No two labors are alike, not for one person and especially not for 2 different people. To try to put labor in some sort of “mould” is really foolish. Things play out the way they do for a reason.
This was my 3rd natural birth, (Xian’s birth was a homebirth/transfer, Piper’s birth was a home water birth) and while they all felt the same at times (like similar sensations) all 3 of them were extremely different. I think keeping an opened mind really helped me out in this area. Especially since we were not using a midwife this time.
I had always assumed that I would go “late” (though I know babies really come when they are ready). My first was 10 and second 6 days “late”. I still had a lot of cleaning and organizing to do, I wanted to make myself some Kozys (all of mine are old testers) plus the kitchen sink was not working and we knew that they would have to be tearing up the floors and replacing the pipes under the house soon (was hoping they would do it before baby, since we don’t have a dishwasher or any way to clean dishes other then washing them in the tub, LOL, we were eating out a lot). But that was not to be.
I figured my edd to be around Sept 13 (based on when I ovulated). I got my first signs that things might be happening on the 15th, when I was nursing Piper. I noticed that my normal BH contractions had changed when nursing her. They were lower in my abdomin. With my other 2, labor had started 1-3 days after noticing this change. Well I didn’t notice it again till later that afternoon when I was nursing Piper again. They continued to come, irregularly and crampy, all evening. We went ahead and did the belly cast that evening, just in case labor was starting. I went to bed around 2 but couldn’t sleep cause they were coming every 5 min. They were not too bad, but were certainly uncomfortable enough that I couldn’t sleep through them. So I got up and decided to just hang out, walk around etc. and see if they would go away. Well they didn’t but they only got a bit stronger. By the time 4am hit I was having to concentrate through them and I couldn’t walk or talk when having one. I guess I would say this is when “labor” really started, though I never even had real “active” labor as one might define it, seeing at how they were very irregular and never less then 5min apart the entire labor!! (sometimes they were 10-20 min apart).
I was really not ready to go into labor at that point. I just had more things to do and really thought that I would probably have the baby the next week or something. I will admit that I was a bit freaked out at the thoughts of labor when there was more I wanted to do, the sink needing fixing, I still wanted to organize the baby stuff, do some cleaning, and me just not really feeling like I was finished being pregnant.
Well needless to say I got no sleep at all that night. I woke dh at around 5 telling him that though they were very irregular, I think this is the start of something (that it could be today, or still several days away) and that maybe we should clean up and get some stuff done “just in case”. Actually, I had some more stuff I wanted him to read before the birth. He was great, he called into work and then spent the entire day straightening the house and cleaning and organizing the “birth room” (aka, dining/ office/ sewing room LOL). I however spent much of the day in the bathroom with nausea and an upset stomach. I was still getting long breaks in-between contrax, like 10-15 min. but it was feeling sick that was the worst. I called my friend (who also use to be a MW) to let her know that something was happening (as she wanted to stay by the phone should I need anything) but that it was really weird so I had no idea if it would be soon, or several days away). Another thing was that I had had no bloody show. In fact I had no discharge at all that day, and with my previous births I had bloody show before labor really started. This kept me skeptical as to whether or not this was really the real thing.
The contractions intensified throughout the day, moving from just having to concentrate through them to having to ooh and ahh through them. I was still having lots of rectal pressure with them, but they never got any more regular. However, at this point, I was getting pretty tired of feeling sick and tired and figured that I might as well be in labor if I was going to have to put up with all of this. I tried to prepare myself mentally for the fact that baby would probably be coming soon, and if things were not completely ready and perfect for his arrival then that was OK. I prayed about it, asking God for strength. I told baby that if he wanted to come soon I was ready for him.
Charlie and I (and the kids) were finally able to catch a little nap during which I only had 2 manageable contractions (and how nice it was to sleep). I felt much better after waking (no more nausea) and decided that I was ready to eat something. I spent most of the rest of the evening just kind of mulling around, checking e-mail, doing dishes in the bathroom (remember, the kitchen sink was broken), watching TV etc. I could have done more work but I was so tired from no sleep the night before. I mostly stopped only when a contraction hit (every 5-20 min) to assume the position (which was standing and holding on to something) so I could rock and sway. Around 9 or so I got my first sign (at least for me) that baby was truly coming soon . . . I had bloody show. Around that time too the intensity of the contractions picked up again to where they felt like my transition contractions always feel. Like I said before, despite the fact that they were so spread out, these contractions felt just like they did with my other births. I was having to moan through them now. I found that I loved being in the bathroom where I could stand holding on to the towel bar and rock. I was very uncomfortable in any other position. I was also peeing a lot and decided to loose the britches so I could have freedom to pee when needed. I like to keep body as relaxed as possible and my bladder empty, many times this meant that I would pee during a contraction. But a chux pad or towel between my feet always worked great to catch it all.
I had plenty of time to analyze everything about this labor between my contractions. I was thinking about how intense these contractions were and wondering about pain. I know that, for me, they didn’t feel painful. That just wasn’t a word I would use to describe them. They were amazingly powerful, and intense. Hence the moaning. When I moan it is my way of dealing with them, the more intense it is the longer and harder I moan. It is almost my way of acknowledging their strength, and, despite their awesome power, trying to keep myself focused and relaxed so they can do their job. You really must completely surrender to labor. It is amazing that our bodies can work so well without any input from us; they completely take over to do what has to be done to get our babies out!! I know a lot of people would have taken herbs or something to get their contractions more regular and in more of an “effective” pattern. But I don’t believe in tampering with things. I believe that God allowed my labor to happen the way it did for a reason and who am I to question that. That is why I feel it is so dangerous to try to manipulate our labors. I would hate to think what would have happened to me with such a “dysfunctional” labor pattern, were I in the hospital!! Gods design of our bodies, and labor is not flawed.
By 11, I was no longer “doing things” but staying focused in the big breaks between the contractions as well, kind of in a daze. I was also getting very tired from lack of sleep the night before and the fact that they were still so spaced out. I was hoping baby would come soon so we didn’t have to worry with getting the kids in bed first, but again, that was not to be.
At 12:30 Charlie finally put the Kids to bed. It was the first time that Piper had ever been put to sleep without being nursed to sleep by me. But she did OK as I knew she would (had been praying about how the kids would be during labor). In fact they had been great all day. I had prepared myself for the fact that it would probably be just Charlie and I there with them, and that I may have some distractions during contractions (lots actually LOL) and I was prepared and handled them well. We also had bought them some special videos and games to keep them occupied and Xian knew that he might need to help out which he did (like when I mentioned I was thirsty and he brought me a cup of water, all by himself . . . how sweet was that).
Anyway, after they were asleep, at around 2 or so. I decided it was probably time to fill the pool. I was hoping baby would come by 3 but was thinking more like 5. I was off still by 2 hrs!! I was so incredibly tired; I was just ready for it to be over. I wanted to sleep between contractions especially since they were still so spaced out, but had to stand during them, there was no great position I could get into.
It took Charlie a while to get the water and stuff set up. I spend my time walking between the kitchen and dining room, helping when I could between contractions. During contractions I would assume the position and just concentrate and moan, they were getting stronger and I knew I would be pushing before too long. When the pool was filled I got in.
We were going to have something for me to hang on, like a birth sling, over the pool. I was going to use one of my baby wraps (a sling) but I found that I preferred to have a bar to hang on. I could hang on the bar just below my underarms, and either wrap my arms around it while I hung and swayed, or hand from it with my hands in a deep squat in the water. It was wonderful during contractions. However I found that I was at a loss of what to do between them. I would lie in the water, which brought me great relief with my last labor, but this time, it just made me nauseous. And I was so use to standing and wanted to use the bar during them, that I had it was hard to get up out of the water for each one (not to mention the fact that I was cold out of the water). So after a while I decided to get out. I loved being able to lie down but felt I needed to stand up and walk around to distract myself and make more progress.
I believe it was some time before 5 when the contractions changed to all out pushing. They had been gradually getting more and more pushy with each one but eventually I was completely consumed with the desire to push. I had wanted to try not to push, to let my body to it, however I found that for me it was impossible. Pushing feels very violent to me, like a storm swelling in my gut, I can’t fight it or ignore it, I have to go with it . . . period!! For me it is not fun. And actually, this is the first time I really felt pain. I can only assume it is/was my hips spreading cause with each push I would get a paralyzing type of pain in my hips and lower back. I don’t need a lot of “help” during labor, I am pretty independent but this time I needed Charlie to push on my hips and back during each push to make it bearable. It would take a few moments after each one before I was able to move again.
After pushing like this for a while (I was standing and leaning on the kitchen table) and still getting lengthy breaks between each contraction) I decided to check where baby was for the first time. I reached up inside and felt what I thought was the waterbag, but to be honest, I didn’t know for sure. It was about 1 ½-2 knuckles in. I checked periodically after a few hard pushes and it didn’t seem any further down. This is where I started to doubt myself. Why wasn’t baby coming down faster? This was my third, why was I having to push so long (it had been like an hour since I had been pushing all out). Soon after my water broke, I felt inside again and could feel baby’s head, about 1 ½ knuckles in. But I also felt something else strange; I didn’t know what it was. I started to doubt myself again. But was this truly a problem or was this just me being paranoid? I decided to pray about it (I had been talking to God often during labor). It is not common for me to doubt myself during labor. But being that I was the one to listen and care for baby during this birth, I felt that a huge responsibility. Baby had been moving lots during the entire labor. This was something I had prayed about ahead of time, asking God to let baby move to let me know she/he was OK. But I hadn’t felt movement in a while. I mentioned some of these things to Charlie, and asked him if he was concerned, he was like . . . “why”? (LOL, yep, that is Charlie, he doesn’t worry about much)
So I prayed, asking God that if this was something to worry about to let me know, and if not, to ease my mind. Then I pulled out my fetoscope. Now I am NOT good with the fetoscope, so I was really not sure if I would be able to find the heartbeat since baby was lower now (and had only really listened once earlier in labor, though I used it lots when pg). I placed it on the spot where I thought I could hear the HB and picked it up immediately. Right after baby started wiggling again, and that was my answer. I no longer had any doubt or fear. (had I any questions I would have called my friend, and were I truly concerned about baby’s safety I would have had her come over with her Doppler, I just didn’t feel it was needed at this time).
My faith being restored, so was my determination and energy. I continued to push as before. I recalled this back pain being worse then with Piper when I was pushing in the pool. I had wanted to try pushing in a standing position this time cause I felt it would help shorten pushing time (I pushed for 5 hrs with my first, 1 hr with my second). But I was thinking now I needed the water. So I got in, positioning myself on my knees, leaning over the edge of the pool, so Charlie could lean over and press on my back if needed. It helped with the pain some but also with progress. I think standing to push was a great position for me in the beginning, but I wonder if eventually I was using muscles to hold myself up, that I needed to relax to allow the baby to come down. Not long after getting in the pool (was on my knees leaning over the edge) I felt baby move down and under my pubic bone. When this happened it was so intense I grabbed Charlie’s legs (as he was standing in front of me). He said “what just happened” and I said . . . groaning and panting (from the leftover effects of the contraction) “that was baby coming down to the perineum” (he later told me that I had nearly ripped the hair off his legs ;-) He was pretty shocked that it had happened so quickly (I was thinking . . . 2 hrs . . . is NOT quick, LOL). After that I no longer needed him pushing on my back. I told him to wake up Xian (Piper had woken about an hour before and was watching a video). He said . . . “already?” and I made a circle with my hand and said “this much of the baby’s head is right there”. So he went to get Xian and had him watching TV till we were ready for him. The next few contractions were amazing. Charlie came back and got a light to see if he could see the head but I don’t know if he saw anything.
I don’t know what was worse, the hip pain when pushing or the intensity and burning from crowning. Inside I felt like such a wimp but amazingly, what I look like on the outside doesn’t reflect that. This is the one point in labor that is so intense for me I would hand it over to ‘help’ if offered at that moment. This is also one of the reasons why I needed to do this part myself without anyone there to "offer" to help catch baby. I had a couple more times pushing where the head was coming on the perineum, it would come ½ way out then go in a bit. Finally I told Charlie that I didn’t care if I ripped . . . so much for panting and not pushing durn it . . . I was pushing the head out with the next contraction and that is what I did!! I told him “heads out, go get the kids” then he left while I knelt there feeling baby’s chubby cheeks and feeling for a cord etc (which I didn’t think I could feel). This was the point in Pipers birth where things got screwed up, the MW’s assistant was afraid that too much time had elapsed (which it hadn’t) and they had me go to hands and knees and I didn’t get to catch. I was aware of the fact that my contractions had been spaced apart so much and I kept that in mind now. When the kids got there I talked to them a bit about the baby coming out and how the head was right there (they were only like a foot or so from me). It had been over a minute and I had Charlie shine the light in the pool to check the color of baby’s face. He said baby was pink. I waited a bit longer and no contraction, so I decided to move around a bit to see if I could make another contraction come, as it happened the last time, I got a contraction shortly after leaning over (like hands and knees) at which point I pushed for all I was worth and once I could grab the shoulders, I reached down the pulled baby out (I may have rushed this a bit, but durn it if it hurt and I wanted it over!!!). I made sure he was face down as I lifted him out of the water, so that everything could drain from his mouth, nose etc. He WAS pink and let out a cry within 2 seconds of hitting the air. So much for me having to worry about clearing an airway or stimulating him to help him breathe. I know that sometimes babies need a bit of help, some need a lot of help, and though I was prepared for what to do if that was needed, I am just glad it wasn’t needed. I didn’t know it at the time but Charlie was holding the light shining it in the pool behind behind me so that he could see the birth, he said it was the coolest thing he had ever seen (and he was there for the other 2).
So at 6:52 on Sept 17 after over 2 hrs of pushing and 27 hours of very weird, irregularly spaced contractions, baby Arah Evran Mason was born.
It really was amazing catching him myself, very empowering!!
After pulling him out of the water, I talked to him, showed him
to the kids and asked for a towel. A minute later we checked to
see that it was another boy!! And noticed how much he looked like
his big brother (actually, I must have said it 10x . . . "you look just
like Xian"). Charlie was pretty excited and immediately picked up
the phone to call his mom (no one really knew we were in labor as I
didn’t know how long it would take and didn’t want them to worry).
My placenta separated with a gush of blood (as it had with Piper) so
I decided to get out of the pool (which was now just red murky water
with floating bits of vernix and other ‘things’). I sat on the futon (right next to the pool on which I had laid chux pads earlier between one of my many long breaks between contractions), and offered baby the breast which he readily took. Xian had gone back to playing his game but Piper came over to admire her brother and hold his hand. She was just smiling at him and me. I know she knew there was a baby but I don’t think she really understood for sure until she saw it for herself. She loves him (as does Xian).
With another gush of blood I knew I would be getting pushing contractions soon to deliver the placenta. I had a hard time finding a comfortable spot, my tailbone and bum were pretty sore, so I had Charlie help me to the floor where I could sit on my knees and just push it out when it was ready. I think it was ½ hr or 45 min after the birth before I pushed it out. It seemed intact and most of it came out but there was a bit still inside, so after consulting a book (to make sure it was OK) we gently pulled on it to get the rest of it out. It came out whole. I ended up sitting there on the floor for the next hour calling family members. I had figured that we would spend some time with baby before calling anyone, but seeing how it was first thing in the morning and everyone lived 3+ hrs away, I figured letting them know now would give them time to plan to come and see us that day if they wanted. Charlie spent this time cleaning up the pool . . . actually
he spent the next several hours cleaning up, doing laundry etc. though draining
the pool took up the most time. I called my friend (who use to be a MW) who
came over a couple hrs after the birth. When she arrived I was sitting in a big
recliner, holding Arah in my lap nursing, with the placenta in a bowl also on my
lap, and Piper in my other arm asleep!! (picture of that right -->)
I wanted her to check me for tears so I would know how I needed to proceed
(vit E, keeping my legs together) and really had no desire to “look” at the
condition of my body down there . . . I never have after birth!! She said I
had a 1st degree tear. And said my blood loss looked fine (which we had
thought too). She also brought some string to tie the cord, since we didn’t
have any here (I had a clamp, but we were just going to use dental floss).
I also had her check over baby since we wouldn’t be taking him to the
pediatrician. He looked and sounded fine to me (I know many of the things
to watch for) but having the second opinion of someone who had seen hundreds
of newborns helped too!! Plus it was nice to be able to share some of it with her as I know it is something she loves!!
He ended up being smaller then I had hoped but that is OK (I say after spending over 2 hrs pushing him out!!!). 7lb 12oz.
He is 21” Long
My friend stayed and we talked (which we both love to do) as Charlie and Xian went to get us some breakfast!! Family lives 3+ hrs away so we were able to get a nap before everyone came to meet the baby!! Since then he has been nursing great and we are all just enjoying our time with him!
Was this birth what I expected? In one way no!! I did not expect a long labor, I did not expect to have contractions that were never regular, I did not expect to have to push for over 2 hrs!! But for me, it was all about faith, this whole pregnancy and birth. Trusting God, trusting the process, trusting that things work out and that sometimes it is best to just have faith and deal with each thing as it comes. That is not something that necessarily comes natural for me, I had to learn it (and am always learning it). I had hoped for a 5 hr labor with 20 min of pushing!! My labor was far from that. But despite being exhausted from not sleeping for 2 days (and it really was getting to me), and the fact that the contractions were so spaced out that I had to “re relax” before each one, it was still a relatively laid back and “easy” labor (before pushing) because I did get so much of a break between them.
I have always loved having people around in labor. But this time, I know it would have presented a problem. I would have felt much pressure if there were others (beside myself) sitting around waiting for things to get “regular”. I may have felt pressured to do something to speed things up. I had no one to worry about but me and baby. It was kind of nice. It was also nice to be so in touch with things. I spent much of the labor talking to God, talking to baby and just trying to take things as they came and however they wanted to play out was fine for me. It didn’t feel weird at all that there was no one here but us, it actually felt rather normal. And I don’t feel like I did anything weird either. It really just felt surprisingly normal to me. More normal then my other births. I remember reading a birth story once where the mom commented on the fact that her unassisted birth was rather “normal”. That she didn’t feel she had done anything extraordinary. I remembered this just now as I was thinking about my feelings. This is how I feel. It just kind of happened while we went about our day, our lives. I think that is kind of how birth is supposed to be. It is just a part of our lives a part of life. One day you are pregnant the next you have a newborn in your hands. It is both miraculous and very normal at the same time.
Thinking back on my other 2 births, there were always things that occurred during the birth (as a result of others being there) that left me regretting or dwelling on the “negatives” of the experience in the days and weeks after. Not this time. When I think back on the birth I still remember how hard it was (and painful in the end) cause it was just the other day and is still so fresh in my mind. Hey, labor is work ya know, hard, hard work!! But I have only positive feelings about the experience. It was the wonderful experience I had hoped it would be. I thank God for his faithfulness and for my beautiful family!!