All of my mother's 5 babies were late by at least one week, and I was the latest of all. Given this track record, I was preparing myself to go to 42 weeks. Ironically, I went into labor ON my guess date.
That morning, the first of MANY trips to the bathroom, I found some light pink blood spots on the toilet paper, having passed some of my mucus plug the day before. I was very tired, even after just waking up, and I felt a little crampy. I figured it was just this diarrhea that had set in, and figured THAT could be due to the magnesium supplement I was taking. Even so, I had hopes that this was early labor. I was ready to meet my baby.
As the day wore on, the diarrhea-feeling became rhythmic. It was still very light and manageable, and located only in the front of my low abdomen. Even so, I could time the wave of sensation--each surge lasted about 15-30 seconds and had anywhere from 5-30 minutes between. I had an acupuncture appointment--to encourage labor, actually-- and a routine prenatal that day, and fully intended to keep both. I kept myself busy readying snacks and meals just in case this WAS the real deal. I also made sure to eat a lot.
My mother texted me, "happy almost birthing day! Feeling any twinges?"
"Maybe. Some rhythmic cramping and maybe some bloody show. Super tired."
"Sounds like all is as it should be."
At our prenatal, the midwife offered a cervical check, but I declined. After hearing my symptoms--and watching me breathe through a wave or two, she said, "You seem pretty labory to me. I won't be surprised if you call me tonight. I also won't be surprised if you don't. This seems early; it could go either way." She counseled us to go to bed as soon as possible, and said to me that I should sleep between waves as much as possible, and let Jess get sleep in case it turned out to be a long labor.
At around 9:30, I moved to our guest bed so as not to wake Jess with my hypnobirth tracks I was using to try and fall asleep. I breathed through surges like I had practiced, but by 11:00 or so, they were coming faster--about every 4-6 minutes for 30 seconds each. I needed to be on all fours and started vocalizing, eventually loudly enough to wake Jess around 1.
I was glad she woke up, even though I was supposed to let her sleep. Being alone in the middle of the night timing contractions put me in a bit of a panic.
"I think you should call Nadine" I said to Jess, handing her my phone and timing record to call our doula, Nadine Ashby. She also called to update our midwife, who said that Jess could inflate the birth pool but could probably hold off on filling it unless I said I wanted it.
The moment I knew Nadine was on their way, I was able to relax.
"You know, baby," I thought, "It'd be really nice to get one more night of sleep." By the time our doula arrived, I'd fallen asleep and the surges had slowed way down. The surges became light enough to simply breathe through as I'd been taught, and I did fall asleep between them. I moved back into my bed with my wife and Nadine slept in our guest bed.
We all slept through, and in the morning, waves were coming, but farther apart and I didn't feel the need to vocalize. Even so, I didn't want Jess to go to work. For much of that day, we watched Great British Baking Show and took it easy. I napped through a technical challenge. Occasionally, I would get a cluster of surges--6 to 10 in an hour instead of 2 or 3.
Our midwife came by to check in around 5 p.m. When she checked my belly, she said baby was higher in the pelvis than the day before. This made sense to me. Baby had been moving their head around A LOT in the few days before the guess date. On our guess date, the head movements had leveled off, and the midwife found their head was flexed and low, which I was ready to settle for. Baby had been OP for pretty much the whole 3rd trimester, despite my diligent efforts to turn them to OA. In fact, my chiropractor helped me make peace with it by saying, "maybe baby knows something we don't. Maybe their cord is positioned so that they can't comfortably or safely hang out OA in utero, and they'll move at the end."
Well, on Thursday, Jan. 20, baby's head was gnashing again and had moved up in the pelvis, which was enough to make me wonder if this baby WAS trying to turn. My midwife agreed that could be true, and gave me several positions to move through in order to give her space.
She also offered to check my cervix. I was very curious about the progress, having now idea if this was prodromal labor or if it was progressing my cervix, so I consented. Honestly, the cervical check was the worst part of the whole birth process, and the only part I'd do differently if I could do it again. Even so, it was useful. While Janine and I both thought I'd be dilated to maybe 2 cm, I was actually dilated to 5. Up until then, I had thought that since I only felt the waves very low and in the front, they couldn't be the "real deal." Janine dispelled me of that notion, sharing that that's similar to how her own labor felt.
Janine left to eat dinner, saying she'd return after that and faster if we called. I think by the time Janine left, I was in active labor. I went to lie down in bed in the "flying cowgirl" position and labored there with Jess's support until our doula arrived around 8 p.m. Here, I very slowly ate a snack and drank water while Nadine used a massage ball on my low back. The surges ramped up to the point where I needed much more coaching to stay relaxed during them, until it didn't feel right at all to relax my muscles. I still breathed as deeply as possible, sending oxygen to my uterus and baby, but I felt the need to push against the surges, with my voice and my hands, more and more with each one. I followed those instincts, which was also a thing I'd practiced in our hypnobirth class.
I became nauseous, so I got myself up and to the toilet. After vomiting, it was time for clothes to come off! I labored on the toilet and birthing ball in the bathroom, accompanied by Nadine, while Jess and Janine filled the birth tub.
The surges came more powerfully and closer together. I still wouldn't say I suffered at this point, but it definitely got harder. Nadine pulled out more of my planned comfort measures--peppermint oil, birth ball, music. I pushed harder with my voice. My doula and my midwife noticed the change. Nadine said, "That's your power."
I remember thinking, "I need the water! I can't do this much longer!" Lucky for me, it wasn't long after that thought that Janine and Jess said I could get in the tub. "I was going to wait for a break to move."
Janine said, "I think you've just gotta go." At that point I realized I wasn't really getting a break because I was in transition!
The team helped me into the tub. Once in the water, I did get a break. I'm not sure if that was because of the effect of the water or if I was done with transition, but on the very next wave, I started pushing--and roaring--my baby down.
This was where it started to feel really sacred, or like magic, with peaceful music playing and candles burning, and this team I would trust with my life close by. Nadine cooled my face and neck with ice water, and Jess held my hand. It was anything but quiet, though. I think I was the loudest I've ever been in my life. It was like the sound filled up my head from the outside, like I was hearing someone else make those sounds, but still attached to the satisfaction the roaring brought. I remember thinking, "these are like the sounds of a baby crying." Since then, I've heard my baby make them. It's like I was only instinct at this moment, the way a newborn is. Instinct and power.
I pushed on my knees, leaning against the wall of the tub. My dog made an appearance at my face. I could feel my baby descending, feel Janine's light pressure on my rectum with the instruction to push toward that sensation. Nadine said, "send all that energy down."
Janine narrated to Holly, the midwife who was charting, that my bag of waters was emerging as my baby's head started to crown. For a second, I thought, "Will my baby be born en caul?!" But a second later, the bag broke in the pool. Shortly after, I reached down to touch my baby's head.
"So much hair!!" I called, and it was so motivating. Baby was so close!
The next few pushes, I definitely felt the ring of fire. At that point, my roar became a scream and then panting as I instinctively tried to give baby time to stretch those tissues.
As baby's head emerged, Janine moved baby's hand out of the way, and after the head was born, helped to rotate the shoulder. I don't remember feeling any of that, just the power of the waves helping me to push this baby out. It seemed to me that once the head was born, they just flew and floated out. Janine caught baby and handed them to me. I don't think I've ever before felt so accomplished, so HIGH, as when I held my baby the first time. I tried to check the sex (it was a surprise to us), but I couldn't actually lift them up far enough out of the water because the cord was too short.
Pretty quickly, I was given Angelica tincture and a shot of pitocin (with consent). I'd lost more blood with the birth of the baby than Janine was comfortable with, so they wanted to get on that. The placenta still didn't come, so they got me and baby, still attached, out of the tub and onto our bed so they could see better. More Angelica. More pitocin.
"If you feel the need to bear down, follow that!" I didn't feel the need, though. I felt urgency in the room, and I could feel my uterus contracting, but not with any kind of rhythm. It felt like it was bubbling like a cauldron. I attempted to bear down anyway, and eventually, the placenta did ooze out.
With the placenta delivered, I could see that our baby had a vulva! We had a beautiful, intimate golden hour or two or three. She latched and had her first meal while she soaked up the rest of her cord blood from the still-attached placenta. We got a tour of the placenta and I got to cut the cord! Turns out that the cord was on the short side--21 inches long--so the guess that this baby wasn't comfortable OA due to the cord is pretty plausible. Then Janine did the newborn exam and vitamin K shot. After taking guesses from everyone in the room, we learned our baby was 7lb 14 oz.
When examined for tearing, I learned that I had a second degree perineal tear, was assured that this level of tear was pretty mild and normal, and was given the choice whether or not to have stitches. "Do I NEED stitches?"
Holly said, "If it were my body, I wouldn't choose them."
"I don't want them."
We cut a deal--no stitches if I could stay upstairs for a full two weeks. Since that was the plan anyway, it was an easy deal to make! Holly told me what I could expect with healing, and then encouraged me to go pee. Hesitant, I said, "Do I want to? No. Should I? Probably."
Holly joked (very effectively), "well we always have the catheter option."
"No, thank you. I'll pee."
Nadine and Janine both helped me to accomplish that. It stung, but it's been better every time since.
Before leaving, the midwives prepared comfrey root compresses and Peri wash, as well as herbal sitz bath. They started the birth laundry and washed the bowl used to catch the placenta. Janine made sure we knew what to expect in the next 36 hours and set our next house call for then.
Jess said, before they left, "Wait! We don't have to do a hospital transfer!" Indeed not. While it had a few unexpected turns, we got the peaceful, empowering, safe home birth of our dreams and now our baby was in our arms.
Exhausted, I thought, "I don't want to do this again tomorrow, but I definitely do want to do it again."
- Katrina, Jess and Baby E
Flutterby is located in the Twin Cities, and provides Hypnobirthing as well as other classes and services for expectant families. Erin Stertz-Follett, Flutterby's Owner, is a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, Certified Hypnobirthing Educator, and Certified Birth Doula who has taught and assisted hundreds of families. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Sharing is caring!
Erin Stertz-Follett, Owner