11/22: 40 I can't believe I’m still pregnant. I went into labor with Kayla (now almost 3 years old) at 40+2 & delivered at 40+3. I tried telling myself that this might not have been her actual birth day if I hadn’t been augmented with Cervidil, had the epidural and eventually the C-section. Whoever propagates the myth that second babies tend to come earlier should be shot. Trying not to despair.
11/26: 41+0: My sister arrives to keep me company since it’s her college Thanksgiving break. I have not been so desperate over the last few days since spending the weekend with Kayla kept my mind off things and focused on our last possible "mommy and only daughter time". My sister and I start making cupcakes for Kayla's Thanksgiving “dinner” at her day care the next day. Mummies and Oreo/candy corn turkeys. I might have eaten a few while baking.
11/27 41+1: I have an appointment at 10 AM with one of my midwives (they are a team of two) at home. We discuss induction methods to try over the coming weekend if I’m still preggo (including castor oil, yuck), and this thought depresses me a bit. I ask her to strip my membranes, she gets in there real good and swipes about 2-3 times. She checks me and tells me I’m 3cm and 80% effaced. It’s the first time ever that I have been checked by either midwife, and turns out it was also the last. Just another small, yet huge, distinction between the care I received during Kayla’s pregnancy. (Keep those legs closed during the last few weeks ladies!!!) I digress. Those numbers, however, are good news to me because I never made it past 2cm without Cervidil and an epidural with Kayla.
After my appointment my sister and I finish the Thanksgiving cupcakes and deliver them to Kayla's day care. While I’m up and about I have pretty strong BH but once I get home I am tired (I know it’s only 3pm don’t judge!!!) and spend the rest of the day relaxing, which makes the BH disappear. I am slightly disappointed when they stop and at the fact that my cervix must be made of steel because I have NOT ONE drop of blood from the strip, lol.
From now on you will notice a common thread, denial. In hindsight probably the best coping technique I never planned on using. It’ll make sense I promise, just keep reading.
11/28 41+2: Wake up to pee at 2:30 as usual. Had a BH (Braxton hicks contraction) or two while I am up. Wake up again at 4 AM, expect it is the BH that wakes me up. Go to pee, again. Have a few more BH in the bathroom. Hmmm, that is odd. Wait, these are a little more intense. I have more mucus-y discharge with the most miniscule amount of pink/red streaking. Probably doesn’t mean anything (denial). Go back to bed, put on my Hypnobabies track to try and go back to sleep in "case" this is it. I noisily breathe through a "BH." Tony (significant other) asks me if I am OK, he heard me breathing hard. I told him I was fine and to go back to sleep. I can't take these "BH" laying down, they felt a lot better on the toilet. I lie and tell Tony my stomach hurts and I need to go back to the bathroom.
I admit to myself that these on top of each other, need-to-breathe-and-focus-through “BH” are probably real contractions and I open my contraction timer app on my phone while on the toilet to confirm. It’s about 4:30 AM when I start timing them. And just like Kayla's labor, these are already LESS than 3 min apart and anywhere from 30-60 seconds long. I suspect that they were a minute long all along but I would easily miss the beginning of the contraction and the peak was about 30 seconds. So these are real contractions but I am not admitting that I am in labor because contractions are “supposed” to be farther apart and eventually get closer together (denial)
Tony walks into the bathroom and asks me what is going on. I confess that I had been having contractions since 4 AM. He chastises me for not telling him. I counter that I needed him to get some sleep to be useful to me later and that I was fine coping on my own for now. I tell him that I’m going to take a bath to see if they stop or slow down in case this is not the real thing (denial, see what I mean?) He goes and puts my sister on notice. I light a few candles and continue to labor in the tub, contractions not feeling any different. They are all in my lower belly, below my belly button. It feels like an intense tightening, requires my concentration but not painful. I send a text message to my midwife because I don't want to inconvenience her at 5 in the morning if she is still asleep, especially if it is not labor (denial and mind of a birth worker I guess, trying to be considerate of my birth team, especially because it is Thanksgiving)
So funny side note... While in the tub I actually attempt to post something a BabyCenter homebirth forum that letting them know that I was in labor and to complain that my contractions continue to be less than 3 minutes apart and I would like a breather to assimilate what is happening. But by the time I switch to my internet app and write 4-5 words I have to switch back to my timer app because another contraction was coming. So after about 10 contractions and only writing 2 sentences I give up.
I get out of the tub at about 6/6:30 and head back to my room. My daughter has claimed my spot on my bed. I notice the difference in how the contractions feel out of the tub and start to ask Tony for counter-pressure. I have a few contractions in the room and my vocalizing, which is louder now that I am out of the tub, keeps threating to wake up Kayla up. My midwife texts me back and asks me to call her. I decide that it time to set up shop in the living room. It’s go time. I take my pillows and my still naked self (grabbing my robe out of respect for my sister) and go down the hallway.
At a little after 7AM, once I am comfortable on my knees, draped over my birth ball, I call my midwife. I attempt to talk through contractions because according to my doula self it’s only been 3 hours so I’m still in early labor and I should be able to talk through them (denial). No such luck. I pause to breathe through them. She tells me to continue with the text updates but to call her if anything *changes* (for those of you who have already given birth you probably know what she means) but otherwise we were going to check in at 10 AM.
From my lofty position on my ball I feel like a conductor and begin to orchestrate the setting up of the living room between contractions. Telling my sister and boyfriend what to clean, what to move, where certain supplies are. I actually smile to myself at one point and marvel at how awesome to be doing this in my living room is rather than making sure that my hospital bag is packed and getting dressed. I flashback to memories of the taxi driver that wouldn’t shut up at 2 in the morning on the way to the hospital while I am obviously in labor in the back seat an am filled with gratitude at NOT having to move from my apartment.
I tell Tony to start blowing up the pool around 8 AM while my sister goes downstairs to get some breakfast. I ask that they get me a fruity beer in lieu of a cup a wine, to see if I can get some rest (because you know, I am not in full blown labor or anything, denial). Between a few sips of the beer and some Tylenol I start to get drowsy and attempt to sleep on the sofa. I do doze off in between contractions, waking up in time to request some counter-pressure by waving my hand and grunting some noise or calling my sister's name. But they feel worse lying down and I decide that the 30-60 seconds of sleep in between them is not worth how bad they feel lying down, so I get up and head back to the bathroom this time for a shower. I rig up some sort of system with my birth ball (yes I dragged it into my tiny ass bathroom in my tiny ass tub, lol) the shower and a bath pillow I had. I had the shower at my back and leaned forward or got up during the contraction and in between them sat on the ball and rested my head against the pillow to my right. I feel like I should have provided a make-shift diagram with this. This works for about 30 minutes I guess. The hot water is good enough that I don't require counter-pressure. But after a while this set up starts to irritate me and I take the ball out and attempt another bath, but it’s not the same relief, I need counter-pressure and I get out. It takes 3 contractions before I’m out of the shower and have another one as I go down the hallway and another one when I get to my room.
And I spot what would be my lifesaver.... a hand held massager. WHY did I not think to use this sooner! So I take it and myself back to the living room. HEAVEN. At this point I remember thinking, no wonder in all the birth stories I read from the UK have TENS machines, and for a few seconds I regret not spending the $30 bucks for one I saw on Amazon. So if you are still pregnant and reading this. GET ONE, you will not regret it.
I lean over my ball for a few contractions and start shivering. But it’s just because I got out of the hot shower, at least this is what I assume, because there is no way that after 5 hours I'm “already” in transition (denial). But after a few more contractions after staring at the tub I say screw it and get in. I don't care if it’s too early, I need something else to help me cope.
The water does nothing for the actual contractions (probably because they still feel like intense pressure, and I’m not really registering them as pain) and the back pain is a bitch but it relaxes me so much and it makes it a lot easier not to tense when I feel them coming. I’m moaning through each and every single one now with chants of "oooooooooooopen" and sometimes talk to myself with whisperings of quick "pressure pressure pressure" all while getting a massage from the hand held. I can manage through each contraction.
At this point Kayla is actually awake, she got scared at first of a few of my vocalizations but quickly got used to them. She was her regular morning cranky self until I let her get in the pool with me. She was content and quite unphased in there. But after the water kept rising it got uncomfortable for her and she requested to get out on her own. After which she appointed herself the person in charge of keeping me hydrated, after seeing my sister do it, and continued to offer me cold water with a straw, it was great, she was great, as my gut told me she would be. I wanted her to be at the birth but just in case I had two doulas in case of transfer or she was not handling it well and needed to be cared for in another room. So my official opinion on siblings at birth, at least at home, is to go with your gut but have a back-up plan.
10:15 AM: I check in with Shar. She can tell things from my noises that things are coming along. I tell her that since I got out of the shower the beginning of each contraction come with a very mild sense of needing to poo and that if I push ever so lightly with it, it actually helps relax my whole bottom area. But in no way do I think that this means anything (denial), I actually convince myself that like Kayla, the baby must be in a weird position and is just pushing against my tailbone or something, suggesting bad position that I thought would resolve itself from me being hands and knees in the tub. Shar (midwife) asks me if I want her to head over, she can be there in 15 minutes. I decline, I’m coping well and am feeling baby move (and you know I’m not really pushing so I don’t really need my midwife). I then speak to doula #1, Trina, who is Tony's longtime friend from high school, a mom of 2, L&D nurse, and former birth assistant (I love this woman), and tell her to be here by noon as well. I’m in labor and I’m feeling bad that she just came off a 12 hr shift as an L&D nurse (and she has 2 kids and goes to school). I also text doula #2, Anna, and she said she is heading over because it takes her about an hour to drive.
All the while I'm feeling bad that I am taking everyone away from their Thanksgiving plans, isn’t the laboring mind funny?
10:30 AM: 15 minutes later that need to poo kept increasing. My doula self was like, OH, it really does feel like a need to take a shit. But my laboring self kept thinking that I actually did need to poo and kept worrying that I would poop in the tub. LOL. In hindsight I actually didn’t register that my water broke because of this! I distinctly remember thinking that I had a wet fart, or a really light loose stool, along with what I though was the air bubble that accompanied it. I remember asking my sister if I had pooped because I saw really small amount of very light green, and it didn’t even cross my mind that that was probably meconium (really strong denial at work?)
10:45 AM: About 15 minutes after that (about 30 min since speaking to Shar) things *change* and I need her NOW. I tell my sister to call her and tell her so. It probably happened after the water that I didn't know broke, broke. I was pushing during more and more of the contractions. I had a though that I couldn’t be pushing, not because I was worried I wasn't fully dilated, no, it was because I couldn't possibly have gone through transition yet (yes, I am still in denial). This is the time when I had some not so productive thoughts. During the contraction, when I wasn't pushing, those moments were really intense. I started wondering why the hell I chose to do this at home. I couldn't possibly handle 4-6 more hours of this (yup, more denial). I could've been at the hospital sleeping with an epidural. And I’m pretty sure that if I were in a hospital without the support of Tony and my sister and if I were strapped to the bed for monitoring, I probably would have gotten one.
But the only words that I remember coming out of my mouth was "ouch, that last one hurt," and maybe shedding a tear or two, upon which Tony held my hand and told me how great I was doing. Then I would have another contraction and had no more time to dwell on those thoughts. Maybe my contractions are less than 3 minutes apart for a reason. I never once actually contemplated actually going to the hospital.
11:00 AM Shar still wasn’t there and I’m starting to panic. I have my sister call her to find out where she is. She is looking for parking. Only mild relief, because this is Brooklyn, NY, parking could take another 30 minutes. At this point I’m pushing through most of the contraction. It feels good and productive to push. I push when I need to, vocalize through the rest of the contractions when I need to. I feels amazing to be in tune with my body, just doing what I feel is right.
11:15 Shar arrives and sets her stuff down quickly and checks on baby. I’m lucid and aware in between contractions enough to try and guess what the heart rate is, 140/150. It’s actually 160, not too far off, right in range of normal for baby. I spend most of my time on my knees, and I must be pushing effectively because Shar gives me no direction, she is just sitting on the couch. I can feel my own progress as I gauge my "need to poo." I’m quite proud of myself since this is the first time I've ever pushed. I feel the 2 steps forward, one step back. I can hold my progress if I want but I decide I rather rest in between contractions and let go and feel baby go back (yup, even in labor I am lazy). I’m actually quite fine with this and think that it’s probably helping me stretch.
Shar asks me if I want to be checked. I don’t really want to be touched, especially now while I’m pushing. So I check myself. After a little fishing I feel the hard part of baby's head about a knuckle in and show Shar with my fingers. But a few minutes later something dawns on me. A fleshy, squishy, kind of furry part that I had to feel past to get to the hard part of the head is foreign to me, and I realize that that wasn’t just a part of my vagina (duh Jen you recently shaved, that hair is NOT yours!) I touch again and in disbelief (denial) I ask Shar if that squishy part at my vaginal entrance is the head. I smile because unlike with Kayla, I am the first to touch this child earth-side. She confirms this and tells my sister to come have a look/ feel.
Now upon hearing this, Tony, Mr. “I want nothing to do with the business end of things because I am squeamish," actually ASKS to come take a look. And when he realizes that what he is seeing and feeling is his child, he starts sobbing. I keep pushing, moving easily from my wide knees position to lifting one leg up as I see fit. Now that I know that is the head I'm feeling I love to keep my hand there while pushing to tell my progress, and I stop being lazy. Still no direction from Shar. I love it, I’m in control. I start to feel the ring of fire, it’s more of a stretching and burning sensation, and since I’m pushing slowly, it’s not that bad to me. I feel a forehead and I start to really push. It doesn’t dawn to my doula self that baby is facing the wrong way. I remember all those birth stories that I’ve devoured during my pregnancy about the animalistic sounds made during pushing and I let go. A few of these guttural mama bear growl/roars and the head is out!
And then it hurts, like a bitch. I may have almost screamed at this part. Shar is now telling me that I need to push. I move from knees to on my back to hands and knees to back to my knees with one leg up. Pushing without a contraction hurts, I can't. Shar tells me again, with a little urgency but no fear, that I need to push, and finally with the next contraction (which felt like it took forever to come) out comes the shoulders and all of a sudden there is a baby in my arms. 12:15 PM
Of course typical to me, my thoughts go something like this:
Everyone says the moment that you have your baby your pain disappears, so why does my vagina still hurt? Then I think, I must be an incubator for Tony's DNA because this looks like a replica of Kayla and she is the spitting image of her father. Then it finally dawns on me that I did it! I just had a baby! That came out of my vagina! At home! With no meds! In the water!
All of this going on in my head as I’m blowing air in to baby's face because it’s not breathing well yet while Shar is telling me to talk to my baby. But no one is really worried, including me. Baby eventually starts to cry. Then in comes Trina, and she starts to cry when she realizes that I literally just gave birth. A few minutes later, in comes Anna, both my doulas missed it. They start taking pictures.
Now, I’m already anemic and it’s pretty bad during pregnancy, and at my last check at 37 weeks my iron was only a little over 9. So we had planned and were prepared for interventions at this stage. We had meds and an IV bag nearby and ready to go. However, my blood loss was fine so far but we needed to keep an eye out for the placenta so after a while Shar asked me to get up to see if the placenta would come out. I handed baby to Trina and she helped Bella get more fluid out and rub in a little vernix she had left.
I get dressed and a little while later Tony's father arrives and meets Bella. Then they bring the placenta for me to look at and he almost runs out of the house, lol. But curiosity got the better of him and Trina and I explain to him in Spanish its parts and how they worked. He is attentive and amazed.
Time for the newborn exam
This experience was more than I could've hoped for. I feel so redeemed, so grateful, so ecstatic to have had this birth. It’s still surreal to me. I have this huge baby sleeping beside me as I write this and feel like it was already so long ago. I have this newfound respect for my body and some for myself. Tony is now a homebirth advocate, really, he goes around telling women that they should birth at home. I hope that I was able to show my sister that birth is not something to be afraid of and given the right support, is a far cry from what they show on TV. I hope this experience sticks with my daughter and she can have the births she wants when her time comes. I look forward to having any future children at home without fear if circumstances allow it.