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Arabella’s Birth Story ~ Part Two

February 7, 2012

This is the door to the birthing suite where Arabella was born. I loved the quiet symbolism of a door opening…

What are the odds, really? This was the EXACT scenario that all three midwives had discussed in my recent appointments. Rule of thumb being that if my water broke at midnight, I should have a glass of wine and go back to bed – for I would need my rest as labor would likely last all day. (First time moms often labor for 12 – 18 hours) At the time this sounded perfectly logical…in reality, well it was about as feasible as nailing jello to a tree.  Nonetheless, I headed to the kitchen rinsed the dust from non-use out of my wine glass and poured a glass of pinot noir. I practically chugged it and went straight back to bed, eager to attempt sleep.  HAHAHAHA My contractions were consistently no more than 8 minutes apart; no amount of wine was going to lull me back to sleep at this point, I was having far too much fun timing contractions. And since it was still fun, I knew I was far from the real work.

Since we’re still having fun here, I suppose I’ll confess my labor duds. Depends. Yes, as in adult diapers. Go ahead, get it all out. It’s important to laugh it all out here. Now, are you finished? OK good, because what you need to know is the oh-so-sexy-trim-fitting-lady-briefs are fantastic for labor. Why you ask? Simple, when every 8 minutes or less a contraction hits and you gush fluid you don’t have to change clothes or clean the floor or risk sliding off your birthing ball to the floor! I highly recommend them for labor and postpartum if you have heavy bleeding.

So, snuggled up in my Depends and robe I ‘rested’ for about an hour. At that point my contractions were already 6 minutes apart I decided I may as well get my things together. Around 2am I decided to take a shower and clean up; I savored every moment, rinse., lather, repeat, repeat, repeat, figuring this would be my last luxury shower for quite some time. By 4 am my contractions were 5 minutes apart and had been so for close to an hour.  Had the roads been clear and the birth center closer we would have labored at home longer…but those were not the circumstances so we hit the road around 4:30 am and gave Betty a call.

My Mom drove and the road were mostly ok until we hit Denton where the built up ice and snow had left deep frozen ruts on the road. The bumps were kinda fun during a contraction. Nick and I had decided no cells phones for the labor so I went ahead and texted my sisters and my bestie Val before turning my phone off. The contractions stayed 5 minutes apart and lasted about a minute each for the duration of the trip. The contractions were still just a sensation in my body. They lulled me inward and I left my body sway with the music that was playing in the back ground.

We arrived at Inanna just before 6 am and Betty was right behind us. She invited us in to get settled and we talked about where I was labor wise. I was 100% effaced and dilated 2-3cm. Cool. Since it was early in the process she went into the kitchen to do some paper work while Mom, Nick and myself hung out in the bedroom. I labored standing and walking around the room mostly.

By 8 am my contractions had been coming every 2 minutes and lasting for a minute for the last hour. Hip squeezes, birthing ball and paint roller to the back just weren’t cutting it anymore. I wanted in the tub! I had been told by other moms that it was like their epidural…you know, except for the part where you still feel everything! But really, buoyancy and relaxation sounded good. Let’s get in. Betty checked me first and I was 4-5 cm dilated. I was excited. Contractions were knocking the wind out of me but I was half way there in no time flat….or so I thought.

The bathtub was nice. It was just relaxing enough that I was almost nodding out between contractions. During the contractions I often just opened my  mouth and hummed an ‘O’ sound, low and slow. The vibrations in my throat and chest were comforting. At this point I had been awake for over 24 hours and the excitement had started to wane allowing the fatigue to wash over me. Betty brought me frozen grapes and juice to keep my energy up.

Joy, the wonderful woman who taught our childbirth class was also there. I was so excited to have her attending as our birth assistant/doula.  She checked Arabella and I’s vitals every 20 minutes or so. Her nature is such that I never felt interrupted in my laboring. She checked me in whatever position I happened to be in and kept me comfortable.

Sometime just after 10 am Betty had me get out of the tub for a check. My contractions had been coming hard and fast with growing intensity; she thought I may be in transition. I.was.still.at.5.cm. No way I thought! NoWAY! This is intense. In the most motherly way she told me that the baby was asynclitic and that was why I hadn’t progressed any further. I would later learn that asynclitic presentations often result in longer labors, stalled labor, and intense contractions that are all flow and no ebb. To read more about asynclitic presentation click here. To learn about the differences in OA and OP labors (Arabella was also some version of P), click here.

This is what asynclitic presentation looks like. Photo from spinningbabies.com

To my dismay she said I would need to stay out of the tub to work this baby into position. The next few hours are a complete blur. My contractions never slowed. They stayed 2 minutes apart and lasted a solid minute each time. We were all over the room. I sat on the birthing ball, leaned on the birthing ball over the bed, squatted while holding onto the bed (it was a large 4 post bed), an even did lunges. Yep, lunges people, for real leg hiked up on the bed deep bend lunge into the contraction!

At 11:30 am Betty checked me again. Thank the lord, progress. I was now dilated 6 -7 cm but the baby still wasn’t in position for delivery. Betty thought I should try side-lying in the bed for a bit and try to get some rest. That position made the contractions high-grade pelvis crushing and I said no thanks, I’ll take the lunges please! (Did you know that the uterus when contracting can exert up to 40 pounds of force?)  Next suggestion was to sit on the toilet facing the tank and lay my head on a pillow on top of the tank. I didn’t even make it through a whole contraction before I shot straight up. No judgement, Betty and Joy just kept helping me try positions that would allow the baby to drop and me to surrender in the contractions.

Passive positions seemed to be the least comfortable. Of course that is a relative term. I mean, comfortable in labor with a malpositioned baby, how comfortable can you really be? The best position was the one that was the most work for Nick and I both. I found squatting and holding onto a bed post in between contractions to be the only way I could release my pelvic floor and try to soften. When the contractions would hit I would have Nick squat behind me and I would sit on his thighs and dangle from the bed post. Sounds pretty kinky huh? I found out in my studies of asynclitic presentation that this position is very helpful in getting baby properly positioned and it has a name…. it’s called the ‘Dangle‘.

Noon came and went. No baby. When I was in the tub I thought for sure I’d be holding my babe by lunchtime. I was exhausted. I was starting to wonder if this baby was going to come out. Enter dear sweet Joy. Almost if she could see the fear and panic in my face. She came and sat close to me. Her voice was like the sirens…when she spoke I channeled in to her calm. She spoke affirmations, gently reminding me that I could do this, my body was meant to do this. She stayed with me in the contraction and gave me my favorite imagery. She had me imagine the contraction as a wave, I just needed to surf the contraction, ride, staying  just in front of it. She brought me back from the fear into a place of confidence and surrender.

I’m not sure how many more times I changed positions. I was in labor land. All concept of time and space was gone. Betty had me come back to the bed for another check, I’m told this was about 2 pm. She slid my oh-so-sexy-lady-briefs off and with a big smile proclaimed, ‘alright, lots of bloody show, this is great!’. My check revealed that I was still, 2 and half hours later, only dilated 6-7cm. I was stalled out. Being in bed only made the contractions more intense. I was now going to lose my shit. Women say that, they talk about losing it in labor. I got it now. The contractions were crushing me and I could no longer soften or surrender. I had less than a minute to recover in between and that wasn’t enough time to catch my breath.

Betty sat with me in the bed. I was on my side and Nick was holding me. Keeping my eyes locked on his and helping me to remember to breathe. In between the next set Betty said we needed to try something else to help the labor along. She wanted to give me Nubane to help me relax and get some rest in between contractions. I remember feeling like a deer in the headlights. Panic-stricken, I looked at Nick for an answer. He said yes, let’s give it a try. I think the letters o and k fell out of my mouth.

Betty told me she would only draw up a half dose. She knew how important being present and of right mind was to me. Knowing that I was disappointed at the thought of needing drugs she reassured me that this dose was only equivalent to having a margarita. THAT got my attention. Yes, a margarita! Why hadn’t I thought of that?! Let’s ditch this place and go get some ‘ritas!

There is a brief moment of clarity in my labor land fog here. Betty comes back to the bed and lovingly cleans my arm to give me the itsy bitsy little injection. She takes my hand and tells me that it will sting a little but only for a second. God love her heart, I almost busted out laughing! A needle and a bit of a sting weren’t anywhere on my pain scale anymore! I don’t recall even feeling a prick.

I asked to get back in the tub at this point. I have no really memory of getting there but I’m sure it took every one on the room to help. I stayed on all fours for a bit. Floated, kinda. I kept waiting for the pain to subside. I thought the drugs were going to take the edge off. My contractions were still coming in strong waves at 2 minutes apart. The only thing the Nubane allowed was for me to fall completely asleep or perhaps just unconscious, I’m not really sure. These moments of unconsciousness allowed my whole body to go limp which is just what Arabella needed. I however, was NOT a fan of these microbursts of sleep.

For the sake of you first-time mamas out there I’m going to include a part of this story I’d rather not. I include it because you deserve to know about real birth – not the televised image that our culture has learned. When I took the birthing class with Joy we talked about the reality of poop. I mean c’mon, do the math, you have a 7+ pound baby moving down through your pelvis – everything needs to move out and make room! When you take a birthing class and you’re all cute baby belly and properly groomed you can’t really comprehend what your body will do in labor. Joy told us about a gal in one of her classes that was worried if her husband saw her poop she wouldn’t be a princess anymore. Hhhmmmm….I thought, what was that gonna be like? Being the wonderful natural birth advocate she is she offered up her experience in a way that made me say, ‘OK, no big deal. I’m making a baby here!’. This is what she said: ‘Think tootsie roll’.

Um, yeah, they do….we just don’t talk about it. Except in birth stories.

So here I am, some hours into hard labor and I’ve missed my regularly scheduled morning poo. Get over it girls, the formerly taboo topic must be aired out! I think I was in transition at this point and the midwife wanted me to push. I think the goal was to help me get some relief and bring the baby down/open my cervix. The Depends came off and the chux pads went down. I resumed holding the bed post and squatting while I pushed. Yep. Tootsie rolls. Plural?!? Dang it Joy! You didn’t tell me it would be more than one! That is all I can remember from that episode. The chux pads quickly disappeared and I went on exploring labor land without a second thought. Although now as I write this I can’t help but wonder….who wiped my rear? Sorry Joy. You really are my hero.

The next place I remember is being in the bed. What was happening was I would sleep through the build up to a contraction. Meaning I would awake to full on intense contraction. Those moments of building where I would try to stay in front of the wave were lost. My beautiful image of surfing in front of the wave had turned into a churning sea. Have you ever tried surfing or getting out past the waves in the ocean? You know that point where a wave crashes down on you and you get churned about like a sock in a washing machine? And then, disoriented and in need of air you get your footing and stand only in time to have another wave break on your head? That’s where I was. The waves were coming and crashing down on me. I was in survival mode.

I honestly can’t tell you how long this lasted. Perhaps an hour? No more than 2.My contractions were a minute apart and lasting 60-90 seconds. At 3 pm I was dilated to 9 cm. What happened between that time and 3:40 pm is a mystery to me.(This may have been my pooping time.) I just know that at 3:40 Betty pushed back what little bit of cervix I had left and said it was time to push.

Going into labor I had hopes of delivering in the water. At this point the midwife asked me be in the bed. I didn’t ask why. Perhaps it could be because I couldn’t stay awake in between contractions or because I had now been awake for 30 some odd hours and fiercely laboring most of the day. I trusted Betty, she was going to help me bring my baby into the world and that was all that mattered. All attachment to my ideas about birth had been set free….back in dream land where they belonged! 🙂

Something glorious happened when I got in to bed to push. ALL of the pain subsided. Arabella was finally in a good position and my hips were happy! Contractions felt like they had the night before. Merely a sensation. I loved these contractions. I could tune back in to the important work my body was doing. I became aware again that I was not the only one going through this. Arabella was in labor too. I focused on my baby. I breathed as deeply as I could down to her. I opened. I opened to labor. I opened to birth. I opened to life and love.

Nick sat curled beside me helping me to stay more upright while Betty and Joy were on either side helping me push when it was time. I was scarcely aware of their presence. I know they spoke but I was tuned in to me. I felt safe and calm. I knew they were with me. My only job was to be with Arabella.

This photo is snapped just a few minutes before Arabella is born.

The next 40 minutes I carefully and gently pushed. While there was no pain, no ring of fire and no tearing the pressure was immense. I won’t lie the pressure in my bottom is almost unbearable, it’s a bit frightening, but in comparison to the contractions, it is not what I could classify as pain. I no doubt could have pushed harder and had her a bit quicker but I was cautious about the pressure. Although when they told me how much hair they could see I wanted to tell them to pull her on out! I recall at one point Joy asking me if I wanted to reach down and feel Arabella’s head. I don’t think I registered the offer. It was only later that I wish I would have come out of myself a bit and reacted.

Then, at 4:19 pm, with one last gentle push Arabella was born. The feeling of her body leaving mine is nothing I could describe. Surreal. Epic. Heart-aching love. Any and all memories of any discomfort vanish and I immediately feel like super woman. Betty lifts her up, shrouding her with a towel so that Nick can announce the sex. The silence seems to last forever, I think Nick is completely awe-struck. Betty smiles and says welcome your daughter to the world and places her on my chest. Tummy to tummy and heart to heart we lay gazing into each other’s eyes. My daughter is born, and I am born a mother.

This is the moment that Arabella is first placed in my arms. I blurred my nipple out…I don’t care who sees it, but y’all might not be interested. This is a side-effect of birth – it’s all been seen!

To read Part Three, click here.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bethany Stanley permalink
    February 7, 2012 10:17 pm

    Just wanted to say that we often ask first time moms to get out of the tub to push because the water can create enough counter pressure render pushing less or even ineffective 🙂 They probably knew you were way too tired to waste any time with ineffective pushes.

    • February 29, 2012 2:54 am

      Thanks for sharing that. I never really questioned at the time, but it makes sense. My body was spent and I was glad to have a loving midwife there to help me make the changes I needed. I really hoped to not end up in bed, but such is life with an intense labor. (wait, aren’t they all intense?) 🙂

  2. Valarie permalink
    February 7, 2012 11:30 pm

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing :o)

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  1. Arabella’s Birth Story ~ Part One « sarahNdipitous motherhood

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