Saturdays, around our house, are known as 'Daddy Days', basically meaning that Kevin gets up early with Oliver, the two have breakfast together then go out on the town to do 'guy stuff' while I get to sleep in and then take myself out to the farmer's market and for a brunch date with a book.
That Saturday I invited my best friend and doula partner, Nena, who would be attending my birth, out on my Me-Date. Looking back on my texts from that day I was already showing some early labour signs:
"True. Lol.... Ok. Braiding my hair, starting laundry, then leaving my house. Slowly. You may even beat me there."... "Ok. Psa. I laid down in my towel with some Braxton hicks and haven't gotten back up. Sloooow. Haha"
I did eventually get out of bed and walked the 4-5 blocks to the market to meet Nena. I had a crepe from my favourite food truck, we roamed the market, bought some produce, joked with friends we passed that I was still pregnant, then walked back to the coffee shop on my street for a tea.
While we were there I couldn't stand long enough to wait for my order at the counter and when we sat down finally I couldn't sit still and before we were finished I started feeling 'weird'. It was too hot, I was nauseous and dizzy, something just wasn't 'right'. I knew my blood sugar was fine since I'd just eaten and I was hydrated and it wasn't a hot day so I dashed across the street to the pharmacy to check my blood pressure thinking maybe it had dipped but it was normal so I figured maybe I'd just over exerted myself and went home for a nap.
Knowing Nena had plans for the rest of the day and a wedding out of town that evening I joked that I would wait until next week to have the baby. But she was really adamant that I not hesitate to call and interrupt her if I needed her. Apparently right after leaving me she made arrangements for all her other commitments & responsibilities for the weekend.
On this 'Daddy day' Oliver and Kevin went to see some crazy hillbilly mud racing monster truck thing, leaving me with the house to myself all day. I took it easy, I did some laundry, I napped, I read, I watched TV. And eventually started feeling better. throughout all this I was having some sporadic surging but nothing even remotely 'productive'. I did have a bit of mucus and 'show' but it was such a small amount I dismissed it.
I texted my other doula, Kim, about it and then assured her she should still take her kids to an event 45 minutes away but to maybe just keep her phone close in case anything changed (as if us doulas ever leave them far away).
By the time Oliver and Kevin came home around 5pm I was starting to feel some downward pressure every 10-15 minutes but I still wasn't calling them 'contractions'. I felt nothing 'up top' or in my back where most of the intensity had been when I laboured with Oliver so I figured it was just baby moving or getting into position. We ate supper, we watched the first 3 quarters of the 'Rider (CFL Football) game, and then I took Oliver up to bed at about 8:30.
I nursed Oliver down that night and the moment he latched I knew if something hadn't already started it was starting now. In the 15 minutes that he was at my breast the 'pressure' went from about 10-15 minutes apart to about 3-4 minutes apart (i never timed them, just guessing) and I had to focus on my breathing to get through each one.
I texted Kim again while I was laying there, I told her I didn't know if it was actual surging because I still couldn't feel anything except for the intense downward pressure on my cervix. She told me to put my hand on top of my stomach during the next one to see if I could feel the tightening that way. The second another pressure started with my hand resting there I knew for sure they were 'real contractions'. The light pressure of my hand felt unbearable and I could definitely feel the tightening of my uterus from the outside. But I was still convinced it was early and could go away at any moment so Kim suggested I eat something, take a walk, and then try to get some sleep.
Once Oliver was asleep I went downstairs (stopping twice on the stairs to breathe through more pressure) and tried to eat but wasn't hungry, I took a walk around the main floor of my house (stopping every few feet to breathe through more pressure) then got onto my knees and leaned into my couch thinking if I just stopped moving around they would go away.
Kevin, who had been watching me quietly since I came down the stairs asked if I should call the midwife. I laughed and told him if this was it then it was really early and maybe I would think of calling once the pressure was a consistent 3-1-1 (three minutes apart, lasting a minute, for over an hour). He, in his totally straight faced take-no-bullshit way, asked how I would know when that was if I wasn't timing any contractions. I promised him I would track some and text my doulas again while he gathered the supplies on our 'Homebirth List' the midwives had given us.
I didn't really time anything, or text either of my doulas. I just hung out there swaying my hips asking myself if I was ready for this and thinking of all the ways I could make it stop and wait for another day. I decided a bath would be the ticket. Everyone knows if you get in the tub too early it can totally slow everything down.
Before going up to the bathroom I texted Nena:
"Hey so like. Don't jump in your car or anything. Enjoy the wedding. But like. Don't accidentally get drunk because there are surges happening... Fairly close-ish together. Keep your phone close?"
and to Kim:
"can't decide if I want to stop this or encourage it. Getting in the tub to slow down"
I was in the tub only a few minutes when the intensity picked up again. Kevin came in and timed a few surges. They were 2-3 minutes apart lasting a minute or more but because it was only 9pm and therefore not over an hour I still didn't want to call the midwife. I compromised and told Kim:
"I think I may need you ... 3min apart lasting 50-80sec for half an hour. Trying to get Kevin to wait the hour and see but he's jumpy.... And they're getting intense for me to reassure him"
Then told Kevin I would call the midwife after Kim came and told me this was real. It could still be in my head, I needed someone (not Kevin) to tell me this was real. I also texted Nena who had apparently anticipated me and was already on her way back from her out-of-town reception.
Kevin lit some candles and sat with me through a few more surges applying counter pressure to my back (which was suddenly in for the ride) and around the point I started needing to vocalize through the surges he called the midwife anyways even though I was still in denial.
Kim showed up right as Kevin got off the phone and I remember complaining to her that the midwife would get there and check me and I would only be 3 centimetres and that would mean more checks later and I really didn't want to be checked at all so couldn't we have waited until I was more active? This was at about 10pm I think.
Not long after the water in the tub just wasn't doing it for me anymore and, having resigned myself to getting a vaginal exam, I decided to get out of the tub and go to my bed to settle in where the midwife could do her assessment without moving me and I could try and sleep a bit when it turned out I was only 3cm. I was really convinced I was only at 3.
But when I stood up everything got even more intense. I had to pee. No I had to poop. But I couldn't -No really I COULD NOT- sit on the toilet.
My 'doula brain' thought: How many times have I insisted to my clients that the toilet was a great place to labour? Why had I said that? The toilet was an awful position to be in! With Kevin applying pressure to my back as I hovered over it backwards I was barely able to stand it long enough to push out a few drops of pee but much to my disappointment 'emptying' by bladder did nothing to relieve the suddenly constant pressure I was feeling. I'd been joking around only minutes before and suddenly I was pacing and muttering and for some reason apologizing profusely to Kim for no reason at all. I put my dress back on and fell into my bed on my side and moaned like a banshee through a few more surges praying for my butt to just fall off already.
At some point in this the midwife got there. I told her something vaguely coherent about the pressure and I think I told her quite seriously that there was NO WAY it was the baby, I just had to poop. She asked if she could check and I agreed but wouldn't move to my back so she must have checked with me on my side. I don't remember feeling her check she just said 'No that's definitely your baby' and then something about a cervical lip but by the time she finished her sentence an uncontrollable grunt pushed its way through my body and was so loud to my ears I thought I must be roaring or something.
The spontaneous push did not feel good. My 'doula brain' quickly latched onto the midwife saying 'cervical lip' and tried to tell my primal brain not to push but my primal brain was like 'F*ck you this is happening'.
I tried my best to keep breathing and vocalizing through each surge, I remember Kim telling me to 'slow it down, deep breaths, slow it down' but I just couldn't, the pressure was SO intense, at one point I asked the midwife to break my water (my 'doula brain' gasped in horror at the suggestion) but she just shook her head. Later she told me that the membranes were stretched so tight over baby's head that she wouldn't have been able to rupture them even if she'd wanted to.
I remember at this point being really concerned that all of my begging for AROM and yell-moaning was going to wake Oliver in the next room but almost the moment I thought that someone told me that Nena had arrived and I was able to relax knowing that if Oliver woke up someone he trusted would be able to tell him what was happening and reassure him that his mother wasn't possessed, that writhing around on the bed yelling about pressure an butts falling off was a normal part of having a baby.
Around that same time the second midwife showed up so my primary checked again to see if I was still grunt-pushing against cervix. I could have told her that I was still pushing against cervix. I could feel that lip with every uncontrollable grunt and my 'doula brain' was not at all happy about it but she was not in control. My primal brain was pushing, my body thought it was ready. The midwives then told me that I could either change positions to see if that helped or they could try and push the lip away with the next contraction. My primal brain, which was the one connected to my mouth, said 'no I can't move'. And my 'doula brain' threw up her hands in frustration.
After just one surge baring down with the midwife trying to move my cervix primal brain caught up and realized her mistake (OUCH!) so I moved onto hands and knees.
The second I got to my knees my membranes finally, mercifully, gloriously ruptured on their own but the relief was really short lived because with the next surge I yelled 'there he is!' and I felt his head, then for some reason second guessed myself and asked 'what is that!?' (I laugh at myself for this now. Of course it was him! What else would it be!?) with the next surge I felt his shoulders rotate and suddenly there he was.
At 11:15pm The midwife guided him from my womb under my legs and up into my arms. I looked up at Kevin first as if to say 'holy f*ck that just happened'. Then down at my baby.
The first thing I said after Oliver was born was 'oh my god look at all that hair!' and apparently I was expecting the same for this baby because the first words out if my mouth were 'where's all your hair!? You're bald!' And really I think the most shocking thing to me about Sullivan is how very different he is from Oliver. His pregnancy, birth, postpartum, appearance, temperament, everything is so very very different. I am a new mom all over again.
I don't know where people get this idea that second or subsequent babies make you a 'seasoned' parent. I am 'seasoned' at parenting Oliver, but I've never parented this little guy before and I am learning everything fresh just like I did the first time.
Anyways. Once the initial meeting was over I turned to lay back and rest him on my chest to hopefully get him nursing. The midwife asked if she could cut the cord and I said to leave it for now since it was long enough to bring him up to my chest. He bobbed and looked around and made a few moves in the direction of my breast but didn't seem ready to eat so we just rested and gazed at each other.
A few minutes later I started to get uncomfortable and told the midwife I was ready to push the placenta so she clamped the cord and offered Kevin a cut. He said no and I jumped in and said I wanted to but I was shaking too much so I handed the scissors back to the midwife. As soon as that was done I pushed and coughed a few times to deliver the placenta.
Needless to say after pushing against that cervical lip and how fast he came once I moved to hands and knees, and the previous perineal damage from Oliver's birth there were stitches to be had but its amazing how much less that part sucks when you're at home in your own bed and there aren't any nurses trying to take your baby away for 'assessments' or trying to tell you it will 'be more comfortable' to hold them once that's all done, or, in Oliver's case, whisking them off to NICU. I just snuggled in and loved on my new baby and chatted with my husband and my friends and occasionally asked the midwife for more freezing.
After that because I was still bleeding a bit and Sullivan still wasn't latching I accepted a shot of synthetic oxytocin. God I hate that stuff. Immediately felt awful and the after pains got way worse but it did its job and soon I was ready to get up and get cleaned up while the midwives did the newborn check.
8lbs 7oz, 20.5 inches long, great tone and colour, heart good, chest a bit mucous-y from the fast delivery but not enough to worry.
Shortly after that the midwives snuck away to the other room to fill out their paperwork, Kevin and Nena cleaned up a bit while Kim (an IBCLC as well as my doula) helped me try a few tricks to get Sullivan latching.
We knew going in that he would likely be tongue and lip tied like Oliver and even though Sully was sliding around and sucking air and doing all the worrying things Oliver did it felt amazing to have Kim there to reassure me that it would be ok and make a plan so I could stay confident. (That's all a different story for another day)
It was 3am by the time everyone packed up and went on their way and I drifted off to sleep with Sullivan while Kevin went to crawl in with Oliver for the rest of the night.