39 weeks + 2 days
The weeks beforehand were strange days of waiting, sleeping, eating, wondering when. Wondering if it would be that evening or in a few weeks. Wondering what it would be like. I had so much energy and at the end of each day I would write down everything I had done that day, dozens and dozens of loose ends got tied up. I know there is a burst of energy before birth but I think mine lasted for weeks.
I am not a woman who looked forward to labor (unlike a lot of the women in Ina May's books who used the words excited and happy to describe their going into labor). I saw labor as something I had to go through to get to the other side, which was where I wanted to be. When people said, It's so worth it!, or Are you excited? or It should be soon!, I would smile but inside I just felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. I was uncomfortable physically but didn't want to go into labor to not be pregnant any more. The baby was so heavy when I turned over in bed, driving was uncomfortable, and I could feel his bones all the time, often making my belly go numb. I would have flashes of just want to meet this little fellow, what does he look like?, and is it all going to be okay? I had a lot of anxiety about the birth, which is rather ironic since when I actually did it, I wasn't anxious at all and knew exactly what I needed to do. But I didn't know that beforehand ~ if I would be able to handle it, if it would be too much. Birth is such a great unknown for someone who has never been through it.
On the other hand I also loved my belly and Cedar and it was great fun being pregnant ~ such a short, special time that would end at any moment. I was like a walking side show attraction. People would come out behind counters to goggle and once when I stood up after an hour at brunch, the couple at the next table gasped. Strangers would comment how low the baby was. I never felt him drop, had a show, or had my waters break to tell me he was ready to arrive.
Daily walks become harder. Cedar would press on a nerve running down my right leg (he'd been doing this for months but it got worse as he got bigger) and I'd have to stop walking and stand there till he got off of it. Tim had a dream I gave birth to a deer in the tub (instinct, gentleness) which "just shot out", and the same night my best friend dreamt I excused myself to go have the baby, which "just shot out." I was hopeful hearing this!
A few days before I went into labor I finally had a talk with Cedar, telling him that I was ready if he was, and I loved him and would be strong for him and he could come out whenever he liked, and we would do it together. I shaved my legs and wished I had been able to get a fresh pedicure. I was basically ready.
The day before I went into labor Tim and I were heading out for my daily mile and the neighbor invited us over to gift us a bottle of wine as a housewarming present (we having just moved in in May). I was feeling rather protective and cranky and just wanted to get the walk done, and was tired of people's big eyes when they looked at my belly. He told us that the next week his raspberry bushes would be loaded and we were welcome to pick as many as we liked, and we also watched a bluebird hover a few feet away from us. I'll always remember that day for the raspberries and bluebirds.
I had been having stronger braxton-hicks, virtually one long one as long as my daily 1-mile walk lasted, for weeks. That night (monday night) I slept through till about 6:30am (tuesday morning), and then I started feeling the aching burn that I usually get with my period. Totally crappy feeling. That was in my lower back mainly so I stayed in bed resting with my hot water bottle on my lower back for hours. The aches, along with braxton-hicks, came every 10 minutes for 1 minute long for 6 hours, then petered out around 12:30. I had finally told Tim when he awoke around 9 or 10am. I wasn't sure whether to feel disappointed or relieved. I did not want to go through labor yet didn't want to experience this over and over if it was just prodromal or 'practice' labor, which might last for weeks. I texted back and forth with my doula, Melissa DeGezelle, for a while and it was nice to have that support even though I was whining a bit. I was disappointed when she replied that this might only be the beginning! But she was quite positive and calm, reasonable about the process. It was already tiring mentally and I didn't want to be doing it. Yet it was inevitable. The uncertainty was hard and I tried to rest.
They began again at 1:30, irregular and stronger. I wasn't sure if it was really labor beginning? I cancelled my appointment with my midwife, Kathy Hindle (who is awesome!), since I didn't want to drive the hour to the office. I also canceled the accupunturist's appointment which I had 'to get things started' because, frankly, I didn't want things to get stronger.
All afternoon things went on. I rested. I ate, I rested again. Thank fortune for the hot water bottle. Tim went to our CSA to pick up our veggies and came home with a huge basket of their pick-your-own flowers, and sat down on the bedroom floor and put together the most beautiful bouquets which we placed around the room ~ glorious bursts of magenta, orange, red, green, like a mexican fiesta. I didn't want to eat much ~ I think I had some cinnamon toast and Tim finally made some potatoes and chicken which I really didn't want but was eating small bites of. I knew it would give me energy.
By then I needed him to press on my lower back and hips during contractions. I would say, I need you babe, and he would come over to where I was kneeling by the bed (our bed is right on the floor) and put his hands on me for the minute of the contraction.
The pain was radiating down my outer thighs and my lower back. The hot water bottle tucked into my shirt helped so much. Tim had helped me go through my miscarriage last July, and although I was hoping the pain would be different than that experience, it was pretty much the same thing. So we both knew what worked for me. In between we had 6 minutes or so and he made more toast and brought watered-down orange gatorade to sip. Kathy, who we had called by then, had said I should eat a bite and take a sip after every contraction. And try to sleep! I asked Tim for a wool blanket to put under my knees. I would end up laboring mostly on my hands and knees (and even now, writing this almost three weeks later, I still have limited feeling in my right pinky from my wrist being bent for so long).
We had stockpiled lots of healthy snacks and lots of organic juices and coconut juice, but all I ate and drank the whole labor was bites of cinnamon toast and chugs of orange gatorade.
The contractions began to come closer together so Tim pulled up an app on his Iphone to time them, how long they were and how far apart. I was breathing low through them, trying to keep my voice low and my mouth loose. They began to be 5 minutes apart, then 4, then 3. We called the midwife but she said we needed to slow things down since it wasn't time. (I hadn't lost my mucus plug nor had my water broken.) I hated hearing that. It wasn't time! Well what the heck was happening then!
Tim drew a warm bath and I got in.
The lights were already dim and I wanted them off in the bathroom (which is right next to the bed). I was pretty clear the whole labor about what exactly I needed ~ what would help me, and what didn't. He brought me a glass of white wine ~I hadn't had wine in years and it was funny to be drinking it while pregnant. It helped slow things down and the tub was marvelous. I couldn't have labored without water! I was afraid of a contraction in the tub since I wouldn't be able to scoot onto my hands and knees, but in fact they were not as bad in there and I could sit indian style and hold onto the edge of the tub or Tim's hand and it would be all right. They slowed down to 6 minutes apart and I was able to snooze for a few moments between them on my bath pillow while Tim slept a little in our bed. I was glad he was able to sleep since I knew I would need him later and I wanted him to have the energy to be my support. I think I was in the bathtub for a few hours.
We (I use 'we' but in reality I made Tim do all the phone calls) had called our doula, Melissa, who offered to come whenever, but I just felt very private and just wanted to rest and have Tim nearby at that point. I longed for a good long sleep but that just wasn't possible. I tried to get out of the tub at one point and about 4 contractions in a row hit me. I tried laying on the bed but they were much harder to handle, so after a while I got back in the tub. Around 4:30am I passed some mucus (finally! proof!) and we called Kathy who lived about 15-20 minutes away and asked her to come over. We called Melissa who lived over an hour away and asked her to come too.
In earlier labor Tim had spread out a bunch of wool blankets on the floor, covered them with a tarp, and put the blown-up pool on top of them. We hooked up the hose to the showerhead and filled the pool ~ when I asked him how long it would take, he answered About 20 minutes, I should think, and I retorted 20 minutes! I can't wait that long! I got into the bathtub while he filled the pool. The lights were all dim. Kathy arrived and I felt relieved that she was there. It made me feel more stable seeing her take it all in stride, like everything was fine and okay. We said hello, and then a contraction hit me by the bed and I called for Tim, Okay babe, I need you, and breathed deep through it on my hands and knees with Tim pressing on my back. Kathy watched and said I was doing awesome! Then I got into the pool. The warm water was amazing. I hadn't been swimming at all during the pregnancy and I love water. The contractions slowed down again since Kathy had arrived, but soon picked up again. (The pool is so great also because my contractions hit so hard when I had to pee on the toilet, but I could just pee in the pool no problem!) Kathy being there made things seem both surreal and for real.
I had to figure out how best to deal with them. For a while Tim put his hands on my back and I would say lighter, higher or gentle to instruct him how it felt best. Then I needed to face him and I splashed water on my own back which felt nice and distracting. The labor was still in my lower back. My feet fell asleep from me kneeling and sitting on them so much. I didn't care. I remember looking up to see Melissa in the doorway. Seeing her made me realize how different things were now than her previous visits. How do you feel? she asked, and I replied Good! As long as I'm not having a contraction. Later she told me she thought I wasn't very far along from how calm I seemed, and that she thought Kathy would want me to get out of the water. She also told me later that I sounded chill and calm.
When things felt overwhelming it wasn't because I felt lost, it was because I was having to persevere through something I didn't want to keep continuing to do.
The contractions continued and time seemed a blur. This went on. Tim got a pitcher and poured warm water on my back. I wanted his hands on me lighter and lighter each contraction ~ at one point I said, gentle, gentle, gentle...Gentle!...GENTLE! until he told me later he felt he wasn't even touching me. Melissa said gentle seemed to be my mantra. I used no mantra or imagery at all really during the labor, just breathing and low vocalizing, so I thought the use of that word was interesting afterwards.
I noticed when Kathy called the assistant midwife, Alison Cutts ~ the sun had risen and I thought it was good that she was getting her to come over, I thought it meant the baby would be born soon. The light in the room seemed so white and clear and it was just me in the pool with knowledge of Tim there. Melissa was a peaceful presence. I ate my bites of toast and chugged the gatorade. After a while I asked her to get Kathy to come in (who was giving Tim and I our privacy since everything was progressing fine.) I wanted to see through her eyes that everything was good, normal, and on its way. I felt better when Kathy came in and didn't seem at all fazed with the strength of my contractions or my vocalizing. I was a little disappointed even, since I wanted it all to be over soon.
Alison arrived; I was surprised with how the morning seemed so clear and bright when I opened my eyes to see her in the doorway. Hi, she said, crouching down to be at level with me in the pool. She looked so sweet and calm. I smiled back, closed my eyes again, and completely forgot about her. Once in a while I'd open my eyes and see the women around me, and the next time I looked they wouldn't be there. It was like I was in a time warp. There was only breath and water and sensation. Once in a while I could feel Melissa's cool hands on my back taking the place of Tim if he needed to adjust the water the pool.
Suddenly the contractions seemed so much more intense. My noises changed: I couldn't sound a long note anymore but had to make short low noises in a crescendo. I felt like I could barely get through them, almost like I wasn't in myself at all. I had to hold the front of my womb for it to be okay and heard the midwife saying You're opening, stretching. I wasn't thrilled to be stretching. At one point Tim tried to say the same thing and I briefly told him to shut up. In general though, I was very appreciative of Tim's efforts and the whole experience felt like something we were accomplishing together.
There is a choice in labor. Between each contraction (until the very last part, that is) is a pause. I used those pauses to thank Tim (and to hear him tell me how wonderful I was doing), to chat, and to try to keep the mood light and normal. Cursing wouldn't have helped during contractions, so I didn't do that. I tried fuck once and it did not assist. I tentatively tried I don't want to do this anymore and it didn't assist. I just had to keep laboring, riding the waves of what came. I remembered my Ina May and kept my voice low.
Kathy pointed out the little pieces of bloody show and I was so proud of them ~ I was doing this! Really dilating! Me! Going to really have a baby! Ha! More contractions. Suddenly as I vocalized I felt my body bear down twice. I opened my eyes and there was only Melissa and Tim. I calmly said to Melissa (like I was commenting on the fine weather), Can you please go tell Kathy I'm pushing. Tim said later he was excited when he heard that. She nodded and went off, later telling me she found Kathy in the kitchen but I had seemed so calm she wasn't really sure I was indeed ready to push. (I found all that funny later since I did not feel calm inside throughout labor although I apparently acted and looked it.) While down there they heard me go through four or five back-to-back contractions with no pauses in-between. Feeling Cedar moving down was the hardest feeling to integrate of the whole labor. I couldn't turn back now!
Kathy came in and I asked her if she thought I was fully dilated. She said I probably was, that the body will usually push only when everything's open, and had I felt up there at all? I hadn't since I didn't want to feel anything closed! I put a finger up and felt Cedar's head and the bag of waters. His hard little head which, when I touched it after he was born, took me right back to that moment. Kathy said I was awesome, (I loved that ~ she was such a positive force the whole time.) I said how far up he was; a whole finger! (and they all thought, Oh, this'll take awhile.) But nope! ~ in one or two contractions I decided I could do this pushing thing and I was just going to go for it.
I pushed hard to test things out and felt something pop. I whirled around, hoping the baby had shot out. (Yes, I did.) I had burst the water bag ~ let's get this show on the road! In a moment of pause, I laughed because it seemed like I was kneeling in a clear broth of egg drop soup: the perfectly clear amniotic fluid and little bits of vernix.
All the lovely ladies (and Tim, of course) were in the room now, witnessing. I reared up from the water, grabbed my inner thighs, and roared, pushing with all my might! I was going to push that baby out pronto! They were all a little surprised since it can take mothers a long time to figure out pushing. Kathy sat back and cried out Someone get the camera, she's gorgeous! and my doula grabbed the camera and began documenting the event with wonderful photos.
I didn't love or hate pushing; I just knew what to do. It didn't hurt; it was just hard. I had to push his bones through my bones.
Melissa was awesome: I turned to her in a moment of calm clarity and asked for a cool washcloth. She would wipe down my fiery face with it and it felt so good and necessary.
From the moment I told Melissa I was pushing to when Cedar was out took forty minutes. It didn't seem that long. I pushed harder than anything. I thought he would just pop out but it took push after push. Right away he was only a knuckle length in. Kathy hopped to get the bed ready with the chucks pads for the placenta delivery. I liked seeing that; it meant the baby was on his way fast! I pushed with every iota I had. I pushed with my voice (I was so hoarse that when I called my mom to announce the birth later, she thought I said Peter instead of Cedar.) I hated when they put the Doppler on me to check Cedar's heartbeat; I would start pushing so they would stop. (His heartbeat was great the whole labor.)
In a pause Kathy asked me if I would eat a piece of toast and I thought to myself, What a bizarre question, so I answered in as normal a tone as possible, Sure, why not? Everyone laughed. I chugged orange gatorade.
He crowned. My brain was in my butt. In my mind's eye I could see what was happening. It was an out of body experience at one point: suddenly I came to and found myself in a bright room on my hands and knees in water, having a baby! Whoa. Someone said He's a redhead! and I exclaimed No way! I was so tickled to hear that.
I could feel burning, the ring of fire was no biggie. None of it really hurt. I pushed through some tearing ~ I didn't care. I paused to stretch out. I kept asking if his head was out. Not yet! Now? Keep pushing! They can see his eyes! His nose! His head's out ~ what a relief. Now I have to push his body out? I thought it just popped out? Pushing his body out ~ I feel like nothing's happening...I feel them wiggling his shoulders...his chest is out...Tim helps pull out his legs. (I didn't realize it at the time, only later from photos which Melissa was taking).
I turned around, and there he was. Newly born and blue as a blueberry. I threw my leg over the umbilical cord to turn around and they placed him in my arms.
I turned around, and there he was. Newly born and blue as a blueberry. I threw my leg over the umbilical cord to turn around and they placed him in my arms.
I kissed him. It was all over. He was so there. It was amazing. He's mine. I kissed Tim. We did it!
He started pinking up. Kathy wanted to hear him make a little noise. He cried. I felt like I was only in the pool holding him for a little bit but I see later from the photos it was longer than I thought. Then Alison said my placenta was starting to come out so everyone helped me out of the tub and onto the bed, which was pretty funny to me ~ like I had a bunch of ladies-in-waiting. It was a little hard to breathe since my diaphragm didn't have a baby holding it up anymore. The placenta appeared with no problems and Alison put it in the fridge to encapsulate later. Tim cut the cord that connected me to Cedar (he was born with it once around his thigh and then three times around his ankle.) I needed stitches which took a considerable time to but that didn't bother me at all. I wasn't in labor any more and had Cedar in my arms ~ surreal.
Fantastic. Crazy. Hard. Normal. Everyday. Unbelievable.
Cedar was born at 8:47am on wednesday, june 27th, 2012.
He was born on his due date.
He weighed 8lb 1oz.
He was 21 inches long.
His Apgar score was 10.
For lots more birth story photos, see here.
For pregnancy story in photos, see here.
For my pregnancy chronicle on the blog, see here.