Longer story and pictures follow.
Georgia was due on 4/20 so I took off of work on Wednesday the 6th to make sure I got some maternity leave time. We were told that second babes often come early so I wanted to make sure I at least got some R&R before the baby came. It worked out well because Georgia came about a week early.
Thursday morning Eliza woke us up at 5:45 saying she wanted to come sleep in “mommy/daddy bed”. This is a routine that we have had for about two months since she moved into a bed instead of a crib. It’s a mixed blessing to have her get in bed with us…sometimes it means extra sleep (until 8:30 even!) sometimes it means NO sleep. This particular morning, Eliza was very sleepy and cute…but something felt awake to me. I realized I was having contractions.
From 6 am to 7am I felt about 5 contractions. It was nothing much but more significant than Braxton Hicks. Eliza’s birth had been so precipitous we had a plan to call the midwife if *anything* happened that signaled labor. So I got up, texted Sheila that I was having contractions, and went to the kitchen to pack Eliza’s lunch and make myself breakfast.
After breakfast, I snuggled up with Eliza again in the bed. I realized that it would be the last time that we would have our snuggle time without a sibling in the world…so I asked Howie to take a picture.
I stayed in bed and relaxed while Howie finished getting Eliza ready for her daycare. If we had started labor at night, I think we would have just kept Eliza here with us. But the pace of the labor was so slow at the beginning we decided it was best for her to be with her nanny Ghenet. Eliza needs a lot of attention and we thought the day would progress in a more relaxed way if she was not in the house. He took her to the nanny’s around 7:45 and I went downstairs to tell Elizabeth and Karl that I was having contractions. Karl was getting ready for school and Elizabeth was feeding Lulu in her bed. I laid down with Elizabeth and we talked about how we were going to have another baby in the house! We called our friend Annie to let her know that this was the day and that she should also come over soon. After a little discussion, Karl decided to go to work. We didn’t know how long it was going to be til the baby was born and teaching is a hard job to call in sick for.
Compared to my labor with Eliza, this labor was progressing at a snails pace. Between 6 and 11am I had contractions…but they were usually around 30 seconds long, not too intense and about 10-15 minutes apart. Howie and I sat on the porch for a while…we also went for a little walk around the neighborhood. Once Sheila and Annie arrived, I began to feel a little nervous. Maybe I wasn’t in labor after all. Maybe I wasn’t even going to have this baby today. I was enjoying the slower pace of the labor…but hating the feeling of being watched or not progressing. Everyone did their best to reassure me that the labor could progress at whatever pace it wanted…but I still felt kind of bored and anxious. At 10:00 we decided to watch TV in bed.
At 10:30 or 11:00 Sheila said goodbye. The labor was not progressing quickly and she was going to go home and get some paperwork done. Elizabeth and Annie also decided to run an errand. I have to say this was a huge relief. I loved that everyone came when I needed them…but I also felt really anxious about being watched all day…especially if I wasn’t progressing. Lying down watching television…I didn’t have one contraction for a whole half hour. I began to think we needed to take things into our own hands.
Howie and I decided to try to get the labor started in more earnest. We shared a few kisses and caresses…and snuggled. If you have questions about how this part works…ask me privately and I’ll give you more detail. Suffice it to say, not much canoodling was necessary. By 11:45 I was having 1 minute long contractions that were 3 minutes apart. What we call “active labor” had arrived.
Although I had been having contractions all day…they were nothing like active labor contractions. These contractions were very intense. I could not do anything but make long Ommmmmmmmming sounds and focus on getting through the intensity of the contraction. Before this labor, my birth team (Elizabeth, Howie, Annie, Sheila) and I had done a lot of talking about how I would approach labor. One thing I felt sure of was that I didn’t want to feel defeated…or like I was running away from the intensity of the contractions. During my labor with Eliza, there were many times that I felt like I was overwhelmed by the experience and was not able to manage the intensity. I knew that once labor was going it was going to be very serious business. So in the days leading up to the labor we talked about visuals that would help me get through the contractions.
During active labor I focused on visualizations that had to do with water. One thing that I remembered about active labor contractions is that they can feel bottomless. At the beginning of each contraction I would start to “ommmm” and I would imagine myself diving off of the side of a boat in a diving bell. As the contraction intensified I would imagine that the sounds of the Om were driving me toward the cold depths of the bottom of the sea. My whole birth team was making the sound as well so there was a very echo-y quality to the Om in the room. I did my best to keep my voice loud and strong and forceful as the contraction became more and more intense. Then, when I felt the intensity diminish…I would start to visualize that the diving bell was being pulled back up on the boat again. Howie had this great IPhone app which made the sound of beach waves…so once the contraction was over it really did sound like we were back on the boat again.
The visualization was quite powerful. So was the noisemaking. There was one point where several people on the team had to leave the room and the absence of their voices made the contractions feel so much more lonely and painful. Having a group of voices singing out “ohhhhh” or “ahhhhhh” was incredibly helpful in dealing with pain. It helped me to open my heart to the process of birth and to feel more present even though I was incredibly scared.
Another thing that happened once active labor started was that I began to panic. Even though I had my visualization, my om’ing and my husband and Annie with me, I felt very scared of how this labor was going to go. I was scared of how intense the contractions might feel and whether I could handle them. About half an hour after contractions started in earnest, my midwife Shiela reappeared. Howie had called her to come back and get ready for the birth. When she walked into the room I was in the middle of a contraction and “om-ming” my little heart out. She walked over and once she was in view grabbed her and pulled her into me and started to cry. I told her I was scared and panicking and she kissed me over and over and told me she was here and we were going to be okay. She gave me some herbs to help the feeling of panic. She suggested that we get in the tub to slow down the labor and to make things a little more calm. This was probably the sweetest moment of the birth for me. It continued to be hard after Shiela arrived…but I have never been more reassured by the presence of a healer than I was when she came into the birth room.
Once I was in the tub, the whole team was assembled and surrounding me. Howie was behind me…Annie, Elizabeth and Shiela were next to the tub. They listened to me to see when I was contracting and sang out “om’s” with me every time I had one. The water was very helpful in soothing me and keeping the feeling of panic at bay. Shiela also put some yummy smelling stuff in the water to help. At one point I heard Sheila greet Leopi, another midwife who was coming as back-up (usually midwives have one person back them up at a home birth). I was glad to hear she’d arrived and Shiela told her I was in “transition.”
Transition is basically the place in labor where the contractions feel the most intense...and they are almost over. I could not believe that Shiela was saying I was in transition. I knew that my contractions had only been active for about an hour or so at this point. It seemed impossible that I was almost done. As the next contraction came, instead of focusing on the diving bell, I began to focus on my body internally. I thought about the fact that my cervix was opening the final centimeters necessary to get Georgia out and into the world. I began to search my sensations for the presence of an urge to push. During the contraction (which felt like it would never-freaking-end) I felt a significant pop within myself and I think this was the point when Georgia left my cervix and entered the birth canal.
I told Shiela I wanted to push. She asked me if I felt that I needed to push and I said I wasn't sure. I reached down and didn't feel any bulging and began to feel concerned that maybe I'd imagined the whole "almost there" popping experience. But Shiela reassured me that the birth was moving fast and that pushing would come soon. She told me that with second labors pushing is not as necessary and that babies want to come themselves. She said I would need to slow down my pushing so Georgia didn't come out too quickly. She told me to blow Georgia out instead of bearing down and pushing her out. At that moment, I felt pretty sure that blowing anything would be impossible. I was planning to get the baby out AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. But I felt the difference in blowing versus pushing and the intensity and effort felt right with blowing. So I blew.
When Eliza was born, I felt that the pushing part was a great relief as compared to the active labor/transition part of birth. It felt like it made sense and it was an effort worth making. But with Georgia, pushing or blowing, felt a little weird. She didn't feel as smooth...and she came super fast. It was more of a bumpy ride. Shiela later told me that Georgia had her little arm up which is part of the reason I think she felt so awkward coming out of me. With Eliza I had enough where-with-all to reach down and catch her myself...with Georgia, I let Shiela do the catching and I focused on blowing rather than pushing.
Georgia came out after about 5 pushs (blows) and it was an immediate relief. I was so so so grateful that the labor was over and that she was fine and in the world and on my chest. I opened my eyes for the first time and saw everyone was there and excited. Georgia was a little shocked by her fast entry into the world. She didn't immediately breathe and she was quite purple looking. We rubbed on her and Shiela aspirated her with this little nose aspiration thingy. She also instructed the birth team to sing...to see if it would wake up the little one. The team sang Georgia on My Mind and another acapella song that they sang at Howie and my wedding. It was beautiful to listen to. Georgia began to breathe and pink up.
So Georgia was born at 1:45, about 2 hours after my contractions started in earnest. She weighs about 5lbs 15 oz ( a tiny little thing). She was born with a nuchal hand (up by her face). She has 10 fingers/toes and is exactly perfect in every way. She is nursing like she's been trained by La Leche League themselves. Which is to say she's an expert nurser.
I'll plan on writing more about how we are doing but I'll leave this post with a couple extra photos. Love to everyone and thank you for all your well-wishes!