spectating participant

July 29, 2008

Long, Detailed Birth Story

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 10:49 pm

Warning: I post this version, with lots of details that may be too much information, because I devoured birth stories while pregnant. The more detailed they were, the better. I wanted to read stories that seemed to capture the details of what was really doing on, not just smoothed over summary of events. So, feel free to not read this if you don’t want to hear the extra details. You can read the short, smoothed over version instead.

The quick details:

- homebirth attended by midwife and doula, Tina Overton, along with my most supportive partner Chris and my 12-year-old Alex
- second birth, 41 weeks gestation
- 25 hours of labor
- baby was 10lbs, 1oz; 21 inches; 15 1/8 inches head circumference
- shoulder dystocia
- no tears or stitches

Labor and birth, times approximate and exact — I didn’t really keep track of time at all, but our camera and cell phone helped give me time frames to work with.

Friday night - Full Moon

9:30pm - Joked about the full moon inducing labor and went out with Chris and Alex to check out the full moon. It was still rising, deep red behind the trees. The mosquitoes kept me from staying out and watching it for a while. Chris said that we’d have to wait until it was high in the sky for it to make any impact on labor.

11:00pm - I finally went to bed and took my last heartburn pill and thought to myself that labor better start because I didn’t want to have to buy more. Chris pointed out the window at the world filled with moonlight.


12:34am - woke up for the 4th in the past hour time feeling a very urgent need to pee. Realized it was actually a contraction and impossible to stay in bed because of the bladder pressure. Also realized that this was the real thing (labor) this time - don’t know why I knew it, I just did. Also noticed some bloody show.

Contractions about 12-15 minutes apart. Contractions felt like a very painful urge to pee, for the entire labor! Had a very uncomfortable BM and a hemorrhoid that had appeared/disappeared the previous week returned. My body started cleaning itself out which was very painful with the hemorrhoid.

Couldn’t sleep, so we all got out of bed and started getting things together. We had the birth supplies, but nothing was ever gathered in one place. We got the bedroom cleaned up and moved out some boxes to have more room for the birth pool and the attendants.

4:00am - Things were continuing but our energy totally faded. We all crawled in bed to get some sleep. It took some concentration to relax enough to get to sleep, but I managed it.

6:15am - A couple times contractions woke me up and had me a bit panicked and I decided that being woken up by contractions was no fun and got up.

7:00am - Called midwife and doula/Tina to let them know things had started and we’d need them later. And then everything stopped for about 30-60 minutes, I was really frustrated. This would happen through out the day each time I talked to either of them.

Things eventually started again. When I would lie down, they’d come strong and consistent at about 12 minutes apart. If I was up walking around, they’d space out to 15-19 minutes apart and wouldn’t been too uncomfortable.

10:00am - Decided walking around might help get things going stronger. Tried walking around outside but it was hot (upper-90s I think) and boring. Chris suggested going to the farmers market — I thought it sounded like a terrible idea, but was disappointed things weren’t advancing.

11:30am - Head off to the farmers market, having contractions as soon as we arrive and I wonder why I agreed to go. Someone commented that I looked a bit miserable - said I was and that I was in labor. Our farmer’s market visit was short, but enough for about 3-4 contractions.

For some reason, I agreed to also stop at a local bakery we’d been wanting to try since moving to the area a year ago. Again, once I had to get out of the vehicle, I was wondering why I agreed to go. But, ended up getting a very yummy sandwich to boost my energy and took home a dozen donuts too. After leaving, Chris tried to convince me to head north to a yard sale we’d heard about, I refused and we headed back home.

1:00pm - Back home, talked to Tina and midwife again and ended up with another break in contractions. I tried to go lie down again, and contractions started coming around 10 minutes apart. That lasted for a little while until it was too uncomfortable to be in bed.

Got up and decided to get some sewing done. I still hadn’t made up the postpartum cloth pads I needed. I cut a few out, but decided that contractions and a rotary cutter were not a good mix. I asked Alex to finish cutting for me and then started sewing them up. I probably only got about half of them done before contractions at the serger were just too uncomfortable. Contractions were staying about 7 minutes apart and needing more concentration to get through them

4:34pm - contractions now consistently 5-7 minutes apart. I took my best attempt at judging my progress and found myself to be 4 finger widths, bulging waters (that was the coolest thing to feel), and very little depth left to my cervix. We pulled out the calipers to measure my finger and ended up with 5.7cm - of course, this was a totally uneducated guesstimate. However, I got a little anxious since I went from 6cm to delivery in less than 20 minutes with Alex.

5:00pm - I gave Tina and midwife my update. Midwife reminds me that if I’m in active labor she needs to head over since she’s an hour out and is aware of my previous labor. I’m not yet ready to have an audience, so she decides that she’ll come over and spend the night and that she goes to bed early usually. Tina was considering going to a performance at Artscape in Baltimore with her family, but I said that I’d probably need her before it was over and suggested she come over when her family left for the performance without her.

I was always so worried about having anyone come over too early. At this point, I was starting to feel like I could use a little more help, but that I was also worried everything would stop if someone showed up too. Luckily, my contractions kept going even after talking with them - so that was a good sign.

6:00pm - My contractions had a strong shift and I suddenly started worrying that no one was going to make it in time. Tina called a half-hour later to say she was on her way.

6:54pm - The increased contraction strength had me worrying enough to have Chris call the midwife and let her head on over.

7:30pm - I think things backed off a little bit when Tina arrived, but memory is failing just a bit. She suggested a lying down position to help make sure the baby way in a good position. Baby wasn’t posterior, but Tina felt that we could get baby turned a little more anterior to help things progress.

I know that I was vocalizing at this point and it really helped me center more and relax. I also tried listening to my imagery birthing cd’s at some point (have no concept of time/order of events at this point) and ended up throwing it back onto my nightstand because I was pissed she was saying that I was feeling no pain and I sure as hell was feeling pain - so much for a hypno birth.

Contractions continued to feel like the intense pain of needing to pee. While on absorbent pads, I tried once to relax enough during a contraction and just pee if I needed to, but that didn’t work. I felt like my body was working against itself because of this, instead of relaxing and opening, it was closed up trying to not pee.

8:00pm - Our midwife arrives but I really didn’t notice her being there. She did a quick check of the baby’s heartbeat, with the fetoscope, and Chris got his first listen. She got her things all set up, chatted with Chris and the doula a bit, and then went into Alex’s room and went to sleep.

9:46pm - I was back on the toilet peeing when another contraction hit. I managed to whine to Chris, “great, a contraction while peeing, what more could I ask for?” when KERSPLOOSH! “Oh, my water just broke too!” Chris said the timing was perfect, I was just amazed at how much came pouring out. I thought it’d stopped pouring and tried to stand and the faucet opened up again.

Again, my sense of time and sequence of events is very vague at this point.

Tina suggested getting in the shower for a while. The water felt nice, my aromatic soap was great, and for once I could relax and just pee when a contraction came on. But, pretty soon things were picking up a lot, I was sure that all my neighbors could hear me since the window was open in the bathroom (we had the window a/c unit on in the bedroom). I started feeling very caged in and Tina suggested that we should probably get started filling the pool.

Waiting for the pool to fill, I was on sitting on the bed, and every time I tried to move, it felt like gallons of fluid came pouring out. I remember Tina and I just bursting out laughing at the sheer volume that we could barely keep up with chux pads and towels to soak it up (I’m glad we’d put the shower curtain and sheet on the bed well before this point).

11:05pm - I was happy to finally get in the pool. I recall yelling a bit for one contraction and Tina pointing out that I can certainly scream/yell, but that my throat would be very sore the next day. Seemed like a nice, logical reminder and I worked on making lower moaning sounds. In the pool, I contracted a few times in a hands-knees-squatting position. Those contractions were very overwhelming and I ended up flipping over and just tried to open my pelvis as much as possible for each contraction. Chris called them my yoga contractions. I recall mostly falling asleep between contractions.


12:05am - Contractions were taking a lot of work and I kept feeling like we were getting close to being done, but then I also kept whining that they were “just contractions”. I kept having thoughts like I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be able to do this again — which was disappointing since I want about 5 more children.

I tried checking myself and couldn’t figure anything out - everything felt very fleshy and I couldn’t find my cervix to get an idea of where I was at. Even though I originally didn’t want any checks or anything from our midwife, I asked Tina to wake her for a check. She said I was about 7cm — I was devastated.

7cm sounded like the worst possible thing in the world. My mind was reeling with this information, the intense disappointment I felt, and doubt that I would be able to make it to the end. I instantly insisted that I get out of the pool since I obviously had a lot more work to do. I could tell Chris and Tina were trying to be supportive and encouraging and I was working hard to get past my disappointment, but didn’t feel like I was winning.

Tina suggested laboring on the toilet a little bit. I agreed as long as I could face the wall with a pillow so I could also try to rest. It took several contractions before I could get out of the pool and move to the bathroom — if I waited too long after one stopped, I’d have to wait for the next one to come and pass before I could get up.

I’m not sure how many contractions I had on the toilet, but I was miserable. On the toilet, the pressure and pain in my bladder and bottom were just too much (I was still dealing with a very painful hemorrhoid still). I wanted a break and wanted to lay down a little bit. Tina suggested that I at least walk our stairs first.

I agreed, also admitting that I was exhausted, getting dehydrated, and needed some food too. We went downstairs, following Chris down the stairs and freaking out as he kept moving (or I thought he did) as I was trying to get through a contraction. Once downstairs, we made it to the kitchen and they kept asking me about what sounded good — not being in the kitchen and not answering so many questions.

Back in the living room, contractions seemed to all be on top of each other. I was still freaking out about how much it hurt and that I was only “7 cm”, but I didn’t mention this to anyone. I didn’t think I could do it and was terrified, but kept quiet. (umm, transition anyone?) My legs were also exhausted and once I tried kneeling on the stairs, but that didn’t help.

Tina kept feeding me mouthfuls of applesauce and giving me something to drink. I recall shaking my head no to her offers but still eating/drinking anyways and wondering why I was saying no. I’m glad she ignored me. I think I was begging to be able to just go back upstairs to lie down for a little bit and finally headed back up stairs.

12:45am - I don’t recall much at this point other than I’m in my bed, lying on my side, and a contraction hits and all I notice is Tina walking out of the bedroom. I then realized that I must be pushing, not because I felt it, but because there would be no other reason for her to go and wake the midwife at that point.

At the beginning of pushing, I was freaking out a lot and feeling very frustrated that I didn’t feel like my concerns or questions we’re being heard. Being in bed, on my side, was very distressing for me. Never in all my birth planning had I considered side lying for birth and I was stressed out that I was in a horrible position for labor. Nothing I could think of would reassure me and I felt like I kept asking about it but not getting any feedback from the doula or midwife (I don’t know if I ever managed to voice my concerns out loud or not). I was also panicking because of the intense pain in my bottom, made a million times worse with the current hemorrhoid, and I felt like I was just going break open. Tina kept telling me I had to push through that pain, but what I really wanted to hear was that I wasn’t going to split in two.

After a couple pushes, I reached down and felt nothing and that just pushed my panic button a little harder. All I could think was how a friend had just labored and pushed for 5 hours and I asked out loud for someone to reassure me that I wasn’t going to be pushing for 5 hours. My midwife said I wouldn’t be and that was a huge relief. During this time, I was having to hold my right leg up and it was srarting to cramp a lot. Again I felt like my body was fighting against me as I had to deal with my leg pain and manage to push.

It took a little bit for me to really get into the pushing routine. I would push, but I knew that I wasn’t really pushing because when I did it was a whole different sensation and level of pain. I was really in my head during pushing too, over thinking everything, and I think that really slowed things down (which was probably a good thing after all). I would notice that I was holding my breath and pushing and then I would start breathing out thinking I wasn’t supposed to hold my breath so long — but it was after holding my breath and pushing a bit that I’d finally get to the good hard pushes.

Finally, there was something to feel and that really helped me focus as I eventually forgot about the bottom pain. I recall struggling with the fact that Chris wanted to look, but that I also needed him close to me for support. Finally, a mirror was produced and Alex held it so that Chris or I could see what was happening.

Pushing slowly progressed - I’d really push but the head wouldn’t make much progress and then I’d feel it slip back in and be mad about it. As more crowned, it was the intense burning pain, but it was also a “we’re almost there!” reminder. My midwife had me help support the top of my perineum. I kept thinking about all the stories I read where women just couldn’t wait to get the baby out and pushed super hard and out the baby came. I also kept thinking that I didn’t want to tear.

At some point, I looked over at Alex who was sitting at the end of the bed in full view of everything watching intently and asked if she was doing okay — not sure what I was going to do if her answer was anything other than “yes”. Also, at one point I saw her with her fingers in ears too and fussed at her not to do that — guess I was being a bit loud at this point, I don’t remember, but I didn’t want to feel like it wasn’t okay to be loud.

Around this point I started noticing the break between contractions — I don’t know if they got longer or I just noticed them. But I was getting annoyed at how long they were because I needed a contraction to push and it was just mild burning pain while I waited. Tina suggested I enjoy the breaks as I got them — but I was really wanting the baby out. Finally, a big push came and I was certain her head was out! I reached down and she was only out to her eyebrows (!!) and there was lots more pushing to be done. All in all, it didn’t take a terribly long time, but it was exhausting just the same. Finally, her head was finally out, but then my midwife said I needed to turn over onto my hands and knees.

1:14am - I knew then that the baby’s shoulders were stuck and couldn’t figure out how on earth I was supposed to roll over with no energy, a head between my legs, and already resting on the very edge of the bed — but it happened — and once on my hands and knees I pushed harder than I had the entire time to help get her out. I noticed the midwife’s hand(s?) in and helping free her shoulders, and didn’t really mind. Finally, there was this freeing gush of baby and she was finally out.

1:15am - My midwife passed the baby up between my legs, laying her on the bed under me. She was covered in super thick vernix and I was rubbing her back, say “hi” over and over again. She moved her lips a bit, but looked completely asleep. I remember asking once that she was alright, she didn’t seem blue or anything, just very much like she was asleep — the midwife assured me she was fine. I know she started crying at some point, though still not opening her eyes much because they were very covered in vernix too. Everyone commented on how cheesy she was and also how big she was too. Sheepishly, I admit that part of me didn’t want to be rubbing her since she was so gunky — the stuff was flaking off and still leaving behind a thick layer. Finally, Tina reminded me that I wanted to know the sex and I looked and saw that she was the girl I was expecting.

I had to get off hands and knees and into a more comfortable position, as I was completely exhausted. There was plenty of cord to allow me to roll over and go back to holding the cheesy baby. I delivered the placenta about 15 minutes later. Alex and the midwife looked it over — Alex was sitting on the side of the birth pool, depressing the edge enough that her backside was getting soaked, but the placenta was obviously so fascinating that she didn’t notice.

Our little girl nursed a little and someone brought some much needed food to me. Our midwife finally did the newborn check because we were curious at how big she was. When the midwife went to weigh her, she commented that she was probably at least 10lbs — something I didn’t believe at all. But sure enough, 10lbs, 1oz. The midwife also commented that her head was pretty big too - 15 1/8 inches. She checked me over, seeing nothing but two tiny skid marks, no stitches needed — not bad considering the baby’s size and the shoulder releasing maneuvering. I was very relieved to hear there was no tearing.

I was very low on energy (not surprising) but managed to get a shower in - getting all the vernix off of me. I came back to a ready bed - I never saw any of the mess that was made from the birth, though Chris commented that it was a pretty big, bloody mess. Everyone got it cleaned up while I showed and I crawled in, snuggled up to my little girl, and went to sleep.

…….. days following ….. I felt a lot of nervousness about my labor/birth in the day or two following. In my head, I kept thinking that I’d not done a good enough job, most particularly when it came to the pushing part, and it was a very distressing feeling. A lot of talking to my partner and deep introspection finally soothed my worries. I realized that not only should I be proud of my natural, homebirth, but proud of a homebirth of a big baby with no tears after a lengthy labor. There is nothing in the world to be disappointed about in that! It was a lot of work, I wondered if I’d be able to do it and if I’d ever be able to do it again, and my body showed me that it can do what it was made to do.