Baby Elizabeth was born on Tuesday March 27 at 7:43 am after two days of early labor and about 8 hours of active labor.
I woke up with contractions 15 minutes apart on Sunday. I knew based on the week before that I wasn't going to make it all the way through church but that the walk there and back would at least be good. All through the first hour, I felt contractions but they were very mild. After the meeting, I went home and decided that I would take a longer walk to see if I could get contractions going that way. When I couldn't get a hold of the friend I really wanted to talk to, I posted a shout-out on facebook for someone to call and talk to me while I walked.
I was disappointed that walking seemed to cause the contractions to space out more. I think all I accomplished was getting my hips sore. I did get a hold of the friend I had wanted to talk to (my best friend from fourth grade) and was able to talk to two others (both of whom are doulas). Upon getting home, I took a nap while dinner was being made and then went to bed after dinner. Throughout the day, I saw that I had lost a little bit of mucous plug and the contractions became slightly stronger. It was not a great night sleep, not because of the contractions but because my throat was getting increasingly sore and dry. It was difficult to breathe because it was so raw. Finally, I fell asleep and got about 7 hours.
The contractions were interesting because they were short and mild. They seemed very easy to deal with. By Monday afternoon, I was starting to believe that I was going to be in early labor for a few more days. Since I had had a good night sleep, I knew I could keep it up, if need be. Monday morning I took the children to their gymnastics classes and visited the chiropractor. I got an adjustment and the doctor said that it should do something to the contractions, though she wasn't sure if either they would stop or progress. I went home to just see what would happen.
That day I was supposed to have a midwife appointment but I just did not feel up to it knowing that I also would be going to other appointments. I called and said I wouldn't make it. My visit that day was supposed to be with a group of pregnant women, based on the Centering Pregnancy model. I just wasn't feeling social enough to be contracting every 8-15 minutes through that meeting. However, I still was able to get a prenatal visit in that day because my midwife's partner lived near enough to me that she came and did a home visit. Based on her assessment of what she was observing from me, she too thought that I could continue in labor for a couple of days.
It was at that point I started wondering what the heck was going on. Why were the contractions so easy? Why weren't they going away? Why weren't they progressing? I got really tempted to check my cervix to see if anything had been happening. I even posted to my local birth group my frustration and asked for opinions on whether or not it was worthwhile to check. A funny thing from that conversation was that the henna artist I had scheduled for the following week to come and do a henna belly for me volunteered to reschedule my appointment to the next day, in hopes that I could get the belly done before the baby was going to be born. We made the appointment and waited to see what would happen.
I also got a call that day from a good friend who had been planning to lead a blessingway ceremony for me the following weekend. She called because she kept feeling like she needed to talk to me about it. She was glad she did when she found out that I was experiencing early labor. She quickly volunteered to call me that night and do a little ceremony by phone. I spent the rest of the day waiting for 8 pm to roll around and just settled in for whatever was in store.
That night, she called and spoke to me about the history of LDS women giving blessings to pregnant women and calling on that tradition, she prayed for me. I will post her prayer on my spirituality blog if you are interested in reading through it. After she closed her prayer, she suggested that I get the older children in bed and then get as much sleep as I could, and get to sleep as soon as I could. As it turned out, contractions changed in intensity and became slightly longer and stronger as I was cuddling children to sleep. My son was quite sure that the baby would be born that night and he excitedly told everyone just that. It sounded almost exactly like what he said on Christmas Eve when he announced that Santa was coming.
At 1 am, I gave up trying to sleep and called my midwife's partner. I still wasn't convinced that I was in active labor but I asked her to come over and see what she thought before I sent her home or called the midwife. The partner came, she checked my cervix and found that I was 5 cm. She settled in to sleep but before she was even able to sleep, the contractions shifted again and became stronger.
|Check out that hippie having a homebirth!|
I did not want to be alone during my labor at all, so when the midwives got there, I invited the assistant in and asked her to talk with me. After all the birth supply preparation was taken care of, everyone joined me and we listened to music, laughed and talked.
At one point, my mom asked me if I was hungry and I wanted anything to eat. I didn't really have an answer for her at that point but it came to me awhile later when during a contractions, blackberries occurred to me. I opened my eyes, looked at her and said, "Blackberries." That confused everyone in the room except my husband who was the first to suggest that someone go upstairs and get me a bowl of frozen blackberries. Those were excellent to munch on between contractions. A little later, the midwife made me a fruit and yogurt smoothie and some red raspberry leaf tea.
The midwife really loved the music I had playing. Since it was on shuffle, we got some interesting juxtaposition between songs. For example, Give Said the Little Stream was followed by Bohemian Rhapsody. A little later, Laurie Berkner's Song in My Tummy came on which caused everyone to laugh. My midwife requested that I share the playlist with her because she really enjoyed the mix of music on it.
They were also surprised that for the most part I was able to continue talking and laughing through contractions. All of us kind of believed that not much was going on. We knew that the baby was moving down because the place where we detected her heart rate became lower and lower on my abdomen. Each time heart tones were recorded we used the fetoscope to listen, just as I requested.
|Listening to heart tones with the fetoscope|
At one point, we couldn't hear the baby's heart beat. We could find mine and the placenta but not the baby. For the most part, we were listening through the placenta to hear it anyway and at this point, it was difficult enough to hear. We tried a couple of different times but not having success, I did consent to try with the doppler just until we found it and heard it. Once I found it, the doppler went off and we knew the baby was just fine.
Around the time I started pushing, one of my favorite gospel anthems came on called Arise and Shine Forth. As I listened, something that my friend prayed for earlier happened. She had asked that I feel encircle about with the love of my heavenly parents and with angels and the spirits of my loved ones. I I felt just that and started to cry. The midwives were also concerned about me, thinking that I was upset and they began to reassure me that everything was okay. A contraction came on and I knew I couldn't explain to them what was actually going on so I managed to say "Its a happy cry, don't worry. I'm okay." I don't think they've heard the explanation for that yet, actually.
Pushing this third time around was the hardest yet. The baby was descending slowly and I knew for quite a long time that her head was still high. The midwife asked if she could go a vaginal exam to see how high the baby was but I was able to tell her just based on what I was feeling. It was around that time I tried to will myself to get out of the bathtub and head either to the toilet (which can help a baby descend) or to the stairs (since she was probably acynclitic). Each time I would try to raise my hips out of the water, the contractions became so intense that I would immediately change my mind.
|Getting out of the tub seemed like a good idea, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.|
After quite a while of pushing, I told my husband that it would be a good time to wake up the older siblings to come and witness the birth of our new baby. My husband took one look at me and said he didn't think that was a good idea. I realized that the reason he said that was because of how hard pushing had been for me and he was concerned that it would be too intense for the children to see me working so hard. Through each contraction, I was yelling quite loudly with effort. So they stayed sleeping and we let them sleep until they woke up on their own.
At one point, the midwife asked me how long I had pushed with my previous births. The longest had been with my first, a whole 45 minutes. At that point, I had been pushing for longer than 45 minutes. I finally started feeling like the baby had moved down and that I might be able to feel where the baby was if I reached for her head. I couldn't feel her head but I did feel a intact and bulging bag of water. Just then a contraction started and I felt the bag of water break over my hand. Looking at the water of the bathtub, you couldn't tell at all which is always a good sign.
With the bag of water out of the way, her head descended quickly. It was just a couple of more contractions before she was crowning and I was at the crazy point of feeling my body push involuntarily and trying to stop pushing because I felt my tissues stretching and stinging. It took a few moments to integrate and coordinate the movements and with the next contraction, her head was part way out. I could feel her ear off to the side of her head and her soft thick hair floating in the water around her head. The next contraction, her whole body came out and she floated up in the water to my hands.
I picked her up and realized that the cord was quite short. I held her against my stomach as we waited for her to breathe. Right before her body came out, I felt her feet kick inside me so I knew she was awake and alert, but when she got to my arms, she was still. Her face looked at rest like she had decided it was time to sleep. I think that's when I told her rather forcefully that it wasn't time to sleep, that I knew she was awake and it was time for her to breathe. She started making some respiratory effort but it wasn't enough. Everyone who could reach her started stimulating her body tactically. That's when the first assistant noticed the cord was rather tightly wrapped around the baby's back and neck. My second baby completely tangled in her cord! We got her unwrapped and the primary midwife reached for her and gave her a rescue breath mouth to mouth and that's finally when the baby seemed to come into her body. She did not like being breathed into and she yelled and then started breathing.
|Into Mama's arms and telling her to breathe|
I cuddled her to my chest and she with much enthusiasm launched herself at my nipple. She surprised me with how she even knew that there was something she desperately wanted behind that bathing suit top. We got her access to the nipple and she attempted to latch on immediately. Since she's my third baby, I knew immediately that something was really wrong with her latch. In spite of her enthusiasm, we knew that getting her latched on would take some work and that it was best that I get out of the tub at that point and settled into bed. On the way out, I birthed the placenta (which by the way, the midwife said was the most perfect, healthy placenta she had ever seen).
|Cuddling with my baby for the first time|
Once in bed, her temperature was below the outer limits of normal (97.4) so we got very busy trying to get her temperature up--using a heating pad, blankets, skin to skin and a hat. Because her latch was so wrong and wasn't getting better, I couldn't give try to get her some colostrum to help regulate her temperature. The midwives then recommended that she be given a dropper-full of glucose water (made with blackstrap molasses instead of processed sugar). Once her temperature got up to 97.6, that was stopped. We were all surprised by how long that took to happen.
I then spent the next 24 hours hand expressing colostrum and feeding her with a pipette while I waited to get a Lactation Consultant to the house. When she was less than 3 hours old, I had already called around to get someone over. One LC that I spoke to by phone suggested giving a craniosacral therapist a call (especially after I described her birth) and when she was 4 hours old, she had already seen her first therapist. The next day, we saw the Lactation Consultant and she was diagnosed with tongue tie. I'll post all about that experience in a separate post.
Elizabeth was born at 7:43 that morning, with our children still sleeping upstairs. They didn't wake up until 10:30 or so when they came downstairs and met their baby sister. I was right, they even got to unwrap her just like the a Christmas present since she was so bundled up.
Later that night, we had a little birthday party for her. My husband went out and got a cake and then brought it to us singing Happy Birthday. We all then tried to get the best night sleep we could.
In total, her birth was longer and more exhausting than I thought it would be. I had hoped that hers would be longer than her sister's birth, which I got, but I never even considered that her birth might be longer than her brother's! If I count all the early labor, her labor was 49 hours long, with a 1 hour pushing stage. It was however, a very easy 49 hour labor with only about 2 hours that I would consider intense enough that I had to really get serious.