Zac’s Birth Story

We had the midwife home-visit on Monday, most everything was gathered together, and I had been saying for a couple weeks that March 28th sounded like a good day for the baby to be born.  But I didn’t think it really would happen!

Early the morning of Friday, March 27th, I woke up around 4 am– no big deal, I had been waking regularly almost every night for a couple weeks – but this time I was having minor contractions.  Not enough to get me out of bed, but enough for me to look at the clock in between.  They were between 3 and 7 minutes apart from what I could remember, but I suspect I was falling back asleep between some.  After about an hour and a half, I fell asleep for good and woke to my alarm going off for work.  No contractions.  I got up, went to the bathroom and saw bloody mucous in my underwear.  I didn’t have “bloody show” or loose my mucous plug with Wes’s early labor, but I knew that this was the bloody show.  I debated for a while what to do – call Karen, the midwife?  Go to work?  Not go to work?  After a shower with still no contractions, I decided to go to work and call the midwife from there.  I waited until about 10 am to call and when I spoke to her she sounded pretty confident that the baby would be born soon – in hours or days.  I’m an optimist, but also a realist, so I asked “But it could still be weeks, right?” and she said “yes, there’s no guarantees, but I think it’ll be soon.  Take it easy today, try to rest, don’t worry about everything you haven’t gotten done, and call us right away if anything changes because we’ll be about an hour away following up after another birth the day before.”

Take it easy, easier said than done… I went about my usual work day, which today included lunch with my boss and 2 clients.  I didn’t have any regular contractions throughout the day until about 3 pm – well after lunch, thankfully.  Around 3, I started noticing contractions again, and by 3:30 I knew they were somewhat regular and uncomfortable enough for me to stop walking and wait for it to pass.  I did my timesheet and left work, feeling a bit guilty because there was still a lot to do – but hey – I could do it next week – right?

On the drive home I called Ben and he started timing the contractions – 6 min apart – pretty regular.  Not intense – but noticeable.  When I got home I sent Ben to work as planned and decided what to do next.  I called Susanne and told her I was having contractions and she said to bring Wes up to play for a while so I could rest.  She had plans at 7:30 pm but would keep him until then, at least.  On the way to drop him off (a whole 2 blocks away) I had to walk slow and stop during one contraction.  After I got back home I called Karen, the midwife, and told her what was going on.  She asked me to call her when things progressed or if I felt I needed them closer to me.  I also called Neeka, our doula, to give her an update.  Neeka said she was coming right over, but I said – no – to wait a while – that I was going to try to rest alone for a couple hours. 

Well – I couldn’t rest. So I decided to at least make the bed with fresh sheets and the plastic mattress cover and another set of sheets on top.  We had planned to do this over the weekend, but now seemed like a better time.  Doing this through contractions was pretty tiring.  I had to stop and rest and be in a comfortable position for each one, so I tried to rush in between them to get as much done as possible.  When I was finished I folded the diapers that were piled on the changing table, then went downstairs.  I gathered some food and other supplies we had around the house that I knew would be useful during the labor and birth, then I played some records (I started with Bob Dylan), close the drapes, and walk around, enjoying the solitude. The contractions were feeling more intense and I was feeling like I wanted company, so around 7:00 pm I called Karen again and asked her to come.  She said she would be there in an hour.  I also called Neeka and asked her to come soon, and finally I called Ben at work and asked him to come home soon too.  Ben made it home first – all full of adrenalin and ready to go.  I calmed him down, told him to grab a shower, and come hang out with me.  Neeka arrived shortly after and we caught up on how I was doing.  Karen called to say that she was stuck in traffic because of a sinkhole on the highway but found a detour and would be there soon.  I called Susanne and told her I was having more intense regular contractions and that everyone was on their way.  She said she’d keep Wes as long as he was happy then come over with him.

When Karen and Laura, her student midwife, arrived we talked about how I was feeling and what had already happened.   Laura examined me and after a conference with Karen and me asking what the numbers were, told me I was 4-5 cm dilated.  They said if I was comfortable with it, they would go to town to grab dinner while I kept laboring, then come right back – but to call if anything changed.

We were all talking and laughing and excited about me being in labor.  I was still a bit in denial, thinking that the contractions might stop anytime and it would all be a false alarm. Karen kept assuring me that this is it.  I had thought I wanted a quiet, calm, serene environment to labor in, but we played records, talked, laughed, and hung out.  I walked around downstairs, upstairs, in the hall, in the kitchen, stopping to slow dance with either Ben, Neeka, or whatever I could find to lean against – the rocking chair, counter, wall, changing table.  I ate a banana and part of a pb&j at some point, and drank lots of apple juice.  I could still talk, laugh, and move comfortably between contractions, but they were requiring a lot more focus from me, and I often found myself going into a quieter room when they started.  My back was also feeling a bit sore and Neeka was trying different techniques to relieve some of the pressure.  The heating pad and massage felt great, as did leaning over the birth ball.  Leaning on the ball also seemed to space out the contractions, so after a few long intervals, I got back up and started doing the stairs again – which brought them on even more frequently.  Karen and Laura got back and hung out with us. Susanne came over with Wes around 11 pm and settled in with a couple books and a video.

Around midnight, Neeka asked if I wanted to try some counter pressure for my hips to help with my back.  Essentially she would squeeze my hips from the side in an attempt to relieve some of the back pressure.  So with the next contraction she did, and pop – my water broke!  A big gush followed by several small gushes.  It was clear, warm, and wet all over my legs.  I thought it was great that the counter pressure trick could do that!  I slowly made my way upstairs to change and had several way more intense contractions on the way.  Karen and Laura had been lying down in the spare room and got up when they heard us.  I think they got everything set up at that point, knowing it would soon be time to birth.  Once my water broke I remember thinking“OK, I guess this is really it – no going back now!”

Once upstairs I felt no desire to go back downstairs. This was probably around 1 am because I remembering asking if it was tomorrow yet and hearing the answer - yes.  I labored in the hall for a while – leaning on the birth ball, on a chair, on Ben, on the wall.  I had an urge to vomit, and Laura gave me a homeopathic remedy to avoid throwing up, but before it had dissolved I threw up several times into a waste basket.  I think I was entering transition.  I could barely speak, and had to focus all of my energy on breathing out with each contraction – breathing out, relaxing my shoulders, opening my bottom.  I had asked Ben earlier to tell me to relax and when he said it I could immediately feel my shoulders drop, my focus turning to opening and being in the moment and letting my breath out.

At one point, while Karen was resting in the spare room, Wes really wanted to find her – he kept asking “where is Karen, where is she?”  We were trying to keep him out of there so she could get a bit of rest, which she would need, especially if my labor ended up going all night.  But eventually, we heard her say “Wes, I’m in here, do you want to come in?”  So for the next 15 min or so we listened to the most entertaining conversation between Karen, trying to coax Wes to sleep, and Wes, who loves to talk and ask questions.  I was laughing between contractions – it was very distracting, and so funny! I can’t remember much of what they actually talked about but at one point Karen asked Wes if he knew how the baby would come out and he said “from down here” as I imagined he pointed between his legs, “like in the videos you gave us” he said.  We had watched 3 birth videos with Wes to prepare him for some of what he’d see.

I got tired kneeling on the floor and got up and moved into the bedroom.  I think everyone was in the bedroom with me, but I am not sure.  I was focusing and the contractions were coming more frequently.  I wanted to stand with one leg up on a stool or chair, but when I did Wes threw a fit because he wanted the stool.  Eventually Ben took him out of the room, and as I found out later, out of the house. It was almost 3 am, and they walked the street while Ben tried to calm Wes down.  When they came back in, Ben got Wes to fall asleep on the couch and Ben joined me back upstairs. 

While they were gone I moved from standing to lying down on the bed.  My legs felt so tired, my body felt so tired, everything felt so tired.  I wanted to rest.  I laid down and said “I’m taking a little break” and either I stopped contracting for a few minutes, or I imagined I did, and I got a couple minute refresher. Looking back, I think this was another sign of transition, I almost felt like giving up, but I didn’t say so – I just vocalized that I needed a rest.  After the rest I felt like I could go again, and then, almost instantly I felt like I needed to vomit again.  As soon as I spoke it everyone scrambled to find something to throw up in, but it was too late, and I threw up on the bed next to me.  Luckily there wasn’t much in my stomach at that point and there wasn’t much to throw up, so they just covered the wet spot with a towel or something and that was that.  As I was throwing up I felt strong pressure – almost pushing-like.  Later, Karen said that last bout of vomiting probably opened my cervix the remaining way and put me into the pushing stage. I had decided earlier, before labor began, that I wouldn’t push until I absolutely felt like my body needed to.  I didn’t want to waste energy pushing if I wasn’t ready, nor did I want to have additional swelling or pressure afterward from pushing without being fully ready.  While vomiting I felt the first possible I-feel-like-I-need-to-push feeling.  I still tried to not push right after that though.

So when Ben came back in he was next to me on my left side, Neeka on my right, Laura and Karen at my bottom. I was on my back but leaning on my right hip with my left knee bent.   I started shivering and having different, more intense, feeling-like-pushing contractions.  I feel like Laura must have covered me, uncovered me, opened and closed the window, and turned on and off the heat a thousand times because I kept feeling hot then cold, then hot again. Neeka had brought a cool washcloth that I rubbed all over my face.  But I was still shivering too. It began raining outside and I wanted the window open to hear the rain better.  After who knows how long (probably 10-20 min, I guess now, knowing the general timeline), the shivering stopped.  I felt like I needed to shift sides, to be on my left hip instead of my right.  This took great effort on my part to shift my body.  I think it took 2 contractions to complete the shift.  When I was shifted my right knee was up, my left leg bet and lying flat, and I was on my left hip.  I really felt an urge to push then.  I tried it with a couple contractions, and I remember saying “I forgot how to push” and hearing Karen say “Just follow your body, you’re doing great, you’ll know what to do” or something like that.  I was holding (squeezing super tight better describes it) Ben’s hand and occasionally Neeka’s hand too.

Then I felt a good strong contraction and I felt like I jumped on the wave of it heading down a long narrow canyon.  I visualized something in the southwest, red bedrock, steep sided walls, tiny river down below, and I flew through the canyon.  I pushed.  And pushed.  I made a low “ahhhh” sound, deep within my body, flowing along the wave in the canyon.  I felt like it vibrated my body and helped move the baby along.  I felt something large move in my body, and something smaller too.  I heard “That’s it, that’s a great push.”  When that wave was over I asked if I pooped, and someone said yes, and I said “Oh man, Wes will be so disappointed he missed it” and everyone laughed.  Wes had really wanted to see me poop while pushing!  Then the next wave came and again I felt like I just went with it and pushed with all my might and as I was pushing I could feel the bowling-ball head move farther down!  It felt great to feel the progress of the head descending and to know I was doing it and it was almost over!

Neeka reminded me gently that I had wanted to take off my shirt while pushing so the baby could be placed on my bare chest, so over the course of the next two wave-pushes we got my shirt and necklace off.  She also massaged my right leg because I kept getting a cramp in it – super annoying and distracting too. But then I think it was only one or two more pushes and I heard “That’s it, slowly, easy” and felt the strongest stretching.  Not burning or local pain like a ring of fire like others describe, but I knew I was stretched to my farthest point and that the head was either out or almost out.  I asked, “is the head out?” and someone said “yes.”  I could feel the baby kicking me inside, almost helping me to keep pushing it out, and so I jumped back on the same wave and kept on pushing.  It felt like only another second and I felt a huge relief and the slippery thing shoot out of me.  It was out! I was done!  The baby was born!  3:17 am.  March 28, 2009.

Laura handed him up to me and I just held him close and was so ecstatic! After a couple minutes she said. “let’s cover him up” and out a blanket over us, and after a minute I said, “did you say him?” and asked Ben to take a look and tell me what it was.  He said, “it’s a boy!” Zachary Thomas Painter Chandler.  Zac.   He was sunny-side-up.  Born face facing up, not down.  That explained the back pressure I felt during labor, but even then it hadn’t seemed excruciating like I had heard from others.

Neeka went to get Wes, she ended up carrying him up from the basement because he did not want to wake up.  She and Ben tried for what seemed like a long time to try to rouse him, all he would do is lay down and try to go back to sleep.  So we let him.  We had planned for Wes to help cut the cord after the placenta was delivered, but he slept through Ben cutting it.   Also, the placenta was slow in coming, so we cut the cord first, then while Ben held baby Zac, Karen and I focused on getting the placenta out and getting me to pee.

About an hour after the birth, both were accomplished and I was tucked back into bed, freshly made and ready to rest.  Baby Zac was weighed – 7 lbs 5 oz – diapered and handed over.  We looked at each other and snuggled while everyone wrote notes and gave Ben and I instructions to get through the next day.  Then the midwives would be back on Sunday to check on us.  Everyone left us at around 6 am.

We slept to about 9, when Wes came walking in, peeking around – remembering something special had happened – but not quite knowing what.  I whispered “Wes, the baby was born”, and he snuck up into bed with us and saw his baby brother.  “It’s a boy, it’s baby Zac.”  Wes said “But I forgot to cut!” meaning the umbilical cord.  I said, “I know buddy, you were sleeping, we tried to wake you, but you wouldn’t wake up.” And then he checked out his baby brother – looking him over, touching him gently, giving him kisses.  My two boys.

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I wrote this birth story one week after Zac was born.  In his first week we discovered him to be a great nurser, a sleeper, alert when awake and interested in looking around, and an all around easy-going baby so far.   I had almost-engorged breasts for 3 days and a sore right nipple for a few days, but that’s the extent of my post-childbirth complaints.  I had a very minor perineal tear that didn’t require any stitches, and that I can’t even feel now, almost no swelling, and my bleeding has pretty much stopped.  I’ve been confined to the upstairs of our house per strict orders of the midwife, and only snuck down once to take Zac to the pediatrician on day 5.  I think the ease of the birth, shortness of pushing, and confinement upstairs to rest and make milk have made my recover go so well.  In another couple days I’ll be back in the swing of things, but for now I’ll keep reading, typing, nursing, sleeping, and eating, and enjoying new baby Zac.

Karen Webster

WomanWise Midwifery: homebirth & women's health, 257 East Main Street, Elkton, MD, 21921

daughter, sister, friend, mother, midwife, nana, teacher.