I’m so sorry for not finishing sooner. It’s been on my list of things to do since the moment I hit the publish button on the first part, but giving birth and moving house in the same week tends to put a pinch on computer time.
Picking up where I left off…
I wasn’t just surprised. I was shocked and suddenly lost. In 11 previous deliveries, my water has NEVER broken before I am fully dilated and ready to push. My biggest and best signal of where I stood in labor had just disappeared. I fought my rising panic and called for Perry, desperately hoping he was still in the house.
He didn’t answer, but Lydia heard me and came to see what I needed. I calmed my voice, and asked if Dad was still home. Yes? GET HIM.
He was up the stairs and in the bedroom with me in a few seconds. I was still on the bed, afraid that if I moved the tiny gush I had felt would turn into a bigger mess on my unprepared bed. “My water just broke. Help me to the bathroom.” He helped me up and I lurched a few steps to the bathroom. Once in there, I stepped into the tub and lowered myself to a squatting position, bracing my arms on the sides of the tub. I felt the expected gush as Perry called the midwife from my phone.
I heard them discussing amniotic fluid and called out that it was clear, knowing that Jennifer would be asking. She was picking up the other midwife and heading straight over as quickly as possible.
Perry asked if I wanted the pool, and I nodded numbly, still unsure of what was happening – or what would happen next.
He went downstairs and got the three older girls moving as quickly as possible. They used the hose to start filling the pool directly from the water heater until it ran cold, then they started heating pots of water on the stovetop. I heard them bustling and hurrying about, voices sounding tense and excited.
I hung suspended over my tub, waiting to see what happened next. Perry checked on me every few minutes. Surely I wasn’t ready to push, though my water had never broken until that point in previous labors. Nearly 10 minutes had passed now with no contractions, and I cautiously headed for the computer on the far side of my bedroom to post an update. I connected my phone to the cable (we tether our phones to provide internet for our computers) and I felt a contraction beginning. I ran for the tub, not wanting to get anything on my bedroom carpet.
When the contraction had ended, I tried again. This time I didn’t even make it to the computer before the next one hit me. I raced it back to the bathtub, ever mindful of the carpet. That was two strong contractions nearly back to back. Now I was a little worried. I didn’t even have my phone with me to time them.
I had several more over the next few minutes, strong but still manageable if I focussed completely. Now I knew the end was very near. I knew I wanted Perry up here with me, but I was so completely engrossed in staying in control that I couldn’t move outside myself enough to call him. I could clearly hear voices and footsteps downstairs and knew they would hear me if I called, but the contractions were taking every ounce of my attention.
After what seemed like ages but was really only a few minutes, he was by my side. The pool wasn’t ready yet, but might be enough to help if I could get down the stairs. A few more contractions came and went, long and intense with no break between, and I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. I was going to deliver right here. The big question was whether Jennifer would make it this time.
Perry told me to wait for a break, and then get out of the tub. He reminded me that I needed to be where someone could reach the baby when he came. I wanted to comply, but just couldn’t move. There was no break, no relief, and no chance to move. I just couldn’t do it.
I wasn’t ready to push yet, but I knew that part was coming quickly. With every contraction I waited to feel the baby move down. Not yet. Not yet, but soon. I knew I was almost there.
Finally, I stood up. Perry helped me over the edge of the tub and I sank to my knees as another contraction hit. He laid down an absorbant pad and some pillows to pad my knees against the floor, and I continued to relax as much as I could through the never-ending waves of contractions. It had now been about 35 minutes since my water broke, and 25 minutes since labor had started in earnest.
Now I felt the baby move down. This was it. I knew it would be over in a few more contractions, a few good pushes. I was scared of this part because it’s always the worst part for me, but excited and relieved to know that it would all be over so soon!
Perry called Jennifer again to see how far away she was and to tell her what was going on. She told him to have me elevate my hips. With gravity working against me, their hope was that labor would slow enough for the midwives to arrive before the baby.
I was crushed, but couldn’t object. While we did have two babies arrive before the midwife, we never wanted an unassisted homebirth with all the risks they entail. For the next 15 minutes, I suffered through non-productive contractions as my body tried to fight gravity. I heard myself making weeping sounds. The pain was probably no worse than it had been a few minutes ago, but it was so much harder to deal with when there was no longer an end in sight!
Perry encouraged me as much as he could, knowing how much harder this was. He did everything he could do make me comfortable. I remember asking why I had to wait, didn’t he know I could be done already? “It’s for safety,” he reminded me. I knew this, but I thought of all the hospital horror stories where a woman’s baby is crowning and she is commanded not to push until the doctor arrives. I thought of one friend who had a nurse actually push her knees together because her baby was coming and the doctor wasn’t in the room yet. I felt their frustration, their rage. I wanted to be done!
After one more phone call to Jennifer, Perry gave me the go-ahead. She was just a couple of minutes away now. It was time to finish this!
Pushing took longer than I remember for the last several babies, and it was 4 or 5 more contractions before the baby was ready to crown. Jennifer and April came in with one contraction to spare, quickly set up their supplies, and coached me through the actual delivery. I have heard many moms say that they don’t notice a difference in delivery with bigger babies, but this guy outweighed my next biggest baby by 11 oz. and there was definitely a difference in delivering him. Once the baby crowns, my last three had arrived in a single push, but this one stopped once at his eyes, again at his neck while Jennifer loosened the cord that was around his neck and under his arm, and again at his torso: four long pushes over the course of three contractions to get him out. OUCH!
And then it was all over. It was 7:02 PM, just over an hour since I woke from my nap and my water broke. I was holding a 9 lb 4 oz boy, and he was yelling angrily at me.
I later learned that at least one of the girls downstairs took a vow of celibacy in response to the noises she heard during the delivery, but I thought the labor overall was very easy, and the intense part was mercifully brief. The others just vowed to have water births, because laboring and delivering out of the water is Far More Intense. Next time I think we’ll have the pool ready way ahead of time even if it means taking a chance that it will go cold.
See? If I can say the words “next time” already, it wasn’t such a bad labor.