(Note: There’s a photo at the end of this post of me still in the birthing tub just after Baby GHM was born. If you don’t want to see me in a birthing tub just don’t scroll all the way down.)
Faithful devotees of the ol’ Maple and Me blog might have noticed a long and sustained absence of almost two months on the ol’ bloggins. Turns out the last month of pregnancy is hard and really kicks your butt ( this would be be news to no one except first time pregnant women who made plans during their last month of pregnancy). I spent the last month of my pregnancy less and less mobile, more and more grouchy and with every increasingly swollen feet and hands.
The stories I had read about first time births focused so heavily on not being disappointed when your baby was ‘late’ (i.e. past 40 weeks) that I had spent most of my time preparing and planning for a baby that might be a few days overdue. This did mean however that, when I went into labor two weeks early, I was pretty unprepared.
Just prior to giving birth I became mildly obsessed with birth stories. Not knowing exactly what to expect led me to search out what other women thought/experienced/felt. In that spirit I thought I’d share my birth story.
My water broke at midnight on a Friday. I was sleeping and it woke me up. Originally I thought it might be my mucus plug but the volume of liquid soon convinced me that I was probably going into labor. I woke up Maple and told him that I thought I might be in labor. At our birthing class at the Birth Center they had instructed us to labor at home for as long as we could and to wait for 411 (contractions four minutes apart, lasting one minute, for over an hour) before we called the midwives. With that advice in mind we went back to sleep and I spent the next three hours in a half awake state, being awakened mildly by contractions and having many stream of consciousness thoughts along the lines of, “I should send out that work email”, “We’re going to have to reschedule the Seed Swap” and, “I wonder if I’m actually in labor?”.
By 3:30 AM I couldn’t rest through contractions anymore so I woke Maple back up. We timed a couple contractions but we weren’t at 411 yet. We decided to watch a movie for a little while and I chose the cinematic glory of “Step Up” so that my other boyfriend, Channing Tatum, could share the labor experience with me. Maple and I packed our ‘Go Bag’ (which we hadn’t gotten around to yet) for the Birth Center in between contractions. Having lost our list from the Birth Center we googled, “What do I bring to the hospital when I’m having my baby?”. The sample lists we found helped us remember a hat for our new baby. Win #1 for the new parents.
At 4:45 AM I called my mom in Juneau (who had a plane ticket for April 6 to come up for the birth) to tell her that I thought I was in labor. She had me talk through a couple contractions and informed me that yes, I was in labor. She immediately called my other mom and through some miracle they found a flight for that very morning that would have Mama arrive in Fairbanks at 11 AM. Having read so much about 30 hours labors for first time moms I figured that she would get there in plenty of time for the birth.
By 6:30 AM the contractions were strong enough that I couldn’t talk through them and we had hit the 411 spot that the midwives had told us about so we called the Birth Center and the midwives told us they would meet us there in an hour.
We arrived at the Birth Center at 7:30 and I asked our midwife Vanessa to check out how dilated I was. I was really, really happy when she told me I was already 8 centimeters (if I had been at 2 centimeters and in that much pain I might have just decided that pain medication was a necessary part of my labor experience and gone to the hospital). Since the midwives knew I wanted a water birth they offered me the tub and I immediately got in and proceeded to labor there for roughly the next three hours.
Birth is a pretty incredible experience. It’s incredibly primal in a way that very little in western society is primal anymore. There’s shit and vomit and blood and pain and a feeling of surrendering to your body that is unique to anything else I have experienced so far in my life. As the contractions become more and more intense you break apart and lose control. I could hear it in my voice and feel it in the fear I experienced. It wasn’t fear of pain but fear that my body was truly taking over and mentally I had to surrender to the physical experience, trust my body, and let go of control.
I had originally planned to have my mom and my breda Jasmine in the room but, with the baby being early it ended up being just me and Maple and it was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth partner, even though neither of us really knew what to expect. Gently encouraging and incredibly loving Maple kept me grounded through contraction after contraction. My focus from 7:30 on was the white porcelain edge of the tub, a purple towel on the edge and Maple’s arm. I was vaguely aware of the midwives coming in hourly to check on me (and I was really, really happy when they stayed because that meant I was getting close to the baby being born) and vaguely aware of Maple rubbing my back but my main focus was on breathing/vocalizing through the pain and resting in between the pains.
The majority of our time in the Birth Center was just Maple and me, forehead to forehead, breathing together and I really think that contributed largely to the length of my labor.
At 10:15 our beautiful baby girl was born into the birthing tub – she was 7 lbs, 11 oz and 20 inches long.
The big thing I took away from birth was that while planning and mentally visualizing everything is incredibly valid and important, at the end of the day the baby comes when the baby comes and how the baby comes. I feel lucky that I got my ideal birth scenario (a natural water birth) and incredibly beyond fortunate that my labor was only 10.5 hours but our baby is beautiful and perfect and has the most adorable eyes that try to focus on me with such trust and at the end of the day, no matter how she was born, that’s all that matters.
On Thursday, the night before I went into labor, I dreamt that I had given birth to eight babies, four girls and four boys. The dream wasn’t overwhelming but incredibly empowering, my births in that dream were easy and my body could competently handle them. I didn’t dream hardly at all during my pregnancy and I told Maple the next morning that I felt like the baby had talked to me for the first time, and that the baby was letting me know that we had birth covered.
Now, after living with this little human for nine days I think she was telling me that she was on her way. And we are so happy that she is here.
Cheers and Love,
Maple and Me