So I think I’ll call this the first draft of Levi’s birth story. Here is what happened (in a nutshell):
On Tuesday morning my husband and I drove 40 minutes to my midwives’ office for a 41 week stress test (though I was just 40 wks and 4 days pregnant); we were also curious to find out how my care would continue should my pregnancy go beyond the practice’s 42 week window (at which time I would need to transfer care and likely be scheduled for a hospital induction). My heart was in my throat because I’d been hoping to give birth to Levi at home . . . with each passing day I worried that I, my husband and my baby would find ourselves in a similar situation as we’d experienced for Annabelle’s birth (let’s just say that my birth plan at Annabelle’s birth was ignored . . . her arrival into the world was not the peaceful one my husband and I wanted for her). With so many emotions, so many fears swimming through my mind (our minds), our car ride to the midwives’ office was intense; I felt as though the silence in the car could be cut with a knife . . . looking back on it now, I think my husband and I just didn’t know what to say (to each other) or what to expect (from our midwives) . . .
When we arrived at the office I learned that I’d missed my appointment. Fortunately the midwives were able to let me stay for the hour long stress test and a midwife would be able to see us for our regular care visit. I have to say that though I’d made up my mind in the car that I would accept whatever my midwives recommended we do, I was anxious to give birth and anxious to let my pregnancy be at its end (I wanted them to help me have my baby). And yet, though I felt so many emotions, felt so much fear, and had so many thoughts running through my mind, I found myself silent . . . no words would come to me as I lay there during my stress test; I did feel angry at one point because a substitute midwife who I’d seen the week before and confided in that I felt so miserable and so ready to have my baby happened to be at my stress test. She commented at one point, “So you still haven’t had your baby, huh?” with what seemed at that moment to be at my expense (though I was feeling extremely tender and much like a caged animal with no options . . . I was feeling similar to how I’d felt the night before Annabelle’s induced birth . . . just a “patient” who would be told how to proceed by her caregivers). I felt afraid, I felt so afraid, and I felt so angry . . . I simply wanted someone to help me . . . I wasn’t believing in myself and I wasn’t believing that my body could do it (give birth) on its own.
After the stress test, I met with another midwife for my baby’s regular care appointment; she listened to his heart beat, measured my womb, and asked me whether I wanted her to check my progress (my cervix had been dilated to 3-4 cm. for about 3 weeks and all the midwives were wondering when I would “go”.). We talked about the natural ways that I could attempt to go into labor (evening primrose oil, raspberry leaf tea, sex, nipple stimulation, and castor oil) and a prostaglandin gel that could be applied to my cervix to help with thinning and dilation. I explained to her that another midwife thought I ought to wait to try anything until after my 41 week sonogram, which had been scheduled for the coming Friday. My midwife (who I was meeting with at that moment) looked at me and asked me whether I wanted to attend that sonogram; I nodded my head and told her that I did . . . I wanted to make sure that my baby was healthy. She then asked me whether I wanted to try castor oil (I had joked that cousins in my father’s family swore by castor oil but that I wasn’t sure whether it was safe). She explained to my husband and me that castor oil’s association with meconium being passed during or prior to labor and delivery tends to happen because many post due babies pass meconium on their own (without an agent like castor oil). She also shared that one of her own labors had been brought on by castor oil and that if my body were not ready for labor, I’d have an upset stomach and need to rehydrate (and do so within the 3 days I had until my sonogram appointment that coming Friday). I left her office with 2 bottles of castor oil; one she told me to take that afternoon and if that did not work, I was to take the second bottle after attending my sonogram.
On the car ride home my husband and I talked about it; I wanted to take the castor oil, I wanted to have my baby. My husband said he felt more comfortable with castor oil because we’d talked with my midwife about its effects on me and the baby (if my body were not ready to labor, I would simply have an upset stomach and the baby would be okay). Once home, I ate lunch with Annabelle (I only ate a piece of bread to keep my stomach empty), read Annabelle her midday stories and then snuggled with her; I felt that these would be our last moments together as just us two . . . I looked in her eyes as I nursed her (my milk likely was not in, nor had it been for much of my pregnancy, but I’d continued to nurse her for comfort) and told her that her brother was going to be born soon and that once he arrived he would not leave our home. I told her that she was always going to be my baby (even when she declares herself a big girl) and I always would love her . . . perhaps because I am an oldest child, I could foresee how she might cope with the huge change that was coming to our family of three (the arrival of a baby can completely rock the older child’s world). She looked up at me with wide eyes (and I realize she is just 2 1/2 and may not understand everything we say to her) and something in her eyes let me know that she could feel what I was telling her.
A little while later I sat down at my kitchen table with my husband and mother-in-law. I sipped hot tea, spooned castor oil, and drank orange juice. Five minutes later, I had finished the castor oil; I looked at my husband and mother-in-law and told them I wasn’t sure it would work, but just in case it did, I wanted to be well rested. I headed upstairs and lay down. Three hours later I woke up with a bit of an upset stomach. I decided I needed to walk so I got dressed, headed downstairs and invited my husband on what would turn into a 3 hour long walk. Thank goodness my mother-in-law was there to play with Annabelle; while I would not describe the 3 hours that my husband and I walked as “painful,” I will say that I needed to focus all of myself on my labor and my husband gave his everything to helping me do that (had we needed to also keep Annabell occupied during this time, I’m not sure how I would’ve coped with labor). He timed my contractions, made me laugh (again and again), and would hold me up when a strong rush/surge/contraction/wave would move across me. After an hour he wanted to call the midwives (I did not because I still was not believing in myself and thus was not believing that I was in real labor).
My midwife and birth assistant soon arrived and I told them about having taken castor oil and not being entirely sure that I was in labor; they assured me that I was and that they’d set up their supplies inside our home (we’d already acquired many of the supplies like the cord clamp, birth pads, oxygen tank, etc. at 36 weeks) while I continued walking. We walked for 2 more hours on perhaps the hottest night of the summer. My husband draped a large wet towel around his neck and carried a bottle of water that we filled up again and again on our “labor loop” around my neighborhood. At the end of 2 hours I felt that I was ready to go inside my house and have my midwife check me.
Inside, my midwife told me that she wasn’t sure why my other midwife had given me castor oil (apparently my midwife who I’d met with earlier in the day had informed another midwife who was supposed to be on call around the time they expected me to go into labor but we had waited too long to call for that midwife; the midwife who’d been called to my house had not communicated with either of the other 2 midwives. I have to say that in the moment I felt so vulnerable and afraid that I “was in trouble” with the midwife who was attending my son’s birth . . . it took me several days and conversations to arrive at a place where I am now that understands that she was not criticizing me or my decision but that she was telling me what was going on for her). She told me that she would check my progress but that if I had not progressed far enough that she and my birth attendant would need to leave and get rest for the night. I wanted to shower before she checked me (I was completely soaked from having walked outside in 90 degree weather for 3 hours); while showering I started to worry again that I wasn’t labor; I prayed to God to help me keeping going, I talked with Levi and asked him to help his mamma keep going, and then I nearly fell over in the shower with a hard contraction. When I came out of the shower, my midwife checked me and told me that I’d dilated to 6 cm, though my cervix was behaving oddly . . . one side was entirely dilated and the other side was partially there (I later learned that my cervix dilated this way because of Levi’s positioning his hand against the side of his face). She told that I would be pushing soon.
I asked for my birthing ball and knelt on the floor beside my bed. My birth attendant coached me to make low moans through the hard contractions that I would come to feel and know as transition. It didn’t take long before I was fully dilated and ready to push. My midwife asked me if I wanted to lay down on my side. I crawled up to my bed and got ready but I felt the most intense feeling in my pelvis and what I thought was an urge to pee. I walked to our bedroom’s bath but sitting there on the toilet, the pain continued and I knew it wasn’t that I needed to pee but that I was fighting the work I needed to do, which was pushing.
I found myself back at my bed and just leaned into the bed rail vocalizing everything that my physical body was enduring; I could not believe I was there in the moment (later I would confide in my birth attendant that I now understood why women want pain relief during labor . . . though I have to say that it is such a short moment that I’ll do natural birth again when the time comes . . . ). Again I lay down on my side and my midwife coached me to tuck in my chin and put all of myself into pushing my baby out; she asked me whether I wanted to feel his head moving down; I nodded yes so she told me to place my hand inside myself and feel Levi’s head pressing against my water bag. I tucked my chin in again and pushed and my water broke all over my hand; Levi’s head moved down onto my hand but I was not finished pushing. I had to push slowly and wait and wait and wait while my midwife and birth attendant applied warm rags against my perineum and suctioned Levi’s nose and mouth (there had been a small amount of meconium in the water). I later learned that what had caused me so much pain was Levi’s holding his hand against his cheek with his elbow sticking out to the side; for some reason, my boy decided to move his hand to the other cheek and this relieved a great deal of discomfort for me and I was able to push him the rest of the way out with greater ease. Seven minutes later he was lying against my stomach letting out a soft cry.
For the next hour my husband and I lay in our bed with Levi. I nursed him and stroked his back. My mother-in-law came upstairs to meet Levi while Annabelle continued sleeping on the futon downstairs (she never woke up during the birth; my mother-in-law later told me that despite the sounds I thought I’d been making, my labor had been a fairly quiet one). After checking Levi’s vitals, my midwife and birth attendant cleaned up my bedroom and headed downstairs to give us some time alone with our baby. Perhaps 2 hours later we had completed his birth certificate, weighed and measured him, and were saying goodnight. I fell asleep with Levi tucked in my arm and my husband’s arms around me . . .