Harrison’s birth started Saturday. Crystal was two weeks past due and everyone was getting anxious. We had been doing things since the end of week 39 to encourage labor to start. Primrose oils, baths, massages, walking… you name it. In all we estimate that labor was between 60 and 72 hours. Crystal’s version of accounts are fantastic complete with pictures. I recommend it.
On Saturday we started contractions. 4 to 5 minutes apart lasting from 45 to 60 seconds. They were regular and lasted most of the day. We called one of the midwives, Michelle, and let her know that things were getting started but not to come down just yet. After all, we were just getting started on dilating. The goal is 10cm and we were at most 2cm. There wasn’t many contractions before this point except the occasional crapinesss of pressure.
Things settled down for a couple hours here and there during the first two days. Enough for Crystal to get a break but not long enough for her to sleep. She was in a fairly good mood. She would place her hands on her belly and whisper to the precious payload inside: come on out little whoever you are. It’s time. Crystal was joking and would smile stopping only to ride out a contraction. They were mild and we actually were able to take Crystal for a walk to the mall Saturday. Friday Crystal was still not having contractions but taking a walk with Rae Anne did increase discomfort and triggered off and on contractions Friday just not long or frequent enough to start the labor timer.
We were fighting time. Crystal and I are overweight and so already we were up against the medical establishment regarding having a normal birth as it is. Secondly, we were attempting what is called a v-back. Henry was a normal birth. Helen was a Caesarean, and now we were back to doing a vaginal birth. All except one hospital in this area have policies against allowing v-backs because of a less than quarter percent chance something may go wrong and we’d have to have an emergency Caesarean. That left Tacoma General but rather than to meddle with a whole new set of OBs and doctors, stay home as long as possible, and then rush to the hospital; we figured that if we’re home for 90% of the birth process why not finish it there? Hence the decision to stay home to have our baby.
The due date is an estimate. Babies all grow at exactly the same rate up until a certain time period and then genetics and other factors start deviating due dates. Really, it should be 40 weeks +/- 3 weeks. But like I mentioned earlier, the stereotyping of fatter people has already begun with scaremongering about us having a massive baby. After all, until a couple months before this time we were still seeing the previous midwives who had helped with Henry and Helen. I think it’d be better to describe the Pearl Place Midwives has “medwives” because ultimately they are extremely entangled in the current “standard of care” medical establishment that resorts to interventions the minute things aren’t 100% easy. It is too bad that insurance, litigation, and pharmaceuticals have all taken the birth experience and turned it into what it is today.
So given those factors we were understandably a little worried but we knew that people have been having babies for thousands of years and God had designed our bodies to do this. We had a back-up plan for that tiny percent chance if something went wrong. We had two babies prior: we were going to be okay.
Contractions started up around 9 or 10 every night and lasted most of the night petering off around 5 in the morning. These night contractions were more intense with each night. When I said petering off, it wasn’t that they stopped. They just greatly reduced in frequency and intensity.
We actually went for a walk Saturday at a shopping mall to encourage labor to continue by putting pressure on the cervix. By this time I have become fairly familiar with checking the cervix and feeling how far Crystal was dilated. 2, 3, 4cm. We were now on day two of contractions and had grown one centimetre a day. If this was the case six more days of this sort of labor seemed… impossible. Over time the dilation increased but was slow nonetheless. It was hugely demoralizing.
Nana, Crystal’s mom, took our two kids out from the house Sunday allowing us to labor together. I tried to be as encouraging as possible. Crystal was understandably hormonal and irritated. I was trying to sound like I knew she was ok, her body would do this fine, and so on but it was extremely hard to reason with her. More so because she has a huge passion to be a childbirth educator and knows quite a bit about everything that’s going on.
By this point we’d been going on for two days. We filled the birthing tub and Crystal was starting to really moan through the contractions. It was getting really difficult to sit through them. The midwives came, checked on Crystal. And then in the middle of the day things stopped. Things picked up enough for us to called midwives Monday and they came only to have things stop or calm down a little in the middle of the day. We weren’t getting the rapid contractions and dilation that would require them there so they left.
By Monday afternoon Crystal was done dealing with the tiredness. It had been painful, exhausting and the poor girl hadn’t slept or eaten since Friday night. She had become extremely nauseous and couldn’t keep food down except water and the occasional nut.
Monday evening Crystal had become almost inconsolable. The hormones were everywhere, the contractions slowed again, and here we were looking at the prospect of yet another sleepless night in misery. She was dilating all along. One centimetre a day. By this point she was a solid six maybe even seven centimetres; fully effaced. I had become quite the doctor dad by this point.
We went for a walk hoping it’d rejuvenate Crystal like it had the previous day. She was a wreck. I felt horrible. Almost defeated. I felt like I had failed to help her through things and she was spinning down to just getting to a hospital for an epidural to help her sleep. She says it wasn’t the pain. I believe her. All this time the pain has yet to become massively intense. Unlike with Henry it wasn’t back labor so everything was different. Things were dragging on and on. The prospect of pushing on no sleep or energy was daunting.
I am not sure what sort of birth partner I turned out to be. Only Crystal can answer that. I tried my best until this point to answer every whim for Crystal. Drinks, snacks, massages, lighting, tubs, candles, music, cervical dilation/effacement checks; you name it – I was on it. But at this point after 3 days, I felt like maybe this wasn’t going to happen. After all, she is the expert. She knows the details.
We talked during the walk. Cried. Argued. It was difficult. We needed Crystal to relax and even sleep. Stress seemed to be stalling labor. Take some non-prescription sleeping aids and some calcium/magnesium to relax the muscles and go to bed. Crystal was furious. She just wanted sleep. She was not dilating. Now was the moment to go to the hospital if we had to.
The baby through all this was fine. The heart rate was in the normal range from 120 to 160 beats per minute. Fluid levels from that week’s ultrasound indicated normal. Momma’s blood pressure was great. We were two weeks past due. Everything seemed okay. We were confident they were. But so tired.
Crystal relented and tried to relax. Nana had come back and brought us something to eat. I ate but Crystal didn’t touch anything. She was miserable. I felt horrible for her. Henry and Helen played a little and went to bed. This night we’d gone to bed a party of four. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 27th of April, we’d awake (well, the kids would awake) a party of five.
At around the same time as the previous couple days Crystal began having intense contractions. Shivers. Really bad. I told her to wait until midnight and that we’d check and then go to the hospital if she didn’t get enough rest. She tried to change the time to 11:30. The pressure was intense on the cervix. She wanted the tub. It didn’t seem to ease the suffering as much.
Shivers. More consistent contractions. Could this be transition? It had all the signs except the rapid succession contractions. I call the midwives and we decide that they should come. We’re having the baby tonight.
Previously when Crystal had labored in the birthing tub we’d bail a few gallons and then fill it with hot water from the hot water line going into the clothes washer. The day before we lit candles, tuned Pandora to Nora Jones and she enjoyed it. Today, no way. She was trying to get comfortable or to let herself ease a little but things weren’t getting better. She got out of the tub and her momma blow dried her hair.
The midwives arrived and checked Crystal. She was at a solid seven centimetres but with what Crystal was going through decided that it was time. They sprung into action arranging their supplies, tools, oxygen; whatever was needed in case it was needed. We decided to break the water to encourage things to move along. With Henry we had broken the water and Crystal went from five centimetres to ten in less than 15 minutes.
Crystal was in her maternity night gown. She looked very pretty and I helped her. She hung off me, squeezed my hands, moved around, sat on the toilet, used the ball, and whatever to make things easier to cope with. We were all now waiting for the inevitable. The midwives sat and chit chatted in the office coming by once an hour to check the baby’s heart rate. Crystal needed some antibiotic administered because she’s a strep carrier so we needed to make sure the baby wasn’t taking on more risk of infection. It was significant.
We wanted to have a home birth. I’ve said this before. A trifecta of birth stories. Hospital birth, Caesarean, and home birth. A home birth with midwives being the most natural, non-invasive possible. If something went wrong and we did have to rush to the hospital we were prepared to do so. Had we not made sure charts and things like antibiotics were administered to this point th hospitals are required to call CPS on us! So we made sure that wasn’t going to be possible hence the 15 minutes of antibiotics. Once it was done though, no more.
Having broken the water at around 2 or so in the morning, the pushing phase came around 5. Crystal was fully effaced and at 9 or more centimetres. The baby had dropped to a +1 position and everything was looking excellent. So then the urge to push began. Through all the checking we discovered Crystal had a cervical lip. No big deal. A few more hours and the baby may have eventually pushed past it but the midwives and I urged Crystal to do a cervical reduction which in layman’s terms is the midwife takes her hands and stretches the cervix apart during a contraction while the mother pushes. It is as painful as it sounds. Crystal really wanted to do it without any help not just as an at home experience but without rushing things. This meant Crystal would have to not push during her now urge to push during her push contractions. Okay, also if not more painful than it sounds.
We tried the tub again. Nope that didn’t help. Crystal tried to labor in different positions with this new requirement. It was very difficult. At around 6 in the morning Crystal relented to our pleas to have the midwives try the reduction. In my opinion it is still natural. It worked! It was quite the feat but she had done it. Crystal was now on the bed because she had to be on her back for the midwives to do this. Nana and I were there letting her squeeze our hands. We put cold compresses on her forehead. Whatever she needed.
Once the head made it past the cervix things moved very quickly. The baby was born at 7:11 so I’ll try and summarize how things went up to that point. Basically, every contraction that came Crystal was now able to push. This was a great releif to her. We helped hold up her legs. We started to see the babies head!
Crystal was a bit… overwhelmed at this point. She was in the middle of unimaginable pain and what not. She was fairly convinced that the midwife, Mif, had her hand inside still even though it wasn’t the case. She was pleading with her to get it out. We could all see what looked like a little dark sock scrunched and making its way out. She needed to see it. My assurances weren’t enough. I ran to the hallway and grabbed the giant mirror and held it up for her to see herself. This worked. The discomfort and pain suddenly made sense and she started pushing. The baby’s head exited at 7:06 or so.
At this point no thanks to the “medwives” charts the midwives thought that the baby was “turtling” which is where the baby will pull its head back in to clear a way for the shoulders. It wasn’t the case. The baby was simply turning and everything was okay. Anyway, the younger midwife, Michelle, put her hand along the baby’s head to feel the shoulders and slurp; out shoots the baby.
It was that quick. Not even a chance for me to catch the baby. In her excitement Nana shouted that it was a boy which didn’t quite register with me or Crystal. Crystal just said “Thank you Jesus” and I was just crying my eyes out. Real men cry. I was fairly disappointed that I didn’t get to see and announce the sex but oh well.
I looked at him as they moved him up onto momma. I searched to verify the sex and caught a breif glimpse of the baby. I think I saw. Not sure. He lay there on momma’s chest breathing even opening his eyes. “Welcome my friend” I told him. It was hugely emotional for all of us.
He was beautiful. 8 pounds, 14 ounces ish. Not over weight. No large shoulders. No signs of gestational diabetes. Take that “medwives”. Take that system. Take that hospitals, lawyers, and doctors. God’s perfect design worked just fine. He had tonnes of vertex on his body, baby hair all over, minimal malconium, and his ears had cartilage. He appeared like a 36 week old baby but was calculated as two weeks late. Momma’s oven is a slow cooker. That is perfectly ok.
During all this I did my best to take video… check ins I guess. I’d record Crystal to see how she was feeling and get a little about the situation. During birth itself I tried to take some pictures while Nana took video but it was all over the place. Our memories will serve us best.
The cord eventually stopped pumping blood and Michelle clamped it handing me a pair of cord scissors to cut it. I did so with three snips as it was very large and thick. Probably the only unusual part of the baby which at this point didn’t even really matter. Thankfully these scissors actually worked unlike the dull crap ones I used at the hospital with Henry.
We then moved baby onto a breast to encourage nursing. He found and started chugging right away. The placenta came out a half hour or so later. Contractions continued followed by crampiness for a couple days. A complete success. Beautiful. Natural. Amazing. Bonding for Crystal, her mom, the midwives, and us.
Henry woke up from bed at 8:30 or so. Nana told him he had a new baby brother. He scrambled down the bunk bed and ran to the room. Naked, he climbed up onto the bed next to momma and checked out the new baby. He was excited and happy. He knew what this was all about. The kids, thankfully, had slept all night through all of it. Crystal, Nana, and I were all super tired but glad that it had gone well and that it was over. The baby was completely normal and healthy.
Michelle Hill and Miff Carlson are two very experienced and professional midwives about whom I can only have the highest of praises. Mif has over 30 years of experience as a midwife and Michelle has been actively delivering babies in third world countries and teaching at UW about child birth. They compliment one another and I am happy with both of them. I feel that with Mif’s more direct approach to the reduction we really helped Crystal a lot. Michelle has an organized approach and you can be confident she is ready for anything.
The whole birth is a waiting game. Our bodies are designed to have babies. We are extremely happy we had Harrison at home and that everything went well. He’s been happy and Crystal has recovered much more quickly than had she had a Caesarean. There weren’t any monitors, IVs, uncomfortable beds, or other things that seem to be the norm even with regular hospital births.
Michelle will come by a few more times to check on Crystal and the baby making sure that everything is healing up ok. She administered to Crystal a Rogain shot so that we can have more babies if we chose to.
Throughout all this starting Friday night I was horribly sick with an immense sore throat. Saturday through Monday were the worst days not only to be sick but the fatigue, pain, fever, and other symptoms were bad. I was self medicating with Advil, Tylenol, water, and frequent tea to manage the symptoms and to try and try to flush this horrible thing out as soon as possible. Surprisingly, two weeks after the baby was born I am just now stopping waking up with nasty, chunky phlegm in the back of my throat. I was almost useless Saturday and Sunday during the birth. I felt horrible and tried to sleep while Crystal took care of herself. What timing. I was incredibly upset with myself for getting that sick at one of the worst times imaginable. Helping deliver babies while being horribly sick is no fun! I didn’t want to mention it but it impacted us so much.