Oh, and be warned, this will be long...
For those who don't know, here's a very brief history of what led me to an unassisted birth. My first birth was in a hospital, second birth was a planned homebirth that ended in a cesarean (no labor) after my midwife dropped me, third birth was my HBAC (homebirth after cesarean) with twin girls, and fourth birth was another planned homebirth that ended in another cesarean (no labor) for TTTS with twin boys.
That brings me to this pregnancy. We are in yet another new state (Arizona) in a town that has an active VBAC ban. The next closest hospital is around 90 miles away. Midwives here can't attend VBACs and the birth center (also 90 miles away) doesn't allow VBACs either. Talk about limiting birth choices... For a mama with two previous cesareans, there are very few options.
As my due date came and passed, I tried to remain patient. When things finally started to happen, I texted back and forth with my friend who lives across the country. Thanks to our text messages and a great birth video, I have a very good record of my labor and birth.
On Wednesday night, November 28th, I was emailing back and forth with my friend Brandi. She told me the moon was full and wondered if it was going to be that night. I wrote back that nothing was happening and I didn't feel like anything would be happening anytime soon. I went to bed, determined to be patient with my baby. The next morning I woke up feeling crampy and emailed Brandi to tell her how mad I was waking up still pregnant. I had it in my head that the labor and/or birth would happen at night so each morning brought disappointment that I was still pregnant.
By 10:45 am on November 29th, I emailed Brandi again to tell her that I was feeling really crampy. I still wasn't having any contractions but at 41 weeks 6 days pregnant, even cramps were a welcome sign. I finally started to think that today could be the day. I tried not to get my hopes up since I thought there was a good chance it could still be a few days before the birth.
I took a shower and had several contractions while I was standing in the warm water. I checked my cervix and was only disappointed. I wasn't dilated at all (still only a fingertip, which is what I had been several weeks before at the only other time I'd checked during this pregnancy.) My cervix was more effaced, but I still didn't think anything was progressing. I knew I wasn't in active labor and that was hard to accept.
I was more than ready to meet Seven and I was starting to think about hitting 42 weeks and what that would mean to me. I was really trying not to associate 42 weeks with any sort of deadline, but my memories of Joshua's pregnancy/delivery were hard to push out of my mind. Over the last 8 years since his birth, I've accepted that my first cesarean was due to the midwifery regulations where we were living. My care was abandoned at 42 weeks for no reason other than the date on the calendar. And while Joshua was a big baby (11 lbs, 1 oz) with a nuchal cord, there really wasn't any reason I couldn't have at least attempted a vaginal birth. An unnecessary cesarean is a tough pill to swallow and I kept finding my thoughts wandering back to that experience as the days ticked by before Seven's birth. I desperately wanted not to see any similarities between Seven's pregnancy and Joshua's pregnancy. I wanted this birth to be different.
By 1 pm I was having more and more irregular contractions. They were sometimes short, sometimes long. Sometimes they were far apart and sometimes they felt close together. Some of them were surprisingly strong but most were only cramps that felt nothing like labor. I still wasn't convinced that anything was really happening yet.
Just after 2 pm, I went to the bathroom and had some bloody show. Ok, things were getting real now. I finally felt excited and encouraged that labor may start soon. Jason wasn't home and my kids were distracting so the hours passed quickly. I set up my birth supplies and cleaned up around the house. I tried to lay down and take a nap but the kids were loud and I had a few contractions that I just couldn't sleep through.
I finally got up and decided to start filling the birth pool. I think this was the point when I realized that I was going to have a baby in the coming hours. Jason came home just in time to help me and he made it his personal mission to keep the water at the appropriate temperature and make sure that I had everything I needed. He was amazingly helpful.
At 7:35 pm I started texting Brandi to fill her in on what was happening. I told her there was still no real labor yet. I got out of the pool and walked around the house, stopping in the living room to try another inversion. Seven was still trying to change positions but I could tell the poor positioning was the reason for this long, stop & go pre-labor that I was having. At 8:08 pm I told Brandi that the baby was still not in a good position. I was getting discouraged. I checked my cervix and was disappointed that I was still only a fingertip dilated. It felt like no progress.
A text message I sent at 8:24 pm simply read "Baby is trying to turn. Not sure. Hurts like hell. Not dilating." And then "Must be posterior again."
Suddenly, things changed. I lit candles in the bathroom. I got back into the pool. My kids went to bed and I found that I wanted Jason nearby. This was so much different than Leila & Sarah's birth when I wanted to labor alone. Jason seemed so calm and soothing and I just liked knowing he was near me. At this point I think I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to have a baby very soon, even though I wasn't even dilated yet.
My next text message was more dramatic. At 8:59 pm I said "I'm dying."
The next, even more dramatic, text message just said "dyingggg." I realized then that I was now in labor. I heard myself saying the same things I said when I was about to give birth to Leila and Sarah. I recognized myself reaching that point I've seen so many other mothers reach in their labor when they say they can't continue and I encourage them and remind them that those words mean they are almost done. Jason did the same for me. He knew I was close to having a baby and encouraged me to keep going. So I did.
At 9:59 pm I texted Brandi to tell her that "I can't do this much longer." She reminded me of what I already knew- that I was doing great and that I could do it. A few minutes later I declared that I was exhausted. I tried to sleep between contractions but they were starting to become more regular now and some of them were extremely painful as Seven kicked and twisted and turned inside me.
I got out of the pool and tried one contraction on my side on the bed. I desperately wanted to sleep but of course I could not. I tried a contraction on my knees, leaning over the foot of the bed but it was miserable. (That was my favorite position when I gave birth to Leila and Sarah.) I tried a contraction on the toilet and a contraction on my hands and knees. Nothing felt right so I got back in the pool. The only relief came from the warm water.
At 10:38 pm, I checked myself and felt the bag of water bulging, though I was only about 3 or 4 cm dilated. By 10:52 pm I was actually dozing off in between contractions and the warm water was very relaxing. I had a few contractions that turned my low moans into full-on screams, which I didn't like. Things started to feel out of control. I started telling Jason that I couldn't keep going. Seven was trying to turn with each contraction and the only position I could tolerate was sitting completely upright in the pool. I was so exhausted.
I started pushing at 11:30 pm. It was completely involuntary. I checked myself and still felt a good amount of cervix but it sort of melted when I touched it. There was a firm lip of cervix left. I told Jason and Brandi that my body was pushing but I wasn't complete. I was a little worried that I was pushing before I was completely dilated but I had to trust my body. I wouldn't even say that I was actually pushing at this point. It was more of a sense that my body was bearing down and bringing the baby down too. I didn't do anything. I just didn't fight what my body was doing. It felt good to just breathe and grunt a little while my body did its thing.
At 12:56 am I reached down to feel Seven's head and my water broke in my hand. It was so amazing to feel the bag break under the water. Seven's head was just 1 knuckle deep and moving down quickly. I asked Jason to hand me a mirror but I ended up not using it because suddenly Seven was crowning.
I kept my hand on Seven's head as it emerged. There wasn't really a ring of fire this time. Just a lot of pressure as I felt my baby's head being born into my hand. There was a break in between contractions as I sat there in the birth pool with a head about to come out of me. It was very surreal. I felt lots of hair and Seven's head continued to bulge out until it was half way out of me in the water. Jason took a couple of pictures and our video camera was recording every moment of the birth. Jason asked me "Do you feel the head yet?" I answered, "Yeah, the head's right here in my hand."
Another contraction and Seven's head was out. As I had suspected, the baby was posterior and was looking up at me through the water with wide open eyes. I pushed again and an arm popped out, followed by another arm. I reached down and was completely amazed when Seven grabbed hold of my fingers. My sweet baby was grasping my fingers in clenched little fists under the water. In disbelief I said, "I'm holding my baby's hand." It was such a powerful moment.
And just like that, the rest of Seven's body slipped out. The umbilical cord was pretty long and was wrapped around Seven's shoulders, torso, and between the legs. Seven stayed under water as I unwrapped the cord. As I pulled my baby up, I looked down at those big, wide open eyes staring back at me from under the water. It was a moment that I will never, ever forget. It was incredible. There are no words that can adequately describe that moment.
I pulled Seven up into my arms and Jason said "I think it's a girl." I took a quick peek between her legs and confirmed. "It's a girl!" And then Jason turned to the video camera and, with a big smile, said "It's a girl!"
We had one scary moment with Seven's breathing just after we got into bed but everything ended up being ok. A few minutes later and she was nursing and laying on my chest.
I kept waiting for the placenta to come. Jason brought me scissors and I cut the cord. I took pictures of Seven and sent messages to friends and family. A couple of hours passed. I started to worry about why the placenta still wasn't coming. I pulled gently on the cord and it didn't feel like the placenta had detached yet. I ended up going into the bathroom and squatting and pushing for several minutes.
Finally, the placenta came out and I saw the reason it had taken so long. It was huge! And by huge, I mean it was bigger than the placenta with either set of twins. This singleton placenta was larger than the placenta that grew nearly 15 pounds of baby. Incredible. It weighed 3.45 pounds! We weighed Seven and she was 9lbs, 9.5 oz and 21.5 inches long. She was much smaller than Joshua but still a full 2 pounds heavier than any of my other babies. (Matthew was 7 lbs, 9 oz, Joshua was 11 lbs, 1 oz, Leila and Sarah were both 7 lbs, 6 oz, Nathan was 7 lbs, 9 oz, and Ryan was 6 lbs, 6 oz. I think Matthew was small because of PIH and the medication I took for preterm labor.) I still can't believe I pushed out a 9+ pound posterior baby.
I felt so much better after delivering the placenta. I climbed back in bed and snuggled with my baby. I was too excited to sleep much, even though I was deliriously exhausted. When morning came, Jason had to take Matthew to have his cast removed. He returned home with Starbucks coffee and a big, fat blueberry muffin. It was the best food I've ever eaten. I felt wonderful!
I can honestly say that this birth was everything I had hoped it would be... and more. I had wanted to have a waterbirth since I was pregnant with Joshua. This has been the best birth experience, the easiest recovery, and the most awesome babymoon. My milk came in the day after Seven was born and we literally spent the first few days just laying together and nursing and getting to know each other. She has fit right into our family so perfectly. We are all in love.
November 30, 2012