I remember purchasing a new glider rocker on the afternoon of the 14th and feeling "in that rocker" was the only place that I belonged that evening. It was, after all, the only place where I didn't feel like my pelvis was going to split wide open. I remember sitting and rocking and realizing that I was having mild contractions that were occuring every few minutes. I felt all along that the reason labor wasn't coming was because the head was malpositioned and since I couldn't do any pelvic rocks - I'd do the next best thing and try the rocking chair. I had so much amniotic fluid that it was difficult to palpatate the baby's position. My belly was so large that I could barely get my arms around it. I tried rubbing and talking to my baby but she wasn't listening as I planned. The contractions were more regular but they were nothing to be concerned about. I felt in my heart that something was going to happen in the next 24 hours. I remember mentioning to B that I thought we were going to have a baby in the next day and that he might should get the birth pool ready. He promised that he would do it that evening and I remember feeling resentment towards him because he had been making the same promise for over 2 weeks and it still remained undone.
About 10 pm the midwife phoned for the second time that day to check on those "piddly warm up teasers" that I'd been having all day. I told her that I thought something was going to kick in in the next few hours so she might ought to go on and get some sleep while she could. I wish that I had followed my own advice and tried to get some rest. I realize now that I was afraid to remove myself from that rocker - afraid that the contractions would stop and the pattern would piddle out as it had done every single day for the past 3 weeks. I was miserable and ready to birth.
By 11:30 pm, the contractions had grown closer in sequence but not stronger in intensity. They were barely even noticeable and I was mentally straining to determine if they were really even there at all. I remember telling B about midnight when I had grown restless and was moving around in the den that I wanted the pool set up NOW. He wanted to argue with me that he couldn't understand why I wanted the pool set up if I wasn't willing to admit that I was in labor. I told him that it was just a simple request and begged him to please not challenge me. He began to set the pool up.
It took a long time to set up because nothing was together or organized. I remember sitting on the couch timing the contractions and they were 2 minutes apart but not hurting at all. I couldn't figure out what the hell my body was up to and I was growing more and more frustrated at its lack of cooperation. I knew that I needed to let go and release myself into the power of the process but I still resisted.
By 1:15 I felt like I was in very early labor but because so much emphasis had been placed on calling the MW right away so she'd be able to get here in time - I ignored my body's need for quiet and solitude and had B phone the MW to tell her that the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. I remember posting to the message board that the warm up contractions that I'd been having all day had moved to the next phase and that I'd called the MW to come on over to the house. I don't know if I was still in denial or just not with it at that point. I was so distracted and preoccupied but I didn't know with what. In hindsight, I wish that I'd called the MW and gone back to bed alone so I could regroup.
All during the pregnancy I had been preoccupied with visions of birthing alone - as in no one with me, just me/myself/I and that was it. Was it a premonition? Was it a subconscious fear? Was it wishful thinking? Was it an interpretation of what I'd felt emotionally during the pregnancy? Would I have my answers in a few hours? Time would tell.
When the MW arrived, along with her apprentice, I was back and forth to the bathroom. The contractions were not gaining in intensity and were still 2 minutes apart. What was my body trying to tell me? I'd have a contraction and have to breathe through it but when it was over, I was back to joking and talking. I remember saying out loud that I wasn't sure why we had phoned the MW because nothing seemed to be happening and speculating that perhaps this was another false alarm. The labor pattern continued to progress and when I began working hard and progressing so quickly from 3 to 4 am, we thought that things were beginning to cook along. Around 4:30, we woke up A and M thinking that the birth was eminent. I was at 7 cms but I had a slight cervical lip. The bag of waters was bulging. I was at a 0 station. We guessed perhaps another hour and we'd have a baby. I remember thinking that, outside of the pelvic pain, this was going to be a piece of cake and I was going to have one of those labors that I've heard women talk about where the contractions are almost painless during birth.
Time passed, the contractions came more regularly and more intense. I mentally consented to scratch that idea of painless contractions and go with moderate contractions. I was still ok with how things were going. One or two hours of work and a baby was not a bad labor/birth. I got in the pool.
I was in the water but it wasn't doing anything for me with this labor. This was a monumental disappointment and distraction for me because with J's labor - as long as I was in the water I felt no pain whatsoever. I wasn't getting the same relief with this go around. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn't this working? Why was the intensity off the charts? Was the water actually working against me?
Maybe it was the water that was working against me or perhaps it was me working against me. Whatever it was - it was there and I felt like I was going backwards. There was sediment in the water. It was not hot enough. The hose wasn't working correctly. I was begging for hot water to fill the tub and it wasn't coming quick enough. I kept thinking that all of this should have been taken care of during the weeks previous and since they weren't that was why we were having all these problems now. It was yet another distraction. The MW and assistant were trying to calm me and encourage me to "go into myself" so I could establish a more effective pattern but I wasn't hearing them. I was hearing myself having a pity party and identifying all the things that had not gone my way with this pregnancy and birth. I was angry that the water wasn't helping me like it did before and I remember hearing B mouthing off profanities in our laundry room. The valve on the water heater had broken and the precious hot water that I strongly desired for myself and my birth was spraying all over the floor. I think at this point that I just gave up. I began to laugh out loud. B didn't think that it was funny and even I couldn't understand why I was laughing. I realize now that it was the stress of the situation and I was letting go and finding my space.
I had to reconcile that my husband was not totally present emotionally during the pregnancy and it would be the same during the birth. He could come and be with me or he could let the water ruin the laundry room and the flooring in that end of the house. Why, when I needed him the most (and as I'd expressed many times during this pregnancy) could he not do something so simple? I desired things to be more like they were with J's pregnancy and birth and for some reason I was not able to accept that I wasn't going to get it until that very moment. The MW tried to console me and I slightly dismissed her and pushed her away. I was going to have to get busy and birth a baby....all by myself.
I just let go. One would expect things to move right along, right? Not so for me. The contractions were right on top of each other and I was working harder than I ever remember working with any of my previous births. They were double and triple peaking and heart tones were all over the place. What was going on? Another vaginal check revealed that even after 2 and a half hours of strong, effective contractions that I was still at a 7 and the lip was bigger. The contractions had spaced out to about every 5-7 minutes. I changed positions every 2 contractions. I got up and down. I got on my hands and knees and on my side and on my back in the water. The movement was destroying my coping ability because my pelvic ligament was causing so much pain that I couldn't breathe. I was losing it and I knew it. I could feel that beautiful, peaceful birth that I desired slipping farther and farther from my grasp.
I began vomiting from the pain and tried to convince myself that it was transition. I knew I was lying. I was agitated at my daughters because they were talking and joking and wouldn't work the video camera like I wanted them to. In reality they were working the camera correctly but I couldn't concentrate and trust them enough to let go and get into my own birth. Why couldn't I see that I needed everyone to clear out and leave me alone?
After another hour of hell raising contractions that had no specific pattern and the cervix being totally uncooperative, we opted for the MW to try and hold the lip back during a contraction. That worked only one time and when I felt how painful it was - I'd choose to be in labor for days instead of that being done again. I was wasted with exhaustion emotionally and physically. The water wasn't doing anything for me and this was dragging on and on and on. I had expected to have a baby in my arms before 5 am and here it was after 6:45 and I was begging to be helped. She asked for permission to break my water and I agreed out of desperation. She broke the water and it was laced with chunks of vernix and stained +1. The vernix was surprising since I had dated my pregnancy already as 15 days post term. The labor became much more intense after the AROM. I couldn't figure out why things were not moving along more efficiently.
In my mind, I was formulating a plan for transport. The pain from the pubic separation was causing me to lose it. The contractions were powerful enough but nothing compared to the sheer terror of what it was doing to my ligament. I remember thinking that I was going to have to transport for pain relief because nothing that we were doing was working. I just started crying and kept crying. B got upset because he couldn't help me and didn't know what to do. I remember at one point he said that he thought he was going to faint and the MW asked him if he had eaten any breakfast yet and he said no. He checked his blood sugar (he's diabetic) and it was 40 something. He protested that he didn't want to leave me but after being given an ultimatum to go eat so he would be of some use to me - he left me to go prepare some breakfast and then came back about 20 minutes later feeling much better. I got some honey in a spoon and vaguely remember the MW telling me that I was going to have to dig deep and work harder to get this done and the only way out was forward. I didn't care anymore. I wanted it over with.
She suggested that I get out of the birth pool and onto the birthing stool - the one place that I had told her throughout the pregnancy that I didn't want to be. I was so far gone at that point that I would have agreed to hang upside down from a tree if I thought that it would help this labor to progress and the lip to go away and my cervix to cooperate. The only way away from the pubic ligament pain was to deliver.
Fetal heart tones were not really sounding well either. The baby was not ever in actual distress (to my knowledge) but the variations during the contractions (which were all over the place by then) were not ideal. They were checking every 2 minutes and communicating amongst themselves as to what to do next.
I was lifted out of the pool and put on the stool. I couldn't do it myself and I remember B lifting me out of the water and the three of them placing me on the stool. My hair was drenched and I was covered in perspiration. I was emotionally and physically exhausted and this was not turning out anything like what I had envisioned or imagined or desired. Active labor wasn't really established until about 2 am and I had expected to be post partum by 5.
It was now after 7:30 am. My girls were asking how much longer. I was begging for someone to tell me how much longer. I was totally in another place and time and couldn't get back to where I needed to be.
I was on the stool and I remember the MW telling me that I needed to push. She was holding the lip to the side and she commanded me to push and I did. The lip released and her head came down another station. She announced that this would be a good time to go get J from his bedroom or he might miss the birth. A ran to go get J and he came to sit on the couch with both my older daughters.
B was behind me supporting me while I pushed. He finally had shut the water to the house off and left the water heater as it was with 20 drenched towels on the floor. He was now behind me and that was that. Something clicked within him and all of a sudden he was "with me" and I mean in all ways. He started cheering me on - and I'm not talking about that pathetic cheerleading pushing chant that we always hear on the birth shows on TV - I"m talking about the kind of phenomenal support that only the love of your life can give. The kind where many words are not a requirement but the few ones that are whispered communicate multitudes more than the letters combined. We were going to do this. Somehow I found my second wind in that moment when he whispered that prayer in my ear.
The only way that I could find my space and strength was to roar. I sounded like a lioness and I know that I was louder than anything that I've ever imagined. I hated that I was doing it but it was the only way that I could find the strength. B was trying to hold on to me and I was cutting off the circulation in his forearms. The heart tones did not sound well and I was urged to push more. I don't ever remember having the urge to push - I just did.
I tried to capture some of the experiences from J's birth in hopes that it would motivate me or perhaps provide some emotional comfort - I remember his birth and how feeling his head helped to calm me and provided a sense of awe. I got none of that with this experience. I wanted that baby out and she needed to get out. Heart tones were well below 80 at one point and I remember thinking that this was going to go wrong if I didn't get her out.
The oxygen was ready and the NW was on her knees with hands waiting. She said that she wanted me to stand with the next contraction so that she could catch and so I didn't tear. How in the hell did she think that I was going to be able to stand up with my pelvis split wide open? I didn't know how I was going to do it. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I tried to tell them this but they weren't listening.
B whispered in my ear, "You are powerful and you can do this. Just like you tell all your moms this is it, you can do it. Find your power." I roared and as I did, he lifted me to a standing position and all in one fell swoop I felt my baby drop to the perineum. I screamed, "She's Coming!" and the Mw said, "I know she is, I'm right here, just push and she'll be here in the next few contractions." and I screamed back, "NO! She's coming right NOW! and there was her head....right between my legs and I was panting and panting and trying to give them time to feel for a cord. It was looped twice around her neck and once under her armpit. The MW couldn't get it untangled and I was told to "Push with all your might!" and when I did, about a gallon of birth and amniotic fluid ushered my baby into the world and onto the chest, face and arms of my MW. That was at 7:39 am on the morning of Friday, October 15th, 2004. I was only on that birth stool for about 10 minutes.
I remember standing there, belly flacid with a dangling cord and baby between my legs, the tarp/towels saturated with birth fluids and looking down at my baby on the lap of the MW. She was a dull grey color and not breathing. She was floppy and her tone was very poor. I remember thinking to myself, "She isn't supposed to look like that. Why does she look like that? Why isn't she moving? Her cord isn't blue like they are supposed to be - its white and the lower part of her body is covered in thick meconium.....Oh, My God.....Is she ok?........
Just as the "uh oh" feeling began to swim over me and my mind began to swoon, the MW picked the baby up and began to stimulate her, the assistant offered the O2 tube and the MW shook her head to wait. I sort of slid down onto the floor - partially because I couldn't stand anymore and feared I'd faint any minute but moreso to get closer to my baby. They handed her to me and told me to talk to her and rub her. B was still behind me on the couch and reached around and participated in the rubbing and talking. I was in some foreign la la land. It was like I was having an outer body experience and viewing all of this from the corner of the ceiling. I couldn't move. I couldn't talk. How was I going to help my baby? Had all my feelings of disconnect that I'd experienced throughout the entire pregnancy led me to this one moment where I'd have to deal with something that wasn't a good outcome. The questions where crashing against me as I tried to find my voice. I'd never totally let go during the pregnancy or the birth - would I be able to find my way back or would I have to let go even more?
I felt trapped in a time warp. Life was moving before us in a slow motion kind of way but the seconds were ticking away at the speed of light. Our eyes were on our baby and the work that the MW was doing to stimulate/help her. She was right there on my chest but I couldn't reach her mentally. Its difficult to find the words to articulate what was happening with me.
When I watched the video a few weeks later I timed this period and determined that it was only about 20 seconds - which is a long 20 seconds if you are waiting for movement or sound or breath from a newborn. All of a sudden, she opened her eyes and looked around and started to cry. We were rubbing her and wiping her and when she opened her eyes, as if to say, "What the hell are you all doing and fussing about? Get off of me!" - I pulled her to me as if to protect her from the world and claim her all mine.
I closed my tear filled eyes and thanked God that it was over and that she was beginning to pink up. How in the world had I survived that torturous birth? I opened my eyes and she was staring at me and rolling her tongue all over her lips. Both my daughters were crying, B was crying and so was I. It was finally over.
I was in love with her instantly. /i'm not exagerating. I sat there marveling in her form and beauty. Her color was improving by the minute and she had calmed down against my bare skin. I put her to the breast to help control the bleeding and to hasten the delivery of the placenta. I don't remember them cutting the cord and it wasn't until viewing the video a few weeks later that I saw it was even done. B reached around me and cut it. He knew that I had wanted to do it but I was so shaky that I was afraid that I'd hurt her with the scissors so he did it. The birth records indicate that the placenta delivered just 4 minutes after she did.
I rolled to one side to get out of the mess all over the towels. I was very unstable and had the shakes. I remember laying my head back against B and just checking out for a few minutes. I drank some juice and felt myself coming back to the present. I felt yucky and realized that I was covered in birth fluids. I wanted up and to have a shower.
It would not happen. Since the valve on the water heater had broken during labor - the water had to be shut off and I had to be cleaned up with baby wipes as opposed to a hot shower after the birth. This was an agitation for me.
My older girls had to go to B's parent's house to shower and get ready for school. They would be about 2 hours tardy. I didn't think the school would have a problem with that. We called my parents to tell them that she was finally here. I realized that Baby K shared the same birthday as my mother's mother. We named her and kept marveling at her even more. She was alert and attentive. I made my way to my bed. I was wondering how in the world I was going to continue to deal with the acute pain of my pelvic ligament. I asked for something for the pain and took it.
I remember being in our bed and J being there with me. I remember saying to him, "Here's your baby sister" and him holding himself to her and saying, "Kafrin - you love me." This was an "aawweee" moment for the baby book. J stayed close to me for the next few hours. I had a bagel with peanut butter and some milk. I was beginning to feel better. We called B's parents and they came up to the house to see the baby. They didn't fuss over her like they did when J was born. They didn't even hold her. They were there for all of 5 minutes and then left.
I posted a quick birth announcement on the message board with her stats.
You know how they (staff that don't even have a part in your family or birth) take the baby across the room or to the nursery in a hospital birth to do the newborn exam? I didn't have to worry about that because they did the newborn exam right there in the bedroom on my bed. They weighed her and she was 9 pounds 6 ounces. She was the smallest of all my children. She was also the shortest - only 21 inches with a 38 cm head and 37 cm chest. Her apgars were listed as a 6 and 10 and her respirations at 15 minutes were recorded at 54. She was showing no signs of distress or problems.
I believe that the cord was holding her up. I believe that the cord shortage and my ligament situation prevented her head from positioning itself directly on the cervix to help it dialate effectively. I believe that pushing her straight on through was the only way to get it done. I believe that my MW and her apprentice were fully capable and experienced to handle what happened and really anything else that 'might' have happened had she been in worse condition upon birth.
Looking back now I realize that it was the pain of the pubic ligament that caused me the most problem. I couldn't get past it. Part of me wishes that I'd gone to the hospital and had an epidural (GASP!) so that I could have been more present with the birth but the whole part of me realizes that I'd have given up so much more in sacrifice to have so little in return. As it turned out - this was my last birth journey and it was to be what it was.....hard work and a lesson in letting go.
This is my favorite picture from that day:
Happy Birthday Baby K - you continue to be the light of my life and the joy of my days. Your gentle and loving spirit is already present and evident. You complete my birth circle. Your smile brightens even the darkest times and the easy going disposition that you exhibit makes for easy parenting. You are trailing after your big brother without a problem and love wrestling in the floor. You like his trucks and how they glide across the floor but just this week you began dragging a baby around in the crook of your arm. You've presented her for kissing and when I wasn't sure what you wanted me to do - you pulled her to your face and planted a big slobbery kiss on her forehead..then turned around and presented her back for my kiss. From then on, I knew what you wanted.
You can say "Momma" which was your first word. I'll carry that with me for as long as I live. You can say, "Mon" which means "come on" and you always make sure to curl your fingers as a visual sign that you want us to move where you direct. When you don't get your way - you cross your arms across your chest just like your daddy used to do when he was a band director. Its like looking back 25 years and seeing the same person but only in a miniature size. You have even started to growl when your brother does something that you don't like. You chase the dog around and she doesn't like it and you can't figure out how she can squeeze behind the loveseat when you can't. We marvel at how good of an eater you are and the fact that you are just so easy to take care of. We are careful to not get too complacent/self centered and think that you are the way you are because we are such good parents. You are the way you are because that's the way that God has decided to bless us at this space in time. I hope He doesn't change His mind.
The last year has been wonderful being your mommy. I love you. The only regrets for today are that people that we love can't be with us and that the only memory of today for you will be pictures and images that you'll look at days and years down the road.
I pray that your life will be filled with the Grace of God and that this day will always be celebrated as one of the greatest days in history. I know that it is for me.
Happy First Birthday my beautiful daughter.