I can’t believe it’s been only a little over a week since everything unfolded into the story of this little guys birth. I didn’t think it would ever happen, and then, finally and suddenly it did.
He’s here. Safe and perfect. All curled up on my chest so that I have to type with one hand. I think it was Mother Theresa who said ‘patience solves all problems.’ I know it’s irrational, but I was really beginning to wonder if I’d ever have this sleeping little ball squeaking on my shoulder.
Jeff did a great job summing up the birth of this little guy. But, for family history sake (especially for Emmeline and Hazel who very likely could have similar labors to mine) I’d like to post my side of the story. All of my details. So please, as Jeff said, unless you are a female relative (or a birth junkie) you can just browse through the pictures (taken by Heidi)….they tell their own story.
On Monday the 14th I called the midwife to see if she could do anything that wasn’t too invasive to get this baby here before my dad left on Wednesday the 16th. She told me to come in and she’d strip my membranes (sounds lovely, right?). I was a little reluctant, but also wanted so much for my dad to get to meet the little guy. When I asked the midwife what the risks were of this she told me that it could just give me some intense contractions for a few hours that would just peter out. I decided it was worth a try…at least we could relax and know we’d done all we could do to encourage the little guy out. The midwife told me that I wasn’t exactly “ripe” and that she didn’t think much was going on, but that, given my history, that could change fast. That evening, sure enough, I had some pretty strong contractions. My mom and dad sent me and Jeff to see the Adjustment Burrow and I was timing contractions throughout the movie, getting more and more excited. When we got home we talked with my mom and dad by the fire, timing contractions that were about 5 min apart for about an hour. We decided to all go to sleep to see if we could get some rest before real labor kicked in. My mom slept in her clothes…..ready to jump. I was too excited to sleep, but finally dozed off around midnight. I was so mad when I woke up at 5 am and realized that I had slept soundly without a single noticeable contraction. I was so mad I couldn’t sleep for a while…….(and I could have used that sleep for the next night……arg…..I need more patience!)
On Tuesday we sat around frustrated for a lot of the day. My dad did some writing, my mom did all those helpful things she does when she’s around. I blogged about childbirth. And, I got increasingly frustrated. Finally around 4pm I decided that I needed a project. I needed to get totally consumed by some project so that I’d quit being so antsy. So, I got to work. I made some soup for dinner. I cleaned out some things that had been bugging me in the basement. And, at Hazel’s urging, I climbed up the ladder to the attic to help her and Charlie and Grammie clean up there (quite a project). As I crawled around up there sorting through Legos and Petshops contractions started kicking in again. They were pretty strong, but I didn’t say anything. I was pretty gun shy with all the pressure to have that baby and all the false alarms. I just worked hard…and the contractions did too.
By dinner time I was timing them (secretly…..didn’t want to get any hopes up) and they were coming every 3-4 min, lasting 30 seconds each. When we had finished and I casually said that I was having contractions Jeff jumped up and started getting things ready. I think he’s a lot more nervous about having a baby in a car than I am (I think it would be quite an adventure, provided everything worked out right). He reminded me that we’ve always headed to the birth center when they’ve gotten as close as 4 min apart regularly. So, wanting to labor as much as possible at the birth center (I love that place) we called the midwife and Lorenza my doula and told them we were heading in. My mom rushed around to clean up dinner a bit and put Emmeline down, Jeff pulled up the car, I said goodbye to the older kids and took some pictures and off we went, my mom, me and Jeff in our trusty old 1993 Honda Civic (which, incidentally, kept missing and puttering and acting like it was going to stop on the way to the birth center……Jeff was sure it would be ok, but it did add a little drama).
For the entire 25 min drive I was getting more and more psyched…..but was trying to tame my excitement in case this wasn’t really it. If it was it, this was a perfect night. It worked well for everyone, my beloved Doula Lorenza didn’t have anything else going on that night, Heidi could come, my mom was there, my dad would be able to meet the little guy before leaving. It was the ides of March, for crying out loud. What could be better?When we got to the birth center, Joyce, the midwife on call, found that I was only dilated to a 2 and 20% effaced. This was a new experience for us, usually when we arrive it’s pretty clear that things are progressing and there is a big flurry to admit me. This time they told us to just hang out in the waiting room there and wait, she’d check me again in an hour to see if things were progressing. This news made me pretty worried, in fact, for a full ten minutes I didn’t feel one single contraction. I have found the physical part of labor to be so connected to my brain and what is going on emotionally for me. I think all the pressure I was feeling (all self induced by my undying desire to please) to have the timing work out for everyone was stopping the contractions. I left the waiting room and went into the bathroom and just sat, reconnected with my body, with what was happening inside. I closed my eyes and prayed until the contractions started coming again…..until a perfectly still and peaceful spirit washed over me, hushing all my fears. Everything was going to work out fine.
When I got back out Lorenza had arrived. We sat and chatted and charted contractions on my little iPhone app. It was peaceful and still, no one there but us. Joyce came in and everyone told her the stories of my previous rapid labors (I think in an attempt to convince her that I really should be admitted). I tried to block this out so that the pressure to perform wouldn’t shut things down again for me. They connected me to a fetal heart rate/contraction monitor (protocol to assess a baby's stress level in case they do send you home). This was a new experience for us. It was kind of cool to listen to the baby’s heart while we chatted….and see those numbers go up with the contractions. Finally the midwife checked me again and fond I had dilated to a 3 and was 40% effaced. She said given my history I should stay. Lorenza encouraged me to go up and “nest'” in one of the birthing rooms, to move in and get comfortable. The midwife had told me to hold off on the tub till we were sure things were really progressing…..but, when I saw that tub all filled up and waiting that’s all I wanted to do. The contractions were getting pretty intense and I felt like I needed some help managing them. Lorenza looked right at me and told me that I needed to start calling the shots. She told me I should do what my body told me to do. That the team was all there to help me and listen to me and do what I needed. So, I got in the tub and the midwife decided to admit me.
It was just the right thing. I don’t know if my body just knows what to do from past experience laboring in the tub, but as soon as I got in my contractions settled into a regular, intense pattern and I got into my birthing zone. My team dimmed the lights and took their places. With each contraction everyone stopped chatting and sat in supportive silence as I went deep within. All my mental energy was hard at work, managing pain and fending off feelings of fear or worry…..blocking these thoughts out and replacing them with more powerful and productive thoughts…..thoughts about what was happening inside, thoughts that connected me with my baby, navigating his way through this with me. Reminding myself what the purpose of this pain was, what it was doing in there. How this intense feeling was actually just opening up my cervix, bringing the baby down. Making way for him. I tried to imagine my cervix melting away like butter. And sometimes, when none of that worked I just tried make my mind go to Bear Lake and relax on the beach beside the still calm water of a hot sparkly summer day.
Jeff timed each contraction them while simultaneously pouring water over my belly, Lorenza reminded me about important things. Heidi very discreetly took pictures. My mom didn’t have to even say anything to offer her rock solid support….just having her presence in the room put me at ease. Once a contraction eased up my team took turns telling me how great I was doing, how well I was managing things, how close I was getting.
After about 40 min in the tub I had a particularly strong contraction and felt a little pop somewhere deep inside. After the contraction had finished I told them I thought my water might have broken. Joyce came to check and found me dilated to a 4 and 80% effaced….she thought she still felt a bag of waters, but I’m pretty sure the sack had ruptured because things started to get really intense fast. I started to feel afraid of what was to come. I had a few really strong contractions where I had to tell my team to coach me through them….I could no longer get my brain to go to the right places on my own. I felt like I was starting to loose control and get scared. I’ve learned that that kind of fear – fear of what is to come, fear that I can’t do it anymore, fear that I’m going to die before this baby comes out, is always a sign that I’m going through transition. Lorenza teaches in her Child Birth Ed classes that that fear releases adrenalin that gives you the strength and energy and power to push your baby out. Fascinating, no? I got up to use the bathroom, and I think that little bit of gravity really got things going because when I got back in the tub I felt pretty sure that I needed to start pushing.
Wait, let’s rephrase that….I felt my body starting to push with the contractions. For me, it’s not like I’m given a choice whether to push or not, my uterus either pushes for me, or makes me push….whatever it is, it’s pretty out of control. I told Lorenza that I felt like pushing and I’m pretty sure she told the Midwife that she’d better hurry up. Joyce checked me and found me fully dilated and effaced (just 25 min after only being at a 4). I had two pretty strong pushing contractions and on the second one, much to everyone’s surprise (including my own) out came the baby’s head. 15 seconds later another contraction came and pushed his shoulders out. Joyce said to me, “Saydi, there he is, reach down and grab your baby!” I was a little disoriented, but reached down and did exactly what she said, pulled him up to my chest. I’m not sure how to describe the intensity of that moment…..relief, shock, surprise, pure joy. It was one of the most alive experiences of my life. I saw him all purple for a split second and then, as he drew in a big breath and a little cry he pinked right up. I think maybe one of my favorite moments in the whole birth was how, as soon as I had that baby in my arms, Jeff leaned into me, put his arm around me and said, “you did it!” I wish I had a better way of putting that that didn’t sound so cheesy….(why am I not a better writer?)…..suffice it to say, I love it that Jeff is the father of my children. What happened next was totally unexpected. The thing I couldn’t figure out when deciding if I wanted to do a water birth is what you do once the baby is born. Do you have to get up right after that intense and physically exhausting experience and make your way over to the bed? Wouldn’t it be gross in the tub with all that bodily stuff floating around? Would I be all shaky and weak and in pain and cold? Would I be able to drink in my baby’s first few moments or would they be consumed with logistics?
Much to my surprise the water was totally clear, no blood, no weirdness (at least not that I could tell….but my mental state was probably altered a bit by all I was going through). They let me sit in the tub and hold and admire him for at least a good 20 minutes. We all soaked in his first moments of life, examining his little body, noticing his big hands and feet, checking to make sure he was a boy. He fussed and sucked his fists. I kept him warm with warm wet towels and poured water over him. He seemed to like the sound of the water and the feel of being moved around in it. We took videos and pictures and watched for the cord to stop pulsing so that they could clamp and cut it. Part of what I loved about this 20 min was looking up from the tub at my awesome team, all enjoying and admiring him as much as I was. I felt so grateful to be buoyed up by so much solid support, surrounded by so many people who love me and who will have a special connection with this little guy. I wish I would have taken a picture of them from where I was sitting (my hands were kind of full…and wet). I guess I’ll just have to hope that my pathetic memory can retain that picture in my head. As we inspected this little guy we found that there was a “true knot” in his umbilical cord. At some point (probably early on) in his 9 month stay inside my belly he did some impressive acrobatics and tied a perfect knot in that cord. Joyce said that it was a lucky sign. I’ve since learned that it was a lucky knot mostly because it didn’t cause any problems. I guess, during labor and delivery the knot could have been pulled too tight, cutting off the baby’s oxygen, ending things pretty tragically. The knot makes his birth even more miraculous than it was on it’s own. Jeff actually mustered up enough courage to cut the cord this time (he’s been a little too squeamish about it for the other kids’ births). Once it was cut Joyce declared, “No Refunds.” Jeff and the nurse and midwife took the little guy to weigh him and I got out, got dried off and went to the bed to do all the not so glamorous parts of birth like birth the placenta and check for tears. Thankfully they gave that baby back to nurse and admire as they did all that other stuff. He latched right on like a champ. I’m not sure what else to write. I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to remember about this birth all week, but now my brain is pretty foggy from lack of sleep and I can’t remember half of what has gone through it in the past ten days.
I had thought about videoing the birth, but decided that I’d rather relive it from my memory and from the memory of those who were there and from pictures (thank you so much Heidi!). I wasn’t sure if I wanted the actual representation that a video would give me (I didn’t want to watch what my face looked like, or hear what I said). Instead, I feel like my memory of this experience will be rounded out in a beautiful way by the memories of those who were there to witness it. It has been so great over the past 10 days to relive that experience as I’ve talked to my mom and Jeff and Heidi and Lorenza.
Lorenza called me a few days after the birth to tell me a few of her thoughts and observations of the birth. She told me that she thought of all my births (and she’s been there for all four) this was my birth. Yes, it was the birth I’ve always wanted and envisioned, everything went smoothly, no tears, no baby diving into the tub, no meconium, but she said it was more than that. It was my birth in that I knew what I was doing….I birthed my baby. I communed with this little boy and we navigated our way through this, together. I caught my own baby. This isn’t to say I did it alone….I relied heavily on my team for all kinds of emotional support…..but I do kind of agree with Lorenza, this was my birth.
I was hoping with all my might that things would go well for this birth, that I could experience it fully, since I’m pretty sure this is the last time I get to have this grand adventure. I wanted to relish all the hard work of labor, drink in the empowerment and connection to mothers throughout time. I wanted to fully participate in the miracle of brining forth new life. And I got to. I got everything I was hoping for. I know there are so many women out there who want and work for this kind of experience and things don’t work out as they had planned for one reason or another. I know this birth was a HUGE blessing, a small miracle in fact.
Ok, enough. If you’ve made it this far please excuse all the typos, I’m not even going to go back and read through this….little Peter is crying….I need to go and feed him and go to sleep so that I can wake up in 2 hours and do it again, and again and again.
On to the next adventures!