'When I started to feel contractions, it was around 12:30am on the morning of July 4th, 2020.
Contractions came and went, just uncomfortable but not really painful.
In my notes for this write-up, I wrote “pretty strong”. Ha!
I really had no idea what would come next!
They started to become regular, so I timed them on my phone,
They became 3-4 minutes apart at 4:30am, which is when we were told to call the midwife, so my husband J did.
The midwife arrived at 5:30am, checked me and I am at 3cm and fully effaced.
It’s official, our daughter would be born today!
The midwife left, her night shift was finishing in a couple hours so she notified the next midwife, B.She would come by a little later to check the progress.
The contractions started to be a little less close together from that point, but I had stopped timing them and was just focusing on going through this early phase of labor, as I expected a long day ahead of us.
I had a long warm shower, leaning against the wall for each new contraction that was coming in, and J and I decided to watch a Netflix show while I bounced on my birth ball and tried to make the contractions productive.
B arrived to check me at 9:30am, and I was 4cm dilated. She was positive as there was progress, but I still felt a little disappointed. But again, I was warned that being a first pregnancy, things can take a long time. That’s all good!
She advised me to try and recreate the environment in which contractions started, without interference, to let the body and hormones do their job and further progress my dilation.
She left, and I did exactly that. I went to lay in bed, in the dark, on my side, eyes closed and letting the contractions come to me, and working through them with my breath. It did work, and my body soon regained control and started to get more regular contractions. It was a quite enjoyable part of labor thinking back, as the hormones made me feel good and a little high sometimes even, and I was really being positive this worked and we were making good progress. I even ate a bowl of cereal in preparation for the big day ahead.
By 1:30pm, B came back to check me, as the contractions started to really feel intense and I had to really focus through each of them. I was 6 cm dilated, and we made the decision to call the birth center.
After hanging up the phone, she told us there was one good and one bad news.
The good news was, the room with the bath was available.
The bad news was, the midwifery section of the hospital next to the birth center was full, so if for any reason I needed medical care, I would have to be driven to another hospital. One thing that would justify hospital care would be if the waters were tainted with meconium, which we didn’t know yet as my water hadn’t broken.
B offered 3 choices - either she could break my water at home, see if I needed to head to the hospital or not, or we could head to the birth center and hope for the best, or go straight to another hospital.
We decided to head to the birth center and hope that my waters would be clear, as I didn’t want my waters broken this early, and force something that didn’t sound very natural to me if it wasn’t necessary.
Off we went, to the birthing center. The car ride was very difficult, it was raining and there are so many little bumps on the road. You really feel each and every one of them while in labor! After about 20 min of the car ride, we made it. I was now at the point where I couldn’t walk through contractions, and even though I didn’t need a wheelchair, I had to stop a couple of times to breathe through before reaching our room.
B was already there. They ran the bath for me, and I got in the warm water. It felt instantly nice, and I could position myself in a way where gravity wasn’t a problem, and the warm water felt good in between contractions.
I laid there in the tub for a while, not knowing the time or my progress, just trying to make it through each contraction.
After a while, B came back to me, and asked if I wanted a cervical check, to which I said yes. After checking me and announcing I was still at 6, maybe a 6.5cm, she offered to break my waters there to get some progress.
I got out of the tub to lie on the bed, and she broke my waters. They were clear, no meconium, which was a huge relief. We could stay!
From that point on, it becomes a little blurry for me. I went back into the tub, and the next contraction I had was really painful. I remember reading that once the waters are broken, there is basically nothing “padding” the head against the cervix, so everything is way more painful, and yes it was.
I was now moaning deeply through each contraction to cope with the intensity, something that I never thought I would do but it just came naturally so I went with it. Always trying to breathe deeply, that’s the only thing I kept wanting to do.
I didn’t listen to affirmations, J played a Bob Marley playlist, which I was fine with, but to be honest I could have listened to anything or nothing, I was just trying to keep concentrated on each contraction coming and my breath through them. That’s the only way I could cope.
After a while, I started to really become loud, and I was getting in a lot of pain. Contractions came after each movement, and sometimes back to back, leaving me with minutes on end of pain. I knew I had to keep pushing through, there was no going back.
At this point I wanted each contraction to come, as this meant nearing the end, and at the same time I was dreading them, knowing the pain that came with it.
At this point, B came near the tub and asked me if I wanted to try to gas and air relief. This is a non-medical pain relief option that uses nitrous oxide gas mixed with oxygen for the woman to cope without affecting the baby. I said yes, as I couldn’t stand being in so much pain, having been there for now about 17 and a half hours.
There was a chin mask that I had to put on, to avoid the gas going to the room, and then finally I was given the oxygen mask, and started to do my deep breathing through it. Each contraction became a little less painful, and I arrived at a point where I didn’t feel any pain, just pure relief. My head felt like a big cloud, and the only thing I could do was to keep breathing and look at J, right into his eyes, as he was my only anchor into reality at this moment.
The song “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys came at this point on our speaker, and I found myself even shoulder dancing to it, feeling really good. B and J looked at each other, not believing it, as I was practically screaming in pain one second and dancing and smiling the other. I then removed the mask to tell B “I promise, I don’t usually do drugs” and she laughed, as I put the mask back on, starting to feel the contractions again.
I used the gas for 15 minutes, and didn’t want to give it back - it really helped at that point as I was dilating fast.
At this point, the contractions were practically back to back.
I went from 6cm when they broke the water at 5.30pm to 10cm in about 30 minutes, and after that came the pushing phase.
I was still on the bed, it was about 6pm when I started pushing - I screamed with all my lungs but that didn’t make the pushing work very well, so I then focused intensely, the most I’ve ever focused in my life, to push with my mouth closed and my breath directed downwards.
Being on the bed wasn’t the best position, as I knew before, but at this time I was unable to make any decision, just follow basic instructions.
B asked for a birth stool and I went onto it, J behind me as I continued to push with each contraction, feeling like they came right on top of each other, stronger than ever.
For each push, I counterpushed on J’s arms against mine and pushed down as much as I could. I couldn’t have done it without it. Gravity helps when you’re sitting on the stool, but I was also worried about my pelvic floor in that position.
They placed a mirror underneath me so I could see - I thought I would never want to see, but there was no blood or anything, just a bit of motivation as I felt her head with my hands, right there.
I was then moved back to the bed for the final stage. On my side and one leg up, to facilitate the “turning” phase (when the baby turns their shoulders to pass through the birth canal).
All I remember then was I kept pushing and pushing as instructed, when suddenly B stopped and told me “Okay, we’re nearing the end. You will push like never before, and when I say stop, you stop pushing, no matter how strong the urge is.”.
Having read about this, I knew this was to prevent tearing too much, and let the body stretch naturally at each stage of final pushing.
I did exactly what B said, pushed, stopped pushing while they applied warm compresses on my perineum area, forcing with all my strength to not push when the urge came with the next contraction. After that, it’s a blur, but I imagine one or two contractions later, that felt more like 20, I felt a huge relief as they pulled our daughter out of me.
I still feel the relief just writing about it, and it makes me emotional to even think about it.
That moment, after 19 hours of intense labor, the final delivery, the end and the beginning of it all.
They brought her instantly up to me, and she was beautiful. No blood, nothing but this baby, eyes open, brought into my arms for the first time.
I instantly let go of all my emotions and J and I bawled our eyes out as we admired the beautiful baby girl we had made.
B delivered the (apparently huge) placenta, and sutured me after a quick spray of anesthetics. I was very lucky to only have minor natural tearing, and only 3 or so stitches - I don’t even know! For a 3,9 KG (8.7lb) baby, not too bad!'
Anne and her husband joined the HypnoBirthing course May 2020 in Amsterdam