It was Tuesday, June 7th, and I was experiencing definite labor contractions but with no consistent rhythm, sometimes 5 minutes apart, then 8 minutes, then 4 or even 3 minutes. Grrrr! What was this? Not wanting a repeat of the last minute rush I had when birthing Eliza, I decided to fake the confident response and text and call my support team and the midwife. "Don't come, this is just a heads up. I think he's coming tonight." Ok, fine, deep inside I was hoping that acting like I was sure he was coming would help prompt him to really come. Well, within a couple of hours things had slowed down significantly and I was concerned that perhaps I spoke to soon. It was nearing 9pm so I told the kids to go ahead and go to bed, we'd wake them if it was truly time. I called the midwife and told her that things had slowed down and also that I was feeling movement "down low" which made me wonder if he had his hands above his head which might impede or prolong labor. She decided to come over to evaluate for herself. See, this is how it's supposed to go with a midwife. They take care of you. How wonderful. Normally we don't "check" progress in labor as opposed to when I was with a doctor who needed to know if there was any dialation from 38 weeks on. Brother, talk about a set up! You can be 3cm for weeks or you can go from 0 to 10cm in just a few short hours. There is no point in "checking" and potentially introducing bacteria to the birth canal. That is unless there is a point, like determining the baby's position or if their hands are above their heads. The midwife came and pushed my very pregnant belly around feeling the position that Jack was in and determining where his head was. Head down, praise the Lord, but not down in the pelvis like impending birth requires. Then she did the check. I was 3cm I believe but what was more insightful was that his hand was indeed above his head. Darn! This will be a tough labor unless some things change. She moved him around a bit again and this time felt his head drop down into the pelvis, into position to potentially move things along. We discussed my options. She said I could go to the hospital, get pitocin and pound him out, after all he was ready. Or, we could wait and it may take hours or even a week or two for him to work his way down with his hand wanting to be above his head like that. In the meantime, I could lay with my hips up to try to gravitate him back up and then lay on my left side to try to get him to turn in the direction away from his hand so he would pull it away from his head. Hmm, hips up for weeks hoping or pound him out? I have done pitocin four times and I knew I wasn't going to pound any more babies out. So we wait... and pray.
Since I knew his head was currently down I decided just to stay on my left side and hope for a slight rotation and the continuation of labor. I posted to faceb**k asking for prayer that Jack would get in the right position for labor. Several responses came back. What a blessing to be joined by prayer warriors during labor. Two hours later I couldn't stay in bed any longer. It was 11:30pm and the contractions were keeping me awake and were very uncomfortable. It was not consistent and I had long breaks in between contractions, 5 minutes usually, still I decided to call the midwife and ask what she thought. Labor or not she said she'd come and just sleep on my couch if things were not progressing. At this point I really wanted the comfort of the birthing tub but was so worried it would all be in vain and a waste of the warm water that I would want in "real" labor. But Andrew said to go for it, so we filled 'er up. I made the mistake of telling him to make it bathwater warm and forgot how hot the water he bathes in is. OUCH! It was so hot I was uncomfortable and begging for more cold. Just like last time, as soon as I got in the pool labor slowed even more and I just relaxed. But, when contractions came, they were killers. I decided to call my mom and my friend, who were my support people, so they could start coming. When the midwife arrived she said as soon as she heard me laboring she knew this was it and she called her two apprentices whom I had met at previous appointments. I was thrilled that things were happening yet still able to relax between contractions. This was odd.
Everyone arrived in good time and I was able to discuss how and when to video, when to get the kids, how things were going. I had several awesome differences with this labor. One was that I was able to communicate my needs to Andrew and my other support people better. In the past I could hear in my head what I needed but could not verbalize. I mentioned that to the midwife at one of my appointments and she said that's fairly normal. This time I could do it though.
Another wonderful difference was that the midwife added aromatherapy oils to the water. AWESOME!!! Between contractions I could actually imagine I was at the spa preparing for a massage. Ahhh. That was wonderful. Lights were kept low and voices quiet. It was my space as I labored on my knees in the now warm water while leaning over on Andrew's lap and gripping his shirt for relief. As in the past I was very vocal through first stage contractions but as I hit transition the midwife offered a suggestion of putting all my effort into pushing. It's wonderful to learn how to effectively labor. The first stage of labor is to be survived through and all my effort is put into helping contractions be effective while managing the pain, which for me means a verbal outburst and squeezing wash cloths, tshirts, bedding that happens to be nearby, my dear hubby's hand, etc. It also means a cold wash cloth to my forhead between contractions and two handed, firm massage on my shoulders during. Despite the pain all things were just as I needed them. Transition is a time to start working. The urge to push becomes overwhelming and all energies should be put towards that pushing. So as this phase started she encouraged me this way.
Another difference in this labor is that I had not had my water break yet. Water breaking in the past had meant baby was coming soon. In the hospital it was a tool to "get things going" and they always broke my bag of waters. At my first homebirth I experienced spontanious breaking while in the birthing tub and at that point labor really got moving quickly. So this time, in my mind, I had a long way to go since my water had not broken and because I believed that Jack would be a 10lb baby and would take some work to get him out. The midwife, hearing the change in me and knowing I was in transition, made her suggestion of focus and effort and checked for Jack's head. Then she said these magic words, "Baby is right there just waiting for you to push him out." Hold the phone!! He's waiting for me? That was all I needed to hear. Andrew said I must have needed the challenge. He's never been in labor before. I believe that is challenge enough, but he had a point. At that time I put all effort into pushing my baby out, water broken or not. I know babies had been born in the caul, meaning the bag of waters never broke before birth, and that would be fine. I also knew that since I knew he was so big I'd better get to work. After this check and fateful comment, the midwife turned around to dry her hands and when she turned back... wha-la! Baby Jack was here. I made no short work of it. My dear friend who had the video camera at the ready was shocked as well. She was barely able to catch the manuver that enabled me to deliver my own baby. Since I was on my knees when I birthed Eliza and the pool was bigger, Andrew was in with me caught her as she came behind me then he lifted her up out of the water. But because I was on my knees facing away, I was unable to see her until we awkwardly got all turned around. That was one thing I wanted to change this time around. For me, it is very effective and as comfortable as one can be in labor to be up on my knees, but baby tends to exit to the back. The midwife and I decided that if this birthing position happened again she would push baby up to me through my legs so I could be the one to lift him up. This is exactly how things unfolded. She quickly gave him a little push and I grabbed him up to my chest and sat down laughing and crying. He was gorgeous and so... new. I love that squishy, wet, brand new baby moment. His little eyes blinking, ears hearing sounds clearly for the first time, experiencing air pressure and freedom of movement... what a moment. He was quiet at first but then found his lungs and took quite a while to settle down. He had come so quickly, I was sure I had a long time ahead of working to getting him out but no, here he was. The bag of waters actually broke as he was on his way out.
Again, thinking I had lots of time, I told everyone not to have the kids come in while I was working so hard (all the kids wanted to witness their brother's birth). I didn't want them to witness a long period of effort and pain so told everyone to wait before getting them. My first words after picking Jack up were "get the kids!" For me time stood still. I felt as though I looked from the face of my newborn up to the four older siblings in one moment. They were all standing there, jammie clad, in awe of the this new life. Obviously there was a minute or two for dad to go up the hall to get them, but when he arrived they were all standing by their bedroom doors waiting. They had heard me laboring and were waiting for their summons.
Welcome Alexander Dakota Jack born on June 8th at 3:52am!! And there we were, a family of 7, so blessed. What joy that the kids could interact with their brother from just seconds old. Eliza took a little while to grasp the idea that Jack was now a small person rather than a large, round belly on her mother. As soon as she got that understanding, she was in line for the holding and helping just like the others. Josiah got to cut the umbilical cord. We waiting for quite a while until it had stopped pulsing, then tied it off and big brother did the snip. 10 years Jack's senior, I experienced in that moment that my first born son was much closer to being a man than a little boy. He took such pride in the responsibility. I had flash backs of my husband snipping his cord 10 years ago and wondered how many of his own children's cords Josiah will snip one day. It's hard to believe how quickly time flies. In just a blink, Jack will be 10 and Josiah will be 20 and I'll probably have a more prominant "crown of glory"!
It took a while to deliver the placenta. This was my most painful 3rd stage yet but as soon as it came I felt relief. Jack was eager to nurse and weighed in at 7lbs 4oz, so much for my 10lb-er, he was my smallest except for Faith. He was 20 inches long.