Intensity: precursor to discomfort during surges
Discomfort: sensation that requires coping techniques to get past
Pain: sudden shock to the system that almost always involves swearing. Follow up sensation to pain is discomfort.
I woke up at 6 AM on Easter Sunday with a surge that was uncomfortable enough that I didn’t want to experience another one lying down. I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat on the floor at the foot of the bed. I didn’t want to disturb either J or Bri, both still asleep in the bed. I rocked and did cat and cow poses on the floor in between surges and breathed my way through the surges themselves. I didn’t want to keep track of their frequency, duration or regularity. I just experienced them. About 7 AM, I drew a bath in the garden tub in our bathroom. Only a few days prior, it had been growing things and I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of cleaning it or laboring with the growing things. Sherri, my midwife, had said that it would be great to labor in and she assured me that her apprentices would clean it out for me when the time came. On Friday, I had filled the tub and added about a cup of bleach to it. By the time I drained it on Saturday morning, it was clean and whatever was growing in the jets was nowhere to be found.
I still wasn’t sure I was in labor. I had been having regular and intense surges for a few weeks and they had died down each time. Twice I had called my midwife, wondering if there was a chance this was it, and both times it fizzled out. I had decided several days previously that I was going to be the first woman in history to carry a live fetus forever. This baby was never going to come. When I got into the tub on Sunday morning, I was fine with it if it caused the surges to slow down, lessen the intensity or stop. I was going to be pregnant forever anyway.
I created a mantra for myself to help open up during the surges. I whispered “I can do this” repeatedly and during the peaks when I needed to loosen further, I dropped my jaw and said, “haaaaaaaaaai can do this.” I discovered during this time by myself that I could also apply my own counter pressure to my sacrum if I used my arms to press my back into the back of the tub. For awhile, I was able to keep this up during the surges without tensing my lower body and it helped me cope with the intensity. The water helped with the intensity too. Water rules.
Around 7:30, I woke J up by calling him from the tub and I asked him to sit with me. He started asking me inane questions to which I had no answers. He wanted to know how frequent and regular the surges had been. I, of course, had no idea because I didn’t want to try to time them and cope with them simultaneously. He texted Sherri with the best info I could give him and apparently “pressure” was the magic word. She said she would be right over.
The kids woke up around 8-8:15. J went about trying to get them ready and though the older kids followed the instruction to get dressed and eat breakfast readily, Bri was resistant to allowing someone to put her dress on. She fussed. As soon as J got her into the kitchen to eat and she saw her Easter basket, she grabbed it and brought it to me in the tub to show it to me. It’s awkward to focus on laboring while your toddler is standing in front of you and needing you to pay attention to her. She gave me a little tour of the things in her basket and J finally got her to put her Easter dress on so my father-in-law could take all of the kids to church. They left around 8:45 and Sherri showed up at our house shortly thereafter.
“You can’t pay me enough to get out of this tub.” She laughed and asked me what made me think she would want me to get out of the tub. I had thought she would want to do a cervical check on the bed. She assured me that I didn’t have to get out of the tub. “I have mad skills,” she said.
She sat with me for a few surges and asked me if she could do a cervical check. She just had me float my bottom up in the tub to do it. Since I was terrified of having a surge outside of the tub because I felt like I was only barely coping with them in it, this was a huge relief. She asked if I wanted to know where I was dilation-wise. I told her no, because I didn’t want to be discouraged. Curiosity eventually got the better of me though. She pronounced me at 8cm between surges. I still wasn’t getting out of the tub. It was nice to hear that I was so far along though. This was my thought process: 8cm is in transition. Transition goes fast. Pushing usually goes fast for me too. I’m almost done.
At this point, the series of events starts to get a little hazy. I know Sherri called her apprentices and they came. I know that they got me juice, ice water and both gave me counter pressure during surges. One gave me counter pressure on my sacrum and the other on my hips. It made a huge difference toward helping me cope. The intensity had gotten to the point that it had become discomfort and I had a few surges where I had been in a less than favorable position when they began so I found myself scooting around the tub trying to escape them and whining. It was very much like my experience when Aiden was born. It didn’t seem long before I was pushing at the end of each surge, but oddly, it didn’t feel like anything was happening. I tried pushing a few times in the tub and it just wasn’t working. Sherri and her apprentices helped me out of the tub when I experienced the only real pain I felt during the birth. That first surge out of the water startled and frightened me and I tried to escape it again by scooting around to get away from it.
They helped me to sit on the birthing stool. Nope, that isn’t working either. Ok, well, let’s try on hands and knees. Nope. Holding onto J’s neck on the bed on my knees I felt the baby descend through my spine. I wiggled my hips back and forth during those two surges and I yelled a few times something about not being able to do it. The discomfort really was more than I felt capable of handling at that point. “Why don’t you lie down on your side?” Sherri held my right leg up and back and I freaked. “No, let me up.” “But you’re doing so well.” “NO! I’m getting back on the stool. It will work now. HELP ME GET UP.” During the two surges I felt on my side, it felt like I was being punished. I know I wasn’t being punished. I know Sherri was seeing the baby descend and the progress made her feel like it was a good position. Right here is the point in the story where I tell mothers how important it is to voice your opinions and preferences no matter what anyone around you is saying. It’s important because women aren’t necessarily rational at this point in labor, so if you want something and you are absolutely positive, say it, and say it loud, until someone listens to you.
I had one surge between that awful couple of minutes on the bed and the birthing stool. Once on the stool, I could feel that the baby was ready to come. None of my kids have taken more than 2 or 3 pushes to come, until now. I pushed as hard as I could on the stool and it took a couple of tries before my water broke. I had been trying to get it to break ever since I felt pushy. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid, so Sherri encouraged me to push again. I felt the baby descend into the birth canal and I didn’t want her to come back up, so I continued to hold my muscles in that position even after the surge ended. I took a breath and pushed again. Now something between a yell, a snarl and a scream was coming out of my throat. Sherri told me I should try to keep the tones low or I would scare the baby, but I needed to yell or the baby wasn’t coming and I knew it. Something inside me said so. I yelled and pushed again. Sherri told me she could see hair. I yelled and pushed again and she said the baby was crowning. I kept pushing past the end of the surge again and time slowed down. It was like I was having an out-of-body experience simultaneously while I felt all of the sensations in my body and everything was moving in slow motion. I yelled and pushed until I could feel that the head was out and it felt like it took years. Then I had the strangest sensation: The head was out, but I was still feeling pressure on my tailbone and the rest of the body wasn’t just falling out on its own.
“The baby is posterior.”
“It’s looking over the shoulder.”
“Hold on: there’s a cord. It’s looped around twice.”
“Wait, don’t push.”
I felt the body rotate on its own. One final push and she was out.
“It’s a girl!”
I let her sit on the floor on the pads under the birthing stool for a minute while I shook from the adrenaline rush. Then I held her and laid down with her on the bed until the placenta came. It took longer than it had in the past, but still not very long: about 20 minutes. She nursed like a champ right then. I had no tearing or bleeding. When the others got home from church just after noon, Sherri and J wrapped her in a blanket and brought her out to meet them. Bri saw the baby: her Easter gift. She reached for her and said, “Thank you.”
Auburne was born at 10:40AM on Easter Sunday at 40 weeks 6 days gestation. She was 7 lbs 4 oz and 18 inches long. She was a posterior presentation with a double nuchal chord, and she was born at home.