Time to resurrect the blog (2 years later to the day!!) and write down Winslow’s birth story, which happened just a few short months ago on July 29th.
My due date was July 27th and up until then I had been feeling great. A little too great, perhaps. I was carrying high, no signs of dropping or impending labor in sight. I actually announced at church that “No one is allowed to ask me if the baby has come yet until August” and had fully convinced myself that W wouldn’t arrive for another week or two.
I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions throughout my pregnancy starting in the second trimester and never really letting up. Around 37 weeks, they felt stronger but not bothersome, and come 39 and 40 weeks, I could tell that they were getting a bit more serious. On the 27th, my due date, I had some strong, random, painless contractions throughout the day but decided not to think about them too much. With Emmeline, I was hyperfocused on every new sensation in my body. But this time around, I was really trying to not focus on the impending labor and delivery, considering how long and arduous it had been the las time.
The night of the 26th, I had painless contractions throughout the night that I slept through, which let up in the morning. I went to my midwifery appointment the next day and I was about 3cm with some effacement. Woohoo! Three less cm to actively labor through! But the baby’s head was still floating high, not engaged in the least, and the midwife seemed to agree with me that labor wouldn’t be starting any time soon. They scheduled me for a non-stress test and an ultrasound to check my fluid levels for the next week. I had a giant breakfast at the Root Cellar in Chapel Hill and then spent the rest of the day pretending like it wasn’t my due date.
The next night was similar, though the contractions felt stronger. I still managed to sleep and the next day (the 28th) we puttered around as normal. I dropped Emmeline off at her new preschool, where she was a sobbing mess, crying “I just want to stay with you, Momma!” It would seem that E was prescient about what was coming next. To soothe our souls, we went and got ice cream at Maple View Farms after I picked her up from school and spent time in the garden. I noticed some bloody show and had the occasional contraction that I tried to ignore. We were going on the third or fourth day of strong but painless random contractions throughout the day and more rhythmic at night. I continued to listen to my Hypnobabies tracks and spend a lot of time on my hands and knees, trying to get the baby to turn (W had been posterior for about two months).
The night of the 28th, we put Emmeline to bed, ate some leftovers for dinner (pasta? pizza? I can’t even remember). I noticed the painless contractions I had been having were now hard to ignore and around 8:30pm, I stopped watching the Game of Thrones episode I had been watching and told Dave I needed to go to bed. Things felt more serious and I knew that this was the last bit of sleep I’d likely get in a long time. I slept fitfully for 2 or 3 hours but was awaken by serious pressure waves that were clearly falling in a pattern. Dave slept soundly next to me while I laid there wide awake, trying to concentrate through the contractions.
I got up and silently labored on the birth ball and the toilet through the wee hours of the morning and decided that this was probably the real deal. I started tracking the contractions on my phone: 10 minutes apart, 30 seconds each, then 8 minutes apart lasting 40-50 seconds each, etc. I texted my Dad at 4am telling him to come pick up Emmeline asap. Dave got up at 6am and helped E get ready to go. We told her that the baby was coming and she was very sweet and excited and we enjoyed one last cuddle in bed before my father came and took her out.
My mom drew a bath for me and Dave lit some candles and I listened to my Hypnobabies music in there for some time, all the while tracking my contractions on the phone. I couldn’t believe how regular the pattern was, how textbook this labor was going. I was prepared for another long labor with fits and starts, yet this seemed to be going so…normally. I was relaxed and felt in control, though of course a bit skeptical that things were actually going this smoothly. We called the nurse and I told her that my contractions were 6 or 7 minutes apart. She wanted me to come in to receive my antibiotics (I was strep-b positive) and I said okay. Around 8, we got out of the bath and got in the car. I had to stop several times on the way to the car, moaning and concentrating through the pressure wave, and then had 5 or so contractions on the 20 minute ride there. This was a good sign – labor was progressing even with the change of venue.
We arrived at the birth center at 8:30am. I was happy to see Jane Gledhill, the head nurse at the birth center and an old friend from my days at Anathoth, who helped administer my antibiotics while I laid on the bed. My midwife, Jessica, checked me and I was a “6 or 7” with 90% effacement. I did a fist-pump in the air. The longest part of labor was over and I would soon be heading into transition [With Emmeline, I was in active labor for 28 hours, and then transition for another 6 hours….ugh!]
After the antibiotics were administered, I got in the tub, which was awesome. I labored in there quietly for some time, feeling impatient and not “in the zone” like I was with E. I was still worried about W being posterior, about the prospect of another long labor and worried that I wasn’t feeling the same signs of transition as I did with E (shaking, throwing up, etc). My contractions were coming closer and closer together and I was loudly vocalizing through them as a way to push back against the intensity (I visualized myself on a stage in a huge auditorium, blowing a trumpet as loudly as a I could). I was fairy silently in my birth with Emmeline but the vocalizations really helped me cope with this labor. All the while, the midwife watched and waited and I wasn’t subjected to any checks or any other interventions, beyond the occasional heart rate monitoring.
I was becoming more impatient and uncomfortable, a tell-tale sign of transition. I asked for backrubs and then decidedly DID NOT WANT BACKRUBS and then I wanted them again. Dave got in the tub with me and helped with some counterpressure on my back and then we got out of the tub and I tried laboring on the birth ball, the birth stool and the toilet, all the while stopping every few feet as the contractions were coming back to back. My midwife asked a few times if I felt like I needed to push and I said despairingly “No! But I feel like a freight train is running through me.” And though she didn’t check my dilation, she kept saying, “It sounds like you are ready to have this baby really soon.” Again, I was skeptical. My water had yet to break and I assumed this meant his head wasn’t engaged.
I wanted to try laboring in the shower, where I squatted and screamed and enjoyed the warm water on my back. And then I WANTED BACK IN THE TUB stat, so off we went. I still did not feel like the baby was coming, yet the nurse and midwife were busy making preparations and telling me to push when I felt ready. With Emmeline, my body was so drained after 34 hours of labor that I literally pushed unconsciously. I laid on my side and my body took over. This time, I was much more aware of what was going on. I felt a slight need to push so I did and I could feel the baby moving down. The effort felt herculean, however. I pushed a second and a third time and then a WOOSH – my water had finally broken. Since I was in the water, it was less dramatic but still felt crazy weird. On the 4th push, out came Winslow’s giant head. I definitely felt him crowning (ouch!).
I was still in the bathtub at this point and, in order to have a safe waterbirth, you need to keep the baby’s head underwater until he is all the way out. As I went to push out his shoulders, he got a little stuck and the midwife wanted me to change positions. She had me stand up so Winslow’s head was out of the water. As I pushed down, I was squatting and threatening to drop his head back in the water (I knew none of this was going on at the time, of course). The midwife said very firmly and loudly, “Heather, OUT OF THE TUB. GET OUT OF THE TUB.” And with the help of my mom and the nurse*, I launched myself out of the tub and squatted on the floor. The midwife’s serious, firm directing is what I needed to push Winslow the rest of the way out. I pushed one last time, hard, and had him right there on the floor next to the tub. All in all, I pushed for 15 minutes max. It was 11:30 at that point. We had been at the birth center for 3 hours.
(*Edited to add: Apparently, another woman at the birth center was about to give birth at the exact same time as me and there was only one nurse available. My midwife yelled, “Get my mom!” which confused Dave a bit until she said, “Oh, she’s a nurse here” (i.e., a nurse in the prenatal care unit). This was the first time my midwife Jessica’s mother witnessed her daughter assist with a birth. The story made it into the Women’s Birth and Wellness newsletter in August!)
Of course, I wept with joy and exhaustion and held the baby to my chest while they helped me to the bed. I couldn’t believe that it was over. I held Winslow, who was crying LOUDLY, for about 15 minutes before we even knew he was a boy. “It’s a boy!” exclaimed Dave. I was not surprised in the least. He promptly peed and pooped on me and latched on like a champ. After about 15 minutes, my mom cut the cord. Then he was measured and weighed an hour or so later, coming in at 8lbs, 10oz and 20in (though had he been weighed directly out of the womb, he would have weighed more pre-pee and poop!) He nursed and cried and we called our family and marveled at how easy this experience felt, how rested and alert I felt (despite only getting 2 hours sleep prior) and how awesome it was to give birth at the birth center, which felt like home.
Winslow was born with some serious head moulding (i.e., a cone head) which means that, unlike his sister, he turned to the correct position long before I pushed him out, which allowed his head to mould more narrowly down my birth canal. For this reason, I didn’t tear and recovery time has felt much smoother. He was also born with a cephalhematoma, which is a harmless swelling of the scalp that looks like an unsightly goose egg. Most of the time, cephalhematomas are from hard, prolonged active or pushing stages of labor, but babies born via c-section sometimes have them. It’s more likely that Winslow was positioned oddly in the womb, considering my labor was smooth and relatively quick. He is still has a bit of a goose egg, but as his head grows, it’s hardly noticeable.
Typically, families leave the birth center after 6 hours minimum or 12 hours maximum, especially if the baby needs extra monitoring. Because I was Strep-B+ and I had had the baby at 3 hours after the antibiotics (the recommendation is 4 hours of antibiotics to ensure safety), we signed a waiver to leave at 8 hours in stead of 12, which would have us home by evening time, instead of leaving for home in the middle of the night. The midwife ensured me that, because my water had broken literally at the last minute, that this risk of infection was minimal. Either way, the nurse would pay a home visit the next day to check him out, so this felt like a safe choice.
After a post-labor burger, fries and milkshake, a last minute deliberation about name order (Winslow Simon or Simon Winslow??) and a little rest, we got home from the birth center at 7pm and enjoyed our first night at home together.
Despite all my impatience and skepticism, I had birthed this baby in half the time as my first, clocking in at about 16 hours if you count the start of labor as the night before at 8:30pm. I once again attribute my positive birth experience to Hypnobabies techniques and my own coping mechanisms (like vocalizing loud and long and low), as well as my birth team and the very chill staff and peaceful environment at the birth center. Unlike my first birth experience, I did not have my bag of waters manually broken, was not hooked up to an iv or fetal monitor, was not bound to the bed, checked for progress or given Pitocin. Dave and I felt exhilarated and relieved to be on the other side of this birth and loved going home the same day. And we got to take home a sweet, squishy baby as the icing on the cake!