In keeping with my goal for this year, I’m sharing the birth stories of each of my kids on their birthdays. Walter just turned THREE. And the following is the story of that day.
Final Days of Pregnancy
i had so much wishful thinking that he would come early. I mistook wishful thinking for intuition, and so had a rough weeks 38 and 39 when my expectations weren’t being fulfilled. i wanted him to be born on my bompa’s birthday, who passed away this fall. that day came and went (march 25). each evening in the last week i’d have braxton hicks contractions, but only when sitting down, and they always ceased after i went to bed. nothing was moving it seemed. and his head wasn’t at all engaged. my fears and worries started to set in, and i wondered if for some reason this time birth wouldn’t “work” for us. i continued seeing my chiropractor for twice-weekly adjustments, and tried talking baby into dropping/engaging further. i tried to be present.
on the early morning (2 a.m.) of my EDD (march 28), i woke to fluid leaking between my legs. didn’t feel at all like urine passing. my water had broken, though not in a dramatic gush. there was a tiny bit of bloody show with it, too! so i got up, shaking like a leaf, knowing that meant labor was eminent. either it would begin on its own in the next couple of days, or we’d have to do something to MAKE it begin. so i took a warm shower to calm myself down and pray through my fears. i had so many fears that this labor would be so fast, like an express train just ripping through my body, giving me no chance to catch my breath or be an active participant. that’s why i was shaking. but i tried to release those fears, telling Father than i was ready to ride the train, Him helping me. I put the plastic cover on our mattress with the birthing sheets on top of that, put on an adult diaper to catch the leaking amniotic fluid, then tucked myself back into bed to try to rest up for whatever would come next.
well, NOTHING came next. i woke in the morning with no more signs/symptoms of labor at all. the entire next day, which was a saturday, i kept thinking labor pains would start up at any moment. they didn’t. and i got crankier and crankier, more and more worried that this was going to lead to interventions, more and more fearful that birth wasn’t going to work.
finally, in the late afternoon, after a good cry, i released my expectation that i’d have a baby that day. i decided to plan on NOT having a baby. i gathered myself and tim and i rallied the kids, loading them into the double stroller for a walk down to the river. we walked on the sunny side of the sidewalk and chatted, then walked along the side of the river over 6th St Bridge a bit. upon returning home, we made breakfast for dinner, inclusive of bacon and orange juice, which tasted divine. then we decided to make a fire in the wood stove and roast marshmallows over it.
Early Labor (or False Start?)
Sometime during dinner (6:00 pm?), and then continuing through the marshmallow fun, i started having contractions that felt more “real,” though still very easy to carry on with normal activity through. i observed them without mentioning them out loud for a while. i noticed that the contractions happened whether i was sitting or standing, and that they felt stronger. it was time for the kids to go to bed, so i put them each to bed myself, lingering in the process longer than usual, wondering if soon i might not be able to have the luxury of such sweet one-on-one time with them. after they were in bed, i told tim about my contractions and wondered aloud if they were real, but i was still reluctant to call it labor. tim and i agreed that i should go to bed. so at about 10 pm i tucked into bed and decided to time contractions for a while, as i read a book. they were 45 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. like clockwork. well, that’s a good sign. but by 10:45 pm they just stopped entirely. i was a little relieved, and fell into a sound sleep.
at about 2 a.m. i woke again to contraction pains. they persisted. i timed them and found that they were 1 minute long and 2-3 minutes apart. just as i had done with Gus, i labored alone for a while, lazily. i continued laying on my side, just noticing and breathing through the contractions, trying still to maintain a sleepy, restful state of being. a little bit before 3 a.m. i felt like i wanted to get up and start working through them, and also felt that i was ready for support. so i texted Sara (midwife) and tiptoed down to wake tim, where he was sleeping in the playroom (to give me the space i tend to need/crave at the end of my pregnancies). i grabbed a bit of groaning cake and a banana, i think, quickly eating them, then headed back upstairs. very shortly after, Sara and Casi arrived and begun unpacking the birth kit, brewing the sitz bath tea on the stove downstairs, and laying out chucks pads on my bed to catch any messes. Next Sarah (dear friend) arrived, and then Amy (birth photographer). The kids were sleeping just two doors down, and we were debating whether/if to wake hazel to witness the birth.
Things picked up pretty quickly after they all arrived. We abandoned the timer, but the moaning contractions started, which always means we are down to business. i remember getting up to walk to the bathroom and saying to sara, “i can’t walk!”, then bracing myself in the doorway and against her for a contraction. she said, “that’s probably baby’s head!” I went back to bed after the bathroom break and started to feel pushy. I decided to lay down on my side again. In that still and non-active position, my breathing was my only tool. Tim held my hand through each one, as i moaned and breathed and noticed the sensation of baby’s head descending a bit further with each one. That was rather amazing, actually! I hadn’t been THAT in tune with the physical sensation of baby descending like that in my previous births. Eventually I had to get up and start cooperating with the pushy feelings, as it was becoming involuntary.
Sarah decided we should wake up Hazel — because we had discussed earlier that we really felt she would be disappointed to miss it — and summon Charis to come be with her. All of that plan went into motion while I started pushing, and soon Hazel was in the room, talking excitedly about the shows she had watched of babies being born, and explaining to Sarah that the baby was going to be coming through the tunnel in my body! Her little dialogue was adorable and great comic relief. She also told Charis she was hungry, so they ran downstairs for some food, returning with Hazel’s choice: a carton of dried prunes! Ha!
Pushing & Delivery
I tried pushing hands and knees and kneeling, but resisted the idea of standing or squatting, as I knew it would be so much more intense to be upright like that. But the pushes starting getting unproductive and i knew it. I got intensely restless, super discouraged, and felt like i had miles to go before he was going to be born. I could find no rest, and started to whimper and cry and say things like, “i don’t want to do this anymore.” Sara had to gently suggest squatting at the side of my bed a couple of times before i submitted to the idea. They helped me off the bed, and i stood at the side of the bed on a chucks pad, swaying and praying silently, “Father, give me the courage to push through the pain.” Internally, I had a shift, and resolved to myself that — in spite of shaking legs and extreme discomfort — i would go into the next contraction in a full squat and completely surrender to pushing.
First squatting contraction was good! I was productive! I felt baby’s head nearing crowning point, along with the accompanying burn/tingle. I stood up to regain composure and focus for the next one. The second squatting contraction was IT: I pushed and felt his head crown and then emerge completely. I kept pushing and felt his shoulders loose. Kept pushing even more, until his entire body was out. Oh, relief. But also PAIN. It still hurt. I stood up, looking shocked, and saying, “ AH! I hurt!” Then I heard a cry! And I remembered he was born! I looked down to see Sara’s hands holding him up between my legs, for me to scoop up. He was already crying as I squatted down and gathered him into my hands, and with Tim’s cupping and surrounding my own, we lifted him up to my chest, triumphant but a little bit in shock! I remember saying, “Oh! My son!” and “You’re so SMALL!” Time of birth: 5:38 a.m.
The rest of our team (except Sara and Tim) had been on the opposite side of the bed from where I was squatting and so didn’t realize that I had just pushed him out in a single push! They told me later that they were all rather shocked to see him being lifted up to my chest from the floor on the other side of the bed, as they thought the pushing was going to go on for quite a while longer still, based on how it had been progressing while I was pushing previously.
With help, I got moved back onto the bed, still holding the baby, gently rubbing him with towels that were handed to me. I pulled down my shirt so that he could be against my skin and could also nurse when he was ready. He effortlessly and quickly found a nipple and latched on about 30 minutes after his birth, without any help or guidance from me! And he took to it immediately. That’s always a relief! At some point — after his cord had stopped pulsing, Tim was given the honor of cutting it. And Somewhere in there he was “borrowed” for a minute to be weighed and measured, and so that Sara could help him work out a bit of mucus by putting him face-down and tilted with head above feet and rubbing his chest gently. He weighed in at 8 lbs 4 oz (1 lb and 6 oz lighter than his brother).
Tim woke Gus to come in and meet his brother, which was hard for him, actually. He was so disoriented and a little sad! He just kept rubbing his eyes, sucking on his paci, and clutching onto his stuffed “sheepy” as he sat in Tim’s lap, refusing to make eye contact with me or to look at the baby.
The placenta took a while to come again, as it had after Gus’ birth. I hate that part. I just want it to be done with the baby’s coming, and I hate the massaging of the uterus and gentle tugs on the cord and the need to push/cough again to get it to emerge. Ugh. But finally it did come out, while I was sitting on the toilet, and it looked perfect and great. Bleeding was really minimal, another relief (I had a fear of postpartum hemorrhage due to what happened after my miscarriage two Decembers ago).
Soon I was back in bed with baby and my entire family, and everyone was gathered around, chatty and happy as the sun was rising. Sarah made great coffee for all who wanted it, and I was brought food and orange juice.
Our amazing midwives had to hurry off because they had another laboring mama nearing her time to deliver after 3 days of hard work at the birth center!
The entire day lay ahead of us to lounge and bond and adjust… and to come up with a name for this son of ours!
A scripture verse that often came to mind during this labor is “For the joy set before him, he endured…,” which is a verse that is referring to Jesus, and His choice to choose the suffering of the cross because His mind was fixed on the joy of what lay on the other side of it: which was that He would have succeeded to bring us Home to the Father’s heart. That became my private motto as I labored and tried to fix my mind on the joy that was set before me!
It was an odd labor, but I guess if we start the clock from the time when contractions started and didn’t stop again, it was a 3.5 hour labor.
He was born in “military presentation,” which means the wider top of his head/brow came first, instead of the crown of his head. That’s what made the pushing stage more difficult and unproductive until I got into a squat!
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