There have been a slew of pregnancy announcements in my life lately. It seems like half of my friends (or their significant others) are pregnant. So many of the women who were pregnant at the same time I was are at it again. I am so happy for everyone, but I’m also a little jealous. I’m still waiting on my freaking jaw surgery before MacGyver and I can talk about our next one(s).
With this slew of announcements, I’ve also gotten a lot of email, facebook messages, and phone calls asking about our homebirth and natural pregnancy and childbirth in general. I’ve ended up promising a number of these friends that I would put my h0mebirth story back online for them to read. Flintstone was born at home in September 2010, and this is how it happened (the birth part; get your mind out of the gutter):
This is long and may be graphic at points. It was written more for my own memory than as a blog post, so I’m pretty sure at least half of it constitutes the definition of TMI.
You’ve been warned. Read at your own risk.
Just over a week before Flintstone’s arrival, certain activities brought on some very consistent and persistent Braxton Hicks contractions. Because we really wanted the birth to happen while our friend, Scathing Lawyer (SL), was in town from NYC to watch Punky, we reluctantly decided to forego those activities for the next week until she arrived.
I woke up Monday morning and excitedly told MacGyver that as of 7:15 that night, when SL arrived, we could resume activities and try to bring about labor. Then I was off to work.
I spoke to the midwife early in the day to let her know that I was pretty sure I had lost the mucus plug over night and to see if the anticipated “activities” could still take place. She assured me that they could.
Over the course of the morning and early afternoon, I became increasingly bothered by what felt exactly like first day menstrual cramps. If I didn’t know better, I would have been certain I was having a period. I have a number of friends whose labors had started with this very feeling. I was a little excited, or, I suppose interested to see where this went, but I didn’t let myself get too excited. I had no real pain, and not even many BH contractions. Plus, my mom (and just about everyone else) had assured me that my labor would last at least 14 hours – more than likely 24.
So I went about my work, focused on finishing two certain opinions in anticipation of going into labor sometime that week.
In addition to the menstrual feeling, I had no appetite. I completely forgot to eat my usual breakfast, and didn’t even realize it until almost lunchtime. Then the thought of eating just did not sound good at all. For lunch I went out and treated myself to some sushi and a vegetable bowl (a favorite dish of mine) because I knew I needed to eat even though I didn’t want to.
I only managed to eat the sushi.
At 14:00, Capt PaperClip (my boss who I did not exactly see eye-to-eye with) came into my office to discuss one of the opinions I was working on. I told him that I suspected I might be in the very early stages of labor, just so he would be aware, but assured him that I wasn’t sure yet. I remained seated while I was talking to him. I knew exactly what I wanted to explain, but I kept loosing my train of thought, then I felt a gush. And I really lost my train of thought and just stopped talking midsentence for a moment. But I recovered and finished explaining whatever it was to him, even though there were two more gushes over the course of the conversation. I was very glad when he left on his own. I really didn’t want to have to ask him to leave.
I called the midwife again, who informed me that “activities” were now soundly out of the question. Suck. I called MacGyver and told him I thought my water had broken, but that I just wanted to tie up a couple loose ends before I came home. He wasn’t exactly thrilled with that plan.
I changed out of my cammies and used napkins and a clean boot sock to catch the continuing leak of water since I didn’t have any “supplies” with me – because I am just that motivated. And I managed to finish up one of the tasks I had been working on while the contractions started to become apparent.
I talked to SL, who was about 5 hours away from the train station, which was another two hours from our house. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to make the 4 hour round trip to go pick her up. The midwife agreed, and offered to pick up SL for us since the train station was only 20 minutes from her house. (Now there’s a service you won’t find from any OBGYN)
The contractions continued to become clearer and MacGyver told me that if I didn’t leave right away, he was going to come get me. Snarky Paralegal agreed. So I packed up my office, told my bosses my water had broken, and headed for home. I forgot to set the automatic out-of-office reply on my email, which has been bothering my ever since.
My mom was in Ontario for Girls’ Weekend – sort of an all female family reunion we do every year, though I haven’t been able to make it for a few years. I called to let her know I was in labor, and she was super excited. She may have even squealed a little, which is not my mom’s style. She told me to walk through the contractions, and not to let anyone make me lie down.
At home, things progressed quickly. I changed clothes a couple times, and even took the 39 week picture, but was quickly distracted from all that. The contractions felt pretty close together, and I found myself pacing the length of the house, back and forth, at a very quick walk. The midwife had told me to call when the contractions were an average of 60 seconds long and 6 minutes apart. They certainly felt closer together than that, but I got very frustrated trying to time them using the stopwatch on my cell phone. Really, I needed two stopwatches (note to self for next time – and note for any pregnant women, learn how to time contractions before you’re actually having them).
MacGyver and I went for a walk around the block, and he tried to help me time them. We never really managed to time 5 in a row, but the ones we did time were 45 – 90 seconds long and 3 – 4 minutes apart. I called the midwife again when we got back to the house and told her that I felt like things were progressing quite a bit faster than I would have expected.
I tried lying down and relaxing through a few. Turns out, my mom was right about the not lying down thing. That method didn’t really work for me. The urge to curl into a ball was just too strong. So I paced a little more. MacGyver filled up the birth pool (twice, since the first time the water coming straight out of the hot water heater had sediment in it; don’t worry, we reversed the liner so it was still sanitary).
The next time I talked to the midwife was probably around 6 pm at the latest, maybe it was 5 . . . – only 4 hours since my water had broken, and, listening to my contractions on the phone, she told me she was going to come then. Unfortunately, SL was going to have to rent a car to get to our place from the train station. The midwife was about an hour and 45 minutes away, and the other midwife coming to help her was about an hour away. She told me not to get into the pool unless I wanted MacGyver to deliver the baby before she got there.
The contractions were quickly becoming more painful than I had expected, and MacGyver was not enjoying watching me squirm. He wanted me to get in the tub right away because he knew it would make me feel better, but I was really worried about Flintstone’s safety if he was born without someone there who knew what they were doing. (Sorry, Honey)
For some of the contractions, I stood holding MacGyver’s arms or bouncing on the corner of our bed, then he brought in a “birth ball” (Punky’s bouncy ball covered with a clean towel). I bounced gently on that while MacGyver sat on the bed in front of me. The wait for the midwife felt soooo long.
I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I’ve put myself through some pretty painful and physically demanding things in my life. I have pretty good control of my body. I know the power of relaxing through pain, and hadn’t been too worried about any part of the labor before the pushing stage. But I had also failed to ever go to the chiropractor and get my back and pelvis fixed like the midwife had told me, and I had assumed, incorrectly, as it turns out, that Flintstone would come out in the same way most babies do.
The contractions, pressing his head down strongly against my pubic bone, were very painful and came very fast.
The midwife actually made really good time. I’m pretty sure I was in the tub by the time she made her way from the front door to the bedroom. The warm water was a huge relief. For a while.
The baby sounded good, and I started just riding out the contractions, waiting for the urge to push. But the contractions just continued becoming more painful, and not at all where I had expected them to be. The pain was all focused directly on my pubic bone.
This is what I get for conceiving a baby while going through TBS. If you’ll remember, I sucked at Land Nav – a lot. Stumbling around in the woods with a compass and largely inaccurate map in freezing cold rain for 8 hours was easily one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. I have no sense of direction or navigational skill. Apparently, neither does Flintstone. Because he was trying really hard to come out through my pubic bone.
After a while, the pain turned me into a simpering, whining, at times shouting, big baby. I did not deal with the pain gracefully. I spent quite a while leaning over the side of the tub, facing the wall, and throwing up – because throwing up during the contractions seemed to make them hurt less.
And poor MacGyver. He was so wonderful. And so desperate to help me. But I couldn’t stand anyone touching me during the contractions. I would get so hot, MacGyver’s hands felt like fire. And not in a good way
The urge to push was not as obvious and clear as I thought it would be. Maybe I was a little anxious to feel the urge to push and get things over with. I thought I had an urge to push, but it was rather vague – it wasn’t until a couple hours later that I felt the real, no-kidding, unmistakable urge to push. Next time, I’ll wait for that.
With each contraction, I would bear down and push as hard as I could, but I swore nothing was happening. I couldn’t feel anything going on at all. I would simultaneously want to push and to clamp down and hold back – I’m sure because of the pain. And I did not enjoy pushing. Eventually, I started whining that it wasn’t working and that I didn’t want to push anymore. The second midwife told me it was ok, to just relax through a couple of contractions. Advice I took gladly, though there was really no hope of relaxing through these contractions. Relaxing between was a bit of a joke, too, because my contractions were super close together the whole time. After a couple minutes of this, though, the main midwife took over and demanded that I push more. And really, as much as I wanted to listen to the other midwife and just rest, what I needed was to be pushed. I am a Marine, after all. I’m used to people yelling at me and telling me what to do, especially in painful situations.
Sometime during all this, SL showed up, safe from the train station in a rented car. I didn’t see her until after the birth. When MacGyver went out to greet her, Punky, on hearing one of my very loud protests that I did NOT want to do this anymore, asked MacGyver if she had a choice about whether or not to have kids when she grew up. He assured her that she did, and she decided that she did not ever want to have children, lol. To this day, she says she’s going to adopt. Good for her.
SL said her favorite part was when she heard me declare, loudly and resolutely, that I was done and would not be doing this anymore. Ha.
At a certain point, the tub just felt too hot, and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough leverage to push. Actually, I felt like I was flailing around like a giant clumsy hippo, so I got out. I tried a couple different things from there. Lying over the birth ball, sitting on the birth stool, even sitting on the toilet. And, finally, the bed. I leaned against MacGyver and pushed in a semi-reclined position for a while. The midwife checked me and assured me that she could feel his head, and that she had pushed back the little lip of cervix still remaining on one side.
I was pushing so hard and so often, and I was sure nothing was happening. It felt like straining against a concrete wall. I complained loudly that nothing was happening. The midwife assured me, tracking his progress, that he was indeed moving down with every push. She told me the next day that for at least the first hour that she had been lying through her teeth to keep me pushing. She could feel that he was in a weird position and not coming out the way he should. My pushing was, indeed, completely ineffectual. And there may have been some talk of transferring me to the hospital.
But his heart rate stayed consistent in the 120’s, except at one point later in the labor, shortly before he crowned, I could hear that it was slower when she listened, down to 110 – still safe, but I did not like that. I didn’t even need to hear the numbers to know it had gotten slower.
Then she had me do something you never expect. She had me lay flat on my back with my legs out straight. When I had a contraction, she had me push in that position while pulling on two ends of a sheet that the other midwife was pulling back on.
At first, this sucked just as bad. But then, suddenly, I could feel things start to move. It made pushing hurt even more – I felt like my pubic bone was going to explode, but things were moving. That was a good sign considering I had been pushing for at least three hours (though MacGyver and the midwives kept telling me that it hadn’t been that long because I kept getting very upset that it was taking too long – the frigging books said the average pushing stage should last ½ hour to 2 hours. Bah! Fat lot of good averages did me )
The midwife had had me on my back to get him to move under my pubic bone, and it was a success. After just a few more pushes in that position, she had me move back onto the birthing stool. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of moving, but I did. And then there was a REAL urge to push. This was much clearer than the urges had been to this point. It was strong, I wanted to push – at least my body wanted to – and it took so much less thought than the pushing to this point had.
I held the midwife’s assistant’s wrists (sadly, I still found MacGyver too hot to touch, but he was right there next to her the whole time), and down he moved. I remember everyone in the room, both midwives and MacGyver, getting very excited when Flynn started to appear. I could feel him moving with every push, but didn’t yet feel any stretching, so I was really surprised when they said they could see him.
The midwife had me reach down and feel his head coming out, and I was surprised by how squishy it was (he had a very large caput , which is what I felt). But I had to brace myself with both hands for the pushes.
The whole time on the birth stool seemed to go very quickly – especially compared to the hours before. He crowned quickly, and the midwife’s assistant talked me through a series of little pushes to ease his head out and minimize tearing. (And I have to say, tearing always happens at the perineum, but I was surprised by how sure I was that I was going to tear “in front,” so to speak, though I didn’t). I’m really glad to have been drug free at this point and in complete control. The midwife talking me through easing his head out did wonders to minimize any sort of tearing.
Then his head was out, and it was amazing. It was almost over. I kinda wanted to be done right there, and I think my wash of relief stalled the contractions, because he stayed in that position for a minute or two while the midwife poked my tummy and MacGyver tweaked other parts to try to bring the contractions back. I didn’t really want them back… But it only took one or two pushes for his body to follow his head, and there he was, all wet and slippery, big, dark eyes wide open.
I had to hold him on my lap because his cord was very short (another reason the labor had been so difficult), while the midwives dried and rubbed him until he started to cry moments later. Then we moved carefully up to the bed, where he had to lay down by my hip because of the short cord.
But he was hungry – and seeming has been ever since. I thought he was going to give me a hickey on my hip. The midwife wanted to get the placenta out so he could feed, and, while I agreed completely with the desire to establish breastfeeding, I was not excited about pushing anymore, and I had heard some really unpleasant things from friends about how painful it had been when their Dr’s had wanted the placenta out.
This wasn’t painful at all, though. The midwife rubbed my abdomen and maybe pulled a little – I wasn’t really paying attention, then there was a contraction, I pushed, and the placenta was out. It went into a bowl, and Flintstone was able to come up and have his first meal. He took to breast feeding like a pro, too, even in the face of my uncontrollable shaking
And that, while it is just the beginning, is the end of the birth portion of the story. Flintstone was born at 12:24 am Tuesday, September 14th after 10 hours of labor including 4 hours of pushing. He weighed 7lbs, 2 ozs, was 20 inches long, and had a head circumference of 13 inches.
I felt like a huge pansy afterward, having been so loud and upset the whole time. I hadn’t expected to deal with the pain so poorly. But I also hadn’t expected nearly that much pain.
A few months after the birth, one of the midwives contacted me to ask if I had ever been a victim of sexual assault/domestic violence (which I have), and said that some of my issues with labor were typical of such a past. I have yet to research that further, but you can expect a post on it when I do.
I take a little bit of comfort in the midwife’s insistence that my labor was one of the hardest she’s seen. That because of his position, my back/pelvic alignment issues, and the short cord, and judging from the size of the caput he had when he was born (we’re talking serious cone head), his was not a “normal” birth. And that if I had done it in the hospital, there is a strong likelihood it would have ended in cesarean. She may be saying all this to humor me. But I think I can deal with that.
Originally posted Sep 19, 2010 5:57 PM