Warning: LOOOOONG story.
Reid Roland’s birth
I had been having “prelabor” off and on for days, but it stepped up considerably on 8/28, a Saturday. Contractions 10 mins. apart or less for hours at a time. On that day, Nick took the kids off for the day, and I expected to call him, needing for him to come home. The full moon was the next night, and I was hopeful! My midwife had called to say that she was out of range, and had no cell or pager service, but would call and check her office voicemail hourly.
Perfect! (well, not) so I thought for sure it would be the 28th. NOPE!
Nor the 29th, despite a night of more close, regular contractions off and on, and the full moon.
Yeah, and not the 30th, despite a night and day of more close, regular contractions off and on.
And not the 31st, despite a night and day of more close, regular contractions off and on.
How frustrating, tiring, boring.
Actually, I’d gone through similar with Isabelle, before she was born (from the 37th week until she was born at 41.5 weeks) and I felt sure it had made labor much easier, but I was much bigger and more uncomfortable with Reid, and had been sure he wouldn’t go all the way to 40 weeks. Also the idea that I had weeks to go, possibly, was daunting.
The one noticeable difference was that I had been having copious amounts of bloody show from Sunday on, and I’d never lost my plug before labor before, so at first I was optimistic about that, but by Tuesday it had tapered off to nothing, and I’d heard that the plug can reform, or be lost weeks prior to labor.
On Wednesday night (9/1), two days before my due date, again, I was having contractions, 5-10 mins apart, a minute long or so, but they weren’t getting stronger or closer together. I thought it was more of the same, and went to bed. I woke up at 12:30, back aching like mad, contractions. Ignored them as best I could, and tried to go back to sleep. Dozed off again at some point, but woke again, still with killer backache and painful contractions, still not progressing or in a closer/stronger pattern, but painful. Nick had fallen asleep downstairs, so I went downstairs and woke him up to come up to bed, and broke into tears. It was miserable to wake up in pain (again) alone, and frustrating because it seemed clear to me that this wasn’t yet “it”. Poor Nick had no clue what to do.
Fell asleep again after awhile, but woke up at 4:30, still with a killer backache, and the same damned contraction pattern, but I decided trying to sleep was futile, so I got up. I went out on the deck for awhile, and it was absolutely beautiful. The moon, just past full, was so bright it cast shadows, there was a hint of dawn light in the eastern sky, the north star was incredibly bright. I listened to the sounds of the night world merging with the sounds of the day. Crickets, cicadas, frogs, the coyotes, almost quieting as I stood there, and the first of the early bird calls tentatively singing out.
I think the clarity of the night brought me my own clarity, and I suddenly realized what was wrong. The baby was posterior! The contractions weren’t doing anything, because he wasn’t positioned the right way, which was also why I was in so much pain. Mind you, he had consistently been LOA (left occiput anterior, back to my left, head down and facing forward, for the past 6 weeks at least) so the posterior presentation was a total surprise.
This was encouraging in a way, because I realized that if I could get him to spin, this would be it, and I’d have my baby, but also frightening, because if I couldn’t get him to spin, I knew I was in for a nightmare labor, that I’d read about but never had to experience.
So, I did a double-check in my books and websites on spinning babies, and spent a lot of time on all fours, which caused the contractions to be much more painful.
He wasn’t spinning.
At 6, when the alarm went off, I told Nick he was NOT allowed to hit snooze, that he had to get up and have his coffee, let the kids sleep as they were staying home.
I told him, after a bit, what the problem was, and had him page Martha (our midwife). She called back right away, and I gave her our status update, and a brief synopsis, since I hadn’t spoken to her since the past Thursday. I said I’d been on all fours, but hadn’t gotten him to spin. She suggested not just staying on hands and knees, but during contractions, to lean back on my heels and really push down, which would put pressure on him and, combined with the contractions, really encourage him to spin.
I said I’d do that, and that we’d keep in touch. I felt like this was really it, but since labor was so indeterminate at this point, no reason to be more definitely optimistic.
Cullen woke up and came downstairs dressed, ready for school. I told him I was pretty sure the baby would be born today, so we would keep him home. He was incredibly excited, and grinned hugely. I explained that he would miss his first “show and tell” and he said that was fine, because he’d be able to do lots of show and tell, but his brother was only going to be born once! (Ok, I really hadn’t thought he’d mind, but I wanted to hear what he’d say. I knew he’d been looking forward to bringing in his fossils.)
Isabelle came downstairs, and when I told her, she also grinned hugely, gave me a thumbs up, and said “That’s GREAT!”
Zadie’s our late sleeper, and she came down last. Her response was “Really?! I’m so excited!” and she started jumping up and down and prancing around.
I tried Martha’s technique through several contractions, on the couch with my chest up on the arm and pillows supporting my upper body, and it HURT! But, lo and behold, it also WORKED! He spun, back to my right, kicks on the left. Thank Goddess and Martha and baby Reid!
From that point contractions became perfectly manageable again, about 10 mins apart (sound familiar?) and 60 secs long or so. I wasn’t sure if keeping the kids home was the right idea, but was sure that I was exhausted, so went to lay down and try to rest.
I dozed for a few hours, waking and half-waking for some contractions, incorporating others into my dreams. I woke for good to a strong one, and decided to get up again. They remained in the same pattern, but were still there, and that was encouraging. We were definitely in the process of getting this baby out, slow process though it might be.
At some point I felt, trying to check my cervix and see if I could gauge any dilation. I had seemed to be, to my sense, about 2 cm for nearly the past week. I couldn’t tell if I was any more dilated (I couldn’t reach enough) but I was clearly effacing. The cervix felt so different! How awesome to be able to feel such an obvious change.
Martha called to check in, and I elatedly told her that her tip had worked and we had an anterior baby again. (YAY!) We decided that she would keep her office appointments and check in after 2, unless we needed to call her earlier. Seemed perfectly reasonable, since things were going slowly and calmly.
No real change in contractions, 10 mins. apart, 60 secs. long, about the same strength. Totally manageable. At about 12:30 I tried checking my cervix again. I was rather discouraged by the lack of change in labor pattern. Whoa! What is that I feel? Could it be???
I told Nick to wash his hands and come upstairs, as I needed him to do something for me. I took off his boxers which I had been wearing folded down at the waist, and got into bed under the sheet. He came in and I grinned sheepishly at him, and said I wanted him to confirm what I felt in there. He said he knew what I needed him for, but he wasn’t sure what to feel for. I said “Well, you know what the cervix is, right? So, you want to see how many fingers’ space there is in the opening, and see if you can feel anything through it. But be careful! We don’t want to break anything!”
He reached in and carefully felt around, and I said “That’s the bag of waters, isn’t it? Is that what I felt?” and he agreed that was certainly what it felt like. He put up his fingers and checked them against a tape measure and said he’d guess I was at about 5 cm. I asked if he could feel the head through the bag, and he said it felt soft, but he didn’t want to poke around. He didn’t think so.
At any rate, I was elated; labor might FEEL like it was puttering along and doing nothing, but it certainly was doing something.
For good measure I went and took 3 evening primrose capsules, and we went back out to the deck, were I’d been spending almost all of my time. Nick had his laptop out there, so he could keep me company and be close by if I needed him. The kids were hanging out in the family room watching new videos I’d gotten for the occasion.
Oh, I should note that I’d been eating and drinking (and peeing! That’s important, so let’s not forget it) throughout the day.
The contractions started getting stronger around this time, and some were closer together, but shorter. I’d have some at 10 min intervals, lasting 60 secs and some at 5 min intervals lasting 30-45 seconds. They were uncomfortable enough for me to want to stand up and breath through them, relaxing my body completely, but not so strong that I needed help to cope at all.
I wanted to give Martha a good update when she called again around 2, so asked Nick to check me again a little before then. This time, though, I told him he had to kiss me first. He kissed me, checked, compared to tape measure, and said he’d guess a good 6 cm.
Martha called around 2:30, and I explained that the contractions were stronger, but still no established pattern, and that I’d had Nick check dilation and we figured I was around 6 cm. She said she would wrap up a few things, and figure on being here in an hour or two, if that sounded right to me. Otherwise we could call her. I thought that sounded fine, considering our lack of pattern. Figure in a multipara (woman who’s had babies before) dilation of about 1.5 cm per hour, with 4 cms to go, we should be good. I didn’t really want Martha here until I’d hit transition.
Reid had other plans, though.
Right after I got off the phone with Martha, contractions picked up a lot in frequency, but they were still short. 60 secs or even less (some being 30 or 45 secs) but about 2 mins apart. They were really strong at the peak, and I had Nick massage my hips. But they were so short! And I’d still frequently get 5 min breaks in between them.
Nevertheless, the sacral pressure was getting uncomfortable, so I decided to get in the birth tub. The kids all knew the tub was for the baby to be born in, and they all came out to hang out with us. I asked them to please be quiet when mommy started breathing loudly, and for the most part, they were, although they were full of questions. Isabelle asked if I was giving birth now, and I said “pretty soon!”
The water in the tub was hot (95 for baby) and I was hot, so Cullen got me a glass of water with a straw, and held it for me so I could drink in between contractions.
I was getting to the point where low vocalizing, like heavy breathing with sound, was very helpful in relaxing me through the contractions.
Surprise! Here we are, on the back deck, me in labor in earnest, when the fuel oil truck pulls up! Ahahahaha! Nick was rather disturbed by this, since they need to run the hose around the deck to fill the tank. I established quickly that if I moved to the other side of the tub and kept low they wouldn’t see anything but maybe my head (I was nude). I think I told him (although maybe I just thought it) no WAY was I getting out of the water.
I think the kids and their chatter masked my low breathing, and the truck, which they leave running, and the pump for the oil made enough noise so I’m pretty certain they remained clueless, but the diesel fumes in the air was lousy.
The kids got bored, and went back inside to watch videos again. We had the tub set up right outside the family room door, so we could keep an ear on them.
I got out of the tub to pee, and experimentally hung out on the toilet through a few contractions, since I’d read that a lot of women are really helped by sitting on the pot. After all, our bodies are conditioned to relax everything down there when on the toilet, from toddlerhood. Oh, yes, they were right! It felt great.
After a few mins I decided to go back out to the deck, and there was a bit of a lull between contractions. What? I thought. Noooo, it couldn’t be. I’d had a lull like this with Isabelle, right before Connie showed up. I’d had this lull, which I believe Ina May calls the “rest and be thankful” phase, when I was fully dilated. Yeah, like right before the urge to push kicked in. But I couldn’t have made it through transition like that? Not that easily!
Another contraction came on, as I stood on the deck, and Nick asked me if I wanted him to massage my hips, and I said “No, I want my potty!” and rushed into the bathroom. (Well, yeah, actually I did say it just like that for humor effect!) I sat down and wanted to PUSH! I breathed/moaned through one contraction, and although tolerable, it didn’t feel right. I pushed through the next one, and it felt soooo goooood! I was still in a state of disbelief, though. So, I had to check. I reached into my vagina and felt the bag of waters bulging, no more than an inch and a half up.
I went back to the deck and told Nick what I’d felt, and he asked if I wanted him to call Martha. I said yes. This was just after 3:30 or so. She called back immediately, and he explained what was going on. She asked if I felt like I needed to push, and he said “No, she doesn’t feel like pushing yet.” And I said “YES I DO!” and rushed back to the bathroom. Martha was still on the phone, and said if I felt like it, do it. So I did, and SPLASH! There went the bag of waters. I got up and took a peak in the pot. All clear! No mec. Phew.
That was it. The next contraction came on and made it perfectly clear that there was no question about it. Pushing was not optional. My body just took over completely and a deep roar came out of me, as every bit of me, body and soul, went to work on expelling the baby.
Martha was still on the line, and heard me, and told Nick “You two are going to have this baby!”. The kids had all heard me too, and rushed into the bathroom. Nick reassured them that all was well, mommy was just working really hard, and shooed them out. I think I had three or 4 contractions on the pot, and Martha told Nick to get me in the tub to slow things down a bit.
Back out we went to the tub, and I guess being in the water did slow things down a little bit, as there was just a bit more time between pushes, but it certainly didn’t decrease the intensity any. It did ease the sacral and hip pressure some.
I’ve read about Dr. Michael Odent’s theory on the Fetal Ejection Reflex, and that’s the only way I can describe the pushing stage with this baby. Every fiber of my existence went into each push. I reached inside, to feel where his head was and track his descent. Through the first few pushes in the tub I didn’t feel much progress, but then I could clearly feel him inching down. During contractions I gripped the edge of the tub. During one I felt one of my soft, wet fingernails bend back as I dug my nails in, but it was only in the abstract. As he moved lower down in the birth canal, I spoke to him between contractions. “Come ON, baby, come ON, Reid! It’s time to come out!” “Come OUT NOW, baby!” which the kids heard, and all flocked back out to the deck.
I was so hot! Cullen got me glass after glass of ice water. I had Zadie get a bowl of ice and a bunch of wet washcloths which Nick put on my forehead and the back of my neck. Nick told the kids to be quiet, but he had no idea. In between contractions I was calm and in control and completely lucid (asking for the water, explaining to Zadie to get the ice and cloths, etc.) but during contractions nothing existed but the primal urge to eject that baby. I could hear the kids talking, but it was as if they were on a different planet, or like when you’re more than half asleep and barely registering distant sounds. It didn’t matter. Nothing did, but getting that baby out of my body!
I felt his head come down to the vaginal opening. The contraction let up, and it slipped back. I could feel all of him slip back up again. NO baby! Come DOWN! Come OUT! Another contraction, there it was again. There it slipped back again.
Now I was determined. I thought I’d been putting everything I had into those pushes. Somehow, though, I found that there was a bit more to put into them, and I gave a tremendous push, and he was crowning. “There he is!” I said “There’s his head. He’s crowning. Come on baby.”
I had to stop myself from pushing while he crowned. My body had stopped, but my head didn’t want to. I told Nick to put his hand under me for support, and he put it on my butt. I told him “No, forward! Forward!” and he moved it backwards. (duh!) “FORWARD” and he put his hand on my perineum, I had one hand on my upper vagina, fingers splayed to the sides. I was afraid he would come too fast, and I would tear. I was squatting in the tub, and my other hand was holding onto the side.
Another push, and his head came further down, stretching everything. One more push! “His head! His head is out!” Two contractions as my uterus tightened up around his body. One more, and I didn’t feel his shoulder pop, so I scooted backwards onto all fours, telling Nick to be ready to catch him, being careful to keep his head under water (one thing with waterbabies, they won’t try to breathe until they hit the air, but you can’t have their head out and then submerge it again). (I think this contraction was still just snugging up around him to get him out, but Isabelle had a cord on her shoulder, and I know all fours is the easiest way to get the shoulders out. Plus, Nick had said he’d like to catch him.)
One contraction, and I literally felt his shoulder pop out from behind the bone. POP! Another, and I felt his whole body twisting inside of me. I asked Nick if he had him “I’ve got him!” he said, and then as another contraction came, I yelled to Nick “Don’t pull him!” “I’m not pulling, that’s HIM!” he said, as the rest of his body was forced from mine. It really felt as if he was being pulled from my body! Reid was born at exactly 4 pm, Nick said.
I flipped over into a seated position, and Nick handed him to me. Luckily his cord was long enough to wrap around my leg so I could hold him. I confirmed that he was a he, and watched him. A few seconds went by, and I rubbed his back, and he took a few tentative breaths. I rubbed some more, and he took a few more, deeper, but they sounded a bit wet, so I flipped him over onto his tummy on my arm, rubbed his back a bit more and he expelled a bunch of fluids from his mouth and nose and started YELLING! Then I passed him back to Nick so I could raise my leg up, and he passed him back under my leg so the cord wasn’t wrapped around my leg. I then lowered him back into the water, submerging all but his head, and he started rooting, sticking out his tongue and then found his fingers and started to suck on them. I latched him on, and he started to nurse. We covered what was out of the water with a towel, to keep him warm, put on his little cap, The kids all came over to touch him and look at him.
Nick called Martha to say we had a baby. She was a few minutes away. She was concerned about the placenta being delivered in the tub, since it’s impossible to gauge blood loss if it is, so we all went upstairs, where Reid continued to nurse. Martha got there just moments after we settled in upstairs. We waited a while longer, until I started to get some more mild contractions, and I delivered the placenta with three gentle pushes. It was completely intact and healthy, Nick cut the cord, with help from the kids, once they were all assured that it was like clipping fingernails and painless. Martha took blood from the cord for testing the baby (as an alternative to pricking them. Why isn’t this always done?!) typed him as AB+. Checked me and confirmed no tears, no scratches, and no swelling! We waited for him to stop nursing for his look-over, and it was at around 6 o’clock! He nursed for 2 straight hours after birth. Martha weighed him, measured him, checked heart rate and respiration. Questioned us on details of the labor and birth, declared his Apgar’s of 9 and 9, based on info from us. Cleaned me up some, saw to it that I peed, and left.
Nobody but Nick and I got to hold him; Martha just had me put him down for a few moments for the check-up, Nick put him into the scale and diapered him. The only hands to hold his little body were ours. Cullen asked to hold him and did, a bit later, after he’d nursed even more! Eventually we dressed him, as near nightfall it got cooler, but for hours he was on my chest with only a blanket over us.
Now, at just over 48 hours after birth, my milk is in already, although I’ve been lazy about watching his latch during the night, and my nipples are sore. Other than that I feel better post-partum than I ever have. I didn’t feel like this for months after Cullen. Probably almost a week after Isabelle. Maybe 4 days, but not 2 days! Instead of being in pain and discomfort, I’m reveling in my non-pregnant body, and my beautiful, incredible son.