Trying to imagine and anticipate birthing is like trying to imagine what the Grand Canyon looks like. People can try to describe it. "It's breathtaking, amazing. The biggest hole in the ground you've ever seen!" But, until you experience it, there's just no way to fully understand it. All the reading, visualizing and preparation I did still didn't prepare me for the immensity of what we undertook that Saturday and Sunday. Clayton was equally awed.
Saturday morning at 8:30 I went to our midwife Rebecca's to take some Blue and Black Cohosh and have her sweep my membranes. The way she explains what the cohosh does is that it's like having an engine that won't turn over. And the cohosh is like pumping the gas and turning the ignition- external actions that hopefully get the car to take over on its own. I had "cohosh contractions" by mid-morning that were manageable, though close. I listened to Hypnobabies and breathed and rocked through them every 2-3 minutes. By early afternoon Rebecca came to check on me and decided to give me another dose and do another sweep. She just wanted to make sure that my body took over and settled into a good pattern and that we didn't lose momentum. After that things got much stronger and were still very close together. By about 4pm I was having to vocalize through them. Throughout all of this Clay was by my side giving me sips of coconut water, rubbing my back, and telling me a constant stream of positive, encouraging things. Around 8pm Clayton called Rebecca, who could hear me in the background. She decided to come over. We already had the pool blown up and the basement all set up with everything we needed. When Rebecca got there I was working through contractions on my hands and knees, on the birthing ball or leaning over the edge of the bed. I couldn't stay still during them. They were so close together, just a minute or two apart, and I would flop down limply to rest between them, but be positively compelled to rise and sway or kneel or something each time another one came on. Rebecca convinced me to go outside for a little walk in the yard at some point just to give my mind a change of pace, I think. If the neighbors didn't already think we were a little weird at this point, I'm sure they do now! I had absolutely no shame and went right on with my moaning, humming and growling, leaning over the hood of the car during each contraction.
Finally when I was at 5cm Rebecca said I could get in the pool. That was the last time she checked me. She was very hands off, but encouraging. Occasionally she would submerge her little monitor, placing it on my belly to listen to Vivian. She squeezed pressure points in my hands and told me encouraging things ("One at a time, you only have to get through this one right now... You can do anything for 60 seconds..."). Throughout all of this I was very much inside of myself. I hardly opened my eyes, even between contractions. I think I even took little power naps between them, which is hard to imagine. I was definitely some place else, though. I used Hypnobabies earlier on, but kind of lost it as I went to that other place, though really that may have been a benefit of all that deep relaxation that I practiced beforehand. Clay put on some of the tracks while I was birthing and said later that he really noticed a difference in my body language while they were on.
Even though I was very much in this primal place, there was a part of my brain that was watching myself and was utterly amazed. I couldn't believe what a wild animal I was! I didn't realize I would be so vocal, but boy was I ever! And my body just took over in this amazing, hugely powerful way. I never, ever pushed once. My body was doing what it needed the whole time and I just tried to help it do what it needed to do as efficiently as possible. When my body started pushing Vivian out, Rebecca tried to get me to slow down so I wouldn't tear, but it was like holding back wild horses! I tried valiantly, but my body won out over my mind and Viv came flying out like a superhero! Her head was only about halfway out and on that next push the rest of her head and whole body (with her hand up next to her head!) danced out into the water. Clay said it was so neat to see her in the water, so graceful, moments before I picked her up.
Her eyes were wide open and she cried right away. Interestingly, she was covered in vernix and had quite a few other things that convinced Rebecca that she was much closer to 40 than 42 weeks. So, somehow, despite our best laid plans, we miscalculated! Rebecca said cohosh won't bring out a baby that isn't ready, and I feel quite sure that she was ready. But it's so crazy that we attach these numbers and deadlines to pregnancy, when our bodies know exactly what they're doing. No wonder she didn't come on her due date, if we were two weeks off.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Rebecca clamped it and Clay cut it. The placenta came out easily and was nice and healthy. The only less-than-perfect things were some tears that needed stitches and a lot of lost blood. But Rebecca gave me some pitocin and then another drug (it starts with M...?) and it eventually slowed, though I wasn't able to take more than a few steps in the following days without risking passing out. But I feel a lot better now. I think Rebecca was worried that I would be unhappy that I hadn't achieved my "perfect" birth, but I'm 100% thrilled! In a way I'm grateful for the "less-than-perfect" aspects because I think most women, simply because of the model of care we implement here, end up with complications that make recovery longer. I feel like I'm much more empathetic than if I had been able to be up and around immediately after the birth. And I'm so excited for the next pregnant momma I know to give birth so I can be at her house doing laundry and making soup and whatnot. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been her this whole week taking care of every little detail and have made this time absolute bliss. I am so grateful for loving, generous service. So many people have extended offers of help, congratulations and warmth.
Vivian weighed 7lbs 6oz. When Rebecca came back for a postpartum visit a few days later, she had only lost 2 oz and my milk was already in. Clay thinks she's going to be a fat baby:) He's the proudest papa ever (I love this picture below, only minutes after Viv was born) and has said that he can already feel himself turning to moosh over his little girl. I think she'll have him wrapped right around her finger. It was a really wonderful experience for Clay and I to go through this birthing together. It's as much his triumph as mine as I couldn't have done it without him. He was just perfect throughout the whole thing. And having experienced that together, there's a new layer to our relationship, a new closeness and reverence for each other that we couldn't have achieved in a different way.