Seems that I have a pattern of prodromal labor and going late. My babies don't seem late, though, nor do they get too large, so I think I've learned that I can easily let them bake away for an extra week or two with no concern.
That said, I get impatient and very uncomfortable at the end and the prodromal labor wears me out (though my hubby tries to remind me that it makes my labors shorter and easier when they do happen, and I'm sure that he's right).
The false starts began the week that I was due, and two nights in particular had us and the midwife thinking baby would arrive at any moment. But, another week came and went, and still no baby, and all of the typical methods of encouraging baby to come weren't kicking things into full gear as we hoped they would. Since lots of positive stuff was happening (dilation, almost full effacement, plenty of pre-labor signs) and my midwife felt that my body was ready enough, she gave me permission to go ahead with the castor oil recipe that has proved so effective for my last two labors.
I confess, I didn't want to go the castor oil route again. It works marvellously for me previously, and yet I held off for a week, wanting to just go into labor naturally. If I had been more patient and less uncomfortable, I could have kept on waiting and I'm sure it would have happened on its own (because no one stays pregnant forever, right?). But I chose to go ahead...
And So the Story Begins
(Note- the birth story gets a bit eventful so there are approximately zero pictures of me during labor. I've just interspersed unrelated, but adorable, pictures of baby's first day or two instead.)
We agreed that I would take the concoction (a mix of apricot nectar, castor oil, almond butter and lemon verbena essential oil that our local midwives swear by- but I wish I had taken the liberties with it that Natalie took!) on Wednesday afternoon after 3pm, to allow my midwife time to finish up her afternoon teaching at a local college. My hubby was also conducting new music teacher interviews that day, and so a late start worked best for him as well. I tried to start the day as well rested as I could, and hoped that the labor would be on the shorter side, as our last two had also been.
I drank my concoction around 3:30pm. For the next hour and a half, I worked at tidying up the house, last minute birth preparations, and getting my children packed up to bring to a friend's house nearby. Just after 5pm, we arrived at my friend's and contractions were already starting, but they were very mild and still spaced out.
During the 30 minutes that we were there, I sat and sipped on tea and realized that contractions were still pretty easy, but coming frequently enough that I had better get my laboring-self back into my mini-van so that I was actually still capable of driving myself the 5-minute drive home safely.
Ryan was still immersed in an interview in the living room when I arrived and we both sort of went about our own thing. I decided to pop in to the home office of the music school we run to help our new assistant with any scheduling questions she might have. I was surprised to get hit by a big double-peak contraction right before I walked into the office, and realized that I had better be fast. She just shook her head at me and told me that I needed to forget about work, trust that she had it under control, and focus on having a baby. True enough. :)
A grilled cheese sandwich sounded mighty good right about this time, as I hadn't had dinner yet and knew that in a short while, I wouldn't want to eat anything at all. I asked Ryan if he wanted one, and he asked if I was having contractions yet. I responded yes, and said they were about 2-3 minutes apart. He was shocked and couldn't believe I was still making him dinner. His interviewee (one of eight children of a family we know, whose mother is currently training to become a midwife) just laughed. This was nothing new to her!
Before I started cooking, I decided it was time to call my doula (a good friend who has helped at 2 of our other births) and the midwife, to let them know they better start getting ready to come over. Ryan finished up his interview and I finished the sandwiches and ate most of mine. Sitting was the only thing keeping the contractions from becoming more intense, and I was starting to have to really focus on them, so I decided it was probably a good idea to stay sitting until people started arriving.
It was probably close to 7 by the time the midwife came. She started filling out her forms and setting up, as I just walked around the kitchen and family room, pausing to lean on something for each contraction and then getting up and walking around again.
Upstairs, my husband and friend began working on filling the birthing pool with water, as we had planned for another water birth. The midwife joined them to set some things up in our bedroom. I was happy to continue on by myself downstairs for a while.
That is, until...
There was water. Everywhere. And I'm not talking about MY water.
The dining room chanedlier above our table suddenly became a fountain, water pouring down from the ceiling and filling up the bowl-shaped light fixture. A minute later, there were also some small drips starting to happen in other parts of the ceiling. I hollered up to everyone upstairs, "There's water coming out of the ceiling!" And that's when the pandemonium all began.
Everyone ran downstairs to see what I was talking about. Then they began flying around with buckets and bowls, turning the water off upstairs, and frantic phonecalls to our landlord to figure out where on earth the water main switch was. The landlord couldn't be reached, so then my husband began calling various families from our church who had previously rented this home before we moved in- perhaps one of them knew? Our assistant in the music school agreed to stay late and started calling plumbers to find someone who would make a late night emergency house call. My doula worked to get the water mess under control.
And I labored alone. Ah, the joys.
At one point, my midwife came alongside me and mentioned that because I was so calm as I labored, the whole water ordeal was currently more exciting than the birth itself. And she was right!
Back to the Birth
At long last (well, maybe not so long- an hour later?), the water issue was mostly under control, at least enough that the attention began to shift back to how I was doing, and just in time. Things had remained manageable enough during that time, but now it was close to 8pm and boy, was I feeling it.
The midwife checked me shortly before this time and found me to be 3+ cm, paper thin cervix and progressing well. Within 5 minutes of her checking, things kicked into higher gear and I felt a shift in the contraction intensity. Now I was REALLY focusing and soon decided to stop moving around and get down on my hands and knees, leaning over an exercise ball. That was my favorite position as I moved towards transition during my last labor and it felt like the right thing for me again, especially with no birthing pool (or even shower or tub- the water in the whole house was off, remember!).
It was interesting this time around to note that I could really gauge almost exactly where I was at in my progress. Once I got down on my hands and knees, contractions were 1-2 minutes apart, fairly long and intense and I was working very hard to breathe through them and keep my body relaxed. I knew that I was probably already 5-6 cm and in the beginnings of transition.
Coping With Labor (and How NOT to Push)
This time around, what helped me to cope was to focus all of my concentration on taking deep breaths and blowing out. I actually found it helpful to put my mouth near the ball I was leaning on and to breath out, sort of into the ball. The resistance from my breath against the ball helped me to feel grounded in a strange way. I mentioned it to my midwife and she said, "Well, whatever works!".
I knew after a short while (maybe 20 minutes?) that I was near dilated and baby was starting to move lower because the pain in my back picked up and I needed a lot of back pressure with each contraction. Something new that we discovered this time was that, beyond the usual lower back pressure that I have previously found useful, I actually wanted my husband to sort of squeeze my hips in at the same time. It really made the pain more bearable, especially the lower the baby got.
At probably 8:45 or so, my water broke spontaneously, and I knew that the baby was entering the birth canal. I could feel the movement downward, and truthfully, it freaked me out. This was my 4th birth (3rd unmedicated) and all of the sensations from previous births came rushing back to me. I knew what was coming next and in my "labor-land", hazy mental state, I didn't want to go there.
Contractions? Fine. Transition? Yes, I can do that. Pushing? Umm, nope. Let's call this whole thing off!
Unfortunately, that's not exactly an option when baby has already decided it's ready to make an entrance and you're in your home with a midwife and the hospital is 20 minutes away... so, you do the next best thing. Try to avoid doing the inevitable!
Instead of really giving in to the pushing contractions that were coming (they were there, but it wasn't this unstoppable, couldn't-not-push-if-my-life-depended-on-it force like it had been with my last two babies), I just kept trying to breathe and cope with things and pretend like I didn't actually need to push this baby out. The funny thing about it is the unreasonableness of it all-- if I had just started pushing, I would have been done already!
The midwife set up a birthing stool on the floor and they helped me get onto it. But I hated it and after two contractions, I said that I didn't want to be on there. Next they suggested I get up on the bed. I managed to crawl up there and spent a contraction or two on my hands and knees, wondering if I would give birth that way. Ultimately, my own indecision caused the midwives (the backup midwife had now arrived) to make the decision for me.
They encouraged me to lie down on my side, propped up by pillows. I was now panting through contractions, doing mental battle with myself. Finally my midwife said, "Are you trying not to push?". And my answer? Yes, you bet I am. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I'll just lay here and writhe on the bed instead, thankyouverymuch.
And then I could postpone the inevitable no longer. A huge pushing contraction swept over me and as I finally gave in and pushed with it, his head was being born.
Suddenly, my midwife yelled, "Stop pushing!". Umm, right. I yelled right back, "I can't!!!!". Granted, I tried. I really tried to hold off as best as I could, but it's practically impossible at that point.
(I asked her later why she had wanted me to stop and she said that he had not one, but TWO hands up on his head as he came out. She wanted to try to hold his hands in as he was being born, to help prevent any unnecessary birth trauma and tearing on my end. My last daughter had one hand on her face, and that hurt like the dickens. Maybe I knew intuitively that I didn't want to push him out with two hands up there and that's why I was putting it off? At the very least, no harm was done and hey... it can't get any worse in future births. They only have two hands! :)
A few seconds later, his head was out. I tried pushing again but his shoulders weren't coming with the angle I was lying at (we have a really soft, pillow-top on our mattress, which was making it harder), so they helped me shift angles and then with one big push he was born!
Straight up onto my chest, this squalling, bright-eyed baby boy went. He wanted his presence known, for sure. We spent a few minutes just trying to soothe him and snuggle him, and then rejoiced with surprise when they told us he was a boy! We had been back and forth on what we thought we were having, but towards the end felt that it must be a girl, so we were just delighted to have another little boy. A brother for Caden- hooray!
We spent a long time just cuddling, me, Daddy and baby, while the others went about their business of cleaning up and writing birth reports. I nursed him after a while and he took to the breast like a champ. When we finally weighed him, he came in at a surprising 7 lbs 5 oz. I had fully expected him to be my biggest baby, but instead he was my second smallest. Who knew?
We named him Kepler Matthias (although the name took us a few days, as it always does). We ordered in a Greek feast from a take-out restaurant 5 minutes before they closed (he was born at 9:07pm). I always love eating dinner after an afternoon or evening birth. It's just so satisfying, especially after working up such an appetite!
Our first night was just beautiful, sleeping in bed with our precious babe and enjoying his newness. That's one of my favorite aspects of homebirth. There's nothing like being in your own bed with your baby right after giving birth.
The next morning his siblings came home to meet him, and they were just as enamoured as we were. Let me tell you, if you want to hold this baby, you better put your request in early and GET IN LINE behind his siblings! He's a well-loved baby, if ever there was one.
On a funny note, as everything was being cleaned up and I was beginning to nurse him, both the plumber and our landlord arrived, and BOTH wanted to come upstairs to look at the master bathroom. My dear friend Ange was a firm advocate for us and she kept guard- no one was going upstairs while I was recovering from giving birth! Not on your life! (Thanks, friend!)
We also found out later that our assistant's car got blocked in by one of the midwives vehicles. She had been dealing with plumber stuff, but then found herself stuck. She actually heard the entire birth as she was trying to pack up and sneak out, and told us that she walked the 5 minutes back to her house a weeping mess from witnessing something so beautiful. :)
And there you have it... the grand entrance of sweet baby Kepler.