So, this post is really, really, really long. Don’t feel obligated to read it all. But you can scroll down and look at the pictures.
I wasn’t quite ready for Hunter to arrive when he did. His due date was February 9th, so I had every intention of having him the week before my mom arrived on Valentine’s day. I gave myself lots of projects to do to fill the weeks before his arrival– knitting booties and hats, making a diaper bag, finding myself the perfect (maybe even cute) nursing nightgown, making a doll for the handmade toy swap, sewing some new baby clothes… I did get some of those things done. A lot of them, actually. I hadn’t rearranged dresser drawers or even washed the newborn clothes, or gotten them out of the basement for that matter. I didn’t think I was miserable enough yet. Though I did have a pretty miserable week. Barry was out of town and I was a pretty immobile emotional basket case the whole time he was gone (hence the kids making breakfast and all that). Every night he was gone I would have contractions that started at about 5:00, just in time for me to start dinner and yell at people do help me out a little and pick up the Legos and crayons and books ALL over the place, get ignored, and end up crying and hobbling around and finally getting food on the table at 6:30 or 7:00. As soon as things were cleaned up and Ian was in bed I would gather the big kids on my bed, read ONE story to all three of them, walk them to their rooms, say good night, and then climb in the tub. Every time that would relax me enough that contractions would stop and I could get to sleep– around midnight.
I was so, so, so glad when Barry got home on Thursday night. I was exhausted. There had been the usual being-home-with-four-kids-all-day stuff, but with a lost dog and a homeschool group knitting class at our house thrown in the mix, I was ready to curl up and hide for a very long time. We took a bath. We went to bed. The usual contractions stopped around midnight, which was to be expected. For weeks before both Logan and Ian were born I would have regular contractions for pretty long stretches–like 4 or 5 hours. I thought this all was a sign that one, I was a very tired and stressed out pregnant lady, and two, I was on the home stretch– another week or two to go.
Friday was wonderful. The weather was beautiful, Barry was given a “family day” off of work, and I got a chance to rest, finish my doll, make her some clothes, and remember that I really do like my kids. The usual contractions started around dinner time, but were spaced further apart. I did make a comment to Barry that maybe we should time them, but really, neither of us took them too seriously. We took it as a sign that we’d probably have a baby the next weekend. Again, we took a bath and went to bed. I had dreams I was having contractions and when I got up in the night to go potty I noticed one, but fell right back to sleep. At about 5:00 AM a particularly strong one woke me up and sent me to the bathroom with diarrhea. That got me a little suspicious that something more was probably going on.
Those same contractions kept going throughout the day on Saturday, but far enough apart that I would think, “Oh, they’ve stopped” before I had another one. I got all the newborn diapers fluffed up and organized, just in case, but thought I ‘d jinx the whole thing, on the off chance I really was in labor, if I got out all the newborn clothes. I really didn’t do much that day except nap and fold laundry. Oh, and run to the bathroom every hour or so with those spaced out contractions. I should have taken the hint my bowels were giving me!
I couldn’t eat dinner, so I just watched. We put the kids to bed and then got in the tub again. After that, off to bed, but all I could do was lie there. After about an hour I had to get up and go to the bathroom again and looked at the clock as I walked by. 11:33. I had 4 contractions while I was there and I knew they were real. I walked back to bed. 11:50. I told Barry what was going on and he just wanted me to go get a drink of water and they would stop. So, I went downstairs, fed my lizards, drank some water, and started timing contractions. By this time I was having a hard time being comfortable during contractions while I was up and walking around– so I paced my way back upstairs, told Barry this was real, packed some diapers, the cowboy blankie, a new onsie I had sitting with the diapers, and the hat and booties I knit, and got to the point that I couldn’t really talk through contractions any more. Barry was still pretty skeptical, but he came downstairs with me while I called the midwife, then went to dig the car seat out of the basement. I called a friend who had volunteered to sleep on the couch should I need her in the middle of the night. Once she was here we were off to the birth center. We got there about 1:30 I think.
Nancy was the midwife on call. She took us to the big room with the log bed, checked me (I was about 7 cm dialated), listened to the baby and then mostly let us be. I spent those first couple of hours going from sitting on the ball on the side of the bed to the toilet. My contractions spaced out to about 7 minutes apart, but were definitely more intense. I certainly couldn’t talk through them very well and did best just to stop, let myself completely relax like jello, and kind of moan a little. Making noise helped me concentrate on relaxing– and gave everyone else some sort of gauge of how I was doing. We walked around a little bit, then went back to the room to lay down. I was feeling bad that the midwife and nurse had gotten up in the middle of the night just to come and sit while me body slowed down. I tried not to dwell on the negative thoughts or feel guilty, but I just wanted it to be over with already! By 4:00 or so things really slowed down, so the nurse suggested we try to nap. Maybe my body just needed some sleep. So, sleep we did. I think my contractions spaced out to almost 15 or 20 minutes apart, so I was able to fall asleep for almost an hour (my Rainbow Relaxation put me right out). Then I woke up because I was all wet. I was so relaxed that I peed. Nice. In our hurry to pack a bag to go Barry didn’t think to stick in an extra nightgown, and I can’t remember if I told him to or not. So, I was left with nothing to wear. I did cover up with an examination gown and curled up on my side on the bed for a few more contractions (which had picked back up MUCH stronger) but I was getting really nauseous and could not get comfortable enough to relax.
Since I was naked anyway, might as well get in the birthing tub. At first I tried kneeling at the side of the pool, resting my head on my arms at the edge, but the water was a little too cold and kneeling just wasn’t comfortable. Nancy poured in pots full of hot water and I rolled over and just kind of back floated with my head resting on a towel-pillow on the edge. Barry pulled up a chair right by me and stroked my hair and helped me relax. As the water warmed up it felt good– not quite the liquid epidural I had heard it could be, but it felt so good to be supported by the water, not feel so heavy and cumbersome, and be able to float and lay there like a zombie. I just let my entire body be limp so I could get out of the way of what my body was doing. There were so many thoughts and emotions running through my head then. I remember as I was going from the bed to the water thinking, “Why am I doing this naturally, again?” There was no escaping. I couldn’t make the contractions stop. I couldn’t make the pain go away. I had to just surrender to it, but I really wished there was some other way to get through it. It seemed like it was taking so long. Shouldn’t a 5th baby just pop right out? What was up with this 7 minute apart contraction business? On the other hand I was thankful for the rest I got between contractions and the chance I got to breathe and prepare for the next. And then it dawned on me that I really was having a baby– that day! And I started thinking about how good it feels that last push when their little bodies slide right out– I was looking forward to that relief. So, I started talking to the baby between contractions, telling him to move down, that I was ready to be done. I had lost track of time, but I guess I had been floating like a zombie for nearly 2 hours, and Nancy suggested I do a few more contractions in the water and then get out and walk around or sit on the ball. There was no way I was going to haul my humongous heavy body out of the water, so I rolled over and kneeled at the side of the tub, my arms and head in Barry’s lap. Immediately I could feel my contractions change. Gravity was doing its job and I was getting noisier to cope with it. That last part was so intense and overwhelming I don’t even know what to write about it. Every time it’s been a little scary and since I feel like I don’t know what to do I just do nothing– go as limp as possible, and let my body push the baby out.
February 1, 8:22 AM
7 lbs. 3.5 oz.
And then he was out. It was only 3 or 4 contractions after I rolled over (still 7 minutes apart, of course) that Nancy pushed him through my legs and I pulled him up out of the water. Relief. He was so purple and slippery and it seemed like a long time until he made a noise– just a little gurgly cry. After a minute or so everyone helped me out of the tub and over to the bed. The baby latched on right away and nursed perfectly. He looked so familiar and perfect and clean– and mine.
My placenta seemed pretty firmly attached, so Nancy suggested I get a shot of pitocin. A few minutes later everything slid right out. The three of us snuggled on the bed, made phone calls, waited for my wet clothes to dry. It felt so good to be done, so good to see and hear and feel and smell our sweet litte person. The whole experience was so peaceful and comfortable and as perfect as it could be. It was so wonderful to be able to just be without wires and monitors and needles and tubes and cold floors and bright lights. Having a baby at Mountain Midwifery was such a blessing. We were able to get away and not worry about the other kids, have help and support when we needed it (and someone to take care of the mess), and let my body do exactly what it knows how to do, perfectly, without anything getting in the way.
I didn’t quite feel the euphoria and sense of accomplishment I had felt when Logan was born– my first natural birth. I didn’t feel as overwhelmingly emotional as I had when Ian finally emerged. I felt just right– like the world was just as it should be. With this being my 5th baby and 3rd natural birth I think I went into the whole thing looking through a lens of reality. It was going to hurt. It was going to be hard. I could do it. I would be so glad when it was over.
And it is wonderful. My recovery has been so easy this time. 5th time’s a charm? I was hardly engorged when my milk came in. The after pains were not nearly as bad as they were with the other boys (all that red raspberry leaf tea, perhaps?), and only lasted for a day. I spent most of the week in my very own bed, knitting more booties, sleeping, listening to Craft Sanity podcasts, nursing a baby, smelling him, staring at him… Barry brought me all my meals, and every once in a while a little head or two would peak in, climb up on my bed and take a turn holding Brother Baby Hunter. I couldn’t imagine it being any better.