A good birth story almost always spans the course of several days. Rarely does it happen in the dramatic instantaneous way you see it on sitcoms. Especially for me! It has always taken a good nudge to get my body to let these babies out. Maybe I’m just a 42+ weeker, maybe I’m too laid back about child birth, maybe I just have a really strong cervix.
SO, you already know the week’s activities with midwife coming, herbs being taken, membranes being stripped, miles being trotted, stairs being climbed… and after four days I gave up. The good thing about natural “induction” is that your body will simply NOT respond if it’s not time. I responded great, at first, and made it about half way. When the midwife left me on that Friday, I was 6 cm dilated and fully effaced. The baby was literally sitting right at the birth canal waiting to come out, and all that was lacking was strong contractions to move it out. (Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?)
I’m a firm believer that emotional issues, known and unknown, drastically affect the birthing process from start to finish. However, I also know that holding something in emotionally will not keep your baby in you forever. Eventually your body does what it has to do, with your permission or not! It’s a lot more pleasant though, if your heart, mind, spirit, and body are all in tune with the task at hand… and mine were NOT.
Midwife found me Friday morning in the bathroom- naked and crying. (I had just gotten out of the shower. I’m not some weird hippie, you know…) And I just let it all out. I wanted things to be easy and comfortable. That’s it. I think everyone wants that, and at some point some of us get desperate for it. I also felt foolish because I completely realize that my life already is easy and comfortable. The last few weeks had been somewhat hard and peppered with some rather discomforting things, but it certainly could have been much worse. “Everything has been work hard, work hard, work hard, keep working, hide your feelings, work hard lately. I’ve been begging God to make this birth happen on it’s own, quickly, and easily. And it’s not happening!!! And I’m tired, and I have no more strength, and I’m so totally STUCK!” I cried. She smiled and rubbed my head and encouraged me. “Birth is hard work. You know that.” To which I sobbed, “But I’m working hard just to get to the hard work part! That’s just crazy!!” She sent me on my way for more acupuncture and an adjustment while she did arts and crafts with my kids. When we got back, we decided she should just go home until it was time. She mentioned she might like me to try some castor oil on Monday morning if I hadn’t had the baby yet. (Sort of a last ditch effort…)
Saturday was a good day. I made bread, made soap, packed and shipped orders and cleaned. Brent went to work. I felt like I was just resuming life again… like I had just forgotten to have the baby and it just wasn’t going to happen. It was sort of a good feeling.
Sunday morning I woke up to being 42 weeks pregnant. I’d never gone that far before and I was frustrated. I sat in my room and listened to music and cried tears of frustration and sorrow to God. Not so much begging Him to make me have the baby this time, but to fix me. I was spiritually, mentally, and emotionally broken. While I was sitting there, Arwen came into my room and saw my tears. She gently spoke kind words to me and offered to get me whatever I needed. Charis came fluttering into the room on her tip toes. She didn’t notice I was crying. She was just happy to be there. And this has got to be part of the blessing that children are- just their presence encouraged me. I realized that no matter what happened, I already had such wonderful treasures in my three kids! A sign of God’s blessing on our home- their happy giggles, their scribbly pictures hanging on the walls, their sweet hugs… What in the world was I so upset about?
I put on my big girl panties and went downstairs for breakfast, revived and ready for a good day.
After nap time we decided to go to the park to enjoy the beautiful fall day. It was cold! The park we’ve been going to has a really nice walking trail with bridges over ponds and pretty landscaping. We decided to go explore as a family. This was not a “walk the baby out” trip around the trail, so we went slow and easy and we did the whole freaking thing. I’m not sure what distance it was…2 miles maybe? It took us over an hour, and by the last stretch of it, all I knew was that I wanted to go home… NOW. My lower back hurt and I could tell that I was losing a lot of my mucus plug (which I had been leaking for about 5 days anyway…). I did not expect that I was going to have the baby that night though! I laid on the couch while Brent made dinner and the kids played on top of and around me. I had trouble getting through dinner because of several big contractions. I tried not to say anything because I hate feeling like I’m being watched. Charis asked me a question and repeated it three times before I was able to answer. Brent saw the look on my face and knew.
While he put the kids to bed, I got in the bath. I started and quit about five text messages to the midwife. I was afraid that if I actually said that I thought I was in labor, it would go away! I really thought maybe the next day would be the day. Finally, around 8:30 (midwife’s 9:30) p.m. I texted her and told her to go to bed early. (She told me later she was already in bed…oops! Guess I woke her up!) I also texted N and told her the same. I think I lasted about 30 minutes more in the tub after that and wanted to get out. I tried to nonchalantly lay on the couch and watch t.v. with Brent. About 15 minutes into that, he got up to go to the bathroom and I charged back up the stairs to get back into the tub. (I’m like a stinking mermaid when I’m in labor. I don’t know why, but it works for me.) As I danced around waiting for the hot water to fill up, I called midwife. “I don’t think you’re going to make it to bed tonight. You should probably come now.” I think this was somewhere between 9:30 and 10, and she had at best a 3 hour drive ahead of her. (It normally takes her 3 hours and 45 minutes, going slightly below the speed limit. She drives like a grandma.)
Brent found me in the tub and we finally realized that this was really happening, and happening FAST. He napped on the bed while I began to vocalize through contractions, humming deeply. (I’ve learned that deep throaty noises facilitate labor, while high pitched squeal-y noises are completely unproductive.) I think about 30 minutes had passed and I called midwife to tell her that I felt the baby’s hiccups in my butt and that I couldn’t speak during contractions anymore… and they were 3 minutes apart. YIKES! She still had another 2 hours to go! We had a back up local “friend” that was going to assist Brent with the delivery should the midwife not make it, and our midwife told me to call her and get her over there. So, Brent called our friend and she headed out the door.
I called N, who lives about 7 minutes away to come on over. Brent headed downstairs to start filling the birth pool. N and friend got there pretty much back to back, and I danced around the pool while waiting for it to fill up.
There was one recurring through throughout this entire birth…
“I’ve done this before.”
Brent could set up and fill the birth pool in his sleep at this point. We had a hose hooked up to the kitchen sink…
And here’s where being a soap maker really comes in handy. I’ve got pots. Lots of them. Brent trotted up and down the stairs, filling some with hot water from the bath tub, while our helper friend boiled water in giant pots on the stove.
I don’t know how long all of this took… an hour? I completely lost track of time, and went back and forth between the toilet and the table, wagging my butt in the air through contractions. It felt good. I kept telling myself, “This is me birthing my baby.” The funny thing was that earlier in the tub I was thinking, “I am enjoying birthing my baby.” I wasn’t able to hold onto that phrase any longer, and had switched to the new, more simple version.
As my contractions grew stronger, my face went closer to the table and my butt went higher in the air.
I was getting antsy and worried that our midwife wouldn’t make it. And I really really was ready to get into the water. Finally, the temperature and water level was good to go!
When I got into the water, it felt so familiar. That flooding relief! “I’ve done this before,” I thought to myself. This is normal and comfortable.
We continued to add hot water from the stove, and it felt really really really nice.
The lights were lowered and someone put on my birth cd. I blew through contractions as they came. I have no idea how spaced out they were. But with each one I would grip the bottom of the pool and float my hips, legs wide open and swaying my bottom side to side gently. I would focus and encourage my body to move the baby down with each one, and I could feel it responding positively.
I don’t think it’s my own personal secret. I’ve read a lot of birth stories. The secret is not that birth is painful, but rather that women are strong! We were made to do this! Our bodies were fearlessly created to birth our children, and we have proven this over centuries. Pain is not the problem. It is not something to run from, mask, or “fix”. If women would learn to just embrace it and release it, their births would become a positive event- an experience to strengthen the spirit. It can even be peaceful, and this birth was…well, for the most part. Whenever I felt a contraction coming on, I assumed the position, and blew air out of my lips, letting them flap, sort of like a horse. Ina May says that keeping your mouth and throat loose and open also helps keep your bottom open for baby. This is the third birth that I’ve used that technique with…and it works!
Not too long after I got into the birth pool our midwife, Terri, showed up. She was ready to party.
If its not already obvious- we love our midwife. And she loves us. And she is always this happy at births. Giddy even, but not in an annoying way. I’ve actually heard her giggling before, as my baby was about to come out.
Brent went upstairs and woke Arwen, sometime around 12:30 or 1:00 Monday morning.
They added more hot water…
Then it got wild.
My water broke. I announced it to everyone. It was clear, no meconium. Then more of it gushed out and I could feel the baby slide right down. i was a little surprised by this because I couldn’t remember having gone through transition. I think I actually did that in the bathtub that second round, looking back. I remember a brief instant of wanting to cry and a slight twinge of nausea. Usually I cry when I hit transition, and then I know I’ve got another hour or so to go before my water breaks. The baby always comes out either right after, or with, the breaking water. I was blowing through the contractions so easily at this point, that I couldn’t believe that it was time for baby!!!
I seem to have mastered the skill of relaxing through contractions, welcoming transition, etc. What I really suck at is the pushing part. In short… I don’t. Push, that is. “Pushing” is not the correct term for what happens at my births… It’s more like… rapid evacuation? Emergency exportation? Sudden ejection?? I’m not sure. Either way… IF I push, it’s just one time. And I like it that way.
Well. I was up against TWO midwives this time. Totally outnumbered and they weren’t having my impatience to shoot out a child. Terri knew that since my water had broken, baby was coming out very very soon. She’s done this before too. She started to explain very matter of factly to me that I was not going to squirt this one out all at once. No No. I was going to crown softly and delicately and allow the baby’s head to sit on the perineum and stretch it slowly and gently. Then I could push the head out and rest and then we would deliver the body.
“I DON”T WANT TO!” I shouted. “JUST LET ME PUSH IT OUT!!”
Nope. They weren’t having it. Those crazy midwives, all concerned with me not tearing and whatnot. Pssshhh. (I kid.)
They ganged up on me and were both telling me to just grunt and let the baby sit there. I felt the ring of fire for the first time. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. I screamed at them some more. They took my abuse very graciously, I might add.
I shouted lots of loud gutteral sounds and deep throaty groans. I think I did manage to grunt just a little and then I thought, “Screw this! The child is coming out NOW!” (1:36 a.m., October 19th- Monday)
Arwen went upstairs to wake her other siblings. Charis wouldn’t budge, but Ezra came down.
Arwen cut the cord…(I was naked, so I’ll just have to keep that photo to myself. She did a good job though!) Brent held Evelyn while I grunted out a huge placenta.
Then things got a little hairy. They got me out of the pool, which was quickly filling up with…blood. And lots of it. This had never happened before. The water is always relatively clean and clear, but this time you couldn’t even see through it. I was put on the floor next to the pool, so that blood loss could more efficiently be monitored. Just as N was leaving to go home and nurse her baby, I felt a gush.
GUSH…”Ooohh.”…GUSH….”Woops.”….GUSH….”Uh-oh.” I could feel the blood draining from my body and pooling between my legs. N tells me I was ashen grey and she called people to pray for me on her way home. (What a wonderful friend!!!) I told midwife about the gushes and she peeked and looked concerned. Evelyn wasn’t wanting to nurse, which wasn’t helping things. Our helper friend vigorously massaged my uterus and gave me herbs under the tongue. More gushes. More massaging vigorously. Midwife did something she’d never done before and quick injected my thigh with some pitocin without threatening me with it first. (Usually it’s something like, “If you don’t push out that placenta I’m going to give you a shot. HA HA.”) She looked really intense and serious. More gushing, massaging, and then some pills to chew. Then they said I needed to empty my bladder, and that would help my uterus to stop spurting out so much blood. Only, I wasn’t strong enough to make it to the toilet, so they needed meto pee…right there on the chux pads on the floor, and I need to do it quickly. Folks. I tried. But I have been peeing in the potty for a good 27 years now, and I just couldn’t make myself pee on the floor. Even when that catheter was dangling over me, I still couldn’t make myself do it. So, I was catheterized. And it SUCKED. But it worked. Finally, Evelyn started nursing and I stopped gushing so much.
I have a sneaking suspicion that a lesser midwife may have panicked and sent me to the ER. One of the reasons we chose this midwife is because she is extremely skilled and knowledgeable, and well… she’s done this before. (Somewhere near 2,000 times to be exact…) This would also be a good time to admit that I did not take my alfalfa like I was supposed to…like, not at all. =/ It’s almost guaranteed to prevent hemorrhaging at birth, and I just didn’t bother taking it this time. (This was part of the reason I had decided to try to get baby out. I was having difficulty caring for myself at the end of the pregnancy. And I knew I was not being a very good incubator.)
I don’t know how long it took to fix the bleeding, but that floor was hard!! It seemed like I was down there for at least an hour? I don’t know.
I finally was able to get up on to the couch and we resumed normal post-birth activity…
And that is the beginning of the story of Evelyn Rose.