Our first child, Adelaide, was born, with the help of CHOICE midwives, into water on November 16th, 2010. She was a planned pregnancy, and we had even gone through fertility medication to help conception. The birth was beautiful and gentle – everything I wanted the experience to be. And, truthfully, I’d call it a typical and most appreciated at-home experience. After six satisfying weeks of post-partum care, I was ready to move slowly into this new world called ‘motherhood’, while simultaneously regaining some bits of myself that I had been missing. The first on the list was, of course, exercise, followed closely by the joy of being intimate with my husband again, and the luxury of having a drink every now and then.
But, by spring time, I was facing disappointment. To begin, I was having difficulties breastfeeding Adelaide. It seemed like I was never providing enough and she was always hungry and crying. Later, a pumping helped to discover I was only producing one ounce, on both sides, at a time. How could this be? My daughter needed six ounces at once! What was going on?
And, I was also noticing that in spite of incredible weight loss, my ‘figure’ was not returning. I would look in the mirror, confused. I had a lump in my midsection, as if my organs that were displaced during pregnancy never went back to their rightful place.
One day, I made such a comment to my husband. He jokingly suggested that I take a pregnancy test. And then seriously added that all I need do is amp up the exercise and it would go away. Never I fear!
The next morning, I fumbled around in my cabinets until I found an old pregnancy test, leftover from the discovery, well over a year ago, of my pregnancy with Adelaide. I knew my husband was joking, but maybe there was some truth to it. It couldn’t hurt to take a test. So, I did.
And, it was positive!
That couldn’t be! The test was old, maybe defective. My husband, Dan, brought home a new box. Those tests were positive too. Immediately, we contacted CHOICE and scheduled an ultrasound with Ultrasona. We needed verification. It was too much of a surprise to believe. And anyway, how far along were we talking – a couple weeks, a month, maybe two?
The ultrasound confirmed I was already thirteen weeks along – my whole first trimester missed and gone! I was due around October 14th, 2011.
We were so surprised and confused and delighted! Another child!
My first birth experience had lasted just over five hours. The midwives told me that this time around I could expect something much shorter, however more intense, and that I should contact them at the first signs of labor.
On Saturday, October 15th, Dan was at work and I was entertaining family from out of town at the Cap City Diner. Suddenly, I needed to use the restroom. I had my first bout of loose bowels. When I was in labor with Adelaide, loose bowels were a precursor to active labor. My manual from CHOICE said to call if I experienced loose bowels. An hour later, back at home, more loose bowels and a change in my mucus from yellow-tinted to clear, egg-white like and stringy. Perhaps labor was about to start. Oh no! I fretted. This wasn’t good timing. With company in town, and my husband working overnight hours at his veterinary clinic, I wasn’t feeling the laboring ‘vibe’. Just to be safe, I sent a head’s up to my midwives and to Dan. But, contractions never came. You could call it a false alarm, but I think there’s something very powerful in the mind-body connection. And I know my head was saying, ‘No, not now! Not while guests are here and my husband is away!’ And so, perhaps that stalled things for a while.
It wasn’t more than a few days later, in the early hours of Wednesday October 19th, that I thought things might be moving in the right direction. Around 3:00 AM, I started to notice contractions that were more intense than the regular Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing. Wondering whether labor had started, I lay in bed and used an online contraction timer to track each rush. Some were seven minutes apart. Some were three minutes apart. Some were two minutes in duration. Some were forty seconds in duration. None were regular. Hmm… maybe this wasn’t the real deal?
Dan was insistent on calling the midwives. With their warning that things would happen fast, he didn’t want to take any chances. When the contractions seemed to be consistently 7 minutes apart, never mind the duration, he called our midwives. It was around 7:00AM. I still thought labor was a long way off. Although the contractions felt real enough, they weren’t consistent, and that didn’t seem right. Kelley showed up fairly quickly, gear in hand. She did an immediate fetal heart rate check, and then an internal exam. The exam showed that I was not yet dilated. Not dilated at all? I had expected at least something. Kelley looked at the pattern of contractions and determined that I was not yet in labor. Another false alarm? She called the other midwife, asking her not to come, and then went home herself.
We had called my parents in the midst of things, thinking this might be the big show. They had decided to come down so they could meet our new baby. When we heard I was NOT in labor, we touched base with them and they decided to continue their travels anyway. We would have company!
Around midday on Wednesday, my mucus changed once again. This time, it changed from yellow-tinted to pink-tinted, and later would appear to be clear and stringy. Could this be bloody show? I never had that with my first pregnancy, although the books warn that it could be a precursor to labor. I asked Dan to text Kelley just as an FYI.
All day long I continued to have irregular contractions, some which took my breath away or made it difficult to concentrate. Sometimes, I had to squeeze a hand just to breathe through them. Though they could be as far apart as fifteen minutes, they were low and wrapped around my lower back, and they did not go away when I walked – all things I would expect from contractions in active labor. Their intensity even increased when I would change positions. And this pattern continued all day and into the evening.
Kelley called to check in around 7:00PM. I told her all was the same. She suggested that I get some rest as I could do this all night, and would need my strength. My parents had decided to stay the night on a whim and make their way home in the morning. I was extra tired that evening anyway. Though I had been staying up until 12:00AM or 1:00AM, I decided to tuck in around 10:00PM. Dan joined me. But, the contractions didn’t go away. And, so sleep didn’t come easily. Kelley had been right!
I would breathe through the contractions, trying to keep my voice in the low octaves. Sometimes I would make a ‘pffff’ noise like a horse with my lips, thinking that relaxed lips and mouth will help me relax through each contraction, as Ina May Gaskin suggests. I continued to squeeze Dan’s hand through the peaks. Dan was timing the contractions and he informed me that while they were still irregular, the contractions were dwindling in distance apart. Down from seven minutes to three minutes apart, some of the contractions made me jump out of bed to my hands and knees to cope. Apparently, I like to birth this way. I did the same thing when I was in labor with Adelaide. The difference, however, was that this time there felt like so much time in between each contraction. It didn’t feel like active labor.
Sometime after 1:00AM, Dan called Kelley and explained the situation. She said she would come over immediately. She asked if I wanted to get in the water, as I was planning on having another water birth, and Dan thought it was time to fill the tub. I said, ‘Yes Yes Yes! Please let me get in!’ I was ready for the water so soon!
Sometimes there were large chunks of time between contractions. I crawled on my knees to the bathroom, as I didn’t want to risk standing and having to endure more intense contractions brought on by the position change. I had to pee, again. I had relieved my bladder and bowels what felt like a million times that night, though the bowels were never loose. And here I had to go again. Dan was in the bathroom too with the hose connection for the tub. I was aware that there were problems filling up the tub. The piece linking the hose to the sink was leaking. So, not all the water was rushing through the hose, making the filling up of the tub a lot slower and less efficient. Dan made several attempts to fix the leak, some of which caused the sink to start leaking in another weak spot, water dripping through the floor vent and into the ceiling of the room below. This was so strange and frustrating, as the same set up less than a year ago had caused no problems whatsoever. And poor Dan! – who was so stressed out. And poor me! – as I labored alone, staring longingly at the tub while it slowly filled.
As the tub was filling, the contractions quickly changed to the urge to push, and it caught me unawares. Where was transition, with the much feared double peaked contractions?? I told Dan in alarm, ‘I’m pushing! I can’t stop! I need to get in the tub!’ The tub was almost filled, and it finished filling while I labored through some pushes, some of which brought more evacuation of my bowels. What? No one ever mentions that in birthing stories, or in childbirth education courses. This freaked me out. I had seen this in one home video, and as it didn’t happen the first time I was in labor, I had put it out of my mind. I hadn’t expected it. I called to Dan to quickly remove the material. He obliged, trying to fish it out while he worried about the water all over the bathroom floor and the filling of the tub and me pushing with no midwives present. His energy felt so panicked and frantic. And, I felt bad for him.
But, very soon Kelley showed up. She checked me internally and said I was completely dilated. If my body wanted to push, I should listen. I pushed for eighteen minutes before the baby was born. And, unlike my previous labor experience, there was almost no space between each urge to push. Everything was so packed together. One push Kelley was saying she could feel the head with a finger and the next she could see the head starting to show. So quickly did this baby move through the birth canal, I almost didn’t believe it was happening. Suddenly, I was at the burning part already. And, consequently, my noises grew louder and louder. I was aware that my parents had woken up and were stirring outside my bedroom. And, I was mildly worried I would wake my daughter. The primal focus that had been present at my first delivery was nowhere to be found. I was aware of everything – every sound and movement.
Still, labor did not stall. It could have because of all this distraction. But, it didn’t. Six minutes before birth, I heard and felt a pop like a cork springing from a champagne bottle. My water had broken. Suddenly, both Kelley and Dan were saying I should give one more push, just one more, and the head would be out. And I kept saying ‘I can’t!’ – not because I actually couldn’t but because the overpowering urge to push was so constant that it felt like there was no place for me to insert my own will. I never got a break from pushing like I did the first time. Couldn’t they see that? Nevertheless, I tried to oblige them, and the head did pop out! There was no cord wrapped around her neck like there had been with Adelaide. And, her hand and arm had come out with her head – which explained why I had felt so much pressure rectally. Then, Dan and Kelley asked me to push again and the body popped out.
At 1:57AM, little Lyla June was born. With an hour and ten minutes of active labor and eighteen minutes of pushing, I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation that all I could say was, ‘That was so fast!!’ I then turned to Dan and asked him to get my parents. And, we all shared Lyla’s first moments together.
It was then that the second midwife arrived. She lives in Granville, and if it had been any other labor, she would never have missed a thing. But with only an hour of active labor, it was impossible to beat the clock. I knew she felt bad about it and she was certainly missed. But, life happens and you can’t control it.
It would be several hours before Lyla and Adelaide would meet. In the meantime, an hour of bonding occurred, I showered, the cord was cut (which is a funny story for another time) and we found out just how perfect our little girl is.
When Adelaide and Lyla finally met, it was all you could hope for from two so young, neither really old enough to grasp what was going on. It is my hope that the two girls become fast friends and never separate from each other’s sides.
From start to finish, it was all such a whirlwind. And now, we have two precious little girls whom we love to pieces. Whew! What an adventure!