The birth of Baby H

On Thursday, February 21, I was laying in bed in the afternoon trying to nap after a restless sleep. While talking to A on the phone, I felt a small burst of liquid release into my underwear. I didn’t even mention it to him, but when I got off the phone and stood up on the bed to check, I found my underwear with a huge wet stain, and a watery liquid dripped out of me onto the bed. It wasn’t like urine or any kind of vaginal fluid I’ve ever experienced, and I was almost sure it was amniotic fluid.

I was excited. I lay down to see if it would pool and build to a gush. Alas, very little more came. After weeks of labour signals and peaks and valleys of excitement and disappointment, I had firmly learned not to get my hopes up. I put it out of my head.

I started feeling pay-attention-to-me contractions around noon the next day, Friday. Unlike the practice—Braxton Hicks—contractions I had been experiencing lately, these contractions didn’t require me to feel my uterus to confirm that it was hard – they were uncomfortable, and they commanded my attention.

I had a massage therapy appointment at 1:30, so I went to that. While I was at the clinic I had four contractions. I distinctly remember lying on the table near the end of the massage, thinking how sad I was that it was almost over. Suddenly I was rocked by my fourth contraction while there, and no longer was I sad – I wanted it to end already so I could jump up and move my way through the waves! I felt beads of cold sweat on my forehead and my entire body tensed as I tried to breathe through it and relax and enjoy the end of the massage.

I texted A to say that I’d had four contractions while at the massage and drove to pick up a package that was waiting for me at the post office. A called me while I was there and I had a contraction while I was speaking to him. I had to lean over a railing and sway my hips to cope. It was just before 3 pm, and A said he’d come home in case this was it. I was still denying that this was probably labour (HAHAHAHAHA!) and tried to convince him that it was unnecessary. He insisted, so I offered to pick him up since I was out anyway.

When I pulled up to the curb I felt another contraction coming on, which is actually the only reason I took A up on his offer to drive home instead of me (our home, A’s office, the post office, and the massage therapy clinic are all downtown, very near to each other, so this driving around is really only a matter of minutes). Thank goodness, because my next contraction was a doozy and I had to unbuckle my seatbelt and turn around in my seat to cope. Being downtown, there was nowhere to pull over and a steady stream of traffic all around. Instead of filling up the car with gas as planned, A took me straight home then went to get the gas along with a big, hearty quinoa salad from a favourite spot at my request. I wanted something light but nutrient- and calorie-rich just in case this was labour, although I was still thinking it probably wasn’t.

Back home, I went pee and found blood-tinged cervical mucous. I had been getting globs of cervical mucous for weeks, but this was the first time that it was red with blood: “bloody show,” as it’s called. From that point forward, every time I peed there was some amount of bloody mucous.

My attitude was so incredibly cautious. I kept thinking about all the labour signs I WASN’T having – e.g. I’m not having tonnes of diarrhea; my stool is merely slightly loose and only somewhat more frequent than I would expect at this point in pregnancy. Ergo, can’t be labour.

Around 8 pm, A and I went to the grocery store (just a few blocks away) to stock up on apple cider, so I’d have juice on hand in case this was it. While in line, I had a contraction and thought how funny it is to be in public while in labour. The woman behind us in line said “excuse me,” so that she could put her items on the conveyor belt (reasonable). I moved away, thinking to myself, “couldn’t you just wait for this contraction to pass?”

Back home, a friend had stopped by (hi C!) to pick something up and we sat and chatted for a bit about politics and, well, labour. I stopped a few times to focus on a contraction but they had slowed a bit, maybe waiting for calm and privacy to return.

We went to bed around 10:30 and I slept right away, waking up to contractions every 15 to 45 minutes (mostly every 20 minutes or so). I had to get up on hands and knees and lean forward to cope, disrupting the kitties each time, who—unperturbed—settled right back in around me.

By 3 am, the contractions were every ten minutes or so and I was no longer drifting off to sleep between each one. I got up and made a smoothie. The best way to cope during contractions was on my hands and knees, but as our place is hardwood, I couldn’t quite get comfortable. I tried to stack our yoga mats and a blanket and labour on that (the kitties REALLY enjoyed that little nest and immediately curled up all over it) but it wasn’t as comfortable as the bed.

Around 5 am I woke up A to ask him to sleep somewhere else so that I could have contractions in the bed without disturbing him. He was like, uhhh how about I get up now. He timed the contractions but there was no pattern, although they were fairly close together – from three to seven minutes or so. They were also longish, but I didn’t really know how to tell when one started and ended. It was like waves of increasing and decreasing discomfort without a very clear “end.” I had been told to page at 3-1-1 or 4-1-1 (contractions three/four minutes apart, one minute in length, for one hour). Being a stickler for instructions, I didn’t think it was time to call. I was still questioning whether it was labour.

Thanks to an iPhone app, you don’t have to take my word for it – here’s what my uterus was up to during the period that we timed contractions:

StartTime EndTime Duration
(mm:ss)
Freq.
(mm:ss)
Intensity
Feb 23, 2013
6:01 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:02 AM
00:59 00:00
Feb 23, 2013
6:07 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:08 AM
00:49 06:07
Feb 23, 2013
6:12 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:12 AM
00:45 04:29
Feb 23, 2013
6:14 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:15 AM
00:41 02:39
Feb 23, 2013
6:16 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:17 AM
00:32 02:09
Feb 23, 2013
6:19 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:20 AM
01:14 02:50
Feb 23, 2013
6:25 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:26 AM
01:07 05:40
Feb 23, 2013
6:29 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:30 AM
01:11 03:51
Feb 23, 2013
6:33 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:34 AM
00:56 04:07
Feb 23, 2013
6:36 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:36 AM
00:44 02:41
Feb 23, 2013
6:38 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:39 AM
00:58 02:02
Feb 23, 2013
6:40 AM
Feb 23, 2013
6:41 AM
00:46 02:49

By 6 am, I was uncomfortable enough that I had A page the midwife. After he filled her in, I took the phone to give a few more details about what I was feeling – I really didn’t want them to come if this wasn’t something. While talking to her, I had to put the phone down three times to vocalize through contractions. Hearing me, they said they’d be here in 35 minutes.

Knowing they were on their way, I suddenly wanted them there immediately. This turned out to be a theme from my labour – if I knew something was around the corner, I couldn’t wait for it to come because it would bring a change. I would think “well, this sucks,” but knowing something new was on the horizon gave me something to look forward to, nevermind that it would suck in its own way.

They arrived and checked my cervix. The student midwife said I was five cm dilated, while the midwife with 20 years experience gave me six to seven. Of course, I took the seven. They said I had paged at just the right time (apparently most people have them come too early), to which I replied sincerely, “I wasn’t even sure if I was in labour!” That may sound ridiculous, but some women experience prodromal or false labour and I was stubbornly (idiotically?) standing my ground in the not-getting-hopes-up department.

I had been waiting to get into the birth pool because if you get in too soon it can slow contractions, but I had long cleared that hurdle apparently so I got it. Although the warm water didn’t make the contractions feel different, it helped me relax between contractions, and it helped me get more comfortable during contractions because there was no gravity to make repeatedly assuming odd positions physically taxing on other parts of my body.

I spent a few hours in the tub, with the midwives periodically asking if I felt a pushing sensation, A running up and down the stairs with hot water from the stove to keep the temperature up, and the kitties perched around the room completely fascinated. When they checked my cervix and found it to be eight cm—not a huge change—they suggested I get out and try something different. It was probably around 11 am.

Here the timeline and order of things starts to get really fuzzy, but I’ll give it my best guess. As things progressed I became more and more out of it.

I walked around a bit using the wall during contractions. It felt good to either push my butt into the wall, or to lean against it facing forward. Every single time I had a contraction, I NEEDED someone to push with all their strength on my lower back, and then to squeeze my hips together. A was the best for this because his hands are so big, but the midwives weren’t too shabby either. At one point I noticed that even my enormous husband had to brace his foot in order to get the strength to push on my back the way I needed, which was honestly my only indication that the pressure was so great.

I was still joking around at this point, minding my manners, and interacting with the kitties somewhat. The experience midwife commented that I didn’t seem like a woman in labour. Well, that would soon change.

After a while they checked me again. They said they weren’t going to tell me what they found because it wasn’t important, but I noticed the one who checked mouth to the other “same” – I was still around eight. It’s so, so important to feel like all the contractions are going somewhere; they know this, and they are very careful not to demoralize the labouring woman or to give any indication that something isn’t as it should be. But I knew that I was stalling out a bit.

They offered to break my waters, saying that if there was meconium in the fluid I would have to transfer to the hospital. I knew that breaking my waters could result in the contractions picking up, and I told them to go for it. It was anticlimactic. The fluid was clear, thankfully, but it didn’t gush out of me. It barely trickled.

They had me climb the stairs a bit and have contractions in a bit of a lunge with one foot two steps up. I had to have an absorbent pad beneath me, and this was the first thing to annoy me and the first sign that I was a labouring woman: I snapped, “it’s so annoying to have to make sure this thing is beneath me!” This was the first time I had whined, the first time that my spirits were a bit deflated. I just wanted to be able to move around and focus on the primary task at hand, which actually seems reasonable now that I think about it. They gave me some underwear with a pad so I could do just that.

They wanted me to labour laying on my sides or back. Problem: OUCH! But the upright position that I found the most comfortable just wasn’t working for me anymore, and I think they were also concerned that I was losing stamina. A smoothie appeared and I drank from that a bit, but as I was now in the depths of transition I wasn’t gulping it the way I had been gulping apple cider and water earlier.

I laid sort of half on my back, half on my side, and now things were really intense. It was around 2 pm. During contractions, I would grip a hand of a person on either side of me, with socially inappropriate force (sorry everyone). I was writhing and hollering, my eyes bugging out of my head. The midwife told me not to be afraid of the contraction, to let it do its thing and not to resist it. I’m not afraid, I said, it just fucking hurts! It was the truth.

I stumbled upon a vocalization and breath pattern that seemed to work best (inhaling deeply, then fluttering through my lips like a horse), and the midwife told me to keep that up during the contraction. I did so with gusto. As the contraction faded, I was reminded to let it go, to soften my muscles, to relax. It was an impossible task, but I tried my best.

Finally, I felt a pushing sensation during a contraction. They had periodically been asking if I felt this, and I was always unsure – they said you’ll know it when you feel it, and that it would continue between contractions. I was still unsure but since it felt like a change and the time was right, I mentioned it. I had been expecting the sensation I felt when I miscarried: like I needed to take a massive dump but just couldn’t. It wasn’t like that at all. It was just a subtle sensation, and only during the contraction.

They had to check my cervix during a contraction – at this point, my answer to any question seeking permission to do something was, “whatever.” Finally, thankfully, with just some cervical lip remaining that they could hold to the side, I was given the go ahead to push.

I was glad to reach this point, because now I could at least DO something about the waves of consuming pain that were washing over me.  Contractions force you to surrender, but pushing forces you to rise up with power. Pushing also brought a relationship between the amount of pain I was feeling and the ultimate outcome (which, for me at that point, was the end of labour).

There were lots of instructions: hold your legs from underneath! Keep your butt on the bed! Curl your neck forward! Push into your bottom! Hold your breath as you push! Change your breath! (By which they meant to exhale quickly, then inhale quickly again and keep pushing.)

It was a lot to keep in my head, but I found the feeling right away in my bottom – intense pressure that felt exactly what you’d expect to feel like if a head were pushing against your perineum from the inside. When I hit that feeling—which required a tremendous amount of exertion—it was confirmed by one of the midwives, who would proclaim, THAT’S IT!

By this time, another student midwife and her senior had arrived. There is always a midwife for mom and one for baby, so their presence meant that baby would soon also be present.

In my mind, pushing may have taken 10 seconds or it may have taken forever. In reality, it was a little over 45 minutes. At one point I commented to someone near me that I felt like I was in a tunnel. Later, she mentioned this and we talked about the out-of-body experience – it felt like there were voices floating around me and I wasn’t really there in the room. It was so surreal.

I spent some time sitting on a birthing stool on the bed with support on either side. It helped to change positions and the gravity apparently brought him down a little more. (I’m taking others’ word on this.)

At one point they realized that I hadn’t peed in awhile, and gave me a catheter to empty my bladder. That created more space for the baby and this really brought his head low. They could see “so much” of his head, they told me, like this much (maybe two inches). “THAT’S IT?!” I said, thinking how much more I had ahead of me. “That’s a lot!” they assured me. I thought they were idiots, haha.

I was encouraged to do another push on each contraction, one more, okay just one more, until I was doing five or even six pushes per contraction. I wanted to stop at three. They said he had blond hair, and I reached down and felt his head: it was so much softer than I expected it to be, squishy instead of hard.

I pushed and pushed to the encouragement of the floating voices. “I want him out on this next contraction,” the senior midwife said, with authority. Delighted to know that was even a possibility, I complied.

As I felt the pressure widen and then cease, I was drawn to the sensation of his legs unfurling, and then, suddenly free for the first time, kicking the inside of my uterus on his way out. It was totally bizarre, these little legs that had been so cramped suddenly kicking with abandon.

And then, a baby was on me. A warm, slippery human whose body had been curled up in me for all this time, whose face I’d never seen. I couldn’t really get a good look at him because I was reclined back with my head practically over the edge of the bed and I was too exhausted to hold myself up. A was beside me. I was in shock.

After the cord stopped pulsing, A cut it. He described it as being thicker than he would have expected, like rubber tubing. The midwife palpated my uterus and coached me to birth the placenta, and it wasn’t long before it came slithering out without much exertion or discomfort. At this point I had had enough of pain and irrationally felt as though I shouldn’t be expected to feel any more – not only did I refuse to push out the placenta until I didn’t feel so much as a cramp (which, fortunately, only took a few minutes), I had two injections of oxytocin and one of ergonovine, and had the nerve  to complain about the stinging!

I was examined for tearing, and much to everyone’s surprise, didn’t require stitches. Apparently it’s quite common for first time moms to tear in the perineum. I had the option of getting a stitch in my labia for cosmetic reasons, and I decided to go for it.

And with that, we were left alone to get to know our son, all eight pounds of our brand new baby boy who joined us at 3:54 pm on Saturday, February 23 at home in our own bed.

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2 thoughts on “The birth of Baby H

  1. Twyla says:

    What a story! What a lucky little dude H is to have such a strong, incredible mom. Happy tears for you guys. 🙂

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