“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a Ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6
Pregnancy this time, with my fourth little one, was physically easier in many ways – thanks to a longer space in between children and a wonderful herbal tincture for my vericose veins. Emotionally, though, it was much more difficult.
We discovered early on through the routine bloodwork that my body was producing antibodies in reaction to my baby’s blood – called isoimmunization. The condition was caused by a blood transfusion years ago, but hadn’t affected previous pregnancies. Subsequent bloodwork and ultrasounds showed that our baby boy was healthy and my body wasn’t attacking his too severely, but we had to keep diligent watch for signs of fetal anemia so that we could intervene before damage was done.
I am so grateful that I was able to continue care with my midwives (while consulting with other care providers as well for insight and support) as I was not technically high risk until blood work showed imminent danger. Thankfully, we made it all the way to term without my bloodwork ever necessitating intervention! I was a bit of a nervous wreck at times, but I felt very well cared for and confident that we were doing everything possible to ensure his health.
At 38 weeks, baby Arthur was in optimal position, I was feeling good, and I was honestly hoping for an earlier delivery – even tempted to help things along. I decided to wait until my husband’s aunt got to town so that we would have help with our other children, but I still wanted that baby in my arms as soon as possible.
I have probably the most predictable deliveries of anyone I know. My children have all come within a day of their due date. Labor is always long and slow, beginning with light cramping. My water never breaks until the very end. And there’s another thing: my babies are always posterior (meaning that their head is facing my belly rather than my back) at the beginning of labor.
Just days after I excitedly noticed that Arthur was in a great position compared to my others at 38 weeks, he decided to join the predictable club and turn posterior – with his little feet kicking my belly – just like his siblings. I had hoped that his previous position and the fact that I’d been taking Evening Primose Oil this time would mean a shorter/easier labor, but I didn’t want to encourage an early or faster labor if he wasn’t already in the best position to come out, so I settled in to wait as long as necessary. That was a bit discouraging since the earlier he came out, the earlier he would be away from the danger of my immune system attacking him!
I tried everything I had ever heard of for helping babies turn to optimal position. Every idea from the Spinning Babies website, things I’d learned from my previous midwife and doula, and new things that friends suggested to me, including accupressure an essential oils. I got him to turn… for six hours. And then nothing for days and days. He was comfy and wouldn’t budge!
The day before my due date – April 17th – I finally felt the tell-tale crampiness of impending labor. I hadn’t lost my mucous plug like previous pregnanies, though. By mid-afternoon I was feeling contractions that weren’t comfortable (calling them painful would be inaccurate, though), and while I was still trying to turn him with lots of hands-and-knees time, I hoped that contractions would move him where he needed to be.
By about 8pm contractions were regular and painful, but still 10 minutes apart. I called the midwife on call to let her know that she might get a middle of the night waking, but I did plan to try and get some sleep.
I really did try, but contractions kept coming 10 minutes apart. I timed them on my phone for the first few hours but it made me really groggy to wake enough to focus each time, so around 2am I got up and ate some yogurt and then decided to go back to bed and just keep my eyes shut even if the pain woke me (and it did – every 10 minutes without fail). I managed to stay in bed until about 5:30, but by then the pain made me curl my toes and grip my pillow, so I decided to get up and spend time in the living room while the house was quiet.
Contractions were much more manageable standing up, and not nearly as intense as they’d seemed in the dark room in my half-asleep fog. I made myself a cup of raspberry leaf tea and had an orange while I waited on everyone else to wake. I emailed back and forth with my midwife, an she assured me that I was experiencing a normal long latent phase and should keep eating and resting.
The day was a blur with contractions 6-10 minutes apart and me just trying to stay hydrated and nourished. My husband cooked me eggs and got me water while his aunt watched the three children and I pushed “start” and “stop” on my phone app about a million times.
I showered at one point and decided that I should get one last “pregnant” photo. I even managed to smile!
Mid-afternoon I started feeling discouraged and sad. I remembered from previous labors that this is usually a good sign (haha! go figure!) that things are progressing quickly, so I called my midwife again. She asked if I wanted to come in, and I was hesitant to say yes for fear that I still had a long way to go, but I felt like crying at the thought of staying at home for too much longer, so I said yes.
We arrived at the Birth Center at 5pm or so, and I was frustrated that I didn’t have any contractions in the car (it’s only a 5 minute drive), but walking from the car into the birth center proved rather difficult with three contractions back to back.
I paced around the family room for a while while my preferred birthing room was being prepared, and then we made our way into that lovely sanctuary with its huge tub and comfy furniture. I felt so much better knowing that I was where I would be when Arthur arrived. My mood improved instantly.
I was so thankful to be at 5cm when she checked me. I always feel like getting to 4cm takes eons and then the rest is faster, so 5cm is a mental signpost for me. Baby can’t stay in forever when you are already halfway “there.” :)
Both midwives were there by then and they started filling the birth tub while I labored with my husband. Contractions felt good and strong now, though I’d stopped timing them. I just breathed through each one remembering to drop my shoulders rather then scrunch them up by my ears, and try to release as much tension from my body as possible.
Getting in the tub was lovely. I so appreciate the bouyancy the water provides – it makes it a lot easier to release all of the muscles “down there” when there’s less upward pressure from a standing/sitting surface. Since birth pools are deeper than most bathtubs I was able to submerge my belly and float a little with each contraction, using my arms to support myself at the side of the tub.
I asked Rob to start my favorite Pandora station playing on my phone so that I would have something encouraging to focus on during each contraction. I needed it as it was unfortunately still obvious that Arthur was in a posterior position despite all the contracting!!
I drank lots of water, coconut water, and electrolite drinks to ward off exhaustion as we neared the 24 hour mark of labor. That meant getting out of the tub to pee umpteen times, and I really expected my water to break on one of those journeys, but it never did! I also never experienced any back pain or other aches aside from the contractions, so getting in and out of the tub wasn’t too much of a trial.
As the light outisde started to fade, I noticed that my contractions were spacing out a bit. They were very intense – I felt *almost* like I needed to bear down – and they took all my energy to work through, but there was enough time in between that I was fully recovered before the next one came.
And then I had the realization that I’d just listened through TWO songs in a row without a contraction! I looked up at the midwife and my husband and tried to communicate my thoughts with just a shake of my head. “Things can’t slow down now!!”
My midwife asked if I wanted to get out and change positions to help things along, and I agreed to try the exercise ball and laying down on my side. Neither one was particularly comfortable, but all the moving around kept contractions coming steadily. Still slower, though. I told my husband that it wouldn’t surprise me if they offered to break my water (and inwardly really hoped they would – even though I am usually all for as few interventions as possible).
Sure enough, after a while she tentatively asked if I’d be interested in her breaking it (I probably communicated my plea telepathically, haha!), and I asked if we’d be able to tell by checking me internally if it was a good idea or not – would it be best to wait until I was fully dilated, for instance? She assured me that we’d get good information from that to make a decision, so I let her check me.
10 cm!!! Yay! And fully effaced! Totally ready with nothing in the way, but baby just wasn’t coming down!
I asked her to go ahead and break it and she called in the other midwife for backup and to check baby’s vitals while she worked.
So… holy crochet hook, Batman! I’d heard about amniohooks from other people, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how hilariously huge that thing was! I’m sure I didn’t laugh or even smile outwardly, but inside my head there was a bit of meniacle laughter at the sight. :)
The next 10 or so minutes were the most painful of my entire life. It was only 10 minutes and it was for good reason, but my stomach hurts a bit thinking about it even though it was 4 weeks ago already as I write this!!
It’s very painful to be examined internally while contracting. I always dread that possibility. So having a hook inside as well as fingers is sort of awful. But after it was done my contractions were much more intense, so I tried sitting on the birth stool for a minute in a last ditch effort to get Arthur turned around. My midwife sat behind me and lifted my belly while I squatted. I can’t even describe how excrutiating that contraction was. I wanted her to stop even though I knew she shouldn’t, and I felt like it went on forever, even though it was only seconds. I couldn’t help myself from crying like a baby.
I know I didn’t say anything intelligible, but I blubberd into my husband’s chest as I stood and had another horrible contraction, and I sobbed all the way back to the birth tub searching for solace. My poor midwife! I could hear from her voice that she felt terrible and wished I wasn’t hurting so badly. I was so thankful that she was ok with me getting back in the tub even though we’d only tried to turn him for that one contraction. I was a mess!
I don’t know how long it was from then to the end, but there was no break and I very quickly felt that wonderful urge to push. It’s so great to finally get to the point that there’s some relief and something to work toward with each painful surge.
I was nervous about needing to be mindful not to strain too much as I’ve had some pelvic floor damage in the past and wanted to deliver in a way that allowed my uterus to do most of the work.
I remembered to breathe as slowly as possible and make low noises rather than the high and fast breathing that the pain tempted me toward. I also tried to relax my bottom half and imagine baby coming lower and lower with each contraction.
I ended up supporting myself with my arms with my feet floating out in front of me – partially reclined/partially on my side – not letting my butt touch the floor of the tub. I never would have envisioned such a weird position for birth, but it felt good! Mentally, I had the impression of swimming backward, away from the pain. While physically I was pushing the pain (the baby) out and away from me.
As he crowned my midwife noted calmly that he was “OP” (posterior), and I marveled that it felt just the same as the other babies coming out (in other words – ouch! But the same ouch!). I wondered for a minute if I needed to change positions for him to be caught well, but they assured me I was fine where I was.
I didn’t want to tear, so I tried to let him come out as slowly as possble, only pushing when I couldn’t resist, and trying not to bear down as hard as possible just to get it over with. I don’t know how many pushes it took, but it felt faster than my previous three.
He was suddenly there! At 10:15pm on his due date, April 18th. He was in my arms and warm and squirmy and so lovely. He looked great and cried right away. I instantly remembered how amazing it feels to hold a new baby against your skin – there’s just nothing that compares.
Because I have a history of bleeding a little more readily than is good for me, and battle anemia during pregnancy to boot, we knew we would be on guard against any excess bleeding. The midwives did such a great job letting me enjoy my little one and staying calm while they monitored me, poked me with needles (pitocin and a saline IV), massaged my abdomen, helped me swallow yucky tinctures (shepherd’s purse), etc. :) I really honestly do feel like I got the best care in the world while being allowed a wonderful post-birth bonding time.
I barely tore at all, and had no real soreness to speak of despite Arthur’s “sunny-side up” presentation. Coming out that way means that his head wasn’t able to mold the same way it would have if he’d come out the other way. I credit the evening primose oil, the birth tub, and the slow no-pressure delivery for the easy exit. Having three other kids come out the same door previously probably helped, too. :)
Arthur Ransom Barr weighed 8lbs 8ozs and was 21.5 inches long. He showed no signs of fetal anemia at birth and only experienced mild jaundice (which can be normal or can be a sign of distress) that resolved quickly when my milk came in. I feel so very blessed and couldn’t ask for a better outcome!
Now that I’m a few weeks out from that day, I can say that this has probably been my easiest or second easiest recovery. I still have strength to regain, but I was back on my feet and feeling good very quickly! Rob’s aunt stayed with us for a week after birth, and his coworkers and our friends have brought us many meals. Arthur has breastfed well from the beginning, and he weighs 10lbs and is thriving. Praise be to God!