This pregnancy was my 4th and the easiest of them all. I had very little morning sickness in the beginning, almost none of the aches and pains one might experience in pregnancy, and until the last few weeks, lots of energy. My baby had been at +1 station for many weeks and it was predicted that labor would be very fast and we were hoping that our midwife Audrey would be able to make it.
My first three births were fairly uneventful. Anna’s was my most difficult at 12 hours; she weighed in at 7lb 13oz. Gracie was my easiest and I recall having very little pain with her and she practically flew out; she was 9lb 7oz and it took only 3.5 hours to deliver her. Jeffrey’s birth was a bit more difficult than Gracie’s because of back labor, but was still only 5 hours; he weighed in at 10lbs. I really wanted to not grow a baby any bigger than my previous ones, so this time around, I ate low carb and watched my sugar intake.
I was “due” on December 16, but at 11:30pm on December 10, my water broke during one of my many trips to the bathroom and I knew things would be starting soon. I decided to lay down and wait and rest and at 3am, I finally had my first contractions. We called Audrey right away, thinking that things would happen very quickly and she was at our house within half an hour. We set up the Aquadoula tub in the living room and figured the baby would be here before the kids got up in the morning. It was not to be….
As labor ensued, I dilated well, up to 7 cm and felt rather pushy at times, but did not go any further. I would push down a bit and felt the baby begin to move and then he would bounce off my cervix like it was a rubber band. A big problem with this labor was that though my contractions were very strong, they would space out to 10 minutes or more apart and weren’t much longer than about 30 seconds. They just weren’t long enough to get us past the 7 cm hump. I could reach up and feel my cervix and could pull it down with plenty of room for the baby to pass, but he just stayed put and could not maneuver over and down. I could feel his head and that was a thrill, but he just wouldn’t budge. When it became obvious that this was going to take a while, we made arrangements for Jeff’s parents to come get our older 3 children.
Audrey checked the baby’s heartbeat from time to time and all was well except at one point, the baby’s heartbeat was over 160 bpm and we decided I should get out of the tub and cool off. As soon as I did, the heart rate went back down to 140.
After things had gone on long enough and I was getting tired and thinking I couldn’t go on anymore, Audrey checked the baby’s position and determined that he was asynclitic, turned just enough to keep him from fully engaging. So to my hands and knees I went. Then I propped up one leg on our ottoman and braved that for a few contractions and then the other foot up on it for a few contractions. Then back to hands and knees, then walking around. I spent time on the potty off and on throughout the labor and that worked well during the times I needed to be there. Jeff was right by my side the whole time and was of great comfort to me. Kathy, Audrey’s assistant and midwife-in-training spoke soothingly to me and would rub my calves and feet and that felt wonderful and she was always able to get me to relax when I needed to, despite the intensity of it all.
Audrey sat and knitted and checked the baby and me here and there and told Jeff she needed to do something with her hands or she would be tempted to intervene too much. She told me that though this was hard, I would be a stronger person and a better mother when it was all over. I was sure she was right, but those thoughts didn’t help much during the 5 hours or so of “transition”, and the excruciating pain that each and every contraction brought. I got to the point where I was so exhausted and so miserable that I was willing to go to the hospital and endure whatever torture they might put me through, just so I could get an epidural. I contemplated them giving me an episiotomy or even a c-section and all the ramifications and the long, painful recovery from those, but even those options sounded reasonable in the state I was in.
I forget why, but perhaps it was to be alone, I went back into my bedroom and got in my own bathtub and started the water running. Jeff came to be with me and I lay on my side as the water ran and I cried and cried. I had been boo-hooing and hysterical for much of the labor, but now I was ready to give up. Jeff felt so helpless and he too began to cry. I told Jeff I couldn’t do it any more and I cried out to God to help me and told Him over and over how much I needed Him. I couldn’t see His hand at that point, but things were about to change very quickly. Audrey came in, knowing I was at the end of my rope and told me that we could do some things differently at this point. I asked her what my options were and she said that the most extreme option was to go to the hospital and get an epidural. I remember thinking, “Okay, at least I don’t have to bring it up, she’s on the same page as me! The other option was, if the baby had turned enough and cord prolapse wasn’t possible, to break the remaining part of the water bag and see what happened. If that didn’t work, then we could go with the first option and head to the hospital. I admit I was skeptical that breaking the water would do any good, but I got out of the tub and hoped for the best.
The membrane was tight on the baby’s head and there was no bulging bag of waters to puncture, so Audrey had to wait for a contraction in order to be able to get it to bubble and then she was able to break it and the little bit of remaining water was able to flow out. I said, “Oh that feels good. Then I had a contraction and our baby just about flew out. Audrey said my cervix was only at about 8cm and was coming out with the baby and she told me to go easy, but I said, “I can’t! She gently said, “Okay and then told me to reach down and catch my baby. I had totally forgotten that I had wanted to do this and was so very grateful that she prompted me to do so. I reached down and there was his head! I could see him in all his glory and his face scrunched up at my touch and I was so thrilled to have that experience and to know he was ok. This may not sound like a very big deal, but just then he began to do that miraculous turning that babies do and I watched his head rotate, through no effort of my own, so that the rest of his body could be born. Words cannot adequately describe just how cool that was! The rest of him then emerged and I leaned over our new son, all covered with gooey blood and vernix and got to see him untouched, un-cleansed, brand-new and got to see that he was a boy right away with my own eyes. I had missed these things with my previous births and had wanted so much to experience them this time. The rigors of the previous hours all faded away and we all marveled over this precious little boy. Perhaps it was from the roller coaster of emotions from the day, but Jeff was again moved to tears with the wonder of it all not something that he had done with our other babies. Levi cried gently and I comforted him and tried to get him to nurse, but he was not ready.
We got him cleaned up and I massaged the vernix into his skin…to bad we can’t bottle this stuff up, it feels heavenly on the skin! I started having contractions right away and sat up and squatted and delivered my own placenta. Audrey had a bowl ready for me and it plopped right in. I got cleaned up, put on my nursing nightgown and settled into bed with my new son. He was now ready to nurse and latched on with no problem and went for about an hour or so. He has been a sweet, content baby and hardly ever cries, except when his diaper is changed. I have been able to sleep very well at night and feel pretty good during the day. I had a nasty headache after the labor was over and was pretty sore all over, but the next day I felt pretty good. Despite the difficulty of the labor, I can say that I don’t feel any different at this point than I did with my other babies. We had thought that my cervix might have torn during delivery, but it was probably stretchy enough at that point to accommodate our little guy and since we have not seen the dark, purply blood that would indicate a torn cervix, it probably did not. I did have an episode after Levi was born, after Audrey and Kathy had gone, that I was going to the bathroom and had major blood loss with several large clots. We called Audrey on her cell phone and she came right back and I decided that I wanted a shot of Methergan and she gave me some HemHalt to take for the next few days in order to stem the flow. Apparently the more babies you have, the more likely you are to have episodes like this. I have had to take things much more slowly this time and to make sure my uterus is nice and solid. The after-pains get worse with each child too, and I can’t take anything for them because Advil and such would increase the blood loss.
It’s amazing to me how different each labor is and how unexpected things can be. As intense as things are, I wonder how women can do it again and again, knowing what they are headed for. But then I remember that John 16:21 says, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” I can remember in labor thinking, “Why did I do this again??? I don’t think I will ever do this again!” And even worse, “I’m going to hate this baby because of how hard this was!” Hard to admit that I actually thought that, but I did. How ridiculous that seems now. As soon as I saw him, there was no way that could be true. We mothers go through so much with and for our children, and no amount of grief, labor or otherwise, can ever cause us to do any less than adore them. It only took a day for the reality of the “anguish” of my labor to fade, and I am already open to having more children, should the Lord bless us with more. Birthing is only a very short season in our lives and is oh, so worth it for the treasure we possess when we are done!
I also learned from this labor to have compassion for those who have had difficulty in birthing. My first 3 were fairly quick and easy and it has been hard for me to relate to those who did not have their birthing times to go as well and I believe that made me rather prideful. I now have great respect for women who have endured what I have gone through or even tougher, whether or not they think they did “well”. It’s so easy to watch a birth video where the mother is flailing around and smacking her husband and shrieking and to think she was not handling things well and just needed calm down and stop fighting things. Now I know of what they endured! And I think they handled things with much more grace than I.
Levi was 8lb 4oz when he was born, a small baby for me! Audrey told me big babies birthed easier and if I am ever blessed enough to have any more babies, I am going to be eating Ben and Jerry’s every day of my pregnancy! Jeff was such a wonderful supporter during the birth and even as tough as things were, it was such a comfort to be able to hold onto him. I am so much more in love with him today than I was even yesterday. And, God is sooo good! We are truly blessed!