On May 3rd, I woke up around 1a.m. with what felt like some serious cramps, got up to use the bathroom and went back to bed. I did not assume this was labor but thought maybe I was just sick (not the first time during this pregnancy).
The baby was already two weeks overdue, and I was not ready to assume I was in labor quite that easily! Gabe had been off work for both of those two weeks because the school district requires people to request time off six weeks in advance. He had taken three weeks off for the birth, but, so far, there was no baby. We had been walking every day to try to bring on labor, and it hadn't worked yet. We were enjoying our time together, but this was getting a little ridiculous. Thursday night we settled down to watch a movie and eat artichokes. And here I was feeling sick at 1 a.m. Maybe it was the artichoke, huh?
So, I went back to bed. Less than 10 minutes later I was up again. I went back to bed again and began watching the clock. I seemed to be having cramps every five or six minutes. By 2 a.m. I was feeling uncomfortable - like I couldn't just lay in bed anymore - and began to suspect that this was it. I assumed this was early labor and that I should just go back to sleep, but I just couldn't lay still.
I woke up Gabe around 2:15 and told him I thought this might be it, but I wasn't sure. He got up and made me some tea and suggested that we lay back down, but I was too uncomfortable. I suggested he go back to sleep since surely this was not going to happen soon. He went to get me a blanket. I was sitting in the rocking chair, rocking, watching the clock and shivering. When he came back I was breathing deeply through a contraction. He asked me if it was that bad already. I nodded and told him that these cramps were coming 3-4 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds.
The rocking chair quickly became uncomfortable and I knelt down on the floor and leaned my head on a pillow on the coffee table. Gabe kept finding little things to do before laying back down (like taking out the trash, making the bed, getting the Aquadoula tub ready to be filled...). He kept checking in with me and sat down to rub my back after a bit. I didn't want him to touch my back since that's where I felt the most pressure, and I didn't feel like pressure from the outside would help. So, he just held my arms and helped me to relax all my muscles and breathe.
I'm not sure at what point I became convinced that this was really happening, but Gabe called our midwife, Jeanne at 5:15 a.m. and told her it was time. She told me to take a shower and call her back in an hour.
I took a shower, which felt great, and laid down on the couch and slept between contractions for about 20 minutes (they were still about 3-4 minutes apart). I felt like I had been asleep for at least an hour, and I knew I'd had four contractions while lying down. I was surprised when I looked at the clock to find that it had only been 20 minutes. After the last one I got up and threw up.
Gabe called Jeanne again at 6:30 a.m. She said to keep her informed and said it sounded like we were handling things well. Up until that point, my contractions had been very uncoordinated. Soon after, the pain got very intense for me and I was having trouble relaxing. The contractions came very close together, though we were not timing them anymore, and I was feeling like I wasn't sure I could do this much longer. These, of course, are all very classic signs of transition, but I did not want to let myself think this could be transition. I was mentally preparing myself for Jeanne to arrive and tell me I was only 4 cm. At the same time, however, I began to feel a bit like pushing.
Gabe filled the tub, and I got in after throwing up a second time around 8:15 a.m. Gabe called Jeanne again at my request, and after she heard me in the background she decided to come. The tub was wonderful! I felt like I was in better control of my body and I was able to concentrate on relaxing my muscles and breathing.
Jeanne called us at 8:45 a.m. to let us know that she was halfway to our house, and I remember thinking that I at least had to wait to push until she arrived. I did not tell Gabe that I thought I felt the baby's head beginning to move down because I did not want him to worry that he would have to deliver the baby, and, again, I could hardly believe that I was ready to push already.
Imagine my amazement when Jeanne arrived and said, "It sounds like you feel a little 'pushy'." I nodded. She checked my cervix and turned to me with a big smile and said, "You're all ready to push. Go ahead and get back in the tub if you want." I started crying, asking her if the baby was really going to come. I think she thought this was funny and she smiled and told me that the baby was certainly coming.
I got back in the tub and pushed when I felt like pushing. Some contractions did not feel as pushy as others, but strangely, these contractions were not nearly as painful as the earlier ones. Jeanne monitored the baby's heart tones with a doppler since I was in the water. Jeanne's assistant, Deb, who arrived just 15 minutes after Jeanne, also listened with the doppler a few times. Little Aurora did beautifully through this whole stage. I pushed for an hour and a half. Our midwife commented that I was letting things happen slowly and gently, which was good for me and good for the baby. I felt tired and asked a few times if she was really coming. Everyone nodded excitedly and spoke soft words of encouragement.
Deb started getting busy in the kitchen making some herbal teas for me. She made some stuff with comfrey root, soaked gauze in the comfrey tea, and froze the soaked gauze for me to use as cold packs after the birth. She prepared a big tea bag for me to put in a bath and soak in later, and she made some tea that I might drink after the birth in case I had too much bleeding. By the way, I never drank this tea. It smelled horrific & I did not have any bleeding problems. Jeanne told me that it's surprising, but the women who really need it don't think it smells so bad at the time!
I remember smiling a little as I listened to Deb in the kitchen, asking Gabe about this "cool" cooking pot that worked perfectly for straining tea and steaming herbs. Later I remember them laughing at the cat, who was playing with the plastic ring from the top of a carton of distilled water.
The tub was set up in the dining room. So, even while Gabe was helping Deb, he was still essentially in the room with me. Jeanne could talk easily with Deb if there was anything she needed, and it felt very cozy to have everyone within whispering distance. It was quiet, and both sacred and earthy. Holy but casual, if that makes any sense. I felt like everyone really respected what was going on, but also that this was very natural. Not ordinary, but just part of life, a normal occurrence. This is part of what was so wonderful about being in my own house, in my home.
Gabe was so wonderful through the whole labor. He kept me going at the end by telling me how incredible it was. He told me when he could see the baby's head and her hair. He was so excited, and his excitement gave me energy. It was a very real kind of energy that charged the air between us and gave me the strength to continue.
After feeling the baby's head move down with each contraction and then up again after the contraction I finally just decided that it was time to get her out. I pushed past the last contraction and felt her head leave my body just at the point where I was beginning to wonder if her head would get any bigger! I expected to have to wait another contraction to get her shoulders out, but her whole body came in a rush. What a huge relief!
At 10:55 a.m. Aurora was born in the caul. Her bag of waters was filled with new meconium, and Jeanne acted very quickly to tear open the bag, unwrap the cord from behind her neck and guide her gently out. She was limp and blue when we brought her up out of the water, and we began talking to her, telling her she could make it and that we were glad to see her. We rubbed her back and arms, Deb suctioned her mouth, and Gabe helped me to keep her body (but not her head!) in the warm water.
Jeanne realized that she needed a few breaths and breathed into her nose and mouth. Then Aurora's eyes flew open. We all laughed and cried, and after a few more breaths she coughed and sputtered. Her color improved quickly. After all this, Jeanne & Deb clamped the cord and Gabe cut it.
We are grateful for that cord that kept supplying Aurora with oxygen until she breathed on her own and for Jeanne, who gave Aurora her first breath. Jeanne says that sometimes it's as though the soul has to be called into the body when a child is born, and this is what we did. We called to Aurora, and as Jeanne breathed into her that first breath of life, God delivered her soul into her body, and she opened her eyes wide in surprise!
I made it through the birth with no tears, just a few "skid marks." Aurora latched on to nurse soon after, but she waited until later to really get a good meal. She was very alert and interested in looking into our faces for the first few hours. What a delight it was to be calling family from my own bed just a few hours after the birth with Baby Aurora curled peacefully on my chest.
Jeanne did the newborn exam right on our living room couch while we watched (after I took a shower and had a fried egg sandwich!). Aurora Jean weighed seven pounds, three ounces, was twenty inches long and had a thirteen inch head. We are grateful for such a peaceful birth, for the skill of our midwife, and for the health of our sweet little girl, Aurora Jean.