It has been a week since our newest baby girl, Fiona Marie Parente was born. Here is the story of her birth.
Last Tuesday, December 10th, I woke up and noticed a mild contraction in my lower back. I could tell it was different from the braxton hicks contraction I had experienced throughout my pregnancy so I decided to stay in bed a bit and see if they were time able. I told Gary to hang out at home a bit until I could figure out what was going on with my body. I noticed them being about 15 minutes apart. They had a distinctive feeling of burning deep in my sacrum and I think I let out a few tears because I knew this was early labor and that this was really going to happen. I asked Gary to stay home and my friend, Kim took Leo to school and kept Sophia with her so I could have a quiet house conducive to laboring. Gary and I had a great morning and afternoon together. Looking back, it was just perfect to have one last day with just Gary in a quiet home. The contractions never got much stronger and stayed irregular so I just figured I was having a longer early labor. We went on a (cold!) walk to see if they would get closer together but they actually spaced out more to about every 15-30 minutes. I told Gary, " If this is the majority of my labor and then I have a faster active phase, I'll take it!"
Around 12:30 or so, I called Laurie, my midwife to talk about how I was doing. I told her I was a little nervous that maybe there was a positional problem like last time and that I would have a long labor again. I wanted to know if the contractions I had experienced were doing anything so unlike my other home-birthed babies, I asked if I could come in and be checked just so I could be more in the know. Gary and I got to her place at about 2:30pm or so and I was 4-5 cm, 75% effaced, -2 station, with a very posterior cervix(just like with Sophia). I only had 1 contraction while I was at her house. She told me to try to go about the rest of our day and ignore things as much as I could and that things would probably pick up in the evening once the kids went to bed.
So we picked up Leo and Sophia, then Bella and went home. Bella had her ballet class at 4pm like every Tuesday and we all went together. I continued to have contractions at her dance studio and they were getting more intense but still about every 15 minutes or so. I think I shocked a few moms when they asked me when I was due and I told them I was kind of in labor so likely, that night. We went to Rosa's for Taco Tuesday like we do most Tuesdays and I had a few contractions there that were still on the more intense side though I still looked mostly normal eating at our booth. Leo had his Preschool Christmas program that night at 7:15pm and I decided I wanted to be able to see him sing so we went there as well. On the way there, I had a few contractions that made me have to vocalize and really focus so I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to make it through his concert without freaking people out. I had about 5 contractions during the time we were there and a few of them brought tears to my eyes, they were so strong. They were still spaced out every 12-15 minutes. I was happy I could see my little boy sing though.
We got home around 9pm and Gary put the kids to bed. I kissed them all and told them they would probably have a sister when they woke up. They were pretty excited. I went to our living room and had a few contractions there while Gary was finishing up with the kids. They started to get very strong and jumped to being less than every 5 minutes apart. Talk about my body knowing it was safe to move forward with labor! Then I realized it was for real and went to my bathroom to put on a bit of make-up(so vain) and change into more labor-friendly clothes. I asked Gary to give me a blessing at this time and it was a very sacred experience hearing the words he spoke. As the minutes passed, I would call for Gary to push on my back when I would have a contraction. The poor guy was trying to set up the room for the birth by taking off the top of our bedding and finishing up with the birth pool. I realized that we didn't have much time in between to talk or get things exactly how we wanted them. The contractions were every 2-3 minutes. Mind you, this was only after 30 minutes of being home. I told Gary to call Laurie and Leilani. Laurie could tell from my sounds that it was time to come and Leilani said she would head over. Leilani (sister and birth photographer) got to our home at about 10pm and I was very actively laboring. I had imagined laboring in my living room looking at my Christmas tree or pictures of Jesus and Mary but no...I chose to labor in my room kneeling with my face buried in the cushion of a big arm chair we have in the corner. So much for having cool laboring photos. At one point when I could hear that Leilani was there, I had a contraction and called for Gary but he was getting the birth pool out of the kids' bathroom. Then I said, "Anyone...?" Leilani came in and let me lean on her for a contraction. At this point, I could tell it was only going to get more intense and my tiny breaks were starting to feel non-existent. Leilani told me to look at her eyes and then told me I was strong and reminded me that I have done this before. That was the last fully coherent moment I remember. I didn't know the timing then but the midwives arrived around 10:30pm and I was just continuing to labor in my little corner. I kept my eyes mostly closed. Laurie got things set up for my IV (I was group B strep positive again and chose again to have a bag of antibiotics during labor.) I remember feeling blood run down my hand and asked if it was blood. They said yes and attempting at humor, I said to Leilani that it was like a Twilight birth scene. I was shaking a good amount at this time and asked Laurie if it was because it was going fast or if it was because I was in transition. She said she didn't know but I imagine now that it was both. It was nice to feel Gary's massage on my lower back along with some comforting touches from my midwives. I felt in shock that I was having a fast birth since I had never had one like that before. I remember internally going back and forth about if it was really going fast when I felt myself start to grunt a little maybe 15 minutes after the midwives got there. I was thinking, " hmm, this feels a bit better when I do this but I don't know how dilated I am and surely it is too early to push." I turned to one of the assistants and asked if it was okay to push; that I felt better when I did. She said to go with it.
The contractions grew in pressure and I was happy to push down at the end of each one. I felt myself start to open and I yelled out to take my pants off. This was at 11:00pm. They set up the floor under me with chux pads and then I realized I might be about to push a baby out. I was on my knees but my legs and arms were so tired from supporting my weight through the onslaught of contractions that I was practically sitting. I felt more opening and lots of pressure and was surprised when, instead of feeling a head come out, there was a pop and a splash that reminded me of a water balloon being thrown at the floor. "Was that my water?" I said. "I thought she just exploded!" Laughter from the birth team. Good job, Sarah for trying to still be humorous even though I was in an intense amount of pain/pressure. I told them I didn't want to stay in that position because I was worried I would sit on the baby's head. Laurie suggested the birth chair that I had used during Sophia's birth and I agreed. I felt many hands help me from kneeling onto the chair placed behind me. The pressure went from strong to "whoa there is a baby coming out of me right now." There were people supporting me on almost every side. Gary was in front of me but I still had my eyes mostly shut. I think I was moved to the chair at about 11:10pm or so and immediately was pushing. Her head came out at 11:20pm and I heard Laurie ask Gary if he wanted to catch so he put his hands under her head. I reached down in gratitude that her head was out and remember almost laughing through the pain that there was so much relief already. I felt her whole head in my hand and did not feel super patient about waiting for a contraction to push her body out. It came out pretty quickly and so she was born into her Daddy's hands at 11:20pm. I remember feeling the sweetest relief that the pressure was gone! I wanted to hold her out a bit so I could see more of her instead of just the top of her head but her cord was so short, I had to hold her on my lap. I did take the time to take her in. I looked at her face, her body, her feet and hands. She was warm, wet, and 8lbs, 2oz of perfect!
Her birth could not have been closer to what we had been praying for. Throughout my pregnancy, fears of the birth wreaked havoc on me and I really didn't want to experience all the pain of childbirth but I didn't want to have a baby at the hospital either. I was worried her birth would be long and trying on me like Sophia's was. I didn't know what to do with the kids during labor, and it was hard for this control freak to really surrender to it all. Well, her birth came after I was able to have an awesome prenatal massage the night before, I got to go to Leo's Christmas program, the kids slept all night in their own bed and I had her in less than 2.5 hours of active labor. My recovery has been the easiest of all of my births so far. I am glad that hers is the last birth I will experience and grateful that although it was fast and intense, I didn't feel traumatized by it. I am proud of my body!