Sorry so long!!
This story starts with practice contractions that started in my 25th week and picked up speed and intensity throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, just like the previous three. I welcomed them, knowing that they were helping my small body get ready to birth a big baby, so I tried to concentrate on each one, how it felt, thanking my body for the warm up.
Around 34 weeks, the contractions changed. They became more intense, and they settled into a nightly rhythm, picking up speed and intensity in the evenings. I started to think this might be another middle-of-the-night birth like my last one.
At 38 weeks, I felt the baby "drop" and the contractions started to have a distinct downward movement. I could feel the pressure inside my pelvis, and walking became difficult as it would spur contractions and cause sharp cervical twinges. At this point, I became obsessed with thinking about and emotionally/psychically prepared for the birth. My midwife was out of town for at least two weeks for a birth in another state, so I did a lot of reading about unassisted childbirth in case this one was as precipitous as my last.
Somehow, I made it through those two weeks, thinking each night might be the night, both welcoming it and fearing it intensely. Each of my previous births had their share of fear and drama, brought by me and my midwives. I wanted a low-to-no-intervention birth this time. I fantasized about a quick, easy, painless unassisted birth with just me and my husband.
My sister came to town to help for a few days, and I asked the baby to arrive during her stay. It would make childcare a LOT easier! Plus, we could really use her help in the immediate aftermath! Early in the morning on my estimated due date, I went into active labor.
The night before, I had semi-regular contractions. Six minutes, then two minutes, then six, then two... I went to bed feeling pretty sure, but I was calm and willing to wait weeks for this little one.
Just shy of 2am, I awoke with a start. I had felt the baby give a swift kick, and suddenly there was a *pop* in my belly. I had a contraction, waited through it,
moaned a little with the intensity. When it was over, I felt wetness begin to leak, so I said, "David, my water broke." My husband awoke with a jolt and ran to my side of the bed. I asked him to help me to the toilet.
I sat down and the water came gushing out in spurts. There was so much water! It just seemed to keep coming and coming. My water breaking had signaled hard active labor with my first baby, but not since, and suddenly I found myself anxiously anticipating the pain. I felt a rush of adrenaline and began shaking violently all over while David sat in front of me and looked in my eyes and said, "This is okay. This is all good, it is all happening the way it is supposed to."
It took a few minutes, but the next contraction arrived. It was intense but entirely manageable. What wasn't manageable was my fear. I was so scared. I was afraid of pain, I was afraid of the intensity, I was afraid of having a baby! I said to David, "I am so scared." Just saying it helped. His unshakable faith in me and my body were unbelievable.
And so we sat, me there on the toilet waiting for and then breathing through each contraction, each a little more intense than the last. I made a pact with myself to not watch the clock and to just let it happen. I was ready to try for an unassisted birth, but I was also willing to accept any turn of events. And so I tried to let go, mentally, and be in the moment.
Things get very hazy at this point. I spent at least an hour on the toilet as my bowels emptied over and over and over and over. Man, am I glad I wasn't on a hospital bed! I chanted softly, "I can do this. Everything is going to be okay. I'm going to meet my baby soon."
At some point, I could feel a pinching in my left buttock/hip. It wasn't unbearable, but it was difficult to manage since I am so short that my feet don't touch the ground when I am sitting on the toilet. I thought my bowels might finally be empty, so I asked David to run the bath. Eventually, I decided to get in.
By now, I was working hard to listen to my body. I was still there, in the room, holding David's hands through each contraction, looking in his eyes, chanting. But I was also feeling impatient. The contractions weren't coming on as fast as I expected. And my bowels kept on emptying! Poor David could not keep up and had to keep emptying and refilling the tub. One time, he turned on the shower to help flush everything out, and there was something incredibly soothing about this. I asked him to keep it on.
I felt myself start to slip into the labor. The contractions were getting harder to manage. The twinge in my hip had turned into a throb in my back and pelvis. Back labor. I knew this meant the baby might still be posterior. I tried rolling over, rocking on my knees, lying on my side, trying to find a position that would work to get this baby to move and slide down. I was also trying to figure out where I was in the labor. Was I dilating? Was I even close? Where was the quick, easy labor I wanted?
I had closed my eyes by now and was starting to feel very unsure about the whole thing. I started crying with the contractions and saying that I didn't think I could do this. David was supportively telling me I was doing great, but I was unable to connect with him now. I was thoroughly in my birth trance. Five contractions or, who knows, ten later, I was feeling nauseas and exhausted. I wondered vaguely if this was transition. I wondered again if I was really ready for this baby to be here soon.
I asked for a break, something I had heard of other women doing, and I got one. I slipped further into my trance, head almost under water. The contractions slowed a little, dipped in intensity. Every sound, every image, was fragmented and I felt this super-awareness of everything, and yet a total and complete focus on my body.
And then it shifted. The next contraction was intense and pushy. I felt myself involuntarily bear down. I felt the catch in my throat as my voice rose. I had been keeping my moans low, baritone. This one forced me into a quasi-yelp and I had to force it back down again. The next contraction, another push.
Somehow, pushing did not feel right. I had the very strong feeling that I was not fully dilated and I needed to figure out how to stop pushing. I tried to relax as deeply as possible. A few contractions later and I was still pushing, butt in the air to slow down, the shower running down my back. I decided to check my cervix.
I could barely feel it. It was posterior, I could reach the front edge and feel the bulging bag of waters behind it. But there was a thick lip, and my guess was that I was around 7cm. Not close enough. I started to wonder what I could do, not having read any unassisted stories with this issue.
So I talked to my cervix. "Open," I begged her. "I want to meet my baby. I want to touch my baby. Let me feel him. I want to hold my baby." With each contraction, I pulled a little on the lip to see if that would help. I was in such an odd position, and I couldn't really feel any movement at all with the pushes. I kept expecting to feel him "move down" which would tell me the pushing was okay, but there was no "down," just an intense back pain with each contraction.
I asked David to reach in, maybe he could give me a better idea if the lip was on one side or if I was more dilated than I knew. He couldn't make heads or tails of it -- no pun intended! I tried to explain what he might be feeling, but I knew it wasn't going to matter. I needed to figure this out on my own.
The pain in my back was horrendous at this point, and I was really struggling. I needed more support. David suggested calling the midwife and I agreed. I was so incredibly disappointed. I felt, and still feel, a little like I failed. And I wonder what would have happened if I had just kept going. No matter, she arrived a few minutes later. I was in the middle of an involuntary push when she walked in and saw me in the tub.
She asked if I felt pushy and I said yes. She asked if I wanted her to check my cervix, and I did, so I said yes. She reached in and delightedly said, "You're at 9, honey. You're really close." I could have cried. It was exactly what I needed to hear to get my second wind. Most importantly, there was no drama, no panicking, no discussion of the lip being an issue. I could keep going! I felt strong!
Now I was ready to give in completely. I moaned and whimpered and bellowed through a few contractions, but I knew it was almost over. And I continued to tell my cervix to open, now knowing that I was completely and totally ready to meet my baby and knowing that it was going to happen VERY soon.
Laurie came back into the bathroom and asked if I was ready to push. I will say here that I had always "given" my birth experience to my midwives before. I had never refused any suggestion or intervention. I had internalized every comment, especially ones that raised fears. But this time, I was completely ready to let my body make all the decisions. I was not ready to push. I was close, and I was willing to go through the final stages. I had this pain in my back, dammit, and I needed to find a way to either change it or just get on with it!
Again, I tried a number of positions in the tub to see if any of them felt like the "right" position for delivery. No dice. It sank in that I needed gravity's help. I was too exhausted to get out and walk or squat, so I asked Laurie if she had brought her birth stool. She said it was in her car and went to get it. I told her where in the bathroom to put it, just beyond the tub. She asked if I was ready to get out, but I said no, give me a minute.
A few more contractions, and I felt myself emerge from the trance. I was alert, focused, and ready. David helped me climb out and I sat on the stool. It wasn't as comfortable as I hoped. My tailbone was throbbing, and my right leg was too. I tried to wiggle around on it, find a better way to sit, but nothing was helping. I reached in and could feel my baby's head a few inches inside, waiting, so I knew it was time to give birth to him, and I worked on accepting that it wasn't going to be the fast and slippery entry that my others had made.
Laurie was at my left leg and David was at my right. I asked her to check and she said his head was right there, and I agreed, but she said I was going to have to push with the contractions. I thought about this. I let a few contractions go by unassisted, to see how they would do on their own. My baby was not going anywhere, and it felt like he had a shoulder stuck on the inside of my pelvic bone, sending shooting pains down my right leg. With the next few contractions, I pushed a little, but the shooting pains intensified and kept me from giving it 100%.
Laurie suggested that I might have an easier time on the bed, maybe even on my back. I shook my head. David reminded her that this was how I delivered my second child and I had regretted it later. I was so proud of myself for refusing, for listening to my own body. My body was telling me that this was my biggest baby yet, and it was going to take some effort on my behalf to get him out and it would probably hurt like hell, but I could do this. So, I listened.
The next contraction, I tensed my stomach muscles with the contraction. He moved down, a few inches of his head popping out. A sharp pain shot through my right leg. It felt like someone had chopped it off, and a moment later I lost all feeling in my leg down to my toes. I screamed at the top of my lungs and said, "David! My leg! Fuck! Do something!" He didn't know which leg! I put my left foot up on Laurie's shoulder, and David grabbed my right and lodged it against his shoulder.
With the next contraction, I knew I needed to get the baby out, so I reached down and grabbed either side of my yoni and I bore down as hard as I could. I felt an ear pop out (David said, "That's his ear!") and then the other ear, and then his chin. The contraction intensified and I felt his head pop out, a small break, I asked David if he was ready to catch, he said yes, and then my body took over and catapulted my baby into David's waiting hands. It was 630am.
David handed him to me, this wet, globby little mess of a beautiful baby. After each of my previous births, I had been too shell-shocked to hold my babies. I had always wanted to, but I would find myself pumped with adrenaline, shaking, and sore as hell. This time, I was elated, high as a kite! I was hugging and kissing him, I didn't care how goopy he was. I smelled him and rubbed his back and watched him watching me. It was utterly blissful.
I noticed he was covered in meconium. Since my waters had been clear, we decided it must have happened just before delivery. Laurie suctioned out his mouth gently, but I couldn't help it, I reached down and sucked out his nose with my mouth. Another thing I had heard of but never done. The instinct really was overwhelming!
I told her not to cut the cord until I was done birthing the placenta. Usually the cord was cut first, and then I wouldn't birth the placenta for hours. This time, we stayed attached, me and my new little man, and within mere minutes of noting that the cord stopped pulsing, I felt a small push and the placenta dropped out onto the pad.
I was still on the stool, holding him, accepting adoration while the midwife (and her assistant who silently showed up at some point!) cleaned up. David and I oohed and aahed over the baby. The boys, as it turned out, had awakened around 5am, but stayed quietly in their room until just before the delivery. They snuck out, went to their bathroom (which is on the other side of our bathtub wall) and listened to the baby emerge in the dark. They said they heard his first cries and so came to see. He was still awake, completely alert, and as soon as he heard their voices, his eyes went wide. He calmed completely, and the three of them bonded. I told them to go wake their Aunt, since she was downstairs in the guest room, and a few minutes later, she came in to see us in the tub together, washing off. She slept through the whole thing, as did our 3yo daughter who was also delighted to meet him in the bathtub as well!
My midwife realized at this point that she had left her scissors and clamps for the cord at home, and she also needed to drop off her kids at school, so she bowed out for a while. We floated the placenta in the tub and continued to bask in the newness of our baby. He started to nurse, a real pro right away, and I floated on my little post-birth high until she returned. David cut the cord, we got cleaned up and dressed, and we settled into bed to nurse and rest and eat.
It wasn't the UC I wanted or fantasized about. It wasn't quick. It wasn't painless. It was, however, blissfully uncomplicated and joyous. I was here through it all, completely alert and aware, letting my body make the decisions. David was there, my superhero, my perfect birth partner, and both of us have spent the days since revelling in all of it, so pleased and proud. Chet is perfect and peaceful, which I take as a good sign, and I wouldn't have wanted anything more for him. I am grateful for my body, my baby, and this birth!
As a sidenote: The pain I felt in my back and hips was probably due to his girth and the fact that I had a previous compression injury about four years ago. I am 4'9" with a petite frame. I make giant, healthy babies. Chet was born at 8lbs 11oz, 22in long, and his head was 19in in circumference even with a significant amount of moulding. He turned at the end and was born anterior with his hands up on his cheeks. There was significant compression of my spine causing sciatic nerve damage on the L4/L5. At 5 days post-partum, I am still regaining feeling in my right leg and foot. I'm hoping a visit to the acupuncturist next week will clear that all up!
Mom to : DS1 (11), DS2 (8), DD3 (4), : DS4 (1), and : : :