Sunday, December 12, 2010
On July 8th I was 4 days past my due date, so we made a visit to my midwife's house and she swept my membranes (which consisted of her agitating my cervix to produce softeners that would help my body go into labor). After the trip to her house Daniel and I went for a long walk around the lake in downtown Olympia. Walking and being active is supposed to help kick start child labor. When we were strolling I really tried not to bother whether or not my body was doing practice contractions. Trying hard not to get too hopeful I just knew Jasper would come sometime, if not that day.
Because I was aware that many first time mammas are past-due and that induction often causes many other complications in birth throughout my entire pregnancy I had a nagging fear of being of being late . I wanted to have this baby whatever time he chose to come, and at home. I was so ready to have Jasper. It was 90 degrees outside, I was hugely pregnant, and wanted to meet this guy. The last 2 weeks of my pregnancy had been tough. I was having intense morning nausea and feeling really emotional.
Physically I was feeling pretty good and after walking around the lake with Daniel I wanted to spend some time with my best friend (and doula) who was staying at my house. We went for a long walk through the woods to the Puget Sound. I wasn't paying attention to the trails so we ended up hiking a really long way and then waded through the water to get to a better shore for swimming. I will always remember swimming nude on that fine hot hot hot day in the Puget Sound looking at the line between the blue sky and the evergreens. Sighing and thinking how beautiful it was to be so ripe, so on the verge of this adventure. With my belly in the sun I floated on my back. I didn't have any signs in my body that Jasper would be coming in less than 24 hours.
After yoga that evening (yes I did a LOT of physical activity that day, but I was seriously ready to get this show on the road) I came home and sat in front of a fan. It was so hot. My partner got me to watch a silly movie with him, but half way through I said, "I need to get to sleep in case I go into labor tonight." I didn't actually believe that that would be the case. I thought, a few more days probably, but at 2:45 am I awoke with contractions.
Daniel tried to get me to go back to sleep so that I could a good rest in before I move into active labor because that was what our childbirth educator had told us to do. But I told him there was no fucking way, I was being awoken every 5 to 10 minutes and I kept having to use the bathroom. Most of my early labor was spent near the toilet, with diarrhea. I hated contracting on the toilet, maybe because I felt so opened and stuck simultaneously. At about 5 a.m. I threw up and things felt a little more serious. Daniel called our midwife to let her know what was up and then he started to get the house in order and the birth tub set up while I still wasn't needing anything. I started to use rice sacks that Daniel had to constantly heat in the microwave. I didn't want any of the fancy massage tools or aromatherapy we had compiled. I wanted to be alone.
My doula arrived at around 7am and my midwives assistant an hour later. I felt ready for Daniel's support and that meant lots of massages. He used an oil I had made infused with St. Johns Wort and Lobelia. Time was fuzzy and didn't really mean anything to me. I'm not sure how long things actually lasted for, but I know I took a shower when the birth tub was filling and that it felt fantastic on my back. After the shower, I climbed into bed with Daniel and kept getting in a sort of kneeling-forward-butt-in-the-air position, which my midwife told me would help relieve back labor to get the baby in a better position. My roommate seemed surprised that I still seemed so present and cognizant, but I told them it felt like I was being stabbed, which is funny now because in retrospect it didn't seem so terrible. I could feel my uterus pulling my cervix open. That is exactly what it felt like, with a dull ache in my back. My body worked with intensity and purpose and I just had to stay present and allow it to work. It was dreamlike and organic. I was not communicating with others much. In fact, I have memories of saying things which I realize now were only thoughts that I had.
I got in the birth tub for awhile, trying to get my support to time contractions, because I wanted to get a feel for where we were at. My contractions were varying between sometimes being only 30 seconds long and sometimes lasting as long as a minute and 30 seconds. They were coming every few minutes. Still, my doula and midwives apprentice thought that I was in early labor. I felt like things were already difficult and felt slightly disheartened. This is the moment I understood why women choose epidurals an other pain medications in hospitals. It wasn't the actual pain, which was real and there, but the fear that it was going to get much worse. In fact, I was able to rise to it as it intensified. It was always doable. I am grateful that I had those little breaks in between contractions.
The thing that I really wanted was someone to do the "double hip squeeze" to help open up my pelvis with each contraction. It was very tiring for my birth team.
Things were very real by the time I was dozing in between contractions. This is one of the craziest body aspects of birth... that I was able to sleep for a minute and wake up and be in the head space of the contraction and that those little dozes really helped rest me. I wasn't actually doing anything, I was just being a woman in labor. Maybe that sounds cliche, but I can't come up with anything else to describe it. I never said "I can't do it" or yelled at Daniel for knocking me up. I did say that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to do this again.
I was working really hard, with the all of my labor team helping, except Daniel was taking a quick nap (he'd been at it with me since 3 in the morning and it was like 11 am now.) I was using the birth ball on all fours and having consistently long contractions. I was still telling myself this was going to go on for much much longer. I guessed maybe I was at 5 centimeters. My midwives assistant was trying to help me go to the bathroom. I couldn't do it in a bucket i my room so we journeyed inside the main house to the bathroom. I remember getting stuck on the toilet with contractions and then violently projectile vomiting. I knew that before vomiting had signaled an increase in intensity and also, from reading about birth that it can open you up.
I thought now I was maybe entering transition, although I couldn't be sure. Daniel thought I was far along, but I was watching my birth team and they seemed to think it would take awhile yet. My midwife was going to a home visit and coming afterwards. I think she arrived around noon. It took going through a few contractions before I could get situated on the bed to have her check me. I was excited to be checked, but I was super grateful now that I waited so long and wasn't constantly measuring my progress. Then she said that I was 9 or 9 1/2 cm. I was ecstatic to hear this news!
I got in the birth tub for the second time and soon after my water broke. I felt the shift and the pop and asked if everything was okay. Things were progressing well and really soon after I understood the urge to push.
I pushed for about an hour and a half. I welcomed the contractions because now I wanted to meet this baby and I wanted him out soon. My midwife showed me how to reach and feel his head in my vagina and I did so. It felt weird and mushy because the skin was bunched up. I thought that I said I didn't like it, but I guess I just thought that. I just focused on the task at hand and didn't think about Jasper so much.
My doula told me later that the upper part of my body was relaxed and that the way that I pushed was not a strained eye popping out of your head sort of way. Just using the parts of my body that I needed to. While it was an involuntary urge, I was adding my help into it bearing down. I made loud guttural noises. My body paused and didn't contract as much as his head .was emerging, which I believe allowed my skin to stretch and accommodate his 14 3/4 inch circumference.
So, after 11 hours of laborI said "Fuck this shit!" as I felt the ring of fire especially around my poor clit, that my midwife supported so I wouldn't tear... I expected to feel all the pressure in my bum, but no, it was more forward than that. There was immense relief when his head came out and then on the next contraction his entire body emerged and my midwife caught him and brought him out of the water.
We stayed in the tub for about 15 minutes marveling at this screaming newborn big boy. I offered my breast, but Jasper was crying and too upset to figure out breastfeeding right then. I got out right before I birthed my placenta into a bowl with some help. I was surprised at how large this glistening organ was, and how easily it passed out of me. Daniel held Jasper while I did this. Then we laid down on the bed together. Audrey swaddled Jasper and tried to get us settled into breast feeding. About 40 minutes after he was born we were laying stomach to stomach and he was a very happy nurser with a pretty good latch.
My birth team helped clean up, helped me have a quick shower and made me chicken noodle soup. I drank a smoothie with a chunk of raw placenta in it. After Jasper had nursed and had his newborn check up (we opted to have him get the vitamin K shot and the heel prick) he slept for many hours. We had a few visitors, which was nice and not really overwhelming. I wanted to share this new human, so angelic in our bed!
Both me and Daniel were totally enraptured by him. All we could do was stare and try and meet every need he had. He nursed all the time and slept a lot.