And here, in its raw original form just as I wrote it about 12 hours after her birth, the story of the birth of our Baby Girl. My birth story comes full circle, from an unplanned c-section to an unplanned "unassisted" birth. What a powerful experience, to birth a baby with only ourselves in attendance! The Man said that it was sort of funny to be there with me as I went back and forth between "midwife mode" and "mother mode" as I barked out random things like "Skin to skin now" and "don't touch the cord!" Many people jokingly asked if we got a refund from the midwife, but I'll tell you what, the way she and her student came in and did all of the after-care and my postpartum followup care was worth every penny!
The changeover, from the prodromal labor I’d had for a couple of weeks to true early labor, started on Tuesday evening when I was 40 weeks 3 days. That was when I started having strong and sometimes-regular contractions, with increasing cramping and back pain. I started needing to use my meditations and did my breathing “techniques” through them when they got very strong. They usually weren’t regular, but they would become regular sometimes, and I only got them in the evening. I woke up a few times and walked through contractions during the night, but they weren’t incredibly strong and I was able to rest through most of them, and got a good stretch of sleep.
40 weeks 4 days, I had them much more strongly throughout the day, and I was getting excited thinking it might be that night. I had some signs that I was starting to dilate a little bit. I made it through the day though, and as the afternoon and evening went on I started to contract less and be more energetic and social. By the time The Man came home that night he could tell it wasn’t going to be the night, and I knew it too. I was thankful for a night of having the energy to hang out with my kids and read bedtime stories and just have a somewhat normal evening, though. I got super hungry and ate a LOT - fueling up for the marathon, I think. I slept well and didn’t wake up with any contractions during the night.
As soon as I stood up the next morning, on the day I was 40 weeks 5 days, I was hit with an intense and fairly long one. I had a couple more before I stood in the kitchen making breakfast and sobbing to The Man while he got ready for the day. I was a disaster, and for the rest of the day I had contractions and sobbing episodes pretty regularly. I tried my best to keep BooBoo entertained with busy work like drawing or play-doh, and he thankfully got busy with his toy kitchen and other toys in his room. He watched a couple of movies. I did what had to be done to get through the day. ;-) I did a bunch of chores around the house, washed all the sheets and blankets, swept all the floors, caught up on dishes. The contractions got more intense all day but it helped so much to walk around, so I kept busy. I can’t remember what made my husband decide to come home but he called to check on me a couple of times and I burst into tears each time, so I guess finally he decided it was time to head over. He got home and immediately took the kids out and I laid down and rested the best I was able to.
I wasn’t hungry for dinner that night, I ate lightly and was really starting to become irritated with things like noise and light. I remember getting annoyed because I kept turning off all the lights and it felt like everyone else was on a mission to walk behind me and turn them back on, every time I got “comfortable” some random light would turn on. Of course our house is very tiny so light would shine into my “space” no matter where in the house it was turned on. He got the kids bathed and put to bed and I kept walking and moving. It hurt to sit down so I stayed upright, and sometimes squatted while holding on to something like the counter or the couch arm. I was listening to music, and since I felt such a powerful need to stay upright and keep moving around, the music helped a lot as I would rock and sway to the tunes.
The contractions were much stronger than they’d been but I still didn’t believe that they were the real thing. My husband was quietly timing them while I did my thing, and he didn’t think I was in active labor either. They were coming irregularly the whole time. Around 11 they slowed down and then stopped. I sobbed for a while thinking of another day of stalled out labor. He made me a bowl of yogurt and strawberries when I realized I felt a little hungry, and I ate the whole bowl. He convinced me to try to sleep. I insisted that it felt better to stay upright, and he pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to use gravity to force labor to start if it wasn’t time. I washed up and laid down for bed, but couldn’t sleep and was moving around like crazy every time I had another contraction. The couch is right at the foot of our bed and I’d get up and lean over the back of it, which helped a lot with the pain.
The Man was lying in bed trying to sleep too, and every time I got up with another contraction I’d see him with the light from his phone. For some reason I thought he was texting with my midwife, but he was just timing them again. When I asked him about it the next day he said they still weren’t coming regularly. They’d be 3 minutes apart and then 8 - 10 minutes apart. I remember checking the clock in the kitchen every hour or so, and I distinctly remember looking at the clock around 1:30 in the morning and having another round of crying because it was so late and I was thinking how exhausted I’d be the next day after a night of laboring and no sleep. When I got back to bed I laid down one last time and tried to sleep.
With the next contraction I was back out of bed and honestly I can’t remember why my husband followed me that time. Until then he’d been trying to sleep in between all of my commotion, thinking that they’d peter out yet again and he’d have another day of work in the morning. Suddenly everything that had been taking days to get started, started happening VERY quickly. It wasn’t too long after that, that I started uncontrollably starting to bear down at the end of the contractions. I was definitely making a different range of sounds than I was earlier, and I was moving like crazy around the living room. I’d find one position for one contraction, but then would be totally uncomfortable and would find a different position for the next one. The Man had my midwife on the phone at this point and he was running around putting chux pads down, and I spread out a towel. She told him to have me check myself to tell her how far up I could feel the baby’s head. She told me later that she could tell by my sounds over the phone that it was pretty close to baby time. The only thing I could answer was the classic transition in labor phrase, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” I was finally lost in labor-land and was focused only on breathing and moving through each moment of it.
The Man said that he knew things “got real” when I asked him to help me take off my pajama pants. Within a couple of minutes I felt like I had to pee, and I started to head towards the bathroom but didn’t get far before another big contraction, during which my water broke in a big gush. The only reason I know this is because my midwife told my husband to get a strip of the test paper to see what the fluid was, and it turned black which meant it was amniotic fluid. She was already grabbing her stuff to head our way, after we'd woken her in the middle of the night to tell her to COME QUICKLY! I was still on my hands and knees when the next contraction started, and he was in the kitchen washing his hands. I somehow managed to yell to him “Come help me” and he came running in just as I had another huge urge to bear down. He looked behind me and he realized about a second before I did that the baby was about to arrive. I don’t even know whether I actually had breaks between the pushing urges or if I was just making myself slow down every so often. I reached behind me and felt the head starting to crown, and I consciously told myself to slow down and stop pushing for a second because I didn’t want to tear like I did with BooBoo. The head rested there for a moment, I sort of held it in place with my hand and put pressure on myself to relieve the intense pressure from inside, which helped a lot. Very quickly I was ready to push again, the biggest part of the head was out and I felt the rest of the body slide out into my husbands hands.
He wrapped the baby immediately into a receiving blanket and put her on my chest, and helped me take off my shirt so we could have skin to skin contact right away. I piled a couple of other blankets and towels on top of us. I felt under the blanket and was shocked that I didn’t feel “boy parts” on her, which I was fully expecting. Since I couldn’t look at that angle to actually see, because of the umbilical cord and the way the towels and blankets were positioned, I asked him to look. He lifted up the blankets and with tears in his eyes he said to me “A girl. A girl!!” I cried, of course, like I cried about everything else in this labor. I told him I didn’t believe him and told him to look again, and he confirmed it. He called my midwife back and said “It’s a girl!” She gave him some quick tips about what to do with the placenta, not to touch the cord, and so on. She was already on her way to us.
The placenta took longer to deliver than it did after BooBoo’s birth, I’m not sure of the exact time but it was probably about 30 minutes. I remember that with BooBoo it just seemed to slide out, but this time I had a few strong contractions and then had to actually push a couple of times to deliver it. Once I delivered the placenta we put it into a bowl, and The Man laid down some pads on the bed and helped me over to lie down on it, while I held the baby who was attached to the placenta in a mixing bowl. I laid down in bed and drank my Vitalyte and nursed our little girl for the first time, until my midwife and her apprentice arrived.
The only “complication” if you can even call it a complication, was that she basically flew out of the amniotic sac when my water broke, and left the sac behind, and it “suctioned” shut and got wedged up by my cervix. When my midwife examined me she found that the shriveled amniotic sac was stuck up there and needed some help to be delivered. Massage and gentle pushing from my end with gentle tugging from her end wasn’t enough to get it down, so I ended up getting a couple of doses of herbal tinctures to help with expelling any remaining pieces. The placenta itself was very healthy and intact but Heather was afraid of a piece of this sac being left behind and causing infection, so she wanted to be very careful to get all of it. She sat with me for quite a while, massaging my belly and helping me ease it out, and eventually the whole thing came down. I laid back fairly comfortably on the bed and snuggled the baby while she took care of me, and it didn’t feel like a scary complication at all.
Our baby, our beautiful daughter, was 8 pounds 4 ounces, and 21 inches long. Her head circumference was 13 inches. When I was pregnant with her, her hands were ALWAYS up by her face, and one concern we had was that she’d be born with her hand up there, with more of a risk of tearing me on her way out. Sure enough, she had a pretty good scratch under her chin and distinct red markings on her face, which line up perfectly with her little hand when it’s positioned there. I didn’t have any tears (yay!) but there was some bruising up by my cervix that my midwife said she’s seen when baby is coming out with a hand by the face, so she was definitely trying to get through my pelvis with the hand there. Fortunately she wasn’t actually born in that position but the positioning of the hand was enough to make labor pretty drawn out and painful, and I’m sure that’s why I needed to do so much moving around to help with positioning her and opening up my pelvis. My midwife’s theory was that as I started to push her out she pulled the hand down at kind of the last minute.
The whole experience was absolutely wild and primal and beautiful. When I look back at the pictures from her first few minutes of life, I’m almost overcome with emotion from it! This time around I had very strong and classic feelings during the transition stage. “I’m never doing this again” and “I don’t think I can do this” and all kinds of other doubting kinds of statements, all in the 15 minutes or so before she arrived. It was a very painful labor and I had to work hard with my breathing and positioning to get through the contractions, but it was incredible the way I really felt like she and I were working together through it. In between contractions and even in between pushing I’d feel her moving and I’d rub her through my belly and talk to her as we got ready for the next one. We worked very hard and then it all happened so fast in the end. I felt so in tune with her and with my body. It was just the most incredible experience and I’m still so in awe of this little girl every time I look at her.