This is a long story, not a long labor. I know the subject looks different.
The Birth of Jude
On November 27th, 2001 (a little less than a week before my due date and the day before my husband’s birthday) I attended my favorite La Leche League meeting. The women were anxious when they saw me walk in with no baby, but my same belly as usual. They kept telling me, “Next meeting, you’ll have a baby!” I could hardly wait. I loved being pregnant, but I was getting impatient to meet the baby.
I got home around 9:30 pm. My sister-in-law Jordan was spending the night after an interview in Detroit that day. My husband Jason was at work. And, I had to go to the bathroom as usual. But, this trip to the bathroom was different.
When I stood up from the toilet, it felt as though I kept peeing. I shouted calmly to Jordan, “Hey, my water just broke.” I was so glad; I would have my baby soon!
Jordan had said for months that she hoped I didn’t go into labor while she was visiting, especially since we were planning a homebirth. She didn’t want to be around. She was surprised by how calm I was and I, in turn, was surprised at how calm she was. I picked up the phone making calls to the midwife, Jason at work, my mother and grandmother and Jason’s mother who would be attending the birth. Jordan went and got me a towel so I wouldn’t dribble on the floor.
I called the midwife first and she suggested that I lie down and get some sleep since I wasn’t having any contractions yet. We were to call her when my contractions were 5 minutes apart. Then, I called Jason. I asked him when he was going to come home. He said that he was just finishing up his shift and would be leaving in a half hour or so. I said, “Really? Hmmm, well my water just broke…”
Jason interrupted, “I’m on my way.” He made great time from Detroit to Ann Arbor!
Then, I called my mother who was living in Ohio. The plan was that I would call her and she would call my grandmother. My grandmother was to drive from Greenville, Ohio to Celina where my mother was and they would drive up together. My grandmother was so excited about Jude’s birth. My grandmother had ten children, but never had seen a baby born, due to “twilight sleep.” She was so worried that she might miss this birth that she decided to spend the night at my mother’s home just in case I went into labor this night. Grandmothers know these things.
Finally, I called Jason’s mother. I asked her how she slept the night before. She began telling me what time she went to bed and few other details of her sound sleep, but I interrupted her. “Glad you slept well, ‘cause you won’t be getting much sleep tonight!” I told her. “Come on over, my water broke!”
Soon after making the calls, contractions started. They didn’t feel very strong, but were coming every 4 minutes lasting a minute long by the time Jason got home. I laid down in bed listening to a Pachebel CD that Jason and I had been practicing HypnoBirthing with. Jason supported me by rubbing my arm with the “Glove of Anesthesia” and making gentle birth suggestions. All our practice and HypnoBirthing techniques helped a lot; I was not in any pain. I was so glad Jason and I had this time just the two of us.
Jason’s mother arrived around midnight and my mother and grandmother arrived about fifteen minutes later. Our midwife Pat arrived around 1:00.
I eventually got out of bed and spent a lot of time in the bathroom with Jason just the two of us. Contractions were coming closer together and with every contraction I had to urinate. I wasn’t aware of it, but Jason told me later that I went through so many rolls of toilet paper that night. Despite only going a few drops, I’d diligently wipe every time. At one point Jason asked me, “Can’t you just shake it off?” Ha! We were running out of toilet paper, but still having a good time laughing and singing together. I was feeling the 2-3 minute apart contractions as gentle tightening.
During a contraction, I would sit on the toilet trying to urinate and Jason would say different suggestions to lessen any pain I was experiencing. After the contraction, I would march around the bathroom. That just felt right. Jason would sing a little song he made up on the spot to make me smile. It went something like, “Marching, marching, marching. Little Nippa marching.” I never knew that labor could be so fun!
After a while Pat suggested that I try squatting in the bathtub during contractions. We couldn’t fill the bathtub though, because the birth tub had drained all our hot water.
Throughout this time our midwife Pat checked me a few times when I asked her to. Jordan and the mothers were trying to fill up the birth tub in the living room without much success. The water was around 50 degrees. I kept asking when it was ready. Pat told me that I was probably going to be ready before the tub was.
Around 2:00am, I went back to the bedroom to lie down so Pat could check me. I was fully dilated and could push whenever I was ready. I was joking a bit and in good spirits. I was glad this was going to be an easy birth. I kept thinking, "This is it? What about pain?"
I wasn’t aware of it, but all the onlookers came and stood in our bedroom doorway as I started pushing. I pushed lying down. I pushed squatting. I pushed on all fours. I pushed and pushed for over an hour. But, nothing happened. (I’m really glad I wasn’t in a hospital when this happened. I can imagine a few unsavory interventions would have been used.)
I was getting very tired. The baby was doing just fine. Pat asked me if I wanted to stop for a while and rest. I thought that was a great idea. So, Jason and I laid down in bed together. He slept and I dozed between the contractions. The contractions were still pretty regular coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting a minute or so. I’d get up every 3rd contraction to go to the bathroom.
Around 8am I got up and went downstairs. People were napping on our couches. Pat and her assistant Amanda were preparing an herbal bath and making preparations for the birth tub. I was still feeling contractions; they just weren’t as strong as they were before. And, I was no longer fully dilated. I had gone back to 8 centimeters. The rest did me well though.
Pat suggested that I go up and down the stairs until things picked back up again. I did that for a while & the contractions resumed their usual pattern. I'd get a contraction and a need to urinate. I’d go up and down and when the contraction hit I’d use either the upstairs or the downstairs bathroom depending on where I was on the stairs.
After a while Jason got up and joined me in the downstairs bathroom. I would march around downstairs with my eyes closed in between contractions.
Jason was great. He was there with me every step of the way. When I was on the toilet, he would lean in close so I could wrap my arms around him for support. Things were definitely picking up this time around. I wasn’t feeling pain per say, but I was feeling a lot of pressure. I kept my eyes closed and didn’t really open them again until I was pushing the baby out.
Around 12:30pm the tub was hot and ready to go. I was eager to get into it. Before I got in, Pat checked me and I was at 9 centimeters. I was still feeling pretty good. I was vocalizing during the contractions. I tried to keep my tone deep and coming from my belly.
The weightlessness and warmth of the water felt great…for a while. Then things got very intense. Contractions came one on top of another. I felt very deep inside my body. I was no longer in control. My body was doing what it needed to do. On this road back to full dilation, there was no joking. There was a lot of work. I felt the contractions as seering pain on the outside of my hips. Looking back, I don't think the water was working for me at all.
Jason put on the Pachabel CD and would make suggestions to me during and in between contractions. He would say the same thing a few times in a row, but I was so far away mentally that I would only hear him once. One of the things he said was, “Mother and baby working together.” “Breath down through the contraction.” And “Let your body relax. You’re at rest.”
I had just a lip of the cervix left. It was caught between the baby’s head and my pelvic bone. Pat manually pushed it back when it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere by itself. I remember feeling like a wild animal in a pen and something I couldn’t comprehend was happening. It wasn’t comfortable, but didn’t hurt as much as the contractions I was experiencing.
When things really got heavy, Jason would remind me of a documentary we watched during my pregnancy about grizzly bears. We were both attracted the powerful, gentle animal. The bears are so strong and fierce and yet such attentive and loving mothers. During the peak of the pain I felt, Jason would say, “Come on, Mama Bear.” Without really being conscience of it, I would growl deeply in response. Keeping my vocal tones low and coming from deep down was important, since higher pitches would make me breath too rapidly.
Jason told me later that was the most difficult time to be my anchor. His voice broke a couple of times when he called me “Mama Bear.” He said that it was so painful for him to see me in pain. But, he knew that he couldn’t break. He knew that this was when I needed him the most.
Jason also did two things after each contraction. He had a cool wet cloth and a cup of water with a straw. After a contraction I would want both of these, but in a specific order that changed every time. I just expected Jason to know which one I wanted first and if he guessed wrong, I would moan/yell for the other one. “Toww!” or “Wah!” Eventually “Wah” became just me smacking my lips until the straw was placed between then. Poor Jason!
During this time, I would forget that I was there to have a baby. I couldn’t even comprehend why all the pain was happening. A couple times I moaned, “NO MORE!” While I knew that there was no stopping the contractions, just letting people know that I didn’t like this any more was helpful. And, in my haze, I thought maybe someone could take away all the pressure.
When I did remember that I was doing this to have a child, I felt like nothing was working. I was pushing, but nothing was happening again. Was I just not able to push this baby out?
At another point, I convinced myself that I was having contractions for Jason and me. Therefore, only every other contraction should hurt. The other contractions were Jason’s to deal with. That worked for a while until I got frustrated that I was feeling Jason’s contractions as well as mine.
I had been pushing in the water for about an hour or so when Pat asked me if I wanted to get out of the water and try pushing somewhere else. I couldn’t really think clearly, but all I could remember was that the water was supposed to lessen pain. I was barely handling it then, I feared what it would feel like out of the water. I told her I wanted to stay in the tub.
About fifteen or twenty minutes later, Pat told me to get out of the tub. I’m really glad that she did. Things moved very quickly from there.
Pat and Amanda had covered the couch in padding. I lay down on my back and gave a few pushes. This felt so very different than any of the other pushing I had done. I could feel the baby moving down. I heard Jason gasp when he realized that the baby was coming, too.
While pushing, I could feel myself opening wider and wider along the birth canal and then, I could feel my perineum stretching. I asked Pat if what I was doing was really working. She said that I was pushing my baby out. I then, told her that if she had hot compresses I would go ahead and continue to push. (As if I wouldn’t if she didn’t have any compresses!) Good thing for all of us, Amanda was just wringing them out.
Amanda called out for my mother, grandmother, Jason’s mother and Jordan to stand in the kitchen and watch. I was glad that they’d all see the birth of our baby, but I had other things on my mind at the time.
I heard one of the onlookers say, “That’s the head!?!?” I thought that the head might be out. But, when I asked, Pat told me that I needed to keep on pushing to get it out. I wanted to to feel his head with my fingers. Pat told me when there was enough of the head out to touch. It was amazing. The top of the tiny head felt warm, hairy, wet and soft. The closest thing it resembled was hard Jell-O.
I kept thinking that I was at the widest part of the head. At times I felt like I couldn’t stretch any more. But, I did stretch more and more. Finally, I felt a let up in the pressure on my perineum. The head was out!
Later Jason and the mothers all agreed that seeing a head sticking out from between my legs looked like a Halloween joke. The baby looked like the old “severed head” trick where a head sits on a table and the person’s body is hidden below.
Pat told Jason that when the shoulders were out, he could lift the baby up onto my stomach. I was so excited. Our baby really would be born and on Jason’s birthday! Jason supported the head until I pushed out the shoulders.
I imagined that the shoulders would be equal or less than the circumference of the baby’s head, but they felt much bigger. As it turned out the baby’s hand was up against its chin. Therefore, when I was pushing out the shoulders, I was also pushing out an arm and elbow. Later Pat told Jason that the baby probably would have been born eight hours earlier, if the arm would have been down.
I gave several long pushes and yelped a bit. The shoulders came out and Jason, crying, pulled his son onto my chest. He was lying on his back and I couldn’t see his face, but just touching him was amazing. His tiny body was warm, wet and silky to the touch. He didn’t have any blood on him and just a bit of white in his creases. His hair had mucus in it. He was perfect! This was the child we had waited nine months to meet. From that moment on, we were in love with our child.
When I saw his face for the first time, he looked so familiar to me. I felt like I’d known him for a long time, even though this was our first meeting. His head was covered with lots of dark hair and his puffy eyes were a deep slate blue. He had his father and great-grandfather’s cleft in his chin, huge hands and feet and my lips. He was so alert. For a couple hours he just looked at everyone. He looked like a little old man studying us all. His wise look resembled a prophet.
The birth of our son was the most amazing thing ever. He was born on his father’s birthday, November 28th at 2:56pm and weighed seven pounds, two ounces and was 21 inches long. We named him Jude.
It’s been two weeks since his birth. Jason and I fall in love with him and each other more and more every day. Jason took these past two weeks off of work so we could figure out parenthood together. He makes me a better mother. I am truly blessed with the men in my life – my husband and my son Jude.
Spark and her four firecrackers.