It started on Twitter with this Tweet:
but in the real world it had begun about 4 hours earlier. I woke up at 7am or so to find her sat up next to me with a timer and a notepad. She'd been keeping records since 5.30am when the regular contractions had begun.
strange things are afoot at the Hepworth household.— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 29, 2010
I took a video at 8.47am:and an hour later was readying for the #hippiehomebirth:
mornings I like to get up early and cover the house with tarpaulins. it's a whole thing.— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 29, 2010
Quarter of an hour later, at 10am on July 29th one of our team of midwives dropped in and checked Wendy over. All was well and she told us to wait for the 5-1-1: contractions FIVE minutes apart, lasting ONE minute each, for ONE hour. Thus instructed, at 12.54pm Wendy, contractions and all, headed out for a burrito with our friend Andrea:
After that it was a waiting game. Contractions were coming frequently but not regularly. The afternoon went slowly and even by 7.59pm there wasn't much going on:
although half an hour later Wendy's water broke.
update: no update.— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 30, 2010
After that things started getting serious. By 10pm we had both Maria and Nova (midwives) with us at home, and I'd filled the birthing tub. Wendy labored all night (5cm dilated at 12am; 7cm by 6am), in and out of the water. That's a lot of work; a lot of contractions. For Wendy, a desperate urge to push but not being able to. For me, the desperate urge to sleep but not being able to.
Just past 8am on July 30th, by now almost 27 hours in labor, I went out to get sustenance from the shop around the corner:
although the tea I brought back for Wendy I'd find amongst the aftermath, untouched, two days later, next to the birthing tub. This photo of the tub was taken about 9am on July 30th, just after I got back from fetching provisions:
refueling (@ Philz Coffee) 4sq.com/5F0R53— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 30, 2010
By 12pm on July 30th Wendy had been in labor for about 31 hours and finally at 10cm dilated she was ready to start pushing. And Pushing. AND PUSHING. Standing, sitting, squatting, lying, in water and out. Since Wendy was epidural-free an entire range of natural positions were not merely possible but actually fully exploited. An hour later nothing doing, however:
And the same for the next four hours. Screaming, pushing, shouting, panting, sweating, hugging... but still no baby. And we're still at home, so at about 4.30pm on Jul 30th Wendy and I, exhausted, sweaty, fried, mucky and losing it, had an hour's nap on a tarp on the bed.
And then back at it:
but within half an hour or so it was apparent that 36 hours of labor and six of hardcore pushing had sapped Wendy's energy and we were going to need some help.
35 hours of labor. come on @thebeean!— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 31, 2010
Maria (midwife) gave us a ride to the hospital at 6.30pm on July 30th:
and by 7.30pm on July 30th the Pitocin was kicking in. Wendy was back in full-on pushing mode.
For what it's worth, the hospital facilities were amazing. They hooked Wendy wirelessly up to a machine which displayed in real time the baby's heartbeat and the waxing and waning of her contractions. For me, this was incredible: being able to see, follow along with, and even anticipate how Wendy was feeling was such a welcome personal connection to the process.
And the bed! Like a transformer, at the push of a button it whirred upwards and changed into a split raised formation perfect for leaning over while on one's knees. One more push of the button and it changed again into a chair form, with two flat areas at different levels. Later on, an attachment emerged: a bar which mounts on the bed and in certain configurations can be used to dangle from while squatting and squeezing a baby out. Incredible.
Things didn't go particularly speedily, though. At 11pm on July 30th we caught the very first glimpse of The Bean:
but even then it was amazingly slow going. Despite fierce and superhuman efforts on Wendy's part it didn't seem like there was much outward progress (it would later turn out that Wendy's pelvic opening simply wasn't large enough to pass the baby). At about 11.30pm on July 30th the doctor came in and let us know that we were already past the point where most hospitals would mandate more invasive medical assistance.
41 hours of labor and I now know what color hair @thebeean has. or at least what color it has on the tippy top of its head.— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) July 31, 2010
We had to decide what to do. The baby wasn't far enough out for suction or for forceps, so a Cesarian was the only viable intervention option. That's a far cry from our original ideas for the birth (home, natural, no drugs) and so far Wendy was still painkiller-free, with just a little saline and a little Pitocin on a drip. We took a break, hugged, talked, and decided to keep going with the pushing for another hour.
Right after that, at the midnight shift change, Nurse Sharon arrived.
Read on in Part II...