Early Monday evening I began having contractions for the third night in a row. I was a little grumpy, but physically feeling good. We had dinner and watched some TV (I don't really remember that part, but know that was what happened) and then we set the kids up upstairs with some videos and I laid down in bed downstairs alone and tried to get some rest. My children joined me one by one as the night progressed and I tossed and turned. Finally, late evening, everyone was asleep and the contractions were so intense that I could no longer lie down through them, I had to get up. So I lit some candles and puttered around the house for a while. At some point my 3-yr-old daughter woke up and my husband came downstairs to lie down with her, then all was quiet again.
Early morning, I was walking around between contractions, enjoying myself but tired. During contractions I did a variety of things: leaned on the kitchen counter, crouched on the floor, danced, kneeled in front of the recliner resting my upper body on the seat. I was vocalizing low and very loud through the contractions, which were fairly painful at this point, but I was still in good spirits, as I thought I was dealing with the pain pretty good.
Around 1:30 a.m. I was walking through the kitchen, glanced at the clock, and the idea entered my head that the baby might very well be born in the next couple of hours. I felt optimistic about this, but also thought to myself that if the baby wasn't born by 6 a.m. I would call my dear friend Pam for moral support. I labored on, and it slowly got more painful and the contractions seemed to be coming closer together, although to be honest this time (for the first time for me in a birth) it all kind of blurred together. I don't mean there weren't any breaks, just that it felt like a continuous whole and I didn't consciously change gears between and during contractions. So I really don't have a clear memory of how fast the contractions were coming, just that it was getting more intense.
Before the birth I'd been thinking that I might give birth in bed, in my bedroom that I love so much, but the kids were sleeping in there and I felt absolute no desire to be in there with them. I also thought about giving birth in the living room, where I did before, leaning over the recliner, but kept feeling pulled toward the back of the house, where the bathtub is. I finally grabbed a bunch of pillows and blankets, dragged them back there, and set up a little nest for myself next to the bathtub, in a space of about 2 by 3 feet, and set up some candles in the adjacent room so that only the softest glow of light would reach me.
Shortly after I was done with that, the contractions intensified so that I was feeling them in my back and really having trouble getting through them. It felt like my back was going to split apart, searing pain, the kind of pain that relaxation exercises can't touch. Mostly I was on my hands and knees, sometimes leaning over the side of the tub. The contractions were coming almost continously now and I was really in agony, really hating it. After about an hour of that I was really feeling at the end of my rope, and I gasped out, as if I was talking to someone, that I really didn't need it to be this painful, that the pain wasn't serving any purpose, and please, please, just make it not hurt.
And then, the next contraction didn't come. I waited and waited, and still it didn't come. I sat back against the wall and rested. I started feeling pretty good, very relaxed, and I thought, "huh. Maybe I'm going to get my butter birth after all! Maybe this is going to be painless from here on out!" I was very pleased at the thought of this, and it never once occured to me that something was wrong because the contractions had stopped. Everything felt absolutely fine.
I got up for a moment to get my robe, as I was starting to cool down, and then sat back down against the wall, my legs flopped apart, my head propped up on my hand, and I feel asleep. It was glorious, it felt so good. I estimate that I rested this way for about an hour.
Then suddenly, BANG, it started back up again, and I was literally propelled back onto my hands and knees and was shrieking at the peaks of contractions. At the break I leapt up, opened the bedroom door, and said to my husband, "I need you." He had been asleep, but immediately woke and was alert and asking me what I needed. I told him to just put pressure on my back where and when I indicated.
I wailed long and loud. I said my husband's name over and over, I swore, and I shrieked. I thought about going to the hospital even while knowing that it was ridiculous to consider at this point, and the words "go get the car running" were on the tip of my tongue, but I could not bring myself to say them. My husband was a great comfort, kneeling behind me. He was wonderfully warm and solid as I leaned back against him during each few seconds of rest.
Another hour of that, and then it was like something in my brain clicked, and I thought to check for her head. I could hardly believe that it was right there,
at the tippy-top of my fingers. Hard and warm, about an inch in diameter. Right then I desided to start bearing down, even thought I didn't have the urge yet, I felt sure that I could get her out, and I was so ready for it to be over. So I bore down a bit to see how it would feel, and it felt fine, so with the next contractions I pushed as hard as I could. In the space of three contractions she moved slowly, slowly down. The last time I felt, it felt like maybe there was a two inch diameter of her head presenting. I was pushing as hard as I could and it felt incredibly tight, like there was absolutely no stretch left, no room left. And then, my water broke with a lovely warm gush, and with the fourth contraction and an incredible amount of effort and feeling like I was trying to push a bowling ball through, out she came into my husband's hands.
He set her on the ground beneath me, I lifted my left leg and sat back, and he helped me gather her into my arms. It was the most incredible relief, to be DONE, and it felt very matter-of-fact, yet wonderful, to have her there. My husband went and checked the time -- 6 a.m. -- and got some towels and more blankets, and then sat down with me and we just looked and looked at her, and said, "here she is," and smiled at each other. It wasn't spiritual in the sense that the heavens opened and the angels began to sing, but it was in the sense that it was so real, so uncontrived, and we were both utterly unselfconscious and fully in the moment. Nothing to take us out of and away from it. Words fail me in trying to describe how awesome it was, and how much it stayed with me and affected the postpartum, how important it was in that way. I am still so amazed and grateful that I got to experience that, and I will never, ever forget it.
And, a little anti-climactic, but there is always third stage.
Several minutes my oldest son appeared bleary-eyed in the doorway and said, "I thought I heard some crying," and I laughed and said, "you did, look, here's the baby," and he gave me the sweetest smile. I was starting to get cold (really shaking, like I've done after all my births) and uncomfortable in the vagina/butt area, so my husband helped me up and I went and sat in the living room recliner to nurse and wait for the placenta. It wasn't that long, I think maybe 20 minutes? but I was becoming impatient -- again, I felt DONE. I handed the baby to my husband, squatted, twiddled my nipples, bore down a bit, and pulled on the cord gently. (None of this I did consciously, thinking that I should or could, but just did automatically. I certainly wouldn't have planned to put traction on the cord, and wouldn't advise any one else to do it.) Soon after I got an urge to push and it plopped out, ah what a relief!
And, well, there isn't that much else to say. Since it was morning and everyone was getting up for the day, I ate and cleaned myself and nursed and rested and called people, and so began our babymoon.