I was dreaming about Hurricane Sandy when my water broke. In my dream I was on a highway overpass with oceanic flood waters all around and I was trying to evacuate. I had gone to bed at midnight after watching a live streaming Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers concert and dancing my butt off in my living room. I started having hurricane dreams right away. I was standing on a highway on ramp that led to an overpass and water was rushing up all around me. I had to go through a tunnel slide to get to safety. How prophetic, huh? I went to the bathroom at 1:30 and then back to sleep. I had more hurricane dreams and woke up again at 3:05. I got up to go to the bathroom again and as I was walking I felt a little warm gush and I knew right away that my water had broken. As I sat down on the toilet I got a big gush of clear fluid that confirmed it for me! I have a snapshot memory of looking at my watch and seeing the date, November 9th, and thinking “This is my baby’s birthday”. I put on a pad and then went to tell S that my water had broken and we needed to repack our bags and take showers. Contractions were about 10 minutes apart at this point so I knew we had some time. They weren’t strong enough yet to even give me pause but they were definitely happening and that put my mind at ease. When my water broke with Q I didn’t contract on my own so this was already a major difference! At 4:00 I updated my birth community on twitter “Good morning It’s Baby Day! Nothing on FB please. Water is broken. Contractions are strong but well spaced. Please send vibes! #twitterbirth” I called my doula and left a message saying my water had broken and I was having strong, menstrual like, cramping. She called back and asked me to keep her updated. I also texted my birth photographer to give her a heads up. I took a shower, got dressed and blow dried my hair, and packed up the odds and ends that had found their way away from our hospital bags. I called my midwife around 5:00. I also called my dad to come and get Q. He was so excited that he left right away even though I had told him to take his time. I then updated twitter again, “I’ve been wanting to say this for weeks. “BIRTH TEAM! ASSEMBLE!!” #twitterbirth #anchorman” 🙂 At 5:15 I sent my doula this text: “Lying down now. Just called MW. She asked for an update around 6:15 so she can plan her schedule for patients. My gut says I’m going to want you here by 7:00 with the way things are moving. Contractions are about 5 minutes apart and getting stronger “. After that I got back into bed with S and tried to rest. We were so excited that we couldn’t go back to sleep but it was good to lie down and cuddle. It got to the point where I needed to stop talking and squeeze his hand during the contractions. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it seemed like things were amping up slowly. I was glad it wasn’t lightning fast like some second births I had heard about. Around 6:30 my dad arrived and Q woke up. S thought I wouldn’t want her to bother me but I actually wanted her to come cuddle in bed with me so I went out to get her. Whenever I would have a contraction she would say “Mommy’s resting”. It was pretty darn cute. She was cuddling with my belly and kissing it like she always did during my pregnancy. My birth photographer, Carla, arrived around 6:45, and my doula, Samantha at 7:15. I was eating chicken soup. Carla got pictures of us all cuddling in bed. Including George. Samantha started applying counter pressure to my hips during contractions. This was the one comfort measure that I remembered working during Q’s birth and I relied upon it during this labor. I noticed that after each contraction I was getting a huge rush of oxytocin that felt like a post orgasm rush. What a great reward for going through the pain of each contraction! I moved out to living room and sat on cross legged on the couch, leaning back. Dad & Q left around 7:40 to go to breakfast and then to children’s museum. I was pretty sure we’d be off to the hospital by the time Q needed to come home for her nap. Looking back it’s apparent that my labor really started to progress when Q left. I hadn’t consciously thought that I was holding back with her being here but apparently I was. That was the first example of a mental barrier being removed and it helping my labor. Pretty cool how your body is aware of such things without you realizing it. It got to the point where just sitting on the couch during the contractions wasn’t working for me. We decided to try some of the labor positions we had learned in birthing class. I tried leaning on Steve during a contraction but hated it. All I could think about during the contraction was that his breath smelled like coffee, LOL. We didn’t try that again. I was very sensitive to all of the smells around me. I started feeling tired and I knew that the hard work was still ahead so I so lay down on the couch. We listened to Ingrid Michaelson on Pandora on the TV, it was the perfect mood music. I asked Steve to go find George because I wanted to feel the softness of his fur. It was an exquisite contrast to the discomfort of contractions. He is such a great cat. He knew exactly what I needed. “She Is Love” by Parachute came on Pandora and I shared that it was Q’s newborn song and I made everyone stop talking to I could just close my eyes and listen to it. That’s another “snapshot” memory that I have of my labor. I had a few contractions on my side on the couch but it wasn’t a good position for me. I tried laboring in the chair and on the birth ball but it was too uncomfortable under my belly. Standing up from the ball was excruciating. The best spot was leaning on the wall next to the couch. I needed to be standing, and Samantha put counter pressure on my hips. It’s funny that pretty much none of the positions that I thought I’d want to use during labor were actually helpful. I’m glad we knew enough positions to find the one that worked. While we were trying different positions I remember admitting to Samantha that I was worried about how much it was going to hurt when things really got going. Just putting that out there and allowing myself to be vulnerable was a relief to me. Samantha was reassuring and reminded me that I was able to handle anything that was coming. I knew that she was right and I was able to just let go and my labor picked up considerably. This was the second example of releasing a mental barrier and how it helped my labor progress. At 8:35 I updated twitter again – “First “holy shit, this effing hurts” contraction. Game changer! #twitterbirth” Things got much more intense from here. I was standing next to the couch, leaning on the wall for a contraction and it became immediately apparent that I was going to throw up. I told Steve to get a bowl and he ALMOST made it in time. I puked on the floor and then in the bowl. I had a few more contractions without puking then threw up again. Looking back, this was my body gearing up for transition. Next I tried laboring on my knees on the couch leaning on the wall. It was comfortable between contractions but my head was kinda squashed into the wall and I felt off balance so I didn’t stay like that for long. I spent one contraction on phone with my midwife so she could hear how things were going and she said I sounded great. It was great to be surrounded by so much positive energy. I kept thinking “everyone is being so nice to me”! I was so thankful to be at home in my own space with the support of my birth team. I think that was crucial for me to be able to progress. I went in the bathroom after throwing up had a few contractions there. It was really uncomfortable having contractions on the toilet but when I was sitting I felt like a second “gate” opened during the contraction and things moved lower. Like, my pelvic floor dropped out and there was nothing holding the baby back. Amniotic fluid came out during contractions and my vocalizations started going deeper. The stronger the contraction the deeper I tried to get my voice. I visualized going down a tube of some sort or a drain during the contractions and imagined the baby moving lower and getting ready to come out. That thought process got me through transition (although I didn’t know I was going through transition at the time!). By this time it was around 9:45 & I needed to do a hibiclens wash so I decided to get in the shower. I was a little nervous about being alone in the shower without anyone to grab on to during contractions and no counter pressure on my hips. I also was sad about ruining my “labor hair” that I had styled expressly to look good in my birth photos. haha. It was worth it though. The water felt really good. It didn’t make the contractions hurt less but it was great to have the pleasant sensation along with the pain. I had a [u]lot [/u]of amniotic fluid come out during the contractions in there too. I’m really glad I got in the shower since I don’t know if I would’ve been able to get to that point of release while standing in my living room. It was another mental barrier that needed to be breached. I was in the shower for about 30-45 minutes, I’m not really sure. I do know that S was on the phone with the midwife during that time and I was starting to feel pressure during the contractions. It was becoming apparent that it was about time to go to the hospital! Looking back, we’re pretty sure I went through transition in the shower. Transition is usually the part of labor where the pains and experience are the most intense. The mom often starts saying things like “I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore” or complains about how much it hurts, or kind of stops making sense entirely. That never happened to me, which is why we all missed transition. I just kept expecting it to get worse and since I was able to manage the pain through my vocalizations and my “going down the drain” imagery I didn’t think that I was that far along. Pretty amazing, looking back. Samantha and S said I never complained once. I was just so focused on the job my body was doing that it didn’t really cross my mind to complain. I got out of the shower and had to put on a different pair of pants due to amniotic fluid leaking all over the previous pair. Getting dressed was slow & interesting. haha. My pads were already packed so we grabbed a cloth diaper insert and stuck it in my underwear to soak up amniotic fluid. How glamorous, right? We were gathering everything together to get out the door and I remember it seeming like S was moving incredibly slowly. I was just standing in the hallway, leaning on the wall and having contractions and he was moving in an unhurried fashion. I noticed that I was having some pressure in between contractions now and that got the party moving out the door! We made it out the door and down the front steps where I had a contraction, then we got into the car. S driving, Me in front, and Samantha in the back. It was 11:07am on the car clock, that’s another snapshot memory. The hospital is only a 5 minute drive, thank goodness, and that’s why we were able to stay home so long. I texted an update to my friends and my family while we were in the car. I had one or two contractions in the car. I just remember enough fluid coming out that I was worried it was on the seat of the car! We pulled up in front of the women’s hospital entrance and Samantha asked me if I wanted to walk or take a wheelchair, I said walk. But… then I had a contraction outside the door while leaning on the garbage can. So glamorous! The doorman asked me if I wanted a wheelchair after that and I said yes. I wanted to get in there as fast as possible. Samantha wheeled me in and Linda, my midwife and the nurse, Sarah, were waiting for us. I stood up at the front desk to sign in and had a contraction while leaning on the desk. I wonder how often that happens! I then walked down the hall to the birthing suite. I walked in and felt another contraction starting and announced that I needed something to hold on to so S held my hand on one side and Samantha supported me on the other. This was at 11:25am. With this contraction there was a big gush of fluid and all of the sudden I could feel her head. It wasn’t just pressure, it was her HEAD, and an urge to push. The nurses were asking me background questions and if I wanted to put on a hospital gown and I just said “I think I need to push!”. That was a game changer! Everyone was surprised that I was already feeling that, especially since no one realized that I had gone through transition already! The reaction to my proclamation was “Ok! Lets take off your pants and get on the bed!”. Yet another example of a mental barrier being broken down. When I got to the hospital, my body unconsciously released yet again and I was ready to get the baby out! So, they helped me out of my pants and I climbed on the table on all fours, still wearing my shirt and bra. The next contraction was insane. My body started involuntarily pushing and it felt like that entire area was just vibrating and totally out of my control. My vocalization was louder and more primal than ever before. In another snapshot moment I stepped outside myself for a moment and listened to myself and thought “THIS is what a woman in labor sounds like!”. Even though I felt totally out of control in that moment, everyone said they never would have guessed. Linda checked me in that position and all I heard her say was “You’re plus three”. Which I knew meant that the baby’s head had descended and I assumed that it meant that I was completely dilated but she never said that so I was wondering (I was). They put monitors on my belly, a blood pressure cuff on my arm and that was about it. No IV, no hospital gown, which is how I wanted it. I was very much inside my own head at this point in time and it was hard to “come out” of that place and talk to people or ask questions. I was listening to everything that was going on but felt disconnected from it, hence, all the inner monologue coming up in the story. Linda suggested that after the insane contraction I should lie down on my side. I remember thinking “End? This is never going to end!!” but it did. I was able to lay down but in my head I was over thinking it and wondering if I SHOULD lie down or if I would be better on hands and knees and shouldn’t it be my choice and I don’t want to just do what someone tells me to do etc etc but in the end it made the most sense to listen to Linda and lie down. I knew that side lying was a good position for pushing to prevent tearing and that was really important to me. It wasn’t comfortable though, I hated having someone holding my leg and my hip felt unnaturally positioned, especially between contractions. So I was uncomfortable physically and mentally but I didn’t have any ideas on how to fix it so I just stayed that way. Pushing was a strange experience over all. I didn’t feel like I was in control partly because my body seemed to be acting of its own accord, partly because I didn’t know what to expect, and partly because I felt like things were happening around me and TO me instead of me making decisions and acting on them. The third part was a product of me going into myself though. I wasn’t talking to anyone, my eyes were closed and I was clutching the side of the bed. I was in a state that birthy folks call “Labor Land”. Still, I kind of wish my team would’ve tried to engage me more by asking direct questions. And hell, maybe they did and I just don’t remember. That’s entirely possible. Things happened REALLY fast so it’s not like we had much time to play with different delivery positions. With pushing I had hoped that I would be able to labor down and not push until the last minute and then deliver her with just a few pushes. That’s not what happened. When I was lying down I was encouraged to push. I didn’t question it since it seemed like that’s what my body wanted to do on its own (based on what happened when I climbed on the table). Looking back I wish I had just said I would wait until I really had the urge. Pushing was the hardest part of the entire experience. Hands down. It felt totally different this time, which is to be expected, I guess. I had thought that I had felt a lot of pushing with Q since the epidural had slightly worn off. Yeah, I didn’t feel much at all with Q. This was the real deal. It took a few tries to figure out what muscles to actively engage and how to push. It also took a few tries to figure out at what point in the contraction I should be pushing and for how long. I kept hearing suggestions from my midwife, nurse, etc. “Push at the peak of the contraction.” “Try little pushes between the contractions”, etc. At one point the nurse was counting and then everyone was counting and I wanted to tell them to shut up but I couldn’t. I felt like I was under water or something. I tried to listen to my body with pushing instead of listening to arbitrary counts. At one point I “surfaced” and asked the nurse what the heck I was supposed to be feeling and what to expect. I needed something to focus on. I remember wondering if I was close or if this was going to take forever. Talking to the nurse was helpful. I don’t really remember what she said except that she mentioned I’d probably have a big gush of fluid before the head came out and I wondered if I had any fluid left! I felt disappointed that I was feeling so out of control but I don’t really know what I could have done differently. Since I was locked down in “labor land” with my eyes closed, I only knew where people were in the room by where their voices were coming from. I knew that S had gone to look at the foot of the bed because I heard him talking from there and saying he could see the head. Samantha was behind me and helping to hold my right leg. Sarah was in front of me and Linda was at the foot of the bed. I don’t even know where Carla was because she was so quiet! I knew that at some point a doctor came into the room and then left, just because I heard him. Everyone was very supportive and encouraging, which was definitely nice to have, although in the moment I kind of wanted everyone to be quiet. I just couldn’t figure out how to tell them AND push out a baby at the same time. At some point they asked if I wanted to take my shirt and bra off. I opted to take my shirt off but taking off the bra seemed way too complicated at the time so I was wearing that when she was born. I knew we were getting close because A. everyone was talking about it and B. I started feeling the infamous “ring of fire”. For me it felt like my clitoris was going to tear off. I’m really surprised (and glad) that it didn’t. I really thought I was going to tear there, it was not pleasant. The only good part was that I finally had confirmation that we were getting somewhere. I asked if I could reach down and touch her head and remember it felt way more squashy than I had expected. It felt like wet moss and it kind of freaked me out. I was expecting something more firm! So, that touch didn’t bolster my resolve as much as I was hoping it would because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Pushing the head out was the longest few minutes of my life. I remember thinking “how long is this going to take? It shouldn’t be taking this long!”. It didn’t actually take long at all, it just felt like it because I was so keyed up about it. Once her head was out Linda told me she was going to deliver the shoulders one at a time and then it was my turn to do the rest. I felt the shoulders come out like two slithering pops and then I opened my eyes, reached down and pulled her the rest of the way out and up on to my chest and there she was! No one rushed to take her away like they did with Q. She cried right away and we were able to cuddle right away. It was pretty freaking amazing to catch her myself. I’d recommend it to anyone. I already can’t tell what is my memory of it and what I’m getting from the photographs, which is strange. I know for sure that the first thing I noticed about her was her little pointy tongue sticking out and that she had a bunch of hair! We joked that it made sense that she had a pointy, lizard-y tongue since her fetal nickname was T-Rex. I remember also thinking that she didn’t look like Q and I continued to be amazed by her hair! She was born at 11:53am, less than half an hour after we checked in! The next few moments are a pleasant blur but they were full of cuddles and smiles. The focus shifted to how much I was bleeding and that I needed to deliver the placenta. I really wanted it all to be over so I could just focus on my baby and not my vagina anymore! I was hoping that this would be the time for me to relax and bond but we needed to get through the aftercare. I was pretty tense and my legs were shaking like crazy. Linda pointed out that I just pushed out an 8+lb baby and the placenta weighed maybe half a pound and had no bones so it would come out a lot more easily! They had to give me a shot of pictocin in my leg to stop the bleeding and get my uterus to contract again (my only intervention) and I only had to push once to get it out. Linda held up my amniotic sac and placenta for all of us to see. It was pretty darn cool. Everyone was marveling at how impressive her cord was as well. Apparently it was really thick and strong. We did delayed clamping and it kept pulsing for a long time! When S finally cut it there was blood spray, we weren’t expecting that! After the placenta was delivered it was placed in a plastic container and Samantha put it in a cooler on ice so she could take it home to encapsulate it. Then it was time to stitch up my tear. Despite our best efforts I ended up with a second degree tear in pretty much the same place where I tore with Q. I was upset that I had torn but, what are you going to do? I was really uncomfortable during the whole stitching up process. I was stuck on my back, my legs were shaking, her cord was hanging between my legs and rubbing on my incredibly sensitive lady parts and I just wanted it all to be over. Plus, seeing the needle and the stitching thread was giving me flashbacks to Q’s birth and my hundred stitches so I asked them to hold up a blanket so I didn’t have to see what was going on. Someone pointed out that she was rooting and I felt awful that I hadn’t noticed because I was so distracted. We took my bra off to start breastfeeding her and I couldn’t even see my nipple or her face since I was stuck on my back in the awkward reclined position. The nurse and Samantha helped to get her latched on. Her mouth was so tiny! She was VORACIOUS. Ms. Pacman mouth from the start. I was glad she was so into it since Q was a pretty lazy nurser in the beginning. They took her to be weighed, 8lbs 4.4oz, and she was just below the cutoff where they require a blood sugar test so thankfully, no heel prick and no threat of formula. While she was on the giraffe warmer they stamped her footprints and stamped one on S’s arm. Adorable! That’s when S and T really got to meet for the first time. They brought her back to me and we were snuggled up in the blanket I had brought with me. It was so warm and soft! We did skin to skin to get her body temperature up and we kept nursing. We also took pictures with the birth team. I felt great once all of the medical stuff with me was finished. I remember looking Samantha and Carla and saying “I finally get to enjoy this! I did it!” and I teared up a bit at that point. We talked about the experience and Samantha pointed out that I had just pushed out an 8lb 4oz baby without ever breaking a sweat, literally, I didn’t sweat at all. I think that’s kind of awesome. I told her that I didn’t actually think labor was that bad. I kept waiting for it to get worse and get to the point where I thought I couldn’t do it but that point never came. I guess I just knew so completely that I COULD do it that I didn’t even question it while I was going through it. Yet another example of the mental component of giving birth.
We didn’t contact anyone until a few hours after the birth, which is very abnormal for me. People are used to instant updates! I texted my good friends and we called our families. Everyone was surprised that she was a girl. They were expecting a boy! And we had to repeat her name a few times before they got it but it was all good. My brother was impressed with how great and energized that I sounded, which was fun to hear. People were pretty impressed that I didn’t have any sort of medication. Telling everyone that she had arrived was one of my favorite parts of the day. We went up to the post-partum floor around 3:00 and Samantha went home. Carla stuck around and photographed S giving T her first bath (no soap, just dabbing with a wet washcloth) and even stayed until my dad came with Q so she could photograph the sisters meeting for the first time. I am so thankful to have those moments captured forever. Once the hustle and bustle of visitors died down I felt like I was able to start really bonding with T. I loved her from the start and we were connected but that true bonding and the rush of oxytocin didn’t really hit until it was quiet and calm and I could just BE with her. So many people say that the moment they saw their babies they were hit with a love unlike any love they have ever experienced. That wasn’t true for me with either of my births. It always took a little longer than that and there was always too much going on right after the birth. It always comes though, no worries about that. All in all, it wasn’t exactly what I imagined when I had visualized my birth experience but it was still pretty great. I’m so glad I got to labor at home for so long. I’m glad we made it to the hospital before she came out, not by much! I felt disappointed that pushing was so crazy, that I tore, and that the immediate aftermath was so uncomfortable but that was a small price to pay for feeling totally healed and back to normal two weeks later. I’m so thankful for a straightforward and fairly short experience. Nine hours from water breaking until delivery and about 4 hours of active labor. Not bad at all. People have asked if this birth was a “healing” experience after Q’s birth and I’ve come to the conclusion that “healing” isn’t the right way to describe it. I’m so glad that the same things didn’t go wrong this time and more went as planned than did not go as planned. My emotional wounds from Q’s birth healed and scarred over a long time ago. This birth doesn’t erase those scars, I’ll carry them forever in some fashion, they are a part of me. I’m just very thankful that this birth did not rip open those old emotional wounds. I feel like this time I did it in a way that was better for me and yielded better results as far as my physical and emotional well being were concerned. Check out our Birth Slideshow – http://youtu.be/mjFZMfH_9rg