I always write up a birth story to read together with new parents at our post-birth visit. I find it’s amazing to re-live the experience, helps put into order events and it adds to the joy of the birth. When I went into labour 3 days ago, I didn’t expect to take notes on my own birth, but then I found I just couldn’t help myself! It is so ingrained in me to record milestones and their times, feelings and thoughts during the birth, I couldn’t resist grabbing my notebook and a pen and recording what I was experiencing too. So here is the birth of my third child, who is sleeping peacefully next to me as I type.
Asher Kobi Vine
Born Tuesday, 1/2/2011 at 5:04pm
At home, Moshav Ramat Raziel, Israel
3.870 kilos, 8lbs 8 oz
31.1.2011 Monday morning I have my first bit of show, very exciting! All day I have painless tightenings, at varying intervals. They feel just like the braxton hicks contractions I’ve been having ever since week 14 (they come earlier with each pregnancy) but today they are coming much more often, every time I get up, move, sneeze, etc. I play around with contraction master while doing other things online, and sometimes they come every 3 minutes but other times there are spaces of 7 or 10 or so minutes between. I clean the house and do loads of laundry, and hang it all out on the line in the rain (it’ll have to stop raining sometime. It will smell nice. That’s a heavily pregnant nesting woman’s logic for you.) I finish re-reading Spiritual Midwifery, and go away inspired by the loving attitude of the wives towards their husbands and birthing companions. I plan on adopting that attitude during labor too. After I pick up the children from school and gan we make lemon bars together with organic lemons off a neighbor’s tree – I’d wanted to bake these for the baby’s birthday cake! Recipe here. I’d planned on offering them to anyone who came to visit us after the birth, but we ended up eating them all instead… at least the midwife enjoyed some too before they were gone! I text my midwife to give her a heads up about the show and painless un-ordered contractions, letting her know that I may go into labour in the next day or so.
In the evening I make my favorite vegetable soup and couscous dinner, light and nourishing, and Jean-Philippe and I have a fun evening playing Settlers and enjoying eachother’s company. I do an enema supository just to clear out and possibly encourage contractions, go to bed with an Evening Primrose Oil capsule to soften the cervix, and measure my fundus during a contraction to be sure that we have time. I can still fit nearly 5 fingers, but am loosing more show throughout the evening. Sleep is hard to find, so I practice relaxing with my hypnobirthing and hypnobabies recordings. Finally, at around 4am I fall deep asleep for 3 solid hours.
1.2.2011 Tuesday morning – Tightenings have lengthened out to every 20 minutes, I have a feeling today is the day, and Jean-Philippe and I wonder if I might go into town to the mall to walk around and have a treat, or if he should take the car so he can get home again quickly. After listening to my body, I decide I’d rather stay at home and go for a walk in the woods at some point instead. More show, so much I check with a Mei Test to see if my waters are leaking – no it’s just a lot of stuff! Finish knitting a green baby hat while watching Grey’s Anatomy online – yes I am a medical drama junkie. I have a sleep for an hour, waking every 10 minutes with tightenings, but feel really rested afterwards. Check fundus, 3 1/2 fingers. Decide if I’m going to have that walk in the forest I’d better have it now…. go below the house and walk through the woods – if I hang from a certain acorn tree
My acorn tree - with Ana in it, a day later
it feels really really good during a tightening. I am amazed at the soft spring beauty of the day, the greenness, the rolling hills below this place God’s planted us just a few weeks ago! I feel so thankful. It takes me 45 minutes to make the loop along the edge of the forest and back up the hill through the moshav to pick up Ana and Noah from the bus stop and gan – during that time the intense feelings start coming every 3 minutes and make me stop in my tracks and breath. I’m pondering calling the midwife when she phones me! Ilana Shemesh somehow knew something was up. She wonders if she should come straight away – mama with her 3rd baby having contractions every three minutes – but I reason that they’re not painful, and that perhaps they’re just a result of my walk. My fundus is still at a reasonable height. We agree that I will go home and lie down and if they don’t tail off or get more intense I will call her. I do ask Jean-Philippe to come home straight away, though, and warn my parents that they should come get the children that afternoon. Collect children, walk home, but don’t have the energy to make them lunch so they snack in front of a video while I veg on the sofa.
2:00 Jean-Philippe arrives home all happy and excited, kisses me, and I feel myself finally relax and let go. Ask him to do lunch, go into bedroom to lie down, phone Ilana and tell her I think she should come. Timing rushes: 2:10, 2:13, 2:17, 2:19 Go to the bathroom, am suprised I can actually find my own cervix and it’s low and about 5 cm dilated! Whenever I’d checked in pregnancy and the past few days the cervix was still high, posterior and pretty much out of reach. Things aren’t going back now. Fundus is at 3 fingers. Still getting thick pink discharge. Try hypnobirthing relaxation on MP3 but children are so loud I can’t relax. 2:25, 2:30 painful contraction, lasted 2 minutes. 2:34 strong. 2:37, 2:40 very strong. My dad arrives to bring the children to their house, Ana wants to stay but when promised treats is easly bribed out the door. I can’t go out and say hello – dealing with rushes on my knees now.
I put on my birthing skirt that I’d sewn from an old dress earlier in the week, long with a stretchy waistband, and a vest top with a shawl to keep warm. I don’t feel comfortable taking everything off and had kept my skirt on all the way to the end with Ana’s homebirth 5 years earlier. I want to try using the birthing ball, so go into the kitchen and lean over a chair while rocking on the ball. I have Jean-Philippe put on my TENS machine, and then he’s all busy being told to fetch a pillow for padding the chair back, putting on music, lighting candles, getting me a drink, mopping up said spilled drink, and squeezing my hips with every contraction. It feels soooo good to have my hips squeezed! Hot water bottle is wonderful, little instant warming hand packs not warm enough.
3:00 Ilana arrives, with bags and equipment and birthing stool. I miss my husband’s hip squeezes while he helps her bring them in. I greet her by saying it’s gotten more intense for sure, but I’m fine. I find that when a new rush hits me I’m scared by it’s intensity and don’t want to feel pain – but if I manage to relax and let go and breath, the more relaxed I am the less pain I feel. I start out a contraction by making moaning sounds and getting scared, but when I let go and completely relax and focus on my breathing like I’d practiced in hypnobirthing, I really do not feel pain. I feel really intense sensations that require all my attention, but they don’t overwhelm me. I can let them go, thinking wide, open, soft, peaceful. I keep thanking Jean-Philippe and complimenting him for how perfectly he’s squeezing my hips, telling him I love him, that I’m enjoying myself at this birth. I comment that it’s a beautiful day to have a baby, that this is so much fun. I try singing along with a contraction, The Color Green by Rich Mullins, Wonderful Life by Hurt, and it feels so good to sing loudly during a contraction, words that I really feel in my gut.
3:25 Ilana asks if I want to check dilation, I agree and she finds I’m 8 cm, and is very pleased. I pass one contraction lying down on my back, not nearly as comfortable but if I do relax my body completely and smile, it’s not unbearable. I tell myself it feels so good to lie fully supported on the bed, and enjoy not having to hold myself upright. After the bed I want to try the rocking chair – this reclining position puts more pressure on my weak sciatic nerve and I have to have the hot water bottle at my back, and can’t bear the rushes without a hip squeeze. It’s harder to relax, but really nice to rock while listening to music. He tells me stories of how we met, wonderful times we’ve had together at a B&B in Wales, what fun we had cycling for 2 weeks before our first child was born, a magical town we stumbled across and how enchanted I was listening to the locals conversing in Welsh. I murmur back little additions to these memories even in the middle of contractions, it’s so lovely to share the memories.
I decide I want to try a few contractions in the shower, aware that I’m close and this is my last chance to try water therapy! We don’t have a bath in this house, one thing that I’d really, really wanted for this birth was to get in the bath, but I’ve reconciled myself to not having one just because our new little home (we moved in 1st of January) is really wonderful and perfect in every other way. It’s a peaceful home. I am scared to walk (my legs don’t work so well when I’m in labour) and so Jean-Philippe and Ilana pull me up and help me make it to the bathroom. Ilana helps me undress really fast – no time for socks before the next contraction so I get in with them on =0) and oh the hot water is so nice! I experiment with where it feels good – there’s no room in the shower for anyone to be with me so I can’t focus it on my back, and during a contraction it seems to feel best on the top of my bump, moving slightly but not in big circles. Between I like it all over just keeping me warm. We keep the bathroom light off, with just a nightlight illuminating the room gently, warm. I end up crouching on the floor of the shower, on my knees sitting upright. I feel for the baby – there’s a bag of waters bulging down my birth canal. Still time. Three more rushes and I check again, and the bag of waters right there. One more contraction and I feel pressure in my bottom, so I call Ilana that it’s time to get out I need to push! Do I want to push in the shower? No, I want to go to the bedroom. Towels are wrapped around me, unfortunately not the old natty ones that are set up in the bedroom but my mom’s white ones that are in a neat stack in the bathroom; I should have spread the old ones around the house a bit better!
4:55 Race to the bedroom, Ilana gives me the option of pushing on the bed or using the birthing stool – I’ve never tried a birthing stool so I think it’d be nice to give that a go. A contraction hits and I lean over the bed with one knee on and one foot on the floor, Jean-Philippe squeezing my hips, trying not to push. Finally make it onto the birthing stool, Ilana has Jean-Philippe sit behind me and I lean back against him and try to let go and relax and be held. That totally helps. Because of the sciatica this position isn’t the most comfortable and if I couldn’t lean back and be held it wouldn’t have worked at all. Jean-Philippe is a bit dissapointed because he had wanted to film the birth itself. Ilana has warm oily water ready and together we apply hot compresses. I gently stretch myself and I can feel the bulging bag of waters emerging already. I relax and listen to my body and breath J-breaths down and out, thinking open, loose, let go. At the end of a pushing contraction a huge urge hits me and I push harder – the bag of waters pops all over the place and Ilana giggles “I knew that was going to happen!” Breathing the baby down is nice, but then when a huge pushing sensation hits me I loose it, because pushing means movement and it hurts! Birthing hasn’t hurt so far and I don’t want it to now, but I have no choice, my body wants to push. I shout “No, no!” which makes Jean-Philippe stop providing counter pressure which then hurts even worse – I was voicing how I was feeling about the contractions, not expressing a wish for anyone to do anything. Then I get a leg cramp – just like at Ana’s birth except this time in my upper right thigh – and have both of them jumping trying to figure out which muscle to rub out for me. Then one more big push and Ilana tells me to pant, the head is crowning! I pant and blow my lips, trying to relax the baby out, the head stings anyway. It’s out! I reach down and run my fingers all over the slippery little roundness, feel it lean away and there is no shoulder dystocia, the neck is free and no cord. I reach down and it feels so far away, Ilana supports the baby too as one hand comes free and I can reach under the armpit and oops the rest of the baby slides out.
Seconds after the birth
5:04pm I pull the baby to my tummy, it’s a boy! Ilana gives me a towel and I rub him, holding him upright talking to him to breath, he’s gurgly for a minute but then gives a strong cry. I start to cry too. “Oh baby, it’s a baby!” Jean-Philippe tried to film the birth, but in the excitement pressed the wrong button – so we have the following pictures instead. Ilana comments a couple of times at how thick the cord is, and that it already stops pulsating after just a couple of minutes! She has me feel it and confirm this. I comment that his cheeks are dusky but she points out that his chest is pink so he’s okay. Jean Philippe cuts the cord, Ilana leaves a long tail on it so as not to have to mess with the baby yet.
5:14 I wanted to move to the bed and try a breast crawl, but Ilana asks that I stay on the stool as it’s the best way to birth a placenta, so I have Jean-Philippe fetch the strong, sweetened Red Rasberry Leaf tea that I’d prepared earlier to create uterine contractions for birthing the placenta, and I offer the baby to have a go at breastfeeding. He has a strong suck and latches on straight away! After 10 minutes I feel a good push and the placenta comes right out. Make it to the bed, I’m cold, so all the blankets and duvets in the vicinity are fetched and we’re bundled up together with a cup of tea. Baby boy continues to feed for another hour and a half solid!
When we finally weigh him he is a big boy – good thing I’d followed a gestational diabetes diet for the second half of the pregnancy, just as a precaution. (I don’t have GD, I simply had a feeling this was going to be a boy and my first was 8pounds 4oz.) This child is my largest yet, at 8lbs 8oz or 3.87 kilos, and his head is round and 36cm, 3cm larger than normal, just like my first born son! But instead of pushing on my back with an epidural for 3 hours, I was upright and relaxed.
Ilana Shemesh making sure the placenta is complete
As Ilana is leaving she comments that this was a beautiful birth to attend, one of the most beautiful she’d ever been at. Which is quite the compliment for someone who has attended thousands of births over the last 40 years, hospital, birthing center, and home births! “And so social – I get to go home for dinner and bed.” Happy to oblige.
1. I like TENS, still!
2. Living in Denial works
3. Hypnobirthing works
4. Hot water bottles work, little hand held hot packs don’t
5. Relaxing makes the pain go away, it really does
6. Hanging from a tree feels really, really good
7. I like hot water, especially on the top of the bump during a contraction
8. Hip squeezes, wonderful
9. Reflexology pointed pressure at the base of the spine, also really feels great
10. Measuring your fundus by finger widths really does correlate with dilation (See my External Assessment of Dilation post)
Day 5 – As I finish typing this story, Asher Kobi Vine is a laid back, easily settled little guy. My milk came in at day 3, and he has turned into a super efficient milk processing machine. We have him sleeping with us in bed, and from the first night of milk (Thursday night) he has been feeding only 3 or 4x a night, and he goes right back to sleep as soon as he’s fed. He loves to be in bodily contact, so doesn’t get put down very much, but I have a couple of different slings so we’re allright. I tried to offer him a pacifier but he gets all agitated and angry – he prefers my finger if it’s just a need to suck and not hunger. So I have a feeling I may be attached to this little man for a while. That’s okay. I have one birth planned for April, and after that I’m on sebatical for the rest of the year. I am training for my IBCLC (breastfeeding consultant), although when I manage to do the mentoring and exam I don’t know. No pressure. I may do some more education this year, but mostly I’m going to rest, be a mother, and enjoy my last baby’s first year.x