I'd been having contractions off and on for ... well, months, I guess. Mild ones, though. They'd been stepping up in the last week or two, but still nothing quite like I had on several occasions before Marko was born. Every time I had some "real" contractions, John would say, "Maybe you're going into labor!" I would answer, "Not till Friday, I have plans!" On Friday, I was going to be hanging out with some good friends, and there was no way I wanted to miss that. Besides, there was so much that wasn't ready. So I spent last week getting things ready -- following up on my insurance company, writing my birth plan, making a plan with the babysitter, and so on. John said that ideally, I would go into labor Friday night, right after we put Marko to bed.
Friday, I had pretty much everything done, except for some inessentials. But I told John I wasn't going along with his idea of going into labor that night, because we were pretty much out of food and I needed to go shopping on Saturday. So I went to my friends' house as planned, and had a great time. In the afternoon, we took a walk around the neighborhood, chatting, and I had to keep telling them to slow down. I felt fine, but I was having a lot of contractions, and I didn’t really want to encourage them. When we got back, I just had to sit down – even standing up, following the toddler around the yard, was getting the contractions going. Annoying.
By the end of the day I was pretty tired, and I just wanted to get home and relax. My friend said, “Hope you go into labor tonight!” I thought, “No way. Sometime next week. I am NOT ready.”
Everything was ready, I know that. But I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to be done being pregnant, but I didn’t actually feel that uncomfortable, so why rush? And I wanted to see the new baby, but that would happen soon enough, and I was enjoying my one kid in the meantime. But the main thing was, I was beginning to remember what labor was like, and UGH. I wasn’t looking forward to going through that grueling ordeal again, even at home.
So I put Marko to bed that night, and went onto Facebook, posting that I really didn’t mind being pregnant another week. Not half an hour afterward, at about nine, I felt a goosh. My first thought was, “Please no.” But by the time I got to the bathroom, it was clear that my water had definitely broken, and also that I was going to have to change my pants. I told John what had happened, and he was like, “Right on schedule!” But I immediately started freaking out.
First, I was upset because I didn’t want to be in labor. Second, I was upset because I wasn’t in labor. I hadn’t been having any contractions to speak of – maybe two or three in the past hour, and not particularly strong – and I expected those to come first. My mom had an awful time with labor that didn’t get going after her water broke, and in the end it took 36 hours for my little brother to be born … so I was really worried this would happen to me.
I bustled around the house more or less aimlessly, trying to “get stuff ready” and worrying about things I couldn’t get ready at the moment. I was so freaked out I was shaking all over. I had two contractions in the next half hour that seemed to mean business, so that made me feel a little better. I called the midwife, and she said she and her partner would come on over, see how I was doing, and then decide whether to stay all night or go home and come back in the morning. Then I called my mom and freaked out to her on the phone for awhile. She was very happy to hear from me. For once in my life, I was thankful for the time difference – I knew I’d be able to call her at any time during the night. While I was talking to her, I had two more contractions, and these hurt enough that I wanted to kneel down and lean on my bed.
The midwives arrived about ten and took a listen to the baby. All was well, but they weren’t quite sure of his position and thought he might be posterior. My back was killing me during contractions, so I thought they might be right. I was so worried that, with my water broken, he wouldn’t be able to rotate easily. So I kept on my feet after that, leaning forward over the table with every contraction. The midwives were just shooting the breeze, trying to decide whether they should go grab something to eat before coming back, and one asked, “How far apart are those contractions, ten minutes?” By this point I was timing them on my cellphone. “About every five!” I answered. A few contractions later they were every three minutes. I started commenting that this was not very much fun, that I was remembering now that I don’t LIKE being in labor, that these really actually hurt and I wasn’t looking forward to “real labor.” But I was still being kind of casual and humorous, so I’m sure I didn’t seem serious. I had John there by now with each contraction, rubbing my back. Sometimes he would jiggle and shake the muscles of my back and hips, and that felt really good – it forced them to relax.
This whole time I kept feeling all constipated and going in and out of the bathroom. One of the midwives got nervous and asked if I was pushing the baby out in there! I was like, “No, I’m quite sure I’m just constipated.” (Ha ha.) That feeling of pressure just kept getting worse and worse, but I wasn’t able to go.
At this point (probably about 11), the midwives’ chitchat was annoying me and I went into the bedroom. They just followed me, though, which hadn’t been my intent. They kept talking about how I was nearly there, trying to ask me about what position I might like to try for pushing, and I was like, “They’re crazy. I’m nowhere near there yet.” (Ha ha.) Between contractions, I felt perfectly clearheaded, unemotional, and normal. I knew transition involved feeling panicky and despairing, so I knew I was far from there. I did feel sick to my stomach, but other than that didn’t feel like I was anywhere near transition. The contractions themselves were getting a lot worse, though, so I was moaning through them. I had decided that I was NOT wasting my time trying to look like I was handling things well, and I was just going to make whatever noise I wanted. (Quietly, though, so I wouldn’t wake Marko!) I wasn’t timing anything anymore, but I could tell the contractions were getting longer and the breaks were getting shorter. The midwives talked me into taking off my underwear because they were afraid I wouldn’t get it off in time to get the baby out! I thought this was silly, but went along with it because I figured I wouldn’t want to move later on.
I tried some different positions, at the midwives’ prompting, and didn’t like anything except kneeling on the bed with my head on some pillows. John was by my head holding onto me, which I found very comforting. The midwives kept asking if I needed to push, and I kept thinking, “No way! I just keep feeling like I need to poop!” (Ha ha.) I did try pushing a little, but it didn’t feel quite right so I stopped. Instead I just made low noises, because I remembered last time those noises had gotten me started pushing involuntarily.
Finally I said, “Do you really think it’s okay to push?” (I had declined all cervical checks because first, I hate them, and second, that information did nothing but make me anxious last time.) One of the midwives said, “Definitely, he’s on his way down now.” That blew my mind. I reached down. “What’s this I’m feeling?” “That’s his head!”
Then I started pushing for real, but trying not to push too hard this time. John kept reassuring me, “There’s no hurry, you don’t have to rush,” and I tried hard to listen to that. It’s just hard not to, you know? There was this overwhelming pressure, which wasn’t really helped by pushing, but which got way worse if I didn’t push. Meanwhile I was really feeling the “ring of fire” this time (I never felt it last time because I blasted through it too fast). So I was mostly shouting “Ow ow ow” and pushing tiny bits and stopping, meanwhile feeling that fuzzy head slide more and more into my hand. That was pretty neat. I felt in control, being able to feel what was going on. The midwives didn’t coach me at all, saying, “You know better what you’re doing than we do!” I loved that.
Then the head was all out and I remembered to wait for a moment. Sure enough, he rotated sideways, and then a little push sent him sliding all the way out. I could feel his shoulders, legs and everything! Then shloop, down he plopped onto the bed and I scooped him up. My first thought was, “I never saw a newborn before!” This was what I’d longed for so much, the chance to see and hold my baby straight from the womb – wet and covered in vernix and everything.
I lay down against the pillows and just held the baby for awhile. He was kind of snuffling around, but not looking like he had any idea what to do next, so I put him to the breast and he latched on. That was the best moment. I had been so afraid I would have trouble nursing him, and there he was nursing away at fifteen minutes old!
I still wasn’t ecstatic or over the moon or anything I’ve heard about. I guess I just don’t get very emotional about birth? But I was feeling very pleased with myself and kept repeating to John that this was perfect, that I got every one of my wishes in this birth.
If you’re a man or squeamish at all, you should probably stop here.
About fifteen minutes after that, I started asking when we were going to cut the cord, and when the midwives would check to see if I’d had any tearing. (I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here that I had a third-degree last time. It was a big worry this time, and I wanted to know if I’d dodged that bullet this time.) They said they didn’t want to do anything else till the placenta had arrived. By 40 minutes after the birth, they were giving me various tinctures and asking if I was feeling like pushing again. I still wasn’t.
By an hour after the birth, they were really getting antsy about it and wanted me to try to push a bit, which I did. Nothing happened for quite awhile. I had a few crampy contractions which I tried to work with, though I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. Eventually I did manage to push it out … most of it. But there was this long trailing membrane that was still stuck inside. That had the midwives a little spooked – they were afraid it would break off and I would retain it. At this point my cervix seemed to be closing again and they were afraid it would get trapped. So they had me pushing hard, coughing, trying to squat, etc. That part was really miserable. I just didn’t have it in me to push, I couldn’t put the baby down because he was still attached to the cord, and my hips were so sore. Plus, the way the midwives were talking had me a bit freaked out (although I did understand clearly what was going on – John didn’t, so his only comfort was that I seemed to think they knew what they were doing). Finally, about two hours after the birth, the dang thing came all the way out.
(As an aside, because I can’t remember how much I told you about Marko’s birth, a similar thing happened then, though faster and more brutal. The instant Marko was born, I was injected with Pitocin and the doctor yanked the placenta out by the cord. She “massaged” my uterus into submission and got to stitching. But a little while into stitching me up, she told me she thought there was a bit of membrane left inside … so she unstitched me, manually cleaned out my uterus (I believe – she didn’t tell me exactly what she was doing, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it was … this carries a risk of infection, by the way, so it’s not exactly a good idea where avoidable) and stitched me back up. This time, through more patient management, we were able to handle things better, though it still wasn’t pleasant. One thing that can be said, though, is that this time I had WAY less bleeding afterward. I still wonder what would have happened if they’d waited just a little longer for that placenta, though.)
It was two a.m. and we were all exhausted. But we still had to cut the cord, do the newborn exam, and check for tearing. There was one small tear. Again, the midwives talked about it a lot before deciding what to do. This kept annoying me – they couldn’t seem to just make a decision and give me their recommendation, but instead kept sort of waffling. When I finally figured out that they both thought the tear should be stitched, I was like, “Well, get to it!” They did, but it took forever. Then there was the weighing and measuring (7 lbs. even, 20 inches long – a little bigger than Marko). Even though the birth was at 12:15, it was 3:30 before they left and we could go to bed. We were exhausted. But I was still pretty happy. I had a new baby, that baby was nursing like a champ, and I honestly felt I could do this a dozen more times, no problem.
Oh, and then Marko woke up at six the next morning. So we got the babysitter to come after all, just to let us sleep. And Marko was fabulous with her. I needn’t have worried!