Just because I didn’t announce it on Facebook doesn’t mean it didn’t happen…I gave birth to a healthy baby girl at home, once again! We are thrilled. And overwhelmed and sleep deprived. I started this blog post so long ago I can’t even remember how many days its been…
On the day I went into labor, I started to feel some twinges in my lower back at about 12:30 pm. Could this be labor? For weeks I’d been wondering if every little feeling was the start of labor… My back doesn’t feel right. Better sleep on a towel tonight. Oooh, Sweet Pea is acting extra needy. Does she sense the baby is coming? Better sleep on a towel tonight. Is that a full moon!? Better sleep on a towel tonight. I’d gotten it in my head that I would definitely go into labor in the middle of the night.
But my labor began just after lunch. I was with Sweet Pea at an event at the JCC when I felt the first pain. I took Sweet Pea home, not because I was sure I was in labor- at that point it was just a suspicion- but because it was nap time. When we got to our neighborhood, Sweet Pea had just barely fallen asleep, so I drove around the block a couple of times to be sure she was totally out. I carried her from her car seat into the house, savoring the feeling of her floppy body melting into mine. I laid her down in her bed and noticed my back was hurting a little worse. Was this labor? Maybe… but then again, how was I supposed to feel at 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, after carrying 30 pounds worth of sleeping toddler?
I settled in on the loveseat in our den to watch an episode of Breaking Bad, and about 20 minutes into it, I reached for my phone to text my friend. I had the message all written out in my head-“OMG did ___ really just happen!?” (I can’t be more detailed in case you’re not through Season Four yet. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you). Except when I grabbed my phone, I paused the show and called my mom.
“You should probably still plan on flying out a couple of days from now. I think I’m in labor.”
“Oh! Wow! How do you feel?”
I took measured breaths, in through my nose, out through my mouth. This was definitely a contraction. “Well… It hurts.”
When I got off the phone, I called out to Dan, “I think I’m in labor!”
He stopped his yard work immediately, jumped up and said, “Ok! I’ll vacuum the steps!”
I had been asking him to vacuum the steps for me for a couple of days. I had tried to do it myself but with my huge belly pressing against my lungs, forcing me to choose between bending or breathing, I gave up. Why had I not faked being in labor every day for the past 20 days? The haste with which Dan set to work on the stairs was unbelievable. This is The Miracle of Childbirth, people.
I called the midwife to give her a heads up, then I returned to Breaking Bad, but I kept having to pause it to hit the start/stop button on my “Full Term” app (yes there is an app for everything) and breathe. It wasn’t exactly a relaxing viewing experience, so I turned off Breaking Bad and tidied the house. I asked Dan to please call to check in with his parents, who had volunteered to take Sweet Pea whenever I went into labor. When he got off the phone twenty seconds later, I asked him what they were up to.
“They’re going to a party.”
“And that’s it. They will have their phones and they are happy to leave the party to come get Sweet Pea if we call.”
“But where is the party?:
“I didn’t ask.”
“When is the party?”
“I don’t know.
While Dan called his parents back to get more details, Sweet Pea woke up from her nap, I fed her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tidied the house some more, and reorganized her overnight bag, adding more diapers and sunblock, pausing every so often to breathe and time my contractions, which grew gradually longer, stronger, and closer together. At 3:00 I called the midwife again with a status update. I thought she was going to tell me to call back when the contractions were consistently a minute long and three minutes apart. Instead, she said, “Call back when you feel like you can’t make the phone call. I’m just ten minutes away.”
Dan’s folks came to get Sweet Pea and I came outside to say goodbye and thank them between contractions. Now unable to tidy the house, I hunkered down in the corner of our bedroom, kneeling on the rug, and leaning over our bed, my elbows resting on the mattress, while Dan set up the birth tub. Around 3:45 I told him, “You better call the midwife.”
“Hi! It’s Dan!”
Why was he so happy!? And why was he yelling into the phone!?
“Dan, do you have to have this conversation right next to me??” I hissed.
I could hear the midwife’s voice through the phone. “It sounds like I need to get over there.”
When she arrived, it was a little past 4pm, and I was in the middle of a contraction. She quietly crouched by my bedroom door and observed me. I waved, weakly. Then she came over and took my blood pressure and my temperature, and used a Doppler to get the baby’s heart rate. All were fine. She told me I could get into the birth tub if I wanted to.
“Should I?” I felt incapable of making the decision. She was the birth expert. I was going to do whatever she suggested. Except all she said was, “It’s totally up to you.”
Alrighty, then. I took off my clothes and got in. I wish I could say it was an instant relief but being in the warm water just made it easier to move around. There was no relief until the baby was born.
The contractions grew gradually more intense, and I kept reminding myself that they would be strong, grow stronger, and then taper off, and I would have a rest before the next one. I tried to remember to relax, especially my face, as I could feel myself grimacing when the pain was bad. I told myself that I couldn’t control this and I just had to let it happen to me.
I asked for water when I needed it, a cold rag for my neck and face when I needed it, a bowl when I needed to puke, and I apologized for pooping in the tub. Everyone- the midwife, her assistant, and Dan- assured me it was fine. But still, EW. Yes, you’re in a different zone when you’re in labor but I’ve done this twice now and I’ve never been in a place where I wasn’t mortified that I’d shit in front of everyone.
Dan was in the pool with me, pressing on my lower back with every contraction. He dragged a colander around to capture the rogue pieces of poop, the way one would skim the surface of a swimming pool with a fishing net. He claims to still find me sexy. Oh, the Miracle of Childbirth.
I didn’t have a watch, but I knew it hadn’t been too long when I felt like I needed to push. Through the cracks in the light blocking curtains, I could see it was still daylight. Was this really happening? I looked to my midwife, who had been silently observing me and intermittently checking the baby’s heart tones with her Doppler.
“Is it really time to push?”
“I think this baby is going to come soon.” She’s a great midwife, but she had fewer answers than a Magic Eight Ball.
“Are you sure it’s going to be soon? How do you know?”
She hadn’t checked my cervix one time. Not that I wanted her to. I just wanted to know what she was thinking.
“I can see the head creating a big bulge. It won’t be long.”
Shortly, I felt intense pressure and tightness and I knew she was right. We’d talked a lot during my prenatal visits about not pushing. In fact, we’d talked about it in our initial consult. My midwife doesn’t believe in pushing. She said even a woman in a coma can deliver a baby, and since the uterus is a smooth muscle, it will do the work itself. The additional effort of pushing would only exhaust a woman further and increase the chances of tearing, according to her philosophy. Before I hired her, I asked her references, “Seriously? Did you not push?” And all three of them said they did not push and they would never do it any other way.
So here I was, kneeling in the birth tub, my arms resting on the edge, the urge to push so intense I just had to push, and when that feeling backed off ever so slightly, I reminded myself to just breathe through the urge and trust that the baby would find its way out. And slowly, she did. While I felt like I was being cleaved in half, I looked at the midwife’s assistant, who sat in front of me. I felt desperate for someone to say or do something. Not that I thought anyone could take the pain away. I just needed something. I wasn’t sure what.
The pain was so bad it was a struggle to form words but I asked the assistant, “Can you just breathe with me or something?” She nodded and I grabbed onto her arm and squeezed hard. I looked at her face and tried to focus on it while we breathed together. I wondered how I could possibly get this baby out, yet I knew without a trace of doubt that I would, that the only thing to do was just hang on and let it happen.
I hoped the neighbors remembered that I had mentioned I was going to have the baby at home and that they would not call the police to investigate the strange, loud noises coming from our house. I promised myself I would never, ever, give birth again.
As I knelt at the edge of the birth tub, with Dan and the midwife behind me and the assistant in front of me, the midwife asked me to bend one knee and put my foot on the floor of the birth tub. My leg shaking like crazy, I did as she requested, and then she asked me to stand up. Her assistant practically had to lift me up. My body shook with exhaustion. With my arms wrapped around the assistant’s neck, I was upright, though it would be a stretch to call it “standing.” At that point, the midwife gently maneuvered the baby out, concerned that her shoulder might be stuck (it wasn’t) or that it would be a while before my next contraction, and that the baby would spend that time in limbo, with part of her head out and the rest of her still in. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until later. I was aware only of the sensation of the baby’s body sliding slowly out of mine, burning pressure, knowing it was really, finally happening, yet not totally believing it.
And then the pressure was gone and I had the freedom to sit down. Carefully, I sat against the side of the tub and caught my breath, then reached my arms out for the baby. I wasn’t sure I remembered how to hold a newborn, but I remembered the sticky, slightly slimy feeling of newborn skin, covered in vernix. Through the grayish tint of the vernix, I could see her color was pink-ish, although her eyes were closed and she was limp.
“Is the baby ok?”
The midwife assured me there was nothing wrong and to breathe into her face a few times. I got up in her face and breathed, stroked her cheek and hoped she would show some sign of life. Within seconds, she perked up. I exhaled. Dan and I gazed at the baby for a while before either of us remembered we still didn’t know if it was a girl or a boy. I peeked between the legs.
Up to then, I was sure I was having a boy. I spent about a half a second feeling shocked and never thought about it again.
Slowly, carefully, we moved the party from the birth tub to our bed, where we I rested, ate, drank, and called my mom. The midwife and her assistant examined me and the baby. The baby weighed in at a healthy nine pounds and six ounces and I didn’t tear at all. Born at 6:41 pm, my labor lasted just over six hours. I was, and still am a little incredulous that I went into labor and had the baby on the same day, let alone, before sunset, considering my labor with Sweet Pea was a 30 hour ordeal.
Thanks for reading and if you checked in to see what the heck was going over here and whether I’d had the baby yet, sorry for the silence.