Sunday, December 14, 2008
Greyson's birth story probably begins on this day, though it's hard to pinpoint exactly when labor started for real. I'd had strong contractions on and off since my twentieth week and they only became stronger and more frequent in those last few weeks.
We had gone to my parents' house for dinner that Sunday before he was born. Everyone was sitting down to watch a movie when I noticed a change in the contractions. They had become slightly more intense and regular than they'd been before. I saw my dad watching me and I knew he knew what was going on. Then my husband started giving me significant questioning looks so I guessed I wasn't pulling off the sort of nonchalance I'd been aiming for. I have an intense need to be secretive about my labors so I tried to play it like nothing was going on as we left. But knowing the end was near, I went to bed when we got home. I slept most of the next day as well although the contractions continued.
Tuesday, December 16
I woke up around 1:30 a.m. the day Grey was born. I think the contractions had finally become intense enough that I could no longer sleep through them. Still, I was in a bit of denial about labor being real. I felt that if birth was that close I'd have a stronger sense of it. The contractions weren't painful enough to make me really want it to be over and I thought I might still have another week or two of them left before they actually got serious. I believe another reason for my denial was that I wasn't fully mentally prepared to give birth. This, my fourth pregnancy, had been so difficult for me. Physically I was a mess, dealing with pelvic pain severe enough that I had to stay in bed for most of my second and third trimesters. My mental space was a bit of a mess as well due to the fact that my third pregnancy had been a miscarriage. I never entirely got past the fear that I would lose this baby too.
So after I awoke a slow dawning of realization began that yes, the time was NOW. I was sitting at the computer reading the birth stories of other women and their babies. Snow had begun falling lightly outside. I had prayed daily throughout my pregnancy for an easy, fast, safe birth and toward the end I began including a request for snow to fall during my labor. As a sign, I guess, that all would be okay. I have to admit, I felt a bit sheepish about asking God for a sign. How amazing and humbling when He gave it to me, to say the least.
At around 3:30 that morning I no longer had any doubt about whether the baby was coming. The contractions were strong enough that I had to move and vocalize softly through them. My husband came to check on me and I told him I was more than ready for my birth pool. I knew how amazing that water would feel, how I'd feel renewed and ready for several more hours of labor after sliding down into it. However, that was not meant to be. Our water heater decided not to cooperate and the pool was much too cold to get in. So instead, I sat on the toilet for a while. This felt amazingly good. Before, I was having a hard time trying to keep my body relaxed and open. As I sat there, I would breathe out "ooooopennnnnn" at each crest of a contraction and some of the pain disappeared as my body obeyed.
This was the same room where I had given birth to my daughter, but this time the bathroom was not where I wanted to be. I'd had a strong sense during my pregnancy that the corner of our bedroom was the spot where I should have the baby so this was where my husband had set up my birth pool. I moved to the floor by the pool and sat on the towels there for a few contractions. I was so desperately uncomfortable there, and so pulled toward that water. Having given up on our water heater, my husband was heating some water on the stove. He brought in pot after pot of heated water but the pool was still a few degrees below where it needed to be. With all the commotion my oldest child was awake and I remember him massaging my back as I sat on the floor moaning and grunting.
I knew I was getting close at this point. I still figured I had a couple of hours left, or rather I very much hoped I did, because I was NOT going to give birth until I got in the water. I actually think Grey would have been born a little bit sooner if I'd been able to relax. Instead I was tense and in real pain, trying on some level I didn't even recognize at the time to keep the baby in so I wouldn't have to give birth on land. I was standing, sort of leaning against the bed, when my husband suggested that I go ahead and give the pool a try. I was in the middle of a contraction, so when I didn't answer he repeated himself. I gave him a death look and growled, "I CAN'T right now." Remembering the resultant look on his face makes me laugh now.
After that contraction I did get in even though the pool was still just a bit too cool. I can't even describe the BLISS. Kind of like the relief of having an epidural when you're struggling with pitocin contractions. But even that isn't a perfect comparison because the pool is better. I still had all my senses, I could still move, but I felt nearly weightless and infinitely more comfortable. I thought, "finally, I can relax and enjoy this!"
Once in the water, I think I may have had one more contraction before I instinctively got on my knees to lean my upper body against the side of the pool. I was reaching down to see what was what when suddenly my water burst with a huge gush. Since my hand was there I felt the force of it and was surprised by the power behind it. With my first child my water broke with just a small leak and I never felt it break at all with my second child. I didn't have much time to think about it though because the baby immediately came rushing down. I could feel his head crowning. Something was weird though, there was a huge round bump on his head that was about 1.5 inches in diameter. I wasn't worried about it, I only remember thinking, "hmm, that's odd." Later, when I saw it floating around in the pool, I realized that it was just a big blood clot.
And then my body was pushing. I hate pushing. It hurts. I was really making noise now, low and long "oooooooo" sounds. I knew I needed to keep this part as slow and gentle as possible so I wouldn't tear again. I couldn't control it though. And it was so intense and so much work that I just wanted it over with. So I let loose, and his head was out after maybe two pushing contractions. This is the most strange and amazing feeling. To have a person half in, half out of you. I rested for a minute, and as I did, I ran my fingers all over his head. So soft, so tiny. I could feel his hair waving gently in the water, then I slid my fingers further back and felt his tiny perfect ear. I was shaking a bit and breathing deeply through the pressure, willing myself to stay calm and wait for my body to finish its job. My husband asked me how things were going and I told him the head was out. I think he said "already?!" Then I felt another contraction start and the baby spiraled the rest of the way out. It was 5:40 in the morning.
I brought him up to me and he was so blue and quiet. Again, this did not worry me. I started rubbing him and talking softly to him. Time was meaningless during and directly after the birth, both ephemeral and endless, but I think it took about a minute for him to finally take a breath. And then he pinked up and we just cuddled for a while. I; absorbed in the perfection of the moment. He; probably wondering what the crap had just happened.
All three of my births had a surreal feeling to them, but the two unassisted births were so different from the hospital birth. In the hospital everything felt muted, unreal. I felt oddly unattached, sort of indifferent. But at the same time there was an enormous rush of emotion that I tried to hold off because it was not happy emotion. With both homebirths, it felt like the world stopped. Nothing existed but my birth space and it was not less, but more real. The rush of emotion during these births was more than welcome. It was all overwhelming love and contentment. I feel so blessed to have experienced birth this way, unhindered and gentle.