Reading the words I wrote in part one (be sure to read that here and then come back for the conclusion….) of Sunday’s birth story, I am flooded with memories of the whole experience. Even though I mentioned time moved quickly once I was in the tub, I recognize now that I was in the tub for about three hours… putting me in there for the most intense 1/3 of my entire labor experience. So, let me back up and dissect it a little more.
Before I got in the birthing tub, one of the last things I did was attempt to use the bathroom. (I honestly cannot remember if I did this before or after all that time on the couch.) Laurie was coaching me this whole time, making sure I was switching positions regularly, getting enough fluids, eating and emptying my bladder. So, there I was, in the bathroom, having a contraction, and I asked “Am I in transition?” However, Laurie did not answer me so my immediate response to her silence was “Pfft. I guess that’s a no.” But in my head I was thinking “I am in transition and I KNOW IT.” However, when I asked, Laurie apparently turned to Tommy and my sister (both in the hall) and nodded profusely, sharing with them that, yes, I was indeed in transition. But she didn’t want me to know it.
Sidenote: Some people don’t know that transition is the time right before delivery, when you are dilating from 8cm to 10cm. It is the most intense time of labor, usually moving the fastest and considered the most painful. Often times one knows when they are in transition because they start to believe they really can’t go on much longer. (Along with a number of other symptoms such as nausea, shaking, etc.)
Sometime after the trip to the bathroom, I was helped into the birthing tub. It was lovely. As I mentioned, I was on my own for a while in the tub… but it was okay. I was handling each contraction and the water, in some magical way, lifted some of the intensity I was experiencing. I looked up shortly after getting in the water and my sister quietly said to me, “You are getting so close.” Oh those lovely words.
Now… let it be known she was about three hours premature with that statement. But it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.
During the transition into the tub (read: in the tub, trying to figure out which position was best), my water conveniently broke in the water. Then I settled in and activity started really picking up around the house. It was past 6:30 a.m., the sun was up, and there was work to be done.
When I was planning what I wanted for my birth experience, I struggled greatly with whom to invite. When you plan a home birth, there is no hospital guideline to use as an excuse to not invite people. During my research about labor and childbirth, I learned that it is possible to stall labor if a mother is emotionally uncomfortable… such as being in the presence of something or someone uncomfortable. (Example: tenant asleep in basement, while I am trying to silence myself during labor would be a bad combination.) With that in mind, I really had no idea if I should shoot for a goal of very little people, or just invite whomever I wanted to be there. It was a shot in the dark as I had never experienced childbirth before. During the last week or so before Sunday was due, Tommy and I decided on the following people: Tommy, Laurie (doula), my sister (to photograph), our midwife Leslie and her assistant, and our mothers. I am so glad all of those people were there because they all ended up having a role to play in helping get the baby out.
Like I said, activity started picking up. The amazing thing is that Laurie directed the entire production silently. I had no idea she was telling people to get pots of water boiling on the stove (to keep the tub water warm – we ran out of hot water in the house), to get ice cold wash cloths and lay them on my face/neck/head, to make me food, to put food in my mouth, etc., all while continuing to put pressure on my lower back as the contractions grew even more intense in the tub. I really thought she was just there, by my side, supporting me… and that was it.
After about an hour in the tub, I heard news that my midwife was on her way. Woohoo! Like I mentioned in part one, once Leslie got there, I was ready (mentally) to push. But my body wasn’t there yet.
During this time, Tommy got comfortable on the floor in front of me and he began encouraging me. He started putting cold wash cloths (that literally could not be cold enough – even though they were soaking in water with ice in it) on my face, neck and head. He was telling me how great I was doing, all while trying to put food in my mouth. At one point he asked me if I would like a grape. I said “No.” He said “Will you eat a grape?” I said “No.” Then Laurie chimed in and said “Tommy, it’s ‘here’s a grape.'” I honestly do not remember if I ate that grape or not.
After a little while, my body really began to push. Wow! It was intense. During the first few pushes I remember thinking, “Whomever said this was the best part, LIED.” I was still feeling the pain of contractions and now the intensity of pushing on top of them. But after a few big pushes, my body really got crazy into it and it was all I could do to BREATH through the contractions. It was pretty incredible. No longer feeling the sharp pain of the contractions in my back, I was just letting my body roll with the pushes. My body was just doing it on its own. So surreal.
Sometime during the pushing, Tommy told me to “open” and put a spoonful of honey in my mouth. At this point, I knew that I was getting close to delivery and I was wondering why everyone was so concerned about me having more energy. I said, “Is something wrong? Why do I have to keep eating?” Laurie quickly answered, “No, no. Nothing is wrong. We just want you to have energy!” Ooookay. I would still like to hear the reasoning behind that one.
I want to note a couple of conversations and things that went on, while I was in transition and pushing, but I am really foggy about the timeline. So I’m just going to wing it.
At one point, Tommy was putting cold wash cloths on my face and he said to me, “Liz, do you know what today is?” Oh, did I know the day? Seriously? It was the 20th… my sister’s birthday. Also her daughter, Shelby’s, birthday. It was the one day I did not want to deliver the baby. I responded quite grumpily, “The 20th.” He responded, “What else?” I answered with a question, “The birth day?” Question games are no fun when you are in labor. He finally said, “It’s Sunday.” Oooh. He was referencing a conversation we had earlier that week. We briefly discussed naming the baby Sunday if it was a girl and born on Sunday. I didn’t seriously consider the idea because I was hoping the baby would NOT be born on Sunday. But, here we were, and here was Tommy trying to have a name conversation between my contractions. I sort of shrugged and responded, “Oh, yeah.” But in my head I thought, “I am NOT naming my child Sunday.” Too funny.
Soon after Leslie arrived, she came to me and explained that she was unable to get a hold of her assistant. She asked me if I would rather have Laurie act as an assistant to her (taking her away from the doula duties) or have her invite someone I had not met. Tommy answered for me and said, “Laurie can do it.” I quickly chimed in and said, “No. I need Laurie to NOT leave me. Call someone else.” I giggle a little about that… I was VERY SURE I did not want Laurie to leave my side!
I also had a conversation with myself, silently, in the middle of pushing. I was trying to decide if it I would do this again… and I thought “nope.” Then I thought “but it means no more kids, ever.” And I decided “That’s okay. Never, ever again.” Having had that conversation and remembering how SURE I was of my decision scares me a little now… since I have already decided I will happily do it all over again. Oh, the healing power of time.
Pushing lasted a while… about an hour at least. I knew with every push we were getting closer to the end. I could feel the baby moving down and out and that was incredibly encouraging. With every push I had at least one pair of hands on my lower back, if not two or three. Everyone worked together to help provide me with the most comfort. I had an amazing team and I was so grateful to have everyone there. Even my sister put the camera down for a little bit to give Laurie a break from leaning over the side of the tub to comfort me. My mom was in charge of the boiling pots of water and pouring them into the tub, Tommy was using cold compresses on my upper body, and his mom was bringing him the bowl of ice water to soak the washcloths in. Leslie was observing my behavior, checking my heart rate and keeping an eye on the baby. It was truly a team effort. (Yes, I’m needy. I’m okay with that.)
Sometime close to the end, Laurie asked me to stand up for one contraction. I told her, “Nope.” She really start laying the pressure on thick, though, and even got Tommy in on the encouraging. She knew if I could stand up, gravity would be on my side and the baby would move down faster, even if it were for just one contraction. I delayed the standing as long as I could and finally Tommy helped pick me up out of the water and I endured one contraction. As soon as it ended, I put myself right back down in the water. I am pretty sure I cried during that experience. Actually, I know I did because the proof is in the photos.
Something that surprised me about delivery is that the “ring of fire” came early and stayed a while. For some reason, I always thought it would be this one millisecond of horrid pain as the baby was delivered, but no. Throughout the entire pushing process it pretty much burned. However, that was still was not nearly as painful as the previous contractions had been. At one point, Leslie told me that they could see the baby’s head and I could reach down and touch it if I wanted. I didn’t. Not right away. I waited a few contractions and, after a while, I reached down to see how much further I’d have to go. And let me tell you, THAT was discouraging. Let me just say I still had quite a ways to go. Booo.
However, while that moment was discouraging, it also really encouraged me to get going with the pushing. Not that I could really push any more intensely – since my body was just doing that on its own – but I wasn’t afraid of the pain anymore. I just sort of decided to let go and get the baby out. I breathed through the pushes and prayed for relief soon. Tommy kissed me and continued to encourage me.
Before I knew it I heard, “The head is out!” I honestly had the thought, “Did I hear her correctly?” Luckily, Leslie repeated herself. “Okay, Liz, the head is out now.” I had a minute or so between the contractions that separated the delivery of the head and the delivery of the body. I remember taking my time, relaxing, and enjoying the break between the two contractions. Then the final contraction came, my body pushed, and out came Sunday!!
Oh! And here’s a BABY!
After a few seconds, everyone was asking what the sex was. We kind of forgot to look! I lifted the baby’s leg for Tommy to look and he said, “I can’t tell!” I knew immediately that meant girl. I think it was Leslie that announced, “It’s a girl!” (I could be wrong, though, things are a little foggy here.) We sat for a little while, pouring water over the baby to keep her warm and enjoying the moment. After a while, Tommy cut the umbilical cord and I passed the baby to him. He wrapped her in a towel and had some one-on-one time with her. In the meantime, I was helped out of the tub and into the shower. Once I was fresh and clean, I crawled into my own bed with my baby and my husband. And it was blissful.
After everything settled down and we were resting in the bed, my sister came to my side and let me know she was going to head home. I said, “Wait! She hasn’t weighed her or measured her or anything yet!” I love that about working with midwives. We had two solid hours of bonding time with Sunday before she was taken for any poking or prodding. At that time, Leslie took Sunday and weighed her, looked her over, measured her and did her little prints for our records… and then people started leaving one by one. After a while, it was just me, Tommy and Sunday. And we fell blissfully asleep.
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Liz Cook is a wedding & birth photographer by day, blogger by night. She also wears the hats of wife, mama and friend, so she is always striving for balance. She lives by the motto “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Follow along as she captures love with her lens and celebrates life with her words at www.SincerelyLizInc.com.