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June 1, 2001
18 inches long
I had a prenatal appointment scheduled for June 1 at our new house, where all the midwives would practice getting here, and we would go over our last minute plans of how we wanted the birth to go. On the morning of May 31, Michael said upon leaving the house, "Today would be a good day, it's Thursday, you know." We'd been joking for a few weeks that she needed to be accommodating and be born on a Thursday (he has Fridays off) so that he could take the entire following week and not have to go back to work until the next week. I laughed and said, "No way, she has to wait until June now, today is my sister's birthday, I don't want her to have to share!"
Instead of sleeping in, I decided to get up and get started on the things on "the list" that needed to be done around the house. Admittedly, it's an ever-shortening list, which is a relief, but after breakfast I started not feeling so well, having to run to the bathroom every half an hour or so. After about the third time, it suddenly occurred to me that this was probably a good sign that labor was going to begin at some point, maybe not today, but soon. Either that, or the thai food we'd eaten the night before hadn't agreed with me!
I hung around the house, kind of anxiously anticipating something, almost as if I could feel it in the air. Sure enough, contractions started that afternoon. Nothing major, a little bigger and more intense than the Braxton-Hicks I'd been experiencing, in fact they were so far apart and weren't so bad that I wasn't sure they were "real" contractions at all. The hardest part was not knowing for sure!
I picked the kids up in the afternoon from school, and noticed that I was having a hard time concentrating on what they were saying if I was having a contraction. Hmm... that was a good sign. Maybe these were "real" then! I tidied up when I got home, got a few last minute things together for the birth (just in case I'm really in labor, I told myself!) and started preparing dinner. Contractions weren't really close together, anywhere from five minutes, to eight minutes, and sometimes fifteen minutes apart. No real pattern.
Michael called at five, and I told him, "Well, you may be a daddy today." Even though I told him not to, he canceled his last client and came right home. I was afraid that it wasn't really labor, and I didn't want to disappoint him if it wasn't really it! I had contractions through dinner, through clean-up, through kids' baths and bedtimes, but again, they were anywhere from five to eight minutes apart, and while they were uncomfortable, I still doubted if I was really in labor.
Finally, I called the midwife around 8:30 p.m., just to give them a heads up. I didn't want to have to wake anyone up in the middle of the night if I didn't have to. I gave her all the information, and she told me that she would call all of the other midwives, and told me to sleep if I could, and if they got worse or changed, to call her back.
Michael and I decided that distraction was a good idea, because both of us were too excited and anxious to sleep, so we played Yahtzee until 11:30 p.m. or so. We went to bed, and I curled up with Michael and the contractions started spacing themselves out. Ten minutes apart. Then fifteen. I was sleeping between them, but then I'd have a contraction and it would wake me up and I would grab Michael's hand, which would wake him up, and he'd breathe through the contraction with me until it was over and I fell asleep again. It was a good system, and I think the sleep did me good. It did us both good.
At 12:30 a.m., interestingly just as it was becoming June, my contractions started picking up. They became stronger, and started waking me up every five minutes. In fact, I wasn't so much sleeping between them as I was zoning out. At 1:00 a.m., Michael gently suggested we call the midwives. I hesitated. I was still doubting that this was "it"! Maybe they would space out again between, like they had before, how did I know?
At 1:15 a.m., Michael was suggesting it more strongly, and after my next contraction, when I sat up and had to arch my back to keep the pressure off my lower back through it, I decided that it might be a good idea. He called them while I was in the bathroom, and I when I came out he said they were on their way. As soon as I knew that, I was somehow able to relax some more, which made the contractions seem a little more bearable. Of course, that made me think that maybe this wasn't really "it" and they would slow down or stop when they showed up! My fear was of being the little boy who cried wolf (or the woman who cried labor) but in the next forty-five minutes before they arrived, the contractions were coming regularly and were fairly intense, and I became pretty sure (finally!) that this baby was going to be born on June 1.
The midwives arrived at about 2:15 a.m, and of course wanted to check my progress, but I didn't want to move. Things were starting to pick up and it was becoming uncomfortable. I did anyway, of course, and she checked me both before a contraction (about 4 cm) and during a contraction (which hurt beyond belief, but I was 5-6 cm during) and after that, contractions seemed even closer together and were getting to an intensity I could barely remember from my other two births. Michael was having a hard time getting me to focus, and both of the midwives were giving pretty good directions (keep my voice low, relax my forehead, breathe, etc) and I tried hard to listen and follow their instructions, but things were getting fuzzy.
I have no idea how much time passed, but the pain went from "Wow, this really hurts" to "Oh my god, I'm going to die" so quickly that I didn't even have a chance to breathe. The midwives were still telling me to breathe through them, Michael was having me focus on his face, look into his eyes and breathe with him, and while everyone around me was saying how good I was doing, I felt like I was falling apart. Not only was I in pain, but suddenly I was really afraid. They had checked me at what felt like minutes ago, and I was only at 4, so these contractions couldn't possibly be as intense as they felt like they were, and I must just be acting like a baby. My fear (and of course I was doing the labor math in my head: this kind of intensity at 4 cm, times 1 cm per hour, that means at least 6 more hours like this?!) was that I couldn't possibly handle this much longer.
Then my water broke. I'd never felt that before. With both of my other births, my membranes had been artificially ruptured. I remembered the feeling, but this was different. This was pressure that broke the bag, and I said, "You guys, I think my water just broke" and oh my god, I remember contractions getting more intense after that in my previous births, but this was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. It felt as if the baby was coming, and not just coming, but coming right now!
I saw the midwives' faces, and the first question out of my mouth was, "Is there meconium?" She said, "Yes," and my heart sank. "A lot?" I asked. "A good amount," she said. They were setting up suction equipment, and I thought, well this is the thing, then. This is the thing that had to go wrong. Then, I couldn't think anything anymore. It all happened too fast. She decided to see how far along I was then, and she said, "Oh, you're a stretchy 7." Close to transition, then. I felt like I was dying.
The baby's head was now so low in my pelvis, I was starting to have the urge to push, but knew if I said anything they would tell me to breathe through it. I was afraid I couldn't do it anymore. Then they couldn't find heart tones. They were using the Doppler, but no matter where they put it, they couldn't find her. Finally, they heard something faintly, and thought that maybe the uterus was tipped too far back, so they wanted me on my hands and knees so that the uterus would tip forward and they could check it from underneath.
I was saying, "No, no" when she suggested it, but she was firm, and Michael helped flip me over I was amazed how good it felt to be on my hands and knees. The baby was low, really really low, but I was in so much pain that all I could do was grunt and moan. I had two contractions like that, while they were frantically checking for heart tones from underneath, and could feel myself starting to push through them, unable to stop.
The midwife had me flip back over and that's when I gasped and said, "The baby is right there!" She said, "Ok, I believe you," reaching for a glove, and suddenly I felt the familiar stretch and burn of the baby crowning. She was shocked and said, "There's a head!" Both Michael and I reached down to feel her head, wet and full of hair. They checked for a cord, and suctioned her there on the perineum because of the meconium.
As soon as her head was out, I was lucid again. One more little push and she was up on my belly. They suctioned her again, making sure to get any meconium out of her lungs. She was pale at first, but began to cry and pink up. She was born at 3:43 a.m.
I was shocked at how tiny she was! She was the smallest baby I'd ever seen, aside from a preemie. After the initial worry about her breathing (which was fine and clear from that point on), we slowly got to know her as I kept her warm on my belly and the midwives did what they needed to do, checking her, checking me, having me push to deliver the placenta (within about fifteen minutes after she was born). Blake, whose room is right across the hall, woke up when she began to cry. He came into our room, and I told him to go get Autumn. I was sorry they missed it, but we all nearly missed it, it went so quickly at the end! They were thrilled to see the baby, and crowded around to say hello to her.
She's a perfect little peanut, and looks just like Michael when he was a baby. I cleaned up while Michael held her, and then we settled back into bed and napped and snuggled for a half an hour or so while the midwives cleaned up and made some calls. They wanted her checked out by a doctor as soon as possible (which was standard practice for them anyway, but because of the meconium and because of her size, they were insistent that it be right away) so they made an appointment for us, and one of the midwives said she'd go with us.
Blake had gone back to bed, and Autumn was out helping the midwives prepare things. She was the biggest help to them, and is an even bigger help to me now. After the doctor checked her out and gave her a clean bill of health, I think we all relaxed a little bit. She weighed in at all of 5 pounds 3 ounces, which is slightly smaller than the minimum average (which is about 5 and a half pounds) and was 18 and a half inches long. Her head circumference was 12 and 3/4, which is on the small side and is probably why I had no second stage of labor. I didn't have to push her out, she just kind of slid right down the birth canal and into the world!
Her size is a mystery. The doctor said it could have been my blood pressure, which was borderline at the end, that may have effected placental function, and she may have been meant to be a small baby regardless. The good news is that she's healthy, and is nursing like a pro and hasn't left my arms (or someone's who loves her) since she was born.
I shudder to think what may have happened if we had delivered in a hospital. The meconium alone would have had her in the nursery for "observation" for 12 hours or so. Her size would have probably had her in the NICU, just as a precaution. It certainly could have been warranted. There are a lot of babies who are small who have a hard time holding their temperatures, who have hard times breathing. I was so grateful to be at home, with people who knew what to look for, who were willing to watch her and wait. She passed every test, and handled it all on her own, and they were satisfied with that and so was I. It was a relief and a blessing.
I can't tell you what a healing experience it was to have a baby in my own bed. In spite of the pain (which was much more intense, not only than I remember, but than I'd experienced before) and my fears of falling apart, which I would have had in or out of a hospital I imagine, I was able to have a positive birth experience, when I'm nearly 100% sure that it would have been a snowball of interventions in a medical setting that probably would have traumatized me, the baby, and my husband. I felt confident that although there were things we had to take seriously and pay attention to, the midwives would respect the normal process, and trust in my body and the baby's, and they did. It was a gift, a blessing, and a truly amazing experience for all of us.