I cannot believe it has been almost two months. My little boy, although I swear he just arrived yesterday, has now been here for two whole months. I have been trying to figure out how to start this post since the day he was born. How do you convey such a feeling? How do I explain the power of his arrival? The automatic shift in my heart and soul the moment he was put into my arms? I have NO idea. But I am going to attempt it.
And as fair warning, I won't be skipping the details. So if you are squeamish.. I don't want to hear about it.
I had a plan, as most new mothers do, for how I wanted my birthing time to be. Who I wanted there, what I wanted the room to look like, what kind of energy I wanted surrounding myself and my new baby. Although a lot of what I had hoped and expected to happen did happen, a lot of it was completely different. The one thing that was the most important to me about my birth was that my mom was there, and that was one of the things that went exactly as I had hoped.
On January 14th, my "due date", I woke up to a text message from my mom saying she had shipped me a package and to be looking out for it that afternoon. I thought it would be baby clothes or something; she had sent me several packages since I had been pregnant so it was nothing out of the ordinary. Later that day, I had completely forgotten about said package (which is what you do when you are pregnant; forget everything), so she called to see if I had gotten it. I was trying to think if I had seen any UPS trucks around, and was on another planet entirely when a car pulled up in my driveway. I kept talking to my mom while trying in the back of my mind to figure out who I knew with that car, when it hit me.
"Did you just pull in my driveway?!"
It was awesome. One of the best surprises I have ever gotten. I had been so anxious about whether she would make it for the birth. I hated the idea of her driving down from Virginia in a panic because I had given her the "I think it's time" phone call. The fact that she was able to come to town and just hang out until then was SUCH a relief.
That week we spent a lot of time walking. We went to the Dekalb Farmers Market, which was my favorite part. I had a woman there tell me my baby was coming that night, I believe it was the 18th. I smiled, but I was SO tired of people telling me, "I bet today is the day!" and "It's a great day to have a baby!" and even, "Would you just have that baby already?!" I was the one that was pregnant and I wasn't impatient, but it seemed like everyone else had an agenda they needed to attend to, and that I was messing up their schedules. Comes with the territory, I suppose. On the way home from the farmers market, I remember telling my mom that the 21st just kept popping up in my head. I didn't know why, but I kept thinking 1-21-12. Damn, I'm good.
I woke up on the morning of the 21st at about 8am and had NO idea what was happening to my body. I had this strange, uncomfortable sensation in my belly. It would become stronger and weaker in little waves, but all in all the feeling was there for about 15 minutes solid. It wasn't what I had imagined a contraction would feel like, so I just blew it off as another random pregnancy symptom and went back to sleep. I woke up again at 10am and the same thing happened, this time until around 10:30. Nick woke up about that time and I debated telling him. It wasn't that I didn't think he could handle it, or that he would get too excited, I just HATE feeling like I am being monitored. I knew he would be on edge and wondering if it was go time or not. Unfortunately, when another one came about, I couldn't help but get somewhat of a contorted look on my face and kind of adjust to get more comfortable. He jokingly asked, "oooh, was that a contraction?" I don't think he had been expecting me to say, "actually... I think it was."
I told him about how they had been coming and going since I woke up. I didn't know how long it would be from that point, many women say they feel early contractions for several days before actually beginning active labor. So I asked him to not pass the message onto his family, and told him I wasn't going to tell mine yet either. I didn't want everyone calling all day and checking the clock if it was going to be forever. (The only person I did tell was my mom, but she was the LAST person that would ever bug me about labor, she knows me too well. Besides, she's my mom.) And I really did feel like it was going to be forever, because it was the first and only sign I had gotten of my labor happening at all. These were the first contractions I had felt, I hadn't had any bloody show, my water certainly hadn't broken or leaked at all, and I never really had a nesting phase. You know- all the things they tell you to expect at the beginning of labor.
Now, that last one was a shame. Here I am in true labor, albeit unknowingly, and my house was a mess. The room I was supposed to be giving birth in was a wreck. So, with my contractions steadily building, I started cleaning. Nick came to help around 2:00pm, he had made plans to record with his band that day and I told him to go do it. I didn't want to give off the vibe to his band that something may be going on, nor did I even think anything was going on. When he did come upstairs, he saw my giant pregnant self on all fours on the bed, rocking back and forth through a contraction. He asked if I was okay, and I said, "I can't get the sheets on the bed. Can you help me?" He probably thought I was nuts, but he knows more than anyone; once I set my mind to something, it must be done. Despite how I was feeling, that room was getting cleaned.
We finished most of the cleaning around 3:30pm, just in time, as my contractions started to get pretty uncomfortable at that point. Nick went back to recording, I told him to tell his band mates we were going out to eat around 8:00 (just a white lie!) so they needed to be gone by then, but that it was probably time to warn our families that something was indeed happening. I went downstairs and told my dad. The plan had been that he and my brother would run our last minute errands. I was told it is always good to keep some quick foods handy in case the midwives and other birth help get hungry; some births take quite a long time. I also needed some electrolyte drinks and juices for myself. So they left for the store around 5:00, again, under the impression that they probably had plenty of time. It was around this time that I called my midwife Debbie and my doula Nicole, just to give them a heads up.
So, I was alone; exactly how I wanted to be. And it was great.... until about 7:00pm.
My contractions were definitely closer together and much stronger, but they still weren't that bad. I was just suddenly flooded with emotion. My mom came by and I just started crying. I was trying to explain that it wasn't the pain; I was just being bombarded with the realization that my son was in fact coming. That my long wait was finally over and I would get to see him and smell him and touch him. I was overcome with the fact that although I had no control over what was going to happen during my labor and the birth of my child, I knew everything was going to go perfectly. I had no fears and no worries. That is one of the many things that empowered me that night; I can honestly say that I wasn't afraid at all.
My dad and my older brother Cory got back around 8:30pm. They got the hint that things were moving along, so they went upstairs and vacuumed my room and set up our birthing pool. My dad had called my little brother in Orlando and told him to go catch a stand by flight, but there were no more until the next morning at 6am. I knew he would be upset, he had his heart set on being there with us for the birth. I was sad too; my brothers and I are very close and I wanted them both to be there.
By about 9:00pm, I decided it was time to call my chiropractor, Katrina. I wanted everything in my body to be aligned, so that things would go as smoothly as possible. She got there around 9:30pm, worked her magic, and left sometime around 45 minutes to an hour later. I swear she is the reason my true, active labor started.
I called my midwife again and let her know where I was at. I remember being so afraid to tell her to come over. I had heard of so many women who ask their midwives to come over and they end up being in that early stage of labor for hours upon hours. I felt like active labor should be more intense than what I was feeling, but I was so frustrated at that point because I had no idea what I should be feeling. I remember telling her, "well, they have been about 5 minutes apart for a while now. But I just don't know... I feel okay. I mean I don't really know if this is it or not, so... I don't know..." And yes, I am pretty sure I said 'I don't know' that many times, because that is exactly how I felt. I didn't know what active labor was like, I didn't know how much pain I was supposed to be in. I had been led to believe (like everyone else) that you KNOW when it is time, the pain is that unbearable, but it wasn't. I could tell she knew she should be there, but she just told me not to hesitate to call her, that she could be there any time. I was, in fact, in active labor that whole time. She could read me like a book, I think.
It was about 10:45pm at this point, so I ran upstairs to shower while I still could. I remember being able to relax in the shower until the end. Around 11:00pm or so, I couldn't get comfortable through my contractions while I was standing in the shower. So I said goodbye to that wonderful hot water and got on my bed. My mom brought me some soup and I tried to eat it, but I couldn't. Out of the blue I found myself having contractions that were only 1-3 minutes apart. It seemed like the jump in duration came out of nowhere (which is why I think it had something to do with my chiropractic adjustment), but I welcomed it. At that point I was tired of wondering if anything was going to happen that night, and now I had my answer. Once my contractions were that close together, I knew without a doubt that I was in labor, that my body knew exactly what it was doing, and that my son would be with us soon. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it.
I finally gave Nick the okay to call Debbie and Nicole and ask that they come over. He had wanted to call them for some time, but I just hadn't been ready. He was taking the dogs out and calling his mom as well at that point, so I sat in the bedroom with my mom just trying to figure out what position was the most comfortable during contractions. I wasn't in a lot of pain, but the feeling was just... icky. I really don't know how to explain it. It was a lot of uncomfortable pressure, and just like every woman in labor has ever said, it really feels like you have to go to the bathroom. Rightfully so, all of your muscles are shifting downwards, so it makes sense that it would feel that way. Sitting on all fours felt great at that point, my belly could just hang below me which took a lot of the pressure away. Luckily Oliver was at the front of my belly the whole time, so I didn't have to deal with any back labor.
Just as a side note, I never looked at a clock again that night, so from now on I am either guessing or going by what I was told. My midwife kept a record of everything, but I only asked for a few key points.
Debbie and her assistant Lacey arrived at around 11:50pm, and she wanted to do a cervical exam to see how far along I was. I kicked everyone else out of the room, because at that point I still cared about people seeing me naked. That went out the window pretty quick. After the exam she asked if I wanted to know where I was. I said no, because I didn't want to hear "2 centimeters" and get discouraged. (I found out later I was already at 6cm). Everyone came back in (I suppose I should clarify, by "everyone", I am referring to my mom, Nick, Nick's mom Natalie, and Lacey) and I went back to my all fours position, switching between that and laying on my side. Debbie and Lacey started to fill up the pool, but realized it needed more air. They asked if I would mind the noise from the air pump before they started. I thought that was really nice. At the time it was perfectly fine with me, but a few hours from then I think it would have made me crazy, so I can appreciate that they thought to check.
Nicole, our doula, had gotten there by this point and was reciting our hypnobabies scripts. I would go so far into my mind and internalize during contractions that I honestly can't say whether or not the hypnobabies had any effect on my birthing time. I also blame myself, I hadn't started my hypnosis earlier on because I didn't know if it was time or not. By the time I tried to use the hypnosis cues, it was too hard to really focus.
I can't tell you how much time passed, but the pool was ready for me and I needed to pee. That was one of the last things I wanted to do; sit on a toilet. The thought of being unsupported scared me to death. Once I did, however, it wasn't so bad. Emptying my bladder made the contractions feel much better, as did changing my position. Once I was there, I had several contractions on the toilet. They were coming so fast I was afraid to get up and walk away in case I started to have another one. My mom sat in front of me so I could just let go of my body and lean on her. Hilarious as it is, I think the bathroom was my favorite place to be during my labor. It was just the two of us, and it was so quiet and comfortable.
When I did make it out of the bathroom, I went straight for the pool. I have seen and heard such wonderful things about water birth, and I so wanted that for us. I got in the water and immediately changed my mind. The warmth felt wonderful on my muscles and joints, but that is probably the only good thing I can say for myself. The moment I got in the water, it became a struggle. When I would have a contraction, I would try to find a comfortable seat. Since my body was floating, I would drift. I couldn't sit still and it drove me nuts. I became ten times more uncomfortable than before while I was having contractions. Not only that, but I have a huge pet peeve about breathing hot air. I feel like I am suffocating. So at a time when I needed to breathe very deeply, I really needed cool, fresh air. Instead, I was breathing in hot steam. UGH. That was terrible. When my contractions would go away though, the water felt great. And for anyone wanting a water birth- please don't let my experience deter you. Everyone feels different in labor!
I spent what seemed like about twenty to thirty minutes in the pool, and then I had to pee again, so I sat on the toilet for a few more contractions and went back to the pool. This time, Nick got in with me. It wasn't so bad then. I was able to lay back on him and when I needed to be still I just held onto him to keep me steady. I felt bad, but at some point I had to ask Nicole to stop reciting the hypnobabies cues. I needed to internalize and I suddenly found them very distracting. I asked as politely as I could, but I don't think it would have mattered. That is the great thing about Doulas (and anyone else who attends births), they know not to be offended! Then it was just the hot air that bugged me. Needless to say, being bugged by anything in labor just doesn't fly, so that was the last time I got in the pool.
From then on, I switched between the bed and the toilet for the rest of the night. My contractions had gotten so strong that being on all fours, or any other position where I had to hold myself up, was nearly impossible. Not only was I uncomfortable, but I was beyond exhausted. I have never been so tired in my life. When my contractions were only one and two minutes apart, I would sleep in between. I would fall asleep so quickly and deeply that I would wake up at the onset of another one and have to figure out where I was and what I was doing. In labor, all of your blood and oxygen goes to your uterus and away from your brain, causing some of that exhaustion. I can't even explain how tired I was. Those were the moments when I thought I couldn't do it anymore. It wasn't because of the contractions or the discomfort, it was the exhaustion. I kept saying, "I just don't think I can have another one... I'm too tired." Luckily I had such a great support team to remind me of my strength. I can see how women are pressured into things in the hospital. I don't think I would have allowed any interventions, but I did feel very vulnerable and weak at some points.
So- as I was saying- I had been switching between laying in bed and sitting on the toilet. Sometime probably around 4am, I was on the toilet and noticed parts of my cervical plug were beginning to pass. I didn't really know how to feel about that; I felt like it should have happened long before, and it made me feel like I had so much farther to go. I sat and waited to see if there was more when I suddenly gave a big push. It was totally involuntary- my body just did it. It surprised me and felt so strange because I had absolutely no control over it. When I felt like I could make it out of the bathroom, Debbie wanted to check my progression again. I told her I still didn't want to know. I found out later that I was at 8cm. at that time. My body was probably pushing to try to complete the opening of my cervix, but it wasn't time to have a baby yet.
Now, since I didn't want to know how far along I was, I was unaware that my body wasn't ready to birth my son. But there I was, starting to get really excited, because in my head I thought I would soon get another one of those pushing sensations and be on my way to having my baby in my arms. Please, ladies- try not to do this. About an hour after that initial push and not having any others, I started feeling pretty discouraged. I felt like all I was doing was laying down, sitting on a toilet, trying to stay comfortable, and trying even harder just to stay awake. I know and I knew then that it is a process, you just have to let your body labor. But I got myself excited when I should have just been following my own cues.
It was probably somewhere around two hours later (at about 6am) that I felt like things were finally moving along. I was on the bed and it happened again! I was lying on my back and I suddenly started pushing, but it didn't feel right. I'm not really sure how to explain the feeling, but it was like pushing against a brick wall. My body was trying to push, and I would just let it, but it didn't feel like anything was happening. About two or three big pushes in, my water finally broke. I thought, "Yes! Now he can really start moving!"
I gave a few more pushes on the bed as they came. They certainly weren't steady, let alone strong enough to push out a baby. I am pretty sure that these were, again, just my body finishing the dilation of my cervix. Around 6:43am, I really got the urge to push. My body had found its rhythm and I felt a rush of strength pulse through my veins. I didn't want to be on the bed, I needed to be upright, so Debbie pulled out the birthing stool and sat it right next to the side of our bed. I rolled myself onto it with her help and Nick sat on the bed behind me so I could hold onto his knees. Poor guy... I think I almost broke his kneecaps.
My body seemed to be moving very slowly and methodically. I didn't push consistently. It was nothing like you see in the movies where doctors and nurses are screaming "PUUUUUSH!!" I just let my body do the work and helped it along, probably only pushing every other minute, sometimes a little longer in between. That made me feel so safe and powerful. My body knew what to do and I trusted myself completely.
I didn't, however, feel any more energized. I had physical strength back, yes, but my brain was still beyond exhaustion. I remember at one point, Debbie whispered something to Lacey along the lines of "yeah, you better go and give her a call." I blame the mommy-multi-tasker brain, because I don't know how I heard what she said, or why I was paying attention in the first place; but I felt really worried and looked at her and said, "is something wrong?" Thinking she was talking about calling someone for backup or something. Who knows? I didn't even know what I was thinking at the time. I could see it in Debbie's face too; she looked at me as if I were crazy for even being concerned about a phone call while my child was only minutes away from birth. I don't blame her, I felt crazy after I asked. She told me everything was fine, and it was about another client. I then made the mistake of asking if Oliver was actually coming...
At this point, Oliver was doing what most babies do as they come down the birth canal. They move down, and go back up. Two steps forward, one step back. So the answer at that time was no, and that I still had a ways to go. She answered my question in the nicest way possible, but all I heard was, "You haven't progressed at all and this is going to take FOREVER!!" Of course she didn't actually say that; but that is how my brain interpreted her kindness. My body then kicked into overdrive. I knew that the average pushing time for new moms is 2.5 hours. I remember thinking there was NO way that I would be pushing for that long... my baby was being born and I was going to make it happen. I gave it everything I had. I surprised myself during every push, I had no idea where that strength and power was coming from. I pushed and waited, and pushed and waited, following my body's rhythm so I could avoid tears and stitches. At one point I just reached my hand down, and I felt the top of his head. He really was coming! And soon! I just kept my hand on his head as I pushed from then on. It was so motivating to feel him so close, and to know then how much further I had to go.
About 10 minutes before he was born, I remember Natalie (I think it was Natalie, but I am honestly not sure who it was at that point) coming into the room from getting me water, and I heard her say something about my little brother being there. I cried out, "Kevin's here??!" Remember how there were no flights left that night?Apparently, he had gotten in his car and driven up to make sure he was there with us. Our bedroom is over the garage where he came in. He heard me growling and grunting through the pushing and he asked my dad, "Has she been like this the whole time?!" I thought that was cute.
The only time I really felt what I would call pain was when his head was crowning. The ring of fire is no joke. It burned, almost in the same way a rug burn on your knee does, just much worse (obviously). For me though, the way I was standing and the way he was being born didn't put any pressure on my perineum. It was all at the top. I started calling for help (as if anyone can help you birth a baby); I had seen the midwives support the perineum on videos of other women's births. Then I realized... wait... I know where it hurts. I can do it myself. So I slowed down my pushing even more and held my hand right where the burning was to help with the stretch. Debbie kept telling me to stand up because the way I was leaning back was contributing to the burning, but I was too afraid to. I felt like I might hurt him since he was right there in the birth canal. But I stood up a little taller and leaned forward. Of course she was right, it relieved a massive amount of the pressure I was feeling. I believe it took about 10 minutes for his head to crown completely. Once it had, I gave one more big push and at 7:19 am on January 22nd, after only 36 minutes of pushing, my baby boy was born.
I wanted to reach out and grab him and pull him to me but Debbie stopped me. He had his cord wrapped under his arm (he was born with his arm up by his face) and around his upper torso. She had to get Lacey to help her hold him so she could quickly unwind him from it, and right when he was free he came straight into my arms. That was without a doubt the most incredible moment of my life... words can't even begin to explain. I have no idea what was going on around me. I don't know what anyone was saying or doing. This little person was in my arms; a person that I made. We were complete strangers, and yet we knew each other better than anyone else. I had gotten to know him so well and yet I felt like I was starting over in that moment. He was (and is) my best friend, the person that I love more than anyone else on this earth. I suddenly knew what it was to be a mom. The fierce protective instinct that kicks in, the overwhelming love that floods your heart. Nothing else mattered. I would gladly take a bullet for him a million times over.
His breathing was rather sped up from having a little extra fluid in his lungs. Debbie wanted to give him a little oxygen just to help him along. She didn't want him to leave my chest so she took the tube off of the mask and just let it blow in his face. It stayed a little faster than normal until the following day, but he was fine otherwise and it went away on its own. I was just so grateful to have been at home. I knew that (even though he was perfectly fine) if we had been in a hospital, he would have been rolled straight to the NICU for 12 hours or more just for observation. The thought of that still breaks my heart today. Fortunately for both of us, that wasn't the case. He didn't leave my chest for around two hours. After that, Debbie quickly did his newborn exam (on the bed right next to me so that I could still be in contact with him), Nick held him so I could pee, and then he came straight back to my chest (where he then stayed for the better part of a week =] ). I was checked too, and because I followed my body in that pushing stage, I had no tears and needed no stitches. (PHEW!)
Debbie told me that my transition period could have been extended because of the position of the cord on his arm. Essentially Oliver was pulling the placenta down with him, so my uterus had to work harder to push them both down together. If I had been in a hospital and received pitocin, my body may not have been able to keep up with the unnatural contractions, causing the need for emergency intervention if my placenta detached too early. In more ways than one, being at the hospital would have caused me more issues and grief than good.
He latched on to feed sometime in the first hour or so. He had a terrible latch at first (as most babies do), but I was fascinated watching him root around and figure out what to do on instinct. His tiny little face would light up when he would find my breast, like "Yay! I did it!". It was incredible!
After our birth team left, Oliver's grandpas and uncles came up to see him. I was so exhausted I could barely function at that point. I had been in labor for about 24 hours and had a 3 hour transitional period before I was able to push. But oh, it was so worth it. I would have another home birth in a heartbeat. I felt so at ease and in my element, and my son was born so peacefully. He didn't get hauled off in a cart to be weighed, washed and wiped off before coming to my arms. He didn't have to sit underneath a heat lamp. He didn't get passed to nurses and doctors. He had been attached to me for more than nine months, and he belonged in my arms. He has been the happiest, most content baby since his very first day on earth, and I contribute that in a large part to the way he got here.
I couldn't have imagined a more perfect birthing experience. Yes it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it was so simple at the same time. I just had to keep reminding myself not to fight it; all you have to do is surrender. In those moments when I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore, I gave in and let my body take over. I followed its lead and let my mind take a backseat for once. I surprised myself more and more through every passing minute; I had found this strength in me that I didn't know existed. It truly was the most empowering, beautiful, enlightening, mind blowing experience of my life. I wish the same feeling for every woman, no matter how her child arrives in this world.
I am so grateful for all of my readers. I feel like there is so much more to this story, but I'd have to write a novel to include it all! If anyone has any questions about my experience, or if you would just like to know more about home birth, please comment below or message me through my facebook or my personal email. I'd be glad to answer and help where I can! Please share this blog with your friends, now that this long one is out of the way I have many more to come. =]