Contains details of my birth experience - read on at your own risk.
If you have been following along, you read about how I was sick of waiting for Henry's birth, and how every day after the external version (turning around a breech baby) I thought I was in early labor, or was about to be shortly. That kind of expectation is mentally exhausting. So, in a way, I felt like I was in labor for a week before he was born. Another way of looking at it is that I was only in labor for four hours, and yet another way would be that I was only in labor for 19 minutes. I will explain.
On Saturday night, January 7, we went out to dinner with some good friends. I ate a lot of food, and I was having mild contractions about every 5-8 minutes. We went home, the contractions went away, and I got in the shower and cried. I was so tired of waiting, of being in that "at any minute" state of mind of anticipating the unknown and knowing that I was growing a bigger and bigger baby. I was also so sick of the discomforts of pregnancy, even though the sciatic pain and heartburn got much better after the version. Truly, I have appreciated having a non-pregnant body every single day since the birth. So, I took a really long shower, then I went into my room and started folding the laundry that was piled on my bed, when suddenly.... my water broke! I grabbed a towel, and stood there in a amazement for a minute. Joe walked in and I told him. I think he said "really?" and I laughed. I was so happy! This was a little after 10PM. I called my midwife and asked her to come over to listen to the baby even though I wasn't having any "real" contractions, and I had Joe make the other calls. I felt too distracted and scattered to really talk on the phone. In a way I had felt that was all week, which is one reason I feel like I was in labor all week - I was so inwardly focused and so not like my normal self for days and days. I braided the front part of my hair to keep it out of the way, as I remembered being annoyed by my hair falling in my face during my labor with Stella, then put on a maternity dress so I could have the top of my body covered while still sitting on a towel to absorb the occasionally gushing amniotic fluid. When my midwife arrived we listened to the heartbeat, then she gave me two options: either she could go home and I could try to go to sleep and call her when labor picked up, or she could lay down at our house while I took a walk with Joe to encourage stronger contractions. I chose the second option, of course!
It was a beautiful clear night with a nearly full moon, and we held hands and joked a little as we walked. We were less than a block away when I started getting stronger contractions. At first, I could still walk and talk through them, but within another block or two I had to stop walking and bend my knees and hips whenever one would come. We made it to the park in our neighborhood and I wanted to come back home. Contractions were coming every three minutes and I wanted to sit down. I labored on the ball for a while, and in the bathroom for a while, as Joe and my midwife worked on filling the tub. I had chosen to put it in the baby's room, where I had hung the banner of encouraging words that my friends and family made at my baby shower. Contractions were strongest on the toilet, and at one point my midwife told me to do three more there and then I could get into the tub. My doula had arrived in the meantime, and brought me a blanket and coconut water when I asked for it.
I got into the tub, and things become even more of a blur from this point on. My sense is that I was having contractions quite close together (still 3 min.) and they kept getting stronger. My friend Marie arrived at one point, in time to hold a bowl for me while I threw up, and my other midwife also arrived. I heard her voice but don't remember ever looking at her. I think I had my eyes closed most of the time. I had asked for my music and the started the iPod. The only song I clearly remember hearing is "I Want to Break Free" by Queen. I said "this song is for the baby" and made my support team laugh. My arms and hips were getting tired from the forward-leaning position I was in so I turned over and rested the back of my head on the side of the inflatable tub (these are awesome - I highly recommend them!). In this position, I wanted to squeeze my own hips. I felt like labor was getting really really hard at this point, and I started experimenting with groaning, grunting, and holding my breath during contractions instead of just breathing or moaning. I felt like I was going to be ready to start pushing soon. This was at about 2 AM. My midwife asked to check me, wondering if I really was close to pushing. I got to stay in the tub for this, but I was not happy with the news she had to report - 6 centimeters and the baby is high and posterior. This was such a disappointment as my sense was that I was more dilated than that and I felt like labor couldn't get any more intense than it was. I couldn't imagine hours and hours more of that strong and frequent contractions. If I had been having a hospital birth, this is the point at which I probably would have changed my plans and asked for an epidural. Instead, I used the tools I had, decided to change my position back around to leaning forward, and let my emotions out with more crying. I remember encouraging words from my doula, and then feeling like I needed to use the bathroom.
I waited until right at the end of one contraction, and got out of the tub and into the bathroom. I was in there alone, and had crazy strong contractions while sitting on the toilet. I was in a kind of inner world of only sensations, and it took me a little bit to realize that I was done using the toilet, but couldn't stop pushing and that I probably needed help. I called out something like "I need someone!" as I reached down and felt the baby's head against my perineum. Luckily my doula Laura was standing outside the door, while everyone else was in the living room discussing how I had a long haul ahead and was going to need lots of moral support, and she relayed the message. Everyone rushed in, and after a moment of uncertainty realized that yes, the baby was about to be born. I think I said that I couldn't stop pushing, and my midwife Sarah told me to open my eyes and to remember that I wanted a gentle birth. I somewhat came back to the world with these words, and was able to slow myself down and breathe. They had Joe sit on the edge of the tub, and he helped move me to leaning back onto him, kind of sitting on his lap. The baby crowned for maybe one minute, then was born at 2:19AM, at home, in my bathroom! My midwife caught him, and lifted him up to my arms. The placenta followed very quickly after. I knew he was a boy as soon as I saw his face, but checked to be sure. Joe, behind me, asked, and I tried to show him but he couldn't see over my shoulder. He says that when he asked there was a long silence which worried him, but everyone else was allowing me to be the one to announce it and I didn't realize that he couldn't see for himself. I had help walking into my bedroom - directly across the hall, luckily, and was tucked into bed for a few minutes of cuddling with my husband and new baby. Joe went and woke Stella up - I couldn't believe she had slept through everything - and brought her in to meet her brother. She was sleepy and seemed a bit confused, but was sweet. He took her back to bed after just a few minutes and she went right back to sleep.
Henry cried right away, and showed himself to have a very strong suck when he made his way up to nurse. We were amazed at his size, over nine pounds, and his thick black hair. He also surprised us all with the speedy entrance he made into the world. Within 19 minutes he went from being high up behind a 6 centimeter cervix, faced the wrong way, to being born.