I didn't get to post much through my pregnancy, but I did lurk a good bit. Anyway, here is my story:
Sitting down to write this, I can’t believe it’s already been more than a week since it happened. His birth feels so close, and at the same time so far away. Like some crazy dream. He’s only a week and half old, but I can already see how different he is from the freshly delivered baby that came careening through my body in a gush of pain and blood.
On Wednesday, May 11 I laid down with Elizabeth to nurse her to sleep. We were in a strange place and she was having a little bit of trouble settling down. The Natchez Democrat, the newspaper where Vershal worked before we moved to Pineville, had contacted him and asked him to come help with the flood coverage, since they would be short staffed for a week. They keep a corporate apartment in downtown Natchez for business purposes and we were staying there. We knew that the baby could possibly come while we were there but we thought it was really unlikely since my last had come 2 ½ weeks ‘late’. I wasn’t due until the 18th and the job was to be from the 10th until the 17th, so we felt like we’d be in the clear. I fell asleep with Elizabeth and woke up a couple of hours later needing to pee. On my way to the restroom I felt a sensation that seemed like I was peeing on myself, but I had no control over it. My water. This was the way it happened with Micah so I knew what was going on. I woke Vershal, who had fallen asleep getting Micah to sleep and talked the situation over with him. We agreed to call Sherri, my midwife. And Erica, her assistant. And Catlin, because we had agreed that we would call each other when we were in labor and she held up her end of the deal by calling me at 4 in the morning just a couple of days before. Then we also realized we had to call my mom and my sister. I was supposed to be babysitting my nephews the next day and one of them was spending the night with my mother and the plan was for me to go over there in the morning. They needed to know to make a new plan. Crap. Things are falling apart. I really wanted to labor in secret, with only Vershal, Sherri and Erica and to just call everybody when the baby was born. I didn’t want good intentioned phone calls checking in on me while I was trying to work through contractions. I surely didn’t want people stopping by to check (thankfully THAT didn’t happen!) After talking about it a little more, we decided to go ahead and call Vershal’s family because it didn’t seem fair that they not know, too. It was probably midnight by this time and we realized we needed to make a plan. I had been chatting with Erica on facebook and she was recommending that we drive on to Pineville then, because I wasn’t going to want to make that drive in active labor. I knew she was right, but I was barely having any labor. I also didn’t want to rush it. We ended up making the drive that night anyway. After sending Vershal to Wal-Mart twice, once to get some Depends underwear so I could stop walking around with nothing but a t-shirt and a towel between my legs and once to get some Vit. C, garlic and Echinacea pills (since my water broke and there weren’t any other real signs of labor we wanted to ward off any chances for infection in case this lasted a while) we decided to head back to Pineville. Vershal packed us up and we got in the car. We talked to Sherri some more and she said that she would come meet us there and sleep on our couch, since she wouldn’t be able to sleep at home waiting for a phone call.
We got back to the apartment in Pineville around 3 and miraculously both kids stayed asleep when we moved them to their beds. We unfolded the couch bed and set out a couple of pillows and blankets for Sherri and told her on the phone to just lock the door behind her when she got here. We were going to bed to try and get some rest. I had been having a few contractions this whole time, but nothing exciting. If my water bag was intact I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. However, with it open every time I had one I would leak a huge gush of water. We went to bed and I had a few hard contractions in my sleep that made it into my dreams. I think I may have even moaned through them in my sleep. But still, nothing exciting or serious. When everybody got up the next morning I decided to make a trip to Wal-Mart by myself. We didn’t have any food at home because we were planning to be gone for a week and the kids were hungry. Besides, there were a few last minute things I needed to get for the baby. I also thought that maybe walking through the store would help pick up contractions. It didn’t. I had two or three the whole time I was there but only one that I had to stop for. When I got home Vershal’s mother called and offered to come get the kids for the day. That sounded good. I was planning on getting this done by seven o’clock that evening. My labor with Micah was 12 hours long, and my labor with Elizabeth was 6 hours. I had no reason to expect it to go on for very long, once it finally picked up. And I was sure that it would really kick into high gear when the kids were gone.
After breakfast Sherri decided to go to Erica’s so I wouldn’t feel ‘watched’ and like I needed to perform. That seemed like a good idea to me. Myra (my mother-in-law) got there shortly after Sherri left and got the kids and already I had two contractions! Things were picking up! Vershal and I decided to go walk around the mall since it was too hot to walk outside.
Walking around the mall was really a lot of fun. We knew it was some of the last few hours we’d have alone together for a long time and we really enjoyed each other’s company. I had several contractions while we were walking. The kind that you have to stop and get quiet for, but not yet the kind that you have to stop and get loud for. Several people joked with us about trying to walk out that baby. I enjoyed being secretly in labor and having people guess what was going on . Smiling at them and thinking to myself thoughts like “If you only knew” were a lot of fun. After only one lap around the mall though I was getting tired. And my Depends underwear was feeling pretty full. We called Erica and Sherri and told them we’d come by there for a few minutes. I wanted some more company. Contractions slowed way down when we got there. I changed out my Depends and drank some water. Sherri encouraged me to eat something and rest so Vershal and I left and rented a movie to lay down with. Vershal fixed me a plate of some snack type foods… nuts, gogurt, granola, fruit, cheese. We tried to watch the movie (The Green Hornet) but it was really getting on my nerves and anyway, I was tired. I tried to sleep, but was too excited for that. After a while, we felt rested somewhat and decided to go back to the mall. This time Sherri was going to come walk around with us. I got there and suddenly was very hungry, so we got Chinese. I ate every bite. We walked around some more and then headed home. Time was running out. It was getting to be late evening and my water had been broken since 11:30 the night before. Things really needed to get moving at this point. These on again off again contractions just were not cutting it. And also, the kids would be back soon.
We got back to our apartment and started discussing our options. We could wait, but that really seemed the least appealing. The start-stop labor was wearing me out and I wanted to get it over with. It was not fun anymore. We could try castor oil, but having diarrhea while I was in labor was not appealing to me at all. We could try sena tea, but that would be at least a day before things really got going. The last option was black and blue cohosh. We had tinctures and we had essence. Tinctures would be more like Pitocin and would force things to get moving whether they wanted to or not. The essences would encourage what was already there, but would have no effect if nothing was already going. That seemed like way to go. I took three doses over an hour. It was about eight thirty or so when they really kicked in. It was about nine o’clock when Vershal’s parents got back with the kids. (Quick side story, they would have been happy to keep them until the baby came, except that they had to be in Fayetteville, AR the next day b/c Vershal’s younger brother William was graduating from college.)
From there things really start to get blurry. I don’t quite remember the order that things started happening, but I’ll do my best to keep the story coherent.
Labor was really picking up. I was having good, painful contractions that I knew were working. But the kids were somewhat in my way. Vershal brought the laptop into Micah’s room and put on a movie hoping that would help. It kept Micah occupied, but not Elizabeth. She had missed her mommy and could tell that something was going on that she did not want to miss. She kept wanting to nurse. I knew if I could just lay down with her for a good 30 minutes and nurse she would go to sleep. And I also knew that the nursing would stimulate more contractions. So we tried, but every time she would start dozing off I would have a contraction that I would have to moan through. So someone took her downstairs, I don’t remember who. Could have been Vershal, could have been Erica. I don’t think it was Sherri but I don’t know. I wanted in the tub. Nursing had made my contractions really hurt. So they put water on to boil and started filling the birth tub. I got in and the water was instant relief. Unfortunately it also slowed my labor waaaaay down. And then Elizabeth came back. She wanted in the tub, too. We fought her on that for a long time telling her that it was mommy’s turn now, but she could have a turn later. That really didn’t satisfy her and she kept crying. I knew I had to get out of the tub just so she would let it go. I went downstairs and talked with Erica and Sherri some. I don’t remember much about this part, except that Sherri kept saying she couldn’t tell me what to do but that it would worry her if Elizabeth got in the tub with me b/c she was snotty and had a cold. We didn’t want to risk that infection. I went back upstairs. I was hurting and everything everybody said or did was really starting to get on my nerves. I got back into the tub where I had been happy. Elizabeth came in and saw. I put her in the tub with me. I knew she was not going to rest until she had her turn in that great big swimming pool of a tub in our bedroom. She was so happy to be in the tub with me. Sherri came in and saw and said something half joking, half serious about being upset with me. I didn’t care. My labor had all but stalled out. I would still have really strong contractions, but they were 20 or 30 minutes apart. I had pretty much voluntarily put my labor on hold so I could be mom to Elizabeth. I almost felt torn between my two babies, like I was having to choose which one to take care of. The baby I needed to get out, or the baby who needed to be held. It was Vershal who saved the day in the end. I really wanted him to stay with me, but he was the only one who could handle Elizabeth. He took her outside for a walk. While he was gone, I think I had one weak little measly contraction. When he brought her back in and laid her down (asleep!) and walked back into the room with me, I started having another great big contraction. But then Elizabeth woke up and he had to go tend to her again and that contraction stopped right in the middle of it. No tapering off or anything. Just stopped. I couldn’t labor without him. Finally Elizabeth was asleep and Vershal was back. My labor started picking up again, but by this time I was exhausted. It was after midnight and we would all fall asleep between contractions. I would have Vershal give me counter-pressure on my back through them, but eventually that started hurting too. Nothing would relieve the pain in my back. I could feel the baby moving around , but really had no idea what was going on. Sherri kept making suggestions to try to help, but I didn’t want to hear it. I just kept yelling “Shut up, Sherri!” I was so mean to her. She’d say “You could try it on your hands and knees” and I’d tell her “I’ll get on my hands and knees if I want to!” Or again “Shut up!” “Leave me alone!” And a few others. I’m fairly certain that I cussed at her a few times, but Vershal says he only heard me cuss once. Maybe I just kept them all in my head. Specifically, Vershal told me “I was proud of you. You only said the f-word once. You did take it all the way though and say m-fer.” I aksed what it was that I said and he told me that I said through one contraction that it hurt like a motherf-----r. Anyway, I guess we all hit our low points and that was one of mine.
There were times when I felt almost like I could control the intensity of the contractions. I would be asleep in our chair in our bedroom and wake up to feel another one coming on and think “No, I can’t do this… not this soon!” and it would taper off and be an easier one than the last one.
After a while, I started feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom after every contraction. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be number 1 or number 2, but I just wanted to sit on the toilet and try. There was a chux pad on the floor under where I had been laboring, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go on the floor. I wasn’t that out of control. Every time I would go to the bathroom, though, Sherri and Erica would start whispering. It was really getting on my nerves because I felt like they were talking about me. Vershal was in the bathroom with me once when this was happening and I said “Do they think I can’t hear them? What’s the difference in me being in the bathroom and me being in there? 10 feet?” Finally I told Sherri “I hate it when you start that whispering! It makes me feel like you’re talking about me! “ Because I had picked up a few words here and there. Cervix and swollen were two of them. I had asked Sherri to check me a little earlier on and I thought she was telling Erica that my cervix was swollen. But she said that she was telling her that it was not swollen and that she was surprised because labor was getting so long and hard. Anyway, that made me feel better to know that she was just telling Erica the technicalities of what was going on and also that she was impressed with my cervix. But then they started whispering again and I got mad all over again.
Later Sherri started trying to convince me to eat something; anything; even a spoonful of honey. I refused for a long time telling her that I wasn’t hungry didn’t want anything. Then she came into the bathroom with a jug of honey and a spoon and with all the spite I could muster (which I don’t think was as much as I felt at the time) I said “What are you going to do? Force feed me?” She said, yes if she had to, but right now it was still my choice, but that I really needed some energy to get through this. After a minute or so I decided to take some honey. I knew it really probably would help and definitely wouldn’t hurt. So I opened my mouth like a baby and let her feed me. She was very sympathetic about the whole thing, telling me she knew it was nasty but that it would help. It did. I felt like labor really picked up after that. At some point I had asked to get back in the tub (I would have just climbed in, but the water was cold and I needed them to boil some more for me) and Sherri said that it would probably stall my labor out again. I think I knew that and was just looking for a way out because I tired of battling it. But I really needed some relief for my back. It was killing me. There was the most intense dull ache in the lower part of my back that I have ever felt. And it wouldn’t go away between contractions. Some time in there I told them that if I could just get relief for my back I could work through this, but I could not work through that pain in my back. Finally I remembered we had a heating pad, so I got Vershal to hold that onto my back. When it was in the right spot it helped so much, but if it wasn’t it was just miserable because it was already hot in the apartment. I would yell at him if he missed the mark by even a centimeter. I had noticed that Sherri kept getting the heart tones on the side, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Talking over it later I’m pretty sure that his weird position was the reason for my back pain. Basically, his head was as engaged as could be without coming out but he kept flipping his body from side to side, like a transverse lie.
And then finally, sweet relief!, I felt pushy. This was the end. The baby was coming! It was not relief in the sense that I like pushing. I don’t . I think it’s the worst part of labor, but thankfully I have really short pushing phases. They’ve all been only 10 or 15 minutes long. I told them to go wake up Micah because he really wanted to be there for this part. I knew he could handle it. We’ve watched dozens of birth videos together to prepare him for it and he was really excited about it. Elizabeth happened to wake up at this time, too. Probably from all the screaming. When I started pushing I felt like a caged animal. I kept turning around and looking for a way out, but the only way out was to go through it. I went through several positions in that short time. I don’t remember in what order, but I tried squatting, lunging, standing and leaning over the chair. The last was how I delivered. I yelled at Vershal to get behind me so he could catch because I wasn’t going to be able to. I leaned over the seat of the chair and tried to find some part of it that I could bite while I pushed with all my might. Sherri kept telling me things like “Just take it slow.” “Try to flower out.” “Don’t tense up.” And I kept up my refrain of “Shut up, Sherri!” And even added a few new things like “None of this is voluntary, you know!” At last, I got his head out. Or most of it. He came down to his nose and I was begging them to just pull him out the rest of the way. Sherri, being sensible told me that that wasn’t going to happen I was going to have to push him out. She did help him turn some however and as soon as she did that he came flying out. It was 5:02 a.m. He had one shoulder that was a teency bit stuck, but not a full-blown dystocia. I suppose Vershal handed him to me, but I don’t remember. I just remember that suddenly he was in my arms and Sherri was asking if it was a boy or a girl. I remember that I had just assumed it was a girl, but I checked to make sure. A boy! Our sweet baby was a boy! He didn’t scream like Elizabeth. He just kind of coughed and spluttered and looked around. Sherri said we needed to get a good cry out of him, but then he started nursing and she said that was just as good.
Then the placenta came, which was a surprise because with Elizabeth it had stayed in for an hour. I don’t know why it surprised me. Nothing about this birth was anything like Elizabeth’s birth. Then Elizabeth saw that he was nursing and she wanted to, too, so within minutes of giving birth we were having our first tandem nursing session. I was just so happy to be done.
I’m pretty sure I would have had a c-section if I had been in a hospital. They would have been really nervous about my water having been broken for so long and wanted to give me Pitocin. If I had taken it, I would have needed an epidural so I wouldn’t have been able to move around and help get him down. I did a lot of moving that to me felt very instinctual and primal. Lots of swaying and hip circles. If I had refused the Pitocin things just wouldn’t have moved fast enough for them and I would have run out of time. I’m also very glad that I had Sherri there this time and didn’t do it by myself. There were a lot of things out of my comfort zone and without her encouragement I might have transferred to the hospital anyway just out of exhaustion. I was thinking about it with her there as it was. I know I’ve talked about her role in all of this a lot, but she was every bit as hands off as I wanted her to be. She didn’t do any cervical checks that I didn’t ask for and even turned me down once because she said it was too early on and wouldn’t tell us anything. She always asked before she checked the heart tones and if I told her I didn’t want to do them right then, she’d go away. There was never a second during my labor when I wished she wasn’t there. I had a few people ask me what made me decide to hire a midwife this time after UCing last time and the best response I could come up with was that this is a different pregnancy and I felt like I needed someone there. I’m glad I trusted those early instincts. I probably could have done it by myself. She didn’t really do any life-saving techniques, but there were points where I would have been scared. I was very glad of her reassurance that things were okay. Sometimes you really need that.