Around 6am Christmas morning I got up to pee and discovered traces of blood. When but in the ninth month of pregnancy is blood on the toilet paper a cause for joy? It was like Christmas morning! Wait, it was Christmas morning . . .
I started having contractions, but nothing so heavy that they might not just go away. I told my husband that we’d better get present opening going so we didn’t miss our chance!
Ada, David and I had a wonderful hour opening presents while the light contractions continued. I was surprised to be feeling the contractions mostly in my lower back. Surprised, because I assumed that the back labor I experienced with Ada’s birth meant she was posterior during the labor (though she was face down when she crowned), and I knew that this baby had been anterior during the entire pregnancy, that the baby was well engaged and very low so should not be changing position.
The contractions were getting more intense, and I started going into the music room whenever I had one so that I could close the door and have silence during them. Ada was playing with her loot in the living room and David was trying to clean up enough wrapping paper to make room for the birth pool.
My mother and sister came over and took over Ada duty (she’s five years old), steering her towards the other end of the house and generally entertaining (and being entertained by) her. David had the pool blown up and filling with water. He joined me in the music room and we camped out in there for a few hours, timing contractions and reading user manuals for the Christmas toys.
We did this for hours. Hands and knees was the best position for me during contractions. As they got more intense, I found it more comfortable to hang onto David’s neck while on my knees (he was sitting on the floor). The contractions would start out feeling pretty painful, then I would start imagining my cervix opening up, and would remind myself of Ina May’s words, that this wasn’t pain, but an “interesting sensation that requires all of my attention.” Amazingly, that worked, and I told myself that as each contraction began.
Our wonderful midwife, Jill, came over maybe around 2pm. I lay on the bed while she checked all my vitals, which I knew were fine. The contractions seemed to stop while lying down, and I stayed there for ten minutes, enjoying not having contractions. Then I had a really heavy one and turned onto hands and knees to survive it.
I wanted in the pool now. It felt divine! Eight minutes passed with no contractions and I thought I might have to get out to get them going again, but the midwife said that sometimes they’ll start up again after a few minutes in the pool. She also suggested changing positions in the pool. I’d been reclining with my head resting on the side of the pool (did I mention how divine it felt?). I moved onto hands and knees. I had a contraction.
We’re going to have a baby!
So I got to stay in the pool but I soon discovered that the contractions were now intense enough that I didn’t notice the pain relief of the hot water. Between contractions, though, I was able to relax so fully that it was worth it. And the greatest benefit of the pool was the buoyancy–I did not have to hold my body up against the persistent pull of gravity!
Periodically my daughter would come into the room and say something to me briefly. One time she told me that she thought I would yell and scream, because most women yell and scream in labor. I agreed that I might, but secretly thought I would continue to manage the sensations without screaming.
Ada knew that we wanted a silent birth, and that we wanted silence during each of my contractions. She was amazingly understanding and cooperative. I saw her once melt down into a floor puddle when my mom tried to take her back out of the room, but her rebellion was COMPLETELY SILENT! And my daughter is rarely silent!
Transition hit, as we knew it would. Now I was on my knees, hanging over the side of the pool with my arms around David’s neck. I just stayed there, squeezing during contractions, and collapsing on his shoulder in exhausted silence in between. The interesting sensations were really hurting now, so that I wondered what was wrong, and wondered who had designed the process, and considered never having any more children. I didn’t vocalize any of this because I couldn’t during a contraction and I was too wiped out in between. I suspect I had all the same thoughts during Ada’s birth five years ago, but that one has faded to a rosy glow by now, with the unpleasant bits missing.
Holding On During Transition
I also remember thinking that, distasteful as back labor was, at least I had no fears that the pain was a uterine rupture!
When the pushing began, each push was accompanied by very loud, low pushing noises that I didn’t plan on, or think about. That’s just what it took to push as hard as I could. And I was pushing as hard as I could because I really wanted it to be over. According to Jill, my baby was at +2 station a week before I went into labor, so I expected pushing to go relatively quickly and easily. Baby was practically already out!
It did not seem quick, and was nothing like easy. But at last I felt the unbearable burning ring as she crowned, and squashing my first instinct to back away from that pain, I committed myself to a degree of pushing that made my prior superhuman efforts look like a tea party. I pushed, and pushed again, regathering my strength quickly so that I could push again before the urge lapsed. The contraction ended but was back again quickly and I pushed her head out.
Relief washed over me! I felt so relaxed.
Jill’s assistant, Sizzly, had joined the party before transition, and now she said, “Where’s the daughter?” and I realized Ada was missing it. Seeing as no one was making a move to get her (they were all busy attending me after all), I disregarded my plan for silent birthing, and hollered, “Ada! ADA!”
Before the head was out, I had been unable to speak even between contractions, too busy trying to recover, trying just to maintain existence . . . but now I felt completely different.
My mother, sister, and daughter rushed in and I was ready to proceed with the birth. After the baby was born, I noticed that Ada was very protective of me and would not leave my side. In retrospect I think it’s—in part—because I called her so desperately during the birth and she figured I need her. She has been so sweet and I am more in love with her than ever.
After a few moments, Jill said, “Okay—get her on the couch!” David was already behind me and lifted me by the arms, while the midwife and her assistant grabbed my legs and hauled me over to the couch a few feet away. I assumed it was shoulder dystocia, which we had experienced with my first daughter’s birth. Later I asked Jill about it and she told me that the baby’s head was born face down (anterior, as it should be) but had not rotated to line the shoulders up in the optimum position for birth. Jill was unable to get a purchase on the baby under the water and had me moved to the couch so that she could manually turn the baby.
I have no idea how common this is, or whether the baby would have turned eventually and been fine without the intervention. What I do know is that moments later, the body slid out and the baby was immediately lifted to my chest. I was reclined on the couch, leaning on David who was seated behind me, and my daughter Ada was right there watching as we tearfully held our new baby—an occasion of very raw euphoria.
Baby is here!
Our family, all together.
Ada had soon clambered onto the back of the couch where she stayed as the placenta was delivered and when I eventually moved to the bedroom, she never left my side, soon lapsing into sleep in my bed beside us. The day had started with Christmas morning and by now it was the evening of a very exciting day!
Big Sister falls asleep next to me and the baby
Annabelle was born at 6:45pm. After several minutes Ada whispered, “Is it a boy or a girl?” I lifted the baby up and David and I both reached to move aside the thick blue umbilical cord and . . . she was a girl. We didn’t settle on a name until two days later: Annabelle Apple Rosenfield.
Jill was pushing and manipulating my abdomen and she later told me that my uterus had behaved very oddly, staying high and to the right inside me. This was odd enough that both Jill and Sizzly had wondered if there could be another baby in there. Whatever the cause of the odd uterine behavior, there was NOT another baby! My uterus fell into line soon thereafter and there have been no complications in recovery.
Jill and Sizzly were great, leaving us alone to nurse for over an hour before cutting the cord and doing the newborn exam. Annabelle was nine pounds of happy perfection!
My amazing friend Rachel offered to prepare the placenta for consumption and soon served me a strawberry orange placenta smoothie crafted with such skill that the placenta content was undetectable, while the taste and benefits remained delectable. I had a wonderfully smooth recovery, felt great post-partum, and maintained an emotional and physical condition that made it easy for me to transition to stay-at-home mom of a five year old AND a newborn. Could the placenta be responsible for how pleasant it was? Consuming the placenta after birth restores vital hormones to the mother and the myriad reported benefits do include faster/easier recovery and a preventative against postpartum depression.
The recipe is about a cup of orange juice, 5-8 frozen strawberries, and 5-8 ice-cube sized pieces of placenta. Blend until smooth. Mmmm!
Rachel prepares the placenta
A perfect birth, and now we’re one very happy family!
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