We had had a couple of false alarms; the most recent on the Sunday before with 6 hours of contractions 5 minutes apart that ultimately just stopped. On the Monday (Sept 29, our due date) I went in to the midwife's office and the pretty much painless 6 hours had gotten us nearly completely effaced, so we were pretty sure it would be soon. The pressure was on because my mother had already spent 9 days of her 2 weeks with us, and we all really wanted her to be here for the birth.
Tuesday night (1 day "past due"), around 9:10 p.m., we were sitting watching "Bowling for Columbine" of all things and I felt an almost audible "pop" inside. After my mother's precipitous labors (she delivered my brother in 12 contractions, me in 6, my sister in 5), we figured we'd better call the midwife even though I hadn't had any contractions yet to speak of. Got up to discover I was leaking waters, although it was the "constant trickle" effect rather than the "mad gush gotta get the carpets steam cleaned now" kind of water breaking.
By the time I got our student midwife on the phone about 10 minutes later, contractions were starting -- not too bad, definitely more intense than they had been on Sunday, but not painful, just, well, unavoidable, and I was having to concentrate and breathe through them. The midwives were to arrive around 10 p.m. and just before 10:00 I decided to go upstairs and wait for them. Not only can you not hear the doorbell from our basement TV room, but the TV noise was beginning to drive me crazy.
The midwives arrived as contractions were beginning to feel quite serious. I went upstairs to our bedroom and called my best friend Shawna to let her know that she might want to come on over, and we were planning to have her at the birth too. Cristine (our MW student) checked my dilation shortly after, and said we were at 2 cm. This wasn't technically "active labor," but by the time she told me this I'm pretty sure I was well into the active phase. She had checked me and then conferred with Anne Marie (our certified MW), then come to talk to me about what I'd like to do next. I think they were hoping I'd tell them to go home but I could feel that things were moving pretty fast and told her I was scared to for them to leave in case they didn't make it back in time. She told me they wouldn't desert me, not to worry about it. She offered to do a "stretch & sweep" but I used the excuse of another contraction to not answer the question, I really didn't want to be interfered with but at the time was still worrying a bit about wasting other peoples' time. I got over that very quickly.
That's the last thing I remember really clearly, after that it's just snippets. I remember Shawna arriving, and I remember spending most of my labor sitting backward on the toilet (leaning on the tank) with Stephen on one side of me and my mum on the other. I was singing vocal exercises through each contraction, I have to call my voice teacher and let her know that her exercises were a big part of what kept me calm and breathing and my jaw loose through labor. I think she'll like that.
Stephen figured out very quickly to take my robe off me during a contraction, and to put it back on, and a hot pack too, as soon as the contraction was over because I was shivering uncontrollably between contractions. I got in the shower briefly (for about 2 contractions) but I was so cold between contractions that I couldn't stand to be wet so I got out. For a while I worked on hands and knees on our bed, and it's around this time that they checked me again and were surprised to find I had hit 5 cm. I'm kind of amused that they didn't expect me to go so fast.
I remember Shawna coming into the room around then and I was actually lucid enough to speak to her, "I hope you're not terribly bored" I said, I kept thinking that this must seem so long to everybody else! She told me I was crazy, that she'd never been so excited in her life. I love that woman. Shortly after that I was back on the toilet -- it was a good place for me because of the constant fluid leak and I found it took all the pressure off my "working parts" and let me really relax with each out-breath. I found I needed to rock my hips a lot, and that really helped too.
I remember thinking I must be hitting transition. I had to do a lot of "thought stopping" and kept saying out loud "one at a time, just this one" and "I can do this" over and over again. My family didn't realize that what was going on was that I was fighting with myself -- I'd catch myself wondering how much longer I could do this -- which is when I started chanting "just this one," or find myself doubting that I'd could handle any more -- "I can do this."
Cristine checked me again around this time and although I didn't hear her say it at the time, I had only a lip of cervix left. My hind waters were still intact, and she told me that the baby just needed to turn slightly and that we could help that by breaking the waters, so despite that I had not intended to have my waters broken artificially it seemed like the right thing to do. The contraction that I went through lying on my back waiting for Cristine to break my waters made me understand why women find labor so painful. It was the only truly "painful" contraction I had. The rest of them were incredibly intense and overwhelming, but pain is the wrong word for them. Pain describes a broken arm or the surgery I had when I was 18, but doesn't *really* define what I was going through -- except for that one 3-peaked contraction I went through lying flat on my back. Man oh man that one was brutal and I was really glad to get upright again!
It was back to the toilet with me to let the waters drain a bit, and I had about 3 or 4 more 3-peaked contractions and started feeling a little bit "pushy." Cristine suggested I go back to all fours on the bed, and that did the trick. As soon as I was in that position there was nothing I could do except let my body do its work. I really feel like I was a bystander in the pushing stage. All I could do was keep supplying oxygen to my muscles and try not to interfere.
The baby crowned in 18 minutes and was out in 20. No tears at all (although for some reason I wasn't expecting the "ring of fire" around the FRONT. Somehow I thought that it would only be my perineum that felt that! Silly me), just a small scrape where he had his hand up next to his face (yup, I pushed out a hand along with the head). I reached down to touch his head as he was crowning and was so amazed to find that it was pointy .- I mean, we all know that the head molds but I think I didn't really understand until that moment how perfectly engineered this whole process is.
I gave everybody a good laugh though, they told me to stop pushing as he crowned and I said "he won't go back?" They all laughed and Anne Marie said no you can't put him back. I couldn't explain at the time that that's not what I meant, I was just damned if I was going to lose ground and let him slip back upward again. I was fully prepared to hold him there! But anyway the next push came and his head was out. The cord was loosely around his neck, and I was laughing while the rest of his body was born through the loop -. I've never felt such a physical "relief" in my life, it was incredible! The four seconds that it took for them to pass him to me was an eternity. And I was so thrilled to have him in my hands that Stephen had to ask me to check the gender (the cord was between his legs).
Shawna and Anne Marie had started a batch of muffins and some coffee as I started pushing, thinking it would be a while. Shawna says she had just got them into the oven when she heard her name called in a "serious" kind of way and she got sent to warm blankets in the dryer.
45 minutes later there were six of us on our bed eating hot apple-cinnamon muffins.
Our baby boy stayed nameless for about 4 days. Somehow it just didn't seem very important. He is now Samuel (because we love it) Stephen (for his dad) Guy (to honor my family surname) and will carry Stephen's surname.
He's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
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