I’m in trouble when it comes to my daughter. She’s just too much like me – contrary.
I had been concerned my entire life about my fertility and my chances of conception. In fact, out of the three times I’ve been pregnant in my life, two of them ended prematurely. It’s natural and it happens and I expected it continue to happen. December 2016 was a rough enough month that I was willing to give up trying for a bit.
I have chosen to be completely up front with all of the facts of my birth – this includes descriptions of things that aren’t discussed in “polite conversation.” If menses, fluids, semen, etc make you feel squeamish this isn’t the blog for you. It also contains a swear word, hooray!
Why would the test be positive? We had missed the fertile window due to travelling for the holidays anyways. Of course, why wouldn’t it be positive? We had just decided to stop trying for a few months to save money, recover emotionally and give ourselves time to prepare better.
This is the first example of how my daughter is as contrary as her mother. Obviously the decision that we weren’t quite ready marked the perfect time for her to come.
My pregnancy is what some refer to as a “unicorn pregnancy.” Very little morning sickness, very little pain and the heartburn didn’t even hit until the ninth month. I was so confident about how awesome this pregnancy was I thought I could predict it. In fact, I spent my entire pregnancy telling people that, statistically speaking, first time mothers give birth at 41.3 weeks of gestation. It was how I planned for maternity leave. Naturally, I went into labor 10 days early. This is the second example of how contrary she is.
I started work at 7 am and I remember feeling different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I worked a 7 hour retail shift, went home for a quick meal and then left for my massage shift at 3:30. After a couple of massages I had a rather long break and ran to the restroom at about 5:45. I stood up to wash my hands and felt what I could best describe as a “bloorp.” The same “bloorp” you feel which you stand up during your period.
I checked and there was a small amount of clear fluid on some toilet tissue. It had no color or smell but I still googled “what does your water breaking feel like?” There is surprisingly little information out there about this.
I texted both my doula and my midwife and waited to hear back from them before I texted my husband. Why raise the alarm for nothing? After all, only about 10% of women have their water break before labor begins. The birth class teacher told us to be in denial about all symptoms until active labor anyway!
I ran over to the drugstore and bought some pads “just in case” and got ready for my next 90 minute massage. By the end of the massage I showed classic signs of broken water – pinkish colored fluid that smelled slightly like semen. I had soaked a heavy flow overnight pad with it in 90 minutes.
I drove home and told my husband no matter what, he was going to be a dad in 48 hours. Despite the heat I turned on my seat warmers to help with the low back discomfort and mild cramps. Be aware that heat in early labor can slow down the process.
Active Labor and Transition
I labored at home from about 9 PM to 5 AM at which point we went to the birth center. Laboring at home was awesome. I tried to sleep like we’re told to as contractions were coming every 10-15 minutes. It was nice to be able to take a shower, cuddle with the cats and husband, doze between contractions without being bothered by all the coming and goings of a hospital.
At about midnight I vomited for the first time. As the night wore on I vomited two more times, which concerned me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the transfer birth story I heard in class. A woman had been transferred to the hospital due to dehydration from vomiting. I so wanted my birth center birth but I steeled myself for a hospital birth, just in case.
At about 4:30, during the first autumn thunderstorm, my daughter shifted – she was telling me it was time. Contractions went from 10:1:1 to 3:1:1 immediately.
Once we got to the birth center, time and consciousness changed. As Doctor Who described it, it became a ball of “wibbly wobbly timey wimey…stuff.” I was both present and not present. One of the descriptions I found after the fact that best describes it was this: “It is said that women in labour leave their bodies, travel to the stars, collect the souls of their babies and return to this world together.” I can tell you I didn’t feel like I was on Earth.
Prepping the birthing suite
My husband helped the birth assistant fill the tub while the midwife checked my vitals. Because of the vomiting, I needed an IV which was a godsend. I still vomited occasionally but my team wasn’t concerned and throughout the process, I didn’t care. The doula arrived shortly afterwards.
The water helped with a lot of the pain, but what helped the most was following what my body needed to do for movements – the tub allowed me the freedom to do so.
Active labor and pushing only ended up being about 5 hours. I remember getting more remote as the process continued. My rational mind got tucked up in a little corner, still accessible but the volume was turned down. I have never be as fully present in my body as I was during this process. It was intermittent though – I would be in my body during the contraction, and then I would drift only to be pulled back into my body at the next contraction.
Pushing, birth and after birth
Transition and pushing were hard but they aren’t the nightmare we see on TV. Transition was a lot of being reminded to breathe, being offered water and cool cloths and resting. Pushing was a lot of the same, but with notable progress. I lost confidence in transition and my midwife told me to reach up and touch my baby. I said through a lot of sweat and happy tears – “I think it has hair!” An eternity of what felt like no progress later she had me do it again and I was shocked to find that instead of my baby being my full fingers’ lengths from my opening she was only an inch or so in.
Once I got to that point the midwife suggested the birthing stool which worked very well for me. It still took some insistent reminders from my husband and midwife to keep my vocalizations low and to “send all of the energy to the baby.”
At 8am I looked at the clock thinking I wanted to give up. I was tired. I spent every rest period repeating “Fuck” over and over again with the birth assistant looking up at me saying, “I know.” I didn’t think I could do it any more, I just didn’t have it in me. But what choice did I have?
I cycled through contractions and rest until my midwife told me to reach down and touch my baby one more time. There was a head – a head that was mostly out. Meanwhile, she had grabbed a bulb syringe, a clamp and a few other tools and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
My daughter, impatient enough to come into the world 9 days early, was born in one contraction at 9:29 AM. She was handed to me immediately and in the next contraction, as they were telling me what to expect in the 30-45 minutes before the placenta was born, I passed the placenta. In 3 minutes I was done with nine months of pregnancy.
We had chosen not to find out the gender but as curious as I was it took me a few moments to look. I was just so overcome with relief and accomplishment that it was all I could do to just hold my baby and cry from happiness. It didn’t matter if it was a boy or a girl – it was my baby. And this is the last little bit of contrariness; months and months of people telling me it was going to be a boy and my daughter proved them all wrong.
I’m grateful to have had such a professional and supportive team. I bled after the birth of the placenta. The rational part of my brain wondered why someone had left the faucet running at a trickle. It took some time for me to realize it was me. But midwives and birth centers have access to many of the same medical interventions as hospitals. My bleeding stopped immediately with a shot of pitocin and everything was fine.
The rest of the morning was my husband, my daughter and I resting in bed, going through our checkups and eventually being escorted home by my parents.
My birth wasn’t perfect and it certainly didn’t fit into my birth plan or my ideal maternity leave schedule at all. But it was everything I had hoped for. I feel closer to my husband, I have a beautiful daughter and we’re all ready to face our coming adventures together.
Changing the Birth Story
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. We don’t talk about birth often in our culture and when we do it’s some sort of traumatic “oh when I went into labor, it was horrible for these reasons.” When we see in on TV, it looks horrific.
We can change that. We have the power to change the narrative around birth in this country. Birth is usually a positive and natural process. One of the tools that helped me prepare for birth mentally was Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth”. (affiliate link)
Because of this book I went from expecting a horrible, painful and traumatic television drama experience to dreaming about how amazing my birth was going to be. Reading all of the birth stories really helped put labor in a different light.
So if you’re having anxiety about your upcoming birth, check it out.
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth (affiliate link)
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul as well as doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
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