Birth Story - Baby M
The day Myri was born Mom and I had plans to go to the mall for shoes. I was 41+2 and trying to just go about my daily life as usual to help stem the anxiety. After lunch I had a deep intuition to go and rest, so I went upstairs to lay down and continue watching Moana, which I had started the day before. Mom came in at some point to ask if I was ready to go to the mall and I just shook my head. Understanding everything that headshake encompassed, she disappeared without a word and left me to it. (Thanks, Mom.)
I started getting uncomfortable so I turned off the movie and just checked in on my due date groups on Facebook, and that was when I noticed a couple of strong seeming but mostly painless contractions. It occurred to me that they seemed to be spaced at even intervals so I turned on my contraction timer and I had 4; one about every 15 minutes from 3 to 4 PM. The even spacing got me wondering if this was it, but I wouldn’t really mentally go there yet. I’d had some pretty similarly strong contractions in the week prior, but still, something seemed different and I kept paying close attention.
Around 4 I got up to pee and noticed my mucous plug had released...something I hadn’t noticed the first time, with my water breaking at onset of labor with Starr. So now I knew things were really happening, but wasn’t sure if they would pick up or stall out. I went downstairs and cautiously told everyone I thought that labor might be starting but I could be wrong. Elise started cooking dinner—apple potato soup—and Matt kept working. I went back upstairs and laid down again, timing the waves that were still coming, now closer together. They were still only mildly painful but it was becoming clearer that it was picking up. I was talking and texting through them at this point, telling certain close friends that I thought I might be in labor.
Right around this time Starr came in to say goodnight, as he was going into town with Grandma to our apartment to spend the night. I was still in such early labor that I was able to hug him and talk normally and tell him with excitement that it was time for the baby to come out and tomorrow he would have a new brother or sister to meet! He was very excited and gave me a big hug and kiss.
Pretty much as soon as they were out the door, intensity picked up very quickly. I think Mom, Matt and Laura were all present and helping time contractions and called the midwives in somewhere around this time. While I was waiting for them to arrive (they were struggling, as I was their third birth in 48 hours—Hurricane Florence had done her job to bring in the babes!) I listened to my Hypnobabies tracks which helped me relax and accept that I was in labor and I had to get the job done. After an hour or so I begged for them to start filling the tub—I knew I was in active labor now. It was almost 7 PM. I got up to pee and just like my first labor, as soon as I disconnected from my Hypnobabies and got up I started shivering violently. I made my way from the bathroom back into the bedroom and stepped right into the tub which was only maybe 1/3 full...but it was so warm and felt so good, and it stopped the shivering right away. This is where the similarities between my two births ended!
The next couple of hours were just a blur. Contractions got so fast and so hard that I was hardly getting a break in between them and I did not have the control over myself that I’d had the first time. Truth was I was mostly just floating there, expressing how miserable I was. I guess in the end I’m glad I didn’t get the birth videography I’d so wanted! I had been much more quiet during my labor with Starr, and at the time it was hard to accept that this time was going to be that different. But I accept both versions of my birthing self with love and admiration today.
I remember just saying “this is so much harder than last time!” Over and over. And my midwife Nichole would say “it’s different than last time. It’s harder because you’re almost done.” And I would just cry that I *wasn’t* almost done (everyone was saying this and I was so mad!), I just wasn’t prepared and I only had myself to blame. It’s funny in hindsight but it wasn’t graceful at the time! I was so hard on myself. I hope if I ever have a third baby I will be kinder to myself in my mind.
The waves just kept crashing into me and it took everything in me to accept it and open myself up to it. The tub magically kept getting higher and higher (many thanks to my wonderful and selfless doula Laura, who was on stovetop water heating duty after the tank ran out—not exactly exciting birth work, but she was so willing to do the job so that Matt and Mom could stay by my side). But I never did quite get very comfortable—the contractions were so fast and hard that they hurt everywhere: my belly, back and tops of my thighs. I wanted some counter-pressure on my back so badly, but I couldn’t really arrange myself in the tub so anyone could easily do that while I was still immersed in water. Mom ran to get me a stack of towels to tuck under my back which helped a ton at first but eventually the water had them disarranged and I just gave up and accepted the pain which was the most spiritually and physically intense experience I have ever known.
I remember having some abstract notion that I was utterly powerless against the force of the universe drawing this baby from my body, and I had thoughts of vacuums and black holes and how would it possibly feel any different if a black hole were turning my torso completely inside out. (This is what I think about in labor, now you know!)
I did a lot of horse lips to keep my jaw relaxed, and followed my instincts with how I changed position with each contraction. As it got more painful I decided to give in to the pain more and more, and each adjustment to open my body more and more was an invitation to keep it coming. Nobody ever checked my cervix (which is what I wanted and asked for, yay midwives!) so I have no idea how my progression went. I wasn’t aware of much, but I heard my second midwife Liz show up at some point and managed to say hello.
A few minutes after that my body started pushing. I said “I think it’s time to push.” And Liz (who was still standing in the hallway talking to I don’t know who!) said “Eh, I think you have a bit yet. You’ll know—you won’t be able to NOT push!” And I said “Yeah, it’s like that.” Once they realized it was really happening they gathered around me and Liz gently yet strongly encouraged me to turn to my knees and put my arms up on the side of the pool. “You can stay like that if you want, just realize you’re working against gravity if you do.” I did not want to stay in labor one second longer than I had to, so I mustered up every ounce of willpower and turned myself around.
The fetal ejection reflex was a crazy feeling! If I experienced it with Starr I don’t remember it—he took so much forced pushing due to the enormous size and tilted position of his head. With Myriam it was like my body robotically shifted gears and magically just started shoving her OUT! I didn’t keep track of time or count but I think it was only about 15 minutes and 6 pushes before her head came out, and the midwives didn’t even notice at first. It was dark in the room!
I had (of course!) felt it but I couldn’t speak because I was trying to catch my breath knowing how quickly the next contraction would come. But inside I was so relieved and celebrating that I would soon be holding my baby! Nichole shined her flashlight in the pool and said “Oh! The head is out!” and *then* I said “I knew that but I couldn’t talk.” (Because that made total sense. ) In hindsight I may have been afraid that what I thought was the head coming out, wasn’t, and I wasn’t prepared for being told that. Liz and Nichole moved quickly to prepare to catch the baby, who came out entirely in the next couple of pushes. But not until I (probably overly fiercely) reminded the whole room, “NOBODY tell me the sex! That’s MINE!” And they all reassured me that they would not.
But then once the baby was fully out (I would learn that this happened at 10:43 PM on yes, still September 14!) I heard Liz say to Nichole “grab him under the arms” and I thought it was a boy! Truth be told (shocker to all of you, I know) I had REALLY wanted a girl, and guess what moms who said this would never happen at birth—I FELT DISAPPOINTED. Judge me if you must. But yes, even in that immediate post-birth rush I felt a twinge of a let down that the baby was a boy. Of course, I hadn’t even seen “him” yet and as soon as my team helped me flip back over and sit, and the baby was in my arms, I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore! I was just drinking in that chubby little body and cheeks (9 lb, 6 oz of chub, I’d soon find out!), marveling at how different from Starr this baby looked!
I remembered after a few seconds to actually check the sex and was utterly stunned to see that it was, in fact, the girl I’d had a feeling I was carrying through my whole pregnancy but was too scared of being wrong to put it out there!
I burst into tears and choked out “it’s a girl” (there’s an extremely attractive photo of this moment which shall remain unseen), and then Mom and Matt immediately burst into tears too.
And after that I was allowed to have my precious golden hour just lounging in the birth tub holding my sweet baby. There was a minor to-do about my stubborn placenta hanging on longer than usual but that was resolved with the help of my midwives pretty uneventfully. We were all amazed by the epically long cord (which I believe, like her brother’s, had been wrapped around her neck at least once—not the medical emergency that so many believe it to be). There was a true knot in the cord which was scary, but most of the time this does not cause any significant problems either, and thankfully for us it did not.
Although Myriam’s entrance was hard in a very different way than her brother’s birth, it was awesome to feel the power and wisdom of my body, which really took charge and I just hung on for dear life. And that’s how I became Miss M’s mama! The joy and fullness she has brought to our lives has been worth every second of the pain of her birth a thousand times over. As hard as birth is, it is also a grace-filled mercy of the Life Giver that this was ALL that was required from me to be gifted with such a divine soul in our lives for every day forward. She is worth multitudes.