It has now been a week since my little Sophia was born. I wanted to wait a bit longer this time before I wrote down a birth story so that I would have time to process it more. I was grateful to have passed my estimated due date (from the 20 week ultrasound) for a few reasons. It was really nice not having a date looming over my head whether other people knew my EDD or not. It became just a simple waiting game. Another reason is that now I know what it feels like and can empathize with other pregnant moms who will pass this arbitrary but mind-consuming "date".
I woke up Saturday the 30th of April a little bummed that nothing had started overnight but more annoyed that I was even closer to being a full week past my due date. I worked a bit in the yard with Gary and looked forward to a backyard party that I was going to be able to attend that evening. It is always good to have plans so you don't sit around obsessing. At the party around 5:30pm, I had a braxton hicks contraction that felt a bit tighter and I could feel a warm sensation in my sacrum at the same time. I told a woman I was talking to that I may have just had my first early labor contraction. I noticed that I was having this sensation about every 15-20 minutes. So mild but I did tell Gary that I thought this was the beginning of things. We left about an hour or 2 later. I texted my mom, sister in law, and midwife about what I was feeling. Things started to get a little more uncomfortable when we got home. By 9:30pm, it was every 10-15 minutes. I called our friend from church who was going to watch our kids during the birth. We decided that instead of us waiting till they woke to my noise making, we would drop them off around 10:30pm so they would just already be asleep and not have to worry about me. I told Bella before she went to sleep that she would probably wake up in Pam's house and that she needed to be a big helper for Leo who might be a little confused. This was really exciting to her. I fully anticipated that I would have a baby in my arms by the time they woke up the next morning....
Things stayed about every 10-12 minutes apart..still mostly strong tightening in my lower back. I called my parents around 10pm and told them it would be better for them to leave now than to have me wake them up at 2am and have to drive or possibly miss the birth. They headed out from Houston around 11pm. I knew that the smartest thing would be for me to sleep and Gary got in bed around 11pm or so but my contractions had gotten to the point that I could NOT lay down on a bed during them. I had to be leaning over or moving in some way. I rocked on the edge of the bed, on my hands and knees, leaning over counters and just tried to find what was most comfortable for me. This was a long, lonely night. I wanted to rest but it was pointless if I would only be comfortable for 8-9 minutes at a time. The contractions did space out a bit in the early morning hours but never got farther apart than 20 minutes. When everyone awoke, I was happy because I could walk around and hopefully get things going...I was pretty tired. Looking at my log of contractions from Sunday, they stayed every 7-13 minutes ALL DAY LONG. They grew in intensity but never got closer together. By the early afternoon, I was having to vocalize during each contraction. I remember thinking that the way I was feeling was more like my contractions with Leo when they were every 3 minutes or so. It was mighty confusing. My dad left after lunch time to go pick up the kids and take them to the hotel they were going to stay in. My mom left a bit after that as well to join them till things picked up for me. Then my sister in law, who was going to be taking pictures, called to see if she should come over then before things got more intense. I said that was fine as I felt that it would not be much longer even though my contractions were STILL every 10 minutes. By the time she got to my house, I was having to really make noise during the contractions. I would stand or kneel by Gary, hold onto him and sing the loudest note for as long as I could. It really did take the edge off to vocalize like that...I am not a person who could have a quiet birth. Basically since 8:30am, Gary had let me hold him for every single contraction. He's the man!
We called my midwife around 4pm or so and I just wanted her to tell me that I sounded far along even though my contractions were not yet 5 minutes apart like we had discussed. She told me to wait a bit longer unless I really felt I needed her there. I did and it was not long before I had Gary call her and say that I was having super intense contractions and that I would like her to come. I kept telling Gary that if I was my own doula, I would think I was in or nearing transition. I had already expressed my thoughts that I didn't think I could do it anymore and I was a little shaky at the end of my contractions. My midwife got to my home and I wanted to have my IV antibiotics(I was GBS+ and had chosen to have antibiotics) It was just one bag so I knew it would only take about 15 minutes to get into my system. I just did not want to wait too long and have to have the IV while I was even more in labor. Shortly after we were done with that, I told Gary that I was going to be sick. He knew to immediately get the "puke bowl" and put it in front of me. I let it all out and when I was done, turned to my midwife, and said something like,
"see..it seems like transition but my contractions are only every 7-8 minutes" She agreed that it looked like I was farther along. I decided then to get into the birth pool that was set up in my room.
It was then about 7pm or so. As I stepped into the pool, it was like my labor went away for a few minutes. I was completely blissed out by the warm water and said, "Now THIS is why I love waterbirth!" My muscles just melted. Since we were in my room and I thought things would be wrapping up pretty soon, I had Gary turn on my birth playlist. I was grateful for the beautiful music I had chosen to listen to during my labor. There was Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Ingrid Michaelson, Enya, Iron and Wine, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Jack Johnson, Corrine Bailey Raye, Sade, and even me and Gary. It was very uncomfortable during my contractions and I would still hold onto Gary and sing a low note as long and as strong as I could but I was actually letting myself savor the experience. I took refreshing breaths in between the surges and thought of my beautiful children, my life, my husband, the incredible love I felt in the room, and thought about this probably being my last time to experience this sacred experience. I relished that when the contraction was over, it was over. I did not have to dwell on it or wait in fear of the next one. I allowed myself to experience fully the emotions that flooded through me. Some were happy, some were joyful, and some were fearful and doubtful.
I am pretty sure at some point the contractions got very close together but once I was in my bedroom, I had no clock to notice nor did I really care. I remember looking out the window at the light and guessing by the light that maybe it was 8pm or so. My midwives sat on the floor, knitting and just holding my space. I appreciated this as I had really wanted most of my labor to be just me and Gary as conception had been. My mom was in the chair in the corner reading and holding the peace as well. Leilani sat on our bed and snapped pictures but by that point of my labor, I did not even notice her. I am grateful for the people I chose to have at this birth...I felt loved and supported the whole time. I had deep trust in every single one of them.
Here's the hard stuff: At some point, I could hear myself getting a bit grunty at the end of the contractions and my midwife could hear it was well. They asked me if I felt like pushing. They told me to just listen to my body and if I wanted to, I could. I wasn't sure if my body was holding me back or if I was just really scared about that whole part. I told the apprentice that I was scared to push. She told me to just let everything be soft and think "open". After a while, since I did not have the overwhelming urge to push but thought that my body was about to hit it's limit and needed to be done, I asked them to check my cervix so I could know if I should just go for it or if I should labor down a bit more. The apprentice did and then in a calm voice, she just said, "it's not time to push." I knew this wasn't a good sign because she didn't tell me how dilated I was but before I could ask her, I had another big contraction and leaned back into Gary. She went into my bathroom with my midwife to discuss what she knew. They both came back together and as gently as they could tell me, told me that my cervix was a 4 and very posterior. My heart dropped...a stinkin' 4!!! (I later learned it was a 3 and they were being nice) My midwife told me that I was having 9-10cm contractions but that since my cervix was so far back, it was over my daughter's forehead instead of the back of her head and that it was having a hard time dilating without her head being right over it. She told me that it was soft enough that she could try to slip it over her head if I wanted and that I would be able to push into the contractions like my body was wanting to. I decided to try some positional changes first as this sounded painful but trying a contraction facing downward with my legs out behind me and my arms supporting me was awful as was sitting on a little stool in the water. I consented to let her pull my cervix forward. I was on my side in the water with Gary holding me up under my arms and the apprentice holding my upper leg out of the way. I had to hold that position with my midwife moving my cervix for 2 consecutive contractions. In complete honesty, this was the most pain I had felt in my entire life. I just yelled my way through it. When she was done, she told me I was a 9, maybe more. As much as it had hurt, I was grateful that I could be done soon and the vision of me transferring to the hospital for an epidural went away. I kept vocalizing/grunting through a few more contractions. The apprentice asked me if I could feel the baby moving down at all. I told her it hurt a bunch but I was not feeling that overwhelming urge to push. They asked to check me again and then I got more sucky news: my cervix had slipped back to a 3-4! I felt like I was being defeated. I felt that my body could not possibly exert any more strength. I had filled my tolerance for pain and surely I was going to pass out any minute. I needed to be done. My midwife told me that it would be best if I could get out of the water and sit on the birth chair/stool.(A birth chair is shaped like a U and the baby can be born on it) She told me that if I wanted to get back in the water later I could. She was going to pull my cervix forward again but suggested breaking my water this time to get the baby's head to hold it from slipping back. It seemed to make sense to me so I said, "yes."
She did it again during at least one contraction and again, it HURT! However, this time, I DID get the urge to really start bearing down. I was grateful for this. I knew that pushing a baby out was not going to be pleasant but I knew this was the last part. I loved getting to fully bear down and save my voice. I was summoning all the strength my body had left. I felt my stomach occasionally as I was pushing and noted how strong it was. It made me feel stronger to feel how strong my uterus was and how hard my body was working. Gary was letting me lean into him and pushed on my lower back as much as he could as that was where my contractions always hurt the most. I even had my left fist balled up behind my back to help with the counterpressure. Jessica, the apprentice, was stretching my perineum with olive oil and Laurie, my midwife, was doing a hip squeeze to help open my pelvis more as well as aid in my comfort. My hamstrings began to really tighten up as they did in Leo's birth and my mom helped to massage them. I was really grateful to be on the chair at this point so I did not have to support my own weight. I remember feeling the burning that accompanies crowning. I put my hand down to feel Sophia's warm head full of hair. I remember saying, "oh baby, baby..." Then I could see that an arm had come out. I reached down and pulled the rest of her out of me and brought her directly to my chest. The pain was gone and I was holding my warm, soft, little Sophia. I was elated that I had done it..I was strong and my body did not fail me.
This was a little after 10pm. We moved to the bed where everyone left us for a while to get to know our new baby. It was just perfect. About an hour or so later, we weighed her and she was 8lbs 8oz. She was 20.5 inches long and her head was 14.5 inches. We were pretty tired so after she was examined and I was checked out
(no tearing..woot!), we ate some food and went to bed by 1am.
In the week after her birth, I have thought a lot about it and how I feel about it. It has taken me writing this to see that although the length and intensity of it may turn many off to natural childbirth, it was a great birth. Here's why: As I recount it, I have all good feelings. I was respected the whole time by my birth team. I let myself enjoy as much as I could. Going through that with Gary has made me love him even more...if that's possible. I felt safe the whole time. I think the biggest reason is that I have never felt more empowered. After all that pain and pushing and being so so tired, I have never felt stronger. Our bodies are beautifully made and birth is a miracle.