Friday, August 26, 2011

Labor Phases: Latent, Sleep, Transitional, Hell

Welcome to the First Carnival of Birth Reflections

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Birth Reflections hosted by Patti at Jazzy Mama and Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts that reflect on how birth has transformed them into who they are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

**Parts of this are fairly gross. Read at your own risk.**

I was confident, relaxed, and well-informed when my labor began. I had taken Lamaze classes with my husband and we had read a book detailing the Bradley method. We had talked about how I would handle the pain and made multiple copies of our birth plan (in the hospital with no medication and as few interventions as medically advisable). I dismissed the horror stories I heard as being anomalies and focused on how well-prepared I was for my first time giving birth.

Latent Labor
Overall, I had a fantastic birth experience. On July 18, only five days before my due date, I woke up around 1am with my first contraction. I knew first labors are generally long, so I tried to go back to sleep, remembering the advice to rest and get enough to eat. HA. The contractions were 20 mins, 7, 13, 5, and 4 minutes apart... then stayed around 5 minutes apart for a couple hours. My water broke at 3am and we drove to the hospital around 4am after a couple bouts of vomiting. I had to stay in triage for some unknown amount of time, vomited again, and just breathed through the contractions. I also got my first dose of antibiotics, since I was strep B positive.

Active Labor (Sleep)
When they moved me into the LDPR room (I love that I didn't have to go anywhere once I got there!), I fell asleep. In fact, I fell asleep between almost every contraction with the exception of about 1/2 hour in the shower and during the transition phase. I had intermittent external fetal monitoring because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. The nurse wanted continuous monitoring, but my OB over-ruled her; he said the heart-rate was fine and I could use the shower. Hooray!

Transitional Labor
The contractions hurt, but weren't unbearable. Oh, also, Peter was posterior during the initial stages of labor and thankfully flipped over while I was in the shower. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't be able to make it through the transition stage, but once I got to that point it wasn't as bad as I had heard. The only pain management I used was slow, even breathing; my husband talked me through it and reminded me to slow down if I was speeding up. I was also timing the duration by counting in my head, mostly to remind myself that no contraction actually went on forever. :-)

Delivery (Hell)
Enter the pushing stage, which was about 40 minutes. It was hell. All of the sudden what had been increasingly painful contractions turned into something else completely: spasms within each contraction, making me push against my will.

me: Jeremy, call the nurse, the pushing is started.
nurse: Oh, are you feeling like you want to push?
me: No. I do NOT want to push, but I'm having no choice.

They did an internal exam, found I was ready to go (much to their surprise!), and gave me the other dose of antibiotics. I had read and heard that pushing is such a wonderful breakthrough, because you are in control and can actively do something to help labor and the excitement of having the baby almost there.


Oh, I was actively pushing (as I felt the need with each contraction, they weren't trying to tell me when), but it was by far the absolute worst pain of my life. I was not excited. "Helping the labor progress" is like deciding to do sit-ups when you have menstrual cramps but 100x worse. For me, it was not an empowering, happy time. I felt that my body had gone berserk. I was scared because it was so totally unexpected.

I remember some relief when I felt his head come through (10:05am), then they said, "Keep pushing, you need to get the shoulders out" and I thought, "You've got the head there, can't you just pull it the rest of the way?!" Anyway, he made it out OK and they told us he was a boy. (They wanted my husband to announce it, but held Peter at such an odd angle that we couldn't see!)


My primary emotion when I was done was giddy relief. I was done. I had a healthy baby to hold and could sleep as much as I wanted. It was great. Only later did I feel duped about the pushing phase, angry that people had misled me. I still get annoyed when I read anything positive about pushing.

My Conclusions
1. Contractions hurt but are not unbearable without medication, even during the transition phase. Use the down time to get more sleep!
2. When the pushing phase starts is completely out of your control, and although you can determine when to push as each contraction builds, it will be hell until that child is finally out.
3. Birth is gross. Starting with water breaking, to vomiting, to pooping while pushing, to the rush of fluids that follows the baby out, to the bleeding and torn perineum, to the blood clots in Peter's hair and the blood he spit up all night long his first night... it is disgusting. And of course discharge continues 4 to 6 weeks.
4. I never want a home birth. I want to know someone can be there immediately if anything goes wrong with the baby. I don't want my blood and all the other nasty fluids in my house.

I realize these are not the typical conclusions of a natural parenting mama, but I never promised to be typical!

Carnival of Birth Reflections

Visit Jazzy Mama and TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Birth Reflections!


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. Thankyou so much for sharing your experiences in the first Carnival of Birth Reflections.

    Time does bring perspective, doesn't it? I agree that birth is very messy! I was very reluctant about a homebirth for that reason, but my midwives assured me that they would take care of the entire mess--and they did! One of them even put the towels and sheets in the laundry before leaving.

    And hasn't one of the fringe benefits of Peter's birth been this online community of moms that you're a part of? Thankyou for being a part of MY community.

    Freedom and Joy to you and Peter!

  2. Thank YOU for finally prompting me to share this!

    I think, for me, the fear of not having emergency personnel immediately available would make it really hard to relax during labor. You can keep an eye on my blog in years to come, though, and see if I ever change my mind. ;-)

    Yes, Peter has definitely led me to a whole new community and set of interests. So glad to have become friends with you!

  3. What about a birthing center? Would you ever consider one for any future births? All the comforts of home and none of the clean up?! One right near or connected to a hospital so you still have your emergency services if the need should arise? We have a new birth center in Richmond and we are really hoping to be able to use that next time, whenever that may be! It's gorgeous and feels like a bedroom and has the option of water birth. Hopefully in a setting like that I will actually be able to achieve an unmedicated birth! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  4. I agree with you! I'd have a hard time relaxing during labor if I was giving birth at home; too many what-ifs in my head I think. That's why we settled on the birthing center. And our daughter still got to be born there, even though she was cesarean. :)

  5. "Birth is gross" - That made me laugh. It certainly isn't for the faint of heart that can't deal with bodily fluids!

  6. Haha!! I love it. It's true, some parts of birth are gross. And every birth is different. My mother-in-law always talks about how her fourth baby who was born covered in blood! Ick!

  7. Thank you for sharing your birth experience and having it be a part of the Carnival.

    Like the other commenters, I was laughing when you spoke about birth being gross. There is definitely a lot of "naturalness" (as my midwife called it) to birthing-one of many reasons women do it and not men (no offense meant to the men out there, of course)

    I'm always interested to hear about the different pushing experiences women have. Each of my 4 births was an entirely different, yet I was able to recognize, pushing experience. I had my body leading me and I was not in control, but never felt out of control. I can, however, understand how easy it would be to cross over to that feeling.

    "I never want a home birth. I want to know someone can be there immediately if anything goes wrong with the baby. I don't want my blood and all the other nasty fluids in my house." And this is exactly why it is so important that women have the freedom to birth where they feel most safe and supported. Birth choice should always be that, a choice. Women should be guaranteed support and autonomy wherever they can open up to the power of birth.

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing this post. I hope more women feel they can come forward and speak their truth without fear of judgment or blame.

  8. @Donna: We actually were at the birthing center in the hospital, which I'm sure is part of why I was able to have such a great experience. I hope your next birth is what you want it to be!

    @Rosemary: First, I love your name. Second, thanks for the solidarity! :-) I'm glad your birth center lived up to your expectations!

    @Shana: Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. :-)

    @Adrienne: Yeah, my son was pretty slimy too, because of a tear I had. Ew. ;-)

    @Zoie: Naturalness, that's great. :-) Thank you for your acceptance and support, I really appreciate it. Also, thanks for organizing this carnival and bringing this community together!

  9. I have always loved your blog and your writing style and this post is no exception. You crack me up! I would never do a home birth for the same reasons...I have no interest in any of the birth guck to be in my house. A birth center can take care of all of that. :)

    Since I did not experience birth, I love your account of it. "Hell" and "Lies." Heh! And of the course the infamous pooping while pushing. What pregnant mama doesn't get a little freaked over that???

    Thanks for such a great post!

  10. Thanks for following my blog. I was intrigued to visit your blog because of you GFC user name. I am a Catholic Mommy too :-)

    I also had a natural/hospital birth (by choice :-) )
    It was similar, but not identical to your experience. I hope to share it on my blog some day... but I TOTALLY agree with you on not wanting a home birth especially due to how gross it all is :-/


    I'm going to follow your blog back :-)


  11. @Jennifer: I'm glad you enjoy my writing style. High praise from a real blogger! :-)I generally write how I speak; it's just easier that way. Thanks for stopping by!

    @Kaylene: Yeah, I don't care if people know my real name, but in the internet world where it is important to be concise, I think "CatholicMommy" gives a much better summary of who I am than "Liana". Thanks for following me! :-)

  12. I love your honesty! I was surprised with my third birth when I had involuntary pushing with contractions. Although this may annoy you, it can be a process of surrender - much like surrendering to the will of God. Possibly that could reframe it so it won't be hell if there's a next time. :)

    I appreciate your conclusions also - witty. ;)

  13. @Amy: Not annoying, insightful. Thanks for a productive way to reframe this!

  14. I tried to reply to your post days ago, but for some reason I couldn't.
    I laughed when you said birth was gross. I do think it can be gross, but not as a whole. I've had two homebirths and the midwives cleaned up so well, you never knew a birth had just taken place.

    Not to say you can't have your feelings about birth though.
    With my 2nd, my body started pushing for me. That's a feeling I'll never forget.

  15. I am so glad to read this. I've had 3 babies, all induce at 38-39 wks (sudden high blood pressure) the first two with mostly non-working epidurals, and the third without any kind of medication. My births are fast (3-5 hrs from breaking my water), bloody (I tear badly every time) and awful. I've studied the Bradley Method every time, and it DOES help me get through the first parts, but getting that baby out is far from calm and natural. It feels like I'm not going to make it, and at the time I'm not sure I want to. I'm glad I'm not the only one that doesn't look forward to the pushing phase...

  16. @Darcel: Oh Blogger. Thanks for persevering and leaving a comment! :-) Also, it's good to know that one's body doesn't spontaneously start pushing in every case. That means people weren't deliberately misleading me, they just had a different experience. Much better.

    @Sara: Misery loves company. Thanks for the solidarity!