It was a week after my due date. For over a week I had been waking up at 2:00 am thinking (and hoping) I was in labor, but without luck. Hugh was facing posterior (eyes facing my belly button instead of my spine) and I think this contributed to my start and stop labor. I was mostly okay with this until Tuesday morning when I woke up and wanted to shout because I wanted my baby to come. I texted my sister-in-law and she sent back some really lovely words. I wrote in my journal and felt happier and okay. I knew I needed to wait for my baby, and let that waiting be a moment of growth for me.
Wednesday morning when I woke up at 3:30 am with contractions, I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. A little before 4:00 am, I woke up Ethan and asked him to help me out because it was so intense. In between contractions I would close my eyes and try to sleep. I threw up and went to the bathroom. I was having a hard time relaxing, so Ethan suggested I take a bath, which I did. When the water was too cold, I demanded Ethan to fix it. As each contraction came, I would visualize it as a wave, feeling it wash over me. Going into the depths of the ocean during each contraction, feeling the pressure surround my body.
I would hop (well, my belly was enormous so I would “stumble”) out of the bath and crawl to the couch. Ethan had the fan blowing on me as I would rest my head on our couch. I kept alternating between the bath and couch, and Ethan was heating up pots of water for me so the water was hot. I liked to feel the warmth of the water. While I was doing this, Ethan was cleaning the house for me. I felt like I could relax because he was taking care of that. He would come in and ask if I was in a contraction; he couldn’t tell because I wasn’t making many noises (which really surprised me. Whenever I would feel Braxton Hicks before, everybody and their mother knew I was feeling them).
Around 7:30 am I was in the living room and I had Ethan check fetal heart tones with my stethoscope. They were in the 140’s, which was good. Around this time, our midwife happened to send me a text asking if I was coming for a 3:00 pm prenatal appointment. Ethan told her I was in labor and sent her the heart tones. Since I knew I could be in labor for a while, it didn’t seem pressing to have her come over yet. We contacted my doula, Liz, and told her what was going on. It was around 8:00 am by now.
Liz came by around 8:30 am and when she walked in, I felt like she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Ethan told her details about the morning. Liz asked if I wanted her to read to me, which was a birth request of mine. She started reading “The Hiding Place” and I completely relaxed; her voice was so soothing. I felt like a child who just had a bath and was having story time before falling asleep.
I was drinking water but knew this could last a while and that I needed some calories. I asked Ethan to get me a spoonful of honey. That made me want to gag, it had so much sugar. I practically rebuked him. The waves just kept going deeper and deeper. I would rest my head in Liz or Ethan’s lap. I loved feeling my arm being scratched as I would sink into my contraction. I would put my tongue to the roof of my mouth, to help me relax my jaw. I knew if I held tension in my mouth, I would be holding tension that could prevent me from dilating.
Around 10:00 am I felt even more weight with the contractions, so we decided to call our midwife. She didn’t answer. I felt the amniotic sac start to bulge and one of my school assignments about prolapsed cords came into my head, making me worry a little. Liz left a voicemail on our midwife’s phone saying something like, “come over as soon as you can.” I interrupted and said, “she needs to come now!”
After this, I started to feel the pressure and burn of wanting to push. Ethan reminded me that I wanted to give birth in the squatting position. I turned around to rest my back against the couch. I positioned myself in a deep squat with Liz and Ethan facing me. I felt encircled by my supporters. I remember a pause that seemed like forever, and then the deepest contraction I had ever felt. The weight of it made me smile. I leaned my head back and knew that my baby was almost here. Then another contraction and this time I started to yell. Liz reminded me softly, “Breathe… open… you’re doing great.” Soft kind words to help me relax. After more burning and pressure, the head started to crown. Liz announced that the head was out, and Ethan was surprised it was happening so fast. They both reached down to cradle the head. Ethan said, “Remember, you wanted to catch the baby. Do you want to catch the baby?” I reached down and held the head, which came out facing my left knee (he was turning from posterior). Soon after, the body was born. The cord was draped around his shoulders like a shawl.
Ethan said, “It’s a boy!” Liz said, “Welcome, baby Hugh!” (I had previously told her what names we had decided on based on the baby’s sex). Hugh was on my chest, screaming and screaming. He started to turn purple, he was covered in blood and meconium. I tried to recall what I had studied to do for a newborn immediately after birth. I remembered: I need warm towels, he needs to be rubbed and stimulated. The towels and rubbing helped and he turned from purple to pink.
I heard our midwife and her assistant running up the stairs, and they came in with oxygen and their birth bags. The midwife guided me in delivering the placenta. I passed out after the placental delivery and woke up lying on the floor with an oxygen mask. Liz held Hugh while Ethan helped me to stay awake. I had hemorrhaged and our midwife controlled it. Once I stopped bleeding, Ethan called our families to make the announcement. Liz made me one of the best meals ever: eggs and toast. We started the newborn exam and went over the labor record. Since we didn’t know exactly when Hugh was born, we decided he was born at 10:10 am (we knew it was before the midwife arrived, but a few minutes after we called her at 10:08 am).
Hugh was so beautiful when he was born, all tiny and pink with a beautifully shaped head. I loved being in labor. It was a powerful and intense experience. Being able to let the waves wash over me, to sink into my body and ride the pressure was so empowering. Giving birth in my home made the experience more peaceful and relaxing.
Healing from birth has been slow and painful, and three months later I still have a lot to heal from. That story is for another post.