I had a lot of practice labor starting around three weeks prior to Fae’s birth, which was one day after her due date. Fae had been posterior, so it’s likely that some of this had been my body turning her into the right position. It also could have been due to the fact that Jared and I were making love often toward the end of my pregnancy, which, if your body is ready, is known to instigate birth. I would usually end up with some cramping or light rushes afterwards. At 37 weeks and 6 days, we called one of our midwives, Kate. I had been laboring with rushes 5 to 8 minutes apart, through the night, with many happening back-to-back. We were hopeful that this was it, that it was really happening. I hoped that it was real . . .
. . . which was something I’d been struggling with. When I found out that I was pregnant after five months of trying, it was hard for me to believe. I wanted it so badly that the realized fact struck me as being too perfect to be quite real. I remember thinking to myself in the middle of the night that perhaps my pregnancy had been imagined–I was thrilled when I began to see my belly growing.
After two weeks of off-and-on prodromal labor, in the early afternoon of Fae’s due date, Monday, August 15th, actual, true labor began, and probably because we made love that morning. It started out just the same, and I didn’t allow myself to get too excited. We went for a walk and then drove to the library, where we went often that summer. At 6pm I was getting uncomfortable, so we went back home to our little apartment, overlooking a pond. We went about our evening as usual, remembering Kate’s advice to walk, eat, rest. After dinner we made love again (coaxing it on, if it was meant to be), and then began to watch “Jayne Eyre” from bed as I, anticipatingly, breathed through my rushes.
We didn’t get far into the movie. My labor got stronger at 11pm and I had to focus. We tried to get some rest while lying on our sides, Jared rubbing my lower back. I tried sleeping but couldn’t; the rushes were keeping me up. By 4am they were strengthening. I was hesitating having Jared call Cindy, our other midwife. I was still doubtful. But my rushes had been 5-8 minutes apart and lasting 40 seconds since the prior evening, and now at 4am they were consistent, 5 minutes apart and more intense. I had also been experiencing a lot of them back-to-back. We let a couple more hours go by as we worked through them. At 6am Jared called Cindy.
She arrived at 8:30am and offered to check my progress, and I excitedly though nervously agreed. But Fae’s head was at a negative two station, and I was fifty percent effaced. I was also four centimeters dilated, and my baby felt like she had rotated into the best position for birth. This felt good to me. Four centimeters might not sound like a lot for an evening and night of laboring, but to hear this meant that it was all that much closer to happening. I was happy with the progress, and delighted to find out that she had turned. I knew that it was harder to birth a baby that was in the posterior position, which I had prepared myself for over the past couple weeks, so this was a great update.
Cindy recommended that Jared and I eat something and then try to get some sleep. I had some cereal, and then we rested together on the bed for a couple of hours–during which my rushes spaced out a little, allowing me to get a little bit of sleep between them. I got out of bed at 10:40am, wondering again if I hadn’t imagined this. The three of us went for a peaceful walk down our long dirt driveway. It was lightly raining outside, and there was a beautiful mist covering everything. I would stop walking and lean on Jared in order to breathe through each rush. They began getting closer together again.
Jared and I spent some time outside in the rain together, which felt so nice. He was amazing with me and completely in tune with my labor. Fae’s presence was strong between our bodies. Jared and I were so connected that I didn’t need to say what I needed. He knew. Everything was beautiful and glowing around us.
By noon my rushes were 4-5 minutes apart, and Jared and I were working well with them. Cindy left for a lunch break as I labored in the kitchen on a chair, snacking on a bagel. My rushes got very strong very quickly–lasting longer than a minute and much more intense. I really wanted to get in the bath tub, so Jared filled it for me, helped me settle in, gave me some coconut water, and called Cindy.
The tub was so nice. I loved being naked in the water. Jared made me a couple big bath pillows by wrapping ordinary pillows in trash bags and tying a knot. They could completely support me, so I was able to rest my body against them between rushes. Cindy arrived and listened to Fae’s heartbeat through a rush, which were now 2-3 minutes apart. Fae was doing well. My labor got very powerful while I was in the tub. The rushes were challenging to get through–I was having trouble keeping my body relaxed through them. I remember asking Jared to tell me if it was real. I was hoping so strongly that Fae was going to be born. I got a little emotional and cried. Cindy said she could tell that I was seven centimeters, entering transition, and I knew what this meant. I cried a little more, relieved past doubt.
I labored on my knees in the tub while leaning on Jared for a little while. Soon after that, Kate showed up. She had been on vacation at the time but had assured us that she would make the birth. I was so happy to see her. She added a nice, strong presence–I was starting to feel a little week by this point. She helped me through a couple rushes–supporting my body and rubbing my lower back, while Jared took a few minutes to eat some food.
My water broke powerfully, at 2:20pm, at the start of the strongest rush yet–followed by another. They were so powerful now that they blew my mind. It was around then that I said to Jared that I wasn’t sure if I could do this anymore. I was at a whole new level. I had no idea how to integrate the rushes, and I couldn’t think in between them to figure it out. There was talk of getting out of the tub–I could no longer make decisions for myself, but I had originally wanted Fae to be born out of the water. I attempted to get out with Jared and Kate’s assistance, but got right back in for the start of the next rush. Then, on the following one, I vomited some liquid and stayed in the tub through a few more.
The rushes continued to be extremely powerful and overwhelming. I ended up on the bed, lying on my side for a few. My lower back pain had increased a lot, and Jared was helping me with it. I was feeling out of control at this point. The labor was so intense I felt like I was a bolt of energy–it was so hard to endure. Remembering my heroine, Ina May Gaskin, whose books had meant so much to me, I knew that I should try to relax so that I’d open up easier, but I couldn’t keep still and focus. I was leaning against Jared, sitting on a birth stool at the edge of the bed, flailing around a little through each rush. It helped to look into Kate and Cindy’s eyes and see their calm expressions, letting me know that everything was fine, that I was doing well. I remember saying that I just needed a break. I knew that sometimes there would be a rest period between the dilating and the pushing phases, and I felt desperate for it.
I got into a breathing pattern that gave me a way to direct my energy–breathing in and out heavily. I remember focusing just as hard on breathing in as I was on breathing out, and even on the moment in between, because this seemed to be the only way to get through each rush. I tried some rushes standing up, leaning on Jared and then on Kate, but it was hard to support myself on my legs. At 4 o’clock I began feeling pressure, like I could push, but I still had pain from the rushes in the front of my pelvis. I was almost ready to push–the labor was changing.
I tried the stool again, then I ended up semi-sitting on some pillows in a corner that I had set up for pushing. The rushes transitioned–pushing was something that just began to happen naturally. I didn’t end up getting a pause between the phases to rest. They instead seemed to overlap. I was having trouble feeling grounded by this point, and I was really shaky. Jared gave me some paper towels to hold in each hand, which helped so much. I would squeeze them through each rush as I supported my body with my arms. I was also getting hot, and then cold, so I began using a blanket off and on. At 4:30pm I began groaning with the rushes, which is something that I didn’t expect. I was sipping water and ate a little honey–it was amazing how much a spoonful of honey helped me to push during labor. My pushing got stronger–it was taking me over, and my sounds were getting louder.
Kate and Jared held me up, and I tried pushing while squatting. This helped to move our baby down a little. I began to feel some burning, and then ended up back on the pillows, semi-sitting. Kate put some warm oil on washcloths to help with the burning. I could feel Fae’s head inside of me with my fingers. It was amazing to feel her. I had some more honey and water–the spoon and glass felt too heavy to hold. I rested between rushes. At 5:15pm we could see her as I pushed. Kate held up a mirror for me. I began pushing with all of my energy, making some wild sounds, and half an hour later Fae began to slowly crown.
From this point on Jared and I experienced the most intense moments of our lives. Kate and Cindy couldn’t find Fae’s heartbeat with the doppler (not uncommon when the baby is under the pubic bone) so they got me up in a squat to push hard and speed the birth along. Cindy then got a read and her heartbeat seemed alright, but at the time I was unaware of this, as I was of pretty much everything besides my baby. Fae had been slowly crowning through a few rushes, but I wasn’t stretching well. Kate really wanted to get her out quick–the knife was out and ready for an episiotomy if I couldn’t birth her head with the next rush. I wasn’t positive that my baby was alright, and I realized in that moment that I would die for her. I remember pushing with everything that I had left in me, not caring if I ripped in half, while Kate helped to stretch me with her hands, which she knew would be very painful. This moment was so intense. I just wanted our baby to be born and to be ok. Her head came out. Her cord had been pinched up next to her head while she had been crowning, but she was moving and her scalp color was good. I remember Kate telling me that she could give me a big kiss for what I had just let her do, and I was happy at her compliment. Cindy gave me oxygen to breath before the next rush. Kate assured me that my baby was ok but that we needed to get her out with the next rush. I pushed hard, again as though everything I had left was in it. Her little body slithered out at 5:55pm, August 16th. Feeling that was the most amazing feeling that I’ve ever experienced.
Fae was put on my chest and into my arms immediately after she slid out. It was incredible to feel her wet little body against mine. I kissed her sweet little head while telling her “I love you” again and again. She made some small sounds–she was taking a little while to get started. Cindy sucked the fluid out of her lungs, and Kate rubbed her back vigorously with a blanket. She then, finally, let out a nice loud cry and our hearts filled. Our daughter was born–healthy and so beautiful. I already knew her. She felt like ours.
Kate and Cindy helped me quickly get into bed–I was bleeding quite a bit from being on the birthing stool. Jared got in with us and the three of us lied there together, bonding–Fae on my chest, in my arms, and my body leaning against Jared’s. We couldn’t take our eyes off of our new little girl. I was amazed at this little baby that Jared and I created. Kate checked to see if the placenta was detached. It was, and with one push it came out at 6:10pm. Jared then cut the cord, after it had stopped pulsing. A little later, Fae had her exam before mine. She stayed right on the bed with me, and she was perfect. She weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and measured 19 1/2 inches long. I, amazingly, only had a couple of small tears that didn’t need stitches. Kate and Cindy cleaned up the apartment for us, washed the dishes, and put dinner in the oven as we three snuggled in bed.
We were so happy. Fae was staring into my eyes and making the sweetest little sounds that we had ever heard. I nursed her and the three of us continued to bond, warm and cozy in our bed. I was completely in love with her and my husband and amazed at the beautiful and intense experience that we just had–becoming a new family.