The photo above was taken about ten minutes before my water broke on Saturday night, December 22, 2018. I was taking mirror selfies and comparing them to previous days to see whether I had "dropped" yet ("no, not really," the photos told me). Alexander's due date was 12/21, the winter solstice. I was born on the autumn equinox, a personal fact that I love, so of course I was stoked for his solstice debut. Statistically, most babies are NOT born on their due date. And so we were a statistic on the evening of the 22nd one day after his due date. It was a full moon so my expectations were high. After doing my photo comparisons, I walked from the bathroom to go ask my husband for a second opinion on the photos when en-route, I felt a warm fluid leave my body. I was pretty sure I wasn't peeing, but it certainly was not like in the movies where a ton of water comes splashing out in a dramatic way. So I wasn't sure. So I went to bed.
I woke up at 4am the next day, December 23. It was then that I was sure this was happening because I was experiencing what equated to the worst period-like cramps ever. I woke up my hubby and we called the birth center. They suggested I take a shower to relax and see if the contractions slow down. They didn't! That was a difficult shower! I was having contractions about 3 minutes apart lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. My husband called my parents who had been planning to drive from Massachusetts to spend Christmas with us no matter what, but were also on-call to try to make it to the birth.
We got into the car by 7am, at which point I was having pretty serious contractions. Like, anyone who pulled up next to us at a light and looked over would likely be able to understand what was going on, serious. Like, scene from a movie serious. After arriving at the birth center, and going into our room, everything becomes a bit of a blur. Time made no sense and was measured only in knowing that another contraction was coming no matter what. I remember sitting in a rocking chair for a while and just moaning through it. I had read about "toning", which is using sound currents to help move through the pain. It was explained that the throat is energetically connected to the cervix and that making sounds and loosening the throat would help to also relax and open the cervix. I was 3 centimeters dilated when we arrived and after a few hours of rocking chair, I told the midwife that I was ready for the tub. She filled the birthing tub with warm water and OH MY GOODNESS it was the BEST. It immediately brought me relief. I can't say how long that relief lasted though, because soon enough I was back in the throws of the contractions, though this time they were even more intense. The relaxation of the water seemed to have accelerated my dilation.
Something wonderful happened around noon: my mom arrived from Massachusetts. Leaving so early in the morning, my parents made the journey to Delaware in a record 4.5 hours! My mom quickly joined the midwife and my husband in coaching me, holding my hands, and cheering me on. Meanwhile my dad was in the waiting room down the hall. I was the only laboring mama at the center, so my room's door was open and I later was told he could hear all of my toning (I'm pretty sure I was sounding like every animal in the zoo with all of the OHHHH, AHHHH, WAHHHH and such sounds I was making!), and he was very concerned. He didn't know about toning and when my mom would check on him he was asking, "what are they doing to her in there?"My mom reassured him that it was just my reactions to the contractions and I was helping to move the process along using a technique I had read about.
I believe the combination of the water and the toning worked because from waking at 4am to starting to push at 2pm, my entire labor and delivery lasted just under 12 hours. I'm told this is pretty good for a first baby and my goodness, I cannot imagine going longer. While I had planned a water birth and did spend a number of hours in the water, I actually ended up giving a "land birth". After failing to successfully get into a good position to really bear down in the water, the midwife decided she wanted to move me onto the bed. In hindsight, I have no idea where I found the power to get out of the tub, walk to the bed and start to push again. But I did! With lots of help of course. I believe it was about 3-4 pushes on the bed, lying on my rights side, and then I had my baby boy handed to me. Now THAT was a moment. I couldn't believe it was finally over. What a relief! What a joy! I was so overwhelmed and so glad to have the process over with but I was having trouble to just focus on the baby because of how I was feeling: still in pain. The midwife and nurse did their thing cleaning me and the baby up, cleaning the bed and then getting Alexander to start feeding right away. This was special, he did a great job latching, but I quickly began to notice that my contractions hadn't stopped. Of course not, because there is the afterbirth. This definitely isn't nearly as intense as pushing out a baby, but it's still having to push again, which seemed like last thing in a million years I wanted to do. But I did want it over. So we moved through that quite well. And again I thought, "phew it's over!". BUT...as I was nursing I again started to feel strong contractions. My mom was with me and checked on me and noticed a lot of blood. Rather than tell me about what she saw, she just said she would go and get the nurse. They came into the room and did this awful, terrible, no good thing that I'm sure every woman gets where they press hard on your belly to get any blood clots out. OUCH. I was apologizing as I was swapping the midwife's hands away. It was a biological reaction to hit her but I logically felt bad. 😬 At the birth center, mamas usually go home about 4 hours after birth. The way that they gauge whether you're ready to leave is based on your ability to get up and take a shower. Well, when I tried to get up, I passed out. SO, it turns out I had lost quite a bit of blood via clots and needed an IV of fluids and hormones to both hydrate me and make my uterus contract and stop bleeding. I believe at this point I slept for about an hour while that baby slept in his daddy's arms. I think? I can't remember! (I'll need Costea's version after all!) When I woke up the nurse asked me if I was ready to try for that shower again. With some assistance, I successfully washed myself in what was definitely one of the best showers of my life. I felt so raw.
I chose a natural birth because I had read that it was what was best for my baby and for my own recovery. And I made a deal with myself that so long as my health was cleared for birthing at the birth center, I would do it. BUT. There were definitely moments during labor where thoughts such as, "OK, if we want another child, we're adopting" and, "OK, I've done the natural thing, next time I can get an epidural" did pass through my mind. Childbirth is so...REAL. It's a journey like no other and yes, at the end we get our little miracle, our baby boy or girl.The entire journey from conception to pregnancy to birthing to recovery to caring for a newborn is seriously intense. Yes, it's beautiful in so many ways but it's also the most difficult thing I've ever done and I have a totally new level of respect for all moms! And for all dads and partners who are supportive of their queens! It was not too long ago in history that men were not really participatory in the pregnancy, birthing, or care process at all. Pretty much just the conception-ha! 😜
Now that my son is passed the newborn stage, we're finding a bit of a groove, a new way of living. And I can't remember life without him. Welcoming a new person into your family, into your life, is a major change. It requires an opening of the heart, no matter how this new person enters. And so I bow to my son for his role in opening my heart even wider. 💖