Tuesday, June 10th, was my little man’s due date. I had been hoping that he would come a little early, though not too early, but he was content to stay in for the allotted 40 weeks. Our midwife said early on that we would go full term like most first time moms, but I was just convinced that he would come a week or two early!
The day before, Bear and I drove the 6 hour round trip to see our midwife. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a few weeks, and they had been getting stronger and more frequent. The morning we went to see our midwife, however, they disappeared almost completely, and I was very disappointed. Both Bean and I did great at our check-up; all of my vitals were fantastic, and Bean’s head was engaged and he was in perfect position. I was happy, but still a little disappointed when our midwife informed me that we could easily go another week or two, as I did not look like a woman about to give birth! On our trip home, I had 7-8 contractions, but they petered off again once I went to bed.
The next day, they were stronger and more regular than they had been to that date, and by the evening I was having 4-5 contractions an hour, most lasting about a minute or so. I waited a couple hours before calling my midwife; I didn’t want them to calm down again if she was going to make the 3-hour trip. She told me to take some Benadryl and go to bed, and she was going to take a shower and then get on the road. She got to our house at about 1am, checked my vitals, and went to sleep in the guest room. My contractions weren’t picking up any, and she told us to wake her if they did.
Wednesday morning, Bear had to fill out some paperwork at work and run some errands, which he hadn’t felt comfortable doing before someone was home with me. The contractions had slowed down again, so we just chilled and waited it out. Once Bear got back, we went for a nice long walk with the puppies, and the contractions picked up again. Our midwife suggested I see the Chiropractor to see if that would help move things along. While we were waiting for the Chiropractor to see us, I started doing squats in the adjustment room. Bear laughed at me and told me that it would be at least another week before Bean got here, because there’s no way I’d be able to do that if it was time! The Chiropractor was surprised to see us, said I was about as good as I could be at 40 weeks along, and even felt the baby’s placement and said it couldn’t be better for the home birth we wanted. That night, the contractions still weren’t getting any closer than 10 minutes apart, so another night of Benadryl and sleeping as much as possible before labor started.
Thursday, our midwife offered to strip my membranes. I had heard about this, but really had no idea what that entailed. It was far more uncomfortable than I had anticipated, but I was so ready for labor to start that I was willing to do pretty much anything she suggested or offered. I rested for a while, and then Bear and I took a walk down the road to see the Chiropractor in his local office. If he was surprised the day before, he was nearly in shock to see us again! That night the contractions were still no closer than 10 minutes apart, so we went to sleep. Midwife offered to go to stay with a local friend for the night, since “a watched pot never boils,” but I honestly did not feel watched at all and was completely comfortable with her being there, so she stayed.
Friday morning the three of us watched the History Channel and had interesting discussions on religion and other theories. Midwife decided to go out to get a few things she needed, as well as some food. I think she brought me back some flan, but I never had a chance to eat it!
By late afternoon, the contractions were getting stronger than ever and I was getting uncomfortable. We went to bed about 9, and the contractions were only 4-5 minutes apart. Midwife checked my vitals every hour or so, and I tried to sleep between contractions. About 3:15am, I was in the middle of a contraction and felt a little “pop” in my pelvic region. At first, I thought my water had broken, and waited for the typically talked about “gush”, but never felt it, so I figured it must have been something else. I waited through 2 more contractions before I got up to go to the bathroom. When I stood up, I realized that my water had broken! I made it to the doorway of the bedroom before another contraction hit me and I called Bear over. I told him that he might want to get the midwife up, since my water had broken! Within an hour, the birth pool had been set up and filled, both of the midwife’s assistants were at the house, and the contractions were coming faster.
Everyone was very quiet, except for the mocking bird that still doesn’t know the difference between night and day, and the house was calm and peaceful. I labored in bed as long as I could, kneeling with pillows under my chest, listening to the song I had picked as my labor song. After about 30 minutes, I got sick of the song and turned it off! Shortly after, I asked midwife, “Can I pleeeease get in the pool now?” She told me that I could do anything that I wanted, and I almost jumped in! The warm water was such a relief. Bear held my hands, fed me ice chips, and kept a cool cloth on my neck and face for hours. He was (and is) my rock, my partner, and the best support I could ever hope for. Midwife checked my vitals and baby’s heartbeat regularly, and around 9am she announced that I was at 6cm and that I was progressing beautifully. Bean’s heartbeat was steadily in the 120-140 BPM range, both during and between contractions.
My labor was like nothing I could have imagined. The contractions felt like they came from the deepest part of my being. I did my best to keep my moans and groans in the lowest register possible. I quickly learned the progression of the contractions, and started coaching myself through them. "Another is starting... and it's getting stronger... I can do this. It's peaking and it hurts so bad, but that means it will be over soon." Eventually, the pain became too much for me to talk myself through, and I asked Bear to do it for me. Through each contraction, as I squeezed his hands, he kept his head close to mine, telling me quietly that I could do this, I was strong, it was almost over, that I was doing wonderfully. In all honesty, I felt like a huge baby, especially with the number of times I whined, "Can you just get it out of me?" and, "Is it over yet?" Between contractions, Bear encouraged me to drink my water and even eat a few grapes. I counted time by the sky as it grew bright through the window by the pool.
A little after 11am, my contractions were stacking on top of each other, and the midwife told me we were heading into transition. She said that I was at 8cm, and that my cervix had a bit of a lip that she could slide back to let Bean’s head come through. I decided I wanted to let my cervix dilate completely on it’s own. Midwife checked baby’s heartbeat again, and it was beautiful. She told Bear to get ready to get into the pool, since he wanted to catch the baby, and she stepped out of the room for a minute. At that point, I was reclining in the pool with Bear behind me. Suddenly, I felt a jerk in my stomach. Bear saw it, and said the whole pool moved. I guess my moaning changed, because the midwife was back by my side asking how I felt. I said, “It burns, it hurts so bad.” Labor had certainly been painful to that point, but this was a completely different pain.
She checked for baby’s heartbeat and couldn’t find it. She had me flip over in the pool to all fours and still couldn’t find his heartbeat. She checked my cervix again and found that it had swollen back down to 6cm. Calmly but firmly, she told me to get out of the pool now. I struggled, as the contractions were right on top of each other at that point. Bear and Midwife got me onto the birth stool, which was right next to the pool. She finally found baby’s heart rate, which during contractions was dropping dangerously low into the 50’s. She immediately turned to her assistants and told one to call 911, and then had the other put the oxygen mask on me. As soon as she said that, I prayed out loud, “God, just give me my baby.”
My whole labor to that point had been surreal, on a different plane, primal and grounding. As soon as I said my prayer, I was in a completely different space. Part of me was vaguely aware that I could be panicking, but I wasn’t. I was enveloped in God’s peace and love, which continued through Bean’s birth. I could hear the fear in Bear’s voice (his mother had almost lost her life during her cesarean section with him), and I wanted so bad to comfort him, but I had to concentrate all of my energy on Bean.
As soon as she had given her instructions to her assistants, the midwife and Robert got me onto the couch and on my side to try to slow the contractions. Thankfully, Bean’s heart rate was recovering into the 130’s between contractions. Midwife coached me to breathe through the contractions, to breathe for my baby. The paramedics arrived within minutes, and everything was a whirlwind from there. Midwife rode in the ambulance with me, tracking Bean’s heart rate the whole time, and Bear drove the car right behind us. Midwife kept eye contact with me, constantly reminding me to breathe, and I could feel love and strength emanate from her and fill me. Bean’s heart rate was recovering faster by this point, so that’s what I focused my energy on. Contractions that had moments ago had me near screaming, I was now breathing through with barely a moan or two. Thinking back, God was extremely present with me. I didn't flinch, and was even able to watch, as the paramedic flawlessly placed two IVs in my left arm (I have a terrible fear of needles).
We quickly arrived at the hospital, and I was immediately taken to Labor and Delivery. Midwife stayed by my side, and Bear was there shortly after we arrived. I was informed that they would need to perform an emergency cesarean section, and right away. I was presented with a handful of papers that I was instructed to sign, and was whisked away to the OR. The OB on call, along with a nurse or two, helped me onto the operating table. While the anesthesiologist informed me of the medications she was already beginning to give me, a nurse inserted the catheter while another nurse prepped my stomach for the surgery. I vaguely remember feeling a burning sensation around my IV site, and then nothing.
Bean was born at 12:14pm on June 14, 2014, less than an hour after he decided to flip. His protests on being removed from the womb were heard in the waiting room. It breaks my heart that neither Bear nor I were able to see him being born, but I am so thankful that he was healthy! Bear got to see and hold Bean while I was in recovery, and took some pictures for me so that I could see my beautiful baby boy.
When I woke up, Bear and Midwife were both there. Since we had waited until birth to learn the gender of our child, Bear was super excited to tell me we had a boy! At first I was shocked (I come from a family of 6 girls, no brothers, and have 2 nieces), and then overwhelmed with joy. Shortly after, they wheeled me into our hospital room (hitting every corner and wall on the way, haha!), and I requested a breast pump, as I had been informed that Bean was not to be brought to me for several hours yet. Within a few minutes, Midwife entered the room and announced, “Well, we weren’t able to find a breast pump, but we found the next best thing.” And Bean was brought into the room in his bassinet!
People say that you don’t know real love until you have a child. I already loved him so immensely, so beyond measure, from the moment I knew I was pregnant, but even that love paled in comparison to what I felt when I held him for the first time. My beautiful son.
I am so happy and blessed to have my sweet boy with me, healthy and growing like a weed. But, his birth was not my ideal. In fact, it ended in almost the least anticipated or desired way possible. My heart still breaks 5 weeks later when I think about Bear not being able to be in the room when Bean was born, not being able to see him arrive earthside, not being the first to hold him. I feel guilty when I see the pictures of him with all the wires and IV, when I remember the multiple IV sites, when I think of our 1-week hospital stay because he caught an infection in the nursery. I get frustrated because I am still unable to do things physically that I should have been able to do weeks ago. “At least he is healthy!” Yes, but that is only part of it. Sometimes, even a mother forgets that she was a huge part of the birth experience, and she has a right to feel good about the process.
I have been so blessed with family and friends coming and helping with the baby, with the chores, with food. Bear has been my rock, he always knows when I’m upset and helps me work through it instead of bottling it up. My midwife continues to check on and encourage me. I’m healing physically and getting more active. I am hurting, I am grieving, but it gets a little easier every day.
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.