I am so grateful today to be able to share an incredible birth story from a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing in your words your experience!
New Year’s Eve 2012. I had an evening of errands and a little cleaning planned while Andrew worked . . . errands that included picking up one or two ‘girly’ clothing items for the baby, in the case that our little ‘he or she’ was the latter. Our baby’s room seemed fully stocked with gender neutral clothing (maybe even a little heavy on the blue), but I had some gender biased notion that bringing a baby girl home dressed like ‘girl’ would be sweet. I washed and packed away the new little outfit into our only packed-for-the-birth-center bag (no need to have anything else ready to go yet, right, as this baby was staying in until our due date . . . or so we naïvely thought). Time to finally wash the kitchen floor (a task I had put off for at least two weeks; bending and scrubbing and a nice sized baby bump just didn’t seem to go hand in hand, so I procrastinated). But the Lucian hair was starting to collect in the corners (the dog that didn’t shed a wink for the first year of his life seems to have become your standard d-o-g, shedding and all). I don’t think I had even really started the sweeping when I started feeling a little uncomfortable . . . general tightening (like the Braxton-Hicks we’d been feeling for months, but actually somewhat ‘painful’). Maybe I wasn’t paying attention during our wonderful childbirth class, but I couldn’t remember what an early stage labor contraction was supposed to feel like. I figured this sensation was just the result of a little dehydration, opened a coconut water and went back to cleaning, pausing every once and awhile to rub my very tight, uncomfortable belly. I won’t claim to have done a solid job cleaning that floor (by the end of the short cleaning session, the waves of tightening were fairly strong, but I was clearly in denial). By 8:30pm or so, Lucian and I were snuggled on the couch, watching Enchanted (half-heartedly) and catching up on some emails, waiting for Andrew to get home from work. I played around with baby names (we still hadn’t settled and our ‘top five’ girls list was still a ‘top fifteen’ or so) and started dinner. Andrew came home at around 9:30 or so, and I distinctly remember saying “don’t worry, I don’t think it’s labor, but I’m feeling a little weird and it’s kind of regular” . . . He and I both figured that these came on too quickly, not strong enough, and too regularly (what were we thinking?! Wouldn’t regularity be a clue?) for them to be actual labor. We thought I would drink some water, get some sleep and by morning we’d be back to normal. Silly kids! We did sit down and figure out our top five girl names . . . my “just in case” instinct. I didn’t make it until “Happy New Years!”, but instead headed up to bed at about 11:30 to try to sleep. No such luck. I downloaded a little contraction timer and squirmed around in our bed, timing these now significantly uncomfortable contractions. Significantly uncomfortable might be downplaying it, but I had nothing to compare these to, and I figured ‘real’ labor would be excruciating. I googled ‘early labor’ and saw story after story of ‘false labor’ (we call it ‘practice labor’, which I much prefer). Nonetheless, the contractions continued . . . averaging about 50 to 60 seconds, every two and a half to three minutes. I know, I know . . . looking back on this, it seems silly that we didn’t recognize this as labor-labor, but I’ve been so mellow this whole pregnancy (part of the reason I thought it might be a girl), it kind of was par for the course for us to brush aside these strong, frequent contractions. Andrew went to bed a little after midnight (as we joked, “you ready for a baby?!”) and I tried to sleep. No such luck (again). I wandered around the house, pausing every two minutes or so to crouch/squat on the floor and hang my belly in between my legs (trying to relax into the contraction). It was strong, but the ‘go with it’, ‘ride the waves’, ‘this is only temporary’, and ‘I’m not alone . . . think of all the women in the world that are going through this in their own way right now’ mantras were helpful. I ran a bath, thinking that would slow things down . . . Nope! Time seemed to go by both quickly and slowly as I passed through the house, followed by Lucian’s watchful eye. I was trying to eat small things (kefir, fruit leather, a cliff bar . . . ) between contractions and drink plenty of liquids. When I’d pause on the floor, Lucian would check on me. It was comforting to have ‘someone’ to share this crazy (difficult?) movement through time with and I had no need to wake Andrew (at this point I was pretty sure the labor was for real). I figured it was best to let him rest while he could. By 4:15 in the morning, the contractions were unbelievably strong (I had one minor breakdown on the living room floor, thinking ‘woah, what did I get myself into’, but it lasted through one contraction . . . I refocused on all the positives – we get to meet our little one soon! -- and it set me in motion to get Andrew). Climbing the stairs and getting to our bedroom took another two contractions, and then I worked through another on our bedroom floor before I was able to get Andrew from bed. “I think it’s really time to call Becky . . . “ (our midwife on duty). She’s beyond well versed and I think she could tell we needed to head on into the birth center. We (Andrew) told her we’d be there in about 45 minutes and then Andrew had to race around the house to get our labor bags finalized. I had all these wonderful labor snacks and goodies and toiletries ready to go, thinking we’d be laboring at our birth center for hours . . . hmm . . . is it foreshadowing to just come out and say that all this running around to gather things was highly unnecessary?
Easily the worst part of the evening was the car ride to the birth center (all of nearly 10 minutes). I couldn’t sit through a contraction at home (why hospitals make women labor in a lying/sitting position is beyond me . . . these were by far the most painful positions) so sitting through contractions in a moving vehicle was not looking to be very promising. We zipped (. . . did I say ‘zipped’? I meant wobbled . . . waddled . . . swayed . . . ) out of our house at about 5:30am on New Year’s Day . . . the air was beyond crisp (in the low teens and snowing on and off) and the streets were beautifully quiet. I felt kind of like a drunk passenger (all the twinkling lights and kind of unaware of where in the drive we were, even though it’s a drive we know so well). Only one red light . . . and Andrew drove plenty fast enough to make me feel safe. Still, I started to feel a slight need to push as we sped down 9th South and neared the birth center. If I was in a state of mind to think clearly, I would have recognized this as ‘transition’, but I was so focused on moving with and through each contraction that the idea of ‘stages’ didn’t occur to me. I climbed out of the car and ended up having a contraction on the pavement (thinking “I’m not the first one to do this!”). The icy cool of the pavement felt nice and real (out of this weird car ride dream world) and it grounded me. Becky let us into the warm, dim birthing room (one more contraction on the floor) and had me checked for dilation . . . 8 and a half centimeters dilated! I think even she was surprised. Excuse my bragging . . . Most first time mums don’t make it to 8.5cm while laboring at home (in the U.S.). Becky had the birthing tub (gorgeous ritzy hotel grade Jacuzzi tub) drawn and ready for me and I couldn’t have jumped in quickly enough. Baths have always been my place of calm, comfort and focus. It was almost simple and second nature to climb in and the urge to push was almost immediate. I felt completely empowered, as our midwife and birth attendant stepped back and let me do what my body was made to do. Every once and awhile she would remind me to move with the waves (contractions) or slow down (I had the same urgency to get this little mystery child out as this little wonder baby had to be out)! I guess we worked together, this little one and I . . . The pushing was the most comforting part (not really painful until the final two pushes, just strenuous and overpowering). Every part of this labor has its purpose and when you’re finally able to feel and see what you have been waiting all these months (years!) for . . . that becomes an easy focal point. *For those that think I’m being silly by saying the pushing wasn’t painful -- It was the contractions prior to the urge to push that were painful, don’t be mistaken!
No more than 40 minutes in the tub, pushing through contractions and she was in my arms. Becky asked if we’d like to catch her and, of course, I had been waiting my whole life for this so I was pleased that our little baby popped right out (head and elbow/arm first) and I carried her up onto my chest. She came out in the same pose she spent much of her ‘in the belly time’ in . . . One hand up by her face. In fact, as I type, she is lying across my chest/belly, body splayed open (‘yay, I can finally stretch out!’) with one hand pressed against her face.
We were in such a moment of disbelief and shock and elation that we forgot to even check whether she (yes, she!) was a boy or a girl! Finally I flipped her around and Andrew said “girl!” (he was right all along) and we just stared at her and stroked her. The water suddenly felt much cooler than it had (I was a little heater through the labor) and we covered her in a warm, wet towel, placed a little hat on her sweet head (little reddish blonde hair!) and spent about 15 minutes snuggled in the bath. Papa Andrew took some photos and then took our little yet-unnamed bundle from me to hold. I was still in a state of awe, but seeing him hold her for the first time (like a natural father!) was beyond incredible. He stared at her melted (and it’s been that way ever since). I climbed out of the tub and was given a shot in the leg (wee!) and was situated on the bed so that Becky could check bleeding and for tears. No perennial tearing (thankfully, as with the speed she came out, I think they were expecting a little something), but the little warrior with her elbow up through the birth did a little deep scratch internally, so they quickly gave me a couple stitches (my first!) and then brought our little girl back to me for her first non-placenta-umbilical meal J We did a little kangaroo snuggling, skin to skin, as she fed. Andrew climbed onto the big bed with us and we got to lay there and bask in her sweetness. It was wonderful to be left alone for our first time as a family (minus little Lucian who was exhausted at home after being my labor doula). We spent about an hour there, just snuggled together, and then Becky and Megan (the birth attendant) came back to do some vitals, check on our daughter (our daughter!!!!) and make sure I was able to get up and pee (no problems there . . . adrenaline is this incredible, natural drug). Baby girl Philp was weighed (7lbs. 0oz.) and measured (19in. long . . . much of it in her skinny – but strong – little legs). We watched as they gracefully checked her over (all while in our birthing room), with barely a peep as she was given her first little shot (braver than her Mama, already).
I watched as Andrew gave the sweet little thing her first bath (back into the water she went!) and she barely fussed as she entered the water . . . So calm. We kept looking at each other and saying “she is SO good . . . she is SO amazing . . . she is SO incredible . . . “ Maybe the midwives say it to all new parents, but they were pretty impressed with her easiness (and the quick, seemingly scripted labor).
We got our little girl bundled and snuggled up again . . . time drifted by and we were checked a few more times before given the okay to pack up and head out into our world for the first time as a little family of 3 (Lucian just kicked me in his sleep to remind me we were already a family of 3 and I should correct myself). J Not a whimper as she was strapped into her car seat and carried out into what became a bright, crisp New Year’s Day. By 1:00pm we were on the road and on our way home to begin this new adventure!
I have this strange notion of entering the birth center as just two people and leaving as three . . . Enter with baby in belly, leave with baby in arms. It’s like the birth center was this strange portal through which our daughter came into this world. It will always be a special place for us (and I can’t say more good things about our experience with a natural birth)!
More on our first day home, when I get the chance to write. I’m passing little Malin (she remained nameless until late-afternoon on her first day) off to Andrew so I can get dinner and then get Malin her dinner. We’re in a blissful world of newborn love, adventure and learning. So thankful for all the friends and family and new friends and new family that have guided us through this journey and will be there for us through this next chapter. 2012 was a year of blessings and 2013 started out to be the year of miracles (in the most natural sense of the word).
A very happy Mama