I prepared for the birth of my third baby by studying birth on a whole new level. I studied the safety of birth. The unexpected of birth. I sought out advice from other women who had birthed instinctively and solo. I sought out support for my very real fear of the pain of birth. By the time our son's possible due dates rolled around, I had no real anxiety over giving birth again, an anxiety I had been harboring in a very real way since I saw the very unexpected two pink lines so many months before. Just a week before the guess date, I sat on my couch sobbing to my partner. I was terrified. Birth hurts me. I have an autoimmune disorder which causes arthritis, a type of arthritis which causes fusion. My left sacroiliac joint and a few of my lumbar vertebrae have some fusion. It's mild, but it's there. And pushing a large baby through those joints puts a lot of expectations on them to open, which hurts like hell. At least it did the first two times I did it.
But, after a week of start and stop contractions, I was no longer focusing on the pain or fear, I was focusing on impatience and getting SO ready to meet my new son. I was a beast. My poor partner and kids. My hormones got the best of me, admittedly. I was a sobbing, impatient, cranky mess of a human being. I strode a week past the first possible due date and had already been hearing from so many people, asking when baby would come and why wasn't I walking or bouncing on a ball or any other number of things people think start labor. I finally told my mom (who was idling away her vacation waiting to help us with the older two kids after baby came) that I knew people meant well, but I hated being made to feel like I wasn't doing enough to get labor started. I had to trust that he needed some extra time for whatever reason and he would come when he was ready. I was not "overdue", I was simply passed the mid-range of a four week span of normal. Sigh.
Finally, the night of the 17th, I took note of some contractions. They were mild, but there and radiated down into my thighs. A new development in the contraction department. They were coming every 10-15 minutes but so mild it was hardly worth noting. I cleaned my kitchen and went to bed around midnight. I woke a few times to a contraction clamping down over a full bladder but they were still so mild I hardly gave it a second thought. I'd really gotten to a point where all I could think was, "Whatever uterus. We've been here before."
Around 5:30 in the morning on the 18th, my 12 month old woke me up and as I shifted to get her bottle of water, I felt something... in my pants. I wondered if it was my mucus plug and got up to use the bathroom. My pants were just wet and smelled like the ocean. I realized my water was leaking. It was so slight though that once I was in an upright position, the leaking was completely tamped off. I went and laid back in bed but was so wide awake that I decided to get up. I was annoyed. My last labor started with my water breaking but no labor starting. I didn't want to do that again.
I sat on the couch in the living room and cruised around Facebook and Pinterest and just sort of ignored the mild contractions coming closer together and stronger as the morning wore on. Around 6, I called my mom's cell phone and left a message that I was having some mild contractions but that she should be able to finish up her clinicals at work and to just call when she was done. I really thought I wouldn't need her until later in the day. I woke Shane up around 6:40 and told him he might want to get the pool started. The plan was to tap out the hot water heater and cap it with a styrofoam cover my friend's husband had made for her birth pool to keep it warm, then add more water later when I was getting ready to get in. Around 7:40, I called my mom's cell again and left another message to call me as soon as she was done. I was sure she would need to just come get the kids. The contractions were coming much stronger at that point. I was shocked at how things were picking up, but I still had it in my mind that we wouldn't meet our son until much later in the day. I ate some peanut butter toast and a smoothie of strawberries, greek yogurt, spinach and chia seeds.
My mom called back at about 8:20 and said she was on her way. Turkey Girl was up and dressed and being totally hilarious on her little wooden rocking snail (I loved her for that distraction) and we had to wake Shrimpie up and get him dressed in the meanwhile. I really did want my babies around, but at the same time, I'm an irritable laborer and I can truly hardly poop with my kids in the bathroom without getting annoyed and I just knew I couldn't handle the distractions. Shane was already doing the work of four people, I didn't want him to also have to be dad.
I was timing the contractions on Contraction Master and was shocked to see them getting closer together and longer. Occasionally I would go 10 or 15 minutes with nothing, then have a few maybe 4 minutes apart. I had one as my mom walked in the door around 9 and they stalled until the kids were outside getting strapped into her car. After they were gone, the party really got rolling. I couldn't find a position that didn't hurt when the contractions hit, so I ended up sitting on the floor on a chux pad (since my water would leak every time I had a contraction). I got myself into a deep tailor or lotus position which really opened up my hips. I really think this allowed the baby to get low fast. I breathed through the contractions, lifting myself up off the floor just a bit to take the pressure off of my bottom. Between contractions, I sat on Facebook having a conversation with a doula friend of mine who just had her own baby a few weeks ago (in the same pool I was using, no less). I also chatted with some ladies in a birth group on Facebook. Between the them and my doula friend, I was getting so much wonderful encouragement. I felt cheerful and positive and oh-so-ready for this birth.
Suddenly (no seriously, very suddenly) the contractions were coming about every 3-4 minutes and gaining in intensity. I was moaning through them but still feeling totally lucid and almost bored between them (go figure). I was after Shane to get the pool ready because I had a feeling I would want it soon. I hesitated to jump in just yet and risk stopping or stalling my contractions. I didn't quite believe that I was as far along in labor as I was feeling. I was starting to get a little worried that if it was hurting me so much NOW, how on earth would I deal when it got really bad??
Between contractions, I would stretch my legs out in front of me and my dog put his paw on my foot. There was something so real in his need to comfort me in some way. I looked at him after a contraction and said, "I can do this for two... no.. three more hours. I don't know what I'll do after that."
I had two doozies on the floor and realized suddenly that "shit was getting real". Shane helped me up off the floor and I ran to the bathroom to try to eliminate. I was feeling so much pressure on my bladder and bowels I just *knew* I had to be full of.. stuff. I sat down and had another contraction and nothing came out of me. So I jumped up and got the shower going just in time to have another contraction with the sweet relief of the shower head on my back. I peed in the shower. Ahhh. :)
I had a few contractions in the shower while shouting to Shane to get that pool ready. I was feeling frantic and heady. I seriously taken aback at how fast things were moving but I still wasn't quite believing that things were moving anywhere near as fast as they were. I had another contraction in the shower and basically screamed through it, "YOU ARE GETTING A VASECTOMY!" Shane appeared in the door and said, "No I'm not."
"Oh yes you are!!"
He helped me out of the tub and I ran to the pool, checked the temp and yelled at him for it being too hot then ran back to the shower. I told him to hurry up and "cold the water!".
He came and got me a second time and helped me from the shower to the pool between contractions. I sunk down into the warm water just in time for another contraction. I told him I needed more water. The contractions were slamming at this point. I had a fleeting realization that I was in transition, but it still seemed too soon. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I asked Shane to drop some frankincense essential oil into the water (amazing how that seemed to ground me a bit) and to give me my transition tincture (motherwort, skullcap and oatstraw). Listen. If you feel crazy during transition like I do, I recommend this stuff. I took it probably four times over the course of the rest of my labor and it really, really helped me stay focused. I get so panicky at the pain. (For the record, it's called Smooth Transitions and can be found through In His Hands Birth Supply).
I realized that I was falling asleep between contractions and was feeling a ton of pressure on my 'sit bones'. I couldn't wrap my brain around it. I thought for sure that I still had a ways to go. This all seemed too quick. I was too tired. I really had to shake the feeling that something was WRONG and trust that everything was RIGHT.
Things get pretty jumbled in my memory here. I remember an ache in my lower back, but not wanting to be touched. I really wished I could have the shower head in the pool with me. I really thought about going back to the shower but I didn't think I could stand anymore so I just moved my hips back and forth and side to side and that seemed to take a lot of pressure off my back. Shane was sitting on a stool in front of me, holding my hands. I held on for dear life. He encouraged me to breathe, to use low tones and to continue moving my hips. Any time he got up and walked away from me, my pain level would shoot through the roof. At one point, he went to use the bathroom and I pretty much had a complete meltdown and told him he HAD to stay with me.
The contractions were getting so intense. I again had a moment of complete terror that I wasn't handling this well. I kept thinking, "This is going to get worse! This cannot possibly be anywhere near the end." I finally stepped back from myself and took a deep breath. I pulled out all my doula cards and laid them on the table. I told myself, "What is coming doesn't matter, handle THIS contraction in front of you, then let it go. We'll deal with the rest later." I harkened back to my mantra when I was working through transition with Turkey Girl and chanted in my head, "Today will be yesterday." I stopped vocalizing through contractions and was shocked to find them less painful. I really went into myself and breathed deeply. As a contraction would wear off, I would talk to my body and baby. "Okay baby... come on baby... Let go... open... let go..."
And then I would nearly kill Shane for actually letting go of my hands. "NOT YOU! THE CONTRACTION!"
Suddenly the waves were coming relentlessly. I looked at Shane, wild-eyed and said, "I know I'm the only one who can do this, but I can.not do this!" I took some more tincture. I tried to draw strong, deep breaths as I found myself panting. "I'm so tired, Shane. I don't think I can go on much longer."
I remembered my friend's words in our conversation we'd just had (I had NO idea how long ago that was). "When you think you can't anymore, you're almost done." I knew this. I tell moms this. But how could I be anywhere near done!?
I thought about the hospital. The epidural. Heck.. the cesarean. I shook it all off and went back to the present. I could do this. I was almost to the finish line.
Pandora starting being a real jerk at this point. I had set it up to play a great mix of indie rock, indie hip hop and some reggae. It was doing such a great job right up until I was hitting the point above and then decided to play a bunch of angry hip hop songs. It was really disrupting my peaceful vibes. I asked Shane to unclick the hip hop channel. Pandora then made a real cluster-you-know-what of things. Instead of turning OFF that channel, it started playing that channel at the SAME TIME as the indie rock channel. OH jeez.. my head was so cluttered.. this was not helping.
"Close the computer! Just close the f*cking computer!"
Wouldn't you know my computer kept playing the music for a while? Sigh.. it gave up eventually though.
Anyway... I couldn't believe the pressure in my pelvis. I wasn't feeling the ripping-in-half pain I'd had with my other two though. I thought for sure there was no way baby was low enough that I should feel like pushing, but I suddenly found myself grunting at the end of contractions. I was bearing down. And it felt GOOD.
At first I was nervous. I didn't trust myself. What if I was just pushing because I *wanted* to be done, not because it was actually time to be done? I tried not to push. It hurt so much more. I realized very quickly that when I tensed and fought upwards (for lack of a better way to describe what I was doing), it lowered the sharpness of the contraction, BUT, a voice in the back of my head said, "Keep it up. You'll just have more contractions to work through." I didn't want more contractions. I decided to take more painful contractions, but less of them. So I went back to bearing down during the contractions. Not really pushing hard, just opening and letting the pressure work downwards.
I remember, at one point, feeling like I wanted to vomit. I mean, I *wanted* to. I felt the mild urge there every time a contraction would hit and I wanted to just throw up. I felt like if I could do that, that then it would feel like my body was at least expelling *something*. But I never did throw up.
I was working through wave after wave of these crazy endless contractions. I wanted to run away from them. I tried different positions but nothing seemed to take the pain away (go figure). I found myself stretched forward with my legs sort of frogged and floating behind me. I got a break here and there where I would fall asleep then get slammed with a cluster of contractions again. I have no idea how many times this happened or how long was between them. I just know that suddenly, it was go time. I didn't think about it much other than a fleeting, "What. The. Crap. This is just SO fast."
A contraction hit like a freight train. Seriously. I didn't think or process or plan, I just reacted. I took a deep breath and just pushed. I gulped air and pushed some more. The contraction didn't let up so I did it again and again. I heard a sound come out of me that I've only ever made during childbirth. That guttural, primal, ancient growling sound. I couldn't believe it, but there was a head barreling down the birth canal. I felt him moving through my bones (still none of that excruciating pain I'd come to know with my last two). I felt my perineum starting to stretch. I braced myself for the burn, but never felt it (I. Am. So. Lucky. I didn't feel it with Turkey Girl either.). I pushed until I felt a satisfying POP and his head was through. Shane had no idea what had just happened. This entire moment took seconds, in real time, I'm sure, but I was conscious of every single movement and sensation as if they were separate events.
I tried communicating that he was out. Shane didn't seem to believe me. I said something about his head being right there. I reached down and felt it. I hadn't done that with my other two. It was HUGE. I was shocked at the size of the melon hanging out of me. It felt so smooth, I thought for a second that he was butt first until I realized he was still wrapped in the caul. I felt his face and reached my fingers under his chin where I felt the cord wrapped very loosely around his neck. It was such a surreal feeling, like all time slowed down in that moment. I wasn't really feeling pain, just this appreciable pause in time to take note of my son's presence half in this world and half in another. I decided not to mess with the cord (which meant messing with the sac) and got back to pushing him the rest of the way.
His shoulders were wedged tightly inside of me, I could feel them butted against my bones. I know if I had had him in a typical hospital birth, this baby would have caused some issues. He very likely would've had to have been pulled out of me in some way. His shoulders didn't want to budge. I wasn't feeling good about not actively trying to get him out the rest of the way so I lurched backwards and twisted my hips in different directions. I pushed with all my might, wrestling a shred of strength from somewhere deep inside, I heard that growl come from again, I demanded he come out, that my body let him go. It felt like I was making no headway (er.. shoulder way?). It felt like an eternity. (I'm sure it was seconds). I took a deep breath and went at it again. I really have no idea if there was a contraction involved. Suddenly, he twisted (I hadn't felt that with the other two). And as soon as he twisted, he shot out and into the water, through my hands and into Shane's (who had to dive up to his shoulders in the water to catch him)
His cord was around his neck and a bit short. I was frantically trying to get it unwrapped from his neck to lift him out of the water. We finally wrested it from around him and I lifted him up. I was in such shock and awe. Here he was. He seemed so small (at first). I laughed and cried at the same time. "I did it!" I said, as if Shane hadn't noticed. I asked him to check the time and grab the camera. I looked him over, knowing his face immediately, as if I'd always known him. I kissed him and rubbed him over. He had basically no vernix, a real shift from his super cheesy sister and brother. Declan was born at 11:22 a.m. When I went back and looked at timestamps on Facebook, I last sent a message to my friend at 9:46, I think I got in the shower at just after 10. We think I was in the pool for about 40 minutes before he was born. All told, hard labor was a little under 2 1/2 hours. Amazing!
Weighed in at 1 pound 8 ozI felt something under my bottom and realized I was sitting on amniotic sack. I imagined he had left it behind on his way to the surface. My tailbone was aching so bad and the water was so deep I abandoned my plans to wait for the afterbirth in the pool. I got out and made my way to the bedroom. The contractions that followed were almost as bad as the ones leading up to the baby coming out. I'd heard they got worse with each baby, but I was still caught off guard. Shane set up a chux pad on the floor next to the bed and a bucket. I scooted over to the edge of the bed and squatted over the bucket on shaky knees. One grunt at the placenta was out (probably less than 20 minutes after birth). And it was huge. Wow. We left the cord intact for two hours before cutting it. We weighed him in at 11 pounds 3 ounces. We measured him at 22 1/2 inches, but when he was measured at the doctor a few days later he was 21, so we apparently messed that up just a bit.
Declan's face was pretty swollen and bruised from the fast birth and it took several days to go down completely when we were finally able to see what he looked like.
He bruised the heck out of my tailbone and I seriously pulled some muscles along the sides of my back when I did my little hula maneuver so I was bed bound and sitting on an ice pack for a few days. Strangely, my perineum was in tip top shape. It really didn't hurt or sting.. no tearing to speak of. I don't know how I managed it.
I'm in love with this birth. My third birth and the one I've longed for. I feel empowered. I feel trusting of birth and my body. I'm in awe of how I was able to mentally sit back and very lucidly approach the situation and doula myself through the toughest parts of my labor.
We are feeling like Declan finalizes our family. We feel complete. I'm so grateful to have been able to have such a wonderful birth experience to wrap up my birthing 'career'. I'm in love with this guy.
These are stories from or of births I've attended.