Fair warning: I have already forgotten most of this. The times/sequence/people may be reversed/confused/generally inaccurate. Also, this is a rambling, sleep deprived version, but I think it's important to get something down before it transforms and resettles as something else in my mind. Feel free to skip ahead. Also? I'm pretty desensitized to what is gross for different people so just a little heads up this contains words like "vagina", "maxi pad" and "ring of fire". I mean, it's a birth story.
I was so impatient to have this baby and I was beginning to feel like he would never come. So, it took me a minute to realize what had happened when my water broke just as Olive and I were waking up on Thursday morning, 3 days before his due date.
I ran to the bathroom to get out the giant, overnight maxi pads (yesss!) and felt a flood of relief. I would eventually have this baby. I had to be in labor in the next 2-3 days, or else! So, after arranging childcare and resting and eating and all the things you do when you're about to be in labor, I was disappointed when no contractions came. That evening, my midwife visited to listen to the baby and we talked about what to do if I didn't go into labor on my own.
(Side note: Most hospital's policy about water breaking with no labor, or PROM, is to try and have the baby by 24 hours from the hour it breaks. More lenient/evolved places may alter that recommendation ever so slightly to say they'd like to see an impending baby by 24 hours - at least have mom be in active labor. Out of hospital midwives may allow a woman to go as long as 72 hours after water breaking to get into labor. This is based on research that shows a higher incidence of infection the longer the water is broken, nicely broken down and analyzed here. I feel torn and mostly in the middle between the early and late timelines. 72 hours seems too long for me, personally, to wait but I feel comfortable-ish with 48. Again, for me, personally. Every lady's gotta decide for herself. In my case, because nothing entered my vagina until the baby was almost born - the biggest risk factor for infection, I felt ok waiting, but with some at-home augmentation.)
The following morning around 10:00am (so 28 hours after water broke), with a plan in place to transfer to hospital care the following morning if nothing had started happening yet, I mixed up a cocktail of our local midwives favorite natural labor starting tools: castor oil and lemon verbena.
Within 2 hours, I was having regular contractions. I tried to talk Spartacus into going to work but he thought the baby was coming sooner than I did and wanted to stay home. I wanted to be alone, though, so I asked him to pick up some more maxi pads (our entire outside trash bin was full of maxi pads - perhaps that's how I lost so much weight just by being in labor) and tacos. I knew they'd be the last thing I'd eat and that I could get them down anywhere I happened to be walking around (I walk in labor) since they're hand-food.
After he left, I knew the castor oil had worked and that this was it because my contractions were coming fast and legit, even though they'd only just started. I walked around the house and breathed and things picked up quickly and I was relieved.
When S got back, I ate two tacos and kept walking and breathing. Just like last time, I REQUIRED a heating pad until tub time. I stood in the living room, looking out the window and thinking, "who has a baby in the daytime?" and leaning over the side of the couch when a contraction came because it was the perfect height.
I figured I'd give it a little time before I called anyone. I felt focused and fairly comfortable and didn't want to bother anyone too early. Then, just like that, a contraction came that made me think: time for help. And the next one made me wish someone were already there. I told S that maybe he should call Jen and he told me she was already on her way, which was the best thing I could have heard.
And from there, it just went. Jen arrived and it was enough at first for her to be there but then, again, a contraction came that made me think, "this is harder. interesting." and then the next one, "holy shit, I don't care if it's time, cut my clothes off me I'm getting in the bathtub RIGHT NOW." And then I needed her to sit 6 inches from my face and stare at me during every contractions. Hey, thanks for doing that Jen.
What amazes me about being unmedicated in labor is how much certain comfort measures can help - a contraction might feel absolutely unbearable without a hand on the back or a doula's face in your face or a heat pad or whatever and then with those small adjustments, the same contractions can gently recede back into the doable range.
Then I sat in the tub for 100 years. Or about 5 hours, really. It felt like 5 minutes. I moaned, I counted in my head (I'm a fan of 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4), I stared at Jen's brown brown eyes, I closed my eyes and rested, I felt things getting harder.
And then the next step up - a new intensity before my endorphins had caught up and I lost my footing. And things got kind of ugly.
When Olive was born, my labor flowed very smoothly and I had an extra day of early labor, which, I think, primed my body to sail along on oxytocin that made me progressively more and more high until I barely noticed what was happening. I remember not being able to close my mouth, not being able to open one of my eyes and not being able to get even one word out, so fuzzy and jumbled was the connection between my brain and my mouth. I had a brief transition that scared the shit out of me, mostly because I could. not. catch. a. breath and I asked if I could please go to the hospital and my team put me off for a bit and then I started to push and then everything was fine.
So I knew what transition felt like - it was very familiar - and when it came and decidedly did not pass, I lost my resolve and my confidence and I got really very serious about quitting this whole thing. I actually made my midwife call the hospital to see about going in and told everyone I was going to go. 2 inches from walking to the door and putting my shoes on. (Ha! As if I could put my own shoes on…) Transition, transition, transition. Contractions one after the other in which I could not breathe for anything and stupidly asking to be checked to find that I was still ONLY 6 cm. Transition, you are not my favorite.
I kept waiting for the urge to bear down, to know that this part was over, but it just wasn't coming and I panicked. Spartacus took videos of both my Jen/ns giving me a speech about staying home. Penny Simkin calls this the Take Charge Routine and that is a pretty accurate description. For a multip (who had a 6 hour active phase with the first labor) who is "6 cm." (but really 9 cm. because her cervix has simply not caught up to her contractions), there is no way we would have made it to the hospital. For those of you unfamiliar with home birth, my ladies were not being cruel, they were being realistic. I absolutely would have given birth in the car if we had left at that point and of course no one wanted that.
The only thing left to do was get my head in the game and at some point I realized that (after a fair amount of whining, let's be real). I looked at Jen and said, "Ok. I need to get my shit together." And she solemnly nodded her head and said, "Yes." and I did, mostly. Not in a stoic way, mind you, I think I might have yelled at someone when I reluctantly left the tub and tried to move to my bed and they brought me a COLD heat blanket because ithastobehotrightnowtightnowrightnow!!!!! I quivered and shook and felt scared but once I got onto the bed and the last of my cervix was gone (with everyone holding one of my legs up just so) it was time to push. And here's the thing about pushing babies out: I don't mind it. With both of them it felt so instinctual, I just waited and paid attention and then let it happen when it was supposed to.
On the bed I felt the urge to push but breathed through and he came down - far. I asked, "Can you see his head?" because it felt like he was almost out. My midwife said no, but we can see that he's coming and Spartacus just stood there with a look on his face. I can't describe the look.
I don't know how long I pushed. It felt like twice. It was probably more like 30 minutes? 20? At the end, the worst part was the pressure on my tailbone (see both kids' stork bite where they scooted past it with their foreheads - ouch for all of us) but the ring of fire, not so much. His head came out and then a looooong cord which just sort of fell off him like a necklace (the opposite of Olive's). I hadn't really pushed hard until then and when I felt another contraction would pass without his body coming all the way out, I said, "Let's get this over", and out he came.
The best part was that he nursed. I was so worried I'd have another baby with feeding issues, but he latched right on and it was like the ultimate reward for what I'd just done - he nursed a long time on one side, Spartacus took him for a little bit while I took care of the placenta and then on the other side as well.
My labor was 9 hours from start to finish. Baby boy was born at 8:59pm on February 13th both lighter and taller than his sister: 8 lbs 8 oz. and 22 inches. I have yet to pick a blog-name for him. We only just picked his actual name! But I'll let you know.
There were other things in there: two attempts at breaking a fore bag of water, a plant I was obsessed with looking at for a little while (which I may now have to get rid of - we'll see), our dear friend coming to collect a car for Olive's transportation (very welcome) and a gardener coming to get instructions for work (not at all welcome), but the things above are how I remember it.
I feel quite certain I won't give birth again, which feels ok now that I've done it twice. If pregnancy were easier I'd consider having another baby (some day) but for now, from my uterus, this is it. It strikes me how similar certain parts of both labors were and also that each had their distinct differences, just like my kids. I'm so grateful to be feeling very well 2 weeks out and that I didn't transfer to the hospital in the middle of my labor, but I also feel a renewed sense of support and understanding for women who do go to the hospital. We all go our own way and both ways seem good to me.