Tuesday, June 14, 2011
My Fourth Baby- A Surprise Unassisted Birth
When I think of the birth of my fourth child, all I can feel is blessed. In fact, it is overwhelming because I don't know how I could possibly deserve to be this lucky.
I first felt like this after the birth of my first child. I had taken a Bradley Method class with two other couples. My friend, Donna, pretty much signed me up for her class when she found out I was pregnant. One of the mothers in class had a c-section due to a large breech baby and the other mom had hard back labor and a very brief epidural that she turned off quickly.
I had three nights of labor, I arrived at the hospital on the third night to find myself dilated to an eight. I then proceeded to push for four hours and deliver without medications. I realized that I had in many ways just been lucky. How many women are sectioned after two hours of pushing? Or before they even reach complete dilation? But the planets had aligned and really, considering birthing in this country right now, it was quite a miracle that I had a vaginal birth.
I realized then that different women, all with similar preparation physically, emotionally and mentally could have very different birth experiences depending on what fate handed them.
Fast forward six years to today. In the meantime I had birthed two other babies, my second in a birth center in Texas and my third at home with a fantastic CPM. This is the story of my fourth birth. It was different than all the others. It was a little scary, a little overwhelming, and practically perfect in every way.
Have I mentioned that with my last two children I went about a week and a half past my due date? I fully expected to do the same this time and for once was actually at peace with it, as it seemed inevitable. But jokingly I mentioned that Friday would be a great day for me to have the baby because my son finished his kindergarten school year the day before and I knew that my husband had a really light day at the office, so he wouldn't have to cancel any of his patients.
I was a little shocked and in denial when I awoke around 4am on Friday morning to some rhythmic contractions. It was at about this time that my two year old climbed into bed with us. The contractions were not so strong that I would say they hurt but I was actually a little excited so I got up and did some laundry and cleaned the bathrooms. (Who wants a dirty toilet when giving birth, right?) I went back to bed and got a little more sleep and when I got up and took my shower (in a clean shower by the way) and mentioned to my husband that I thought I might be in labor.
He wanted to call the midwife! I hate to labor while being watched so I told him no- it wasn't that strong yet and not regular at all so we should wait. This could go on for days! He was convinced though that I would go really fast this time for some reason. Maybe I will listen to him in the future....
I labored on and off throughout the day but it was different than any other I had experienced. Contractions were never regular. Sometimes they would be a few minutes apart and last about a minute. Sometimes I would have one that was a minute long, then two minutes later have a ten second contraction. Whenever the kids were around me they would stop.
My daughter had a friend over around lunch time and as I sat and chatted with her mom in the yard I had just a few contractions in an hour and a half. When they left I laid down to take a nap and had regular contractions through the nap, but I was still able to sleep between them.
When I got up though, probably around three o'clock things were moving and I could tell. I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin when I would have a contraction. I couldn't achieve any full body relaxation. I could not have my children climbing on me anymore and I was so relieved when my parents drove up to take them out for a little while to get pizza. I think they were surprised to find me slowly losing my mind and swearing for no apparent reason.
At one point I vividly remember standing in my bathroom, looking myself in the mirror and saying to myself, "I want an epidural right now. I don't want to feel anything else for the rest of the day. What the hell am I thinking." (I have never actually had an epidural and maybe you have noticed, I am not actually much of an advocate for them so this was kind of amusing in retrospect.) This is the only time in four labors that I remember ever seriously considering getting medication to stop the sensations (though my husband claims differently!)
At some point I finally consented to my husband calling the midwives. By this time I was feeling overwhelmed. I knew that my midwives both lived about an hour from me, but I was a little worried when I found that she was in fact over two hours away at a birth center she sometimes works at. At that moment I realized that we might be having this baby with zero interventions and very privately.
By now I will admit that I am in pain. (I know some people don't think labor is painful, and I admit this is possible. But- this labor was no longer what I would describe as painless. In fact it was beyond intense.) I was feeling desperate for some relief and started instructing my husband on setting up the little fishy "birth tub" that I had bought to labor in.
My sweet husband was in something of a panic as he ran around trying to set things up for me, all the while worried sick that he was going to be alone to catch this baby. In fact he kept saying, "Something is going to go wrong. Something always goes wrong..." over and over again. This is a little out of character actually because normally when I am losing my mind in labor he is absolutely dead calm and trusting in the process. But this time, the prospect of having a baby with no midwife had him a little spooked. At some point I said to him, "STOP saying that. Everything is going to be FINE." And so he did.
I laid down on my side in my bed in an effort to slow the labor down. My contractions were honestly unlike any I had felt before (at least that I remember) in intensity. I had wrapped myself in chux pads so that I wouldn't make a mess on my bed and was trying to wait things out until somebody arrived. At some point I realized how silly it was that I had made my husband put 100 gallons of water into a birth tub because there was absolutely NO WAY that I was going anywhere.
Sweet relief, the contractions seemed to ease up a bit at some point but I felt like I needed to take a pee at the peak of them. But I could not pee. In retrospect this was just a little urge to push which I tried to ignore. My husband came in to check on me and my water broke during a contraction. I asked him to bring me some new chux pads because the one I was on was all wet. (It is really amazing how bossy I am while in labor, don't you think? This must be what having too many kids does to you.)
He dutifully switched them out and then closed the bedroom window because the room was getting cold. My next contraction started and I made that NOISE. How do you describe it? Somewhere between a roar, a scream, and freight train? It was the sound of a baby coming and my husband knew it.
I was still on my side and he lifted up my leg and says, "It's crowning!" (This was really more an expression of terror than excitement, to tell the truth.) Then he started telling me to push. There was really nothing else that I wanted to do so, of course, I complied....
I could feel the head come out in one crazy contraction. Two pushes for the shoulders and one more for the body. I don't think I ever remember knowing exactly what was happening in any of my other births, but this time I could tell exactly what my body was doing. My husband caught the baby and handed it up to me then darted out of the room to try to get something to suction the baby if it needed suction.
I yelled to him, "It's OK, it's crying! It's breathing fine!"
It was really such an incredible moment to have a baby like that, with just the people that made it.
Let me give you a little background on why I felt so blessed with this birth. I have had wonderful births with all of my children, but I was always glad to have the support of loving, motherly women around me at the time of birth.
My first baby was born after three nights of labor, and four hours of pushing. I hemorrhaged a little after he was born, I think just because my uterus was tired after a very long labor. I was grateful for the pitocin that they decided to give me postpartum which stopped my bleeding. I felt weak for a long time after that birth.
My second was born in a birth center. She wasn't breathing right away and I didn't realize until much later that she was resuscitated to get her going.
My third was born at home with a wrapped cord. I don't really think that is much of a big deal, but I know she stuck a little until my midwife gently unwrapped her cord. I was also grateful when my midwives noticed that her heart rate could not be found when I labored in certain positions and encouraged positions that didn't put pressure on her cord.
I guess my point is that I love labor and birth and certainly trust it enough to do it outside of a hospital and with very minimal interventions. But I also respect birth and its awesome power and I love the profession of midwifery. I love that I have met some wonderful midwives who only step in when something minor needs to be corrected and I am grateful to have been blessed to birth with midwives who trusted me and respected me and my body and the birth process. I have always been grateful for women who are willing to give up so much in order to support other women through birth.
So, I am not advocating unassisted birth, but I do think that this baby was meant to be born this way, for reasons that are very close to my heart, and that I won't share here.
So, I wasn't planning an unassisted birth, but I had one. It was an incredible experience. The first midwife arrived about 45 minutes after the birth. Everything did go fine, in fact it went beautifully. It was a perfect experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.
Not only was my baby born safely, she was 9 lbs, 9 ounces. She was born posterior and pushed out in one contraction. This was my biggest baby by over a pound, the first I had ever delivered posterior (I had no back labor) and she was caught by her proud and somewhat terrified father.
In some ways it was the easiest labor I have ever had, in others the hardest. The first few days I was sure I would NEVER have another and spent many hours wondering how women do this six or seven or more times. But the memory of the pain is already fading, and now it just seems like it all went by so quickly....
I cherish the births of all my children and feel blessed beyond compare that they were brought into our lives, each in their own way.