Thursday night 6/3 I went to the cheesecake factory with my coworkers and ate very well. I felt very pregnant and nothing new. I went to sleep that night thinking of all we have ‘to do’ to get ready for baby. 37 weeks on Monday, just 3 days away! Slept great till 2:20, felt the baby shift positions in a very unusual way, almost a ‘flip’ and I almost drifted back to sleep, but I started to feel water pouring out of me. At first I thought I was peeing accidentally then the amount and smell of the fluid quickly let me know it was amniotic. Luckily I had a towel nearby and I ran to the bathtub. I pulled my gown up and water was just gushing out of me! Matt was in shock…he said, ‘isn’t it too early?’ I stood there in shock for a minute while we gathered our thoughts. Clearly our midwife needed to know. We called Mary Anne and she asked contractions, quality of the fluid, baby movement, etc…I hadn’t had any contractions yet so we talked about how to avoid infection in case labor didn’t start right away. My GBS culture was pending so I agreed to antibiotics. We were instructed to go back to bed and rest. I showered the water off and started feeling things and wasn’t tired at all…then my 3yo woke up. Great, it was 3:15 am, and the whole house was up. I snacked and I don’t know what else I did for an hour, but Matt tried to rest. Roan watched a movie after refusing to go back to bed, and then my contractions started. I had a couple small ones, then a couple big ones, so called Mary Anne back at 4:30 am and the team was alerted. Mama Kitty was called and Matt went into high gear cleaning and organizing the house.
I relaxed between very intense contractions that were 10 minutes apart. I didn’t know it until after the baby was born but they were lasting 2 1/2 minutes long each! The birth ball was my friend for about an hour, I leaned over onto the foot of my bed (its high off the ground) and tried to stay relaxed and hydrated/nourished.
Then the birth team started arriving. I don’t remember who got here first, but Mary Anne, Becca and Lindsay were our hired team, and my sister Jessie was our Roan helper. They were all beyond incredible. First we listened to the baby, great heart tones and + accels, *whew*. Then after a giant contraction Mary Anne asked if she could check me to see if we had enough time to set up the tub. I said sure. 7cms! Woo Hoo! Things were really happening. I labored on the ball while I got my IV and Matt set up the birth tub. As soon as it was ready I pit-stopped at the toilet and then had a giant contraction hanging onto Mary Anne, then we made our way outside to the patio and the birth tub.
That thing was heaven. Padded bottom, I had a seat and I could lean over the sides (my preferred position) and hold Matt’s hands. Jessie started an app on her iphone that counted contractions and according to it, my contractions were 7-9 min apart, lasting 2-2 1/2 minutes long. yikes. I’m glad I didn’t know during labor how long they were, I might have dreaded them more.
Things were VERY intense, and I coped with the pain by focusing on Matt, holding his hand and pulling on his arm. I began to be overwhelmed with a particularly hard contraction and I just felt a sense of being totally overwhelmed by the sensation. It completely replaced me with itself. I said at this point – “I’m going to die” (strangely I observed myself with the nurse part of my brain and that part of me did a happy dance because that meant transition was almost over.) It was like I had two brains, the primitive birth brain, and the observant nurse brain!
I think what I really meant when I said I was going to die, is that my life would never be the same. I would never be the same. I walked the gauntlet and came out on the other side a stronger woman and mother. Some parts of me did die. The part that is afraid of birth. The part that believes birth is dangerous. The part that was afraid. The part that was an unsure mother. In the moment I heard myself say it, and realized it wasn’t quite what I meant, but eloquence is not a birthing mothers tool, and “I’m going to die” escaped my lips.
I felt the urge to push strongly with the next contraction, and that almost felt good. It was a relief to ‘have a job’ or a focus for the intensity. I could feel my baby moving down quickly and I got a little afraid I’d deliver TOO quickly and blow the baby out. Mary Anne and Becca must have had the same thought because Mary Anne told me to try to push gently. They were providing counter pressure against the baby’s head. I lifted my bottom out of the water with the next contraction and the baby’s head came out. Ring of fire indeed! It didn’t last very long though. Mary Anne asked me to keep pushing even though the contraction was over and I felt a shoulder come out, and then the baby turned and the second shoulder emerged and then the relief of the chest and legs coming out. What an incredible feeling.
Words cannot describe how primal, connected and elated I felt. I was completely out of and inside my body simultaneously. I observed it all with my mind and was totally overwhelmed by the sensations at the same time. I was lost in the moment and Mary Anne’s voice penetrated my fog, she asked me to grab my baby. I did, and turned, keeping the baby above water. The head and body came out above the water so the birth wasn’t technically a water birth I guess. I held this slimy creature covered in vernix to my chest with a towel, wiped goo from the mouth and stared into those ancient and brand new eyes. Mary Anne was concerning herself with the cord and placenta which was already starting to detach, while Becca suctioned some a lot of fluid from the baby’s mouth. After almost a minute, I thought to look the baby over and was SHOCKED to see she was a girl! I was totally prepared for a boy…We didn’t look on ultrasound, but I KNEW it was a boy. I hoped for a girl, a sister for my son and ‘the millionaire’s dream’, but just didn’t really see that happening for some strange reason. We were shocked and on cloud 9! Becca gave me some O2 to hold for blow by, the baby needed to be a tad pinker, but was breathing great and transitioning very well. My placenta partially detached and cord stopped pulsing so Matt and Roan cut the cord. I was bleeding pretty heavily so we got me out of the tub to the bedroom to deal with the placenta.
Mary Anne took great care of me, and I’m grateful to her for getting my placenta out and stopping my bleeding. The placenta was small by my standards, just salad plate size, and the cord seemed small to me too, about 3/4′ in diameter. Compared to my 5lb placenta and 1 1/2’cord of my son, this looked puny. Mary Anne reassured me it looked normal, though there was an area of calcification that caused my placenta to ‘stick’ to my uterine wall and cause trouble. She said my placenta looked a little older than it should have compared to the baby’s gestational age. That was the only thing that wasn’t normal about the birth. I received pitocin IV to slow my bleeding, and tried to eat and drink.
The postpartum course was strange, I started throwing up during the strong after pains and couldn’t keep down fluids for about 10 hours, but zofran, pain medicine and time healed me and the next night I ate steak and spinach salad to jump start my healing and blood replacement. My baby girl is a champ nurser, very strong. To say we are both doing great would be an understatement. My life as a woman and mother feels complete, I am satisfied by my ability to birth my baby my way in a very profound way. Home birthers get criticised for valuing the birth ‘experience’ over the health of the baby. They are the same thing I say. My baby is definitely benefiting from having a joyous, calm, loving first day. She wasn’t subjected to any painful procedures for hours, she felt loved and comfortable in her first critical moments. A healthy birth makes a healthy mother/baby duo. You can’t have one without the other, and it all starts at home.