We have gone from a family of three to a family of four — a whole new world, as those of you who’ve been through it before know. I am so much more ridiculously happy than I could possibly communicate here.
And, because I find the whole thing surreal, I’d like to share E’s birth story with you.
Now, for those of you who feel that people tend to over-share on teh interwebz, the rest of this post IS NOT for you – just don’t even bother reading it. This is TMI folks, no ifs ands or buts about it. But hopefully it’ll be interesting TMI, and possibly even funny and/or educational. So here goes!
We had considered a planned homebirth with G, but couldn’t find a qualified homebirth midwife in the area with whom we had good rapport, so instead we had a planned hospital birth with midwives attending. It ended with an unplanned c-section (necessary for all the right reasons, cord wrapped around mid-section) and a strapping baby boy.
For Nipper (our temporary name since we didn’t know the gender), we were able to connect with a fantastic new-to-our-area homebirth midwife, so we were on for a planned HBAC (homebirth after c-section) in a birth pool.
No, we’re not hippies.
There were many reasons why we desired a homebirth over another hospital birth, but they are many and probably deserve their own post if enough people show interest, so I won’t go into it here. I will say, though, that safety was paramount in our minds. We live 5 minutes away from the best neonate trauma hospital in the region, and our midwife is one who errs on the side of caution, and has a great relationship with the docs at the hospital (and, more importantly, admitting rights).
To prepare G for the upcoming event and new family member, we bought a few books, one of which is Toni Olson’s book, Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born. It does a really great job of introducing a youngster to the players in a home birth, as well as what to expect when labor begins, specifically when a birth pool is involved. G was totally on board with this… he thought a birth pool was a fantastic idea, and when we eventually set it up for a practice run, he knew exactly why it was there and was so excited!
Nothing to complain about here. I did end up with some pretty big diastasis recti that allowed my uterus to project out so far along my umbilicus that Nipper seemed, at times, to be laying parallel to the ground (see photo below that makes it look like I’m smuggling a watermelon in there…). We had no scary complications, and Nipper didn’t go breech at the last-minute. So far, so good.
I’d had this feeling that Nipper would come early. So much so, in fact, that I started to panic when we had not yet managed to pick out a boy name at 36 weeks.
Wishful thinking? Must’ve been. These pics were taken on my due date, with only random Braxton-Hicks contractions in evidence (that’s G fingerpainting on the baby bump, fun!).
Later that night (on Thursday, my due date), early labor really started. It was fairly typical… intermittent contractions and feelings of excitement. There was some confusion about my water having broken… did it break with a small leak? It certainly wasn’t a gusher as had been the case with G. I tried to sleep through the contractions, but that had become a challenge. It turned out that if I was horizontal when a contraction hit, a nerve was getting pinched somewhere, which was REALLY painful – on the order of HOLY SHIT SOMETHING IS STABBING MY SACRUM painful. So, my strategy was to try to anticipate a contraction and heave myself out of bed in time so that I would be standing when it hit. As long as I was standing, the contractions were a piece of cake. Since I couldn’t sleep standing up, and needed to try to be alert enough to catch the contractions in time, I got very little sleep (and ended up contracting in bed more often than I care to remember).
On Friday morning we were at the same place. Our amazing Doula came to the house to give me a massage and pressure-point therapy to stimulate contractions.
Friday night we thought that maybe we were moving into active labor, but no. After a visit from Doula and Midwife, it was determined that we just weren’t there yet, and they went home to get some sleep. For me and M, cue a repeat of Thursday night’s challenges – though this time with M being conscripted to help haul me out of bed to get to a standing position before each new wave hit.
Saturday was pretty much wash, rinse, repeat. Though we asked our nanny, K, to come to help out with G so that M and I could focus on being prepared and trying to catch catnaps.
Saturday night active labor started, this time with no doubts. K helped to get G to bed. Doula got to us at about 4AM Sunday morning. Midwife was at the hospital with a mom who’d just been induced into labor, and she couldn’t come. Apparently her back-up midwife doesn’t do HBACs, so she wouldn’t come to the house. Since there was still a question of whether or not my water had broken yet or not, Midwife asked that we make a trip to the hospital just so she could see me in person and do an exam. So M and Doula helped me pack a hospital bag quickly, and piled me into the car. Now, contractions were pretty intense at this point, and sitting in the car just didn’t work (I tried). I stretched out on the back seat, pressed up against G’s carseat on one side, trying to keep it together. Midwife saw us, did an exam, confirmed that my water hadn’t broken. She asked if I had a feeling about how far I’d dilated. I pretty confidently guessed 5cm, and Midwife, surprised but happy, confirmed that I was dead on. After some necessary paperwork that took much longer than it should have (especially considering that the contractions were just getting more intense), we got to go back home.
Not too long after that, Midwife made it to our place (her other mom had given birth while we had been at the hospital). There was a lot of walking. MANY laps from the room where the birth pool was set up (though not filled yet) into the bathroom, from there into the bedroom, back through the hall, to a chair where I’d rest for a few minutes and then start over again. Apparently walking through the bathroom door became a trigger – I spent many contractions leaning on the bathroom counter. I also did laps up and down the stairs. Midwife kept repeating, “Longer, stronger, and closer together!”
Things seemed to be hitting a plateau, so Midwife decided to do an exam. She found three things: my water still hadn’t broken because Nipper wasn’t dropping and putting enough pressure on stuff; he was reaching an arm up and had a hand up on top of his head; he was sunny-side up (posterior).
Now, none of these things are life-threatening for mom or baby, or really even cause for alarm. However, we did need to try to “fix” them as best we could. As for Nipper not dropping, we just had to keep me moving and hope gravity and nature would do the trick.
For the sunny-side-up issue? A call went out to my Chiropractor, who is also a doula and a mutual acquaintance of everyone already present. She dropped everything at a barbecue party she was attending and came over to my house to help by performing adjustments that often can encourage a baby to turn around.
After Chiropractor arrived and started to do her thing, she suggested that perhaps engaging the Acupuncturist would be a good idea to intensify the contractions to encourage Nip to move down farther. So… a call went out to the Acupuncturist (known by both Chiropractor and Midwife) who also dropped everything and came to my house. Cue needles and pressure-point therapy, and hot moxa.
There were now FOUR WOMEN at my house helping me labor. Add M who was there constantly either talking to me, holding my hand, rubbing my back, or doing something else awesome, and you come up with a total that is really astounding considering we were all hanging out in my bedroom, bathroom, or upstairs hallway. And lest we forget, K was downstairs with G keeping him happy and occupied… baking cupcakes which will be Nipper’s “birthday cake”, playing outside, etc.
But back to the things we needed to fix… that hand up on the head?? Let’s just say that’s not at all optimal for a vaginal birth. So, to encourage Nipper to move the arm to a better place, we had to first shift Nip out of my pelvis so that there would be enough room to move around. What that meant, in real terms, was me on a bed with my head buried face-down in a pillow and my ass as high up in the air as possible, going through a ton of contractions… effectively squeezing the baby BACKWARD. Yeah, that was fun. So we get Nipper out of my pelvis, and then get me back up the right direction to get him back down, and check again. NOW Nip has the hand EVEN FARTHER over the head. Great. My body wasn’t really enjoying this and decided to stop with the contractions (I don’t blame it). But we had to do the procedure again if we wanted to continue on a road to a vaginal birth, so up in the air went my ass again, and we had to do something to stimulate contractions since my body wasn’t cooperating.
If you don’t know, one of the ways to stimulate contractions is with nipple-stimulation (it releases oxytocin, the natural version of pitocin, which stimulates contractions). Where was my manual breast pump from when I was pumping while G was still breastfeeding? We sent M to find it. He couldn’t, after much back and forth between us (it’s up in that closet… no it’s not… yes it is… no it’s not…). Meanwhile I’m tweaking my own nipple (the only one I can reach in this VERY awkward position) and it’s not pleasant, and I’m STILL not contracting. “CHOCOLATE!” I scream. Everyone starts to giggle… but they know that I’m right. One of the reasons we humans love chocolate is that it, also, is a stimulator of oxytocin. M went and got a couple of our Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt bars, and we all had a chocolate break. And? It worked! Contractions!!
So I contract for a while in a position that no woman should really ever be asked to contract in, and when Nipper had moved enough, we got me back upright and checked again. OH JOY OF JOYS… this time it worked. And not only was Nipper’s hand back down where it should be, we were no longer in sunny-side-up-land.
I was overjoyed to be able to get up off that damn bed and contract standing up like nature intended! Except…
…Midwife was checking the baby’s heartbeat now that I was upright and contractions were coming faster and harder as they should be… the baby’s heartbeat was NOT doing good things (specifically, it was slowing down dangerously as I contracted while upright). Immediately many hands propelled me back to the bed and Midwife monitored Nipper’s heartbeat. Magically, once I was horizontal, Nipper’s ticker was beating strong and sure. At this point, with Nipper still not dropping, and my cervix at about 7cm dilated, Midwife elected to break my water. It was messy, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
So now I was down on the bed. The very very messy bed.
But, remember that bit about me having a nerve pinched while contracting horizontally? Yeah, that didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse.
Those contractions that I had been breathing and vocalizing and relaxing through while standing up? The contractions that weren’t pain, just intense, hard work? Those became contractions from HELL once I was back in bed. The pain was so blinding that my body went into fight or flight mode (largely of the “flight” variety). I remember gripping the headboard and yelling and M saying, “Oh wow, is she going to break that?!?!”
Chiropractor, amazing woman that she is, pushed me around on the bed and positioned me slightly pretzel-like and pushed on part of my pelvis as if her life (and mine) depended on it, and there was blessed, amazing relief as whatever nerve that was getting pinched suddenly had room to operate normally again. She did this for me FOR EVERY CONTRACTION. And Acupuncturist was there, as well, holding onto my other free hand and telling me in no uncertain terms that I could do this, as the contractions started having multiple peaks that felt like they went on for an eternity.
In hindsight I can see that I’d hit transition – the phase of labor which is characterized by doubt. This is the point where so many women say, “I don’t think I can do this any more!” Generally, it’s fairly short (as labor time goes) and signals that the pushing phase is close at hand. And I was in doubt. Or maybe “doubt” isn’t even the right word. It was more that I just couldn’t see an end in sight, and that was a little depressing and angst-making. Contractions were bleeding into each other and sometimes Chiropractor would lose her grip or stance, and the contraction would hit and pinch the nerve and I’d scream “WRONG WRONG WRONG” until she managed to get back into position (bless her!).
Sometime around 6PM-ish (yes, the entire day had gone by) my body decided it was time to push. Some invisible mover picked me up onto all fours, scattering women around me, and started to PUSH. Midwife says, “Venus, are you pushing?!?!” and checks to see where my cervix is at… still at 7cm as it turns out. “You can’t push yet, Venus, your cervix isn’t ready!”
“I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE IN THE MATTER!” (Yes, I was yelling.)
Midwife also lets me know that Nipper still isn’t dropping, despite the broken water, and the pushing (thus the not-fully-dilated cervix). If we could have stood me up, or got me squatting, gravity might have been able to help with that. But that option simply wasn’t open to us. At this point, Midwife let me know that, while there was no emergency, she thought it would be better for us to move to the hospital, and that there was a possibility of another c-section in our future.
Now, since this wasn’t an emergency situation, theoretically we could’ve just got me dressed (I’m pretty sure I was buck naked by this time – something about labor makes clothes annoying, and totally removes any modesty one may have possessed otherwise) and piled me into the car and driven me to the hospital. BUT. That would’ve meant getting me upright to walk down my stairs, and out of my house. That was most certainly not happening, so we had to call an ambulance.
I don’t know if you’ve ever called for an ambulance before, but in many areas, doing so results first in a visit from your local fire department (they’re EMTs dontcha know). I was on the bed, contracting, doing my damndest NOT TO PUSH, and I heard sirens. I vaguely remember thinking, “Wow, those sirens are for me, how weird is this?”
Firemen came up to my bedroom and proceeded to have a conversation with Midwife:
Midwife: We actually need an ambulance to get her on a stretcher to take her to the hospital.
FireGuy: You’ll never get a stretcher up those stairs, she’ll just have to push the baby out here.
I’m not sure if I laughed or not when I heard that, and if I only imagined that someone in the room threw something at that fireman (I’m pretty sure no-one really did).
The firemen went away and the ambulance arrived only a few minutes later. The EMTs confirmed that, indeed, no stretcher would make it up and down our stairs. However, they did have a lovely stair chair that would keep me largely reclined, so we went with what we could get. Someone threw a robe on me, and someone else strapped me into the chair. Down the stairs we went, and outside where they somehow got me onto a gurney. Someone had the balls to ask me to “lay flat and stretch out.” I don’t remember exactly how I answered that absurd request, but the end result was that they strapped me on just as I was, in a weird half-fetal position.
As they wheeled me out to the ambulance, I saw everyone on our street out in their front yards watching the action. Sigh.
The ambulance ride was quick and uneventful. Midwife was there, monitoring Nip’s heartbeat (super strong and stable), holding an oxygen mask over my nose, and reminding me to breathe when I forgot, since I was expending all my energy on NOT PUSHING.
We arrived at the ER which was absolutely empty, we had it all to ourselves! Midwife had called ahead, so the brigade was there to meet us and to strategize. The OB in attendance did an exam and announced “You’re fully dilated, do you want to try to push it out here?” To which I replied “YES!”
So there was some pushing… and more pushing. And I’m not complaining. Pushing actually feels GREAT compared to the rest of active labor. Thought it didn’t feel as productive as I was hoping for. The OB confirmed that, despite the great pushing (flat on my back with my knees pushed up against my ears by two handy nurses who seemed to me like Amazons), Nipper still wasn’t moving down through the birth canal. Vacuum was considered temporarily.
While the staff were discussing everything, the monitor that they’d placed on me when I arrived lost Nipper’s heartbeat.
For the first time during the entire labor, I was afraid. I remember thinking, “Oh god, I can’t lose the baby now when we’re so close, I don’t know how I’d tell M, oh god!” But it was just that the damn monitor had shifted, and my fears were relieved by the lovely reassuring thump-whump-thump-whump sound returning after the nurses got it back to where it needed to be.
And then came the news that, at this point, I was already prepared for. We’d have to have a c-section. And really, all I felt was relief. If surgery was what was needed, then it was needed. From my previous c-section, I knew it would be quick and I’d have a baby in my arms very soon, and that just made me happy. Especially as I was back to trying not to push, and I really wanted that experience to end as soon as possible.
Then came the fight with the anesthesiologist. Honestly, this guy was SO pessimistic! He wanted to give me a general and put me to sleep. Midwife and I both protested vociferously. I’d had a spinal block for G’s c-section, and I wanted one for this operation, as well. I would at least be awake for this if I could help it! It took both of us to convince the guy to just try it. I think he thought I’d never be able to hold still enough in between contractions (PUSHING contractions) for him to be able to do the insertion into my spinal canal. Boy was he wrong. 😉 The will is a wonderful thing, and my desire to be awake for this was strong. I held PERFECTLY still and he got the thing in on the first try.
Somehow I had the presence of mind to ask the surgeon not to clamp the cord until it stopped pulsing (even though I wasn’t sure if that could be done in a c-section) and he said he would – awesome!
M was there with the camera we’d purchased specifically to be able to capture labor pics at home in low-light conditions. Light conditions in the hospital were a little different (oh the joys of fluorescents…), but the camera did just fine. 😉 He even got a pic that he probably wasn’t supposed to of E being pulled right out of me. It’s a bit too graphic to post here, but it’s pretty damn neato if you ask me. It turns out that E had the cord wrapped around his mid-section as well! So all that time when he wasn’t dropping? That was because he couldn’t, he was on a leash. Exactly the same thing that had happened to G! Go fig.
Someone announced our baby boy, and M got to hold him right away and bring him to show me. I was over the moon.
E was alert and hungry, and latched immediately and ate greedily when put to the breast after I was wheeled out to a recovery bay.
Midwife went back to our place with Doula, and with K’s help they cleaned up the mess and tidied so that when we came home a few days later, it was to a wonderfully clean house.
K stayed with G at our place while we were at the hospital… there’s no way I could ever thank her enough. She and G came to visit our first morning in the hospital, and G fell in love with E instantly.
Right after E was born, Midwife asked me, “Are you OK? Are you all right that we had to do a c-section? You’re not too disappointed?” And very happily and truthfully, I told her that I was just fine with how things went, in fact, I was pretty damn happy about it.
I got so much farther this labor with E than I did with G (never dilated past 6cm, never got to transition or pushing). And because I got so far, all of the great hormone triggers that are present for a vaginal birth were also present for mine. As a consequence, I had no trouble (as I had the last time) with my milk coming in. And even though I didn’t get to push E out, I at least got to push! Somehow that made it all OK.
The only person who seemed at all disappointed was G, who I think felt a bit cheated that we didn’t actually have a baby in the birth pool. Guess you can’t please everyone. 😉