My last blog brought you up to speed on the week before my “real” labor started.
Not a good week although it ended with me in a better frame of mind. A place, emotionally, where I was ready to welcome a child into our family… you can’t really do that when you’re angry at your current children for breathing (or whatever other annoying thing they’ve been doing that are grating on your hormonal nerves). So, after a relaxing Sunday with my husband and some quiet time with my mom and older son, I prepared for my 41st week of pregnancy, the week I was sure my baby would be born.
(Just an FYI disclaimer, readers, there is nothing in this post that is X rated but I am descriptive in what I experienced and what went on. I also included some pictures that are very “real” so just be prepared! Birth is beautiful but you don’t push a baby out fully dressed with your hair and makeup done perfectly… at least the majority of us don’t!)
My mother was staying for the long haul this time which left me a little less stressed (I didn’t have to make sure to call her in time for her to drive 3.5 hours to be here on time!) and she helped me wrangle the kids. Monday we went to a library with a great play area because it was raining. The kids had a blast, I picked up some books about new babies and my mom attempted to get me hooked on a new series of audiobooks (which have been usurped by The Hunger Games already). I think we all napped and basically just took it easy for the rest of the day.
I’d gotten the pool ready the week before…
On Tuesday I had a day out with Punkin planned, just the two of us. My mother suggested it because it’d be a long time before I got much alone time with my boy for a while and she was not so secretly hoping it’d push me over the edge. I knew I was close to labor (everything pointed that way, including the calendar showing me at 41 weeks, but I also just felt like it was impending) so I was a little nervous at going into the city with only a four-year old for backup. Luckily my husband works in the building directly across from the Science Center (where we’d decided to go) so I was pretty sure he’d be able to assist if labor came on suddenly. We got going early so we’d be there right as they opened at 10. Punkin was especially excited about the dinosaur exhibit so we planned a visit there first. As we bought our tickets I felt a little… something… in my pants so we made a beeline for the bathroom. It wasn’t my water breaking or anything super dramatic, just a little pink spot. Hmmm…. Knowing that could mean something or nothing we continued with our visit. I found it very hard by the end of an hour to walk around comfortably. The baby just felt heavy and I was crampy and exhausted. Luckily Punkin was wearing out fast too so we decided to call it quits around 11:30 and head over next door for lunch with Daddy!
By the time we’d finished lunch with Christian I felt pretty crappy. I found it difficult even to walk down the hall to meet a co-worker of his! The drive home was full of strong contractions but I didn’t worry about it since sitting usually brought on contractions for me and driving ALWAYS did. Once home I got right in bed, thankfully leaving Punkin with my mom for naptime. Dinner was a good meal of chicken and a cabbage salad and regular, increasingly painful, contractions. Ha ha! I knew the walk through the Science Center would bump things into gear (I know my mom was really hoping for it too!) I called my midwife again to let her know how I was feeling and settled in to let the contractions build. They did… but only to a point. After the kids were in bed and I sat on my big ball watching TV I decided to try the elbows and knees position (intended to turn a posterior baby the “right” way). Almost immediately the contractions slowed. Again??? I decided not to even worry or stress about it and I went to bed.
The next morning, Wednesday, I had an appointment with my midwives at 9:30. I’d had mildly painful contractions throughout the night but for the most part they didn’t keep me awake. I was up by 4am, showered by 5am and just kinda waiting to see what the day would bring. When the midwives arrived I was measured (a perfect 41 weeks) and they felt for an estimate on the baby’s size. Around 9.5lbs, not surprising given my family history of big babies! Then she checked my cervix. The Thursday before at my last appointment she stretched me to 3cm and I’d lost my mucus plug on Saturday (the words mucus plug are super gross sounding, right? But I warned you this would be real!!!). Today she checked and stretched and pronounced me a stretchy SEVEN!!! Wow. Meanwhile I was still having contractions that I felt were mildly painful, certainly the most painful I’d had thus far in a pregnancy full of Braxton Hicks contractions, and these were different. The BH contractions I felt all around my belly but that morning they were really low in my pelvis, like strong, menstrual cramping.
My belly, at this point, was a very low hanging one. I actually felt like the baby was sitting head down in front of my pelvic bone instead of settling inside my pelvis. When I mentioned this the Kim agreed, that’s what she’d just been thinking! So, off we sent my husband to Babies ‘R’ Us to buy a pregnancy support band. They corseted me into that thing (almost knocking me off my feet in the process–those things have to be tight!) and almost immediately I felt a shift in contractions. Now, having given SO MANY false alarms I wasn’t about to say–This is IT! but I knew something had changed. The stupid thing was uncomfortable and I felt a little light-headed and it seemed like the contractions might be getting stronger and closer but I couldn’t quite tell. It was approaching lunch time and both midwives decided to head out leaving me with the instructions to call if things got going, even if that meant they left and turned right around again. It was a beautiful day out and my mom already had the kids out back playing. After a week of horrible humidity and 100 degree heat the breezy high 70 air that met me outside was so welcome. I walked (waddled?) my way to the backyard tree. The contractions were definitely strong now and I needed to pause during them. I still got myself all the way back to the garden and proceeded to weed a bit. Squatting during contractions could only help things along, after all, so why not accomplish something while squatting?! It didn’t last long, though. The sun was hot and I didn’t feel like I’d be able to manage much longer out there, alone, if things kept ramping up the way they seemed to be doing. I summoned my husband out to the tree (where I’d had to stop to handle a contraction) and told him I thought I had to get inside. He made lunch for the kids and my mom fed them outside while I transferred myself into the living room. I was under strict orders to stay leaning back, the complete opposite of what I’d been doing when we were worried about the baby being posterior, but I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable. I perched on the edge of the couch and leaned back on my arms during contractions but it was difficult to relax. Meanwhile my amazing husband made sandwiches and filled the pool up. When I told him how uncomfortable I was he told me to hop right in–Wonderful man!!! I stripped off the belt and got in.
Christian called Kim and she told me to put the belt back on (ugh) and check back with her in about a half hour to let her know how things were going. I put that belt on and I wasn’t smiling much anymore… The contractions stayed strong and got stronger. Of course my impulse was to pull off the stupid belt because it was making me more uncomfortable but I knew we were in the thick of it now and there was no point in trying to turn back. I wasn’t scared at this point, I wasn’t even really thinking about getting to the pushing point or holding my baby in my arms. I was really just taking everything moment by moment. I sat there, leaning up against the back of the tub with my knees hanging apart, just willing the baby to move down, down, down. In the half hour or so before we talked to Kim again I started vocalizing through the contractions. Kind of a low moaning “ooooooh” noise. I found it pretty easy to relax in the tub though I did catch myself arching once or twice. Resisting or trying to muscle through the contractions did NOT help so I focused on letting them roll over me. When Chris talked to Kim next he told her things were really going and that she should probably come (I was refusing to be decisive, having been wrong so many times before!). She called back about a minute later asking if she had time to drop her daughter somewhere. She heard me moan through a contraction and said quickly, “Never mind, I’ll be right there!” That was a long half hour waiting for her to come. I just wanted to know that the baby had shifted down into my pelvis and all of these contractions were doing their job instead of just squeezing ineffectually on a head that wouldn’t engage. I knew if I could just be sure they were working I could get through it but if they weren’t… well, I might have to freak out a bit.
By the time Kim arrived I wasn’t opening my eyes for much. I found that by closing them I could sink into a sort of trance where I just floated in the water, grounded by my husbands hands. I knew I needed him to be there because as the midwives were setting up equipment he was unable to get to me in time for a few contractions and I felt the difference. We hadn’t discussed what he would or would not be doing during the labor and birth. He had made it clear he didn’t want to catch the baby on land (babies being very slimy when they emerge and my husband being a bit fastidious about slime and all things gooey). I knew I wanted him with me but neither of us really pictured what that might actually look like. When those contractions started hitting me hard, though, I knew EXACTLY where I needed him!
Time kinda flowed over me and I didn’t really know what was going on other than that things were progressing within my own body. I knew my daughters were asleep upstairs (having been vaguely aware they came in from lunch and disappeared upstairs) and my son was happily somewhere in another room. He would occasionally come check on me. He’d stand at the edge of the tub and peer between my legs to see if anything was emerging and then wander off again. So cute! Eventually there was talk of waking the girls up to take them to a friend’s house for a bit. I wasn’t really part of the conversation other than I might have said a garbled, “Yes, wake them,” once I knew it was after 3pm. So, my mom flew out of the house with the girls and got back as quickly as possible. She knew better than I that things were about to really start happening.
Eyes closed, almost floating in the tub, focusing on the grip of my husbands hands behind me I listened to what was going on around me. Kim was asking me to get up and move to the toilet. My husband later remarked she should have just been TELLING me but I heard her. She probably asked two or three times and since I didn’t make a reply she didn’t know I was steeling myself to get out of the tub. My position in the tub (reclining against the edge of the tub to keep the baby in my pelvis) wasn’t really necessary anymore. I needed to squat and get ready to push. When I decided it was time to go I basically sprinted to the bathroom, not wanting to be caught “out” during a contraction! I don’t recall anyone actually telling me I was fully dilated like they do in the hospital. Later Kim did tell me that it’s harder to tell when you’re under water but she did think I was fully dilated (especially since I’d started the morning at 7cm!). No one said, “It’s time to push now!” but there were suggestions being made. I sat on the toilet with my husband perched on the edge of the tub in front of me. I literally didn’t feel like I could handle a contraction without him. He later told me that he didn’t think he was doing enough but he was my lifeline. Other people were around me, I was aware of Kim close by but it was Christian’s face I looked for when my eyes flickered open for a moment. I’ve read that women crave the company of other women during birth and it made perfect sense to me. Men didn’t sway with the rhythm of birth the way women instinctively can they don’t say the right things or even smell right but that’s not the way it was for me. Christian was the only thing keeping me grounded.
On the toilet I pushed but it didn’t feel right. My water hadn’t broken (I hadn’t expected it to, none of the other three broke on their own, why would this one?) and I didn’t feel like my pushes were doing anything. I was frustrated but unable to verbalize. I started whining. Well, that’s certainly what it seems like in retrospect though Kim and Kara assure me it was totally normal (I guess most people whine during labor!). I felt like a naughty toddler complaining my shirt was too itchy or my seatbelt was too tight. I couldn’t verbalize what I was feeling which was: I don’t feel the PUSH feeling I had with my other births. Even though I’d had an epidural both times I felt that low down pressure (like poop pressure) that signaled me to push. I wasn’t getting that this time and I was frustrated!
There was a suggestion to move me to the living room. Again I booked it between contractions (I recall comments being made at how quickly I was moving). At first they had me lay on the couch and that was NOT happening. I was so incredibly uncomfortable! How ironic that the most common position for delivery was the absolute WORST possible position I could imagine being in! Finally Chris sat behind me on the couch and Kim got on the ground in front of the ball but the ball was too far from the couch. I didn’t feel stable and I was freaking out that I couldn’t push the baby out while on the ball. I remember fussing and calling, “BUT HOW WILL THIS WORK?” I heard reassurements all around me but I was too unstable and I still wasn’t feeling that urge to really push (though I was pushing intermittently this whole time). I heard everyone giggling and actually saw the humor in it as chux pads were frantically coming in from all sides to shove under the edge of the ball and maybe even over Kim. I think it was my mom who warned Kim (while laughing) that she’d better get ready for when my water broke. She would have gotten drenched! Then suddenly, amidst my complaining, Kim said, “If you want to get back in the pool, now is the time!” I didn’t know what she meant then but I do know.
I ran for the tub like someone had just released me from jail and threw myself in. I tried leaning my elbows against the edge of the pool in a squatting position but that didn’t work. I felt frantic! Christian climbed into the pool behind me, got on his knees and I leaned against him. I pushed and Kim reached in to break my water. “That feels RIGHT!” I exclaimed and suddenly I was pushing for real. Christian called to my mother (who was standing by taking pictures) to go get Punkin so he could see the birth. I think she’d totally forgotten about the little guy in the excitement of the moment! My next exclamation is probably the last thing that Christian wanted to hear while squatting in a pool behind me, “I’m pooping!” push, “That isn’t right!” I’m sure there was a little laughter at this point but I was told that it was absolutely right. And I knew it was.
I pushed again, able to see the finish line. Kim was right there in front of me but I wasn’t really looking. I felt the head descend and even though I couldn’t tell when a contraction was hitting (I’m sure I whined about that too at some point) I just PUSHED! I felt the head, I felt more head and I think someone said, “The head is out!” I was confused for a moment and I opened my eyes. I couldn’t see anything over the mass of my belly but I reached down and felt a soft, fuzzy little head. I felt another surge and pushed for all I was worth. This kid was big. I pushed and pushed and all of a sudden the baby was out! I had intended to catch the baby on my own but there was no way with the way I was positioned, nor am I sure my arms were long enough to have reached! Kim passed the baby up and someone called out, “It’s a boy!” I felt down and, sure enough, it was! I felt Christian exhale behind me. He told me later that he, too, felt a release as our son was born. We settled back against the edge of the tub and admired our little wet bundle. I’d been back in the tub for four minutes.
Punkin was perched at the edge of the tub staring. He asked if he could hold him about two seconds after the baby was born! I told him he’d have to wait a little while as I was still attached, I pulled up the umbilical cord to show him. A few moments later (the passage of time is all a little fuzzy) I pushed out the placenta. I’m not sure if I felt a contraction or whatever but it came out in two little pushes and, sure enough, they do float! Punkin immediately asked if he could hold him now, poor guy was so anxious! Someone scooped up the placenta into a bowl while other people went to set up a mattress in the living room with a plastic covering and sheets (my bedroom was upstairs and all ready but there was no way we were getting all the way up there any time soon). I held my baby with one arm and grabbed the front of a towel that had been slung between my legs with the other. Someone carried the bowl and someone else had the back of the towel. Too bad we didn’t get a picture of that procession because I’m sure it looked hilarious!
Once in the living room I snuggled down with my new son, henceforth to be called Peanut (you’ll get the humor in that momentarily). Punkin was practically on top of us (I was seriously worried he’d knock over the placenta bowl). A bunch of things happened, I was getting checked out, the baby was getting dried off, Punkin was still practically on top of us… Then came time to cut the cord. I’m not sure of the exact timing but I’d say it was around 20 minutes after birth and all the blood had stopped flowing from it to the baby. We asked Punkin if he wanted to cut the cord and he was all about it! I wasn’t sure he’d want to because it’s a weird thing to do but, really, after all the birth videos we’d watched and the amount of medical knowledge this kid has about pregnancy and childbirth it’s not such a shock that he was totally ready to get in there. Kim tied off the baby’s end with a string and clamped the other side. Punkin got his fingers situated in the scissors and Kim guided him where to cut. My mother took a video of this moment and he looks concerned and almost scared as he’s cutting and as Kim puts her hand over his to assist but once the cord was completely cut and everyone exclaimed, “You did it!” he just BEAMED.
I never had any desire to see my first placenta, I was very intrigued by my second and third (they were fused) but I only caught a glimpse of it as it was lifted from the floor to a bowl down by my feet. I was very interested in seeing this exam and so was Punkin. The placenta was a beautiful heart shape with the amniotic sac still attached (and very tough!). It was so cool! One of the midwives asked Punkin if he’d like to touch it and he donned a pair of gloves and got right in there. When he poked his fingers into it the indentations stayed, kinda like really soft and wet play-doh. Meanwhile I began to nurse Peanut who was a little out of sorts but managed to latch just fine while laying beside me.
The next hour or so is a bit of a blur. My mother went to pick up the girls around 5:00 and there was quite a flurry of activity as they were introduced to their brother. They both wanted to hold him and we have at least one picture of someone crying because it wasn’t their turn anymore. They are only 21 months old after all, and they’d had a busy day. Pizza and salad were prepared and I attempted to eat while Kim and Kara did the newborn exam on the couch next to me (I say attempted because, even though the girls had just eaten, they were trying to steal my food as usual!). This was Kara’s first newborn exam and we all kinda giggled as she struggled to find Peanut’s collar bones. The child had so much chub that he seemed not to have a neck at all! Then we were ready to weigh him. Everyone started making guesses. I said I thought he was more than 9.5lbs but less than 13lbs (the twins combined weight was 13.5ish). The midwives all guessed in the 10lb range. Peanut was placed in a little sling and lifted by a hanging scale like the ones used to weigh fish, he was a really good catch! The verdict: 11lbs 3oz! Holy crap.
Christian had gotten all cleaned up and somehow I’d managed to get rinsed off and clothed in something clean and dry. We were then “delivered” to our bed upstairs with instructions for me not to attempt the stairs for a full 24 hours. Christian and my mom had already put the girls to bed and Punkin was set up watching TV downstairs when everyone left. Ah, home and together with our four children. We’d fit in the birth of our fourth child neatly between lunch and dinner and did all the hard work during naptime.