53 Hours of labor. Sounds pretty intense, right? But it really wasn't. The first 43 were rather boring actually. I wasn't even uncomfortable. Stressed - definitely - but not uncomfortable. In fact, I got one very solid night of rest during that period! Though I didn't know it at the time, apparently I was defying all medical wisdom by allowing it to go that long. My waters released at 4am Thursday but nothing much really happened until 11:30pm Friday evening. I had walked several miles, started pumping to stimulate my body's natural secretion of oxytocin and been bouncing on the stupid birthing ball for hours. Nothing. My family had come into town, canceled plans and rearranged all work schedules just to be present and I had very little to show for all their efforts. After about 36 hours we went in for a NST - a non stress test - to check on the baby. He was fine. I didn't have a fever. My pelvis checked out as being fine for delivery. BUT I was only dilated 1 stinkin' centimeter after almost 2 days of labor and minor contractions! UGH!!
We went home and prayed. And prayed. And prayed. Oh, and I cried a ton. The midwife had been certain we should go to the hospital and I should be induced with pitocin to get things moving along. This news was devastating to this crunchy mommy! My dreams of giving birth to our son in a quiet, tranquil environment where his daddy and I could bond with him immediately afterward without the hustle and bustle of hospital staff was quickly disappearing into the night as we drove home from the birthing center. My husband, my greatest supporter and best friend who stayed by my side the entire time, graciously and selflessly took the lead. When I was utterly hopeless and ready to just give in and go to the hospital, we decided to wait until the 48 hour mark at 4am Saturday. I was instantly relieved. We had both had an indescribable peace about everything along the way. We felt no need to make it an emergency situation when the baby and I were doing fine. So we decided to follow our instincts and instead of making a decision out of fear, we decided to wait a bit longer so that we could exhaust all possible means of initiating contractions naturally. Our doula recommended many different natural inductions so my husband went to the natural food store and bought Caulophyllum, castor oil and black cohosh tincture. Every 30 minutes he gave me a dose of the caulophyllum with a cup of hot pregnancy tea from traditional medicinals and a dropperful of black cohosh tincture. Every hour, for 3 hours, he dosed me with castor oil mixed in orange juice followed by a hot shower. We prayed. I pumped with the borrowed breast pump from the birthing center. And after my final dose of castor oil and one final hot shower, we fell into bed around 11:30pm, exhausted from 2 days of trying to induce contractions. No sooner did his head hit the pillow than hubby fell into a deep sleep.
However, on my side of the bed something wonderful started to happen. I was contracting. FINALLY! Hard, long contractions started almost as soon as I lay down. I ignored them, so discouraged from the last 2 days, and decided I would try to sleep through them. I couldn't! They came harder and stronger until I had experienced 6 or so and thought I should maybe get up and time them. By 1:30 they were only 2-3 minutes apart and coming on nice and strong so I woke up the hubby and we headed to the birthing center. Those 2 hours in between I sat in the bathroom working through contractions and praising God for his faithfulness. It was miraculous how things literally went from nothing to contractions coming every 5 minutes or less instantly!
The time at the birthing center went by so quickly. I labored until 8:58am when Josiah was born, but the 7.5 hours went by so fast! I felt as though I was on another planet and time stood still. The room was dimly lit, the deep bath tub filled with warm water, quiet music from the Comfort Zone cd played in the background and my midwife, doula and husband were my companions. The atmosphere was perfect. Although Josiah was in the perfect position I experienced severe back labor, perhaps due to my rare genetic disorder called Nail Patella Syndrome which has caused a bit of scoliosis. The doula showed hubby how to put counter pressure on my back to help me through each surge and he rarely left my side:-) He was absolutely essential in helping me labor so smoothly. His presence, his quiet words of encouragement and his touch made everything easier. The water in the bath was delightful and eased my discomfort greatly at times. I was able to sleep a bit in the tub during longer pauses and I rested on the bed at one point too while the doula massaged my aching back. She also was essential as she offered me water and juice and the coconut pineapple banana ice cubes I had made for this time. She reminded me to breath, to practice my hypnobirthing techniques and to relax into each surge.
Things got more intense, and the water no longer felt good, so I got out of the tub and paced. I started vomiting on the most difficult surges and my body started contracting downward so hard that it was difficult to breath through them. But each time this happened I felt the baby moving down farther and this excited me so much that I wanted to keep going. When I felt I couldn't go on much longer and started seriously considering that epidural, I vomited a few more times and then said, "I think he's coming! I feel something between my legs...there's a slimy bulge between my legs!" I took a few more steps and it was difficult to walk about without my legs spread wide apart. I leaned over the tub to get in...drats! The water had been emptied because I had thrown up so much and they were trying to get me fresh water to birth in. But it had filled only inches and there was no way I could wait until it was full to birth. Standing by the tub I threw up one last time on a hard downward contraction and his little head slipped easily out. I said something to the effect of, "Someone needs to catch him!" and then saw my husband's hands there ready for him. I never pushed. I never needed to. I breathed 2 or 3 deep breaths and out he slipped into his daddy's hands. 53 hours of labor later my sweet baby boy was born into his daddy's strong loving hands and we held him together in shock and awe at what we had just done together. The midwife and doula stepped to the side and sat quietly on the bed while we marveled at the tiny life in our hands and inspected him. Wow what a feeling. Life and love at its fullest, brimming and spilling over into greater and greater depths of life and love. I can hardly explain it but it was one of the greatest moments of my life. A sense of relief, a sense of accomplishment and victory, and most of all a great sense of gratitude for this blessing swept over me.
All I can say when I look back on it is that God is Good ALL THE TIME. He is real. He answers our most desperate and specific prayers perfectly. He answered my prayers that my husband could be present at the birth despite all the odds that were stacked against us with my husband's job as a military officer. He answered my prayers that our baby would go to full term and be born healthy and whole. He answered my prayers for a comfortable, easy birth. He answered my prayers for the love and support that I so desperately needed in the days and weeks following Josiah's birth with family and friends. He continues to meet my needs daily since I became a new mommy. He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider.
I chose to believe when I first became pregnant that God designed our bodies perfectly. He designed the female body to give birth. Labor and birth, more often than not according to the facts and statistics, is a normal, natural process of life for a female. So if God designed our bodies for birth, and if he designed babies to be born, then I decided I would choose to live out my pregnancy as if nothing were wrong and nothing were going to go wrong unless proven otherwise. I decided to trust in my body's instincts and God's faithfulness. May God receive all the honor and praise from this new crunchy mommy for proving himself again that He is sovereign.
53 hours of labor forced me to wait upon the Lord and his timing. His timing is always perfect:-) My hope is that this can be a word of encouragement for other soon to be mommy's out there who are looking into an all natural birth. Let me encourage you that birth is not as scary as it's made out to be! It's a beautiful, wonderful passage of life that brings with it so many amazing feelings and changes. Trust your body and, most of all, trust God.