My due date was 1/23 and this was my first pregnancy. I had it in my head that I needed to have the baby before 2/3 because I wanted her to be born during the Year of the Tiger (the Chinese calendar). Mind you, I am not Chinese, nor do I particularly believe in the Chinese calendar. But the placemat at my favorite Chinese restaurant showed that the Tiger sign matched my husband's and my sign. You can't get more random than that. It was a tangible goal nonetheless.
So starting about 2 weeks before my due date I was trying all sorts of things to get labor going. Up and down stairs, walking, sex, spicy food. No go. Finally on the evening of the 20th, my husband and I went out to eat at the Melting Pot. I had cheese that was cooked in some alcohol (I had heard alcohol could do the trick). I walked the length of the mall. We had sex that night. I was pulling out all the stops. I was serious.
That night I was having weird feelings like I was going to get my period. I had previously had these sensations but not so constant. These were a bit more intense but certainly not painful—just a bit of pressure. This cycled on and off and at one point I woke up thinking, “I wonder if this is the beginning of labor?” But I didn’t wake Andreas (my husband) up because it was so mild.
At about 5am I woke up to a kick and then a pop and then a gush of fluid (which relieved some pressure). I made a noise like, “ooh oh!” and Andreas woke up asking what was wrong. I said, “My water broke!” He jumped up out of bed and ran to the bathroom, I think to get towels. We had previously put plastic down on the mattress in case of water breakage in bed. He said “wait there” but I didn’t. I just walked to the bathroom saying “Oh, it’s still coming out. Oh it’s getting everywhere.” Andreas still tells that part of he story to illustrate my willfulness. I then got in the shower. Without the amniotic fluid, the contractions were a bit more intense, but not bad. When I got back into bed, my intent was to go back to sleep. Andreas was SO excited but I was trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing. I would rest and then tell Andreas when the next contraction was. They were about 5-7mins apart. So really, sleep was not reasonable. At about 6am we decided to call Michelle, our midwife.
When Andreas called Michelle he told her the situation and that my contractions felt “like period cramps”. Michelle said she was going to the gym and would return home to change and then come to our house. It was snowy that morning so we were glad we let her know ahead of time. Right after Andreas hung up, it felt like the contractions got a big stronger (of course!). At this time I started to realize that my back was hurting. I had burning pain on my lower back. For every contraction I would ask Andreas to press on my back or rub it in order to get through. After every contraction, he would run down stairs and get a coffee or a bowl of cereal or clean up or SOMETHING! He would then run back up stairs for my contraction. It was kind of distracting (actually very distracting) when I’m trying to focus on relaxing and also made me a bit anxious! We decided to go up into the attic. My attic, it should be noted, has a luxurious tub, a toilet, a large walk-in closet, a couch, and the washer/dryer. It was an ideal spot for giving birth. We may rent it out to prospective parents in the future. Ha!
In the attic I had my exercise ball and my yoga mat. We decided that it was possible I was having “back labor” and we thought that a bath would help. I got in the tub but when I lay back, it didn’t relieve any burning pain and then it made it impossible for Andreas to reach my back. I got out of the tub. I started having more intense contractions and during some of them I really felt like I could push (?!). When I told Andreas he got a little freaked out and decided to call Michelle again. Luckily she was on her way. By that time, I thought maybe I was getting a bit out of control and I really wanted Michelle there. I couldn't figure out how I could be having contractions so close together and be feeling the need to push after only 4hrs. Michelle arrived at around 9am. She brought up a whole boatload of stuff and then asked Andreas to go get her red bag in the car. He said it was, like, 70lbs! She comes prepared!
After Michelle finished setting up her stuff and checked to make sure I was doing ok, we ended up trying all sorts of positions. Side lying on the couch. Leaning over the ball. Squatting. Standing was out of the question, as I could not handle the back pain in that position. Not to mention that my contractions were coming so frequently that it didn't make sense for me to walk around. Finally I asked to be checked (probably at around 10am). I was 8cm dilated! I was really happy but I decided not to show it because I knew it might take hours and hours to just go another 2cm. Sometime after that, Michelle tried a TENS unit on my back to see if it would help the back pain. It didn’t. The only thing that helped was having someone massage it all the time. I asked Michelle if she thought I was having back labor but she felt sure that it wasn't and that it was actually nerve pain that I was experiencing--probably a pinched nerve somewhere. True enough, baby was not sunny side up thus it wasn't truly back labor.
By this time, the assistant Shivani came (she had to travel from Western Mass). So between all three of them, there was ALWAYS someone massaging my back. At about 11am I got into the tub again. I still was having feelings like I needed to push. So I asked to be checked again. I was 9 and 9/10 dilated! There was just a lip of cervix in the way. Michelle said I could push when I felt the need to push with all my body.
So, I must tell the whole story, so here’s the nitty gritty icky parts. Every time I felt the need to push, it came with the need to move my bowels—but I was semi constipated (I think). So I would start pushing, feel like I was going to poop and then stop pushing. I knew that this feeling was impeding my progress so I told Michelle. She told me to just go ahead and push exactly like I was moving my bowels! IF any poop came out, then so be it! So I did. And it did. I apologized profusely. Nobody seemed to care in the slightest. This was great because I remember saying, "I don't think I'm pushing right." Clearly I wasn't because I didn't know I was supposed to push like I'm on the toilet! Another thing was that I realized that every time I pushed, Michelle would apply pressure to my hemorrhoid to keep it from getting bigger. I knew it was there but it was really distracting to have her push on it. So I told her and she stopped. I knew it would get worse but oh well. After those two distractions were resolved, I felt like my pushes were more productive.
I moved to the toilet (backwards) and continued to labor there. It was nice because then someone could really massage my back. I felt a little bit of relief. I felt better after emptying my bowels but I still don’t know why I didn’t feel like I had to push with all my might during every contraction. I think it was because I was distracted by the burning pain in my back. All that time, though, the baby was steadily moving down the birth canal. When I lay on the couch or squatted, Michelle would say, “I see the head!” when she looked inside. This whole time I was making low pitched "Ah" sounds. I constantly had my mouth open/slack to force me to remember not to tighten my jaw. I recalled everything from our Bradley method class. I felt super prepared. I never was scared. I felt like my body was made for this. I relished the challenge and remember thinking how proud I would be to say that I had my baby at home, the way I wanted to—the way women have done it for centuries.
Finally at about 1 or 2pm, Michelle said that she wanted me to try laying flat on my back. I was a little disappointed and surprised because I thought that was the least productive position. I felt maybe that I wasn’t progressing and this was a “last ditch” effort. After one contraction though, I realized that it relieved quite a bit of burning pain in my back. Then the show could get on the road!! Andreas was on my left and Shivani on my right. They would hold my legs between contractions. I would pull my legs back with every contraction. At first I arched my back but then they told me to curl forward with each contraction—Andreas kept reminding me by pulling my head forward. He would also cheer me on. “I see her head!” He sounded so excited. Or, “I think just one or two more contractions and she’ll be out!” It was great. Also, Michelle said, “She’s got a lot of hair and it’s strawberry blond!” I thought that was hilarious. I remember thinking that Andreas was so naïve to think it would be over in a few contractions. Boy was I wrong.
Just wanted to make a brief note about our birthing team. Shivani would go downstairs and get drinks and snacks. My husband would make spritzers and smoothies. They would stick a straw in my mouth, like, every 5 minutes even if I didn’t want it! They kept feeding me yogurt and bananas too. It was semi annoying because I wasn’t even hungry or thirsty. I barely spoke. I remember being slightly annoyed that they were chitchatting together like I wasn't there but later laughed about it. Shivani would try to breathe near me to get me to not hyperventilate. Every time I pushed, Michelle would say, “YEAH, Mandy, good one.” That was so great. I dropped the F bomb a few times but not in a real way. Also, I said, “I don’t want to play this game anymore” but that was also in a joking manner. Never once did I think or say that I didn’t think I could do it or I wanted it to stop. Never once did I think about needing pain medications. Really I just wanted them to keep massaging me! Poor buggers—9.5hrs of constant rubbing!
Back to the story. I’m not sure how long I really pushed. It didn’t seem like a long time at all, I think it was actually 20 minutes. The baby had moved down so low that I could feel what I was pushing against. The back pain was not my focus anymore. The pushing felt great. At one point I heard Michelle from far away saying “Breathe. Breathe.” I thought she meant to breathe instead of hold my breath when I pushed. So I kept pushing. Then Michelle said, “Reach down for your baby.” I thought she meant that she wanted me to feel her head while she was crowning. When I opened my eyes (they were closed most of the day), she was handing me baby Zeta! I couldn’t believe it! Apparently I pushed her out all in one push (instead of head, turn body, another contraction, then shoulders and body). She wanted me to breathe so she could stretch my perineum in order to avoid tearing. Oh well! Zeta Lucia was born at 2:34pm. No “ring of fire” just one push and she was out!
When the baby was placed on me I just cried and cried and said, “oh my god,” and “she’s so sweet.” And she really did have strawberry blond hair. She was very alert too. The next few things that happened, I’m not sure of their sequence. I know that Michelle had a bit of tension on the cord. I knew I was aware of when I needed to do the placenta step. She told me to push and I did and it was nothing to get that out. Then I think Andreas cut the cord because Zeta couldn’t reach my breast to feed. Then we were able to put her on the breast and she did great—Shivani helped me do that. Then Michelle pushed into my abdomen to massage my uterus to contract. It did not feel good. When she pushed down a gush of blood came out. That was not supposed to happen. I guess Michelle felt like perhaps it was an acceptable amount but she was not taking chances. So they gave me an injection of pitocin. It burned going into the muscle.
At that point I asked about tearing. I was told that I had 2 small tears and she recommended stitches. I was so nervous about the stitches!!!! She said we could wait on it for a bit while she did some paperwork and we could call our family. Andreas called all of our family members and we cried and laughed on the phone with them for a while. Zeta breastfed at both breasts by that time and she was all wrapped up in a rosebud blankie and a little hat. Andreas took his shirt off and held her for a while. By then I was really anxious about the stitches plus I wanted to know how much Zeta weighed. I kept saying “let’s have Andreas hold her” so that I could focus on the stitches. I was more afraid of the stitches than labor and birth! Seriously.
The stitches weren’t bad. Afterwards they decided I should urinate in order to make sure my bladder wasn’t affecting my uterus’s ability to contract. When they stood me up I lost more blood. Later I was told that the “redhead” in me meant that I was more susceptible to bleeding. So they gave me oral methergine as well (I would have to take 6 more doses every 6hrs afterwards). They sat me back down and then I heard a buzzing noise and kept asking everyone if they heard it too. I was mad that they all looked at me like I was crazy. I was told that my blood loss caused that effect! Michelle and Shivani handled this minor complication with ease. I never felt nervous as they had the situation completely under control.
Finally they weighed and measured baby Zeta. She was 6lbs and 11ounces and was 19 and ¼ inches long. She wasn’t the 9-pounder that I wanted to brag about, but an angel nonetheless. Michelle said that when she got our call that morning she remembered she had dinner reservations at Dinosaur barbeque at 7:30pm that night. But then she remembered that we are pharmacists and very efficient. Ha! They both ended up leaving our house at 7pm and Michelle made it to her dinner date. I'm very proud of that fact.
Before leaving our house, they did the laundry, the dishes, cleaned up all the chucks pads (no fluids ever touched our floor), and prepared our bedroom for us. Shivani had scoured Zeta’s room for blankies, diapers, wipes, hats, etc. She put them on the bureau. She also set up the bathroom with my perineal cold packs, tucks, menstrual pads, etc. It was basically awesome.
Both my husband and I can’t get over how positive the experience was and how much we enjoyed it. It was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life. When have I ever felt the need to say that?