I wish I could say I had no expectations for Bram’s birth, but I had journeyed through birth before – twice. Owen’s birth had been long and tiring with days of contractions before he emerged into the world. Caedmon’s had been surprisingly easy and quick; he had slipped out into Daddy’s hands before the midwives arrived.
I was experienced. I had confidence in my body to birth a baby. I had a midwife I trusted and who trusted me. I’d stayed active throughout pregnancy and felt good – strong. This was going to be a quick and easy birth.
I had shown the midwives the birth kit in our bedroom and the adjoining bathroom. I’d really appreciated water during my other labors and pictured myself spending time in the warm tub before the baby was born.
Sunday, September 1, I noticed a bit of blood-tinged mucous – a sign of changes in my cervix. We did the morning chores – caring for the layers, the meat chickens, and Brownie and picking the produce of the garden – green beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers. In the afternoon, we attended cousin Carter’s birthday party. I had been having painless Braxton Hicks contractions throughout pregnancy, but that evening, the contractions felt “real.” They were irregular and fairly mild, but I did have to close my eyes and focus through them at times. Although I tried to rest, I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Monday, September 2 – Labor Day and cousin Carter’s birthday. Abram was off work for the holiday. I continued to have irregular contractions – some challenging, some not so much – through morning chores. I cleaned the van and installed the baby seat while Abram finished the mowing. As evening came, my contractions got closer, stronger, and longer. We proceeded with our evening rhythm and during a family show, I sat on a birth ball and walked around the living room.
I got Abram to take a few pictures to remind us just how large I was and of the boys and me when I was a mama of two.
We called our midwife Jeanne, and Abram walked Caedmon to sleep. Owen was very attentive as I continued walking around the dim living room pausing for contractions. The second midwife, Joy arrived first. I’d only met her on Saturday, and when she arrived and started chatting, I felt myself shift out of Labor Land. Jeanne soon arrived, and I continued to walk and pause to breathe and focus through contractions which became more erratic as time passed. The midwives set up the spare room for birth, and Jeanne checked my blood pressure and listened to the baby’s heartbeat periodically.
Owen went to sleep. The midwives encouraged me to rest if I could. While contractions were manageable when I was up, they were overwhelming if I tried to lie down. Resting was really difficult. Even the tub was uncomfortable.
Tuesday, September 3, we “got up.” I’d rested a bit off and on through the night on the couch with Abram close by. Jeanne and Joy had camped out on the love seat and bean bag in the play room. No baby had arrived, and my contractions were sporadic. We made a plan for me to try to rest while Abram took the boys out for a while (he’d arranged Monday evening for a sub at work), and the midwives went home.
Owen made fried eggs for breakfast.
Five hours alone in a quiet house. Some rest. Some moving. Tiring but bearable sporadic contractions. Lots of visualization of my cervix opening.
When the Abram returned home with the boys, we had some lunch. Jeanne had suggested climbing the stairs. I’d tried resting so I thought I’d give the stairs a go. One at a time. That was okay. Two at a time. That was even better – but really tiring. One at a time again. Then two at a time once more. More walking and sitting on the birth ball.
By evening, I was done – completely tired of exhausting labor that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
I had a plan: I’d stop the contractions. I would just be really, really still, and make them stop.
I broke down on the couch and told Abram I couldn’t do this anymore. I worried that something was wrong that I’d never be able to have this baby. I recall mentioning a baby with two heads. Clearly I was not thinking straight anymore – stopping labor by being still and two heads. Really?
Abram offered to call Jeanne again. Nope, the baby wasn’t coming out. No need to call. He reassured me that I was strong and could do this.
Abram got the boys to sleep.
Meanwhile, I was in the bathroom alternating between hands and knees and sitting on the porcelain birth stool. Abram came in and declared that it was indeed time to call Jeanne.
I was sure it still wasn’t.
Abram said the contractions were getting really close together and long.
I was sure that they were so far apart that they had practically stopped.
Abram got his phone and said that my contractions were lasting over a minute with less than a minute between the end of one and the beginning of another. He was sure it was time to call Jeanne again.
He told me how strong and beautiful I was.
He called, and we waited in the bathroom outside of time as contractions came. Labor Land again - good labor, by candle light.
Abram met Joy and then Jeanne at the door, and when I was ready, I asked to see Jeanne. I asked for her to check my dilation. I had not anticipated wanting any checks, but I was tired and wanted some reassurance.
I made my way to the spare room – not the bedroom where the boys now slept. My blood pressure was still low; baby’s heart rate good; and my cervix was dilated 9 cm. Very reassuring.
Jeanne left me and Abram to labor for a bit.
When I started feeling an urge to push, the midwives came in, and encouraged me. I looked at the clock in the room and noticed that it was near midnight. Until I began pushing , I had been really quiet during contractions, but I moo-ed as I pushed with each contraction. I squatted near the bed. I leaned into a giant stack of pillows on the bed. It felt good to push. It felt like eternity as I waited between contractions to push again.
My water began leaking out with each push. Jeanne used warm washcloths with arnica oil for perineal compresses. A huge gush of water! As baby’s head began to emerge, she asked me to breathe through a contraction to allow my perineum to gently stretch around baby’s head. On the next contraction, I pushed again, and baby’s head was out, but baby’s shoulder was stuck. Jeanne calmly told me then maneuvered baby free. It was rather painful and felt like she was spinning baby around like a corkscrew for a few moments. (I later learned it was called Woods’ screw maneuver.) I hollered. I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t wake up – not to mention Owen and Caedmon in the next room. And then baby was out. He was here! 12:40 Wednesday, September 4.
I stepped over his cord and took off the dress I was wearing as Jeanne made sure he was breathing. I brought him to my belly and we covered him with dry towels as we waited what seemed like forever for his cord to stop pulsing. Jeanne clamped the cord, and Abram cut it. I moved further onto the bed and brought Bram to my breast to nurse.
Abram woke the big boys to meet their new brother. Owen had longed for a sister, and Caedmon had most recently requested twins. I think they both forgot as soon as they met Bram.
Jeanne gently massaged my uterus. I massaged my uterus. Bram nursed. I took red pepper with juice. Jeanne made tea with squaw vine and honey. Two hours after Bram arrived, I finally delivered his placenta. Jeanne checked – no tears!
Joy showed me the placenta as she examined it to make sure that it was normal and that all of it was there, then Jeanne and Joy did a newborn exam. Bram was 20 3/4 inches long and weighed 9 lbs. 5 oz.
Abram and the big boys held Bram while Joy made up the bed with fresh sheets, and I took a shower.
Jeanne and Joy packed away their things and my things and put in a load of laundry.
By 4 a.m., we were all ready for a bit of rest. The midwives went home. The big boys wanted to sleep with me and Bram, but Abram convinced them that pulling the futon in from the living room would suffice. I snuggled my sweet baby boy, and went to sleep the happy mama of three boys.