Saturday, January 21, 2012

Henry's Birth, Part 1

No time for a proper introduction to this--if I try, I will surely never ever ever post it. So here you go! The first part of what will quite possibly be the longest birth story ever told.


I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, but they didn't hurt at all. The only way I could tell I had them was that I felt out of breath for 20-30 seconds (I guess because they were squeezing my uterus up and squashing my lungs even more?). On Sunday, July 10th, I woke up around 9am, and Chris was still sleeping. As I lay there slowly waking up, I felt a Braxton Hicks like usual—except that this one came with period-like cramping and slight achiness in my lower back. I was super excited and really, really, really hoped it was the day, but I kept telling myself it could be days of this.

I had three more contractions like that while I lay there waiting for Chris to wake up, and as soon as he woke up I told him what was happening. (I may have jostled around more than usual, flipping and sighing, to encourage him to join the land of the living.) We were both trying to play it cool so as not to be disappointed if nothing happened for a while. We lay there talking it all through (our usual way of dealing with things)--the possibility that today might be the day, and the greater possibility that we would need to wait longer, what our day would look like either way. For some reason, one of the main reasons I hoped I would go into labor that day was so that I wouldn't have to go for antenatal testing the next day. Not really sure now why that was such a huge deal in my mind.

Finally we decided to get out of bed and start the day. When I sat on the edge of the bed, I felt a tiny gush and wondered if it was my water breaking, but when I looked, there was a bright red spot of blood on the sheet. I had read about bloody show, but anytime it was mentioned in a birth story I read, it was described as light brown or tan, so the bright red blood kind of scared me. I worried that maybe something was wrong. I got up and told Chris, and then mulled it over while Chris made us breakfast.

After breakfast we decided to call our midwife to let her know what was going on and ask her about the blood. She reassured me that the blood was normal and said the crampy contractions were a good sign, but that it could still be days. She encouraged us to go about our day and try not to think about it too much.

I decided we needed to clean the house, just in case I did go into active labor that day, so we cleaned for a couple hours. For the first hour and a half, I moved and cleaned through contractions, giving Chris a running commentary of the duration and feel of each one. I process things verbally, much to Chris’ dismay sometimes. :) Chris tried to downplay it and get me to think about other things because he thought I was obsessing. But little by little I started sitting down during each contraction, and then I was sitting and gripping the sides of the chair during them and thinking to myself, these are very unfun. It seems like three things happened all at once: sitting during contractions no longer helped, I stopped being able to think very well during them, and Becky texted me asking what we were up to and when she should come over.

I had thought a few times about texting her to let her know I was having contractions, but I was still holding onto the idea of the three of us watching movies all day, me sitting on the yoga ball, and maybe occasionally going on short walks. Along with that idea, I envisioned her coming over as she normally would, so that I could surprise her with the fact that I was in labor. So I hadn’t let her know what was going on yet, and by the time she texted me, I couldn’t think well enough to reply. In between contractions, I told Chris that Becky had texted me, and I guess he contacted her and told her to come over, because she arrived after I had moved to my next position: squatting in the bathroom doorway.

I ended up there because I wanted to kind of hang from something (kind of like with water skiing, where you hold the handles, plant your feet, bend your knees and let your butt fall back a little). The pressure of the chair on my butt was no longer working for me, but standing up wasn’t working for me, either. I had a lot of very low back achiness and pressure at that point. I wanted to squat, and I found that moving my hips back and forth and in circles distracted me just enough from the intensity of the contraction to make it bearable.

So there I was, standing in the bathroom doorway, gripping one side of the doorframe with my butt to the other side. During a contraction I would grip the doorframe, drop my hips down in a squat, and sway my hips back and forth. I wanted Chris near me, and after trying a few different things I settled on him being directly behind me. During each contraction, he applied pressure to my lower back as I pressed my hips into his thighs (while still swaying them). Basically, we were grinding in the bathroom doorway. Sadly (or happily), there is no photo documentation of this.

It was in the bathroom doorway that I began to vocalize (low moaning), and I never looked back—I just got louder and louder, actually. I was experiencing so much intense pressure, and it had to get out somehow. To me, it was as if during a contraction the pressure built and built, and by moaning and moving my hips I was letting some of it out, the way you let air out of a balloon or tire. If I didn’t focus on keeping my moans low and deep, if Chris wasn’t in his position behind me, and if I didn’t start swaying, I would start to panic. I’d get more high-pitched and I’d start to freak out about the intensity and say “oh no” and “I can’t.” Then once Chris was in position and I had forced myself to do what I needed to do, it became more manageable and I could make it through. So I learned to make sure we were all set up ahead of time, the moment I sensed the next contraction was coming.

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