39 weeks and 4 days. I had what I think was my first contraction around 7:15am while I was cuddling in bed with my boys. I didn’t necessarily believe it was a contraction since up to this point I had had three nights of contractions that went from about 2am until 3am and then stopped. The day before I went into labor I felt terrible; my body ached, I was in a tough place emotionally, and I truly thought I was going to be pregnant forever. After I got out of bed I went about my morning trying to keep time on my contractions. I called Thad around 8am and told him I had a few contractions but I couldn’t keep track of their pattern; they were somewhere between 10-15 minutes apart but not consistent. He said he was going to leave the office right away but I told him I wasn’t sure if this was it. He said he’d rather be home than miss anything so he came home. I was standing in my kitchen trying to keep track of my contractions by my last made calls/texts to my husband, doula, and midwife. By 8:45am my husband came home and he asked his mom to stay home in case she needed to take the boys out of the house. I remember walking to the bathroom (I was making very frequent trips to the bathroom that morning which was a good indicator that I was truly in labor) around 9am and had to hang on to my dresser to get through a contraction. My midwife, Marilee, called to check on me and said she was on her way and my doula texted me to tell her when we needed her help. Around 9:30am my friend, Amanda, came by to pick up the cookies for our cookie exchange that morning and my mother-in-law was getting the boys and dog into the car and I had a long, intense contraction that had me on my knees hanging on to the banister with tears in my eyes. Active labor began! Dash, my younger son, was very concerned seeing me in pain and I was grateful that they would not be there for labor despite my initial wants of having them in the house for labor and/or the birth. I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on labor if they were there. I remember Marilee walking into the house while I was groaning through a contraction and I heard her say, “Those are good sounds,” and it finally occurred to me that this kid was going to be born that day. It was around 9:45am.
I made it downstairs in between contractions to see Thad busy at work filling the aqua doula (birth pool), Marilee setting up supplies, and I helped by setting up my iPod for music (I will post my labor/birth playlist soon) and setting up my diffuser (I used doTerra’s Balance blend for grounding). I was having a hard time getting comfortable through contractions because I couldn’t quite tell where I was having pressure. Was the pressure on my bottom or my perineum or my back? I couldn’t tell, so I couldn’t figure out what position to be in for maximum comfort as I worked through my contractions. All I knew was that I did not want to be standing up, so I tried being on all fours (which was tolerable) or sitting on the toilet and/or the birthing stool (which was more tolerable but not perfect). I even tried hanging off the corner of my sectional but it was not quite right. My doula, Mary Beth, arrived around 10:15am and she jumped right in and helped ground me through my contractions. She helped me relax and used essential oils (we used Iris Oils 4 pack for childbirth) for scent and massage. Thad sat behind me to hold my shoulders down during contractions (so I wouldn’t tense up) and Mary Beth sat in front of me between my legs. They took turns feeding me pineapple and/or pomegranate seeds and giving me sips of water to keep me hydrated. I felt encapsulated in love.
Around 10:45am after I went to the bathroom I stood there crying. In pain, I cried worrying about whether or not my son would love me. In retrospect, I realize this irrational worry was a sign of transition, and apparently so did everyone in the room because Marilee, Thad, and Mary Beth held me in the bathroom as I cried. When I got out of the bathroom I complained that I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and Marilee wisely suggested the aqua doula.
Once I lowered myself into the pool I had instant relief. I can’t believe I didn’t have a pool with all my babies! The water was warm, soothing, and I instantly felt like it lifted everywhere I was feeling pressure. The counter-pressure was so helpful in managing the pain, it was just amazing. We labored in the pool as the contractions became stronger – at this point I was still able to talk or joke a bit between them; I distinctly remember joking with the birth team over my husband’s dismay when Celine Dion came on the playlist.
The period for talking soon ended – the break between contractions was shortening and the contractions themselves were getting much stronger. I remember asking Marilee why I wasn’t getting a break, and what I should be doing, and she kept saying, “You’re doing it.” Sometime around noon I was really working hard – I remember feeling tired for the first time, and concerned about how long the labor would take – would I still have the energy to push effectively at the end? Mary Beth kept me hydrated with water and Gatorade, and I continually sought positions that would relieve pressure from my back. I remember leaning back with my husband’s hand supporting my back, leaning back in an almost hurdler pose with one leg extended, squatting upright and swirling my hips, and finally shifting to all fours in the pool, which would become my final birthing position.
At one point well into active labor, I asked if there was anything for pain relief, and after a brief silence, Marilee replied “You’re sitting in it.”
In retrospect, now I know the various positions and movements were all what Simon needed me to do to safely enter the world. While I was deep in active labor, I had to release the negative thoughts that spun through my head. I questioned whether I had done enough. I had thoughts of being ill prepared, of his size, of my abilities to actually get him out, of possible rupture, and I realized I was at a point of no return, and in releasing those thoughts, I started to unintentionally push. My midwife does not normally dictate pushing; she allows the body to do what it needs to do. With Dash’s birth, she told me when to push because she saw that I was getting tired and needed to help me focus. This time, my body just did what it needed to do, and unbeknownst to both my husband and me, I was pushing.
I noticed Marilee was behind me by the pool, and Leigh Ann (her assistant) was holding tools of some sort. I had no concept of time at this point – I don’t know exactly when I began to push, or for how long I pushed. I don’t know if it’s because I was in the water, or because the bag of waters was intact, but I had no idea how close he was to being born. I remember Mary Beth asking my midwife if she “catches in the water,” (she does) and it hit me that we were going to meet him soon. It’s a crime that in some places women have to get out of the tub to deliver – I can’t imagine how hard that must be.
My groans became grunts, and bearing down with each contraction became instinctive. Whatever people say, you truly poop a baby out. The sensation is low and deep, and no other sensation can be compared to it other than pooping.
Thad was in front of me, supporting my weight and helping me focus. His strength and faith in me took away any fear I had in pushing. It started to burn up towards my clitoris, and I still had no idea where he was. My midwife never told me how much she could see, but in watching the birth video, he was beginning to crown. My midwife put her hands on me to help guide him out, and when she touched me, I was afraid that I was going to suck him back up into my body. When I watched the video and saw the moment she touched me, I didn’t realize just how close he was to being born.
I was pushing and Marilee told me that my bag of waters was intact, that there was a lot of vernix in there, and that his head was almost out. Thad told me that the time to slow down (to prevent tearing) was coming, but all I could feel was pressure and stretching – I didn’t realize his head was already out. It took my doula and husband telling me that his head was out before I grasped, emotionally and physically, that he was about to be born. My sac was still intact at this point and Marilee asked if I wanted her to puncture it – I told her to do whatever would relieve some pressure. On his way out, she made a small puncture to help him glide out. I don’t know if other women who birth in water have felt the same way, but I truly had no idea how much he was out at each contraction.
While waiting for the next contraction, I felt stretched to the absolute max, and Thad and I maintained steady eye contact to help me stay open. It was during the next contraction that he was born – I was still bearing down and pushing when I heard Marilee say, “He’s out – reach down and take your baby – be careful, his cord is short.” I couldn’t believe that I was actually pulling him to my chest. I rested him on my breast, he let out a cry, and the flood of emotions completely overwhelmed me. What broke my trance was Marilee saying to me, “You just birthed a direct OP baby.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, he was posterior, sunny side up, and he came out gently, which is extremely unusual for babies in that position. In fact, part of the reason why Julian was born by cesarean is because he was posterior. Despite all the work I was doing to get him into optimum birthing position, I think his short cord was the reason he kept spinning into posterior. It just goes to show you, babies have their own plans.
Once he was born, we completed all the particulars – getting out of the pool, cutting the cord, prenatal exam, passing the placenta (which took about 45-50 minutes), and of course ordering some pizza. The entire birth team was in high spirits, the sun was still up, and they would be home in time to have dinner with their families – Simon Edgar Winston Lurie was born at 1:06pm. He was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and 21 inches long. ”Edgar” is for my father. Simon was born on the 11th anniversary of his passing, which was also our original due date. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my father. ”Winston” is our street name since he was born in our family room.
We had the obligatory family text and Facebook post, and by 4pm it was just the three of us, snuggling on the couch and soaking up every moment of our perfect birth and perfect son. By 4:30pm the boys came bounding into the house to meet their new brother. The postpartum period has been an emotional roller coaster and I will use my next post to talk more to postpartum care and healing. For now, I will return my arms to my little 3-week old babe waiting for mama’s milk and snuggles. Life is good.