Meghan & Justin
Jude’s Birth Story
At 7:30 PM on November 12th, we’d just finished dinner and were talking to our baby still in my belly, saying that we felt that we were ready and that we thought that he or she was ready too. All of a sudden my water broke, explosively! We got very excited, although there were no other indications that birth was near.
Our midwife, Linsey, told us to eat and rest and we did the best that we could, although I found it very difficult to sleep through the night laying in puddle after puddle. I kept expecting the “water” to run out, but I found out later that you don’t “run out” of amniotic fluid, your body just keeps making more (good for the baby, bad for mom getting sleep).
Linsey and Samanda, who would be assisting her, came over late in the morning on November 13th and spoke with us about premature rupture of membranes and what our options were. We were comfortable with waiting, although we were feeling an enormous amount of anticipation. We got busy in order to distract ourselves; we went to the store, went for a walk, cooked up a big meal, ate, and then I laid down for a wonderful nap.
When I woke up I was disappointed that I was still not in labor. I called Linsey to check in with her; it was close to 5 PM on November 13th. While on the phone with her I said, “I don’t even really know what a contraction is….” As I finished my sentence I nearly dropped to the floor. My husband (Justin/Juice) looked at me with a big grin and said, “Now that’s a contraction!” My second contraction came 7 minutes later, my third 6 minutes after that and my fourth 5 minutes after that. They were all about a minute long and settled at 4 to 5 minutes apart for the remainder of the hour. The rest of labor is a blur.
I had begun puking at around 6 PM and my stomach would not accept food or drink again until after our baby was born. The contractions were very intense and I vocalized to cope with the pain. I liked the idea of being quiet and thought to myself, “Can I do this without making this sound?” I tried to get through the next contraction without vocalizing and almost as soon as it began I decided that I could not possibly get through this without making noise. Justin had gone downstairs and as he was coming back up to our room I heard him say, “What is that sound? Is that a cell phone?….Oh, it’s you!”
To me it felt that my labor was progressing very fast and soon my contractions were 2 minutes apart and 1 minute long. All of the pain that I felt was concentrated in my lower abdomen and pelvic area. Between contractions I felt great, no pain, able to talk and shift positions. While having a contraction I went into my own world. I labored mostly on my hands and knees, this was by far the most comfortable position for me, however it started to wear down my wrists and knee joints. I tried sitting on a chair or the ball and leaning forward but eventually all that I could think about was getting into the birth pool. Juice had been hurriedly setting it up and I knew that it was ready.
I asked Juice to go down and see if Linsey and Samanda thought it was okay for me to get into the tub. I didn’t want to get in too early, I knew that I wouldn’t want to get out. I got the okay, although the water had to be cooled down to 100 degrees. I stood in the tub as Juice added cool water and announced the temperature as it went down. When he read, “100.2 degrees”, I sank in, curious if it would actually reduce the pain from my contractions. It did not. However, it did permit me to resume the hands and knees position that I so loved without fatiguing my joints and this was hugely comforting. It also was very easy for me to shift into different positions (floating right-side down, left-side down and eventually squatting for birth).
At some point I felt my body push. “Already?”, I thought. “Juice, go tell them that my body is pushing”. I couldn’t believe how fast this was all going. Very gradually the pushing became stronger. Most of the pushing phase was a wonderful distraction that I enjoyed, I really felt like things were happening. I felt more physically powerful during this phase than I have ever felt in my life.
The most challenging part of labor for me was the anticipation of each contraction. Once I was in the contraction I went into a deeply meditative place; this was the space in which the work of labor took place and the work was gratifying to me; waiting was the hard part. On a physical level I was still experiencing pain and having to cope with it. My mantra for coping became, “This is bearable”. I believe that I continued to vocalize, although the sound evolved as I progressed.
I had so many thoughts while in labor, thoughts about other womens’ experiences, gratitude for the support that we had, passing thoughts that had little to do with labor but much to do with me on a personal level. One striking thing to me was how clear-headed I felt despite being in my own world for much of this experience. I knew that the most important thing was the health and safety of our baby and I felt totally capable of making good decisions and was very aware of all of the possibilities. I did not feel like talking and was very appreciative of the things that were offered to me by my support team without having to ask (warming of the birth pool, new position recommendations, reminders to breath in deep and slow in between contractions and offerings of sips of water or gatorade, even when I couldn’t drink, were the things that I most appreciated).
As we drew near the end I was starting to feel the side effects of not being able to eat or drink during my labor. I began to feel exhausted from all of the work that I was doing on an empty stomach and my mouth was so dry. I thought about how odd it was to be submerged in so much water and be thirsty. I would wait until my mouth felt like a desert and then I would accept a sip of water or gatorade and I would swish it around my mouth hoping that it would soak into the insides of my cheeks and not make it to my stomach.
As the baby moved further down the birth canal I did feel discomfort as my body stretched open. With some of the harder pushes I could feel my pelvis jerk open as it widened (physiologically, I don’t know if this is correct, this is what it felt like). There were also several times that I felt the baby’s head surge down. I focused on blowing air out of my lungs to slow things down (like the Mexican midwife) to give my body more time to stretch.
Eventually, I cared more about the baby being out than I did about tearing, I was exhausted. At this point I began to focus more on the relief that I would feel once the baby’s head was out, which helped me to cope with the discomfort that I was experiencing. When that push finally happened, it WAS an amazing feeling. Linsey unwrapped the cord from around the baby’s neck and shoulder and with the next push I felt the rest of his body exit me. This was one of the most incredible things that I have ever experienced in my life.
It’s a boy! Jude was born at 11:52 PM and was 7 pounds 4 ounces and 20 inches long with a head circumference of 14 inches. Our labor was less than 7 hours. We had skin to skin time. We attempted nursing but could not get a latch. After 4 weeks we would finally get comfortable with breastfeeding (that’s another essay). I had a first degree tear which was no big deal, I did not need stitches. The next day I had a sore throat from all of the vocalizing and I was pretty slow getting around for the first 2 weeks after birth at which point I noticed a big shift in my comfort and mobility. At 6 weeks after birth I felt great.
We would not have had such an awesome and comfortable birth experience without great resources. The things that we learned in the Naturally Prepared For Birth classes were a part of our birth experience every step of the way. In the group classes we benefitted from a great sense of community as well as from the questions and stories that the other couples had to share. In the private class we were able to spend some time focusing on concerns that were very specific to us.
One thing that came up for us during our class session was that at 35 weeks our baby was breach. Samanda spent a lot of the class time teaching us about optimal fetal positioning and gave us encouragement that our baby could still turn and if not we still had options. It was really wonderful to go to a space where we were reminded that we had choices (even with a breach baby). I spent time practicing the moves taught to us by Samanda and also went to a highly recommended chiropractor, Colleen Stratton (she is awesome!). By 36 weeks our baby was in the optimal fetal position and he remained in this position until he was born.
When my water broke prematurely we got out our Naturally Prepared For Birth binder and turned it to the PROM page to read up on what our options were in this situation. Reading through this sheet and reflecting on the discussion that we had in class helped us to get comfortable with our new reality and feel capable of making informed decisions.
Because of the Naturally Prepared For Birth classes, when labor started Justin knew how to correctly time contractions and how to set up the birth pool without any help so that we could have privacy while I was laboring. I felt that I had so many choices when it came to getting into a comfortable position and coping with the pain because of our expansive “toolbox” from class. If something stopped working, I knew that we could do things differently. For me vocalizing was very important for coping with the pain and then toward the end of my labor using a mantra (“this is bearable”) became more important.
During the pushing phase of my labor I was inspired by the video of the Mexican midwife that we watched in class. I blew out like her to try to slow things down and give my body more time to adjust. It is impossible to know what positions and coping strategies will be most helpful until one is actually in labor and even though giving birth was difficult, I never felt that we had run out of options and this is probably the most important thing that we got out of taking Samanda’s classes.