Before you start reading be forewarned: This is a birth story. It’s not the most graphic birth story I’ve ever read but if you are squeamish about such things you may want to consider this post dead to you.
Forty one weeks and a day. My mama had gone home 4 days earlier. Contingency plan after contingency plan for child care had been made and passed by. I became more uncomfortable with every passing hour. Aches and cramps that I knew would never get any better until the elusive magic of labor intervened.
I called my midwife. She was cheerful, “So you want to try to do something?” she asked. “Yes!” I said “anything!” her suggestion was castor oil. I rethought the “anything.”
As much as I wanted to have that baby already, I knew I didn’t want to start labor by making myself ill. Hypnobirthing is calm, peaceful, serene. There’s no way I’d be able to get my focus with my body already working to expel castor oil from my system. So I told her I was thinking of trying acupuncture. “Yes!” she said. “If you’re willing to do acupuncture that’s a great way to go.” Apparently most women would rather give themselves diarrhea than have needles inserted into their feet and ankles.
Moriah, my doula has a friend who’s an acupuncturist so she set up the appointment for me. We drove across town, I lumbered into the office and soon enough I was lying on a table in a dark room with porcupine feet and instructions to relax.
The worst part of the whole thing was lying there. If you’ve been forty one weeks pregnant before, or even just forty or thirty-something weeks you know that on your back is not a comfortable place to be. The Dr had cushions and rolled up towels and whatnot strategically arranged to support me so I could lie comfortably during the treatment, and it worked for a while but after fifteen minutes or so, my baby girth was seriously inhibiting my breathing.
I lay there counting heart beats and listening for the timer that meant my treatment was through and the Dr would come back and help me up. I would have shifted my position somehow but I didn’t exactly know where the needles were (The only ones I could feel were in my pinky toes) and I thought likely I’d disturb them if I rolled over. He was surprised to see me craning my head toward the door waiting when he came in. “You’re waiting for me?” he asked. “Yes,” I said “it’s hot and I can’t breathe”
I was disappointed to learn that the acupuncture wouldn’t send me straight into labor. It triggered the hormones but I’d still have to wait a few hours for those hormones to circulate through my system and push my body into labor. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I’d been not in labor for weeks at that point so continuing on in that state was a dreary non-surprise. Still the Dr. assured me he’d never had anyone come back for a second treatment. Every woman he’d ever treated had gone into labor within 24 hours.
We picked up the children from the most recent unused contingency plan and went home. Moriah called to check on me later in the evening and I told her we were just putting the kids to bed, and then going to bed ourselves hoping not to make it through another night.
At 1:00 am I woke up to the welcome joy of a contraction. This had happened a time or two in the days before. I’d wake up, feel the contraction and jubilantly check the clock thinking it was finally time and then wake up again an hour or two later having fallen asleep waiting for the follow up contraction that never came. This time though, I timed them. One. Two. Then another! Five minutes apart. Finally! I woke The Mr. told him to make the phone calls and put my hypnobirthing CD “rainbow relaxation” on repeat. Then I rolled over, tucked in and slept for awhile as my body continued to labor.
Soon I heard the midwives(Sue and Selena) and Moriah arrive. Sue came in to listen to the baby and asked me what time I’d woken up and how close the contractions were. They were so gentle at that point I was worried I’d called a false alarm but Moriah assured me no one felt like their time was being wasted and on we went.
I wasn’t feeling sleepy anymore so I got out of bed and walked around the house a bit. I never thought I’d be able to maintain the level of relaxation needed to stay comfortable during labor without being perfectly still in bed, but I did. I moved around the house, from the rocking chair into the kitchen and back with frequent potty breaks. if a contraction came wile I was walking I would just stop and breathe through before continuing on to wherever I was going. I was comfortable, relaxed and overjoyed to finally be in labor and having the gentle dream like experience I’d always believed possible but never managed to attain.
A birthing tub had been inflated and waiting for weeks, tipped on it’s side in front of the closet door in my bedroom. A reminder every time it had to be rolled aside to access the closet that the baby was coming…someday.
More than once when I mentioned home birth people told me of their crazy friends who’s had babies in a blow-up tub in their dining room. In those situations I chose to smile and nod rather than tell them they’d just described the basics of my birth plan.
The time had finally come. The tub was filled with water and in I climbed. The contractions were getting a little stronger now and the tub was sublimely comfortable. I was also starting to get a little antsy. I knew it had been a few hours at least and as mellow as it was, I still didn’t want to carry on hour after hour like I’d done with Zizza.(13 of them to get her) I’d talked with Sue about breaking my water, and Moriah (who’s been with me for all three births) knew that really helped me with Enzo and suggested this might be the time.
First Selena tried, but I make a very tough amniotic sac (hence the 10 hours at 7+ cm with waters intact with Ziz) plus it was plastered straight against Duke’s head with no bulging so she turned the job over to Sue.
With the waters released things intensified and I had to close my eyes and keep my focus. Soon enough ( I have no idea how long it actually was) I was in the throes of transition. All the mellow serenity I’d maintained through the bulk of labor was gone and it was all I could do to keep my head. Between contractions I noticed a few amusing things and distracted myself with the jokes. Like the “No Diving” sign on the side of the birthing tub. Really? The thing is two feet deep, there’s a problem with diving? Or the fact that Sue had borrowed a t-shirt after her’s got wet while breaking my water. She was wearing the one of the Mr’s that reads “Monkeys steal my underwear at night”
As I got louder, fidgety-er and less in control I told myself this was a good thing. This meant it was almost through. I noticed Sue and Selena moving into position and getting things ready as they recognized the signs that I was nearly there. I was both relieved and annoyed to see them preparing. The relief was a rational thing to feel at that point, the annoyance I’ll chalk up to crazy labor stuff.
I fought to keep my voice low. Moans rather than screams. Screaming tenses the body and slows down the process. Not to mention being extremely unpleasant. When the contractions let up I centered myself and prepared for the next round. I tried settling myself into a new position but as soon as a contraction came I flopped right back to the way I’d been. “It’s worse!” I yelled “Everything is WORSE!” I also remember bellowing “WHY ISN’T IT OVER?!”
The next contraction came and I was freaking out. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to position my body to get through this one. That’s when the Mr dove (No diving!) into the tub and scooped me up. I relaxed (as much as possible) into him and made it through. I was finally feeling Duke engaged in my pelvis. Hallelujah! It’s so much more bearable once you can feel the baby. Selena asked me then If I wanted her to check the baby’s station I said “No” I didn’t need that kind of help anymore. I knew right where he was. “That’s a baby” I said as I felt him move down.
So I pushed, and I pushed and “Slow down!” Sue said “You don’t want to tear,” so I slowed down but even still, here he came and there he was! All fat and round and brown hair! I’d imagined brown hair. “It’s you!” I thought as I recognized my baby boy.
Out loud I said, “I am NEVER doing that again!” (I was referring more to pregnancy than to labor though we do have to consider that transition was very fresh in my memory at the time)
It was 4:59 a.m. The rough phase had only lasted seven minutes.
I held him leaned against my knee as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Again, just like with Enz the cord was extra fat and so short the babe couldn’t reach past my belly button. “I think I’ll give you a 10 on the Apgar scale, ” Sue said to my healthy 8 pound 10 ounce boy. “His first perfect score!” I thought. “Way to go baby!”
Soon enough we were all clean, dry and snuggled into my big bed and just in time because MooMoo was awake and down she came to see us with Ziz and Enz not far behind. What a treat to wake up to a new baby brother. I remember what it’s like to meet a new brother, how sweet to see it happen for them.
The whirlwind wound down. The midwives packed up, Moriah said good bye and the Mr Took the kids out for breakfast. I lay down again, in my bed right where I started earlier that morning. This time with my baby Duke snuggled in my arms. I looked into his perfect little face and said “We did it baby. You and me. We did it together.”