Saturday, January 8, 2011
On Wednesday night, 1/5/11. I began having some contractions. No wait. I had contractions almost every evening since I was about 36 weeks. Mostly they were delicate and tiny, rhythmic and subtle. I noticed them because I have chronic Braxton-Hicks starting around 20 weeks (in both pregnancies) and knew these were different. I didn't really pay attention, because they typically went away when I fell asleep and in the morning they were gone.
On Wednesday night, I was 41 weeks, pretty much done with the pregnancy and ready to have the baby. In the middle of the night, the regular evening contractions didn't go away, but didn't really keep me up. I dreamt about labor, and sometimes woke up because of them. They were all about 40 seconds long though, and not that powerful, 10 minutes apart. They were somewhat there the next morning, 1/6/2011, but Tom wanted to go to work for some meetings. I resolved to take it easy, keep hydrated, and fuel up so that they could do what they wanted. At about 10am, I decided to take a walk to see if they would get stronger or go away. The walk turned them into an hour long Braxton-Hicks contraction. I wasn't surprised, but somewhat disappointed. Clark (my 22 month old toddler) and I went out to eat for lunch – Indian Food. Lots of good vegetables, iron, carbohydrates, and spices. The contractions came back in the restaurant, strong enough for me to notice, close my eyes and focus on them. Still 40 seconds/10 min apart. The waitress smiled at me, knowing what was happening. Clark ate two bowls of rice and two bowls of cantaloupe.
I called the midwife then to see if I should do anything to accelerate this labor, or make it stop. We decided a bath, beer and nap would be good. I laid down for my nap, and fell asleep, but the contractions pulled me out of sleep. They were still 10 min/40 sec, but I felt them deep within me. After we woke up from nap time, we watched Dora the Explorer. Through one contraction, I put my head down and breathed deeply as my pelvis filled with the strength of it – Clark was frustrated at me because Dora was still loading. I realized at that point that I would never have the baby if I had to take care of Clark. The contractions were strong, but short, and I knew things were holding me back.
I called my mom in Louisiana who was flying in the next day, I told her to give me permission to have the baby even if she wasn't there, she did. It was 3:30. I called Tom at work and told him to come home. He was home in 30 minutes. I wanted to just drop Clark off and go to the birth center. But first we had dinner, remembering the 26 hours we spent laboring exhaustedly with Clark. We went and had Vietnamese Noodle Soup – Pho containing fluids, electrolytes, carbs and irony beef. In the restaurant, my contractions got stronger, 40-60 seconds, 5-8 minutes apart. I knew that we were doing the right thing. A lady in the restaurant caught on to what was going on with us and she said that she wished she had eaten before going to the hospital too. After dinner, we called the midwife and our birth assistant/doula. We said that we were coming to the birth center. We were ready. It was 6:30pm.
As we drove to Alexandria, Va (normally ~ 40 minutes, but more during rush hour) we were pleased about the lack of traffic. My contractions spaced out again, lessened in intensity, and shortened. We dropped Clark off at our friend's house about a mile from the birth center. I hung out in their house for about 30 minutes, feeling lame because everything appeared to be stopping.
We continued on to the birth center, and when I got there, I told everyone “sorry if my labor stopped” but they said it was “ok. We plan on being here all night” It was 7:30.
They checked me at that time and were surprised to see I was 5cm dilated already. My midwife said all we needed to do was get the baby to turn (she was still OP) and she would descend and that would take care of it. We got into the big jacuzzi tub and focused on getting the baby to turn and descend.
Apparently all I needed to do was relax, get my birth team in place, make sure Clark was taken care of, and enter into this labor to give it the attention it needed. It took Tom and I a little while to figure out how to position ourselves in the tub and establish a ritual for each contraction. After we did, the contractions took off like crazy. Each one was power, power, powerful down to my pelvis. I tried to think about the baby moving down and could feel the descent from the top of my belly. On my hands and knees in the water, I leaned into Tom's lap or chest or tummy for each contraction and he blew on my back to help cool me off.
It was quite a fun time between contractions. In between each contraction we repositioned, laughed a little bit and did nipple stimulation to increase the intensity of the contractions (this releases oxytocin, a natural form of pitocin used in hospitals). My midwife said that she didn't want to see me so happy, that I needed to get snappy so we would know the baby was coming. However, my doula said I was pretty serious during the contractions and that is what really mattered. We had an extra doula there (a trainee) and she said we were a really fun laboring couple.
At one point I checked myself and felt the baby's head encased in the bag of waters at my third knuckle. I knew it was going to happen soon. Within an hour and a half of entering the tub, I was no longer doing my low throated moaning, I was roaring. I told Tom I was in transition and wished I had been counting the contractions (it is usually about 20) so I knew how long it would be. It was a silly thought as I could feel the baby moving closer and closer to the exit. The head was at my second knuckle. I felt the contractions ripping apart my sacrum from the rest of the pelvis. Tom pressed on my sacrum for some counter pressure. All of a sudden I wasn't roaring, I was pushing. There was no thought. I was the first woman giving birth. I didn't need any knowledge or coaching – except to breath because it was so overwhelming and amazing.
No. Maybe I did need coaching, My midwife ran in when she heard the sound of me pushing. She said “drain the tub” I wasn't planning on having a water birth and didn't want one because with Clark I had had a hemorrhage and knew I might need some special attention after this birth. She also kept telling me to breath and push slowly, gently. The power of my body was so incredible that I was just yielding to it – doing what it told me. But I also tried to do what she told me. I slowly climbed out of the tub and told them I wasn't going to the other room. I stood at the side of the tub gripping the edge as our baby's head emerged from my body. It was so overwhelming, There was a pause between head and body emerging. I think after all of that sensation and how quickly it was going, I just needed to rest and breathe and pause. I knelt on the floor so I could catch the body. The body was born.
I held the baby, our baby, to me. The labor was over. Tom knelt at my side and we looked between the legs and saw that we had a girl, a daughter. I was amazed at how covered in vernix she was. She looked like she could have stayed in there for another month! It was 10:08pm.
We slowly walked back to the room where we “should have” given birth (although it is totally fine that we did it in the bathroom). Our daughter began nursing. The placenta came shortly after.. We named her Iris Margaret Greenwell.
I couldn't stop talking about how amazing the birth was, how powerful, how visceral, how incredible. Within 40 minutes I was telling Tom that we were gonna have to do it again. Tom told his mom that, and she said, "most women like to wait at least a month"
The midwife and team took my vitals and Iris' vitals a few times, I ate, had a shower, and we took a photo. Then we left the birth center at about 1am and headed home to sleep. The adrenaline of the night took Tom by surprise and he was more restless than a newborn baby! I was ready to sleep after missing my regular nap and staying up so late, but Tom and I realized that it was already 1/7/2011, our 5 year wedding anniversary. Tom presented me with a beautiful necklace to commemorate everything that had happened. We laughed, we prayed, I sang, we fawned affection. The birth was amazing, our daughter is amazing, and we did amazing. We couldn't have done it without each other.
The next day around lunchtime, our friend dropped Clark off. He came upstairs, climbed into bed and gave his baby a hug, a kiss and said, “Hat! Hat!” he was excited about his baby finally being an outside baby. So are we.