I wasn’t expecting the process to begin with my water breaking 24 hours before labor began. We had spent all day cooking African foods for the freezer, and just in time! Of course I wonder how much over-doing it contributed to the water break as I felt incredibly exhausted afterword.
I had taken a bit of late pregnancy and labor tea that day and poured myself a cup of the brew that had been sitting all day – it was strong! My mom and I were watching one programme when I felt my tummy go a bit yucky, so at the next commercial I got up for the toilet and had a wee. When I stood up I did one little cough (I had been coughing all day) and a second later as I washed my hands I felt a bit of wet warmth between my legs. I couldn’t really believe that’s what it was and thought maybe I had just wee’d myself. So I checked and found more fluid that was a bit gooey. I quickly pulled up my pants and went upstairs to tell Kalu. As I stood there waters started dripping out of me and all I could do was laugh as it felt like I was peeing my pants. We just looked at each other with surprised excitement.
We decided to lay back and get some rest, but Kalu was snoring so much that I ended up on the couch and only slept an hour at time in-between going to the toilet. That morning we cuddled and watched the Norwich v. Swansea match. This baby is definitely to be a Norwich City fan. The worst pains I felt were during that match and I was sure things would be getting going. Unfortunately it all subsided and the pains were just barely as bad as mild menstrual cramps.
The rest of the day was calm but frustrating with the delay. My midwife, Louisa, kept checking in and by 5pm I was ready to take some initiative in getting going. My dad took us to buy ingredients for a Castor Oil cocktail: 1T Almond Butter, 2T Castor Oil, 1c juice, blended. I took a couple drops of Verbena essential oil in water and 15 minutes later downed the smoothie, which was quite tasty! Without having slept much that night and only a nap in the afternoon, I really should have slept a bit more before the cocktail, because as it turns out it put me into labor 30 minutes after consumption.
I kept laying down in hopes that I would sleep, but contractions came so randomly that sometimes it was only 2 minutes and others 10. I would lay on my side lightly cuddling Kalu and when a contraction came on I’d push up into all fours with my head down. Kalu would rub my back a little and my doula, Kellie, put counter-pressure where needed. Eventually we moved downstairs to ‘walk the circle,’ which was quite nice. I slowly led the procession and would lean on Kalu or the wall or the door jams to get through the pain as they would rub my back. Even this little movement was somewhat exhausting so we moved to the couch and I would rest in-between contractions. I actually fell asleep several times! Around 2am we heard a bang and a little rattle, I knew right away it was an earthquake.
I thought I’d use the ball a lot more than I did, but I found that sitting on it put more pressure down and contracting on it too intense so I would stand and lean into Kalu. The process of standing up would hurt more than necessary so I ditched the ball. Kellie then set up a rebozo to hang from the laundry room door and I was able to pull on it and do a little squat. By this time my contractions were approaching 5 minute intervals, which was the first goal so that we could call Louisa out. However, I was having double peak events and sometimes a 3rd chaser. I was feeling a little jipped that my contractions kept running into each other, which did not afford rest or enough definition. Louisa suggested by text that I do hip swirls and possible side stair steps to get the pains more rhythmic. This helped a lot and I did try the ball some more, but knowing what needed to happen, 5-1-1, helped me get my mind and body engaged and I got my midwife.
Kellie was corresponding with Louisa and at that point my contractions really sped up. I think we all thought I was getting close and would go pretty quickly from there. We called my parents up from the RV to fill the pool while Kellie and I labored on the stairs. She got her iPod with soothing music and I started toning with the contractions.
Louisa arrived and came upstairs to do vitals as I was leaning over that small ball on my bed. She suggested I lay on my side for contractions as this intensified them but gave me a bigger break in-between. I had never wanted to labor on my side because I perceived this as inactive and too much like hospital labor. However, it did the trick and I got some rest. At one point I was laying on my back and completely passed out when I did my classic Kymberly twitch. Kalu knew what it was but Kellie was surprised. I can just imagine the look on their faces. The twitch threw me into a contraction and so all I could do was express pain even though I was actually giggling at my twitch.
I asked Louisa where she thought I was at and she said confidently, ‘early active labor.’ To her this was positive, but I was immediately disappointed – I thought filling the pool signaled the end was near. I asked Kalu to come up to spoon me and this is when I got weepy. I was tired and said “I don’t know where I am.” In some ways this was said in my blur of labor – which room? who’s with me? why am I doing this? As I cried this, Louisa asked ‘does it matter’ or ‘what will that tell you’ – I didn’t really know and I agreed it didn’t really matter, but it still made me feel too out of control not knowing where I was. I think at least knowing what my next milestone was helped me always get there.
It was starting to get light and Louisa offered a pelvic exam. Up until this point I had NEVER been examined this entire pregnancy, which is some of the best part of midwifery care. Even the NHS would have done so earlier. I wasn’t sure I wanted an exam because of infection risk, discomfort, but mostly because I was afraid of the result. The way Louisa made suggestions would always be in the form of a question. She would say things such as ‘would you like me to do an exam?’ When I said, ‘I don’t know,’ she responded ‘I’d like to know where you are at, but you don’t have to know, do you want to know?’ Off course I did, but totally didn’t, and waited to see her response. She checked me and said it was good, really good and offered to tell me. Knowing it was good put me at ease just enough and she said I was 7cm and 100% effaced. Somehow I knew what that meant without knowing, and anything less than 10 wasn’t going to make me super excited. I remained perplexed and it was Kellie whose excited response and congratulations is what got me on track and ready to put more effort in.
Louisa suggested we go downstairs as it was now light and there were people about so I could feed off the energy. This is the only time I really kept my eyes open through all of labor. I walked a bit and spent time on the ball. By now I hated the ball, but once again Louisa offered it as an option to speed things up. Knowing that this was a method to get me to my next milestone meant that I was able to do it. I swirled around between pains and leaned on Kalu with toning during them. My parents were on the couch and Louisa and Ashley (the birth assistant had arrived – another good sign) were going over notes and speaking softly. Kellie was also with me most of the time, though I think she took her 2nd break to pump for her own baby. She never ate, never rested, never tired – incredible woman! My friend Gloria had also arrived, her presence was meant to be as observer, but turns out she was intercessor, which every birth should have.
I did more walking and leaning on Kalu as he was always following me so I could turn around and throw my hands over his neck. I was able to do a squat and the poor guy never wavered despite the pain I was inflicting with my weight on his neck. At one point we were back in the living room and a pain was coming on. Kalu had done something in the bathroom – maybe turned off the heater, and shut the door. I didn’t know which side of the door he was on and was in such a blur that I thought he was gone. I said ‘he’s not here’ and fluttered my hands in panic, but he said ‘I’m right here’ and I quickly found his neck and labored through. He was such an amazing parter and I am so proud of how well he did and how much he helped me.
All along I wanted to get in the pool and had thought I’d spend time laboring in it, but I really only used it for pushing. I got in the water on my knees, but found it much too hot. I guess the temperature was fine, but to me it wasn’t. They said if I was getting hot then baby was getting hot, so out I came again. Louisa asked about my pains and since I still had some in my tummy she said it was the last bit of cervix causing them. I had picked up from her questions earlier that there was something to having more front than anal pain, but didn’t know what it meant. Had I known earlier I think my sphincter concentration would have been more focused. As soon as I knew this then I knew once again what my next milestone was. Louisa again suggested laying on my side – which is absolutely not what I wanted to do, but it worked last time to open me up, so okay, I did it.
These contractions were the absolute worst ever. I was in excruciating pain and near panic at all times. I did get a little rest again, which I desperately needed as I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go with my energy waning. At one point I was on my left side and had Kellie, Kalu, and maybe Ashley and Louisa around me. I didn’t know who was who, but somehow knew Kalu was behind me and I reached back and grabbed his neck with fingers and fingernails. The poor guy was probably suffering and said afterwards that he was indeed bruised. I’m just glad I reached for his neck and not someone else’s. I know I held hands with whoever was near, which I find fascinating for it seems a classic thing to do that you expect is only for the movies. Being able to squeeze and knowing someone was there with you was the best.
Louisa felt the laying down had done the job and so she gave me my second exam – 10 centimeters! Wow, it was finally time to push. She suggested I do some ‘practice pushes’ on the toilet – which is not what I wanted to do. Every time I wee’d I’d take too long and end up contracting on the toilet – these too were always more intense than the others.
On the toilet is when I had my 2nd breaking point. I told Kellie & Kalu “I don’t think I can do this.” Kalu has since said that his stomach dropped when he heard this and was the only time he felt panic. Kellie proclaimed ‘you’re doing it’ and was encouraging, but I just wasn’t sure how I could endure any more pain as well as possibly push something out, the mechanics just didn’t make sense.
In my birth plan I had wanted to pause between the go-ahead to push and when I started pushing. Even though I had done one practice push, this was the moment that we needed. Kalu remembered and he asked if we should pray, and so he did. He thanked God for the process so far and asked for the remainder to be speedy and safe and that I would have confidence to do it. This prayer gave me that last umph I needed (and a slobber of GU gel).
We only did one more ‘practice push’ (so far as I recollect), which I had said didn’t feel like ‘practice’ and then I was able to go back to the pool. I waddled with Kellie holding my left hand and Kalu my right to keep my steady. At the edge of the pool I could feel a contraction coming so I ‘quickly’ took two steps in and went straight to my knees. As soon as my bum hit the water I was pushing my first push. The water was still too hot and I asked for cold water. I crawled over to the edge so I could lean on the side. Kalu was right in front of me helping along and I think someone poured water over my back.
Each time a pain came I would sit up and bear down. The pushing became involuntary (like heaving the opposite direction), which was another fascinating experience in the process. I knew I would be noisy, but I never expected that noisy! Just as I never expected labor to hurt that much, go that long, and be that much work. I would tone high and would be reminded to keep it low, being able to concentrate on lowering the octave helped distract me from the pain. If I started to make a panic sound I would be reminded to direct the sound down into the push, which would result in grumbling or growling. Yes, I totally growled like a bear. As the contraction progressed I’d join my body in the pushing and by the end of the contraction would give it just a bit more to get more out of it. My naiveté showed at the beginning of pushing when I asked Louisa when I could push – which she said I could do anytime – and I asked if that was only during contractions. She said, yes as pushing without one would be futile.
Earlier on the toilet Louisa invited me to reach inside and feel the baby’s head. He was just within reach of my middle finger and I could make out the soft sponginess of his head. It was strange to know that was my baby and not just another part of my body. In the pool she asked me to do it again and to tell her how far in he was. I said 2 inches, which she thought was great and said ‘you are 2 inches from your baby.’ I told Kalu last night, through tears, that this sort of encouragement wasn’t really so for me. Hearing that I was about to meet my baby did not motivate me because my mind was saying ‘I’m not sure I want a baby’. It breaks my heart a little to know this about myself, and yet I’m so glad I can be honest. Just as honest as I am now that I never want to be without this little guy.
A push or few later she asked me to feel again and expected the update to be a knuckle or so, but I said no – I just have to pull apart my labia and he’s there. She was surprised. The next pushes brought him to a crown and I felt the ring of fire. I involuntarily panted a few times and was still unsure how it was possible a baby was coming, and could come out of me. Somehow I mustered the determination to push extra hard, which is not how I had planned to push – on the toilet I had breathed out the pushes, but these ones were as hard as they come. I think I had my hand on his head when I pushed it out, and I definitely remember holding his head while between my legs. That was a strange feeling and I could tell he had a good little cone with lots of hair. Louisa had suggested I lift a leg to widen my pelvis, but by this time both legs were more or less numb. If not for the water I wouldn’t have been able to stay up. This was possibly the only time she decided for me – and went ahead and lifted my left. Maybe this was before the head came out, which is why it popped out? After this she told me to lean back, which I didn’t want to do because I had imagined birthing on all fours, which I had done, so it felt odd to go into a recline. As I leaned back I gave one more big push and out he came into the water. Apparently this last bit was nearly silent – very peaceful and calm – which I love!
I was completely stunned that he was out and didn’t really register it for a moment – what felt like a very long moment, but apparently was a second. Louisa caught the baby and kept him in the water before asking us if we wanted to lift him up. This snapped me back to the present and I quickly lifted him with Louisa and Kalu and we put him on my tummy. I got super crazy and made all sorts of silly sounds and said lots of things to welcome him. I was so excited and felt every cell in my body rejoicing. Kalu’s head was right next to mine and I wanted to look at him, but didn’t want to take my eyes off Obasi, so I switched back and forth. We kissed several times and I whimpered a lot as I looked at my baby as he looked at me. He took a bit to cry, but really got going, which was such a sweet sound to my ears. We cuddled for awhile and I eventually calmed down. Once the cord stopped pulsating they clamped it and Kalu took the scissors. It took several chewy snips and I said to Obasi that now we are two, not one anymore.
Kalu took Obasi for their first cuddle skin-to-skin while I pushed out the placenta and waddled to the mattress on the floor. I ended up with a 2nd degree tear, but didn’t need sutures so long as I followed instructions to keep my knees together when I moved and only do stairs once a day. Obasi had his first meal while I ate eggs and toast, then we all went upstairs for naps and to begin our new life together as a little family.