(I figure I'd better get this written while I'm bed-ridden and still have some free time!)
Monday evening Chris and I had our date night like we have been lately. We don't usually do anything fancy, it's just nice to leave home and spend quality time together. He asked me, "Is it okay with you that I've been praying all day that the baby would come?" Sure, I said, why not?! My hips have been killing me, and I'm tired of hobbling everywhere. We ate Mexican fast food, chatted in the car, and went home.
Some time during the evening I started feeling sporadic discomfort in my belly. I assumed it was Braxton Hicks, but it was so mild I couldn't be sure if it wasn’t just baby calisthenics. It wasn't until about 11pm after we'd gone home and everyone else was asleep that I noticed the sensations were getting stronger, and they were evenly spaced. Because of my previous negative birth experience I was almost expecting the worst to happen again this second time around. I had mentally prepared myself to go 42 weeks if I had to, so surely what I was experiencing wasn't real labor! I still had 6 days until my due date and I hadn’t even bothered to pack a bag yet. (Looking back now, bad move. Haha.)
I got out of bed and went to the bathroom to wait and see if anything happened. My midwife (Dinah) told me to call her if I ever thought the time had come, but surely it wasn’t this easy to go into labor. I didn't want to make a big fuss over nothing. I puttered around, changed my clothes, considered painting my nails, pranced around a little bit like a clumsy ballerina, and finally called Dinah around midnight -- I had to cover my bases just in case. My so-called contractions were 3 minutes apart, 30 seconds long and I could talk through them. Obviously. This was still fake labor after all.
I told Dinah I’d been having contractions for about 45 minutes, because that’s what it seemed like. She suggested I try and get some sleep because I probably had a long way to go before anything serious started to happen. So far it was a walk in the park with a little belly ache. I calculated to myself that I would probably end up having a long labor, maybe 24 hours, so I psyched myself up to be strong and steady.
I tried taking a bath, but it slowed my contractions down and I started getting bored and lonely. If labor was going to take a long time, I didn’t want to slow it down in any way. I finally decided to leave the bathroom and go wake Chris. It was time he get in on the action. My method of waking him up was to sit beside him and hum like a loud monk through a contraction. He woke up, assessed the situation, and got ready to be a thoughtful labor coach. He did just great until.. say, 2:15. I was laying in bed on my side and I realized, gosh, these things are really picking up. In that short span of time my method of expressing myself had gone from a hum to a holler. The contractions had gotten longer, and there wasn’t as much of a break in between them. During a small break I told Chris, "You'd better call Dinah and tell her we're coming if you want to have this baby at the birth center.” I had no idea how far I'd progressed, but for some reason it felt so intense already that I couldn't even fathom the thought of traveling.
After that things get a little blurry. Chris woke my mom up (she had been staying with us to help out) and they put Duncan in her room to sleep a little more. He'd been sleeping valiantly through my noise but it was getting impossible by that point and I'd heard him start to fuss. When my mom woke up she wondered what I was yelling about until she realized I was in labor. She came over to my bed to chat with me in the spaces between contractions, but I was beyond small talk. She and Chris both wondered if my labor was really so bad or if I was just handling it horribly. He called Dinah to give her an update and she asked to speak to me. He put the phone to my ear and she instructed me to vocalize at a lower pitch. I did it for her once, useless though it felt, but it wasn’t long before I didn’t feel like I could control my tone or volume anymore. How could I, when the pain was tearing my insides apart and everything was gearing up for me to hop into the car and ride to the birth center? There was no way that could happen.
Chris leaned over to tell me something and I proceeded to let him know I couldn't leave. I was beyond the ability to travel. Standing and walking would make everything more intense; I couldn't handle the thought of leaving the bed, much less sitting/laying in a minivan for 50 minutes while we traveled to the birth center.
I don't make a habit of staunchly refusing to do something my husband wants me to do, but I didn't see how I would be able to physically handle what he was asking of me. If I didn’t stay in bed, the pain was intolerable.
"I can't, I can't, I can't do it!!!" I screamed. If I hadn't been able to manage the pain with low-pitched sounds before, I really couldn't do so now with my husband standing beside the bed telling me I had no option but to stand, walk to the car and sit in it for an hour. Shrieking ensued.
Me - "Mom, tell him I can't move! My pain isn't relenting. There's no break during contractions, the pain just stays!"
Mom - "Honey, you don't want that baby to be born here. We have to go."
Me - "No, you don't understand. I DO want this baby to be born here. I want him born right here! I can't move!"
Mom - "Ok, just relax. It's ok."
If we'd known what was really happening we might have figured out this was that fun little stage of labor called "transition" when you're going from active hard labor into the pushing stage. My contractions were incredibly intense, one after the other. I was hurting so bad I was scratching and gnawing on my arm. It felt like the agony of every contraction was too much for my body to handle. I had to push out the pain. In the back of my head I remembered my childbirth instructor saying that during the pushing stage your contractions start to feel expulsive, but surely I wasn't far along enough to start pushing….? I had only been in labor for 3 hours, and most of that time wasn't so terrible. There was no nurse or midwife around to check me and tell me I was open enough for a baby to come through. It didn't matter, though. I had to push, open or not.
I kept myself sane by praying out loud the whole time.
"Lord please help me, Lord please help me." Repeat about 15 times. "Lord, please don't let them make me go. I can't go." And just in case there was a chance I would have to do the impossible, I prayed that I'd have the strength to go if I must. I told myself I could do this, no matter how hard it seemed. How would I do it? How would I deal with unknown hours of agony? I didn't know, but I would. God could help me.
They were working around me trying to get things ready for the trip, but I couldn't imagine the thought of having to leave. The really hard thing was not knowing how long the pain would last. For all I knew I was still in early labor, and it just. really. hurt.
Chris was trying to put the carseat in for the new baby (wasn't going too well, I heard him let out a frustrated yell) and Mom was staring at my closet in bewilderment wondering what in the world to pack for me. If they approached me to say something I still insisted I had to stay. But they finally pulled everything together, put Duncan in the carseat, lined the passenger seat with plastic for me (best idea ever, as it turns out), and came to fetch me. Chris said we had to go to Dinah or the hospital. Life was looking pretty bleak. Either of those choices involved leaving the bed with no immediate end in sight to the awful pain.
You can chalk it up to my prayer for strength, my lack of desire to be manhandled, or the fact that I had passed through transition into the pushing stage where contractions space out a little... but when they came and stood by my bed and said, "We have to go." I had a moment of inward peace long enough to get up and walk out to the van. When I realized I had to sit in the passenger seat I panicked again, probably yelled or shrieked some more, and said I couldn't do it. They reclined it and I laid down on my side to contract some more. There was a bottle of water between the front seats and I grabbed it and drank some; my throat was really dry and thirsty from yelling. I looked back and saw Duncan sitting in his carseat and realized we still had to drop him off at our friend's house before we could go to the birth center. Oh great. This was unbelievable. I shut my eyes and tried to close out the world. My mom was sitting directly behind me and she handed me a pillow and a sanitary pad (later she told me it was intended to help me "soak up birth juices" which still makes me laugh) and I clutched the pillow to my face whenever I had the urge to scream.
We dropped Duncan off and had been in the car for over half an hour, speeding along the empty highway. I don't know when it happened, but I started feeling as if my baby was actually descending into the birth canal. I reached up and felt - could it be? I felt something hard, but it wasn't perfectly round like I expected. It had a ridge, which puzzled me. Was that the baby's head? Well, it sure wasn't a pterodactyl. I didn't tell Chris or my mom what I had felt, I just kept pushing. The baby was definitely coming, I could feel my insides stretching around him. I got off my side and prepared for the struggle. He was coming fast and furious, and I was scared that if I pushed as often and as hard as I had to I might not stay intact. I had to follow my instincts about what my body could and couldn't handle. While I pushed with all my might I put the sanitary pad between my legs and used it to press against the baby's head and hold him in. It might seem counter intuitive, but what I was really doing was providing my pelvic floor with support. I was praying constantly. "God please take the pain away." and "Please make me stretch." Mom told me to relax my jaw, and I did. She and Chris both reminded me to breathe and suggested I take deep breaths. I thought to myself, "I'm breathing just fine, thank you." but I did what they said anyway.
Then the miraculous happened... my body did stretch, just like it was made to. It wasn't too much or too hard, just enough to make way for a surprising little baby head to slide out and make me the happiest, most RELIEVED person in the history of mankind. We were still on the highway somewhere in downtown Dallas, racing along a bypass. How did this happen? Was it over already?!?! Was I really sitting in the passenger's seat of a speeding minivan, holding my baby's head in my hands?
I could finally breathe again. The words, "His head is out." are well etched into Chris' memory. He looked over to see in the semi-darkness that his second son was indeed making his entrance into the world. So, I wasn't being melodramatic after all! I was just, you know, having a baby! Oh, miracle of miracles. One more push and the rest of his beautiful body slithered into my hands. It was about 3:37am. Mom was on the phone with my sister who told her to check and see if the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. It was, loosely, and she moved it. I put him to my chest and he made a little sound. "Feed him!" came the directive from my mother. (She's taken it upon herself to keep everyone warm and fed since she came to stay with us, and the new baby was no exception - haha.) There was talk of pulling over, but there was nowhere to do it and we had to get to the birth center still. I didn't care about pulling over, all I cared about was the small, wet body safely on my chest. I had done it, I had accomplished the impossible. I survived and he survived and everything was wonderful. No one had to cut me to get my baby out, and I felt like Eve when she said, "With God's help I have borne a son."
He wasn't crying so I rubbed him down a little bit until he made noise and showed us that he was fine. Chris called Dinah and let her know what had happened, and a short while later we were at the birth center where we got to the third stage of labor. I didn't miss her midwifery services at all during the labor and birth, but I was glad to have her afterwards. She examined me, gave me juice and fruit, made me an herbal bath, and kept me from passing out. She also provided the scissors for cutting the cord, which prevented me from having to chew it off - hah. I was sore, faint, and tired... but so happy. I couldn't have been more satisfied. I had gotten through the worst and longest physical pain I had ever felt and now I had my baby to hold and admire. Everything was perfect. We stayed at the birth center for a few hours until I felt less faint and then drove home with our tiny new family member.
I'm sooo thankful that God answered all our prayers and gave me the best natural birth ever! Some people thought I might be sad it happened the way it did, but I really don't have any regrets. Childbirth is uncomfortable no matter where you decide to undertake it. I will gladly take a dimly lit car in the wee hours of the morning with my husband and mother keeping me company over a hospital bed under fluorescent lights with nurses and doctors I barely know running a show that, in this situation, was run just as well without them. This was the only way I could get the natural, unattended birth I wanted all along but couldn’t have justified as a VBAC. My husband's foresight in lining the passenger seat with plastic was just the icing on the perfect birth cake. :)
Here he is! Our little Phineas.. all 7lbs and 14oz of him. We didn't have the camera with us so we had to wait until we got home to take these.