This story is super long, but then again so was my labor and delivery! My labor if you count from the time that my water broke was 60 hours or if you want to count from when I started having active labor then it was 40 hours. After giving birth, I talked with an American OBGYN and found out just how many things happened during my labor that would not have been allowed in the States (I think there were at least 3 times that I would have been taken for a C-section instead of being allowed to continue!) So, as you read this, it might sound like I was making unsafe decisions if you are used to the typical western care, but we were very safe, myself and the baby were monitored constantly and we were both healthy and not in any way near an emergency situation. So here it is… Holden’s birth story!
Friday, Jan 2nd in the Afternoon: I met my midwife face to face for the first time the day before I went into labor. She had been working in the US and flew back into Uganda about a week before I went into labor. I had always planned for her to be my midwife, but I also had backups. My dear friend who was a student midwife, did all my prenatal care leading up to this moment. More about my amazing midwives later, back to the story… So, I met my midwife for the first time and after our wonderful and chatty conversation she gave me a vaginal exam (great way to instantly get close to someone, hehe) and swept my membranes to get labor started since I was already a week overdue. It turns out I was already 2cm dilated and 100% effaced so she went ahead and stretched me to 3cm. That evening I had some cramping but nothing consistent going on, so I tried to get some rest.
Saturday, January 3rd: At 11am my water broke a little bit, there was a trickle. So I had the hubby go out and buy thin pads and went about my day waiting for the contractions to start. Then at 9pm just as I was laying down to bed (yes, we go to bed at 9) my water broke in a huge gush that sent me jumping off the mattress and into the bathroom. I was so excited to have experienced the Hollywood version of my water breaking and that labor was eminent! We called the midwife and she said she’d be on alert and just to call her when the contractions started. So, we went to sleep waiting for the contractions to wake me up.
Sunday, January 4th: I woke up naturally, without experiencing any contractions during the night, which was pretty disappointing. So, I tried to go about my normal business: breakfast, catching up on emails, etc. but by lunch I was going insane. I had had a couple of contractions every now and then but they weren’t becoming regular. After talking to the midwife she said we needed to get labor going by the time we hit the 24 hour mark of my big gush of waters, for safety reasons, and suggested I try nipple stimulation to get things regular. So at 2pm I tried half an hour of manual nipple stimulation (definitely not as sexy as it sounds), to no avail. I couldn’t take it anymore and had to do something to feel normal so I did an hour of Zumba at 3pm. Then I decided I’d go all in and busted out the electric double breast pump and used it for an hour. Then my contractions finally became active!!! At 5pm I was having 1 minute contractions about 5 minutes apart. I gave the midwives a call and they started heading into town (they live in a nearby village). The midwives came around 9:45pm and I was well into labor and 4cm dilated. Labored like that through the night with back labor (forgot to mention to any of the midwives that I was in back labor…oops). I took a ton of showers and managed to nap in the tub while my loving husband poured water over my hip, since my tub was too shallow to fit my entire body in so half of me was sticking out while I laid on my side. Somewhere in the middle of the night I took another nap while laying in child’s pose.
Monday, January 5th: Through the morning I was still in active labor till early afternoon, then I started going through “transition” which is when there is no time apart between contractions. After several hours of being in transition, I had gone from 6cm to 7cm. Boo! I continued with the back to back contractions until somewhere around 5:30pm, my midwife asked me to get up out bed to dance hoping to help labor…. little did she know. Roger grabbed my Zumba video and set it up for me. Then myself and my 2 midwives all did Zumba together! After getting in and out of the shower so frequently, I had given up on being dressed. So, yes, I did/led a Zumba class naked with my midwives... I bet that’s not how they had planned to get their workout in! After Zumba around 6pm, they checked me and I was at 9.75cm!!! Which is good enough to start pushing when the baby’s head is in the right position, which it was.
Monday night at 6pm I started pushing, but for whatever reason that .25cm of cervix was rigid and didn’t want to get out of the way. I changed positions several times and around 9pm my midwife got me into an inversion in which I was lying face up on the bed with my butt up on 4 pillows and my head on the mattress…. NOT comfortable! After 20 minutes in that inversion, my cervix was super flexible, so they gave me the go ahead to start pushing again. Then again, there was no progress and the cervix had returned and became rigid again. At some point, they tried using “finger forceps” to get the pelvic bones to open up to create more space. This was THE most painful part of my entire labor… and it didn’t help. So, I pushed on and off for quite a while and in every position imaginable, but still no luck.
Tuesday, January 6th: After pushing for so long, I was exhausted especially since I couldn’t keep any food down. So, I took a nap for about an hour around 3am. I woke up with a strong urge to push and tried pushing again for another hour… with no progress. Finally, around 5am my midwife gave me a choice: try to rest in the crazy inversion position for a long period of time and see if my cervix opens up, or go ahead and go to the hospital to get a cesarean. At this point, it wasn’t an emergency and I figured if 2 more hours of resting were going to be helpful, or at least not hurtful, then we might as well give it a try. So, with a prayer that this would work, I “napped” from 5am to 7am in that ridiculous position with my butt up on 4 pillows and my hamstrings and back aching. Finally, at 7am when my midwife checked on me the tiny bit of cervix was finally gone!!!!
So at 7am I started real, unblocked pushing which was much more productive. Unfortunately, after half an hour of pushing we all realized that I was so swollen and tired from the previous 10 hours of pushing that I didn’t have the energy to push him out. Fortunately, my midwife had been in contact with my other doctor this whole time and she had a vacuum extractor that she sent over (which is nothing like the giant Hoover I imagined, but a tiny hand-held device with a palm sized suction cup on the end). Once we started using the vacuum extractor, everything was much more productive! Even then, the suction popped off my poor baby’s head 4 times each time he was near crowning and then once it popped off he went back in again. Finally, after crowning 6 times, in a very classic Daytime TV position with my husband and midwife holding my feet like stirrups, the baby’s head came out! At that point, the midwives started looking for the shoulders and I overheard them saying that they were going to have me flip over. Oh heck no! I was so over this labor. So at the next contraction I pushed with everything I had left and Holden was born at 9:47am 7lbs 4oz and 21 inches long!
The whole experience was empowering now that I look back on it. It was nuts and I would never choose to have a labor that long again… but I did it. It was kind of like I had mentally prepared for the marathon and accidentally got re-routed to the ultra marathon (the 100 mile version)! So, I’m glad I decided to have my baby in Uganda. I’m glad that I had him at home. And I’m so thankful that God protected both of us through that process!
A bit about my midwives: My midwives are a part of a non-profit birthing center run my Mother Health International. They have been helping 45 mothers a month deliver their babies with an infant mortality rate of 11/1000 compared compared to the national average of 62/1000! Please please check them out and consider a donation to help them continue to provide this amazing care to women in Northern Uganda (including me!).