Before she checked my cervix she wanted to do a swab test to make sure my water hadn't broken. I have been wearing pads for several weeks, so she had checked my pad when I disrobed for my exam and was concerned that it was kind of full. I just thought I was still losing my mucus plug, but apparently there isn't as much to the mucus plug as I imagined. The test came back for positive for amniotic fluid. Then I got my first of many "we need to talk" looks from Karen. She explained that what this means is that I am on a 24 hour clock and at a high risk of infection. Home birth midwives are told that if the water has broken they need to check the patient in at a hospital if active labor hasn't started within 24 hours. Now this is America and I can of course refuse to do this. But she said it is usually a good idea because we would need to make sure the baby was okay and I was okay. She said she would not check my cervix because that would just add to the risk of infection (FYI- this is what you are looking for in a health care provider. Someone who will give you the time to progress without adding additional variables). I was disappointed again. But at least I knew I could keep on going.
So looking back about the water breaking, I am not sure that there was ever a moment when it popped. I remember a gush during my walk with Andy's mom, so this is where Karen set the "start" time for my 24 hour limit. But it was just a dribble really. Like a 'maybe I peed a little' after laughing too hard dribble. Karen said most likely the water had broken and Jack's head slid down blocking the rest of it. So that was good. The fact that now I knew my water had broken made sense. My contractions were definitely twinge-ey. I remember wondering 'these aren't as comfortable as I was expecting from what I have read and seen and heard about from other people'. They say when your water breaks contractions are definitely more painful then when there is a nice water barrier. I could feel Nugget's head against my pelvis with each contraction. The thing that got me through each one was the "filling the balloon" technique from hypnobirthing. We learned lots of techniques, but this was the one that kept me going. I just kept imagining a bigger and bigger balloon as the contractions got longer and harder. Fill the balloon with each breath. Let the balloon go when the contraction is over.
So Karen left on Saturday night and told me to try to get more sleep. But at this point things were serious. Andy and Bret went to bed and I tried my best to close my eyes and relax. I didn't really sleep, but I rested between the contractions as best as I could. The next morning when I realized I still didn't have my baby, it was time for desperate measures. I talked to Karen when I woke up and after she answered 'This is Karen'. I said 'I am still pregnant'. She asked how things were going, what my temp was and gave me some pointers. She asked if I was willing to try caster oil. Now if you had asked me a week ago, I would tell you 'hell no, I will not drink caster oil to get this guy out'. But when you are looking down at 12 hours until hospital intervention time, you are ready to try the technique that will have your ass burning and vomiting heinous evil (Oh peeps I am just warming you up, so if you are already squirming you might want to skip the birth story post. No apologies for this stuff).
After getting the "recipe" for the caster oil (2 oz caster oil, 3 oz of OJ and a pinch of baking soda. Mix it in a blender and go to town....just in case you are out of things to do one weekend) I called Katie. She was already on her way up from the Springs to join the "Nugget Eviction 2011" efforts. I told her Bret and I were making a caster oil run, so if she beat us back to the house to come on in. Bret and I headed out for vitamin cottage for what I will dub Operation Evil Ass. It was at Vitamin Cottage that I realized what different places Bret and I are in life. She was looking at her favorite brand of cosmetics while I was frantically trying to find the caster oil on my own so I wouldn't have to ask the older guy stocking shelves. Luckily a woman came by just as I had lost hope and pointed me in the right direction. Phew!
Back at the house it was time to mix up the concoction. Dudes looking at these pictures I am like the giantist blob of human flesh. Maybe it is just my "caster oil" face, but thank god I was less than 24 hours away from having a baby because I am looking done.
Okay so in all honesty this isn't the worst tasting thing. You will be able to get it down should you ever need this type of service. It is just hard drinking oil. But again desperate times call for desperate measures. After dose numero uno we waited 15 minutes. We had planned to go on a walk, but we wanted to see whether there would be an initial "reaction" before we ventured too far from the house.
I joked about how we needed to borrow someone's RV and Bret and Katie could follow behind me as I walk down the street. When we did leave the house for the walk, this lead us to point out every RV "opportunity" along the way and we joked about how awesome it would be to go to someone's door and ask to use their restroom. Bret was a tad on the nervous side as we ventured further away from the house, so we soon headed back.
Then the "games" began. Oh and were they fun. Don't worry I won't go into details there. Karen and I continually checked in with each other. I took two more doses of the caster oil....probably that third one wasn't necessary, but 'When in Rome'.....not sure how that applies here, just makes me feel more classy about Operation Evil Ass.
Katie went through a "fear release" exercise with me, Bret massaged me (wish you could just massage a baby out that would have rocked), and they hit up my pressure points. It felt like things were rocking along. Karen was on her way back and although I was nervous I was feeling like we had made some real progress.
Pickles, Emmicakes and Pickle's mom came by to drop off a TON of food they had made. As you might remember Pickle's mom was the big hippie who had both her boys at home...back when it was illegal for a midwife to assist you. Such a rebel. I have always seen her as a tough woman, but she was visibly distressed by me. I realize that at this point I had been laboring a long time, but I still consider the majority of my labor very manageable. Anyhoodles, Pickle's mom pulled me aside. She said 'listen sweetie, there is no shame in going into the hospital and getting some help. you have been going for a long time now and no one would think less of you for not doing this at home'. It was really nice of her. I know she was scared for me. Later when she came by to meet Jack for the first time she told me 'that old hippie is gone, I am not sure where she went, but I was so worried for you'. I told her she was a momma bear now and just concerned about one of her babies....even if I am adopted.
The Pickles clan took off and shortly after Karen arrived. We came downstairs and listened to Nugget's heartrate through a couple of contractions. At first his heartrate slowed down...not good. Karen put on another "concerned" face and then said we would see if it improved when I was on my side as opposed to my back. She took my temp and blood pressure. Those were good. She watched me through my contractions, but was just not convinced I was "working hard enough" to be very far along. Enter the "we need to have a talk" face number two. She said that it had now been 24 hours. She wasn't feeling like I had made enough progress. She said she couldn't be sure without checking my cervix, but it just didn't appear to be at the level she was looking for. She said it might be time to go into the hospital and get checked out.
My heart was sinking again. 4 days! I had been at this for four days and now I was going to have to give up? It just felt so unfair. If I was going to go be induced or worse, get a c-section, couldn't that have happened right away? Not after I worked so hard to get here. Karen said she would want to check my cervix before we go to the hospital. So that we could report to them where we are at and she wanted us to go to Boulder where we would be well received. Coming into just any old labor and delivery isn't always met with the best reception and she didn't want me to be treated badly by the staff who would give the 'I told you so' look at homebirthers who need medical assistance. She said if she checked my cervix and it was at least 4 cm then we might be okay to keep on going, but then I was at an even higher risk of infection so if my temp spiked at all and/or the baby's heartrate dropped during the contractions, we would definitely be headed to an E.R. If she checked and my cervix was only 1 or 2 cm then we would be headed to Boulder.
I felt absolutely defeated, but I told her it sounded like either way we needed to check. I just kept hoping that it was a tell-tale hypnobirth and she was having a hard time judging my progress because I was rockin' through my contractions. Oh please let that be it! I got nekid and Karen set up to check me. To all of our amazement I was 5cm dilated, 90% effaced, and at positive 2 station. He was right there. My cervix was half way, but it was working! She went from pointed to my spine to right in yo face in two days. Sure not the most significant progress, but I felt so relieved. Karen's face was awesome. She smiled and said 'Okay! I am staying, it looks like we are having a baby in the next 12 hours'. Oh thank you! Thank you cervix and uterus and vajayjay and every other part of my body that was making this happen. Everyone's spirits lifted. I was like 'Let's Do This Shit!' Half way there, so close. He's really coming. His head was down past my pointy boney things (where I was worried he might get caught) and now it was just a matter of opening up even more, getting my cervix to efface 10% more, and getting him down the last station.
My motivation was renewed. I went into "try every position" mode. Here's a picture of my favorite (ignore the yucky stains on our stairs. Note to self: get carpets professionally cleaned before next birth). I would stand on the stairs swaying back and forth. We put on Adele so I could sing in between my contractions. When one would start I would put one foot up two steps and sway and breathe through the contractions. Don't worry peeps I held on to both the half wall there and the handrail on the other side. I joked about how Andy would want to anchor me with a robe so I wouldn't fall back. I would switch legs and let me tell you what, this made those harsh contractions manageable. I just imagined opening up like a big flower and I imagined Jack hearing me singing and wanting to come out (I will say because I am such an amazing singer, but it would probably be so I would stop).
To give you a time stamp, she had checked me at 6pm. So at midnight it was time to see how we have progressed. She monitored me every 30 minutes, checking my temp, my blood pressure and heart rate and listening to Nugget with the Doppler. There were a couple times my temp was getting high. This would get her worried face going again and I would panic. I would push more water and try to work a little less hard through deeper relaxation. When we went in the bedroom at midnight I just knew I had to have made amazing progress. I was in a lot of pain when I would go sit on the toilet to pee and do other stuff (ref: caster oil above). That was the absolutely most excruciating pain to be stuck there during a contraction and invariably one would start because they were about a minute and a half apart and 50-60 seconds long. If I was up moving around through my contractions they were conquerable but if I was on the toilet I had to work extra hard. And thanks to mr. caster oil, I was on the toilet a LOT!
Okay, so midnight cervix check. I laid back thinking 'this could be it! she could tell me 'you're at 9, let's get you in the pool!''. Instead she said ''you're at 7. Now let me see what is happening during a contraction". Come to find out that instead of opening more during a contraction my cervix was closing back to 5cm. Damn it! Enter the "we need to talk" look number 3. Karen said after 6 hours I should have made more progress. She said it might be time to go. She said she was willing to let me stick it out for another 6 hours, but that was it! If I wasn't dangerously close to pushing by 6am, we were going to the hospital via ambulance. I thought for a minute whether I should just give up then. 6 Hours and only 2 cm and not even really 2 cm because I was regressing during the contractions. I had worked so hard. I was tired, but I was also feeling stubborn. She told me that I needed to get rid of the crowd of people. Andy's mom and sister were there, Katie and Bret and then Caroline and Karen. Plus obviously Andy and I. Karen and Caroline were keeping a pretty low profile. They would hang out on the opposite floor from where I was. But everyone else was hovering a little. Andy rightfully so. But when I was on the stairs his mom and sister sat at the top for a while. They weren't meaning anything by it, they were just keeping me company. Bret and Katie would come and check on me too. And honestly it didn't bother me. But I could see Karen's point that part of my trouble could be because I was being "watched". She had said women in labor are no different from animals in labor. Our body's are looking for a dark secluded place where we feel safe to have a baby.
I told her I wanted to keep trying. I couldn't give up now, I would always wonder if I could have done it. She agreed to let me keep going, but said Andy and I HAD to go into our bedroom alone. We obeyed. We set up the birth stool and the yoga ball in the bedroom. Andy timed me on his laptop and I waddled between the toilet and the bedroom. Caroline or Karen would silently sneak in every half hour to check everything. We were doing great. The intensity just kept building and I kept visualizing opening up and letting this happen.
Things got really intense. When I was on the toilet I would be practically crying it was so hard to sit there through a contraction. I remember my defeatist brain running through images from every video I had watched. Orgasmic birth was sounding like such a freakin' joke to me, let alone the calm births. I was thinking 'if I can just make it to my pool. Then it will be just fine.' I knew I couldn't be far off from getting to get in my pool. The soothing warm water welcoming my baby out and relaxing all my muscles.
At 4:30 am Karen came in to check my vitals. She said she would do an exam in a half hour and if I wasn't at least 9 it was time to make the call. I kept telling myself that it was only half an hour more. One way or another we would soon know how Nugget would make his entrance into this world. I remember being ready to give up. I was thinking 'let's just go to the hospital, get an epidural, sleep for 7 hours and do this again some other day'. I should have known this was transition. But the other part of my brain was thinking 'no, what if I get to the hospital and am too far along to be able to get drugs. then it is either 7 more hours of this or a c-section'. Andy tried his best to help me through each contraction. 'Breathe through it' he would repeat. I could manage for the first 30 seconds of the contraction and then excruciating pain that I couldn't place. Something felt wrong. He was stuck! I was dying! Something wasn't working right. I just remember thinking where is my fucking pool! On the outside all I said to Andy was 'I am just so tired!'. I looked at the clock after each contraction. Knowing that Karen would be there soon. I wanted her to come, but I didn't want her to come too soon. It was a strange dichotomy. I wanted that full 1/2 hour to progress, but I also wanted the pain to stop. She needed to fix me.
After a few more ridiculously long minutes and the crazy contractions that were tearing me apart, I bore down at the end of one of them. All of a sudden it hit me 'I need to push!'. It was the only thing that made them feel better. Andy's mom came in to see if I was okay. I was definitely making a lot of noise. I remember Andy saying 'shhhh, just breathe'. So I knew it was getting really audible.
Karen said she could hear me too. But it was only 10 minutes until she was coming down and she figured if I needed her I would ask someone to get her. I turned to Andy and said 'I need to push. Get Karen'. His mom said 'you want Karen?'. 'Yes'. When she left I turned to Andy and said 'I want my pool!'. He said he has never felt more helpless in all his life. Karen said it was 4:59 when Cathi came up and said I wanted her. She came down and into the room 'What's going on?'. 'I need to push....and I am going to throw up'. I went into the bathroom and knelt by the bowl. Karen got everything ready to check me. I didn't throw up, but I have never wanted to so much in my life. I finally got up and came back in. I must have just flopped on the bed and spread my legs. I was still contracting like crazy so I didn't really hear her when she said 'you're complete!'. She said she was so shocked. She hadn't thought I was there already. I remember seeing her rush toward the bathroom door, so I thought something was wrong. In my head I was thinking she was calling an ambulance. This was it. I was going to the hospital. Then I saw Cathi next to me and she said 'it's time, he's coming'. Who? Who's coming? The ambulance driver? Then I looked up and saw Caroline's sweet face 'You're having a baby'. What? You mean something isn't wrong?
Turns out Karen was calling the other midwife. Like I said, they weren't expecting me to be that ready to go in a half hour. There was a big bustle as everyone was getting stuff ready. Meanwhile I was laying on the bed like a beached whale. Still trying to manage my crazy contractions. If I had been with it, I should have stood up and got ready to squat or something. I think part of me must have thought they were all lying. That I was being rescued soon and they would whisk me away to the hospital to drug the pain away. Before I knew it Karen was telling me to push. She had me hold behind my knees and coached me through it. Each time I tried to push like she instructed I felt like I would throw up. I remember thinking 'this is the worst position in the world'. I think they were worried I wouldn't have the energy to stand and squat. They might have been right. All I wanted was my calm and soothing water birth. I thought about my pool sitting out in the living room, mocking me. I remember that we had the video camera upstairs on the tripod ready to film that calm soothing water birth. Did someone have the camera? I had no idea and there was no way I was going to be able to ask about it.
I remember looking up and seeing Bret come into the room. And I knew Katie was there. She got next to me and said 'Breathe your baby down'. I nodded and tried to use my hypnobirthing techniques. In between each pushing contraction I was able to lay back and relax. I remember thinking 'this was a terrible idea!'. Everyone was so great. 'We can see the head! One more long push'. Karen told me to reach down and feel the head. I could feel this little sliver of hard. I pushed again and again. Feeling like he would never come out. I remember people saying that when you crown you feel a ring of fire. So I was trying to feel the ring of fire and push through it. I was making so much noise. There was no way I was the model hypnobirthing mom. My screams would get high pitched and Karen would say 'lower Natalie, Use that energy downward'. Andy and I laughed about it later as I imagined myself screaming high and then going baritone the next minute. EEEEeee. OOoooooo. Hahaha. It is funny now. But not at the time for shiz.
(Here is that "looking like ass" picture you requested Katie)When I pushed I could feel him coming down and then I would relax at the end of the contraction and he would go back in. I was so frustrated. This is never going to happen - I thought. Then all of a sudden there was a pop and they said 'There's the head!'. What? That was the head? Then Karen said 'do you have one more push?' and I bore down and flop! Out came the rest of him. It felt so strange. Not what I was expecting. Next thing I knew he was on my chest. I was looking at this greyish blue slimey monster. His little eyes looking up at me. Cathi (Andy's mom) said 'he's beautiful!' and I was thinking 'really?' and then I said out loud 'you look like yoda'. Everyone laughed. I started rubbing and kissing him. Saying hello. I said 'you are so tiny!' then I remembered 'you definitely didn't feel tiny!'.
My face kind of says it all. Like 'what is this?' and 'I am so glad that is over!'
This is Amy, the secondary midwife, checking Jack out. She missed him coming out. She was on her way down the hallway when he flopped out. I don't know how long we stayed like this. Eventually they said I could get up and go to the bathroom and take a shower. They needed to weigh him and things. Cathi helped me around the bathroom. She had to stay in there and make sure I didn't pass out. I remember the shower felt amazing! When I came back Daddy was holding Jack.
He looks exhausted too. I remember when we were timing the contractions he was falling asleep in between. I would look up at him and say 'okay now!' for when one started and he would bob awake and push the button.
Amy putting lotion on him. His skin was very peel-y. That combined with the redness in his face tells them that he was over 42 weeks. I had been mis-dated. Yet another factor that could have sent us to the hospital if we had known. There was also a lot of meconium in the water that came after him. If any of that had come out before he did, we would have gone to the hospital. Andy and I looked back at everything that happened and we are so amazed that despite everything, we were able to birth at home. And everything turned out just fine. Karen said if I had been with a doctor and had gone in on Friday after contracting for over 12 hours and they had felt my cervix pointed back, there is very little liklihood I would have avoided major interventions. It is hard to say if I just would have been given pitocin and if that would have done it. But with the water breaking, the lack of progress after so long after my water breaking, the meconium, et cetera et cetera. There was just so much working against this birth.
But you know what? I never felt like we were in danger. I thought Karen was being very safe in all her assessments. I think she was the perfect guardian of my birth and she knew how much I wanted to do this at home on my own time, but she was also ready at every turn to get me the help I might need.
Turns out even with everything that happened the birth and Nugget were just perfect. He is absolutely healthy and perfect. He popped out after only 30 minutes of pushing! Believe me it felt longer. I thought I was pushing for days. But he arrived at 5:50am. 10 minutes before his 6am deadline, go figure. At least he was early. I stand by that whole 'if you're early you're on time, if you're on time you're late and if you're late you're fired' statement. So he was 10 minutes early. Just like momma would have been.
Karen gives him his vitamin K shot. Mommy and Daddy flinched at the needle, but he didn't even notice. Not a peep or a reaction.
Getting oiled up. Apparently Olive Oil is a must-have baby item. You put it on until they are done pooping the meconium and then it doesn't stick to them. Meconium looks like black tar and acts a lot like tar as well. So he smelled like a little Italian for the first few days, but his bum was super soft and easy to clean. Everyone add that to your baby list.
This is us yesterday for St. Patty's! I didn't have a picture from after I had showered and crawled back into bed. :( We are excited because we just heard that our pal Lucky was born that morning. We are decked out in green to welcome our leprechaun friend into this world. Can't wait to meet you little dude and hear about your birth as well!
So that is basically the end of the birth story. As you can imagine I have no regrets. I do wish I had been able to get in my pool and that we had been able to record it. But those things really aren't important to me now. The only thing that is important is just how absolutely wonderful he is doing. He is so sweet and cuddly. Next post I will tell you all about Milk-a-palooza 2011. Because he was overdue they are pretty certain he lost weight in the womb. What that means is he was born without the brown fat that is so critical to newborns. A juicy newborn (what they are called when they have brown fat) can go a while without eating. Sometimes a day or two. But an overdue baby needs food right away. If he doesn't get enough fuel they start burning brain cells to stay warm. Don't worry! Everything turns out fine. Just wanted to set the story up and I will knock it out as soon as we can.