Monday, February 2, 2015

The Birth of Little Bug

I originally wrote about the birth of Little Bug, my son, on my infrequently-updated blog, Plentiful Thoughts of Miscellany. I haven't gone back and looked it over in ages; it's amazing what the passage of three years can do to one's perception! There are details in that initial telling that I had actually forgotten. There are also some things that I know more about now, after having spent so much time reading and learning about birth.

This version of Bug's birth story is not precisely the same as it appeared on my original blog. Instead, this is an updated version, with some interesting tidbits thrown in as well as just a little bit of clarification on some things that I did not fully understand before.

I present: a birth story!


I spent at least half of my labor denying that I was in labor.

My baby decided the time had come when I was a few days shy of 38 weeks. I had spent much of my pregnancy firmly believing that my baby would be born late; after all, as my midwife pointed out, first babies are nine days late, on average. Friends and family had been gleefully telling me how their first babies had come days or weeks late, and I had read many positive birth stories where firstborns came after 41 or 42 weeks gestation. So you might understand why, when people asked me when the EDD was, I would tell them February 19, but then assure them that it would probably be late February, maybe even early March. [After awhile, I stopped even giving out the EDD. I was not looking forward to those daily phone calls and text messages asking if baby had come yet!] In fact, I was secretly hoping for a Leap Day baby, and wasn't shy about telling anyone who asked. [I still think that would have been neat. But my Little Bug chose his own birth date, and I had no say in the matter!]

So when my water broke around 2:30 in the afternoon of February 1, I assumed I had just had an embarrassing bout of urinary incontinence. [I know now that my water did not actually break this early. Instead, I'm pretty sure that I just sprung a leak, high up in the amniotic sac. Fluid leaked out, but my waters did not break completely!] Yep, I thought I had peed myself, and was quite thankful that only the cat was around to witness it. I still had the presence of mind to note the time (halfway through Fresh Air on NPR!) and to sniff it (I know, gross, but my birth class drilled that response into me). [Note that this is one of the few things I actually learned and remembered from that birth class. It was not a very useful class. Part of the reason why I later decided to become a childbirth educator myself!] It didn't smell like anything, which meant it could be amniotic fluid, but it could also just mean that I was really well-hydrated; after all, I had been drinking water like a boss. I should have contacted my midwife then, but I suppose I didn't want to sound a false alarm and be that pesky first-time mom who saw labor around every corner.

Sometime after that, the contractions started. [You would think I would remember when the first one hit, but I totally don't. Seriously. Not at all.] I assumed that I was finally starting to feel the Braxton-Hicks contractions that had apparently started at least a week earlier. At my last prenatal appointment, my midwife pointed out when one was happening; I couldn't feel anything, but she (and my husband) could clearly see that my uterus was contracting. These new contractions felt uncomfortable, but definitely were something I could handle.

In hindsight, I should have taken notice of the fact that these contractions made my back hurt. [Or maybe I should have taken notice of the fact that I noticed them at all?!] Aren't Braxton-Hicks supposed to hurt in front, while real contractions hurt in back? I didn't remember this, or didn't make the connection, and since the contractions were no real inconvenience, I kept going about my merry way.

I next decided that this was a good time to go get a haircut. [I think some part of me realized that I might not get another opportunity to do so anytime soon. Instinct? Belated nesting urge?] But as I was on my way to Great Clips, I got a call from a friend inviting me to come over to play board games. (No, I am certainly not too old for board games, thank you very much.) Clearly, the hair cut could wait until tomorrow.

Famous last words.

As we played a few games, the contractions kept getting progressively worse, but I continued to willfully ignore them. [Progressing contractions - longer, stronger, and closer together - and knowing what I know now, this was a glaringly obviously sign that I was in labor.] Even when they got to the point where I could no longer sit through them, I still refused to recognize that these contractions might be something worth taking note of. Never mind the fact that I was still leaking some kind of fluid; I suppose I thought I had lost my ability to hold in my pee properly. And never mind the other fact that I had lost at least part of my mucous plug a week or so earlier. [It was pretty gross. My midwife told me at the time that it simply meant that my cervix was starting to change, but that it didn't necessarily mean labor was imminent. She probably meant that I was starting to efface. In reality, there's a good chance I had already dilated a few centimeters by the time of that appointment.] I simply refused to entertain the idea that I might actually be in labor. There was no way; it was too soon! [Not true. Labor at not-quite-38 weeks might be on the early end of the spectrum, but it was still perfectly normal. The "average" length of gestation is anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. Only about 5% of babies come on their EDD. Depending on what source you consult, 70-95% of babies are born within 10 days of their EDD. So, of course, I was part of that minority that was born more than 10 days before it!]

The ten-minute drive home was distinctly uncomfortable. [How I managed to stay sitting in the car during the few contractions that happened is beyond me. I think at least one happened at a stoplight, which I am thankful for. It was late at night by that point, so there weren't many other cars on the road anyway. I think I may have pulled over for one of the contractions, too.] I decided that a hot bath was in order; I think I recalled reading somewhere that a bath could make Braxton-Hicks contractions subside, and I definitely wanted them to subside at this point. [See, if I had acknowledged earlier that I was in labor, I would have tried to rest more and sleep! A good birth class emphasizes the importance of rest during early labor, but I don't think I got to that part in my birth classes. But I hadn't rested. And now it was late, and I desperately needed to sleep if I was going to finish this.] So I filled up the bathtub as much as I could, which unfortunately wasn't much, since the geniuses who designed my apartment complex decided to put in the smallest hot water heaters available. [Seriously. Stupid thing couldn't even fill my tub halfway. The apartment I moved to after that had in-line hot water for every building, which meant unlimited hot water! All apartments should be built that way! For the record, taking sitz baths during the early postpartum days was a pain with such a puny hot water tank, but at least then I had people around to heat additional water on the stove and bring it in to me!] So with bathtub half full (and that's after adding a few pots of water heated on the stove), I climbed in and tried to relax myself. My mama called, and I told her what was going on; I learned later that she suspected it might be real labor but didn't want to shatter my disillusionment, figuring I would come to the right conclusion eventually. [I did!]

Not surprisingly, in retrospect anyway, the bath didn't really help. As I rested on my side in the hot water, the contractions just got worse, more painful even. [Well, the bath didn't help in the sense that it didn't make the contractions subside, like I had been hoping it would. It did feel very soothing, and allowed me to relax somewhat. I think I initially stayed in the tub until the water started to cool, kind of dozing a little bit. Water is amazing for pain relief in labor!] Worse yet, when I got out to use the toilet, I found myself with a little bit of what could only be the bloody show. [One of those things I had completely forgotten about! Yes, I did in fact have bloody show. It really is amazing how the mind blurs out the less-pleasant parts with time.] Resigned to the fact that I might actually be in labor, I decided to call my midwife.

No answer.

I left a message. An hour later, I left a second message. I sent several text messages. No answer. All the while, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, and I was slowly becoming more convinced that this might be the real deal. [Progressing contractions!] In a moment of frustration, I remembered that the midwife's apprentice had called me a few weeks back; I hadn't saved the number, but I hadn't cleared my recent call data either, so it should still be in my phone somewhere. Eventually, I pinpointed which one I thought was hers and called, hoping I was right since by now it was pretty late at night. Success! While she worked at getting in contact with my midwife (she had other phone numbers to try) [I probably had those other numbers somewhere in my paperwork from her, but I was in no state to remember that], I tried to lie down and sleep some.

Sleeping didn't work. The contractions were pretty close together now, and every time one hit I absolutely had to sit up. [Sleeping during labor did not happen for me. I really started to wish I had rested more earlier!] Eventually I resorted to pacing my house, while my worried cat tried to act as my doula. (He had good intentions, but just didn't know what to do when I was so clearly uncomfortable.) [He did keep me company though! He was quite a trooper through the whole thing.]

Soon enough, my midwife finally called me back. After getting my rough analysis of the situation, she advised me to get my husband home (he's in the Navy and was supposed to be staying on base that night). I had been texting him all afternoon and evening to let him know how uncomfortable I was, so he suspected something was up; he didn't seem entirely surprised when I woke him up around midnight and asked him to come home.

After that, things get kind of hazy, time-wise. I know I filled the bathtub again, and my husband continued to boil water on the stove to keep it warm for me. I know the two of us were in regular contact with my midwife, and it wasn't long before she (and her apprentice) were both on their way to my apartment. I had planned to give birth at their birth center, but an hour-long drive was clearly out of the question for me at this point. [I don't know what ever made me think that it was a viable option in the first place. If I could barely handle a 10 minute drive, how could I manage an hour?! And this was hours after that 10 minute drive, so labor was pretty intense at this point.]

I know I asked my husband to provide counter-pressure on my back during my contractions. I know I pooped a little in the tub during some of the contractions, but my husband showed his worth (not that there was ever any doubt) by putting on rubber gloves and scooping it out. [He's such a rock star!] He also brought me applesauce (the only food I was interested in eating) and kept me drinking water between contractions. [I have learned so much more since then about good comfort measures in labor. I managed just fine with my limited repertoire, but sometimes I wonder if having my hips squeezed might have helped...]

I know that after all of the books I had read, all of the stories and such I had read on the Internet, and the birth class (of which my final class was supposed to be in a week), I remembered only two things. First, I remembered to keep breathing deeply and evenly throughout the contractions; I also remembered to take a really deep breath at the beginning and end of each so that my husband would know a contraction was upon me without me having to tell him each time. [That worked very well for us. The breathing was my ritual to get through the intense contractions, and the deep breaths provided a beginning/end point to help keep me focused. And it helped my husband to be involved, to know exactly when the contractions came on.] I also remembered Ina May's concept that the uterus is a sphincter; as I breathed through the contractions (and squeezed first my husband's hand, then a rolled-up towel after he decided that he didn't want broken fingers), I actively kept my jaw loose, all the better to allow my uterus to open freely.

At some point, my husband became concerned about the water being contaminated [from my having pooped... going to emphasize that because, no lie, it's pretty common to poop during labor; I wasn't bothered by it at all though. I probably barely noticed it at the time.], so we emptied the tub and I decided to try laboring in a few different positions. Hands and knees didn't work for me. Standing with my arms around my husband's neck while he supported my weight didn't work either. I ended up doing most of the rest of my labor sitting on the toilet, of all places. [My own personal birthing stool! I also know now that many women find labor more manageable in an upright, somewhat forward-leaning position like on the toilet, and many women do, in fact, spend time there during labor. After awhile, I was just settled in there. I was focusing on my breathing, keeping my jaw loose, and just letting my body open. I lost any and all interest in trying other positions.]

I started feeling the urge to push. When I think about the pushing stage of my labor, I'm not sure I can understand the concept of coached pushing; when that urge came, I pushed, and there was no way I could stop myself even if I had wanted to. [I did try to hold back a little though, to not push quite as hard. I was hoping to not tear, or to not tear as much. But there was no way I could have stopped pushing entirely!] I assume I was fully dilated by this point, but since I never had any vaginal exams throughout, I can't say for certain.

My water had broken earlier [or, rather, started leaking],  but as I breathed through my contractions, it became apparent to me that the amniotic sac hadn't completely burst. Nope, when I felt down between my legs, there was what I can only describe as a bubble coming out of me. It was a very bizarre sensation. [For reals. I also am fairly confident now that my strong attention to the protein in my diet, and my continuous efforts to get at least the 80 grams per day that my midwife recommended was the main reason why my amniotic sac remained intact for so long!]

The haziness increased. The midwife's apprentice arrived first. [I feel like she was there during some of the position changes, but I can't be certain. It's all a blur in my head, especially this long after the fact.] She came to see how I was doing, then went to prepare supplies for the birth. [My husband says she checked my vitals and monitored the baby through a few contractions, but I honestly don't remember. I was so focused on what my body was doing that I just didn't notice unless she was speaking directly to me. Which she didn't do very often, since she was very aware that I was concentrating inwardly.] Eventually my midwife appeared. And, I was told later, my water broke for real about fifteen minutes later, and the baby came out in the same push.

I gave birth in my bathroom. [I feel like I should mention that the bathroom in our apartment was HUGE. As in, you could easily fit in me, my husband, and two midwives, and have plenty of extra room for equipment and towels and such. And as far as clean-up purposes go, that was definitely a good choice of birthplace!] The placenta followed soon after, and I sat in the re-filled tub for awhile while the midwife checked my son over. I hadn't received any medication of any kind during labor, but I gladly accepted a shot of Pitocin after to help stop the bleeding. [Note that I was not hemorrhaging, or even close, but just losing a bit more blood than my midwife wanted to see. If she had thought it at all necessary, we would have transferred to the hospital in an instant, but she was competent and well-trained and had everything under control.] Eventually I moved to my bed. [The best part about home birth: getting to have your immediate postpartum check in the comfort of your own bedroom! Well, maybe not the best part, but definitely something that I thought was fantastic.] While the midwives checked my bottom area, my wonderful husband held our beautiful baby against his chest; we had decided to wait to cut the cord [delayed cord clamping for the win!], so the placenta sat next to him in one of our mixing bowls. [I dearly wish I had a picture of that... it's one of my fondest memories of the birth, which probably sounds weird, but is totally true.] I had one tiny tear, which took two stitches to close up.

My son was born at 5:43 am on February 2, 2012, fifteen hours after my water broke started leaking initially. No medications, no interventions; a completely un-complicated home birth. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.


  1. It's amazing how your birth story so closely mirrors your sister's in so many ways. Kinda cool actually. And I still remember your call telling me that I was a grandma again! One of the most special days of my life!

    1. Her first, or her second? I haven't heard the second one yet, but hopefully I will one of these days. :) Probably THE most special day of my life!