Two warnings. One, this is very long. Two, I'm not censoring. There will never be another time in my life when I will write about my own poop for anyone in the world to read, but I'm okay with it here, so if that bothers you, you might want to skip it. This is birth, in all it's raw glory.
Okay, I'm still feeling rather weak and shaky, but I really want to get this down while it's still fresh. The plan is to at least get it started in draft form and finish it up tomorrow (Wednesday).
So I guess it all starts on Sunday morning. As I posted that day I thought it might be *the* day, because of how much bloody show I was having. My contractions got steadily stronger all day, but at such a slow pace that I was just spending my in-between time slowly preparing a physical space to have a baby and gathering everything I thought I'd need/want beside myself. And I was still saying to myself that it could be that I wouldn't even need it then, that the baby might still be a few days away.
Eventually I got settled in the bedroom. I had Irina in the living room, but this time I was more drawn toward the bedroom, possibly because it was daytime and I could get away from everyone more easily, or maybe because there's actual carpet instead of a hard floor in there, or because I could keep it nice and dim. I picked out 5 CDs to listen to, but the CD player (which is old and hardly used anymore) stopped after the third one. In the beginning it was nice listening to music but toward the end, I wasn't really noticing it until it started malfunctioning (and I hissed "fix it!" to Pat), but that comes later and isn't really important anyway. I had my birth beads necklace, made by my Life Learners friends, which was made with scraps of paper with well-wishes written on them. I had some lip balm, and some candles. I had my camera and indulged myself in taking one last photo of my pregnant belly. I had my cell phone, mainly so I could look at the time. I started writing down what time each of my contractions ended in a notebook, I guess just to have some way of seeing if there really was any progress happening. I started that at 4:15 and here is what I wrote down:
(3)6:35 (I wrote this because I had three contractions between 6:19 and 6:35.) In the beginning there, I was reading a book in between contractions. I mean, they hurt when they were happening, but in between I just felt normal and ... a little bored.
At some point in there, I finally decided that I was probably going to have a baby and that maybe it would be a good idea to take off my pants. The whole early part was kind of like that, where I would accept labor and the approaching baby bit by bit, step by step. I started laboring on the floor by the side of the bed, sometimes leaning over the edge of it, knees on floor, and sometimes laying on the floor on my left side.
The girls and Pat came in and out every so often. Mostly I was irritated and kicked everyone out, but I do remember at one point feeling bad about kicking Irina out because she was crying about it and after all, she didn't really understand how I was feeling, she just wanted to be with me. So I called her back in and she asked me something that I can't remember now and then walked out, saying, "Mommy needs be alone now." Which just goes to show that with Irina, it's better to go with the flow.
Around the time where I stopped writing down the times of my contractions is when they started to get VERY intense and VERY painful. Although I hadn't planned on it, I decided to check myself because it was so painful, I wanted to be sure I was actually making progress. I reached in and I could feel that the baby's head was much lower, right behind my pubic bone, but I couldn't feel my cervix at all. So I got very discouraged. The intensity continued to ramp up and ramp up and ramp up. And every time I checked, I couldn't find my damn cervix.
At this point I was really yelling through the pain and also panting for all I was worth, there was nothing else to do, just wait for the next contraction to come and then... hang on, hang on, hang on, and try not to die. Pat came in about then, in the screaming part, and the girls too, who sat on the bed. I think this was shortly after I wrote down the last time (6:35), and the baby was born at 7:32, so this next part takes place in the space of about an hour or maybe less.
Pat was at my head at first, stroking my hair. I told him about how it was hurting so much and how I couldn't find my cervix. I was crying and screaming and saying I absolutely couldn't do it anymore and I just wanted it to end. Classic signs of transition, but I'm not sure I've ever experienced transition before. Pat asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I think I said yes, which is hilarious because the thought of laboring like that in a moving vehicle is pretty much the definition of insane. I just wanted someone to save me from the pain. In the haze of it all, I heard Irina saying she wanted me to go to the hospital and Saren saying that I shouldn't. My good old Saren. Harper told me today she didn't want me to go, but she was quiet then.
I eventually decided to check myself again. This time I could feel the baby's head covered only by the bag of waters, which in the back of my head I had enough rational thought to think was *really* cool. Moving my fingers over his (or at that point, possibly her) head, I could feel the thin lip of my cervix on the edge and a little watery type bulge on the top of the head. Having felt that, I knew I didn't need to go to the hospital, I knew I was close, and I knew I could get through the rest of the labor. I didn't say anything but there was a definite shift in my mind in how I was approaching the labor. I still screamed and complained and cried (a lot), but in the back of my head, I really knew it was almost over.
Pat moved to the other end of me. For this whole last part I was laying down on my side. Every time a contraction would come, I would push my arms against the bed and push my right leg (the uppermost one, as I was on my left side) against the table next to the bed. (So, you can picture me on the floor next to the bed, with my head pointing to the bottom of the bed, my feet pointing toward the top.) Pushing with my arms and legs gave me some leverage against the pain. Eventually I felt the urge to push, but unlike in any of my other pregnancies, it came upon me gradually. I screamed through all the pushes. The first time I could feel my waters break, but not much came out at that time. The second and third times, I could feel poop coming out, which was at the same time horrifying and completely unimportant. And there we have another first. I knew it was normal for a woman to poop during birth, but it had never happened to me and I assumed it never would.
After that I could feel the head moving down. It took maybe two or three pushes for the head to come out. Another first! Irina came out in one tremendous push, her entire body, like a little rocket! Saren and Harper were not much different. When his head started to come out, Pat said that he thought it was his penis, which freaked me out just a little, but not that much really because I had a job to do and well, I just figured he was wrong. After the head was out, I asked Pat if it was a head and I think he said that he thought it was. Must've been one wrinkly little head! I had a few brief seconds of rest and then I pushed out the rest of the body with a mighty, long push.
Ah, sweet relief. Finally, the contractions were gone, the baby was out, and Pat was saying, "It's a boy!" Which I think I knew all along. And again, he was slimy and perfect and he had only his mama and daddy there to handle him and hold him and love him when he first entered this world, no strangers, no bright lights, no poking, no prodding. The girls came over to check him out. We rubbed his back and wrapped him up in a towel. He cried out loudly for a few seconds right after he was born and after that he was so quiet and mellow and just looking around. His cord was a lot longer than Irina's had been so we didn't cut it right away, but eventually I wanted to deal with the placenta, so we cut it and Pat and the girls took him while I tried to deliver the afterbirth.
And that brings us to the second part of this story: What Came After, or more properly, What Didn't Come After.
I called my mom shortly after Silas was born (at about 8) and she said she was going to come over at about 10. Irina's placenta came out about an hour after she was born, so I thought it might be the same for Silas's placenta. I figured I'd deliver the placenta after a short while and then take a quick shower before my mom got to the house. Even so, there was a part of me that was worried that things were not going to work out the way I wanted them to. Some part of me was thinking that things had been so different with the labor and birth, why wouldn't they be different (and longer) with the placenta?
I squatted over a bowl, and I nursed Silas and I pushed any time I felt my uterus contract. However, any time I pushed or had a contraction, the only thing that came out was blood or clotty blood. I didn't remember anything like that from Irina's birth, so I was a little worried. I started to get desperate and tugged on the part of the cord that was hanging out of me, even though I *knew* doing so was usually a pretty bad idea. I tried massaging my abdomen the way a doctor will do it in the hospital. I did it hard enough to hurt, but maybe not as hard as a doctor would have done it. Partly because it's hard to hurt your own self, and partly because it's just awkward, logistically speaking.
I decided I was going to try to take a shower, thinking that maybe I could get it out in there, that maybe standing up or squatting or the heat or *something* would help. I had lost a lot of blood at that point, and I got as far as the door when everything started going dark and my ears started ringing. So I went back to my bloody spot and sat down again, waiting for the dizziness to subside. Pat came in and I told him what was going on. He said I was very pale and asked if I wanted to get help. I said I didn't know yet. I knew if I could just get the damn thing to come out, everything would be fine and I could recover. But I also knew that if I was going to continue to lose blood but not deliver that placenta, things were going to get yucky. But I *so* didn't want to go to the hospital. I decided to keep trying for a little while.
I heard my mom arrive and look at the baby in the other room. I heard them weigh him on the Wii balance board. I heard them say he was 8.9 pounds. I thought, "No wonder it hurt so bad!!" And then I thought, "No, that's got to be wrong, I never have babies that big." I continued to try to get the placenta out. I lost more blood instead of a placenta. As I was sitting there, I started to get dizzy again and things started going black again and my ears started ringing again. So I laid down.
Pat came in and I'm not sure what he or I said, probably I just started crying about how it wouldn't come and there was too much blood. Then my mom came in and even though I had just said that I didn't want her to come back there and see me like that, oh my god, I was so relieved to have her there. I guess there's just something about being in distress and having your mama come and help you. I told her what was going on, I had her press on my belly real hard, I cried, but I couldn't get it to come out. I think I had Pat push on my belly too, but I can't remember. They were both asking me if I wanted to call an ambulance and I so didn't want to, but I was beginning to run out of other options, so I eventually consented.
Immediately, I regretted it. I was so afraid and so didn't want to get up and get into an ambulance and go to the hospital and have strangers poking and prodding and.. whatever-ing. I was afraid they were going to hurt me. I'm not sure why. I think I was just remembering being in the hospital with Harper and Saren and how after the birth the doctors pummeled me to get the placenta out. So I decided I needed to make a bigger effort and just get. the. damned. thing. out. So, crying and yelling while Pat was sitting next to me, I pushed with all my might at the next contraction and ...something big and placenta-shaped came out. I was so relieved and thought I wouldn't have to go anymore.
The ambulance got there right about then and my mom told Pat and the paramedics that I had delivered the placenta finally. A female paramedic came into the bedroom and I asked her to look at the placenta and tell me if it was whole. She looked and said, "No, you've still got a cord hanging out of you, this is a blood clot." Do you know how big that blood clot had to have been to make both me and Pat think it was actually a placenta??? I was so disappointed.
Two or three more paramedics (male) came into the bedroom and I was feeling miserable because I was lying on the floor half naked, surrounded by blood and just wishing that it were not happening. They gave me an IV to get some fluids in me and I was looking at them upside down from the floor. (eta: actually I'm not sure if they put in the IV while in my room or when we got in the ambulance later) At one point I saw Irina standing on the bed and I looked around and it seemed to me that the only other people in the room were paramedics and she was all alone and I thought she must be so scared, someone needs to get to her. And then I don't even really remember what happened. I hate that I was so out of it that when she needed taking care of, I couldn't do it.
They helped me into the living room so that I could sit on the couch and wait for a different ambulance and it would be easier to get me on a gurney from there. I asked my mom to stay with Silas and the girls while we went. The paramedics were talking about taking Silas in as well to have him checked out and about checking him themselves. I told them and told Pat and my mom to not let anyone near him and to just say that he was doing fine. But then my mom asked what she would feed him and I started thinking about it and worrying that he would get hungry and fussy and need me and I didn't know how long I would be stuck at the hospital because I didn't know the extent to which I would need help. So, eventually I agreed to take the baby with me, as long as they would let him stay with me and wouldn't admit him to the hospital. They agreed, but I probably shouldn't have trusted them because they were paramedics, not hospital staff. Doh.
So, I got up on the gurney, still thinking to myself, "I really wish I wasn't half naked," and they wheeled me out to the street and into the ambulance. I had a sheet covering me, but I still felt totally exposed and unhappy. They lifted me into the ambulance and gave Silas to me and Pat got into the front seat. Silas was calm and quiet the whole way and I just looked at him as often as I could to take my mind off of the fact that I was where I was. They gave me oxygen, which was one of those little prong things that goes in your nostrils and I hated that.
When we got to the hospital is when the drama about the baby started. I'm not even sure what the specifics were, but some sort of hospital policy was going to make it so that he couldn't be with me and they wanted/needed to check him out. Eventually I agreed to him getting checked out quickly and non-invasively, as long as Pat was able to stay with him the whole time, to advocate for him. And here, I should've known, it wasn't going to be anything like "quickly."
They took me to labor and delivery and the nurse, whose name was... I've forgotten, but it was memorable at the time, got the placenta out. She massaged my abdomen and also reached in and eventually she got it out and *that* was sweet relief. As she was getting it out, I was making sounds of pain and pain and pain, and then, aaaahhhhhh. One might assume I felt stupid for her being able to get it out so easily when I wasn't able to get it after all of my trying and trying and trying. But what she did, simple as it was, was not something that I could have done or directed Pat or my mom to do. I asked her if I had any tears and she said I didn't, though I pretty much knew that already.
Afterward she talked about giving me some pitocin to help my uterus contract (because I "already had an IV in"), but I said, "How about we just get my baby in here and then I can nurse instead of having the pitocin?" She said she would talk to the doctor. Eventually the doctor came in, *way* later than I might have hoped for, but he was very nice, no judgment whatsoever about our homebirth. He was amenable to the idea of getting the baby to me instead of pitocin. The nurse told him that the placenta had already delivered, it was just sitting in the vaginal canal. He examined the placenta and told me that the reason why I had so much trouble with it was because it had an extra lobe. I didn't ask him at the time and I still haven't had an opportunity to look up what that might mean. He said it was "kidney shaped." eta: I've looked it up now and it seems to me that it's a mostly harmless thing that just sometimes happens, and isn't usually an issue, until, of course, delivery.
It took way too long to go through all of the hospital rigamarole and get the baby to me, but he and Pat did eventually come. By then though, he was asleep and Pat had resorted to giving him a bit of formula because he was needing me so much and couldn't get to me. He stayed asleep until we finally left, so I never did get to nurse him to get some contractions going. Pat told me that they had weighed him and he was 8 lbs, 12 oz. So the Wii was pretty close, I think it just measures in decimal points, not ounces.
They wanted to test my blood to see what the hemoglobin levels were and if they were fine, they were going to let me go. When I say "let me" I mean that is what I agreed to, not that they were holding me against my will. Around 3:30 am or so, after having been there since about midnight, we finally left (Pat had gotten a ride home to pick up the van and some clothes for me). They wheeled me down in a wheelchair and when I got up to put the baby in the van, I could tell I was still pretty weak. I started thinking, why didn't they give me blood, instead of just a saline drip? But maybe I wasn't in bad enough shape or something.
The car seat was not positioned correctly so I needed to fix it. I detached the latch hook, put a rolled up blanket underneath to even it out, hooked it back up, and then clicked the seat back into the base. All of that left me feeling pretty awful and dizzy, but I still needed to get the baby in the seat. And I know I could have had Pat do it, but sometimes he has trouble with car seat buckles and he wasn't familiar with this new one, so I just wanted to do it myself. I got Silas in, which he was none too pleased about, and then got into the front seat. I was all slumped back, waiting to recover from being dizzy, from the ringing that was starting up in my ears again. And the next thing I knew, my head was totally flopped forward, and Pat was calling out to me in what seemed like a really far away, but panicky voice, saying, "Stephanie? Are you okay????" So I looked up at him and was like, "What? I just fell asleep." And we kept driving and I thought about it and realized, oh, um, maybe that was more than just falling asleep, even though I was pretty sure I had been having a dream. For one thing, I couldn't remember having fallen asleep at all, I was just there and then not there, and for another, considering everything else, it kind of makes more sense that I passed out. I laid back against the seat for the duration of the ride home and we got there without any other mishaps.
It was about 3:45am or so when we got home, so I hadn't been at the hospital as long as it felt like I had been. I hobbled inside, my mom and my brothers went home (they had been playing on the Wii with Saren and Harper), and then we all went to bed. Silas even let me sleep some.
Today is day 3 and I am feeling a lot better, even though "a lot better" kind of sort of feels like I'm recovering from having had the shit kicked out of me. I'm not feeling in imminent danger of passing out anymore, but I am still pretty weak and sore and tired and doing regular type stuff is wearing me out a lot. Luckily Pat will be here for 5 more days. I sure wish it was more though.
So, overall feelings. I'm very pleased with the actual birth. I'm proud of myself for doing it on my own even though it was the hardest birth I've ever had. I'm a bit in awe still that I had an almost 9 pound baby (vaginally, without any tears!) just because I really never expected to have a baby so much bigger than the previous three. I'm happy that Silas was born into a safe, quiet, peaceful environment, with just his family to surround him and welcome him into the world. Even though right after it was over I told my mom that it was "horrible," I wouldn't go back and change a thing. It was hard, really hard, but it was what it needed to be and (now that it's all over) I'm happy with it.
As for the hospital excursion, I've made my peace with it. I don't regret having made the call. Part of UC-ing is knowing when you need outside help and (even though I didn't want it) I recognized that I did need it. It doesn't mean I'm happy with how things turned out. I'm not. But it was what it was and there's no changing it, so it's probably best to make my peace with it and count my blessings. They didn't mess with Silas *too* much. They didn't keep me *too* long. They helped with the placenta, which is exactly what I needed help with. They didn't help so much with the blood loss issue, but maybe they did all they could anyway. There was surprisingly little judgement and they were very helpful in their own way.
I have to admit that it did occur to me that if I had had a homebirth with a midwife, the hospital part of the story wouldn't have happened. And, obviously, I have nothing against midwives. I didn't choose one for myself for a variety of reasons. Even though I can see that having one *may* have changed the outcome for the better, I'm still at peace with how it turned out. I don't want to go second guessing myself and the choices I made from the beginning. It doesn't change anything.
I don't have a good way to end this. The end!
eta: I got something wrong. Pat told me this morning that it was him that was with me when I delivered the blood clot that I thought was the placenta, not my mom. The story has been changed to reflect that. That part of the story is the part where I am most likely to have made mistakes due to being in such a haze and having had so much going on, so many strangers around, and not being in a good state emotionally. I did the best I could though. Also, I asked about what had happened with Irina on the bed and Saren told me that a paramedic asked about her and she (Saren) went and picked her up and helped her. Which makes me feel a lot better.