I’ve been putting off writing this for a long time. It just seems like such a big thing to try to process emotionally and put into words. But I need to write this down before I start to forget, so here goes. This is a birth story, y’all. If you don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty details of how Katie made her way into the world, then don’t read it. But if you do read all the way through, you will be rewarded at the end with lots of squishy baby pictures!
My sister-in-law, Carmen, arrived Monday, September 26th. Before she arrived, I had been so worried about how we would handle things on our own if Katie decided to come a little early. With my due date at September 30th, we knew we were cutting it close with her arriving on the 26th, but Gabi was 10 days late.
Still I worried. I talked to my midwife, Sue, about it. She gave us a few options, which helped to set my mind at ease. We could switch from a birth center birth to a homebirth, but because of Juan’s discomfort, that wasn’t a really viable option. We could bring Gabi with us to the birth center, but I wasn’t very comfortable with that option either. I worried that with Gabi there, I would want to spend time comforting her instead of focusing on having Katie.
Eventually, we got a solution figured out. If Katie started coming at night, we would take Gabi with us to the birth center. Juan would hang out with her until morning, and then her teacher would come pick her up and take her to school (a home daycare) where she would stay until Katie was born. If Katie started coming during the day, we would let her teacher know, and Gabi would spend the evening at school with her teacher’s family.
Thankfully, Katie decided to stay put until Carmen arrived on the 26th. I truly think that my body listened to my need to have everything lined up with Gabi’s care, though, because in the wee hours of the morning on the 27th, I woke up with powerful contractions. I knew this wasn’t a drill. This wasn’t my body getting ready. This was it.
I went downstairs and hung out with Carmen for a while. I sat on the birth ball, hung out, and chatted. She was jet-lagged so she and I stayed up watching Say Yes to the Dress while things moved along.
At 4:45 AM, I texted our Doula and called Sue to let her know that I thought things were moving.
At some point, I woke up Juan and let him know that this was the real thing. Can you believe that he thought I was mistaken? Oh, no. “Honey, I’ve already called Sue and Jessicka. This is for real.” I hung out a while longer, texted our doula and called Sue again, and took a shower. By that time, it was time to go in to work.
Juan said he wanted to try to work for a few hours in the morning (ha!), but I told him that he needed to drop off Gabi at school and come straight home. He tried to argue, but believe me when I say that you do not win an argument with a woman in labor!
At 8 AM, as they left, I called Sue and Jessicka again to let them know what was going on. Sue suggested I hang tight for a bit to see how things progressed. I told her that when Carmen and Juan got back I needed to come in to the birth center because we would get to a point where I was not going to be willing to go anywhere.
So that was it. I knew exactly what was going to happen. Interestingly enough, this was exactly what I had imagined in my hypnobabies birth visualization! I visualized that Carmen would arrive, I would go into labor the next day while Gabi was at school, and Katie and I would be back at home in time to welcome Gabi home from school. So far, things were going just the way I visualized.
It was around the time I made that realization that the contractions started getting a lot more intense. I couldn’t talk through them. I started to feel the need to vocalize a little bit by groaning during them. I started listening to my birthing affirmations hypnobabies track. (In retrospect, I should have done this right away instead of waiting until later.)
Oh, ha ha to Mr. Juan for trying to tell me this wasn’t really it!
Juan and Carmen returned shortly after taking Gabi to school, and I instructed them on putting together our cosleeper (I will describe that in a separate post). They got the furniture moved and set up, and that was it!
At 9:30 AM, we called Sue and Jessicka, hopped into the car, and headed for the birth center.
Once we got to the birth center and got settled in, it seemed like things had slowed down. Juan put the Easy First Stage CD in the CD player, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I sat on the birth ball while Jessicka rubbed my lower back.
At around 10:15, my contractions were still spaced out a bit (6-10 minutes apart), and Sue suggested that Juan and I take a walk around the neighborhood. Since things had slowed, Jessicka went across the street to check on another mom who was in labor. I didn’t really want walk, but I went ahead and agreed to. We walked. Every few steps, a contraction would hit and I would need to hug Juan and groan a bit. It was hot. The sun was bright. We walked down the sidewalk, across the very small parking lot, and I said, “Forget this. I want to go back inside!” So we did.
I was not a happy camper at this point. I laid down on the bed where things became much more uncomfortable and painful. Damn if it didn’t hurt! But it seemed like the contractions were stronger laying down, so I stayed on my side. Truth be told, I just didn’t want to move.
My contractions were still really far apart, so I sent Juan to Trader Joe’s to get me some snacks. Davie, one of the other midwives, arrived during this time with a smoothie. It tasted like hell, but I tried my best to drink it. If my blood sugar dipped, I might start getting sick again and that was the last thing I wanted. Carmen hung out with me and held a hot rice sock on my back.
By 10:50, my contractions were every 4-6 minutes apart and really intense. With every contraction, I would holler down the hall to Sue, and she would come running in to hold my hand. At the time, it seemed like I was shouting at her in a really demanding way, but later she told me that I just sounded lost like I was calling to her for help.
It was at this point that I started to freak out a little. I asked Sue to check how dilated I was because I was really losing hope. She encouraged me to wait just a bit. At the next contraction, I started cursing and I hollered down the hall, “Where the HELL is Jessicka!” “I’m here,” she said, “Right here!” She had just come back.
It was 11:15 by now, and suddenly everyone was back. Juan was back, Jessicka was back. Sue, Dawn, and Davie (all 3 midwives were there), and dammit I wanted Sue to check me. I know I said I didn’t want to be checked, but I wanted to know that something had been happening. I was pissed, scared, I hurt, and I wanted to know what the deal was.
We waited through another contraction, and then Sue checked me. I was at 9 cm with a bulging bag of waters and -1 station! Well, that explained a lot! I had been in transition! No wonder I had been feeling so awful!
Hot damn! Davie, fill the tub! Let’s have us a baby!
The wave of confidence and relief I felt when I heard I was almost completely dilated was incredible. Suddenly I went from freaking out to ready to get down to business. Sue was surprised as well. My contractions were really strong, but they were so widely spaced that she was expecting me to not be nearly where I was.
They got me out of the bed and onto the toilet so I could pee before I got into the tub. I remember getting up off the bed I told Jessicka, “Okay, I’m going to get up and then I’m going to hit the floor. I’m not falling down, but a contraction is about to start and I need to be on my hands and knees.” It helped. I had a few contractions on the toilet, and I did not want to be touched. Walking from the bathroom to the tub, I went to the floor with each contraction. But then at 11:30, into the tub I went!
When I finally got into the tub, Dawn put in the Pushing Baby Out Hypnobabies CD. I wasn’t really ready to push. The contractions were really painful and I just didn’t feel the urge to push. The bag of waters was really in the way, and caused quite a bit of discomfort! Thank goodness for the water though. It helped immensely.
Sue suggested doing some gentle pushes with the next contraction to see if that would get my water to break. I tried. Really, I did. But it hurt and my heart wasn’t in it. She checked me again, and I was almost totally dilated except for an anterior lip. The bag of waters was pushing so hard and was so uncomfortable with every contraction that I asked her to go ahead with the AROM. A few contractions later, she was ready with the little hook thing, and during my next contraction, she broke my water. This was 11:56 AM.
Now I was ready to get down to business! At 12:05, my body started pushing and I started pushing, too. Sue and Dawn really let me do my own thing. They didn’t try to direct my pushing or my breathing and they allowed me to trust my body to do what it needed to do.
And now I really started vocalizing. I was actually not aware that I could make sounds like that! I think I sounded like a cow! I grunted and groaned and growled. In retrospect, I feel a little embarrassed about it, but nature really did take over, and I was just along for the ride. I really think that the Hypnobabies practice was helping me to allow my body to do what I needed to do.
I pushed for a few minutes, but I was kind of on my back. I remember at one point reaching down and feeling her head. I felt a ridge and was really worried that the cord was getting pinched. Sue checked between contractions and reassured me that the ridge I felt were the plates in Katie’s skull compressing as she moved through my pelvis. Our bodies were both doing exactly what they were supposed to do.
I was having trouble pushing. I was sitting up, but I had slid down a little so I was reclined a bit, and that made things more difficult. Sue tried to get me to curl around Katie more to help push, but I had a hard time doing that. I just kept sliding down in the tub, and my motivation to move was nonexistent. If there were a next time, I would tell Sue to zap me in the butt with a cattle prod. I think it would’ve been easier if I would’ve been in a different position.
I think at some point I yelled at Dawn (or Davie?) to shut off the CD. The noise was bugging me and I wasn’t paying attention anyway.
Around the time that Katie started to crown (or maybe before?) Sue reached down to see if some perineal massage would help give some comfort, and she had only barely touched me when I screamed at her, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” Which in retrospect is kind of funny since I had written into my birth plan that I definitely wanted her to do that. It’s amazing how your body tells you what you do and do not need. I could feel myself tearing a bit, and when she laid hands on me (gently I might add!), it just intensified the feeling.
Again, I surprised myself by how I was able to vocalize. I was able to tell my birth attendants what I needed without feeling too shy to do so, and I was able to allow my body to make the noises it needed to help push Katie out. A few times I felt myself panicking and the pitch of my sounds would rise up into a higher register. Each time that happened, it seemed like Sue or Dawn would get my attention very gently by laying a hand on my shoulder and quietly saying my name. And I would bring my voice down into the low, belly sounds. Keeping my voice low and deep helped me to feel more in control and helped keep the pressure low in my belly to help me push. I think the Hypnobabies class really helped me to feel comfortable using my voice during Katie’s birth.
Katie crowned pretty quickly, but she didn’t come out all in one push. Her head stuck out under the water, and Sue said, “You need to get up out of the water now.” Something about the way she said it motivated me, and Juan and Jessica helped me to stand up. I think Sue was expecting me to get all the way out of the tub, but as soon as I stood up, I had another contraction, and… BLOOOP! OUT SHE CAME!
(For those keeping track, the time was 12:24 PM)
Sue made it around in time to catch her, and half a heartbeat later, Sue was passing her between my legs for me to hold. At first I felt really confused and I didn’t want to take her. I couldn’t really figure out what had happened, but I reached down and grabbed her because Sue was telling me to. As soon as she was in my arms and I felt her weight the confusion lifted, and I realized who she was and what we had just done.
And we sat down for a good snuggle in the tub. It was the most amazing feeling. It told Juan later that it was about a hundred times harder than running a marathon. It was like I had walked through fire and come out a new person. It was amazing.
Bless her, little Katie was such a little cuddle bug! I just held her and cuddled her and a few minutes later I nursed her and I cuddled her some more. It was awesome. She was so warm and soft and covered in vernix (sorry about your shirt Sue!). She was so alert, too! She just looked around quietly taking everything in.
Sue, Dawn and Jessicka were making bets on how big she was. To me, she just looked like a squishy newborn, but apparently she looked pretty big. Sue bet that she was 10 lbs 11 oz and Dawn bet that she was 10 lbs 6 oz.
We waited quite a while in the tub. In my birth preferences, I wanted to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before we cut it, and it pulsed for a long time! It was a big, strong placenta! Finally, at 1:04 PM, it stopped pulsing. We clamped the cord and Carmen cut it. Juan was too squicked out to do that and I was high up in Happy Babyland. So Carmen got the honors.
Katie kept trying to kick the scissors, so I had to hold her leg still.
When my body started pushing the placenta out (1:15), I remember groaning and saying, “Why? Why won’t it just leave me alone?” But we got that done, too. Apparently it was a huge placenta, and I got a nifty placenta anatomy lesson from Dawn a little later, which was very cool.
Sue and Dawn gave me plenty of time to relax and snuggle with Katie. When they did the newborn exam and weighed Katie, it turned out that no one had been right about her weight. She was 11 lbs! Eleven. She was huge! She was the 3rd largest baby Sue and Dawn had ever delivered and the biggest Jessicka had ever assisted with!
Weighing Katie. She's almost too heavy for the scale!
What a little beast!
Relaxing before the newborn exam
Cuddles from Papa
I had to get some stitches. I was pushing like the blue blazes, and she was 11 lbs after all. But Sue got it done quickly. By 4 PM that same day, we were home and settled in.
Going to bed for the first time
Gabi meeting Katie for the first time
A few days after she was born, Juan said, “Are you ever going to stop bragging about how big she is?” Nope! I had an 11 lb baby without meds! I feel like superwoman! Sometimes I wonder if I’m still riding high on the hormones from Katie’s birth! No, by now it’s just the oxytocin from nursing that keeps me feeling so good!
It was an incredible experience. 9 hours of labor start to finish. 20 minutes of pushing. One enormous and beautiful child. Who could ask for more? Juan was awesome. My midwives were unbelievable. Jessicka was incredible. I think I had the best birth team on the planet!
Gabi and Carmen making a Thank You Cake for Sue, Dawn, and Davie
Sue and Katie at my 6 week postpartum check