Each week I am posting encouraging and inspiring birth stories from friends and readers. If you have a birth story you would like to include please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s Birth Story is from Sandra of West Philly Mama.
Leading Up To The Big Day
I was shocked when I made it to my “due” date (June 21st) since I had been yapping about how sure I was that this baby was going to come early. Oh, mother’s intuition… My sister, Larissa, had been in town for a few days already and had been helping me prepare the house for our impending arrival as well as doing fun things with Leo (since I was pretty much house-bound). My feet were massively swollen, but I wasn’t very concerned about it since the same thing had happened toward the end of my pregnancy with Leo and my blood pressure had been steady.
I had a midwife appointment on my due date (Thursday) and there was a touch of protein in my urine and my blood pressure was slightly elevated. That combined with the swelling made her suggest stripping my membranes to (possibly) get labor going – because if I didn’t have the baby in the next 48 hrs they would need to monitor my blood pressure and protein very closely. I agreed and when she checked me she found that I was already 5 cm dilated (halfway there!) and that the baby’s head was so low and pressed against my cervix that not only could she feel the head – but she could feel the baby’s heartbeat through the fontanelle. Wild. She gave us the names of the on-call midwives for the next few days and said she’d be surprised if we weren’t back before the end of the weekend.
After the appointment I didn’t feel much different – except that I felt a little mentally foggy, emotional and light headed. We went to dinner and ate very well. We joked and talked and wondered what the next 48 hours would bring. After dinner we went home, put Leo to bed (in our bed because it might be our last night as a family of three), double checked the birth center bag, talked logistics with Aunt Larissa and Uncle Daniel, and jb and I both went to bed early. We knew we wanted to be well rested.
The Big Event
The next morning (Friday, June 22nd) I woke up to pee (again) at 5 am. With each bathroom trip throughout the night I’d been paying close attention to see if my water broke because that was how labor began for Leo’s birth – but each time was uneventful. So at 5 am I peed once again – no water breaking. But as I went to stand up I was rocked by a contraction. I made it back to bed and thought I would try and rest and labor on my own for a bit. So I crawled into bed next to my baby boy and true love and was immediately hit by another contraction – it was intense and I had to vocalize a bit to get through. I knew it had only been a few minutes since my first contraction in the bathroom so I got out my timer. I timed the next couple and they were about a minute long and five minutes apart.
I woke jb up and she helped me through contractions as I paged the midwife on call. Leo continued to sleep as I labored next to him. jb went to wake Larissa up so she could stay with Leo and I talked to the midwife who said to come on in. jb put last minute items in our bag and continued to help me through the contractions. Clearly I was in active labor and we needed to get going – but needing to concentrate to get through each contraction was really slowing us down. I said out loud that it felt like it was getting really close and I was worried we might cut it too close.
At this point Leo woke up as I labored through another contraction. He watched me and while he was concerned, he didn’t seem scared. He was cuddling with Larissa in bed and I was leaning on the edge of the bed as jb held me and rubbed my back. He kept asking Larissa, “What’s mama doing?” and Larissa and jb did a great job calmly explaining that I was working hard to bring bug. As the contraction subsided I looked at him and tried to smile encouragingly. “Mama’s ok, Leo. Today is bug’s birthday!” He smiled at me and said, “Give mama a kiss.” He crawled over to me and gave me the sweetest kiss and I thanked him and told him that it made me feel a lot better – and I meant it.
We made it to the car (stopping several times on the way to work through a contraction) at 6:20 am. jb drove quickly (but very safely) towards the birth center while holding my hand and talking me through each contraction. I listened to my hypnobabies affirmations and they did help me remember to relax between each contraction as best I could. I was gagging a bit and worried I would throw up in the car – which also made me think I might be in transition. My suspicions were confirmed when just a few blocks into the trip I felt the urge to push. Transition in the car: I don’t recommend it.
The birth center is not far from our house – but that ride seemed so long. I spent the rest of the ride doing a flexed-arm-hang with my feet wedged in the front corner of the floor while my body was as straight as possible in a plank position. I’m pretty sure this is why my arms and back felt like I’d bench-pressed a house for the next few days. I just couldn’t sit – it felt like I was sitting on the baby’s head. During contractions I would rhythmically bang on the roof of the car and repeat the eff word. I did comment to jb that I was glad we decided against having Leo be at the birth itself – mostly because I was enjoying saying the eff-word entirely too much. I also said several times, “This baby is coming!” and poor jb didn’t know whether to drive faster or pull over.
We pulled into the birth center parking lot (jb made it in 23 minutes!) and it took us a while to get across the (small) parking lot to get to the door because we had to stop for contractions three times – which means they must have been right on top of each other. We rang the doorbell – and it seemed to be hours before they answered, but it couldn’t have been more than two minutes. As the midwife answered I told her I needed to push and she told me to lay right down so she could check me. This was at 6:50 am. The instant she checked me my water broke and she confirmed that I was complete and free to push whenever I felt the urge. I rolled onto my side (and just like with Leo’s birth) jb laid in the bed behind me and held me and my leg as I pushed our child into the world.
There was a lot of ….vocalization. Mostly low-toned, productive, noises – but a couple of blood-curdling screams made it through also. Totally thought I’d be zen about a fast and furious labor this time, since I knew to expect it – but it still hit me like a truck. Luckily the midwife was great about getting me to refocus. I did CHUG a lemon-lime sports drink between pushes – and I don’t even like sports drinks. At 6:58 Zoe Aurora was born. For those keeping score, that is just under two hours after waking up and eight minutes after arriving at the birth center.
The First Day
We were able to just lay there with Zoe on my chest for a while. jb and I admired her long fingers and looooooong toes. We commented on how quiet and chill she seemed. Leo cried nonstop for a good 30 minutes after birth, but Zoe barely made a peep (even later during her exam – just a little complaining, no crying). The midwife and nurse both commented on how long the cord continued to pulse – and speculated about her weight. The midwife ventured that she “wouldn’t be surprised if she was over nine pounds!” Ha. After a bit of soaking it all in and letting those endorphins wash over us, jb cut the cord and got to hold her for the first time. We made some text announcements to our family and close friends. I ate some of the snacks we had packed – that’s a lot of work to do without eating breakfast! Zoe nursed. I delivered the (impressively large) placenta. The midwife gave me a single stitch for a small tear. We marveled that our daughter (omg – we have a daughter!) was actually here.
After a bit we decided that since I still needed a few hours to regain some strength, shower and fill out paperwork it made sense for jb to go pick up Leo (and Aunt Lissa) to come and meet Zoe. I also requested pancakes. jb headed out and Zoe and I had some time alone while we rested. I was surprised at how vocal she was at just a few hours old. She gurgled and cooed – I don’t recall Leo making many sounds (aside from cries) until a couple months into life.
Soon the gang arrived – bearing breakfast. Leo got to meet his baby sister for the first time. He was clearly nervous – but so sweet. Confirming that this was, in fact, bug from mama’s tummy several times. He gave her many kisses and even held her (for about 30 seconds before changing his mind). We all ate pancakes and eggs and Zoe had her check up where it was confirmed that she weighted in at 10 lbs. 4 oz. and measured 22 inches long.
Soon we were ready to head home. Our good friend came to pick up Larissa – because we don’t have room for a passenger with two carseats! – and to meet Zoe. Once we arrived at home Zoe got to meet her Uncle Daniel and I got to rest for a bit. In the evening Uncle Jared and Aunt Mallory came to see us and we ate an awesome dinner of turkey burgers and salad. Then we settled in for our first night as a family of four.
Since then it has been a stream of welcome visitors, wholesome delicious food, and babymooning. There has been no shortage of arms to hold Zoe, playmates (child and adult alike) for Leo, or support for jb and I. I’ve been fed extremely well, have slept more than adequately, and have hardly lifted a finger since the birth. I know this phase can’t last forever, but I’m loving it so far. I want to write so much more – about Leo’s adjustment to bringing Zoe home, about all those little things from a baby’s first days that I don’t want to forget, about my seemingly complicated (but somehow totally natural) feelings about having two babies that need me, about nursing and how different – yet still challenging! – it is this time around. Soon. Right? Now I need some lunch and a nap.
Sandra is a West Philadelphia Mama (not born and raised, but she does spend most of my days on the playground). A former professional activist turned stay-at-home-mom she is happily married to her best friend. They parent a precocious toddler and new baby. Sandra blogs about parenting as a queer, Latina, feminist reclaiming family values at www.westphillymama.com and tweets at @westphillymama