So, May arrived and we knew Jane would come any day. We had not decided on a name. I think some of the top contenders were Caroline, Mette, Iris, and Jane. I frantically nested and organized, painted and prodded Eric to do projects. We all thought that Jane would probably come early (as Hope and Esther had), and that she would come quickly (as Hope and Esther had). Not so. Bethany Darling and I shared a due date, and Clementine was born a week early. I did not even go see her in the hospital, due to my jealousy and despair, and also a stomach virus that was raging through the house. I remember sitting like a beached whale on the curb in front of our house while Esther threw up into the gutter. Later, I sat like a beached whale on the front steps while Hope threw up on the sidewalk.... I did somehow manage to get up and hose down both spots.
Finally, on Jane's actual due date, I started the day by feeling "funny". As the day progressed, a beautiful sunny spring day, I experienced contractions frequently. Somehow I knew that these were not doing much, even if they did hurt. I didn't call Eric to come home from work, despite the fact that our original plan had been to call him immediately to high tail it home. The general consensus had been that this baby (being the 4th in a line of quick births) could be born in the car on the way to the hospital. To tell you the truth, I think Jane was not positioned well to descend with the contractions. She was way to horizontal, due to the fact that I was carrying so "out". Also, after months of chronic pain, I was not optimistic that my body would do the right thing in labor, so I think I was subconsciously resisting labor. I repeatedly told people that I wished I didn't have such strong convictions about natural birth because it sounded awesome to schedule a C-section! I had finally recognized the pride in my heart that had driven me to take such a hard line approach to childbirth, and at this point, I had nothing left to prove. By God's grace, I had successfully had three wonderful natural births. Nothing left to prove, and a lot of exhaustion, pain, and doubt.
Eric came home after work, my contractions ebbing and flowing all day. We had a babysitter, Beth Wilson, come over and we went to a parenting class at church. I was greatly encouraged by the theme verse for the night, "Count it all joy brothers, when you endure trials of various kinds..." This was a trial of a various kind, and I would try to labor in joy. I couldn't sit in the chair, and contractions were getting stronger, so I walked up and down the stairs of the church office while listening to the teaching. After getting home from the meeting, I knew this was it. Although I still expected it to go slowly, I started to gather stuff and try to decide if we should go to bed or just go to the hospital. By this time, it had started raining. I was having contractions that really hurt, so Beth Wilson and Maureen Gray (really not sure how Maureen was already there), gathered the older girls in their arms and walked them through the rain down to the Gray's to go back to bed.
Eric and I officially left for the hospital, and the rainstorm of the night began in earnest. We drove the 20 minutes to Riverside with pouring rain, thunder and lightening. We parked and started walking into the hospital through pouring rain, sloshing in deep puddles. I was wearing my black chaco sandals, a black knit skirt, and a grey striped t-shirt, which were all soaked by the time we got inside. In the wetness outside, I had thought that possibly my water had broken, but when I was examined a few minutes later, it turned out that I had peed my pants during a contraction. An awesome perk of womanhood...
When the nurse checked me in, it was just a little before midnight and I was dialated to 5 cm. Relieved to be at 5 cm, I knew that it could be only a few hours. On the other hand, I had been contracting all day and only gotten to 5 cm. What!?!? We decided to walk the halls, and with each contraction I became more and more insolent and angry. Pain is lame. We had brought a big burgundy bath towel from home, so with each contraction, Eric would use the towel from behind to pull my belly upward. This was a variation on the common use of the Rebozo in Latin America. The towel pulled the belly upward, making the baby more vertical and puting more direct pressure on my cervix. This was very helpful.
Labor progressed normally for me, the main difference being that it was a little slower (though the same pattern) as the other girls. The other marked difference was that I was trying to submit to the pain and open up to let my body do it's work, but instead of being happily resigned to it, I was angrily and doubtfully resigned. Every time the midwife took vitals or checked on baby, I expected her to discover a complication. Not a healthy frame of mind.
After awhile I took a warm bath, which totally stalled labor and I practically went to sleep. Sleeping sounded great since I had been up almost 24 hours by this point. My mom was there to offer support and homeopathic remedies, so she gave me a few things that helped the labor kick back in again. Eric was coming off of the family stomach virus and also really tired, so he had a hard time sticking with me. We had always had a "day job" baby before... labor starts in the morning and baby is born sometime in the day, so this stay-up-all-night labor was rough.
Around 4:00 AM, the midwife, Heather, checked me and I was between a 7 and 8. We decided that I would labor walking for another hour, hopefully be at least at 8.5 cm, fill the birth tub, break my water, and baby would be born. I set a mental goal to have this baby by 5:00 AM.
So, we painfully labored and walked. Around 5:00 AM, my mental state was shifting, back labor was in full force, and I knew I was getting closer. I pretty much announced that I was ready to be done, so lets move on with the plan. Thankfully I was getting close to 9cm, so I got totally naked and ready to get in the birthing pool. Unfortunately, the nurses had never used a birthing pool, and were really slow. So, for the next 45 minutes, I stood in the room, naked and contracting, in transition, waiting for the pool to fill up.
Eventually, the midwife decided that the equipment in the room was not working properly, and I was required to put my clothes back on, walk down the hall, and start this in a new room. We were mad. I was trying to control my anger because I wanted to be in a good place when I finally got in the pool, and I didn't want to be a jerk to the nurses. I was also worried that my contractions were slowing down, so for over an hour I refused to sit down, but stood swaying, gyrating, and generally trying to help labor progress. Eric was getting mighty sick of pulling with all his might on our makeshift Rebozo.
By 5:30, I got in the tub. Pubic Symphosis Disorder (the source of all of my crotch pain) can be much worse during pushing and crowning, so I was determined to have a water birth in order to minimize the pain. Once I was in the pool, all went as planned. The midwife broke my water, and within a minute or two I was dying to push. The midwife had stepped out of the room, so a kind, veteran nurse read my signs and jumped in the deliver the baby. With the first push, she was crowning, with the second push her head was out, then two pushed later shoulders and baby were totally out. The midwife was there for about half of it. Sure enough, the water birth was less painful.
The stinky part (no pun intended) about a water birth, is all the nasty stuff in the water afterwards. Also, it really stinks to get out of the warm water and onto the cold bed to birth the placenta. Still, the miracle of birth had occurred. A beautiful, simple, natural birth. A healthy baby and Mom, proud dad. The oxytocin did wonderful things to my brain, and my anger and doubt diminished. Now I was thankful, proud, and in awe. Breastfeeding went well, and I was filled with peace.
To be continued...