So do you want the short version or the long one? The story of my actual labor and birth is quick and to the point. Light contractions started at 5:30 p.m. Active labor kicked in about 8:30. The baby was born at 10:36. Keep reading if you want the long version. If you already got through the title, congratulations. That was quite an eyeful! Other possible headlines for this birth story might be:
- The castor oil that didn’t work
- the cohoshes that didn’t work
- Born in my living room, part 2.
- How many people did you have at your birth? (this is what everyone says when they see my birth pictures)
- I was 5 centimeters dilated before labor even started.
- my birthday baby
- my Sabbath baby
- my most peaceful birth
- Diary of a multipara
- Diary of a grand-multipara. (this pregnancy put me in that category–yikes)
the day after Christmas 2005 Today I was certain I was pregnant. I hadn’t told anyone, not even my husband. It’s been several weeks now where I’ve thought that I might be pregnant.
a few days later I had never waited so long to take a pregnancy test. I’m usually one who tries for a positive result before a missed period. This time, I just wanted to “treasure” in my heart the possibility of being pregnant.
January 2006 I had lunch with a friend and told her the wonderful news. I asked her if she wanted to come to my homebirth, and of course she did!
First trimester This pregnancy was the only one where I didn’t feel nauseous all the time. I was grateful, yet tired, and I had cervical pressure which could be partially relieved by getting in a hands and knees position. I met with my friend Kendra, a student midwife, and discussed my plans for birth.
Second trimester When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I prayed for a labor that I could handle; I didn’t want to get an epidural. For my second birth, I added something to my prayer: Lord, could you make my labor a little shorter this time, please? Nineteen hours was a long time. For my third birth, I prayed that I wouldn’t have the same struggles with medical caregivers for a natural birth so I switched to a different midwife and a hospital a lot further away from home. For my fourth birth and first homebirth, I prayed that my midwife would arrive in time and that we wouldn’t have any complications.
Now I was pregnant with my fifth child, and again I had new hopes and prayers for my labor and birth. I prayed that everyone who was supposed to be at my birth would be there. I also prayed that I wouldn’t need any stitches. With all four of my previous births, I had torn and needed more stitches than can be counted. My perineum had suffered enough trauma and I wanted to protect it.
August 12 36 weeks. The baby dropped. I was so hormonal. Feeling absolutely yucky. I had crossed the emotional threshold. I wanted to meet my baby. I gathered all the supplies needed for the birth. I was ready for labor to start.
August 21 I had contractions every night this week as I drifted off to sleep. I was curious to know what my cervix was doing, so I asked my midwife to check me. I was 3 cm dilated. In my previous pregnancies, I had always refused all but one exam at the very end of pregnancy because of the slight risk of breaking the water or introducing infection.
Tuesday, August 22 38 weeks. I was feeling yucky. Totally tired. I was having lots of Braxton hicks. I really had the feeling I was going to have the baby in the next day or two. This was my fifth baby, so I knew that feeling well. I threw up twice. I needed to get a lot of things at the store including my traditional after-the-birth bagels and orange juice, so I took my oldest son with me to help out while my sister stayed home with the other two kids. I had seven hours of light, yet persistent contractions that day. I was exhausted and went to lie down. I called my doula and midwife to tell them what was going on. Tonight could be the night, so be on the alert. My nap was refreshing, and my contractions stopped. No baby today.
Friday, August 25 Still 3 centimeters. I was thinking that it would be a perfect time to have a baby. I went to a friend’s house Friday night. Out of the blue she asked me how I would handle Beth’s declining health and eventual death. What? I told her I didn’t need to worry about that just yet; I just needed to get past having this baby first. Besides, Beth was doing OK, I had just talked to her yesterday about a birth she had attended. I went home that night, feeling relaxed, in the right frame of mind to start labor.
Contractions started soon after my head hit the pillow. More than ten minutes apart, but they were not painless. I moaned at the peak of one, and my husband asked me if I was having a contraction. I told him yes and to just go back to sleep. He didn’t remember asking me that the next morning. I was beginning to think that this might be the real thing. Then my phone rang which confused me. I was in labor; I would be the one making calls soon, not the other way around. I answered the phone. It was the news of Beth’s death. The cancer had finally won after a nine year battle. I was stunned.
What should I do? If I was going to have a baby soon, I didn’t want my midwife and doula grieving over Beth, unable to help me during labor. But if I didn’t tell them, then I would be the only one who knew. That would be worse. And Beth was planning on coming to my birth too. With her absence, they’ll be asking if I called her yet, offering to make the call for me. And when do I tell them–after my baby is born, drop the bomb that our favorite midwife died. That wouldn’t work either. So I picked up the phone and made the midnight calls. I didn’t let on that I could possibly be in labor. They were just as surprised at the timing of her death that I was.
When I got off the phone, I pulled all my birth stuff into the living room and set it out because I didn’t want to get caught off guard like I had the last time. I even added water and plugged in the crockpot full of neatly folded preemie diapers to get ready to use for hot compresses. I laid down on the couch. I was thinking I can have a baby tonight then go to a funeral in a couple days. I might not be able to make the visitation, but I can definitely go to the funeral. Yes, I can have a baby tonight. That became my mantra.
I can have a baby tonight and then go to a funeral.
But my contractions slowed and eventually stopped.
Labor day approaching 39 weeks. My mother-in-law had plane tickets to come for a visit. I was eagerly anticipating her arrival. Then I panicked. I realized I was still pregnant. I was supposed to have had the baby before she came, so I walked to the store and bought some castor oil to take before bed. I mixed it with OJ and managed to drink it down while pinching my nose shut. I went to sleep, confident I’d be waking up with contractions. After all, the castor oil had not failed me when I had taken it with three of my other four pregnancies. I woke up the next morning still pregnant. hmm. I guess the baby isn’t ready.
We had Chinese food for supper, another thing proven to jump start labor. The next day I decided to try castor oil again. Yuck. I took it before bed and set the timer for 2 o’clock. If I wasn’t in labor by then, I was going to take another dose. The alarm went off and I changed my mind. I didn’t want to drink the slippery liquid again and gag.
September 1 For four hours, I alternated taking black cohosh and blue cohosh every15 minutes before going to bed. I also did lots of walking. In the morning, I was still pregnant. My mother-in-law arrived.
September 4 I didn’t sleep well. I was restless in my bed. I got up at 3 am and did some deep knee bends and walked outside.
September 7, the night of the full-moon. 40 weeks, 2 days. Todd and his mom took the kids out so I had the house to myself for a couple hours. I put on some lively Elvis music and danced and bounced. I was determined to get this baby out of me. When I was tired, I got out my ball and bounced and swayed on it for awhile. When the kids came home, they thought it looked like a lot of fun so they joined me in dancing to Elvis. I laughed and laughed; they were so funny.
Yes, this must be what my baby and body were waiting for. The full moon. I walked in the darkness, back and forth under the light of the moon, swaying, thinking of the ocean. I closed my eyes and tried to smell the salt-air. I was at the ocean, the moon was pulling the tide forward. The moon was pulling my baby out. Back and forth I walked and swayed outside my house. No contractions. I went to bed and woke up again the next morning, refreshed and still pregnant.
September 14 41 weeks, 2 days and 5 centimeters dilated. I wasn’t surprised at this news. I had light contractions all the time. The baby is so low, Kendra told me I could just reach up and feel the baby’s head if I wanted to. I’ve decided that this is the longest labor in history. I’m just going to continue dilating about 1/2 centimeter a day without ever really going into labor. Then I’m going to stand up and the baby will come out. No pushing necessary.
September 15 –Ten days past my due date I’m not pregnant, I decided. It’s an illusion. There is no baby. There is no pregnancy, therefore, there will be no labor. I tried to convince myself of this. I e-mailed the ladies on the natural birth list I’m on, telling them of my predicament and seeking encouragement. They told me the words I needed to hear, the words I’ve told many women before: just be patient. Labor will start when you and the baby are ready. They told me how great it was going to be that I could now empathize with women who go over their due date.
Kendra came over and she rubbed clary sage on the uterine pressure points on my ankles. We watched birth videos, and I felt incredibly relaxed.
Sunday, September 17 I woke up and was extremely achy. I wondered if it was my birthday. How old am I now? Todd gave me a box of truffles. There was no way that I was going to sit through church. I was hot and tired and my back was sore, very sore. After church, Todd called me and wondered if I minded if he and the kids went to the pastor’s house after church. Mind? No, I don’t mind. Are you kidding me? Stay as long as you want! I was enjoying alone time in the quiet house and had gotten some much-needed rest and now I could rest some more in the afternoon. I called my midwife or maybe she called me and said she was going to drop off some Cimicifuga; I already had Caulophyllum. She explained that I should alternate taking them every 15 minutes. These were the homeopathic form of black cohosh and blue cohosh. I lit a candle and poured some lavender bubbles into my bath. And I listened to music from Enya.
5:00 I took my first dose of the C & C. I had a light contraction with the third dose 30 minutes later. I continued taking the tablets and my contractions continued 5 minutes apart. Occasionally, they jumped around from 3 minutes or 7 minutes apart, something common during early labor. I quickly realized that finally I was having a baby so I had a few things to do. I sat at the computer, bouncing and rocking on my ball and did the lesson plans so Todd could teach the boys the next week if the baby did finally come.
7:15 I called Jan and left a message that I was probably in early labor and she should plan on coming tonight. Around this time, Todd called to let me know that he and the kids were on the way home. I didn’t tell him what was going on.
Lauren called to let me know I could go to the massage school the next day for a pregnancy demo. Ha! I told her I was in early labor and I had better still not be pregnant in the morning. I’d call her a little later when things picked up.
I called Shelly and she asked me if this was it. She hung up pretty quick and must’ve hopped in her car immediately because she was the first to arrive right after my midwife even though she was the furthest away.
I also called Amy, my sister-in-law, and my mom to let them know I was in labor. I had never done this before–had so many people at my birth nor called family members while I was in labor.
a little after 8 P.M. The family burst in the house to find me with some upbeat music on, bouncing on my ball. Contractions were starting to get a little edgy but I was coherent in between and kissed the boys goodnight. Twenty-two month old Mary stayed with me, but soon I didn’t like her around because she wouldn’t stop chattering or touching me during contractions.
I called Jan again to let her know I’d like her to come over. While on the phone, I had a contraction and fell silent. Then I had another one that was much lighter and that I could talk through. I decided I had better get off the phone and concentrate on being in labor or it might stop again like it had been doing all month!
8:40 Kendra, my midwife, arrived. My contractions were short and intense. I couldn’t talk during them, but I was still chatty in between them. She took my blood pressure. Great. She listened to the baby’s heart tones. I had a happy baby.
9:15 We called Lauren. Then Shelly arrived. Contractions continued. Then Linda, Jan and Marje arrived. The boys were already asleep, but Mary didn’t want to miss the party so she came out and went back and forth between Shelley and Jan.
I sat on the floor, leaning against Todd in between contractions. I asked him to rest his hand on my sacrum when I leaned forward for contractions.
I went to the bathroom and Todd followed a few minute later. My contractions were harder and my moans became louder and longer, matching the intensity of the labor waves that were overtaking me. I took my pajamas off and put on a nightgown so I wouldn’t have to do it later.
I went back to the living room, and had a flashback of my last birth where the end of my labor came upon me very quickly and there was a rush to get something under me. I didn’t want that to happen again, so I asked if someone could put the vinyl tablecloths on the floor. I mentioned there was duct tape. Marje jumped into action. Boy, she was really good with the duct tape. Maybe that’s why she was at the birth. Nearly everyday of this pregnancy, I had prayed that whoever was supposed to be at the birth, would be at the birth. Marje wasn’t even on the list of invited guests and here she was, my duct tape angel. She also brought me water and a washcloth when I needed them.
10:26 I went to the floor where I had been before and my labor intensified. Anne, my friend and doula arrived. I was glad that she was here. I chanted,
“Baby come out.”
Active labor slipped into transition. I glanced behind me at the clock. 10:30. I thought I had better have this baby today because there’s no way that I can be in labor for another hour and a half plus. While anticipating the next contraction, I decided I would push with the next one, just to see what would happen. I had not felt the physical urge to push yet, but all of a sudden, I was having an overwhelming mental urge to push. So I waited for the next wave. And I bore down.
I must have made some type of birth is imminent noise because my birth team–my midwife, the more experienced midwife and doula were all hanging out in the kitchen just a few steps away from me, but they came running when they heard my grunting. Kendra pulled on her gloves and asked me if I wanted her to check me.
Did I want her to check me? Uh no, I didn’t want her to check me. I was about to have a baby.There was no need to check me. She wondered if she needed to put her gloves on yet, if she was about to catch a baby. So I put my hands between my legs and I told her that I could feel the baby’s head. I withdrew my hand and it was all goopy so I asked for a wipe. I’m not sure why I was so obsessed with cleaning my hand at this point, but I was. Lauren walked in. I said,
“OK, everyone’s here. I can have the baby now.”
10:33 Anne asked me if I wanted to lie on my side. We had talked about it a few times during my pregnancy. I had told her to remind me to lie down, I told her to make me lie down. I had failed to lie down with my fourth birth even though I fully intended to…The reason for side lying in my case was so I would put pressure on a different area on my perineum to decrease the chance of tearing. Anne said “We’re going to lie down now,” and she grabbed my shoulder and pushed me down to the floor, guiding me to a side-lying position. I said,
“Pray I don’t tear. Pray I don’t need stitches.”
I am very grateful that Anne made me lie down and didn’t take my no for an answer! Thanks Anne!
I pushed. I was crowning. Anne held my leg back a little more. Todd was right beside me. Kendra used hot compresses to provide counter-pressure as I pushed. She told me to stop pushing. I breathed in and then blew out and blew out some more, waiting out the contraction. I pushed again for a couple seconds before Kendra and Linda told me to stop. Kendra supported my perineum, holding everything in. I took a deep breath and exhaled and exhaled. I lay on my side and felt my baby’s head. I wondered if this baby were Ruth or Jackson.
10:36 I waited for the physical urge to push and followed the cues from Kendra. The baby’s head emerged. I breathed and waited for the next urge to push a few seconds later. Then the body followed. Todd announced that it was a boy. It was Jackson. I took him to me and sat up holding him. I leaned back on Todd. Jackson was crying. He had pinked up immediately and he had perfect 10, 10 Apgar scores. Healthy lungs. I called my parents and told my dad it was a boy.
This had been my most peaceful, quiet birth. This was the first baby that I hadn’t roared out of me.
10:56 The placenta released and third stage was over. Jackson latched on and was nursing beautifully. The placenta was smaller than my other ones at only 6 1/2 inches diameter. And it was an unusual battledore, left spiral attachment (this last bit of info is for all those quirky midwives who keep placentas in their freezers and then take them to meetings to show off). For the rest of us, this means that the cord was attached to the side of the placenta instead of in the middle.
And I didn’t need stitches. Thanks, Kendra.
Everyone retreated to the dining room for chocolate and orange juice so Todd and I could be alone with Jackson. A few minutes later, I hugged everyone goodbye on my way to the shower. My two midwives stuck around.
11:49 I asked Todd if he minded if I cut the cord this time. Jackson weighed in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces. I was tired drifted to sleep in beside Todd with Jackson in the crook of my arm.