24 March 2011
My First Natural Birth: All the Gory Details
Warning: This post may contain words like "uterus" and "placenta," so if you are one of those people who don't like those words, please stop reading now.
I'm not kidding, there will be blood! Don't say I didn't warn you.
*The last post was by Alex, and it was a double entendre, because while there was a huge sigh of relief at the end, there was also a lot of screaming at the top of my lungs in a way I have never screamed before that day.
Here is a list of all the due dates I passed with this baby:
1. My psychological due date of March 1. I had carried both other babies to 38.5 weeks, and I hoped this one would be the same.
2. My ultrasound due date of March 6. One of my other children was born on the ultrasound due date, so I hoped this one would be the same.
3. My 40 weeks due date of March 10. By the third due date's passage, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would NEVER be giving birth, but would remain in my enlarged station forever more.
Six fun-filled days after my LAST due date, I woke up feeling very nauseous. I had my appointment with my midwife that Tuesday, so I had Alex take me since I wasn't feeling well. She checked me, and I was at a 2.5. She encouragingly said she thought I could easily last another five days, and to come in Saturday if I hadn't gone into labor. She would perform her pagan ritual to get me going at that point. She also recommended castor oil, evening primrose oil, or other things that Alex would prefer I not write on my family friendly blog—if I wanted to take matters into my own hands.
On the way home from my appointment, I had to stop and toss my lunch into the dirt on the side of the road, which rid me of my nausea. My contractions started coming regularly after that, but I didn't start timing them until around 5:00 p.m. They were every seven to fifteen minutes all the way until bedtime. I went to sleep, and at around 3:00 a.m. the contractions woke me up. I started timing, and they were every three to five minutes.
I called my awesome midwife, Elizabeth, at about 4:00 a.m., and she and her assistant Shannon came around 5:00. My mother in law picked up the kids around that time, too. Poor Elizabeth had not expected me to go into labor, so she had stayed up very late talking to her daughter who was home for spring break. Once she and Shannon unpacked, she checked me, and I was at a 3.5. Awesome.
Liz and Shannon went to sleep on the couch, while Alex finished some work that was due that day. I went to labor in the tub for about an hour. At around 6:00 a.m. I got out of the tub and needed Alex to help me through the contractions. He helped by pushing my knees toward my back when it got difficult and telling me about really boring things so I could focus on something in a part of my brain that is not attached to the pain part. We called my mom to come around 7:00 a.m., which worked well for her because she was here for the most exciting part.
Prior to the hard stuff, I had also used some hypnobirthing visualization techniques, which I found helpful up until things got difficult.
When I started moaning through contractions a little after 6:00 a.m., Elizabeth came and checked me, and I was at a 6.5, which I thought wasn't super. However, she and Shannon spread out the shower curtain and sheet as if they were ready to get the show on the road. I felt encouraged. I was trying to relax through really intense contractions, and finally Elizabeth said, "Jenny, there comes a point at which you can NOT relax through, and you have to start working with them." So I started trying to flex and work with the contractions, and that helped with the pain, as well as made me progress faster.
I had wondered if I would be a noisy birther, or if I ought to try to let my children sleep in the other room while I birthed. I am REALLY glad they were not in the house. Or the house next door. Because I am a VERY NOISY birther. I was moaning and groaning and yelling through the hard contractions, and when I got to transition I screamed. Elizabeth told me to focus my scream down and out, which made for funny noises, because I would start in a high pitch, and then move down to a more gutteral yell.
I progressed steadily, with Liz telling me some other positions to try, which made the pain a little more bearable, and helped the baby's position prepare for birth. Emotionally, I felt like I could handle it until about 20 or 30 minutes before he came out, which was about 8:00 a.m. At that point I started yelling things such as the following:
"JUST PULL HIM OUT!"
"Sorry I keep yelling!"
"I CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE!"
"I AM GOING TO DIE!"
I yelled so much that by the end my throat felt like I had been at a state championship football game. All the time I was shouting these desperate things, there was a little spot in the back of my mind that was very happy, because I knew that when a woman gets to the point at which she thinks she is going to die, the baby will be there very soon. Sadly, I did not take this opportunity of a free pass to say all the bad words I am ever tempted to say. Maybe next time. The worst thing I did was tell Alex to shut up, and that was more jokingly than anything.
Elizabeth broke my water when I fully dilated, and I thought it was the baby's head. I would say I was disappointed that it wasn't the head, but I pretty much felt only Pain at that point. I pushed a couple more times, and his head finally came out. That was the eye-crossingly hard part. I thought I was going to tear in half starting at the ring of fire, but I was also exultant to be almost done!
I have read about some women having a "birth climax," that is similar to other biological climaxes. Yeah, that didn't happen for me. However, it was a great natural high not to be drowning in the pain of labor and transition anymore. Alex caught the baby from by my side, because I couldn't bear to have him leave his position of staring into my face while I yelled for help. He was pulling my knee back on one side and Shannon was pushing for me on the other. Shannon said she had never pushed knees back before, which is funny because while she was helping me I thought, "Oh, she must do this all the time," because she was really good at it.
I did tear a little, but not enough to even sew up. I was so happy to have the little screaming baby out on my tummy, all covered in gooey blood. He had no vernix, long fingernails, and lots of dark hair. I birthed the placenta, and it was huge! My midwife put it delicately by saying, "You were obviously well-nourished during this pregnancy." We didn't save it to plant or eat for dinner. I know you were wondering.
I have had two babies with epidurals, and I have to say, during the birth, I was really wishing for one. Soon after I had Henry, as I gazed at him in oxytocin induced highs, I thought, "I could do that again, he is so CUTE! I want another one right away." But not this time. While the amnesia has already set in, and I am already willing to do it naturally next time, my body seems to sense that even though the child is wonderful, I can wait awhile to do that again. Perhaps a long while.
I really appreciated the way labor progressed through the hard part so quickly, with it only lasting around two to two and a half hours. With both other babies, I got to the hard part, and then I had an epidural. Labor then lasted between three and six more hours. I think that was probably harder on the babies. Grace's heart rate kept dropping at the end, and Henry's did a little, too. But Scott's never did. I think that while his birth was the hardest for me, it was the easiest on the baby. You can't tell that from the serious expression on his face in this picture, though:
The day he was born, I had my doubts about ever doing it naturally again because I wanted an epidural so badly in the morning. But now, with a little distance and a little amnesia, I would definitely do it again.