Trigger warning: If you've had awful, long, traumatic births, you might hate me after reading this. And if you have never had a baby, do not choose to have one on the basis of this birth story! They are mostly not like this!
The week before Jackie's due date was emotionally draining. Every day I'd wake up thinking "maybe today!" and every night was a letdown of "guess not." Did not make it better that I had painful contractions sporadically throughout the day, and quite a few every evening. Those were one of the reasons I quit dreading labor and started wanting it to happen so it could be over -- if I was going to be in pain anyway, I wanted it to just get worse so it could get over.
Passing Tuesday was a particular letdown; four days early was when Miriam came and I had had in my head that Jackie would be born sometime between my earliest (Michael, two weeks early) and latest. I started asking myself, "What if I go PAST my due date?" And, "What if this labor is nothing like my previous labors, but long and complicated?" I worried about having to be induced. I worried about having a c-section. I googled "what percentage of women go into labor by 40 weeks?" Every day I worried about letting John go to work for fear I'd go into labor while he was gone.
At the same time, I felt bad that I was wishing away the time. I don't believe in wishing away a moment of my life, but at the same time, some moments are no fun! I tried to live the last few days with focus, working on projects and paying attention to my kids, and I mostly was able to do that despite my frustration.
Thursday night, we went to bed feeling, yet again, frustrated it hadn't happened. Friday would be my due date, and so I had a vague hope it would happen, but no particular reason to think it would -- nothing that could be taken as a clear labor sign.
But at about 2:45 am, while I was lying down with Miriam, nursing her back to sleep, I had a strong contraction. This didn't alarm me, because nursing her often gave me contractions, even quite painful ones. I had a second very shortly after, which surprised me a bit, but I figured it was very likely nothing. I visited the bathroom on the way back to bed, and had a third contraction before I left, and that was the point at which I thought, "Gosh, three really strong ones in under ten minutes, could this be it?"
I got back in bed and tried to sleep, knowing that the real difference between real labor and false is that false labor goes away if you rest, and the real thing never does. And for ten minutes I felt nothing, so I started to figure it wasn't happening after all, and began to drift off. But then they started up again -- 5-8 minutes apart, not entirely regular, but definitely painful enough that I was starting to want to get out of bed. (The other big difference between real and false labor being that false labor makes me want to be still, and real labor makes me not able to be still.) I stayed put for a little longer, figuring I'd let John catch just a bit more sleep, but at 3:30 I woke him up.
He instantly got wide awake and we got the room ready for the birth. Then, worried we'd wake the kids, we went down to the family room. I planned to spend early labor down there but go up in time to actuallly give birth in my own room. We called up the midwife and she said she'd hurry over. For about half an hour I paced around, leaning on the back of the couch when I had a contraction. They weren't all that bad -- I mean, they hurt, but with five minutes between them, it was no trouble coping. In between them I knitted or chatted with John -- basically just keeping my mind in the present so I didn't freak out about the next contraction or how things would get worse. I definitely had some adrenaline rushing around -- my heart was pounding and my hands shook a bit -- but I was able to read this as excitement and keep fear at bay. This is a huge improvement over the last two labors, which I mostly spent panicking.
The midwife made it over in record time -- afraid she'd miss the whole thing if she delayed. She got there a few minutes after four o'clock and was relieved to see I was doing just fine -- pacing around, having contractions, but quiet and calm during them. They were certainly picking up speed though -- I remember commenting that I had been expecting a five-minute break and was put out to get only three. John rubbed my back during the contractions, which helped a little. The main thing that helped was to keep swaying and moving.
The midwife (she told me later) texted her two assistants soon after she arrived that I was in labor. They texted back, "Let us know when you want us to come!" She texted, "GET IN THE CAR NOW." After last time's quick labor, she wasn't taking any chances!
It was about 4:45 when they arrived. They took a look at me and said something like, "Guess we didn't need to rush after all." But the midwife said appearances were deceiving and we'd better head upstairs. I agreed -- though I was still externally quite calm, the contractions were pretty intense and close together. I wanted to get up to my room while I was still getting long enough breaks to climb the stairs!
Immediately on getting to the bedroom I had another big contraction. Everyone was bustling around unpacking the birth kit, but I had my hands locked onto the side of the crib trying to cope with the pain, which was definitely getting bad by now. John looked at the clock, which read a few minutes to five, and said "we're not making it to six." I said, "You don't know that," not because I really disagreed but because I felt it would be really discouraging to have a deadline in my head and then possibly not meet it. When the contraction was over, I wanted to go to the bathroom one last time (because I knew we were getting close) but before I could take two steps toward the bathroom, another big one hit. In this one, I started making noise, leaning on John and whimpering because it was getting BAD. But I still managed to keep from getting discouraged. I wasn't thinking it was close to the end or anything like that, I just was keeping my mind in the present ... something I've had lots of practice with in the past nine months! I remembered at some point to focus on my breathing and while that didn't exactly help, it did seem to make the contraction pass faster.
Again, no more than a few seconds passed before the next one, and I commented that I was feeling that running-away feeling -- the feeling like there was something I was supposed to be doing to escape from the pain, but there isn't anything. There was intense pressure building up and I wanted to find a position to escape from it, but this time I remembered what this feeling meant -- "you're going to have to push soon." I wanted to try a little pushing, but I never had gotten a chance to use the bathroom and was afraid I'd pee myself. (I'd whipped my pants off when I went upstairs, because the waistband felt too tight (BIG CLUE that I was starting to feel pressure).) But during that contraction, the pressure was just crazy and I thought, "To heck with it, I'm going to just give it a little try." Gave a little push and there was a massive SPLOOOSH! My water broke, all over the floor and John's socks.
Everyone started pushing me to get on the bed. I didn't want to because I wanted to wait for the end of the contraction, but they were all very insistent so, still pushing (because I couldn't stop at this point) I climbed onto the bed. And while I was doing this I felt .... the baby crowning. I was staggered, because I mean, really, but I didn't really have time to think about it because she was COMING OUT! I just kept pushing and she came shooting out. The midwife passed her between my legs and laid her on the bed (I guess I was on all fours? or kneeling?). I just kind of stared at first ... like, wait, what? Then I tried to pick her up and couldn't because she was totally coated in vernix and really slick. The midwife said she hadn't checked if it was a boy or girl, so I managed to roll her over, and -- she was a girl! It was 5:04 -- we'd been upstairs for probably ten minutes.
She was also making a noise like an air-raid siren, which is new to me. My babies have all made a noise to let us know they were breathing, but they didn't SHRIEK. And I worried of course that someone was going to wake up with all that racket. Everyone helped me turn over and recline on the bed. I wanted to nurse her, but the cord was too short and we weren't cutting it yet, so I just held her on my belly and listened to her howl like a banshee. It was kind of stressful but I still felt relieved and happy. I was just staggered with how easy the whole thing had been -- barely more than two hours, and really only the last ten minutes had been all that bad. I felt like laughing at myself for having dreaded labor so much when that was all it was. And, of course, so relieved not to be pregnant anymore.
The placenta came out without trouble, and I was able to nurse Jackie for the first time. The midwife checked me out and found that, for the first time, I didn't need stitches (though I had a tiny superficial tear). I had been so sure I must have torn terribly with her coming out so fast, but apparently not! Even though, as we found out a few minutes later, she was my biggest baby by half a pound.
And ... that was it! Around 5:30 Michael woke up, and after giving him some breakfast, John let him come say hello to Jackie. Marko woke up a bit later and John just let him eat and go play, because springing a new baby he didn't want on him first thing in the morning seemed kind of harsh -- though he did come in about an hour later (to see ME, not the baby, he made sure to mention). Miriam woke up unusually late at almost eight o'clock, and she was SO HAPPY OH MY GOSH. Climbed all over the bed in a tizzy demanding to see "her friend Jackie." It was super cute but eventually John had to peel her off me and get her to eat breakfast and go play.
And how have things gone subsequently? Well, we'll see if I ever have time to post about it. Your biggest clue is that it took me a whole week to get the time to write this story. Let's just say, Jackie hasn't been super easy so far. It's mostly that she's had some issues with latching, exacerbated by my massive oversupply, but her tendency to let out the air-raid siren every time she's mildly discontented is another part of it. However, I'm tentatively hopeful that the worst is behind us, because my milk supply is regulating and she is latching on much more reliably. She is even DOWN right now. She has been napping ON HER OWN for over an hour! Considering John went back to work today, it's not a moment too soon.
My apologies for having a "propaganda birth" -- the kind you'd show childless women to convince them that labor is not so bad, they can totally do it drug free. Remember that I claim zero credit for this -- it's not like I'm "good at labor." Labor, this time, was good to me. I kinda feel like the universe owed me ONE stroke of good luck, considering. I'll take it and be thankful, because hey -- you can't look a gift universe in the mouth.