|"It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."- Charles Dickens|
At about 10:15 on Friday night I was sitting on the couch in the basement watching a movie with Jared. I felt a sharp punch to my cervix and then a pop like a water balloon popping. I felt a little trickle so I got up and ran to the bathroom as water poured down my leg. As soon as I got to the bathroom and realized that my water had broken my body started shaking involuntarily. It must have been either hormones or nerves although I didn't really feel nervous at the time - just kind of surprised that I was actually going to have a baby that night. I had thought for a while that the baby might come early but it was still a bit surprising to be a full week early. I went upstairs to be in my own room and started to get things ready for the birth. Jared said he would take care of it all and told me to just rest. But I was shaking so much I couldn't rest even when I was lying down, so I said I'd rather be up and moving around. Jared called the midwife to tell her to my water broken and she said to call back when I started having contractions, probably in a couple of hours. Jared and I sort of scoffed at that - I was hoping and expecting I'd be done in a couple of hours! (I had such a fast labor with Piper - 4 hours total, with the first 2 hours being no more than mild cramping.) I started having some contractions within about 30 minutes. They were really mild at first, but by 11:30 were coming more consistently, so Jared texted the midwife to let her know we were ready for her.
I've heard that some women like to labor sitting on the toilet but I never thought I would do that. It just sounded kind of gross to me. But because my water had broken, every time I had a contraction amniotic fluid would leak out so it was easiest to just stay seated on the toilet. This was also convenient because I had to pee every 5 minutes. The contractions hurt much more if my bladder was not completely empty. Eventually I turned around backwards on the toilet so I could rest my arms on the tank and lean over. I was so tired because I was still shaking constantly. I couldn't rest even between my contractions. I was listening to Hypnobabies, which helped my mental state, but I just couldn't control my body. I asked Jared to rub my lower back. I've never had much back pain in my labors before but this time I felt a lot of pressure in my lower back. At one point Jared left the room to let the midwife in. I was still leaning over the back of the toilet with my earbuds in and my eyes closed. I sensed someone returned to the room and put their hands on my back; I noticed right away they weren't Jared's hands, but I didn't care whose they were. For about 5 minutes, I didn't bother to turn around and see who it was (it was Rebecca). I knew Rebecca was the midwife on call, but because she isn't licensed yet (she just graduated from midwifery school) one of the other 2 midwives was going to come, too, and I didn't know who would get there first. Kari, the other midwife, arrived a few minutes later.
My legs started to fall asleep from being seated for so long so I stood up to try different positions. I paced the bathroom, leaned over on the birth ball, leaned against the door frame of the bathroom with a fan in my face. I started to wonder why my labor was taking so long. I was still expecting it to go faster than Piper's. I could tell the baby was posterior because I could feel limbs towards the front of my belly. I wondered if the baby's position might be prolonging labor, so I asked the midwife what I should do. She gave me a few ideas of positions to try. I got on my hands and knees and Jared stood over me, holding a long sheet under my belly and gently swaying my belly back and forth. Next, I tried a really awkward position in the pool with my knees on the ground and the tops of my feet resting on one edge of the pool and my arms leaning on the opposite edge. Basically, my body made a v-shape. Rebecca came over and felt the water and said it would need to be warmer for the actual birth so Jared started adding more hot water. But I was too hot so I had to get out. I tried a few more position changes like leaning on the ball and pacing the room. I also did the lift-and-tuck through about 10 contractions. While standing, I put my hands under my belly and lifted up while tucking my tailbone through each contraction. This is supposed to encourage baby to rotate, but it also puts a LOT more pressure on the cervix - good for moving things along, but also pretty painful. At one point, Rebecca asked me where I was feeling my contractions and I said "my cervix!" That's such a unique and curious feeling - really unlike anything else. Kari suggested I try the shower, so I did that until I got too hot again. As much as I wanted to just lie down, I also wanted to speed things along so I did a lot of upright positions.
Finally, I was so exhausted I decided to lay on the bed for just a few minutes. I laid there for a few contractions and noticed that the contractions were starting to feel pushy. So I decided to get in the tub. It was 3:05 AM. I started on my hands and knees but soon got into more of a squat. Rebecca knew I wanted to catch the baby myself so she showed me what kind of position would make that the easiest - squatting with one of my legs out to the side (like a deep sideways lunge). I put a couple fingers in my birth canal to feel how close the head was - it was right there! I knew I was ready to start pushing. With my fingers, I could feel the head descend during each push and then recede a bit. On one of the contractions I felt the head almost crown and then go back. Rebecca said "don't fear it." That was helpful, because I think I was a little afraid of what was coming. I remembered the"ring of fire" sensation with Piper's birth and how much it stung. But I decided to give it my all on the next contraction and get it over with. With the next contraction, I pushed the head to crowning. This time it didn't recede. That is a strange feeling to have the head almost sticking out for a 3 minutes while waiting for the next contraction. But it didn't sting this time! At this point I needed to lean back so that I would be able to pull the baby up out of the water. I didn't feel like I could sit down though (there was a head down there!), so I sort of leaned back on my hands. On the next contraction, at 3:25 AM, I pushed the baby all the way out - head and body came all at once - and then sat back and quickly grabbed baby out of the water and pulled it to my chest. It was such a relief to get the head out!!! The best pain relief for labor is birth - it's complete and instantaneous.
The first thing I did was look to see what we had - it was a girl! I was so exhausted I was still breathing hard, panting really. For the next 10 minutes, I held the baby, rubbing her back and admiring the very thick coat of vernix. Rebecca asked if we wanted to cut the cord yet. I waited a couple more minutes and then said "okay let's cut it. I want to get this placenta out." It was starting to descend and I was feeling the fullness of it in my birth canal. Jared cut the cord and took the baby skin to skin. I sat back up to squatting and pushed one time and got the placenta out. I remember grunting through that push because of the pressure and fullness and the midwife said "this one doesn't have bones." I moved to the bed and Jared brought the baby to me. I was still shaking hard at this point and was exhausted but I was just so so relieved that it was over. And so excited that I finally had my baby in my arms! And thrilled it was a girl!
There's definitely some pain associated with childbirth, but the overarching feeling I experienced with this labor was fatigue. I've never been so tired. My legs and butt muscles hurt for days afterwards because of the hours of shaking. Of course it was all worth it, though. Those afterpains on the other hand...I could do without. If anything scares me away from having more kids, it's knowing that afterpains get worse with each baby. They nearly brought me to tears this time.
A couple other things I want to remember:
Around 2:30 AM, Rebecca asked if she could check my cervix. I thought about it for a few minutes and then said I would let her, but I didn't want to be told how far I was dilated because I was worried I'd be discouraged if I wasn't as far along as I'd hoped. She did the exam and told me I was progressing nicely and that baby was positioned well and was not posterior anymore. After the birth was over, I asked her how far I had been dilated and she said 4 cm, though I quickly stretched to 6 cm as she was doing the exam. With all the contractions I had in the weeks prior to the birth, I figured I'd be already be 4 cm when labor began. I was so glad I hadn't heard those numbers in the moment! But little did I know I'd have a baby in my arms in less than an hour.
My coping strategies for this labor were different than my previous labors. I was so antsy this time. I changed positions a lot and was upright as much as possible. One of the cues that really helped from Hypnobabies was the phrase "every pressure wave is like a strong, warm hug." It really did help to imagine the contractions (pressure waves) as hugs. There was also another cue about welcoming each pressure wave. I latched onto that one as well. I was so anxious for labor to be over that I really did welcome each contraction. Rather than being afraid of the next one, I'd psych myself up for another one to come on, because each contraction got me closer to the end.
Pushing was such a relief. With my first birth, I got an epidural right before I started pushing, so I had to be directed when and how long to push, but I had no sense of how much progress I was making. With my second birth, I never once consciously pushed (other than when birthing the placenta). My body just...expelled the baby on its own and I never had the urge to help it along. This time, as soon as I felt the contractions change to expulsive contractions (what my former childbirth class teacher referred to as "reverse dry heaves") I had the urge to push...hard. And when I pushed, the contraction hurt much less. It's interesting how each labor and birth can be so different.