Here are the highlights of our birth story. This is pretty much the same version I posted on facebook a while back, but I wanted to blog it too. (Not sure if there’s anyone out there who reads my blog but not my facebook activity, but that’s okay.) It was actually a rather “boring” birth. There isn’t much to tell. I suppose that is the best kind of birth. I prefer to think of it as The Perfect Birth.
Saturday I woke up feeling crampy. I experienced mildly painful Braxton-Hicks all day. This was somewhat normal for me. I went to yoga and thought that if today was the day, yoga class would be a great way to start it off. Afterward I went to the Downey Farmer’s Market and a stranger rubbed my belly for the first time. After lunch, I put Peer down for his nap, which always starts and ends with nursing. This caused a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. Afterward, I really wanted to get out of the house. Andy suggested going to Seal Beach for dinner and a walk on the pier. After getting ready, I came down the stairs and announced these contractions were “starting to bother me.” We actually timed them in the car. They were irregular in span, duration, and intensity. Not rhythmic, regular, or increasing– they way you’d expect real labor to be. The walk along the pier was nice, I contracted a lot and got very tight, but it still didn’t feel like labor. The contractions weren’t going anywhere—although I noticed they weren’t stopping, either.
By the evening, I had decided that this wasn’t it. I had just had a bad day. I knew I wasn’t dehydrated, but I was probably exhausted. We put Peer to bed and I got really sleepy, even though I was still experiencing contractions. I napped for about an hour or an hour and a half while Andy finished putting Peer to sleep. I woke up and felt great, but the contractions returned before long. We watched some Hulu, then I went to bed. Andy hung out next to me, reading or something. Tomorrow would be the end of Daylight Savings Time.
11/7/2010 – 12:45 am
I was almost fully asleep when I awoke to the sensation of my water breaking. I was so surprised. After all I had convinced myself this wasn’t the night, now it was. As I sat on the toilet, I made sure the amniotic fluid was clean and odorless. It was. I got really nervous, and I asked Andy to pray for me. I was still sitting on the toilet. I thought that was funny.
Andy began to prepare our bedroom for the birth. The first thing this meant was cleaning up and folding laundry. Labor hadn’t really begun yet, and I began to feel very anxious. I knew this was going to be tonight, and this was going to be really hard. “I can’t believe I have to do this again,” I cried in anxiety. I had a lot of self-doubt and fear at the thought of doing this very, very hard thing again. I was very anxious. I told myself I needed to enjoy this time, because it’s the easiest it will be all night. But I was afraid.
Our roommate Ben came home (our other roomie David was out of town) and we could hear him downstairs in the kitchen, adjacent to where our birth supplies were. Andy wanted to go down and get them, so I made him promise not to say anything to Ben and try to be discreet. Nothing was really happening yet, and I didn’t want to feel watched. Ben totally didn’t notice. I think he even snuck out of the house for work the next morning after the birth without noticing.
I think contractions officially started around 1:30am, and sometime before then, I did the HiboCleanse Rinse, since I had tested positive for Group Beta Strep, but didn’t want antibiotics.
Our midwife Sue had told us that she would come when I couldn’t walk or talk through the contractions anymore, so Andy was watching for that. I was glad that it would be a little while. I wanted this private time to labor with just Andy and I also did not want to be checked for dilation yet. For my last birth I wasn’t checked until I was complete, which was perfect. I didn’t want the discouragement of not being as far dilated as I felt. Anytime I grew curious about dilation, I tried to tell myself that dilation didn’t matter, that length of labor didn’t matter. This baby will come out when it’s ready and God would give me the strength to do it, when the time was right. Reflecting on these truths helped me through the great fear I felt.
Now that the contractions had started, I went to work. I first laid down for a little while, then I started following Andy around like a puppy dog. The contractions were strong and mostly felt like intense pelvic pressure. I labored entirely in our bedroom. Often I would lean my head and arms against our tall chest of drawers and sway my pelvis to relax. Sometimes I would get on my knees and lean on the yoga ball and moan. I moaned a lot, and employed the toning practice from yoga. The only sound that worked for me was “HAAAAAAAA.” All these things really helped me relax through the intense pressure and pain of each contraction. I remembered how after my first birth, I was so amazed at the incredible way my body worked to get the baby out. But now that I was in the moment again, the reality of the overwhelming sensation was coming back to me as well. This was really, really hard! I remember crying out “God help me!” and thinking that I was way too early in the labor to be acting so desperate. At some point I thought, “I understand why women get epidurals!”
I needed a distraction, so I watched Waiting for Guffman. Andy pointed out how rapidly my labor had picked up during the movie. By the end of the movie, the tub was ready and I put my bathing suit on and got in. The water felt sooooo good. It didn’t take my pain away, but it definitely helped me cope with each contraction. Peer woke up once and Andy went in to comfort him. I got out of the tub to pee and my labor really picked up. I had several strong contractions that made me very emotional. When Andy came back I told him that I didn’t want to go through another contraction alone. We should probably call for help. After we called the midwife, I think he called my parents. I remember thinking that for every phone call, Andy sounded so business-like and calm.
In the tub, I pretty much stayed in one position– on my knees, with them spread in a V, with my upper body resting on the side of the tub, or on the yoga ball next to the tub. Before anyone even arrived, I started to grow “push-curious.” I suddenly wondered if applying gentle pressure would give me some relief. So I tried bearing down gently on each contraction. It felt so good. I pushed on every contraction since then. Our midwife Sue arrived with another midwife. They came in quietly and whispered whenever they spoke. I told her I was pushing gently and she nodded in approval. (I’m still amazed and so pleased at how I somehow knew exactly how and when to push– no one ever gave me permission or told me how to do it. So different from a hospital birth.) My mom arrived and asked how I was doing. I told her this was really hard! She helped me through a contraction and then went to talk to Andy. They were talking through a contraction and I snapped at them to be quiet!
At some point, Peer got up and came to give me a kiss. At another point, he gave me a cold wet washcloth (that was his designated job) and then went downstairs. I had wanted him to witness the birth, but in the moment his joyful energy was disrupting the quiet peacefulness I needed. So he played with his grandparents downstairs.
I kept pushing on every contraction, pushing harder and harder all the time. Maybe I pushed too hard, but it felt good. I noticed a drop of blood drip down from me and sink to the bottom of the tub. Suddenly I felt a pop! I still don’t know what that was. They checked the baby’s heart rate with the doppler a couple times. It was perfect. I was pushing harder and harder and the excitement in the room was growing. It was almost time. Leif’s destiny was at hand– the moment of his birth was immanent. Our baby was coming straight down, pulled by gravity, pushed by my body, and guided gently by God. I pushed hard and started to feel the ring of fire. That was an incredible sensation. It really hurt. The contraction ended and the baby retreated a little. I pushed again (by now my contractions came one on top of another without any breaks in between) and felt the ring of fire again, this time more intense, and longer. I roared like a lion out of pain and power. Sue asked if I wanted to reach down and touch the baby’s head. “No!” I shouted. But Andy did. He touched his little nose. Another contraction came and I pushed again, feeling the ring of fire one last time, and then feeling the baby slip out of me and the most incredible release imaginable.