Thursday, January 6, 2011

Emeth's Birth Story

Ever since we made the decision to make the 19 hour drive to Michigan for the birth of our fourth child, we have felt peaceful about it, for our part, but certainly found it a little awkward to explain our plans to the general public, especially to curious strangers or "barely" acquaintances. At times I felt that people must have thought we were trying to turn baby-making into an extreme sport. I started feeling a little antsy myself about 5 days before we were to leave, when my braxton hicks and other symptoms definitely took on more of a pre-labor character. The best we could do was to leave one day earlier than planned. We knew all along that we would have to scrap the trip and deliver with our Florida midwife if certain symptoms were present before our departure date, and that, although unlikely, there is always that slight chance that labor could start with no warning on the road (in which case we'd have to high tail it to a hospital). But thankfully the only water that broke on our trip was from the water pump in our van.
We pulled into the Thrift's driveway at 7pm on Saturday the 4th to finish our 1200 mile trip. At that point I felt that all my worrying had been for naught, and I would most likely hold off till my due date(ish) before giving birth.
The next day (Sunday) we went to the church where I grew up and enjoyed seeing many familiar faces before heading to my parents house for the remainder of the afternoon.
A few hours after lunch I was very surprised to discover that I had THE symptom which has for me always signalled impending labor (you moms probably can read between the lines here). I knew the race was on now - I've never had to wait more than 48 hours for the onset of labor after this occurrence. I was excited but, I must admit, slightly disappointed too; after all, we had plans for this week!
Monday morning started out like any other day, no major contraction activity, and lots of hyperactivity from our girls, who were living it up with 3 cousins and a puppy to romp with. I thought maybe I'd hold off until Tuesday morning, or even Tuesday night. As the day wore on though, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Nothing seemed to fit me right anymore, I was sure I looked about as attractive as a cow, and I felt completely fed up with being pregnant. Shockingly enough, this was the first time in my pregnancy that I even remotely felt that way. Robin wisely made an executive decision to make the day a "baby prep" day. Old sheets were put on the bed, the bathroom cleaned, and birth supplies unpacked and laid out in readiness. After lunch I was seized with an immediate, non-optional NEED to take a nap. I laid down and slept like a baby for a few hours. When I woke up I came down to the kitchen, and Robin immediately observed, "You've dropped." She was right; it was unmistakable. No wonder nothing fit me.
I started having contractions almost immediately after waking. I knew in my heart that this was labor beginning, but I tried to keep it to myself for a little while while I made cookies. This wasn't possible for very long since Robin and Jessie are both keen observers, and they were in high gear "labor watch" mode. Soon Jessie insisted on timing my contractions. I don't like having my contractions timed because it makes me feel like I'm onstage, and makes others jumpy. However, I know it amuses husbands, so I acquiesced.
As predicted, Jessie was soon asking if we should call the midwives. I brilliantly suggested that we instead go to the mall (20 minutes away and teeming with holiday shoppers) for a little date and some walking. Irrational behavior has always been a symptom of active labor for me. Jessie, who is well aware of this fact by now, counter-offered that we just go to Starbucks and then walk around Walmart (only 10 minutes away).
We alerted my midwife, Amanda, that we would be summoning her sometime later that night, just so she'd be on standby, and left for our little date at around 6:15. By this time my contractions were coming pretty strong and regular, but I wasn't experiencing any difficulty with them, just feeling mildly uncomfortable. We got coffee, a pumpkin spice latte, which I cheerfully supposed couldn't taste too terribly awful coming up later if I happened to get nauseous during transition, and entered Walmart.
As we walked through the doors (during a contraction) I said to Jessie something along the lines of "Don't let me be stupid and stay here too long, ok?" As soon as we began walking the aisles, my contractions became more uncomfortable, and much too close together to remain there long. While we were browsing fabrics (where I almost purchased a clearance bolt of pink fabric to make another Moby Wrap for the baby - HA!) I was hit with a fruitless desire to postpone the whole event, and told Jessie "I just really don't feel like going through labor tonight - can't we do this later?" I'd barely had time to psyche myself up at all, since the last few weeks had been focused on getting to Michigan.
Jessie thought that would be a good note to leave on. He stood in line with our few purchases while I called Amanda. I told her we were heading home, and that my contractions were strong and frequent. "How frequent?" - "I've had 7 in the last 15 minutes". I could hear in her voice that she felt nowhere near as confident as I did that she'd be arriving in time to attend this birth, but she assured me she and Jaime, her assistant, would leave right away. We were in the car, headed back to Brian and Robin's house at 6:50.
Jessie and I got back to the house and made final preparations while we waited for the midwives, my mom, and my sisters Penny and Rachel to arrive. As it turned out, everyone was there with nearly two hours to spare.
For about the first hour, I labored mostly in a standing position, leaning against the bed or the bathroom counter through my contractions. Soon I was requiring Jessie to firmly massage my lower back through them while I rocked and swayed. He went downstairs once to greet the birth spectators who were arriving. I called him up after going through a contraction alone and told him he wasn't allowed to leave anymore.
Soon Brian and Robin's bedroom was full of my birth attendants. At 8:50 I decided to climb into the jacuzzi. I rather expected to be ready to push within 20 minutes or less, since the water has hastened transition and pushing for me in the past. But the minutes kept ticking by. I felt "pushy" not long after kneeling in the warm water, and I pushed a little with some of my contractions as the pressure grew more intense, but I knew it wasn't the real thing yet. My midwives, Jessie, and my female family kept me occupied between contractions. I had to remind them not to make me laugh when I could feel another contraction coming. Its funny how normal one can feel between intense contractions. While in the tub, they required all my concentration, and I made "pushy" noises, or moaned a little through them if I felt like it, but in between I carried on normal conversation. At one point, after coming off a contraction, I asked my mom if she'd brought along the clothes pins she'd promised me. Amanda, a little confused, asked "What do you use those for?" assuming they must have something to do with labor or the postpartum period. I replied "For making dolls." and we all had a good laugh (Remember the clothes pins, they come up again later). This prompted Jessie to tell about his first calving experience, at age 9, when the farmer told him to run to the barn and fetch a pitchfork. Of course his 9 yr old imagination was disturbed, wondering what he would be required to do with the pitchfork once he got it back to the field. He was quite relieved when he discovered that it was the handle that would be used (for tying a head rope to), and not the pronged end. This was all very amusing, but I kept expecting each contraction to be the one that would take me around the horn and tell me to push, but they just kept coming on with aggravating sameness. I was getting pretty sick of the whole thing. I asked Jessie to climb in with me so he could help me out with some lower back pressure. The second contraction after he climbed in brought with it the irresistible command to push. I can't even call that sensation an "urge". For me it is a command, and disobedience is non-optional, so you'd better be ready to catch a baby. Fortunately, Jessie was up for the task.
Amanda sprang to my side. Jessie maneuvered so that she had a clear view to make sure all was well, but she hung back to allow him to do the supporting, guiding, and catching entirely on his own. It took me two pushes to birth the head, and then I had to pause and wait for the next contraction (I hate that part). It was then that I felt the weirdest sensation I have ever experienced in any of my births: "Don't pull!" I shouted at Jessie. "I'm not!" he shot back; "The baby is moving around!" I felt it again and almost jumped out of the tub - it needed to stop NOW. Thankfully the next contraction ended that short chapter. "Here come the shoulders - one's out, now the other - you're done!" Jessie gave me the play-by-play "'s a boy!", he proclaimed jubilantly. For a split-second I was apprehensive, a boy? But then he was on my chest, and he was my son, and certainly the most beautiful little boy I had ever seen.

We had a few precious minutes of bonding while in the tub, then we moved to the bedroom, where we cut the cord, established breastfeeding, got the third stage over with, and performed Emeth's newborn exam, all at a leisurely pace.
We were all curious to find out how much Emeth weighed, because Jessie and I both commented almost at first sight that he had to be the biggest of our children to date. We were a little surprised that he came in under 8 pounds (just barely, at 7# 15oz). Amanda was looking him over, and commented that his features were a little swollen, and his nose a little flat from his trip through the birth canal. "And that's where those clothes pins will come in handy." concluded my sister Rachel. I told you she provided the wittiest remarks of the evening [in this post]. I am pleased to report that his nose soon attained perfect symmetry, without the aid of clothes pins, or a pitchfork.

As I write this, Emeth is four weeks old, and has firmly established himself as the chunkiest and hungriest baby this family has known. I put away the last of his newborn clothes earlier today (with a *tear*). His daily activities include sleeping, eating, grunting, and wearing as many outfits as possible within a 24 hour period. He likes to see Mommy and Daddy in several different outfits daily too, if he can manage it (and he can!). He has yet to smile responsively, but he's almost there. We've caught it a few times, but we just haven't been 100% positive that he meant it. We all love the squeezable little dude from here to the moon. I think I fall a little bit more in love with him every day.

Other accounts of Emeth's birth:


*Jess* said...

what a beautiful wonderful empowering birth :) Great job, momma!

Bobbie - Clumsy Crafter said...

I love it! Thanks for sharing.

Amber said...

Its amazing how your body just knows what to do. I also know that feeling of having to push and having to do it now. With Christopher the doctor told me to stop pushing at one point and I yelled at him (and I am NOT a cranky laborer at all)"I can't!!" It felt physically impossible.

I am glad things went so good and you were able to share that time with your family. I sure it was worth all the worrying and traveling and people looking at you funny when they heard of your plan.

Also I always wonder if your sister Rachel and my sister Dee would be best friends or hate each other if they met because the things they say remind me of each other SO SO much. I can imagine Dee saying the same thing about clothes pins.

abbigail said...

I came over from blog frog to read your birth story. I remember you saying you were delivering far from home. I loved it. I had my 4th baby also my 1st son last year. I also had a homebirth and laughed my way through it. Congratulations on such a beautiful baby boy.

Rachel said...

What beautiful story and babe!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful birth and beautiful baby boy! We love the name Emeth...good friends of ours have a Lily Emeth. The meaning is just wonderful!

Enjoy your sweetness!