This turned out so long! All the details are still fresh and I wanted to get them all down to remember... so here it is:
Our second baby was "due" on June 25, but as that date came and went, I got unreasonably anxious and then finally resigned myself to waiting another week or so. Tuesday night, the 28th, I felt like I needed to walk around a bit but it was too hot, so I took a list to the grocery store and waddled the aisles for a while. A lot of the time my hands felt like they were miles away from my head, and I remember thinking that was odd, but not wanting to get excited about weird signs and symptoms.
All night I had strong warm-up contractions, to the point where I was kind of worried the baby might have been getting squished a whole lot, but no pain or pressure. At 5:30 am on Wednesday, June 29, I woke up feeling sort of crampy. By 6:45 I'd had a few different-feeling ones, so I decided to wake DH up to DTD, to see if that would help make them more regular (and because if today was the day, it'd be a while before we got the chance again!). Immediately after, I had bloody show and crampy 30-second contractions every 3-5 minutes. I started timing contractions with my handy-dandy iPhone app. I still wasn't sure it would stick, and didn't want to get too excited or cry wolf, so I told DH to go to work and I'd call him if I needed him to come home. I texted my friend, a newly-minted RN who had also been at DS's birth, to let her know that I thought today would be the day. She said she'd be able to come over, because she was doing training modules for her new job at the nearby hospital L&D. DS and I watched videos and folded laundry, and I put the plastic sheet and extra linens on our bed. By 10:00 the pattern was still holding steady, more intense when I was up and walking around, and slowing down a bit when I was lying down or sitting. I texted the midwife, who called back a bit later and seemed surprised that DH wasn't home. She suggested I call him, and when he got home we should go for a little walk and see if things got going.
DH got home around 11:15, and I stalled a bit before going on the walk... I had him change the air filter, we ate a little lunch, picked up the living room... because I knew once we went walking things would change. He called me on it, but went along with my stalling anyway :) My mom arrived and DS left with her to go to the candy store and hang out at her house. He was such a big boy in that moment. Then my nurse friend arrived, and the three of us walked halfway down the block, back and forth just a couple times, me in my muumuu. It seemed like more of our neighbors were at home during the day than should've been, and I was feeling a little self-conscious (and hot!) so we came back inside. By around noon, the midwife and her apprentice had arrived and began setting up the birth pool. At this point I was leaning on the kitchen counter or hanging on DH's neck for contractions, but in between just standing around chatting. I was still assuming it was going to be a longish haul. I leaned against a pillow on the wall for a couple and had DH put downward pressure on my sacrum, which felt completely necessary. At one point I had to pee, and had a contraction while on the toilet that was NOT fun. For a couple contractions before it, I had been feeling slightly nauseous at the peak of the contraction, and this time I yelled at DH to bring me a bowl to puke in. It crossed my mind that this could be transition, but of course I was still assuming I had quite a ways to go, and beginning to wonder if I'd make it, since these contractions seemed so much more intense than the long early labor I had with my first.
After vomiting, I decided it was time to get in the pool. We talked about how I should probably only be in the pool for a couple hours max, so as not to get too pruny, and I was thinking I'd probably want to get out of the pool anyway when it was looking like it was time to push. The warm water felt great, but I wished it was a couple feet deeper. I was on my knees, leaning forward against the edge of the pool and holding DH, for a few contractions. Just the two of us were in the room at this point, the other ladies were in the living room talking about L&D admitting procedures, acronyms having to do with information passed to doctors at time of transfer and such, and I was actually trying to follow the conversation for some reason. DH poured warm water over my sacrum. That position felt too intense, like my knees had to be too far bent and too far apart, and at one point I felt "pushy," which caught me completely off-guard. I remember saying "it can't possibly be time to push yet. I'm not pushing! It's pushing itself!" I think this announcement, and some grunty noises, got the others to join us in the room. After a couple more contractions, I had stopped trying to pay attention to anything external. Someone asked if I wanted to get out of the tub, but I couldn't think of anywhere else to go, and said so.
I decided to turn around and lean back, and have DH put his arms under my armpits and lift me up out of the water so I could hang relaxed for each contraction. We did something like this in a couples “yoga for labor” class. I knew it was a tough position for him to hold, but it was the only way I could think of to manage what was happening. My friend was pouring water over my belly during contractions, and fanning my face and wiping my skin with cold cloths in between. I was moaning a lot, trying to keep my sounds low and think of opening and relaxing. A couple times I got crabby with DH for inadvertently chuckling at my grunts and moans - I knew it sounded silly, but felt strongly that I had to do it seriously or it wouldn't have worked. I visualized my cervix pulling up and back to let the baby's head through. I had told DH that morning about something I read, I think from Birthing From Within, that said "do nothing extra," and I was thinking of that and trying to just let my body do its thing, without getting in the way. I also had the thought, "fear shows me what to let go of." At the beginning of each contraction I'd feel "No! not another one!" and then shake that thought away as quickly as I could to replace it with "yes, this is happening, I am doing this now." I moaned "oooopen" a lot, and "down down down." After a couple contractions in this position, I felt unmistakable pushing feelings again. My uterus was doing all the work, because I still wasn't believing it could possibly be time to bear down and push yet. I grunted and panted through the pushing feelings, and then they were telling me I could feel the head if I wanted to, and I still couldn't believe it! Touching the head was amazing, all squishy and soft, and the apprentice midwife told me I had "a beautiful bulging bag of waters." She put on an amnio hook thingy over her gloved finger, and they explained that the water hadn't broken so they'd need to break and remove the sac before bringing the baby out of the water. In between contractions things still seemed nearly normal, but the contractions themselves were super intense. There were three that stung, and I whined a bit for these - "stingy stingy owie owie!" but it was actually kind of nice in a way to feel a different sensation than the pushing, and I finally started to believe this was it, this was the end! I think the warm water helped a lot with stretching. Apprentice midwife and Midwife applied counterpressure to the perineum as she crowned. I was freely referring to baby as "she" by this point, though we didn't officially know the sex. She pushed with her feet on the inside and tried to wiggle herself out - what a feeling! And then she floated out, and she was in my arms, and she was just perfect. She cried and told us the story of her arrival, and opened her eyes to meet us. She was born at 2:41pm, officially making this a "precipitous birth," with an active labor of 2.5 hours.
I birthed the placenta, stepped out of the pool and dropped what seemed like a giant bunch of blood but I’m told was a little more than a cup, and walked to the bed. I had one small skid mark that required no repairs. I took a short herb bath in the bathtub. DS and my mom arrived, and he had a giant screaming meltdown because of the huge changes in the air... strange people in the house, tubs and hoses everywhere... so I dried off and sat with him on the floor for a couple minutes until the storm passed. After a bit he did finally join us happily in the family bed to meet his little sister.
It was so easy! At the time I felt like the hardest part was helping DS through his strong feelings while unable to pick him up and carry him to the bed with me. When it was all over I realized how worried I had been about the thousands of things that could've possibly gone wrong. I'm glad I somehow found a way to just go with what came, and let go of my worries to ride the experience.
Cosima Rose was 8lbs 2oz, 19.5 inches long, 13.75 inch head circumference, a beautiful, good-tempered genius, and perfect in all other respects, as far as I can tell. She nursed right away with a good strong suck. She makes sweet squeaking singing noises for us. I am in heaven.