Warning, this post contains birth details.
Like my late pregnancy with Aiden, this time around I also had the "wonderful" experience of "false" labour from about 37 weeks onwards. At first these bouts of contractions were short lived and several days apart. They were easily recognised as "false" labour. They were not totally false in that they did progress my body in preparing for childbirth. As I neared my estimated due date these bouts of contractions became more frequent, usually happened late at night, and each time the experience got more intense and more like actual labour. My estimated due date went by, and I was now losing several hours of sleep every other night to contractions. I was tired. I was ready to meet our new baby. I felt done being pregnant. The baby however was in no rush to be born.
The day I was exactly 41 weeks we had a scheduled appointment with our midwife Angela Love in the afternoon. Rob came home from work about 1pm so we would be ready to leave at 2pm for our 3pm appointment. We had lunch together. When Rob asked me how I was feeling that day I suddenly burst into tears. I had been up most of the previous night and was exhausted. We stood in the middle of our living room, Rob holding me in his arms while I cried into his shoulder. I felt foolish. I did not even know why I was crying. In just a few minutes the tears ended and we finished lunch before waking Aiden and leaving for our appointment. The appointment that afternoon was probably the shortest one we ever had. We were only there about 40 minutes. We talked about having to schedule a biophysical profile if the baby did not arrive by the end of this week, and scheduled another appointment for a few days. Now that I was past 41 weeks I would be on twice weekly midwife appointments. We also talked about things we could do to encourage labour to start naturally. We left encouraged that everything was good with both Mama and baby.
We had not traveled far, and were stuck at a traffic light where there had been a car accident, when the first contraction hit. I waited until there had been a few before I said anything to Rob. This was the first time I had contractions in the afternoon, so I knew this was different. By the time we were half way home I knew without a doubt that this was the "real" labour. We decided to stop at WalMart on the way home, as we needed a few groceries, and it would give me an opportunity to walk around before we got back to our apartment. By the time we got home it was nearly 6pm, and I had a definite pattern to my contractions. Rob fed Aiden, gave him a quick bath and put him to bed for the night. It was about an hour earlier than his normal bedtime, but fortunately 15 month old boys are not known for their ability to tell what time it is.
Now that it was just the two of us we were able to focus more on the actual labour. Rob cooked a quick dinner while I worked through contractions on the birth ball. After we ate dinner we called our midwife Angie to let her know labour had started, but that we didn't need her to come to us yet. We then called our friend who had agreed to come over during labour to look after Aiden. Our friend was still at work and we had to leave a voicemail for her. It was an hour later when she called back. She finally arrived about 9:45pm. We prayed together for the labour and birth once she arrived. By 10pm I was definitely in active labour. I had 3 strong contractions right on top of each other. Rob decided it was time to call Angie back and ask her to come to us. Just a few minutes later I had another 2 contractions on top of each other. There was no longer any doubt that this was the night our baby was going to be born.
Then we moved from the living room to the bedroom. I kept trying different positions to progress labour, but I kept coming back to sitting on the birth ball. Rob sat behind me to help me keep my back relaxed. I sat on the ball with our bed in front of me so I could lean on it to rest between the contractions. Our friend leaned over the bed and held my hands so I could squeeze on her during the contractions. She also kept me calm by breathing through the contractions with me. By about 11pm I kept asking for a break, a rest. I was so tired and really wanted to have a short nap so I would have the energy to keep going. Rob said later that his thought when he heard me asking for a break was "Oh good we're in transition, its nearly over." Angie arrived about 11:20pm, but couldn't get in through the security gate as the dial up from the gate to our phone wasn't working properly. Rob had to leave and drive up to the gate to let her in.
Not long after I felt like I really needed to use the bathroom. I was reassured it was just pressure from the baby. However I knew I also really needed to use the bathroom. So Rob and I moved to the bathroom. Rob was my constant support throughout labour. I leaned on him during the contractions in the bathroom. I had just stood back up when another contraction hit, and I was overwhelmed by the need to push. It caught me by surprise as my body just pushed on its own. That first push burst my amniotic sack. Fortunately some of it went into the toilet, but most of it hit the floor, and Rob's foot. I had two more pushes before the contraction was over. Our midwife wanted to check to make sure I was fully dilated before I pushed again. I still had a small cervical lip, so she wanted me to not push for 15 minutes to give my body time to finish dilating. That 15 minutes was the hardest part of the whole process. She panted with me during the contractions so I could stop myself. It took every ounce of concentration I was capable of to stop my body, and even then the first push of each contraction still got through and I only managed to stop the other two pushes. By now our bathroom was getting crowded with our midwife sitting on the side of the bath, Rob and I standing by the toilet, and the assistant next to us trying to clean up some of the mess on the floor. I knew this was not how I wanted to birth this baby, so I asked to go back to our bed. It took about 4 contractions to actually move from the ensuite to the bed. I really did not like the sensation of pushing while upright. I finally made it onto the bed and tried one contraction on my hands and knees. Again I really didn't like this position, even though I thought I would before that point. This was when I ended up lying down on my side simply from not knowing what else to do. It felt so comfortable to push in that position, so I stayed on my side, lying across the bed. Rob started out at my head, holding the pillows in place while I pushed. After a few minutes he moved to behind me so I could lean my back on him slightly. The slightly tilted angle with back support was the most comfortable position I could find. I held on to the pillows under my head with my lower arm and gripped my upper thigh with the other arm. The midwife's assistant supported my feet.
Each contraction still had 3 definite pushes. I could feel the baby move down inside me during the contractions, then move back up slightly between while I rested. I knew that this happened, but I felt so strange to experience it. The only actual effort I had to make was to concentrate on my breathing to stay as relaxed as possible. I was focusing on the directed breathing I had learned form "The Pink Kit" childbirth preparation material. In doing this I allowed my body to do the pushing by itself. My body knew how to birth this baby. I just had to stay relaxed and let it happen. Once the head got part of the way out I could feel the sting of my skin being stretched to let the baby out. Again I focused on breathing and staying relaxed and letting my body do the work. Unknown to me at the time, the reason I felt the stinging was because the baby had a nucal arm, and the elbow was causing some over stretching that made a small tear, and left a few abrasions (also called skid marks.) With the head partially out the midwife could see the fingers against the baby's cheek, and she had to pull the arm out, out of the way to allow the head and then the shoulders to come out. At this point there was a brief break in the contractions. I decided to try to push the rest of the body out on my own, but nothing happened. I had to wait for the next contraction and the natural pushes to birth the rest of the body. The pause was only a minute at most, but it felt like a long time to have a partially born baby. He was finally completely born at 1:24am, just over 9 hours from when I had those first contractions at that traffic light.
As soon as the baby was born Rob got to be the one to see what gender the baby was. I was thrilled when I heard him announce we had another son. Throughout the pregnancy we both had felt like we were going to get a daughter, but in the moment there was only joy that Aiden would have a brother to grow up with, someone who could be his lifelong best friend. Because I was still lying on my side the baby was laid on the bed next to me. It was such a precious time having those first minutes to be lying next to each other and getting to know each other. I held his tiny little hand and talked with him until the chord stopped pulsing. Then Rob got to cut the chord and hold the baby for a few minutes while I moved to a more comfortable position on my back to deliver the placenta. As soon as I was in position at the top of the bed, in a half recline, I was given the baby back. We nursed for the first time at that point, and he had a very good latch and strong suck. It didn't take long for the placenta to come out once we started nursing. Finally the birth was over. I did however lose a lot of blood, so the midwife asked if she could give me a shot of pitocin to stop the bleeding. I was given just one shot in the leg, and it seemed to do the trick.
It was then time for Angie to check for any damage. This was when she found I had two internal abrasions that would need a stitch each and that the tear would need 3 stitches. I was given a shot to numb the area for stitching, but I could still feel the movement as she stitched me up. Once this was over with Rob got on the bed with us, and we were left alone just the 3 of us to become acquainted with each other. Our friend, who had been around for the entire process, made me a cup of hot tea to drink. Eventually I felt able to get up and use the bathroom. Rob held the baby, while the midwife helped me to the bathroom. Then once I was finished she helped me to clean up and change my clothes before I got back into bed. Once safely back in bed, and the baby back in my arms, it was suggested that I had something to eat. I was given some suggestions and finally settled on some scrambled eggs and toast, which Rob went and made for me. While Rob was gone to the kitchen our friend came and sat with me and the baby. After I had eaten our friend left to go home and get a few hours of sleep before she had to get back up for work again. Angie and her assistant stayed in the living room to fill out some of their paperwork while Rob and I sat in bed and marveled at this new little boy the Lord had given us.
After completing some other paperwork with us, including the application for the birth certificate, our midwife and her assistant finally got to go home. It was now about 4am. We were now alone, just our little family in our home. Aiden was still sound asleep, and had no idea that when he got up in the morning he was going to meet his new baby brother. We decided to try and get some sleep before Aiden woke up. Rob dosed a little on the bed beside me. I held the baby in my arm, and even though I was exhausted I could not sleep. So I lay there watching our new son as he slept in my arm.
When Rob went later in the morning to get Aiden up, he told him he had a new brother. However when he brought Aiden into our bedroom and sat him on the bed to meet his baby brother Aiden refused to look at him. He looked at Rob, and even at me, but he refused to let his eyes meet with this tiny baby in Mama's arm. It took a few hours before the curiosity hit strongly enough for Aiden to finally want to meet his new baby brother. Once he did accept the presence of the baby he got excited about him. Every day he now asks about the baby when he first wakes up.
Today Seth is 4 weeks old. In some ways it has been a very quick 4 weeks, in others it seems like we have always been a family of 4. I have found the adjustment to our new family dynamic interesting. Physically it has been a very different recovery from Aiden's birth. Then I had to recover from surgery and once I had the external staples removed at 6 days I no longer felt much pain. I did have to wait to be able to use my stomach muscles, and so mobility was more difficult after Aiden. This time I have had one small abrasion that is taking time to heal, and at 4 weeks postpartum it is still giving me some discomfort. However due to location I have been told it could be 6-8 weeks postpartum before it has healed completely. Despite this discomfort I would gladly repeat this experience. Having a home birth just 15 months after a c-section birth has been an incredible experience. I was able to see the amazing power of my body work to birth this baby. We got to have a peaceful beginning to Seth's life with us. He has never been separated from me, and was not subject to unnecessary testing or injections immediately after birth. As a result he feeds a lot better than Aiden ever did, and is gaining weight well.
At birth (or at least about an hour after) Seth weighed in at 9lb 8oz, 23 inches long and 14 1/4 inches for his head. At 3 days his weight had dropped down to 8lb 14oz. Then at 7 days his weight was back up to 9lb 10oz. He was last weighed again at 21 days and was then up to 10lb 10oz. By now (28days) he should be over 11lb.
I am filled with awe at the amazing design of childbirth. Learning how to work with my body to birth this baby has been a wonderful experience. Being able to birth in the comfort of my own home, surrounded only by those we chose to be there, made Seth's entrance into this world one of peace and tranquility. It has been a joy to make this journey together with Rob. It has bound us closer together as a couple, and strengthened us as a family. I mourn for those women I know who have been robbed of this kind of experience by a doctor who told them it is too dangerous to have a vaginal birth after a c-section. I rejoice that the Lord in His grace has allowed us to have such a wonderful birth.
I pray that our testimony may encourage others to try for a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC), and maybe even to home birth.
We highly recommend the Pink Kit method of childbirth prep with several DVDs and ebooks!