(I started this yesterday, and then we lost power before finishing.)
Today I have a four year old. How did that happen so quickly? When I think back on her birth I still remember so many details with perfect clarity. Over the past four years she has filled our lives with joy. She has challenged us. Made me question my sanity and parenting skills on so many occasions. And she has shown me that she is a good person, compassionate, caring, empathetic, full of life. I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. I’m so thankful that God gave her to us to nurture her, watch her grow, and learn from her.
When I wrote her birth story shortly after she arrived, it was eight pages in a Word document. I won’t bore you with all the details. But here is the abbreviated version. It was a looong labor. 23 hours. A home birth with a transfer to hospital.
Our birth story begins when we were trying to decide where to have the baby. I was scared of a hospital birth because of the high rate of c-sections among friends. As a swimmer, I knew I wanted a water birth. After a consultation with the home birth midwife we felt like that was the right plan for us. When asked where we were having our baby, the response every time was, “If all goes well, at home.” I loved the home birth plan, but it was just that: a plan. I trusted our midwives to recognize a need to alter that plan at any given time.
My due date was August 28. Thursday the 23rd I was up late into the night with contractions about 10 minutes apart. I had been having contractions like this for weeks. With Tropical Storm Isaac on the horizon, the bathrooms across the hall closing for renovations, a fire drill scheduled for the next week, and all of my major projects for the month complete, my boss encouraged me to stay home. Tuesday, my due date, was hard. I was home, I was ready, I was bored, but still no baby. I made daily to-do lists for the rest of the week. If I got anything done, great! If not, at least I had something to do instead of just sitting and waiting. My midwife stopped by to check on me Thursday. I was 80% effaced, but not dilated at all.
Saturday, September 1, I woke up with no contractions and no baby. Again. Being the first day of football season, I suggested we go tailgating. I was ready for the season and wanted the excuse to get out of the house and walk – a lot! We donned our Orange and Blue and took the bus to campus. We walked a total of two and a half miles in the 90+ degree heat. I knew that the next day I would either have a baby or just be really sore! Hubby was really getting into the spirit of tailgating, and I kept reminding him that we could have a baby at any moment. Just before kickoff we moved our party to a friend’s bar. With a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter and our victory secured, Hubby and I hopped on the bus to go back home. We ate a little dinner and went to bed.
At 11pm I woke up to pee (again) and started having contractions (again). There was a little bloody show this time! My contractions were every 8-10 minutes. At midnight I called the on call midwife to give her a head’s up. She told me to get some rest and to call if things intensified. Rest?! Our baby was coming! I watched The Princess Bride before waking up Hubby to let him know this was it. He helped me make the birth bed. I forced him to drink lots of water and eat some saltines. I needed him! I texted my mom to let her know it was early, but this was it.
We watched The Princess Bride again. Around 3am I went back to bed. The only comfortable position during contractions was on my hands and knees. I rested on my back between contractions then rolled over with each rush. This went on for a couple hours. Sleep a little, wake to a contraction, flip over through the rush, then roll back over and rest some more. They must have stopped for a while. Next thing I knew it was 8am and I woke up with a really strong contraction. Hubby went to pick up breakfast. Then we went for a walk and back to bed for a nap.
I woke up again around noon and went downstairs, restless. Contractions were 10-15 minutes apart. I knew this was true labor but couldn’t understand why things were slowing down. I called the midwife to update her. Hubby came downstairs and I whined, saying I didn’t know how I could do it, and if it’s this intense now, how bad is it going to get, etc? He assured me that I would be fine, that I could do it, and that he was there with me.
Suddenly they were more intense and closer together. Hubby was timing. After about 30 minutes of contractions 3-5 minutes apart and about a minute long, he called the midwife. The midwife got to our house around 3:30p. When she walked in I was in front of the couch on my knees, leaned over a chair rocking back and forth. I knew she was there, but I couldn’t move to say hi. I got back on the couch after a couple contractions and finally said hello. I was tired, my knees hurt and I was ready to soak in the pool. She suggested taking a shower instead. It felt good to have the warm water fall on me, but standing during contractions just wasn’t working. I was so tired. I went back to the couch. Hubby tried feeding me yogurt. I had all these labor foods ready to go and I didn’t have an appetite for anything! I asked again when I could get in the birth pool and next thing I knew, they had it set up.
Finally! I was in the pool! Instant relief! I felt like I could actually carry on a conversation. I remember smiling and realizing it had been a while since I smiled. It was amazing. My entire body relaxed. The other midwife on call came in around then. Eventually I felt like I was overheating. When I got out I instantly felt all the weight again. Contractions got harder again. After a while, someone suggested getting back in. I said, “Ok. One more contraction, then pee, then pool.” Everyone laughed. Best idea ever.
I felt pushy when I got out to pee. I got back in the pool and said I felt pushy, “but isn’t it too early?” Silly me… I had been in labor for probably 18 hours and I was asking if it was too early to feel pushy?? I was at 5cm, which really meant nothing to me. I knew I had more time, but I also realized we were getting closer to finally meeting our baby. Our midwife said to just go with the pushes and listen to my body. Hubby sat next to me with a cold wash cloth. Every time a contraction hit I would submerge underwater up to my chin. When it passed I sat up again. Hubby asked if it was ok to watch TV. He asked if it was ok to eat. Of course, of course! I threw up again and just like that he was there with the trash can. Hubby was an amazing labor support, reminding me of the midwives’ suggestions for relaxing. When things got intense I heard my Labor Worship playlist. He had started it for me without even asking. It was so peaceful in that moment. My pushes became more intense. I had a renewed strength. The baby was coming. We were all ready.
I reached down and could feel the head! I had a little conversation with the baby. We were ready to find out who was in there. In the next contraction the baby crowned. I couldn’t control the intensity of the next push. My body had taken over and every fiber in me was working to push the baby out. With one push, the baby swam between my legs and the midwife caught it on the other side of the pool. It was done. We had our baby. There were a couple little cries. Our dog came over to check out this new creature. The last time I heard the coo-coo clock was 7:00, so I was surprised when the time of birth was 9:52. After holding the baby for a couple minutes I was anxious to see who it was! I turned to Hubby and asked if he was ready. I lifted the baby up in front of me, Lion King style, and after moving the cord I blurted out, “It’s a girl!” I announced her name. I held her close again. My baby girl was here. And she was already trying to lift her head and look around at her new world!
The cord pulsed for a long while. When it finally stopped, Hubby cut the cord. The water was too high for breastfeeding and I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, so we moved to the birth bed. Hubby brought me apple juice and a fruit bowl to get my energy up. I was ravenous. Little Monster started breastfeeding. Hubby asked if he could call our parents, but I wasn’t ready. I wanted to be good and settled. I figured it wouldn’t be long before I delivered the placenta and then we could make the calls. The midwives took turns massaging my belly and lightly tugging on the cord to try to detach it. None of it hurt, but it wasn’t working. I squatted on the bed to try to push it out. They did a catheter to empty my bladder to try to help it out. Nothing worked. After an hour we gave it one last effort. Hubby stood beside me and I leaned on his strong shoulder. The midwife pulled on the cord a bit and I gave it all I could to push out the placenta. Out plopped two big clots. They called 911. We needed to transfer. While we waited on the EMTs, Hubby dressed our baby, the midwives weighed her, did the Vit K shot and the eye goop. I just sat on the bed watching the flurry of activity, enjoying the after-birth euphoria. Our baby was here and she was perfect!
Once the EMTs arrived, they and the midwives had a long discussion about whether Little Monster could ride in the ambulance with me. They needed a medical reason to keep her with me rather than secured in a car seat. They decided she could ride with me so she could breastfeed, releasing oxytocin, and hopefully help the placenta detach. Looking back I’m really glad that I got to cuddle with her on the way. She nursed the whole way. The stretcher wouldn’t fit through the front door and our narrow hallway, so I walked to it, leaning on a shoulder with someone holding the clamped cord between my legs. My last request as I walked out the door was to grab my flip flops. Priorities! Hubby followed the ambulance and called our parents on the way to the hospital to let them know we had a baby girl and that we were transferring. One midwife met us at the hospital, the other stayed behind to clean up the birth mess.
We had a very easy transition. We got there around 11:15pm. They did a local anesthetic and a nerve block. The second midwife arrived while the doctor was doing an ultrasound. When it was time to remove the placenta, I received lidocaine and phenergan by IV. The next thing I remember I was screaming at the top of my lungs and I had a midwife on both sides of me as I squeezed the life out of their hands. Hubby was sitting in the room cuddling his new daughter. When the doctor was done, I looked at the midwives, apologized for their hands, and was out. Next thing I knew it was 1:30am, I felt a poke as the doctor stitched me up, and Hubby had just answered my phone. I got on the phone and said, ‘Mom, I’m a little drugged up, but everything’s ok.’ She cried and laughed all at the same time. It was good to finally talk to her.
We left the hospital as soon as I was able to sit up without getting dizzy, just before 4am. I was ready to go home. We got home and collapsed in bed. The next morning we got some good family cuddle time. Hubby kept me on bed rest. He made me breakfast. He made my after-birth bath. I was in a lot of pain, but otherwise doing ok. A couple days after the birth Hubby encapsulated my placenta. I hoped the placenta pills would help ward off post-partum depression. It was very healing for me to receive some benefit from the thing that had caused me so much pain.
Even though we had a great start to breastfeeding, the first month was a real challenge. Once I finally learned to just relax it was (mostly) smooth sailing and we exclusively breastfed for almost 6 months. In all my pregnancy and childbirth reading I had never come across the problem of a retained placenta. As it turns out, several of our friends and family have had to endure it as well. I wouldn’t say that natural birth was painless – it was intense, it was a lot of work. The pain of childbirth was nothing compared to my after birth experience though. The home birth was everything I had hoped it would be. I labored for 23 hours from the first contraction in the comfort of my home. Little Monster was 7lbs. 13oz. and 20½ ins long.
Happy birthday to my big girl!