Her birth was a joy equal to the agony of waiting 41 weeks and 2 days for her.
The weekend before she was born I had a Come To Jesus breakthrough about trying too hard to go into labor. I realized that I couldn’t simultaneously be constantly striving, trying different ‘methods’ to start my labor AND be truly trusting that my body and baby girl knew what they were doing and that everything would happen just as it needed to.
However, after two completely natural births with zero intervention, I was very anxious about my midwives’ policy of a 42-week induction. I know how beautiful unhindered birth can be and I found myself consumed by the ‘what-ifs’ of induction and medical intervention. Because of that, I had an, uhm, how do you say? invasive procedure* Monday afternoon at my 41 week appointment, but nothing happened. Not even the uncomfortable ‘symptoms’ that friends who have had said procedure told me they had. Nothing. Radio silence from ye old uterus.
*I mean. Let’s just put it out there that we are talking about cervical membranes. Ok? Ok. Moving on.
Tuesday afternoon I was completely discouraged and probably not very fun to be around. When DanO got home from work he sent me out of the house on my own to get a pedicure. (Wise man.)
While I was there, another midwife at my practice called my cell phone. She is one of my favorites there, the one who caught OBrother and the first one I opened up to about postpartum depression. Let’s call her Kathy. Kathy had spoken with the midwife who performed my invasive procedure the day before and she wanted to check to see how it had gone. When I told her that it was an underwhelming experience, she admitted that she had been worried about that and that she wanted to… ensure things were done properly.
With my toes in the warm blue nail salon water I made plans with Kathy to have an outpatient appointment that evening while she was on call at the hospital so she could repeat the invasive procedure to “stir up trouble” (her words) and try to ensure that I wouldn’t run up against a potential induction date.
After being duped into also getting a manicure by the sweet little lady doing my toes, I headed to the hospital at about 6:00. I felt kind of sneaky when they took me back to a small room in the L&D wing at 6:30. After Kathy finished, the policy was that they needed me to stay and be monitored for an hour. At 7:30 I felt uncomfortable but was definitely not having contractions as I left.
I swung by a Jamba Juice because: Strawberries and Cream Smoothie and then headed home at 8:00pm, still only moderately uncomfortable and definitely not contracting. On the drive home I talked to some friends about the evening’s developments, and then about 5 minutes from home I called DanO to ask him to start a bath for me. I knew that getting into a warm bath and relaxing my muscles would ease my aching and discomfort.
Seconds after hanging up with DanO, I had a decisive, strong contraction. I drove the rest of the way home very very carefully, having two or three more over the short drive.
My smoothie and I got in the bathtub at 8:30 and immediately things escalated. I began having intense contractions that were very close together. As in, less than a minute between them, but they were also only 30 to 50 seconds long. I called my midwife Kathy to talk to her about the pattern and while on the line with her I had 4 contractions through which I couldn’t keep talking. Even though it had been mere minutes since labor had started, she told me to grab my things and come to the hospital. It was 8:45 when I begrudgingly got out of the bathtub that I had only just entered.
We called our neighbors to come stay with the boys (who were already in bed) and DanO began running around the house grabbing all of the things that were in the hospital bag when I had packed it 4 weeks earlier, but had since been slowly unpacked. Our neighbor came over, and we were finally packed and ready to go at 9:15.
We timed a few contractions, but mostly they were so close together that there wasn’t much to time and I knew by their intensity that this was A Big Deal. By this point I had one minute on, one minute off, which made getting to the hospital difficult. I got dressed one minute at a time. Helped DanO find items for the bag one minute at a time. Said bye to our neighbor, had a contraction, waddled out to the car, stopped and had a contraction, climbed into the car and buckled my seatbelt, had a contraction… and so on.
On the road to the hospital my task was to send out the APB that we were about to have a baby. Being the planner I am, I had created a text draft in my phone with 20 some recipients that said “We are on our way to the hospital to meet baby girl! Please pray for us!” Flying down the freeway in fast and furious labor, I tried to send the draft, but my phone was being stupid (of COURSE it was). I would lean my head down and moan for one minute, look up at my phone and try to re-send it for one minute, head down moaning, head up cursing at my phone… you get the picture. Finally I said screw it and sent very quick individual texts to both my parents and DanO’s.
Looking back on that, I find it fascinating that I was so alert between contractions given that I was about 30 minutes from having a baby. In both of my other births I have been solidly in the zone by that point. Time blurs, nothing but my body’s instincts matter, and I have tunnel vision. I certainly don’t care about my cell phone or anyone in the world around me. This time it was more like all of my senses were heightened between contractions. Every cell of me remembers every aspect of those minutes.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot at 9:45 and our doula and friend Marjorie was waiting for us in the ER. I knew I was only working with one minute at a time, so each time the contraction eased I would take off in the direction we needed to go. Contraction in the parking lot, high tail it to the ER entrance. Contraction in the ER, tell triage that no I don’t want a wheel chair, have another contraction. Sprint to the elevator, have a contraction in the elevator, wave at the ladies at the L&D registration desk, have a contraction as the nurse walks us to our room. Every. Other. Minute. I remember thinking that even 4 hours of this level of intensity and frequency would be a very long time.
The nurse wanted to get a 20-minute heart rate reading on baby first thing, so from 9:50 to 10:10 I wore a monitor strap around my belly as I labored. Thankfully Woodwinds Hospital, where we have birthed all of our babies, has a very natural-birth friendly environment. Mothers are encouraged to do what they need to – eat, move, rest, etc. The nurse made sure I knew that I could stand, walk, or be in whatever position my body needed for contractions while they monitored me. She told me not to worry about the strap and made it her job to adjust it whenever needed while giving me space to labor.
According to my chart, at 10:12 my midwife checked me and I was dilated to 6cm, 95% effaced, bulging bag of waters.
Since I wasn’t fully dilated, my midwife left my room.
ODear arrived 9 minutes later.
While I was being monitored, our doula had begun filling the bathroom bathtub attached to my hospital room so that I could labor in there. I was still bummed that I hadn’t gotten to enjoy the bath at home, and if you’ve been around here for the births of either of our sons, you know that I love to labor in water. In fact, the idea of water birth is what led me to look into natural birth with our first baby, OBoy although he was not actually born in the water after all.
During the contraction right before I got into the tub, I remember saying that I was starting to feel a little pushy (meaning I felt the urge to bear down and begin to push). Keep in mind, this was a minute or two after the midwife checked me at 6cm and that pushing shouldn’t happen until mama is fully dilated. I was told that it was probably my bag of waters triggering a pushing impulse, so I was instructed to try not to push.
I climbed in the tub. DanO was in the bathroom with me and our doula and one nurse were in the connecting hospital room. For the next three contractions the urge to push got stronger, to the point that I was no longer able to relax it away. Our nurse and doula came in and we decided that I should get out of the tub (again! so short lived!) so that I could be checked again and given the go ahead to push. I went into a squat position to get out of the tub after the end of a contraction, but another one immediately followed and I found myself pushing against my own will.
Suddenly I had that feeling.
“She’s right there.” I said to the lone nurse, who came over to the bathtub and, sure enough, felt ODear’s head as it was coming out. She instructed DanO to pull the emergency cord next to the toilet, and in the next contraction ODear was out, caught by the nurse in the bathtub. Marjorie our doula called out the time (because the nurse was a little busy having just caught a baby solo). It was 10:21pm. I pulled her up onto my chest and put the only thing we had over her, a hand towel.
Then I laughed and laughed.
It was pretty hilarious, actually. Whoopseh, I just pushed out a baby too quickly! Sorry about that!
Seconds later the onslaught of nurses paged by the emergency cord entered, along with my midwife, who noticed that our baby girl had the umbilical cord wrapped loosely around her neck and she quickly removed it. We were given more than just a hand towel to cover baby girl, but we still hadn’t been prepped for her to arrive yet, let alone in the water. The team quick warmed up some blankets while ODear and I sat skin to skin in the tub. Marjorie took some video of this part, the busyness of the medical team prepping retroactively for a baby’s arrival, and when I watched it I realized that I was completely oblivious to all of that. I had birth goggles on, just sitting there in the tub laughing and saying “You’re here!” trying to get it to sink in, but it wouldn’t.
I mean, what in the world? One minute I was at Jamba Juice being bitter that I was going to be pregnant forever, and the next minute I was accidentally having her in a bathtub.
We have been laughing ever since. Laughing when there is so much chaos we can’t even see straight. Laughing at her ridiculously precious little hair bows. Laughing when OBrother says that she’s “sooooo cuuuuuute”. Laughing at the faces she makes when she wakes up. Laughing when she smiles at OBoy. Laughing when we look like a circus trying to shop all together.
This whole journey with her has been a hoot from the very beginning.