Monday, November 29, 2010

The Birth of Silas James

In the early morning hours of Monday, November 22nd -- the night of a full moon -- I found myself unable to sleep. I had an ache in my lower back and could not get comfortable in bed. After getting up repeatedly to use the bathroom, I finally just stayed up and wandered the house.

When I noticed a crampy feeling in my lower abdomen I wondered if I might be in labor, but I waited another hour or so, until 4:11am, before deciding it was time to wake my husband. I still wasn't sure if this was it, but I was feeling “off” and wanted him with me. We went downstairs, leaving the baby monitor on so we could hear Henry when he woke up.

At 4:35am I called Christy, my midwife. I told her about the backache and the cramping, which had started to come and go. I was able to talk to her through all of it, so I wasn't sure if it could be labor. She said that it wouldn't hurt to fill up the birth tub -- we could always drain it later if it were a false alarm -- and to call her back when we knew more. In about half an hour the contractions had grown so intense that I didn’t think I could talk on the phone and my husband called Christy back to ask her to come to the house.

My husband worked to fill the birth tub and at 4:58am he called my sister Karen, who we had lined up to watch Henry during the birth. She asked if she had time to shower and eat, and we thought she did. Henry was still sleeping at this point anyway.

At 5:25am Christy arrived, and soon after Deb, another midwife she works with, and Brandy, Christy's apprentice, came too. By this time the contractions were getting painful. I had taped a sheet of reminders for myself on the wall of our family room telling me to relax my mouth and jaw, breathe slowly and deeply, make low-pitched tones, and to trust my body. Every now and then my husband reminded me of these, but just having thought about this in advance and knowing the sheet was there was enough.

During Henry's birth I strained my throat yelling and tensed my body up so much that afterward I felt like I'd been hit by a Mack truck. I was convinced that if I'd been able to relax at all and be more in control of my reaction to the pain things would have gone more smoothly.

Henry woke up at this point and my husband went upstairs to get him. He was pretty upset to find out that the baby was about to be born, but calmed down when he heard that Karen was on her way. He came down and said hello to me as I braced myself through the contractions, which were starting to get more intense.

The birthing tub was finally filled, after my husband had drained the water heater and boiled countless pots of water on the stove, at 6:30am. I was so grateful to be able to climb into it; the water really helped make the pain more manageable.

At 6:40am my sister arrived and went upstairs with Henry to his room. She brought the board game Mousetrap and he had a lot of fun playing it with her. At one point he ran downstairs to see me, but he was fine with being led back up after only a minute or two.

At about 8am the midwives wanted me to empty my bladder, so despite my desire to stay in the tub my husband helped me out and walked me to the bathroom. It was a Herculean effort.

At 8:32am I dropped an F-bomb. Up until then I had been moaning through the contractions, able to remember my own advice to use low tones and breathe through the pain. But the pain was getting to the point that I was wishing I’d scheduled a c-section. I asked Christy, “How much longer?” She said that if I wanted to get out of the tub she could check me, but I wasn’t willing to get out again.

And then suddenly, at 8:37am, I felt like everything inside me was plunging downward. I started yelling and all the midwives rushed toward me with their equipment. It was incredible. I had no choice but to push when I was having a contraction and I could feel the baby moving downward as I did so. At this point, at 8:41am, my water broke.

Deb told me to wait and push with the next contraction, and when I did, at 8:43am, the baby‘s head came out. One more push and his whole body was in the water, at 8:45am.

I had been kneeling on the floor of the tub, hanging on to the side, and I turned around and the midwives handed the baby to me. He was pink and crying. The water level in the tub was so high that I had trouble keeping his head above the water, so the midwives helped me out of the tub and onto the futon mattress we’d set up nearby.

They laid the baby on my stomach and he immediately latched on. (In fact, he stayed latched on for an hour and fifteen minutes, until Christy decided she needed to do the newborn exam.) At 8:53am the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and my husband cut it.

Silas was 21 inches long and 8 pounds even. His Apgar score was a perfect ten.

The whole experience was so different from my labor and delivery with Henry. This time I could feel each contraction; last time I felt constant pain that never seemed to ebb and flow. This time I could feel when I was at the pushing stage; last time I never really felt a strong urge to push. This time I could tell that pushing was accomplishing something; last time I didn't know if I was even doing it right. It was the perfect textbook labor and delivery, and despite the pain I felt much more in control of everything.

I'm so glad I had this opportunity to do it again. It was an amazing experience.

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