Ethan is now five days old. Every day has been a journey!
I am so thankful for an incredible first birth experience. We had several concerns due to giving birth in Mexico, but God answered so many prayers and gave us our desires.
During our last few doctor visits, we had specifically addressed our birth plan to make sure Dr. Chavez knew our desires and would help us achieve a natural, unmedicated birth. Of course, I know emergencies happen, but here is what we were striving for and our reasons why:
- labor at home as long as possible (greater mobility and control over labor positions, comfort of home, ability to eat and drink as desired)
- no IV in hospital (prevents mobility, causes swelling, added pain during labor, necessary only when receiving medication like an epidural)
- have M. and S. in the delivery room with me (50% or more of Mexican births are by c-section and typically no one is allowed into the delivery room for any type of birth; having labor support and someone to translate was a HUGE priority for us since Dr. Chavez speaks very little English!)
- no medication unless absolutely necessary (various meds cause chain reactions which require other meds or interventions like induction, forceps/vacuum, and often end in c-sections; our bodies produce endorphins in a natural birth that are stronger than meds; ability to feel my body’s signals during labor and delivery for pushing; more alert and healthier undrugged baby )
- no episiotomy unless absolutely necessary (uncomfortable recovery, incision can cause more extensive damage like 3rd and 4th degree tears than natural tear, can cause fecal incontinence)
- skin-to-skin contact with the baby immediately after birth (regulates baby’s body temperature, comforts baby, babies often breastfeed within the first hour after birth if given the chance, greater long-term success for breastfeeding, stimulates the release of oxytocin which causes the uterus to contract, weighing/measuring and other routines can be put off briefly without harming baby)
- having 100% access to baby after birth (baby mix-ups; caregivers may give baby shots and/or formula or other undesired “nourishment”; rooming-in allows physical and emotional needs to be met; greater bonding; it is my baby, after all!)
- short hospital stay (assuming all goes well, home is always more comfortable!)
So, here’s the beginning of the story …
On Thursday morning, August 18, my pregnant friend, B., came over to do prenatal yoga from a DVD with me. The past several days had been filled with achy legs and lots of movement from my baby in the womb. It seemed he was digging down into my pelvis, looking for the exit! We laughed, shared aches and pains, and yoga’d together. It was another day of … waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
I was now two days past my “due date” – though my doctor would have said I was four days past. (How accurate is a “due date”, anyway?!) At any rate, I was ready for my baby to arrive, but trying desperately to be patient!
I went about my day as usual doing light housework and trying to stay distracted. It was late afternoon and we’d been invited to our neighbor’s house for dinner around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., I used the restroom and noticed a big gelatinous glob as I wiped. Is this it? I curiously went to my pregnancy books and looked up “mucous plug”. Apparently, this “cork” of mucous that seals the opening of the uterus can be dislodged a week or two before the first real contractions, or just as labor begins. Well, we’re making progress, but, perhaps … still waiting.
At 5:05 p.m., I felt a little odd – my abdomen seemed to tighten and the sensation was quite different – stronger, but not really painful. I used the restroom again and the stream of urine seemed endless. Again, I went to my book. “Early contractions feel like gastrointestinal upset, or like heavy menstrual cramps, or like lower abdominal pressure. Pain may be just in the lower abdomen or in the lower back and abdomen, and it may also radiate down into the legs. However, false labor contractions may also be felt in these places … [and only] in 15% of labors, the water breaks – in a gush or a trickle – before labor begins, [rather than during labor or delivery].” OK, so it’s not like the movies! (Then again, when is life ever like the movies?!)
I told my hubby, M., that I thought I was starting labor. He couldn’t believe it! According to the “Comfort in Childbirth” DVD series we’d watched, I should stay distracted, as labor could continue for hours before becoming really painful. He asked if I wanted to go for dinner still, but I declined. “Tell them I just don’t feel good,” I said. I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, in case it was only pre-labor (a.k.a. false labor). M. went next door and called me. They were making pita pizzas and did I want to eat? Of course!
5:16 p.m. – only 11 minutes later – another tightening and a little pain started to move down my legs. That made two contractions.
5:32 p.m. – contraction #3
My neighbor soon showed up with a dinner plate for me.
5:46 p.m. – contraction #4
5:57 p.m. – #5, but I had finished eating and was feeling strong.
M. came back after eating dinner and asked how I felt. It had now been one hour and I had five contractions between 11 and 16 minutes apart. This was it! M. was excited and got out our Childbirth workbooks and handouts. We read the information to remind us what to do: time the start of the contractions and the length, keep moving and stay distracted, get hydrated and nourished, call our friends to tell them we’d be going to the hospital that night!
The contractions continued to get stronger. I had to focus on breathing during the peaks and found different positions to help ease the discomfort. One of the best was gently hanging from M.’s neck while we “slow danced” – moved side to side while loosely embracing.
At 7:30 p.m., S., our translator/labor coach friend (who is also our neighbor’s Mom) called the doctor’s cell phone. No answer. Then we remembered that his office hours are 4:00-8:00 p.m. So, soon after 8:00 p.m., S. spoke to Dr. Chavez. Knowing that we wanted to labor at home as long as was reasonable, his advice on when to go to the hospital was, “Just don’t wait too long.”
I decided that a little water relief would be nice, so the “birth team” (hubby M.; translator/labor coach S.; picture taker H.; and me, Mommy) went to a neighbor’s house and I got in their bath tub. (FYI – Most Mexican homes, like ours, don’t have a bath tub.) So much better! At first, I couldn’t even tell when the contractions were starting. S. timed the contractions again and I squeezed M.’s hand to tell him when to start and when to stop timing. The contractions were getting much stronger and were coming about every 3-4 minutes. We tried to time the peaks, but it was difficult. Sometimes I had double peaks, sometimes the contractions were only two minutes apart, sometimes five. It seemed that they had been quite erratic the entire night, rather than falling into the patterns listed on our “cheat sheet” from the childbirth DVD class.
One tool we learned was for M. to ask me, after the contraction, what I was thinking about during the contraction. The purpose is to stay positive and not have negative thoughts or fear during the labor process, which causes more pain. “I think we should go to the hospital soon,” is all I could say.
We made it to the car in a couple more contractions and headed to the hospital in Guaymas, about 20 minutes away. Half way there, I told M. he had better drive faster! I had a pretty strong contraction upon arrival. H. opened the door and waited for it to pass, then helped me stagger to the hospital doors. A wave of pain hit me at the entrance and I hung each arm around the neck’s of H. and S. to relieve some of the pressure. Dr. Chavez greeted us at the door and looked into my face to reassure me that he was there. I was so thankful to see him!
I knew my baby boy would be with us soon!