This is a story about a baby’s birth.
It was…birth; simply put. It involved moaning, laughter, some ridiculous wailing and animal-like noises, some not nice words, lots of breathing, and various bodily excretions.
(If any of that weirds or grosses you out I would suggest not reading any further. And if you do choose to read on, you might want to get comfortable because it’s rather long.)
I’d been having contractions on and off for a few weeks – yes weeks. I’d started what I thought may have been the beginning of labor two or three times that just fizzled into nothing. I had passed all the ‘possible’ 40-week ‘due dates’ which was a new thing for me. (I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t actually ‘overdue’ until past 42 weeks.) I had put in one request to God for when I’d like the baby to come: Either a few days or a week before school started or at least a day or two after school started, but in no way would he be allowed to come on the day school started. It was a simple request. In fact, I had a friend who’s ‘due date’ actually was the first day of school and we joked about all summer and I prayed for her often as I knew that must have stressed her out—thinking her baby could be born on the first day of school.
As I shared, the night before school started, I was finally at peace. I didn’t care anymore when the baby came, I knew it would be soon and that everything would work out just fine. I went to bed feeling good since it was the first night I didn’t go to bed hoping to wake up either in labor or with a baby. Like my friend, Amanda, commented on that blog post- my mind and soul were finally truly ready to work together.
I’d been going for an evening walk every night for the past few weeks and when I went Wednesday night I didn’t go quite as far because it felt…different. I watched an episode of Fringe with my husband (yes we are weird and like that show), it helped get my mind off everything for a bit (how can you think of labor/birth when you’re watching a show about someone’s brains exploding unexplainably?). I went to bed with contractions going on but hey, what was new? Then throughout the night I noticed they kept going, quietly but steadily. I woke up around 3 or 4 to the sound of my own moaning and realized I’d been doing that for a while. After I couldn’t sleep anymore, I grunted and ooomphed myself out of the bed to the bathroom (for the umpteenth time), turned on the light, and discovered my mucus plug had dropped!
“Lord, almighty!” I exclaimed quietly to myself and then I started laughing. It was the morning of the first day of school. I looked up to God, shook my head and just laughed. “Oh Lord, you sure do think you’re funny.” I went back to the bed chuckling and shook my husband awake and told him, as I laughed, that my mucus plug had dropped and we both laughed together and then he told me to go back to sleep and rest. I tried for a bit but I was suddenly starving. I had to get up soon to get the kids ready for school so I got up and walked around downstairs for a bit, scrambled up some eggs, and swept the kitchen floor, continuing to have small contractions every 15 -20 minutes or so. I don’t remember feeling stressed or anxious at all during this time—just happy that it was finally starting while also still chuckling inside at God’s funny sense of timing. It was now just before 6 a.m. when I had set my alarm the night before to get up. I texted my midwife and let her know what was going on so she would be prepared in case things progressed quickly. In the past, my labors have all started with my mucus plug dropping followed by a baby anywhere from 8 hours later with my last one to 3 days later with my first baby. I really had no idea how long this would go on so there wasn’t any point in waiting around for it. I went ahead and got myself ready and continued on ‘as planned’ for the morning. We got the kids breakfast and everyone ready and though I was now definitely having contractions that made me pause I decided I had to go with my husband to take them or I would cry if I missed seeing my first-born son off to his first day of kindergarten. Plus I didn’t want to be left alone lest my body do something crazy and make me deliver the baby on my own. (I learned last time what my body does when I’m left alone.)
We got the kids to school and by some miracle, no one noticed me or really bothered me about when baby was coming (for the first time in a few months!), even as I walked slowly and stopped every now and then to let a contraction go. I only whispered to the kids’ teachers to be aware there was a chance someone else might pick the kids up instead of me. My daughter knew I was feeling ‘funny’ but I didn’t want her to worry about missing anything while at school. Somehow I managed not to cry as we said goodbye, thank God my husband was there with me. Then we went and got some gas for the car and then to the store for some groceries since we were out of most everything and I was hungry. The contractions had slowed down now with all the commotion but every now and then I’d have another as we walked around the store to remind me that yes, yes indeed our baby would be coming soon.
We got back home and ate some food and I rested on the couch for a while since I was now tired from having been up so early. The weather outside was beautiful. My husband played outside with the two-year-old and got out our ladder ball game we hadn’t played with in a while with him while I rested in between contractions and getting up to pee, which each contraction made me have to do. Soon, it was time to go back and pick up the kindergartener. Again, I wasn’t ready to be alone so I came with my husband to pick him up. I was so thankful I got to take and pick him up for his first day after all. We went back home and I made us lunch while swaying my hips around through contractions.
After lunch we went outside to play again. I remember at one point I was standing under the shade of the trees and the unusual cool breeze suddenly rushed through me, running its fingers through my hair and whispering messages of peace throughout my whole body. I breathed it in, looked up to our bathroom window and smiled knowing our baby would be born there soon.
I went back inside and continued resting on the couch, having contractions and peeing. By this point though, I’d also started to get a little…ahem, gassy and my body was doing a lot of ‘cleaning out’. My husband came in and commented on this a few times in his usual good-natured make-fun-of-me sort of way. (Tangent for a back story: My husband, if you don’t know, is into astronomy, so we often talk about planets and stars around here. A week or so before we were all eating dinner and the kids were talking about which planet they’d like to visit and one said they’d like to visit Uranus. However, my husband had to let them down and let them know this wasn’t possible since “Uranus is a bunch of gas.” He said it without thinking but I caught it right away and we shared a good laugh over it while our kids looked at us perplexed but also amused by our laughing. Little did we know how this would carry through to labor & birth.)
This ‘twelve-year-old’ humor became part of our day of labor as I became gassier and gassier throughout the day and we had some very good hard laughs together while I rested and contracted. At some point in the day he started calling me a “Gas Giant”. Our 2-year-old caught wind of this and soon everyone was calling me a Gas Giant. Lucky for them I was still in a good enough mood to laugh along with them. I should have challenged them to a belching contest, I would have won for sure. I’m so glad my husband was there with me to keep my mood light. We laughed about a lot of silly things throughout the day, he also gave me many hugs and kisses and we swayed and danced together during contractions.
As the afternoon went on, my contractions picked back up again and intensified. I swayed around with them and tilted my pelvis around to help baby get into a good position as he made his way down but I mostly stayed on the couch and rested still. I texted my midwife and good friend to update them and commented to my friend that I felt like I was ‘stalling’ and waiting for my daughter to return from school since I knew she really wanted to be at the birth. Plus I didn’t want to have to interrupt hard labor to worry about who was going to pick her up. Around 3ish, when it was time to get her, my contractions suddenly really intensified. I could still talk and move around between but had to stop and focus on them while they happened. I decided it would be too obvious and uncomfortable to go in the car to get our daughter but I didn’t want to be alone so we had our older son stay with me. I called my midwife to chat for a bit while they were gone and had a couple good ones that she was able to listen to. She said it didn’t sound like it would be within the next hour or anything and we talked about positioning since it felt like things were not quite as productive as maybe they could be. I had a “pendulous belly” which meant my abdomen hung down a little lower than my pubic bone. She suggested I try and hold my belly up and lean forward a bit during contractions to help the baby’s head press down more on my cervix.
For some reason this made me feel dejected. I wanted someone to tell me the baby would come soon and I didn’t want my pendulous belly to be an issue. Basically, I wanted my midwife to be wrong. (I’m not stubborn at all.)
I lay back down on the couch for a bit and suddenly felt incredibly sleepy. My husband came back with my daughter and I was so glad to see her and ask how her first day was. She went out and played a bit and I got up to get them some snack and use the bathroom—again. When I came back, I felt…different. I told my husband, “I think I’m about to enter a new emotional stage.” Sure enough, I felt a huge emotional wave flow through me and I started crying. My daughter came in and got worried about me crying and I explained that I was just so happy. I was crying because I was so happy—happy that I got to take the kids to their 1st day of school and happy they were all back safely and had a good day, and happy that now I could feel free to let our baby come—I could release.
This was a big cue for my husband; he’s gotten very good at knowing my signs for each stage of labor. He suggested we go upstairs and start getting everything ready. I agreed and we made our way to The Stairs. We got to The Stairs and suddenly they looked like a huge mountain, I actually thought of Pikes’ Peak when I saw them. I knew what was at the top of those stairs—my bedroom and bathroom. I knew what would happen up there and suddenly I wasn’t sure I was ready. I crawled up a few stairs while crying and said to my husband, “You know once I go up there what’s going to happen, right?” He knew and encouraged me, “I know, it’s ok, you can do it.” He knew exactly where I was now and knew the real labor would start soon. Then I remembered the kids playing outside and worried about what to do with them. Up until now I had assumed the baby would come in the middle of the night so I hadn’t really planned what to do with the kids. I didn’t want to leave them outside on their own and I wasn’t sure I wanted them up with me anymore like I had previously imagined. My husband asked if it would be ok if he asked his mom (who lives close by) to come get them for a bit. This was hard for me because it meant I had to admit labor was really happening and birth was really imminent. Plus, I hate to let others know I’m in labor because then it could make my labor stall since I’d have to change/hide what was going on and put on a ‘hostess’ face. I don’t like knowing people are worried about me or that they are waiting around for the baby to finally come. Also, I don’t like telling people I’m in active labor for the same reason I don’t announce to the world that I’m going to the bathroom to “pass a bowel”.
However, I knew we needed the kids gone so I agreed on the condition that she not come in the house so I couldn’t hear her or she me. I gathered up my emotions and started the hike up the stairs while my husband got the kids ready. Once I was upstairs, things quickly intensified and though I wasn’t exactly timing my contractions I’d guess they went from being every 20-30 minutes apart to maybe every 15 minutes. Each contraction caused me to squat half-way down and really focus. I needed my husband there for each one to support me and hold my belly up—which, as it turns out, did make the pain feel much more ‘productive’. As he gathered the kids and I got things ready in the bathroom I made a decision-I was ready for this baby to come now. I started saying this out loud, “I AM ready for you [baby] to come now. You can come now.” I was still crying, happy and excited that he really was coming soon! This must have distressed my daughter though because she started crying too. I think this was when she realized maybe she wasn’t ready to be at the birth after all. Her and my husband had a nice honest chat and I was proud of her for admitting she wasn’t ready so she went with her brothers and Grandma too. I gave them all kisses and hugs before they left and told her not to worry and just to pray.
As they were leaving, I realized I was about to enter “The Zone”, otherwise known as “Transition”. Except, for me, I usually have a transition into transition. I knew once I entered “The Zone” my logical/aware self would be overshadowed by crazy Labor Land animal lady. I quickly texted my good friend, “I’m going into transition, or at least transition into transition. Please pray for me.” It was good to know she was there, even if just spiritually, praying and supporting me. My husband came back upstairs and told me he thought this would be a good time to call the midwife to come over, which I agreed to as I trusted my husband’s judgment. I tried to lay down on the bed but this made me very uncomfortable and painful in an unproductive way so I stayed by the side of the bed and just rested my head on the bed between contractions as best I could. Shortly after this, I felt a new contraction coming on and knew it would be a real good one (contraction). I stood up, leaned on the bed with my arms and squat/sat on my husband’s knees while he held my belly up. I felt a lot of pressure and felt as if something might come out…I even thought it could possibly be the baby coming down already the pressure was so strong. The contraction was still going when suddenly I felt a huge release and…
My water literally EXPLODED all over the floor (there was a towel I think) and on my husband’s legs and some on his shorts.
“What was THAT??!!!” My husband was as shocked as was I. I told him it was my water! Oh my gosh– my water! We both were not expecting that and just stood there for a few seconds dumbfounded before he rushed to get some towels.
Then I started peeing, lots and lots of peeing that wouldn’t have stopped coming out even if I super-kegeled. I had made a sort of whinnying noise when the water broke and now there I was, my amniotic fluid all over the towel and floor and I was peeing like a race horse; I started laughing and said, “Now I really am a horse.” (Some of my friends and I had joked about various animal noises I could make while in labor previous to this.)
With our last child, he was born very quickly after the water broke so I was kind of waiting for that to happen again but things kind of slowed down a little after the water broke this time. I went into the bathroom and walked around a bit and tried to recollect myself. I think our midwife came around this time because I remember my husband telling her my water just broke. I glanced over at her but don’t remember if we exchanged any words. It didn’t bother me that she was there; it was nice knowing she was there if I needed her. She did a great job staying away until we really needed her.
From here on out, my memory is very foggy and I can’t remember all the details in the exact chronological order. I’m going to guess this was close to 5 or 5:30? I remember getting into the bathtub, which my husband must have filled up for me or…wait I remember my midwife doing it because she asked why it wasn’t plugging as there is a trick to it so my husband helped while I think I sat on the toilet maybe. I usually hate the toilet during labor but I was still having a lot of peeing and cleaning out going on, which really annoyed me. In the tub, I tried to relax but still couldn’t get comfortable lying down during contractions. I remember feeling increasingly frustrated by this but if we didn’t hold my belly up and squat during contractions the pain was too frustrating for me. I remember praying a few Hail Mary’s with my husband which was nice. While in there, I had contractions but the only thing that kept coming out was poop! It made me quite upset and distraught but I knew from things I’d read that it was ‘normal’. Ug.
Then, I’m not sure what happened but after one hard contraction I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I just could not do this. It just wasn’t going to happen. I tried explaining this to them but they didn’t seem to pay much notice. I heard my midwife whisper something to my husband but couldn’t tell what it was. He told me later she said, “Transition”, as it was clear to them that’s where I was. Somewhere, deep down wherever my logical/reasonable self was hiding out, I knew this was true but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. I’m still slightly embarrassed with how I behaved after this. I continued down the negative/wimpy downward spiral of transition, more and more convinced that I wasn’t able to do this anymore. I knew I needed to get out of there but how would I get around my husband and midwife? I had to get away…to the hospital. There, they would listen to me. They would take pity on me and knock me out while they pushed for me and delivered the baby for me. So I decided I had to run away. With an unexpected strength, I quickly stood up and started trying to get out of the tub. They asked where I was going? “Nowhere,” I lied, “I just need to…walk around a little that’s all.” Little did they know my secret plans to somehow run past them, down the stairs to the garage where I would get into the car and drive myself to the hospital and somehow my contractions would magically stop during this covert escape.
However, as soon as I got out of the tub and tried to run I realized my plan may not work so well after all. I tried to run but this brought on a stronger contraction and upset me even more than I already was. I think I might have even wailed like a baby. I wanted to get away, why wouldn’t they scoop me up and take me away? It was like being in a dream where you try and run but your legs don’t move. My midwife suggested I take a break on the toilet for a little. She might as well have asked me to sit on an open shark’s mouth, I hated the toilet during labor that much. But, alas, I had to poop again and I didn’t want poop on the carpet so onto the open shark’s mouth I sat. I had a contraction and sure enough, cleaned out some more. I hated my poop so much at this point, I even told them so. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so much broccoli & green peppers the day before. My husband was squatting down in front me holding me and trying to keep me calm. I said, in a ridiculously baby-whiney way, “I HATE my poop! I hate it, I hate it!”
This made me mad so I punched my husband in his chest very hard. (He’ll tell you it was more like a tap).
He laughed more at this.
So I slapped him in the face. (He’ll tell you it was just a swat.)
I was so frustrated now, with my poop and with the fact that I knew I was being so wimpy and babyish about all this. I wanted the baby to come NOW, I didn’t want to do this anymore. I got up from the toilet and started stamping my feet and saying…not nice words. I didn’t care about anything anymore. Not my kids, not the baby, not praying or God, nothing. And this made me so mad at myself, I stamped my feet again and said a few more…not nice words.
It was hard not knowing just how much longer this would go on and I was getting tired but couldn’t rest or relax. It was like being stuck in a dream; I wanted to get out of transition and to the end but I didn’t want to be the one to do it anymore. I tried reasoning with my husband and midwife about this again but my midwife matter of factly reminded me that even at the hospital, at this point, I would still have to be the one to do it. I groaned, knowing she was right. I told my husband I didn’t really want an epidural, I just wanted…something…to make it easier…to make my mind/attitude work better. I needed a huge rush of adrenaline or energy to just get me working again. (Side note: I envisioned the scene from Mission Impossible where Tom Cruise injects with adrenaline into a tortured captive and she suddenly wakes up and has the energy to start shooting the enemies and running.)
I think they may have given me some of my Rescue Remedy which helped, even if only as a placebo/mind trick. They suggested I go back to the bed to rest a bit but somehow I must have known somewhere in my subconscious that he was coming soon and I wanted to stay by the bathtub (I didn’t want to get my bed and bedroom carpet all dirty either.) I was standing and leaning over the tub and the warm water beckoned me to come back in after another really good bearing-down type of contraction. I don’t remember actually pushing yet, just bearing down with my body. I climbed back in and I must have had a few more contractions. I remember reaching in to check if I could feel the baby’s head since I felt something coming out. Nope, just more poop. I said I didn’t want more of that, I wanted my baby! (Or at least that’s what I was thinking if I didn’t say that out loud.) I tried to reach in further and find his head so I could literally pull it down. “Come on, Luke!” I said this in a half cheerleader half disciplinarian mom sort of way. “Come, out!”
I don’t know how close my contractions were now but they must have been pretty close together. Another big one was coming so I think I stood up and squatted by the side of the tub while my husband and midwife supported me from the back. This contraction either lasted longer or there were multiple contractions in one. My midwife and husband had been ‘coaching’ me on my breathing and this was incredibly helpful because I usually forget to breath and either hold my breath or yell for the whole contraction until my face turns purple and my eyes almost pop. (According to my husband.) So I was bearing down, and now pushing, though trying not to force anything like I’ve done in the past. My midwife was reminding me that every breath I took provided oxygen to the baby and to my tissues to prevent perineum tearing, which I certainly did not want to happen. So I breathed, released, took another breath and released and then I reached down again to see what I felt and this time I felt his head! Oh joy! His head! His head! I knew then that I was crowning and this gave me the ‘adrenaline’ I needed to go on. I remembered my good friend talking about panting during her crowning so I did this as I supported his head coming out with my hands. The funny thing is that I don’t remember this hurting at all, maybe because of how relieved I was to know it was finally going to be over soon. I was so focused on my breathing that I couldn’t tell my husband or midwife that he was crowning. Later they told me they wondered what was going on since I suddenly had become so focused. The contraction ended and a huge wave of relief flowed through me as I knew his head was out. I leaned forward and my husband and midwife said, “Oh, his head!” I thought they knew I had crowned so was confused why they didn’t know and was waiting for the rest of his body to come out. My midwife then instructed me to get up on my hands and knees and face the opposite side of the tub. The tone of her voice indicated how important it was for me to do this. I was not worried about this, I somehow knew his shoulder might be a little stuck, so I mustered up my strength and followed her direction. She told me she needed to help get his shoulder out and that I would definitely feel it. So she hooked her finger under his shoulder/armpit and told me to push (yup, just like on TV.) So with the next contraction, I pushed and out he came! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh, what a relief! That’s probably one of the best feelings ever.
I asked if he was out and they said yes and helped hand him to me without getting all twisted up in the cord. I laid back and held my baby and cried and cried and said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” about a billion times while joyously crying and talking to him, feeling him, kissing him. “My baby! My baby!” It was the exact image God had given me at Mass a week or so before when I was feeling anxious/scared about the birth. I was there, in the tub, with the evening sun shining through the window blinds onto us, holding my baby and saying, “He’s here! He’s here!”
The afterbirth part went well too. With my last birth I’d handled the birth part wonderfully but not so much with the after-birth part. I had thought I was having twins but it was just my placenta which took almost 2 hours to finally come out. So this time I was determined and prepared to deal with the after-birth better. Once the contractions started up again after Luke was out I actually spoke directly to my placenta, “Ok placenta, you did a great job feeding my baby, thank you. I now give you permission to release and come out.” We laughed together about this, it was nice to be cognitive and good-humored again. We waited a bit in the tub but it was apparent I needed to move. The cord had stopped pulsating and didn’t need to be connected anymore so we went ahead cut it; Luke was no longer connected to me through the cord. I got up and then we went to the toilet again (this time I was a bigger girl about it) and soon the placenta came out! Whoooo! Another wonderful feeling. Now, now it was done! My baby was out, the placenta was out. Thank you, God, thank you!
And that’s the story of Luke Daniel’s birth. It was, as I said in the beginning…birth, simply put. No words can ever really express the true experience, especially during that dark hour and a half transition time. It’s much easier writing/talking about this after the fact. Part of me wishes I would have handled that part better but it was what it was. I grew and carried a human person in my body for “9 months” and I birthed that tiny human person. I love him, I love him so much. Though it was hard—an understatement—I would do it again for him and for all my children if I had to.
Now I will reward those of you who actually read this whole thing with some pictures.