Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amelia's Birth Story

This post contains frank details and photos of birth - read at your own risk.

After missing my LMP due date on Saturday, Aug. 4, I was watching every sign, eager to know when labor was beginning. On Monday and into Tuesday, I had started to feel a lot of low pressure and a bit of an ache between my legs, so I figured things were underway. Monday night I had some discharge, likely the start of my mucus plug, which set off my adrenaline so much I couldn't sleep but a few hours. Tuesday late morning, I had some bloody show and felt more low pressure and aching. I called my mom, who lives nine hours' drive away, and advised her to pack and maybe leave the next day. I wasn't having contractions but I knew things were starting. I awoke Tuesday night with mild cramping but got back to sleep after an hour or so awake. On Wednesday morning, Aug. 8, I felt enough mild cramping to say that labor was starting, but it was clearly starting slowly. I sent D to work, advising him it might be a short day, and called my mom. She had already decided to start her drive that morning, so she was in the car before I even called.

I did some organizing around the house, and noticed that the cramps stopped. I decided to go wear out Sylvia, so we headed to the playground. I tried to stay on my feet to get contractions started again, but I was also rather tired. While pushing Sylvia on the swings around noon, I felt the cramps start up again, this time much more like contractions. I had about 4 within that hour. We came home for lunch, and I napped after, and felt no contractions while sleeping. I had been texting Carey, my midwife, throughout the day, but at this point I expressed frustration that the contractions had stopped. She realized that I had Sylvia with me, and suggested I pass her off so my body cold stop being a mom and get down to work. D came home around then, and we decided to go as a family to get ice cream, and then take Sylvia to her grandparents' for the night. By the time we had gotten everything ready to go, though, I realized the contractions were back and stronger, so I hugged my daughter goodbye and sent them out without me. Almost immediately, the contractions picked up to being more noticeable and less easy. It was around 5pm.

I decided to paint my toenails - one last act of personal indulgence - which I thought had gone fine but now see is a smudgey mess. I wanted to shower, but put it off until things got more intense (it never happened). D returned home and I helped him prepare dinner (artichokes and pork chops). I gave him permission not to sit and watch me, so he hung out upstairs and I watched some Olympics while timing my contractions on my iPhone app. We ate dinner together, but sitting at the table was the first time I began to feel real discomfort. I called Carey to explain that I was having trouble timing things, because I had classic contraction waves, but also short bursts of cramps (I had the same combo of feelings with Sylvia). Intense feelings were happening every 5 minutes or so, but not all were long contraction waves. Carey advised me to pay more attention to my brain: as long as I was rational and thinking through these kind of details, I wasn't yet in active labor...but I could call her to come over any time.

After dinner I settled in front of the TV, watching first some Olympic track and then diving events, still tapping my phone app to try to time things. I sat on a birth ball at first, but then moved to my knees on the ground to lean on the ball. Around this time (about 7pm) my mom walked in. D helped her empty the car and get settled while I stayed on my ball. Mom was concerned that the midwife wasn't there, but I still felt "with it" and didn't see a need for another person to come hang out. I called D over to rub a tennis ball into my back during some difficult contractions. I then realized that they were lasting about a minute - a sign Carey told me meant she needed to come. So I texted her this at 8:08pm: "still rational, but cons are 1min+ and intense." She promptly responded that she was on her way (her house is about 15 minutes from mine).

Contractions were indeed intense, and I found the need to walk  around some. Jenn A, one of two apprentices, came in, and I greeted her but left her to do her thing. I gave instructions to D and my mom to put down a tarp on the carpet, the last set-up item on my list. I remember leaning into the bed for contractions, and D and Mom whispering that I was indeed "different" now. I walked out of the bedroom to return to my ball, but only made it as far as the staircase before having to double over. Carey and the other apprentice, Jenn C, walked in at that minute to find me on my knees, groaning on the stairs. I asked Carey to please check me quickly so I could get in the tub (I remembered that the bath had provided a lot of relief in my last labor, and I was ready for that).


Baby crowning as Carey supports physically, D emotionally
Carey asked me to get on the bed to be checked, but my body would not let me lie down. She managed to check me while I was on all fours, but all she could confirm was that I was indeed dilating and progressing. If I wanted an exact number of centimeters, I was going to need to lie down. That did not at all sound worth it to me, so I headed right into the tub. I was disappointed that the tub didn't make everything better. I instead began moving around in positions like a partial squat that admittedly weren't very comfortable or relaxing, but it was all I could manage. D sat on one end of the tub, Carey knelt on the other end. I was not happy because I wasn't getting much rest between contractions (I should have realized this meant I was near the end). Carey encouraged me to try to feel the baby, so I reached in and felt a soft joint. I blanched and said, "Carey, that's not a head." The room collectively took in a breath, but Carey promptly assured me it was a head, it just might not feel like one to me because a) baby heads have lots of shifting plates on top, and b) my water hadn't broken yet, so there was still a gelatinous layer covering it. She quickly checked me and confirmed it was indeed a head - thank goodness!

Concerned/amazed Mom

I continued to contort into weird squatting positions while trying to vocalize my two pre-decided laboring words: Down and Out. Occasionally, my body would release large bubbles, which I found strangely encouraging, like I had made progress. I really wanted to feel my water break, as I had read in other birth stories that it creates a huge feeling of relief, followed quickly by crowning. Instead, my chants turned to NOOOO as things got very intense. Then, I realized that I was pushing while contracting, even though I never had a clear pushing urge. I just had a LOT of pressure on my bottom, and then pain (most of labor really is pressure and waves, but this was rather acute pain around my rectum). My brother had made the joke that I would be "pooping out a baby at home," and that is exactly what it felt like.

Now, let me tell you the definition of selfless service: Carey leaned into that bath and provided counter-pressure to my rectum so it wouldn't hurt so much. I was then shocked to realize then that the baby was crowning - my water hadn't broken, but I could  feel her head exiting my body, and I cupped the head as it slowly lowered out of me. At this point it suddenly dawned on me that my mom, who had been in the kitchen staying out of the way, might want to see the birth, so I yelled at the top of my lungs "MOMMMM!" She replied from 2 feet away, "I'm right here," and everyone in the room laughed. And then...pause. I lost my urge to push, and whoop! Baby went back up the birth canal. It was such a weird feeling, almost like an upward suction. I sat there for a minute, shifted position  to be fully up on my knees, and felt her exit and then suck back up again. I was done with this. Even though I didn't have a contraction to help, I pushed anyway. Carey's hands and mine together supported my body and led Baby's head out. She came easily and slipped right from my body into my arms.

Baby born!

I saw immediately that the cord was loosely wrapped around her shoulder and her neck. Carey untangled her as I held her, and Baby began hollering right away. She was pink and perfect, not slimy or beat up in any way. I checked to make sure she was a girl and announced that to the whole room. I asked Carey what to do next, and she suggested it would be easier to birth the placenta out of the tub. Elated, I carried my new daughter against my chest as the midwives helped me walk the few feet from the bath to my bed. I lay there, gazing at my perfect, squawking daughter, as Carey and Jenn C helped me birth the placenta and put it in a bowl next to us. They then inspected me for tears or problems, and everyone helped wipe and clean me and the baby. I was feeling blissful, only a little crampy, and a bit overwhelmed that we were already done. She was born at 9:48pm, so I'd only been in active labor for about 2 hours.

Pure joy.
A flurry of activity happened around me as the midwives cleaned up and assessed, and Baby tried her first nurse. About 45 minutes after birth, the cord had gone flaccid, so Carey helped D cut it, and they then showed me the placenta. It seems like my membranes had been really strong, and instead of my water breaking, one membrane had just torn slightly and slowly leaked (which I never felt, maybe because it all happened in the tub?). I could still clearly see where my baby had lived for the past 10 months. The placenta is in the freezer now, but will soon be planted under a magnolia tree we bought for the occasion.

Around 11pm, the midwives weighed and measured the baby: 8lbs, 0 oz, 20.5" long. Her Apgar scores were 8 and 10. We couldn't come up with a name (none of our three finalists were immediately standing out; it would take us three days to name her), but no one seemed to mind. Mom brought me an amazing grilled cheese sandwhich and a peach, and a few people toasted some Stellas. The midwives all left by 11:30 or so, and D joined me in the bed to sleep just before midnight. We were joyful, overwhelmed and exhausted. Baby nursed and cried (a comical, froggy wail) until 4:30am before finally taking a long snooze. She certainly made her presence in the world immediately known.

Many thanks to Jenn Anderson for taking photos with my camera. Also, I'll follow up soon with a blog on how we (relunctantly) chose homebirth.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I found it very informative and I loved the part about yelling for your Mom who was only 2 feet away. When I looked at that last photo it immediately brought joyful tears to my eyes, pure joy is a perfect caption!

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  2. Beautiful--story, pictures, process, Mom, baby, & "pit crew."

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  3. Love this- it happened so fast! ( at least it seems fast to read!) Liam was born in the unbroken sac too - we had big trubs his first few days with him choking on regurgitated amniotic fluid. Has little A had that?
    I love that you have pictures. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I'm sure you guys already know, but just in case--being born with the membrane ("caul") has historically been viewed as very lucky--and the children are thought to be destined for greatness!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caul

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  5. @TF - she wasn't quite born in the caul. The membranes mist have separated very last minute. @RG - thankfully no aspirated fluid. Sylvia had that some and I remember how terrifying that choking sound was.

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  6. Hi! I am very interested in if you attract a lot of traffic to your blog?

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  7. Deeply - I write for myself more than for an audience, so I am not really concerned about traffic. My few friends who read this are validation enough. :)

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