There are two ways to look at Miriam's birth; either I was in labor for one hour or I was in labor for six weeks.
I had my first bout of prodromal labor at 35 weeks. And I worried because I knew that was too early for a homebirth. The next week or so was tense for me as I prayed labor would hold off till 37 weeks. Every couple days I'd have regular contractions for 5 or 6 hours at a time, not painful, but enough to exhaust and frustrate me. The prodromal labor also caused huge hormonal changes that made me weepy. I prepared our extra room. The birth pool was aired up, the birth art and affirmations banner I made were hung. Everything was ready. 37 weeks came and went and the erratic contractions continued.
By the time my due date rolled around it became clear we wouldn't be having a November baby. And I assumed labor would come along at any time since Gideon was born at 39 weeks and Zeke at 40. But no such luck. Every day I'd have some contractions but they would dissolve into nothing at bedtime and I would dissolve into tears. My wonderful doula Cindy came over and we talked a bunch about what fears I might have that might be keeping me from wanting to go into labor and we also checked Miriam's positioning. She was turned to the side a little so we did some belly massage and turned her to the perfect position for birth and she happily stayed there. I could feel Miriam moving and she felt huge.
At the end of the week I went and had acupuncture done. Laying in the chair in the dark room I realized how unready I was to be done with this pregnancy. This pregnancy had been a pretty awful time in my life. Morning sickness had made it hard for me to care for the boys, then my hand injury made it totally impossible. I had surgery on my hand and couldn't even care for myself. Then the
boys got staph and I had to be extra careful not to touch them too much because I had an open
incision in my hand. I thought all sickness and injuries were behind us but the next month held two ER visits for Zeke and a call to poison control, followed by a month of Silas needing traveling for business. I had intended to stay active and enjoy an uneventful pregnancy and the opposite had happened and it was the most stressful time in my life. And I hated that it happened that way and wished I could have a do over and I started crying in the chair with all the needles in. Silas and I talked through everything that night. He reminded me that there is no perfect pregnancy, no perfect birth, and if I was expecting that I was not being accepting of what was actually happening.
The next day my midwife, Bev, came to my house for my 41 week appointment. We talked about the day before and how I was pretty much in denial of how my pregnancy had gone. One of my birth affirmations is "I am accepting what is happening right now." And we talked about how that might apply to what had happened in the past couple months. I asked her to check me and I wasn't dilated at all but quite effected. I wasn't disappointed, though. I was feeling so peaceful after addressing my feelings about my pregnancy. Bev said she'd need me to go get an ultrasound on Wednesday to check my fluid levels if I didn't go into labor before then. On Friday I'd be 42 weeks if I hadn't had her by then we'd have to consult with an OB.
Cindy called to see how my appointment had gone and I told her much of what I'd told Bev about where I was at mentally. I felt like the boys were all growing up so fast and I knew as soon as Miriam was born she would start growing up too and I wasn't ready for it. We talked about how important it was to dwell in the moment and to let go of the past and the future. I couldn't control any of it anyway! I imagined myself with open hands - accepting of what was happening and letting go of my desire to control everything. More on and off contraction for the next four days.
On Wednesday I went in for an ultrasound. It was very brief, less than ten minutes. My midwife had ordered a fluid check only so they didn't do a weight estimation, thankfully. My fluid levels turned out to be not only adequate but very good. At my appointment afterwards Bev praised my nutritious eating habits for making such a healthy place for Miriam to grow. She checked me again and I was
dilated to a 3. I had her strip my membranes and then went to another acupuncture appointment. I didn't have more than the usual contractions but I started losing pieces of mucus plug.
Friday rolled around. 42 weeks. I went to see Bev and she asked me what I was thinking and I told her I wanted to have a baby today and was thinking castor oil. She said I was the perfect candidate for castor oil because I was dilating and effacing and Miriam's heart rate was good and this might just tip me into active labor. She gave me a recipe for a castor oil smoothie and some lemon verbena to add to it that was supposed to mitigate its laxative effects. She checked me again and I was dilated to 4 and she said I was almost completely effaced and very, very soft. She also gave me the names of two homeopathic tablets that I could get if I wanted.
I went to Whole Foods when I left Bev's and bought castor oil, the homeopathic tablets, pineapple, and I was supposed to get a neutral tasting nut butter but I forgot. Silas was at home with the boys so I decided to treat myself to lunch. I bought sushi, which I'd avoided my whole pregnancy, and a chocolate cupcake. I sat in the cafe and ate and thought. I felt so calm and at peace. I thought about the affirmation "I am accepting what is happening right now." And it felt true for me.
When I got home I made a smoothie of orange juice, pineapple, castor oil and lemon verbena. I was supposed to add the nut butter (also to keep the poops at bay) but since I forgot it I used peanut butter. The castor oil taste wasn't that strong but the lemon peanut butter taste I will remember till I die. Bleh. I started having regular contractions around 4pm. but they weren't very strong and had petered out by 8pm so I made a second smoothie. Nothing. My light contractions stopped. Nothing. I cried on Silas's shoulder and we went to bed around 10:30.
I woke up a couple hours later and ran to the bathroom. I was waiting for this. Some people get violently ill from using castor oil - that was not the case for me, but I did have the runs. When I finished pooping my guts out I stood up and HELLO! A contraction started. I big one. A long one. It just kept going and I started moaning and the. yelling through it. I walked over the sink and had another which I had to vocalize through. When it was over I yelled for Silas. He was sleeping so I had to yell a couple times but he rushed in once he heard me. I had another contraction and it left me breathless. I told him to call Cindy. I'd only had 3 contractions and knew this was it and it was HARD. It was around 1AM.
He called Cindy and she asked to talk to me. I only managed a few sentences before I handed the phone back to Silas to focus on a contraction. She said she was on her way. I tried to relax through the next contraction and I couldn't do it. It was so intense. Silas said he was going to call Bev but I urged him to wait till Cindy got there because the plan was to have her come for the first part of labor and then call Bev when it got more serious. But Silas insisted. I found out later that Cindy called her on her way over to tell her she'd better come right away. Bev answered when Silas called and heard me roaring in the background and said she was leaving immediately.
Silas helped me back to bed but already it was feeling like too much. I remember telling him "This is like back labor!" And "This is so hard, why is it so hard?!" I also remember feeling like if I was in a hospital I'd have an epidural. Anything to make it stop. Everything started to blur together. Cindy came in and I felt really comforted by her presence. I was laying on my side and Silas was behind me on the bed and Cindy was kneeling on the floor next to me. She put some lavender oil on her hands and had me smell it. The contractions were so overwhelming and the lavender was distracting and comforting. Cindy and Silas were both saying encouraging things but I don't remember any of it very clearly.
Then at the end of an especially long contraction I gave an involuntary push. I said "I think I'm pushing!" I wanted to get away. I imagined climbing up the wall but I couldn't move. I should have recognized it as transition but it was happening so fast I didn't think it was possible. I'd just had my first contraction 30 minutes ago! I think I was saying "I don't want to push, I don't want to push!" Cindy reminded me I could just try to pant through that urge if I wanted. I later learned she also texted Bev that I was pushing. I could feel Miriam moving down a little with every contraction.
Bev came in and immediately started setting up her stuff. I told her I couldn't do this for hours and she assured me I wouldn't have to. I wasn't so sure after my 6 hour pushing ordeal with Zeke. We had planned that I would hold off pushing for as long as possible to try to avoid another long pushing phase but I couldn't stop these little pushes my body was doing at the end of each monstrous contraction. And with each little push I felt her move down.
Suddenly, I HAD to push and I told Cindy to hold my leg. I pushed and my water broke. SO MUCH FLUID! Cindy looked down and saw me crowning. Before I knew it her head was out and I never felt the ring of fire like I did with the boys. I reached down to feel her head and remembered thinking "That wasn't bad." I had to wait for another contraction to push out her body which took about a minute. I was a little worried about shoulder dystocia since I was pretty sure she was a big a baby, but then the contraction came and I pushed with it and she just slid out.
I think I said something like "I can't believe she's out already!" And Bev handed her up to me. She was born at 1:56; less than an hour after my first contraction, thirty minutes after Cindy arrived, and 15 minutes after Bev arrived. Kate, the birth assistant, walked in while I was crowning. Miriam still had some vernix on her and she had that beautiful newborn smell. She looked like both of the boys and yet so much like herself. She looked so familiar! It later occurred to me that it was because she looked just like my newborn pictures and that's why it felt like I'd seen her before. I was insistent that she not wear a hat since there was recently a study that showed babies don't really lose body heat through their heads and the smell on the baby's head is instrumental in establishing bonding,
I felt completely euphoric. I couldn't believe it happened so fast and it was so easy. I didn't have to try, my body just did its job perfectly. And her delivery was so smooth! She just came right out! It took a bit to deliver the placenta but I had no real conception of time at that point. Bev said my uterus wasn't clamping down and I was bleeding a bit too much so she was going to give me a pitocin shot in my thigh and good God that sucker hurt. I know I had just pushed a baby out but OUCH! My bleeding slowed quickly, though, and after a bit I cut the cord. Cindy whisked The placenta away to put a chunk of it in a smoothie, which was delicious, and the rest of it was encapsulated.
Bev measured her and she was 23 inches long. Then she weighed her and made some exclamation of disbelief. I asked how big she was and she said "11 pounds!" I couldn't believe it either because it was so easy! Bev said she was the biggest baby she'd ever delivered. Her head was 14.5 inches, just a bit smaller than Zeke's was. I had a tiny tear or, as Bev described it, a little split, but it never hurt at all. I hadn't torn with either of the boys but had been very bruised and sore for many days after birth, but I had none of that with Miriam. I couldn't believe I had just given birth.
Third time is the charm; it was my perfect birth experience. I wouldn't have changed anything about it. It happened even better and more perfectly than I'd dared to hope. I never used or even filled the birth pool. I didn't have a single contraction in the room I'd prepared. Never lit the candles, saw the birth art, or got the mattress protector on (Yes, gross). But I know every thing I did prepared me for my birth. I'd prepared and prepared and prepared and it all paid off in this whirlwind of a birth that was over before I knew it! Sorry to all of my mom friends who I've secretly hated for having short labors because I didn't believe it would ever be possible for me. And to my other mom friends, I forgive you if you secretly hate me now too.
Miriam is a sweet baby with a sunny disposition and a huge appetite. We all adore her and she fits so beautifully into our family. It already feels like she's always been here.