Birth Story – PART 1
August 13, 2010

Malcolm is now 15 days old. It’s truly hard to believe. Each time I think back on his birth it seems more and more surreal.

I wanted to post his birth story much sooner. But life with a newborn is never predictable. I lose hours just gazing at our little boy. I’m definitely a proud and awestruck mom.

At this present moment he is snug and sleeping on my chest in his Moby Wrap… allowing me hands-free mobility. Hopefully he’ll sleep long enough for me to get this posted.

I’m very excited to share the birth story. I hope you enjoy reading about how Malcolm came into this world. (While pregnant I couldn’t get enough of birth stories… so please share this with expectant moms.) Thanks!

THE MARINA INN

We begin where I left off in my second to last post: Laboring in the Marina Inn in Anacortes…

As soon as I finished writing my “Pause for Contraction/ Early Labor” post, I turn the lights off to get some rest. It doesn’t quite happen. The contractions have suddenly increased a level and I’m unable to sleep through them. Bob is right here with me. Holding my hand as I breathe through each one.

He mentions that it would have been nice if the baby had allowed us to get a good night’s rest before upping the ante. I’m actually excited to get this show in the road. Stronger contractions is a good thing. And I’m ready for them. I’m mentally prepared for the pain, we’re on the mainland and I have my team all in the same hotel. I can do this!

I think that I lasted about two hours before I ask Bob to call Laurie. It’s about 1 AM.

Laurie arrives and I tell her, “It really hurts.” I feel like I owe her an explanation for pulling her out of sleep. The pain is my reason. Throughout the night I try different positions.

THE BIRTH BALL
I sit on the birth ball (which is the same as a pilates ball) and face Bob who is sitting on the edge of the bed. When a contraction starts, I take a deep breath and look at Bob – into his eyes- while Laurie provides counter-pressure on my back. This is a good position. She coaches me to “melt” into the pain. And I do. This is so much harder to do than fighting against the pain, but it feels so much better in the end. Some times this “melting” is easier when I close my eyes. I let my shoulders relax and try to release every muscle in my body… welcoming the contraction. The pain.

I chant in my head,

“Pain is not real.”

and

“Your body was made to do this.”

And I get a rhythm going. Until… I have to go to the bathroom.

Every position change equals more pain and more contractions. I get up from the ball and have a contraction before I even get to the toilet. I lean against the bathroom sink and just breathe.

Sometimes I moan. I release my breath and sound comes out. I’m aware that if anyone in a neighboring room heard me they would certainly think I was in the midst of baby-making, not baby-having. But I don’t care. Whatever helps.


THE TOILET

I get on the toilet. This is a good position. I have a contraction or two on the toilet and then get back up and go back to the birth ball. Contraction at the sink along the way.

Bob is there every step of the way. Letting me squeeze the life out of his hands or push against him. Laurie is providing the counter-pressure in my back and coaching me. Suggesting different things. Making sure I take – at the very least – sips of water.

Hours go by.

THE BATH

Laurie suggests I get in the tub again since that felt good to me before. Bob sits next to me holding my hand while Laurie uses the opportunity to get a nap. I get into a rhythm in the tub and being in the water does help. I eventually fall asleep between contractions. Bob does too. With his head on the edge of the tub. I decide I need to get out of the tub because I don’t want to fall asleep in there.

Bob helps me out and I make my way back to the bed where I lie on my left side with a pillow between my legs.

I’m very tired at this point. (This is such an incredible understatement.)

I sleep between contractions. Which have slowed down, by the way. Perhaps because of the bath?

Laurie returns and at some point I realize that it’s no longer dark outside. What the hell time is it?! How long have I been laboring?! We must be close, right?

The Next Day

It’s early morning. Day 2 of labor… as far as I’m concerned. I know that those early contractions yesterday were NOTHING compared to this. But still… I labored THROUGH the night without producing a baby.

Time to regroup. Refocus. I can do this.

The good thing about sleeping between contractions is that I get rest. The bad thing? Waking up in a contraction. That sucks. That allows for no mental preparation. Suddenly you’re awake and your uterus is playing the pain accordion.

According to Bob and Laurie, I actually slept THROUGH a couple of contractions. That’s crazy to me. Considering how much energy they take when I’m awake to them.

Mom calls around 7 AM. I think it’s 7. Somewhere around there. I tell her to come on down and that we’ve been up the whole night laboring. She relieves Laurie and Bob manages to get a little catnap. I’m so glad that she had a full night’s rest considering we’re all totally depleted already and we’re still not even at the hospital.

Almost there, right?

At some point Melinda (my midwife) arrives to examine me. I’m sure that I’ve got to be at least several centimeters dilated given how much work I’d done in the night. I’m positive that she’s going to tell me that it’s time to go to the hospital.

BUT…

…there was hardly any change. I was further effaced. But I had only dilated half a centimeter more from the day before.

WTF?! Seriously! Only 1/2 a centimeter more?! All that pain! All that effort… for only 1/2 a centimeter?!

This news is incredibly disheartening. Melinda tells me that I should continue to do what I was doing…. resting between contractions.

So I do. For as long as I can. But they ramp up again and sleep is no longer an option. Neither is eating. Which actually hadn’t been an option all night. I take a bite of a peach and end up feeling like I could vomit. So no more peach. Just sips of water. As much as I can. Which again, isn’t much.

My world is getting smaller and smaller. It is only this room and nothing more.

Bob makes a food run for the team. He is in desperate need of a chai and something hearty to eat. Unfortunately, he chooses bacon. Note to all future fathers out there: Do not eat bacon while your wife is in labor!

I’m laboring on the toilet when Bob returns. Why? Because I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to go through the pain of changing positions again and… well, laboring on the toilet is good. It’s working for me. I feel like I’m more in control of the contractions this way. Like I have power over them, somehow.

Bob returns from the breakfast run and gets face to face with me during one of my contractions. I immediately smell the bacon and push him away.

“YUCK! BACON! Get away!”

Thankfully Laurie prepared him for moments like this.

“Stephanie will not be afraid to tell us what she does and doesn’t like during labor.”

Laurie also said that I would most likely be offended by their breath and suggested we had plenty of mints on hand. Bob brushes his teeth, chews mints and still I can smell the bacon. I can’t even describe how offensively awful that smell was in this moment. I need him near me, but I cannot take this odor. So I tell him (there’s no asking mid-labor) to take off his sweatshirt. And he does. Much better.

(We laugh about this bacon moment now.)

Another moment like the bacon moment was during a contraction when Bob says to me,

“Think of all the women in the world in labor right now. Just like you.”

So I do. It doesn’t help. I know before I said I thought it would. But in the middle of this god awful contraction, it is no help to me. But I don’t have the energy to say this out loud, so Bob continues…

“There’s a woman in India, a woman in Malaysia, a woman in England, a woman in South Africa, a woman in–”

“Shut up,” I manage with what little extra energy I have. It comes out on an exhale like a whisper.  And he stops.

Later we talk about it and I apologize for snapping… but he totally got it in the moment. Now we laugh about it. It is funny.

Disappointing News

SO… I think that it’s about 9AM when Melinda checks me again and I am still only slightly more dilated. I’m at 2.5 centimeters and 87% effaced (or something like that.)

I’m completely demoralized by this news. Melinda has patients to see on Orcas Island and asks what I think about her going back to the island and returning on the 2:30 ferry. Seeing as I’m progressing at a snail’s pace, I figure that would be fine. So she leaves and we rent the hotel room for another night so I could continue to labor there.

And that’s exactly what I do. More labor. More pain. Which is what I want because that is supposed to equal more progress. Right?

I get into this whole BRING IT ON mentality. The contractions are strong and “productive” as Laurie says. They’re long. A minute and a half. And by the time my contractions are consistently three minutes apart, we finally head for the hospital.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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pause for contraction/ my early labor post
July 27, 2010

The morning of the my 3rd day overdue I wake up with lower back pain and complain to Bob about it. He mercifully rubs my lower back. I don’t think that much of it. The weight of my belly is enough to induce that sort of pain, I think. And I was uncomfortable all night long. I finally get comfortable when it’s time to get up to catch the 8:30 ferry to Orcas for my 10:30 appointment with my midwife. It’s always like that, isn’t it?

Bob, Mom and I load up the car with the essentials… just in case. We have our hospital bags, the birth ball, plenty of water, snacks, books, music… I am three days overdue and if we need to catch the ferry then it would be best just to have everything with us. On the ferry I notice a general pain in my abdomen. Feels like menstrual cramping. Must be the start of something, I think.

At my appointment I’m disappointed to learn that I’ve only dilated an additional half centimeter since last week. I’m at one and a half centimeters and the baby is at -4. Meaning, he still has a ways to go. Melinda tells me I’m not too effaced, either.

I tell her about the period cramping and low back pain. She asks me if there is a pattern to it. Not that I’ve noticed. She tells me to touch my belly the next time I feel the pain and if it’s really hard, then I know it’s a contraction. It happens while I’m sitting there. Now I know. She tells me to start paying attention to the quantity per hour and if I have four in an hour to come back so she can check my cervix again before we catch the return ferry to Friday Harbor.

The next hour I have four.

We’re at my doula’s  (Laurie) house for a class on nursing when they really start to increase. Ten in the next hour. Ten the hour after that. Bob is keeping track. We’ve developed a system. I hit his leg every time one begins. Very advanced.

((Pause for contraction))

At the end of the class I call Melinda and tell her that they’ve started coming faster. We set an appointment for 3:30. I take a nap at Laurie’s while Bob and Mom tool around Eastsound. I’m out like a light. I wake up exhausted and in pain.

Back at Melinda’s she discovers that the baby has moved from -4 to -2. This, she assures us, is a lot of progress in just a few hours. I’m still at one and a half centimeters and not much more effaced. But with the contractions coming faster and stronger we discuss options.

“Let’s talk about what we’re going to do with you,” she says.

Option #1 Catch the next ferry from Orcas directly to the mainland.

Option #2 Go back to FH on the 4:35 ferry then catch a later ferry to the mainland.

Option #3 Go back to FH and wait it out. See if things progress and if they do we can always call for the charter flight to the mainland.

We opt for Option #2 for a couple of reasons.

1. Both Bob and I would feel much more comfortable being on the mainland tonight with the way things are going. We don’t want the stress of having to figure out when to call for a flight, etc.

2. We can’t go directly to the mainland from Orcas because we left the baby seat at home as well as our cell phone chargers. Also, we would just like to be able to go through the house and make sure we have everything we need. And bring Pablo to the dogsitter’s house (Juniper & Sean) as well as say goodbye.

So we leave Melinda’s and I immediately begin to cry. I’m overwhelmed. This is all getting real. This is about to happen for real. EVERYTHING is about to change. Our entire lives are about to change …. and my body is about to go through something that I can barely fathom.

It’s a strange feeling. I feel excitement as well as a strange sense of loss. This I didn’t expect. I feel fear. This I did expect. Terror.

I bury my face in Bob’s shoulder and then get back in the car and head to the Orcas ferry terminal.

6:50 PM
We are on our 3rd ferry of the day. I have my pillow and blanket and plan on resting. Mom insists first on a game of Bananagrams. I’ve mentioned Bananagrams before. Let me tell you, it’s addictive. I comply. Thinking it will help take my mind off of what is happening. Both Bob and Mom tell me that I can’t blame anything (such as losing) on the contractions. Turns out I don’t have to because I still win. Oh yeah!

((Pause for contraction))

One game is enough for me and I stretch out for the remainder of the ride. I pull my blanket over my head and listen to my music while I breathe through each contraction. They are beginning to feel more intense.

When it’s time to go back to our cars, I take a moment to look out over the water. The sun is shining beautifully on the water. Sparkling. Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is playing in my ears. Bob comes up behind me and puts his arms around me. I’m crying again. But this time it’s a good cry. I’m present to the power of this moment and how beautiful it is. We are truly about to bring our baby into the world. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Once in Anacortes, we pick up some Japanese food and check into our hotel room where there are flowers waiting for us from Laurie. So sweet. She’s already here

((Pause for contraction……………Okay… that one was 43 seconds. Phew.))

What was I talking about? Oh- Laurie. She’s awesome. She gives me a foot massage while we talk. I tell her when my contractions start and she times them. She feels my belly and is very enthused. All good signs, she says. She shows us where the baby’s butt is. She says she’s happy with how well centered he is and tells him, “Good job, Malcolm.”

Laurie leaves to get her rest.

Mom recommends that I take a bath and then rest as I’m going to need it. Then she heads to her room for some much needed sleep.

I take a jacuzzi bath and it feels so good I think that I might not even be able to feel the contractions in the tub. Wrong. I feel them. But the tub is amazing. I’ve missed baths.

During one contraction I try breathing into the pain. I close my eyes and let the pain wash over me and a really cool thing happens. It spreads out. And by spreading it out, it’s less intense over all. It’s like I go into the pain and let it exist.

Spiritual Midwifery talks a lot about this. It’s a sort of riding the wave. They call contractions “rushes” because they are like rushes of energy.

((Pause for contraction….. that was 39 seconds long. 7 minutes since the last one.))

So anyway, I figured I would practice the surrender to the pain thing during these early contractions. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it as they get more and more intense… but at least this is a start.

Now it’s time to rest. I don’t know what will happen tonight. Though I want sleep, I also want things to progress so that we can meet our son. Bob and I are both present to the power of this moment. Something miraculous is about to occur. We are so connected and in sync.

It’s all good.

I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to write another blog post like this for a while. If you’re interested in updates, follow me on Twitter: @Littof
It will be easier to post updates there via my cell phone than here.

One more thing. I’m so aware of all the women in the world who are laboring right now. We make up this enormous worldwide sisterhood that’s pretty cool. This might sound strange… but I’m trying to tap into that collective energy.

Oh.. ((pause for contraction… that one was 48 seconds and 6 min. from my last one.))

What I was about to write is…. thank you to our family and friends and all of you readers out there who are thinking about us and sending positive energy our way. I feel it. I’m telling you! Thank you!

Here’s hoping tomorrow is the day!