My labor with Flora was pretty different from those of my previous babies, whose labors had all pretty much followed the same pattern.
The reason for this is that she was in the posterior, or sunny-side-up position. Linus had been facing this way as well, which had been very concerning to me as my pregnancy with him progressed. During that last month of pregnancy, I tried all sorts of positions and tricks to help him to turn. A week before he was born, much to my relief, he did turn, and I was able to have a very straight-forward labor.
This time around.....all I can say is, I got lazy. I didn't feel like contorting myself into all the awkward positions each night after the kids were in bed, in hopes of turning the baby. The midwives assured me that as long as a baby was head-down, a natural labor was totally possible....just that a sunny-side-up baby may take "more work." I guess I just decided I was willing to find out what "more work" meant...
On a Thursday morning, six days before my due date, I began having some light contractions. I sent Tom and my doula texts to put them "on alert," and excitedly waited for them to pick up. But they never did. They just fizzled out. Over the next four days, the same thing frustratingly kept happening. I'd start having contractions, they'd build for a while, and then gradually peter our. Night-times were the worst, for some reason, with a lot of extra strong contractions that kept waking me up every half hour. On Sunday night,they got so bad that I couldn't stay lying down at all. I attempted to take a bath, but my stomach was so large, it mostly stuck out of the water, and didn't benefit from the soothing warmth of the water at all. I ended up "sleeping" (but not really) in a rocking chair in our bedroom, cushioned with every pillow I could gather from around the house,
That morning (Monday), Tom opened his eyes a little before his alarm rang, and I said, "I'm done! This cannot continue another night. I need to have this baby today!" He suggested I try [TMI WARNING!] nipple stimulation to get the contractions to pick up. I figured it was now or never, because I didn't want him to leave for work only to have me call him back home later. Well, it was immediately effective. Contractions quickly picked up to every six minutes - the closest and most regular they had been yet - and were getting stronger. We started making the phone calls - to the midwives, my doula, and someone - anyone - who could come take all our kids at 7 in the morning.
Due to some miscommunication, my mother - who was the one supposed to be "on call" at that time - couldn't end up taking our kids. We had to call my dad, who was already at work. The midwife wanted me to come in right away, since I was GBS-positive this pregnancy, so there was no time to wait for my dad get to our house. We had to take all the kids with us to the hospital where he would meet us to get the kids as soon as possible....even though this meant making him drive into the city during rush hour.
Tom and the kids brought me to the delivery room, then went out to walk the halls and wait for my dad (Tom didn't want to kids around to watch me in labor, since it would have been concerning to them and/or distracting to me). My doula still hadn't arrived either.
I was getting a little concerned because - once again! - my contractions were starting to peter out. I worried that the midwife would tell me I had come in too early, and we needed to go back home, and had just wasted everyone's time. But when she checked my dilation, I was already 8 cm! I guess the four days-worth of contractions really paid off! She told me, "your bag of waters is right here. I could break it now, and you'd have this baby." I explained to her that I definitely did want her to break it soon (my water has never broken on its own, and I've always asked the midwives to do it when I'm close to the end and things are starting to stall out), but that I absolutely wanted to wait until my husband and my doula were there first!
Well, my doula arrived in pretty short order. My husband was another story. It ended up taking my dad an hour and a half to get to the hospital! During that time, I was pretty much just chilling on a birth ball, having occasional - but not intense - contractions, and chatting with my doula and the friendly but socially-awkward nurse.
When Tom finally walked in, we were all very ready to get started. "Alright, let's have this baby!" said my midwife. She had me get back on the bed so she could break my water. But - and I'm not entirely clear on the details here - the baby had changed position such that there wasn't much she could do. The midwife could only access a little piece of the amniotic sac, and so hardly any fluid came out, and it didn't release much pressure.
My midwife said we needed to get contractions to pick up again. She said I could try nipple stimulation again, or we could use Pitocin. Well, Pitocin is basically my worst fear when it comes to birth (aside from a c-section), so I agreed to try things the old-fashioned way. Once again, it was immediately effective, and I began having strong contractions again.
After several contractions hadn't brought any progress, it was clear that the baby just didn't want to move down. I was almost fully dilated, but the baby's head was still not fully engaged in my pelvis. Because she was facing the wrong way, it was hard for her to move down - the geometry just didn't work out very well.
My midwife told me I'd have to push the baby down. "Oh, but I don't feel like I have to push yet," I naively replied. Yes, she told me, but I would have to push anyways. And while I did that, she would manually push back that last lip of cervix to try to get it over the baby's head. Sounds fun, right?
I won't say it's the most painful labor I've experienced, but there was something quite unpleasant about those next five or six contractions. I was asked to bring on each one myself, using nipple stimulation. It was like I was willingly and knowingly subjecting myself to misery.....a feeling that's distinctly different from having to deal with a contraction that comes upon you on its own, a suffering that you just have to bear with. My midwife would nod to tell me it was time to make another one happen. I would frown and whine, then just go ahead with it. A contraction would start immediately, and then I'd have to push, even though my body didn't "want" to push. It was strange and unpleasant.
As the nurse was setting up the room for the delivery, I asked her to bring over the mirror on a pole for me again. I love that thing. I've given birth to all my babies while semi-reclined on my back - which is actually a great position for me. With the mirror at the foot of the bed, I can watch all the action as the baby is coming out, and I find it incredibly motivating. After one of my pushes finally brought the baby down, and I finally saw her little head in the mirror, I was ready. One big push, and she was out!
Tom may be a little embarrassed about me sharing this detail on the internet, but, well, he burst into tears as soon as he saw her...the way he's done at the birth of all our kids. I think it's very sweet. Meanwhile, I always just kind of lay there for a few moments in stunned silence, not sure if I can believe that it's finally over.
Flora was the most vernix-y baby I've ever seen. Vernix is the naturally waxy/lotiony substance that protects the baby's skin in the whom. But usually, most of it has been absorbed by the time they are full term. She came out loaded with the stuff. Several people in the room used, at various points, the very descriptive term "cheesy" to describe how she looked. haha...eww.
The consensus of my midwives and my doula is that had Flora been facing the right way, I probably would have gone into labor on Thursday, when my contractions first started. My body was trying to go into labor that whole time, but the baby just wasn't able to get low enough to help build the contractions. It's funny, because I was thinking about it, and I'm pretty sure that all my labors have started on Thursdays. I really think there must be an unconscious psychological reason for it....like, my body waits until the end of the week when things are lowest stress, and when it will be most convenient for Tom to miss a few days of work.
|Tom showing off the baby footprints the nurse put on his arm|
It amazes me how much humans depend on other humans sometimes to help them in labor. I mean, this labor was "natural" in every way....I had no drugs or interventions. And yet I relied so much on the knowledge and assistance of other people to help it happen. Without my doula helping me stay relaxed and bringing me cold towels for my forehead....or without a midwife being a bit of a drill sergeant and insisting that I bring on contractions or push a baby down into the birth canal when I really didn't want to...or without her physically helping to break my water or open my cervix....what would have happened??
Flora has been a very avid nurser as well as a frequent sleeper. She's two weeks old now, but still sleeping a ton. On the other hand, when she's awake, she's been pretty fussy. She isn't as easy to calm down as my other babies were. Primarily, because she really doesn't care for the pacifier. I no longer doubt other parents who say that one of their kids doesn't take them! I keep trying, but she's just not interested. We're slowly figuring out what little "tricks" settle her down, but most of our tried-and-true methods from the other kids just don't work with her. I guess she's just my little wild card.
Now that I have four kids' names to keep track of, I find myself mixing them up all the time. I'm already acting like the stereotypical mom-with-a-big-family, calling my kids by at least two wrong names before I finally hit on the right one!