On August 29, I came home from taking care of the veggie shares for my CSA, hauling a few bushel boxes of produce and getting everything tidy, thinking it was strange that this would be the last CSA pick up day I’d manage for a while. Bob was already getting our 4 year-old son, Thomas, to bed. After putting away a ton of vegetables, I got myself a nice bowl of ice cream, and sat down at the computer to check email and my social network stuff. I was so relieved that the hurricane had done minimal damage, and that the basement hadn’t flooded. I was feeling happy and peaceful. At about 8: 30, just as I finished my ice cream, I shifted my weight and felt moisture – lots of it. At first I thought I had peed myself, but when I stood up to run to the bathroom, it was clear that this was a lot more than pee!
Since Bob was still getting Thomas settled, I didn’t want to disturb them. I called the Birth Center to leave a message that my water broke, and then called Clair, our doula. I was in great spirits, excited and a little nervous about how we were going to manage everything (how to make sure Thomas was ok, how to get someone to be here while the appraiser who would be coming in the morning looked at the house, those sorts of details) but not feeling any real labor yet. I had been having contractions on and off for days but ignored them since they were so mild and irregular. I had a few contractions while talking to Sarah, the midwife on call, but discounted them, since they didn’t even affect my breathing.
I called a friend and fretted that I would have to go into labor within 24 hours, since my water broke. This friend is a very experienced doula. She said I didn’t have to worry about that – apparently, my forgetting my husband’s name was a clue that I was heading into Labor La la land.
Bob came downstairs to find me holding a towel between my legs. He raised his eyebrows, and then looked pleased and excited when I told him my water had broken. We sat down to make a few calls. Everything seemed to be going slower than Thomas’ birth, when I woke up to steady contractions. I went upstairs to enter my hours into the timekeeping system for work, and emailed my timesheets to my boss. I managed to finish my timesheets, but couldn’t concentrate on the timekeeping system, so Bob did it for me. By then, the contractions had become uncomfortable. I felt them in my pelvis, legs and back. I tried to time them around 9:20, but couldn’t concentrate. Instead I headed to the shower. I was having a hard time relaxing during the contractions like I did with Thomas, because they were happening all through my body, rather than just in my belly. I felt intense pressure on my bladder and a urgent need to pee.
Bob had contacted both Ben, who would be staying with Thomas, and Clair. I remember that just before Ben came, I had gotten out of the shower and had an especially intense contraction. I called for Bob and he rubbed my lower back using long downward strokes: such relief!
Ben and Clair were there and then it was time to get into the car. I couldn’t figure out how to do it, and was so freaked out by the feeling of wearing shoes. I almost refused to get into the car. I tried the backseat and leapt out during a contraction (fortunately the car was not yet moving!) Bob and Clair moved car seats and the passenger seat around, and I got in the back again, this time on my knees on the floor, leaning on the seat. It was so hard to get comfortable! Not only was I having a lot of back and leg pain, but I also could not bear the feeling of anything on my belly. I was using a lot of arm strength to hold myself up to keep my belly from touching the seat, and I worried about my stamina. After all, I could have hours to go after we got to the Birth Center. The feel of cool air through the open window was a huge relief.
Despite having one contraction on top of another with only seconds between them, and feeling an incredible urge to pee (yes, I just let loose after a while – I was wearing a huge pad, so you don’t have to worry about our new car.) I managed to do some backseat driving when Bob deviated from my usual route to the Birth Center.
I was doing my very best to relax during the contractions and rest as much as possible between. I repeated words: “open” and “release,” and moaned and hummed. I tried not to tense up, but it was so much harder than it was with Thomas, I think because the labor was in my back and legs more, and I couldn’t sink into a comfortable position. The entire time we were in the car, Clair was rubbing my back, using long downward strokes. I freaked out whenever she stroked up! I said something about “Down! Only down!” and she replied, “I have to go up to go back down.” “Down! Only down and no complaining!” I barked, only half kidding.
The half hour car ride seemed endless, and I got a little panicky when Bob missed the turn in the dark (the street signs are really hard to spot.) I managed a contraction and advice at the same time, but also remembered that he might be worried or distracted. At last we pulled up in front of the Birth Center. I was thrilled to get out of the car, and tried to walk up to the birth center barefoot. Clair made me put on my shoes.
Things are a little foggy here. Sarah met us at the door. I liked all of the midwives at the Birth Center, but definitely felt a bond with Sarah. I was glad she was on call that night. I wandered in and got rid of my shoes right away. I was ushered into the waterbirth room, and went directly into the shower, because I had to pee, and I couldn’t do it sitting down. I knelt on the floor of the shower for a while with Bob rubbing my back, but then ordered him out: “I have to poop!” I announced. People were trying to help me up to the toilet, and I said “No! I have to poop and I am going to do it right here!” I don’t think I actually pooped, but it was pretty funny. Sarah made some joke about how women in labor get to poop wherever they want. I got out of the bathroom and wandered to the bed. After a contraction, Sarah asked to check my cervix.
I got up on the bed but was unable to get in a position to be checked. I ended up kneeling on the floor, supporting myself with my arms on the edge of the bed. It wasn’t very comfortable, but it was the best I could do. Thank goodness Sarah didn’t insist on being able to check me. Instead, she let me do what I needed to do to be comfortable and maintain my concentration. Sarah had started filling the tub, and for a while I found the sound incredibly irritating. I labored this way for what seemed like hours, sometimes getting a couple of minutes rest between contractions, and sometimes dealing with them one right after the other. Bob and Clair were rubbing my back, and then Sarah started rubbing my feet. The foot massage was amazing, and I began to regain faith that I could do this, despite feeling fatigued.
Sarah suggested I try the tub. I was skeptical, because I was so hot and seemed to be managing ok on the floor. Plus, I knew Sarah would stop rubbing my feet in the tub! However, I got in, and as long as the water didn’t come over my belly, it felt good to be in the water. Once the water got up past my belly, I hollered for it to be turned off. I labored on my hands and knees in the tub for contraction after contraction. I kept thinking that if I could only poop, everything would feel better. I was still repeating words and trying to encourage myself. Sometimes I would ask if I were doing ok, because I wanted to hear everyone tell me I was doing good. I released my inhibitions and decided to just poop, because I was pretty sure the pressure was actually coming from Baby, not anything else. However, I decided I wouldn’t push. I pushed for over four hours with my older child, and didn’t want to repeat that experience!
At some point I said something about pooping, and Sarah asked if maybe what I felt was really the Baby. The next time I felt the pooping urge, I went with it, slowly and gently, with little pushes. Sarah called for the nurse, saying, “She’s feeling pushy.” I realized that this might actually be coming to an end, and I asked if the huge thing I felt between my legs was the Baby’s head. “Could be” said Sarah. I asked Baby to come out, and then decided that Baby and my body would do the work without my help. Only when the urge to push became all encompassing would I do it, and then only in little, gentle bursts. I did it about three times before I simply had to push and push without stopping. I got part of the baby out, and wanted to stop, but was asked to keep going, so Baby didn’t slip under the water after having been out. So I did, and wow was that intense. I heard Baby cry and wanted to get right to him!
I had to turn over slowly and do some acrobatics to get him on my chest. We checked and saw that he was a boy! I sat for a short time then it seemed like everyone agreed it was time to get out. I was trying to keep him well above the water, so was unable to relax. I got out and into the bed, with Baby on my chest while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Sarah did some uncomfortable pushing on my belly and then I had to push out the placenta. Ugh. I got a few stitches, which hurt. I tore because Baby had his hand wrapped around his nose on the way out – he likes to hold his nose now as well. The next few hours were spent admiring Baby, now Fabrizio, and dozing. It was 12:40 am on August 30.
When I read over this story, it doesn’t capture how magical and intense Fabrizio’s birth was. It was only three and a half hours of labor, though it seemed much longer to me. The pain was more intense, but the birth was so much easier than Thomas’ because I really barely pushed. No one was cheering me on (though I had so much support) or telling me to “PUSH!,” or counting or coaching my breathing. Instead, I was trusted to let my body birth my baby. After the birth I felt blissful and exhilarated, but still calm. I didn’t feel swollen and sore, nor did I feel beaten up or drained. I did want a nice long nap!
The Birth Center experience was truly amazing. I was trusted. Everyone had confidence in my body’s ability to birth my baby. I am thrilled that Fabrizio is a Birth Center baby.
I came home at 9 am to find an appraiser in my house. He said, “You just had a baby and you’re home already? What are you, Superwoman?” I replied, “Yes, yes I am.”