After a tense last week, and staring into the eyes of having to go to the hospital for an induction if I didn't go into labor by noonish on Wednesday, September 24, I woke up at 6:00 AM with some lower back pain. I got up, and the pain kept cycling, starting in back and eventually being like a ring of discomfort around my entire lower abdomen.
Since James and I were to be at the birthing center by 9:00, I kept a "journal" from 7:40 until 8:40 and found that these contractions, different than but also including the Braxton Hicks contractions I'd been having for weeks, were coming about every 4-7 minutes and lasting for 30ish seconds. They weren't getting stronger, but they weren't going away, either.
At 9, we walked up to the Birthing Center. Natalie, one of the midwives, gave me a very delicious shake made out of orange juice, ice cream, and 2 ounces of castor oil, just to keep the contractions coming (they did weaken on the way up there, and then hit again pretty hard an hour later). She and Stephanie, another midwife, monitored the baby's heart rate, and then we waited.
I was uncomfortable enough that I couldn't lie down, so spent time on the yoga ball and birthing stool. James' mom and her best friend got there a bit after we did, so we visited and hung out. Then my sister and her two girls showed up, so we had a little party.
At around noon, the practice was in session and women were coming in for appointments. I was continuing to have consistent contractions without too much progress, and thought aloud that maybe they would let me go home to labor a bit. I'd already been told to feel free to move around the neighborhood, so Sarah went on a walk around the block with James and me. It was a gorgeous day!
Mackenzie and Hannah stayed with us most of the day, minus trips to McD's for food, and TJ visited with Daphne at the house. I didn't know it, but my parents had also come into town and were at the Nuthaus with D for a while, as well.
This was good, too... until it wasn't. I spent several contractions on my knees on the yoga ball, then realized that I was progressing very quickly. I was in enough pain that I told Stephanie the thought of an internal exam (which I hadn't had since last Friday when we did the membrane sweep) made me want to cry, but she told me we'd time it so that she'd set up and then I'd have a contraction, immediately lie down, and she'd do it super fast.
I was standing there and had a contraction while she was setting up, then she left the room as that contraction was waning. She came right back, but I started to have another contraction, and during that one, my water broke. I hurried up and lay down, she told me I was at 8-9 centimeters and still had a little way to go, so I asked if we could fill up the tub as I knew the pressure was going to become a lot more intense. Stephanie started the water, said it'd be about fifteen minutes, and I did the next three contractions or so on the birthing stool.
The tub wasn't full at that point, not even quite half way, but I HAD to try to get the gravity away as much as possible. Sarah told me that it was deep enough that I could submerge my belly, and it did feel SO much better.
But also, the next contraction I had was very down low and I could see why women say they feel like they have to use the restroom when they're contracting (I had consumed mass quantities of Castor Oil and did not have this problem).
It was 1:10 when I got into the tub, and it took another 5 minutes or so for the water to fill and someone turned it off. I had three increasingly-intense contractions, yelling out while thinking, "I'm not a yelling person! This is crazy!" And Stephanie would see me tensing up and remind me to relax, so I'd answer back snarkily, "I'M TRYING!" And she'd have to say, "I know. Just reminding you."
Here's the deal: I was only in the tub 9 minutes before I had the baby. I wonder if I'd known that going in, whether it might have been easier not to freak out during the pain. What's funny is that once he started crowning, it wasn't as bad as when the pain was further toward the back. Also, I was very fortunate in that, while my contractions were painful and exhausting, causing me a complete lethargy in my muscles, which were shaking with the strain of supporting myself even while buoyant, after every third contraction, I'd have a minute or so where they would abate enough for me to go back into my "sane" brain and relax before the next one started up.
The WORST contraction I had was probably the 4th to the last. Stephanie was getting things ready as fast as she could; I'd progressed super fast in like half an hour, so she'd run out into the hall to grab something, and I said to James and Sarah, "You need to go get her and tell her he's coming."
Stephanie came back in with a Doppler she could use in the water, and she said she was going to see if she could feel the baby's head. Well, I did not like that AT ALL and started screaming not only "the" word that got the kid in "A Christmas Story" in so much trouble, but "Please don't touch me! Stop it!" Like literally screaming hysterically.
Stephanie got very serious and shushed me. She said to stop screaming because it was a waste, but to keep that in and push it down to help the baby get out quicker. She also told me that I might want to lean back to help the baby slip under my pelvic bone; since I'd gotten into the pool, I'd contracted leaning forward on the side of the tub.
I was skeptical that I'd be able to move, but I did, and was able to balance on the edge of the stair/seat so that there was no pressure on anything sensitive. This is, I believe the second to last contraction.
I could tell (but not see; I had to close my eyes against the pain) when his head came out. I begged James and Stephanie to "take him out, please! Get him the rest of the way out!" but it was already better. His shoulders were intense, but not as bad as the head. The rest of him was no big deal. James got to grab him, pull him out of the water, and hand him to me. Enter Malcolm Khrystopher Gatannah at 1:19 PM on September 24. 2014... after 4 hours at the birthing center and probably just under an hour of what felt like work, but only 10 minutes or so of "I can't control my own actions and sounds and words" labor.
My James was an awesome birthing partner. He was right there if I needed him, but didn't do more than I wanted him to. He asked about everything and listened if I said, "I like that, but not this right now." I couldn't look at his face between my really heavy contractions because he was so concerned. I could see it in his face, and I could hear him sniffing. My sister said she gave him a little reassurance that she knew it was hard to watch, but that what I was doing was exactly right.
Of note: Mal was blue when he was born, and was wrapped up in the cord (which stands to reason; his heart rate reading was usually somewhere behind the cord pulse), both things that might have gotten him whisked off to NICU in a hospital. But he was fine. His APGAR score at 1 minute after birth was 8, and at 5 minutes after birth was 9. His cord was clamped 13 minutes after he was born, and James got to cut it... but not easily. I guess he really REALLY didn't want to leave his mommy, and we might have gotten him out, but he was still kind of holding on.
We stayed in the water until I'd finished the complete delivery, and then when it was time to get out, James took the baby and I hosed off and was treated like an Egyptian princess. Nikki, a midwife intern and a doula, dried me off while my sister prepared my gown and put it over my head. This morning's after-shower routine by myself was a real letdown after all of that.
We got to sit and hold Malcolm for about an hour before Stephanie did the newborn exam.
Grandma Patsy and Aunt Pat were in and out, so they missed a lot of the more colorful and nudity-filled moments. (Although I suppose they were in the entry of the building and actually probably heard more than they're bugging me about.)
8 pounds, 2 ounces! 21 1/4 inches long. Everything checked out great, the only note on his physical was that he was still blue at the extremities when we left.
First diaper. Much less disturbing than changing him, 'cause, you know, meconium.
My sister took all of the pictures, and she finally got into one! I'm glad she was there, and not just to document everything.
The birth ended up being everything I'd wanted, and we got to go home three hours after Mal was born. We walked home; James carried the baby and Hannah carried my stuff. It was so nice to start and finish the day at home, and to get to hang out with Daphne for the afternoon and evening instead of being tied up at the hospital for 24-48 hours.
I know that there were hundreds of people praying for me to go into labor so I wouldn't have to be transported to the hospital for any emergency intervention. Thank you, people! I am SO grateful! Also, Stephanie said he only looked 41ish weeks, which surprised me not at all. It was a great experience all around. I highly recommend Birthwise Birth Center and Family Services. Such great midwives and laid-back but thorough care.
Today when I looked at my delivery progress notes, they were recording everything I ate, the stuff I was saying to indicate my tolerance of labor, etc. But they also did not insert themselves into the delivery in a way that said, "I'm the boss; you're going to do what I say, and don't ask questions." They will tell you as much or as little as you want about progress, they will conduct as many tests as you want, and not pressure you if you decline.
So happy to be home with our family and looking forward to whatever is to come! Mal had a peaceful (except for my yelling, then his) entry into the world, which hopefully bodes very well for his future.