This is part 13 of our Birth & Parenting Series.
Part 1 (Thoughts From a Mother of Four) is here, part 2 (Mother of Seven Shares Her Empowering Birth Stories) is here, part 3 (First-Time Mother of Twins) is here, part 4 (How First-Time Parents Braved a Placental Abruption) is here, part 5 (Childbirth Collective Doula Film Premiere) is here, part 6 (First-Time Mama Bravely Faces Transverse Baby & C-Section) is here, part 7 (Homeschooling Mama Shares Her Path to Schooling) is here, part 8 (First-Time Papa’s Perspective on Birth Center Birth) is here, part 9 (Mama’s First-Time Birth and Faith in Women’s Bodies) is here, part 10 (Unmedicated Birth for First-Time Parents) is here, part 11 (Followup on Little V’s Traumatic Birth) is here, and part 12 (Beautiful Little Girl Passes Away After Long Battle) is here.
Our daughter and I share a birthday. She is the best birthday present I could ever have asked for. I’ve been complaining about being ready to give birth (despite not having hit my “due” date) for a while now. See “False” Labor post here, see Prepared for Baby No. 2 here. She arrived at 39 weeks and 1 day, and not a moment too soon for me. We were dying to meet her!
SuperBoy had a rough night on Monday night and was awake around midnight crying. Rather than keep to my new tough mama status of soothing him for a few minutes, but refusing to haul him out of his crib and into the floor bed we keep in the room, I relented because I figured it wouldn’t be that many more nights that I could snuggle with him. So snuggle we did! Until about 4:30am when I realized my water was breaking.
I rushed back into our room and woke AA, and was elated that my water had broken. SuperBoy stayed asleep and we began to prepare to have our daughter! My water had also broken with SuperBoy’s birth and he was born 8 hours later. See his birth story here.
When I called the nurse midwives to let them know things were on the move, they told me I was Group Strep B positive, something I didn’t know because I had accidentally missed my midwife appointment the Friday before. What can I say?
This meant that I needed to be on penicillin if I still wanted a water birth, and that they’d like to have at least two doses in me, four hours apart, before birth to protect our daughter from contracting it. Sigh. Not how I’d envisioned early labor (at home, with our doula, relaxing). By 8am we finished breakfast with SuperBoy, hauled our bags out to the car, and were down at St. Joe’s in just a few minutes while my mom and SuperBoy waved to us from the kitchen window.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. NOTHING happened insofar as labor. I mean, occasional contractions, but nothing progressed. I was dumbfounded. Our birth plan included laboring at home, then rushing to the hospital in time to fill the birth tub. Everyone had agreed: labor would go fast the second time around. We were not prepared to make decisions about augmentation or pitocin or cervadil or anything of that nature. But I get ahead of myself. Here’s how the day looked:
AA took a nap in the family lounge for a few hours. My doula and I (same doula as with SuperBoy, Emily Rumsey–she’s not taking new clients, but WOW is she the best–she does gorgeous photography as well) strode the hallways. Indeed, the nurses commented on our “sprints” up and down. We were just really motivated by our conversation and desire to kickstart labor, I guess! We also tried three rounds with the hospital grade breast pump as nipple stimulation can work (oxytocin!) to get things moving. Aside from some colostrum, nothing happened.
St. Joe’s has telemetry monitoring, meaning I could be anywhere in any position though I had two monitors on my belly (her & me) and an IV in my arm. I could still birth in the water! At least that part of our plan appeared to be working. Thank goodness.
The midwife on duty and her midwife student who was shadowing her were wonderful. They gave me the options for augmenting labor, but helped me try all the natural ways to jumpstart things first. We laughed hard, and came up with some hilarious birth jokes and bumper stickers (“It’s Not Labor Until There’s a Little Vomit,” etc). We worked hard at it until it was almost 4pm, nearly 12 hours since my water had broken.
Considering that the closer we got to the 12 hour mark, the greater the concern for baby’s GSB health became, I was despairing that my body hadn’t kicked in yet. Given more time, most likely it would have. But weighing danger of infection for her against my desire to avoid any interventions, of course her health won out. Also, I had had four rounds of penicillin at this point and was not glad to have so much antibiotic exposure, another possible issue with regard to long-term need for penicillin. I cried a little and mourned the loss of my perfect intervention free labor I’d envisioned, then moved on and had the pitocin added to my penicillin IV. Nota bene: you may have to adapt to the situation at hand, and not adhere strictly to what you wanted to experience. It’s really my daughter’s birth and not mine, though the terminology is always “how do you want your birth to go?”
We spent about 4 hours in the room on of the second-lowest dosage of pitocin. It felt very similar to how my first labor felt, wherein contractions started slowly and gently, and I could simply breathe through them with the coaching of my husband. Then as things picked up, I needed the counterpressure on my lower back that Emily provided. Emily reminded me to keep my moans low in pitch and focused on a sense of downwardness. Unmedicated labor is all about relaxing and getting out of the way of your uterus as it contracts and breath is integral to that process. I’ll write more later on why anyone in their right mind would choose unmedicated labor. :)
My breathing became more forcibly relaxed and I felt myself removed from time and space. It’s as close to zen as I’ll ever be. I repeated to myself, I am above the pain, I am through the pain, I embrace the pain, and offered up the pain for different people in my life. My beloved family members, my beloved dead friends, my husband, our son, the godparents of our daughter, the poor souls in Purgatory, any suffering friends, etc. Lots of contractions! Lots of people to offer it up for.
By 8pm, I was ready to move to the tub room. I walked down the hall with my wheely-dealy IV & telemetry kit, leaning on AA through contractions along the way. The wonderful midwife we’d had during the day had switched with our own midwife who’d arranged things such that she could be here for our birth. What a wonderful woman! We had the midwife student with us all day as well and she was knowledgeable and sweet. Our nurses were fabulous. Our doula, a lifesaver. And my husband, the best support of all.
The water felt so refreshing and I could squat, lean over the side, lean back against AA who was sporting his swim trunks and sitting behind me. Emily pulled out the essential oils and a cold water basin to massage my temple, and our daughter’s birth mix I’d made sang out in the dimly lit room. It was all very earthy until the acappella version of “She Moves in Mysterious Ways” came on. I had meant to have the U2 version, not the college group from Connecticut singing it. About 1 minute in I had to ask to have it changed. I may have even burst out “I didn’t want this song!!” or “Who put this on my birth mix?” much to the amusement of the whole room.
AA kept me upright in the tub by sitting behind me and holding me with his hands. I don’t know how he did that for such a long period of time. He’s my hero. Emily would hold my forehead as I leaned into her hands during contractions, or apply pressure points on my face with essential oils and cold water. The two of them kept me going through the whole first hour of the tub.
After an hour in the tub (they should really remove the clock from right above the tub), I felt very anxious. When was she coming??? And when would I have to push? And how would I know it was time to push? I voiced these and other concerns to my birthing team, all of whom comforted me with reassurances that she would eventually come, I would know when it was time to push, and the pushing wouldn’t be for that long a period of time. Having already experienced the tremendous pain of unmedicated pushing with our son, I was not eager to face that part of labor again. In fact, I was terrified of that pain which is so different, for me at least, than the mere pain of contractions.
My midwife checked my progress internally and when she said I wasn’t completely ready to push, I felt this pang of desperation. I could not keep going.
Time stood still when I experienced three contractions on top of one another, with a brief break, and then another three. I felt like I was completely reeling out of control and into a vortex of unknown pain. I think I actually said that I was out of my body and that I couldn’t keep going. I felt as though I were in that mental state for about 15 minutes. According to my doula and my husband, it was more like 45 seconds. Emily made eye contact with me and told me that I had to stay with them, stay with it, and that it was going to be okay. Only through sheer trust of her and nothing else did I somehow calm down to a point of being able to ask my midwife to tell me what to do. This is why you need a doula.
I was ready to push at that point and push I did. Like my life depended on it. Or like my daughter’s did. It was the longest 12 minutes of my life, although it was probably only 8 contractions or so. My midwife coached me through panting breathing at the beginning of the contractions, and then pushing at the apex to maximize my pushing efforts in conjunction with what my body was already doing. I’m sure my language was less than Sunday proper as I pushed. There is nothing like pushing. Enough said.
She came out in a series of two pushes, which was amazing because in between I could look down and see her in the water, peaceful, waiting to be held. When she was out and into the water, I was able to slowly take hold of her under her armpits and draw her towards me. She rested on my belly as the three of us collapsed and just breathed after such a magnificent ordeal. The staff covered her with towels and I just felt amazed and in awe of how perfect her little purplish blue body was, covered in the frosting of vernix.
As I left the tub to deliver the placenta, I looked back to see AA with her on his chest, singing the Regina Caeli softly. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed.
The effect of the hormonal rush added to the temperature change from inside the tub to outside meant I was shaking considerably on the hospital bed as they wrapped me with warm towels. I asked Emily if I was having a seizure! She responded sweetly that this was normal, and that it was just hormonal. My next question was whether or not she thought Cossetta’s was still open for a pizza delivery. I’m sure the staff were shocked by that, but this is a tradition from SuperBoy’s birth–and we had been talking about pepperoni pizza all day long!!
We were back in the room before I knew it, SweetPea on my chest, AA at my side, eating Pizza Luce as Cossettas was indeed closed. My family came down right away to meet her and we all ate pepperoni pizza, talked about water birth, and admired our sticky frosted new addition to the family. SweetPea, we love you! Happy birthday, darling!