For the couple weeks preceding the birth I had been feeling like labor begins very early...long before real contractions begin. I had stopped going to do errands by myself. Even going to pick up Annika from playschool was getting to feel like too much. The pressure and braxton hicks were getting very intense when I was upright.
I began having cramping and then light contractions the night of July 13. It was enough to wake me up in the night. For the next two days I had irregular contractions. Roxanne, our midwife, told us that these could go on for days and sometimes weeks and to go about our normal business until they got regular. I spent most of my time resting on my side. On July 15 I had some reprieve in the afternoon and was able to take a nap. I was preparing myself for a long haul - days and days of contractions. I spent a lot of time trying to pace myself...it was very tiring...but I was intent on it not getting me down and really trying to let the anticipation and anxiety around the start of active labor distract me. Around 10 pm the contractions started coming on regularly...5 and 4 minutes apart. Joel and I decided it was time to call Rox, and also to call Franny to come and pick up Annika. (Annika had decided on her own not to attend the birth. She had started saying she didn't want the baby to come out, and after a couple conversations with her I deduced it was about the actual birth and not about the baby). Franny and Harmony arrived and picked up Annika who was extremely upset about being woken up. Rox arrived in the midst of the mayhem. I was ordering Joel around telling him to put the plastic sheeting on the bed, fill the birthing tub, and get the trash and laundry ready with black plastic bags. My contractions interrupted my interactions with everyone. I was moaning and moving. I was trying to find the most effective position to get through each contraction and was finding it difficult. They were centered right above my pelvic bone where it was getting incredibly painful with each contraction. Rox suggested I lie down on my side on the bed. I asked about needing to be upright to facilitate things moving along and she said it was fine to just let it happen. After lying down I was able to fully relax in between each contraction. All the bustling and organizing ended and Rox and Joel and I ended up on the bed laughing and joking and talking in between contractions. Joel was cracking jokes the entire time. There were a few contractions when I had to tell him to stop talking because it was too much to have both going on. I labored like that for a while. Rox was putting hot compresses on my perineum which felt really hot and relaxing and took some attention away from the intensity of the contractions. It was light-hearted and sweet in between contractions and felt like we were just hanging out. It was very intimate and fun and funny.
Somewhere in there I asked Rox where Kelly her assistant was and she said that she hadn't been able to get a hold of her. She didn't seem worried and somehow I wasn't worried either. We were just in it and I knew I was in good hands.
Rox checked me and I was 6 centimeters dilated. I told her I was worried about going through transition again and how intense it had been with Annika. She told me that transition is 7 to 10 centimeters and I was already going through those contractions. That gave me some courage to face the intensifying contractions. The tub was finally filled and we debated about moving to the water. I thought it might feel good, but had decided not to birth in the tub because of not wanting to tear badly again as I had with Annika in the water. Rox checked me again and I was 9 centimeters with a cervical lip. We moved to the kitchen and I stripped down. The contractions were beginning to run together at that point and I was hoping that the water would help to relieve some of the intensity. They were incredibly painful and intense at the bottom of my belly where all the baby's weight was pushing out from right above the pelvic bone. I was trying to find a position that would shift some of that pressure, but nothing worked. The water felt really good, but the contractions were running together and I was not getting a rest in between. I started to get really upset. Joel tells me I had started cursing like a sailor and I remember that I had started getting really loud. I remember Joel saying to Rox "Is it weird that this is turning me on?" as I was naked and moaning in the tub. Rox said "No...it would be weird if it turned me on." Leave it to Joel to be joking around when I am hitting the high point of transition. At that point I was too far gone to tell him to shut it...but in retrospect I think it was really funny and sweet.
I wasn't feeling the urge to push yet but was increasingly feeling distressed because of the Rox said that she could move the cervical lip and see if that helped things so we decided to move back to the bed. Both Joel and Rox left me in the tub for a minute and I got really worried about having to move because every moment was so intense I could not imagine walking. They helped me up and out of the tub. We made it back to the bed. Rox checked me again and I was fully dilated with the amniotic sac bulging down. She told me I could push. I lay on my side to push - again to limit tearing. Rox put another hot compress on. I gave a couple ineffectual pushes just trying out how it felt. I had such an extreme urge to push with Annika that having to consciously push was a new experience. It hurt. After a couple contractions I realized that I was going to have to really push to get this baby out and this was it - I had to push into the place where it hurt and push hard. With next contractions I pushed with all my might - screaming. The baby descended and then went back in. That happened again. I was getting some space in between the contractions. The final push I pushed with all my might into the pain and pressure and the baby's head came out. (I couldn't see at the time but his head came out in the caul...which then broke as he emerged). Rox told me not to push. I was able to wait. Then I was told to push again and the rest of his body came out. He gave one little cry and was placed on my stomach. I reached down and pulled him up to my chest. He immediately fell asleep and looked peaceful and pink and completely at ease. Rox felt the cord and it was still pulsating and we left it for a couple minutes as we all admired him and I felt the relief from the pressure and emptiness in my belly. Joel cut the cord. The placenta was in the birth canal and I pushed it out. The baby was looking for the breast and I was helped to sit up and he latched on right away and suckled like a champ. He was born at 1:23 a.m. on July 16. He got 10/10 on his apgar, just like his sister. He weighed 6 lbs, 4 oz., and was 20 inches long and was 9days early. He was ferociously hungry and was determined to eat as much colostrum as I could possibly produce. He was so little and skinny I was almost shocked. I guess that final week would have added the better part of a pound on him. I took a shower and Rox and Joel made the bed up with clean sheets. Rox left around 4 in the morning. We snuggled in for the night and I looked over at my two fellows sleeping soundly feeling elated and sore.
We took a few days to name him. Nathaniel. He is very serious and sweet and easy going. He communicates what he needs very clearly. He sleeps well and is already getting chubby. I feel so blessed to have him here. It really hit home that I lost his twin early on and that I would have two babies now instead of one...or none. I have thanked him many times for hanging in there.