For weeks I joked that I wanted my son to be born ANY day but Halloween. Really, any day. I didn’t even mind if he was two weeks late. Physically, I was fine with being pregnant longer, though mentally, I was unraveling (See last post).
I don’t hate Halloween, in fact I usually dress up and eat plenty of candy. I was planning on attending my friend’s Halloween party wearing my baseball tee (one of 3 shirts I owned that still fit) and writing “batter up” on the belly, while my husband walked around with a catchers mitt. I thought this was very funny and….FREE! But really… I didn’t want my kid to be born on any holiday and out of all the holidays… Halloween. One, I don’t like scary movies, they legitimately scare me and I’m not into that. Two, I didn’t want my baby born on a day where people wear fake blood, witch costumes and girl’s dress like they’ve been waiting all year to show some skin.
So… Thursday morning I woke up around 7:30. It had been a long week, you know, in my head…but I had found peace of mind and woke up very relaxed and extra sleepy on the sofa. I’d been sleeping on the sofa instead of in bed because I could hoist myself and turn around more easily by using the back of the sofa. In retrospect, my arms should be more toned from this. At 8 am I started having contractions, but this wasn’t a red flag because I had been having contractions for over 2 weeks. Most memorable was the day my best friend gave birth to her little girl, I had 10 hours of contractions that day. No dice. No baby. Apparently, my uterus just got excited. So like the other contractions, I waited these ones out before alerting the masses. The masses being my husband, best friend, oh and the midwives.
For one hour, I had contractions that were an exact 5 minutes apart. In that time, I decided to order grocery delivery via instacart because I was told to eat food that would sustain me through labor and have snacks for the midwives. The food was set to arrive in 2 hours. Then my husband woke up. He looked at me all sleepy eyed while headed for the coffee maker and told me he was thinking about working from home today and I responded quickly with “I think that’s a good idea”. Then I shared with him that I was pretty sure I was in labor.
I texted the midwives and they said what they always said “take a bath and see if it slows down the contractions”. It had every time in the past few weeks, so I knew they were onto something. I took a bath, the contractions grew stronger. Okay, whoa, I really was in labor. I alerted the midwives and ran two loads of laundry, specifically this white cotton dress that I had nicknamed “my birthing gown” all Summer long. And as predicted, my husband immediately starts tidying up the kitchen, vacuuming, bringing me water and hooking up the hose for the birthing tub. Oh and turns out… I’m terrible at timing contractions once actually in labor. I knew when they’d start but I wasn’t entirely sure when they ended. My husband kept yelling from other rooms… “has it stopped yet?” Me: “Oh yeah, minutes ago, oops.” He’s a fan of accuracy and I clearly, wasn’t taking it seriously.
So, I take a bath, then a shower. I shave my legs, which is a big deal for a full term pregnant person. I blow dry my hair and floss like I’ll never do either again. I’ve heard plenty of mamas say that they go weeks without clean hair, I was preparing for battle, er…motherhood. I was texting my best friend in the bathroom while brushing my teeth. As I was about to put on mascara something spilled out of me onto the floor. It kind of looked like beer. No lie. I couldn’t figure out if it was my water breaking or some version of much discussed “bloody show”. I was hoping for the later. The early water break is no bueno for GBS.
Okay, so the groceries arrive while I’m texting the midwives, doula and best friend to figure out what just came out of me. I had ordered a rotisserie chicken to make soup out of for post birth. I decided to scrap that idea and eat the entire chicken. I’m not kidding people. I ate the whole chicken, everything I could peel off the bone. I’d been told that first time mom’s most commonly need an epidural because their body becomes physically spent. I decided the answer to this unforeseen predicament was protein, in the form of an entire.rotisserie.chicken.
An hour later one of the midwives came by and determined that the colored liquid on our master bath tile was not in fact…beer but meconium in the amniotic fluid. Aka, my kid prematurely pooped inside of me. Meconium is what they call a baby’s first tar like poop out of the womb but apparently around 20% of babies do so a bit earlier. The midwife then told us that we could still have a home water birth but if there was meconium in his lungs upon birth they needed to get an ambulance to take me to the hospital a few blocks away so his lungs could be pumped with an aspirator. Too late, I had google imaged meconium in the amniotic sac an hour ago. Hospital it is.
So, we start packing our hospital bag or rather scrambling to fill up our car with pillows, blankets and all the snacks I bought and of course “my birthing gown”. Goodbye birthing tub, goodbye record player, candles and steam shower. To be honest, I was totally over the idea of a home water birth the minute I heard meconium, it was the last straw for me. I also liked that I no longer had to make a decision about IV antibiotics. I actually LIKED that everything was suddenly out of my control. My husband was concerned for me though because he knew how much I wanted to give birth at home, I mean, we’d been working towards this all Summer and he fought the insurance company for 7 months to get it covered! Ah well!
On the way to the hospital we listened to 90’s hip hop, you know… like Salt N Pepa ‘Push It’. The hospital was about 45 min away, outside of Chicago. It was the hospital that the home birth midwives were affiliated with and luckily my very favorite of the three midwives had just become licensed to deliver at the hospital. The chaos leading up to this moment was starting to feel like fate.
Alright, we’re in. And…I’m being asked a zillion questions and filling out paperwork. Welcome to the hospital, where women are interviewed during labor. Then walks in a nurse, but she’s not MY nurse. MY nurse comes in after. She’s an older African American woman that has this very protective, wise, grandmother aura. I told her I had planned a homebirth but he had other plans. I also told her I had GBS so I have to do the antibiotics but how much I hated antibiotics. She said “Well, then lets wait as long as we can to start the run of antibiotics, you only need 2 rounds before birth and I don’t think you are having this baby in 8 hours.” I loved her immediately and felt wildly grateful that she’s the woman who would be taking care of me during labor. Her name was Mary. I asked her when her shift ended. She said 7am. I thought to myself, you have to have this baby before someone else comes in.
My midwife was on her way from another homebirth with the requested castor oil in hand. Basically, I had to get the baby out within 24 hours after the water broke because of GBS and….meconium. I knew that a bit of castor oil would help speed things up, what I didn’t know is that I would be taking the whole bottle of it and what that would mean. I started with half a bottle and spent some serious time in the bathroom, the contractions were coming closer together. My husband and I decided we wanted to order Chinese food but apparently the local delivery/ take out place closes at 9pm! We were definitely not in Chicago anymore. We found some pizza place that closed at 10 and ordered soup, salad and pizza. I ate the soup. Then my midwife came in and asked, “do you want to do the second half of castor oil now?” I responded with “is that what I should do?” She said it would help expedite the process. It did. I spent more time in the bathroom and then I think I went into what is considered “active labor”.
We had taken a hypnobirthing class and hired a doula as recommended, both of which I had no interest in. The idea of my husband talking softly to me in labor and saying things like your body was made for this, your uterus is opening up, annoyed me tremendously. I envisioned myself birthing like a cat, privately, in a dark corner. As far as the doula hiring… well, I didn’t want one but you are supposed to have one if you are a first time home birther. Anyway, we never called our doula to come, my husband was my doula and a very good one at that. He gave me water, squeezed my feet and my hips to counteract the force of each contraction but mostly he loved me and stood right near me, the whole time, quietly. I was right about my perception of me in labor. I didn’t want to be gently touched, soothed or talked to. I wanted the lights off and I didn’t want music or TV on. I had my eyes closed the entire time. I went very into my head, in fact most of the time I didn’t hear anything my husband, nurse or midwife were saying.
I’ve waited my whole life to know what labor felt like and be able to describe it. Yes, I realize that’s a little strange but it’s entirely true. So hear it goes… the early contractions feel like aggressive period cramps. For the fellas… it feels like stomach cramping diarrhea. Real labor felt less like “pain” in the traditional sense and more like a powerful force within you. It was like having a bowling ball lodged inside of you pushing in all four directions against your hips, towards the front and back. It was really uncomfortable and shocking in the way being punch in the gut while blindfolded is shocking but I would still say it wasn’t “painful”. Sure, I wondered how far along we were, how much longer I had. I also questioned getting an epidural but decided the last thing I wanted was a giant needle in my spine between a contraction. In reality, contractions only last 60 seconds and that was the best thing I could tell myself. The moment the bowling ball pain started, I knew it was also, almost over.
I pushed for two and a half hours in a variety of positions, on my back, squatting, kneeling, lunging etc. For me, laying on my back felt too passive for the aggressive nature of what was happening inside of me. I just kept thinking that each push was getting me closer to the finale, that my body was making way for baby. But then I heard… “his head isn’t getting passed her perineum, her perineum is really tight”. I was on all fours with my arms hanging over the elevated part of the bed and my eyes were closed, I probably looked so exhausted, so over it but I actually had a reserve of energy inside me. The endorphins had kicked in, I knew I was close to the finish and now I knew that my body was done opening up and stretching, the rest was on me. I knew I had to tear myself open to get his head out. I geared up for the next contraction and according to my husband let out an animal like wail. I honestly felt like I took on some kind of alter ego. I am woman, hear me roar kind of stuff. It was powerful and incredibly cool. I did this for two more contractions and there he was! In the video, which my husband took with a go pro camera strapped to his chest… he looks like he was asleep when he was born but then they suctioned his mouth and and nose and he let out a little cry.
Okay, here’s the worst part. My reaction to giving birth to the baby of my dreams, the baby I prayed for and took a bottle of castor oil for? Did I tearfully confess my unyeilding love for him and how I’ve spent years of my life imagining this very moment when we meet? No. I turned my head around and asked “is he out?” then when it’s confirmed I say “oh good” then slump over the elevated bed while my husband emotes, cuts the cord and lays him skin to skin against his chest. Eventually, I flip around and they bring him to me, but my legs are trembling and I’m cold, then hot. I feel like I could drop him, I ask my husband to take him. I laid there being stitched watching my husband ogle over our son in his arms and think “oh good, I’m glad he has a nurturing, attentive parent”. Ha. Literally, that’s what I thought.
Born at 7:10am on Halloween morning, just as the first snow fell and our nurse Mary was about to end her shift. She stayed the extra few minutes with us. I still feel so lucky to have had her and my favorite midwife. Then some less memorable nurse came in and started pressing on my uterus and then bladder and commanding me to pee and shower. I didn’t like her.
24 hours later they let us leave the hospital. Yay! And that’s when it really started. Oh and… yes, totally smitten with him now but post birth you could have wheeled me into another room, and swaddled ME.
And yeah, Halloween. Kid had his own plans and frankly, I respect that. Annual costume party it tis.
Love to you,
Oh dear, I was cringing while you described the last part of the birth. So proud of your strength, mom….
Thank you! I swear I barely felt the last part! It still blows my mind.