The end of my pregnancy felt familiar. I was tired. Tired in a way I had never thought of being tired. Sometimes I put off going to the bathroom, again, because getting up felt like an involved project. I was scared I'd never feel like myself again. I'd had irregular uncomfortable practice contractions since twenty weeks into my pregnancy, but now they were a constant companion. My contractions were just regular enough to make me terribly anxious to get to 36 weeks and be cleared for a home birth. At 36 weeks exactly my husband went through a trial run setting up our birth tub, and I bobbed in it for awhile. I felt sure I'd be logging some hours in that tub very soon.
At 37 weeks I woke up on a Monday with naggy, achy contractions. I tried to ignore them, but my midback tightened with contractions. I was at a loss. I knew what back labor felt like. For me, back labor felt a vice on my back with every contraction, and it felt hard to breathe. This wasn't that, but it was disagreeable. By Tuesdays morning I called my midwife, Dania for advice and she suggested we bump up our Friday appointment just to be sure. I made an extra appointment with my chiropractor, and the discomfort in my back was all but gone. At my midwife's suggestion Joe set up our birth tub again, and it soothed my lingering back pain. Dania and I decided a cervical check could give us some information of where I was with things. I was at 3 c.m. and contracting regularly, but I was not very uncomfortable and baby was still very high. We made another appointment for next Friday, and I promised to call if things changed.
Contractions were not very painful, but I could not sleep through them. Wednesday and Thursday dragged along uncomfortable and anxious. Contractions were too regular for me really look after my toddler or drive, so Joe called into work. I felt distracted and grouchy. I'd just read Ina May's spiritual midwifery, and I wanted to be happy in my labor. I tried to be present. To enjoy the last moments of pregnancy. But I couldn't stop thinking "this could go on FOREVER." with a sense of dread. I knew I was being irrational, but I had not slept in days.
Thursday night my contractions picked up and required more of my attention. I called my midwife, and she came. I was at 5 c.m. and we called my brother in law and his girlfriend. And then things fizzled out. Contractions went back their same naggy level of intensity, and I knew we still had a ways to go. By Friday at my request we tried a few membrane sweeps and herbal tinctures to try and urge labor along, but it didn't seem to help so that evening I resigned myself to an eternity of sleepless nights and not-too-uncomfortable labor. I sent everyone home, and ate a box of bear claws my mother in law has throughtfully brought over. Saturday was another anxious day. I felt at times like climbing the walls. I tried to be joyful, and then I felt frustrated, and then I started the cycle again. That night I threw up and cleared out my bowels in a fantastic fashion. Now I couldn't hold down food or sleep. I felt good and properly sorry for myself. I cried, and realized that nothing I could do could change anything. No shift in attitude would magically bring my labor on harder. I needed to surrender to this experience.
Sunday was more of the same. Sunday night I talked with Joe. I cried because the world felt very big, and I felt very small. I cried because I was tired. I cried because I wanted my baby to meet people who had died before he was born. I cried because my support people had gone home. I sent Joe to bed to get some rest, and did a few deep squats and circled my hips. I prayed. I told my baby I was on his or her time. That I would lean into my contractions. That I would make it as easy on him or her as I was able. I felt really uncomfortable, and my hips were tired of doing squats.
I distinctly remember thinking, "fuck it. I don't want to be in active labor anyway. I'm too damn tired. I'm going to bed."
And I had a few weird dreams between my naggy contractions. In my half slumber I made plans to visit my chiropractor again. And I woke up with a weird pop sensation. I was reasonably sure I'd peed the bed. I patted the sheets, and indeed.. urine. Labor was so damn humbling. I stumbled to the bathroom, but I hurt all over. I wondered if labor had finally picked up, but I felt so suspicious. I ran the bath without turning on the cold tap. Just boiling water. And it was not easing these contractions. They felt so heavy. I shook Joe awake, telling him he needed to add hotter water to the birth tub. He suggested I call Dania, but I was tired of bothering people with false alarms. I just moaned and moaned. I told my baby they were doing good. I told myself I was having my baby. I told myself I was strong. And then I realized I was having my baby. This was not labor. Not transition. These were honest push contractions. "Call. Dania. Please. Tell her to drive fast?" I'd had a premature urge to push with my first baby that lasted for the better part of a day, and I knew what to do. I crawled out of the tub, because I was starting to feel faint. I was putting so much energy into trying not to push my baby out. I breathed a lot of rapid puffy breaths, and then I heard a really, really, lovely sound. My midwife was coming in. My grunting had woken my bigger baby, and my husband had put on a TV show for our toddler to watch. I could hear the strains over happy music teaching simple morals. "keeeep tryingggg... don't give up! you'll get it right!" I started yelling at my baby in my belly, "Okay, out. out. out. please!" And my midwife said I could push when I was ready. I asked her to check that I really was complete, and I was. I pushed, and my waters broke with a fantastic splash. I only pushed for eight minutes and Benjamin Joseph was born pink, and fat, and completely lovely. I had been just a little anxious I may experience another shoulder dystocia like I had with my daughter, so I chose to push in a hands and knees position again. Benjamin had no dystocia, but my enthusiastic pushing and his hand by his face caused some minor tearing.
Recovery has been mildly more challenging with after pains, and keeping after an infant and toddler, but I feel very strong and joyful.
As part of my recovery I've chosen to eat my placenta, something I had only joked about in the past. I tossed small pieces of it raw into a smoothie each day. I feel this has contributed to my quick healing and general sense of well being.
I am overwhelmed with my gratitude for my husband, my midwife Dania, and her assistant Allison.