Whenever I read birth stories I always want to get right to the good stuff. So let me break you off with a little preview.
At 11pm, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.
This is a good story. I promise. It is so good, in fact, that I feel a little guilty, almost sheepish to tell you all about it.
But forget that, I deserve a good birth story. I feel entitled to a good birth because of how terribly, heartbreakingly difficult my first birth was. This second birth was really everything I wanted it to be. As one of my favorite midwives, Pauline put it, "It was really healing. My first birth was traumatic. My second birth was a healing birth."
As I mentioned previously, I was in labor for over a week (sorta). Read about that in my earlier post, We Had a Baby. I'm going to jump ahead a little. My mom and dad had been visiting since Thursday and Friday respectively. My husband's folks came down on Friday as well. It was now Tuesday night, one day after my October 20th due date. The nightly contractions had started up again, and as we had done almost every night, we said good bye ... and maybe see you later! But probably not...because this baby will never come. [sad face]
I had an appointment the next day to go into the hospital or birth center to see Pauline the midwife and hopefully induce labor. I didn't exactly have a medical reason to induce labor. I just had been waiting for so long and I was already 5 centimeters dilated (FIVE!) and my membranes had been swept twice and my back hurt like the dickens (after MONTHS of physical therapy to avoid just such a thing) and I was ready to go. I also got myself this appointment because, for this pregnancy, I had been following a new school of thought:
Do Whatever the Flip You Want to Do and Don't Ask for Permission.
Just kidding, I asked permission, just ... I didn't shy away from asking. That's important! I asked for appointments with the midwives that I wanted to have appointments with. I asked to hear the baby's heartbeat again (please). I asked the ultrasound tech to "make sure" it was really a boy. Twice. (She was sure.) That's me waiting for the ultrasound at 20 weeks with my ominous blue shirt.
Back to the night of October 21st! After my folks left I decided we should probably start timing these contractions. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't time them. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I kinda had this suspicion about this round of contractions.
Jake would time them on his phone and I would often forget to tell him when they had ended. We could still see that they were 4-5 minutes apart and lasting, I don't know...maybe 50 seconds? After an hour of this I called the midwife after hours line. It was about 10pm.
hmv's Tips for an Easy Labor:
- Make it Short. Think minutes, not hours. Boo hours.
- Make it your second or third birth. Get things warmed up first. Birth canals need practice. Practice makes perfect.
- Make an appointment to get the baby out. This will frighten your little one into a speedy and timely birth.
- Let anyone tell you "Oh I bet that baby will come early!" Run from these people. Something about these comments scares the baby into never coming out ever.
- Believe anyone who tells you things will be easier and faster this time. I didn't believe those jokers. Look at me now. Super easy/fast labor!
Anne the midwife answered my call and listened to me have a contraction. I made a little noise but mostly I handled it like a total pro so she was like, "Well, it sounds like the contractions are really regular, but you should keep timing them until they are 4-5 minutes apart and at least a minute long." Aww, crap, should have timed the duration a little better. "Also you should probably lay down and get some rest," Anne said, "I think this is probably leading up to active labor."
Well well wellllll...that was good news. Jake and I cleaned up the living room a little and made our way to bed. I can't recall if he texted his folks to warn them. I grabbed an ice pack and towel for my aching back and laid down in my nightgown, which was also a special hospital gown that I had made for me (seriously!) by a kind Indian lady on Etsy (not kidding, here is her storefront).
At 11pm, after snuggling in tight to bed, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.
When I first felt it, I went, "OH! ... Some water? I think?" And then I moved a millimeter and the gush happened. It was so much water I laughed and hooted and could not contain my excitement. It was happening!!
Now is as good a time as any to explain why going into labor like this was so thrilling to me. Yes, thrilling. Not terrifying. I am a woman who has endured a natural childbirth. I spent 14 hours huffing and puffing and pulsating with pitocin that made each contraction so intense that at times I wanted to pass out from the pain. I do not recommend that method of childbirth. Unless that's what you want to do, then I support what you want to do. But if you want my recommendation, I don't recommend a 100% natural pain-relief-free childbirth.
I do believe in nature though. I believe in women and our powerful bodies and our powerful drive to bring life into the world. It is an incredible thing. And I really wanted to experience that nature. I didn't want a highly medical birth all hooked up to machines with nurses and doctors telling me what to do. So scheduling that appointment for Wednesday morning was kind of a bummer. I wasn't thrilled to get poked and prodded, to have my water broken for me, to get pumped full of pitocin again, and then (yes) some pain medication. I didn't want to feel like the human machine on the end of a conveyor belt of interventions. But on balance, I really needed to have this baby and I was losing faith in nature to make it happen.
But whoa, nature came in at the 11th hour in kick ass way. Once my water broke we were off to the races. Contractions came on faster, and we had to move quickly. Jake called the midwives, his parents, my mom. The midwives told us to head straight to the hospital. Moments later (it seemed) Jake's folks were in our living room. I was doubled over the blue easy chair having a contraction and ruining my cute black leggings. (TMI? There was a LOT of water. And there was meconium in the water. If you know what that means you know what I mean about the leggings. Ick.)
Somehow I got into our car. Somehow we traveled down the Beltline and up to the hospital. Contractions continued. Jake kept talking me through each one. He was amazing. Up until this point, you see, our days had been somewhat stressful. I was emotional. I was incredibly uncomfortable. Some nights ended with us arguing or me getting upset about some little thing. Other nights ended with us eagerly anticipating what our little guy would look like and how amazing it would be to have a baby in our house again. I hoped that the night I would go into labor would be a good night. It turns out I really had nothing to worry about.
As we checked in at the front counter of the hospital I had another contraction. Right there on the counter. And YES, I had the wherewithal to ask my dear husband to capture the moment. You're welcome, world. The guy at the counter asked us, "so...you here for labor and delivery?" "Umm...YES" Jake said. (He loves this part of the story.) What the hell else do you think we might be here for in the middle of the night?!
The kind sir told my husband where he could find a wheelchair, and they wheeled me up to the 5th floor.
The hospital staff flew into action. The staff nurse checked us in while at the same time starting an IV for me while at the same time calling for the anesthesiologist. I had three things I kept running through my head during this: 1) we are with the PeaceHealth midwives, make sure they know that; 2) I am GBS-positive, so they need to run an IV with antibiotic for me as soon as humanly possible (the antibiotic makes sure that the mom doesn't pass this bacteria on to the baby and it is best if it runs for 4 hours before the baby comes out, and we knew this baby would come fast); and 3) I want an intrathecal.
"INTER-THEE-CUL," I pronounced it, and I pronounced it several times so they knew I was serious. A short, strange anesthesiologist was soon brought into the room. Despite his odd ways, he was my hero; I suspect that the intrathecal was the defining thing that made this birth my healing birth.
An intrathecal, also known as the "walking epidural," is administered by an injection into the spine. It generally contains the same mixture of narcotics and anesthesia that a traditional epidural has, but there is less of each drug. It wears off after 2-4 hours because it is not administered by catheter, so you can't turn it up or off, you just get what you get. The no-catheter thing was a huge PLUS in my book because catheters kind of freak me out. I didn't want a tube coming out of my back or out of my urethra. Even though the risk is low, there is some chance of causing permanent incontinence, and I just feel like that would really cramp my style. So no catheters for me. But Yes, pain medicine.
For me, the intrathecal worked very quickly, but it did not obliterate the pain. That was fine. I could manage the pain. Contractions remind me of waves in the ocean; they start slow like ripples, then build...build..buildBuildBUILD and CREST!... With the drugs, it worked more like ripple...ripple...build..build..BUILD/done. No crest. No incredible burst of pain in the hips. As the contractions came and went, coasting away in this tolerable, gentle way, I found myself delightfully surprised. So surprised that I started smiling and talking. Smiling!
"It's so much better," I told Jake. "It's not that bad."
Let's be clear: it was still very difficult and still painful, but I knew what else it could be, and it was not that. Let's just say my glass was half full right then.
So off we went. My contractions continued on and became closer together. When the midwives first checked me in the hospital, I was already 8 centimeters dilated. 8!!!!!! That means I went from 0 to 5 in the two weeks before, and from 5 to 8 in the two precious hours I was having contractions at home and then driving to the hospital. That's fast.
But we had to get to 10 centimeters, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve. My HypnoBabies training had previously taught me about the power of distraction. Although I wasn't planning to do things by the Hypno book again, I really liked this idea and totally planned to steal it. I wrote some up notecards with places and people from my life that I could think about and visualize during the contractions. Jake would read them to me and kind of walk me through each one. So, for example, he would tell me to imagine our backyard garden...think about the strawberries growing in the raised bed...remember Olivia picking the strawberries as soon as they ripened. And so on and so forth. It worked well. I dug it. Jake was a great co-captain.
My mom and dad were also aboard the baby-having ship. Yes, both my parents were there. My dad mainly rubbed my back and told me how well I was doing. You know, dad stuff. My mom did the same, but she also interacted with the nurses and midwives, and asked questions so Jake and I could focus on our thing, and also took some great pictures and video. I watched the video later and it was incredible. But it was weird. And there was a lot of my butt. Like, WAY too much. (No, don't bother scrolling ahead, it's never going to be linked here.)
Since I wasn't completely incapacitated by the drugs, and since my midwives were kickass, they let me change positions on the bed. I moved to this all-fours/child's pose for a while. It was nice. I shifted back to my right side when I got the urge to push. I planned to push on my side. I did that the first time and it worked well, and Patricia the midwife agreed that it would be a "beautiful way to push." Hells yeah. One person can grab your top leg and brace it, another person can block your bottom leg and you push on that person. It simulates a squatting position without the major downside of squatting, which is that it's F-ing impossible to squat when you're having a baby.
Although I knew I could push, I didn't want to throttle forward too fast. I pushed a little...pulled back...pushed again. When the energy rose I started pushing harder.
Now pause for a second. Suddenly I look around and see people rushing toward me. What is going on? Where are they going? Wait, they're passing me. They aren't going to me, they're going to my DAD, who has started to FAINT. Whaaa?? Can this be happening?! My first thought: "Oh my God I've destroyed my father with all this dramatic pushing, what have I done?!!" But my second thought: "No, wait, my dad is a registered nurse, he doesn't get freaked out by this stuff. What is wrong?" In the end, nothing was wrong. I mean, Dad was fine, just very dehydrated and very tired and the room was very hot (my fault, I asked them to crank it). The nurses got him some water and a chair and he felt better. Meanwhile, I got back to pushing a baby out of my uterus.
Pushing is not like contractions. In my opinion, it's better. It's so powerful and all-encompassing and there is just nothing like it in our human experience. (Well, there is one thing that is SORTA similar. Gross, I know, but it's true. As my friend and OB/GYN always says, if you're not pooping, you're not doing it right! Someone should needlepoint that.)
I felt very powerful in the last stage of labor. I felt in my element. In my regular life I take these cross-fit classes that are so hard, they kick your butt, but you kind of love it afterward. Pushing my baby out felt impossible at first; how can this work? Logistically it IS impossible. The reason why a 14 inch baby's head comes out of a 10cm opening is beyond comprehension. But then you just do it anyways. Nature kicks in again and you just try, knowing that it can't work...can it?
"Big push," the midwives said. And POP! He was out. Shoulders next, as Anne the midwife gently looped the cord back over his head. I reached down and felt his head emerge, impossibly, in one blessed moment. (Later they would tell me that all this pushing took only 5 minutes, but they must be lying.)
"Oh! My BOY!" I cried. And then I just cried and cried big tears of joy and relief and an emotion that has no name. It is the thing that bonds mothers. You know it when you feel it. And suddenly you are enveloped into this community of mothers. A community of women that goes back a bazzilion years and kazzilion babies. I suppose we would call it love, but there is no love like this. There just aren't words.
For a few minutes, the NICU staff needed to take our baby into a side room and suck the fluid out of his lungs. Jake went with them. He watched as they shoved their tubes down to get the fluid and waited for him to cough, which he did, after an eternity lasting about 4 minutes. Baby boy was so blue when he came out, though they say that many babies look like that. He did not cry at first, and in the video that my mother took I heard myself tell him, "Cry!" a few seconds after he was out. This was by far the worst part of the birth for Jake. Somehow I was spared, either because I didn't understand what was happening, or because I did understand somewhere deep down that he was OK.
After we were finally reunited there was more crying and rejoicing and talking about what a "beautiful birth" this was, according to Patricia the midwife. They say you get the midwife that you need for your birth, and we certainly felt that way. Patricia brought a peaceful, calm presence to this birth, my "healing" birth. Anne brought the kind of no-nonsense/ you-can-do-this attitude that I like to see when I'm doing a cross-fit class or, you know, having a baby.
You know, it's true that you're never really "ready" to have a baby; you'll never have quite enough money or enough space or enough baby books to make you feel perfectly ready. But it is also true that you're not ready for how much love this guy is going to bring to your life. That was true when my daughter was born, and it was just as true this time as well. I am in awe of how much I love him.
Henry Jones has also graced us with relatively peaceful nights and a basically low-maintenance disposition. I don't want to jinx it, but he appears to be what the others have called an "Easy Baby." They DO exist! Of course, I will have several updates and changes to tell you about in the coming weeks, but for now, we are hopelessly, emphatically in love with our Little Henry.