Thursday, November 30, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Pounds gained during pregnancy: 26
Pounds lost immediately after the birth: 13
Pounds lost at 4 weeks postpartum: 16
Day my milk came in: 2-5 (the colostrum started turning milky the evening of day 2, but my milk was not in full force until about day 5)
Days of postpartum bleeding: 8 or 9
Average length of a nursing session: 45 minutes
Average length between nursing: 3 hours
Time between Zari’s birth and the birth of the placenta: 2 ½ hours
Total length of labor: 10 hours
Length of pushing stage: 2 hours (or 3 if you include the hour of “nudging”)
Zari’s weight at birth: 7 lbs
Weight at 8 days: 6 lbs 14 oz
Weight at 19 days: 8 lbs
Zari’s length: 19 ½” (nurse’s 8-day measurement) or 20” (my measurement)
Duration of my “babymoon”: 11 days
Number of meals provided by church friends: 9
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I wish for the day when scalpels become almost obsolete in birth, and when we will look at the cesarean epidemic as a barbaric and tragic episode in the history of childbirth.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
I hear lots of birth stories. Most of them are wonderful. Today a friend emailed a very tragic story of loss and despair. A mom going in for her second cesarean suffered a massive rupture and lost her baby and her ability to have another. It shook my friend to the core and I certainly understand why. I have been in similar situations and know how desperately everyone involved wants answers. I wish I had them.
When tragedy strikes sometimes there are no answers. I do not know if it was attributable to induction or pitocin and know nothing about the previous cesarean. But even if this mom had been just walking down the street when this catastrophe happened, it doesn’t affect my faith in the intrinsic safety of birth. I am terribly sad for them but I still believe that birth is safe.
Living is synonymous with risk. There is no escaping it. Everything we do carries some risk and there are many reminders of the fragility of life. Some years ago a young friend of mine died just moments after she had given a presentation at a summer church camp where she was a counselor. I had known her for more than 7 years. She was a beautiful, vivacious girl. The autopsy report could not tell her parents why their child died. At 16, she just sat down on a bench and her heart stopped beating.
Just this last week I have learned four people I know have died very recently. One was an apparent SIDS death of a 6 month old. A few months ago a family friend, who was only 18, ran a stop sign and was killed. So many people in my life have been killed in car wrecks that I am absolutely convinced that driving is a considerably riskier than we do on a regular basis. That is why I made Jessie take her driving course twice.
In fact, there are many, many things riskier than birth. I am positive that unhindered, unmanaged birth is really, really safe . . . as safe as breathing. I did not believe birth was as safe in 1975 as I do today. I wasn’t scared of birth as far as I knew, but I thought I needed an authority, and an expert or something bad might happen. That birth, and everything that has happened concerning birth in my life since, has taught me that if something bad does happen it is more likely to be due to interference with birth, rather than a flaw with the design or deficiency in the process.
I preach to all who will listen that the best way to serve a woman during her pregnancy is to help her to realize that she is her own authority and that a midwife or doctor or doula is ONLY a paid consultant. A consultant may be an expert about birth, but I believe that a woman is her own best expert for her birth, and that her body knows EXACTLY what to do if given the chance.
Some of you know about the June twelfth birth of my namesake, Carla Rae. I attended as Baba only. I toted water to the tub as the hose was too short to reach the spot where the kiddie pool was. I also handed the mom the honey spoon from time to time. I said almost nothing. I did not do anything midwifey. The mother had a previous section 3 years prior almost to the day. She knew nothing about birth then but afterwards was sure that she wanted something different. She wanted a home birth. She had watched What Babies Want at my house and it “opened the curtain.” From that point on, my daughter-in-law read and watched everything she could. Her favorite book was The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth. She loved hearing my birth stories and especially my “did not push, just let my body do it birth.” And Marcela did just that with the birth of Carla Rae. If I had been her midwife I would have suggested that she do some things differently. As her mother in law, I suggested nothing, did nothing. I just loved her and did what she asked.
If I had been her midwife I would have most assuredly said something when it took soooooo long for another contraction after the head was out. As the mother in law, I said nothing. And after what seemed an eternity to the midwife in me, I observed her powerful uterus rise up and push that baby out in one contraction, with no assistance from the mother. Truly, as many of you have heard me preach, the body that managed conception, and pretty much grew a healthy baby with little assistance or direction, did not forget what to do at the end. In fact, it was quite efficient in ejecting that baby.
Last Monday, I observed this amazing phenomenon again as I was with my first home born baby as she gave birth to her second child. Heather’s first birth was a lovely midwife attended water birth. Excruciatingly painful for my daughter but a beautiful birth, nonetheless. This time, she prepared the same way in terms of nutrition, labor prep and daily chlorophyll, with a few additions. She did a lot more kegels this time. She went to the chiropractor regularly because of her incredibly uneven pelvis due to scoliosis. She took arnica in the last three weeks to help with the hip pain. The difference that made the difference, in my humble opinion, was that she determined she was not going to call the midwife this time. Heather adores her midwife and was very happy with how she assisted in the first birth. This time, though, she wanted to “do it herself.” She read everything she could find about unassisted birth and she read Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering repeatedly. She read it so often that she could quote long passages of Sarah’s take on the wisdom on the body.
In spite of the fact that Heather had almost no sleep in the last month and was totally exhausted, once real labor started, it lasted just under two hours. She had a lot of back labor and she and her husband were alone almost all of those two hours as I was out running errands for them. I got back less than a half hour before the birth. Once again I spent most of that time toting water, but this time because the hose was just not filling fast enough. Heather stood up out of the birthing tub and leaned on me while her husband continued to try to get more air into the blow up pool. During her last water birth, the sides had been under inflated and there was considerable water spillage. Her husband is somewhat of an efficiency expert and did not want a repeat of that. (That is funny to us now, that he just would not fit it in his head that the birth was imminent. I can assure you though, that at the time it was very irritating to Heather. The speed at which this labor progressed was a shock to both of them. In fact when she stood up and felt the baby move down dramatically, she asked in disbelief how it could be happening so soon as she had not had time to dilate. There had been no exams but she was comparing it to her 21 hour labor the first time!)
The water broke just before the baby was born. Much to my surprise, I heard a gurgly inspiration and cry immediately after that. I have never heard a baby cry before the head was out. Heather had just asked me to confirm that was indeed the baby’s head emerging between her legs so I could tell her husband that now was the time for him to get in position! The water broke on my hand. After I heard the cry, the midwife in me wanted that baby to be born pretty quickly, but Heather’s body, being much wiser than I, waited a bit. And that was a good thing in the end as it gave her husband time to turn off the air compressor, put down the air hose, get into the tub and get behind her to catch his baby. In the position I was in, supporting her front to front I was able to literally feel her amazingly powerful uterus bring her baby into the world. It was incredible to feel my daughter’s body doing its job for her. Heather did NOT push, even once. It took 3 or 4 contractions from the time she stood up until the time her baby was born. She told me later that once she realized her body was doing it, she literally could not have pushed if she had wanted to. She had given her body permission to do it’s job with no interference from her and there was no going back.
Heather is convinced that not pushing was beneficial in other ways. She had no trauma to her perineum or vagina whatsoever. No swelling, tears or skidmarks. Honestly, she did not look like she had had a baby ever. She bled very little and her lochia is almost completely gone at 6 days. She feels great. She is in a perpetual state of awe when she talks about her birth. In spite of the pain, she would love to do it again today. I can completely identify with the feeling. After Jessie was born I had the incredible desire to put her back in and do it again. It was the most amazing feeling I can imagine. For Heather, the sensual, powerful feeling of allowing her body to do what it was designed to do has changed her life as well. She has always been a committed believer in the safety of birth, but now she has experienced a whole new level of trusting her own body to give birth, as well.
My wish for every woman would be to experience the power of unhindered birth as I have, and as Marcela and Heather and many others I know have experienced. We are so conditioned to believe that we have to work hard to push babies out, when more likely, most would come out better if we just allow our bodies to do their job.
So, once again, I find myself trusting birth more than I did last week!
My mom gave Zari her first kitchen sink bath the other day. I have memories of my mom doing this same thing with my sisters and brother.
Zari is more awake and alert every day.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I hesitate to even write this post, because it gives pain a privileged position in childbirth. We all know how pain and birth are talked about: birth as the most excruciating pain a woman will ever endure, pain management in labor (a euphemism for drugs), getting a pain-free labor with hypnosis...
But now that I have been there done that, I feel the need to share my experience of pain. Not because it was awful or excruciating, but because it was one of many, many sensations that made up the entirety of labor.
Before my labor began, even before I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to experience labor in its fullness. I wanted to feel every sensation, pleasant or not. I firmly believed—and still do—that by numbing myself to the painful parts of labor, I would also miss out on the bliss and the ecstasy as well. I wouldn’t be pain-free by taking drugs or having anesthesia; I would be sensation-free. I didn’t like that idea.
I wasn’t wedded to the idea that labor had to feel a certain way. I didn’t expect pain, but I also didn’t expect its absence. Honestly, I expected to feel a great many sensations as I labored, and I knew that pain might be one of them. I loved reading stories of painless births, ones that take a woman by surprise because she doesn’t realize she is in labor, or the ones where a woman experiences bliss and waves of pleasure. I listened to Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing CD and read her book. The CD was incredibly useful for relaxation during pregnancy and helping me sleep when nothing else could, but I resisted her assertion that if you relax the right way, you will not feel pain. I think that often is the case, but I didn’t want to be so dogmatic about my own labor and feel that I somehow failed if I experienced a sensation as painful.
My contractions felt like sharp, intense menstrual cramps, all entirely in the front of my abdomen close to my pubic bone. I can only say they were “like” menstrual cramps because cramps for me don’t come and go like contractions—they are a slow, dull, relentless ache, almost in my pelvic bones. The contractions became more intense and more painful as labor progressed. Pushing brought on a different kind of pain. I think the ferocity of the contractions and the uncontrollable urge to push made the sensations a bit more difficult to integrate. All I had to do during the labor contractions was relax and let everything happen, keeping my body totally loose. During pushing, however, I HAD to actively participate even though I sometimes didn’t want to, because it was so intense.
The funny thing about pain is that it fills any given space. It’s like a gas—no matter how small the amount, it will completely fill the volume it occupies. That’s why I hesitate to say something like “it was the worst pain I have ever felt.” Heck, even a paper cut, at the moment it happens, can be the worst pain ever!
The pain I felt in labor was clean and finite: as soon as it was over, it was over. Completely gone. I calculate that I spent far more time feeling pleasure during the rest periods, than I did feeling pain during the contractions. Except for a few short moments when I became discouraged during pushing, I never felt like I was suffering or in distress. Just very focused on the task ahead of me.
A few times during my labor, I was able to alter the sensations from being painful to pleasurable. During the early morning hours while I was leaning over the kitchen countertop and breathing deeply, I started smiling and making my face look blissful. Another time, soon before I started pushing, I said to myself mentally, “breathe in comfort, breathe in relaxation” (a phrase from the Hypnobirthing CDs). Both times, the pain altered itself instantly into a rushing kind of pleasure, kind of like the dizzy tingly feeling you get before you faint.
One of the best ways I have found to approach labor pain is with this acronym:
Labor pain indicates that your body is working. You know it will come and then it will disappear completely (unless you are having back labor because of a posterior presentation, but that is another story). It is not a signal that anything is injured; instead, it comes from muscles working incredibly hard and from tissues stretching and expanding—as they are meant to do.
Pain was one of many sensations I felt during labor. It was strong when it was present, but it did not dominate the experience. Almost all of the time I was able to integrate it without judgment. Instead of thinking oh no this hurts, I am suffering, make it stop, I was able to think this way: another contraction, the pain is building, inhale, exhale, sway my hips, the pain is ending, now I can rest. I had awareness of pain without labeling it as good or bad. It just was.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I am pleased as punch with my little girl. Once her meconium cleared out, I noticed that she peed and pooped with nearly every feeding, usually after finishing the first side. She also likes to take a 15 minute snooze between sides, unless she is desperately hungry. So five days after she was born, I had the bright idea to take off her diaper after she ate on the first side, hold her over a little Tupperware container, and see if I could make a “catch.” Sure enough, out it came. Is that cool or what?
Since then I’ve gotten between 50-75% of her eliminations, depending on the day. Sometimes she goes right when she starts eating, sometimes she doesn’t go at all until the next feeding. But most of the time I get something. I’ve started making a “psssssss” sound when I notice her going, in the hopes that she will learn to associate the position and the sound with elimination. To learn more about elimination communication, I suggest reading Infant Potty Training or Diaper Free!
She pees a lot, so she often has a wet diaper by time she wants to eat again. But most of the time, all of her poops have gone in the bowl (and soon thereafter into the toilet), rather than in her diaper.
While she is sitting over her little chamber pot, I hold her with one hand and use the other to write in my journal or check my email, since I keep the laptop on the bed with me. I snapped a picture this morning. You can’t see the Tupperware, but it is between my legs. She is suspended over it, held up by my legs and my one arm:
On another note, I just ordered a new sewing machine!! My old one is giving me a lot of grief with the upper tension adjuster. I can’t get any tension on the thread at all, no matter how high I turn the dial. It might be a simple repair, but I’ve had this beauty for almost 8 years, and it only cost me $4 at a thrift shop. So I decided to treat myself to a swanky new machine, rather than running around trying to get it fixed. I purchased a Brother CS 6000T. It’s reconditioned, but still has the same 25 year warranty as the brand new models.
To learn more about EC, visit these sites:
"Infant Potty Training and Elimination Communication" by Laurie Boucke
"Natural Infant Hygeine or Elimiation Communication" by Ingrid Bauer
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Eric took this picture before going to class this morning:
Zari has inherited my serious look. It always throws people for a loop--they think I'm mad when in fact I am just fine. I remember when I was engaged, people at church were concerned about me because "Rixa just isn't glowing enough." I was perfectly happy; I just didn't feel the need to plaster on a fake smile all the time.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
1. Nearly everything I had specifically visualized about the birth came to pass. I was careful not to put time restrictions on my birth affirmations. For example, I would say to myself, “my birth will go smoothly and at just the right pace” rather than “my labor will last 5 hours.” Here are some of the affirmations and visualizations I used. I didn’t ever write them down or say them out loud; I would just let them play through in my mind:
- My body will go into labor when the baby is ready.
- The baby will get into the perfect position for birth: head down, chin tucked into her chest, her back facing my stomach, and the umbilical cord tucked safely out of the way.
- I will move my body to help the labor progress smoothly and to help the baby get into the best position.
- I will feel joy, anticipation, and excitement as my labor begins.
- My husband will be exactly what I need him to be during labor. He will be calm and collected, and be able to watch me labor without feeling fearful or anxious.
- I will embrace every sensation of labor, without judging them. I will also let go of the sensations once they are finished.
- I will take one contraction at a time, and will remember that “I can do anything for one minute!”
- My cervix will thin and open at just the right pace.
- I will enjoy the rest periods in between contractions.
- I will ease the baby’s head out with my hand as it emerges.
- I will give birth to my baby kneeling down, cradling her head and body with my hands as they emerge.
- After the baby’s head is born, her head will rotate and her shoulders will slip out easily with the next contraction.
- My uterus will clamp down quickly and firmly after the birth.
- My placenta will release cleanly and all in one piece. After the placenta is out, my uterus will continue to clamp down.
2. I hate to give my birth experience a label, because it’s not just one of many ways to give birth. It is THE true standard of normal. There were no outside influences to disrupt or derail the physiological process. Just pure, raw, spontaneous, instinctive birth. This is a tricky thing to say without slipping into Mommy War mode: My birth was better than yours. Nah nah nah boo boo. The kind of birth a woman has is sometimes beyond her control, so I do not mean to say that a person is any less or more of a woman if she birthed unassisted, or via cesarean, or with an epidural. This is not about personal judgments. However, a spontaneous, autonomous birth is an unparalleled experience and should serve as the standard against which we judge and measure all other births. How can we know if a birth practice is healthy or harmful unless we know what birth REALLY looks like, stripped of all interference?
3. Giving birth seems like a dream. If there weren’t a beautiful little girl nestled on my chest (okay, and a sore bottom too), I would almost think it never happened. I wonder if the endorphins I felt played a role in making the memory hazy and distant. I have had a few times where I remembered the birth physically, in my body, almost as if I were reliving the sensations. Once I felt the endorphin-induced buzz. Another time I relived the sensations of pushing. What makes these windows of clarity appear?
4. While preparing to birth unassisted was definitely a difficult path, birthing the way I did was the easiest possible way. There was nothing any person or institution could have done to make it better or easier or more satisfying. I am willing to do the hard work of preparation and planning. I am NOT willing to make the labor unnecessarily difficult!
5. A perfect birth does not occur by accident. It is something you work for. I poured almost four years of my life into preparing for this birth. I have the luxury of being a PhD student in American Studies, which means I could choose my course of study. I focused on...big surprise...childbirth, and my dissertation is about unassisted birth. I have read hundreds of birth-related books, journal articles and birth stories; trained as a doula; apprenticed as a midwife; attended many home and a few hospital births; read tens of thousands of entries on various internet birth groups. I educated myself about variations of normal. I examined the assumptions I held about birth and found that many of them needed changing.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
There are 4 main styles: red Canadian diapers with white flags & trim, white with red flags & trim, Dalmatian spots with black trim, and mint green with white trim.
The Canadian diapers were my husband's request, since he comes from the Great White North. We are working on her Canadian citizenship paperwork, so she will soon be a dual citizen.
The diapers are a modified Chloe Toes all-in-one pattern. The insides are made of hemp fleece, which is deliciously soft. I made a flap soaker, rather than sewing it inside, to cut down on drying time.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Zari Rose Freeze
Eric thought up Zari on his own after seeing the name Zariah. And it turns out it actually is a name--Arabic for "rose."
Interestingly enough, I made some placenta prints yesterday and they came out looking like a rose. So that sealed the deal for us. The brownish print on the right is made from the placenta's own blood. Then I rinsed it off and painted it with watercolors to make the print on the left and in the book.
We are going to plant a rose bush (and her placenta) in the spring.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Sunday night was completely sleepless (not pregnancy-related), so on Monday night I was really hoping that I would be able to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, I had a hard time falling asleep again, so at 1:30 am I went downstairs to listen to the Hypnobirthing CD. It always puts me to sleep when nothing else can. Soon after I put the CD in, I started noticing sharp menstrual-like cramps in my lower front abdomen. They were coming quite regularly. Hmmm...what was going on? When I went to the bathroom, I felt very wet and mucousy. About the third time I went to the bathroom I could see something faint on the toilet paper, so I turned on the light and sure enough, there was pink-tinged mucous. Then my bowels started emptying out—probably 4-5 times over the next few hours.
These are all signs of being in labor, but I didn’t want to take them too seriously at first. It was far enough from my “due date” that I knew this might just be a warmup session. I wanted to be open to it stopping, rather than get overly excited. After listening to the CD, I paced around downstairs for a while. I found that leaning over a table or countertop and swaying my hips felt right during a contraction. I did several laps around the house and remember noticing how squeaky the wood floors seemed in the wee hours of the morning. I turned on one of the lights in the inglenook, but it was too much so I turned it back off.
I listened to the CD again. This time, I wasn’t hoping for any sleep, but I still wanted to rest as much as possible. The CD really helped me relax and make up for 2 sleepless nights. When a contraction came, I took slow, deep breaths, as long as possible, and said to myself in my mind, “Thinning (while breathing in) and opening (while breathing out).” I found that I did about 3-4 breaths during one contraction. After the CD ended, I got up again and checked my email. The internet was a great labor distraction, because it put my focus and anticipation on the resting period, rather than the contraction—I wanted to get back to what I was doing! I posted a notice on c-birth that this might be the real thing. This was around 4:15 or 4:30 am.
I was pretty sure this was labor, but not entirely positive. I had all the signs that it was the real deal, but since it was 2 weeks before the earliest date I had mentally prepared for (wanting to avoid the trap of worrying about being “late”!) I was open to the possibility that this could be a practice session. That’s why I hesitated telling Eric for so long. I went upstairs a few times during the night and looked at him and Zeke (my dog) sleeping. Each time I mentally debated about waking him up. But I didn’t want him around and didn’t need any labor companionship, so each time I decided, why wake him up only to tell him to go back to sleep? Better to just leave him alone until morning.
At 6:30 am I woke him up and told him I thought I might be in labor, and that he should think about walking Zeke and canceling class. He brought Zeke down to the bike path and said “I will run the whole way!” By time he got back, I was more committed to thinking this was the real thing. And worst case, I thought, he cancels class and it turns out to be a false alarm. Next I sent him to the grocery store to get some labor drinks and snacks. I drank apple juice during the labor, plus ate a bowl of plain yogurt mixed with a little sugar. I was also downing water (and peeing) the whole time.
When Eric came back from running his errands, I asked him to give me a blessing. I had to stop him once in the middle to breathe through a contraction. It was very specific that everything would go smoothly, that the baby would be healthy, and that I could trust my body. I don’t remember any more specifics but that is not surprising! That blessing, plus the one he had given me the night before, gave me total confidence that everything would turn out perfectly. When I was a little discouraged during pushing, feeling that nothing was progressing, I thought back to what he had said and took courage, knowing that I just needed to do whatever my body wanted to.
I told Eric that I didn’t need or want him in the same room. Just to stay in the other room and I would tell him if I needed anything. He tried once to rub my back and I told him it was distracting and that I was fine. Once or twice he stood in the room and watched me, and that was really distracting too. So I sent him back into the bedroom. At this point I decided to stay upstairs in the master bathroom.
I labored back and forth between the tub, toilet, and bathroom sink. When I was in the tub, I would rest between contractions and get very close to sleep. Actually I might even have slept; it was hard to tell for sure. The tub helped immensely with resting. I don’t think it changed how the contractions felt, as some women have experienced. But it was very useful for keeping rested in between. During a contraction, I would lift up my hips and sway them back and forth in the water, slowly breathing in and out. As labor progressed, I changed from breathing through my nose to through my mouth. It just felt right to breathe through my mouth, especially when I would exhale. I was saying a silent “haaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.” I didn’t make any laboring noises during the entire first stage. I just didn’t feel the need to vocalize.
When I was out of the tub, I rested on the toilet during the breaks. Then I rose to my feet (as quickly as possible!) when I felt another contraction coming and walked over to the sink. I placed my hands backwards on the edge of the counter and supported my weight with my hands and arms. I kept my mouth and bottom totally loose by exhaling slowly and swaying my hips back and forth. I noticed that I would sometimes stand on my toes as I swayed my hips to help enhance the movements. Then back to the toilet to rest.
Eric stayed in the bedroom and did...well I don’t know exactly what he was doing. I did hear him playing internet scrabble at one point! Anyway he got me things when I asked, usually more water or juice. Occasionally he’d pop in the bathroom. If I needed something, I’d ask, otherwise I’d ignore him and he’d go back in the bedroom.
I didn’t experience anything that I would label “transition.” I’ve read enough birth stories to know that some women have that freak-out period. That’s when they tend to say outrageous things like “take me to a hospital” or “give me drugs” or “hit me on the head with a hammer.” I never felt that way. The contractions did intensify all the way until the end, but never to the point that I lost my mind or thought I couldn’t do it. I do remember thinking very calmly at one point, “You know, it would be nice if I could just stop here and be done, but I know I can’t. I just have to keep going.” So I guess that would be transition for me.
And the endorphins...wow! After a few hours of labor I started noticing them, and they became progressively stronger throughout the labor. Basically during the rest periods I felt progressively more “high.” I’ve never been high before, but that’s what I imagine it’s like: a floaty, kind of dizzy, blissed-out feeling. I don’t think they lessened the intensity of the contractions, but they made the breaks progressively more pleasurable. It was almost like being in a dream; I think that’s why my memories of the birth already seem distant and surreal.
So many people had told me that I would need somebody else there during labor because “you just aren’t yourself” or “you really need an objective person to tell you what to do.” I didn’t believe them. I just knew that I would be fine by myself and that any other people present would make it worse for me, not better. And you know what? That was exactly what it was like during my labor. My husband even noticed this and talked about it a lot afterward. I was totally collected and clear-headed during the entire labor. Now granted, during contractions I had to put 100% of my focus on them. But as soon as they ended, I felt like my normal self.
About 8:30 am I started “nudging.” It wasn’t really pushing, at least not the full-on pushing that I experienced later on. It felt like little heaves working downward through my body very quickly. I didn’t make any noises, but it did change my breathing so that it sounded more pushy. I wondered if Eric noticed, but I was so quiet that I doubt he did. This continued for about an hour. I felt inside for the first time, and sure enough there was the baby’s head. I felt a small anterior lip of cervix the first time I checked. It felt like the collar of a t-shirt. I couldn’t feel anything else around the head, though. It was pretty cool. I didn’t worry about whether or not I was dilated enough, because these nudges were pretty mild. One thing that surprised me was how far back the head felt. I expected that I’d be reaching more upwards, but it was mostly backwards, right until the very end of pushing. Mental note to self: this is probably normal. I’ve just never felt a head in a vagina before!
About an hour after the nudges began, I suddenly started full-on pushing. I had no choice but to roar at the top of my lungs and push along with my body. It was wild. Lots more painful and challenging than I had imagined. I’ve been to so many births where the moms pushed for just 15 or 20 minutes, so I was a little surprised that my forceful pushing lasted almost 2 hours. I think that’s the only expectation I had of the birth that was off. I became somewhat discouraged about an hour or so into pushing. I kept feeling the head, and it seemed like it was making no progress. At this point I said a very earnest prayer to help this baby come OUT!!
I alternated between the tub and toilet several times. When I was in the tub, I rested lying down, then flipped over in about 1 millisecond onto my knees when a contraction began. Roar like a lion as I pushed. Lie down and relax until the next one. Repeat. When a contraction hit me on the toilet, I would usually drop to my knees on the floor. I leaned over my birth ball while I pushed. It was hard work. Pushing didn’t take away the sensations; it intensified them. Oh well, I guess I am not one of those lucky women who say pushing takes away the pain. For me, it hurt even more!
I really started feeling some progress about the last 20 or 30 minutes. I got back on the toilet and kept my hand inside or against myself for the rest of the time. It helped to feel what was happening. I didn’t tell Eric when the baby began crowning, even though I knew it would be out soon. (He said it got quieter right at the end, so that was probably when the baby started crowning.) Finally the head emerged! I said, “the head is out,” and Eric came into the room. I got off the toilet and knelt down on the towel in front of me, keeping my right hand on the baby’s head. I felt around and confirmed that it was anterior. Just perfect! I put my left food flat on the ground, so that I was half kneeling, half squatting. I talked to myself, “okay, now the shoulders will slip out with the next contraction.” And quite soon, that’s exactly what happened! It’s amazing really. I caught the baby as it came out and laid it on the towel underneath me.
The baby was covered in blood and vernix. I remember seeing a silky blue umbilical cord. I checked and discovered that we had a GIRL!! Wow! She cried immediately after coming out, but stopped as soon as I scooped her up to my chest. I had Eric snap a picture right then, which is my absolute favorite. It captures the elation and satisfaction I felt from planning and getting a perfect birth experience.
Eric helped me get up and onto the bed. I shook a little, but it stopped as soon as he covered me up with blankets. She nursed for about 2 hours. The afterpains were killers—just as bad as the worst labor contractions. I had Eric give me some Placenta Out tincture to encourage the placenta to release. I also downed a ton of juice. It was so delicious.
About an hour and a half after the birth, I phoned a midwife I work with to see if she would come check for tears and do my Rhogam bloodwork. She said she’d be by in a few hours. She freaked out a little when I mentioned the placenta was still in. She said to squat with the next contraction and try to push it out. I tried, but my bottom was far too sore to squat, let alone to feel if I was pushing anything out. I did want to get it out, though. I was getting a little pale and was very uncomfortable with the afterpains. So we trooped back to the bathroom and I peed and tried to push the placenta out. But nothing happened. I tried again to squat but it was just not happening. I wasn’t having any visible bleeding or signs of shock, my uterus felt firm (I felt it very gently), and I was having strong afterpains. So I figured I was okay. I kept flexing my feet and legs to encourage better circulation, and it did seem to help me pink up a bit. Finally about 2 1/2 hours after the birth I decided to get serious. This placenta needed to come out. I couldn’t really relax with it in, because I had to be on guard in case I did start losing too much blood. Eric sterilized a serrated knife over a flame (probably not necessary at this point since the cord was totally limp and bloodless), clamped the cord about 10” from her navel, and cut the cord. We trimmed it down later.
I went back into the bathroom and sat on the toilet again. I peed, then said a very earnest prayer. I basically said, Heavenly Father, I need this placenta to come out with the next contraction. I don’t know if it’s separated and I know it’s not good to pull on the cord. But I need it to come out, so I am going to push and do some cord traction with the next contraction. I did, and sure enough out it came! It was actually an amazing witness of the power of prayer, because the placenta did not feel at all separated when I had VERY carefully tugged on the cord to see if the placenta might just be sitting there. Oh, it was so much better with it out! Eric cut me off a small piece of the placenta to eat. It had a very mild taste, much less strong than I had imagined. I was able to pee a whole bunch, and the afterpains became just mild cramps. I took a shower, which felt terrific, then settled into bed with my new baby girl. By this time she had fallen deeply asleep.
Bernice came over about 4:30 pm. I had a straightforward 2nd degree tear. She said it could go either way: leaving it alone, or stitching. She recommended stitching it. I decided to have stitches, and it wasn’t too bad. I think I had about 5 or 6. I am so glad that I didn’t have a really nasty tear, since that would have necessitated a hospital transfer right away before too much healing took place. Phew! She drew some blood for my Rhogam bloodwork and lent us her scale to weigh the baby: 7 pounds even. A good size for 38 weeks.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening talking to families. My voice was very hoarse by the end of the evening, especially with the roaring I did for 2 hours straight. I was so blissed out the whole day.
Father and daughter konked out
When she was nursing this afternoon, she threw her arms over her head, interlocked her fingers, and fell fast asleep.
The umbilical cord had a velamentous cord insertion, a fairly rare occurrence where the cord inserts in the membrances, rather than directly onto the placenta (1% of singleton pregnancies).