Sunday, March 9, 2014
Everyone always told me that I would “just know” when labor started. I didn’t quite understand what that meant, but when I awoke at 3:30 am on January 19 to the feeling of slight lower back pain that moved around to the front of my body in a wave-like formation ¾ I just knew. Labor was starting and we would soon meet our baby boy, Beau, whose arrival we had been anticipating for so long. I was excited and ready to do whatever it took to meet him.
I rolled over in bed, nudged my husband, and told him that I had just felt my first real contraction and that I had a very strong feeling the baby would be born that day. We quickly discussed that it was possible that we had a long road ahead of us; so, we both tried our hardest to fall back asleep and resist the urge to get the day started. I went to restroom before going back to sleep and noticed a small amount of pink-tinged liquid in the toilet. All I could think is, “this is really happening!” I never thought I would be so excited to greet the “bloody show” I had heard so much about and that was a sign that “real” labor ¾ not the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been feeling for weeks ¾ had finally arrived!
About an hour later, I had another surge that woke me from my sleep. When I glanced at the clock I saw that it was 4:44 am. From that point forward, I felt a great sense of calm and an unwavering confidence that the birth would go smoothly and that I was being watched over and guided by a force greater than me. The number 4 and the time 4:44 has always been special to me. Throughout most of my life, my mother and I always wake briefly at 4:44 am for what appears to be no reason at all, and she always told me that when I did so it was a sign that angels were watching over me and guiding me. I consistently awoke at 4:44 am during most of my pregnancy ¾ just as my mother had done during her pregnancies. It sounds silly, but waking for that surge at 4:44 am set me on a very positive course and helped me have faith that everything was going to be just fine with the birth.
I was able to go back to sleep until approximately 7:00 am, at which point we woke and made a delicious breakfast of our favorite spicy cheddar muffins. After we finished breakfast, my husband called our doula, Sandra Lloyd, to let her know that labor had begun. Sandra suggested that I try to take it easy and rest as much as possible to ensure that I maintained my strength for the rest of the labor. We also called Maria to let her know that labor had started and promised to keep her updated. I then called my family to let them know that I was in labor, and as planned, my mother began shopping for an airline ticket so that she could hopefully make it out from Dallas to San Francisco in time for the birth.
Early labor was pretty uneventful. For most of the morning I did what I would do any normal day ¾ took a shower, did some light housework, read the news, and spent some time in the backyard enjoying the beautiful and unseasonably warm January weather. I even started questioning whether what I was experiencing was real labor because my surges were only about six minutes apart and were not painful or even that noticeable.
Things started to pick up mid-day. I began to experience some pain on and off with the surges that caught me by surprise. Every third to fourth surge would be really strong, and they started coming closer together at about four minutes apart. I was trying my best to eat and stay hydrated, but when the strong surges came, I had a hard time keeping food and drink down. In the course of a few hours, I vomited with six of the surges. We were worried that I would become dehydrated; so, we called Maria again and she suggested that I slow my ingestion of food and liquid to see if it would stop the vomiting. Maria’s suggestion was exactly what I needed because from that point forward, my stomach felt much better and I did not vomit again.
I spent the rest of the afternoon laying on the couch and distracting myself from the pain of the surges by watching the 49ers lose to the Seahawks in the NFL playoffs. I also dozed off intermittently while my husband prepared what was to be a fantastic post-labor meal of some of my favorites ¾ lentil soup and rice krispie treats. The afternoon seemed to fly by in a matter of minutes, and my surges sped up very quickly. By this time, I had gotten into the groove of labor. I was no longer feeling pain; rather, I was feeling very excited about meeting our baby and kept replaying affirmations in my head, such as “you’re making progress” and “you’re one step closer to the end.” By the end of the afternoon, I had sufficiently psyched myself out and was actually looking forward to strong surges because they enabled me to visualize the baby’s head sliding down faster than with the easy surges. I had no idea how quickly I had progressed, but by 3:30 pm my surges had become only two minutes apart. At this point, I had the strong urge to labor on the toilet and began to feel a slight sensation to begin pushing. I also lost my mucus plug while sitting on the toilet. In the meantime, my husband had begun filling the aqua doula that we assembled several days before.
My husband quickly called Maria and our doula, Sandra, to report on the progress, and both told us that they were headed our way since things were progressing so quickly. By the time Maria and her back-up midwife, Laura, arrived early that evening, I was so in the zone that all I remember was being very still and introspective. I was focused only on making progress and doing whatever it took to meet Beau as soon as I could. When Maria checked me, she said that I was at 9.5 cm, that I was going to have the baby soon, and that I should let her know as soon as I was ready to start pushing. At that point, all I felt like doing was sitting on the toilet to labor. I had every intention of using the aqua doula for labor and delivery, if possible, but the tub wasn’t even all the way full and it was too late to jump in. A few minutes after sitting on the toilet, I heard a very loud pop and a gush of water (I credit the Vitamin C with bioflavonoids I had been taking for several weeks for the strength of the bag). Maria rushed in and checked that the water was free of meconium, which, thankfully, it was.
I immediately felt a very strong urge to push. Maria and Sandra guided me into my bed where I began pushing. After about 30 minutes, I felt that I would be able to push more effectively if I sat on the birthing stool; so, I transferred to the stool and continued to push. I made much more progress in that position, and after about an hour, Maria let me know that I was very close to birthing the baby’s head. My husband later told me that this sight was one of the most surreal that he has ever seen, and I wish that I had not turned down the opportunity to feel the head at that moment. However, I spent most of my time pushing with my eyes closed and my hands on my knees, and all I was thinking was “I’m making progress!” I didn’t want to change anything at that point ¾ not even the position of my hands. My mother arrived right around this time, and as Maria mentioned later, Beau was waiting for his grandmother to arrive before making his debut because the delivery kicked into high gear after she arrived and he was born within a matter of minutes.
After a few more pushes, Maria told me that my perineum tissue was pretty strong and was not tearing to accommodate the baby’s head as typically occurs. She said that with a small incision to the perineum, the baby would probably be born in only a few pushes. I really wanted to avoid an incision of any sort; so, I told her that I wanted to try giving a few more good pushes and that if he didn’t come, I would consider the incision. After a few more pushes, I felt like he was so close to arriving that I took Maria’s suggestion that we make a small incision to allow his head to ease through the tissue. I transferred back to my bed, Maria made a small quarter-inch incision, and our beautiful baby boy was out and on my chest in only two pushes at 10:12 pm.
Beau was so alert and calm, and we spent several minutes staring into each other’s eyes. It was love at first sight, and was such a surreal feeling that I will always treasure and never forget. My husband cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, and Beau continued to lie on my chest while I admired him and basked in such intense feelings of joy and relief. I felt so grateful and relieved that the birth had gone smoothly and that my precious son had finally arrived.
After I spent about 20 minutes bonding with Beau, Maria guided me back to the birthing stool and I birthed the placenta in just a few pushes. Then, Maria gave me a few stitches, and I hopped in the shower to recharge. I later learned that my husband took this opportunity to take Beau outside in our backyard, show him the full moon, and give him his first breath of fresh California ocean air ¾ an experience that we could only have at home.
I emerged from my shower feeling better than I ever have in my life. The rush of energy I felt was incredibly intense ¾ I felt so empowered, and I know I will always be able to draw from that energy in the future. I then returned to my freshly made bed to begin breastfeeding Beau, and we concluded the night with a delicious feast of lentil soup, warm bread and rice krispie treats.
Beau’s birth was the most amazing experience of my life and I feel blessed beyond belief. I am extremely thankful that I had someone as skilled and dedicated as Maria to guide me through the birth I had always wanted and knew was possible.