Beautiful Waterbirth at Home
February 8, 2006 at 2:53pm after 66 hours of labor (15 hours of active labor)
My due date for my first-born was January 27th. For weeks, I had been noticing toning contractions and felt like I could go at any moment (wishful thinking). I stopped working on the 19th and while the time to myself was nice, I was going STIR CRAZY wondering when this baby was going to decide to make her entrance into the world.
Soon after the Super Bowl ended, on Sunday, February 5th, I finally got my answer. Again (as well as for the past couple of days), I had rushes that didn't really feel like "practice" anymore. They didn't come on really quick and stop just as fast. They had more of an ebb and flow feeling. The latter is what I had been told that actual labor contractions feel like. At this point, I didn't pay too much attention because this had been happening every night (and I was convinced that this baby was NEVER coming out!).
Think again. This time, the rushes didn't stop when I went to bed. I lay in bed until about 12:30 am thinking "OH MY! Could this REALLY be 'IT'!??!?!" I had been timing them for awhile, and they were definitely 10-ish minutes apart and about 20 seconds in duration.
I knew that if this was 'IT', I would need my rest. I tried to relax, but of course, couldn't. I got into the shower to help calm me down. It helped (some). I slept until 6am (on and off) and got up to call my midwife to let her know that I thought things were finally happening. She told me that having this baby was still probably a long way off, but that we should keep in touch by phone. We agreed that I would call her at noon to check in (sooner if things picked up).
I ran around the house, getting things ready and ate a large breakfast to build up reserves for the long journey I knew we had ahead of us. I did an hour or so of yoga to get my body ready for the work it was about to do.
At noon, there was no sign of things moving more quickly. I told the midwife that things were still happening about every 8-10 minutes. She said let's check in this evening. I waited and waited . . . I knitted a scarf, I watched movies, I cleaned the WHOLE house. Things were still progressing slowly by the time evening rolled around. My midwife suggested that we check in around 10 pm. At last, 10 pm arrived and still no changes (but things had never STOPPED either, which made me happy).
When we spoke at 10 pm, my midwife and I decided it was time to try to get one last night of full sleep and to call her in the morning. I tried to sleep, but the contractions (though still fairly mild) had a pretty uncomfortable peak that I could feel right in my lower back (making me think my girl had turned posterior in the past couple of days). It was hard to sleep through these contractions but I did sleep in between them.
I called my midwife in the morning. Things were about 5-7 minutes apart. She said that she would like to come and check on me around 11 am, if that was all right with me. I was relieved! I was starting to think that maybe I was imagining things so I wanted to know that I wasn't crazy (and hopefully hear that maybe I was a couple of centimeters dilated).
She came over and we did an internal exam which showed me to be about 2 cm dilated and almost totally effaced! I was THRILLED! It doesn't sound like a lot for how long I'd been in labor, but the "pain" was so mild, I hadn't hope for much more than that. Also, I told my midwife about the lower back pain and she said the baby was in "perfect birthing position" and that it is normal to have back pain during contractions that is not "back labor". This was news to me. I was not planning on having much back pain during labor, unless she was posterior. We discussed helping things to move along with the help of some blue cohosh, as well as sitting on the toilet and using the electric breast pump for nipple stimulation. I did all of the above ALL day and most of the night. Things sloooooooowly got closer together and a bit more intense as the day/night went on. Right around 8:30 pm (almost exactly 48 hours after early labor had started), things started feeling "different". The intensity shifted and the rushes were about 3-4 minutes apart. I called my midwife. She said "Unless you are at all opposed, I think it's time for me to come." I was ecstatic; this meant things were really happening (I had had my doubts, after 48 hours of SLOW, early labor).
My midwife arrived at about 10 pm. I was definitely up and about at this point. Lying down was not really an option. I could not get comfortable in any kind of horizontal position. This made me really hope that the baby would come at some point in the middle of the night, as I knew that I would not be sleeping at all. The next 12 hours are kind of a blur. Things kept happening, but happening slowly. Somewhere around 1 am, my midwife did an internal exam and I was only 6 cm! I was DEVASTATED! I thought FOR SURE that I had to be about 8 cm! I was starting to feel scared and discouraged. I told my midwife and my husband about my feelings. He hugged me and said that I was doing such a wonderful job and that he was so proud of me and all the hard work I was doing. My midwife said "I hear you say that you are feeling anxious. If you're worried about having to transport to the hospital, don't be. You and the baby are both holding up beautifully. Things are just moving very slowly. If we went to the hospital at this point, it would be your choice." That is exactly what I needed to hear to keep me going. I had been feeling this impending DOOM that any minute she was going to say "Get in the car, folks! It's time to head to the hospital!"
The rest of the night and early morning were slowly getting tougher. I had definitely reached the point where I could not be still through contractions. I had to either lean on Kevin's shoulders and dig my head into his chest or walk around and hang from a doorway during a peak. In the middle of the night, I needed a change of atmosphere so I asked for the birth pool to be filled up. This felt truly AMAZING. It actually made the intensity of the contractions MELT AWAY (for now . . . later, this would not be the case). Sometime in the early hours of the morning - it must have been around 7 am, it was just starting to get light out - I could no longer be QUIET during contractions. I started my low moaning during a peak.
All morning, I was in and out of the tub (mostly in) and my husband Kevin was SO WONDERFUL about keeping it warm for me. He did a LOT of work dumping cold water out and putting hot water back in, bless his heart.
Sometime in the early afternoon, my midwife did an internal exam and I watched her face. As she reached inside me, a slow smile crept over her lips. She said "Will you LOOK at that!? You are completely effaced and a lovely 8 cm!" Not long after that, I vaguely remember her saying that she had called the other midwife to come over. I sloooooowly processed that this meant that I was ready to push in the next hour or so. I did not leave the tub from this moment until the end. It just seemed like the perfect place to be. It was the only place that felt comfortable in between contractions (I would lay back and rest my head on the cushioned edge of the pool). During contractions, I could thrash around and feel I had my own space. Though at this point, pain relief was not at all an option, the tub indeed made me feel a bit more weightless and this helped immensely.
Next, there is a cloudy memory of the other midwife arriving. Kevin says that I gave her a sweet, dreamy smile and said "Hi Beth!" but I don't remember. The rushes had been feeling like huge ocean waves for quite some time. Now, it felt as though they were literally crashing down upon me. I remember being 5 years old and swimming in the ocean in Florida. I got pulled into a wave and could do nothing to stop it from throwing me around. I simply had to ride it out and wait until it decided to let me go. This is how these contractions were; there was no fighting my body, I simply had to submit.
My low moaning had turned into deep growling. I remember hearing these noises and thinking "Who is DOING that?!" When I realized it was me, I almost laughed! I knew that my baby was going to be in my arms very soon and though a little frightened, I was ECSTATIC! The urge to push became unmistakable (at first, I thought maybe I just had to go #2). I recall thinking, "Oh, here she comes." The growling that I was doing helped; I kept my voice very low and kept my face very relaxed. After a couple of pushes, I felt real progress and thought "Oh man, this isn't that bad . . . and at least I'm actively DOING something!" HA! Boy, was I wrong! Things shifted and I was unable to moan/growl and relax my face. I remember gasping in a high-pitched inhale and exhaling with an intense scowl on my face. My husband recalls that this was the only moment in which I cursed. I said "oooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!" and my midwife replied "Yup, that's right!"
I quickly had to change my whole perspective. This pushing thing was going to take a LOT more concentration than I anticipated. When I felt a rush coming, I would sway back and forth on my hands and knees and moan in a tone lower than I would have thought my voice could go. When the peak would hit, I would push right where the pressure was greatest. During the push, I would growl like an animal. At first, I felt like a mama lion, then like a mama hippo (don't ask me why). I reached down in between each contraction. First, I had to feel inside myself to feel my baby's head. Then, all of a sudden, there was most of her head in between my legs! It was an UNREAL feeling! After that, things are pretty hazy . . . I remember feeling like I was out of my body. Just when I said that to myself, one of the midwives brought me back down to earth. "Meredith, I need you to hold your breath RIGHT NOW and PUSH HARD!" I did and I felt the most TREMENDOUS pressure pass through me. The next thing I knew, I was back up against the side of the pool (I had been kneeling on my knees, holding onto the side of the pool), the water had turned a dark red and there was a wriggling baby being placed on my chest!
Not just ANY baby, I realized! MY BABY! MY GIRL! MY KENDRA! Oh my, oh my, oh my . . . I couldn't believe it! It was too much emotion to even cry! I just held her and said "THERE you are!" I was not aware of anyone else in the room, I just stared at her face. She had a bluish tint but was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She pinked up quickly and became even more gorgeous. I checked for 10 fingers, 10 toes. Her face was like an angel's. When she opened her eyes and looked at me, I honestly expected her to say something like "Well! That was something, wasn't it?" Her eyes were bright and seemed to have a LOT more knowledge and wisdom than someone who was only a few minutes old.
She gurgled and cleared her air passages (cried) just beautifully. It was the most precious noise I had ever heard. My husband Kevin came over to us and we kissed each other and said "Look what we did!" We all got to know each other for a few minutes. All of a sudden, the placenta was born. Soon after, the baby and I got into an herb bath to clean off and heal a bit. Then, our family of three climbed into bed and Kendra showed me how nursing is done. She was a pro right from the start (and still is!) and VERY alert.
The newborn exam came next. She weighed in at 6 lbs, 8 oz. and measured 19 1/2 inches long! Everyone kept commenting on her LONG feet and fingers! It's been decided that the top half of her face looks like Kevin and the bottom half looks like me! We'll see though . . .
All in all, it was the most beautiful and empowering experience of my entire life. Though the labor was long, I wouldn't have changed any moment. It progressed exactly as it should have and made me realize I am stronger than I ever knew possible.