The Day We Became Three
By August 3, 2014, I was really done with being pregnant. My due date had come and passed (even though I know “due dates” are not really due dates, it still bothered me) nine days before. I was starting to worry that the baby wasn’t going to join us in a timely manner and we would require medical intervention.
After consulting with Sue, my husband and I decided that we would try taking castor oil (which is a holistic way to induce labor). We made castor oil milkshakes on Sunday morning. I will admit, it wasn’t delicious, but it wasn’t as bad as I worried it would be. Then we waited to see if surges would start. Hours passed and nothing happened. We called Sue and she recommended that we take a walk on some hills (which is not a challenge in our neighborhood in San Francisco). So walk we did. Still, no surges, so we went back to watching a marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is an excellent way to pass time while waiting for a baby, by the way). By 5:00 pm when nothing had happened, we assumed the castor oil hadn’t worked. But at 11:00 pm, I started cramping and feeling like surges were starting to come on. Sean sent Sue a text to give her an update and she said to keep her updated as things changed.
In our birth class, the midwives had said that if you go into labor at night, the best thing you can do is to let your partner get a little sleep. So I told my husband to go to bed and I was going to take a shower since I knew this was just early labor. What I didn’t expect is the surges would pick-up so quickly. By the end of my shower they were about two and a half minutes apart. I woke up my husband and told him that I was sorry, but he wasn’t going to be able to sleep! We notified Sue yet again to tell her that the surges were coming on strong. She said to call our doula to have her come over and keep her posted as things developed. My husband and I made up the birth bed and he went to work setting up the tub. He also made us some scrambled eggs to help keep my body fueled during the labor process as we had no idea how long it would take.
It was wonderful when the doula, Elizabeth, arrived around 2:00 am. She immediately took over and helped with what had become pretty painful back labor. The surges were still just a couple of minutes apart and lasting for about a minute. Within moments of her arrival she had a heating pad on my back and was helping me try out different positions to relieve the pain. Then we moved to the birth tub where she again helped me manage the surges. I remember at one point the bliss of a cool washcloth on my neck and pressure being put on my back. I remember hearing my husband’s encouraging words in my ear. And I remember seeing my trusty orange cat sitting by, supporting from the window seat.
After a while, I moved from the tub to the bed for a break from being in the water. The doula and my husband were continuing to supply me with much needed water and bites of food. Sue arrived not long after that. I had no concept of time at this point. We transitioned back into the tub, which did make the back labor a bit more manageable.
At this point, labor was definitely getting more intense. I wasn’t getting the relief between contractions that I had been getting earlier in the process. Around this time, I looked over to Sue and said, “Could you tell me how much longer?” She laughed and said, “Sweetie, I don’t know what you want me to say.” It was an honest moment and such a moment of truth in the birth process. I remember thinking around that point that if someone had offered me pain killers, I might have taken them. But I was glad no one was there to offer them. My support system was helping me manage the pain and I knew I was strong enough to get through it. They were the best “pain killers” for me.
Sue told my husband that she thought I should eat something as my energy was beginning to dip. He went downstairs and warmed up some bone broth. I remember him bringing me a mug of warm broth to the tub and encouraging me to drink it through a straw. I must say, bone broth through a straw is pretty unappealing. However, it was magic bone broth and labor picked right up again. Not long after that I told Sue that I had the desire to start pushing. After a few contractions where I was trying to push she checked and I was fully dilated. I had said I didn’t want to have the baby in the tub, so we moved back to the bed and the second midwife, Michelle came shortly after.
I remember the need to push as being something very primal. I knew that my baby and I were working together to get him out to meet the world. Sure, it hurt (I am not going to lie) but it was also very active. I felt progress, which, to a type A person like myself, was very validating. The hormones were incredible throughout the birthing process. I could barely open my eyes. I could hear Sue, Michelle, Elizabeth and my husband all speaking encouraging words. I remember Sue saying that the head was almost out and she had me feel his head. I was able to call on a physical strength that I didn’t even know I had when pushing my baby into the world. It took one hour and one position to get him out.
Once he was out, he cried almost immediately. They placed his little blue-ish body on my stomach (the cord was very short, so he couldn’t go very far!). I remember how unreal his skin felt. It was almost hard to comprehend that he was the little one that had been inside me just moments before. As he began to take deep baby breaths, he turned more and more pink and started to move a bit more. I almost forgot that I also needed to birth the placenta. But with Sue’s coaching the placenta came quickly and easily. Not long after the birth of the placenta my husband got to cut the cord.
The birth team then moved quickly to make sure the baby and I were stable and healthy. Sue and Michelle easily transitioned from sharing our joy to making thoughtful medical decisions. I felt so taken care of. There was such a sense of calm. I knew we had made the transition to become a family. We had all done it together, myself, my husband, my baby and my birth team. In the hours that passed, I showered, my son breastfed, the house was cleaned up, we all ate, were tucked into bed and my baby was weighed and checked out. When everyone left, my family had gone from being two to being three. We were happy and secure. We were snuggled up in our family bed, just as we had been so many nights before. In the days and weeks that passed Sue came to check on Penn and myself and to ease us into this new phase of life. It was a level of care that went beyond anything I had expected or experienced. When it was time for our last official appointment there were hugs and tears. I knew I would miss Sue terribly.
When we started this journey I wasn’t completely sure what the midwife/patient relationship would be like. Now, on the other end of it, I can say that Sue is a caretaker unlike any other. The birth of our family wasn’t just about the 12 hours of labor, but the entire journey through the pregnancy and postpartum period. I feel lucky that I was able to have the birth that I wanted safely and at home. It gave Penn the start to his life that I had hoped for. And I couldn’t imagine having done it without Sue and our birth team.