(i hit "publish" by mistake, if you follow via google reader, you'll have seen this twice. THIS is the finished version. real sorry 'bout that.)
....one month ago today our fifth child was born. this is the story of his birth.
Four out of four times I have laboured with little variation from the text book – early labour, active labour, transition, pushing, hello baby!
Sawyer’s journey, however, was entirely different.
And yet, it was exactly the same - it just took a different route.
I have written this birth experience as a reminder that variation from the textbook doesn’t necessarily mean ‘wrong’. As a reminder to trust the birth process (and The One who created your body to birth). And mostly as a reminder that childbirth involves the journey of two people, not just the mother.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS -THURSDAY
Like everything else about this labour, it began unconvincingly on Thursday morning with the possibility that my waters had broken. By the afternoon it was obvious the journey to meet our 5th child had indeed begun. We made a few final preparations and went to bed that night expecting labour to start any time.
I woke Friday morning, grateful that we’d had some sleep and that our baby would be born during the day. It wasn’t. Instead I learnt about pre-labour rupture of membranes, the risks associated and signed care option forms. The standard care plan is to be monitored and have intravenous antibiotics if labour hasn’t begun after 24hrs. I figured the waters were coming out and nothing was going in so I was happy to wait for labour to begin on its own.
And wait I did.
And wait, and wait...
THE LONGEST NIGHTThat night I took some herbal labour tincture which made the tightenings come stronger and a little more regular. JR and I took a long brisk twilight walk around our property in the hope of establishing labour. It was a beautiful sunset and the cicadas were in full song, farewelling the day. I picked some fresh dahlias for the birth room. We were getting excited for what the night ahead would hold.
By bed time i was continuing to have good strong contractions but they were sill far apart and irregular. Eventually I conceded that it wasn’t quite time and we should get some sleep. Around 1am, we realised there was too much anticipation for either of us to sleep so we decided to just get up and ‘get things going’ (I assumed that if I was upright the baby’s head would push harder on my cervix and establish the contractions).
We tried and hoped and willed labour to establish. We even filled the pool, recognising the intensity of the contractions but confused by their irregularity. Eventually, frustrated and resigned, we went back to bed. It was during this period of sleep that I realised my contractions became stronger and (more) regular while I was sleeping. The intensity woke me and I got up to labour quietly while JR slept. But as soon as I did the contractions slowed and became irregular again.
I thought maybe the reason I was only labouring while free from conscious thought (asleep) was because I had some kind of mental block. So I prayed. And surrendered. And gave my body and baby permission to come. We were ready for him. And still the same – strong effective contractions but irregular with long periods between each one. Eventually I went back to bed and slept (through strong, regular contractions!) until morning.
Still hopeful labour would establish anytime, I bolstered myself with the fact we’d surely have the baby during the daylight hours and not lose any more sleep. I spent most of Saturday caught between deep inward focus on very strong contractions and long periods of alert waiting – unable to concentrate on any task, but not able to maintain a deep focus. The constant transitioning between the two, began to really drain me mentally. I desperately just wanted it to ‘kick in’ and be in a familiar place. This journey had clearly marked signposts but the landscape was so different that, remarkably, I still didn’t recognise labour was already well underway and had been for some time.
I slept on and off during the day as that was the only time the contractions became regular.
And then, all of a sudden, around 3pm, I brightened and became very cheery and alert. This is a very clear signpost for me that I am about to head into transition. And looking back over the pattern of Sawyer’s labour it’s obvious to me now, but at the time I knew something had changed and shifted but I wasn’t sure what or why.
It wasn’t long before I was in that irritable, frustrated (and this time, extremely confused as well) state. Transition. I almost missed the signpost for this stage too until the thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore´ popped into my head. A signpost in flashing neon! But I still didn’t believe I was at that stage yet. (I wished I’d spent less time comparing and more time trusting and accepting this journey for what it was.)
Around 7pm that night I suddenly felt pushy – but because my contractions had never been close or regular, I didn’t think it was possible. I spoke to my midwife and told her how I was feeling (confused, deflated, frustrated, exhausted) and she came over. I was having a lot of (irregular) transition/pushing contractions – the ones where your muscles pull hard up the front of your uterus for the first half of the contraction, and then you feel like bearing down for the second half. Claire, my midwife, reminded me of these kinds of contractions and it was such a relief to finally be able to recognise and accept what stage I was at.
My contractions were still only around 10 minutes apart so it was slow and frustrating progress. I’d birthed Danny fairly quickly and I had expected this to be similar, or quicker. I remember being very aware of the time and the fact that Claire and Jodi - friend and photographer – were waiting (for me) in the next room. I was feeling a lot of pressure to perform and desperately tried everything I could think of to speed up the contractions.By 10:30 I was having good strong pushing contractions and they had regulated to 5 minutes apart (while still not textbook, this is fairly typical for me).
I honestly think it was the hardest work of my life getting Sawyer’s head through my pelvic bones and into the birth canal (we found out later that he did have a larger-than-average head). It took a long time and I remember being amazed at the force, power and brute effort required. It certainly wasn’t ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’.
[And yet, while it is seemed the complete antithesis of all that is perceived as feminine, isn’t this the place where ONLY a woman can be? And can achieve what only a female can? Could the raw (even brutish?) place of giving birth be the very place where we are our most feminine?]JR was a soldier with his clenched fists pushing hard from behind providing pain-relieving counter pressure on my pelvic bones for countless contraction-after-contraction.
Finally Sawyer's head popped through into the birth canal. I was so relieved. Elated! It was only a few more pushes until he was close to crowning so JR went to wake the kids. First Jada and Ty. They were so sleepy and sat quietly in front of the fairy-lit windows, waiting. Then, between contractions, JR woke Monte and Danny and brought them downstairs too.
And then, finally, the burning arrival of his head! How miraculous, a life from my very own – half in, half out. I touched his head in greeting and he was all cheeks! Enormous smushy cheeks. Five minutes later, with the most resistance I’ve ever had, an impressive pair of shoulders were born.
Then the moment that makes my head spin and my heart explode, lifting a new life from my body up through the water. A real actual little person! Who just moments before had been bumps and curves beneath my five-times swollen belly. All floppy, purple and covered in creamy vernix, wailing a lusty song of arrival.
As I pulled him to my chest I said, “Come here little guy”. JR thought I must’ve seen his sex so told the kids that they had a new baby brother (I hadn’t seen, but I’d been sure for a long time he was a boy).He had a very long cord which was wound around his neck and under his armpit which we quickly and easily untangled.
With our third stage plan in place, I quickly hopped out of the pool and only 5 minutes after Sawyer was born the placenta came. A complete miracle!
And in the early minutes of that new day, our kids all cuddled, touched and marvelled at this new life. We will never regret that they were there and able to welcome him in this way. Everyone paused, aware of the sacredness of the moment - our family finally complete and all together. JR prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for our new child.
(I cannot express what this picture of that moment means to me.)JR took the boys back to bed while Jada stayed up a little longer to help dress the baby and she even ended up cutting the cord. My intention has always been to give her, as a female, the gift of normalising childbirth and eliminating the fear so often associated with it. I sincerely I hope I have succeeded and she takes these experiences with her when she is a birthing mother. I hope she will be able to approach childbirth with the extreme excitement and joy it deserves.
They say close contact with your baby is important for bonding for the first hour after the birth. Well, I sat like a queen on the couch and added another 20 to that...just to be safe :)
...A few days later I was telling Claire how I felt I’d done poorly at labouring and birthing this time. She gently reminded me it wasn’t just my journey, it was Sawyer’s journey too and maybe there were reasons why (because of the cord around his neck?) he had to labour slowly and not engage too heavily.
And as I look back, if I could cut and paste all my contractions together, minus the long periods of time in between, it was a perfectly textbook labour and birth.
Exactly the same as all the others.
If you made it to here, thank you for reading.