Warning: This post may be a little graphic for sensitive readers. Birth is a messy business.
3:30 am: I woke up on December 4th, 42 weeks pregnant to the day, with a jumble of thoughts tumbling around my head. I knew that if I didn’t get them down on paper, there would be no more sleep. So, I stood, and with gravity at work was hit with breathtaking pain where my baby’s head was opening things up for his arrival. I held onto the wall until I could move and went to the restroom where the appearance of the regrettably, but accurately named “bloody show” confirmed that things were indeed happening. Having had a very similar experience at 39 weeks though, I wasn’t holding my breath.
9:30: I woke up at a more reasonable hour surrounded by all four of my men (little and big) and a tray of my favorite breakfast this pregnancy: a potato skillet with ham and eggs. Oh, my hubby knows how to work those potatoes. My sweet 8-year-old beamed at me, then got a little emotional and left the room. “It’s his first fast Sunday since his baptism,” Allen reminded me. “But he was really excited to help bring you breakfast.” I called my boy back in, hugged him and told him how proud I was and sent him on his way.
Just then I caught the smug look on my husband’s face and I realized, he thinks the baby’s coming today. I hope he’s right.
I had contractions all morning but I’d done this before. About four times in the last 3 weeks, in fact. Same thing, only slightly more intense, still hardly worth mentioning. And by no means were the contractions getting closer together or even pretending to. I even had a couple hour long breaks. Not very impressive.
9:45-ish- I texted my midwife a heads up, feeling a little silly because things didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
11:40– Got a text from my midwife, Stephanie, checking in. Things were about the same. Come and go contractions, nothing much going on. I was a little frustrated by this point but felt reassured by the end of the text-versation when Stephanie said she was pretty sure this baby was coming soon.
Sent hubby and the kids out the door to church. For the first time in days I felt like I could move and function (although I was still pretty sore) so I got some laundry done and made one of my oldest son’s favorite dinners to break his fast on after church. Contractions continued to come and go.
2:30 pm- Another text from my midwife. I felt very guilty stringing her along when obviously nothing was happening so I told her to “go about her Sunday business” and I would call her if I needed her but that there was no way it would be before late that night if that day at all.
She replied that she always goes about her business until she is called away and, “how long it will be is how long it will be.” Wise, wise woman.
3:30– My family came home and we sat down to an early dinner. Contractions were somewhat more intense and more regular (although still pretty far apart) So I decided to time them. I left the dinner table to record the first one on the computer at 3:54.
4:16– When the next one hit, I got up, leaned over the keyboard and felt a familiar warm gush. I turned around slowly, looked and my husband and said, “Uh, oh… I think this might be happening. I think my water just broke.”
4:25- Called my midwife but assured her that nothing seemed to be happening yet and I certainly didn’t need to take her away from her family and waste her time when my body wasn’t making any promises. She would feel more comfortable being here if that was okay with us, she said, since things can sometimes take a dramatic turn once the waters have broken. Feeling ever guilty, I agreed and My contractions spaced out to about 40 minutes apart.
Left a message with my doula saying I’d call when I need her. I felt good and wasn’t ready to take her away from her family on a Sunday so I didn’t try too hard to get ahold of her.
5:00- Stephanie arrived, checked in with me and sat inconspicuously down at the table with paperwork.
5:30- My doula, Cherise, burst through my back door having run from her house when she got my message. I laughed, “I said I didn’t need you yet.” But I was glad to have her. I updated Cherise lamenting that although I was having lots of pressure down low, contractions seemed to have stalled out since my water broke.
5:40- “Of course they did,” said Stephanie from the table. That shut me up. “You look confused,” she stood, planting herself in front of me. ” Listen,” she said. “I love you but I’ve got to tell you… you’re a people pleaser.” She explained that I was far too concerned about inconveniencing everyone around me and as long as I was more concerned about them than I was about me and the baby, he was never going to get here. “Don’t worry about us. Don’t worry what anyone is thinking. We are here because we want to be and the only people that matter right now are you and your baby. You focus on you, your baby and getting him here.”
Cherise and I went on a walk around the neighborhood as I chewed on Stephanie’s words. Student midwife, Rose, had just pulled up to the house when we rounded the corner. “Not you too!” I said, feeling crazy guilty for dragging so many moms away from their families with no baby in sight. “When you come back Thursday, when the baby’s actually coming, you can park over there.”
We came home, relaxed and chatted. Every time I laughed I contracted. Things picked up when I let go. Stephanie was right. I knew what I needed to do.
7ish- I grabbed my husband and we lay down in our bed. I relaxed my body and we talked about the baby. I closed my eyes, Allen held me and I felt my contractions become more regular, then closer together.
7:30ish- We lit some candles, put on my music and I sent Allen to get the kids ready for bed. And finally, with no pitocin, no IV, no doctors I was in labor. I was really starting to have to focus and breathe through the contractions. All by myself. I was doing it.
8:04- The kids were on their way to bed so I picked up our book and gathered them on the couch. I read through the first contraction, though my voice got shaky and weak… it lasted a while. When the second wave hit, I had to stop. I closed my eyes, breathed through it, and my oldest son picked up reading where I left off. I rode the contraction out, opened my eyes and thanked him. “We’re right here,” he said, pointing to the beginning of a paragraph.
8:10- Stephanie came over to check baby’s heartbeat as I finished up the chapter then I stood and mouthed to Allen, “They need to be in bed NOW.” And I was back in my bed, focusing on my baby and his impending arrival.
Then I was in the bathroom while Allen filled the tub. Then I was in bed. Bathroom. Bed. Bathroom. Bed. “Allen, I’m going to go to the bathroom, change, get in the pool and then I want Cherise.” I went into the bathroom and I was stuck. The contractions were one on top of the other, crashing over me again and again. I breathed deeply and vocalized, barely keeping on top of them for about 15 minutes until I felt like I could move again. I got up quickly, threw on my swim top and was about to dive headfirst into the pool when Stephanie came to check baby’s heartbeat again. “I can’t stand!” I wailed and my husband was there, holding me up.
9:20- Into the tub… finally! The water was enough to help me get back in control and Cherise sat behind the tub, rubbing my shoulders. My friend and favorite photographer, Shelly, rounded the corner into my room and then my parents were there. I said my hellos, worked through a contraction and hung onto my sense of humor for a few more minutes.
9:40- Feeling it! The waves were close and intense with very few breaks. Cherise moaned in my ear (reminding me to vocalize low and not to scream as I tend to do) when she noticed the contraction coming and I mimicked her. She was my brain and I couldn’t have done it without her! Suddenly everyone was gathered around me, acting like the baby was coming and I was confused. It hasn’t hurt long enough yet for the baby to be close. I have at least another hour, I remember thinking.
9:41- And then at the end of another long contraction, my moan turned into a grunt. I knew what that meant. Soon!
9:48- Pushing. I hate pushing. It’s always been my least favorite part but this was different. Usually my babies come pretty fast this point with little or no conscious pushing and the worst part for me is the “ring of fire” (you mamas know what I’m talking about). I’m sure pushing without pitocin was a huge factor but there was a deep, localized pain I couldn’t identify and my first pushes seemed less than productive. At this point, Stephanie checked and found that I was pushing against a lip of cervix.
Another thing I wasn’t used to (I think due to lack of pitocin): breaks. Every time I had a break I’d ask over and over if my baby was okay. I knew he must be in a pretty uncomfortable place and I felt bad leaving him there but it was so good to rest. Allen and Dad took turns holding cold washcloths on my head and when the urge came I pushed. And pushed!
10:13- With one great push after much encouragement from my awesome midwife (I don’t remember what she said but it worked!), my baby’s head was out… or so they told me. I was working so hard it didn’t even register until Stephanie told me to reach down and feel him. There was his head! My baby’s head! I suddenly remembered what I was doing and why I was doing it and I realized that this baby I’d spent nine months getting to know was about to be in my arms. Those eyes I’d been wanting to look into. Those cheeks I’d been wanting to kiss. That body I wanted to snuggle. It was right there!
10:14- I pushed and delivered our fourth baby boy into my husband’s waiting hands. Allen lifted him out of the water and placed him on my belly. “My baby! It’s my baby! It’s my baby!” Over and over I staked my claim and celebrated the moment I’d looked forward to for so long. It was my son. The newest member of my family. And he was here. In my arms. “He’s so beautiful! He’s my baby!”
10:31- I climbed into my bed where Allen cut the cord and after many attempts at contraction-less pushing and a shot of pitocin I delivered the placenta that had sustained my baby’s life for so many months. I cuddled my little boy and then handed him off to Stephanie for his newborn exam. He passed! A perfectly respectable 9 pounds 6 ounces and 21 inches long and absolutely perfect in every way.
I’ve heard people talk about birth being a spiritual experience but with my babies coming into the world amid lights and hustling bodies in an unfamiliar and kind of scary environment, it just wasn’t something I ever understood.
But in my room, at 10:14 that Sunday night, I felt Heaven and Earth meet. In my room, surrounded by people who love me and baby Clayton I felt part of something great and eternal. I wondered how I’d ever shared something so sacred with strangers in a strange place.
That feeling has stayed with me through the last week and a half. When I would normally be feeling alone, fighting for my sanity, and feeling guilt and sadness for my baby’s rude entry into the world, I instead feel supported, joyful, blessed and in tune with my new little bundle.
As we meet with Clayton’s doctors to prepare for and plan what will be an often bumpy and painful future I have peace in the fact that he eased so gently into this world into loving hands in his own home.
Wondering why it took so long for me to get this story written? I had lots of help.