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This may be the longest birth story here. I just wanted to remember every detail.
I still get tears thinking about how perfect it was.

Hanae's birth was intense, but a wonderful experience! At 39 weeks and 5 days into the pregnancy, I had gained 19 pounds, baby's heartrate was 120 or so, and I was feeling good. Everyone guessed the baby was a boy. There was lots of movement daily, especially around 1am. At yoga class the previous Monday, I told everyone I'd certainly be there the following week. I didn't think the birth was near.

Mom was visiting, and we'd all spent Friday running errands, going to my midwife appointment, taking my daughter, Meg, to yoga class and out to lunch, and buying last-minute baby clothes. It was a busy day. We finally got home around 2pm. I planned to take a nap because I was really tired and wanting to conserve my energy. At my midwife appointment earlier in the day, D had predicted another two weeks of pregnancy, and even called me a "crockpot." She said she hadn't had a birth in two weeks and was feeling antsy. We were both sure I wouldn't be the one to break the spell.

My friend K called around 3 to ask if I could come to the hospital take care of her baby while she was having an emergency MRI for a slipped disc. DH was leaving for an appointment of his own, so he dropped me off at the hospital, and I started walking K's baby. I walked for two hours around the hospital pushing the stroller and sometimes carrying her on my nearly nonexistent hip while pushing her stroller. Poor baby was fussy and wanting her mama, and the only way to distract her was to keep walking. I started to notice that contractions seemed to be coming pretty frequently, but there wasn't time to check a clock or really concentrate on them and I wasn't at all uncomfortable with them. Once, while walking through a corridor with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the spring flower beds full of crocuses and flowering bushes, I was overcome with a heighted awareness of the season and the beauty outside. I wanted to take a deep breath of forest air. I felt as though I were floating. It was a wonderful rush of feeling, and I was filled with memories of the long hike DH and I had done the day before Meg's birth. Something in me knew Hanae's birth was near, but I wasn't at all conscious of it. I remember thinking I'd like to be outside during my labor.

Finally, at 7, another friend arrived at the hospital to care for the baby, and DH arrived to take me home. We ate a quick dinner (no appetite), and I bathed Meg and put her to bed. I tried to sleep, but only slept for an hour or so because I was so focused on my contractions, which were regular, but not at all painful. At 10:30 I got up to drink a little wine and take a warm bath to see if I couldn't slow them down. DH ran the bath, and I gulped down the first glass of wine I'd had in five years (what a waste!) because I wanted to get in that bath and get back to bed. Contractions still were not painful or requiring my attention, and I was sure they were just the result of being overtired.

I got into the bath with a clock at 11pm. DH sat with me intermittently, and we chatted about Meg's birth and how I was feeling. We were happy and generally excited, but still not convinced that this was it because I wasn't feeling any pain, and even forgot to time contractions here and there. For an hour, they were about 5-6 minutes apart, and for the next hour, they were about 3-4 minutes apart, all without any pain. I stayed in the luke-warm bath the whole time, squatting and resting my head on the outer edge of the tub.

Finally, at about 12:30, we started to think about the logistics of heading in to D's office, should we need to do it I (we still weren't sure). DH woke Mom, and they decided she wasn't ready to drive alone with Meg to the hospital at night, so we decided that if we went, we'd go together in a caravan. I got out of the bath at 1am, and started packing the last minute things just in case. I'd made a list with most things checked off, so I gave the list to Mom and DH and tried to make some raspberry leaf tea to drink on the ride in (it's supposed to speed labor, and I thought it might be hours before active labor kicked in). As we were packing I was finding it more difficult to concentrate, and within a few minutes, I couldn't answer when asked a question. Finally, I gave up packing and sat on the birth ball leaning over some pillows facing the sofa while Mom and DH rushed around getting ready. I suddenly started feeling pain and as though I needed some support, and knew I was in active labor. At 1:30am I told Mom she'd better get Meg up-it was time to go! I went into the bathroom to be alone and gather my resources and to call D. It felt really good to be on my own, breathing deeply. I knew then that I'd be able to do it and didn't feel panicked as I had with everyone rushing around and worried. D answered the phone with her usual chipper tone. She said she'd be 30 minutes, so we decided to take off for the hospital ourselves. Mom came downstairs with Meg in her pjs, who suddenly shouted into the tense, dark room, "Exciting! Exciting!"

As soon as we got in the car with Mom driving and Meg in the back seat, I started to feel nauseous and needed to concentrate hard during contractions. They were 2 minutes apart the whole way into town. When one would begin, I'd exhale in short spurts (hoo hoo hoo) until it would peak, and then I'd moan as low as possible (ohhhmmm). By the end of a contraction, my voice was as low as I could make it, and I think this helped me relax and open up. The ritual was entirely spontaneous, and I only realized later that it was a ritual. It was very helpful. I was concentrating more on the sounds and keeping my voice low and my mouth loose more than I was on the feeling in my belly.

Between contractions, I felt pretty normal except for the nausea. Meg and Mom and I chatted, and I tried to reassure Meg that everything was great. I felt upbeat and excited. We listened to some music by Carlos Nakai and some traditional Japanese musicians. They were sort of moaning, too, so I didn't feel strange. Native American flute and shakuhachi, a big, bright moon, and the dark forest. It was so much like Meg's birth, riding into town through the quiet night, music floating out of the spaces between the trees.

When we got to her office, D wasn't there yet, so I spent a few contractions in the car and a few on the sidewalk. It was about 32 degrees outside, and I was wearing only a T-shirt and light sweater and a knit skirt and sandals. We were all very relieved when D finally appeared in her scrubs and winter coat. By this time, I was in pain and wanting desperately to be somewhere settled and warm and to get some support. I was starting to feel pushy towards the end of the contractions. We went in to her office and she listened to the heart tones right away, while I leaned over her counter. Same as it had been during the day-120. Then I hopped on the exam table while she did an internal. "Do you know what it is?" she asked. I guessed "1cm" just to get her to say something, but she made us guess for a minute or so. Stinker! Then she announced that I was at 7cm, so I probably had another hour or so, or three or four. I was really disappointed at the 7; I thought I was much further along. So we headed out the door to walk across the street to the hospital. I was contracting every minute or so, with hardly a break between. The second contraction outside her office, I grabbed for D to lean on her arms, and her grip was steel. It felt so good being supported by her-she was rock-solid and right there. That contraction was a tough one, and my vocalizations wavered and my knees shook a bit at the end. When it was over, D estimated with a laugh that I'd just dilated another centimeter, and with the next contraction, she said the same thing. 9cm before we'd even hit the pedestrian crossing-yeay! D said "It's really cold out here!" and I remember saying, "Yeah, and you're probably wearing underwear!" Laughing felt really good. A few more slightly pushy contractions, and we were in the door. Then one outside the elevator. Everyone went in while I stood outside, and I wondered whether the door would close before I could walk in. Strange how your mind works in labor.

I don't remember anything about that 3-story ride except D saying, "Gee, I've never delivered a baby in the elevator before," and Mom and DH laughing nervously. Mom was carrying Meg the whole time, and Meg was absolutely silent.

We got off, and I took DH's hand and pulled him down the hall. When we got within sight of the L&D doors, I told him to walk as quickly as he could. I had a big contraction at the top of the ramp, and we started speed-walking. I wanted to make it inside those doors before the next contraction hit. We did it, but just barely. I leaned against the rails on the wall inside the ward, and D ran to get gloves. DH (former OB) was behind me, checking to see whether the baby was on its way out, and I yelled, "Baby coming! Help!" I suddenly felt very alone and unsupported as I felt the baby move past the cervix and into the birth canal. It was one of only a few moments of pain I could remember later, but even still, not excrutiating. More like a train moving through my body that I couldn't stop. Two nurses suddenly appeared with a wheelchair, and I looked down to see three dark red drops of blood drip to the floor between my legs. Bingo!

I thought it would be impossible to get into that wheelchair, but finally sat down because I couldn't think how to squat in it and the nurses wouldn't let me walk. D later said it was the only thing she regretted-that they didn't just fireman-carry me down the hall. It was the only really bad moment for me, riding those ten meters in that wheelchair. The nurse kept saying, "I'm sorry it's bumpy. I'm sorry it's bumpy."

When we got to the room, I threw off my sweater and skirt and kicked off my shoes and sat up on the birthing bed. They lowered the foot of the bed a few inches. I had the right knee up and the left knee down, with my feet on the lower level in front of me in a half-tailor's pose. I couldn't move to get the other knee down, too. D finally told me I'd open up more if I spread my legs and put both knees down on the lower level, which I finally was able to do. My body pushed twice while D told me to "Slow down, there, girl!" She was supporting my perenium, trying (in vain) to prevent a tear along my old episiotomy scar. She said she saw the sac, and there was some confusion between the nurses about whether it was the head or the sac. D later said the sac began to tear as Hanae's head was born with her left hand up by her ear. I did feel a ring of fire, but I didn't realize the baby was crowning and was expecting much worse pain to come. It never did. I held back from pushing as much as I could, trying to relax and breath with my eyes closed as Hanae was born onto the bed (there must have been a gush of amniotic fluid, but I only remember feeling really good when her upper body was out), and then D told me to reach down and take my baby. I think she had to ask twice because I was so focused on relaxing and not pushing. When I opened my eyes, there was Hanae looking up at me. It had been five minutes in that room and only an hour since I had called D from home.

I took her under the arms and pulled her the rest of the way out and up to my right shoulder. She was screaming like mad then. Meg ran over to the bedside, and I held up a leg so she could see. Then everyone cheered together with Meg, "It's a girl!" We sang "Happy Birthday to Baby" with D and the nurses. It was warm and dark and quiet, and yet so cheery there might have been birthday candles burning. I felt so calm and happy, and there seemed to be a delicious glow in the room. I think it was having so many of my family and D next to me, and having birthed so easily with so little effort or fanfare. The baby cried and cried, and we all laughed through our tears.

The nurses peeled off my shirt and bra, and I held Hanae skin-to-skin for a while with both of us wrapped in towels. She was almost perfectly clean-no blood, no vernix-and looked just like Meg when she was born. She had a tiny stork bite on her left eyelid, but was otherwise without blemish. Then DH took her, and we waited for the placenta. No pulling or pitocin, just waiting. It finally made its descent, and I pushed a little to get it out. I said, "What a relief!" D stitched me up. Only four stitches, but still a little painful on the last stitch. Bad memories of the stitch-up with Meg, I think. Then Mom rushed out for the camera, and returned to take several shots of DH with Hanae. I snapped one of Meg in her pjs, looking wide-eyed at the camera.

Meg wouldn't come near me for the longest time, and didn't want to touch the baby. I think she was a little shocked and wanted to stay safely in Grandma's arms. She just sat quietly sucking her thumb and holding her Lamby and watching everything very carefully.

I got down and into a warm bath while the neonatal nurse checked Hanae. Then they wheeled the newborn exam table to the bathroom doorway and weighed her where I could see it. 6 pounds, 8 ounces. Sweet little baby with a head of black hair and skinny legs. Hanae joined me in the bath, and unfolded a little. She was very calm by then, and clearly liked the water. It was heaven to hold her and watch her float in the water. Mom and Meg and DH all crowded into the bathroom to watch.

The nurses took her again for the K shot (long story) and to dress her. While I dressed, the nurse whispered to me that next time, if there was a next time, I should consider birthing at home. She said after watching me birth Hanae she thought that I really could do it there, and that D would support it. I felt great hearing her say that, and knowing a nurse at this hospital supported natural birth to such an extent. My heart was singing knowing that we were getting such good care and that all was normal. I held Hanae in the bed and nursed her a little while we waited for a room. Then we measured Hanae in the isolette-19.5 inches-and Mom snapped a picture of Meg balanced on my crouching knee. It was the first time Meg would come near me. Then together Meg and I pushed Hanae in the isolette to our room, two hours after she was born. In retrospect, I can't believe we were resting there in that room for two hours. It felt like 20 minutes. Hanae slept well that night in my hospital bed and nursed like a pro throughout the night. The next morning dawned in a clear blue sky through cold, bright air on tulips and blooming trees. Hanae is happy and healthy and a joy, four months later. Blessings abound.
 

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What a beautiful story!
 

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that was a beautiful birth story
thanks so much for sharing it with us!
 
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