Wisconsin home birth: Brooks
I had spent the last few days cleaning everything in the house from top to bottom. Baseboards, vacuumed and mopped under every piece of furniture, scrubbed toilets, windows. Had finally gotten it all done, and as I was going to bed on the 30th, I had that same feeling I had had with Willis: “Now he can come. And I think he might.” But with low expectations.
I woke up that night a lot to use the restroom. When I got up the fourth time, I wasn’t sure if it was back pain or the urge that was actually waking me up. My restlessness was keeping Willis and Tom up. I told Tom that I thought labor was getting closer. I had tried lying down again, but realized I had increased back pain that I couldn’t sleep through or be comfortable through. I told Tom I was going to go take a shower around 5:30am. Things so far were pretty similar to how Willis’ labor got started too, just with less intensity. I wasn’t sure if I was having strong Braxton Hicks or light real contractions, but as I made it to the bathroom downstairs to shower, I realized they were coming every two minutes and lasting nearly a minute, and I wanted to let my midwife LeAnn know. I sent her a text around 6:15am with what I was feeling and that something was happening, just not sure if they would fizzle out. Around ten minutes to 7am, I sent my mom a message that I thought labor was starting so she could start the 2+ hour drive to help us with Willis. I had a few more texts and phone calls with LeAnn, and around 7:10, she decided she would come out to the house as well.
Around 7:30, things seem to slow up. I called LeAnn to let her know. I had this paranoia that I would have everyone come too soon and be waiting around forever. She called me fifteen minutes later and things had already picked back up and I had started to puke. The contractions were low. With Willis, I had the tightening start at the top of the belly and work its way down, and I had time to realize the contractions were going to come on and I could control my breathing and focus on relaxing up unto the peak of the contraction. But these were peaking really early and catching me off guard, plus they felt more like a burning and stretching sensation down low. They weren’t over the top painwise, but I had more difficulty with my ability to cope and focus through them because of the early peak. With my first labor, I hadn’t really wanted to be touched, but this time I showed Tom how to lightly touch areas I needed to relax and that brought me a lot of relief. Even Willis followed his dad’s lead and helped once, and it made me laugh and it actually helped me relax, too.
LeAnn arrived around 8:20am, and her assistant Brandi arrived around 9. LeAnn checked my dilation at 9:24am. I was between a 5 and 6cm and 50% effaced, baby was between -1 and 0 station. Definitely in labor. Because of the differences between my first labor and this one, I had increased anxiety. With my first labor, things were moving on their own and required little hands on involvement from me. I could succumb to what my body was doing versus trying to help it along. With this labor, even though I was having regular contractions, I just had this sense that they were not as effective as they should be. I could tell Tom and LeAnn wanted me to relax about it, but I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed to do something to make them more effective. Also, Willis was still around and I felt like he was confused/neglected. I liked to go over to him when I could.
Up to this point, I was leaning over something like a table or a counter to support my upper body with my arms so I could focus on relaxing my legs and pelvis through the contractions, or I was on my hands and knees. I was so exhausted the whole labor, just wanted to sleep. I did rest a little bit with Tom on the bed, and then my mom arrived around 10 to take care of Willis. I told LeAnn my contractions were slowing, and I was so impatient/frustrated. She suggested a walk, and it was actually a nice day for January, so I took a few walks with Tom and we pushed Willis in the stroller at 10:30. The first few contractions were very painful, but then they really lessened and I wouldn’t even need to stop through them as I walked. Again, this stressed me out because I felt they were ineffective.
Quarter to 11, LeAnn suggested my mom take Willis out of the house so I could concentrate on labor. But I felt like I had nothing to concentrate on. I felt like there was nothing I could mentally do at this point in the labor – more that I needed some sort of physical change to help my body progress. At the same time, I was distracted by the discomfort of labor itself to not be able to really think clearly about what I could be doing. Twenty to noon, Tom and I took another walk, while my mom put Willis down for a nap. I was happy to be trying something new, but could tell the walking just wasn’t going to be the change I needed. We came back in, and I took a few trips to the bathroom because I constantly felt the urge to void. We tried straddling a bench to help get a different position. I walked around the birth tub. I was feeling baby low and had a lot of pressure. The contractions were nearly painless. I was laughing and joking. At this point, I was kind of mentally in this place where I still knew I needed to do something to help the labor progress, but I was also soaking in the ease of the labor at this space in time. The whole labor my birth team was bringing me bits of food and water for energy, although I was puking just about everything up.
At 2:15, LeAnn checked me again. I was 8cm. I was slightly frustrated not to be closer to 10, but I was glad I had at least progressed some since the first check since my labor felt slow to me. At 2:30, my mom left with Willis after he woke from his nap, and they drove around (he had a blast, which was such a relief to hear!). I wanted to get in the tub, but LeAnn suggested a shower may be better. I wasn’t in there long before deciding to get out because I felt like the contractions were still ineffective, although picking up in intensity.
After a little discussion with LeAnn, she said she thought maybe baby was not coming straight down, and that his head was at an angle. She told me to go up and down our stairs 5x, which was a number she said she just made up. I was supposed to go up sideways, and through each contraction, rest one leg on an upper stair and one leg a step below. An “assignment” like this was exactly what I needed. I had a hard time forcing myself to do anything that would bring on more pain, but if LeAnn said it, I would do it. Tom went with me, and the contractions really picked up. We started stairs at 3pm and I was going ever so slowly. I focused on belly breathing and relaxing my pelvis, as well as directing inhaled air to certain areas of of my pelvis. The belly breathing really relieved the tension, and the directed air was very much causing a burning sensation and pressure below, which I took to mean dilation and baby descending, so I embraced it. I was very vocal through these. At the top of the stairs on our fourth round, Tom helped me with something we had learned from a class I made him watch with me. I had my arms around his neck and sat into a half squat where my thighs were parallel with the floor. He took my sit bones with his arms and pulled them apart. We stayed that way through a contraction and I could tell it was so extremely effective. I remember telling Tom, “I can’t do this!” and then immediately after, “I can do this!” because I didn’t want negativity to get in my way. Tom half laughed and said “Yes, you can do this! You get to meet our baby today.” It boosted my morale to hear the strength and support in his voice. On the way down the stairs, I had another contraction and then started to shake and cry from nerves, and to get myself through it, I’d say “I get to meet my baby today. I get to meet my baby soon.” Tom was there with me, emotionally – I could feel his full support and his empathy. I told him, “It’s not bad enough to cry, I just needed to let that out.” After the fourth round was done, Tom said that was probably enough stairs. But I’m very “by the book” and said we needed to do that fifth one. At the top of the stairs, at 3:24pm, my water broke mid-contraction, water was clear. I wanted to get in the birth tub NOW.
LeAnn came to help me get down the stairs with Tom. At 3:27 I was in the tub, and soon contractions were feeling really pushy. I really started to lose it. I absolutely hated pushing with Willis, and these were way more intense. Lasting longer with no break. I would push as long as I could and was being loud as heck, and then I’d run out of air but felt like the contraction was going. I’d take a breath just to be loud as heck again as I kept the push going. I looked at Tom, and grabbed his arms. LeAnn said later that she didn’t know what he said to me, but that it really worked to calm me. But he hadn’t said anything that I recall. I just remember looking at him in the eyes, and seeing in his expression that he was there in that pain with me – I wasn’t alone physically or emotionally. That was such a comfort to me. LeAnn asked me to change positions, and I told her I couldn’t, just as another contraction started. Next thing I know, she jumped in the pool fully clothed and a moment later, I felt the sweet, sweet relief of our baby’s head deliver. Another push, and the body was out at 3:38pm. It was a total seven minutes pushing and four pushes. From behind me, she somehow guided the baby between my legs to the front of my body so I could pull baby up too. Once he was exposed to air, he started crying. We had decided to wait to learn gender until baby was born, but we intuited all along it was going to be a boy. It was such a sweet moment of relief and love. My team got me out of the tub in order to assess bleeding, and placenta came within ten minutes.
In retrospect, I have really positive feelings about the labor. It was a great learning experience for me. With my first labor, things progressed smoothly and only required my internal focus. This one I felt required some outward change (like the stairs!), which made for a slower labor upfront but then a tougher transition once my body got what it needed to progress. With Willis, I didn’t have a super clear transition phase, but this one it definitely was the stair time. It had more change compacted into a smaller time frame, which mounted to more intensity. I didn’t cope as well – but the thing about labor is that you don’t really know how long it’s going to be until it’s over! Had I known at 3pm that baby would be born in less than an hour, or at 3:31 when I was pushing that baby would be born in 7 minutes, I would have understood the intensity. As it was, I was a little panicked, not knowing when or how I would ever find relief. But what a sweet blessing when it came!