I feel like I should start her story with Peter's return home on Wednesday night. He was so tired and sad but relieved to be home. The last two weeks have had him experiencing the most intense and varied emotions. He got a day to recover before a whole new range of emotions swept by him.
Or I could start Belle's birth story the same way Willem's starts. "Thursday night, sex did it..."
I hoped that the prostaglandins in the semen wouldn't start contractions, or that if they started they would stop after a while. At 3:30 I woke up feeling a mild contractions. At that point, they were seven minutes apart. Within a half hour, they were 3 minutes apart. I decided then that I wouldn't be sleeping anymore that night and got up to ready the house for the birth. I put towels in the washing machine, finished making my laborades (lavender lemonade and sweet rose tea) and started inflating the birth tub. At 4:45, the contractions were getting stronger but still at 3 minutes apart. I decided to wake Peter up and get him to take over inflating the pool. He was completely groggy and too was hoping that the contractions would stop and that we’d be going back to bed.
While he pumped up the pool (we were using a manual bike pump, efficient but we wished we had purchased an electric), I straightened and gathered supplies while pausing for contractions.
At 6:30, Willem woke up and “helped” me through contractions. I was on my hands and knees on the floor and he curled up underneath me. When the pool was filled with air, he was ready to get in. We started filling it with water and when it was the depth of a normal bath, Willem and I got in together. He was so excited to be in a “warm bath downstairs with Mama.” Peter started boiling water on the stove and periodically added more water.
While the pool filled with water, I asked Peter for a priesthood blessing, in part to gauge the rightness of calling the midwives for any unseen reason. The blessing was one of comfort and reassurance: that my body was strong and I could be confident in my ability to birth the baby. I was counseled to meditate and use the relaxation techniques I had learned from my studies. During the pregnancy, I had listened to the Hypnobabies scripts but I did not turn them on during labor. I applied principles of visualization, affirmations and prayer throughout the process. I spoke to the baby and breathed deeply through contractions. As they built, I found the visualization of getting to the peak of a hill helpful because I could feel when the "steepness" changed and I knew I was headed back down the hill again.
The pool was filled using a garden hose attached to the kitchen sink and then run across the kitchen, through the pass through that separates the kitchen and dining area and into the pool. That was about 7:00, I stayed in the pool only getting out to trek upstairs to the bathroom. While on the toilet, I felt the beginnings of pushing sensations but attributed it to a bowel movement. I checked to see if I could find the baby’s station and I think I felt a head with bulging waters. I didn’t even try to determine dilation because knowing that there was a head there was enough for me. Contractions were 2 minutes apart.
Around this time, Peter admitted that this was truly labor and it wasn’t going to stop until the baby was born. Both he and I thought that we would have several more hours. I then remembered that we had been remiss throughout the pregnancy and hadn’t documented it with pregnancy pictures. I had been completely unclothed in the pool so on one trip upstairs to the bathroom. I pulled out the maternity bathing suit that my friend had lent me. On the way downstairs, I told Peter he should start getting some pictures before it was too late.
Between 8:30 and 9:00, Willem started getting antsy in the house so we started preparing him to go to a friends house. This was about the time that I moaned to Peter “I want to take a break. It’d be nice if I could have three minutes between the contractions again.” I don’t really remember his response but I remember it was sympathetic. I think I heard Willem one time say “Mama sad” and I moaned through contractions, and I tried to explain that I wasn’t sad. I was just working hard to get the baby to come out of my body. We think looking back that was transition.
Around this time, I asked if Peter felt like he wanted the midwives to be present and he said that everything was going so well—and it would probably be awhile until the baby was born anyway—that he didn’t feel the need to call them. I knew I didn’t and reflected on what it might be like if they were present. I imagined that they’d be pleasant, supportive and kind but that they’d be gathered in the living room watching me and I did not like the idea of being watched, even if by benign and happy presences such as my midwife and her assistant. I didn’t need it, didn’t want it, and was doing the whole process as it was made to unfold for me.
This was when I realized that with every contraction, I needed to flip over to my hands and knees to get through it. I felt tightness radiating down into my thighs and it felt like the bones of my pelvis and hip were being stretched outwards. I did not experience any back labor, and contractions were low, tightening with pressure. This part is hard for me to explain, I was pushing gently with contractions but I’m not sure if I was doing because I felt like it or if it felt good. My thighs were getting very tired and at one point, I felt like asking Peter for some double-hip squeezing but he was busy trying to wrestle Willem into some pants. Somewhere in this time, I felt like I was getting more rest between contractions, even though they were any further apart. Looking back, I think it was an example of “ask and ye shall receive.” Maybe it was the actualization of a positive thought. Whatever it was, I was grateful for it!
As Peter was on the phone with our neighbor who was going to watch Willem for us, I checked the baby’s station again and I felt her head as deep as the middle knuckle on my index finger. When I told Peter that, he was shocked! To him, he had just barely begun to believe that this was really the birth of his baby.
Again I checked to feel if the amniotic sac was still intact and attempted to pinch it with my finger nails (I don’t really know why), I got a hold of something that might have been sac and pulled gently. And then I realized that I had just pulled baby’s hair! Oops! But based on that, I have no idea when my waters broke. I was hoping I’d know and be able to experience that sensation as it happened. This event was one of the decisions I regretted from Willem’s birth because I consented to AROM. I either wanted to know and feel it as it happened on its own or if it was a decision I made on my own, without feeling pressured by others around me.
A few minutes later, as they were about to walk out the backdoor, I yelled “the baby is crowning!” I roared a couple of times as the new sensations took over. I felt my first undeniable urge to bear down, immediately followed by sharp stinging in my tissues on either side of the baby’s head (not like the ring of fire). Instinctively, I stopped pushing and snapped my knees together. Then I laughed at myself, squatted and focused on letting the baby ease down. I felt another undeniable urge to push and the baby’s head was out. At this point, Peter was standing over the birth pool with Willem in his arms and they watched. There was a pause after the baby’s head was out and then another urge to push, a little more stinging, a shoulder, a shoulder and then another slight push for the chest (her chest is broader than her head circumference). I reached down and pulled her to the surface of the water, and then leaned back with her cradled in my arms. This was 9:31 am (I didn’t look at the clock until 9:34, so Peter verified the time).
I realized I saw the cord around her arm, and then her neck. I got a little confused as I figured out it was over her right shoulder across her neck, under her left armpit and wrapped around her arm. I unwrapped her and then noticed that she was looking pretty purple and was quiet. I wasn’t surprised that she would be quiet, especially as I could hear and see her breathing, with mucus clearing itself from her sinuses and mouth. But the purple was a little concerning. Peter noticed too and gently told me to hold her against my chest and rub her back. I did and she started crying, and then turned pink.
We saw a gush of blood into the water—which concerned Willem—and then we commented that we had failed to do the hemorrhage test in water. We knew what 200 CCs and 500 CCs of blood looked like on a chux pad but not in a pool of water. It was then that we decided that I should get out of the tub to monitor bleeding (and by that point I didn’t want to be sitting in bloody water anyway). Twenty minutes after she emerged, I squatted against the side of the pool and the placenta came out looking amazing. The membranes of the amniotic sac were trailing behind but came out easily too.
I had planned on using some purple cording to tie off the umbilical cord after the placenta had emerged. Earlier while I had been gathering supplies, I went to find the cording and couldn’t. I poked into my sewing box and found some white cording that I had intended to use on the bodice of my wedding dress but hadn’t. I felt it was very appropriate and meaningful instead to use it during the birth of our baby. Peter and I each tied off the cord (two ties with about two inches between), and then Willem held the scissor handles while Peter cut the cord.
I leaned against the wall, sitting on the chux pad to monitor bleeding while I suggested that I call the midwives for the newborn exam and filling out the birth certificate. I hadn’t known beforehand when I wanted to call them but at that moment, it felt good to welcome them and share the happiness. I called them while Peter took Willem to our neighbor’s house.
They arrived around 10:45, bearing a huge bouquet of flowers from the midwife’s garden—evidently I called her while she was out watering this morning. They were so happy for me, and so cheerful. This was also when I realized that the day before, my friend and I agreed that she’d come over Friday at 11 am so the kids could play together. I called her while she was on her way over and told her that the baby had been born and she was welcome to meet the baby and could she please supervise Willem on the playground outback for a little while. She came, she did just that (bearing Jamba Juice!) and washed dishes for us during the newborn exam. It was wonderful!
When they all arrived, I had settled on the couch with a blanket. That was where the newborn exam was performed. She weighed 7 lbs 6 oz, a half pound more than Willem at his birth. Before she was weighed, I asked Peter what his guess would be based on her appearance and he guessed exactly that! Length was 20 ¾ inches long. She has a lot of dark hair: like Willem did at his birth. We expect that hers too will change to blonde. She’s got the same butt-chin as Willem—they inherit that from Peter’s mother. And she has Peter’s dimple in her right cheek.
So far our babymoon has been lovely. The midwives helped me settle into bed upstairs and told me to stay horizontal for the next three days. I spent the rest of yesterday cuddling my new baby and nursing (her latch is pretty good for a beginner). I called friends and family then got a visit from my chiropractor. Before getting pregnant, she said that she’d like to visit the day my next baby was born so I took her up on it! It was so nice to see her!
Belle slept soundly last night from 1 am to 6 am and then again from 10 am to 1 pm. I slept with her during those times and then napped with her this evening between 7:30 and 10. She’s been sleeping soundly next to me while I’ve typed this out.
Today we had a little bit of an adventure when I was showering. Peter came in and said he was concerned that there was a gas leak in the house so he was going outside. He told me to be quick. As I stepped out of the bathroom, I smelled when he meant and hurried to get dressed. I met them outside and found a spot in the shade. Peter then told me that a plastic plate had gotten too close to a heated burner on the stove and had melted. I laid outside on a blanket, leaning against a pillow outside, talking to neighbors and nursing while the apartment was aired out. It felt so good that I didn’t want to go back inside so we were outside under the shade for 3 hours. During that time, my friend Shawnette and her mother visiting from my hometown in California dropped by to say hi and we enjoyed the fresh air together. We also broke into the cheesecake that I had made for Peter while he was out of town. I had intended to eat some for energy during labor, but it happened too fast to do so! I didn’t need it!