On Friday, May 10th, I woke up around 6:00 AM having painful contractions about 8 minutes apart. Thinking that this labor, being a third baby, could go quite quickly, I rushed to jump up and wake David, call my midwife, call our friends who watched our boys, and pack the boys a snack. I noticed that when I was in the kitchen, my contractions felt stronger. But as soon as I went into the rest of the house, they seemed much weaker. David was a little slow to do my rather long list of to-do's and I started getting pretty flustered with him, all the while he became flustered with Dmitri and Damon who were also moving at their own pace. Finally, around 8:00 AM, David left to take the boys to our friends', and I heaved a sigh of relief. Now, I could focus on my labor, and the work before me of bringing our newest addition into the world. Unfortunately, my uterus heaved a sigh of relief too, and decided that today would be much to stressful of a day to add anything to our family. David was on his way home, childless, and my contractions pitter-pattered to a stop. I texted my midwife, and I decided to take a hike to try to encourage labor to get stronger. More accurately, I decided to waddle down the concrete sidewalk. I think I had one contraction during my entire 40 minute walk, and I returned home exhausted and very bummed. I called my midwife, trying not to cry, and she suggested I take a nap. Maybe with a little rest, my body would re-start it's unfinished business of evicting this past-due baby. A nap did make me feel much better. But I awoke with no signs of labor at all. I felt sad, frustrated, and slightly embarrassed. David picked up the boys, and I tried to rest and relax (although it felt more like I sat and watched my uterus, waiting for it erupt.)
Over the course of the weekend, I felt rather awful. I was nauseous, dry heaving, dizzy, insanely crampy and generally just hormonal and miserable. Did I mention that I was tired? Because we did not have plans (our plans were to have a baby by then!), and I did not feel up to actually doing anything, we stayed around the house, waiting and waiting. Mother's Day came and went with very little ado.
And on Monday, May 13th, I was still pregnant and 5 days past my due date. Theoretically, I believe that babies come when they are ready, and that due dates are quite silly really. Babies don't know dates. But that doesn't change the frustration I felt by having to wait a little longer than I anticipated. And despite my strong philosophical beliefs about not intervening with birth and trusting in the wisdom of my own body, spending Mother's Day without celebration and without our newest little one in arms was incredibly disappointing.
I met up with some friends to let the littles play on Monday afternoon, and we talked a lot about birth and processing our emotions about our different experiences. When we were talking about how we might have wanted our previous births to go differently, what really stuck with me was how labor and birth is unpredictable, uncontrollable, unbridled, and seemingly arbitrary. Oftentimes, I think this leaves us wishing it had gone differently, or hoping for a different experience next time. That is the nature of birth, and something none of us can change, although many try. But it is something that we can learn to embrace, accept, and respect. As I write Eleanor's birth story, there is one word that I have used frequently to describe it: unexpected. And as I put her story into words, I am appreciating the element of surprise that nature and Eleanor have brought to my life, and recognizing that the best things in life are worth waiting for.
On Monday night, David and I went to bed around 11:00 PM and I took some Benadryl to help me sleep well (When you are 5 days past due every good night of sleep seems like it could be your last for a while...). Despite it's usual narcoleptic powers, I laid awake for several hours. It seemed strange, because I was incredibly exhausted. I finally drifted to sleep around 2:00 AM, but then I had to get up and use the bathroom six or seven times before waking up at 6:30 AM.
And I knew I was in labor.
I woke David up and said, "I'm 95% positive that I'm in labor, do you think you could get up and get the kids ready?" He took the boys out and shut the door, while I laid in bed, waiting for the "without a doubt" certainty that would end up eluding me. I had another contraction and it was more intense, so I got up around 6:45 AM only to find David asleep on the couch and Dmitri and Damon running around naked and unfed. I asked David what he was doing, and he looked at me baffled and confused. I quickly cleared things up by saying "I'm in labor!" Evidently, he missed that part the first time. He wisely jumped up and started getting the kids ready.
My contractions were very sporadic, but they lasted over a minute and increased in intensity. They felt really sharp and isolated. I called my midwife, Debi, to let her know, and we decided to check-in within the hour. We started getting the big brothers ready to go to our friends' house, ate breakfast and did our usual morning ritual (except thinking, "Am I really in labor?" the entire time.) The contractions kept up, and were long, but they were still spaced really far apart. I checked in with my midwife twice, before she decided to head my way. David dropped off Dmitri and Damon, who were excited to play with their friends. Around 9:00 AM, I started timing contractions using the Stage 1 app on my iPhone, and they were between 12-14 minutes apart. I decided to take a bath and get dressed. David came into the bathroom and talked to me for a little while, and honestly, at this point I felt confused. Why were my contractions so spaced out? (In my previous labors, contractions started at 10 minutes apart and 7 minutes apart, respectively, and quickly got closer together). And why hadn't they changed much? Is labor just going to stop? (This made me really anxious after Friday's labor fail. I think I would be mortified if David did not go to work and our friends had to watch our boys AGAIN without the arrival of our baby).
Jessica (Debi's apprentice) arrived and she and David started finishing up some of the final preparations- getting the birth pool set up, making the bed, etc. I got dressed, and talked to them. Jessica listened to the baby's heart beat, which sounded good. Debi arrived a little while after that and asked her routine questions.
And then, we hung out. And hung out. And hung out. And we talked about all kinds of random things, like tattoos and Star Trek. My contractions kept up and were lasting anywhere from 60-90 seconds and they were moderately intense. But they stayed 12-14 minutes apart. For what felt like, forever. It was actually just 9 hours, but 9 hours and forever are incredibly similar to a laboring woman. At 3:00 PM, they were STILL the same. We were sitting in the living room talking, and I'd have a contraction, and then we'd just keep on talking. It seemed incredibly surreal, like I was visiting with friends, except for the contraction 4-5 times an hour. I got in the birth pool a time or two throughout the morning/early afternoon, but I got kind of bored, the water got cold, and it seemed kind of pointless.
At this point, I became really frustrated. This was taking way too long. I had expected to have a baby hours ago. David and I were trying to figure out what we needed to do about childcare for our boys overnight (at this point, we were wondering if this could go on for another 12 hours or so since nothing had changed in 9!) We were unsure what to do and I felt really anxious and out of control. And I cried. (If I actually paid attention to my emotions during labor rather than what my contractions were doing, I would probably have a much more accurate gauge of where I was, instead of feeling so lost and confused wandering around labor land. But, I can only say that in retrospect. )
Debi and Jessica encouraged me to eat some sugar since the uterus is fueled by sugar- I drank a glass of juice and indulged in a large slice or two (ok, two plus stealing half of David's while he left his unattended for about 30 seconds) of tiramisu that was intended to be an after-birth dessert. That made me feel much happier. (I fully admit to being an emotional eater.) Someone suggested bouncing on the ball, so I sat in the living room bouncing and talking.
This magical combination of sugar and bouncing on a birth ball seemed to instantaneously kick my contractions to 5 minutes apart. And after every contraction, I had to pee. I had a nice little rhythm going for a while... bounce, contraction, pee, repeat. (This was around 3:30 PM). The contractions increased in intensity and soon I wanted to get in the pool. We added more hot water, and I stayed in there through several massive contractions. David stood beside me and held my hand. While they were incredibly powerful and long and I cried through them, the contractions were still 5 minutes apart. I felt a small pop while I was in the water during a contraction, and I said, "I think my water may have just broken."Because it wasn't really strong or loud, I was unsure whether it had actually broken. But if it had, it was clear. I overheard David ask Debi to the side, "do you think her water actually broke?" And Debi responded, "Well, if she thinks it did, then we act like it did." I thought that was funny for some reason.
After crying through a few strong contractions, I told David who told Debi that I wanted to be checked. She came into the room and asked if I were sure. I said, "Do you think I shouldn't? Will it just make me feel worse?" She responded, "Well, how about you give it another good contraction or two." I started feeling a little dizzy and nauseous, and a little bit of pressure, and I wanted to get out of the pool. We put peppermint oil on a washcloth, and I held it to my nose whenever I felt a wave of nausea. Feeling nauseous and dizzy is my absolute least favorite part of labor and was what I dreaded the most. I felt like the peppermint oil helped significantly- it didn't take it away completely, but it made it much more manageable.
I tried kneeling on the bed on the birth ball, but it hurt my knees. So I tried laying on my side, hoping it would help me feel less dizzy. But I ended up on the squat stool, which I love. David was in front of me and Debi was right beside him. I kept feeling like I was going to fall of of the stool and that I couldn't hold myself up any longer, because of how dizzy I was. I laid my entire body on David for a minute, and for that minute I felt calm and at peace. Everything seemed very surreal; Debi, Jessica, and David were acting like I was about to have a baby any second, and my body seemed like it was going to have a baby any second, but that seemed fantastical and unreal after the confusion, frustration, waiting, and unpredictable contractions.
Debi checked me and said I was 9 centimeters, which surprised me because I felt like pushing. After another contraction (which I was pushing during) she said, let me help you and helped to move back the lip and then I felt the baby move down incredibly quickly. Debi said, "David get your hands here!" Since I pushed for 20 minutes with Dmitri (although, it was definitely "purple" pushing and not directed by my own body), and then 40 minutes with Damon, I fully expected to feel that intense, uncomfortable, pressure of the baby descending to stay.
But that intense pressure was fleeting, and unexpectedly gone, and there below me was a head half-way out of my body, cradled by David's hands. After two more pushes, the rest of the head and body were born. I pushed for a total of one minute. As David handed me our baby, I saw something that I did not recognize as a penis. I held the baby to my stomach, and I looked at David for affirmation and said, "What is it?!" He looked at me and responded, "Unless I'm mistaken...."And he didn't have to finish his sentence. I turned to Debi and looked questioningly at her. She said, "I am NOT going to tell you what it is! But, you know what little boys look like! Does it look like that?" And I exclaimed with the biggest tearful smile I think I have ever had, "It's a girl!!!!!"
After 9 months of wondering, plus an extra week full of glimpses and false hopes, an unpredictable and sporadic labor that lasted hours longer than I ever anticipated, and one minute of pushing, I held Eleanor Blythe in my arms and knew that she was more than I ever could have expected. And she was worth the wait.
Once I moved to the bed, with Eleanor on my stomach I looked at David and said, "That was crazy."
Telling Dmitri that the baby is a girl.
"Me hold it!"
Proud big brother.
7 lbs. 4 oz.
"Me hold it baby more!"
First diaper change
Dmitri took his job of dressing her very seriously.
Lots of kisses.
Welcome Eleanor Blythe! You are so full of surprises. We are in love.