What is it about my babies and holidays? My first was born on Halloween and this one passed Labor Day by a mere 5 hours.
This was a completely different birth story than the first. It started two weeks early with 8 hours of contractions that were 5 minutes apart. My husband and I deep cleaned the house while I had contractions and sent our 22 month old son over to my best friend’s house. This was our second attempt of a home birth and so my husband started blowing up the birth tub and making sure the hose nozzle fittings worked with our shower. Okay, ready to go. But then, labor stopped.
This happened literally every day for 2 weeks. Some days it was only a few hours of timed contractions, some days, several. Either way, we thought I was about to have a baby every day for 2 weeks straight. My husband even stayed home from work for 2 weeks and used up his non existent paternity leave. Ugh. Thanks prodromal labor. I don’t know if you’ve ever given birth but it’s a little bit like gearing up to run a marathon, only… you don’t know if it’s going to be 26 miles or 46 miles. Basically, you feel a little bit like a floating balloon with poor aiming darts around you. Your water could break any minute and you could meet your baby in several hours, or… you could be a pregnant balloon for a few more weeks.
With my first, I loved the physical aspect of being pregnant but hated being responsible for making major decisions regarding Group B Strep, vaccines and circumcision. I said numerous times that I was fine going 3 weeks late, so of course the first was 1 week early. Now, I’ve made peace with a lot of those big decisions, I was left to thinking about how physically exhausting being pregnant with a toddler is! I was over it. I wanted baby OUT.
So why wasn’t baby coming OUT? I was mentally ready and my body kept going into labor. Well, I thought my best friend could watch my toddler when I went into labor but she unexpectedly became pregnant with her 3rd baby and was incredibly tired, I felt bad about throwing another kid her way. I was nervous about who would take care of our boy while we welcome baby into the world. Who would take care of me if my husband occupied our boy? How much energy will I have to make food for myself if he is watching our boy? These thoughts crippled me. Meanwhile these constant contractions were bruising my pelvis muscles and I was so sore. It hurt to stand, let alone carry a toddler or… birth a baby. I wanted it to be “just us” at home when I went into labor but after 2 weeks of this, I gave in and called my mother in Maine. I asked her if she could change her later flight to come soon. She did. She was here the very next day.
The very next day, my mother and my son had played with play doh, practiced counting up the stairs and singing the ABCs, then they went to bed. My husband was picking players for his fantasy league in the front office and I was having my nightly contractions in the living room. I was stretching to calming music with candles lit and trying to focus on getting this baby out. My husband went to bed, and I let him, because something in me knew that this might be a long night.
The contractions were getting closer together, they were 3 minutes apart and… I had gone to the bathroom, twice. All pretty solid signs. I called my midwives and told them the situation and that I’d keep them posted. I laid in bed and the contractions were now 1.5 minutes apart. I texted them so I didn’t wake my husband up, they said they were on their way and would be here in 45 minutes. I laid there in the quiet darkness thinking about how we were about to have two little boys and hoping with everything I had that tonight was really the night.
It was around 11pm.
I woke my husband up, and told him the midwives were on their way. He knew this was different then the other nights, since they were actually coming. I asked him to turn up the water heater and fill up the tub. He’s a tall guy and when he’s both half asleep and scrambling to do things quickly, it’s pretty amusing. The midwives arrive and at this point and it’s the one group of midwives I hadn’t yet met in the practice, but I immediately love their energy. They are calm, peaceful, quiet and nurturing. Something I used to expect from midwives but learned quickly that is not always the case!
I can not believe the amount of pain I’m in. I was in labor for 23 hours with my first and I don’t remember any part of it hurting like this and there was no numbing epidural in that birth story either. WHAT IS GOING ON? WHY DOES IT HURT SO MUCH? IS HE ABOUT TO CROWN??? So… I ask the midwives to check how far I’ve dilated. 1-3cm is considered the early stage, 4-7 cm is active labor and 7-10cm is transition to birthing. So they check me.
I’m not even in active labor and I’m in more pain than I thought was possible. I asked. them to check babies placement, maybe it was back labor? Nope, he was in the perfect position. I kept describing that the muscles closest to my pelvis and hip bones were beyond sore and it felt like those bruises were being sucker punched upon every contraction. They said it was likely due to the consistent daily contractions straining those muscles. Much like if you worked out the same series of muscles at the gym every day, only… my vagina. Basically.
I was immediately devastated. Worse yet, because of that emotional let down and stress, my contractions started to stall and become less consistent. I asked the midwives to give me some hopeful, a positive story of a woman going from 3cm to 10cm in an hour or two or SOMETHING, anything. They responded with “we don’t want to tell you a story and get your hopes up only to have it not work out that way”. LADIES, get my hopes up! Ugh. I go downstairs where my husband is and I break down in tears, “this hurts so so much, I don’t think I can do this”. He responds, we can go to the hospital if you want to. I don’t want to. I know that if I go to the hospital as a “homebirthin’ hippie mama” they will take full advantage of that and tell me that I need rounds of pitocin so the labor doesn’t continue to stall and then I’ll need rounds of epidural even more than I do now, it could escalate from there but basically, no, I really wanted this dang home birth. I didn’t get it with my first because I was GBS positive, but not this time. This time I can do this, if I can just get over the pain.
I came back up and asked the midwives what I can do to bring back the contractions, they suggest marching up and down the stairs with my legs wide apart. I started doing this but the inconsistent contractions I did have, took the wind out of me and my whole body would shake. The midwives then suggested that my husband go get a sleeping aid at Walgreens and maybe see if I could rest a few more nights and maybe even heal the bruising. The thing is, I wasn’t tired, I had slept more in the last 2 weeks of my husband being home than I had in the last 2 years of being a mom and I knew this. My husband was on his way to the store getting a sleep aid. The head midwife then suggests that I go into the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face and start mentally winding down and preparing for bed.
I go into the bathroom and sit to pee. Then realize… I’m totally annoyed and start talking to myself. My inner dialogue goes like this, since when do I brush my teeth because another woman tells me to? Since when do I take sleeping pills? I don’t even take tylenol and that’s half of the reason I want a home birth! No drugs, no unnecessary interventions. And what the heck good would two nights of sleep do for two weeks of pelvic bruising? You don’t want a hospital birth, you want this homebirth, now man up or better, woman up! I like these midwives even if they told me to brush my teeth, this is my crew, I can feel it. I am having this baby tonight. PERIOD.
I walk out of the bathroom and right past the midwives who were zipping up their bags to leave and my husband who was back with the sleeping pills. I ask my husband to get my phone and his ear buds and get me some 90’s hip hop STAT. He follows my medical request and soon I’m listing to Baby got Back by Sir Mix A lot and doing the most vigorous ‘stairs’ of my life. I’m trying to get pumped up and excited because I know that it increases oxytocin which is what pitocin mimics and what brings the contractions back. I’m now full out jamming in my head and walk past my husband and utter the line from the song “never trust a big butt and smile”, cause you know… pregnant. The midwives unzip their bags and get comfortable downstairs on the sofa with blankets and pillows. I still haven’t said anything to them since I exited the bathroom with my unbrushed teeth.
The song Bust A Move by Young MC comes on and I start dancing up and down the stairs to the lyrics “if you want it, you got it, don’t just stand there bust a move”. At that point, I felt something slip out from me and went to the bathroom and there it was, the mucus plug, the cork that preserves this fine wine of labor. I’ve never been so excited to see something so gross. I proudly show it off to my midwives and… husband. Sorry babe. Sorry everyone. I was relieved. We were getting somewhere. I was going to be one of the good stories that the midwives refuse to tell a distraught mother to be.
I think it’s about 1am now. They check me and I’m 4.5cm dilated.
The pain was horrible. The best way I can describe it is to picture a black and blue bruise so nasty that you don’t want to look at it and then imagine someone punching it every 3 minutes. I told myself that the pain was so bad that it was numbing and I couldn’t feel it. I was trying to trick my own brain into thinking I couldn’t feel anything.
The rest is a bit of a blur, I remember my husband saying the water was too hot to get in and dumping in lobster pots of cold water to cool it down. I remember being alone in my bed and wanting to clear the air with this baby and let him know that he could make his debut at any time. I had a horrible time breastfeeding my first boy and wanted to let go of that fully before birthing this baby. I had lost a baby to miscarriage just before I got pregnant and was still terrified that something could go wrong in birth, I wanted to let that go too. So… my mantra became “I’m going to love you, I’m going to nurse you, I’m going to hold you, I’m going to love you, I’m going to nurse you, I’m going to hold you”. I just kept whispering it as I was kneeled over the bed. It became this sort of vow to him. It still is.
I remember at one point, my husband said the water was okay to get in and so I climbed in. It felt good but I’ll be honest, I thought it would have felt a lot better. The midwife went back downstairs and I ended up getting totally naked, which kind of surprised me because I thought I’d be wearing some long dress that I hike up, kind of like a baptism, gone wrong. At some point I whispered to my husband to get the midwives. I think that was one of the last things I said. I was officially in that transient state of mind where I enter this world that is all my own, population:2. I started groaning and the groan turned into a push. No one even checked to see if I was fully dilated. I just wanted to push. And I did. And nobody was going to stop me. I wanted to meet this boy and be done with the endless contractions.
It hurt so much.
Then I heard the midwife say that whatever I did during pregnancy, I had a really strong bag and it was still intact. The amniotic sac broke upon first contraction with my first son and I had GBS so I was trying to get more vitamin C and D to strengthen it this time around and apparently, I did. “Break it” I said! She said she was trying. The bag makes the baby’s head and body feel that much bigger because it sort of balloons out around it. This is the part where my mind quickly darted to the torture you witness when watching Game of Thrones but I had to shut those thoughts down, this was it. He is coming, just push until he’s out. Apparently, they managed to break the bag as his head was crowning because he wasn’t born in the sac. Pity, because we video taped it and that would have been cool.
Suddenly he was in my arms and crying loudly and I knew in that moment he was okay. We were all okay and my husband and I were the parents of two little boys. I melted. In that moment I remembered why I wanted to do this at home and in the water. It all felt so intimate, so sacred and I was wildly present. I also had a ton of energy running through me, which I credit to endorphins kicking in a little too late. I told the midwife to go wake up my mother who had slept through it all and she came in to see our little boy against my chest with a wet, warm towel over him, umbilical cord still attached. My mother and husband were in tears and my husband cut the umbilical cord.
Then they encouraged me to get out of the tub and into my bed. It never hurt so much to sit in my life. Everything about this pregnancy, labor and recovery was different, everything. My mother ended up taking the older son back to Maine for a week so I could rest and bond with my new baby, she returned with my happy little buddy and my dad. It was everything, I don’t even know how I would have done it without her. Truly. I’m forever grateful.
I loved him, I nursed him, I held him.
….and I brushed my teeth.
Love to you,
PSA: For anyone experiencing prodromal labor, call whoever you trust to help you and… go see a pelvic floor therapist to massage out the bruised muscles. I did this 3 weeks post delivery because I was still in pain and it took 30 min to get rid of the 5 weeks of pain! Game changer.