12.Mar.2010 Benjamin’s Birth/Sara’s Story
Where to start? It seems there were a lot of people in my life waiting on a lot of babies right about the time Ben was supposed to come (his due date was Feb. 5), and they ALL arrived before him! It wasn’t bothering me, up to a point. But then, it started to get to me when my sister-in-law said that all the other babies she had been waiting on were out, and what was this guy waiting for? Oh, how I hate to feel a) the pressure of expectations, b) unjustified expectations, c) late, d) hurried!!! That put me in a downright sour mood. So, I was feeling like this baby should arrive any day, and feeling like there really wasn’t any sign that he was coming.
But then…I saw Stacey, my midwife, for a check-up on Tuesday (Feb. 9) at 4:00. In my calendar, I had written “Stacey 4:00 (Ha!!)” – meaning “Ha! This appointment wont happen, because I surely will have had the baby by then.” Alas, no. So I saw Stacey, and she checked me and told me I was 4 centimeters dilated, and that we shouldn’t strip membranes or interfere or anything, because really things were on the verge of starting all by themselves.
Yeah! That lifted my mood, and made me feel like all the little pre-labor twinges had been doing their work. And then…pretty much the exact moment I turned off the light to go to sleep that night (around 10:15) I felt that first somewhat different contraction. Not bad, not long. Could have been nothing. It just felt different in some small way.
I had more of those through the night. I can’t really say whether I slept for any long stretches that night – I definitely snoozed off and on, at least between these short, mild contractions. Around 1:30 I felt like maybe I should get up and walk around a little, and see what affect that had. Also, I was hungry (surprise, surprise). Scott asked what I was doing, and I told him I was going to get a snack and walk a bit to see if things changed. I had a glass of milk and a banana, and did a few laps around the house, and then decided that was silly, and resting was the best idea, so I got back in bed.
Around 4:30 I got up to go to the bathroom, after being mostly awake and having more contractions that were maybe just a tiny bit closer together and maybe a little stronger. Two words: mucus plug. Yeah! I ate a hard boiled egg and had some Recharge, and decided I would get back in bed until 6:00 and then I would get up and see how things went from there.
What was going on with Augusta on this night? She was up a few times, though I don’t remember when, exactly. I think Scott went in to quiet her around 5:00? Not sure. But when we got up at 6:00 she was out cold, and in the end she slept later on this morning than in weeks! Scott ended up opening her bedroom door at 7:00 to help wake her up.
Before she woke up I had a little toast and tea and walked around, and decided that at 6:15 I would call to check in with Stacey. In all honesty, I thought she’d say that we should keep doing what we were doing and call back in a few hours. But I gave her the general accounting of the night, and she asked me what I was doing with each contraction at this point – and then I had a contraction, and kind of managed to talk my way through it by describing to her what I was doing (rocking, holding the chair, breathing). Stacey asked me what was going on with Augusta. I told her we were waiting for her to wake up, and then Scott would take her to our friends Leah and Steve’s, who would take her to school with Micah. Stacey said that she suspected that as soon as Guppie was up and out, things would take off pretty quickly from there. So she said “Why don’t I make myself a cup of tea and head on over to your house.” I said “Great! And if this is too early you should feel free to go home and then come back when things pick up.” She seemed to think my politeness was funny – clearly she had no intention of leaving and coming back. She knew better than I.
Guppie got up, finally, snuggled me a bit, got into her clothes, and ate a bit of oatmeal. Scott had packed up all her stuff, made her a lunch, and explained to her that mommy’s tummy hurt, and why, and that he was going to take her to Micah’s house for a little breakfast before school. I said “How does that sound?” and she said “Yummy.” I had a few contractions that required focus while she was there, and she looked a little worried. But she wished me luck and gave me a hug and was out the door without a fuss. Stacey walked in, Scott and Guppie walked out, I puked up toast and tea in a Tupperware that Zab left at our house (sorry Zabbie!), Stacey cleaned it up, and a few minutes later Scott walked back in.
Around that time (7:20ish), Stacey asked me how getting in the birth pool sounded. I replied that I didn’t want to get in too early, because I knew it would bring a big psychological boost and I didn’t want to waste it. She said, “Well, all you really need to be to get into the water is 5 centimeters dilated, and you’re definitely 5.” I felt like, “If I was 4 yesterday I better be at least 5 by now, after being up in the night and having some hard contractions this morning!” I didn’t say that. I had another contraction (during which, like the previous few, Stacey was putting some pressure on my low back, which she later explained involved feeling my sacrum bulge, which told her just how low the baby was, and thus that labor was progressing well). After that contraction I said, “Yes, let’s get in the pool!” They were starting to feel hard.
So at 7:30 I got in the pool. Just after that, Tiffany, Stacey’s assistant, arrived and I cheerfully said “Welcome!” Then, with Scott sitting near the window, and Stacey near the other window, and Tiffany on the couch, I just labored in silence (by which I mean that Scott, Stacey and Tiffany were mostly quiet and there was no music on. I was not quiet. I made pretty much the same noises as when birthing Guppie – a low, loud “Ooooooooooooooooooooo” over and over. Sometimes it became an “Om”; sometimes it was a “Mooooo.”). Scott had a cold washcloth and a cup of ice chips on hand, and both were complete godsends. I took advantage of each between contractions, and it was insanely refreshing. At one point I remember pressing my cheek up against the cold sliding glass door that the pool was next to, and that was lovely. The water was a perfect temperature, but I was getting hot from the work.
I had Benjamin at 9:30, and started pushing at 8:50 (according to Stacey’s records), so that gives a sense of the ultimate timeline. I wouldn’t have guessed that I was only laboring in the pool for two hours by the time he arrived. I would have believed 4 or 5. Even so, it didn’t feel like an eternity. So I was laboring toward transition for a while, and just before transition I asked Scott to put on the Joan as Policewoman CD. I remember getting a bit of a break then – maybe just 5 or 6 minutes – because I remember hearing one whole song and part of the next with no contraction. And I remember it being a blissful break. The song was so lovely, and I was relaxed, and I just hung there floating in the water on my back and I remember smiling and thinking I might cry because the song was so beautiful, and also I was about to have a baby (sometime that day…I didn’t realize how close we were!). It was very peaceful.
I think this was just before or heading into transition. I remember after this that, though the music was a welcome dimension, things got hard. Not unmanageable. Stacey asked me how it was feeling, and I said “I can take more!” You don’t want to mock labor pain, but there is something great about knowing your body has this innate ability to handle it, and saying “OK labor, bring it on!” Still, transition is hard! So, as I firmly believe must happen in all labors, the thought started to creep in – “I don’t think I can do this for too long. This actually sucks. I might get the fear if this goes on too much longer. I might start to need reminding that this wont last forever. I might need help here people!” I remember the same exact feeling with Augusta – telling Kimberly, my doula, “I need a pep talk, bad.” Telling Susan, my midwife, when she checked me, “If I’m not at 10 centimeters, please lie to me,” and when she told me I was at 10 saying, somewhat frantically, “Are you lying to me???”
I don’t think I made any pleas for help this time around, but I did start to experiment with different pain management methods – keeping my eyes open, instead of closed as they had been the whole time; getting close to the pain, and then getting far away from it; looking outside at the snowy yard; looking at the trees Mike and Myla planted in the yard after the birth of each of their three kids (all in this house!). I tried dissecting each contraction, too. “There are parts of each contraction,” I told myself. “What are the parts: 1) the recognition that one is coming on, 2) the feeling of that contraction really starting, 3) that contraction getting hard, 4) the fear that the contraction will be too hard for me, 5) the knowledge that, as soon as I’m at part 4 – the fear part – that contraction is already fading, and really is almost over.”
Of course, transition doesn’t last very long. Thank god. The real kicker was that I had recently had a chest cold, so in addition to trying the awesome tip that my birth class teacher in Corvallis, Rachel Teodora, taught me (“Get louder than the contraction”) I had to keep clearing my throat, which was incredibly annoying. Also, I wanted Stacey to know that this wasn’t grunting (i.e. I wasn’t starting to push), but just throat clearing.
But then, all of a sudden, it was grunting or growling or something. There was one really, really hard contraction that I thought might just destroy me, and I got really loud and suddenly was mad at that contraction, which came out in fighting it, which took the form of my sound totally changing and, after a higher pitched and very loud “Baaaahhhhh” I actually yelled “I’m a goat!” which made me laugh. After this contraction passed I realized that this was the pushing urge setting in. Great! (And Stacey gently reminded me that if I was more of a cow and less of a goat, my throat would hurt a lot less tomorrow. She was right.)
Soon after that, I realized I was through transition. The contractions just weren’t as hard, and I “woke up,” in a sense – opened my eyes, took a breather, said hi to Scott, made a joke about how much transition SUCKED! – and got ready to really push.
I pushed a few times on my hands and knees, holding on to the side of the pool as I had been. Then Stacey asked if I wanted to try a squat, so I did that a few times, and it was hard (meaning the pushing was effective, and thus hard!). I went back to hands and knees for one round and decided squatting was actually much better. I held Scott’s hands, and at one point I said that I thought I was going to pass out because I was really hungry and got light headed during that first push each time. Stacey didn’t tell me what to do, but just said “It can be really hard to have enough oxygen during those long pushes.” The next round I forced myself to breathe more, and push more times for shorter periods, and it really helped. Scott brought me a fruit leather and I had a few little bites of that. It was possibly the most delicious thing I had ever eaten, and it made me feel like I had a lot more energy.
Some time during this phase I remembered that pushing is also really intense! But you are so actively involved and there’s almost an aggression to it that you don’t have in relaxing through dilation. But man – you are helping to bring on some serious sensation, and there’s this little idea that maybe if you didn’t push so hard, the intensity could be delayed or minimized or something. But no. You really do have to just push that baby out. So, at one point I asked Stacey to just promise I wouldn’t have to push for three hours, and she did. At one point I definitely swore a bunch, which was liberating. And at one point I said “Holy crap, this really, really hurts!” Then we had some pleasant discussion about how low the baby was, what it would feel like when my water broke and his head descended really quickly, and that at some point Stacey would tell me to stop pushing as hard, and just give some little short pushes to ease him down and give myself time to stretch out. That sounded positive to me – not pushing so hard. Awesome. So, then I pushed really hard a few more times, and my water broke, and part of the sack came out in tact in front of the baby. Apparently that was very cool. I was none the wiser.
Shortly after that it (i.e. “my lady parts”) started really burning. I don’t remember that part with Augusta at all! I just don’t remember the ring of fire. Maybe this is because my midwife did an episiotomy at that point and Augusta just popped out. Maybe I was just so out of it by then, after pushing for three hours. Who knows. But I remember it this time! Wow!!!
But as soon as the burning set in, there was head to feel. One giant push brought him two inches out, and he stayed there. And the next thing I knew Stacey must have encouraged Scott to get in the pool, because I remember saying, “Yes, get in, get in – take your shirt off, get in!” I’m sure I thought that if he was getting in, I must be really close. So in he got, and then one more big push brought the head mostly out, and I was supporting it and the burning sensation was over. And then Stacey told me to just lean back and enjoy the rest while I wasn’t feeling a contraction, and with the next push Scott could catch the shoulders. And then that happened! And then I think it was just one more push and out the baby came! That is the greatest sense of relief I have ever known (twice) – the knowledge that the baby is out! And immediately thereafter the knowledge that he is well. His little eyes were open, and we were holding him, and he was pinking up in all the right places. He was so alert and beautiful.
He was totally silent, though. And after a second I said “Don’t we need him to cry?” Stacey explained that he was fine – the cord was pulsing beautifully in the warm water (as opposed to the cold air, which makes it constrict and cuts the baby’s umbilical oxygen supply down a bit, making the baby cry), and he was warm, and it was quiet, and he would cough in a minute or so and begin clearing his own lungs, and when the cord stopped pulsing he would tell us by starting to cry. And she was right! About ten minutes later, after coughing up a little mucus, he started to cry a little bit, and then it was time to cut the cord and deliver the placenta. During this ten minute period Scott and I just hung out in the warm water looking at our new little guy, amazed, just checking us out and us checking him out. It was so mellow and low key. But it wasn’t totally quiet, because I kept saying “We did it! We’re so psyched to meet you! I love you!” and other stuff, in a strangely high-pitched voice, if I recall correctly.
Then Stacey said, “OK little one. This is your family and you will be connected to them forever. But right now it’s time to become your own person, and so your papa is going to cut you free.” And then Scott cut the cord! And our little Benjamin Sage Powell-Rushing began his life apart from my body.
We hung out in the water a bit longer, during which time Benny pooped a huge, long poop – literally 6 or 8 inches – 9 months of build up! Impressive. Scott held him while I pushed out the placenta in one push (again – thank god! I remember this being such an unanticipated hard part of Guppie’s birth, because it hadn’t really been something I’d thought about, and then it took 15 or so minutes of pushing and pulling, because it was still attached in a spot that my midwife hadn’t realized until it was out). But out it came, and then…birth was over.
Stacey and Tiffany brought a bunch of towels from the dryer, helped me out of the pool, wrapped me up, put me on the couch, handed me Benny and brought me some tea. Scott got out and dried off, and then joined us on the couch. After a while, I gave him the baby while they got me transitioned to our bed, and then Scott and Ben and I all settled in for a long snuggly afternoon of rest before Guppie came home from Micah’s at 5:00. Stacey and Tiffany cleaned up, cooked us lunch, had us spell Ben’s name for the birth certificate, checked out my uterus, made me pee, and then said “Call if you need anything at all, and otherwise we’ll see you tomorrow morning.” And with that, at around noon, they were off!
And now we are four.