Sunday, February 1, 2009

Haley Kay's Birth Story, Part 5 (and FINAL!!)

The midwives tried to get situated between my contractions, pausing and not asking anything of me or Casey during contractions. Aimee sat on the floor next to me, waiting for a moment between contractions to check the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler, while Barb (kneeling, using the bed as her desk) observed my behavior and took notes. I was in transition during the videos here, as well as the video on the last post. For about 30 minutes or so, the contractions were so overpowering and strong. The best way I can describe what it was like is that it felt like a very dark and heavy cloud of seriousness would descend on me as a contraction began. I would remain in that dark cloud for a minute or so, all other thoughts overshadowed by the intense sensations I was feeling. Then, as the contraction began to subside, it was if the cloud lifted and I was “me” again. I could talk, smile, whatever. {I point this out because women labor differently and I had heard that if a woman smiles, she’s not very far along in labor. This is just my way of saying: when you hear things like this, consider who you are and what you are like. That plays a great part in what your labor will look like. Though in general the emotional signposts are more accurate at gauging labor progress than something like how far apart contractions are or how dilated the cervix is, emotional signposts are not always very accurate, either; especially if you adjust quickly to change, are self-conscious or have a tendency to downplay what you are feeling.}

Casey left my side for a moment as Aimee started to check the baby’s heart rate. A severe contraction began and I suddenly needed Casey with me. I told him so and he came to me, knelt beside/behind me and supported me as I relaxed. Aimee stopped looking for baby’s heart, backed off and she and Barb sat in respectful silence as Casey held me through this forceful contraction. As it subsided, he prayed, whispering in my ear as we sat there together, alone in this moment of intensity. I don’t remember what he said, just that it was wonderful to have all those components together: my midwives present and watchful, everything in order, labor progressing beautifully (as obvious by the strength of the contractions), my husband very near and literally supportive to me and the mental corralling of my thoughts as he acknowledged God’s hand on this birth and this baby, asking His blessing on both. I was overwhelmed from the awe of birthing with all of these important pieces together. Words cannot describe my state of elation while smack-dab in the very “worst” of labor! It was wonderful.

I felt great (in comparison) between contractions and though they were the most intense ones in the labor, they were still doable because there were breaks. Casey gave me the third and final dose of herbs and vitamins, and I downed the Emergen-C much too quickly. Even though it was less than 4 ounces of liquid, I should have known better than to down it that fast at this stage of labor. (I find it funny that even when I’ve learned something by experience, it doesn’t mean I “know” it so well that I remember it at the time it would serve me well to remember it. I downed liquid too fast in Ruby’s labor and paid for it, and if you asked me a few big things I learned to do or not to do from that labor, the wisdom of sipping—not drinking—water that late in labor would have surely made the list. This is precisely why I believe one cannot be too educated or prepared for any labor—even the third! There will always be things that one reads—or in this case, knows by experience—that will escape one’s mind when in the heat of labor.)

Soon after this, we got on the subject of the woman (Dolly) who was in labor with me when I had Claire, who was due in a couple weeks. She lives south of us, and as soon as I had learned she was also expecting again, I began joking that we’d need to arrange a day to have our babies back-to-back so Barb only had to take one trip south. Within less than 30 minutes of Barb’s arrival to our home, Dolly and another woman called to say they were in labor! Apparently, today was the day, and we got the memo first. I didn’t feel guilty. We don’t ask much of Barb on labor day; just basically to get there in time to catch the baby. So these two women could hold off, I thought. (Really, though. It wasn’t like they were about to deliver or anything. We had time, and Barb wasn’t rushing.)

We got through a few more contractions as I knelt by the bed, assuring Barb that my knees weren’t sore yet and it felt best to be there. Sandy had brought the girls upstairs and put them down for their naps just as the midwives arrived, and Claire wasn’t too happy about it, as is noticeable in the background noise of the video. It was beginning to take longer to come out of the haze and recover from a contraction, and I became more vocal; “sounding” through them again. We were back on track after all the hoopla of the midwives arrival.
Between a couple transition contractions, I began to feel more nauseated, and Casey fetched a trash can. No sooner than he gave it to me, I threw up a few times. This was not so bad. I felt fine after it was over. The only bad thing I remember about it was thinking now my breath was going to stink. I knew it would affect my relaxation (same reason I took a shower earlier). I am very self-conscious, and things like this and modesty don’t necessarily go away totally (I have to make a conscious decision to not think or worry about these things—even at the very end) like they say they will at some point in labor (again, it depends on who you are). A little while later, I mentioned my concern, and Barb gave me a little mint so I could breathe through my mouth if I needed to.

I asked Barb to check me to see if things really had progressed as I thought. She checked me between contractions and said I was complete. As much as my tailbone had protested, I eventually made it onto the bed in the “frog-in-the-lounge-chair” position we’d used in Claire’s labor, (legs bent slightly, widely splayed and resting on Casey’s legs) Casey behind me, supporting me, whispering words of encouragement to me, stroking my arms. Strangely enough, this was not excruciating like lying down had been. But even so, I was not ready to push. I believe the broken tailbone had more mental ramifications than physical at this point, and though I wasn’t consciously thinking “I don’t want to hurt my tailbone more,” I must have had it in the back of my mind, because I was not ready to engage in the labor the way I needed to, now that I was nearing the end.

I kept my eyes closed more and though I still talked now and then between contractions, I stayed serious and relaxed, and it was obvious when one was starting to get going, because I would suddenly start breathing very deeply and “Oooh!” ing or “Uuh!”ing as I exhaled. It was easy with these sounds to get a little too high-pitched as time went on and Barb would remind me to “keep it low” so my voice would help my body push down instead of tensing up. I kept asking the ladies if it was okay that I didn’t want to push yet. We made it through a dozen or more contractions with me just breathing through them, letting my body do what it needed to do. Aimee encouraged me that she could tell my contractions alone were pushing strongly: I was staying “open” between contractions. The baby was on its way whether I pushed or not! Somewhere in here, I was in the middle of one of these strong contractions when I heard the musical chime of our dryer downstairs and thought, "Laundry's done." I mentally shook myself and lassoed my thoughts back to the task at hand. My mind was no longer interested in what my body was doing. I bring this up, because this is how I am in everyday life: extremely sidetracked. Some people talk of being totally into the task of labor at the exclusion of everything else, and I have yet to labor that way. I really have to work to stay focused.

Suddenly, my body took over and started to push on its own. I grunted and that was the end of ladylike behavior. (Oh, wait; who am I kidding?) I have never been great at the whole “chin to chest” pushing thing. It just doesn’t feel right to me; especially in this case. My position wasn’t optimum for several reasons: I was slouched down a little too much (probably because of my tailbone) and didn’t feel like I could breathe well without throwing my head back. I still had a dry/scratchy throat from the cold I’d had a month before. My voice would catch, and when I pushed, my grunting sounded like machine gun bursts and I found it super annoying that I couldn’t just grunt one long, smooth grunt. We also had several pillows between Casey and I, and he couldn’t see much over the pillows (nor can I see much of his face in the video), which bothers me still (especially for the actual birth). I would have gladly resituated, even between those contractions, if I had known at the time.

The contractions were extremely forceful and this is where the music and the moment collided. There was a particularly intense piece of classical music playing at the height of one of these contractions (the video clip at the beginning of this post gives a little idea of what I’m talking about, only it was more annoying than that, if you can imagine). High-pitched violin screeching was not helpful in that particular set of seconds and I think I could have jumped out of bed and flown to the television and smashed it through the wall if I didn’t think my pelvis just might not come with me. Immediately after the peak, I said I couldn’t really handle the music and asked them to turn it down. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but now I do: Barb was the one who got up to turn off the music, only Barb was the only person in the room who is, shall we say, the least technically savvy, so it took her FOR-E-VER to figure out what button to push, and it seemed like an eternity before the horrid sounds were gone. I really was about to volunteer to do it myself by the time she figured out how to make it stop.

Anyway, there I was, pushing. I would lay completely relaxed with my head turned to the side (I could breathe better that way, believe it or not) until a contraction started, align my head with my body, grunt and bear down with all I had in me. Aimee was at the foot of the bed, Barb to the left of me observing/taking notes. The amniotic sac broke during a crazy contraction and the burst of liquid traveled a few feet, but missed Aimee (who was waiting for such an occurrence). There was an extremely short break, (perhaps a few seconds) and I smiled, but that immediately changed, because I then said, “Oooh, goodness. This is very intense!”

Contractions had changed since the sac had broken, and I began to feel as if my baby would explode out of me. “Oh, WOW! I think I need somebody right there,” I told them. I felt too vulnerable and that the baby would burst out and hit the wall ten feet away if someone wasn’t there to stop it. Aimee came to stretch the perineum and Barb said something encouraging. Aimee sat at the foot of the bed, and that’s what I really needed. If she believed I would explode, she would not have sat a foot away from me. It was comforting to know it just felt like I would explode, it wasn’t reality. However, Aimee is an apprentice. I felt saf-er, but not exactly the saf-est. I asked Barb to come to my side. I needed to know that I wasn’t a grenade, and I needed Barb to be near me to assure me that she wasn’t afraid of me, either.

Barb sat on the side of the bed and touched my arm, and Aimee warmed and rubbed my cold feet between contractions. I was having a difficult time relaxing between contractions, and would have to consciously tell myself to relax my facial muscles. Even Barb reminded me at times, by silently placing a finger on my furrowed brow. I asked if it was getting hot in here, and Barb motioned to Case to grab the washcloth. It was heavenly and refreshing on my forehead. They spoke quietly and encouragingly. Barb took the washcloth and spun it around in the air to cool it off, then laid it on my chest and brushed it across my neck. That felt amazing.

I was having a hard time relaxing my legs. Aimee rolled up two towels and put them under each knee, and it really helped. I thanked Barb and Aimee for some encouragement they’d given, and they cranked it up a notch when they realized it was just what I needed, verbalizing what was happening and reminding me to “keep it low.” Casey took the cue and said some more encouragy, coachy things, too. “Good job. Down low.”

Haley’s head was crowning and though it only took a little over two minutes, it seemed like the longest head on earth. I kept thinking, “Is that seriously still the head?” Anyway, right before the “ring of fire” (which Casey says really “doesn’t sound too bad”—HA!), Aimee and Barb were distracted with something for the delivery and I exclaimed, “Ow. OW.”“Help me, help me, help me, help me. PLEASE HELP ME!” as Barb said calmly, “Laaaaauts a pressure.”

I squealed, “OOOOWWW!” and immediately knew that wasn’t helping, so I pushed it down a few octaves and grunted: “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Lrd. Pls!” (It really sounds like I cut out the vowels in the video.) Barb was coaching Aimee in supporting my perineum, all the while calmly coaching my out-of-controlness.

We had a little exchange that went like this:
Me:“Okay, Okay. Ooo-Kay. That really, really, REALLY hurts! (high-pitched, and then back low again): Really hurts. Really. Huuuurts. Oooooooohhhhhhh. . . ”
Barb:“Good. Good. Grunt through it. Grunt through it. There you go. Push your baby down, push, push, push. . .”
Me (in my lowest, gruntiest, robotic voice): “I’m afraid to push!”
Barb: “Goooow ahead.”
Me (sounding very much like Grover): “MMMM!”
Barb: “Little pushes.”
Me: “MMMMM!”
Barb: “Down here.”
Me (higher and higher pitched): “MMMM! MMMM! MMMMM!”
Barb: “Keep it coming. Good job. There you go. Nice work. Push your baby’s head out. Gentle, gentle, beautiful, beautiful.”

There was a lot of “Ow” and “That kills!” as they worked a nuchal cord (meaning wrapped once around the neck) over her head. (Not a comfortable procedure, I won’t lie.)

All at once, Haley’s head and body were born. I had turned my head to the side, (I think I was trying to get away from what was going on) and happened to look back over and was a little stunned to see her all the way out, because, after all, her head was still crowning a second ago. After realizing she was born, I reached down and Aimee and Barb lifted her to me. I immediately brought her to my chest, and Casey and I gasped and he cried, “Oh, the baby!” which made me cry, all before she did! It was 4:24 p.m.; 12 hours since that first very strong contraction. Haley “mewed” a few times, which just tickled us to death. The midwives put a towel over us and after a few seconds, we checked and she was a girl! Her heart rate was a little slow, so they gave me the oxygen mask to hold near her for a few minutes until she pinked up and was not so quiet. We named her Haley Kay immediately and I could not believe how much vernix was on her! She was totally coated in it. White all over. Chunks, even. I’ve never seen that much vernix on a premature baby! Barb suspected she may have breathed some in and that was why her respiration had dropped off a little. We discussed our guesses of her weight. She looked so tiny to me. Claire had had such a fat face and looked like she weighed 11 pounds, but Haley’s face was slim, and she didn’t have the chunky upper body that Claire did, so I was sure she couldn’t be even 8 pounds. Turns out she was 8 lbs, 2 ½ oz and 20 ¾ inches long.

(This was after a good hour or more, with most of the vernix rubbed in/worn off.)
We called out that we had a baby, and after awhile, Sandy came upstairs to ask what the baby was. I nursed Haley and she latched on strongly and just went to town. After the cord stopped pulsing, it was cut. I don’t think the afterbirth contractions were nearly as bad as they were with Claire. They were strong, but not excruciating. I got off the bed and knelt over the chux that Case had thrown a couple hours earlier to try to have gravity help deliver the placenta, and it eventually came out. Barb was pretty tenacious about checking my bleeding and keeping tabs on me. I hopped in the shower, and I swear I could not get some of that vernix off of my belly, where Haley lay for those first few minutes. It was like car wax! Every minute or so, Barb would pop in to see how I was and give me a sip of my Recharge to keep me from passing out. I think it concerned her that I was standing up, since I have had trouble with low blood sugar after delivery. I felt so great. After I was clean, I wrapped my baby girl and me in my robe and reclined on the bed as Sandy brought Ruby and Claire to join us for Haley’s newborn check. They were so excited to see and hold their little sister. I kept hydrated and took a little of the herbal injury/trauma tincture I had by the bed. A friend of mine came to see us. We got lots of pictures and our little growing family hung out on the bed, looking at our little girl.
Haley and Auntie Chrissy
It was dinner time, and I was about to go downstairs and join the family like it was any other day (I really felt that good). Casey wouldn’t hear of it, and brought the beef stroganoff to me in bed. I was ravenous! Haley was so sweet and just looked around, mewing now and then. It was so precious. Barb and Aimee had to jet to the next birth (which happened to be Dolly. . . . on the same day! What are the odds?) and then the next, and, as it happened, the next! As Barb had said hours before, apparently, we started a trend. They were a couple of busy midwives catching 4 babies in three days, with no break in between. Boy, that’s a tough job. Glad I got them fresh this time!

Haley had alert eyes and was very quiet and serious. She made very small noises and just looked back at us as we stared at her. She had a stork bite birth mark on her left eyelid, which was pretty dark for the first couple days, and comes out again when she is really upset. For the first few nights, she slept in the bassinet by our bed and probably spent half the night in bed with us and would just barely make a peep and I would feed her. She was so sweet and contented; we thoroughly enjoyed our babymoon!

Recovery for me was great. I felt like I could do anything within a few minutes after giving birth, but Casey knows that does not speed recovery, so he had me in bed alot, and when I came downstairs over the next few days, he'd have me rest and sit and observe mostly. I had torn just slightly (like the knicks I had in Claire's labor, about 1/4 of an inch) and that was uncomfortable, but it had completely healed by the home visit Barb made at 5 days, so it was no big deal. Sandy and Case were there for several days and took care of all the household chores and cared for the older girls. I am so blessed to have such a helpful mom and mother-in-law! I have never had to deal with the mom who sits on the couch and holds the baby all day while I stand in the kitchen washing dishes or doing laundry. My relatives come to help, and I'm thankful! People from our church and the mom's group I went to brought us meals for the first few weeks. We hadn't had that with our other babies; it was nice for Sandy and Casey to not have to worry about one more thing. I was especially touched by the fact that one of the moms who had cancer signed up to bring me a meal. That she would think of serving others while in such a state (it was very bad, she passed away at the end of the summer) just blew me away. Though I only knew her for a few short months, she has left an indelible mark in my life. I think of her selflessness all the time (especially when I'm struggling, and it's nothing compared to what she went through).

In comparison, I would put Haley’s birth in between my other two girl’s births as far as doability. Not that any of them weren’t doable, but Ruby’s birth (my first) was an extremely difficult experience (not so much the labor, but the whole of the experience), and Claire’s was like a walk in the park. Haley’s wasn’t terrible (I’d say it was pretty great), but the actual delivery with the broken tailbone was no picnic. All in all though, the really extremely intense part only lasted a couple hours, and like I like to say about labor, you can do anything for a day, right?

A few random pics from the first week of Haley's life (in no particular order):


  1. Thanks for sharing!!! I love reading any and all birth stories. One thing: How do you remember in such detail? I know in the past you recorded things, do you still do that? I waited the longest with Andrew's labor to have an epidural and I was in some pretty intense pain. When I am in that much pain, looking back things are very blurry. However, I can remember everything clearly after the epidural. Do you think it's like you say-everyone is just different? Also, how are you not so tired in b/w contractions? I remember with Ellie's labor, while I was pushing a lot of the epidural wore off and I was so exhausted I would doze off in between contractions.

    Thanks for your encouragement about having three! Steven has been a huge help with the older two, but sometimes I still feel (as I have with each one) alone in the responsibility of breastfeeding. Before I had children, I would've never guessed that emotion would go along with having an infant, but I have felt a little lonely each time. Thanks again!

  2. Good questions! I plan to do some posts on a few of these subjects, so I will try to be brief! What you mentioned about thinking clearly after an epi can be achieved without one, I believe. Several things help me remember all the details: One, I am not going natural by just trying to tough it out or outlast it, I prepare for a natural labor throughout pregnancy (and before) and being able to completely relax between and during contractions requires mental relaxation, and minds can remember more when they are relaxed and savoring the moment (I really do savor labor. It is a wonderful transition to motherhood, and I enjoy the journey). I believe what one thinks and how one prepares beforehand makes a huge difference in one's perceptions in labor. Though women do labor differently, I believe any woman can do this. I didn't write down much this time besides the contractions we timed and some notes while we were timing, but we videotaped much more, and caught the last 1 1/2 hours on video, so I had that to review this time. Besides being mentally and physically relaxed, I believe the other reason is that I really go back in my head and review it (which is why I've said on my other blog it is such a relief to be done; it takes a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy to write these birth stories. I pretty much have to do it late at night, when I have several uninterrupted hours to devote to it, since I have to get in the zone, and that can take awhile).
    As to the tired thing, several reasons there as well. Staying relaxed conserves energy and makes a woman last longer in labor. The other reasons in this labor are: 1) labor was only 12 hours and 2) labor started after a (almost) full night of sleep. What you describe is how I was in Ruby's pushing phase, and I can totally relate.
    It's relieving to hear someone else say that they feel that way about breastfeeding. As much as I love it and wouldn't consider not doing it, sometimes I feel literally chained to my baby, especially in the beginning and since I can't/won't/don't pump (another story for another time) I can't leave my baby for more than an hour or two for those first 6+ months. Add into that the fact that dads/men oftentimes think that if a baby's crying, it is hungry, and I don't get away pretty much at all for the first months of her life. It can be pretty taxing! You're right, it does feel lonely!