Look! It’s a cute baby!
This post is her birth story. It’s a … let’s just say, family-friendly version of that story, but we didn’t find her under a cabbage leaf. Read at your own risk.
Fun fact: Before I
got pregnant was 36 weeks pregnant with Silas, I didn’t know that there’s more to fetal positioning than head up or head down (head down, aka vertex, is what you want). Apparently, the direction the baby’s face is pointing, relative to the mom’s body, really matters. It makes sense when I think about it, but I had no idea before Silas insisted on facing the wrong way. You want your baby to be anterior (that is, with its spine toward your front) not posterior (with its spine toward your spine). Babies who present posterior are harder to get out. Their necks don’t flex the right way. Their head circumference measures a bit bigger. There are some helpful explanatory drawings here. A posterior presentation can lead to a longer labor, back labor, longer pushing stage, etc. Generally, posterior babies take longer to get out and it hurts more to do it, especially in the mom’s back.
Silas was persistently posterior for a while toward the end of that pregnancy, and so Misty, the midwife, suggested that I should see a chiropractor to try to turn him around. I did, and the chiropractor told me I had a pelvic misalignment. With weekly adjustments, Silas turned anterior and was born about ten days after he turned. My labor with him was quite fast–under four hours.
I should just add a couple more details about Silas’ birth, because I can’t help comparing them in my mind. I went into labor on my due date, shortly before midnight, with very little indication from my body that this would be happening any time soon. My labor with him, because it was so fast, was kind of scary. As a first-time mom, I was expecting something a lot…longer. More like ten hours, maybe. I thought I would have an early stage that included breaks of 8-10 minutes between contractions. None of that happened. I went from nothing to my water breaking, to contractions that were three minutes apart and 90 seconds long, in about 45 minutes. Misty didn’t think it would happen that fast either. There was definitely a moment, which I think of as the moment I lost all mental control, when I was sure the baby would be born before she got to my house, and that there would be something wrong with him, and we wouldn’t know what to do.
I was also really out of it during and after Silas’ birth–although I wasn’t on any drugs at all. I just lost track of time and there’s a lot I don’t remember. I know I said lots of really weird things. I had sort of a rough adjustment to motherhood–I felt completely disoriented. Due to the position I was in when Silas was born, I didn’t see him come out. I heard him cry, and I thought, “How did a baby get in here???”
There were a few things I definitely wanted to do differently this time. I wanted to maintain a better mental state, so I could really remember and experience what was actually going on, and not my own fuzzy endorphin buzz (I wasn’t sure if this would be possible). I wanted to be a lot less freaked out. I wanted to be downstairs, so I could use my gorgeous bath tub (this was the plan for Silas’ birth, but things went really fast and then I was upstairs in our teeeensy half-bath and couldn’t even leave that room, let alone go all the way downstairs). And I wanted to see the baby be born, and catch her if possible.
This time, I saw the chiropractor regularly throughout my pregnancy. Petra was also persistently posterior, and I scheduled an extra appointment on my due date (9/24) to see if the chiropractor could turn her. She did, and I hoped I’d go into labor right after that so that she wouldn’t have a chance to turn again. I figured it had to happen soon–I had been getting all kinds of signs from my body, for the previous two weeks, that it was getting ready. My hips were all out of joint. I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions that were trending toward regular and a bit painful. The baby was wiggling a lot less, like she was running out of room. Surely, this all had to happen soon! By being very careful about how I was sitting, how I slept, and what kinds of activities I did, I managed to keep her anterior for nearly a week. Then, on Sunday morning (9/30), I was sitting in church and noticed she was posterior again. She must have turned while I was sleeping. I made a note to call the chiropractor the next day and see if she could get me in to try again. That night, I tried a few things to turn her, but it didn’t work.
At 2 am (10/1), I had a dream that I was in labor, and when I woke up, I was having fairly mild contractions. They didn’t feel like much–I’ve had menstrual cramps that were worse–but I decided to get up and time them anyway. They were three minutes apart. I timed them for about half an hour and noticed that they were getting a little closer together and definitely more intense. I woke up JC, told him to call Misty and Pam (our friend who was going to take care of Silas), and got in the tub.
Things still were definitely not that bad. I was happy to notice that I wasn’t having any back labor, which I figured meant that the baby had turned to a better position. The contractions were getting closer together, and that was annoying. By the time Misty arrived at 3:15, they were only 90 seconds apart and lasting for 45 seconds to a minute. I hadn’t had much dinner, and so I’d asked JC to make me some toast–but I couldn’t eat it because I literally didn’t have enough time between contractions to grab the toast, take a bite, chew, and swallow. For most of the labor, I found the close spacing of the contractionsr annoying–someone would ask me a question, and I’d start to answer, but then get interrupted. It was like trying to have an adult conversation while dealing with my two-year-old. They were weird, too, as contractions go–they hurt at the beginning of the contraction, but then would stop hurting (although I could still feel that my uterus was tight), and sometimes start hurting again near the end of the contraction. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of anyone having that experience, but I’d love to hear about it if you did.
I had to get out of the tub for a couple contractions because I needed to use the toilet, and I can definitely say that they were much, much, MUCH less bad when I was in the water. I got back in as soon as I could. As things got more intense, I found that I needed to do more than breathe to get through them. I had this mental image of Silas when he was a little screamer, and how we would swaddle him and make a really loud SHHHHHHHHHH noise in his ear. I could just see him calming down, and all the tension in his body going away when we did that. So, as the contractions intensified, I made that SHHHHHH noise and imagined his face relaxing. It helped me relax. I asked JC to put on the ocean noises that we used when Silas was little, too. It gave me something to focus on, and that helped. JC also helped me a lot by being in physical contact with me through most of the contractions–just holding my hand or rubbing my back. During my labor with Silas, I think JC was a little afraid to touch me, because
everything I was so nuts.
At some point, which I later figured out must have been transition, the contractions were intense enough that the shhhhhh didn’t work any more, and I had to vocalize. Misty was in the other room getting some coffee, and she came back in and said, “Well, that sounded different.” And it was. Not long after that, I started to feel like I needed to push, just a little bit. I thought it was way too early for that, but I tried and it was the only thing that felt at all good. I asked Misty if it was okay, and she said not to wear myself out, but to listen to what my body was telling me. I think around that time, I might also have said that I didn’t really feel like doing this whole labor thing anymore, and it would sure be nice if I got a break, and also, had I reached transition yet, because seriously, can’t do a whole lot more of this. Misty kind of chuckled at that last bit and told me that I was way past transition, and she thought I was going to be having a baby really soon. I think this was also when she put the receiving blankets in the dryer to warm them. That’s when I knew she was totally serious about it being soon soon.
So, I started pushing–my sense of time is all a mess, and I don’t know how long I pushed for. I reached down and thought I was feeling a head already coming out. At some point, Misty said something about how my water still hadn’t broken, and I said, “Would I even know if it broke while I was in the tub?” She said that I definitely would. At the next contraction, it broke, and it felt like a balloon popping. Probably the weirdest feeling of my life. JC said it looked like a water balloon exploding, which, of course, is exactly what it was. So, the head-like-thing I thought I was feeling was actually the amniotic sack, and I thought I was closer to done than I actually was.
But it was only another couple of pushes after that, and then her head came out. I had been planning to catch her myself, but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to reach her and push at the same time, so just before the last big contraction, I said, “I can’t catch her–someone else do it!” JC caught her, but I did see her come out. He set her on my chest and then everyone covered us with warm blankets and I got a look at her. She was just lovely, and she looked at me!
Somebody checked the time, and it was 4:40 am. “You were only in labor for two and a half hours,” JC said. “Wow.”
That’s when Misty said, “Uhm. Alisha, did you notice that that little girl was sunny side up?” I had felt a little squishy nose when I reached down as her head was coming out, but I hadn’t put together what that meant until Misty said it like that. So, I had a posterior baby in two and a half hours, with no back pain (and only one minor tear–no stitches!).
We went into the guest room, where we cuddled and nursed. Misty checked Petra over and made sure we were both okay, and then she left. Pam brought Silas home, and I went to sleep for a bit while JC played with him. A sweet girl from our church came over in the afternoon and played with Silas while the rest of us napped for a bit.
Over all, I feel better about this birth than I did about Silas’. Even though it was an HOUR faster, it felt much more in control. I was less freaked out. I was much, much more lucid. At one point, I spent the forty seconds between contractions giving JC step-by-step instructions about how to use our French press to make some coffee for Misty. During Silas’ birth, I couldn’t have recited my phone number between contractions. I’m also very glad that I got to see her emerge. I don’t have any confusion about where in the world this baby came from and did that HUMAN PERSON actually come out of there? There’s also the simple fact that nothing really can prepare you for the experience of becoming a mom for the first time–but having done it, I felt much more ready for it this time. Misty says that sometimes a fast labor isn’t ideal because there’s so much that you have to process during labor–not just the physical stuff, but also the psychological revelation of suddenly realizing that, yes, this is really happening, and a real baby is going to be part of your life. “Let’s go for a six hour labor this time, okay?” she said. But two and a half was okay, and maybe that’s because I got through Silas’ birth and survived it.
And now we’re just us, at home, and four feels right.