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|09-01-2012, 05:45 PM||#1|
A wonderful, healing birth--LONG!
Background: Two years ago I gave birth to my first born, Nora, three weeks past her due date. It was a planned birth center birth, but after 24 hours of being stuck at a 3, having all excruciating back labor because of her OP position, and experiencing complete exhaustion, I made the difficult decision to transfer to a hospital for an epidural. Even with pitocin, I still progressed slowly, and Nora did not arrive until 40 hours after the onset of labor. I had an episiotomy, tore badly, and had a long, difficult recovery. Even after that traumatizing experience where I felt my body had turned against me, I still believed in the benefits of natural birth and planned for a homebirth this time with the hopes of better baby positioning and an overall better, healing experience.
Two weeks before my due date with this second baby, I had finished unloading the dryer and went to go from kneeling to standing--that change of position caused the end of my tailbone to pop out of place. PAINFUL. I could hardly move for several days and was in a lot of pain for weeks. I was really concerned that the injury would affect my ability to give birth the way I had planned, so I went through a series of (very painful) treatments to get the tailbone back into place. They did help, but even now (nine weeks post injury) I still have pain when sitting. I am going through more treatments in hope that I can get this injury resolved.
At 13 days “overdue” on July 26, after a week of on-and-off mild contractions, I woke up at 2 in the morning, just 2 hours after going to bed, with contractions that caught my attention. A little after 2:30 I woke Garret and told him my contractions were painful and I needed his help. Even though he is usually a slow waker, he sprung into action. He asked if I wanted to go downstairs where I could move more freely and make noise (Nora was asleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms), but I said I wasn’t sure. If this was early labor, I wanted to do my best to ignore it and not exhaust myself by making it a big deal, but I think he sensed this was active labor and made the decision to move us downstairs. He carried a stack of pillows and some other items down and started to set things up in the family room, our “birth suite.”
The night was cool and refreshing, and he opened up the back door while preparing the room. During contractions I walked inside and outside, enjoying the quietness of the morning. The contractions were painful but completely manageable, and I felt best when I walked, breathed, and swayed through them. I did feel some back pain with some of the contractions and was concerned that perhaps Emerson had flipped OP like Nora had.
At one point I asked Garret if he would vacuum the family room carpet, knowing how that sounded like a ridiculous request from a laboring woman, but as the carpet needed it, he thought it was a good idea and appeased me. He asked if he should start filling the pool, but I was reluctant to have him do that because I really didn’t want to get ahead of where we were in the laboring process. He did set up everything to have the pool filled, though, just to be ready.
By 4:00 he had finished all the set up of the room and other areas of the house and asked if we should call the doula and the midwives. Again, I was hesitant. Yes, the contractions were getting more intense, but if this was going to be another really long labor, I did not want to call everyone too early. But, as he had timed an hour’s worth of contractions and saw the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart lasting at least 60 seconds, he thought he should go ahead and call Rebecca, our doula. She answered immediately and said she wanted to hear what the midwives thought before she decided whether she should come yet or not, so Garret called Sarah at 4:15. Sarah talked with Garret a bit and then wanted to talk to me. I spoke with her through three contractions, which gave her a gage of where I might be in labor. She asked whether I thought she should come yet or not, and I said I really didn’t know and that I wanted her to make the decision. She said she thought it was time to come and that she would pack up and be on her way soon with Josie, the other midwife, and have Ashley, their intern, meet them here.
I called Rebecca to tell her what Sarah had said, and Rebecca said she had a feeling I was far enough along, so she was already on her way. The contractions were starting to get more intense, so I was relieved to hear that! She said she wasn’t sure how long she would take to get here, and I wasn’t sure either. She hadn’t been to our house before because she was the backup for my primary doula (my primary doula had gone “off call” for me the night before because of an important family matter). I was thankful I had taken time the night before to write her a long email with my birth wishes and such so she was familiar with what my needs were, since we didn’t have a relationship like I had with my primary doula.
I continued to pace the family room and out onto the back porch and walkway to the front yard, waiting for Rebecca to come. Some of the contractions got fairly intense, and I had to really work through them, sometimes by walking really fast and sometimes by hanging onto Garret’s neck and swaying my hips. Garret made the decision to start filling the birth tub, and because of his efficient method to get around how our well pump is very slow, he had it fully filled and at the right temperature in a short amount of time.
Rebecca arrived at 5 a.m. She watched me go through a few contractions to see where I was and what my rhythm was. She gave some really helpful pointers of how to make the contractions work more effectively and to keep from exhausting myself, and then she stepped in and assisted Garret and me in what we were already doing during contractions, without getting in the way. Often between contractions I would lean over a birth ball and try to rest; because I had only had two hours of sleep the night before, I was feeling tired. Sometimes during contractions and often between them Rebecca would rub and massage my lower back and back of my hips as I continued to feel a burning pain. It was a different than the back labor with Nora—and I was feeling the contractions in the front of my uterus too, unlike with Nora. I never did figure out why I felt this back pain all throughout labor because Emerson’s position was good, but later Sarah suggested that it may have been either referral nerve pain from my tailbone injury (my actual tailbone never hurt during labor, thank God) or else extra pressure from my bag of waters that turned out to have excessive fluid.
At 6:05 Sarah and Josie arrived, talked me with me a little, watched me go through several contractions, and listened to the baby’s heart rate. By this point my contractions were happening closer together and with more intensity, and I had to really make an effort to relax my body through them. I hung off of Garret for most of them and swayed my hips, doing my best to keep my lower body loose and open. I continued vocalizing through each contraction, trying to keep my sounds low as I knew those sounds were more effective than high ones.
At 6:35 Josie asked if I wanted to get in the tub. I had been holding off because I wanted the midwives to assess whether I was ready to get in or not (I knew if I got in too early, I could slow down labor). Up until a half hour previous I didn’t feel like I had needed the relief the tub could offer, but I had started to think about getting in and was hoping the midwives would arrive soon, so when Josie asked if I wanted to get in, I didn’t hesitate! I was ready. I asked Garret to get in with me (he had stashed swim trunks nearby in case ). As I hung out in the tub, the midwives set up their birth supplies on the couches and end table in the family room, and they put absorbent pads on the floor around the room to protect the carpet. I was surprised that they thought it necessary to set up already but figured that they would need them at some point, so maybe they always got their supplies ready right away.
The tub did not relieve the pain from my contractions as it does for many people, but it did help me relax my body much easier. I really focused, all throughout labor, on relaxing as I knew that was the key to allowing my body to open up quickly, making my contractions efficient. I stayed in the tub for about an hour and a half, floating on my right side in the water, holding onto Garret and trying my best to let my legs float free. Rebecca would often lean over and rub my lower back and hips and remind me to wait for the contraction to build before working through it, allowing my legs to float freely (and not try to “run away” from the contraction), and making my body let go of the contractions at the end. Her continual reminders were just what I needed to hear. Sometimes the burning back and hip pain lingered after contractions, and I would gasp out commands like “Back! Rub!” and Rebecca would comply. Several times during especially strong and long contractions I would actually feel Emerson slip down lower. I was surprised and encouraged by that sensation. Between contractions I leaned on Garret’s chest, closed my eyes, and rested.
At 8:00 the midwives, who had been mostly staying in the living room except for occasional checks on me and the baby’s heart rate, came back into the family room and said I had been in the tub a while, and it was time for me to get out so they could warm up the water some and so I could move around a bit to see if that would make labor progress. I couldn’t see why they couldn’t take out a bit of water and add warm water while I was in the tub, but I knew the real reason they wanted me out was to get labor moving faster. I did NOT want to get out. I felt like I was barely coping with the contractions at this point and did not want gravity to make them harder. I remember thinking about how my complaining about getting out sounded really childish, but I didn’t care. I stayed in the tub as long as possible until everyone was basically like, “Get out, or else!” Ha.
(At this point Judy, a woman from our church who was going to take Nora while I was in labor, arrived. I saw her sitting in the living room, and I knew not only could she see me, almost fully naked except for a bikini top, as I walked by her view, but she could hear me too. I am a VERY LOUD laborer—I moan, roar, wail, growl, and yell. I felt a little embarrassed that she could witness all this, but I knew she had seen women in labor during her many years as a nurse, so I didn’t mind too much.)
At 8:15 I used the bathroom but didn’t stay on the toilet for a contraction, even though I knew that would help make me progress. My back was already hurting too much for me to put additional pressure on it by sitting. I walked around for about 10 minutes, having a difficult time getting through contractions, and peed again. I started to feel rather desperate. The pain was getting so intense, yet I feared I wasn’t very far along. I had not had ANY bloody show (which I had in early labor with Nora), and I was concerned that maybe I was still in early labor and had hardly dilated any. I waffled back on forth on whether I wanted to be checked or not, scared that the check would reveal that I was only a 2 or 3 and still had a long way to go.
At 8:23 I finally decided to be checked because Josie said that if we knew where I was, it would help them to tell me what they thought the best move next for me would be. I got on the bed and leaned back while Sarah quickly checked me. She smiled and said, “Oh, this is good!” and declared me an 8, maybe 9, with a bulgy bag of waters.
I was SO RELIEVED. That information told me that I was laboring normally! All the work I had been doing so far had been effective! I wasn’t in for another marathon labor! In fact, I was almost done! I burst into tears—happy, happy tears.
Sarah said that in order to get myself over the hump I was at—stuck a bit at being almost complete—I needed to try some difficult positions in order to get the contractions to do the work to help me finish. She said I needed to sit on the toilet during several contractions. Oh, I did NOT want to do that. DID NOT. But I knew she was right, so I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. A contraction came, and it was excruciating. It took everything in my power to stay seated. I yelled, “I CAN DO THIS!” repeatedly as the pain overwhelmed me. Everyone was surrounding me and yelling, “YOU ARE DOING IT!” I sat on the toilet for one more contraction, but that was all I could bear.
At this point I knew quite clearly I was in transition, and I knew I was being just as crazy as many women are during transition. I sprung off the toilet, said I COULD NOT do it, and practically ran out of the bathroom into the family room. I marched around the room, making people scatter out of my way, and then marched into the hallway toward the kitchen (making Josie jump back to give me way), and pounded on the basement door. I was MAD. I did not want to do what everyone was telling me I had to do!
Sarah said I needed to try squatting now, if I wasn’t going to sit on the toilet, because I HAD to get my body past this hump. I very reluctantly agreed, and with the next contractions I hung off Garret in a deep squat. I was able to stay in that position for part of the contractions even though I felt the pain was going to overwhelm me, but then I started yelling, “I CAN’T DO THIS!” over and over and fell to my knees. Garret was yelling in my ear that I HAD to do it, and everyone was saying the same thing. I tried again but could not stay in a squat. The pain all over, but especially in my back, was so intense. I kept yelling that I couldn’t do it. At this point, in my mind I knew I COULD do this labor—I could birth this baby—but I just couldn’t do the horrible squatting. However, Garret got really concerned because he thought I was saying I couldn’t labor any longer and thought we were going to have to go to the hospital again, with another failed attempt at a natural birth. He did not realize I was in transition at the time, but had he known it, he said he wouldn’t have been concerned and would have known that my saying I couldn’t do it was actually a good sign—a sign we were almost done!
I said I wanted to get back in the pool NOW, and Sarah sternly looked at me (making me feel like a naughty child, haha) and said that I could only get back in if I PROMISED I was going to squat in the tub. I said I would and got back in the water very quickly. The time was 8:50, and I had been out of the tub for 35 minutes.
However, the pain was just as bad squatting in the tub, and I only managed to squat through one or two contractions. Josie suggested I go back to lying in the tub for a few contractions to give myself a little break, so I did that, but the contractions were still so intense. I wanted to be DONE.
(At this point Nora had finally woken up for the day, and Judy was trying to get her ready and out of the house quickly because she knew I did not want Nora to see or hear me in pain. Even in my contraction-induced fog, I realized that Judy did not know what all Nora needed, so I was gasping out instructions out where Nora’s food box was, to look at the list I had made on the fridge, and so forth, and the midwives were running around following my orders. Even then Nora still got out of the house with only half her stuff, but it ended up being fine as she didn’t need to spend the night at Judy’s.)
Sarah had mentioned earlier that she could rupture my membranes (break my water) if I wanted although we both knew that was an intervention neither of us liked. Between contractions in the tub I discussed it with her and decided to go for it to see if it would get me to complete. She said I needed to be out of the tub and squatting between Garret’s knees while he was sitting on the edge of the bed in order to break my bag of waters, so I got out of the tub (much less reluctantly this time) and got into position. Once a contraction hit at 9:10, Sarah reached up and gently broke the membranes. She said my waters were as clear as the sea, indicating no problem at all, and that I had excessive fluid (not a problem, just an observation). I was at a solid 9 centimeters at that point, and Emerson had moved from a -1 station lower down to a 0. Sarah said that when she ruptured my membranes, a lot of mucus plug came out. So that is where it was!
Having my bag of waters broken felt GOOD. I experienced a sudden sense of relief, and I believe I stopped feeling back pain at that point. I felt a sudden urge to push as Sarah kept her hand up there during a contraction to see what my cervix was doing, and I said, “I’m pushing! Is that okay?” and she said it was. At that point all I pushed out was poop. Heh. I asked if I could get back in the pool, and Sarah said I could, but she had to clean me up from my poop first (the glamorous side of birth…), so she did that, and I practically dove back into the pool. Everyone laughed, and someone said, “There is a mother who knows what she needs to do!”
Garret got in behind me, and I leaned back on him and floated on my back in the water. At first, when I tried to push, I felt like I didn’t have much leverage because the pool was so big that my feet didn’t hit the end in that position, but I moved myself down and got my feet onto the edge, and that worked. I had not felt the involuntary pushing sensation that comes at this point in labor with Nora because of the epidural, but I certainly felt it this time. I pushed and pushed because I had to. My contractions must have been very close together at this point because it felt like I was almost always pushing with very little let up between. Even though I had to strain every muscle in my body to move Emerson down, it felt good to push, and I declared that to the room. At 9:28 Emerson’s head started to crown, and I felt the “burning ring of fire” that people talk about, but I remember thinking it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would.
Going into my last labor and this labor, I had two niggling fears: how horrible it would feel to tear and how horrible it would feel to be stitched up afterwards. As I was pushing, I remember thinking, “I’m going to tear. But I have to get his head out!” As I pushed, I did indeed feel myself tear—I could tell it was my labia, and it stung and burned but actually was a lot better than I had been afraid of.
Sarah said I could reach down and feel the baby’s head. I tried to, but I couldn’t reach far enough, but after some more pushing, I felt the head. I was so awed that I could actually feel my baby coming out of me! Sarah said I could catch my baby, but I needed my hands to help me support my body to push. I kept pushing and pushing and felt I made progress with some pushes but not others—the pressure was tremendous. I bellowed through each push, and I must have screamed too because Sarah told me twice to stop screaming (at the time I remember thinking, “I’m screaming?”). Ashley shoved an oxygen mask on my face, which I found out later was because Emerson’s heart rate was going down from the pressure of his large head in the birth canal and because his head did not mold (collapse down a bit) very much. At 9:35 Emerson’s head was fully crowning and then delivered. Sarah told me to stop pushing, checked for a cord around his neck (no cord), and then told me to resume pushing.
I remember thinking at this point that the body would just slide out easily after the head, but it didn’t. So I kept pushing. Sarah later told me that she saw his head “turtle” (slide back in a little), which indicated to her that he had “sticky shoulders”—wide shoulders that were stuck on the pubic bone. She immediately told me to turn over onto my hands and knees (in the “Gaskin maneuver”), which I did, thinking nothing of it. My bottom almost came up and out of the water, but several pairs of hands slammed it down to keep Emerson’s face from coming above water (if it did, he might breathe and then drown when dunked back under). Sarah told me very calmly and firmly that I had to push with everything I had on the next push, and I felt a strong pulling sensation. Later I found out Sarah was using all her strength to pull Emerson out because his “sticky shoulders” were keeping him in. She said she almost had asked Josie for help because it was taking that much effort. Thankfully, I knew about none of this until the day after the birth, so all I knew at the time was that I was pushing my baby out with no complications. With my pushing and Sarah’s pulling, Emerson’s body arrived, and he was officially born at 9:36. I turned over onto my back, and Sarah handed me my son between my legs.
Emerson looked back at me with a rather startled expression, his eyes open wider than I have seen them open since. I could hardly believe how heavy he felt in my arms. A great sense of relief washed over me as I held him, knowing I had done it. I had birthed a child, and it was OVER. Emerson gazed up at me, and I looked down at him, both of us studying each other for the first time. Garret checked to see if he was a boy (the thought didn’t even cross my mind), and he was!
I felt an immediately rush of love toward Emerson and kept kissing his head over and over and calling him, “Sweetie” and talking to him, welcoming him into our family. I kept kissing Garret too—apparently, the “love hormone” emitted at birth makes the mother love anything in close vicinity, haha. Seriously, though, I was really pleased with how Garret and I worked close together through the whole birth—he was able to help me much more than he had for Nora’s birth. It was a really wonderful, bonding experience for us both.
Emerson’s cord was a little short, so Josie said I needed to hold him in a different position so it wouldn’t pull on his soon-to-be belly button. When shifting his position, I accidentally dunked him under the water. Oops. Josie then noticed he cord had already stopped pulsing, so she cut it.
Then she said my placenta was coming soon, and I asked if I had to push it out (I didn’t remember how that part went), and she said I did and that I should feel an urge to push when it was ready. At 9:46 the placenta arrived, and I easily pushed it out. It felt really good to have it gone! I asked Josie to show me the placenta, as I had not gotten to see Nora’s, and she explained each part as she held the placenta up for me to see. I was surprised at how big it was.
Then Garret got out of the tub, and Sarah held me from behind as I continued to cradle Emerson. She said I could stay in longer if I wanted, but I was feeling a lot of burning and cramping in my girl parts and rear, and I felt I needed to get out, that the water was irritating them. As I waited for Garret to dry off and change to be ready to receive Emerson so I could climb out of the pool, what I had done—just given birth exactly the way I had wanted to—really hit me, and I began to weep relieved and happy tears.
I reluctantly handed Emerson to Garret and was helped out of the pool, wrapped in towels, and guided over to the bed. Someone handed Emerson back to me, and we gazed at each other, studying what the other one looked like. Sarah said she needed to check me to see if I tore, so I let her do that but joked, “Can I have an epidural now?” That reminded me that not even once during labor did I ever desire to leave our home, go to the hospital, and seek pain relief. I was so thankful that I could manage the labor, even if it had been such hard work!
Sarah checked me and said I had one first degree tear that started at my former episiotomy site (but there was only a minimal tear there) and extended along the hymen, detaching it, and up one side of the labia. She said a first degree tear was just a skin tear—no muscle—and that I looked great. She explained that she would have to stitch the area in order for it to heal properly and that she would try to reattach the hymen, but it may not work. I blurted out, “Why? I don’t need it anymore!” Everyone laughed. I guess some of the hymen always stays with women, though? I mean, if I didn’t lose it after all this time and two childbirths, it must somehow be intended to stay there. Sarah asked if I wanted to be stitched now or after resting a bit, and I said later because I felt like I needed a break from pain (although my tears did continue to sting and burn, and I started getting afterpains in my uterus—ouch). She also said she found the rest of my mucus plug still in there—apparently it really wanted to stay around the cervix.
So Garret, Emerson, and I hung out on the bed, enjoying the reality of having just had our son enter the world. I tried to nurse Emerson, and at first he didn’t seem to know what to do with the nipple, but then he latched on and wouldn’t let go for what was probably an hour! And he has hardly let go since, ha. While we relaxed on the bed, we made a few phone calls to family members, and the midwives and their assistant Ashley began cleaning up the room. Rebecca went into the kitchen to make us some food and do dishes.
At some point after a while Sarah said it was time to stitch me up, so she went ahead and did that with Ashley assisting her. She used topical gel for numbing and then gave me about a half dozen injections down there to make sure I was completely numb. Then while I talked to Rebecca and Josie for distraction, Sarah placed the stitches. She only had to put in three, and I didn’t feel a thing! I appreciate how quick and gentle she was.
I really had to pee by this point, and the mother getting up to pee is one of the requirements the midwives have before they leave, so I got up with help and walked to the bathroom where I peed without a problem. I did not pass out like I did at this point after Nora’s birth. I felt SO GOOD. Of course, I still had a lot of endorphins buzzing around in my body, but I could still feel the big difference between how I felt after birth this time and last time.
While I was in the bathroom, Josie started the newborn exam at the end of the bed, and when I came back into the room, she measured Emerson’s length (so long at 21 ˝ inches!) and his head (quite large at 14 ˝ inches). Then she had Garret hold the scale to weigh Emerson. Everyone was shocked that he weighed in at 9 pounds 2 ounces. Sarah said she was astounded at and impressed that I, at a petite 5’3”, was able to deliver such a large baby so “easily” and with so little tearing. I’m still in disbelief about that!
I got back in bed, drank the smoothie Rebecca had made, called a few more people, and then ate a bunch of scrambled eggs Rebecca cooked for Garret and me. We were definitely well taken care of! At this point, around noon, the midwives had finished cleaning up and left, and Rebecca finished doing the dishes and left. Then Garret, Emerson, and I curled up on the bed together and took a nap, reveling in how wonderful, rejuvenating, and healing our homebirth had been.
Wife to my supportive DH and SAHM to DD Bug (06/10) and DS Buddy (07/12)
|09-01-2012, 06:01 PM||#2|
WOW!!! Awesome, beautiful story Congrats!
Wife to my sweet DH, SAHM to my princesses DD1 (4) and DD2 (1)
|09-05-2012, 04:29 AM||#3|
Re: A wonderful, healing birth--LONG!
Thank you for sharing this! I burst out laughing more than once as parts of your story resonate with me and remind me of things I did during labor ("I'm screaming?"). What a beautiful story. Congratulations on your sweet boy!
In with my DH, crunchy, attached Mama to 4. Homeschooling, long term breastfeeding, CD'ing, babywearing, homebirthing. Could I BE anymore addicted to cloth?!