This is the birth story of my middle child. Considering it is the end her birth month it feels appropriate to share this, and squeeze it in on the last day of the month. This was my first natural birth, and my first birth that my husband and I prepared with a Comprehensive Birth Boot Camp series.
I am not quite sure where to start Evangeline’s birth story. I think because it affected my mentality it begins at 37 weeks. On September 5th I had my first bout of prodromal labor. The contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and didn’t stop when I took a bath or went to sleep. I labored that night for 9 hours.
While it faded away, I realized that I held tension in my feet during contractions. My feet hurt so badly the next day. It reminded me what contractions felt like. I can only describe them with the visual I used of a balloon blowing up. They started somewhere below my belly button went down to my cervix and then up to the top of my uterus. It also however gave me the expectation that I would have a baby any time. Compounded by the fact that my doctor was running unnecessary tests on me which filled me with a lot of anxiety I wasn’t in a very good mental place. But for the next week nothing continued to happen.
Saturday the 13th I had prodromal labor again. This time they were farther apart but still there. I thought “I am not saying this is it but I am not saying it is not.” I thought it was more likely that this was it because they didn’t just start at 5 minutes apart like the other ones did. I walked around a bit but they went away. I got in the shower and cried. I text my doula Katie about how discouraged I was. I felt frustrated that I kept putting people on alert just for it to go away. She told me that my body was so beautifully preparing for labor. I held onto that.
The next week I started losing my mucus plug. It wasn’t large chunks just tiny bits at a time. In fact I was in denial. I kept telling myself it was the same cervical mucus I had been experiencing my entire pregnancy. Then finally on day three of it I told myself that the mucus had never been greenish before and that it was in fact my mucus plug slowly going.
Saturday the 20th I woke up at 5 am having contractions again. I determined from the get go that I was not going to be excited. I did contact Katie asking her what she was up to that day, telling her that I was being optimistic that it would be a good day to have a baby. She told me she had a lot of homework to do and would have to make herself do a certain amount before she could be there for me. (I completely understood. I knew when we discussed her attending my birth that she might not make it. That she might have a test or something school related that would make it so she couldn’t attend.)
I didn’t time my contractions really at all that day. I glanced occasionally at the clock but they were completely irregular. 30 minutes 10 minutes 20 minutes, an hour apart, seemingly random. I went about my day. I did the dishes, attended Mari’s friends soccer game (where my nose got burnt and I got raccoon eyes,) and tagged along and supervised the weeding for ASU cares day. At one point I was joking with Katie that my blind date didn’t know if they were interested. My morning contractions had slowed down but I had bloody show. I was getting mixed signals.After eating a picnic lunch of pizza with everyone who actually worked hard weeding the playgrounds I admitted to myself I was discouraged that the contractions weren’t going anywhere and went to get a pedicure from one of my close friends. I wanted to pamper myself. I needed to pamper myself.
Our apartment backed right up to the college's football stadium. I got back to my house around 4pm, and the stadium had already started playing their usual pregame music for the football game. (Which really I am sick of hearing Radioactive over and over again.) It was 3 hours before the game and I felt like it was unnecessary to start playing the music so early. Plus I was getting cranky after being up since 5 am. So I laid down despite the music and tried to relax.
Around 6 pm we went to get subway. I wanted something that wouldn’t give me heartburn and something that no one had to cook. (After all, all my dishes were clean.) We got back to the apartment and my back was hurting so I did some pelvic rocks and tried in general to relax my lower back. I text Katie again and told her that I was still sporadically contracting. Still more bloody show. As usual I had no idea what was going on with my body. The linear nature of Maribelle's birth did not prepare me for the stop and start of prodromal labor.
I went out back, and as usual we watched the football game from the dirt lot behind our apartment. I took a couple of blankets out there and sat on my exercise ball contracting erratically throughout the first half. By the end of the first half my back was killing me. Right under my shoulder blades. I came inside telling Drew I was in so much pain I was going to cry or throw up. It made no sense why that part of my back was hurting when it should have been my lower back.
So he got out the back massage chair and I sat in it for the 15 minutes it runs before I laid down and rested again. I don’t know how long I rested for I think I fell asleep at some point. The friends we were watching the football game with brought Mari home. She started crying (mostly just overtired) and I went in there and read her bedtime stories. She fell asleep and I got into the bath. My back needed relief!!
I got in the bath and my back felt amazing. Admittedly I pretty much always took my baths somewhere around 100-102 degrees. I just wanted to relax. So I did. And then I started getting contractions while laying on my back in the bath. I noticed my back was just tensing up again and again so I decided to get up. Our bath is quirky and filling up the bath to keep it at the water level I wanted it at was getting annoying.
It is about 10:30 pm at this point. The lights had been turned off and Drew was in bed. So I grab my iPod to listen to some of the relaxation/affirmation tracks I had acquired and decided to join him. At 11 pm Katie text me and told me to keep her posted. I told her that they were getting a bit stronger but no closer together. I wasn’t timing them so this was all based on feeling, and that I was starting to have to focus during them but could relax well between them. The fact that I got her text at that moment I thought was interesting because that was about the time where I decided being in the bed was not working for me at all. One of my affirmations was telling me that I was floating down a slow river and I thought “No, no I am not floating on a river.” So I got out of bed. I hung out for a few contractions in the little hallway by all of our bedrooms/bathroom amazed at how much better my back felt when I stood through the contractions.
I headed over by my computer to the entry to our kitchen. I also decided that, well, maybe I should time them. So I opened up the contraction tracker I downloaded on my phone. At 11:30 (feeling a little bit guilty because I was sure she had just gone to bed) I text her telling her that they had gotten a lot closer together. That it made me feel a lot better to vocalize through them, and that I would probably be waking up Drew soon. I didn’t really feel like I needed help. I just did not want to be alone anymore with my own thoughts. I was having a really hard time deciding to make the call to tell people this was it. Agonizing would be a better term. I didn’t want to pull Mari out of bed for nothing. To rob my friends and family of their sleep if it led to me just going to sleep at 3 am disappointed again.
Half an hour later I got a text from my Katie telling me to let her know if it was go time. Again I felt like her text was perfect timing. I had just made the decision to wake up Drew. I had spent the last 15 minutes telling myself after the next contraction I will get him up, that I would let him sleep through one more contraction. (For 3 contractions.) I remember feeling so full of guilt that he had only gotten two hours of sleep. But after 5 minutes he was up and buzzing around. I text Katie back telling her that I was waking up Drew and notifying Mari’s caregivers. That I couldn’t do this by myself anymore. Drew started cleaning our apartment like a bit of a maniac. To be honest I was a bit annoyed, but had given him no other direction and didn’t know what he could have done for me even if he had asked.
I got another text back asking if I wanted her to meet us at the apartment or hospital. I told her to meet me at the apartment that I wasn’t quite ready for the hospital. It was true I wasn’t. I wasn’t ready mentally. What if I was only at a 2? I also wasn’t ready physically. I still had stuff to gather for my bag. She asked me how close together my contractions were. I told her 3 minutes sometimes 4. Not willing to admit to my mental state I did admit to needing to get some things together.
It was at this time she called my phone. She and her husband had been praying and he told her just to call me. I had two thoughts when my phone rang. The first was that it was Katie, the second that it was my mother and she had gotten a feeling so she called me. I was pretty dang glad it was Katie because I couldn’t have lied to my mom that I was in labor even if I didn’t want her to come down for it. Katie told me she was going to make herself some coffee and be right over.
Drew continued to clean the apartment. Since I had woken up Drew I spent my contractions laboring over a rickety TV dinner stand and vocalizing. In fact I was kind of manic about it. I had to get back to that little table before my next contraction. I needed that little table. At one point I called it my island. (It was hanging out in the middle of the living room.) Katie showed up about 15 minutes (maybe? my timing got fuzzy) after her phone call. I remember the contraction after she showed up she and Drew were just staring at me. It threw me off my rhythm. I told them to stop staring at me (not quite sure how I phrased it or if I was even nice about it) and they did. Drew changed up tactics and started getting Mari’s bag ready to go to our friends and getting the last minute things for our bag. Around 1ish I told him to contact Adam that Mari needed to leave. She had slept the whole time but something in me was telling me she needed to go.
During this time I had random thoughts during my contractions. One of them was that I didn’t need to worry about Mari if I had a homebirth after all she had slept through so much of me making noise. There were other random thoughts always having to do with labor but irrelevant to my labor. He got her up and dressed and out the door. She came and gave me hugs and kisses with her little stuffed dog clutched in her hands as she walked out of the house. In between contractions I would be having conversation with Katie. We don’t get to hang out much and so I was trying to catch up in between contractions. I noticed that my contractions were much harder to stay on top of if I didn’t get in my labor cloud after the tightening before the pain started. I wanted to talk to her so it was hard to cut myself off or cut my brain off listening to her if I had another contraction coming.
I don’t know how to describe my labor cloud it was just a place in my head I would go during contractions. There I could be both analytical and not present at the same time. I could remind myself to keep my shoulders loose to keep my tone low through my vocalizing. That I wanted to be 9 months pregnant instead of 7 months pregnant. (Which came from my birthing class about being relaxed and whether or not someone was handling contractions well.) I would have realizations but not be able to do anything about it. During one contraction I realized gently swaying back and forth wasn’t doing it for me any more I needed to bend my knees and move into my contraction. But I couldn’t do anything about it during that contraction it was too late.
After Mari left I know I started getting louder. I know my contractions started getting longer (but not all of them) At one point I sat on my birth ball I think I was there for 2 contractions? It might have only been one I distinctly remember one. I was on the ball and wham it hit me. It was the only double peaking contraction I had. At one point I went from sitting on the ball and I shot up to a standing position. It was the most painful contraction I had. I didn’t manage it well at all. Katie started helping me then I leaned on her during a contraction at one point. Drew got home from dropping off Mari. I felt strangely tired and sat down on the very edge of my couch. Shifting my island so it was right in front of me. I knew sitting cockeyed would have been horrible during a contraction. I don’t remember if I contracted with my head resting on the tray or if I just rested there in between contractions. For the record Drew dropping off Mari took 20 minutes total. I think Drew was home for about 3 contractions when I pretty much said it is time to go to the hospital. During those contractions Katie started massaging my back. Pressing on it something. She was messing with the muscles. Which was perfectly fine with me.
I toyed with the idea of walking for a few seconds. We live so close and it would help labor progress. I had also heard that contractions in the car were hell. It was only a 3 minute drive (I had previously timed it) but I didn’t want car contractions. Well I had one. It was probably my least graceful moment up until that point. I was calling the car all sorts of names. There were swear words involved. Drew actually apologized to the car telling the car that I didn’t mean it. Now it was funny but at the time I was like “REALLY?!” We got to the hospital and I had a contraction in the parking lot. I loved the car at that moment it was stable and there and I could lean on it.
We got inside the ER (All other entrances are locked) and the guy at the front desk was ignoring us. I vaguely thought about faking a contraction to get his attention (he just had to open the doors so we could access the other parts of the hospital) when I had another contraction. I don’t think I had another one until we got to the labor and delivery floor but maybe? We ring the bell to get into the unit. Go to the nurse’s station state my name provider etc. confirm I am in the system. I think I said something like “Yay I exist.” I wasn’t aware of it at the time but it was 1:55 AM. I think I had a contraction by the nurse’s station. The CNA introduced herself. Walked us to my room. I got the biggest one because L&D was full. Which I remember being funny to me because I remember commenting to my friend how the L&D here is never full. I made the comment that I could see my house from the windows. (Not quite but I knew I could see the apartment complex.)
I was told to get into a gown, which I declined. I changed into my old navy skirt. I had envisioned myself laboring in it every time I imagined labor. I remember being perfectly ok with stripping down and changing into my skirt in front of Katie and Drew but the CNA made me uncomfortable so I went to the bathroom. Being uncomfortable with the CNA also made me uncomfortable laboring the way I had been at home. I had a silent contraction in the bathroom. (Really overall just a bad idea.) But I had just gone pee and I didn’t want anyone coming in to make sure I was ok when I didn’t have anything covering my butt.
I got out of the bathroom and had another contraction underneath the TV. I may have had one here before changing? Maybe I am confusing the two. I know I stared at the hospital bed with dread. I did not want to get on that thing and be monitored I did not want to get a cervical check. I really really did not want to lay down for all of this. So I climb up on the bed in my skirt and lay on my left side. She told me to lay on my back. I stayed on my side. She got the heart rate monitor hooked up. I had a contraction. I was pushing. Wait what? Why was I pushing? It is too soon to push. But I was grunty and pushy. I told the CNA “I am pushy and I don’t think I should be yet.” She went to get the nurse. This is where it gets REALLY fuzzy. SO I will just type out what I remember and the impressions I got. I don’t know when the next 2 or three contractions happened. The nurse came in to do the cervical check. I told her “Hi I am Carol.” I felt like she should know my name before she stuck her hand up my vagina. Really I feel like I should have at least been taken out to dinner first but time was of the essence. In the end I wasn't checked, Evangeline was basically crowning. They got me on my back at some point. I may have been pushing up with my feet and hips into somewhat of a bridge position at some point. I was trying to escape the pain. I know I was pushing, and being told not to push, and laughing hysterically in my head how could I NOT push? I didn’t make the conscious decision to push in the first place. Katie was trying to get me to blow instead of push but I just couldn’t manage it.
The next impressions I have were of total chaos. People were running in and out of the room rushing around.
“Get Dr. T in here NOW.”
“I need to I.V. her.”
We don’t have time for that GLOVE UP GLOVE UP NOW!”
[Hahahahaha <- Me in my head.]
“She is coming! she is coming!” <- me on repeat out loud.
“You are doing amazing. You are doing so good.” <- Katie in my ear
[Love is a burning thing and it makes a fiery ring.] (Yes I did have Ring Of Fire go through my head while I was experiencing the ring of fire. Brought to you by my labor cloud I guess.)
“I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this.” <- me on repeat out loud. (It did happen, just not during transition)
My water broke with a splash, and then her head was out. I remember just relaxing. The uncontrollable urge to push was gone, and then an octopus fell out of me. And then said gooey octopus was put on my chest.
The Dr. didn’t make it. She comes rushing into the room “I was a minute away. I was on the floor. How did I not make it?” She comes over to me. “Hi I am Carol.” “Hi Carol I am Dr T.” the nurse laughed and told Dr. T that that is what I said to her too. Up her hand went into me. Drew said that was the most pain he had seen of me thus far that night. I had a teeny tiny tear that didn’t require stitches but damn her hand up there hurt!! They clamped the cord and handed Drew the scissors. (This may have happened before the Dr. Checked me) He belatedly remembered that we wanted delayed cord clamping. But under the circumstances I completely understood.
I remember getting a shot of Pitocin in my thigh. I remember them taking the baby (who was still then nameless and thus still baby in my head) over to be weighed. Then the nurse did fundal massage. I made the comment that they should call it fundal torture instead of a massage. The nurse laughed again. I was not laughing. I was being tortured. I remember asking if the placenta came out all in one piece. (It did.) I remember hearing the moment the Vit K shot happened. And she was back on my chest. I don’t know if my sports bra (which zipped up the front that I got for this specific purpose) was unzipped when she was given to me the first time or second time. But she laid on my chest and hung out for a good long while. She had her first feed and then fell asleep.
I gave her to Drew. Got up went to the bathroom changed into my nursing tank while the nurse made the bed more comfortable. Then she was back into my arms. The eye goop was applied to her closed eyes. (I had intended to wipe it off. I don’t have any STDs that would require the goop. However it is state law that we have it. But was told not to wipe it off. So I didn’t.) And then we were left alone to begin as a family of 4 instead of 3.
My impressions of the birth were multi-faceted. The words scary and intense are almost interchangeable but not quite. It was very intense. It was fast! 20 minutes from the time that it was verified I existed in the system to baby in arms. There were people rushing around everywhere. But that part wasn’t scary. They weren’t rushing around because baby needed to be out now but because baby was coming now. It was scary I think because I wasn’t prepared to be where I was in labor. I was prepared to be at a 7 when I was checked. I never felt like I had gone through transition. Although looking back it probably started with that contraction on the birth ball. Until I felt the overwhelming need to push I never lost my modesty. Everyone says you won’t care when the time comes but 15 minutes before baby was out I still cared. When I went pee I never felt like I had to poop I went in the bathroom to change and thought “Might as well go pee. I will be on the monitor for a 20 minute strip.” I remember thinking how cool it was that we got a big room because we would have the space for me to move around and for me to labor. I remember thinking that it was cool that because of the room’s position on the floor that I had no neighbors to freak out if I got too loud. I was prepared to labor for hours still.
Until I started pushing I felt pretty on top of my contractions. I could single out the ones that I didn’t cope with well. I never hit the “I can’t do this” wall that I expected to. I was scared because it did happen so fast. With Mari I had an epidural. I was told I was complete and that it was time to push. I wasn’t concerned with the time but it took me an hour. This time it was primal. I was terrified that I was pushing too hard too fast and I would tear horribly. In fact I was certain of it. I count have stopped if I wanted to. I don’t remember wanting to. I remember wanting it to be over. I remember thinking I wanted to be on my side not my back. I had really hoped to not be on my back this time around. However I wouldn’t have been able to move off my back of someone didn’t help me and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask. But most everything I didn’t want to happen didn’t happen. I didn’t want an I.V. My doctor and I agreed to a saline lock but I really didn’t want that either. They didn’t have time for either. I didn’t want to be monitored a lot. I think they got like a 5 minute strip. I didn’t want a lot of cervical exams. I didn’t want to wear a hospital gown. The things that I did want kind of got thrown out the window such as not being on my back and then I wanted delayed cord clamping. I did get to delay the eye goop though which was high on my list.
I feel like my daughter’s birth was highly intuitive. I think there was a huge head game to it. Whether it was just me knowing my body and what needed to happen or maybe it was me allowing myself what needed to happen as things were unfolding. It is said other mammals when they feel threatened their labor will stop and they won’t continue to labor until they feel safe. Maybe this is the same concept. Not that I felt unsafe at any point but I feel like I didn’t let myself go into true labor until the people I wanted at my birth had assembled. I had a hard time deciding when to call in my team but once I had things took off. I don’t feel like it got real until Mari left home. I knew we had to leave for the hospital when we did. Would I have had a homebirth had I stayed at home any longer? Maybe. Maybe my body would have waited till I got to the hospital had I waited another 20 minutes. Either way she arrived with flare.