It was the episode in which Dora's twin brother and sister are born. That was kind of neat, although I don't think Michael made the connection.)
At 3 p.m., my ob-gyn said to just go to the hospital and get checked out. Fearing all sorts of interventions, I went anyway because I wanted to make sure the baby wasn't in distress. We called a friend to come over and stay with Michael. Just as we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I finally felt one big gush. I don't know if I was finally relaxing because we were about to get it checked out, or if that was just coincidence. In a moment of pregnancy insanity, I was much more worried about people thinking I had peed my pants than I was about facing labor!
The baby was fine, and the contractions started soon after we got to hospital. They were pretty light for the first two hours. They felt like a squeezing and tightening; I could feel my uterus slowly clamp down and then open up again, like the contraction was rolling across the uterus in a wave. I didn't feel much of that with my first baby, but this time I had an hour or two of it.
Other than the bed and the TV (thank goodness for Monday Night Football), I didn't really pay much attention to the other stuff in the room, although it was interesting to watch the contractions on the ticker tape, at least in the beginning. The staff did a nice job of keeping the lights dimmed and making sure I had socks and blankets and stuff without being too intrusive.
Managing the pain
I had used HypnoBirthing techniques [a form of self-hypnosis that relies on visualization, affirmation, and deep breathing] instead of drugs when Michael was born, and I used some of them – mainly visualization – again with this labor. I imagined every contraction was a wave and I was trying to surf on top of it. I think the techniques mostly helped me handle the pain rather than easing it, although in the beginning, when the contractions were less intense, breathing helped a bit. I wasn't dead set on doing this birth drug free, but I kept saying, "Let me see how far I can get," and then when I was just about at the end of my rope, the baby was crowning.
I labored most of the time on my side with the bed flat, but when things got really intense, the labor and delivery nurse suggested I try on my hands and knees, which seemed to help. She put the back of the bed into an almost-upright position and I leaned on that while I knelt on the bed.
When I dilated to 7 centimeters, the contractions got really intense. I felt cramping across the bottom of my uterus, like the worst menstrual cramps ever, except I could feel them coming on, building and then subsiding. Man, did I look forward to the subsiding! Just knowing that little break was coming kept me going at the end. Once the contractions got really intense, I stopped using the visualizations. For the last 45 minutes, I was just breathing through it, using Pilates breathing (deep, controlled breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth).
At this point they called my doctor. As soon as she arrived, the baby was crowning. She suggested using mineral oil to prevent tearing, and I didn't tear at all. I had to ask the doctor to give me a refresher on pushing because it had been awhile! She told me to take a deep breath, let it go, then take another deep breath and push. The pushing felt harder than in my last birth, maybe because this baby was heavier than my first.
He came out at 7:24 p.m., about three and a half hours after my first contraction. I never felt maternal exhaustion, but after he was born I felt a huge sense of relief. My ob-gyn said, "Great delivery. That was fun." Maybe not how I would have described it, but I am pretty proud of myself (as I think all mothers should be no matter how they deliver).