We found out this week that we are expecting baby #3 in late May! We couldn’t be more excited. In honor of the new baby, whom the Bean has temporarily named Baby Lorraine, I would love to share the stories of the Bean and the Bug’s births.
I had a cesarean section with the Bean. She was born at 31 weeks gestation, after several days of trying to stop my labor, drugs, bed rest, IV antibiotics because I was leaking amniotic fluid and meconium for days, and lots and lots of prayer. She was breech, sitting tailor fashion, and had no fluid to turn in. We could have delivered her breech, but it would have raised the odds of hemorrhage in her brain. We could have attempted a manual version, but it would have raised her risk of hemorrhage in her brain. And because she was so early, her risk of brain hemorrhage was already higher than normal. So, my OB and I decided that a cesarean was the best course of action. She was born, whole and sound, at a whopping 3 pounds, 11.5 ounces. She never needed resuscitation, needed minimal help on the outside, and has moved on with life beautifully ever since. I was discharged 3 days after birth. She was discharged 19 days after birth. The 16 days between were a roller coaster for me. I was recovering from a major abdominal surgery, trudging back and forth, carrying my breast pump, my food for the day, and my knitting to sit in the NICU with my tiny little baby, whom I could do nearly nothing for. At the same time, my first baby had been born, and she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life! Just looking at her and touching her brought me the most ecstasy I had ever felt.
When the Bug was growing in my body, nearly 2 years later, I was conflicted. I loved the OB who had delivered the Bean, and I was happy with him in her birth. I firmly believe that things went so well because of his skills. However, faced with a normal baby, growing normally and giving me no problems, it felt that we were bickering over small things that should have been inconsequential. I refused the genetic testing. He didn’t like that. I didn’t want to be checked at my 36 week visit. He was adamant that I would be. I didn’t want my membranes to be ruptured artificially, or “swept” to begin labor. I knew that he would do it if he wanted to, and was given the chance. I couldn’t win by might or right, so instead, I fled. I called up a homebirth midwife whom many of my friends had used, and talked to her. My pregnancy had been considered high risk for premature birth in the beginning, but I was safely in the zone of “term” to deliver at home. My amazing midwife came out and met with me and agreed to take over my care. My birth plan took on a sudden change.
Suddenly, I was in charge of my body. I was no longer broken. I was a strong, capable woman who was going to do something amazing – give birth to my son. And I was going to do it with no tampering. There were no checks. There were no tests. There was no poking and prodding. There was just the contentment of knowing that my baby was going to be born, strong and healthy, at full term. His birth story follows.
I labored off and on for about 3 weeks. Patience has never been my strength and I had run out by Thursday the 14th. I was in complete mommy meltdown by that afternoon. I was beyond exhausted, tired of being pregnant and had given up hope that I would ever actually give birth. To top it off, my strong, progressive contractions had turned into what felt like Braxton-Hicks. There would be a strong sensation of baby’s head in my cervix, pressing down, and then a sensation of his body stretching out. The sides of my stomach didn’t feel hard at all, though. I was discouraged, short tempered, and in tears over this turn of events. At just about 39 weeks, I had begun waking up each morning more and more disappointed that I wasn’t giving birth that day. Even though I knew that I could go into labor at any time during the day, I seemed to just intuitively know that if I didn’t wake up laboring, I wasn’t delivering that day.
I woke up on the 14th feeling beyond depressed. I drug myself out of bed and got dressed because Beanie needed me. I put on my skirt (the only one that still fit), and accidentally put on my favorite white shirt from my first pregnancy. I had been envisioning this as the outfit I would labor in for months and this was the first time I had put it on. I didn’t realize the mistake until I got downstairs, and at that point, I wasn’t going back up to change. It depressed me even more that I was wearing my laboring outfit and wasn’t laboring. Little did I know, I was indeed laboring and would continue to do so throughout the day and that night!
I somehow made it through the whole day. We packed up the family and went see the chiropractor that evening, and ran a few different errands. I was so tired by then that even being nice was a stretch. The chiropractor told me that the baby was really low in there and that he was really pressing down. My only response was to tell her that I already knew that much. What else could I say? I was simply convinced that he was never coming out!
We got home from our little excursion and I went up stairs and went to bed without saying a word. I never did get fully comfortable and really fall asleep at that point. Papa brought Beanie up just a little before nine, got her ready for bed and put her in with me. She nursed and fell asleep and I lay in bed trying to doze. Those weird Braxton Hicks just kept coming though. It was just about 9:30 that I realized they were happening about every 15 minutes. I was puzzled, but finally fell asleep. As I was sleeping, I kept being pulled back to awake by these odd sensations! Finally, at about 1:30 they got intense enough that waking up to one was too much. I was afraid that I was going to wake up moaning and wake the Bean. I woke Papa instead and we came downstairs. We lay on the couches and tried timing them for about half an hour before I decided I was calling the doula. I made the call at about 2:00 and Papa went to make himself some coffee. The doula, Nadah, arrived at about 2:30. The contractions were every 5 to 7 minutes at that point, but I still wasn’t convinced they were the real thing.
I had spent nine months envisioning my labor in mid-August taking place on a day in the nineties – hot like I like it! Instead, the house was 76 degrees. I was laying on the couch in a thin, Indian gauze nightgown. I asked Nadah if I was actually going to have the baby this time and she said it sure looked like it. I finally sent Papa upstairs for something warmer to wear. He brought down the nightgown I had intended to wear in labor, without having any idea that was the one I had picked. The foreshadowing was high, but I still hadn’t completely caught on. I really didn’t think that we were going to have a baby any time soon!
I don’t remember ever feeling the contractions as pain. They came on and as long as I remembered to stay calm and breathe, just as I had practiced with my hypnobabies, then I would do fine and they were over quickly. When I would tense against them, accidentally, they were more intense and lasted longer, so I had to be careful! They definitely became a little more intense and a little more intense as the evening wore on. I was trying to get comfortable on the couch, but if I lay down, I was in the wrong position and if I leaned any direction, it made the contractions start up again. I finally decided that I needed to lay down and if that meant laying in my bed and waking Beanie, that was what would have to happen. I went up and lay down and dozed for a little while. I’m not really certain how long I dozed, but I woke up just after 5:00. Somehow, the Bean had slept through my noise and had no idea anything was afoot.
When I woke up, I asked Papa to come down and ask Nadah something. I don’t remember what it was. At any rate, I lay in bed, by myself, with the contractions coming every 2 to 3 minutes for somewhere around 15 or 20 minutes. No one ever came back up. I think that was when Nadah told Papa to fill the birthing pool and he went straight to it without coming back to check on me! I finally got myself up, gathered up my courage, and went back down the stairs to have company and support again.
We had started calling Beanie’s support person at about 4:30. Her phone was in the living room that night, though, and she didn’t hear it ringing. We called the midwife at about 5:30 and told her my contractions were 2 to 3 minutes apart. I must have been handling them pretty well because no one thought we were very close yet. We asked the midwife what she thought we should do. She had been at a birth until 2:00 that morning and had just gotten home to bed. Since it looked like I wasn’t doing anything quickly, she decided to send out the midwife apprentice to listen to the baby’s heart and to check me. The apprentice, Sarah, was to check me and call the midwife, Suzanne, and let her know if she was needed. Sarah was here in no time, and checked me over. She assured me that the baby’s heart rate was fine and that he was moving down! She would not, however, tell me what I was dilated to. I took this to mean that I was not dilating, just effacing, and that the baby wasn’t ready yet. I geared myself up for another 12 hours of labor, and kept riding out the contractions. Sarah checked me a few more times and made some calls to Suzanne. When Suzanne wasn’t on her way yet, I was certain that I still had a long road in front of me.
I had a TENS unit on my back for a while, to help with the intensity of the contractions, and Nadah and Sarah rubbed my lower back for a while as well. Papa generally did what Papa does and took care of things that needed to be done around the house. I am fairly certain that he went for filtered water and ice. He may have even taken the dog for a walk. When I asked for juice, he made me apple juice and when I finally came out with that I had wanted orange juice, he went back and made me orange juice as well. Since I kept thinking that I was going to labor for the rest of the day and into the night, I knew I needed to keep my strength up. I was afraid of having an IV so I was intent on staying hydrated. I drank quite a bit of juice since it seemed to be the only thing I thought I could keep down. I threw up with contractions several times, and was quite shakey for a while. I had read about women doing those things during transition, but I thought that I must simply be going to do them for the entirety of my labor.
When things finally got intense enough that I felt like I needed a break, somewhere around sunrise, I asked if I could get into the tub yet. Nadah and Sarah said I could and in we went. I stood next to it and was certain there was no way I could raise my leg high enough to get over the side. After another strong contraction, I decided it was the only way I was going to catch a little break and in I went! The water was wonderful – warm and relaxing. My contractions slowed down a bit in the pool and I was only having them every 5 to 6 minutes. However, they were quite intense and I had the strangest sensations as soon as I got in the tub! Along with the contraction would be a lot of pressure – both downwards and up into my stomach. I thought I must just need to throw up again, but never did through all of those contractions.
Finally, Suzanne and Beanie’s support were on their way, and expected any time. Bean had been awake for nearly an hour and Papa had been caring for her. I wasn’t really making too much noise and she was only frightened by waking up to so many unexpected people in the house. Nadah and Sarah decided that I needed to get out of the tub and get my contractions going more steadily again. I didn’t want to and couldn’t think of anywhere comfortable to labor, but finally decided that if I sat on the toilet in the little half bath, I could rest my head and arms on the sink right across from it.
It was sitting there through the next contraction that I realized that pressure filled sensation was the urge to push! Without the water, I couldn’t stop pushing against it, but I was very concerned about pushing too early because I thought I wasn’t dilating at all! Another great contraction came and Nadah was standing at the door to the bath telling me not to push. As it ended I told her I was trying not to! I was still bearing down a little and I peed just a little. She asked me if I had peed and I affirmed that I had. Suddenly, there was this “pop” and more water hitting the bowl of the toilet. I looked up, a little dazed, and said, “But I don’t think that was pee.” Nadah responded with, “Neither do I!” Just at that moment, Sarah called from the living room that Suzanne was there, and Suzanne was walking through the front door. Another contraction came all in the same moment and I was pushing again. Nadah called back to Sarah and Suzanne that my water had just broken and that I was pushing. To my amazement, Suzanne’s voice came ringing through the house saying, “Ok, let her!” I couldn’t talk through the push, but I was thinking to myself that she was crazy! That they hadn’t told her I wasn’t dilating! That I had another 12 hours of labor to get through and that I couldn’t push for all of that against a closed cervix! Suzanne asked where I was as she came walking through the house and was told I was in the bathroom. She appeared in the doorway and very calmly said, “Ok, well let’s not have a baby on the pot. Let’s get back in the tub.” I was happy to comply.
Back in the tub the contractions slowed down again, but were just as intense. I couldn’t stop pushing and was still panicked. Suzanne was calm as could be, and asked to check me. I must have said that it wasn’t time to push yet but I couldn’t help it because she looked me right in the eye and said, “Kellie, reach down here and feel the baby’s head.”
“His head?” I asked, trying to figure out what she was talking about.
“Yes,” she said, “his head. It’s right here.”
Amazed and finally realizing what she meant, I reached down and felt his wrinkly little scalp just beginning to crown. As the realization hit me that we were actually having a baby – it was actually happening – I was renewed. I was no longer tired. I didn’t have any fear. This was what I had worked so hard to achieve! And it was time! And the time was 8:30.
I set about pushing with the next contraction, making a deep, low grunting/groaning sound in my throat. Right about that time, Bean’s support person walked in looking at me incredulously. I looked up and told her, “You almost missed it!” She took Beanie in the living room to read books and Papa sat down in a chair at one end of the birthing tub. I was working hard, pushing as hard as I could, and groaning away like a cow on a hot summer day. I could feel his little head bearing down on me, but it felt like it was coming straight down on my perineum and my bottom. I remember thinking that I was pretty certain he couldn’t get out that way. After a few hard pushes, Suzanne told me to reach down on the next contraction and push him out into my hand. Now, I’ve never been one of those touchy feely people who wanted to catch my own baby or cut the cord, or anything like that, so this seemed like a strange request. Suzanne seemed to sense my hesitation and told me again to do it. I did and became more certain that he was aimed for my bottom and not towards the front. I could feel my skin bulging in the domed shape of his wee head. On the next push, I somehow shifted something, and felt his direction change. I was using muscles I had never used before and I didn’t know how to make them work – but my body did! Once I could feel which way he was going with my hand, I could instinctively figure out how to change the muscles I was using to head him in the right direction!
When I got that figured out, we started making some real progress. His head would come a bit further out each time. I pushed as hard as I could on one contraction, and it slid out so far! When the contraction was over, it slid back in though. I cried out, “Oh don’t go back in!” Suzanne, Nadah and Sarah all seemed to chuckle and Suzanne said, “Yes, that’s what it does. It comes out a lot and it goes back in a little. It’s ok!” A few more pushes and they changed my position again. I lay my head on the side of the tub and was resting. Suzanne wanted me to get up and walk around to get the contractions coming faster again. I told her no, I was just going to take a little break. She started to protest and I said, “I’m not giving up and I’m not wearing myself out. I’m just catching my breath and in just a minute, I’m going to have this baby.” She just said, “Ok” and left it at that.
Now, this whole time, Beanie had been coming in very quietly, keeping an eye on everyone, slipping past the end of the birthing pool and grabbing a stack of books to take back to the living room. A minute later she would appear for more. I remember looking at her between contractions and telling her it was ok. She looked very concerned, but not afraid. I never once heard her cry.
When the next contractions came, I went back to work solidly. It was only another few contractions before his head popped out all at once! He had the cord around his neck 2 or 3 times. Suzanne reached down quickly and pulled the cord off of him while he was still in the water. I don’t even know if there was another contraction and his body was coming. I don’t think he had turned all of the way and I remember feeling a sting as his shoulders came through and another when his feet came. I am fairly certain that is when I tore. After his shoulders came, but before his feet, Suzanne told me to reach down and grab him. I was leaned back in a funny squat, though, and I didn’t think I could keep my balance and reach down over myself to get him. I told Papa to do it. He started to say no and I just barked at him, “Just do it!” I think that was the only time I really said anything that could be considered unkind during the whole process. He later told me that he thought he would fall into the tub if he tried to reach in far enough to grab the baby, but did it anyway when I barked at him!
The Bug’s little face and head were blue, but his body was pink. I was never worried. The cord was still attached and I knew he would be fine. In just a moment, his face was pink and healthy and he had started to whimper. The oxygen was pulled out and blown across his face for a minute, but I think he would have been fine either way. I sat in the tub holding him and everyone just grinned and watched. Beanie appeared within a minute. The shades had been drawn and the lights weren’t on, so it was fairly dark in the room. I was the only one who remembered to look at the clock and see that the time was 9:10 AM. Beanie looked around in confusion and I was talking to her softly. I told her that the baby had “come out to play with us” and asked if she could see him. She looked all around the room and I said, “He’s right here, Baby. Mama’s holding him. Look.” She looked down at me with this squirmy little newborn baby crying on my chest, and didn’t look convinced. In all of the discussion about the new baby coming to live with us, she had been most excited that he would be sitting in the back seat with her. So, I said, “This is the baby. Is he going to sit in his go seat in the back seat with you?” Our attendants looked a little confused, but Beanie just grinned! She was so excited!
We tried to nurse for a minute in the tub. The cord was clamped and cut, and out we came! We walked upstairs, all of us, and tucked me into my bed which had been all prepared. We were looked over carefully and found to be in great condition. The Bug was weighed and measured and came in at 6 pounds 15 ounces and 19 inches. His apgars were 8, 9 and 9. He was indeed a healthy baby boy, and even looked a little post date with all of his wrinkly, peeling skin. I had done quite well too, and only had 2 very small tears; 1 at the top which wanted 2 stitches and 1 at the bottom which wanted 3 stitches. I, however, have never done well at all with needles and panicked at the thought of being stitched up! I refused the stitches and have healed up pretty nicely, albeit in a longer amount of time.
The birth was amazing and beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for better. I don’t remember anything that I felt as being really painful or unbearable – only intense. I remember Nadah telling me at one point to push against the burn and thinking, “What burn?” and also telling her after one amazing push, “This is incredible!” I remember looking up in the middle of pushing to see Papa, not afraid or annoyed like he was with Beanie’s birth, but beaming and looking awed. By that afternoon, I was saying, “Next time, we’ll do (such and such)!”
I don’t know if we will have more children or not, but if we do, they will definitely be born at home, and all of my care will be with a midwife. I no longer consider myself high risk. This pregnancy and birth was such a rebirth for me, as well. I know now that I can do it. I can grow a healthy, full term baby and I can give birth naturally. I won’t ever be afraid again. The mystery of birth is gone from me now, only strength and calm are there now when I think of it.