Apologies for length! In the years since his birth, I've wondered whether he wasn't a little asynclitic at the beginning. I've read a couple of asynclitic birth stories that described similar early labors - intense, widely spaced contractions that weren't very productive.
I started having regular contractions Sunday afternoon but could mostly ignore them. Still, I got little sleep that night. Monday morning I took a bath and got back in bed to try to get some rest in case the real thing was coming – it didn’t really work. I rested, but didn’t sleep. John had gone to work but was coming home after lunch. I was enjoying being by myself at that point. I think he got home around 1, and we just hung out. When contractions were about 5 minutes apart and I was having to concentrate through them (late afternoon?), we called our doula to be with us. She got there and started setting some things up. I was uncomfortable enough to get in the tub, but only spent about fifteen minutes in because contractions basically stopped. That was really frustrating – I felt like I was handling them badly and knew I was getting tired. I was having trouble “transcending” and felt very awake in my rational self. No position provided any measure of comfort, although I ended up mostly leaning forward – leaning on the ball, leaning on the couch. Contractions were getting much stronger, but not closer together, and Francine decided it was time to call Juli, the midwife. I think the sun was still up then. Not long after Juli got there, my contractions started spacing out but stayed pretty intense. I was a “stretchy 4″ when she checked me. After a couple hours of spacey contractions, she kicked everyone out and put John and me alone in the bedroom to see if that would kickstart real labor. No luck. The pains were really intense and hard to handle, but close to ten minutes apart. I was very aware of my surroundings, very conscious. I got in and out of the shower a few times; the water felt really good. Juli came in at some point (midnight-ish?) and told me I wasn’t in active labor anymore and she was going to leave. She gave me a pep talk about welcoming contractions, using my affirmations, relaxing and riding the ride, all that stuff. She asked if I was scared of anything, if I felt like I was resisting labor and why that might be. I felt like I’d hit a wall – I was exhausted, I felt like I was doing a shitty job handling what were apparently not even “real” contractions, and began to think to myself that if things didn’t start happening soon we’d end up transferring for exhaustion and dehydration (I was also throwing up every couple of hours and couldn’t keep fluids down). Juli’s pep talk ended up having the opposite effect of what I’m sure she was intending – I felt like I was somehow doing it wrong. I was thinking things had slowed down because I wasn’t able to relax enough, or invite the sensations enough, or something. I was pissed at her for leaving, pissed at myself for stalling. That was definitely the low point of the whole thing.
I got in bed and while John and Francine slept I tried to concentrate on relaxing my whole body through each contraction. I visualized opening up, I moaned and breathed into my belly. For a while that was fine. It took every ounce of me to relax through each one, even though it was so much worse to be tense. I was on my left side in bed, barely hanging onto myself.
I’d gotten the idea in my head that I’d need to transfer and it was just a matter of how long I could go before I’d say it out loud. I hadn’t slept at all, not even really dozing between contractions, and I just kept thinking that if I couldn’t get any rest or stop throwing up that I wasn’t going to get my homebirth. I’d resigned myself; I was just going to go until I couldn’t go anymore, then we’d get in the car and go to St Luke’s. I was too exhausted.
I started standing for contractions, leaning over on the bed. I could feel that they were picking back up, but I somehow didn’t think that meant I was “back” in labor. I felt stuck, even with changes. Juli’s presence had meant that things were happening – now that she was gone, things had stopped. In my head, anyway. Contractions were only pain, not progress – unrelated to the birth. When things picked back up I felt lost, I didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to get in the tub in an effort to stop them, like they had stopped the first time I went in.
I was apparently in denial and really was in active labor at that point. John and Francine said afterwards that I’d changed completely – my voice changed, my movements changed. I didn’t notice any of that. I got in the tub with the intention of making my contractions stop, or slow down enough that I could really rest. I thought I still had tons of time. The tub didn’t slow anything down at all. I think I did fade away while I was in there…I don’t remember a whole lot other than putting my head up to the window to cool off. And I kept asking to have some water taken out of the tub. It went all the way up to my shoulders and I felt too buoyant. I was on my knees, leaning forward against the side, and my knees were just barely resting on the bottom. I don’t know how long I was laboring there, but it was well past midnight. Francine woke up and was helping me make more productive sounds and getting me to relax. John was with me the whole time once I decided to get in the tub.
So after some time laboring in the tub, all of a sudden I grunted at the end of a breath. Immediately Francine asked if I was pushing, and I think I said, “a little bit.” It didn’t feel like I was pushing, necessarily…my breath just caught at the end and I had to grunt and bear down. I heard her phone beeping as she was texting Juli. She was trying to get me to blow through contractions, which was damn near impossible. My face was really close to the water and I was blowing so hard I was spraying back into my face. Only a couple of contractions after I started grunting my water broke during a push. I’m glad I was in the water, because it was FORCEFUL. I’m certain I would have soaked everything within five feet of me to the knees. Again I heard Francine’s phone beeping.
Juli lives all the way in the Berkeley, even in the middle of the night she was probably 30 minutes away. She called another midwife who lives close to us to come. Our second midwife, Deborah, was sick, so I’m not sure if calling Heather had been the plan all along or if they called her because she was close and someone needed to be here since I was pushing.
Even though I was pushing, I STILL wasn’t convinced that it was time. At the beginning, I still had all the sensations of a regular contraction but with a strong, unbearable urge to push, and pushing didn’t really feel that great. I thought I was having a premature urge and that I wasn’t fully dilated yet. That thought didn’t last very long – I started feeling him move down and I reached and felt his head. That was it, that was when I finally knew he was coming. It felt like a walnut.
The contractions changed entirely. All sensations disappeared except the need to push, there was no pain whatsoever. I was pushing with an open throat, making lots of really loud, low grunting noises. In between contractions I had woken up a little bit…I felt…drunk? I was able to talk, and had no inhibitions about what was coming out of my mouth. I talked to the baby a lot, I chanted a lot. “Down down down,” “Huge huge huge,” “Stretchy stretchy stretchy.” I made everyone laugh a few times and I wish I could remember all of what I said. I know I said that the whole process was a serious design flaw, and as I was getting out of the tub I think I said something along the lines of, “Fuck all of you.”
Once I had moved him down enough to see his head, Juli gave me the option of getting out of the tub so she could support my perineum better. The thought of getting up and moving five feet to the pallet they’d set up by the heater seemed like they were asking me to run a marathon. I did get out and got on my hands and knees on the pallet. Getting there sucked, but once I was there it felt really good, I felt like I could push more effectively. My mom was at my head and I leaned on her a lot when my arms got tired. My RA affected wrist was bothering me, and I ended up leaning on my fingers rather than my palm and that made it harder. (I think leaning on my bent fingers for so long actually did a bit of temporary nerve damage – it’s two weeks later now and a whole side of my index finger is numb. Getting better though.) I tried leaning on the ball for a while, but it made me too upright and I didn’t like it.
I started pushing in earnest, holding my breath. Juli asked if I wanted to lay on my side, that I might have more control over pushing, and my response was, “There’s a baby in my vagina, I can’t move.” The burning started – everyone talks about the “ring of fire,” and it did burn, but it wasn’t even half as bad as I was expecting, not even close. I remember thinking that this is what everyone means by accepting the sensations. The burning meant that the baby was coming soon, it wasn’t scary pain, it was good, productive pain. It hardly registered as pain, it was what it was.
He crowned nice and slowly. It was so bizarre to feel him slip back after every contraction until he got around my pubic bone. I think I chanted, “Stay stay stay” for a while. The feeling of him crowning was really intense for about a second, and then there was a huge feeling of relief. I could feel Juli manipulating him somehow and wishing she would stop. She was asking me to push out his body, but I really just wanted to rest there and had no energy to push without the help of a contraction. She pulled as I attempted to push, and John caught him as he slid out, at 6:41am. I really wish she’d have just let him be, let me wait for the next contraction. If you count starting to push when I started grunting, it was about two hours, but true pushing was about an hour I think.
I turned around, lifted my leg over the cord and John handed him to me. There truly, truly aren’t words. Nothing else existed. I had been born as well. We all cried and laughed. It was a couple of minutes before I looked to see that he was, indeed, a boy. There’s nothing I can say that would do those first few minutes justice.
Then it was time to birth the placenta. This is the second thing I wish Juli had done differently – she applied traction really soon. My mom estimated about 20 minutes had passed, but it felt like a lot less to me. She had me sit up on her birth stool so I could push. I saw that she was pulling a bit and asked if it was detached, and she said, “I think so.” She had reached in and said it was “right there,” and she may have thought it was detached but I’m not sure it was. After I pushed it out I started bleeding – a lot. Heather gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg. I gave the baby to John and Juli and Heather supported me to the bedroom, leaving a crime scene in my wake. There was an underpad between my legs which was almost comical for how little it was doing. Once on the bed I got a second shot, Juli was massaging my uterus to get it to clamp down. They got the bleeding under control really quickly, but I had still lost a lot. On my back I felt okay, but upright I felt woozy. My heart rate was fast, but otherwise my vitals were fine. We tried to get me rehydrated right away, turns out too quickly – I threw up again. It was a challenge trying to get me to pee – the bathroom was too far for me to walk but my bladder was beyond full. They set up the birth stool right next to the bed and I peed into a pot. We had to go round 2 a few minutes later because I hadn’t emptied completely (the lack of sensation is so bizarre). Felix was on my chest this whole time and self-latched pretty quickly. He didn’t nurse for long, he mostly checked out the scenery. Heather made me a little placenta smoothie shot, which really did make me feel a lot better. I’d bought frozen berries specifically for that, so I wouldn’t notice there was placenta involved.
I figured, by the delightful stinging when I peed, that I had some kind of tear. My perineum stayed intact, but I had pretty substantial labial tear. I’ll spare you the details. Juli and Heather debated stitching it, but decided that the tissue was too thin and it was in too awkward a place. They’d both seen similar tears and they did fine without any stitches.
Francine left an hour or two after the birth, the midwives left around 1 maybe. They got me all set up with food and sitz herbs for compresses, lots of homeopathics for the blood loss.
The next time I had to pee I was able to walk to the bathroom (with assistance) and had to crawl back. Sometime later in the afternoon I managed to go and come back without assistance, but the next time I tried to do it on my own turned out to be a mistake. We’d been asleep, I left Felix on the bed and woke up John to tell him I was peeing but didn’t ask him to go with me. I wasn’t sure whether my mom and Claire were still there or not. I got to the bathroom just fine, but started feeling REALLY lightheaded on the toilet. Still, I thought I could get back okay and made it to the doorframe of the bedroom before passing out. I remember reaching for the doorframe to steady myself, and I woke up on the ground. I was only out for a couple of seconds – I heard John say, “I need help” really loudly, and I shot up to my hands and knees because I thought he meant help with the baby. Then I realized I was on the floor and he meant he needed help with me. My mom helped me to the bed and I felt fine again.
The tear and the blood loss definitely made recovery more difficult. I couldn’t sit upright, but leaning back was really painful on my tailbone (since I broke it last year, any kind of prolonged lounging is super painful). Peeing was awful for about a week. It’s day twelve today and I just now feel close to normal energy-wise. I didn’t leave the bed except to pee for probably five days. Those first days are a blur anyway – time has no meaning at all; it’s either light or dark outside.
Living and loving in ATX with DH (of 7 years) and DS (3.5)