41 weeks, 2 days.
A grim number when you want a home birth with a midwife. The thought of hitting that 42 week mark scared me into a lunging, walking, acupuncture and herbs for induction machine. California law mandates she can no longer be our care provider after 42 weeks. Don’t get me started on how ridiculous this law is! I didn’t want to do anything unnatural, like membrane stripping, to get things going. So I did what I was comfortable with along with praying, meditating and talking to – I should say coercing – our, as yet, unnamed bundle of “taking his sweet time” joy.
Not Feeling Any Different Than The Last 287 Days Of My Pregnancy
The evening of March 18th hit, 7 days past my due date and I went to bed not feeling any different than the last 287 days of my pregnancy. Well, maybe a bit more worse for the wear but feeling nothing that stood out. I woke to pee (shocking) and as I laid back down I had a very strong cramping. I thought sarcastically, yay, Braxton Hicks and fell promptly back to sleep. I woke again but it wasn’t my pregnancy compromised bladder waking me, it was another strong, cramping contraction. I had been having Braxton Hicks for the last month-ish and they did sometimes hit in close succession, so I thought BH again and fell back to sleep.
Queue Dramatic Movie Music In My Head
Sleep was not in the cards because I awoke in the same fashion…dum, dum, dum… Queue dramatic movie music in my head. This was it! This realization meant that excitement had instantly set in and I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I log-rolled out of bed and waddled to get my watch. It was 12:30am and bam! another strong cramp. I looked at the time on my wristwatch. I know, I know, I’m suppose to ignore all of this, but I was SO excited. Exactly 10 minutes later it happened again and I quickly started my stopwatch. It lasted 40 seconds. I did leave the hubby sleeping (at least I followed that rule!) and my hang out spot became the living room. I couldn’t sit. The pressure on my bottom and yoni (Sanskrit: yoni, literally “vagina” or “womb”) was far too great already and certainly uncomfortable when I added more pressure by sitting.
Resting On The “Ouch Couch”
The only comfortable position was kneeling in front of the couch with my arms resting on it. I quickly named it my ouch couch and had a little chuckle to myself. I swayed my hips and had quiet time with baby, imagining him descending down into the birth canal and my cervix opening like the beautiful lotus flower it was (a little over the top here? Nah.). I imagined how amazing it was going to be to hold him in my arms. I should say that we didn’t know the sex of the baby because we had only one ultrasound done through the entire pregnancy, at 10 weeks, but I had my mama intuition since day one of knowing I was pregnant; it was a boy. I guess my husband sensed something and came out at 1:30am. He asked, “Are you okay?” I said, “I think I’m in labor.” He looked quizzical, “You think you’re in labor?” I laughed, rephrased, “No – I am in labor.” He smiled and I told him my timings, feelings, etc. He smiled again and said, “Okay, I’m going back to bed, wake me when you need me.” That I could do, I was enjoying this alone, quiet, very early morning ritual I was creating. I felt like I could also try to get some sleep in my kneeling position. It did feel like I slept a small wink or two, but by 3am the contractions (yes – I had finally started to call them that) jumped to only 5 mins apart and lasting 50 seconds. They had also grown in intensity and had me working on my pain management techniques as I wanted this to be a drug free birth. I rode the waves, got vocal, practiced my breath awareness, non-focused awareness, meditated and wrote in my journal.
Everything I Learned About Stress Slowing Labor Was True!
We have two cats, (yes – this is important to the birth story!) and one of them is named Latchme because she latched on to me and, I’ll admit, I latched on to her, as a kitten. She follows me around the house, talks to me incessantly, and wants to be as close as possible to me as often as possible. She’s a darling of a cat and during one of my contractions at 3:30am, I accidentally shoved my foot into her face, quite hard. She sneezed over and over, looking dazed and confused at how mommy could do that. I sprung into action, checking her over, telling her I loved her, petting her. I felt horrible and stressed out that I had seriously hurt her. After I assured myself, (and she assured me) she was okay, I realized I hadn’t had a contraction! Sure enough, the stress of the kick to the cat had pushed my contractions back to 10 mins apart! I was amazed! Everything I learned about stress slowing labor was true! Not only did it slow, but when the contraction did hit, they had again, grown in intensity.
Best. Shower. Ever!
At 4am, I absolutely had to get in the shower but my legs were feeling quite weak and shaky so I knew this was the time I had to wake the hubby because a fall in the shower was not on my to do list. Up until this point, I had been dreading the shower to help with labor pain because I live in severe drought stricken California. I thought about it for a split second before succumbing to the. best. shower. ever. The water cascading over my lower back, where I was having the dreaded back labor, felt like kisses from God (not over the top here either). Drought or no drought, mama was getting relief! I felt so renewed after the shower that Matt and I picked up the house for a over an hour and put the plastic underlay on our bed. It felt so good to move that I didn’t hesitate to follow the urge until the overwhelming need to lay down took over.
I Need Some Sleep
I laid on my side which caused the contractions to intensify. They were still at 10 mins apart but lasting 50 seconds now. It felt so amazing to lay down and I really wanted to sleep, so I decided a drink was in order to slow things as kicking the cat again was not an option. At 6:30am I cracked open a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I know it was suppose to be wine, but beer was the only thing that sounded good. I drank it while I ate smashed sweet potatoes with butter. It was the best flavor combination ever and quite honestly the only thing I could stomach at this point. I got the whole can of beer down and about a cup of sweet potatoes. While I sat there I realized I hadn’t had a contraction in over 10 mins. Yay! I made my move to bed real quick, trying the side laying position again, I laid facing my husband. The first contraction that hit after laying down was so intense it took my breath away and forced me to my hands and knees. When it was over, I laid back down. Matt placed his hand on my forehead and lovingly “petted” me. It felt amazing. He said, “Should we call the midwives?” I said, “Maybe so.” We agreed that it wasn’t time for them to come just yet – but we needed to let them know where we were at. It was 7:30am on March 19th when we paged our midwife, Michelle. Perhaps a weight was lifted when we told her because I was able to get solid sleep in the bliss that existed between contractions. They were anywhere from 5-8 minutes apart and lasting a full minute now.
Dad’s Gentleness Was Outweighed by Baby’s Kicks
Matt and I laid facing each other and each time I woke at a contraction, he held my hand, matching my deep inhale and exhale. His eyes became a focal point for me, although at the peak of a contraction, I couldn’t really see him though I was looking at him. He said he could tell I went somewhere else. Through all of this, our little one was very active! Quiet as a mouse during a contraction but once it let go, he let me know it was time to come out by kicking the living uterus out of me. We covered “active labor” in class, but not “active baby labor”. Some of his kicks rivaled the pain of the contraction!
Queen Of my Very Own Pillow Lair
I had to get out of bed at about 10am and do something. I felt like I had slept/rested well so I puttered about the house for a bit, doing nothing really in particular besides walking and stopping to write a few words. I really had an intense craving for the Lactation Cookies my mom had become so good at making. We called her to come over and in doing so let her know I was in labor. After that, the most comfortable thing was sitting on my side, mostly on one hip or the other and leaning sideways over a yoga ball or sitting on my knees leaning over the yoga ball. Matt piled so many pillows around me and under me that I felt like the queen of my very own pillow lair. It was lovely. My mom came in with a giant somewhat nervous smile, gave me a kiss and immediately busied herself in the kitchen with making the cookies. Listening to her putter about in the kitchen and ask where certain things were was such an amazing pain technique all of it’s own! I was getting where I couldn’t talk very well during a contraction but I could hear very acutely. After a contraction was over I would rejoin the conversation. The smell of those cookies began to penetrate the house and I was in heaven. It was mostly the smell of the freshly ground fennel that had me “oohing and ahhing”. Matt brought some freshly ground fennel over to me in a jar and holding it up to my nose for a deep inhale and exhale during a contraction, we found it was an amazing pain reliever! I quickly became a junkie for freshly ground fennel!
I Cried Over Cookies
The contractions were all over the place now, anywhere from 3-8 mins apart, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. There was no rhyme or reason to them which left us quite confused. At noon, I asked for a bath. We called Michelle again to be sure getting in a bath was the right thing to do at this stage. She asked to talk to me. We had a lovely conversation that left me a bit emotional, really ready for my bath and deciding to ask for her to come. I climbed into the bath at about the time the first batch of cookies was done. Matt brought me a warm one and I took a bite, quickly realizing I couldn’t eat it! All the suspense I had drummed up for these cookies and I could barely swallow a bite! I was so sad I cried. Yes, I cried over that cookie. I wanted nothing more than to eat one (well maybe I wanted getting this baby out a bit more). Michelle arrived while I was still in the bath. She checked in with me and went to work setting up. I took my time in the bath, and once out I laid back on the bed. Michelle checked baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, which was very strong and also checked my dilation. I was 4cm dilated. Not bad, not bad! I could do this! She also palpated my belly around baby to get an idea of his position. He was curled up along the left side, where he has always been, definitely not in the right position. Also, I was very tender in my lower abdomen. She was a touch concerned about the tenderness, and said she would keep her eye on it.
14 + 22!
At this point is was about 3pm on March 19th. I had been in labor 14 hours. From here we labored at home another 22 hours. I wanted that drug-free home birth so bad! During this 22 hours of labor land, (and before and after) I had the absolute best birth team around me. My husband, my midwife Michelle, another midwife Lauren and my mom. They all took their turns at massaging me, giving me water and labor-aide, feeding me spoonfuls of yogurt and quinoa and anything else we thought I could get down and joining me on my waves of contractions. Michelle constantly checked baby’s heart rate, even through the night of the 19th. We were all so exhausted! But no one faltered in our joined efforts at this transformation that was taking place. My contractions had grown so very intense but were still all over the place, anywhere from 2-5 mins apart lasting a minute plus. I had dilated to 8cm but went back to 6cm because, we learned during Michelle’s palpating, baby was sunny side up with his hands up, like a boxer around his face. Like a boxer was right! Good grief, this baby was punching his way out!
I Had An Implicit Knowing That He Was Just Fine
This labor was definitely blood, sweat, tears, laughter, puke and poop! His position was making things difficult. We tried everything Michelle could think of to change his position and get me to dilate fully. We broke my water, I did yoga, I stomped and lunged, I did visualizations, we wrapped my belly in castor oil pack, massage, I sucked down herbs like crazy and then, we even tried manual dilation. On a birthing stool Michele brought (which I loved! – the birthing stool that is, NOT the manual dilation), during a contraction, Michele would try to push my cervix around his head, which she could feel! I was so excited she could feel his head! We tried this for, what felt like, forever, but was only really only 3-4 contractions. Ha! It definitely intensified contractions but during all this, baby’s heartbeat never varied from being incredibly strong! I had an implicit knowing that he was just fine and the constant strong heartbeat proved it.
Something’s Not Right
I needed a break and crawled up on the bed on all fours. Another contraction hit and a thought popped quickly into my head, “This isn’t right.” The thought shocked me because I had been so confident that everything was fine, it was just a “difficult labor”, but never a thought that something wasn’t right. I didn’t say this thought out loud, but my midwife was laying next to me and the moment my thought sentence was finished, she put her hand softly on my forehead, brushed away hair from my sweaty forehead and said, in almost a whisper, “There is a phenomenon with epidurals, that they can relax the baby enough to turn and get him into the right position.” There was no hesitation when I said, “Let’s go.” I instantly knew it was the right thing to do. Boom. We were all in motion and I was ready and in the car within 10 mins. Michelle got on the phone, called the birthing pavilion at Scripps Encinitas and got them ready for my arrival. It was the most excruciating car ride ever. Sitting was absolutely out of the question, I laid on my side in the backseat and braced myself with my arms pushing against the front passenger seat.
We got to the hospital at 1pm on March 20th. I know this because I had a contraction as Matt was handing them my insurance card and I became hyper focused on the wall clock, as I breathed through the contraction I counted the numbers, read the time and counted the ticks of the secondhand. As I came out of the contraction, I heard, “We have your room ready to go.” We got into our room and Michelle appeared at almost the same time, she had been just 10 mins behind us. She had all my charts and tests ready to go, there were so many questions being thrown at my husband and myself. Michelle answered almost every single one of them. I was in awe, in that moment, she was completely taking control of the situation and letting my husband and I focus on us. Scripps Encinitas was incredibly respectful of her as my midwife and she was incredibly respectful of them. We had new players join our birthing team and I instantly felt at peace with everything that had transpired. The epidural technician came in and got to work.
Best. Nap. Ever!
After I remained as still as I possibly could through an intense contraction, I felt the epidural kick in and was immediately grateful and wanting to fall asleep. The nurses and doctor wanted to give pitocin because they were measuring my contractions at only 60% when they needed to be 120% (really?! 60% to whom?!) and I was at 6cm dilation. My husband talked them into letting me get some rest with the epidural in place before giving me the pitocin which would, of course, intensify the contractions and probably have me pushing soon. Thank goodness he did, because I had the best 2 hour nap ever! The midwives took the chance to go home and get some rest also, making Matt promise to call them/text them the minute I was awake.
Cirque du Soleil
I woke feeling refreshed and ready to see our baby! Also, I was close to 10cm! We went ahead and said yes to one round of pitocin. I hadn’t touched the ballast on the epidural so I could still feel when each contraction was hitting. The midwives made it back shortly after I woke from my nap and by 8pm I was ready to push! I convinced my labor and delivery nurse, that even though I had an epidural I could shift position and not be square on my back. I wiggled my toes and said, “See! I can move my toes!” She laughed as I started to turn to my knees and hands. I was able to push for a while leaning up on the top part of the bed and then I tried side laying. At that point, I asked for a squat bar. The nurses weren’t so excited, but I had already proved that I could still feel my legs so they acquiesced. Then the labor and delivery nurse added a sheet to the squat bar, it became cirque du soleil! I wrapped the sheet around my wrist and pulled hard on it for each contraction for a count of 10. It really helped! The doctor came in when the baby had crowned and pulled the contraction monitor out saying, “She knows when the contractions are coming.” I was proud of that moment! I was the contraction monitor, telling everyone when one was coming and would push for 10 seconds each time and sometimes double down for another 10 seconds, if the contraction continued. I was mostly just feeling the contraction itself with little pain, however, some of the hard cramping feeling came through at times.
The Best Birth For Us
Our baby boy (knew it!) was born at 11:13 pm on March 20th, 2015. The night of the super moon, moon’s closest point to earth in it’s orbit, we met our Theo Moon Kai Iha. We had wanted a home birth, but what we ended up with was the best birth for us. One of our midwives put it like this; it’s not about whether you go to a hospital or not, use pain meds or not, or have a cesarean or not, it’s about using all of the tools available to make the best birth possible happen.
Love and Blessings,
Matt, Liz and Theo