Continued from part 2…
I thought, surely the head must be visible after all this. It seemed like so long that my body had been pushing, and R had even said that I should try pushing on top of the involuntary push, which was relatively satisfying. It took a while to get the hang of the breathing and sounds needed to accompany a good push. I was confused by R’s direction, because on the one hand she said ‘don’t hold your breath’ which made sense, but on the other hand she said, ‘don’t let the energy escape in your breath or noise,’ or something like that, it seemed that I couldn’t quite get it at first. But when I did get it, I knew.
Finally the pain in my pelvis eased, but was quickly replaced by another debilitating pain, all around my waist. R said this was the uterus fatiguing, which kind of made sense given I’d been having contractions for over 36 hours now. I think there was a point here where I really became strong and focused. Perhaps it was the pushing, or the fatigue of my amazing uterus that had been going for so long without a break, but I just knew how close I was and I wasn’t going to give up!
But why wasn’t R saying, ‘oh, look, there’s the head,’ or ‘you’re so close’. Maybe she did say I was close. I could see her shining her torch into the water but saying nothing, just helping me push when my body began pushing. I can’t say I ever had an ‘urge’ to push as such, it was more that my body was already pushing, so I just did more on top.
I changed position to my knees, leaning forward over the edge of the pool, and Mr Chewbacca was there again. I had renewed energy at this point for some reason, changing position was a lot quicker and easier than it had been before because I felt more in control and I knew I was making progress. I pushed a bit in this position, and had the urge to be more upright, as I’d read is common as the baby is close to crowning. R then suggested moving back to the semi-reclining position, which I wasn’t totally keen on because I liked the upright idea, but then I remembered that I didn’t see myself giving birth on all fours, it didn’t seem like me, and I liked the idea of baby just coming out in front of me. I got the sense that me being back in that position was easier for R too because she was probably thinking about whether baby might need help breathing etc, given the GBS element. Not that she’d ever have asked me to change position for her, I just had that thought. I went back on my back and it felt right.
I was still feeling a little confused because no one had said they could see the head yet, but I was sure I could feel it right there! Apparently the water was too murky to see that much, but R obviously knew it was there because soon she said to reach down and feel for the head. I felt it, but wasn’t sure if it was the hair or the membranes still as it felt quite silky and smooth. I really needed that motivation, especially as when I felt it I was surprised it wasn’t out more. It felt like the width of the opening was about a centimetre, yet before I’d felt with my hand it seemed like five times that. I kept going, really giving it everything and beyond what I thought was possible. I pushed so hard, it was very empowering! There was a moment of relief and pleasure just towards the end of each push. I remember Mr Chewbacca saying to me I sounded like I was enjoying myself at one point (I wasn’t, but I guess the noises were similar and he was probably thinking of Orgasmic Birth.) R said I should feel for the head again and this time it was about a quarter to a third out, or at least that’s what it felt like. I could feel the hair, it was so close! I’d felt it going in and out a few times, but this wasn’t disheartening as I knew the more it went in and out, then better I’d stretch and the less likely I’d tear. I thought about all those people who breathe their babies out and couldn’t understand how that is possible – if I hadn’t pushed on top of my body’s involuntary pushes, I’d have been there another six hours at least! It was so great to be pushing out this head, and it really wasn’t painful, especially compared to the pain of the contractions, pelvis and my waist. I felt the perineum stretch so easily, it didn’t sting, no ring of fire or burning, just stretching like a piece of tight elastic. It did sting at the front, and I was convinced I was tearing around my clitoris and urethra but I so didn’t care, I was almost there and that stinging was such normal, localised pain, it was nothing really.
I knew when the head was out, and everyone was oohing and aahing, standing around the bottom of the pool. I think I waited for the next contraction before I pushed out the shoulders, and then the body slid out with a rush and everyone gasped and cheered and I heard J burst into tears, maybe S too, I’m not sure. Someone said it was 7:57pm. It was an intensely emotional moment.
R lifted him from the water and began unravelling the cord which was twice around his neck and once around his body. I was so calm, and I helped pull it away and held him as he cried almost straight away. His body was purplish, his head slightly paler, because of the cord, but he cried robustly and loudly, not because he was shocked or traumatised but because he needed to clear out stuff from his mouth and lungs. I massaged his little hands as I remembered that might help stimulate him, not that he really needed it that much. Someone had a warm towel which was put over him and immediately became wet but the bath was warm and I kept him semi-submerged.
As I looked at the baby and said hi for the first time, I realised it was a complete stranger. I didn’t know this person, yet it was my child and had come out of me. Mr C was overwhelmed of course, and we just looked at our baby and he said how proud he was of me and all sorts of other things, it was amazing. I realised we didn’t know the sex – ‘shall we see what we’ve got?’ I said to Mr C before lifting the wet towel and seeing a little penis. Mr C commented on his big testicles and I laughed and explained about the hormones.
It was extraordinary how quickly the atmosphere in the room changed, at that moment of birth, and how I suddenly came back into myself and it was like none of the previous hours of labour had even happened. I talked to him and said how keen he was to be here, made lots of silly jokes about various noises he made, and I think he very quickly got hiccups, which he’d had throughout the last trimester, at least once a day in the last couple of months.
R pulled out a tube attached to the oxygen cylinder and asked Mr C to wave the end of it in front of bub’s nose, just to help him get the breathing thing down pat, although his Apgars were 9 and 9. We could see that the top of his head had the imprint of the cervix on it, and also some lines that R said could be my ribs. It was a this point we speculated he may have been breech and actually turned during labour, which would explain why it took so long from when the contractions ramped up.
I soon began to feel a dull pain in my tailbone, which got more uncomfortable and I mentioned it to R who said it was probably a contraction for the placenta. She held the cord and said to push with the contraction, and a little bit of cord came out, plus some blood, and I think the big clot was out by then (it was huge, like a big blobby slab of liver!). The pool was very dark with blood and fluids, but I felt totally fine, and R said the placenta had detached but was probably just sticking in the cervix and to be patient. Shortly I had another contraction, but still no placenta. I think it wasn’t until the third or fourth that I really pushed and out it came as R said, ‘remember it has no bones, it’s easy’. She was right of course.
The placenta was huge! R made almost double the amount of placenta pills from it as she would normally. We looked at it, and it seemed very dark red, much darker than I remembered S’s had been. I could see some calcification in it, and R carefully spread it out in a kidney dish and pulled out the membranes for everyone to see. Mr C had a feel of the cord and posed for a photo pretending to eat the placenta. It was so great that everyone was so fascinated, as R showed both sides and explained how it would have been attached to the wall of the uterus. Mr C in particular found it really interesting I think, and yet again showed how awesomely non-squeamish he is.
By then the cord had stopped pulsating a while ago, and I said Mr C should cut it, so R put on the plastic clamp next to our boy’s future belly button and some scissor clamps a few inches beyond and Mr C cut it. Our baby didn’t seem to mind that much, although he did happen to cry a bit around the time it was cut, but I’m not convinced he was too bothered by it being cut, he was more just a bit grumpy because the pool was cooling right down. That and just having been born were, you know, pissing him off just a little bit.
I was in the pool for about an hour after the birth, and was helped out and stepped across to the couch, pre-prepared with plastic sheets and towels. I had warm towels covering me and baby, which was lovely, and I felt pretty good, not really light-headed, but definitely hungry. It was then I remember how many times my tummy had rumbled during labour, even during the most intense contractions. I drank some sickly sweet red grape juice for the sugar and ate some strawberries and orange, before my mum made me some eggs and I began to feel more on this planet. It was kind of nice to have people getting things for me and not have to even reach for my glass of water.
My little boy began to suckle finally, as I’d offered him the breast in the pool but he was too busy crying and clearing out his lungs. He yawned within moments of being born, and I thought it was because he was tired from that epic journey, but R said it’s more likely he’s doing it for the extra air, which makes sense, as that’s what yawning is after all.
We set about getting him dressed, and Mr C was on deck to put on his first nappy and outfit, which he was very nervous about but managed perfectly of course. I reminded R we should weigh him first, and we did and he was 4kg exactly and measured 50cm long with big hands and feet. His head was a nice 35cm, which is probably why I found the crowning part somewhat more manageable.
R examined me to find I had no tears, not even a graze, which was amazed at because I’d felt such stinging at the front. J and S had to go, as it was about 10pm by now, so we said goodbye and soon R suggested I head to the shower and rinse off, then to bed, which had been prepared for leaks with a plastic sheet and towel under the sheet. I sat down in the ridiculously small bath and used the hand shower to rinse myself. The crazy big adult diaper thing R had brought was really weird, but did the job well. I was finally tucked up in bed with my little boy and my amazing husband, the most incredible man in the world. If the Dude turns out like his dad I will be so proud. I don’t remember much about that first night, I don’t know if I slept or if Mr C slept, despite us both having little sleep over the previous 36 hours or more. I still can’t believe I did it, I actually had my baby at home with no intervention, I stood my ground, I knew what was right, and I made it, perfectly.
If that wasn’t enough, read the postscript, aka what I learnt from this birth.