Little Lady’s Birth Story, from Sandy & Jane
Written November 28th, 2011
Two weeks ago, on the 14th, our Little Lady was born. She is the most beautiful, precious little thing I could imagine. I mean… you read about it, or maybe see other folks with their kids… but she’s our first baby, and that feeling when I hold her… it’s amazing. I can’t get enough of her cute little body and cute little snorfling baby noises. She’s already starting to smile at us, and it just melts my heart into a little puddle every time.
But how did she come to be?
Our due date was 11/11/11, which came and went. The next day, we went to a park and took some awesome maternity photos (way to cut it to the end, I know!). And then it was Sunday. I was starting to suspect something, as I felt a little more… err… TMI, but more mucus on wiping, and thought maybe I had seen a tiny tint of blood. Maybe it was the mucus plug. Maybe it was all in my head. But I finished packing the baby’s bag and my own, and tried to get lots of rest.
The “getting a lot of rest” part didn’t quite work out. Sunday night, I went to bed at 10pm, like normal. And woke up at midnight to use the bathroom, like normal. And I thought maybe there was a little more liquid there than normal… but figured, in my sleepy haze, to go back to sleep and see if it happened again. So I put on a panty liner and went back to bed. So at 1am, when I got up to use the bathroom again (like normal), I was pretty sure that was my water breaking, as the panty liner was wet. I put on a “real” pad, and crawled back into bed. I debated in my head… do I wake up Jane (my wife)… knowing there’s nothing she can do at this stage? Then I thought… if I didn’t, she’d surely be upset to find out I was halfway through labor while she was sleeping! So I woke her up. And she startled like I had zapped her with an electric rod, hehe. I had this nice vision of us snuggling together all night as labor progressed. She had this vision of potential disaster, and went off to get dressed, call our midwife Samantha and make coffee. Grin. I stayed in bed, and in another hour or so, was pretty sure I was actually starting to feel contractions.
They were light, like heavy cramps. We had taken a hypnobirthing class several weeks back, which promotes relaxation throughout labor as the way to a peaceful and pain free labor. So I listened to my Enya and Sarah McLachlan CDs, and relaxed. Jane came back in after about an hour, and bustled quietly around me, bringing me water and snuggling me. Then the contractions started getting stronger, where I wasn’t guessing anymore when I was having one, I was pretty sure. So we started timing them, and they were from 7-11 minutes apart, with no real consistency. During a particularly strong one, Jane would snuggle up with me, and I could concentrate on having her nearby, instead of the tenseness. They still didn’t quite Hurt, like I’d thought they would. But my back ached like I’d been standing all day, and I needed her, or several pillows, behind me to make my back feel better. We used the hot pad too. But here was something no one mentioned, nor did any books discuss… during a contraction, you get hot. I mean REALLY hot, like a menopausal woman’s hot flash. So for 8-10 minutes between, I was cold and under blankets, and then I threw everything off and was dying of heat for a minute or two. Weird, yes?
It was actually pretty peaceful, this time. It was dark, my music was on… I could almost fall asleep between contractions. Around 5am, we figured we should probably wake Jane’s mom and dad, who are staying with us. Jane called Sam (our midwife) again, who said to come in when the contractions were 5 or less minutes apart (we live a half hour away from the birth center). Well, right after that call, they went to 3 minutes apart, then back to 7, then to 3… just wacky. So much for predictable timing, right?
So around 7, I just started to get that feeling that we should go, soon. They were strong then, like “I don’t want to move, or talk to anyone, but I want you nearby cause it makes me feel better”. So Jane started packing our things into the two cars, and I got out of bed to put on a dress and put my hair in a braid. While I was in the bathroom braiding my hair, which is long, but not THAT long, I had three contractions back to back while standing. Not so fun – by the third one, I realized it didn’t matter if my hair was back, or if we were packed, but what mattered was getting me and the midwife in the same room, and quickly! So I worked my way to the living room between contractions, and Jane helped me put on my shoes (through two more contractions), and get me to the car (through two more – talk about coming on fast!). And away we went at 7:30am.
As soon as I was sitting in the car, they slowed down. I think it was something about standing really bringing them on that fast. Which was good to know and to pass on to you! So the car ride was fun. The sun was just coming up, and Jane’s mom was driving (a good 15 miles over the speed limit, during morning rush hour, in a well patrolled area). Let me tell you… it’s not til that car ride until I noticed every bump in every street, and how horribly long red lights really are! Grin. I had about 15-20 contractions in the half hour it took to get the birth center. What’s the math on that? Close together, that’s what!
So we finalllllly arrived. And we get inside at 8:10ish, and immediately walk back to my favorite birthing room, the Garden Room (it’s green and garden like). I lay down on the bed, and Sam came in to check how far along I was. She said to let her know when the contraction stopped so she could check. But it didn’t – it was almost 5-6 minutes later when I knew I was between contractions. In retrospect, this must have been the transition phase where they just come one on top of another. Very tense, but again, not painful like I was kind of expecting from all the media hype. So, Sam goes to check me… and tells me I’m 9 centimeters. Which was really really awesome to hear, because deep down, I was always figuring I’d have a long labor like my mother (37 hours) fraught with peril. And to discover we were pretty much there, in only 8 hours of relatively peaceful laboring… awesome.
As soon as we had entered the room, the awesome birth assistant gal had turned on the giant tub to get it started. So as soon as the midwife was done checking me, I wanted to hop into the tub. “Hop In” I use very very loosely. It took three people and a step stool to gently and safely get me in to the giant tub. But once I was in… oh my god… it was wonderful. I cannot recommend a tub enough to you… it was the most fantastic feeling of warmth and the release of tension. I could lie on my side, and take the pressure off my aching back. And it was a tub – you can move into whatever position you feel you need, right away, without struggling against gravity or an excess of bed pillows.
Sam had stepped out of the room as soon as I was in the tub. About three minutes after I got in, I had another contraction, but this one was different. It was accompanied by the feeling of having to have a bowel movement. Like a big one was ready to come out. And I’m lying there wondering…. is this the part they warn you about, where people sh** all over themselves?? I hope not! But by the next contraction, the feeling was irresistible, this undeniable urge to push. I couldn’t help it – I pushed. It’s not like on TV, where they tell you “wait, the Doctor isn’t here, don’t push yet!”. I literally couldn’t help it. I held tight to Jane’s hand and asked her to help me not push yet. For a couple of reasons – one, I wanted to ask our midwife if it was OK (too many TV scenes where they tell the lady not to push yet), and I wanted to make sure it was a labor push, not a bowel movement push… you know? And she had just said I was 9cm, was I supposed to wait until she said I was at 10?
So Samantha comes back, thank goodness, and I tell her I feel the need to push, and ask if it’s OK. And if it’s “the right kind of pushing”. She sort of giggled – I think she knew what I was thinking. She said to do whatever my body was telling me to do, and yes, having a baby feels EXACTLY like having a large bowel movement on its way out. So that was actually very reassuring. I knew it was OK to push.
Contractions no longer felt like contractions – they didn’t feel like a tightening in the belly, or really heavy cramps anymore. All they felt like was this primal urge to push. I couldn’t feel anything else, just that. When one would come, I would hold tight to Jane’s hand on the edge of the tub, and look right into her eyes. Her beautiful eyes. And remember to breath.
In what seemed like 10 minutes (but was really a half hour), I felt the first feeling of the “ring of fire”. It’s well named, but not because it felt like fire. It felt like a ring. Exactly and uncannily like a ring. It was weird, because how many times have you felt a feeling inside your own body that was distinctly a shape? Right away, I knew it was the ring of fire, and I was amazed and thrilled – that meant we were so close to meeting our baby! With each pushing cycle, I could feel the ring a little stronger. Like… imagine your eyes are closed, and you know you are getting closer and closer to something. It just got a little stronger, a little more “there”, with each set of pushes. The “fire” part of the ring of fire… it wasn’t a sharp pain Like I would ascribe to the word fire… more like… well, exactly like what you’d feel if you used your hand and gently stretched the opening to your vagina. Like the labor books suggest you do. Like a strong stretch in the area, just shaped like a circle. Don’t be afraid of the ring – it just means you’re almost there!
I would swear the whole entire pushing time, since I got in the tub, had only been 20 minutes, tops. I found out later I was in the tub for an hour and a half. I had heard that time moves faster when you are in labor, but it didn’t really make sense to me until it happened. It was like I was concentrating on the next cycle so much (with anticipation), that I missed all the time in between. I just knew my wife was right there, we were having a baby, I was in a warm tub, and I really, really needed to push. So push I did. And the ring got more and more pronounced, and there came a moment when I realized that I was keeping my legs apart, not to help with the pushing, but because they probably wouldn’t close anymore. There was a head in between them, coming down the canal. I mean, consciously you KNOW that’s what’s happening, but I just realized it in one moment… and thought, WoW. Oh Wow, we’re going to meet our baby any time now! And it just made me want to push faster and harder. And at the same time, I’m thinking I should push slower to not tear. But it really didn’t matter what I thought, because my body was busy doing the pushing, regardless of what I did or didn’t mean to do. 🙂
Right at the end, I could tell it was at the end. The ring feeling was VERY strong when I was pushing. I knew it would be the next push or two. I held tight to Jane’s hand, and said that we were getting closer. For the next push, I reached down with my hand and actually felt our daughter’s head in between my legs. I can’t even describe that feeling… her head was soft and squishy feeling, and oh my god.. it was our baby. Right there. Almost there. I knew the next push would be it. I looked at Jane, and said “Help me, she’s coming, right now. Help me catch her!”.
And apparently I said this in my quiet little laboring voice, because the midwife and birth assistant didn’t hear me at all. Jane told me later that they were chatting quietly in the background saying to each other, “She’s laboring so quietly, I bet she won’t tell us when the baby is coming.”. The thing was… I had told Jane, and as far as I was concerned, she was the only other person in the entire world. It’s not my fault they didn’t hear. Hehe.
So during that last push, Jane moved from alongside my head on the edge of the tub down to the baby, and I pushed one last time, and our daughter came out, all at once. None of that “first the head, then the shoulder” part… in one big VOOSH, she slipped right on out into Jane’s waiting hands. I’m a little fuzzy on exactly what happened next, but I imagine as soon as Jane moved, Samantha must have rushed over too. I was reaching for the baby, and Jane and I lifted her out of the water together. My hands were shaking, and I wasn’t sure I could hold her up by myself (just the shock and awe of seeing her little body). Then she was in Sam’s hands, and I could see the cord around her neck. Sam was trying to remove it, but from my angle underneath, I could see that it was also wrapped around her foot, and that’s why she couldn’t untangle it from her neck. I slipped the cord off her foot, and Sam slipped it off her neck, and suddenly my baby was on my chest and I was holding her. She was so there, so alive, so dark!! And she had a head full of beautiful dark hair (a running joke – we both come from families where babies are born with lots of hair, so we were hoping she would have hair when she was born).
She wiggled and coughed a little, and I turned her fact to mine…. and she looked at me with her beautiful dark eyes. Jane was crying, and saying something about how she caught her, she had caught her! I was just staring at this beautiful wriggly wrinkly little creature, thinking “This is my baby, this is our daughter!”. The midwife covered her in a warm wet towel, in case she would get cold, and right away, she started rooting, trying to find my nipple. I helped her, and remembering what I learned from my best friend, a former lactation consultant, helped her get latched on. It took a few tries to get a good latch, but then she got it, and sucked for the first time. Oh my god – no one mentioned that little babies have an incredible suction to them! She certainly had noooooo trouble figuring out how to work the breast!!
We stayed that way in the tub for, again, what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably 15-20. The midwife bound the cord, and Jane gave it a snip. And somewhere in there, Sam told me to push one more time for the placenta, and I did, and voosh, just like that, out it came, and they whisked it out of the tub and away (I had always wondered if it would be gross being in a tub after labor… you know? But it wasn’t). Then they asked if they could take her and dry her off and weigh her and such (all of 8 feet away from me). I said yes, and Jane lifted her away. And suddenly, I felt the urgent need to bathe. Lucky me, in a tub already! They turned on the shower head, and helped me rinse off and get out of the tub. Two steps over was the bed, where I lay in a sitting position (gotta get me one of those mechanical beds one day!), and then they brought Little Lady back to me. We just stared at her.. and held her, and snuggled her, and she stared right back at us. And fell asleep, wrapped in a baby blanket, and wearing an adorable purple kitten hat a friend made for us. It has ears!
She was born at 9:25am. So labor started at midnight… less than nine and a half hours. Wow. She weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 21 inches long. At our last pediatrician appointment a week ago, she was up to 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and 21.5 inches long. She’s filling out – I can see it already in her pudgy little cheeks and fat little arms and legs. And little fingers and toes… happiness.
We stayed at the birth center another 6 hours or so. I rested, the grandparents came in from the living room / waiting area to see us (my mother-in-law was going to be there for the actual birth, but it happened so fast, she missed it – she came in right after and got some video of us in the tub right after she was born). I think I took a nap somewhere in there, with Little Lady snuggled up in my arms. The in-laws went out and brought me back breakfast/lunch. When they asked if I was hungry, I really wasn’t. By the time they came back with hashed browns and a breakfast sandwich, I was ravenous and could have eaten THEM too! And still thirsty. We went through an entire medium sized cooler of dragon water and Gatorade (about a dozen 16 ounce containers – I was thirsty the whole time).
Ohh, and I got stitches. I did tear, it turns out. Didn’t feel it at all, and I didn’t feel it after – I still don’t. 8 stitches. Want to know something interesting though? I always thought that if you needed stitches because you tore, you would tear along the outer opening to the vagina, right? Not so – I tore on the labia, a good half inch away from the vaginal opening. I always thought a tear would be from the baby’s head stretching the vaginal opening beyond its capacity to open. But actually, it turns out a lot of tears are from AFTER the baby’s head comes out. This is why midwives and doctors likes to have their hands right there when the baby is coming out – to keep the head from rebounding back into you at the end of a push – that’s what causes this kind of tear. Baby pops out, baby gets “sucked back in” a little, and tears your labia on the rebound. Go figure. But I didn’t feel any of it – and at two weeks, the stitches are already dissolved and gone, with no scar or indication they were ever there.
We did paperwork too – the filing for the birth certificate, various required state forms (like the one stating we don’t want public aid), and some forms from the birth center. They were funny – Jane had to actually sign a form saying she would take care of me and the baby for at least three days solid, and I had to sign a form saying I would do whatever she said. Grin. Ohh, and I had a form for them too – my long-term disability policy has maternity leave coverage, and needs to be filled out by the attending physician at a birth. Or, in this case, my midwife.
But finally we were done. They did a car seat inspection (I had the car seat installed by the official car seat installer lady at the local hospital – it’s a free service and offered almost everywhere. She showed me how to use it, install it, move it… everything, it was awesome), and then we were ready to go. People are so used to the idea that you have a baby in a hospital, and you stay for 2-4 days after… not at a birth center. You can stay as long as you want, or you can leave after a minimum after birth stay of 4 hours. I just wanted to go home and be in my own bed with our little baby.
The ride home was much better than the ride there – I rode in the back so I could keep my hand on the baby in the car seat, more for my comfort than hers. She slept the whole way home. Once we got home, Jane helped me to bed, and like a light, me and the little gal were asleep. She is SUCH a good baby – she slept in four hour blocks the first night, allowing me to sleep too. We slept from like 7pm-9am the next morning, interspersed with feedings and Jane doing diaper change duty. I wasn’t in pain from the stitches or the labor – just tired and a little wobbly on my feet.
The first three days home, Jane did most of the diaper changing, and we learned how to burp a baby (the wee little one doesn’t like being burped over the shoulder – she likes to sit up and get a back pat). I was able to shower the next morning (though I had to sit down right afterwards), and spent most of the first days on the couch with the baby. It’s two weeks later now, and I’m completely back to normal. Walking, eating, all that. Sleeping is still touch and go, depends on the baby, but she seems to sleep in 2-3 hour blocks, with 15-20 minutes for snack time and then back to bed. Unless, like last night, she decides to stay up from 3-5:30… ahh well. 🙂 That’s why they say go to bed early and get up later, until somewhere in the middle of all that time, you’ve gotten your regular amount of sleep. For me, that’s anywhere from 6-8 hours, hopefully 8. Which I’ve been getting, but I go to bed at 8pm and get up at 7-8am.
We’re cosleeping, and the first week home, I would sit up in bed with the boppy to feed her. But that wasn’t working out quite so well, because I was leaning up against a hard wall and getting really sleepy. Jane and her dad went out and bought a rocker/recliner for me by the first weekend. Not the hard wooden kind, but the soft plushy armchair kind. It’s right next to the bed, like two feet away. So I just get out of bed, scoop up the baby, and sit back down in this beautiful, snuggly chair ($75 from Habitat for Humanity). I listen to my music CDs or audio books, or write in my baby diary, while she nurses away at all hours of the night. I can even pull the chair into a reclining position and go to sleep in it. The thing is… I don’t mind at all getting up at all hours. I was getting up anyways to use the bathroom while pregnant – I actually get up less now, just stay up a little longer. But I don’t mind because… because it’s for her, and I would do anything for her. She’s… my baby. My daughter. I’d move a mountain to give her a better life. Suddenly a lot of the crazy things my mom did make more sense – she did them to give us a better life (even if she was terribly wrong, and a bit crazy, at least she had the right intentions).
I know this is a really long story… that’s why it took me so long to write it. I wanted to share what an awesome experience we had in labor, and how wonderful it is right now. You might be about to have a baby, or will have one in the next few months. No matter how delighted all your family and friends are to tell you about their horrible labors, or “this one friend I had that… [insert terrible story here]”, just remember… labor doesn’t necessarily hurt. You can have a quiet, peaceful birth, despite all those stories. It really can happen, and it’s happened to at least one person you know – me. I only had two truly positive birth stories in my head by the end of my pregnancy… and some hypnobirthing videos of peaceful births. I hung on to those, knowing it was possible, and before I knew it, there she was, and labor wasn’t really anything to have worried about after all. I’m thinking about you, and hoping your labor goes as smoothly, quickly and wonderfully as mine – and that in the end, you fall just as deeply in love with your child as we have.
~ Sandy & Jane