Here you go!
The Birth of Lukas
October 23-24, 2007
Being a first-time mom, I had no idea what labor would be like – no one can prepare you for how true contractions feel. Labor was not at all what I was expecting, but despite how tough it was, it was also extremely rewarding and awe-inspiring. I’m so thankful we chose to have a natural child birth!
Sunday, October 21, Michael and I were watching the Ken Burns WWII special on PBS. As I laid on the love seat, I realized that every ten minutes or so, my tummy was tightening, like my bicep would when I make a fist. It would get really hard for about 45 seconds. I paid attention to the clock for about an hour and then told Michael about my discovery. We timed them for another hour as we watch the documentary and then proceeded to pack all of our bags for the birth center (which we had yet to do). We finally made it to bed around 1am. I slept really well.
On Monday when I woke up around 7:30, I was still feeling these “tightenings” every ten minutes or so. I convinced Michael to stay home from his meetings and work and we spent the day together waiting for something to happen. Late morning, I went for a walk on the treadmill and mid-afternoon, we went for a walk around the mall (it was raining so we couldn’t really walk together outside). By the time we got home and had a little dinner, I was feeling “achy” during the tightenings. Around 9:30, after timing what I thought were contractions for about an hour, I called our midwife Cherie and chatted with her. She recommended I take a hot bath and get some good sleep because I might see her the next day – a nice way to tell me I wasn’t rapidly approaching labor!
Since things weren’t progressing super quickly (or even at all necessarily), Michael went to class Tuesday morning. I had my weekly appointment with midwife Carol and was planning to pick Michael up from campus. During the morning, I noticed that the “discomfort” that went with the tightenings was starting to be more noticeable than the tightening itself. I don’t get bad period cramps, and these early contractions were by now more painful than menstrual cramps. I had three contractions on the way to meet Michael, a 15-20 minute drive.
Our appointment went great. For the first time, I had actually made progress, which really encouraged me even though I know it doesn’t mean much. I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. As I was 40w 6d, Carol offered to sweep my membranes and get things moving. At this point, I was pretty sure I was going to start active labor that day (though I didn’t say that because I was afraid of being wrong) and we declined. We were still content, we said, to wait it out and see what happened.
Michael and I left our appointment after taking a ton of photos around the birth center (a Victorian-style house) and adjacent park – it was a beautiful day! We sold his car, went to the grocery and headed home. I took a bath, we both took naps, and when I woke up around 4:30, I was definitely approaching active labor. I began to realize that these contractions were about five minutes apart and 30 second long. And, they were really uncomfortable. Around 5pm, Michael talked to Joe who was offering to bring by dinner (and their car which we were buying) and hang out for a bit. We agreed they could stay for dinner as long as they were okay with the fact that I could no longer talk through contractions – I was focusing too much on breathing deeply. They hung out with us for about 45 minutes while we ate I bounced on my birth ball and timed contractions. It was fun to have the diversion. At this point, the contractions were 3-5 minutes and 40-50 seconds.
As they were about to leave, I called Carol. She told me to take a hot bath, continue timing the contractions and call her in 45 minutes. Even relaxing in the bath, I could tell my contractions were lengthening. Michael sat on the floor and timed them for me. We called Carol, who thought it’d be good to check me, and we agreed to meet at the birth center at 8pm. Everything felt so surreal. I could hardly believe that we were actually approaching the birth of our son! As Michael scurried to get everything together, I rocked on the birth ball. The contractions were requiring a lot of focus during them, but I was talkative and able to help him between them. I had several contractions on the way to the birth center and one big one as we were walking up the steps. Carol watched from the doorway and I remember her saying, “Well, that’s a good sign!” We went upstairs where she checked me – 4cms and 100% effaced! Active labor for sure.
We went downstairs to the main birthroom where Carol had already lit tons of candles. I remember recognizing how pretty and calm everything was. The lights were soft, the candles flickered. Michael set up his computer and turned on my playlist while I waited for Carol to prep the antibiotic (I was GBS+). As I waited for the two of them to get everything ready and settled, I knelt on the floor and leaned on the birth ball. I sang to the songs playing (one of the only times I really recognized the music) which really calmed me. And, the three of us chatted between contractions. After Carol gave me the antibiotic via injection, I asked if I could run a bath. She started to say yes, and then caught herself and told me she’d be glad for me to get in the bath, but she’d draw it for me. Our entire birth team was that way. I felt so cared for, even in the midst of great pain. Even when I didn’t realize what was happening around me, they all catered to me and did what was best for me. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Stepping into the hot bath was heavenly. I immediately felt my body relax. Michael later teased me because several weeks before I was debating how “modest” I would be during labor – anticipating that I’d be fairly modest until things got intense – but as soon as I was able, I was naked and in the bathtub. I was in the tub for awhile, maybe an hour. Michael sat on the floor and talked to me. I was really surprised at how easily I could engage between contractions. I really expected to be much more “in the zone” throughout the entire labor.
After awhile in the tub, I decided I wanted to get out. It wasn’t yet 10pm. Carol checked me again – 6cm. I think I squatted a few times at the end of the bed. Beverly had arrived by that time and she or Carol suggested I either walk or sit on the toilet. I wasn’t feeling like a walk, so I opted for the toilet. By this time, the contractions were so strong that I felt I needed someone to hold my hand as each one came. Some were really intense, but I was still talking in between. I kept thinking, Surely this is transition. I remember moaning really loudly through some of them and Beverly helped me to better direct the way I was breathing. Suzanne also arrived during this time. I wasn’t sure I would be comfortable with her seeing me naked (at this point, I was wearing only a tank top) so we hadn’t originally invited her to the birth. But, I decided if she was okay with it, I was too. She opted to stay and I’m really glad she was able to be there.
After awhile on the toilet (an hour or so), I needed to move again. I got up and Carol asked me to “hop” up on the bed again so she could check me. It was 11pm. At this point, I was 7cm and my bag of waters was bulging. She felt it would be a good idea to go ahead and break my water. Michael and I agreed. (Michael and Carol had a “bet” as to when the baby would be born – he said midnight, she said 1am. When she broke my water, she was certain Michael would win the bet.) I remember the gush and thinking it wasn’t as much as I’d expected. They encouraged me to walk around the room a few times. I made it twice when I decided I needed to squat more. I hated squatting, but knew my body needed to do it.
Around this point, I was no longer able to “synthesize” what was happening between contractions. For about an hour and a half I held on to the bed post and squatted with each contraction. Michael sat on a stool behind me and supported my back and stroked my arms. I quickly felt the urge to push which Carol and Beverly encouraged me to do. I remember wondering, how long is this going to last?! Carol and Beverly took turns “checking” me as I squatted. They believed I had a lip of cervix that wasn’t moving, so they would try to support me during each contraction and so the last lip would move. At one point, Beverly was actually laying on her back with half of her body underneath the bed. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I think it would have been humorous to see!
I remember telling them how much it hurt and how much I didn’t want to squat or want their hands up in me. It all hurt, but I knew there wasn’t any way around it. I remember Michael telling me over and over I was doing a great job and Carol telling me a lot that I was doing a great job pushing – good strong pushes, they said. Finally, they thought the baby was getting ready to crown and so they helped me up on the bed.
The rest happened so fast. He started to crown and they showed me a mirror, though at that point I really didn’t care about what was happening, I was just ready to be done. Michael later told me he thought he had a lot of time, so he’d picked up a camera to take pictures. Carol was talking through the baby’s birth and I remember her saying she could see his forehead or eyebrows. Before I knew it, she was supporting his shoulders. Suddenly, Carol told Michael, If you’re going to catch this baby, you’d better get over here! From crowning to being on my chest was about five minutes. In fact, I really didn’t have time to prepare emotionally! Before I knew it, I had a whimpering baby boy on my chest. It was 12:46am. Because of the lip of cervix, Michael lost the bet.
Of course, I was in love at first sight. He is perfect in every way. I never noticed his head, but Michael’s first thought was, He has a tumor! even though he knew he’d have a cone-head at birth. He didn’t cry right away, but he was making whimpering noises, so no one seemed to care. He didn’t nurse right away either, but we lay together for about an hour. It was bliss.
I ended up needing over an hour’s worth of suturing for several second-degree tears. That, perhaps ironically, was the worst part of the entire evening. Labor and birth were more difficult than I ever expected, but every time I look at that baby boy, it was all worth it. And, I’d do it again naturally in a heart beat.