Birth for me is very vulnerable...though, vulnerable not in the sense of being broken down and susceptible, exposed and weak (because in labor and birth I know and feel I am anything but these things). Birth for me is feeling vulnerable to the world...vulnerable in cognizance and coherence of how fragile life is, how powerful yet also how delicate the body is, and, perhaps the most physically, emotionally, and mentally possessive- the awareness of how very little control we truly have.
I knew going into this birth that my support people mattered very much to me. I knew I likely wouldn't need much from them, only their presence and perhaps reassuring words, but that these two things mattered greatly to me. We planned to have our midwife, Peggy, our doula, Mary (who is also our student midwife that works alongside us), and my cousin, Melissa, as support.
Melissa flew in from California and planned to stay two weeks. When she arrived I was 39+2 weeks. Having had Aubrey at 38 weeks, Ethan at 39, and Adria at 40+4, the running joke was that I would likely continue this trend and go slightly longer with this pregnancy. Of course, labor and birth are unpredictable, so we surely didn't know for certain. Just over 39 weeks seemed like a safe time for her to arrive- unlikely that I would deliver before then, and unlikely that two weeks later- at 41+2 weeks- I would still be pregnant.
No surprise to any though, my due date came and went...and the days ticked by, with Melissa and Glen getting more anxious. I felt so good and so not as if my body were ready (literally no signs of anything), I began wondering if my dates were correct. Ha! Perhaps a bit of "nearing-41-week-denial!"
On the Sunday before 41 weeks (40+6) we awoke to a beautiful day. The air was cool with just a slight Autumn crisp to it, the sky was a perfect blue and sparred of the presence of even the slightest speckle of cloud. This beautiful day could not go unused- and so we set off for a day trip to Talkeetna.
We ate at the local brewery, perused the small, eclectic gift shops, and made our way to the river bank, where Denali was clearly exposed, in all her glory. There remained not a cloud in the sky, and both Glen and I repeatedly marveled and remarked at how we had never before seen Denali so clear and unobscured. Even with our repetitious awe, I am not quite sure Melissa understood what a rare presence we had. The world around us was glorious.
As the next day I would officially be 41 weeks, on the way home from Talkeetna we stopped at the office and did an NST and an AFI. All was well. With Melissa set to leave on Wednesday, both her and Glen were getting anxious. But, it was what it was- I felt great, and baby was active and still doing well.
The next day, we met with our midwife, Peggy, for a prenatal appointment. I am not one for vaginal exams (and am quite a baby when it comes to them, apparently), but I felt it wouldn't be unreasonable to have Peggy check me, and if possible, "strip my membranes" to see if it would help to get things going. She checked me at the end of our appointment and I was 3cm, 50% effaced, and -2 station. She was able to strip my membranes and then left, knowing that she might be hearing from me later that night. Or...it could do nothing.
The kids went to bed, and then Melissa went to bed...both not without being adamant that I was to wake them up should anything start happening.
10:30pm and my contractions were regular but not very close together. As I would advise any of my own patients to do- I ignored them as best as I could and didn't time them. If I had to guess, I would say they were about 10 minutes apart. Glen and I laid there for nearly 2 hours- just together in the quiet, dark room, side-lying together with him holding me from behind. I remember whispering to him how much I liked laboring with him, quietly, just the two of us. No fuss, no noise, just us.
A little after midnight, I needed a change of position. The contractions still were spaced out but when they were happening, they were much stronger. I got in the shower for a bit. Not long after that, at about 12:30am, I told Glen that though it might be on the early side, he should text Mary (our doula) and tell her to head over. She too had been adamant about me not waiting until the last minute to call her (for fear that she would miss the birth), and so I was taking this into consideration. It dawned on me that we hadn't even mentioned to Peggy that I was in labor. I all of a sudden had my midwife hat on, thinking of how much I would not like it if a patient of mine was in communication with her birth team but not keeping me in the loop as well. I verbalized this to Glen and told him he should text Peggy and tell her that maybe she should head over too. I then changed my mind and said nevermind- I didn't want her to come over and just be sitting at the house for hours. "Maybe you should check me first." He had already sent her a text by this point but went ahead and checked me. I was 5cm, 90% effaced, and 0 station. "It's too early to have her come. Tell her nevermind, we'll call her when I'm closer." He went to tell her nevermind but she was already on her way. "Ok," I said, "Then she can just get comfortable on the couch and get some sleep until I'm further along." I was so worried about her being here for hours and hours unnecessarily. I felt bad thinking that she would be at our house for hours in the middle of the night.
Mary arrived, Peggy arrived, and we let Melissa get her beauty rest. I got out of the shower and went downstairs to walk around. My contractions were still quite spaced apart, but again, when they happened, they were certainly getting my attention. Peggy sat on the living room sofa and I walked around the kitchen island, taking big, wide steps and swaying my hips. Eventually my feet were hurting from standing in the shower and the numerous kitchen island laps. I told Peggy and Mary, "I don't know what I should do- keep moving to get these contractions going, or go lay down and rest." Mary started laughing and said, "I know what you would tell a patient." "Yeah? What's that," I asked? "Keep moving," she said! "Nah...I think I would say 'listen to your body.'" With that, I decided to go upstairs to rest. Laying down wasn't an option, so I sat on the birth ball and leaned over on pillows on the bed, as Mary rubbed my back. Glen laid a couple feet away on his side of the bed still sleeping. Eventually I became less aware of his obnoxious snoring and began to float in and out of sleep as Mary caressed my back. There was no sense of time for how long I stayed that way, but 30 minutes would be my guess. My contractions did indeed pick up, now feeling as if they were 2 minutes apart. The next memory I have is the shower being turned on for me and me now on my hands and knees, beside my bed. Mary walks in and asks loudly, "Are you having ANOTHER contraction?!" I think to myself, "ARE YOU REALLY ASKING THIS?! A little bit of observation goes a long way." I kept the thought to myself and kept my mouth shut. I got up and got back in the shower. At some point, Melissa woke up on her own and joined us.
I would intermittently try to sit on the toilet. That wasn't comfortable. I would stand for a contraction. That wasn't comfortable. I would sit back down, stand back up, sit back down. I would literally go up and down throughout my contraction, and this repetitive motion was a coping mechanism in itself.
I look at Mary and ask her, "Will you say some bible verses?" She says the first one that comes to mind:
"Fear not, for I am with you."
I nod. That's a good one.
Mary goes and gets her phone and searches for more applicable bible verses, as she seems to be stumped. She comes back reading them. I look at Melissa and matter-of-factly say, "Tell Mary her bible versus aren't very good."
We laugh at it now but at the time I was dead serious. Her bible versus weren't good enough.
Transition at its finest.
I get in the tub. My contractions were now 2 minutes apart and strong, transition contractions. It was quiet- myself included. Shortly thereafter I was getting the urge to push and began bearing down, silently, at the peak of each contraction. I never announced it to the room and I remember thinking to myself, "I wonder if they can tell that I'm pushing?" At this point the pain was intense and there were three things that made it better: silence, swaying my head, and having Glen close. I ask him if he would get in the tub with me. I needed the comfort of having him there, beside me. It is amazing how you can be in such intense pain that you are incapable of verbalizing, but yet your mind is still sharply aware and processing. I remember assessing, thinking of how I was so quiet and also thinking to myself how I was certain everyone in the room thought I looked like a crazy person, with my head swaying back and forth and my eyes rolling in the back of my head. I remember thinking, "If I had the energy to laugh, I would laugh at myself."
I would continue pushing for nearly 40 minutes, and at some point in the midst of that I had the realization that what I was doing was not working. Callen felt bigger than Adria and I felt like I was trying to push a 10 lb. brick out of my rear that was not budging, despite my best efforts. The midwife in me told me that I needed to change positions, get out of the tub, and go sit on the toilet. Oh, but everyone hates the toilet. The mom in me adamantly said hell no, that is going to hurt more. And so, true to the ways of being human, I stayed where I was. Eventually, probably 5 minutes before birth, I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I thought to myself, "Enough of this. You have got to just push and push HARD, as hard as you can, and get this baby OUT." I started pushing like I had never before in my life done, with any of my other babies, and for the first time in my labor, became vocal. For the first time ever, I felt the "ring of fire"- the burning sensation of my perineum stretching as the baby's head was crowning.
"It burns," I said.
"You're doing great," someone said. "Keep pushing."
I continue pushing, long, strong, as hard as I think is possible...
"Is his head out," I ask?
"No...keep pushing...," I'm told.
RAWWWWRRRR!!!!! I'm pushing like a multip shouldn't have to push...
"You're to his eyebrows, keep pushing..."
I roar and keep pushing, as hard as I can. I picture what usually happens with a multip, pushing this hard- the baby usually flies out. WHY IS THIS KID NOT FLYING OUT?!
"Top of the ears...keep going..." someone says.
"RAWWWRRR!!!!!!" Pushing as hard as I can...
"To his nose now..."
"Is his chin out," I ask?
"Keep going, give another push." It's Glen that says this.
I am pushing so hard...
Callen's head comes out. I have relief knowing that I'm almost done. Glen sees that Callen doesn't restitute and tells me to push to get the rest of him delivered. I give one last, long push and Callen is born into his Dad's hands. Peggy says, "Reach down and get your baby" and I reach down and lift Callen out of the water, onto me. It's 5:19am on September 30th, 2014.
I thank and praise The Lord, "Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, thank you Lord..." this is all I'm verbalizing, but in my heart and mind I know what I am saying...Thank you for giving me the capability, thank you for giving me the strength, and thank you for blessing me with this life.
It feels good to be done and to have my baby in my arms.
I get out of the tub, walk to my bed, and get tucked in with our new baby. The newborn exam is done with all of us watching, and Callen Grey weighs in at 9 lbs. 8 oz.
At 2 hours postpartum, Glen gets called in for another mom who would have her baby shortly thereafter, and Peggy stays for another hour, leaving Melissa, and Callen & I tucked in bed. Nicole, our nanny, arrives as Peggy is leaving, and I nap all morning off and on, with the big kids playing happily and excitedly downstairs.
Glen arrives home, happy to be back home with his wife, kids, and new son, and basking in how wonderful it feels to have also helped another family welcome their own son on the same day.
We are so blessed.