Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I'm pretty sure a phone call sent me into labor.
After all of the anxiety and preparation and prayer of the preceding week, I did the hardest thing of all. I called my friend, Laura, ready to give her half of my bank account and beg her to be my doula at the last minute. Why was this so hard? I don't know. I felt so foolish for waiting until I was 39 weeks pregnant to decide, for sure, that I wanted a doula present at my birth. I was afraid she'd think I was foolish, too. Of course, if a friend were to call me at the last minute to be at her birth, I'd do everything I could to rearrange my life to be there. I'd be happy to help. I forget that other people like me too. Enough to happily help and take care of me.
At about 5pm on August 10th I called her.
Her (typical Laura) response: "I'd be honored."
Then we spent the next two hours talking about my pregnancy, what preparations I'd made, what my needs and her role for this birth would be. By the time we finished talking, I felt like there was more oxygen in the room, like the weights tied to my ankles were gone, like a million tiny springs were uncoiling all over inside my body.
The final piece was in place. Everything would be ok. Laura would be there.
I went to the bathroom and was surprised to find a bit of bloody show. I didn't think much of it because I wasn't having any contractions. Actually, I thought it meant I would probably go into labor in the morning. That's how it has happened for the last three, I'd wake up with contractions and have a baby by that afternoon/evening.
So, we had dinner and put kids to bed. Then I went to WalMart to get dog food and grapes.
While I was there I felt a bit achy, but I was not contracting. I had no inkling that I might actually be about to start labor (or perhaps be dilating/laboring already). I remember looking at people as I walked around and thinking "They have no idea that I'm going to go into labor and have a baby tomorrow."
I schlepped the 40 lb bag of dog food out to the car (along with my grapes and the ice cream and other things that jumped into the cart). On the way home, I talked to Peanut about his birth. I told him I loved him and that I would do everything I could to get him here safely and coached him again on his job. Head down, back forward, chin tucked. Then, as I was stopped at a stop sign just a few minutes from our house, I told him I was ready for him to come. I told him I was ready to do whatever it took and he could come any time he wanted. Immediately I had an intensely powerful contraction. Seriously. It was huge. I felt a kind of popping sensation along with it and thought, "Holy cow, I think I dilated 4 centimeters just with that contraction."
That was about 11:30pm.
I drove home and took things into the house (I made JDub carry the dog food). At about 11:45, I was standing in the kitchen and had another contraction (not as strong this time) and felt another pop. And my underwear were suddenly very wet. It wasn't like a gush (like when my water broke with Kaitybean) and there was no puddle on the floor. It was just a little fluid. I sat on the toilet and a little more fluid came out. It was, thankfully, clear and not a lot of fluid. I think his head was probably pressed pretty well against my cervix and kept most of the fluid in.
I told JDub that I thought my water had broken and started contracting pretty regularly. We finished putting things away, took the grapes off their stems and rinsed them. Each time I'd have a contraction I would hold on to the counter or the stove, lean forward and rock back and forth. JDub massaged my lower back and hips, which felt wonderful. He gave me a priesthood blessing, where I was promised help from the other side of the veil, added strength and a healthy baby and mom.
Finally, I decided it was probably time to call Suzanne, my midwife, and give her a heads up. We decided, first, to time a few contractions and see how close they were. They were lasting about 45 seconds and were a pretty consistent 2 minutes and 45 seconds apart. And definitely getting stronger.
Still, I was convinced that this was just early labor. My plan was to call Suzanne and then go to sleep "until things got serious". It didn't even occur to me that things might already be getting "serious".
I called Suzanne, told her what was happening. She asked if I wanted her to come and I told her the plan. I was just going to wait it out and I'd call her when I needed her. I just wanted to let her know it would be soon.
Then we called Laura. She also asked what was happening and talked me through a few contractions over the phone. I told her of the "wait until things get serious" plan. She asked where I was feeling the sensations and I told her "Mostly in the front of my abdomen, near my pubic bone and in my inner thighs."
Bless Laura and her spot-on instincts.
"Um, if you're feeling sensations in your inner thighs and your contractions are that close, I think I'm going to assert myself," she said. "I'm just going to start moseying on down there."
"Actually, I think that's a good idea," I told her.
She instructed me to eat something and then to spend some time on hands and knees (leaning on a birth ball) and to do some aggressive pelvic tilting during contractions to promote rotation and descent.
This was about 12:35am on August 11th.
Sometime during my next few contractions, I ended up on the birth ball in our hallway. I did pelvic tilts during contractions and at first didn't like it because it made the sensations much more intense. Actually, the sensations were just intense. I had a very lucid moment in that hallway when I thought, "You know, I think I completely skipped early labor."
These were not early labor contractions. They were powerful. The pressure and pain radiated all through my abdomen, my back and my thighs.
Then something miraculous happened.
There was a little voice in my head. "You have a choice here," it told me. "You can run from the intensity of these contractions. You can fight them. Or you can embrace them and go straight to the center."
I decided right then to embrace, to allow each surge to wash over me and to find my way to the center of each sensation and really feel it.
And here's the amazing thing: When I decided to embrace the sensations, they actually got easier. The actual feeling of each contraction was not nearly as difficult as they were in the story I had running inside my head. Now, each pelvic tilt actually felt good to me. It felt great to move into, rather than away from what I was feeling. I imagined my cervix y-a-w-n-i-n-g wide open with each contraction. I felt help from the other side. Truly, it was amazing.
JDub continued to massage my back and touch me and stay with me.
At some point I decided that I was really tired of staring at the cracking paint above our dusty A/C intake vent and had JDub help me into our bedroom. The atmosphere there was MUCH better. A newly painted green, clean, restful bedroom with soft light from our bedside lamps was a much nicer place to be.
At about 1:30am I had JDub call Laura to see how close she was. She was about 5 minutes away. Then, I convinced myself that I really was in serious labor and probably ought to have our midwife come too. So I had him call Suzanne, also.
Laura arrived to find me leaning on the birth ball. With each contraction I'd tilt my pelvis and JDub would rub my back. Then, as the contraction ended, I'd rock my hips back and forth and sway on the birth ball until all of the tightness in my hips and thighs just faded away. Her presence was wonderful. She stroked my hair and talked softly, encouraging me through each wave. JDub went to fill the tub.
I got my ipod off of my nightstand and started listening to Jason Mraz and John Mayer and James Taylor. (I'll have to post my birth playlist. It was awesome.) That helped so much, but the earphones kept coming out. Laura pulled out her handy ipod dock and we were all able to listen.
Just after this, I got up to empty my bladder, get a drink and eat a bit more. When I came back to the bedroom, I tried to get back down on the birth ball but couldn't do it. I tried to crawl into bed. That wouldn't do either. The only thing that felt good was to mooove. Contractions were coming right on top of each other now, and it just felt good to walk right through them. I walked laps through our living room and kitchen, with my sweet husband trailing behind. I grabbed his hand and placed it on my back.
"Just touch me," I told him. "It feels better when you touch me."
Laura asked me how I was feeling, what my sensations were.
"Lots of pressure. Lots of pressure in my perineum and pelvis."
With a little bit of panic in her voice she asked, "Now do you think that pressure is a sign that it's a good time to call Suzanne?"
She seemed very relieved when JDub told her Suzanne was already on her way.
Soon, the walking stopped feeling good, so I got into our bed (with some help) and laid on my side. By this time, I was sure I was in transition. In transition I have almost always wanted to be very still. In that way, this birth was no different. The big difference was a wonderful one, though.
With my other births (particularly Mashuga and Coco), transition was a time of outer stillness and quiet but I was screaming inside. It was scary and I felt so alone. I don't know if it was because of the promised help from the other side, or my determination to simply embrace each moment as it came, or the attentiveness of Jeffrey and Laura. But during transition this time, my mind was as still and quiet as I was on the outside. I knew my baby was coming soon. I could literally feel him moving down through my body. Jeffrey held my hand and kept his face close to mine and I felt so safe and loved. Laura gently ran her fingers from my hip to my knee, which was so relaxing.
Jeffrey asked if I wanted to get in the tub. I nodded. He asked if I wanted him to check it or Laura. I wasn't sure whether I could live without either one of them at that moment, but decided he was the indispensable one and sent Laura.
I knew I was close to pushing, but wasn't about to rush it because Suzanne hadn't come yet. But, like I said earlier, I could literally feel Peanut moving down through my body. It was probably only a few minutes that I felt it, but it was felt like an eternity. And I was in a state of pure wonder. Just wow. Then, I heard a guttural, unintentional growl. I realized it came from me and that my body was pushing without my consent.
"Get Laura up here now," I told Jeffrey.
He went to the air vent and called to her.
I growled again.
"Laura, could you please come up here. NOW!" Jeffrey pleaded.
And I heard Laura running up the stairs.
"He's coming." I told her.
Laura was awesome. She was completely clear-headed. She found the chux pads in my birth kit and got them situated underneath me. She got some gloves on and got ready.
"Okay, Heather," she told me, "You place your hands wherever you feel they need to be and I will help you guide him out."
"Good, because he's here," I told him. I was feeling that unmistakable ring of fire that told me his head was right on my perineum. Even though I didn't believe it could be there already.
I reached down and, sure enough, I could feel his head at the opening of my vagina. I gently pushed with the next contraction, supporting my perineum with one hand and above his head with the other hand. I have no words to describe how miraculous, how empowering, how awe-inspiring and beautiful this moment was for me. It still brings me to tears. Whether through instinct or inspiration or both I knew exactly where to place my hands, where to put pressure to support the tissues and keep them from tearing. And I felt my precious baby's head slip right between my hands and into the world.
After this, I felt no urgency to push his shoulders out. I was just blissed out and resting for a minute. Laura suctioned his nose and mouth and then guided me to spread my legs open a bit wider and push the shoulders out. I wasn't quite ready to and when I spread my legs I felt a bit like I was pushing uphill. But I gave just a couple more pushes and his whole body came wriggling out. He cried immediately. It was the most beautiful sound imaginable.
Laura placed Peanut right on my chest, skin to skin. I was immediately in love with him.
So in love.
After that it is a bit of a blur. Suzanne made it just after Peanut was born. She was here to help deliver the placenta and to confirm that I had no tears and that my bleeding was normal.
We just snuggled him until his cord stopped pulsing and then Jeffrey cut the cord. We woke Scud and Kaitybean up to meet their new brother.
Suzanne weighed and measured and examined him to make sure he was healthy and strong. She gave us paperwork for his birth certificate and scheduled follow-up visits for 1 day, 2 weeks and 6 weeks. Then she left.
Laura stayed long enough to help clean up, to make sure I ate and was comfortable and ready for sleep. I took a picture of Jeffrey, who had fallen asleep at the foot of our bed holding Peanut and posted it on facebook. (Which was not a good idea because I hadn't yet called my parents or sister and my sister was at work and awake and saw the picture before I had told her personally that he was here and called my parents to see if they knew. I should have just called them all in the middle of the night, but I was exhausted and figured I'd just let them sleep and call in the morning. Oops. Oh well.)
Then, we settled in to sleep.
It was a wonderful experience. Now, I wonder if childbirth is a time of literal time dilation. All of this seemed to go in slow motion, even though it went so fast. Laura got here shortly after 1:30am and Peanut was born at 2:02am. But, I was so lucid (within my head) and every moment seemed so distinct and to stretch as if there was nothing else before or after it.
Honestly, it was the perfect birth for me. It wasn't easy, but by staying in the moment and embracing each moment, it was extraordinary. Ecstatic. Moving. Beautiful. The way I wish normal birth could be for every woman.
And, of course, a beautiful pregnancy and wonderful birth were both lagniappe.
Because now we have him and it feels like I've known him forever. I have no idea how I lived without him for 31 years.