Avery’s Birth Story
Let’s just say that hardly anything about Avery’s beginning was what I expected- from the reality of being pregnant to the birth itself. After moving to Illinois about halfway through my pregnancy, we hired a homebirth midwife who was willing to give us the freedom we desired for the birth. The plan was to have another “in between UC” like we had with Austin where a midwife is present in case complications arise, but doesn’t otherwise play an active role in the labor or delivery. As my due date approached, I started to get curious about how things were progressing and if it would be similar to how I progressed with Austin. So I decided to have my midwife check me at 36 weeks and was delighted to find out that the outer os of my cervix was already 3cm dilated, though not at all effaced and the inner os was still closed. I felt good about this progress and started looking forward to the birth. Then I came down with a sinus infection that dragged on for three weeks. I finally gave in to antibiotics, worried that the sleep deprivation and severe congestion would affect labor, though also concerned about having the medicine in my system when the baby was born. My health improved, but the illness never fully went away and the antibiotics made me nauseous. Austin came down with something as well and Avalon still had a lingering cough from her previous illness. My dislocated ribs were hurting worse as my belly grew. My positive attitude was waning.
I had the midwife check again at 38 weeks- the inner os had opened to 1cm, but I wasn’t any farther dilated on the outside. Not the exciting news I was hoping for to boost my spirits. Brian’s mom flew in to help out for two weeks and, most importantly, to care for the kids while I labored. I thought that her arrival would allow me to relax and give my body the permission it needed to go into labor. But Thanksgiving came and went. We joked that the baby wanted to enjoy the food first. Seven women in my due date club had their babies on the holiday. I felt jealous and a touch of anxiety crept in that my father-in-law would arrive before the baby. I had made the request that he not be present while I labored and hadn’t thought I would have to ask this of him- I thought I’d I have the baby before then. So at 39w5d I asked my midwife to do a stretch and sweep to see if it would get things going like it seemed to for Austin. I was thrilled to find out I was at 6cm and 75% effaced and I started to envision a simple, quick birth like Austin’s. Unfortunately though, my cervix was so ripe, posterior and funnel shaped that she was unable to get through to do a full sweep. She did do a stretch and tugged quite a bit in an attempt to separate the bag of waters from the cervix. I had a bit of bloody show afterward, but did not lose the full plug. Contractions increased in frequency, but not regularity.
The days went by and I passed my due date. I started to get really anxious. I had never been pregnant that long- Avalon was born at 38w6d and Austin at 39w5d. I had not expected to reach my due date and it felt somehow like my body wasn’t cooperating. Brian’s dad arrived and I worried what the plan would be when I went into labor. And each morning I woke up still pregnant was one less day I would have postpartum help. At 40w3d I hit an emotional wall. I cried several times and Brian called the midwife to come talk to me. She offered to try another stretch and sweep, which I readily agreed to as it felt like something positive to do. But even though the inner os had opened considerably, I was still at 6cm, the cervix appeared less effaced and still quite posterior, the baby was still floaty, and she was again unable to get all the way through to do a sweep. I felt very disappointed and cried some more. What was this baby waiting for? The next day I decided to try pumping and taking black cohosh to try and get things moving and regular. I pumped for an hour and got stronger contractions every 5-10 minutes, but they slowed and weakened as soon as I was done pumping. Shortly after the pumping session, I started having watery discharge, which I recognized as a common first labor symptom. I kept contracting weakly every 15 minutes or so into the evening, but as they did not get stronger or closer together, I decided to go to bed.
I had a few more painful contractions while lying down then fell asleep for an hour. I woke up to more contractions, took lots of trips to the bathroom, and fell asleep again for an hour. Then Austin woke me up. I had more contractions and more trips to the bathroom, this time with bloody show. I fell asleep for maybe 20 minutes and Austin woke us up again. At this point, the contractions were too painful to lie down through, so I finally got up, got on the ball and rocked in the rocking chair. They started coming every 5-10 minutes and much more intense. Then as the morning daylight crept in, they started to spread out and fade. I alternated between being nauseous and starving. I managed to eat an English muffin with cream cheese and later one with peanut butter. Contractions picked up again for a bit and then faded again. I asked Brian to have his parents take the kids out of the house. Suddenly the contractions were quite intense and I sensed that my water was going to break soon, so I got in the tub and they died out completely. I got out of the tub and tried to walk, but everything just felt painful. The intense stabbing pain I was experiencing in my lower abdomen was not familiar from my last two births and lingered beyond the contractions. I started to wonder if the baby was malpositioned. At this point I had been in labor for nearly 18 hours. Brian called the midwife and she agreed to come check me. This was already more intervention than I had hoped for.
This time she had lots of good news for me. I was 6cm all the way through the cervix (no more funnel), my cervix was mid (half way between posterior and anterior) and about 90% effaced, and baby was OA and at -1 station. The problem appeared to be that the head was just a bit cocked and pushing on the mid-placed cervix, pinching it, causing the horrendous stabbing sensations all across the bottom of my uterus. My midwife prescribed stair climbing two at a time followed by knee to chest exercises to try and get baby to reposition his/her head. She was also finally able to do a full sweep and the contractions started coming on much harder. Brian helped me climb the stairs and I repeated the exercises several times. It was nice being able to spend this time with just Brian- working together through this long process. But I also felt saddened by the fact that it was not an enjoyable process as my other two births had been. I didn’t experience the excitement and anticipation that usually accompanies a progressing labor because I kept feeling like things weren’t going anywhere and I would just keep being in this pain forever. At one point I felt the baby move and the stabbing pain stopped. I was momentarily elated, but the stabbing returned just a few contractions later. I got back in the tub to ease the nearly constant pain and the contractions once again started to fade. I ate some tofu during this lull and I called the midwife to fill her in. I knew that I needed some advice as I wasn’t feeling confident that this baby was going to find its own way out. She suggested I try something to get contractions going again like a walk, cohosh, or pumping and to call her again in an hour. I diligently tried to walk, but the pain was too intense. So I took cohosh and battled through several intense contractions with the stabbing pain. I called the midwife back and since I had had lots more bloody show indicating I was likely progressing, she agreed to come and to come back over and try to slip the cervix over the baby’s head. I started to get panicky because if it did not work, I knew that breaking my water was the next option before the possibility of hospital intervention. Artificial rupture of membranes carries with it a risk of prolapsed cord, not to mention the sudden increase in the intensity of contractions, which were already quite intense. At this point it had been about 21 hours of near constant pain.
The midwife arrived and we impatiently awaited a contraction for her to try and move my cervix. Finally one began and she worked my cervix, causing a pain beyond what I had been feeling. My vocalizations moved from the low moaning I had been able to sustain up until this point to more high pitched, less controlled sounds. Not pleasant. But the news was good. I was dilated to 8cm and she had managed to move the cervix. She said I could get back in the tub to get more relaxed as labor was not going to stop now. This sounded like a fabulous idea and I immediately felt much better in the tub, minus that stabbing feeling. The contractions were more intense, but I felt in control, back to the low moaning. I labored on my hands and knees for a while, experimenting with a few gentle pushes and the stabbing returned. I assumed this meant cervix and baby were once again out of alignment. I was still quite lucid and handling the contractions with low, even breaths so I didn’t think I was progressing. I was very frustrated a ready to be done. I had already had more intervention than I had wanted so it felt easier this time to give in and ask for help again.
The midwife had me lay on my side and again worked my cervix during a contraction. That brought my vocalizations up to new heights as pain exploded through me. But once again the news was good. I was 9cm and the cervix moved. I got back up on my hands and knees and my calf started cramping. I had to stand up to relieve the cramp and this caused an immediate contraction that I had to endure outside the water in a standing position. I tried to sit down, but the cramp returned so I stood up again, had another contraction outside the water and the stabbing returned. Brian quickly got me a glass of magnesium to drink, which seemed to help and prevent any further cramping. I got back into a hands and knees position and the midwife tried to adjust my cervix again during a contraction. The pain was much worse in this position and what she didn’t tell me at the time was that my cervix had thickened and moved backward. She encouraged me to get back on my side and she would try again. This time my water broke. The fluid was clear. It felt like one step closer and that was encouraging. Not bothering to mess around anymore, I agreed to have her hold the cervix back again and hope that it would stay there. She also said that I could try pushing during the contraction if I wanted to and see what happens. While I had been gently pushing here and there with some previous contractions, I never felt the baby move and stimulate the feeling to push more. I knew that I would definitely try while she was moving my cervix because I was very ready to get the baby out of me. The contraction started and I mumbled to myself, “I can do this.” Brian and the midwife both said, “yes, you can” and she moved my cervix again. As the contraction intensified and the blinding pain reached a near screaming pitch, I felt the ever so slight movement that triggered my ability to push. My vocalizations morphed from the high pitched yelling I had been making while she held my cervix to a full on ripping scream as hurled myself out of the water and up onto all fours. I could hear myself- my deafening screaming (that my midwife told my mother-in-law later had literally hurt her ears)- but what I remember most were the images in my mind projected on the back of my closed eyelids. Blackness punctuated by bright flashes, a curled up baby, pink and peach, pushing through… and I felt the sensations of my baby moving through my cervix, down the birth canal and burning through my perineum. I had pushed the baby’s head out in a single push. I heard my midwife call my name through the fog of my screaming, but I did not attend to it. I knew she was concerned I was losing control and would tear if I didn’t calm down and slow down. But I didn’t care. I knew from Austin’s birth that I could get the baby out fast and be alright and I wanted that baby out. I couldn’t stop. So with barely a pause to catch my breath and let out another tearing scream, the baby came hurtling out into the water with a second brief push. Brian said there was a bit of a scramble to get the baby out of the water because it all happened so fast.
And then there it was on my chest, all balled up, tiny, and purple. It didn’t make a sound and I worried something was wrong. The midwife checked and said it was fine with good heart tones. I recalled in that moment that it is normal for water birth babies to be calm and quiet, just as Avalon had been. Finally it let out a cry and I snuggled it close to my chest. I remembered, then, to look down and see if it was a boy or a girl. I picked up a leg and saw a penis- it was a boy! And that’s what I repeated out loud several times over in my shock that he was finally here. It’s a boy, it’s a boy, it’s a boy…
Unlike my other births, I did not feel an instant sense of relief or release from pain after the birth. I was very aware of my tailbone, sitting on the hard bottom of the tub. I was also aware of a stinging sensation in my perineum and I remarked that I was a little afraid of what had happened down there. So was my midwife. And I was very annoyed by the placenta and wanted it out immediately. I worked on getting baby latched on to stimulate contractions to release the placenta. It was difficult to hold onto this tiny, tiny baby (unexpectedly more than a pound less than Austin) and get him latched on while in the tub, but finally he did and he sucked vigorously. Eventually I felt a cramp and the placenta separated from the uterus, but I couldn’t push it out. I had nothing left. So we waited a bit and decided to cut the cord. The midwife put the cord ring on and asked who was going to cut it. Brian had refused to cut Avalon and Austin’s cords, so I told him that I just gone through 24 hours of labor so he could get over his reservations and cut the cord. He agreed and said, surprised, that it didn’t feel how he thought it would. Brian took the baby so I could stand up. In this position was able to summon up the energy for a push and the placenta plopped out into a bowl the midwife was holding under me. A few more clots come out after it and then I finally felt that lightness of no longer being pregnant. My midwife had me lean over so she could check my bottom and said, “seriously?” in an incredulous voice. Panic shot through me, thinking the worst, and I said, “oh no, what?” It turned out I had one tiny tear that would heal fine on its own. She had expected much worse from how I pushed the baby out so quickly and forcefully.
Out of the tub, dressed, and propped up on pillows I waited for that delicious post-birth sense of joy and exhaustion, but it never came. Something about this prolonged labor seemed to have robbed me of my birth high. I just felt beat up and utterly drained. I had walked around easily after my other two births, but not so with this one. My tailbone was throbbing and my abdomen could barely hold me up- I felt the memory of the stabbing pain, which continued for the next few days each time I nursed. Emotionally, I felt robbed of the unhindered birth experience I had been expecting and saddened that Brian didn’t get to catch him (in fact no one caught him). For the first several days postpartum, negative feelings kept creeping in- feeling like I didn’t really do it because so much assistance was needed, feeling like my body let me down. Talking with the midwife a few days later, I asked her if she thought the baby would have ever come out without assistance. She felt strongly that he would have, but it could have taken another day or two and at that point, exhaustion becomes very real. She said third births are just wild cards- something I had been hearing throughout my pregnancy from other mothers. So I am grateful for the assistance my midwife provided, but recovery has been difficult, both physically and emotionally. Nearly a week later, as my body heals, I am starting to focus more on the positives: Brian and I spent the day together just the two of us, I labored on my own terms and only received the interventions I felt I needed, baby was born at home, the baby and I are healthy, I barely tore, and my children were out of the house and well taken care of all day. Despite my initial expectations for the birth, overall, I feel grateful for another natural homebirth experience. Things almost certainly would have gone a very different direction had I not been at home and I’m proud I was able to power through. So, as I grapple with my mixed feelings caused by the unexpected, I can only think that Avery must have something very important to teach me.
Welcome to the world Avery!
Born Saturday December 3rd, 2011 at 40w5d
More birth pics to follow when my mw gets her pics to me
Edited by Jaimee - 12/10/11 at 9:31am