(Our birth story, written Saturday, 11/20/10, one day after my EDD. Very long! Added pic link!)
A week ago I was trying (without a lot of success) not to be entirely bummed and frustrated that my baby wasn't here yet. I had called everyone out the night before and then sent them all home at 3am. I was only 3cm and 60% effaced after 10 days of prodromal labor, which had been building until what felt very, very much like full-blown active labor. And then it slowed and lessened in intensity and I felt like it might never end.
So I was doing my best to ignore things, on the advice of my midwife. I decided I'd take my eldest to his Chinese classes (half a mile away) and go get my favorite smoothie (a couple more miles) while I was out. I was fine in between contractions and the ones that were coming were spaced pretty sporadically. It was a beautiful day and it was awfully nice to be out, seeing the clear blue skies, and having to think about other things was good. I figured baby would come in the next 24-48 hours because I just couldn't imagine these contractions continuing to intensify each day and having them NOT get the baby out by then.
I dropped off G at 1:30pm and ordered my Jamba Juice for curbside delivery (my standard MO, even though I didn't have other kids with me). I was glad to be sitting at a traffic light for contractions, and not so glad when it changed before the contraction was finished. This happened several times as I drove around town for an hour, and it took every bit of effort to lift my foot from the brake and move it to the accelerator. Breathing and vocalizing while navigating traffic proved a challenge, as well, and I headed home as soon as I had picked up G at 2:30.
The rest of the family was still resting when I got back, and G wanted to play outside. I got as comfy as I could on the couch and tried to sleep, dozing here and there as G (not understanding how badly I wanted to sleep!) came in and out, and breathing and vocalizing as contractions continued to come. It wasn't more than an hour before everyone started getting up, including DH. I was tired and miserable and not in a good humor at that point, but DH was good enough to come and sit and talk with me (between contractions). We discussed the call I'd had earlier with the midwife, her concerns about my own feelings and anxieties about the birth, the issues with baby's positioning, my plans to meet up with a chiropractor friend that evening, etc. I had a nice, long cry and figured that would surely help things along, one way or another.
The contractions kept coming, clearly stronger and more regular. By about 5 o'clock they seemed to be coming quite close together - I'd guess around every 5 minutes, but I was intentionally not timing them. We made arrangements to take the boys to my mom's for the evening so we could make the drive out to the chiropractor's alone. DH took them over about 5:15 even though we weren't supposed to hear from the chiro until 6:30 or 7. The boys needed to get out and we needed some quiet. After that, I sat on the couch playing solitaire on my iPhone while DH resumed watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The routine quickly developed wherein a contraction would start, DH would pause his movie, get up and come across the room to me where I was sitting on the couch, and I would lean on him while he rubbed my back as I vocalized through ever-stronger contractions. Then I'd play some more solitaire, he'd watch a few more minutes of his movie, and we'd do it all again. Eventually I decided I should time a few and confirm my suspicions - these were 4-6 minutes apart and solidly over a minute. A "short" one was 45 seconds and the "good" ones were nearly a minute and a half.
While I was absolutely willing to make the 1.5 hour round-trip to the chiropractor, I was less certain this would be a good idea in active labor. I called my MW to get her input on what to do. If I needed to go in order to help the baby get properly positioned, I told her, I would do it - no question. But how do I know if the baby still needs it? I had been working aggressively on pelvic tilts in an effort to encourage the baby to tuck its chin and start moving down, but I couldn’t tell, myself, if that had worked. My MW suggested she could come and do a check to see if I had made progress. She said if I had, we should stay home, and if I hadn’t, we should go in. I agreed to that and was hoping we’d see good evidence of progress.
Around 7:15 she arrived and proclaimed that there was a definite difference. Hooray! I was now 4-5cm and more effaced than early that morning. She was able to help the baby’s head turn a bit, as well. We talked about her thoughts on how I was handling things and the possibility that I was “trying” too hard to be in labor. I really didn’t feel like I was (I had, in fact, gotten into a much better state of mind and was doing rather well, IMO), but took her advice to try to ignore contractions and did only what was absolutely necessary to get through one. She was then convinced these were as serious as I thought they were! At that point, we discussed various positions that could help as well as movements to do during contractions to encourage the baby to shift. The contractions were consistent and strong and it quickly became too painful to do the gyrations that only a few minutes before were tolerable.
DH returned to his movie and the MW offered to stay for a bit (this was still not an official birth visit). She was keeping an eye on the time and how the contractions were coming. I was already feeling like I wanted to be in the water, so we started the long task of reheating/emptying/refilling the pool that had been mostly-filled the night before. This took nearly two hours to complete, which was tortuous to wait through. I moved from leaning over the bed for contractions to leaning over the birth ball to give my hands a break. The contractions got another degree stronger there while I waited for the water-filling efforts to come together. It was there that around 9pm I heard DH start making heads-up calls to my mom and the birth photographer. He was hesitant to tell the photographer (who lives an hour away) to come immediately given the previous false start, but I was pretty well convinced this was it and everyone should come. Apparently the photographer texted him back shortly thereafter to be sure she shouldn’t go ahead and come. I told him (without knowing about the text) that I really thought she should come ahead, and he called her back to tell her. Apparently that was about 9:15. The MW had asked the assistant (who lives at a similar distance as the photographer) to head out, as well. I was clearly deep in active labor at this point.
My knees started hurting on the floor so I decided to move back to the bed where I thought I’d lean over the ball some more. I had felt like baby was moving down some and was feeling a lot of intense pressure with each contraction. This was NOT the part of labor I liked. My MW suggested she check me one last time to see how things were going, and I had no problem with it. I was still 5cm but now had a bulging bag of waters, indicating the baby had moved. Hooray! I was also completely effaced, which meant things would move very quickly. A contraction hit as she was finishing the exam (or was she listening to the baby at that point?) and it took everything I had to get off my back to ride it out. As awfully intense as the contractions were, being on my back, and even on my side, made it twice as painful. The MW recorded this check at 9:30pm.
I was still waiting for the water in the pool to be warm enough. Just a couple more pots, they told me, and it would be okay to get in. I think it was DH who suggested I see if it felt warm enough. “It does!” I said from across the room. *Anything* would be warm enough at that point. I had him grab the top I had bought to wear in the pool and quickly removed my laboring clothes. I was immensely miserable and absolutely in transition at that point. I could think of nothing that might help other than getting in the pool and it couldn’t happen fast enough.
The water was warm though could’ve been warmer, certainly. It was good to be able to move around, though. I discovered the bottom of the pool had deflated which made it less perfect, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The seat in the pool was still nicely firm - something that had been a problem in my first birth in the pool but was very useful this time. I never really found a solid position that felt good in the pool and kept moving about, wishing for something to make it better. The contractions were wholly overwhelming, intense, and unbearable. I tried to cope by talking to myself through them, saying, “It’s good, it’s good, it’s goooood,” when what I really wanted to say was, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!” I alternated between the affirmations and talking to baby, trying so much to keep my focus off of the pain and on the fact that it would soon be over.
I told DH he should call my mom and have her bring the boys, even if they needed to just play in the playroom for a while. I didn’t feel like it would be much longer - I didn’t feel that I could survive much longer - and I wanted them there. I wasn’t sure anyone else knew how imminent it might be, but I didn’t want to wait too long. He called them and told them to come right away. Within a minute or two, my water broke during a contraction. DH called my mom back and said, “I hope you’re in the car! Hurry!” Knowing the ensuing contractions would be much more painful than even the previous, I prayed aloud for God’s strength to get me through this. I couldn’t do it on my own, there was no question, but I also trusted that He would see me through. And so the next contraction hit with so much pressure. I had the urge to feel for the baby though I knew the baby wasn’t *right there* quite yet. There was a feeling of fullness in the birth canal, though, and I knew baby was coming soon.
I continued to talk and pray outloud nonstop between contractions, trying to keep myself calm and focused and not completely lose hold. (I’m not entirely sure that was successful or that I would have appeared at all sane to anyone else. I certainly didn’t feel entirely sane but I was trying!) I was talking about the baby coming, baby would be here soon, and another contraction hit... The baby is coming! The first pushing contraction hit like a freight train. I could hardly have expected them to get worse than they’d been, and yet this felt awful. I couldn’t not push with it, and yet pushing felt horrific, too. I tried to breathe and let my body do the work on its own, but it was overwhelming and I couldn’t get on top of it. I breathed as best I could and tried to relax between contractions. DH was on the phone with my mom. “RUN!” he told them. The next contraction hit and there was nothing I could do but vocalize loudly and bear down as hard and fast as I could. I was moving around a lot during these and at that point was more or less leaning at the side of the pool. I felt the ring of fire but couldn’t stop pushing. I was shocked to feel the sensation of the baby’s head emerging, still only in the first half of that second pushing contraction. I moved back so I had one knee up and one knee down so I could touch my baby, and I felt the head, fully LOT, and little features I could barely discern from one another. Then the urge hit again and I pushed hard as I felt the pops of the baby’s shoulders emerging. I pulled and pushed as the baby fully emerged and I pulled it up to me.
The baby’s cord was short (again) and so I had to move back onto the seat in the pool to ensure the baby’s face stayed out of the water. I could scarcely believe it was over! And NO ONE had gotten there yet! It was 10:06, 36 minutes after the last check at 5cm, one hour after we’d called for everyone to come, and 8 minutes after my water broke. My boys came in within a couple of minutes of the birth to see this round-faced, pinky-purple little love, whose back and buttocks were still covered in thick vernix. The baby let out a cry but was quickly very content. The cord was perfect and just gorgeous. The boys were there quickly enough to see it still functioning. My DH grabbed his own camera (he’s a photographer, too) and started taking pictures of us around the pool. Eventually he ordered my mom around to where he was and handed her the camera so we could have pictures with him in them, too. That was one of the things I had really wanted (and why we’d hired a photographer!) so I’m glad we did get that, at least.
We intentionally waited to check for gender until the boys were there. I wanted to wait for the photographer, too, but DH took that role and asked me to check. The cord was white by then and so tight it was hard to move it aside to check. But when I looked, all I saw was a deep line, and no boy parts. I was afraid a little penis was hiding under the cord, but I couldn’t find it. It’s a GIRL! We were all beside ourselves that we really had gotten the little girl we’d been waiting for. My boys had been so certain it was a girl. I had very strong feelings that it was, but also had made great effort to be open to the possibility of a fourth boy. And, yet, as it turned out, those vivid dreams and assurances were all accurate! We had our girl!
The assistant midwife walked in shortly after we checked for gender having now missed two of our births in a row. The photographer came in shortly after 10:30, shocked to have missed it, as well. It was the first birth she’d missed. She immediately started taking pictures, though, and captured our baby’s first nursing session, still there in the pool with the placenta floating in a bowl nearby.
I was comfortable in the pool and not really eager to experience life in full gravity after giving birth. It was with some prodding that my MW finally got me to get out and get into the bed for a little bit. I had various ideas about what I wanted after the birth and trying to figure out how to make it all work was difficult for my labor-addled mind. I was basically very slow at making any decisions as I tried to sort it all out. But everyone was very accommodating and worked to make it all as I had hoped it would be.
We got in bed and Judah helped cut the cord. In fact, he pretty well did it all himself despite the plan that we would do it together! He got to hold her, too, as he’d been planning to do for months. (And, yes, he’d asked while we were in the pool!) I had wanted to get in an herbal bath but that’s one thing that I couldn’t quite figure out how to fit in. The MWs brewed up herbs for it, though, and I got to do it the next day.
Everyone left us alone for a bit while DH and I marveled at her and discussed her name. We’d had a girl’s name in the running since I was pregnant with our second and had little else that competed with it. Now that she was here, we knew it was her name: Eliana is Hebrew meaning, “My God has answered;” Grace is “Unmerited favor.” Our little Eliana Grace was finally here.
The rest of the evening is something of a blur. We were trying to snap pictures with our iPhones, the photographer and DH were click-click-clicking with their real cameras, there were phone calls being made, texts being sent... It was all a bit crazy. Somewhere in there we had the newborn exam. She weighed in (after nursing some and passing meconium) at 8lbs 4oz and 20.5” long (though I wouldn’t be surprised if she was really 21” like her brothers with just a bit more stretch to those legs!). Her head and chest were both 14”.
I figured with the intense pushing that I’d have a tear, and I did. I ended up needing some stitches for a not-deep but not well placed tear, plus one for another spot, and then I had one skin split. The spot with the stitches is the only one that’s bothered me, and I’m quite sure that stitching it was the right decision with how much pulling it’s had. Now, a week later, it’s finally feeling like it’s healing up - a welcome relief.
I did a couple of things better this time than in previous births. I was able to go to the bathroom right away (that typically takes hours), and my uterus clamped down quickly without excessive bleeding (I typically end up with a shot of Pitocin). Even minor victories are welcome after a challenging birth!
She’s had a strong suck from that first nursing and my milk came in just after 24 hours. Somehow, she has still dropped about 10 ounces overall as of a pediatrician check-up on Friday despite nursing every hour in the first day or two and every 2-3 since then.
It’s been an amazing week watching her and learning who she is and what she’s like. We still have trouble believing (and remembering!) that we have a little girl! Especially late at night when I’m waking to feed her or comfort her again, I will have the wrong pronouns go through my thoughts. We occasionally call her Judah, too, our youngest DS who is now 3.
The boys are absolutely in love with her. Thankfully, after a week, they’re not quite as crazy as they were to begin with. She sleeps well through their gentle kisses and soft strokes on her head and cheek. She even tolerates their loud play and running around while she sleeps. I’ve laughed with both my MW and the pediatrician who assure me she’s been hearing these noises for quite a long time! It’s all a bit louder now, but she’s clearly accustomed to her brothers already.
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a full week since our beautiful daughter was born. If I could bottle all of these hours and save them, I would. At the same time, I am absolutely delighted to see her grow and change already, and look forward to all the months and years ahead.
HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys: 03/02; 09/04; 09/07 - and Eliana, 11/13/10!
Founder of Houston Birth Alternatives: Be Informed, Encouraged, Supported birth support group and aspiring midwife.
I have tears in my eyes, Heather. You are so strong, enduring as much as you did for as long as you did!!! I know how much you were hoping, praying for your girl even when trying to stay neutral...
Enjoy your rest and snuggle your little sweetie. You deserve it!!
Thank you, mamas!
Just added link to some pics... http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremey/sets/72157625393161624/
HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys: 03/02; 09/04; 09/07 - and Eliana, 11/13/10!
Founder of Houston Birth Alternatives: Be Informed, Encouraged, Supported birth support group and aspiring midwife.
What a beautiful birth story and so well written. I cried when you discovered your baby girl. Welcome Eliana Grace!
ETA: She is so beautiful, the pictures with your boys are so heartwarming. Your DH is a great photographer!
That sounds so much like me during my labors. I say to the baby, "That's goood, baby." I know exactly how you felt! Congratulations, mama -- she's beautiful. :-)
What a labor! It took forever to start and then couldn't wait to finish! The last hour of it sounds so much like mine!
Congratulations and your little Eliana is gorgeous!
wonderful story! im so happy for you!
Once in while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.... mama of 4 lovelies, an angel, and one on the way.
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