I felt baby’s movements change about two days before labor began – lower, sharper, and in my back – and I knew baby and my body were getting ready. The baby had felt very heavy on my pelvic bones and it was getting hard to walk, more than with my first two pregnancies. On the Monday I was irritable, grumpy, and needing space, wondering if this was “a sign”. When I checked my cervix after a bath that night it seemed to be about 4cm open. I had lots of baby dreams … little feet sliding out effortlessly .. beautiful big eyes, like 20 month old FF…
I woke up around 5 am on Tuesday October 17th, just before dawn, with sharp cramping under my ribs. I thought it was indigestion and got up to let my bowels move. It was worse when I lay on my side so I went on all fours and fell asleep hugging my pillow. This was a different sensation than the dull, round, low menstrual-like feeling I remember from my first two births. This was sharper, all encompassing …
I woke up again an hour later, at first not realizing this was the real thing but the crampy feeling came often enough for me to realize that it was … I told my family when they woke up, “Don’t be alarmed but the baby’s going to be born today”. I took a morning nap, alone. When I finally woke up we set about getting everything ready – real slow like. I washed and hung up diapers. b (aka, dad) made me a nut-filled raw chocolate bar for breakfast. 6.5 year old LL kept saying, “It’s weird that the baby’s coming today”. FF had a rough, grumpy morning and had a short nap around 11 am. Breastfeeding really brought on the rushes and side lying was very uncomfortable. Rushes were erratic all day – sometimes coming minutes apart, other times 30-40 minutes apart – I wasn’t keeping track. They came closer when I stood up or peed. I had a bath with the geranium and clary sage essential oils I’ve had since my first birth and I sang with my Sinead O’Connor birth CD (especially the Gospel Oak Ep, recorded when she was pregnant). The gray and rainy day had a beautiful calm light. Things were slow and erratic and I wondered when it would progress and how long it would take to be really intense. FF had another nap around 2 pm, and the rushes really started picking up in power after I breastfed FF to sleep. b gave me a nice massage and oiled my vulva, because after two unneeded but nevertheless painful episiotomies I was super conscious about gently stretching my perineum with warm baths and oil during labor. I took a break to do some writing while I could.
I kept expecting to go into the birth “trance” I had entered in my two previous hospital births but I never did. My theory on this is that without having to “block out” nurses, doctors, midwives, my parents, and the unfamiliar and uncomfortable surroundings, I could put all my concentration on the work of my uterus, breathing and making my self comfortable.
b made me a freshly-squeezed orange juice, which I drank just in time because I soon entered the not-being-able-eat-or-drink phase. I drew another bath – lavender oil this time (I have a very special affinity for lavender and a deep connection to the scent) – and put on Nomad, aboriginal Australian music with deep throat chanting, grunting and a deep didgeridoo. b set FF up with food and came in the bath with me.
The rushes were getting heavier and intense. I really didn’t want them to get more frequent and closer together. I was scared of more pain. I didn’t want what I had experienced previously. But these thoughts were fleeting. And in hindsight, this was my transition and it was a mild one.
I changed position a lot to see if there would be a difference. I tried handing over the side of the tub. FF gave me hugs and kisses and put wet hands on my face to cool me off at the most perfect moments. b poured water on my back. I felt like the pressure would be relieved if I could pee but there wasn’t any left. I was really aware of all the baby’s movements, especially between rushes but even during the peaks I could feel the moving around. Then, I needed space and asked b to move away. The pressure really mounted but I was still normal and clear between rushes, and I could converse with b. I was really IN my body with this birth, feeling and flowing with the waves.
I knew it was time to leave the tub. I struggled with rushes that came one on top of the other as I stood up. I craaaawwwled to the bedroom. In hindsight I think I was fully dilated when I was in the tub but because I wasn’t expecting it so soon I was actually holding baby in. I mistook it for “hard” labor. I warned LL that the birth would be soon as he was on the computer and was so disappointed at missing FF’s birth. I wanted a waterbirth for FF but that plan fell through and for this birth I kept imagining my babe’s head shooting out and hitting the tub’s bottom. It never took more than three pushes with the first two so I knew a “rocketing” baby was possible!
After a couple of contractions on the bed I realized I needed to push. I felt inside and there was the baby’s hard skull and my cervix was wide open. I had 2 mild pushing contractions, not pushing but just letting it happen slowly. I felt again and the head was close – I wanted to tell b to feel but it was too late. The next rush was so wild that I had to push – and yell! There was a lot of pressure on my bowels and I had a hard time knowing what position to push in because it was so intense on my butt no matter what I did. I tried a squat (my favorite position during pregnancy for F)F but it was too hard. I was leaning against the wall to help keep me up and then the water broke. Ahhhhh! Relief! We took the sheets off and there were fresh ones, with another shower curtain, underneath already. I thought of standing, somehow, stretched out, of someone holding me and maybe that would have relieved some of the pressure. I was thinking of photos of mamas hanging on to trees or a rope from the ceiling during birth. I went to hand and knees (my old standby) and gave into the intensity – and pushed and yelled from my deepest, wildest, primal core. b reminded me that I would know what to do. I felt for a head and it was there. It was so reassuring. I kept my hands there so I could feel the progress. 3 small pushes and 3 rings of fire! And the head was out. I heard b say “hello baby”. All in all pushing took no more than 15 minutes. Before the final push I told b he would have to catch the baby because I couldn’t picture myself being able to in the position I was in. I told b to pass the baby underneath to me. I lay babe on hir’s side and gently rubbed and cooed and babe pinked up quickly.
We sat down and F had some lait-laits (mama milk) while rubbing the baby’s legs all full of vernix and left marks like paint. b put more coconut oil on my vulva to refresh it. I was left with just a few skid marks but the old cuts did not re-open, thank goodness. The cord between my legs was irritating with all it’s rubbing around so I squatted over a bowl and the placenta just plopped out, this was about 15 minutes later. There was a lot less blood than my two previous births – less big clots.
We had a big supper afterwards and b said he was hoping the baby would be born in time for supper and ze was – 5:55pm! FF was very affectionate, touching, coming to see the baby crying and woke up happy saying “Baby! Where’s baby?” and didn’t mind sharing mama-milks. LL says how cute the baby is over and over. Babe had big, fat forearms and big hands like over-sized gloves. Baby smiled shortly after birth, and often looks happy and smiling. Dazzling blue eyes that look just like FF’s deep, black eyes. I didn’t have a scale so I don’t know what baby’s weight was. I do know ze was 21 inches long.
We had decided on a Lotus Birth and this meant that each child had their “own” breast to drink from. Around noon the next day we salted and herbed the placenta. There was Sage from my aunt, Rosemary from “the fig man”, Lavender planted after LL was born, Mugwort from my herb garden, and Himalayan crystal salt. The baby and the cord smelled so nice, like nothing else I’ve ever smelled, as comforting as the warm springtime earth after a rain. Babe was shivering in sleep, as if releasing spirits, releasing wombhood, releasing the cord. The cord separated at 6 am, 84 hours later, exactly three days after labor began. I found out later that my aunt who had passed away a few months earlier was born on this same day.
I am so glad that I wrote during labor and just afterwards (when I couldn’t sleep from the excitement) or I would have forgotten a lot of the little details!