Tuesday, June 25, 2013
A Double Birthday Blessing by Kalle Sousana
We went out for dinner on Mother’s Day with a bunch of my husband, Jesse’s, relatives - a party of 13 at an Italian restaurant in North Beach. On the way home in the car, around 8 pm, I had a few long cramps. I knew things were starting. The next day I felt like I was going to have a big period - just crampy. I had an appointment to see Maria so we trekked over there on Muni from our house in Central Sunset. She and I both felt there was no way I’d be in to see her the following Monday - the baby would come before that! After the appointment we came straight home.
That night I had a few more cramps but I was able to sleep the whole night. On Tuesday Jesse had the day off. I slept in and then he and I went down to Ocean Beach and took a walk. I really felt like I was about to pop. We didn’t walk very long, just along the sand for about 20 minutes up and back. I insisted that we lean over and at least touch the ocean with our hands for the cosmic energy. It was romantic. Then we went to Trouble Coffee and got coconuts and ran into one of Jesse’s friends. It was the nicest day, because usually on Tuesdays we are with Miles, our three-year-old, but we actually got to spend a good portion of the day alone since Jesse’s mother was staying with us and caring for Miles. When we got home I took a nap. Jesse went off to get a shave. That night I called the doula, Lauren, because I was experiencing contractions, but they weren’t very strong. She came over at 7 PM and walked with us on a good 45 minute walk in the woods (Golden Gate Park), then back at the house led us in some stretching.
During the stretching I started to cry - it was an emotional release due to some sadness that suddenly bubbled up in me from a family problem, and I felt so open and vulnerable, and yet I know I had to get through that sorrow as part of the process of labor starting. At 9:30 I went to bed and slept the whole night, although I was experiencing mild contractions throughout. On Wednesday, Jesse went in to work and with Beth (Jesse’s mom), Miles and Bubby (Jesse’s grandmother) I went to the mall. As we walked around the mall I was feeling fairly nauseated and tired and having, yes, mild contractions. I tried to act like nothing was really going on but I felt crummy and just wanted to be at home. Because this was my second birth, I thought things might never get more intense and painful than these type of easy contractions. My body can just open right up easily, right? Haha!
We had dinner and then as we were watching TV things started to ramp up. Around 9 PM we started timing the contractions, writing them down, as they were finally, steadily coming every ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes every 7 minutes. I tried to go to bed, but they were getting stronger so I realized this was probably it, and that the baby would have the same birthday as Jesse (Thursday May 16)! At 11:30 PM I called Lauren (doula) to say they were about seven minutes apart. Then we stopped timing for awhile, on her advice, since this was still early labor. The birth tub was assembled in the living room, so around 1:45 AM when Lauren came over, Jesse and Beth got the tarp spread out under the tub and then started filling it. Bubby woke up and came upstairs to help out.
Miles woke up with all the commotion and came to see me in the bedroom where I was laying on the bed with Lauren nearby, timing and keeping me company. The contractions were going short, short, long. Kind of a pattern. I was handling it okay. There was a lot of excited energy in the house, and Miles sensed this. He got into the bed next to me and snuggled, but soon we encouraged him to go back to his room. Then Jesse told him, “Your baby brother will be born today,” and he looked at me with the widest eyes and asked, “My baby brother will be here today?” and I nodded, and he seemed to get it, and then he turned completely zany for a few hours, and started chatting rapidly. Beth and Bubby took him downstairs and he finally settled down. Beth took some hot chocolate down and I’ll never forget hearing him shrieking, “I like hot chocolate!” in his most exhausted, shrill little voice. He passed out eventually. Meanwhile I was still contracting while laying on my side on the bed, and Jesse was laying next to me rubbing my back and applying pressure to my earlobes, and Lauren kept bringing me water and gave me some homeopathic remedies for calm (pulsatilla was one). They seemed to work. We laid there in the dark and I just tried to breathe through the contractions. I got into the shower by myself for maybe 20 minutes and was singing “Wagon Wheel” to myself with the contractions, then when I got out Lauren had me get into an upside-down position with my knees on the sofa and my arms on the floor to see if we could get the baby to turn, since he had been posterior, although I did not experience back labor so maybe he (the baby) had already turned. I stayed that way for two contractions.
All night long I was waiting for the right time to get in the tub! Lauren said I was not in active labor yet, and if I got in the tub too soon it could slow things down. The tub was the promise, the reward, and it became my point of focus. I also kept waiting for a bloody show and/or for my waters to break, and these things didn’t happen, so it made me question if I were actually progressing. Lauren also added that I could not get in the tub until Maria arrived. It was seeming to take so long. Things were getting stronger and I was whining and flipping out a bit. Finally it got to be near dawn, and Lauren made me some scrambled eggs and toast. She acted like this was normal, like we were going to sit at the table and just eat breakfast, no big deal. I did like her calm manner and she was so crucial throughout, but at the time I was thinking, What’s the matter, she’s acting like nothing is happening, hello!! The contractions seemed to be much closer now. I got in the shower again and sat on the toilet a bit, too, holding Lauren’s hands.
When I got out it must have been about 6:30 AM and Lauren said she was going to page Maria. Then I knew we were getting closer. I felt so much immense pressure down low, like I was going to split open. It was massive and a different feeling from my first labor, more intense. I’d already thrown up twice. I sat on the toilet during a few contractions and peed. Finally Maria arrived, possibly around 7:15 AM. I was sitting on the couch and she checked me and said I was dilated to 7 or 8 cm. Actually, I frowned and felt dismal right then because I was hoping I was already fully dilated. But, she said I could get in the tub then, so I did that immediately. Woohoo! Oh, it was so warm and felt great. It did alleviate the pain at first, since it was hotter than it was supposed to be - 102 degrees. Maria had Jesse dump a few pots of cold water in it to get it back down to 100, a safer temperature for the baby. When it was cooled down just a touch, it was no longer as comforting, and I felt the same amount of pain as before. So then I thought, well there’s no point in being in here! I began to feel rectal pressure and the urge to bear down during contractions. I was sitting on my knees and supporting my weight on my arms, and resting my head on the side of the tub in between. I was nearly fully asleep in between, and the water was making me hot and sweaty. I felt like I had no energy.
Maria came over and gave me homeopathic black cohosh to give me “some extra oomph” she said. I said I don’t think I need these to be any stronger, you know! It’s because I’d used cohosh during my first labor and it had helped the labor get going that she thought cohosh would give me some strength through the final part. So, I took those under my tongue and pretty soon after that I decided to get out of the water and hop onto the birth stool. I sat on it and Jesse sat behind me and supported me. Maria checked me and said I was fully dilated. I began to push and he was born in about five contractions, it seemed. My sac came out intact - Maria said for me to reach down and I could feel the bulging bag of waters coming out of me. The pushing was intense and I really felt like I was going to split in half or break apart, the sensation was so powerful. I even may have said so out loud, because Lauren reminded me, “You are safe, and you are not going to split in two.” With two good pushes, his head was born, and with the next push, I think his body was born, and he came out so smoothly I could feel it. It was about 15 minutes in all.
It was such a different experience from my first labor when I was not even aware of when the contractions were during the pushing, and pushing was much longer, and the midwife was commanding me when and how hard to push. I only tore a tiny bit this time, too, which I’m glad about - the recovery has been easier. Anyway, he came out “in the caul” and was born on his father’s birthday. We saved and dried the sac, and some day I can tell him the story. He weighed 9 pounds 3 oz. He began crying immediately and cried for about 10 minutes straight. The name “Arieh” means lion in Hebrew and Jesse has taken to calling him “that booby lion.” Beth stood by during the birth and took video and a few pictures.
Despite Miles’s enthusiasm for watching birth videos and discussing the placenta (“a placenta is like a robot!”), Miles was not present for the birth, and came upstairs afterwards right when it was over and the cord was still pulsing. We asked him if he wanted to help cut the cord and he groggily said no and backed away. Well, I had expected a faster, shorter, easier labor and though this was marginally shorter than my first time (9 hours versus 15 hours), it was not any easier except for the pushing, and the pain was in fact possibly worse. (Probably because this baby was substantially larger - Miles was 7 lbs 10 oz, so Arieh had a good pound and a half on him.) I did not cope with hypnosis or any relaxation techniques - I definitely spent contractions fixated on the level of pain I was feeling, but with each contraction I reminded myself I had one less to go. However, it was a glorious experience nonetheless and went just about perfectly. I would not change a thing about it! Being able to climb in my own bed soon afterward, and have a celebratory birthday dinner that very same night in our own home, was priceless.