February 6, 2010
Early in the morning of Saturday, February 6th, I woke to strong, somewhat painful contractions. Lying in bed, I quietly timed them for an hour. They were 7 to 10 minutes apart. I decided to get up and walk, but after another hour, I went back to bed. The contractions were still coming, but they were gaining neither strength nor frequency. I knew that rest would benefit me more than pacing and wondering.
When morning officially arrived, I wasn't having any regular contractions to speak of, but by mid-morning they had picked up again. After noting them for a few hours, I decided to call my midwife, Sonya. We had a home visit scheduled for that afternoon, but I wanted to give her a heads up that I thought I could possibly be in early labor. I was very cautious about even speaking that, because I didn't want it to be simply wishful thinking, and I was so hoping that this might be It. At 9 days past my estimated due date, I was very eager and ready to meet my little one.
Sonya arrived at 3:00 PM. After we finished my prenatal check-up, we talked about what the next step ought to be. Did I want Sonya to stay? Should she leave and I'd call her when I needed her to come back? Considering that it was a 40-minute drive and my contractions were twice the strength they'd been in the morning, I went with my instincts and said I'd prefer her to stay. I was still a little nervous about that, not fully believing that I was truly far enough along in labor. But she was happy to stay, and told me later that she was leaning that direction, too. Jeff called his parents, who live across the city, and were planning to come for the birth and watch our three boys.
Considering that I'd been awake for several hours during the night, Sonya suggested that I go lie down and try to rest. I am a terrible napper, but I agreed that resting my body would be a good thing, even if I didn't drift off to sleep. Once I got upstairs and into bed, things seemed to grow more intense relatively quickly. I was moving into active labor. Sonya came and sat with me, checking baby's heart rate with the Doppler every 20 minutes or so. We chatted easily between contractions, and during them I breathed deeply and tried to relax my entire body. I also began to moan, using low sounds to keep things loose and open.
Jeff's parents arrived to watch the boys, and just in time. I craved my husband's presence.
Eventually I asked Sonya to check my cervix, around 5:30 or 5:45 PM. She did, and said that she could feel the baby's head low, my bag of waters bulging, and a very soft cervix which was dilated to 5 or 6 cm. I felt so relieved by this news! This definitely wasn't just wishful thinking.
This was really happening.
At this point, my husband Jeff began to fill the bathtub. We were planning what would be our third homebirth, and fourth waterbirth. We had only been living in our new home for a month, but I'd been cherishing the sight of the master bathtub for weeks: the place where my little one would come into the world. My only concern was that always before Jeff had been in the tub with me, whereas this tub, while larger than average, probably wouldn't accommodate both of us. We decided I would try it anyway, though.
When the tub was ready, I got out of my bed. I could tell that the contractions were becoming much more intense now, and more frequent. The handful of contractions between getting out of bed and getting into the tub were agonizing. I was in that vulnerable place in labor where I didn't want to be left alone. If I sat on the toilet, I wanted my husband there. If I was going to be in the tub, I wanted my husband there. His presence lent me strength. I gave my face a quick scrub, braving a few more contractions. Jeff rubbed my back, and I leaned on him.
At last I sank into the warm water, around 6:30 PM. The air was scented with lavender, thanks to the candles I'd placed there soon after we'd moved in. I leaned back onto a bath pillow, a towel behind my head. When a contraction arrived, I focused on letting my arms float in the water, and on “floating” through the contraction. I also continued the low vocal tones, favoring “Ahhhhh” and “Ohhhhh” as my sounds of choice. I did miss being able to lean on my husband's body, but I was finding my own way in the tub this time.
Things got more intense. I could feel the power in the contractions, and it began to feel scary to me. But I reminded myself that this is how I always feel around the time of transition, and so, I kept on.
The boys were in and out of the bathroom. I've heard so many times that kids usually do fine attending a birth, so long as it's their choice to be there. Jeff and I were open to the boys being present, but my last two births had ended in the very early morning hours, and I was loathe to wake them up, considering that there was no way of knowing how long I'd be pushing. I had a feeling that this time the pushing stage would be fairly short, though. And we knew that they really wanted a chance to be there when the baby arrived.
Just as I began to feel pushy, my bag of waters broke. I waited through a few more contractions, because I wanted to be absolutely sure of the urge to push. Still, my body began pushing on its own, and the next time, I pushed too.
Now, I hate pushing. I mean, I really hate it. It is scary and painful for me. But I knew I wanted to meet this person who had been growing inside of me for 9 months. So what was there to do, but push? I had planned to move to my knees, leaning against the side of the tub – my preferred position during the last two births. But this time I decided to try it in my reclined position, instead. I knew that the water helps against the weight of gravity, and besides, I was comfortable. Or, as comfortable as I can be while in the middle of pushing!
I could feel the baby getting closer, so I gasped for the boys, who had gone into the other room. I'm glad they were able to be there, although I was a little self-conscious with them as an audience. Still, I knew they were well-prepared for the sounds and sights of labor and childbirth. I knew they wouldn't be afraid, no matter how much noise I made.
After about four or five pushes (and a lot of noise, including the often-repeated phrase “I hate pushing!”), I at last had my reward.
Elise Corrine was born at home, in the water, at 7:41 PM. She was pink and beautiful from the start, and although she didn't cry much, she did enough to reassure everyone that she was healthy. As Jeff and I sang her a lullaby, she was clear-eyed and alert as she surveyed her new world. We spent a long time in the tub, she and I. She nursed, while I stared at her in wonderment.
My baby. Here in my arms. It's always such miracle, the journey from womb to arms. My baby. A girl! Her skin feels like rose petals. She is so precious. A gift from God.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
- Psalm 139:14