Here's Oscar's birth story for those who want to read it. It's very long, but the process was also very long.
To start off, let me just say that when people tell you that every pregnancy is different and every birth is different they're not kidding. This pregnancy was so much different from my first in almost every way. I don't know why I was so surprised that labor and birth were so different as well.
On Monday, November 28th I woke up around 3:30 am feeling like I was leaking. I knew I wasn't peeing myself so I ran to the bathroom. I was pretty sure it was my water breaking, but there seemed to be a lot of mucus mixed with the fluid. I had lost part of my mucus plug earlier that day. I stayed up for another 20 minutes after changing my underwear and putting on a maxi pad, but there were no contractions so I went back to bed. Around 5:30, I woke up again with the same feeling. Again, I changed my underwear and put on a maxi pad and again, no contractions so I went back to bed. I got up around 7:30 and took Lucy to school. I wasn't nearly as wet and I didn't feel like I was leaking anymore so I figured maybe it was just the rest of my mucus plug coming out and not my water. While I was buckling Lucy into her carseat, I felt a small gush. When we got to her preschool, I felt another one. I called my midwife and doula to let them know and they both told me to rest, stay hydrated and monitor my temperature. I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing and drinking a lot of water. I had maybe 3 or 4 contractions the entire day. By the time I had to pick Lucy up, I had decided nothing was going to happen. The leaking had tapered off and labor hadn't started.
I picked Lucy up from school and brought her home. My doula suggested nursing her to see if that would get things going, but before I had a chance to sit down with her, I had a contraction and a huge gush of fluid. After I changed my pants, I called my midwife and doula and they both said they would start getting ready to go. Then I called William, who was in Volga, and he said he was on his way. We had gotten most of our supplies the day before but we had a few things we still needed to get so I called my in-laws and asked them to bring over the last few items. I still wasn't having regular contractions but I was hopeful that they would start soon.
Before long, our apartment was full of people helping us get things ready. My father-in-law helped William get the pool set up and my mother-in-law helped me finish cleaning. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend kept Lucy occupied while everything else was going on. During this time, I had a few contractions, but nothing timeable. I felt a little crampy and kept hoping it would turn into real labor. Eventually, everyone but my mother-in-law left, including Lucy, and I hoped things would finally get going. By the time the doulas, Nikki and Alaina, arrived, labor had completely stalled. Nikki wanted me to lay down so she could feel my belly and see how the baby was positioned. Immediately after that, I had another huge contraction and another huge gush of fluid. I thought for sure that labor was starting finally, but it would be a long time until I had another contraction like that.
To help move things along, Nikki and Alaina wrapped my belly to help the baby get into a better position and then they had me sit on a birth stool while they each worked acupressure points on my legs. I felt a few mild contractions during this time, but nothing consistent or strong. Over the course of the evening, we tried pretty much everything to get my labor going. William and I walked the halls and went up and down stairs with Nikki, Nikki and Alaina tried more acupressure, I tried using a breastpump to stimulate labor which helped a little, but contractions stopped the second I turned off the pump. They gave me a few tablets of pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy meant to help with labor. I was also given what they called “labor brew”, which was a very, VERY strong brew of red raspberry leaf tea. The final product was the color of dark beer. They even gave it to me in a 36 oz beer stein. I was told to drink it all as fast as I could. I was also told that women who drank it usually puked and then had a baby very shortly afterward. I finished the entire mug and felt very nauseous for several hours, but I never did throw up.
At one point during all of this, I had decided that I needed to be in a dark, quiet space in order to focus on getting labor going, so William and I went into our bedroom and tried some more nipple stimulation, hoping that having time alone together would also help up the oxytocin secretions and get labor going. This also resulted in some contractions, but still nothing consistent or strong. A little later on, Nikki and Alaina came into the room with me to try a few more things to get labor going. Alaina went to use the bathroom, leaving me alone with Nikki. She immediately asked me what was going on in my head that was keeping labor from moving. I told her I wasn't sure, but that I did feel like something was stopping me from going into full-blown labor. I started feeling very emotional after that conversation and asked to be left alone with William. When William came back in, I started to cry. I cried for several minutes and then we both fell asleep.
Around a 5:00 am, my midwife came in to check on the baby and to get me moving again. The second I opened my eyes, I felt a real, strong contraction. Every other contraction up until this point hadn't quite felt “real” but this one finally felt like labor contractions should. I had 2 or 3 more contractions before the midwife was done checking on the baby and I was so thrilled that labor had finally started. I think the crying spell was just my way of clearing whatever mental block I had that was stalling my labor. I came out of the bedroom feeling excited and determined. I now had to sway and vocalize through contractions and I couldn't have been happier. My midwife did the first cervical exam since she arrived 5 hours before. I was dilated 3cm but only about 50% effaced. In order to ensure that things kept moving, I was given a small mixture of castor oil, orange juice and vodka. The birth pool that had been standing empty for hours was now being filled with hot water and I got in as soon as I could. It felt so good to be in the warm water and even better to be able to move around and change positions as I chose without my legs sticking out of the water.
I labored in and out of the tub in many different positions. My contractions were strong, but I never felt overwhelmed by them and it seemed like I still had plenty of time between them. I was talking, laughing and eating between them. My midwife did another cervical exam and I was amazed to hear that I was dilated to 7cm despite how easy labor had been. I started feeling too warm in the tub and we decided that I should try sitting on the birth stool again. I had started pushing lightly with my contractions because it helped ease the pain in my hips and back. During a contraction, I felt the baby move down and I said, “He's coming!” Immediately after that, William's phone rang. It was my dad asking for an update. William told him I was starting to push and that we would have a baby soon. This was around 9:00 am.
I pushed for awhile on the stool, but then felt like I needed to change positions. I tried pushing on all fours on the bed, but that didn't last long. My midwife checked my cervix again and told me there was a lip that needed to thin out. I tried many different positions for pushing, some in the tub and some out. I was told to try a lunging position to help thin out my cervix. I didn't stay in the position long because it was extremely uncomfortable. After many other positions and location changes, my midwife said I needed to move to the bed and try pushing half-sitting. She and Nikki were at the foot of the bed while I tried pushing there and at one point Nikki said, “Is that a bag?” Apparently, I had a second amniotic sac that hadn't ruptured yet. Because of the sac, the baby's head wasn't putting direct pressure on my cervix which is probably why I wasn't dilating evenly. The midwife grabbed an amniotomy hook and ruptured the bag and I felt a small gush with it. My cervix was still not completely dilated and I was moved into a lunging position on the bed while laying on my side. While the midwife was moving my legs, I kept saying, “No no no!” It was the most painful position I had been in and I kept asking when I could move.
It had been several hours at this point and the baby had barely moved since the time I first felt him move down. My midwife was starting to get concerned and I was starting to get very tired. I tried pushing in the tub again and also tried standing up to allow gravity to help. I then said that I wanted to try using the birthing stool again since that was where I was when I first felt the baby move. The stool was put on the floor of our bedroom against our bed and William sat behind me on the bed. I pushed for what felt like forever and I just couldn't move the baby anymore. I felt very frustrated because I could tell that my pushes were not effective but I was also getting very tired. The midwife could tell I was exhausted and told me it was time to get the baby out or we would have to start talking about other options. I started worrying that instead of an all-natural home birth, I was going to end up with a c-section in the hospital. The midwife said she was going to give me Pitocin to help my contractions become more effective. I agreed, knowing that I needed help or I wouldn't be able to have the home birth we had been planning for months and wanting for since Lucy's birth 3 years before. I already had an IV line in my wrist from being given antibiotics earlier in labor so getting Pitocin started was very quick. My contractions became stronger and started coming closer together. I kept saying I couldn't do it and everyone kept telling me I could. When I would say that, Nikki would get stern with me and tell me to look at her. She kept telling me I was strong and that I could do it. William started breathing and bearing down with me every time I pushed and that helped a lot. Eventually, the baby started moving down.
When the baby got closer to crowning, I ended up being held above the birth stool by William, Nikki and my mother-in-law. William was behind me and Nikki and my mother-in-law each held one of my legs. When the baby crowned, I couldn't stop screaming. I felt sure that I was tearing very badly. The midwife was constantly working around the baby's head to help stretch the tissues, which hurt even more on top of the pain of crowning. It seemed like it took forever for his head to come and once it was out, the relief I expected just wasn't there. The midwife was still working at stretching me out to avoid tearing so even the last few pushes were very painful.
Oscar Dean Anderson was born at 12:11 pm on November 29th, 2011. He was 9lbs. 3oz and measured 22.5 inches long. His head was a whopping 14.5 inches around, which explains why crowning was so painful and why I was sure I was tearing. However, thanks to all the work the midwife did to stretch me during crowning, I didn't tear at all. Once he was out, the midwife pointed out that his head was a little lopsided from being in the birth canal crooked. Most people tend to think that his size must have been what made it so difficult for him to come out, but it's more likely that his position paired with the extra amniotic sac and cervical lip that wouldn't move were what made the pushing stage so difficult, not to mention exhaustion from being up for over 24 hours.
The first few hours after the birth, while I was still processing things, I started to worry that I wouldn't have the same positive feelings about this birth as I do about Lucy's. Everything was so much different and the pushing stage was very traumatic. Instead of feeling confident and strong like I did during Lucy's birth, I felt scared and inept. It was obvious to me that a lot of the pushing I did was completely ineffective and it was very frustrating thinking that I might not be able to push my baby out. It was even more frustrating thinking that this homebirth that William and I had talked about and planned for months might end in a hospital transfer and a c-section. I think having so many people around so soon into the evening is what stalled my labor initially. Looking back, I wish I had just tried to labor at home with just William before calling my in-laws and getting everything set up immediately.
As far as the few medical interventions I had, I don't regret them at all. The antibiotics were given to me first of all because my membranes had been ruptured for over 26 hours. I never exhibited signs of infection, but my midwife wanted to err on the side of caution and I agreed with her. I had also tested positive for Group B strep and although I had been trying to treat it during that week, the midwife never got the chance to re-test me to see if the treatment had cleared it up so the antibiotics were also meant to prevent any possible transmission of GBS to the baby. My midwife actually apologized to me several times after the birth for using Pitocin. She said she knew I didn't want to use it but she felt I needed it. As I told her, I'm not upset at all by it because I know I needed it. My body just wasn't going to be able to push him out on my own and I would rather have used Pitocin than gone to the hospital and had a c-section.
After typing this out and having time to process everything, I feel a lot better about this birth. It was a learning experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world, even the very difficult parts. I was allowed to labor as I chose despite having ruptured membranes for over 24 hours. I was allowed to try homeopathic and natural induction techniques instead of immediately being put on Pitocin and I felt supported and loved by everyone who was present at my birth. With Lucy's birth, even though I'm thankful for everyone who was present then, I felt like I labored and then gave birth while everyone kind of watched. This time around, I know for a fact that I could not have made it through the birth without the support of every person who was there. I can't say enough wonderful things about my husband, my midwife, both doulas and my mother-in-law. They all gave me the support I needed, both emotional and physical, and I owe the amazing outcome of this birth to all of them.