A warning for those faint of heart...or constitution. This story may be considered a bit graphic or blunt to some. Part of why I keep this blog is so I can have a place to put things down in black and white in the hopes of somehow mentally processing it. So here goes...
As evidenced by previous posts to this here blog, I was beginning to get a bit impatient about the non-arrival of our little girl by the beginning of the New Year. Liam came 2 weeks early, Jonah a day early, and I was expecting little girl to show up somewhere in the middle considering all the laboring I'd already been doing. I knew those contractions were doing something, and I tend to do a fair bit of dilation before the "real thing" kicks in. No big surprise that things were the same here.
The week before the 4th, I had an appointment with the nurse midwives, and we both agreed that we probably wouldn't be seeing each other until after the birth since I was already 4 cm dilated and had been having contractions off and on for a couple of weeks already. This time baby girl was lined up quite nicely, unlike Jonah, who decided to come out sunny side up (posterior). I made an appointment for the 4th with the midwives, and we all assumed that I would not be showing up. So when the 4th rolled around and the baby wasn't here yet, they were surprised to see me for my regularly scheduled appointment.
The night before the appointment, I noticed something different. It seemed as though the baby was looking for the door. My contractions were the same as before, but I could feel the work they were doing stretching my cervix...and I was having the tell-tale "bloody show" that gets everyone all excited. When I got to the office, I was having fairly regular contractions, nothing that I had to really pay attention to, and I wasn't getting my hopes up too much. I was curious to know if there had been any change since the last appointment and the previous night's contractions, not that it would make any difference or give us a clue as to when the baby might show up, and she told me I was 5-6 cm. She told me I'd likely have the baby that night or the next day and that I was probably in the process of gearing up to really get going. Again, I tried not to get too hopeful.
By the time we left the appointment, it was 4 in the afternoon, and I had not yet had lunch. Hubby mentioned Swenson's, and I was instantly desperate to have one of their double cheeseburgers, fries, and a chocolate milkshake. Swenson's is a Northeast Ohio icon, and their burgers are absolutely to die for. So after taking the long route there by way of a bank (hubby was convinced there was one nearby, but there wasn't), we ordered some lunch (dinner by this time), and I noticed that things were starting to pick up in intensity, but the timing was still a good 8 minutes or more apart. I made a few phone calls and let our homebirth midwife know that we would probably be having a baby that night or early the next morning. I was really anticipating that it would be some time in the middle of the night, as both the boys were born in the early morning hours.
By some time shortly after 5:30 we were finishing our burgers , and I had the idea that we needed to hit the wholesale club to pick up a few things that we'd need over the next week. Hubby wanted to know if I thought I could make it through, and I assured him that we had a long way to go yet. So off we went, and by the time we got there, I was beginning to doubt my previous assertions. Once in the club, I was noticing that I was having to actually stop and collect myself during the contractions, and they were coming with more frequency than previously. We rushed through and grabbed what we needed, and by the time we were getting ready to check out, the only line with a cashier was 4 deep. To the self-checkout we went. Hubby worked as fast as he could to get everything out of the cart and through the scanner, which, of course, required rescanning every 2nd or 3rd item. The last item in the cart was a large bag of broccoli that was sporting a gaping hole. I was starting to get pretty serious. "Leave it." A checkout helper asked if we wanted someone to go get another, and I curtly told her, "No thanks...we're leaving now." I'm sure I made more than a couple of folks nervous there that night.
We got to the car, and I called my SIL so she could get on her way from C-bus. I still thought I had hours left to go, but I knew that I was definitely in labor this time. Home we went. By the time we hit home, I was really breathing with the contractions. As I came up the sidewalk, one came, and I leaned over the railing to the front steps to brace myself. The neighbors saw us pull up in the driveway and had noticed the extra cars in the drive (only the grandparents, who had kept an eye on the kids so we could go to the midwife's office), so they poked their heads out the door to see if there was to be a baby that night. Seeing me leaning over the railing and getting the confirmation from hubby that I was indeed in labor, they wished me luck. The time was somewhere around 6:30.
FIL was waiting by the door as we pulled up, on the phone with BIL who had thus been informed by SIL that we were on our way home and that I was in labor. I figured that as soon as we arrived home, he would be on his way out, as I know it's not easy to listen to me in labor (can't think of anyone who enjoys listening to sick farm animals). Bless his heart, he managed to stick it out through the entire thing. Afterward, we joked that I didn't give him long enough to escape. Once inside the house, I realized that I needed to vocalize (read: moo like a sick cow) in order to cope with the intensity of the contractions which were now coming quite closely together. In between, I directed hubby to call the homebirth midwife, and I somehow managed to call our friend A., who was going to be our doula, and the photographer. All were within a 15-minute drive and were already on high alert. I also directed hubby to fill the pool, which, thankfully, I had inflated the night before.
The photographer arrived first and started getting some shots. The pool was not yet filled, and I wasn't willing to wait any longer to get in. The water was an absolute blessing. I completely melted into the pool, even though the water was barely up over my thighs when sitting. The contractions were coming pretty fast and intense at this point, and I wasn't getting much break in between. I was starting to panic that if this was going to last for hours on end that I would never be able to cope. In between contractions, I was still able to direct traffic and ask for what I needed, but during the contractions, I was only able to vocalize. The boys were convinced that they really wanted to be in the pool with me, and Jonah kept splashing his hands in the pool every chance he got. By this time, we'd run through one tank of hot water, and the pool was not even half full. I directed someone to boil water on the stove, quickly. By the time the midwife arrived not very long after this, I was starting to feel pushy, but I wasn't sure I was really ready to do that yet. It seemed much to soon.
That didn't seem to matter, because my body was on autopilot, and I was along for the ride. Within a few minutes, I was spontaneously pushing with the contractions, letting out a roar with each one. My water broke with a big pop underwater, and I could feel the baby's head descending down, and soon I felt like I needed to get out and take care of serious business. Of course, it was just the baby's head. The midwife asked me where I wanted to be, and I knew that even if I did need to get to the bathroom, I had about no hope of making it there. So I stayed put. She asked me if I could feel the baby, and when I reached down, I could feel the wrinkled top of the baby's head almost starting to crown. This was a surprise and a relief at the same time. I knew there was an end in sight, and probably rather quick to be had. There was not much break in between the contractions, and I kept pushing with everything I had. She crowned slowly, thanks to the midwife getting into the pool (which she assured me she wouldn't do for just anyone) and supporting the baby's head as it started to emerge while reminding me to slow down and breathe. As the baby came out, she floated toward me between my legs (I was on hands and knees almost squatting), and the midwife told me to pick her up, which I did. Apparently, my final push was a roar that turned into a long "Helloooo!" to our new little girl. Most of the labor I had my eyes closed so I could focus on what was going on in my body and so I could relax everywhere else, and with this greeting, I finally opened my eyes to see our wiggly little baby. The minute her little head was above the water, she was crying briskly, and she continued to do so for quite a while. Someone noted that the time of birth was 7:23, so less than 2 hours from the start of true labor to the birth, and only about 45 minutes from the time I got home. I pushed for maybe 10 minutes.
We cuddled in the pool for a few minutes and then decided to get out to deliver the placenta and cut the cord. The baby was also already rooting and smacking her lips, so she settled in for a long nursing session. Hubby started making phone calls, and the neighbors were shocked to learn that we already had the baby, considering it was less than an hour before that they saw me on the porch. The cord was very limp and white, and Liam and hubby cut the cord. SIL arrived about 8:30, nearly an hour after baby arrived. I sat in awe of the whole thing and tried to put the timing of it all together. I was completely unprepared for how quick and intense it was going to be, so for the next couple of days, I tried to come to grips with what exactly had happened. The photographer said she got some good shots, and I'm eager to see them as I had my eyes closed nearly the whole time.
In comparing this birth with my previous births....there is no comparison. This was our first waterbirth (though not the gentle, slow birth I envisioned...something about putting the birth on fast forward will do that), though I tried with the boys for one and got out of the water to push for different reasons each time. Each birth has been so different (as has each child), yet each time, I think the lesson I need to learn is the same....you cannot control it, you cannot predict it, you can only give in to it. I also have realized just how quickly the intensity fades from the memory. I never at any point thought that it was so intense that I couldn't handle it. There was the thought in my head at some point that if it did get more intense that I couldn't do it. That's transition, baby. Wasn't but a few minutes, I cried a little (again...transition!), I got through it, and I was pushing. I'm still so in awe of the whole thing, and loving on this new baby after this experience has renewed my faith in the process (which I think I need from time to time). I'm blessed to have had three beautiful, empowering birth experiences. I have faith in my body that it knows what to do and that birth does indeed work and is not the emergency that TV would lead you to believe. It is a powerful, life-changing, amazing thing that I was able to experience as it was really meant to be. It just makes me ever so resolved that the way birth is handled and the way women are educated about their bodies in this country really needs to change. Hopefully I can help a little...and in the process help other women realize that which I'm lucky already to have done more than once.