Yesterday, our daughter celebrated her 8th birthday, so I thought it would be a good time to get back to blogging and share her birth story. (Spoiler alert: This is a POSITIVE birth story.)
Important note: This is the tale of a second labor, not a first. My first was 20+ hours, as compared to a significantly shorter one the second time around (under 5 hours), which is the general trend for many women.
Also, please keep in mind that this was written before I started professional birth work/studies, so some things I might say herein won’t seem entirely expert.
I hope to share my first birth story before long; perhaps around our son’s 11th birthday in May. I hope for this to be the beginning of sharing a number of birth stories from clients and friends who grant permission, as well as other topics of interest. Enjoy!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The story of BABY GIRL TAYLOR’s (unintentionally) UNASSISTED (intentionally) HOME BIRTH
I stayed up late Wed. night preparing a powerpoint presentation for my boss for a board meeting. Good I did, too, since I went into labor overnight and never made it for my last day of work! Bryan got home from work and we went to bed together. As we kissed goodnight, I remember saying, “You ready?” Weird, since I didn’t know I was about to go into labor! He said, “Not really. Not sure we can ever be ready for something so big. But I’m thrilled to be having another baby with you.” Such an amazing husband.
As we went to sleep—around 1:20—I had what was the first true labor contraction. I wasn’t positive, but I thought so. However, I figured I should go to sleep if I could and save up energy. Had no problem going to sleep. Woke at 3am to go to the bathroom, but didn’t have any contractions. Woke again at 5:50am and from that point on couldn’t sleep as the contractions started coming regularly. Didn’t want to wake Bryan that early, especially because you never know how long labor might be, and he had just been pretty sick a couple days earlier, so I wanted to make sure he got enough sleep. My contractions were really unevenly spaced, which was confusing—made me think perhaps either it was really early on, or perhaps we had another posterior labor. I finally woke Bryan up at 8:30—I told him I thought we were in labor, and he said, very calmly, “Okay.” I love his calming, peaceful presence.
Before I forget, wanted to mention something I found a little odd—I felt during contractions like I almost always had to stay completely upright—would normally think bending over, or on all fours (I hear of quite a few women spending much of their labor in this position) might help relieve some of the pain, as it did last time…but not this time at all!
We decided to call Cara, our midwife, at that point. Talked with Cara from about 8:30 until 8:56. She was at another birth (at a pediatrician’s office with the new parents and their new baby) on the Lower West Side of Manhattan. Since my contractions were erratically spaced and I wasn’t yet vocalizing through contractions (she listened to a couple), she said to give it an hour and check back in at that point.
A bit from my husband (Bryan) here: Since our son (we’ll call him “Buddy”, 2 years + 9 months old) wasn’t awake but would be soon, I called friends to see if they were able to come over and help. I got the husband (working) who said wife and kids were occupied in a class. I told him I’d try to get our doula and call them back later if we needed help. We went downstairs here to see if Lisa could be distracted from contractions by some food and activity. She had some cereal, reclined on the couch and watched a few minutes of Gilmore Girls on DVD. This didn’t last long, though, because the contractions started coming more frequently and she couldn’t concentrate on the show. I was trying to time the contractions and get organized for the birth, and the contractions were coming so quickly that I couldn’t figure out how to use the irritating digital stopwatch we had on hand, so we were estimating intervals and duration (made more complicated because the clocks in the living room and kitchen weren’t exactly in sync, and of course I don’t use a watch, because how useful are those, really? I called Doula Ellen’s cellphone but couldn’t get through, so called her home and got her daughter, who said she would try to reach Ellen. Once Buddy woke up, things were moving really quickly, and the contractions were getting very strong. Lisa decided to go upstairs so she could lie down, and I got Buddy from his room, took him downstairs, and started filling up the AquaDoula (labor tub). Ellen called, and I told her we were in labor. She asked me about the timing of the contractions, and said she wished we had called her earlier (we later explained the reason we didn’t call earlier was because the erratic contractions were so similar to the long back labor Lisa had with little Buddy), but that she’d come over as soon as she could. The AquaDoula wasn’t filling very fast, because the connection to our little 1st floor bathroom wasn’t great, but I didn’t have much time to mess with it anyway, as Lisa was making dramatic sounds upstairs. Buddy and I went up to check on her, and…
Back to Lisa’s POV: By 9:56, when Cara called us back, I was beginning to have the urge to push. After hearing one contraction, she said, “Lie down on the bed,” (I already was, in an attempt to get the contractions to slow down), “I’m on my way…try not to have the baby before I get there!”
Bryan and Buddy ran downstairs to check on the Aquadoula, but they quickly abandoned the idea once Bryan realized I needed his help more than the tub needed to be filled. They returned back up to me. Buddy previously had been laughing and saying, “That’s silly!” whenever I’d groan through contractions, but then once they became the strongest (transition contractions), I began yelling through a contraction just as soon as little Buddy came up to me to talk to me—I felt so bad, because it really scared him, and he ran away crying. After the contraction was over, I called him back over to me to explain that I wasn’t yelling at him, and he didn’t need to be scared, but that mommy was having some pain trying to get his sister out and it was just part of her being born. We prayed aloud that Cara would make it to the house quickly, and that Baby Girl would wait for her to get there. Soon thereafter, another strong contraction came on, so I quickly asked Bryan to get Buddy farther away from me, but it couldn’t happen fast enough so I scared him again. Almost immediately after that, I began getting the uncontrollable urge to push and realized that Baby Girl wasn’t going to wait for Cara to arrive, and told Bryan that she was coming. Remembering a birth story from The Compleat Mother that Ellen loaned me, in which a woman had a very fast labor and had planned to have a water birth but ended up squatting on her bathroom’s white tile floor, I told him I had to get to the bathroom. Bryan, poor thing, was trying to figure out a way to help stall the labor (such as considering suggesting the knee-chest position, which I absolutely hate, especially when having the urge to push! He—after the fact—told me he decided he’d better refrain from suggesting that out of fear of getting swift kick to the groin! I said, “no not a kick, but probably a defiant yell!”)…So, I headed to the bathroom.
More from Bryan: Once we got in the bathroom, I got out my phone to call Ellen–thinking at least we could have someone talk us through this on the phone–but realized she had called me from some number I didn’t recognize (not her cell or home), so I figured I wouldn’t reach her. Lisa, on the commode, said she felt the head(!), and, not sure whether she’s freaking out or just rolling with the pain, I ask Lisa to look at me and tell her “You can do this. You can do this.” She gives me a look which could mean, “Thanks, hon, you’re right, I needed that.” Or it could mean, “You’re so sweet and that was so unnecessary.” I call Cara’s pager. We pray out loud that everything will turn out okay. Not knowing when Cara would be able to call back, I call Ed and Marilyn, two doors down. I half-ask/half-explain to Lisa why I’m calling them (Marilyn’s a retired nurse). Marilyn answers, and I say, “Hi, Marilyn. We’re having a baby, here at our house, right now, and we could use another set of hands. Might you be able to come over and help us?” Lisa’s phone rings in the bedroom (it was Cara calling back) and I almost ask Buddy to go get the phone, but I don’t know where he is (I figure he’s hiding out in a bedroom). Lisa says, “My water broke.” Marilyn didn’t ask if an ambulance was on the way (to my surprise), but did ask if someone was on the way, and I said our Doula and our Midwife were headed to the house but hadn’t made it yet. She said she’d be over soon. After the next contraction, Lisa said she felt the head (she’d realized that she had been feeling the bag of waters earlier).
Another contraction, the head appears, Lisa puts her hand on it, I put mine underneath, and Lisa says, “What do I do?” I say, “Can you stand up?” At some point I’m aware that little Buddy is standing near the door, watching. Lisa stands up, and in one more push the baby slides right out, wet and purple and immediately crying. We ease her onto my lap, and then lift her up to Lisa’s chest. Buddy has this look on his face like he’s really not sure what he’s seeing. We tell him, “It’s our baby! It’s Baby Sister!” And a big smile spreads across his face. Lisa checks the umbilical cord and we stand there for a moment looking at each other. The doorbell rings, and, thinking it’s Marilyn, I ask Lisa if she doesn’t think she should sit down(!), but she says, “I’m fine, honey.” I ask again, and she says she’ll get into the bathtub. I run downstairs and open the door, and there’s Cara. I say, “We have a baby!” She steps in and I point her upstairs. Later, calculating by the times of the phone calls I made and the phone call Cara made to L’s phone, we determine that Baby Girl Taylor was born at 10:34AM.
Just a minute or so after Cara arrived, our neighbor Marilyn arrived as well. Marilyn came upstairs, saw the baby, said hello and congrats, asked if we were okay, and once we told her we were and introduced her to our midwife, she left.
Back to Lisa: Bryan got on the phone soon thereafter and started calling people to let them know about the birth. I sat in the bathtub with Baby Girl on my chest for a good long time (in retrospect, I felt bad, because we should have at least grabbed a towel so she wasn’t cold as well as to shield her from the light because the bathroom was really, really bright)—probably a total of around an hour and twenty minutes or so. She nursed quite soon and for about a good long hour—encouraging. Bryan came and cut the cord once it had stopped pulsating—I think that was before the placenta was pushed out, but I’m not sure; can’t remember the order very well.
Cara encouraged me (once she checked and had me check for myself to make sure it had stopped pulsating) to go ahead and push a couple times, and it came out pretty easily. She looked at the amount of blood in the tub, and said that I hardly lost any blood—a well below average amount. If I recall correctly, at this point, Bryan had returned downstairs to make some breakfast.
While I was upstairs nursing Baby Girl, Cara did some cleanup. After she had a chance to warm some towels in the oven, she brought one up for baby. I think one of them brought up some eggs and perhaps toast for me to eat while we were still in the bathtub. Cara put any linens and clothes that had blood on them into a bowl with hydrogen peroxide (apparently amazing for blood removal), and then did laundry to clean everything up. I’m not really sure of the order of anything, but I think Cara weighed and measured baby while I was upstairs eating some breakfast, too.
Then at some point Cara came up to help me get cleaned up, dressed, and come downstairs for her to examine me to see if I needed stitches. She was great and never rushed me at all. It was really, really hard to get up after sitting on the hard bathtub all that long time on my tailbone, and of course I was quite sore. She helped me up, and then I took a shower to rinse off all the blood — some of which had dried because I sat there for so long. She tried to find clothes for me, but it was difficult to instruct her on where to find anything — particularly with regard to pants, since I hadn’t prepared anything and didn’t know what would fit. She helped me get dressed, and then we went very slowly downstairs.
She put a chux pad on the couch underneath my bum and examined me. I only had a tiny tear, she said, and she said it was so small that it could probably heal on its own if I was really careful for the next couple of days and didn’t do the stairs except when absolutely necessary. She said she could do stitches if I wanted it, and I think she said she actually wishes she had gotten stitches after she had her son, yet it seemed like she was saying I didn’t really need them…it felt like a bit of a mixed message, but I appreciated that she wanted us to have the facts and make our own decision.
Cara didn’t have any of our paperwork (such as birth certificate form, etc.) with her because she had to come so fast to us, directly from another birth instead of from her house, so said she would bring it at the 3-day visit.
Before she left, Cara took a family pic of us (see below), in which Buddy looked very unhappy…because he didn’t want Cara to leave! (She is not only great with her mamas but amazing with kids, too.) Instead it of course looks like he’s unhappy that his sister was born. Got lots of comments on that one!
Our dear pastor’s wife came over in the afternoon around 3:30 or so and cooked a meal for us in our kitchen while I lay on the couch (Cara’s orders!) and made calls to all my Texas girlfriends, family, etc. to share the good news and exciting story.
In closing, I would like to clarify that it was not the fault of my midwife or my doula that they couldn’t make it in time. Our little girl is a sassy one and there was no keeping her in; we think she wanted it to be a family-only affair! But seriously, Cara and Ellen are birth pros with total integrity and this was a very rare occurrence. I wanted to be sure, therefore, to mention that they both are wonderful and I would highly recommend either of them (in fact, Ellen was our doula through our first labor and we couldn’t have done it without her!).
So there you have it, folks. We will always describe our daughter’s birth as follows: “We had the simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying honor of catching our baby girl.” My beloved boss gave us a pink catcher’s mitt as a baby gift with the phrase, “Safe at home!” written on it along with her birth stats – totally fitting.
Have you considered the possibility of catching (or helping catch) your own baby? If it’s something that appeals to you, discuss it with your care provider. Many care providers are open to mom, dad, or partner participating in this way. Never hurts to ask!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our darling,
sassy baby (not so baby anymore) girl!