The night before my guess date, I had some quality time with James, my husband. I had convinced him that we needed to take advantage of every opportunity to be intimate since we wouldn’t be able to for weeks after the baby was born (a much more enticing way of asking him to insert some prostaglandin-rich semen near my cervix to soften things up). I fell asleep to a hypnosis track like I did every night and woke up when I felt something that was a bit different than all the braxton hicks I had been having. I looked at the clock--it was 1:50 am. I felt it again and decided to get up and go to the bathroom. The second I moved, I felt a trickle down my leg--pretty sure I had just leaked some amniotic fluid. I was giddy thinking that this was probably going to be the day--and on my guess date none the less. I knew I should get some sleep. I decided to do a fear clearing session since my water was leaking, and I didn’t want to worry about infection or worry about labor not really starting for a long time. I was still awake when that track finished, and then I listened to Birthing Day Affirmations.
Still awake. The pressure waves were consistent. I decided to give my contraction timer app a try. They were 4-5 minutes apart and 30 seconds long. I listened to a couple more hypnosis tracks to try to help me rest and sleep. I can’t remember which ones--I think probably Easy First Stage and Deepening. Finally at 6:00 am, I decided to just get up, I was just way too excited to be able to sleep. I called a teacher at my school who agreed to find me a sub if I went into labor so I wouldn’t have to worry about it, as I had been planning on teaching that day. I had saved some housekeeping activities for early labor, and got to work cleaning. I had almost all the floors mopped (on hands and knees of course) before James woke up. Confused as to why I was at home, I let him know that I was pretty sure I was in labor. We had to get the bedroom rearranged to set up the pool, and I wanted to finish cleaning. Moving felt good, tasks kept my mind occupied, and I hardly thought about what was consistently happening in my body.
We decided to call our midwife Debbie at 8:45 and give her a heads up. We agreed to check back in an hour. James and I continued working around the house. Before calling Debbie back, I timed some more pressure waves. They were all over the place, averaging 3-4 minutes apart and lasting a minute. I still didn’t feel like they were as intense as they would need to be for active labor. Even though they were increasing in intensity some, I could still easily talk and work through them. When I called Debbie, I didn’t really know what to say. I told her the numbers, but also that it didn’t seem to be terribly intense. She said she would take her time getting stuff together and head over. If it was still early labor when she got here, she would go find a place to get coffee, if not she would stick around. She lives about an hour away, so that gave us some time to finish getting all the birthing stuff together.
I didn’t feel like listening to any Hypnobabies tracks, as I didn’t feel I needed it still. Music was my medicine. I had been in center all morning and would occasionally use the peace cue. As it got closer to the time for Debbie to arrive, I got nervous that this was not really labor and started to have performance anxiety--ridiculous, I know. Debbie got here, and checked the baby and me. She said that she was doing a little stretching of the cervix because it was letting her. The exam was the first one I had all pregnancy, and I was surprised that it was not uncomfortable. She didn’t tell me where I was, and I didn’t ask. She said I was doing very well, and she didn’t leave to get coffee, so I knew that this was really my birthing time. Debbie said that the pressure waves would probably start getting more intense. I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point--other than I knew I had to keep moving (though I had nearly run out of tasks to do). James was getting the pool blown up. Debbie was unloading all her stuff, and I noticed her chart on the table. I had to just glance over at the chart just to see if I could see (I felt like I was looking in the closet where I knew the Christmas gifts were “hidden”)...I saw 4cm stretched to 7cm written down, and I thought...nice work, Debbie, let’s get this going!
I decided to sit down and try and finish a diaper cover I was knitting. My midwife sat down and got her knitting out as well (or actually I think she was crocheting...I remember wanting to ask her about what she was working on, but I was having a hard enough time trying to figure out what I was doing on my project). James sat down too, and we all started watching some comedy (Jim Gaffigan’s new special Mr. Universe...he jokes about homebirth--fitting). I made several mistakes on my project, I was moving slowly, and not at all thinking about what I was doing...but it gave me a purpose for my time that I found really helpful. I got up frequently to use the bathroom, and eventually started doing some ahhhing on the toilet. At this point I could feel my body taking over my conscious mind. I started to let go of feeling awkward about how long I was spending in the bathroom. I had almost finished the diaper cover when I had to set it down and go outside. Before going outside, I said that I thought it was time to start filling the pool. While James and Debbie were getting it ready, I snuck outside and stood and swayed on the back deck, looking over our backyard. At some point, I realized that I was probably in transition. Looking back, this was a super special moment. There was a cardinal perched on this circular branch, and I found myself singing, shedding some tears, and realizing that I was going to have a baby in my arms soon. It was very surreal.
Debbie came out, and we talked briefly about my plans for a chicken coop in the backyard. I wasn’t sure my words were coming out in complete sentences or not. I felt almost drunk in my loss of control of my body. James had called his mom and sister to come over and when I went back inside, his mom had arrived. I spent some more time in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure whether I was trying to poop or whether I was pushing. The assistant who works with my midwives was out of town, so Debbie borrowed an assistant from another midwife in town who showed up at about the same time as my mother-in-law. I got into the water and asked if it was okay if I pushed. Debbie affirmed that I should do what my body was telling me to do. I started pushing...in a more gentle, breathe-the-baby-down sort of way like I thought I was supposed to. I tried several different positions in the pool. After a while, Debbie asked if I would like to try the birthing stool as sometimes different positions can help the baby descend. I was open to trying anything that would work to move things along. I was on the stool for awhile. I never played the Pushing Baby Out track because I worried it would annoy me, and I was really responding to the suggestions of my midwife. Plus, I was really in the zone with the music we had playing, and there was no breathing this baby down--I needed to do some serious bearing down.
I had no idea how much time had elapsed, but it was much longer than I had anticipated and pushing was much more physical and uncomfortable than I expected. The downside of reading so many positive birth stories in preparation for childbirth, is that I too had imagined I would have two easy pushes and the baby comes out, or push for 2 minutes, or have my body push for me. At the very least, I had heard plenty of moms describe pushing as a relief after dilation. For me, the pressure waves and transition were far more comfortable than pushing. After asking questions like “Is my baby stuck, or am I actually making progress?’” and listening to my midwife’s patient responses (you are making excellent progress, pushing often takes a while longer for first time moms, and your baby has been in a perfect position for birthing), I finally started to get it. I was working up a sweat as I let my animal self take over. I felt like an athlete, and I loved the encouragement from everyone in the room. Debbie checked the baby’s heart rate every so often, and she always said, “Your baby is so awesome,” after the check. I loved hearing that. After pushing on the stool for a while, Debbie asked if I wanted to try the bed.The way Debbie respectfully posed suggestions as questions always made me feel in control of the process. I was willing to try anything. I think I mentioned something silly about being afraid that if I stood up to move to the bed, the baby would go back up...but everyone assured me that wouldn’t be the case, of course. Debbie reminded me that I was having a very efficient labor. I got on the bed with James behind me--he was holding me back while I lifted my legs and the assistant and my mother-in-law were pushing my legs back providing resistance as I pushed. I worked at it like that for awhile, and I was able to push longer and more often within one contraction. Soon, everyone started getting excited about how much hair they were seeing, long hair. I saw it in the mirror, and kept going for it. Finally, after two and a half hours of pushing, my baby’s head came out, and a couple pushes later, we had a baby. My baby was instantly on my chest, and I was so excited to have a baby in my arms, it took me a minute to check to find out we had a daughter. I was in love. Our baby girl was 6 lbs 12 oz (after a couple days with her, we named her Charlotte).