forgive my lack of posts around here lately…i’ve been a bit preoccupied. family has descended upon the nest and i’ve been ever-focused on learning the ways of a newborn once again. it’s been equal parts old hat and holyshitiforgotallofthis. anyway, zig is now 6 days old, and currently being held by someone downstairs. probably jude. [because no one else is allowed to hold him when she's around. she adores her baby brother so. the rest of us are chumps in comparison.] since my arms are actually empty, i’m going to attempt to put ziggy’s birth story down in actual words. because i want to remember. and it’s a story i want you all to know.
and now, to the story:
on monday, 20 september, jude and h and i took our usual morning walk around the neighborhood. i remarked that i was surprised to feel no contractions whatsoever. undaunted, we decided to spend the rest of the morning out of the house. we sojourned to the liquor store for the aforementioned bushmills black bush irish whiskey, and then wandered around the grocery store awhile. finally, we took jude to the park, and i swung on the monkey bars.
somewhere in the middle of this bustling activity, i realized that i was having contractions. they were slowish — about 8 mins apart when sitting, but they were much more intense and laborlike than any i’d experienced before. i took note, but didn’t focus too much on them, and just got on with my day, which, you may remember, went like this. i drank some raspberry leaf tea, and when the contractions were still present and accounted for at 8pm, i called my midwife. she told me that this was likely it, to eat some good protein, to have a glass of wine or beer and take a benadryl, and then to get my ass to bed. she didn’t want me to be exhausted for the big event. and so i had a porkchop, drank some oktoberfest, and caught up with some mad men with my love before going to sleep.
monday night’s sleep was restless to say the least. the benadryl kept me asleep till about 2 am, but after that, i was awoken with every strong, burning contraction in my back. when i began to feel all heartburny, a sleepy h made me a middle of the night glass of chocolate milk, which helped. of course, she went back to sleep after that, but i was awake; uncomfortable but not in pain.
i labored with jude throughout a day, and in the constant company of people. i’ve never labored alone, at night. and so i took that opportunity to center myself with the absolute awareness that i was on a sacred threshold. i lay still, hands on belly, and watched the moon from my window. as the contractions grew stronger, i steadied my gaze on it, unblinking. in those moments, i was unafraid.
at 7 am the next morning, i rallied the troops. midwife michele advised she’d arrive in the 9 o’clock hour, and sent apprentice midwives meg and genevieve ahead. uncle g’s mom (jude’s gabby) was summoned to come pick up jude. [we decided that jude should be elsewhere during the birth, mostly because she absolutely lost her shit the second anyone even touched my belly, and i found it very hard to focus on staying on top of contractions when i was so concerned about her. bonus? she had a whole night with her gabby and got to go shopping, as well as experience her first oreo. "you'd think she'd discovered america," gabby said of that moment.] and uncle g himself arrived pretty quickly. soon, the house was bustling with excitement. h made breakfast tacos, as i ambled around the house, waiting for contractions, which naturally all but halted with the arrival of the midwives. to keep things going, h and j and i took our daily walk around the neighborhood, and j found a lucky green marble, to which she held tightly with great pride:
of note: i was so full of energy and excitement after our walk that i vacuumed the living room and scrubbed the downstairs toilet, much to the amusement of all, especially the midwives, who had taken to their waiting stations, and were reading and knitting and snuggling our pets.
after michele arrived–with her sister, lisa, who is just becoming a midwife herself at age 50!–she did an internal exam, and told me that i was 3 1/2 cm dilated, about 70% effaced. i was on the cusp of active labor, but the contractions could easily peter out. and so off we went on another walk: michele, h, uncle g, and me. i had to stop and squat every three minutes. cars slowed and people stared as my entourage stood over my hunched over self. i was entertained.
and yet, by 1pm, i was still dilated to 3 1/2. contractions felt intense to me, and they were still coming 3 minutes apart, but michele said she thought i was a watched pot, and was stalling as a result. so. they left. all of them. the full house was suddenly empty, save for h and me. “call me when you’ve entered active labor,” michele said as she left. “how will i know?” i asked while gripping my contracting belly. “you’ll know,” she said and kissed my head.
i laid down with h and tried to nap awhile, but lying on either side was severely uncomfortable. i think i slept fitfully between contractions, but mostly, i felt like i was entering that hazy, time-free laborland.
at 3pm, i got up to pee, and was nearly struck down by a contraction. i sat on the toilet and called michele. “please come back,” i whimpered when she answered. “on my way,” she said, and i hung up. i sat down on the birthing ball and began to weep. i was not even halfway dilated, and i was already so tired. i was in so.much.pain. i was afraid. i could no longer do this. h held me and let me exhale everything i was afraid of.
michele et al arrived at around 3:30, and the next internal exam found me to be 4 cm dilated. “welcome to active labor!” michele said. and then she invited me to take a bath, which i did not want. just like my labor with jude, i wanted to be on the birth ball, leaning on my bed, with h’s thumbs placed firmly in the small of my back.
finally, michele convinced me to get in the bath, and once i did, she covered my whole body with a towel while i lay on my back. for the next 20 minutes or so, h poured water over me as i breathed through the mounting contractions. it was a lot more comforting than i thought it would be. once i got out, however, michele gave me the news that ziggy was attempting to get out of a prime, anterior birthing position and into a really not good transverse position. to keep him where he was supposed to be, she made me get on hands and knees for what felt like forEVER. and when i wasn’t in that position, i had to walk around, which was equally unpleasant. oh, and yeah, i was definitely naked by this point.
all of the midwives skirted around the issue of breaking my bag of waters for hours, and had i not been focusing on so many contractions, i would have found it humorous. but at the time, i did not want any unnecessary internal exams, i wanted my waters to go on their own; basically, i wanted to labor on my own without even midwifey sorts of interventions. and so it went for another hour: me on the ball, h at my back, midwives gathered on my bedroom floor, chatting about how much they loved my labor playlist and basically just keeping vigil with me. it was really peaceful.
oh but then 7 pm rolled around. michele did another exam, and found me about 5.5cm dilated with my bag of waters low. ziggy was still floating high, however. he was not engaged at all. she gently broached the water-breaking subject as a “well, you know, if you want to…it’s up to you” sort of proposition, just as meg pulled out the hook and readied it. it felt like peer pressure to me, and i panicked a bit. michele sent meg, genevieve, and lisa out of the room, and she listened to concerns and fears. i KNEW i would immediately enter transition, which is indescribably fiery and big as an ocean, and i didn’t know if i could normalize it. michele gave me the line about it not happening immediately, and i called bullshit. it happened before. i remembered it well. and i was suddenly feeling all my fear from the last time. it was a paralyzing fear, and i wanted to climb up the walls and escape. i asked michele to leave h and me alone while we talked about it.
i waddled over to the toilet and sat down. oh god, the toilet was my other favorite place to be throughout the whole labor. gravity was a godsend, and sitting upright off my suzy kept my posture straight and thus my back contractions bearable. anyway, h held eye contact with me a long while, and her gaze was my safety net. cheesy but true. she held my whole self with her eyes, and i felt contained and safe and one with her. she reminded me that transition would happen regardless of when my waters broke, that michele was only hoping to shorten my labor, which ultimately meant we’d be meeting our son in two hours instead of seven. she also reminded me that at the end of all of this, i’d have a shot of whiskey waiting for me. i told h that once i went into transition, the coherent me that was talking to her would be going underground, and it was likely that i wouldn’t have many or any words until all of this was over. she was okay with this. i finally nodded consent, and michele came back into the room.
before she broke my bag of waters, michele said she wanted me to try to walk after it was done. i said no. walking was too intense, i’d be wasting too much energy on fighting the panic, instead of drawing into myself to ride out the constant big waves. and she listened to me. whenever it was safe to do so, my midwife allowed me to lead the rest of my labor. and that freedom, that semblance of control in the big ocean truly empowered me to continue on.
7:15pm: michele popped the bag. there was no big gush, as there was with jude, only a satisfying warm pouring sensation, like peeing after holding it for hours. or 9 months. oh but i was right. here came transition. michele positioned me on my left side and covered me up with my super warm and fuzzy bath towel, where i felt myself go underground, just as i knew i would. i lay still for a very long time, learning to moan and relax and exhale each contraction. michele and h gave me a foot massage, and then struggled to put socks on my usually very warm feet. after who knows how long, one of the midwives checked zig’s heart tones and found them accelerating to a rate they were uncomfortable with. “he’s not happy with this position, annie,” michele said, concerned that zig’s umbilical cord was being compressed. “how about the birth ball? i know you like the birth ball.” and so i somehow became upright again, and sat on the ball, leaking fluid and constantly contracting.
with every transitional contraction, i found myself sitting upright with my best posture, hands folded together just below my belly button. i could feel ziggy enter my birth canal. it actually felt like relief, and not pain. i mumbled from underground at one point, “my clit actually feels kind of good,” which received giggles all around. i moved back and forth from ball to toilet, and did not really want anyone to touch me or talk to me, including h. at one point, however, i felt overcome by the power of a rather big wave, and genevieve took me to her chest like a mother and held me. i’ll never forget that gesture. it was pure compassion and love from someone i barely know. i fell into her and wept till it passed. she reminded me to tell someone if i needed to push. i remembered that the last few contractions did indeed feel kind of pushy. i also remembered that pushy contractions ended with a bit of a grunt, so i made sure to add a grunt here and there so i wouldn’t have to use words to tell the midwives it was nearing the time to push. oh, the mind of a woman in laborland.
i took one last trip to the toilet, and said out loud, without thinking, “i need to push now.” i was immediately ushered onto the bed for an internal check. and just like with jude, michele said “you’re complete, annie, with just a lip of a cervix. why don’t you give me a little push with the next contraction to get it out of the way?” so i did, and the urge to push was so overwhelming that my body shook. it was 9:18 pm. michele said, “h, i’d tell you to go wash your hands, but there’s no time! get ready to catch your baby!” all i thought in this moment was OH THANK GOD I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS FOR A LONG TIME. seconds later, uncle g was in the room with a camera aimed at my suzy. in my labor with jude, i spent 34 minutes pushing double time to get her out quick as her heart rate decelerated due to her hand stuck to her head. with ziggy, i did the opposite: i spent every pushing contraction trying not to push, so i wouldn’t tear. copious amounts of olive oil were poured over me, and i was very aware of hands protecting my clit and perineum. and then suddenly, the ring of fire! and directions to feel my baby’s squishy head! and thoughts of this ring of fire thing isn’t as bad as i feared it would be (i was numbed last time) and then pop! a head! i looked down and watched and felt my son exit my body and slide into the world! and then a great big cry! and then he was on my chest, as sigur ros’ song, glósóli played. it was 9:30 pm. he was out of me in 12 minutes and 4 pushes. hot damn, i didn’t tear.
whew. i’m at 2500 words now, two days after starting to write this post. mr zig is waking from a nap, so i’m going to end this story with bullets:
- his umbilical cord was magnificent: 35 inches long and thick thick thick.
- i birthed his placenta at 9:35 pm.
- his apgar score was 9.
- he suckled with a perfect, hungry latch immediately.
- i can’t believe that he is smaller than his sister.
- i didn’t lose much blood this time, and was completely present and coherent for the rest of the night. there was nothing traumatic about his arrival.
- omg he’s so cute and i’m in love.
- for all my preliminary fears, i had the perfect birth experience. i gave my son a sacred entry, full of laughter upon his arrival. after all, isaac means laughter. it’s only fitting.
if you’d like to see more laborday photos, go here.
oh, and glósóli can be heard and viewed here. embedding has been disabled, but it’s a gorgeous video, so do watch if you’re so inclined.
whew. off to nurse my big mister, who gained 10 oz in 3 days.