Well, my 39 week post got delayed and is now unnecessary! Timothy Arden is here, born December 26th at 7:14pm. He weighed 8 lb, 2 oz, 21 inches long and had almost an inch and a half of fine red hair! Now he's 13 days old already, I can't believe it! It's been a lot of work (breastfeeding isn't quite as easy as it seems it should be) and sleep deprivation (although I'm sleeping better than I expected!) but overall it's been even more amazing than I anticipated it would be to have my own baby! I'm sure I'm not at all biased in my belief that he is the cutest thing in the whole world.
(This is my fairly detailed recount of the birth, so if you're not into that sort of thing, the rest of this post will be uninteresting to you... I did try to keep it fairly ungraphic, though)
On Christmas day, 39 weeks, 3 days, I started having contractions. Looking back on it, I probably felt so lousy on Christmas Eve because it was already getting started. I was happy that I got to spend Christmas Eve with my family, but annoyed at how lousy I was feeling, and wondering how much longer I could stand to be pregnant. I had a little bout of contractions between 3-5am, but they tapered off right when I was starting to wonder if I should maybe wake Matt up, so I went back to sleep.
Christmas morning, Matt and I had fun making breakfast together, taking some pictures in front of our tree, and opening our gifts to each other. All the while I was having very random, sporadic contractions, which weren't really bothering me and felt a lot like what had been happening during the past week anyway. But then after lunch, when we were getting ready to go over for the Bass family Christmas celebration, they really started getting to me. I went to use the bathroom, and then ended up just sitting on the bathroom floor, not wanting to move. The contractions were fairly spaced apart, but were really long, 4-6 minutes, and I was pretty miserable during them, so we decided we needed to stay home.
I started letting myself think that maybe this really was labor, but I was also in denial, because I didn't want him to come on Christmas day! My plan was to enjoy the Bass Christmas, come home and get some sleep, maybe wake up in the early morning in labor, and deliver by dinner time on the 26th. Of course it was silly of me to have a plan for what I wanted to happen. It's pretty funny that he did actually arrive on the 26th, though!
So Matt and I spent Christmas afternoon in bed, watching one of my Christmas gifts, Sense and Sensibility! He brought me things to eat and drink, and I tried to relax and breathe through the contractions all afternoon and into the evening. We timed the contractions, and kept in contact with my midwives. The contractions had never really settled into the typical pattern that you're told to look for, the spacing continued to be erratic, but they were consistently 2-3 minutes long, and took all my concentration to relax and breathe.
Around 8:45pm my doula/midwife's assistant came to see how I was doing, and after observing me through a few contractions, said that she thought the midwife should probably head on over. I had vomited twice (which was extremely unpleasant) and even though I still hadn't settled into the active labor contraction pattern, I really wanted them to be there. Somehow it felt like their presence would legitimize the contractions and help me progress. By this point, I knew he probably wouldn't arrive on Christmas day, so I was definitely ready to get things moving!
Around 1am they checked and I was 7-8cm dilated, so we asked my mom, sister and mother-in-law to come over and be ready. I wanted them to be there immediately after he was born, and was feeling hopeful it might be soon. Unfortunately, my labor stalled there, and that's where things start to become a bit of a blur. At 5am I was 7cm, having made no progress for 4 hours. They had me try a pretty uncomfortable position that I had to stay in for 30 minutes to help baby reposition more favorably. Matt patiently answered my repeated question, "how much longer?" every time I asked.
I finally reached full dilation and got the urge to start pushing about 8:30am, but after pushing for a while and not seeming to make any progress, my midwife checked me and found a lip of cervix still in the way. She tried pushing it back, having me push while she held it back, and had me try a bunch of different positions, but nothing was working. Then they did some research, and found a series of positions to try. The series started with Rebozo belly sifting, with me on hands and knees my doula/midwife's assistant holding my belly up with a sheet and "sifting" back and forth. This was around 1:45pm. That felt great! Then I had to push through 3 contractions in a series of positions, and that finally did the trick. Baby's head was past the cervix!
That made me hopeful again that he'd arrive soon, but there was lots more pushing to do, so I got back in the tub. He moved down very, very slowly, probably because I was so tired. I was pushing with everything I had, but it was hard for me to be sure if it was effective, because he was moving so slowly I couldn't tell he was moving at all. Finally, a bit of his head started to emerge with each push, but it would slide back in. Eventually, enough was out that my midwife could see his hair swirling in the water, it was so long! She had me reach down to feel, and that gave me renewed energy.
I tried extending each push by exhaling with a forceful moan instead of just releasing, and that was the most effective. It still took nearly 30 minutes of crowning, with the burning "ring of fire" sensation for me to get his head out. I was reclined in the tub, but felt like I'd get better results if I let gravity help bring him down, so Matt sat on the edge of the tub and supported me with my arms over his knees. Every muscle in my body was constantly shaking from the exertion. As we got to the end, my midwife decided I should move to the bed, which sounded good to me, although I wasn't sure I could stand. My legs crumpled under me when I tried to step out, so the three of them basically carried me to the bed.
Not too long after moving to the bed, he finally popped out at 7:14pm! It was such a relief. He had the cord wrapped tightly around his neck, and they couldn't loop it over, so they had me quickly push him out and somersaulted his body away, keeping his head close to me. The cord was so short that he had to lay on my belly, it didn't reach all the way up to my chest. He struggled a little with some mucus and trying to breathe, but he was doing great 2-3 minutes later. Two minutes feels more like twenty when you're watching your newborn struggle and can't do anything to help besides talking to him and holding him! I was completely exhausted, but never happier in my life than when he was clear of the mucus, calm and safely here.
It was the longest 31 hours of my life, but worth every minute for our precious little peanut! My midwife had anticipated I would tear, but thanks to crowning for so long, I escaped. I also didn't have excessive bleeding, which they were also concerned about due to my long labor. In line with the rest of my extremely slow labor the placenta took a whole hour and a half to deliver, partly because of Timothy's disinterest in trying to latch. They coaxed it along with some herbs and I got to eat a couple brownies!
The cord around his neck probably contributed to the length of time I spent pushing. I thought it was funny that I had been worried the whole pregnancy that he'd have the cord wrapped around his neck, because I had my cord wrapped around my neck twice when I was born. His heart rate did drop a little during the pushing, but they didn't tell me (thank goodness, I probably would have panicked) and it was never dangerously low, so really, it was a great birth.
Matt was an awesome labor coach, he made me feel safe just by being there, and kept me calm and focused. It seemed like whenever I was starting to lose it, or wanting to just take a break, he knew exactly what to say to help me keep pushing forward with everything I had. While I was dilating I kept fluctuating between hot and cold, and he diligently switched from box fan to space heater whenever I complained of being too hot or too cold... often seemed like only a minute or two between. He was my rock, and I definitely couldn't have done it without him. I only found out afterward how worried he was about the long labor and how tired I was, during the labor he strengthened my confidence that I could do it, no matter what obstacle I had to overcome.
I'm so thankful that we were able to have the home birth I wanted, and didn't have to even consider transferring to the hospital. It really was a wonderful experience, and as my midwife said to me, one of the things about being a woman that truly is "empowering." It was so very hard, but I did it, and it was beyond worth it! I'm so in love with our adorable baby, and excited to start on our journey to parenthood with my amazing husband.