Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
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Catherine Spainhour is the Radical Fringe Mother at
Four days after my estimated due date, my midwife Jennifer Nunn came for her weekly visit. The baby (gender unknown at that time) had engaged about a week earlier and was now deeply nestled into my pelvis. My blood pressure was wacking out and we were watching it but I had shown no signs of swelling and did not feel dizzy, etc. Everything else was just great. I commented that I had been feeling strange twinges where my cervix was and wondered if that could be dilation. They felt sharp and were brief surges like tiny contractions (like a second or two). She said she'd never heard of anyone actually feeling the sensation of dilation early on like that. We joked that I'd probably be calling her back later that day in labor just because we were dismissing this sign (she lives over an hour away).
That afternoon I played with Deirdre (my toddler) outside and trimmed the hedges while waiting for Rich to come home for dinner. We had T-bone steak and potatoes and vegetables for dinner and then I settled down at the computer to read and write email. Rich and Deirdre cuddled up to read and watch "Must See T.V." (Friends, Seinfeld, etc).
At 9PM (Rich remembers this because Seinfeld credits were running, LOL) I looked up from email and told Rich I was having a contraction that felt a little different from my previous Braxton-Hicks, a little deeper and lower. He said to tell him if it happened again. 10 minutes later it did. He started to time them and called Jennifer just to let her know that maybe things were cranking up. She said to get me in bed to try and sleep and for Rich to start thinking about filling the birth pool and to call back in an hour or so to let her know if the contractions stopped and if I managed to get to sleep. Being the compulsive person that I am, I jumped in bed.... just as soon as I cleared the dishes from the dining room table, loaded them into the dishwasher, loaded a basket of laundry and wiped off the dining room table. (ha ha) I went to the bathroom just prior to getting into bed. The toilet felt like a very comfortable spot. I could stretch my hips by pulling my knees out to the sides as far as they would comfortably go and relax. Rich reminded me to get into bed and I knew I needed to rest in case this went on for a long time so I did.
I did not like the bed at all. Sitting down on it felt uncomfortable and the first contraction lying down was really unpleasant. I felt stuck like a bug on its back. I felt so huge and curling up on my side just made me feel helpless. After 2 contractions, I got back up. I don't know how much of my discomfort was from lying down and how much was from the fact that this position reminded me of my hospital birth and feeling helpless gorked up on stadol in bed during active labor. I just knew I needed to get up. I walked around a little and went back to the toilet. I really liked the toilet! Rich called Jennifer to update her. My contractions were closer together and longer. She asked if we wanted her to come out and just as Rich said no I had a stronger contraction. She and I talked and decided for her to come out and sleep on my extra bed if things dragged on (my first labor was 22 hours long and I felt bad about someone coming out for the long haul). She told me she did not see things petering out and she was confident we would meet my baby soon. I was encouraged by this reassurance. I stayed in the bathroom a while. Rich brought me pillows and I turned around on the toilet so that I could rest my elbows and face onto the pillows on the toilet lid. Rich sat on the tub and rubbed my back gently. We didn't talk too much. I tried a couple contractions on my hands and knees on the floor and hated that. I was determined to try as many types of positions as I could this time. And I decided to give any position I tried at least two contractions to see if I could settle into it. Hands and knees wasn't going to cut it for me this labor. So we walked a bit.
We walked across the courtyard and put Deirdre's godparents on alert around 10:30PM. They would go on to bed but would come supervise Deirdre (who was 19 months old) if we called them and would bring her to their house to sleep if we asked them to. They could not really believe I was well into labor because there I was out there talking just fine. I had a few contractions while we were out there and I just walked around for a minute and jumped back into the conversation. Clark's final words were, "Wow, maybe by morning, the baby will be ready to come out." I knew I was getting on into labor because I was really irritated by that observation. I really did not want to think about this going on all night long. I was starting to draw inside myself, was rambling a bit answering their questions and would be talking and just kind of mumble into silence without finishing the sentence.
When we got home I decided to try out my birth ball (a large
I developed a ritual of sitting down on the birth ball and resting my head on the table between contractions while Rich rubbed my back and reassured me. Sometimes I hummed to the c.d. During contractions I sat up straighter and breathed very slowly and softly vocalized. Someone wrote in a birth story that I read that instead of "Ow" in labor think "Wow" and I found that very helpful. I moaned softly and low like a gregorian chanter and when a sensation was sharper and I thought "Ow, ow, ow, ow", I would rethink it as one very long powerful "Wow." I also tried sitting down harder on the ball during the contraction to allow it to support my perineum more as that felt good. As the contraction subsided, my vocalizing did too. Rich would point out any places I was still holding tension and whisper to me lovingly. I would lift up off of the birth ball (which we covered with a towel so I wasn't sitting on a wet cold rubber ball) and all the amniotic fluid that had been squeezed out during the prior contraction would pour down the sides of the ball and I could feel the baby move down again. I also tried moving my hips from side to side between contractions to let out tension. It was truly amazing because it was as if the ball was holding everything inside me during the uncomfortable contraction but as the discomfort eased the fluids would settle out and everything would realign. (I thought I was pretty amazing for discovering this.) Sometimes Rich would moan softly with me if my voice was getting higher pitched or if I was starting to hold my breath but overall I thought the support of the birth ball and the comfort of the vocalizing was effective.
Rich did all sorts of things to help me during this time. He changed out towels and chux pads so I was sitting mostly on a dry surface. He kept my water bottle full. He put Adiemus back on when it moved to the next c.d. which unfortunately was Cajun zydeco which is NOT what I wanted to hear as I was trying to hold things together approaching transition. He was a perfect support person this time as he did not take it personally if I wanted to be left alone and he knew just his presence was enough for me to feel supported.
I told Rich that I felt like I was coping really well but was beginning to worry about how I was going to feel in a few hours when things really kicked in. He reassured me that I was doing great and there was no indication that things would get any more challenging than they were right now and that right now I was doing a fabulous job. What he didn't tell me was that my contractions and feelings and comments were suggesting that I was close to transition and that I was close to pushing the baby out so things were not going to get worse "in a few hours." He didn't tell me this because he was worried if (1) he was wrong and I got panicky when things did get more difficult (2) Jennifer wasn't here yet and (3) I was coping well now and he didn't want me to get anxious thinking about anything besides this moment and THIS contraction.
Before we got off the phone with Jennifer, just before she left to make the hour drive, she asked us to wait for her before we got in the birth pool if we could. So at this point, I start saying, "How long has it been since we talked to Jennifer?" "How soon do you think before Jennifer will be here?" "I'm ready to get into the warm water." between contractions. Come to think of it, I think that was transition this time where last time I was saying (exclaiming is more like it) "I can't doooooo this." (grin)
Well, like the goddess she is, Jennifer slipped into our open front door right as I was really starting to get a little bit restless (I was getting an energy boost too). Rich slipped away from me and told her how my contractions had progressed since we talked on the phone. She wasted no more time chatting with him when he reported 3 minutes apart and 90+ seconds long. She comes into the living room cheerfully and says "SO, ya wanna get into the birth pool?" And I stare through her as I say "YEAH". She tried to get BP readings and heart tones. My BP was NOT what she wanted to see at this moment but she knew not to upset this woman who is deep in labor so she says hmmm, we'll try again in the pool in a minute. She tried for heart tones with the doppler and was having a hard time finding them until she got the doppler almost in my pelvis. (Hmmm, are you all thinking maybe that baby is ready to come out!?) So with no further ado we go get me into the birth pool).
Ah, I'm thinking, this is where I will relax. Ah, Rich will get into the pool behind me and won't this be warm and sensual as we welcome our baby out of the water of the womb and into the water of our lives. Rich lights the candles, the music is still playing in the next room, Rich turns on the camcorder which is on a tripod facing the pool. I've tried out this birth pool for weeks prior to labor and this is my favorite place in the world. I recline peacefully against the wall of the pool to welcome the next contraction.
Welcome, HA! The contraction hit me like a ton of bricks! I struggled through the whole contraction. Jennifer thought perhaps her presence was making it harder for me and went to sit in the hall to let Rich and me get back into rhythm. Hindsight being foresight, two things were actually happening. One was that I no longer had the perineal support of the birth ball, and I was having to adjust to that change. More importantly, that baby was COMING. These contractions were hard because the baby was moving down through my pelvis even without my pushing. I wanted to get out of the pool and back to the birth ball but I knew I was going to get chilled if I did and I knew that it was time to birth this baby now so I gave it another contraction to decide. These contractions were very hard. Rich and Jennifer did a good job of talking me through, reminding me to breathe since I was trying to hold my breath some; moaning low and slow and deep when I was feeling very squealy and was chest breathing; reminding me to let go of the tension in my shoulders and neck and back when I tensed up. I know I was tightening up everywhere because I was very close to biting on the wall of the tub!
I needed a new strategy for the next contraction so I turned over from the ladylike seat I was in to a push-up position. I had my feet on one wall and my chin on the other wall. When I contracted this time, my legs sprung to the sides of the pool (to 8 and 4 o'clock positions) and I had an uncontrollable and entirely overwhelming urge to bear down. Jennifer is saying "Catherine, what are you feeling? What's going on?" I'm finally aware that I am going to push this baby out now. I tell her I feel like I have to bear down (I feel stooly is the direct quote! LOL). She says, "and what else do you feel?" And as the contraction peaks I shout out "the heeeaaaAAAAD?" with my voice raising as I speak. Jennifer says, "you want to push?" and reaches to check me (first check, mind you! LOL) at the same time as I am saying the head and the contraction peaks. I jumped away having not really realized she had made it to that side of the pool (I think my eyes were closed). She apologized for startling me and invading my space and says, yep, there's a head in there, go ahead and push when you want. That contraction was difficult but much easier because I had regained control.
For the remaining few contractions (I've had short pushing stages all along) I felt like a wild woman (a banshee, says Rich). The water made it so easy for me to move around that I changed positions a number of times from a push-up to squatting to on my knees leaning on the sides of the pool. For me, the strength in the pool was that it made me really powerful, there was no gravity to make me move slowly. There was no trouble getting into and sustaining a squat. And that's how the baby crowned was with me in a squat.
I lost my urge to push when the baby's forehead was half way out (don't ask me how you lose an urge to push at that stage of the game!) and Jennifer had to tell me to squat down deeper and push. Baby's head came out and I lost the urge to push again. She noticed that the baby's shoulders were not rotating. So she instructed me to squat deeply and push again fearing shoulder dystocia (though again, she did not say this out loud and scare me). I pushed the shoulders out simultaneously since neither would present first (I was very thankful at that moment that I had a "pelvis you could drive a truck through" as an OB once told me!). I pushed baby on through and Rich said, "it's a girl!"
I birthed the placenta standing. I was ready to sit and nurse so when Jennifer asked who wanted to cut the cord (a point we never decided on completely before the birth), I said, "I pushed her out, I might as well do that too" and cut the cord. It's funny now because when Rich tells his colleagues about the birth, they are amazed I cut the cord. I thought that act was pretty anti-climactic, but hey that's just me! Then I sat down to nurse Rhiannon Clare.
We looked up and realized that (1) the entire labor was three hours and 48 minutes long and (2) the Camcorder was on but not recording. Rhiannon weighed 9 lbs 2 oz and was 19 3/4". Born at 12:48AM.
About this time our second midwife made it missing the birth by less than a half an hour. We were sad she missed the birth (as she was) but Rich made her a cup of cappuccino that she said was so good that it made the 2+hour drive worth it... Mary Ann and Jennifer both stayed and helped us settle in for the night.
I bled pretty heavily and we were a little concerned as I had pit in an i.v. with pit after birthing Deirdre to slow up bleeding. I took Rescue Remedy (homeopathic) and Rhiannon nursed well and my uterus tightened up pretty quickly.
We did videotape from about 5 minutes postpartum on for a while and watching it a few days later I was amazed by how alive and elated I was. I just glowed. This was especially meaningful to me since I felt really disconnected for the first several hours after Deirdre's birth. I think that was the stadol still flowing through me after Deirdre's birth but who knows. They are two different babies and two entirely different experiences altogether.
Before I went into labor, I saw my dream waterbirth as one where I was passively floating in the tub welcoming my baby. I love this birth because I was an animal actively birthing my baby. That's a powerful feeling. And one I'll never forget.
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