When the first tightening across my abdomen hit on Friday night, I glanced at the clock, just in case. 4:30 pm. Over the next hour, the cramps were regular enough to keep me hoping it was labour and sporadic enough that I kept forgetting the time of the last one—ten or fifteen minutes apart, and not very strong. That was the start of Lily’s birth.
I began gathering the last few things we needed for the birth and finished making supper—bierox. I’d gotten the recipe from Carla’s blog and had been waiting for a day when I had all afternoon to spend in the kitchen. Maybe kneading the bread had helped get labour started.
After supper, my hubby picked up the phone to call his sister about getting together, and I said, “I wouldn’t do that.” He gave me a puzzled look and I added, “We might be in labour.” He hung up the phone. Then he wanted to know how far apart the contractions were. He called his parents to warn them that we might be calling them later to watch Sunshine. We walked down to check the mail. Contractions were about ten minutes apart.
His parents came when we got back from the mail and picked up Sunshine. After they left, we checked our email and Facebook. My hubby’s oldest buddy called and asked, “You’re still pregnant?” I said, “Yep,” grinning. Not for long now!
He talked to my husband for an hour or so while I read and wrote in my journal, pacing whenever a contraction hit. When they got off the phone, I called my doula to tell her we were in labour. Around 9:00 pm, I called her again to say she should come, since she had a forty-five minute drive. Then we watched Mythbusters while timing contractions.
After the doula arrived, we went for another walk. It was a beautiful summer evening. The sky was full of stars we could just barely see past the streetlights. We chatted lightly, getting to know each other. By the time we got back, contractions were getting stronger and closer. My husband put our bags in the car and asked me a dozen times if we needed anything else. My doula braided my hair, rubbed my back, tried to help me relax through contractions. I thought about how I’d wanted this to get started and now I just wanted it over.
Just before midnight, my contractions were three minutes apart and very strong. We decided to head for the hospital. I had a contraction in the car just before we got there, another as we walked into Emergency, and another while we talked to the receptionist. She had a long list of questions for us before we could go into the room.
Once in the room, the nurse wanted to hook me up to the EFM. I tried to explain that Dr. O had said I could pass on it when the doula reminded me of my birth plan. She found it for the nurses and they used just the Doppler to get the baby’s heartbeat.
When the nurse did an exam, she said I was only 1 cm dilated. I was disappointed. When we’d gotten to the hospital for Sunshine’s birth, I’d already been 6 cm along. I wondered if moving from home to the hospital had made me close up again. I paced through a few more contractions, then asked to get into the shower. Perhaps the water would help my body relax and open.
The nurse wanted to put an IV in first, but couldn’t find my vein; finally, after several contractions, she got the needle into my hand, wrapped it up in a plastic bag, and I climbed into the warm water.
My husband and the doula were back to timing contractions, so I had to yell at them each time one started or ended. Then the nurse had more questions for me—was I allergic to anything? Had I been sick lately? On and on the questions went.
Finally the water wasn’t helping anymore, so I got out again. I felt like things were taking longer than they had with Sunshine, especially when the nurse did another exam and I was only 5 cm. The second baby was supposed to be easier, and it wasn’t.
For a while, I rocked on the ball or leaned on my husband through the contractions. They began getting stronger and I began howling through them—Ina May Gaskin or somebody had said there was a connection between the openings of the body. Between contractions, I dropped into the big recliner and zoned out. I tried to relax, to focus on the baby, to think about opening so the baby could move down. I asked Mother Mary and Saint Brigid (patron saint of midwives and babies) to pray for me, Jesus to be with the baby.
Then two contractions came back to back and I thought, “No, you can’t do this to me! I need a break!”
The nurses told me focus and my doula told me to breathe calmly. I had my break after that contraction and with the next one I wanted to push. I mumbled that to the nurses and they called the doctor. They told me to get up on the bed and not to push yet. I had reached down to see how things were going, and I thought, “How am I supposed to get up there with a bag of water between my legs?” Between the next contractions, I managed to climb up and my waters broke.
Then, as the nurses scrambled around to find the squatting bar and get into their gowns, I had to push. My doula told me to blow, to focus on her, and everyone yelled “don’t push yet” and I tried not to but my body was pushing anyways. The bar never made it into place; I turned around and, hanging onto the doula and my husband, kept trying not to push while the nurse who had never managed to get gowned began to catch the baby.
I remembered the burning ring of fire, but when they said the head was out, I was surprised. Then came the order not to push again while she checked the baby’s head; and when they said push, I couldn’t. Somehow, I mustered enough strength and muscle to give that last push, and the baby slithered, purple and wet, onto the bed.
As they rubbed her down, I tried to sit and said, “Let me hold her. Let me hold her.” She wailed and flailed her arms and finally she was clean enough that the nurses let me pick her up. She calmed immediately and the nurses kept rubbing her down and waited until the doctor came before cutting the cord.
He was concerned about my bleeding. The nurses told him I’d declined the oxytocin shot unless necessary. He agreed to see if the bleeding would stop on its own. Dr. O had gone on holidays and told us that Dr. N would be covering for her, but this was a Dr. V, a tall man with a Dutch accent.
They wrapped us up in warm blankets and I tried to get Lily to nurse. Dr. V stitched me up and then, while my husband took Lily, I went for a shower. It was quick, as I was tired.
Finally both of us were tucked into the bed, clean and wrapped in warm blankets, for a much-needed rest.
Lily’s birth took just as long as Sunshine’s, to my great disappointment. She arrived exactly one week after her due date, just before 5 am on Saturday morning, at 7 pounds and 14 ounces—just a bit bigger than her big sister had been.