Finally written and published:
Here;s the post copied into the forum, but the blog also has a few pictures.
When I woke up the morning of April 1, one of my first thoughts was “I’m still pregnant.” And so I was. 39 weeks and 5 days along, I had been pregnant 12 days longer than I was with Haakon and was extremely eager for her to come out so I could finally meet the knee that spent so much time scraping along my insides. But there were a lot of signs that my body was “doing things.”
First off, the baby had seriously dropped. She had been pretty low before, but that morning when I got dressed, the shirt that I had worn 2 days previously with a minimal prego gap at the bottom, now failed to cover a good 2 inches of belly below my navel. I was now walking like a cowboy that hadn’t been off his horse for a week. “You look so pregnant and so uncomfortable,” my sister must have commented at least a dozen times that day. She had arrived on Wednesday to “help with the baby.” When she bought the plane tickets for a few days before my due date, my biggest concern was that she hadn’t bought them early enough. What if this baby came as early as Haakon had? She wouldn’t even be here! Fortunately, that turned out to not be a problem.
You could have fooled me though, twice previously I had had enough contractions that I seriously thought I would be going into labor, only to fall asleep and wake up the next morning…still pregnant. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re never going to have a baby and will be pregnant forever. The fact that I kept having contractions that went no where didn’t help matters. I never felt a contraction with Haakon until after my water broke. And yes, I knew that you feel more contractions earlier with subsequent pregnancies, but sheesh! I had had contractions pretty much every day, scattered through out the day. They weren’t very serious ones, though, requiring no attention and generally just getting on my nerves.
And so, on April 1, a day that I concerned absolutely perfect for having a baby on, I was still pregnant and it was snowing, so I had two sure signs that the powers that be did not like me. And I was whiney, though my sister assures me I wasn’t as whiney as most really pregnant women. She ran down a list of various labor inducing things I could do and eventually ended up googling various pressure points in the feet and hands you can stimulate to bring on labor. I actually did have a few good contractions after that but they went away and we decided to go outside so that I could show her around our property a bit.
That’s when she took this picture, which is unfortunately really far away so you can’t see how horribly pregnant I am, but trust me, I am very, very pregnant.
I went to bed around 10:30 that night feeling quite cross that, in spite of everything I was STILL PREGNANT. Women who go past 40 weeks have my undying admiration for being very patient women. I am not made of such strong stuff.
A little after midnight, something woke me up and I felt a gush. My water broke. I looked at the clock, 12:05am. I tried to get up. More gushing and I quickly realized that any movement at all was going to result in more water on the bed and that removing the underpad I had placed there a previous night when I thought I might go into labor was clearly a mistake. So I woke up Lasse. “Should we call the midwives?” he asked. “I dunno, let’s wait and see when the contractions start.” I got cleaned up, let my sister know what was up and then went back to bed and tried to get some more sleep. Unfortunately for that plan, the contractions started up pretty much immediately. Even worse, they were actually uncomfortable! I was rather hoping that this labor would be like Haakon’s and I would have a few good hours of weak contractions before things really went into high gear. I failed to realize that those good hours had been spread over the last couple of weeks and now that my water had broken, this labor was waiting for nothing. So we got up. I called the midwife, who told me I could labor at home for a while if I wanted but since it was a second birth, not too wait too long. I asked her when I should come in and she said about when the contractions are a minute long and 4 or 5 minutes apart. Alrighty then. We tried to lay down again and get more sleep but it was readily apparent that more sleep was not on the menu for me. I got up and took a shower to see if I couldn’t ease the intensity of the contractions a bit, dull the pain and maybe help me relax. But the shower didn’t help. I tried the squats combined with weightlifting breathing (where you exhale on the down and inhale on the up), which had really helped relax through contractions with Haakon. But they weren’t helping. I began to feel some doubt. Was I doing this wrong? Should I have spent time reviewing the Bradley Method this pregnancy instead of just assuming I could skid by with what I learned last time? Why were these damn contractions so painful?
I went back to the bedroom and asked Lasse if he was awake. He was. Good, because I needed him to provide some counter pressure and time some contractions. Speaking of which, did you know that there’s an app for that? Indeed, there are many of them. We downloaded them. I don’t know if it helped us time them accurately or not because the contractions at that point were strong enough to where I had to concentrate through them, needed the counterpressure and still they were only about 30 seconds long and a few minutes apart. The debate “Should we go in now?” began while I continued to try and find various ways to help myself relax and decrease the pain. Walking obviously was necessary. I gathered some things together to take with us to the birthing center, including the baby clothes package we had prepared for a homebirth and had a few contractions along the way. I sat down on Haakon’s big blue ball and noted how comfortable it was and Lasse promised he’d buy me my own before my next labor. Then I had another damn contraction that was horribly uncomfortable on that ball and nearly fell off it trying to get up off it. “Never mind! Never having a contraction on that again.” Finally I told him that I definitely wanted to call the midwives around 2:30 so we could head into the birth cottage, even if the contractions weren’t as long as they should be. Even the Bradley book says ignore ones that aren’t 1 minute long because they aren’t doing the hard work or whatever. They aren’t serious contractions. These were. We would measure to the peak, at which point I would tell Lasse that I thought it was the peak and then I would continue concentrating and trying to relax through the second half of the contraction.
I finally called the midwife back a little before 2:30. I called after a contraction and tried to make the call as brief as possible. “Hi, the contractions are only 30 to 40 seconds long so I think we’re timing them wrong, but they’re coming every couple of minutes and I think I should come in.” She agreed and I hung up and…immediately had another contraction. So I walked from my desk in the living room to our living room closet, told my sister we were heading out, had a contraction at the bottom of the stairs, got my coat on, walked towards the kitchen, had another contraction, put on my shoes, got the door, had another contraction outside, got in the car, and had another contraction. Now, these are not things that take me a while to do. They can, under normal circumstances, be accomplished within minutes of each other. It was literally contraction on top of contraction on top of contraction. I did my squatting stuff. Lasse was trying his best to get himself ready and everything in the car while constantly running back to me to provide counterpressure. But nothing helped. I never had enough time between contractions to relax fully and they were so intense I found myself dreading the next one, which is obviously not helpful.
As soon as we got into the car, I had another one and I wanted to cry. Car contractions where you can’t move and have to sit down are the worst. “I wanted to avoid the car ride!” I whined to Lasse. “I know you did,” he sympathized.
“I wish we could pull this damn seat out!”
“The one I’m sitting in!” I snapped back. He wisely chose not to comment. In my mind, I was thinking how ideal it would be if I could just remove the passenger seat, hold onto the Oh shit! Handle with one hand, the center console with the other and just sort of roll around on the floor. A van, I thought, would be perfect for that.
At this point I should mention how the Bradley method talks about the emotional signposts of labor so you and others can tell how far you are in your labor. In the beginning, you’re all excited. Yay! You’re in labor! Then as things get more intense, you start getting more serious. By the time you’re in transition, you really can’t concentrate on anything else, you’re completely withdrawn from the world and you find it hard to answer questions people ask you. I totally had all of this with Haakon. When we felt the first contractions we were both totally excited and I had issues falling asleep. But during the drive to the birthing center, I had my eyes closed the whole time, was “making strange noises” according to Lasse and I really don’t remember much, aside from the skunk we drove by. I opened my eyes for that part. When we got to the birth center and they were asking me questions about this or that, I had a really hard time answering. I couldn’t even tell you what they were asking me because it made zero impression. The only thing I remember was thinkging, “why do they keep asking me things? Can’t they see I’m BUSY?” This time, I had my eyes open a lot during the drive. I adjusted the radio station. I remembered to remind Lasse not to speed through New Boston as I had been pulled over in that town recently. When we got to Milford, the traffic circle through him off and I directed him around it. When we got into the birth center, I remembered to let them know that I didn’t have any diapers. Or more exactly, I had prefolds but no snappi or covers for them so the diapers were useless. They assured me they had some extras. Massive relief on my part. And remember, this was all occuring in between contractions.
Basically, I had zero emotional signpost guidance to tell me how far along in my labor I was. It’s also a pretty good indication of how mentally present I was compared to my last labor, where my mind was off in Laborland, enjoying the beautiful scenery there. I couldn’t tell you much about the room or what people where doing when I was in labor with Haakon aside from a vague notion that there was someone over there on the other side of the room and Lasse was behind me providing counterpressure and water. Mentally, I was gone. I was laboring. Everything else was unimportant. This time I never actually got a chance to mentally check out and I think that made it a lot harder. It went so quickly and the contractions were so constant, I never had a chance to really hit a laboring groove.
They checked the baby’s heartbeat when I got in there and it was good, then I was going to lay down so they could check me but as soon as I got on the bed..BAM! Another contraction. “Get me up! Get me up! Screw that, I can not lay down!” So, we screwed that. I may have been cussing at this point. I know I said fuck at least a few times. Then I puked, which is always fun. Actually, I think at that point it was a lot better than the contractions. If I could have traded a bunch of puking for the contractions, I would have been a happy camper. Then into the birth tub where I had a few contractions before I felt that tell-tale urge to push. The first pushing contraction I resisted because I seriously couldn’t believe I was already wanting to push. Then finally I gave in and puuuuushed. Then another puuuuush. Then finally I asked the assistant, “I’m pushing….is that okay?” Again, another difference from the first time where I never bothered to ask if it was okay if I pushed, though I was told it was. Then again, with Haakon I kept getting out of the birth tub and walking to the bathroom because I kept feeling like I needed to poop, so the first few pushes were on the toilet with the midwife telling me through the door to go ahead and push if I felt the urge.
The short of it is that I pushed for about 9 minutes before Malla was born. The long of it was that I was trying my best NOT to scream and keep making low vocalizations which help you use your energy for pushing instead of screaming and that was really really hard to do. Honestly, when I hear about women who push for hours, I have no idea how they do it. If my labor had gone on any longer than it did, I think I would have tried to get the hell out of there. I was tired. I thought I was going to burst into tears. In between contractions, instead of relaxing (which I had completely given up on at that point), I whined about how I just wanted a break…I wanted to get some sleep (that hour and a half of sleep I got? Not enough.). “I don’t want this!” I must have said a dozen times and the midwives assured me I was almost done…but that wasn’t really what I meant. I was okay with the whole giving birth concept. But the way it was proceeding with that level of intensity, I did not want. I wanted more of a peaceful labor…a few breaks in between contractions, maybe time to read a book…or something. I was probably about half and half fighting the contractions and trying to work with them so that I could get the damn baby out of me and be done with the whole thing.
Then, I started feeling the head emerge. I noticed that it actually felt a lot less painful this time than with Haakon, which was encouraging. We took this stage a bit slowly with the assistant encouraging me to slow down and give things time to stretch as we had discussed earlier to minimize tearing and I managed to listen and take this stage fairly slowly. Then the midwife encouraged me to reach down and feel the head if I wanted, which is really quite a moral booster when you’re in labor and never think it’s going to end. It’s also something that women spontaneously do when they’re left alone to give birth, according to this thing I read online written by a midwife/doula in Houston. I was pretty psyched to find that out because that’s exactly what happened with Haakon’s birth. After a contraction, I just reached down and felt the head and my eyes flew open. There really was a baby there! He’s almost here! How cool…and…he doesn’t have any hair. Look, I was really concerned about my kid having hair.
This time, I was incapable of doing it. I was seriously afraid that if I let go of the side of the bath tub, a contraction would catch me off guard, I would fall in the water and drown or something. Nevermind the fact that there were 3 people who were completely capable of making sure that wouldn’t happen, I just didn’t feel like the contractions were going to give me enough of a break to let me touch the head until I was completely done. Aside from that, I needed to squeeze the wall during contractions. There was no way I could let go of it.
A couple more pushes and the head was out. Then the body. This time I knew that I could keep on pushing after the head came out. With Haakon I sat there for a while, waiting for another contraction and when none came, thought “sweet! A break!” Then the midwife moved in to help me push the rest of him out. This time I had thought it would be neat to catch the baby this time myself, but reality this time…I wasn’t letting go of the bathtub. I was in practical hand-knee position and the baby wasn’t coming out anywhere near my hands. I knew better than to expect a break, so we just kept right on pushing. The only problem was it felt like someone was pulling the baby out of me and it hurt like a bitch. So I started yelling at them to ” Stop! Stop it! Stop it!” After the birth, I asked my husband if they were pulling the baby out of me and he said, “No, they were more like directing the head so it wouldn’t hit the bottom of the tub.” Oh. Well. That made sense, but damn, it hurt. Fortunately it didn’t last long and the shoulders came out, then the rest slithered out and I could sit down. Total. Complete. Relief. It was over and I had a huge, chubby baby. She was also nicely pinked up when I saw her whereas Haakon was quite blue. Unlike Haakon, who immediately started screaming his head off and took a while to calm down, she was quiet at first and then cried a little, but stopped once she was in my arms. Am I sensing an immediate difference in their personalities?
We had a few moments of peace where I got to stare at my baby and try to reconcile the fact that, yes, this had in fact been inside of me. It’s always such a bizarre notion and I think giving birth and making babies must be one of the reasons why women tend to be more religious than men. I’m completely irreligious and I wouldn’t even describe myself as a spiritual person, but I can’t help but be awed by the experience. It is simply amazing. Then the midwives teased me since I was referring to her as she, her, my little girl: “are you sure she’s a girl?” No one had looked. I took a peek under the blanket. “Yep, she’s a girl! Either that or she has a really small penis.” Huge relief that she was indeed a girl; Lasse and I knew that if she turned out to be a boy, she wouldn’t have a name for at least a week. We already used the only boys’ name we could agree on. This time I also remembered to ask what time she was born (we didn’t remember to ask with Haakon til a long time after he was born): 3:49, exactly 3 hours and 45 minutes after my water broke.
And then finally, the last stage of labor. I let them know when I felt crampy again, but seriously the last thing I wanted to do was push out a damn placenta. I was done. I wanted nothing else leaving my body that day and I was actually dreading this. They knew it, too, and the assistant assured me that it should be easy, “no more bones!” And it was, but ugh. It’s a good thing I wasn’t having twins, I think I would have just refused to give birth to the second one at that point and decided s/he could stay in another week or so while I recovered from the first one. Then it was time to cut the chord. Lasse, chicken that he is, left the room, although by that point there was way more blood in the birthing pool that was left in the chord. We–the baby and I–got out of the tub and went to the bed where we did all sorts of fun post-partum stuff that really isn’t all that important. Then Lasse and I chilled and hung out with the baby for a while. I managed to get her latched on pretty quickly to nurse, which was a huge goal of mine. I wanted to make sure we avoided problems like I had with Haakon: holding him too low so he couldn’t get latched on, causing that to take 2 hours and then getting a blood blister due to bad latch. So far my plan seems to have worked: over two weeks in and no problems! She nurses so well, I haven’t had to wake up Lasse to help me with night nursing since the third night or so. Diaper changes, on the other hand…
Then she was weighed and measured and she was so big compared to Haakon: 8lbs 10 oz, 21.75 inches long. A good 1 lb 10 oz heavier than Haakon, but only .25 inches longer. She was chubby. The whole drive home, her cheeks wobbled in the most adorable way. I’ve decreed that she has to wear a hat until she grows enough hair to balance out her enormous cheeks. It could be a while.
In conclusion, if given a choice between a 12 hour, textbook labor and a 3 hour 45 minute sprint labor, I would take the former. I remember that labor as being so much more peaceful and I felt so much more in control in a sort of “I have contractions, they don’t have me” kind of way. This time I never really managed to get ahead of my contractions. They started out stronger than I expected and proceeded to advance much more quickly than I was prepared to handle. My husband, on the other hand, thinks this labor was awesome; instead of providing 6 hours worth of counterpressure, he only had to provide about 2 hours worth and his arm was a lot less sore. So, there is that advantage I guess.