(Warning: in case the title wasn’t obvious enough, this post contains details and photos from a real birth. You might want to skip this one if words like placenta make you squeamish.)
Well. Felix entered the world as a consummate gentleman, as conveniently as possible.
I’d been feeling really crampy and miserable the day before, so my mom had offered to keep Lydia overnight. Just in case. I ended up having the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time. (With Lydia, by contrast, I labored all night and gave birth in the morning, to be greeted by a nonstop stream of visitors for the rest of the day. NOT a great way to start things off.)
I told Ben he’d probably be able to go in to work today, since the cramps were gone and I felt so good. The baby was probably not coming today after all. But by the end of breakfast – around 7am — I told him to maybe hold that thought. I thought I was feeling pretty regular (though painless) contractions. I texted my mom to warn her Lydia might be spending the day there, and we probably weren’t going to make it to my 39-week midwife appointment scheduled for that day.
Ben stayed home, working in the basement, and I folded laundry and cleaned the kitchen. The contractions kept coming every five minutes, though they weren’t that long – only about 30 seconds. I kept myself busy.
After an hour of this I called my midwife to let her know what was going on. The contractions didn’t hurt too badly, but they were very regular, so she said she’d call back in half an hour. She did this twice before saying she was on her way. (She had an hour-long drive, and after Lydia’s quick birth she didn’t want to miss it.)
I stayed on my feet, pacing the room, pausing to lean against a counter or bookshelf to breathe through contractions, which were getting closer together and more painful. I was still doing okay, though – I even had time to put on makeup so I would look nice in pictures. Ben started to fill the pool and get everything ready: he set up a mattress by the pool and plugged in the heating pad with the baby clothes, blankets, and towels.
Obviously things got more and more serious. I continued to putter around the house, pausing to lean and moan through contractions. I was mostly cheerful until about three hours in — around 10am — when every contraction would leave me in tears. They HURT. And thinking about the baby coming made me an emotional wreck.
I alternated between pacing the room and sitting on my birthing ball, scrolling through social media to distract myself. I let my friends know what was going on. I put on my bathing suit top.
My midwife showed up half an hour later. She checked my cervix and said I was dilated about seven centimeters. Excellent. But no wonder I was in so much pain now – seven centimeters in three hours take some pretty serious work on the uterus’ part. She said I could get into the pool and she started to get her stuff set up.
I was so much more aware of everything this time, with it not being the middle of the night and not being fully dilated by the time my midwife arrived. It was pretty cool how prepared she was – she even had oxygen tanks in case the baby needed resuscitation.
The water felt amazing but the contractions were still coming on HARD. My midwife said that as soon as my water broke, I’d probably be ready to push. But the backup midwife wasn’t there yet so we weren’t in a hurry.
OH GOSH the contractions were painful. I was getting louder and louder with each one.
Soon my midwife suggestion I go to the bathroom to speed things up even more (UGH). Contractions on the toilet were extra horrible. While I was there I lost my mucus plug. (See? Convenient. Kept the pool water clean.) I got back into the pool.
The backup midwife showed up soon after that, around 11:45am. She had such a warm, comforting, motherly presence, I was glad to have her there.
I was getting really loud at this point and this second midwife knew exactly how to squeeze my hips to ease some of the pressure. They suggested I try to toilet again. UGH again. They helped me there, I gave a little push during one of the contractions, and my waters broke – a tidy little gush right into the toilet. Pa-shew. Again: how nice. No cleanup. They helped me back into the pool.
The next hour was agony. I started to feel pushy so they told me to follow my body. I was pushing during contractions for half an hour when they checked and noticed I wasn’t really making any progress (GAH!). My midwife suggested that I wasn’t really pushing because I was afraid of the pain. They both suggested I try holding my breath and use all that energy (that I was spending on yelling) to PUSH.
On the next contraction I did that and felt a world of difference. In fact, when I pushed like that — with my whole body — the pain was much less. It was still unbelievably INTENSE, but not nearly as painful. They said to give it my everything, because I was exhausting myself and needed to get the baby out. So I switched gears from fearful to determined: I was going to PUSH that baby out.
It was absolutely horrible. I wish I was one of those women who could say birth didn’t hurt that much, but it did. Between contractions I was totally worn out – I would just slump back against Ben, who was supporting me with his arms, and whimper. When the contractions came and I pushed, my whole body felt like it was going to explode, even my face. I would occasionally reach down and feel that smushy little head still in the birth canal, which was exciting but also disheartening – it wasn’t going nearly fast enough. This was my second baby, it was supposed to go faster! Each time, though, I would say, “Hi, Baby!” and get a new determination to get that thing out of there.
And then, finally: crowning. OH LORD HAVE MERCY. Agony. I screamed my face off. So much pressure, so much pain. I was going to explode. Two more excruciating contractions and that thing finally popped out. 12:35 pm. Six hours after I’d first started feeling contractions.
And then I lost my mind because there was a baby on my chest. An enormous purple baby. A healthy, real-live baby out of nowhere. I was hysterical with joy. I DID IT!!!! And I took a look below – A BOY! Wow!!! Everyone had been right. A boy. Our little Felix. He coughed and gave a piercing, said little cry. He was breathing. He was here. Amazing.
The midwives quickly helped me out of the tub and onto the mattress to deliver the placenta. I got to hold my baby the whole time – they just wrapped us in towels.
It was incredible, miraculous. My own new little baby boy in a sweet little body in my arms, sticky and wet. He made sad faces and cried a little. I whispered to him and kissed him and comforted him. What an ordeal he’d just been through! He looked so healthy and robust, though. His face looked so unfamiliar, so foreign – nothing like Lydia. But the fact that he was a boy felt exactly right. And also the fact that he was so huge. I could easily believe that this enormous child had been in my belly; I just couldn’t believe I had pushed this enormous child out of my vagina. HOLY CRAP. My body was incredible.
The placenta came out with almost no awareness on my part. And then came the — ahem — repair work, which was horrifying but I don’t need to talk about that. I SQUEEZED Ben’s hand through it all. It took forever and ever (Probably ten minutes). I tried to focus on the sweet baby in my arms. My midwife told me the damage was actually not bad at all, which surprised and relieved me.
Finally it was all done. The midwives wiped down my legs and put dry underwear on me, stuffed with pads. They rolled me and Felix onto one side of the bed and then the other to change the sheet right under me. They covered me in warm blankets and propped me up to try nursing. Felix knew exactly what to do and latched on immediately. He was born for this.
Just then, my mom showed up with Lydia. Lydia bounced in excitedly to see Baby Felix. She was a little disoriented and confused. Where was the pool? (I had given her a pretty detailed explanation of how everything would go down, in case she would be present.) She was very excited to take her first look at him, and then went off to play. Ha. Toddlers.
When Felix was done nursing the second midwife did the examination. Lydia watched with great interest. He looked SO GOOD – so pink and strong.
They weighed him: nine pounds even. No surprise here. I’d totally been able to feel that much weight against my lungs when on my back while pregnant. And no wonder pushing had been so much harder than with six-pound-eleven-ounce Lydia.
They measured his length: 23 inches. Again, no surprise here. He looked long.
I think after that I was helped to the bathroom to pee, which wasn’t horrible. Then I’m pretty sure I went back to nurse him some more. I’m a little fuzzy on the details after that.
I do remember scarfing down a bowl of hot pho that my mom had brought. I thought it was wonderfully appropriate that she had brought me the one food that had pretty much sustained me through my difficult first trimester.
After that I rested. Mom took Lydia home with her, the midwives packed and left. Ben cleaned up and did laundry while I cuddled with Felix, flitting in and out of consciousness. Then he laid down and rested with us, too. Just the three of us.
We had done it. Our little baby was here.
I’d started labour at breakfast and we were done it time to have a late lunch and an afternoon nap. I never had to leave my house. Thanks, little dude. I appreciated it.
(You might be interested in my post, 6 Reasons to Consider Home Birth.)