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Leading up to my due date, I wondered if there was truly any way I could make it to the 17th. The baby felt SO LOW and sometimes my cervix hurt when I walked, especially in the last couple days I was pregnant. I didn't want to get my hopes up for an early labor, but I couldn't help myself when, on the Friday that Joe picked for the birth pool (Feb 4th), I started having regular, timeable Braxton Hicks contractions. Nothing hurt, but they were exactly 10 minutes apart for a couple hours. Joe and I thought, this is it! At any moment, the real contractions will start! But everything stopped.

I went to Imbolc ritual the next day, Saturday, and everyone basically said, "Oh my god, YOU'RE SO PREGNANT!" Jason told me he had been convinced I was going to go into labor during ritual. I'm sure everyone is glad I did not! I'm so glad I went to ritual. It was truly wonderful to be there.

Sunday, again, Joe and I said, THIS IS IT! All day, I'd been feeling weird and out of it; sick, tired, and feeling waves of exhaustion wash over me. I started having real contractions that came every 30 minutes for 2.5 hours. I thought I should prepare and eat something with protein, so I did, and just like that, contractions stopped.

I felt more waves of exhaustion and just a crappy "my period should start soon" heaviness in my lower abdomen over the next couple days. Joe and I ended up on a weird sleep pattern somehow, especially Joe. He decided to "re-set" his sleep schedule by just staying awake when he woke up on Tuesday morning at 2am and couldn't go back to sleep. He went to work early that same Tuesday (at 8am), and forced himself to stay awake until 10:30pm that night, though he was exhausted. Then he settled in for a good night's sleep. I had been exhausted that Tuesday so had gone back to bed that morning, and slept until one in the afternoon. Which meant that I couldn't go to bed until late, at 12:30am that night. Joe got up at 4am, unable to sleep any longer.

As I'd fallen asleep that night, feeling menstrual-like cramps, I put my hand on my belly and said, "Hi, baby boy. We're ready for you. Car seat, stroller, bags packed and in the car. And we want to meet you! So any time you're ready, just come on out, okay? But if you need to wait, you can do that too. I just want you to know we're ready!" And then I fell into a very light and restless sleep, half-woken again and again by sensations of menstrual-like cramps as I tried to just sleep through them.

Finally, at 4:30am, I woke up and had to pee (standard procedure by this point in pregnancy), and the second I sat up, a bunch of warm fluid rushed right out of me onto the sheets. "OH MY GOD," I said to myself, sudden excitement bringing me to fully awake, with the realization of what just happened. I tried to stand up but more flowed out with every movement I made, so I took off my shirt and stuck it between my legs. As I waddled to the bathroom, I stopped in the hall and waved at Joe, who sat at his computer, wearing headphones. He took them off and said, "What's up?"

"My water just broke!" I said, beaming.



"Oh my god!" he said, and started emailing work to let them know he wouldn't be in, then packed a couple last minute items.

And then we both said, okay this really IS IT this time. It was Wednesday, February 9th, one week and one day before my due date. And we had both just gotten a terrible night's sleep!

Joe posted an update on Facebook, and I put on a pad and started walking the apartment, back and forth, to start contractions. I didn't have to try very hard; they just started. I sat down to see responses to Joe's post on Facebook and was surprised to see that Ren and Sara were both online. It was nice to say hi!

I took a shower. I loved feeling the warm water and smelling my lovely lavender soap, knowing my baby was coming. I sang "Calon Lan," a Welsh song I'd sung to him many times in the shower and knew the next time I sang it to him, it would be in person. Excitement and fatigue simultaneously coursed through me. The contractions kept coming. Joe timed them and recorded them for me. Every time I felt one starting, I called out, "Joe!!" and he hit "start" on his timer then ran over to me and stood with me until I told him it ended. He even downloaded an iphone app and started using that, which was really helpful! (It's funny because now when I yell, "Joe!" across the apartment for anything, I keep thinking of that long labor process!)

I texted my doula, Tammy, and then she and I texted back and forth quite a bit during labor. We all waited for a pattern to emerge. It is supposed to work out so that contractions start a certain amount apart, regularly, like 10 minutes, and last a certain length, starting usually around 30-45 seconds. Then, they get closer together and last longer, like 5 minutes apart and lasting a minute each. We had planned to wait until contractions were 3-4 mins apart, lasting 1 minute or longer each, for an hour. Then we would head to the hospital.

Except for the part where my body didn't do that at all. Contractions were 10 mins apart, then 12, then 2, then 6, then 15. There was no pattern to be seen. For hours! But the contractions grew in intensity, heavy in my belly and crawling right up my back. Their duration was also all over the map, from 20 seconds to 2 minutes.

I tried to eat breakfast. I managed to get some down. I ate oatmeal with almonds and raisins that Joe made me. A while later, I ate these 2 little frozen breakfast sandwiches of sausage and egg and a Greek yogurt a couple hours after that. The worst was trying to eat the oatmeal. Contractions already felt strong, but I was so hungry and knew I needed energy. I got on my hands and knees on the floor to just sway through the contractions. I had a pillow next to me, and during contractions, I put my head on the pillow in some odd combination of downward dog and child's pose Yoga positions. Then when I felt it was over, I grabbed my spoon and quickly ate another bite of oatmeal before the next one began. It was crazy! It was also annoying because I was SO HUNGRY and really wanted to eat that oatmeal before it got cold!

I spent a lot of time sitting and bouncing on the birth ball after that. Joe played videos and music to entertain me. We played upbeat stuff. But it was a mix, because it was Joe's iTunes playing on shuffle. This beautiful song that I LOVE but did not know the name of came on, and I said how much I loved it. (It's a really famous song, and later, I asked Joe about it - it's "Time to Say Goodbye") Since it was just the instrumental version, Joe found the Paul Potts version from "Britain's Got Talent," and we watched that as I just cried so much. (I love that Paul Potts!)

Joe worried about me, but I told him I just felt very vulnerable to crying today and planned to roll with it. That song, and the "Numa Numa" song came on, among many others. But for some reason, those are now the two birthing songs that stand out to me!

After I ate, I spent time lying on my side on the couch while Joe played Enya music for me. I practiced the "sleep imitation" relaxation from our natural childbirth Bradley class through the contractions. I really enjoyed lying there on the living room couch in the low light, with blankets over me, just concentrating on having everything in my body go really limp. I took the time to do my Druid two powers meditation quickly, and imagined my Inner Grove, the inner sacred space I had been meditating with for years, seeing myself there and in this world simultaneously. I thought of the goddess, Brigid, who we had honored at Imbolc, goddess of children, and women in childbirth, and saw myself in my Inner Grove's birthing cave with her, and I said to myself "Osclaitear na Geatai anois," an Irish phrase from ritual meaning "Let the gates be open." I knew my own body's gates needed to open, and trusted that they would. Then I let go, and cleared my mind as much as possible...

After spending some time on the couch, I moved to the bed and continued the still, sleep-imitation technique, remembering the book from class saying this is what animals do. I thought of cats and cows, dogs and whales all laboring and giving birth right now, too.

Joe joined me and lied down in bed with me, and I started crying. He asked what was wrong, and I said nothing. I said, "It's just I can't help thinking of it ALL. That this was where we were lying when I got back in bed to tell you the pregnancy test was positive, and this is where we are now. It's just... it's all so amazing."

"You're amazing," he said softly and smiled as he held my hand. Then we kissed.

Tammy texted to ask how it was going and I told her about the irregular contraction pattern, and she asked about the pain. I said it was pretty intense and that a large part of the pain I felt was in my back. Tammy said it sounded like the baby was turned the wrong way (facing my belly button instead of my spine), and wanted me to try some things.

First I stayed in bed and had Joe come around to the side. I pulled up on my knee of the top leg, and Joe pushed down on my hip. This was to loosen the muscles and hips to give baby some room to rotate.

Then we moved to the couch. I kneeled on the couch, and Joe helped me lower the top half of my body down to the floor, where I rested on my forearms. This put my hips higher than the rest of my body. I did this for 3 deep breaths, then got back up. And we repeated this 3 times.
I sat on the birth ball to do hula hoop hip movements for a while, as per another suggestion Tammy made. Then I just leaned on my birth ball, knees on floor, the rest of my body flopped over the ball. Joe played music, while I now moaned softly through each contraction. I made several trips to the bathroom, as my body got rid of all unnecessary cargo. One of these trips led to the discovery of the loss of my mucous plug!

Then I got up to grab a worry stone rock that my friend, Jack, gave me. I received a lot of beautiful stones from friends at my mother's blessing ritual, but that one in particular spoke to me, and was the perfect size to hold in the palm of my hand. It was thin and smooth, so I flopped back over my birth ball, and swayed and moaned through contractions while rubbing my thumb back and forth over the stone.

The pain increased in my back, so I asked Joe to please push on my sacrum, right in the middle of my lower back during a contraction. It helped so much that I asked him to do it for every contraction. He tested out rubbing me in circles but I just needed constant pressure instead. "No, no, just push," I said. It helped SO much.

Things soon got crazier, more intense. I talked to Tammy on the phone a few times, and we'd continued texting between contractions, but they'd already gotten strong enough that I wanted to concentrate on rocking through them, so Joe texted her back for me. Tammy asked if I wanted her to come. I said, sure, in an hour. Then I had a really crazy contraction, much more severe than the previous ones. It startled me how different it was. There was still a lot of time left ahead, and I wondered how I'd ever get through this. I cried pretty hard for a couple minutes after it ended while Joe rubbed me and reassured me. He asked if I was okay, and I said I was, that that was just a big one, and that I'd be okay. I reminded myself that I just needed to get through one contraction at a time. I grabbed my phone while still draped over the birth ball and texted Tammy, "Nevermind, that last one was awful. Please come."

And she did. I could hear her climbing the stairs outside (you can always hear when people are on that staircase, it's kind of weird!) when a new contraction hit. Joe hit "start" on his phone, unlocked the door for Tammy, ran over to me and pushed on my back while I stood behind my desk chair, swaying on it. It was intense and built, then built more, then maybe subsided the smallest bit, then grew and grew and grew and I moaned loudly. I couldn't believe it and started to feel desperate and a little scared. Finally it ended, and Joe said, "Uh, that one was 3 and a half minutes..." GAH!! This was crazy.

"It just kept going?" Tammy asked.

"Yeah, oh my god.." I said, and crawled back to my birth ball, which felt much better than standing behind my chair.

All of a sudden another one hit, and I rocked on the birth ball, and moaned through it while Joe and Tammy reminded me to just breathe, and Tammy rubbed my back. After it was over, I said, "That was the worst one."

Tammy nodded and said, "That was the strongest one."

And I thought that was really cool. Okay. Strongest, yes. Not worse. None of this is bad. It's all work towards the baby. Okay, here we go...

PART 2

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October 2014

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