I woke up after a peculiar and very real dream the day before we found out we were expecting again. I had dreamt that I was lying in bed, looking into the side-cared crib, and sleeping peacefully was a sweet baby boy. The next day I decided to test. Lo’ and behold, we were going to have our second baby! Just as with our daughter, we didn’t want to know the sex of the baby but I felt in my heart it was a boy.
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for the last two weeks, including the night before where they felt different. These ones made me feel that we were very close to meeting our baby. I felt the need to take a few pictures with our daughter in the backyard, which had grown some wild flowers due to our lack of mowing the lawn. Finally, I had the maternity pictures I had wanted since the beginning of this pregnancy with Grace holding and kissing her unborn sibling from outside the belly. Before bed, I had my husband use the rebozo sifting technique to help relieve some of the belly discomfort and help me fall asleep. That night I had some of the best sleep I had in what seems to have been the entire pregnancy. The weather was absolutely gorgeous when I woke up at 7 am on Wednesday, March 5th. I thought I would time a few contractions, just to get a feel, as I laid nursing my still sleeping toddler, snoozing next to her cousin that had spent the night as well. They were not yet a minute long and coming about every five to seven minutes. Still in bed nursing around 8 am, this strong wave began to build slowly but made me moan as it grew rather intense and lasted almost two minutes. With this wave came a powerful movement from my baby and a pop; it was like I was actually feeling my baby engage. I unlatched my daughter and got up to use the bathroom.
I barely made it before realizing that my water had broken. As I sat in the bathroom, calling for my husband to wake up and bring me a new pair of shorts, the continuous flow was a sure sign that this was indeed my "water" and we were going to meet our baby soon! For a brief moment, I feared that this was the same thing that happened to me with my daughter; that my water broke and now I would have to struggle to get labor started and be put on a time clock. I then giggled and told my husband that at least contractions began before my water broke, and that seemed to ease my spirits.
Once I felt like I stopped leaking, which was after about three contractions, I finally got up to check the color of the water and noticed there was some meconium. I called my midwife to let her know what was going on and to give her a heads up on the color of the water and that labor was beginning. She had asked me if I had gotten any sleep the night before because apparently I sounded way too chipper! We had an appointment that morning around 11 am to begin with, so we planned to keep that unless I needed her to come sooner. I doubted that I would and told her I’d see her then.
As we waited for my brother-in-law to come pick up our nephew, the kids played while Will and I got our bedroom ready for the birth. We happily stacked our superbed (two beds put together) and moved the desk to make room for the birth pool. I was having somewhat intense contractions as I moved about setting up my birth alter and space, but I figured I was still in pretty early labor. I contacted my doula sister/birth assistant to give her a heads up and we chatted via text. It was such a light hearted atmosphere. The kids were screaming over sharing the toys and all the while, Will wore a sensational smile. He was so ready to meet his baby. The excitement in the house made me feel anxious for the quiet, but so extremely happy.
My husband would hold me as he saw I was contracting in between trying to get the kids to play civilly. We talked a bit about what we were feeling emotionally and what needed to be done like it was an everyday, normal morning. He had asked me if we were going to have the baby by noon, and I laughed at him and said I wouldn’t go that far but who knows how long it will be and requested he not ask for any more timetables. He was so eager and it was beyond adorable. I was nervous that he might have felt apprehensive, if feelings from our daughter’s birth may begin to surface, but he didn’t skip a beat, though at times his enthusiasm was a bit too much!
Around 9:15 am, as my nephew was leaving, I sent Will and my daughter to the store to pick up a few last minute food and smoothie items. As I watched them get into the car from my bedroom window I had the first of many waves that made me involuntarily moan (and quite loudly) with the intensity. I was pretty flabbergasted by the sounds that were coming out of me, but I went with it and hoped my neighbors refrained from coming to check on me or call the police for a welfare check!
I knew it would be a good time to eat something as I had been so preoccupied with getting things ready that I hadn’t eaten yet. I walked into my kitchen to find anything that looked appealing; nothing did. Settling for a bowl of strawberries and blueberries, I sat on the foot rest in the living room, eating, swaying and moaning like an animal involuntarily with each wave that came. They were picking up fast in both frequency and intensity. I called my midwife and my doula sister to let them know it might be a good time to head over. Thank goodness my midwife was just up the main road at another client’s appointment! It still felt as if labor wasn’t really happening! I started thinking there was a lot of time left; seeing, as how my daughter’s birth was 36 hours long, I told my doula to take her time. She said by the sound of my voice she was going to come over immediately.
Her instincts were pretty spot on. I got up to walk around a bit before the urge to push gently came with the next wave. I called Will to come home now and he asked me if everything was okay as he had just left me just 20 minutes before and I was totally fine and smiling! I was barely able to iterate to him that labor was getting stronger and I was beginning to feel pushy. In the middle of an aisle at Publix, he yelled “PUSHY?! I haven’t even checked out yet!” He later told me that a fellow shopper looked at him like he was crazy! Though, who could blame her?
After I finished making my calls, I started to walk back to my bedroom before the next wave knocked me on my ass. I finished the travel to the room by crawling on all fours, whilst singing the new craze hit, “Let it Go." I was scared, but knew better than to allow those fears to overcome me and that was what seemed to help me release the fears away. I was scared that I was going to have this baby alone. I was scared that it was happening way too fast, but also that if I had to go through this intensity through the night, how I was going to make it. It was almost more intense than the labor I had with Pitocin, but I know that it was because of how quickly things were progressing, not that my body was unable to handle it. With each new wave I fought a fear away. I made it to the room and put a chux pad on the bed, dropped my drawers and labored on all fours. It wasn’t until I got in the bed that I become ridiculously hot and took off my dress. All the windows were open throughout the house, and I could hear the breeze outside. It was so soothing and the breeze was a welcomed pleasure. I listened between each wave for a car or voice that was familiar.
A car finally pulled up and it was Will and our daughter. My sweet husband walks into the room and basically shouts, “You doing ok, honey?!” All I could muster up was to shush him. Like, seriously? I’m in labor, not deaf. Grace asked me if I was ok and Will explained to her that I was working to get the baby out. She asked, “out of her ‘gina?” She knew what to expect, Mommy and Daddy talked about it all the time. Around 10:15 am another car pulled up, it was my midwife! With each arrival, Grace proudly yelled out that “Mommy’s having a baby from her ‘gina!” Even in labor, she melted my heart with her excitement and made me giggle to myself (or maybe the giggles were in my head...).
I was so elated to hear my midwife come in that when she came to me and asked me if I was freaking out a bit, I cried. Until then, I had not wanted to allow the pushing to commence. Now that she was here, I gave in completely to my body. I began to push on the bed while they set up the birth tub. Once there was a bit of water, I asked if I could get in. All I could think of was that I needed to get in the water.
As it still filled, I tried to find a position that felt somewhat ok. I don’t know why I was kidding myself; I knew that no position would make me comfortable! Though, for a while it was leaning over the side with my face in a bucket that seemed to do the trick. With each wave, I pushed and felt as if I were going to throw up all the while I was continuously fighting my self-doubt. I tried to remember that this was not my daughter’s birth, and that I wasn’t pushing too soon; that this baby wanted to be born and was in a good position. I let it all go…
My doula sister and birth assistant arrived about 11 am and immediately began to give me sips of water and check in with where I was. I remember opening my eyes every so often to see who was near me, I always saw her face, and that was reassuring. I could feel my midwife’s warm presence and hear Will and Gracie talking about what was going on. All of this helped to create the calm atmosphere I needed, aside from when one of my favorite scents, peppermint, was being released in the air and I asked for it to stop because it was making me nauseated. There was no panic, no hustle, no fuss and no one telling me when I needed to push. I was clearly allowing my body to do that. I was shocked in a sense that I didn’t need physical comfort, that I actually rather preferred no one touch me. Looking back, that was so powerful for me.
I felt like I had been pushing for hours, and I was getting nervous because I wasn’t feeling anything. At this point, I had not had a single vaginal check. My midwife asked me if I could feel baby, but I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. I asked her if she could check me, but before she could I started feeling the baby begin to descend. I was thinking to myself, "something is coming down the canal, and I don’t know if I’m pushing my uterus out or this is my baby.”
This thought stemmed from my fear of pushing too soon, as I had with my daughter. I kept going, and then there it was. The top of my sweet baby’s head was making its way out. Will had been entertaining my daughter at this point, and was asked to come be with me. He held my hand as I pushed through three more contractions before the head was fully birthed. I was feeling the baby rotate and move, trying to find which angle was going to work best to be born. It was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced. As I sat there in the water, I was so tired and I noticed that I was not contracting anymore. After a moment, my midwife made it clear that I needed to push my baby out. I could hear in her voice and feel that there was slight concern, whether there actually was or not I loved how calm and collected she remained. With that, I reached down and touched my baby’s soft, furry head. That gave me the strength I needed to go on. I let go of my husband’s hand, braced both hands firmly at my sides and pushed as hard as I could. I could feel the intense stretching occur, and as much as I thought I was trying to control it, I just wanted the baby out! And at 11:36 am, with my husband’s hands in the water, he caught our baby and brought him up to my chest with the midwife’s help.
I immediately knew I had torn, but I didn’t really care. I just pushed my baby OUT OF MY VAGINA! I felt vindicated! I felt relieved! I felt powerful and fully awake! He was so slippery and covered in vernix. He hadn’t yet taken a breath, so as my midwife was stimulating him on my chest I was just lost in him, talking to him. He coughed and cried, and my husband asked “who” it was since we had not known the sex of our baby. I lifted the leg and saw that Jaxon Paul had made his arrival!
My sweet daughter came to meet her brother and while she didn’t want to touch him because he was “gross” with the vernix he was covered in, she asked me why I was crying. I explained to her it was because mommy was so very happy! She gave me a kiss and then sang her “don’t cry” song. I couldn’t have asked for a better moment and I LOVED that Grace was there to witness her brother’s birth. It was purely magical and went exactly how we had hoped, all except for the tear.
My husband said he knew the exact moment I tore because of how high pitched my shriek grew. When I got out of the birth tub to be able to birth my massive placenta, my midwife examined and declared I did in fact have a 3rd degree tear, and we needed to transfer to the hospital for repair. I was bummed I couldn’t lounge in bed the rest of the day with my new chunky little linebacker, but I was ok with needing to do this. I had finally regained my appetite and was starving, so Will made me a delicious egg and cheese sandwich and my doula made a bangin’ placenta smoothie and I got to take a hot shower right after before we headed to the hospital.
I still hadn’t latched Jaxon well, though I wasn’t too anxious about it. Once everyone had left the room Jaxon and I were able to get our first breastfeeding moment together. In walks my daughter, asking to nurse, not but a few moments later! As Grace nursed, she reached over and held her brother’s hand. It was the first of many sweet moments they’ve shared together at the breast.
The newborn exam was quite hilarious as I watched my midwife measure Jaxon three times before she said anything. I called him a linebacker (though I don’t care if he ends up as a ballerina!) because he was nine lbs., 12 oz. and 23 inches long. Though the kicker for me was that his head measured 14.5 inches and his chest was 15 inches! We believe that the reason for his head to have taken a while to be fully born and then the tear was due to his broad chest and shoulders and a possibility he may have been stuck a bit as he journeyed down. It was humorous for me because one of the reasons that lead to some of the interventions that occurred with my daughter was that she was going to be “too big” and “measuring at 10 lbs.” The OB that did her cesarean birth said I would have never birthed her and shouldn’t have even labored because my pelvis was too small for my 8 pounder. Oh, the irony!
Before we transferred to the hospital, my remarkable midwife called ahead to give notice but also to make sure that Jaxon was able to come with me. They were completely fine with that, which put me at great ease. It was a Baby Friendly hospital that supports mom and baby remaining together and just 10 minutes up the road. My younger sister came almost as soon as we called her to be with Grace while we were gone. My whole birth team came with and supported me tremendously throughout the suturing procedure. I am so beyond grateful for that. We were treated with the utmost respect, and serviced quickly.
The only time during the whole procedure I was alarmed was when the OB showed up to complete the internal suture and stated that he was going to take the baby to the nursery so that I could be put under for it. My midwife quickly told him that wasn’t the hospital's baby (meaning he was not a patient) and I basically expressed to him as calmly as I could that it wasn’t going to happen and asked what my options were. We agreed that the lidocaine was just fine and I would bear through it, and my baby would remain with me. The way it was presented was as if that were my only choice, but then I snapped back and remembered there was almost always another option, it’s just whether or not you ask.
The OB was done quickly and went on his way. The nurse we had was so splendid and sweet! I was told the OB wanted to keep me for antibiotics and overnight care I was GBS positive, the location of the tear, and because there wasn’t time to have the antibiotic in labor and he was concerned about infection. I politely declined and the nurse handed me the AMA release papers she had put together before she came back in the room because she "knew I wasn’t going to stay and wanted to get us home." I honestly could have hugged her. Although we had to transfer and receive the stitches, which hurt like a bitch, it was a positive experience. I felt loved and supported by my birth team and I was never separated from Jaxon, which was extremely important to me.
While both births were on completely different ends of the spectrum, they have a few very interesting similarities. One being that they were both born at 40 weeks, and another that they were both born on beautiful Wednesday afternoons. I hold each of their unique stories very close to my heart, as they both had very valuable lessons to teach and I cherish them deeply.
I thank my amazing Barefoot Birth sisters for being strong supporters to me and my family and a huge part of one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I never once had to fight for my VBAC because it was, and should always be, my vagina to use.
Melissa originally shared her story on the blog at Barefoot Birth and graciously shared her story with us! Thanks Melissa, and Barefoot Birth!