Note: In the process of writing this out in lengthy and excruciating detail, I realized that I am writing this mostly for . . . myself. I want to remember everything. Each small detail is important to me -- giving birth is an amazing experience and precious memory. I don't want to lose any of it.
I am also chagrined that this is posted more than a month after Jamie's birth. I remember feeling like it took me an extremely long time to post Truen's birth story, but looking back on it this week, I realized it was posted only 5 days after he was born.
It is amazing how the pace of life changes as children get older. Why...? There are definitely more messes to clean up, little people to tend to, clothes washed, books read, food made, less napping, bunnytrails to follow...
And so on and so forth.
Little Jamie Sterling was born at home on a beautifully sunny day on Tuesday, January 4 at 10:36 AM.
I had been having contractions on and off for the past week, so I didn't think much of it. They had followed an every-other-day activity pattern, active mostly in the afternoons and early evening. The surges were closer together with each day of activity: 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10-12 minutes.
I cautiously called my midwife each time, wanting to stay in close contact with her in the case that she might be a good distance from me on d-day. With each call, she instructed me to go to bed as usual or change up what I was doing and to call her if anything built in intensity or frequency.
So that Monday night, as we watched "Nine Nights of Glory", Universal Sports' tribute to the recently deceased Olympic filmmaker, Bud Greenspan, I casually watched the clock and timed contractions. It was one day past my due date, a day I had never reached before with either Diego or Truen.
The contractions were same-old but continued to a later time than usual, probably around 10:00 PM.
I called Judy (the midwife) at 9:00 PM. She was in Nebraska and approximately 5 hours away from me - her schedule was backed up due to a birth in the wee hours of that morning. She had been planning to be home that night, but was now going to catch some sleep at a motel in Omaha.
She instructed me to go to bed as usual, then said, "Call me if the contractions wake you up."
Contractions did wake me up that night. I'm pretty sure I went through a several of them before I realized what exactly was happening. I was confused because I had gotten up to pee at 1:00 AM, so when I awoke to the tightening in my belly, I assumed it was tied in with my full bladder. It doesn't make much sense, but I was groggy. (And I had often awoken that past month having to pee very badly combined with a very tight uterine contraction. They must be interrelated.)
I looked at the clock and realized I that I had, in fact, been asleep for awhile, as it was 2:51 AM. I started timing contractions and they were coming every 10-12 minutes, so I must have gone through about a half hour of surges before I actually woke up enough to realize what was going on.
Judy had said to call her if the contractions woke me up, but I still wasn't convinced that this could be it. And I just hated the idea of crying wolf. Because, what if...? So I timed the contractions for a full hour. They were consistent, so I finally called her at 4:00 AM. The poor woman, you should have heard her -- she sounded so sleepy when she picked up the phone. "....Hello?"
"Okay, I'm on my way," she said. I heard her bag zipping up in the background, like she was some super hero putting on her cape.
"This must be it!" I thought, because if she thought it was, it must be. Though I honestly felt a little hesitant and wondered if she was going to drive 5 hours for nothing.
"Go back to bed and rest until you're unable to lay there anymore," she instructed.
So I did. I went back to bed without waking Squeeze, who I deemed needful of sleep. Why wake him when there was nothing he could do anyway? I wanted him well-rested.
I got up a few times to urinate, eat a snack, and post on my blog. Judy called to say at some point that she was in transit and would be picking up her apprentice, Ruth, in Sioux City, Iowa. Ruth, working towards her CPM credential, would be the acting Head Midwife at my birth.
I laid there semi-comfortably, not sleeping at all, timing my contractions. Was this it? I still wasn't sure. Eventually the surges were making me so uncomfortable that I needed to breath through each one. That should have been a sign, but I still wasn't necessarily convinced. Silly mama.
At 6:30 AM, I couldn't lay there any longer. It was just too unpleasant.
I got up to pee again and planned to take a shower when Diego came sleepily into the bathroom. I broke Judy's rule ("Don't take a shower until I get there.") and took a shower, with Diego joining me. Predictably, the warm water felt very good. ("Well, of course!" Judy said later.) But I was bound and determined to take one so I could smell fresh for the ladies. I needed one. Bad.
I knew Blaine would be up for work soon and sure enough, he came into the bathroom right on time and asked, "Is this it...?!" I'm pretty sure answered, "It might be. I think?" Ha.
I didn't want to commit to anything, just in case.
Squeeze had known something was up before he even came downstairs, when he realized that our black cat Toots wasn't with him. He jokingly refers to her as his alarm clock, as she wakes him up if he sleeps longer than 6:45 AM. She walks down the stairs with him every morning, then ditches him to come and sleep on my legs.
But there was other activity going on that morning.
I got out of the shower, started breakfast, and called my doula friend to let her know "this was it". When a contraction came, I just stopped what I was doing and swayed my hips a bit -- it just felt right. By this time, I was pretty sure that I was going to have my baby that day, probably mid to late afternoon. Ha, again.
Squeeze called his parents to tell them to come and pick up the boys, giving them an ETA of 9:00 AM.
I then called my mom to let them know, but actually had to cut the conversation short to breathe through a contraction. She was worried about the weather as it had been blizzarding the weekend before, but it was as clear as a bell and a beautifully sunny day.
"Your dad has been sweating bullets for months," she said.
Diego was in the sunroom reading Little Critter books and Truen was still sleeping. Squeeze was moving throughout the house, prepping for the day.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, converged on the house within minutes of each other at 9:00 AM: the midwives, my doula friend Suz, Squeeze's parents. His parents didn't even come in the house -- his mom had broken her ankle in early December and it was just too big of a production, so they waited in the car.
Squeeze woke up the still-sleeping Truen, had him eat, gathered their bags, and shuttled the boys to the car.
Meanwhile, I sat in the kitchen with Ruth and Suz. Judy took care of business on her phone, then went upstairs to take a short nap while things were still quiet. Ruth was officially the midwife-in-charge.
We conversed in a relaxed fashion, stopping every 5-7 minutes for me to focus through another contraction. I would say, "Here's another one," and put my head in my hands to relax through it.
Each time, Suz would get up and apply a soothing, firm, caressing pressure on my back, from my shoulders down to my lower back, which felt superb. Physically, it helped me relax and remember to relax. Emotionally, I felt supported and very well taken care of. I was so happy to have her there.
Ruth quietly timed, observed, and kept notes.
After sending the boys on their way, Squeeze let the chickens out, watered and fed them, and cleaned up the kitchen. I was hungry and ate a bowl of oatmeal.
After that, Ruth wanted to check the position of the baby, so we headed into the living room. I laid on the couch while she listened to fetal heart tones with the fetascope and felt my belly. Everything looked good.
I then moved to the floor, sitting cross-legged and bolt upright. Suz was behind me, caressing my back, sometimes applying firm pressure with her belly and legs, playing with my hair. It felt so nice -- very reassuring. Ruth was in the rocker in the front-right of me, still sitting quietly and taking notes. I appreciated her affirming presence as well.
At this point, contractions were coming every 3-5 minutes and lasting approximately one minute and forty seconds, though I wasn't aware of it at the time.
Squeeze came in the room and sat on the couch next to me, holding my hand. We were still amiably chatting and he told me how he had seen a white hen in a nesting box, yolk on her beak and caught in mid-act, eating an egg.
"And I know which one she is," he said.
"Do you," I said. "Hmmmm. I wonder if we should be done with her this winter -- I mean, if you know which one she is."
"Yeah," he said, and with that, I plunged into another contraction and the conversation ceased.
This one was a little different, though. I started to feel a little nauseated at the very end. I told Ruth and said that I was starting to feel like I wanted to get into the shower. "Right now?" she asked, but I wanted to wait another one out.
The next contraction was milder, but at this point there was no conversation. I needed to be quiet and focus. The next contraction came and, again, with slight nausea at the end.
"I want to get into the shower now," I said and got up.
Interestingly, after the birth, Suz told me that she had been wondering what just might happen when I stood up. Sitting bolt upright, there was no place for the baby to go; she thought there might be a sudden flurry of activity when I got up. Not unlike a lightning bolt.
Was she ever right.
I could hardly walk to the bathroom. I felt like I was tottering on stilts. Suz was by my side, helping me walk. I don't know where anyone else was. Later, I realized that Judy had heard the activity and bolted downstairs.
When I made it to the bathroom I ripped off my clothes and got into the shower, seeking the refuge of warm water. It felt good, though not as calming as I wanted. Things were picking up speed, and quickly. I was there for a very short period of time -- what felt like 2-3 minutes.
While in the shower, I was able to feel up inside myself and feel the baby's head with the membranes of the sac in between. Amazing. It was right there. When I looked at my hand I saw hair-like threads of blood. I remember that happening with Truen, too (only I could feel his actual head, as my water had already broken). We were very close.
During what felt like the second contraction, my body was hit with the urge to push. I let out one of the primal grunting-moans that come when the body takes charge. I was helpless against its force.
"I want to get in the bathtub!" I said.
The midwives started running water in the tub, which makes the shower run cold. Unfortunately. I said something to that effect and turned off the water. Feeling very cold, I doubled over with another contraction. I think I was almost on my hands and knees.
Someone threw a towel over me to keep me warm, but I wanted in the tub and quickly got back up. I wanted to be warm. I wanted the comfort of the warm water.
When I got in the tub, I again sat bolt upright. I wasn't thinking, just doing. (Why upright? So strange.)
The water was running in but it was not much relief, as it wasn't very deep yet. I felt a huge pressure on my butt and felt extremely uncomfortable. At this point in time, I remember that all I wanted to do was get out of the tub, get on the toilet, and poop. Poop! (I was totally tricked by this last time.)
"I know it's the baby's head . . . but I really feel like I need to poop!" I said.
So even while I wasn't totally deceived, I was still tricked. Drat. What a strange paradox, to truly know what was causing the sensation, i.e. the baby's head, but still falling prey to the unbearable and irresistible feeling of what it was not, which was the need to poop. If that makes sense.
At that point, I was incredibly thirsty and Squeeze got me a drink of water.
Another contraction came, along with the moaning-groan of the urge to push. Suz had her hand on my back, encouraging me. The water was a little higher and I simultaneously heard and felt a POP, not unlike the explosion of a baked potato, between my legs.
"Something just popped," I said. It was an interesting sensation, as both my previous labors had started with the water breaking 20-22 hours before the actual birth.
I rested, then another contraction hit that left me feeling helpless. I had read through the Stages of Labor just that week and remembered that laboring women feel extremely vulnerable and overwhelmed during Transition, like they aren't going to be able to do it.
"Oh my gosh, I feel like I can't do it," I said, very much aware that my feelings were written right into manuals of labor. The ladies all chorused their words of encouragement, though I can't remember what they said.
I rested, then felt like I was thrown backwards with the force of the next contraction. Like a giant wind blew me back. I was now leaning against the back of the tub, legs stretched out in front of me.
"I can't do it," I whimpered. (I cried when I heard and saw myself saying that while watching the birth video later that day, it was so sad and pathetic.) At that, I was immediately thrown into the groans of another urge to push.
"You are doing it," Judy said encouragingly, "the baby's head is right there. Lots of dark hair."
Another urge to push.
"See? It's right there," she encouraged, "That's your baby. Your baby is right there." And I was encouraged. I felt a quiet strength seep into my bones.
At this point, the contractions must have been coming right on top of each other, because there was not much time to rest. I leaned back, feeling the baby's head, moaning with the intensity of the contractions.
As the baby's head crowned, Judy said, "Pant - pant - pant - pant", a tactic to help slow the entry of the baby's head and allow the perineal tissue to stretch a little more slowly.
I remember barely being able to pant with the force of the urge to push being so strong. I honestly tried, but kept transitioning back to the pushing moan. It was a force to be reckoned with. Judy brought me back several times, with me truly trying to pant, until I could finally no longer do it. (The duration of my pant-pant-pant attempts was maybe 30-40 seconds.)
My body took charge.
With a forceful groan, out came his little head. But there was no rest. I'm not sure if it was a separate contraction or a continuing contraction, but I had to push. Judy noticed it as well as said something to the effect of "Alright, now push again!" and HUAH! out slithered the rest of his little body.
His arms were flailing in the air, feet tucked up under his body, mouth open wide. And he was totally purple. (In the video, the purple is quite striking against my pale skin. Beautiful, even.) Squeeze said, "It's a boy!" with a little happy laugh as the baby was brought up to my chest.
"I'm done...! I'm done...!" I breathed, as the midwife suctioned his little nose and mouth, "I can't believe I'm done!" I was so relieved. They put a blanket over him and a little hat on his head.
I then set to examining him. He had Diego's nose, hardly any vernix, and oh my, "You're so purple," I said.
"He's pinking up nicely," Judy crooned, almost verging on baby talk. She lifted up the blanket and lightly patted him. "See?" she said. And he was -- pink and plump and perfect.
I said again that I couldn't believe I was already done. "That went fast," I said, "Didn't it?" Yes, yes, it did they all replied. And it did. 10:36 AM -- approximately an hour and a half after everyone arrived -- seven and a half hours after the contractions woke me up.
It went fast.
Looking back, I feel like the end hit me with hurricane force. There weren't any rest periods or peaceful breaks. (There were with Truen, definitely.) I was at the mercy of my uterus. My body was completely in charge and it was my job to work with it. I feel pretty good about it, though I did feel almost bewildered after it was over, like I didn't get a chance to savor it. It just went so quickly and with such intensity.
After the birth, the midwives had me take an herbal bath while I nursed the baby. They weighed and measured him, diapered and dressed him. Squeeze snuggled with him in the warm morning sun. I got out, dressed, and went straight into bed. My very own cozy and freshly-made bed. Delicious.
The midwives cleaned everything up, washed dishes, and did a load of laundry (towels and blankets), then came into the bedroom for post-partum instructions before settling down into a short cat-nap. Suz made sure I had a snack and something to drink and took pictures of me nursing the baby in bed before returning home to her young family.
By early afternoon the house was quiet, warm, and sun-filled. Squeeze and I snuggled in bed with the baby and talked through the birth. We laughed about how, when I whimpered "I can't do it...", his insides were thinking the exact same thing, wondering how a full-sized newborn inside that big belly was actually going to make its way out. Even after the experience of seeing two previous births.
We rested all that afternoon, lounging in bed, then called Squeeze's parents to bring the boys home. Snuggling, smooching, and tender head caresses followed, with Truen feeling stand-offish but curious and Diego wanting to hold him ASAP.
They were, and are, very sweet with him.
Then we all went to bed together that night in our giant patchwork queen/double bed.
Two days later, he finally had a name. Jamie Sterling. The little darlin' darlin'.
Afterthoughts: At the last birth, I was blown away by the wonder and comfort of being able to be HOME. It felt so good -- natural, calming, and almost magical. I was allowed the comfort of my own surroundings and, having done it before, knew how to work with my body and relax through the contractions. After all, it is the uterus that is doing the work. We are just her little helpers.
This time, I felt that same relaxation and comfort. It felt so normal. But what blew me away was the presence of my doula friend, Suz. With Suz, along with two midwives and my husband, I felt extremely comforted. Special. Taken care of. I was supported and held up.
There is a lot of sense in having a gathering of birth attendants. Birthing women should be tended gently, following her cue, with much attention paid to her needs. At my first birth, I remember feeling so alone. Squeeze was with me, of course, but he knew even less than I did. We spent much of our time alone and saw a half-dozen or more different nurses and midwives by the end of our 15 hour odyssey at the hospital. I didn't feel supported, I felt confused.
I felt that comfort at my second birth, with two midwives and my husband, definitely. Very well taken care of. And of course, being at home was glory. But there was something about having a doula there at this last birth -- a person tending strictly to my emotional needs. It was so comforting.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone, especially to a first-time mom. I wish I would have had someone there for my first birth . . . I would have been so much less confused, I think.
So there we have it, ladies. Longest. post. ever.
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