My water never broke…just my tailbone…
Okay, I’ll back up a little…
I had been having extremely mild, menstrual-like cramps for a few weeks leading up to the birth. Since they didn’t hurt, I was excited about these cramps and hoping that they were causing my body to progress. This was my first pregnancy and I was pretty excited to get the baby OUT of me, especially because I was getting pretty uncomfortable. I wasn’t THAT huge, but my hips ached like crazy at night, making it difficult to get any sleep.
My aunt, who is a birth doula, flew into town 10 days before my due date. She is also a professional massage therapist, and has worked on tons of pregnant mamas. So of course, I let her go to town on me as much as she wanted. Not only did it feel wonderful, but apparently she was doing some sort of pregnancy thing that was supposed to prepare my body for labor. She knew of some acupressure points that, supposedly, helped with bringing on labor (if your body is ready), so as soon as I turned 38 weeks she was performing those on me as well. I felt pretty pampered.
I had been extremely worried though, because at my last few appointments the baby had turned posterior. It happened slowly. First he was anterior. A few weeks later he turned to ROP and had been persistently ROP for at least a month. I took it really hard. I guess this is the point where I admit that for my entire pregnancy, I had been completely OCD about doing EVERYTHING I could to ensure that my baby’s position would be perfect for labor. I bought a birth ball and used it in place of a desk chair at work. I sat on that thing for 40 hours a week, from 4 months pregnant up until my due date. Every day, starting in the second trimester, I did my Spinning Babies exercises. I never leaned back; I never sat on the sofa. I wouldn’t even lean back in the bath tub. So, needless to say, I was very frustrated by this turn of events, and felt gypped by the baby positioning experts out there. I had been heeding their advice to a T, and yet my baby was still posterior. That was my biggest concern leading up to the birth, aside from needing an emergency c-section. I was pretty terrified a c-section. And I thought the combination of my small frame with a posterior baby could potentially mean bad news. But I tried to put all of that out of my mind.
The night before I went into labor, Jono and I had a nice relaxing evening. It was a Sunday and I was supposed to go into work the next day, but I called my boss earlier that day and told her that I wouldn’t be coming in. I felt too pregnant, my due date was the very next day, and I had decided that I wanted to start my maternity leave. So, knowing that I wasn’t going to work, we decided to have a nice dinner and then watch a movie. We lay in bed and watched the movie until midnight, and I fell asleep immediately. I had the greatest night’s sleep ever! I did not wake up once to pee and I slept like a log. I slept from midnight until 8:30am, when I was awakened by a dream. I think I dreamt that I was having contractions.
I got out of bed and felt a little wet when I stood, but it was so minimal that I thought it was just cervical fluid. I had been having more fluid during pregnancy anyway, so this wasn’t out of the ordinary. I had a nice lazy morning alone. Jono was getting his Masters degree at the time and he had to be at school that day. So I took a shower, did my hair, etc. All the while I noticed some mild menstrual-type cramps on and off, but they felt the same as the ones I had been having for weeks, so I thought nothing of it. I kept feeling the “cervical fluid” though, on and off. It wasn’t much, at all, but something in the back of my mind was telling me that it just might be amniotic fluid. I wasn’t sure if labor was imminent, but because I was so concerned about the baby’s position, I thought “well, if this IS labor, I better be doing all I can to get this baby in a good position! I have nothing else better to do anyway.” So I walked around the house, put my birth ball up on the bed and leaned over it (to try and spin baby to anterior!), listened to my Hypnobabies Birth Affirmations, etc. I don’t remember much of what I did. But eventually I noticed that the “mild menstrual-type” cramps seemed like they were coming more often. That, along with the “cervical fluid”, is what made me call my midwife.
She told me that I better get down to the birth center so that they could check to see if it really was amniotic fluid. I still didn’t think that I could possibly be in labor. I wasn’t really in any pain! She said that I could try to time the crampy feelings if I felt like it. I had nothing better to do, so I started timing. They were about 5 minutes apart, but still not painful or uncomfortable. I think because I experienced really bad menstrual cramps for my entire life, these didn’t really feel like anything.
I called my husband and told him that I had a 1:00pm appointment at the birth center. He had a class over lunch that day, starting at 12:15pm, but obviously wanted to come to the birth center with me. So, at 12:15pm he went to class and told his professor that he wouldn’t be staying because his wife might be in labor. His professor gave him an extra assignment for missing class! Do you believe that?
Jono came home and we began gathering things and packing the car, just in case. It didn’t feel necessary to pack the car, but we thought we’d better be safe than sorry. I didn’t feel like changing my clothes AT ALL, so I didn’t bother, but I was slightly embarrassed when I showed up at the birth center because I was wearing my sisters ex-boyfriends football warm-up sweatpants (they are huge!) and a hooded sweatshirt, with fake uggs (because they were easiest to slip on). I looked ridiculous and I knew it!!!
We drove to the birth center and I was still in disbelief that it could actually be labor. I guess it just felt as though I’d be pregnant forever, and I didn’t think it was very likely that I’d have my first baby on time, on my due date nonetheless! In the car, I was having regular contractions, still not very painful, but definitely uncomfortable. I was laying in the backseat for the drive and starting to actually breathe through some of the contractions. It was only a 20 minute drive. I still thought for sure that we’d arrive and I’d just be sent home.
We arrived at the birth center for our appointment, but the midwife I was scheduled to see was busy. Another midwife, Anne, saw me standing in the waiting room leaning onto Jono and said, “You look like a laboring mommy!” I just looked at her and said, “I don’t know if I am!” I told her that I was there to get checked for an amniotic fluid leak and she said she’d take me back right away. She waited to check my fluid until I was in between contractions (I LOVE midwives!). While I had one, she’d gently put her hand on my tummy until the contraction ended. That seemed to be her way of timing them, or seeing if they were, in fact, contractions, or maybe both. They still felt like fleeting menstrual cramps to me, and still not too painful. She confirmed that I was having contractions. And she apologetically told me that the baby was still posterior. I told her that I had a feeling and that I was disappointed, but I realized that there was nothing more I could really do about it.
Time to check for amniotic fluid. I lay down and she readied herself to insert the speculum. Immediately, she said, “Whoa!! I can see the head!” Jono looked and saw it too. She tried to show me with a mirror but I couldn’t see over my huge belly. She told me that by looking she would guess that I might be about 3cm dilated, but that she was totally guessing, and she wouldn’t be able to tell for sure until she got the speculum in and checked my dilation. As far as the amniotic fluid, nothing was conclusive. She told me that she thought I might have a very high, very small tear in the sac, because she could still see that the bag was intact over the baby’s head. She took out the speculum and then checked me for dilation. I wasn’t expecting much, since she had already told me that she guessed I was about 3cm. She then checked my cervix, and I was 6CM!!!! I was floored. But I was still in complete denial, because I responded with, “So does that mean I’m staying here?” She laughed and said yes, that I definitely had to stay and that she would not let me go anywhere at that point.
I wanted to get in the Jacuzzi tub as soon as possible, so she sent a nurse downstairs to my birthing suite to start filling it up. I shortly followed. Guess I was a little slower than the nurse, considering that I was in labor and all. When I arrived in the “Desert Room” (each room had a theme) I stripped down to my sports bra immediately, and got in the tub. It was about 1:30pm now. I sat cross-legged for awhile, chatting with the nurse. Pretty quickly I transitioned from “chatty” to “leave-me-alone.”
At some point the midwife arrived, her assisting nurse arrived, and Jono snuck in a quick call to my mom to tell her that I was in hard labor. The tub felt SO good, and I was just in my own little world, focusing on totally relaxing my entire body. At this point I was in transition (didn’t know it at the time). I didn’t want anyone to touch me. The nurse, trying to be nice, was pouring water over my belly during each contraction, but it did not feel good. It was all I could do to shake my head “No” each time she did it but she didn’t seem to get the point. Jono had to tell her to stop. He was great. He just stayed very close to me, almost up in my face, the entire time, which is exactly what I needed. I just wanted him to be near me. My tub time consisted of me lying on my side the entire time. I wanted the jets off. There were times that Jono thought I was trying to drown myself because I’d concentrate so hard on relaxing my body during contractions that my head would sometimes go under water a little bit. At one point I wanted peanut butter. Random. I spent about 1.5 hours in the tub, from 1:30 – 3pm.
At 3:00pm I started to feel like I needed to push, so they made me get out of the water. Apparently, by law, you cannot give birth in water in the state of Pennsylvania. They asked where I wanted to go: toilet, bed, birthing chair, etc. I tried squatting on the bed, but it hurt my lower back like a #%@#! so that position was OUT. I was only comfortable lying on my right side on the bed. So I pushed on my side for awhile, until Kathy, my midwife, asked if I would do a few contractions on my hands and knees. She told me that the baby was still posterior (with no back labor, thank God!) and she hoped that this would help him/her spin around.
I leaned over the birth ball, on the bed, and pushed through a few contractions in that position. It hurt like crazy, way more than lying on my side, but apparently she thought it was a good idea, so I went with it. Finally she thought it would be okay to resume my side-lying position. I did, but she then asked me to lay on my back to try and get the baby “under my pubic bone.” This position only lasted for one or two contractions, since we found that the baby’s heart rate drastically dropped as soon as I lay on my back.
It was at this point that Kathy busted out the dreaded episiotomy supplies, “just in case.” The drastic dropping of the baby’s heart rate made her a little nervous, she said. So she allowed me to try laying on my side again, for one more contraction, to see if the heart rate went back up. If it didn’t she was going to do the episiotomy and get the baby out as quickly as possible. Thankfully the heart rate immediately jumped right back up to normal and stayed that way. Whew!
I finally plucked up the courage to ask how I was doing. I was so afraid that I had been pushing all this time to no avail. So I said, “Am I making any progress? Or am I going to need a c-section?” I think Kathy almost laughed at me, but she held it in. She told me that I was pushing beautifully and that the baby was very far down in the birth canal.
Next thing I knew, the baby was about to crown. I don’t remember much about that part, except that it hurt worse than pushing, but only for a split second. Jono told me that I said, “owie” when the head crowned (who says owie!?). A lot of the labor feels like a haze, so I count on Jono to remember these things. He told me that I was a very quiet laborer, and for the most part didn’t make a peep the entire time. He said that I only spoke to ask the question about my progression, and to say “owie.” Of course, I felt like I was groaning and making tons of noise the whole time, but he assured me that I hardly made a sound. Interesting how my view of the labor was different than his.
Anyway, what I do remember is that my midwife asked for my hands, and I was the first one to touch my baby! But as soon as the head was out, Kathy went into “hurry-up-and-get-the-baby-out-mode.” Turns out the cord was wrapped around baby’s neck two times, and Kathy needed me to give a BIG push to get the baby out enough so that she could unravel the cord. After the fact, she said that we were fortunate because the cord was very loose around the baby’s neck.
Once Kathy unravelled the cord, she helped me “catch” the baby as he/she came out. I had a little help from her, but essentially did it myself. “Give me your hands!,” Kathy said. I brought the baby up to my chest immediately to be cuddled and, of course, I was still in shock. In awe, I said, “It’s a BABY!!!” We cuddled for a moment and then I heard the nurse say, “What is it!?” So I held up the baby, moved over the cord and said, “It’s a boy!” We had decided not to find out the gender during my pregnancy, but from day one I had a strong feeling that it was a boy. I guess my feeling was so strong that I didn’t even feel the need to check! Jono then helped me take off my sports bra, so that baby and I could be skin-to-skin. Someone gave us a blanket and I put it over him. He had no blood on him. He was perfect! He lifted up his head to look at me, and the midwife said, “wow, look at him lifting his neck! Strong baby!” He started breastfeeding immediately.
First ever photo of the babe, taken a few minutes after birth, still waiting on placenta, he latched on immediately (me smiling)
They examined him while he was on my chest nursing. They waited a few minutes to clamp and cut the cord, until it stopped pulsating. I think Jono cut it. I continued to breastfeed; he ate for about 15 minutes on each side. I pushed out the placenta shortly after he was born, but I don’t really remember it. I had no tearing and obviously, as a result, no need for stitches. Apparently Kathy had been massaging me and putting hot compresses on my perineum during the pushing stage. I had no clue she was doing this, but Jono told me about it later. I also found out later that he came out anterior, so the hands and knees position spun him!
The placenta, obviously
He came out anterior, but for most of the labor he was in the posterior position. When Kathy asked me to get on my hands and knees during the pushing stage, her intention was to get him to spin. She never told me this until much later. She said that the hands and knees position spun him to anterior, and after that the pushing phase was much quicker. However, since he was pretty far down in the birth canal when he spun from posterior to anterior, there was still a lot of pressure on my back and tailbone. By the grace of God, or maybe a miracle, I had zero back labor during the entire labor and delivery! His bad positioning did not cause me any pain during the labor or delivery, but it caused me a lot of pain after the delivery.
Once he was out I could not lay on my back. I have photos of me relaxing after childbirth….on my side. Not on my back. The pain was pretty intense, much worse than labor and delivery. I had lots of tailbone pain for weeks after childbirth. As I mentioned at the outset, my water never broke! But my tailbone did (or at least dislocated, still not quite sure)! It took a few months to heal but eventually it wasn’t quite so painful all the time. Thankfully I had no other post-delivery issues to deal with (stitches, etc) so all in all it really wasn’t too bad. Back to the birth story…
Eventually, once we were all settled and everyone had been examined, my family was able to come in and see us. My parents and my aunt (the doula) were already there, upstairs, in the waiting room, so they came into our room about 45 minutes after he was born. My sisters arrived shortly after. The midwives cooked us a nice meal and we enjoyed that while they weighed, measured, and fingerprinted him. He was six pounds nine ounces and 19.5 inches long.
Liam Blaine was born on his due date of December 10, 2007. I woke up in labor that day at 8:30am, but didn’t know I was in labor until getting checked at the birth center around 1:00pm. I entered the pushing stage around 3:00pm and Liam was born by 4:13pm, a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
Dressed and ready to go home about 6 hours post-birth
When Liam turned 5 years old I wrote this letter to Kathy McKain, the midwife who “caught” him.
I can’t believe that it took me this long, but I am writing to say THANK YOU for all the work you do to advocate for women’s health. You helped “catch” my firstborn son 5 years ago at TMC, in the Desert Room. We didn’t know the gender, but I had such a strong feeling that he was a boy that I didn’t even check when you told me to pull him up to my chest! You had to remind me to check, and sure enough, he was a boy. And then you commented about his strong neck muscles as he lifted his head up immediately and looked me in the eyes. I am so thankful for you and for TMC. I think that his birth may just have been a c-section if you hadn’t been attending. It was a quick labor. I woke up at 8am with some possible leaking, but it was so minor that I didn’t call TMC until about 11am. The contractions were super mild and irregular. You told me to come in for an amniotic fluid swab at 1pm, so we did. On the way there I was focusing and breathing through contractions and when I was checked upon arrival (by Ann) I was 6 centimetres!!! My firstborn son, Liam, was born at 4:13pm, just over 3 hours later. He was posterior until the very end, when you had me get on all fours to rotate him. It was so uncomfortable! I just wanted to lie on my side. And I ended up delivering on my side, but I remember trying a couple of different positions and his heart rate wasn’t as good. So on my side it was. And now that I reflect on his birth, between the positioning, the time spent pushing, and the heart rate drops in certain positions, I truly believe that he would have been a c-section if I had been in the hospital. I am so thankful that you trusted my body and allowed me to birth in the way that I desired. You helped me not to tear, which I am forever thankful for, and you were such a calming influence, even when he crowned and his cord was wrapped around his neck twice. I always felt safe and well cared for. So thank you for ALL that you do. You are appreciated more than you will ever know, and you are making a difference!
With much love and thanks,
Mom to Liam (born at The Midwife Center, Pittsburgh) and Callie (homebirth, born in the UK) and Anna (born at Hollywood Birth Center in Florida)