Thursday, February 5, 2015

Etta's Birth Story

In the early morning hours of January 25, I was awoken by an intense sensation. At first I thought it was the urgent sensation to empty my bladder (a frequent sensation at 42 weeks pregnant!), but it soon became obvious - this was a contraction. A real contraction! Finally, finally our baby was going to arrive! I lay in bed as long as I could, and when I realized these contractions were coming with regularity, I decided to get up and time them. I grabbed a high protein snack and filled my water bottle, then sat down on my birth ball with knitting in hand.

I bounced and swayed on the birth ball for over an hour, timing fairly attention-getting contractions between five and six minutes apart. I knew I would need some sleep if this was the real deal, so I trudged back upstairs and climbed in bed, and caught brief bursts of sleep for the rest of the morning - until sunrise around 7 AM. Even through sleep, I was clocking contractions at ten to twelve minutes, so surely this was labor. And these contractions weren't mild, either.

Eamon woke around sunrise, and helped me through a few contractions while we relaxed in bed. I woke Chris, and told him I didn't need him to get up, just wanted to tell him what was going on. I started alerting the rest of my birth team - midwife, doula, etc. As I did so, the contractions started spreading out - coming every fifteen minutes, then every twenty. Around 9:30, E and I headed to the park for a brisk walk so I could keep up the progress.

After the walk, the contractions were still coming about every ten to fifteen minutes. I did more circles and bouncing on the birth ball, I tried to stay busy, I tried not to get too excited.

But happy I was - my last labor never really got started on its own, and we ended up using a stretch and sweep procedure and castor oil to get the ball rolling at 42w+6d. This was so good - my body was starting on its own this time, and my wait was nearly over! I'd been waiting for 42 weeks to meet this baby, and boy was I ready.

By early afternoon, the contractions had really spread out, coming one or two an hour. I asked my sister to bring her kids over, because E was having a really tough day full of cabin fever. Having three children underfoot didn't do anything good for a healthy labor pattern, which I knew, but getting E over the hump of the mid-afternoon grumpies was more important to me.

Our midwife visited at 7 PM, at which point I was having maybe a contraction an hour. I was feeling frustrated and discouraged, but she gave me a pep talk about how things would likely pick up after E went to bed. She offered a cervical check, and found that I was over three centimeters dilated, so at least I was making progress. She decided to go home, with the understanding that we would likely call her in the middle of the night.

I put E to bed around 8:30, and laid down myself, expecting to wake up in the middle of the night with good contractions. Instead, I slept soundly. The best rest I'd had the entire pregnancy. No aching pelvis, no uncomfortable, jumpy legs. Just sweet sleep.

I rose around 5 AM, and spent some time rolling on the birth ball and meditating, since I was having no contractions. I meditated on my thoughts about this birth, on my trust in the birth process. I pushed myself to tears simply because of the beauty of the situation - twinkle lights and candles, me sitting alone and repeating my birth affirmations.

Around 5:30 I headed back to bed, hoping my positive thoughts and meditations would take hold and speed me into the active stage of labor. At 7 AM I heard E stirring, and he came to cuddle in bed with me. We got up and started our day, and I was having no contractions. It was disheartening, but I tried to keep reminding myself - babies come when they are ready, and my body was making progress, even if it was slow. We spent the morning trying to keep ourselves busy and distracted, stuck in this limbo, between worlds. Our family was on the precipice of a big change, but my body hadn't quite made the leap yet.

I decided it was best for everyone if E got out of the house for a while, so my sister came to pick him up around noon, and Chris and I worked on creating a loving and peaceful atmosphere to bring our baby into.

The connection and intimacy we established in the afternoon was exactly what my body needed, and contractions started to pick around 3:30. We went to pick up E at 5, and by 6 they were regular at ten minutes apart. I tried not to get too excited, and just bounced on the birth ball and did some knitting. 

By 8 pm, the rushes were getting closer and closer, and starting to get more intense. They quickly settled in at five minutes apart, lasting a minute, so it was time to make some calls! Chris called the midwife when I rushed past him in my hurry to make it to the toilet to vomit. 

Our support team started arriving around 9, and as we rushed around to finish preparing the environment and fill the birth tub, timing contractions was forgotten. I knew they were rocking me harder and for longer, and I kept heading to the bathroom because sitting on the toilet was so much more comfortable. I kept thinking my body was trying to evacuate my bowels, and giving myself over to that sensation felt so right. I would pop out of the bathroom after a contraction, and head back in when another would start. While I busied myself with coping, the midwife was hurriedly preparing things - setting out towels and putting blankets on a heating pad.

The birth tub was only a third of the way full, and the tap water had run cold, so every eye on the stove was full of pots of boiling water. I walked past that scene on my way back to the bathroom, where it finally dawned on me - this feeling is the urge to push. To push a baby out. And man, it feels so good to give myself over to it. After the contraction subsided, I washed my hands and reached into my body, and was surprised to easily touch the top of my baby's head! I opened the bathroom door, saying, "Um... I'm having a baby!"

There was no way the tub was going to be ready before baby arrived, so we settled onto the bed to push this little spirit into the world. I pushed in child's pose for a while, and I could feel my baby moving easily through me. Then suddenly I felt like I was pushing uphill, and just then my midwife suggested a change of position. As soon as I got upright and started to squat, the baby made huge progress, and I knew I would be holding my child in no time at all. Everything felt so right - I had my baby's head in my right hand, and my left was wrapped around my husband's leg. My midwife was behind me, supporting and encouraging me, and the rest of the team stood on, whispering uplifting words and simply adding positive energy to the room. Just minutes past midnight, nearly a full 48 hours after that first contraction, the baby's head was out, and I heard my daughter's first whimpers. Seconds later I bore down and her shoulders and body slid into my hands, and I pulled her up to my belly, amazed to be gazing on these eyes, looking into this soul we created. 

I quickly sat back on my bottom, as my legs were getting really tired, and I sat for about ten minutes, just getting to know my baby. A few minutes after she was born we checked her gender, and we started to bask in the triumphant feeling of getting exactly the birth we wanted. The midwives rejoiced with us, and then everyone helped me move to the bed, where I birthed the placenta and continued to get to know my little girl. After an hour or more, I walked to the bathroom and got cleaned up, ate something, and got settled back in for some sleep.

This birth was so very different from our last experience. Instead of feeling like I barely survived, I felt like it happened so quickly and naturally, and it seemed just perfect. I trusted my body through the process, and although it didn't go exactly as I planned, it was exactly right - exactly the birth we needed. This birth did exactly what we wanted - it healed the wounds of our high-jacked birth. It cemented our family bond. It set a bookend on the trauma of the past few years. And most importantly, it brought us a healthy daughter who was welcomed peacefully in our home.

**This birth video shows birth - a baby comes out. Consider yourself warned.**


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