It was almost four months ago now. The birth of our son! His gender was a surprise. With two daughters already via my body, we leaned towards another daughter...but, low and behold, something was hanging off this babe that was new to us - this was a boy!
It was near a month of warm-up contractions. This was the longest I'd experienced warm-up contractions (sometimes referenced to as Braxton Hicks), and the week prior to birth they were more consistent...and of course with all of this warm-up, I hoped for a shorter labor when the time came, but I also knew, labor will be what labor will be. The body has already been wired for the task and it will go at the length that is best.
About 24 hours before active labor kicked in, I was in prodromal labor. It's the real warm up, the pre-workout stretches. I tend to have long prodromal labor, but this was the longest. In retrospect, it was probably because little man was not in an optimal birthing position. Unfortunately, this didn't dawn on me until later, so I didn't offer much assistance in doing exercises or positions to help our son rotate. Our son was positioned ROA (Right Occiput Anterior). This means he was engaged to the right of center when it's best and easiest if babe is slightly left of center, LOA (Left Occiput Anterior). Even though just a little shift would make baby LOA, babies usually will do a near full rotation making them posterior for a time (mom and baby are back to back, and that's painful!) until they arrive at LOA position. This makes for some harder work for the laboring momma and baby...so, in this case - us! :)
Once prodromal labor started I was getting excited, figuring a baby was coming that night or the next day...but, no. I slept through most of the night with a few contractions, but the next morning they did pick up again yet after a few hours they slowed down again. I had a pedicure scheduled for myself that morning (42 week pregnant women can't come close to touching their toes), so I got a pedicure and an unplanned mini manicure because the gal had some extra time. My husband was out with one of our girls, the other was at preschool, and at our home was a gal cleaning the house for us - a gift from some dear friends (four weeks of house cleaning - best gift ever!!!). All this pampering, early contractions, and a clean home to return to was making me feel like it was going to be a birthday...but again, no. I was disappointed and wondering "how much longer?"...but I had to stop the negative feelings and embrace this time for what it is, and that it is good and best.
Earlier that week I had had a prenatal appointment, and my midwife said near the beginning of the appointment "You don't seem yourself...what's going on?" I shared with her I thought I'd have a baby by now and I was feeling disappointed and frustrated...I was really tired of being pregnant, and I had actually been praying for a specific birth date (which was the day of my appointment), but alas I had no signs of a coming labor. She asked me if I had cried yet, a "release" cry...where I let all expectations go and get all my hangups out in a good therapeutic cry. I hadn't done so, and she encouraged me to. She also encouraged me to read the birth stories in Ina May's Guide To Childbirth book, as well as get on YouTube and watch some birth videos. My midwife, she's a gem. Compassionate and understanding, supportive and a heart listener. I left encouraged and with some homework to do. It was all so helpful.
So the night of my pedicure, manicure and house cleaning, I went to bed. I rested, but the contractions were stronger when I was laying down, and they were to the point I couldn't sleep. After an hour or so of laying there (my husband next to me zzzing), I knew labor was here...though my contractions were hard and averaging every 6-9 minutes (though sometimes they would be a few minutes apart or even 12 minutes apart), I hadn't felt that "switch" over yet to active, but I figured it was near. I went downstairs as my husband and eldest daughter slept (our youngest was with my parents), lit some candles, did some things around the house between contractions...I labored alone for an hour or so, mostly leaning up against a wall or on my hands and knees (I HATE contractions sitting down or laying down, you will not find me in these positions!)...I felt the need to call my midwife with my sporadic yet strong contractions. She asked if my doula was there, and if I didn't want to be alone then to have my doula come. The midwife was not going to come until she thought I was in active labor. I didn't want to wake my husband from sleep, but I wanted someone with me. I called my doula and she was all ready to go. She came over and I didn't regret my decision for her to come. I realized once she arrived I needed her company - her educated and womanly thoughts, comfort, support, and friendship.
After about an hour of her being there, she thought it was time to fill up the birth pool. My husband had aired it up hours ago before bed. I woke him up from his few hours of sleep and he got to it. He made me a "labor aid" drink (fresh squeezed oranges, lemon, tablespoon of honey and sea salt), filled up stock pots to heat up more water, got food and snacks out (provided by my Grammy!) for birth attendants, and did other things I don't know of because active labor was upon me. I had to get in touch with my inner lioness once again, remembering how to loosen the jaw and almost relax into a contraction with some low groans. Some nausea was also settling in with the stronger contractions, but I thankfully never threw up.
My midwife and her apprentice were on their way. My two girlfriends were on their way too. When the apprentice arrived, she felt my belly and noticed baby was ROA, so we learned of why the hard, irregular contractions...baby was trying to turn. She instructed me to do some lunge positions during contractions and continue on hands and knees, too. Wow, talk about painful. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for sweet baby boy, either. We were both working really hard to help him get in good position for birth. His turning during contractions was near suffering...but the most difficult of our mountain climbing we hadn't arrived at yet.
Though labor can be incredibly difficult, I am so thankful to feel it, to experience it. My baby is in labor too, working hard, pursuing exit - pursing me and his daddy, and we find each other in the labor, in the work....it is absolutely a bonding experience. It is a partnering together. A lifelong memory I will always hold with him. Thankfully, the good Lord gave us some amazing pain-coping hormones and that love hormone of oxytocin is increasing more and more as our face to face encounter draws nearer.
My midwife (who has wisdom and experience and understanding and intuition beyond anyone I have yet to meet in the medical field of pregnancy, birth and babies) instructed me to get into the shower. She said she doesn't know why, but the hot shower spray on the lower back encourages baby to get into position...and she was right! My husband, our doula and I headed to the bathroom. My husband turned on the shower and the doula left the bathroom to give us a private moment together. I remember feeling the difference of my husband's counter-pressure on my lower back, his hands were bigger and stronger than our doula's, and the difference felt good in the moment. I got in the shower and began to feel very painful contractions because at the same time I felt baby boy moving. And when I say very painful, I mean VERY PAINFUL. I, actually, remember thinking there in the shower "my last labor was a breeze" compared to this labor. I got out of the shower and upon exiting an incredibly strong contraction came alongside the baby still moving into position...my uterus contracted, the baby rotated....and this was the loooongest contraction I had ever experienced. My husband stopped giving me counterpressure and massage about halfway through because he thought surely the contraction was over, but I yelled out "What are you doing?! Don't stop!". And then it happened during that long contraction, our son arrived to optimal position - and all of a sudden I felt the feeling to push!!
Now minutes before I got in the shower, I had asked the apprentice to give me a vaginal check to see how dilated I was. This was the first time in my pregnancy and labor for me to be vaginally checked. I'm not a fan of it because for me, it's not worth the emotional effect it has on me - the answer will either encourage me or discourage me. How dilated you are or the cervix effacement just doesn't really mean much (or at least how much focus we put on them) because everyone's bodies vary, circumstances vary, etc. So the apprentice vaginally checked me and I told her I wasn't sure if I wanted to know how "far along" I was because I was nervous about the answer. I had worked so hard already and wanted to hear I was 9cm along, but intuitively I knew I was not that far along. At my request, she told me I was 5cm and yes, I was disappointed. I was discouraged because I had worked so so hard already, and to think I was only halfway there was almost unimaginable to me. BUT I got in that shower minutes later and after just 20 minutes or so in the shower, I got out, had that super long contraction, and I was ready to push!! In maybe 30 minutes, I had dilated 4 or 5cm.
My husband got into the pool, I gave baby all I had and pushed his body into my husband's hands. My husband lifted baby out of the water before me and I saw baby's parts and announced loudly "A boy!!!" My oxytocin levels skyrocketed and I was in euphoric baby bliss. I praised my God aloud again and again who had carried me through and delivered me once again, and I spoke aloud my thanksgiving and declared my affection for my son over and over. If anyone was to know they were deeply loved with a strong unwavering passion and affection, my son surely experienced it in this moment!
The moments after my children's births, particularly my homebirths because of the freedom and comfort of home and only individuals present who I personally know, will always be some of my most vivid and experientially memorable experiences. God made this so because a woman's hormones heighten her memory during this time.
Thank you for taking the time to read our birth story. I look at my son as such a rockstar knowing he did a near 360 degree rotation during labor in the midst of a contracting uterus! HOW AMAZING IS MY SON?!?! And we did it together. It is such a precious experience with him in my heart and memory. I'll always remember those hours of labor with him, both of us working so hard together to meet one another.