Levi Aaron will be one week tomorrow. (Yes, we finally named him. Took some thinking. I was gratified to find, after we named him, that we chose the most popular name on the baby name poll.) One week ago right now I was starting labor and I wasn’t very happy about it.
I actually started having contractions on Sunday night. After a week of “peace and safety” (read: absolutely nothing, not a twinge, not a cramp), things started up again. And this time they were cramping in the front AND along the back. And to make them a little more believable, I had lost part of my mucus plug that morning…and my other two were born the same day as losing the mucus plug.
So I bustled around and fed the girls dinner and put them to bed and started making phone calls, to let the various people know that there might be a possibility of labor in the near future. Karen (my midwife) decided to forgo the last night of camping with her family in San Diego and headed up towards home, only 45 minutes away instead of 2 hours. My mom assured me that her day was clear. And Devo came home after the church meeting.
And the contractions just moseyed along. For another 24 hours. At either 5 minutes apart or 10 minutes apart. I thought, “At this rate, the baby will ooze out by next July.”
And then I thought, “Maybe this baby likes privacy. Maybe I shouldn’t have called anybody.” Hahaha.
So I slept, fairly fitfully, and took a nap, and went to the library and mailed boxes and went to yoga. And, oh, yoga was great. After a day of back cramps, the slow deep stretch class was just what I needed. Things slowed down, I think I only had three contractions in the hour and a half. By the end of class, my spirits were dropping and all I wanted was to go home and crawl into bed and sleep.
Devo went off to tennis and I put the girls in bed. And that’s when it decided to start. Of course the girls didn’t go to sleep easily. And I was grumpy already. And now trying to manage them with these annoying contractions threatened to send me over the edge. So I abandoned my children to their mischief (which I could hear plainly) and crawled into the bathtub.
I’m so glad I didn’t know I was going to be in labor for seven more hours. I had really been banking on two hours. Ha. Maybe next time.
By the time Devo got home, my mental state was tremulous indeed. I squeezed out a few tears of self-pity. And then I lay back in the bathtub and worked at pulling myself together.
Devo put the girls to bed, got me a heater and my swimsuit top and my toothbrush and the ipod with my relaxation and affirmation tracks, started filling the tub, setting out supplies, calling everyone. Assuring Karen that I “looked pretty serious”.
My bath water got cold, so I transferred to the filling tub in the living room. Lia woke up and came to watch. Marni arrived. Karen arrived. Devo climbed in the tub with me. And I labored.
It was a very relaxed labor. I would have a contraction and then, nothing, for quite some time. I imagine the gap were like 5 to 7 minutes between contractions, but what do I know? Time is blessedly distorted in labor. It would give me time to relax or to pull myself back together again. Or to ask Lia for water or a towel (she was so sweet and helpful).
Amelie woke up and Devo got out of the water to go get her out of bed. Amelie is in almost every picture that was taken during labor. She played right around the tub, holding my hands, giving me kisses (“I love you, Mommy”), dabbling in the water, chatting away. Amazing the empathy she has at just barely two.
Lia spent her time (that I saw) with Marni, reading and snuggling. She would come to help me any time I asked. People are so shocked at the idea of letting your children be with you during labor and birth, but I really don’t know why. It is such a beautiful experience.
Now, about hypnobirthing. There is one visualization exercise that involves turning a dial on your “sensory panel” from ON (which is where it normally is) to OFF. The idea is, letting endorphins work their magic and only experiencing comfort and relaxation.
It didn’t work for me.
I don’t know if I didn’t practice enough, didn’t have enough “faith”, or what.
But I do totally believe that eliminating fear eliminates tension, which in turn greatly reduces pain.
I also really liked the birth affirmations, which I had recorded myself (didn’t want to pay the additional $18) adding certain psalms and Bible verses in between. Having them run continuously gave me something to ground myself with in between contractions. I’d catch a blip here and a blip there. The background music was my favorite “monk chant” that I got from my yoga teacher.
The Slow Breathing advocated by hypnobirthing was great. Bradley also espouses ‘abdominal breathing’, but I like the hypnobirthing variation better. Inhale for a fast count of 20 (or a slower count of 10), exhale for the same. And, this is what made all the difference for me, pushing the stomach out out out while inhaling. This extending of the stomach helped keep me focused and changed how I felt the contractions.
I found that if I could stayed calm and focused through two to three breaths, the main part of the contraction would be over and I’d be homefree. In a manner of speaking. In almost all the pictures, I look so relaxed, it’s almost funny. My whole face is so slack, I laugh when I look at the pictures.
With Lia’s labor, also long and slow (9 hours), there was always an underlying current of pain. The only moment of ease I experienced in her labor was when I threw up. It was my favorite part of the whole experience. Haha.
With Amelie’s labor (short, fast, and wild…2 hours), I had breaks in between the contractions, but the contractions themselves were so strong and overwhelming that the breaks were merely moments to try to recover my shattered self.
But this time I’d have a contraction, a manageable one, and then a long break. It was rather…glorious…comparatively speaking.
Devo spent most of the time in the pool with me. I’m surprised his arms weren’t sore…he pushed on my sacrum most of the time. Towards the end Karen showed him how to squeeze my hips together. The only problem was that when I’d try to tell him a contraction was starting and to push harder, he couldn’t hear my murmuring over the ipod. I remember once just yelling out, PUSH! and then wondering if they were laughing at my imperious, demanding tone. (He says they weren’t). In between we’d just lay together, or I’d relax back on to him.
Sometime around 11, I asked Karen to check me. I had decided that if I was at 4 cm, I’d need to brace myself for a long labor. But surprise, surprise, I was 7-8 cm! That was the best news. I could feel myself grinning like a chessy cat, all proud and happy. I perked up so much I thought I should tone it down.
I also thought that if I just willed it, I could dilate completely in a timely fashion. So I concentrated on relaxing during contractions, and thinking “open, open, open”, and opening my mouth (a clenched jaw can inhibit dilation).
But to no avail, things just kept la-di-dah-ing.
Finally, finally, probably about 1am, Karen said I was complete. I was starting to get uncomfortable AND impatient. I had read so much about feeling the baby starting to move down and the mom moving quietly and seamlessly from Slow Breathing to Birth Breathing. I was looking forward to that, the end stage.
Yeah, well. Spent some time on the toilet, which to my surprise felt (comparatively) good. With Lia’s labor, I had begged to pee in the shower, because sitting on the toilet made it so intense. Tried the birth breathing. Tried some pushing. He wouldn’t budge.
There was a lovely, bulging sac preventing everything from moving.
Finally I decided to ask Karen to break it. She suggested that I first try to pop it with my fingernail during a contraction. No such luck, it was like thick plastic.
I think it took her like 7 or 8 tries with the amniohook to pop that sac. It was a thick sucker.
By this time I’d had enough. I was ready to be done. Forget birth breathing, I was going to push. Back to the pool.
Now that the bag of waters was out of the way, pushing gave me results. I think I pushed for 12 minutes (according to the video) after rupturing the membranes.
I was like a pushing machine. I remember as he was crowning and it was stretching and burning thinking, “I was right, this isn’t the worst part”. I was so proud of myself, I pushed and stopped and pushed and stopped and eased his head out. (I DIDN’T TEAR!!!! WOOHOO!!! …that’s a first). I reached down to feel his face and had Devo (who was sitting behind me supporting me) feel his head, too. Devo hadn’t felt the baby’s head with either of the girls, and I was eager for him to get to this time. It is, after all, the best part…such an amazing moment when things are neither here nor there, suspended in space. I asked Lia if she wanted to feel, but she didn’t. I don’t know that she could have reached, anyhow.
And then, I don’t remember this from the other two, but I actually felt his head turn to align with his body.
I heard Karen asking if I wanted to catch the baby, but I didn’t respond. She gave him a little support while I pushed out his shoulders and his body, and I heard her ask Marni to take a picture of him under the water before I lifted him out. Karen said that while he was still underwater, his eyes were open and he was moving his arms and legs.
1:58am. April 21, 2009.
And then I lifted him up and out. On the video I heard a shriek, a holler. It was me yelling, “I did it! I DID IT!” I don’t remember that at all, but I wasn’t surprised. My little self-pep talks through the whole labor consisted of, “You can do this. Leilani, you can do it.”
And Amelie said, “Baby Brudder born! Put him in the carseat!”
And Mom said that Lia’s eyes were wide, wide, wide. Not quite scared, she said, just wide.
And then he didn’t breathe. And we rubbed him and he didn’t breathe. And we rubbed more vigorously and he didn’t breathe. Karen felt the cord and decided to cut so that she could work on him. So I stood up so that she could get at the cord (my cords are always embarrassingly skinny and short), and the shock of the air must have done the trick, because he started breathing and managed some cries.
And we were all happy.
Lia cut the cord. She wanted to wear a blue plastic glove like Auntie Karen.
And then I lay back on Devo and we all admired our perfect new baby. He looks remarkably like Lia. Dark skin, dark hair, very similar features. I had thought he was going to be dark.
It took forever to deliver the placenta. Like 45 minutes or something. I finally had to get out of the tub and nurse to help things along.
The baby had some moisture in his lungs, so he was patted and got it all drained out. A nurse named Beth came along to assist Karen, and she took good care of our little baby.
I voted he was 7 pounds, 4 oz. Somebody else thought maybe 7, 6.
He was 8 pounds, even. 21 inches long.
Long, long fingers. Dark hair. Beautiful little body. Toes that can spread wide wide wide (good for yoga!). Lots and lots of vernix. Lots of downy, soft hair on his shoulders and back.
I took a shower…not quite the soothing glad experience I had so fondly remembered…the water never got very hot.
I had orange juice. And cheesecake. And, boy, was that cheesecake good.
I noticed that I was the only one to finish my piece. I guess cheesecake doesn’t sound quite as good to normal people at 4am.
Devo put the girls to bed, I’m not sure what time. But it was so amazing how they were awake virtually all night, and as happy and cheerful and contented as can be.
The baby was so peaceful, so contented, so quiet. The next day he cried, and Devo came in from the other room to see what he looks like when he cries…he’s such a quiet little guy.
We crawled into bed about 6/6:30.
The girls woke up around 8:30, and we were off on Day 1. My loving husband made me a delicious breakfast and we spent the day admiring our perfect new son.
I felt so good on Tuesday that I was asking Karen when I could go back to yoga and admiring my new, svelte self in the mirror (I love the deflated belly look…at least, I love it for the first week or two). I was bustling about (okay, not really bustling, but compared to my energy level after previous births, I was bustling) taking care of myself and the baby while Devo did absolutely everything else. Not tearing and not being exhausted from the labor made all the difference.
I’m going to try to jot down the different things from this last week that I wanted to record. Hopefully I can remember them. But now that I have the birth story out of the way, I feel I can jump forward to NOW without guilt. 🙂