Carmen Julia, born 12:15 AM, Thursday May 12, 2011
First, a little bit about the birth of Adrian in May 2009. I was planning a natural hospital birth with a CNM/OB practice. After an easy and complication-free pregnancy, I fell victim to my own ignorance and intervention-happy CNMs who failed to recognize that Adrian was OP. Labored 17 hours in the hospital without drugs, but AROM at 7.5cm led to super-intense and painful back labor. I gave in and had an epidural, and was put on Pitocin and who knows what else.
I progressed to 10, but even before that the OB on call came by and said I’d need a c-section but could “push if I wanted to.” I did – for 45 minutes – before having a c-section that was very traumatic and didn’t go smoothly. I ended up with an infection in my incision that led to daily home nurse visits and weekly OB visits for 2 months postpartum, plus PTSD that lasted about a year. We also had tons of trouble nursing. I found my local ICAN, started attending meetings, and found that the local hospital VBAC rates were scary (1%). The best chance for success would be to stay home with a competent midwife.
My due date by LMP was April 29 and by conception date was May 2. My MW was convinced most of my pregnancy that my dates were off and I’d be birthing in mid-April, so I was ready to go pretty early on. When 40 weeks, and then 41 weeks, came and went, I was getting pretty stir-crazy. I’d quit my job at the end of April, and even with a 2-yr-old at home, I was just ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. Spending Mother’s Day as still just the mother of 1 was really difficult!
So on Tuesday, May 10, I pulled out my breast pump and got my contractions started. Blew up & filled the birth pool, called my birth team, and after contracting regularly and more intensely from before noon, labor stalled around 10pm and I sent everyone back home. I was devastated and spent a lot of the next morning crying.
I had my 41 week 3 day appointment and my MW said I was OK to take castor oil if I wanted. So that afternoon I took 2 doses, 2 hours apart, and began contracting about every 10 minutes beginning around 5pm. The contractions were intense. but farther apart than the previous day. I decided to try and get some sleep thinking I’d possibly give birth sometime the next day. I was able to fall asleep between the contractions, so I didn’t think I needed to call my MW yet.
I was lying on the couch with my husband, trying to rest and watching the NBA playoffs. The Heat had just defeated the Celtics in game 5 when I had the most intense contraction I’d felt yet (it was around 9:30pm). I couldn’t lay still and had to get off the couch, unsure if I needed to go to the bathroom or not (the castor oil had been clearing me out for about 5 hours by that point). It was so intense that I yelled at my husband to call the MW. I couldn’t really even talk to her on the phone, I was trying to breathe through the contraction. She headed over and my husband scrambled around trying to get the water in the pool warm again (it had dropped to 85 and needed to be above 90).
My MW called me on her way and talked me through the contractions. She told me to go ahead and get in the pool when it was ready, so I was already in when her birth assistant arrived about 10 minutes later. I’m not sure when my MW arrived, because I was in pretty awful pain. I couldn’t remember what labor felt like from 2 years previous, but I was thinking that now I knew why epidurals were so popular.
The water helped, but didn’t dull the pain the way I’d wanted, I needed my husband to put pressure on my lower back every time while I was on my knees in the pool. I felt the urge to push before my MW arrived, but tried to breathe through the contractions. I ended up making a lot of noise, kind of a sing-song wailing that varied in pitch and intensity depending on the pain. When she arrived she talked me through the contractions, and eventually checked and said I was complete and could push at any time. She said I pushed for about an hour, so I must have started around 11pm. I know that my pushes at first weren’t very effective, because I was letting out too much verbally. Once I started internalizing the noise and really envisioning the birth process, they became much more effective.
Pushing was HARD. I enjoyed having the chance to rest a bit in between the pushing contractions – having never experienced that I had to ask if it was normal. Once the baby’s head had passed my pubic bone, my MW informed me she would be breaking the water sac at a certain point – I actually have a picture of the sac coming out before she opened it. Later I found out she did this because she suspected the cord was affecting the baby’s descent and wanted to have easy access to it.
The “ring of fire” is aptly named. I could feel myself tearing as I pushed the baby’s head out. The body came very quickly after. My MW asked me to slow down, but I couldn’t stop it from slipping out. My husband caught her and I turned over so they could hand her to me. I was so shocked it went so quickly and was overwhelmed with emotion. It was several minutes later when my MW reminded me that we didn’t check the sex yet. I looked between her legs and was shocked to see she was a girl! I guess I had been expecting a boy.
Carmen had a right nuchal hand, was slightly asynclitic, and had her cord wrapped around her left shoulder. I tore pretty badly because of her hand and had to be stitched up. I was able to nurse the baby first – she latched easily and has continued to be a champion nurser! So different from my first birth.
It was such a quick, painful, but validating experience. I was still in the hospital, barely able to walk 4 days postpartum the first time, and now here I am, happy and home, and if it weren’t for the tear I’d be up and about. Instead I’m waiting to heal, bonding with my baby, and reveling in how awesome our bodies are.