Your fair warning: This post contains honest descriptions of labor and birth.
Each child is unique, and so is each birth. Leah’s birth was filled with intervention and anxiety; Anna’s birth was easy and gentle. Damien’s birth, distinguishing it from his sisters’ births, was quick and intense.
On Monday, November 25th, we moved. I tried to take it easy and not push myself, but there was so much to be done! I relegated myself to packing and “supervising”. It was fast, a little panicked, filled with hiccups, and left everyone tired from the hard work. On Tuesday, while the men-folk finished up the moving, my mom and I ran errands, went out to lunch for my birthday (which was Monday), and once again set to “supervising” as well as unpacking a few essentials.
Tuesday evening came, and I started having irregular contractions. It was about 7:00pm when they started, and they were coming about 10-12 minutes apart. I had had a bloody show earlier that day, and knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d go into labor. Still, I doubted that it was “real”. I did some unpacking, got the kids into bed, and paused for contractions through it all. By 8:00, they hadn’t stopped, so I texted my mom, midwife, doula, and birth photographer, letting them know I was having contractions, and maybe keep their phones on hand that night.
I took a shower, and by 9:30pm the contractions were getting closer together, though still somewhat sporadic. Sometimes they were 10 minutes apart, sometimes 7 minutes, sometimes 3 minutes. And they were intensifying. But knowing that this could go on for hours–or days–I sent Mitch off to work, telling him, “Just make sure you answer your phone…”
I called my sister, started a movie, drank some broth, had a snack, and tried to rest between contractions. There was now no denying that I was actually in labor, though I had been in denial for the last two hours. Just before midnight, they were much closer together–suddenly 2-3 minutes apart–and very intense. I could no longer talk or even think through them. I took deep breaths and found myself rocking on all fours, as that was the only tolerable position for me.
I called all the necessary people (Mitch, my parents, the midwife, doula, and photographer), and waited at home for someone to come and take me to the birth center. I momentarily wondered, between contractions, whether or not I’d actually make it to the birth center before he came. It was that intense.
As soon as Mitch pulled up to our parking space, we were out the door, leaving my dad with the girls while my mom went with me and Mitch to the birth center. We had originally planned to have the girls with us, but since they were already asleep, I didn’t want to wake them up, make them cranky, and create more work for us. So I let them sleep as we went off into the night to have the baby.
It only took a few minutes to get to the birth center. The midwife checked me, saying I was a stretchy 5cm, and I texted my doula and photographer, who arrived not long after. I rocked on all fours, it being the only position in which I was not in extreme pain. It didn’t relieve the pain altogether, of course, but it made the contractions bearable. I wavered back and forth between wanting Mitch and my doula to hold and massage me, and not wanting anyone to come near me. In Leah’s birth, I wanted everyone massaging me; in Anna’s, I was indifferent; in Damien’s, I quickly swung from one extreme to the other.
At long last, the midwife began filling the tub. I was so grateful to hear the water running. The water would be my relief! After getting into the tub, the contractions paused, as is common for a change in environment. I was able to rest and catch my breath for a moment. But when they started again, it was with a vengeance. They were more intense and painful than I had ever experienced in my previous births–even on Pitocin!
I quickly moved into transition, found one singular position that I did not want to move from (even fighting my midwife a little when she wanted to hear baby’s heart tones and needed me to move just slightly to get the Doppler in place), and moaned and groaned my way through each contraction. On all fours and leaning on the side of the tub, I swayed my hips back and forth, almost as if trying to shake him out, and I inwardly begged for it to stop. I just wanted it over with.
I was nauseous, saying things like, “I don’t want to do this,” and “Make it stop”, and very clearly in transition. The midwife checked me again–9cm with a lip. A cervical lip can be a little tricky during pushing. It can slow the labor by preventing baby from fitting through the cervix, and in some cases, a lip can result in cervical tearing. It’s not a major complication and is actually somewhat common, but it’s not ideal. After she told me that, I knew I shouldn’t push right away. I proceeded through a couple more contractions, hoping my cervix would correct itself, and resisted pushing, though emotionally I wanted the whole ordeal to be over. A minute or two later, almost ignoring (unintentionally) my midwife and doula telling me to take it slow and gentle, I found myself pushing.
Pushing, in this birth, consisted of two contractions, a total of slightly over four minutes. I was yelling, “Get him out!” as I hit my hand against the side of the tub, giving in to my seemingly primal urges rather than listening to the more rational, informed, Bradley-trained part of my brain. In short, I lost it for a couple of minutes there. But then he crowned, I continued pushing despite knowing that the intense–almost angry–pushing would make me more likely to tear or at least be more painful; but I wanted to get it done with. I was finished with it. And in one push, he shot out, catching the midwife by surprise.
It was over, and I was grateful. But I was in such shock over the whole thing that I couldn’t move. I felt paralyzed by pain and physical exertion. I told everyone, “I can’t move,” as they declared their amazement and exclaimed how beautiful he was. I eventually gained my bearings and was able to turn around to face him. The cord was short, and he barely reached up to my chest. I held my baby boy, sticky with thick vernix, and weakly marveled at the events that had transpired in the last few hours. Active labor was less than three hours. Pushing, less than five minutes. He was in a hurry to arrive, and wasted no time in making his appearance.
Right away, I was in love with the little boy who had given me so much pain. It was intense and even a little frightening. But he’s worth it.