The date in this post is an arbitrary date to “hide” it behind the real posts on my blog, as this post is just an English translation of the original post that you can find here.
It was Thursday, January 24, and exactly one week after my Norwegian due date. For over two weeks several episodes with intense Braxton-Hicks contractions had convinced me that I was in labor. The day of my American due date (January 13), I had Braxton-Hicks that lasted 1 minute with 3 minutes apart the entire day, and they would not change or go away whether I lied down, stood up or walked around. That has long been my clue for real contractions, so that day I had been absolutely certain that I was finally in labor, and I was more than ready. I was only waiting for the contractions to increase their intensity, but that never happened. I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, everything was quiet. No contractions at all. My disappointment was enormous.
SILENCE BEFORE THE STORM
When I woke up late in the afternoon on January 24th, something was different. I had turned the day around, so even though it was closer to 2 pm, I did not feel that I had slept enough at all. I woke up with cramps, painful, menstruation-like cramps that would come and go in waves. They were different than the Braxton-Hicks I used to have, there was no tightening or contraction of the uterus, only pain. I timed these waves with pain that behaved very weird. They lasted 1 minute and were 1 minute apart. Then they lasted 2 minutes and were 2 minutes apart. After 1,5 hours in bed with my timer, the pains lasted 7 minutes and were 7 minutes apart. How weird!! I did not want to get up, because I thought that would make the cramps stop (I wanted so badly to be in labor). But in the end I had to get up, and just as predicted, the cramps stopped.
Instead they turned into Braxton-Hicks. The same kind of contractions I had been enduring the last couple weeks: high in my belly, only tightening, no pain. I did not pay any attention to those contractions, I had been convinced that I was in labor SO many times now, and been just as disappointed every single time. So I would not fall for this one more time.
I sat down to eat breakfast, and noticed that I felt pretty miserable, almost like i had a cold. Headache, aches in my body and a general feeling of being sick. And in addition to all this, I was in a very bad mood. This was the day before my overdue-control, something I dreaded very badly. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, being induced was my biggest fear. I wanted to give birth at a midwife-controlled center called ABC, completely naturally, and in water. I would not get to give birth there if I had to be induced, as they do not offer any medical facilities. I cried and complained and was just suffering a great deal. At this point I was convinced it was too late for labor to start spontaneously, and I would have to be induced, and everything would just be horrible and go completely wrong. Little did I know that I was actually in labor at this moment; the contractions in my belly were not Braxton-Hicks this time, but REAL contractions!
Dustin asked if we should skip going to the mall as planned. He needed new pants, and we had a gift card that needed to be used. I said no, I wanted to get out of the house. Even though I felt miserable, I needed distractions. And besides, maaaaaaybe walking a little bit could start labor?!
We went. Dustin tried on just about all the clothes in the first store we went to while I tried to wait patiently. As I was sitting outside the fitting room, I thought to myself that those contractions were actually quite painful, weren’t they? I opened the timer app on my phone to start timing, but closed it again as soon as it opened. Nope. I could not handle that kind of dissapointment one more time.
LIFE AND DEATH
Dustin only found one pair of pants, but an entire SIX shirts. He paid, and chatted way too long with the cashier, I thought. We finally got out of the store. It was 8 pm, and we had one hour before the mall closed. He still needed more pants, and wanted to check another store. We took the escalators to the 2nd floor, and just as we exited, I felt something strange. I stopped and caught Dustin’s arm quickly. “I either peed myself or the water broke!” Dustin’s eyes glowed, and I ran to the toilet. The view that met me there is something I was completely unprepared for, and it is burnt into my memory forever.
It was neither water nor pee i had felt filling my pants.
It was blood. Lots and lots of blood.
I got dizzy. My mouth dried up. I stopped breathing. Could not get out fast enough.
“We have to leave immediately” I told Dustin, and we ran to the car. Tears flowed. Dustin drove fast, while I called ABC.
“I am bleeding” I said.
“Like a very powerful menstruation”
“Then you have to call L&D at the hospital”. I could not breathe. Clicked wrong numbers. Finally got it right.
“Do you feel life?” they asked. Everything blackened for me. When did I feel life the last time??
I have never ever been so scared my entire life. I knew what this amount of bleeding could mean: placental abruption. Every second mattered. I cried the entire way to the hospital. Dustin’s face was white, and he beat all speed records, we would never have made it faster if we had waited for an ambulance. In this very moment, everything called c-section, pitocin, waterbirth, ABC, and so on, disappeared and I did not care at all how my birth experience would turn out. Everything that mattered was that the baby was fine. I could even let them cut it out of me without any anesthesia whatsoever as long as the baby would survive. It was all I could think about.
The midwife wanted to see the pad in my panties right away. Her reaction calmed me more than any words would have.
“Oh, but that is not bad at all.”
Monitor on. Heartbeat immediately! I drew my breath for the first time since the drama started. The baby was fine! THANK GOD!!!
They checked me thoroughly.
“Just normal bloody show” they said. “Nothing is wrong with neither placenta nor baby.”
“But is it really supposed to bleed this much?”
“Yes, it is completely normal.”
I was told that I was in labor, the Braxton-Hicks I felt were real contractions.
“So that is what real contractions feel like”. They were actually a great deal more painful than the contractions I had been dealing with for several weeks, I had just not noticed it as I was so convinced it was false alarm again. They had also grown more painful gradually, so gradually that I did not notice it until I thought that this is actually pretty painful.
Since I was a first-time-mother, they sent me home. Labor could take days, or the contractions could stop up again, they said.
On our way home we had to stop at Deli De Luca. We thought the day before my due date was our last time there but turns out we got to go there one more time. Dustin exited the car and came over to my side and opened the door.
“Are you coming?”
“Wait, I just need to get through this contraction first”
It was 11:30pm and the fact that I had to spend all my energy concentrating on getting through contractions at this point should have given me a hint that things were going fast and we should have been on our way TO the hospital, not FROM it. But we had just been sent home from there, so we thought everything was as it should be.
My appetite was poor but I managed to force down a rollerburger without bread, and some sweet potato fries. Dustin, on the other hand, was starved, and devoured the largest burger ever.
We got home around 12:30 am. It took me forever to brush my teeth and change to my pj’s, I only had about two minutes between each contraction to do as much as possible. As soon as the contraction started I would run into the living room and crawl down on all fours on the carpet and just breathe through it. I was finally in bed at 01:15, but now the contractions were impossible to handle, which is what my midwife had told me to be the “clue” to come in. I decided to call ABC and ask if I should sleep or go back.
“It is pretty bad now, I struggle with having control. Should I come in now or try to sleep a bit first?”
“Are you able to sleep at all?”
We decided that I should try. Not possible. The contractions were gradually getting more painful, and in the end they were so bad I almost tore the sheets apart in an effort to survive. At 2:30 am I called ABC again, and was told to come in.
“But what if it is too soon and you send me home? We’ve already been over there today.”
“No, if you come in now, you’ll stay here till the baby is out” they promised.
Getting dressed and out to the car with those contractions was not exactly a piece of cake, but I managed somehow. Dustin drove calmly this time, we were not in a rush. The contractions were worse in the car since I could not bend forward on all fours. I screamed with all my force when they rolled over me, but enjoyed the silence in the pauses. It was snowing, and we had the road to ourselves. It was only the two of us, and soon we would get to meet our little miracle. It was magical ✨
We arrived at ABC around 4 am. I could barely greet the midwives there, as I got a contraction the moment we came in the door. Dustin has told me afterwards that at that moment I squeezed his hand so hard that he got a mark from his wedding band and had to take it off until our baby was born. Midwife Ingrid took us to the birthing room, which was very large and spacious with lots of room for me to walk around. It had a king size bed, a huge bathtub, a small fridge for all the drinks and smoothies we brought, and dimmed lights.
I changed into the labor dress I had purchased, and then the midwife checked me. I was 4 cm and in active labor! She immediately started to tap water in the bathtub, as it was my big wish to use water as pain relief. It took a little while to fill up, so meanwhile I walked around with a support “walker” on wheels (seen in front of the picture to the right above), which I clinged to for my life during contractions. They were forceful and close to the limit of what I could handle.
The midwife asked me routinely if I wanted any form for painrelief, like epidural, but I declined and said I wanted to give birth as natural as possible. ABC does not offer epidural or any other medical facilities, so I was well aware that if I had accepted pain relief, I would have been transferred to the L&D unit at the hospital (ABC is located in a building on the hospital area, but not considered a part of the hospital, as it is an independent, midwife-controlled unit. ABC stands for Alternative Birth Center).
The midwife then offered me acupunture, which she had the competence to give. I declined this as well. I am no fan of needles.
“But what about a small needle in your forehead only?”the midwife asked.
“Uh… what does a needle in my forehead do?”
“It helps you relax.”
Relax. I was sold. Dustin was shocked when he saw the midwife put a needle in my forehead, he is an even lesser fan of needles than me. But to me, relaxing was the big key to a good birthing experience, so I was willing to do almost anything that would help me relax.
The bathtub was finally full and I could jump in. WHAT a feeling! The effect of warm water was enormous and immediate. In an instant the contractions were easier to handle and I could relax much better. I first thought it was the water that had the painrelieving effect, but soon found out that it was the heat, not the water. As I lay in the bathtub, the water would eventually cool and I experienced losing control over the contractions more and more. As soon as the water got warm again I regained control immediately. In fact, the effect was so great that on one occasion when I got a contraction while the midwife was tapping more warm water in the tub, I experienced to gradually gain control in direct proportion with the increased temperature with the water! This was even visible to Dustin and the midwife.
I relaxed so well in the warm water and with the needle in my forehead that I fell asleep between contractions. I experienced several times to be pulled out of some dream and back to reality by a contraction that came rolling over me. The contractions were so violent and more powerful than I was prepared for, and I could barely stay lying on my back in the tub when they came. Sometimes when a contraction started building up, I would throw myself around and sit on my knees while spending all my force to breathe through the waves of pain. I tried as hard as I could to let the contraction do its job, to let it come and let it hurt. It was rough, and many times I did not manage to do it, I would fight against the contraction and scream “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!!!!”. But most of the time I somehow managed to relax and give in, well aware that doing just that would make the contraction more intense. Because I WANTED powerful, intense contractions, I knew that the more intense they were, the more effective they were. After all, what one wants is the cervix to open, and labor to progress, and that is what powerful contractions do.
At 6 am it was time to check the dilation again. I had to exit the bathtub, and just that was a horrifying experience. It was cold and difficult, and I got a contraction as I was lying on the bed shivering. That was probably the very worst contraction I had. The midwife checked me and could declare that I was 7 cm dilated. I was shocked. From 4 to 7 in only two hours?!!! My midwife, on the other hand, was not surprised at all. She had noticed that this was going fast even before I arrived at ABC. I realized it first now.
THE TRANSITION PHASE
Back in the tub I entered the most intense stage of labor: the transition phase from 8 to 10 cm. It was exactly that: intense. In my preparations for giving birth, I had practiced with Dustin how he could massage me to ease my pain during contractions, but when the contractions came I could not handle anyone touching me at all. Both Dustin and my midwife tried to help me by either massaging me, patting my back or touching me in other ways, but I would beat their hands away and yell “DON’T TOUCH ME!!!!”. As soon as the contraction diminished, I would get very embarrassed and apologize 😳
But they handled it fine, they knew this is typical for the transition phase. I also got very hot and nauseous, and at one point I thought I was about to throw up. I had absolutely no appetite, and when Dustin tried to give me a smoothie, I got a heartburn, so I could not drink that at all. Instead, I gushed down Powerade, Vitamin-water and juice.
Somewhere between 7 and 8 am there was a midwife-change. Anne Merete came and greeted me. Because of the delirious phase I was in, I thought Ingrid and Anne Merete looked identical. I understood that they were two different individuals and that it was a shift change, but that did not bother me at all, because they were exactly the same? (I have seen pictures of them afterwards, and they do not look the same at all, they are at least 20 years apart and don’t even have the same hair color 😂)
They checked my cervix again at 8 am, just before Ingrid had to leave, and I was now a full 9 cm. This baby would arrive very soon! Ingrid gave me a hug and said that she did not want to go home, because the baby was soooo close to arrive! I also got feedback that I was doing very good at this and it was fun to be a midwife for me ❤️
This was the second time I was out of the bathtub, and now I was very exhausted and could not handle the thought of climbing up into it again. I stayed in bed lying on my side for a while and did not have any energy to move even though I rather wanted to curl down on all fours during contractions. Now my midwife started getting concerned about making me eat something, she said I needed energy for the pushing phase that was very close at hand. I did not want anything at all. Dustin gave me an energy-bar, but I just looked at it and gagged. I asked for salty crackers instead. Just as I put one cracker in my mouth and was about to start chewing, I got a contraction, and that cracker ended up staying in my mouth until the contraction diminished, I was simply not able to chew at all as long as the contraction was going on. After that, I could not handle anymore food, so a single cracker was the only thing I ended up eating during labor 😂
THE PUSHING PHASE
Now it was suddenly 9 am and the midwife checked me again. Full dilation! “Now I need you to sit on the toilet, and next time you get a contraction, you push” she told me. According to her, there was some poop making it difficult for the baby to get down into my pelvis. The thought of pushing while sitting on the toilet made me dizzy, but the midwife ensured me that the baby would not come out yet, it was too far up my pelvis still.
Dustin joined me to watch over me and support me, and when the contraction came, I did as the midwife said, and tried to push.
It is the MOST painful thing I have ever experienced. I screamed in panic, and it exploded between my legs. Dustin got shocked, but quickly realized that it was the water that broke, not the baby that fell down into the toilet 😂 It is actually pretty neat and convenient that all the water went in the toilet. There were more contractions, and I screamed and clinged to Dustin while I pushed.
Back in the room I knelt down next to the bed and kept pushing on my knees for a while, while resting my arms on the bed. The midwife guided me through how to move my hips and pelvis while pushing, to more effectively help the baby down. I switched between kneeling and standing on all fours, and did this for a good while before I collapsed on my side in the bed. I had beforehand thought that I would NOT give birth on my back. I mostly wanted to give birth in the bathtub, or on all fours. But in this moment, the bathtub was too big and tall for me to climb up in, and I had no energy for anything else than lying on my side, so there I stayed.
The push contractions themselves were nothing. I could barely feel them and had absolutely no urge to push whatsoever. I only pushed when it felt like I had a contraction because the midwife told me to do so. It was the pushing itself that was so incredibly painful, and this was the most painful part of being in labor. But still, it was easier to handle than the contractions I had had. The pushing I could control, it only hurt when I pushed, and this was something I could stop at any time. With the contractions I had before the pushing phase, the pain came whether I wanted it or not, and rolled over me with raw force. That was way harder to handle even though they were less painful than pushing was.
It took all my force to push, and the pain was so intense that I screamed out loud, but still there was little progress for a while. Then the midwife said something that sped up everything: “You spend a lot of energy on screaming. Rather than screaming, think that you need to use that force to push, try directing the force inwards and downwards to the pushing instead of out through your mouth.”
What an effective thing!! On the next contraction I could feel the head get down towards the opening, a completely insane feeling. Now the midwife wanted me to turn over on my back, but I refused. I was afraid of tearing, and had read that giving birth on your back can increase the chance for tearing.
“That is if you have been laboring for a long time on your back, like you do with epidural”, the midwife said.
“If you lie on your back now, I can see you better and communicate better about when you should push and when you should breathe.”
I gave in, and received help to turn over on my back. Dustin stayed lying next to me in the big king size bed and holding my hand. Now there was another midwife in the room too, it is their policy to always have two midwives present when the baby comes out.
I pushed, and could feel the head starting to come out through the opening. It took all my force to push and I was SO exhausted. Sometimes I could not push through the entire contraction, since I was so exhausted. It was not fun to feel the head pop back in between the contractions, that made it feel like all my enormous force spent pushing was wasted as soon as the head popped back. But my midwife must have understood what I was thinking, because she suddenly said: “Even though the head is popping back in between each contraction, it is still coming a couple millimeters forward each time. There is progress even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. So just keep on pushing!”
At one point, the midwife took my hand and led it down so I could feel the head that was just inside the opening. That was insane! I got shocked by how soft it was and almost a bit concerned. I wanted to see, so I asked Dustin to get me a mirror. He let go of my hand to get up, but just then another contraction came, and I stretched out for his hand and almost panicked when I could not reach it. “DUSTIN!!!!” I screamed, and he just had get down on the bed again right away. That made me realize how much support I found in just holding his hand.
Then, suddenly, the head stayed and did not pop back when I stopped pushing. I knew that it was coming now, and I quickly started to fickle with the labor dress I was wearing. Dustin and the midwife understood what I wanted and pulled the dress on each their side. Such a genious dress, they easily ripped it off me without damaging it, because of all the buttons. I hurried to get off my bikini top, and got it off just in time before the next contraction.
I pushed, and could both see and feel the head come out as the contraction ended. I thought the rest would come on next contraction, so I stopped pushing. But to my big surprise, the midwife continued to pull the baby out. I was a bit shocked but realized that I should probably keep pushing, so I pushed a little bit more, and in the next instant the baby was out and lying on my chest.
The feeling was overwhelming.
I put my arms around the baby immediately, and a thousand thoughts filled my head at once. The feeling of the little chest that felt so fragile. The feeling that we did it. The feeling of FINALLY. Finally you’re here! The feeling of the moment I had been waiting for my entire life. The feeling of the world stopping. The feeling of everything coming to be. The feeling that magic exists.
In the same moment I threw my head back and screamed with all my force, but this time without any sound. I screamed and cried without tears or sound because huge, enormous emotions rolled over me.
I looked at Dustin and we kissed and laughed and cried.
What a moment! ❤️
I kissed the little head and said “Welcome to the world, my precious. I love you.”
The little baby cried immediately, but relaxed when I talked to it. We stayed lying like that for a little while and just enjoyed our little miracle and all the emotions filling us, before I remembered something.
“What is it?” I asked Dustin. He had to lift the umbilical cord to see.
“A boy!” He said excited.
“Are you sure?” For some reason I got very surprised. I tried to see for myself, but the umbilical cord was in the way.
I looked at Dustin with teary eyes.
He smiled with just as teary eyes and nodded.
I squeezed my little boy, kissed his head and just repeated “Daniel. My Daniel. My precious Daniel.”
After about 10 minutes, the midwife put two tweezers on the umbilical cord, which had now turned white after all the blood had pumped through to Daniel. Dustin got some instructions, and then he cut the cord. Just this is so magical to me; that I birthed Daniel, while Dustin cut the physical bond between us, and “delivered” Daniel to the world ❤️
The placenta came 5 minutes later. I did not feel it at all, the only thing I noticed was that the midwife told me to push, and it hurt a lot to push even though I did it carefully. Afterwards I thought the entire area “down there” was very painful and got a bit worried, so I asked the midwife if everything was fine, since it hurt so badly?
“Dear, you just pushed out a baby”, she said with a smile, and I felt silly 🙈 For some reason I had thought that as soon as the baby is out, all pain would cease. I did not consider the fact that you get very sore and bruised from having your tissues stretched so much.
I was thoroughly checked, and the midwife could conclude that I did not have a single tear anywhere and did not need any stitches. Hurray!
“After giving birth, many women complain that the stitches hurt so badly”, the midwife said. “But you will feel it too, because in fact, it is not the stitches that hurt, it is the skin being bruised and sore.”
It was still very nice to not have to get stitches, and I was so impressed with my body that handled giving birth so well.
I stayed lying in bed with Daniel on my chest right were I had given birth (after the midwives had changed sheets superquickly and given me a “diaper”), with Dustin next to me, and we got to lie like that undisturbed for an entire two hours. It was so delightful to get those two hours just to ourselves to just process all the emotions and take in the beautiful sight of our little miracle. We felt like we were the luckiest people in the world!
Daniel was born at 09:58 am, and the midwife did not return until 12:30 pm to weigh and measure Daniel, and then Dustin got some guidance putting on a diaper and swaddling Daniel. Afterwards, the midwife helped me to the toilet to pee and rinse away blood and goo, and when I got out into the room again, Dustin was standing by the window with Daniel in his arms, and showing him the snow that was falling silently outside 💕
Our postnatal room was not ready yet, so we got to stay in the birthing room a few more hours. We were exhausted, so we lied down in bed with Daniel between us, and then all three of us fell asleep, as a family for the very first time.