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Welcome Baby Z! (A Birth Story)

May 17, 2012

I’m not sure exactly where this birth story is supposed to start, but I don’t feel I can tell Z’s story without mentioning certain significant pre-birth events.  At 36w1d, my midwife Lisa unexpectedly passed away as the result of a “sudden cardiac event.”  Lisa had delivered LM and I was totally devastated by suddenly losing her and her calming presence.  I hadn’t realized how much Lisa was a fixture in my vision of Z’s birth; it was as much an assumption that she would be there as that DH would be there!  But now Lisa was gone, and since home birth midwives don’t exactly work in group practices, I had very little time to make some big decisions about my birth plan.  I really didn’t want to go to the hospital or birth center, and there was only one other home birth midwife practicing (that I was aware of) in my town, so I contacted her immediately, and left a (really idiotic and frantic sounding) message on her voicemail.  Fortunately, Amy responded to my message, we met and she was willing to take me on as a client, even so close to my due date.  After our initial meeting, the next appointment was the home visit to make sure that all the supplies I had collected for the birth were the same for Amy as for Lisa (since every midwife has a different list), and then it was in to the typical waiting game: weekly prenatal visits, occasional texts or calls to discuss braxton-hicks contractions, natural methods of encouraging labor, etc.

At 39w6d, I officially started to get antsy.  L had been born one day before her due date, and weren’t second babies supposed to come earlier?  My mom had come to town to help during the last few weeks and during the birth, and here I was seeing no real progress.  At 40w2d, we went to my weekly prenatal visit and I was still only about 1+ cm dilated and 50% effaced.  I started trying some of the labor encouragement methods, without any encouraging results.  A week passed in which two friends of mine had babies, who had been due only one and two days before me.  I was very very happy for their new arrivals, but starting to get nervous for myself; home birth midwives can only attend up to 42 weeks; a Non-Stress Test (NST) was discussed, which may have the effect of buying more time, if the “official” results could be interpreted that I was less far along in gestation then previously thought.  At 41w2d,  it was time for the weekly prenatal again, and I was very hopeful since I’d had sporadic but noticeable contractions on and off since around my due date. I was still declared barely-2 cm dilated, and maybe 60% effaced.  We talked about the NST some more and talked about Tuesday or maybe even Wednesday as being the better day for it than Monday.  I was very discouraged but Amy was hopeful that labor would start naturally before that.  Fortunately, she was right.

On Monday, April 30, around noon, my mom and I were walking around the yarn section of Michael’s when I noticed that I’d had three contractions in a row that actually caught my attention.  Mom stared timing them at 12:35, and they varied from six to ten minutes apart for a couple hours, so I decided to start letting people know.  I texted Amy the midwife and let her know that I was getting regular contractions, and that I was going to try to lay down for a nap while LM had her nap.  I let DH and my brother both know that I thought it would finally be the day, and I would keep them posted.  As soon as I laid down and tried to catch a nap, the contractions immediately got much closer together, 3.5 to 4 minutes apart instead of 7 to 8.  They were slightly more intense but still not painful in any way, so I just laid in the bed and wrote down the times every time one started, for about 35 minutes until LM woke up and came in to find me.  I got up and started walking around and the contractions did not space out farther again, so I called DH and told him to head home (since it was 4:00 at that point, it wasn’t a big deal for him to leave work) and texted Amy, asking her to come by and check me before she headed to a 24 hour visit she had planned, for a baby she had delivered just the day before.  I also called my brother to start heading over, since he lives about half an hour away, my sister to come over and start her food prep, as well as the photographer who was coming to the birth.

DH got home and agreed that it was the real thing.  My sister arrived shortly after 5:00 pm and jumped right into her food prep duties; it was absolutely delightful to have my birth catered!  Sis made mini turkey meatballs in brown gravy, fried rice, and bean dip for tortilla chips, and they were very much appreciated.  Amy arrived around 5:15 and we started talking about how my contractions were feeling and whether I felt comfortable with her going to do that 24 hour visit on her other client, who lives about an hour away; I didn’t really, but I wanted her to check my progress before we made any more decisions.  Meanwhile, my friend Jenna the photographer arrived and began documenting the event.  My brother had wandered away from his phone at work, and missed a few calls for him to come get LM, then my sister hijacked him to go to the grocery store on his way over, so he didn’t arrive until about 6:15–and there was no way that Amy would be able to do a cervical exam without LM having a fit (she is VERY strange about people touching me, even DH).  So once my brother arrived, said his hellos and we said our goodbyes to LM for her first night away from both parents, Amy was able to give me a thorough exam.  She took my blood pressure, monitored the babies heartbeat, then we went into the bedroom for the first (and only) cervical check I would get.

At 6:55 pm, I was 5 cm dilated and 90% effaced, which Amy declared as active labor and she wasn’t going to leave to go to that other clients house an hour away.  I was really relieved since I know how fast LM’s birth went, but I looking back I think Amy was resigned to a long night of labor. After it was all over, Tom and I were amused that no one had really seriously believed how fast we KNEW this labor was going to go, but we did–although I’ll even admit I underestimated how fast it went at the end!

DH and my mother prepared the bed room by clearing off our big dresser for Amy’s supplies, and making the bed up with a clean pair of nice sheets, covered with a heavy plastic sheet and then that covered by a clean pair of cheap sheets for the birth.  I put on my birthing gown and the beautiful necklace of beads given to me at my blessingway–each bead from a different person, with a story and words of encouragement for me to focus on while I labored.  I love this necklace!

Now that all was prepared, it was just the waiting game, which is recorded in my own memory as basically a cocktail party with contractions.  We ate my sisters wonderful hors d’oeuvres, checked Facebook and text messages, and sat around talking about birth stories and Jenna’s photography.  My contractions were still coming about 3 minutes apart and were more intense, causing me to stop and concentrate on them, and they lasted about 45-50 seconds.  But there was enough respite between them that I could relax and follow what was going on.

At about 7:30, Amy gave me a dose of cotton root bark suspended in water, explaining that it would prevent my labor from stalling and even help move things along.  I can’t really say if it worked or not, since my labor seemed to be progressing on it’s own, but it couldn’t do any harm.  The cocktail party continued until just after 8:00 when Amy suggested I take another dose of the cotton root bark.  As soon as she handed me the glass and I smelled it, I immediately got nauseous and experienced a sensation that I have read about in other birth stories, of “throwing down.”  It immediately made sense to me (having never experienced it before) because it felt like my body was using the same muscles to bear down as it would use to throw up.  I didn’t think (or I really hoped…) I would throw up but I told DH to get a bucket anyway, just in case.  I sat still, in my own little world, while I had two or three really intense contractions and fought the nausea so I could swallow the second does of cotton root bark.  The cocktail party went on around me, and Amy told me later that she sent a text to her assistant around 8:15 telling her to be ready to come over but that there was no hurry.

I got up from my chair around 8:20 and took deep breaths while I walked around, and had two more contractions while leaning on the dining room table, which felt a lot better than sitting; all the nerves in my core and pelvic region must have been lit up because the pressure of sitting had become uncomfortable and when DH came up behind me at the table and tried to rub my lower back and hips, I had to tell him to stop.  I appreciated him wanting to help, but I didn’t want ANYTHING to touch me, it was too overwhelming.  I managed to control the nausea enough to drink the second dose of cotton root bark at 8:26, and felt like I really wanted to go to the bathroom.  I remembered this from LM’s birth and knew that I was probably in transition, but I think Amy still didn’t suspect it, until I was in the bathroom and had a contraction sitting on the toilet (didn’t actually have to go, another sign of transition) that made me moan and cry out something that I don’t remember.  I really wanted to lay down all of a sudden.

I came out of the bathroom at 8:32 and apparently Amy recognized the moaning for what it was and decided to get her birthing bag out of the car; she had been telling us earlier that “getting the bag” is the signal to her assistants that a birth is imminent.  Again, Amy told us later that that is the point when she sent the follow up text to her assistant saying COME NOW.  While Amy was getting the bag, I was moving from the bathroom to my bed, and laid down on my side.  I had another really painful contraction and told Amy as she came in that I felt like I wanted to push.  She was unpacking her supplies on to the dresser top; she told me to drink something and someone brought me a cup of apple juice that I sipped from.  My mom said I looked really pale so Amy suggested I take some oxygen and she got the tank and put the mask on me.  After a few minutes in the mask and another contraction, I was really off in ‘labor land’ and had no idea what all the people in my house were doing.  Amy wanted to try to check what was going on, but I told her another contraction was starting and she told me to lift my leg.  I did, and as the contraction peaked, my body started to push on it’s own and my water broke with a huge gush at 8:40.  The urge to push became overwhelming and I yelled something vaguely like “make it come out!”

Amy was standing a few feet away at the end of the bed and said something like, “uh, you look complete from here.  You can probably reach down and feel your baby’s head” which I tried to do but I wasn’t really able to differentiate between baby head and my own body at that point.  She asked me to roll on my back so she could get a batter look, but that triggered another contraction and involuntary pushing which really hurt and I have a fuzzy memory of saying something along the lines of “waaaaaaanna push ahhhhhhh!!”  And she told me to get up onto my hands and knees.  I had pushed the oxygen mask off when I rolled on to my back and she told me to put it back on as I very gingerly maneuvered up onto my hands and knees.  Someone pushed my gown up a bit farther and I suddenly remembered Jenna was around taking pictures and I mumbled something about her being able airbrush the photos (ridiculous where your mind jumps in those few brief moments in between contractions).

At 8:43, THE contraction started.  This is the part that I didn’t expect to happen so fast, since LM still took ten or so pushes to actually be born at the end of my three hour labor with her.  This contraction was indescribable, the most powerful sensation I’ve ever felt in my life; it started from the base of my neck and forced it’s way down, like squeezing a half-empty tube of toothpaste.  I bore down and I could feel the baby’s head descend steadily as I pushed (and yelled) and then a sting as something tore when he crowned and the head came out.  Amy called out “nuchal hand!” (which is exactly what LM had, her hand up by her chin, and which had caused identical tearing, on the other side) and I expected the contraction to end, but I only managed to take half a breath when I realized my body was not stopping.  It was on a roll apparently, and the position was just right so it kept right on going and I pushed with it and the rest of his body slipped right out.

At 8:44, little Z was born into Amy’s hands, and I finally managed to take that complete breath that had been eluding me for a minute and a half, and then I tried to look over my shoulder at my son.  Amy gave him a brief check and made sure he was breathing well, and then put a towel around him so she could pass him back between my legs for me to hold.  Holding Z and looking at him after he arrived so suddenly (I’d been standing in our dining room just twenty minutes ago!!) I was overwhelmed and started crying and talking to my son, saying brilliant, memorable things like “Hi baby!  Hi baby!  I love you!!”

Amy had me carefully turn back over and sit reclined, and as I turned around to face back out into the room, there was a stranger standing in the doorway: Amy’s assistant who had arrived in the 2 minutes between when I got up on hands and knees, and when Z was born.  It struck me as really hilarious that she saw my son’s face as his head was being born, before she ever saw my face.  At 8:49, the placenta was born and Amy took a look and told me I should probably have sutures for the labial tear.  Oh goody.

Everybody was in the room or the doorway and watching as I got Z to latch on for the first time, and Amy was examining the placenta and talking about it for the sake of my mother (who never saw one of her placentas) and for my sister, who despite two home births, never really got a good look at either of hers.  After that, everything was sort of a blur, as I cuddled my little Z and let everyone bustle around me.  My sister asked if there was anything special I wanted to eat and I couldn’t think of anything except macaroni and cheese, and tres leches cake…so she ran out to the nearest (very close) grocery store and seemed to come back in no time flat with three mac and cheese options, a whole chocolate tres leches cake, a bottle of champagne and a small bouquet of flowers.  After Z nursed a little on each breast, DH held Z while I got my sutures, and I partook of my super healthy post-birth meal, Amy finally did the measure and weigh-in with her fish scale; Z came in one ounce and two inches smaller than LM, at 7 lb 14 oz and 20″.

Aside from the few sutures, which I consider utterly insignificant, the whole experience was better than I had even hoped for, and totally worth the wait.  Once Amy took a few notes and did a final, thorough exam of Z, everyone packed up and headed out, and we were in our own home and our own bed for Z’s first night earthside.  Welcome to the world little Z, you are so loved!

Being born is hard work! Time to nap.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aimee permalink
    May 18, 2012 12:53 am

    You are so loved, indeed!! ❤

    I loved reading both L and Z's birth stories!

  2. May 18, 2012 4:43 am

    Love it! Thanks for posting the story 🙂

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