Bullet pointed version.
The full version…. From the verbose mommy.
For those who don’t know me, the non-Inspiration Family Birth Center players are:
Rohit: 2.5 year old son, first born via induction at a local hospital
Cynthia: doula, independent of birth center staff
These Are The Days: Rajiv’s Birth Story
Wow, where to begin. First, let me say that while I must call this an unmatched natural high, I am by no means saying Rajiv’s birth is any more important or joyous than that of his older brother Rohit. They were two totally unique experiences, priceless because they brought two perfect and individual children into our lives. Rohit’s delivery made me a mom, made Shyam and I parents, was my first experience in giving life to another person. It was in a hospital, full of fanfare and procedure. Rajiv’s birth was natural and unmedicated, in a birth center. I had faith in nature this time, and in turn, nature was abundantly great to me – that is the source of the natural high.
I am no super hero and I’m not your all-out granola crunchy yoga mom, either. I’m a career-oriented mother and wife who was so petrified of my first birth a few years ago that I almost tried to find an OB who would offer me an elective C section. Any time someone asked me about my ‘birth plan’ I’d well up in tears out of total fear and leave the table embarrassed. I was so scared of labor, and damage to my lady bits, and scared I’d never feel human again. For me to think that I’d manage a successful vaginal delivery with my first pregnancy, and then do a completely natural birth center delivery for the second was unthinkable! And, with an awesome birth center experience behind me, I’ll probably do a home birth if we ever decide to expand our family again. So – if I can do it, anyone can!
The birth my family experienced when Rajiv joined us was almost everything I could’ve hoped for, if not better. Women have been giving birth out of hospitals for centuries, and because this pregnancy was low risk and I became increasingly annoyed with red tape at our local hospitals, it was an option we considered and elected as right for our family. I could go on and on about my pregnancy since I did not document it well, but for purposes of this blog entry/post will give a few bullet points:
— prior pregnancy I had been high risk, on bedrest after about 30 weeks for pre-eclampsia symptoms and was induced at 38 weeks with successful vaginal delivery (did have an epidural)
— to try to avoid a repeat of first pregnancy, lost about 90 pounds before trying to conceive our second child
— stayed active til the very end, was spinning with my triathlon team the day before labor.
— still managed to gain 42 lbs, eek!
— decided I really wanted a doula this time, especially if my labor was as long as before (21 hrs!)
— went through 3 OBs and leaving 2 hospitals before deciding to research midwifery and birth centers since my pregnancy was going well and I wasn’t high risk this time.
— Interviewed midwives and doulas like they were training for a top secret CIA job. After all, I was trusting them with a very intimate event and the welfare of my child and I.
— different and better nutritional focus than my prior pregnancy (if you can ignore the abundance of cookies I stole from my toddler’s pantry shelf)
— dedicated time reading to educate myself about birth, relaxation methods, active labor positioning, etc.
Around 32 weeks, I formally switched over from OB care to midwife care. After my first appointment, I wondered why I hadn’t done it earlier myself and wished more people knew about midwifery. It was so much more relaxed, the care was more personal and thorough, they took time to explain things that I didn’t even know about, and they treated the pregnancy like a family experience, with toys and a coloring table in the exam room so that Shyam and Rohit could easily participate in all my visits. The midwives didn’t do a quick vital check and move on, but cared about the entire family, how my job was going, nutrition, other prenatal preparation, the support system I’d have post delivery, and other things of that nature. At the birth center, *I* was the owner of the pregnancy, and they were there to guide me. They caught me how to do my own unirnalysis, I weighed myself and reported to them each visit. Their viewpoint was that I wasn’t sick and didn’t need to be treated like a patient in a doctor’s office. Instead, I was a health mom with a child in utero who was just coming in for regular managed healthcare. What a refreshing mentality!
In the birth center, epidurals and other pain medication are not an option during labor. Patients reserve the right to request a hospital transfer to get them, and meds are offered post delivery if needed to help stop bleeding, or for pain management. However, the delivery itself is medicine-free. I was pretty sure I could do it, but since I’d had an epidural with Rohit, I invested some extra time preparing for this labor by reading books and practicing relaxation techniques. I also had several labor preparation meetings at home and prenatal dance classes with my doula Cynthia. Based on my prior long labor and delivery at a large hospital, I had decided I wanted a doula for this delivery and had hired Cynthia before switching from OB to midwife care. We met several times at my home to practice relation, prenatal stretches, visualization for labor, and talk about natural labor processes. Had I started in the birth center with midwives as great as Robyn and Becky, I may not have been as compelled to hire a doula, but since I had one as part of my birth team, it was great to have the additional support. After each appointment I’d connect with Cynthia to keep her updated.
The more I learned about natural, the more I felt confident in my body and that birth was an experience that I’d actually enjoy more if not medicated. If I could just relax and believe in my body, nature would take care of most of the other details. Sure, there would be a few points that were very uncomfortable, but it didn’t have to be grueling from beginning to end. As my mindset shifted from terror to excitement over the upcoming delivery, I saw birth as more and more of a miracle and couldn’t wait for our little guy’s arrival.
I will call this the shortest and longest labor ever because it was 4 weeks or 2 hours, depending how you look at it! My first internal exam was at 36 weeks, and I was 2cm dilated and 50% effaced, baby in perfect position for delivery. 37 weeks, up to 3cm and 70% effaced, still perfect position. 38 weeks, 4+ cm, 80% effaced. 39 weeks, 5+cm and close to 90% effaced and near 0 station. I didn’t exactly walk into the work office or into my spin/zumba classes those last few days announcing ‘hey kids, I’m half way through labor and not feeling a thing.’ That’d surely be a way to freak people out!
A month or so back, I had invited my mom to be a part of the birth. She was not present for Rohit’s arrival because Shyam and I wanted it to be just us (quite frankly, I was so PETRIFIED of childbirth I couldn’t handle the thought of anyone but the required individuals around me), however this time I really wanted to share the experience. I knew her own two experiences with giving birth to my brother and I were in a hospital, with an automatic enema, epidural, and episiotomy just because ‘that’s the way it was done.’ I wanted to include her so that she could see birth from a position other than being the birth-giver herself, and also because she’s one of my very best friends and I wanted her to witness this once in a lifetime experience for our family.
My mom was reluctant when we first invited her, not wanting to interfere on something so intimate, but I assured her the invitation was genuine and she accepted. I just reserved the right to excuse her from the room at any time if needed – fair enough! At first, she booked a ticket to come when I was 39 weeks. Once I was 3cm at 37 weeks, she decided to move her trip up a week, thinking she’d miss the delivery. Based on my progress, it really felt like any day could be the day, even though I wasn’t feeling contractions. It was great that she could come early and do her job remotely from Orlando, but unfortunately she had a hard stop return date of September 13. The midwives would let me go up to 42 weeks, which would be September 17. As week 39 came and went, I started to get nervous that I’d be overdue and that I wouldn’t have the postpartum support I needed. After my delivery with Rohit, I had a lot of nursing issues and untreated postpartum depression. I had done so much to prepare myself for this birth in terms of education, a support team (midwife, doula, Shyam off work 4 weeks, my mom in town for several), the thought of going overdue and having my support people need to return to their regular lives just made me cringe.
So, after my 39 week appointment, I tried some stretching exercises from the Spinning Babies website recommended by my doula Cynthia to help reposition the baby for optimal delivery and also emailed my midwife team (Robyn and Becky) to see if there were any natural induction methods they’d usually save for 42 weeks that we could try once I hit 40. Since I was already 3+ cm and had a prior vaginal delivery, I was pretty optimistic I would respond favorably. As much as I did not want any type of induction, I thought that encouraging nature a little bit to hurry along was worth it so I would have time to enjoy a babymoon and setting up a nursing relationship with my newborn son. The midwives emailed me back quickly, and said they were on board and would have a plan to help me by that weekend (40 weeks) if I hadn’t already delivered. I was so thankful to be connected to a responsive team and it really put me at ease.
At 39.5 weeks, I was very sick one night, had a random blood pressure spike, vomit, and all sorts of other digestive issues. The midwives had me come in for monitoring at the birth center around midnight. On the way there, Shyam, my mom, and I were certain ‘this was it’ because I kept having contractions every minute or two, even though they weren’t painful or that long. Once we got to the birth center, the contractions slowed down and my blood pressure was normal, so after a bit of non-stress monitoring, we returned home around 4am. The midwives were so wonderful and reassuring that night, it made me even more confident they were the right people to deliver with. They also sent me some with some homeopathic supplements to encourage dilation and contractions, so I started those the next day. While we had been there, another mom had given birth and we could hear her working through the labor from the other room. It didn’t sound like a joy ride, but seemed tolerable and much different than what I remembered from the hospital. Within a few minutes we heard the loud cries of a healthy newborn, which made me tear up. We were so close ourselves, I couldn’t wait to hear our own little guy.
Wednesday and Thursday were uneventful, Thursday was my regular weekly exam and they stripped my membranes (with my permission, of course) and were able to get some contractions going by stimulating the cervix at the 10 and 2 o’clock pressure points, but nothing sustained. I was 5 centimeters dilated but not feeling a thing unless Robyn was trying to stimulate a contraction. Despite the membrane sweep, I felt fine and even got the ok to go to the tri club spinning practice that night. Robyn said they had a plan for natural induction that we would start the next day (Friday), and they were pretty confident we’d have a baby by Monday, without needing hospital intervention. I voiced loudly that I didn’t want Pitocin or a C-section, so the ‘natural induction’ had to be just that – something hospital free, and I didn’t want to take any steps in the plan until I fully understood them and could weigh the pros and cons. Robyn reassured me that the plan was in my hands – we could do nothing, we could do a full hospital induction offsite with Pitocin, or we could do something in the middle – which was the route we were taking. Again, I felt like my family and I were in control of our situation and that it wasn’t based on convenience of a medical team. I think that being able to fully trust the midwife team helped me to be relaxed later on when I was actually in labor. At the end of my appointment, she also gave me another herbal supplement to take, black cohosh tincture. Every 30 minutes while awake. Ugh, that stuff is brutal – the only thing I could think to compare it to was cigarette butts dipped in tar. Nasty! But, upon having a dropper of it, I could get a contraction here and there- so it was doing something!
As had been the case every week, people were a little nervous that my water would break then and there, or that I’d deliver a kid at the YMCA. But alas, I made it through practice just fine! One teammate a few bikes down from me told me she wished she’d had a camera, because watching a 9 month pregnant woman spinning was beautiful. I thought that was an interesting comment, for sure – I felt anything but graceful, but I guess her point was that it was awesome to see a mom and baby active and in shape together so close to the point of delivery. Maybe? Anyhow, she made me smile, which was invaluable given all my hormones!
Thursday evening, I could barely sleep, knowing that the next day we were beginning operation natural baby eviction.
Friday morning, I woke up, worked from home for 2 hours, then took Rohit to his swim lesson. He graduated from Safe Start, and Shyam and I were in the pool with him. It was lots of fun, and we were so proud of him! From there, my mom took him to preschool and Shyam and I were off to Dr. Gabaldon, my prenatal chiropractor, who was very pregnant herself and due later in September. I had been seeing a different chiropractor earlier, and had been for years, but switched over to Dr. Gabaldon for prenatal-specific treatment. In one of my prenatal appointments, midwife Becky mentioned the importance of proper chiropractic care during and after pregnancy, and what a difference it can make in labor and even the aging process years down the road. After a single appointment with Dr. Gabaldon, I totally agreed!
Dr. Gabaldon and I had an appointment for a Webster technique adjustment, which is different than a regular prenatal chiropractic adjustment. It was a 2 hour appointment, and she basically went through everything in my back/lower body to ensure it was lined up properly for birth. It was not intended to induce labor, however if there was anything anatomically preventing labor based on my alignment, this would fix it and labor would likely start in the next 4-12 hours. Webster adjustments can also be used to turn breech position babies, although that wasn’t needed in our case, thank goodness! It was definitely an active appointment with partnership. I had my first adjustment, then had to walk around outside using high knees for an hour. That would be tiring not pregnant – add a belly to raise your legs against and the Florida heat, and it’s definitely a workout! The high leg marching had two intents – one, to stretch out any muscles/ligaments that needed to be loosened after the adjustment (some may have been tight based on bad positioning), and two, to see if anything she’d adjusted was not likely to stick in place during active labor so that she could adjust again. We found a smoothie place within walking distance of her office and stopped in there for some strawberry orange yumminess, with me continuing my leg raises as the person made our drink. Then I went back to the chiro office where she checked to see what else had to be adjusted, or if everything withstood the high leg marching.
We had been planning to go to lunch next, but I just wasn’t that hungry and was super tired. I thought about going straight to the birth center and taking a nap but then realized I had forgotten to pack my snoogle. Snoogle? The beloved pregnancy body pillow that replaced Shyam as my bedmate the last 9 months and kept me comfortable and happy. We had all our other stuff in the car, because the midwives had told us to assume this trip was ‘it.’
When we got to the birth center, it was so quiet and serene. The birth center is a 3 bedroom ranch house that was converted 15 years ago. On clinic days when I usually have appointments, there is lots of traffic in and out, usually 2-3 patients in the sitting area or family room/kitchen. It is a very family-friendly atmosphere with toys for kids, DVDs to watch, a kitchen with a fridge to store food, etc. When we arrived, it was just us and the staff. The place was ours!
Becky started with an internal exam to see if I’d progressed since the day prior, and I was close to 6cm, but still no contractions. She said that even if I kept dilating, without contractions to help get the baby out, delivery would be challenging at best. Since I appeared to be dilating without any discomfort, our biggest challenge for the day was just to get some regular contractions going, and from there she was pretty sure we’d have a baby in hand. So, she did another membrane sweep and massaged the contraction trigger points on the cervix. She got a handful of contractions that she could feel inside but I didn’t even notice. It baffled me that I was progressing without feeling practically anything!
Since we were doing a nature-driven induction, it was going to be a combination of a few things:
–continued use of the homeopathic tablets and black cohosh tincture (yum- or not!)
–do a mix of nipple stimulation with the breast pump (while Shyam and I either chatted or tried to play cards, hah) and a little exercise routine that the midwives concocted for the front stairs/ramps that tended to get contractions going.
We started with the breast pump, it got a few contractions but not a ton and I was bored with it after 40 minutes and also worried I’d leave my chest sore before a child got to it, so I had Becky show me the little exercise routine they swore by. Mind you, it was 95+ degrees in Orlando and very sunny, so this exercise was intense (but completely voluntary)! The front of the birth center had both stairs and a ramp leading to the entryway. Basically, the routine was to take big planted wide steps down the front steps, and then swish side to side going up the ramp, almost as if cross country skiing. Whenever I could feel a contraction, my job was to hold the ramp railing and squat into it, because as Becky explained it, squatting would encourage the cervix to pull back, getting the maximum efficiency out of each contraction. The routine seemed a bit funny, but within 10 minutes I had some irregular contractions going and was squatting into them. As much as I chugged water, the heat was getting to me and we decided to go inside. We snacked on pineapple, chocolate covered pretzels, yogurt, and other yummy goodies throughout the afternoon. One of the great things about a birth center is that they encourage you to eat and drink throughout labor!
We put on music with our iPod and docking station, and out of boredom and desire to keep moving, I just started moving my hips in a circular motion. Low and behold, the acts of an ungraceful hula dancer elicited a few more contractions. Nothing painful, just some extended tightness. We were out in the lobby talking to Katie, completely distracting her from her office work. Based on when we’d say proudly ‘ooh, another one!’ she recommended that I time them. Since they didn’t hurt, I discounted them completely, but she told me I should still pay attention. She recommended we download a timing app for a smart phone, which Shyam was all about! After a bit of semi-regular painless contractions from shakin’ my hips in circles inside the birth center, we headed back out to the heat to do some more step/ramp work. I got some more going. When I came in, I sat down, and everything stopped. I was bummed, so I stood back up and just moved my hips in circles again. Surprise- more contractions. The midwives never told me anything about circular hips but it was doing something! So, for the next nearly 2 and a half hours, I stood and moved my hips in circles. Who needs to go to the gym for ab workouts when you’re just trying to get contractions going? I was certainly getting my workout between the chiropractic exercises of the morning and the hip movement of the afternoon.
By nearly 5pm, I was getting tired and had only experienced a handful uncomfortable contractions, with no regular pattern to them at all. I felt really defeated and told Shyam I was ready to go home. If the baby wasn’t meant to come, it wasn’t meant to be that day. We could try other measures, such as castor oil, to get contractions going – but why not enjoy a full night sleep first? Before we hit the road, Becky was going to check me just to make sure that all the painless contractions hadn’t actually amounted to something worth sticking around for. I wasn’t expecting any progress updates, but hadn’t really felt the progress so far, either, and took that into consideration.
Much to all of our surprise, she said I was nearly 8cm and almost completely effaced, despite not feeling much of anything. We were a bit shocked and wondering what to do. All I could think of was SLEEP, and yet I was scared that if I went home, I’d deliver at home or on a highway without my midwife support! Robyn also agreed it would be unwise for us to leave at that point. Becky said it was up to us, but they’d recommend hanging around because the baby would be coming sooner or later, the biggest barrier being that I wasn’t having contractions. Based on her internals, my water sac was bulging through the cervix, but positioned in a way that the baby’s head couldn’t put pressure on it. We had a few options: (a) continue walking, squatting, etc in hopes of getting my water to break so baby would descend (b) break water and hope that baby’s head pressing on the cervix would kick labor into action, (c) using castor oil to get stronger contractions, which could get the labor needed for him to descend completely, or (d) do nothing and go home- not advisable, as we probably wouldn’t make it back. Becky said that we could take a nap and decide, or even spend the night and pick up where we left off in the morning. Unlike a hospital, a birth center is not open 24/7 unless there’s someone there, however she said she was happy to spend the night with us so we’d be fully rested if we wanted to wait until the next day.
I’d been thinking about pizza for hours, so we opted to order from a local pizza place, then take a 2 hour nap, and when we woke up, they’d break my water to get baby’s head to hit the cervix and kick labor into high gear. We also called my mom and had her leave Rohit with our neighbors. We also decided that since I had labored up to 8cm with almost no support needed, we’d actually prefer it be just us (me, Shyam, my mom, and midwife team) for the remainder, so I contacted my super doula Cynthia with that update. She was the one who had suggested checking out a birth center in the first place, so while it seemed so odd telling her she was not needed for the birth, I already felt like she was worth her weight in gold.
The pizza people were super friendly on the phone and gave me discounted delivery since they wouldn’t want someone in labor coming in to pick pizza up anyway. When the guy delivered the pizza, Shyam said ‘good night’ and the pizza guy said, ‘have a good-. Everything!’ It was funny! At the midwives’ recommendation, we had a large order – 2 large pizzas and a lasagna. They warned me that I’d be super hungry after labor and probably appreciate most of a pizza to myself. Later on, I was thankful for this advice!
So, as my mom arrived, Shyam and I snuggled into the bed in my room, with the snoogle pillow, of course. It was just Shyam, my mom, and I! I managed to fall asleep eventually and slept probably half of the two hour period.
I was still tired but realized I probably wouldn’t feel rested even if they let me sleep all night, so onward we went. They laid out a chux pad on the double bed in the birthing room and broke my water right there. It was so gentle, relaxed, and different from my hospital experience with Rohit. Then, they had me put on a depends-style diaper and told me I could bounce on a birthing ball, walk around, do the ramp/step routine, etc. So, Shyam, my mom and I decided to walk around outside. While we were outside walking, they started filling the birth tub with warm water. They were going to fill it part way, cover it, and then would fill it the rest of the way when it was time to delivery.
It was going on 11pm, dark, and tranquil outside with some traffic passing by. Shyam turned on some music with Pandora and we just talked as we circled the block. Slowly, I started to feel contractions, again mostly like a tight stomach and nothing too distracting. I did find that little inclines in the pavement, curbs, etc. caused them to strengthen, so I’d find something that caused discomfort and then walk over it back and forth until it was actually painful. When I’d say ‘ow’, my mom and Shyam would ask if we should avoid that area of path and I replied ‘no, this is exactly what I am after!’ We started with a pretty brisk walk and light mood. Shyam’s phone with the contraction timing application was still in my hand. As we walked past small businesses, Chipotle, homes, etc, I thought ‘I bet these drivers have no clue I’m about to pop out a kid. I’m wearing depends under an entirely stylish GAP maternity dress, suckers!’ Little by little, the uncomfortable contractions were more frequent and I could walk but wasn’t talking much. Shyam would just look at the phone to see if the application was on red/green, and quickly didn’t even need that to know if it was a contraction.
Then, I got a few that got me to tear up and come to a near standstill. Shyam and my mom seemed worried, and I assured them I was fine and quite happy to be experiencing something that didn’t feel divine because it meant my body was making progress. I just told them – ‘stay with me, or walk with me. Follow my lead, be quiet when I’m quiet, talk when I’m feeling chatty, be here for me, and you’re the best support team I could need.’ A few times I curtly ordered Shyam to pause the music or change a song because I didn’t like what was on there. He caught on quickly. The two of them rocked it out as my stellar nighttime walk team from there forward and we just kept going around the block, stopping on occasion when a strong contraction would leave me standing upright.
After close to an hour of walking, I felt like I really needed to go to the bathroom. Having experienced stitches and hemorrhoids with my first delivery, I was a little nervous of having a huge #2 to pass right after this delivery. I decided I wanted to go inside and ask the midwive for an enema. Not exactly everyone’s idea of Friday night fun, but with all things in perspective, it was sounding great. As Becky prepared the enema, I started in the lobby but then moved into my room for privacy as the contractions got stronger and longer. Most of the lights were off, and we had several candles burning – totally intimate and peaceful, despite a very big lifetime event on the horizon. The contractions mostly felt like a bad stomach ache, but occasionally left me misty-eyed. I got a few that required me to brace myself against the wall, and then 2 that caused me to get onto my knees and lean against the tub, and then onto all fours to relieve some of the downward pressure. Shyam told the midwife he was pretty sure it was time, and he was right.
Once I stood up, I said ‘forget the enema, I need to push. Please.’ I think Robyn and Becky may have been surprised I was there that quickly and told me to get on my bed for them to check and confirm it was ok to push, since the last they’d seen was me at 8cm. Despite my urge to push, they were just making sure it was actually ok and not going to cause any damage. With a bit of tossing and turning from the discomfort and thinking I’d rather just push the kid out, I got into the bed and they confirmed I was ready. I begged them to finish filling the tub as quickly as they could.
The few minutes between that internal exam and getting into the water were the worst part of the labor. Walking to the tub, all I wanted to do was squat down and push him out, but I knew I wanted to be in the water. The 10 steps from the bed to the tub were slow and tough, and I wondered with the discomfort I was in how on earth I’d sling a leg over a 3 foot tub wall and get in. It was the only point in labor where I thought ‘oh boy, how can I do this?’ I remember saying ‘I can’t get in the tub’ but they encouraged me and helped me to get in. Once I was in the water, I started to feel some immediate relief, but the tub was still being filled and not covering me as much as I’d hoped since the onset of transition had been faster than we’d expected. Everyone had been right that the warm water was nature’s version of an epidural – it was pretty magical for whatever was under water, the challenge was getting the tub filled quickly to maximize the effects! I had to think long and hard about each of my moves to get from being on my knees to sitting with my back against the pillows that were under the tub liner. I wasn’t cursing or screaming, just feeling about as great as someone with dry heaves (except my stomach was fine, it was the contractions that had me). Even though Shyam had packed his swim trunks, I told him the tub was all mine and I didn’t want people crowding my space. While some women might enjoy leaning against a partner, I ended up being very ‘no touch’ during this entire labor. It’s just one of those things you can plan for, but can’t really predict until you’re in the moment.
Once I got onto my back and up against the pillow seat Robyn had created under the tub liner, I felt ready to go. The midwives told me I’d probably have him out in one or two pushes, and I asked if I could take longer. I vividly remembered my hospital delivery, with an amphitheater full of people telling at me ‘1, 2, 3, 4 PUSH, 1, 2, 3, 4 PUSH, etc.’ When Robyn and Becky reassuringly told me I could push as soon or wait as long as I wanted, I was surprised and relieved. I took my time. Even though the contractions weren’t pleasant, I wanted to use the water to relax my body and skin, and to give the pushing phase enough time to prevent major damage to my lady bits. Slow and steady wins the race, right? I remember getting really tense a few times and Becky reminding me just to breathe. At one moment during transition, I scoffed something sarcastic about ‘forget the hypnobirthing exercises’, but in retrospect I know they helped me overall despite not feeling 100% calm at all times. As a contraction would come, I’d take a deep sigh and try to breath through it, slowly relaxing my lower body. I felt warm, they brought me cool cloths for my forehead. The delivery was going so smoothly that Robyn actually took off her gloves and offered to take pictures so that Shyam could be right next to the tub to catch the baby and my mom could be next to him. Becky stayed next to Shyam, fully gloved, to help if needed.
I was also very thirsty and begged my mom to refill my sports water bottle. The midwives suggested she wait because they thought he’d be out on the next push. I said firmly ‘I can cross my legs, water is more important. Let’s pause and refill.’ I was not kidding. I was so thirsty, I actually refilled water several times between the bed check at midnight and delivery at 12:36. Every time I wanted a refill I’d laugh, close my legs, and promise her I could keep him in if she’d just get me water. At least I kept some strange sense of humor in the final moments, right? I loved feeling control of my own delivery, switching between show on (gentle breathing him down) and show paused (legs closed or crossed) based on what I needed. It totally beat the hospital experience where I was feeling deprived and begging for even an ice chip at a time. It was all about baby and me, and what we needed to get baby into the world as comfortably as possible.
Finally, I realized I was still scared of tearing and crowning and probably was never going to push the kid out unless I just went for it, so when I felt I was ready I let them know. The midwives were amazing and told me where to position my hands so that I could help protect myself against tearing. As his head came close to crowning, Becky helped to support me so I wouldn’t have damage. After deciding it was time to get him out, it took one contraction to crown and another for the head to be born. I think it actually hurt less than my prior delivery, which had an epidural. Perhaps it was the euphoria of nature and empowerment, but it was pretty magical. I reached down and could feel his head – it was incredible. I asked them, ‘so now I just push the rest out when I’m ready?’ and they told me that yes, it looked like the rest of him would clear easily, so it was all up to me. They said I could go with the next contraction or even rest a few minutes. Despite his head being out under water, he was still breathing through the umbilical cord and not going to try to inhale until his lungs were out of the birth canal, so it was safe for his head to be under water until I was ready.
Well, with the relief of crowning being over, I had nothing to lose and was ready. Onward I decided, no need to sit and wait! I gave it a bit of gusto and they say he shot out like a bullet. Poor Shyam wasn’t expecting it that quickly, and so with a baby in the water, the midwives said ‘pick him up, he’s out!’ and I reached down and grabbed him quickly and brought him to my chest. At 12:36am on September 3, Rajiv Alan officially joined the outside world. In retrospect, I feel bad that I didn’t say to Shyam, ‘hey, ready? Because I’m about to push’ but I realize that nature just sort of took over and I was responding accordingly.
Despite spending a lot of time picking out music I liked for birth, I never ended up paying that much attention to it. My playlist was on shuffle, but I am pretty sure I remember hearing Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy to the World’ and and 10,000 Maniacs ‘These Are The Days’ during the final moments of delivery and when I held Rajiv. I had so much random stuff on my playlist, it was really just chance that those were there in queue (or so I remember it). Be it in reality or just in my memory, those songs were perfect in conjunction with a warm tub of water, candlelit room, and being surrounded only by the people I had hand picked to be there. So, that’s how I’m choosing to remember it!
We shared his name with my mom and the midwives, and he stayed on my chest for awhile until the cord stopped pulsating. I just kept smiling and feeling a huge sense of pride for a natural delivery that had gone so well. They covered him in warm towels and kept running warm water over him so he wouldn’t catch cold. Those initial moments of bonding where I was holding him and we were still connected are priceless. I remember thinking ‘omg, I just gave birth drug free and feel on top of the world’ as well as ‘I don’t think I tore, I feel A-OK, holy (insert expletive word here)’ After the cord stopped pulsating, they had Shyam help with the clamping and cutting. Then, Shyam held the baby while I moved back to the bed, where I delivered the placenta. The midwives checked me out and said there was one tiny, tiny tear, but as long as I could be lady like (e.g. get in and out of chairs without moving legs apart) for 3-4 days, no stitches required. I said ‘sounds good!’
We got to nurse almost immediately, and then they brought me food because I was starving. I did a good job eating a lot of the leftover pizza! Also, birth center nurse and assistant Meg showed up and helped check all our vitals. Meg had been a part of all my prenatal appointments and helped to monitor us overnight until we went home the next day. Around 1am, my mom went back to our house to sleep – we agreed she would come back at 9-10am the next day with Rohit. Shyam and I were up until about 2, then Rajiv slept on me and in the bassinet next to me on and off until about 8:30 in the morning. At 4am, I got up to feed him, use the restroom, took my first shower. I felt great, and poor Meg got a little freaked out when she came to my room and I wasn’t there – apparently I was supposed to be monitored for my shower and hadn’t realized it. Thankfully I was fine!
At 9:30am, Rohit came. There was another girl watching Dora the Explorer in the family room area of the birth center (her mom had arrived in labor) and we kept telling Rohit there was a baby for him to meet, but he didn’t care until we bribed him with fruit snacks. Wait ‘til we tease him about that in the future! When he saw the baby, he smiled and cautiously touched his toes. It was so sweet. Once I got in bed and had both my boys with me, I cried my first tears since the delivery. True happiness. A great husband, two healthy boys, a safe delivery. Life was pretty sweet. Around 11, my mom got my dad from the airport, and by noon we were on our way home.
That evening, we celebrated Rajiv’s birthday with a ‘Welcome to the World Rajiv’ cake. We were going to get a birthday cake with a ‘0’ candle but the Publix bakery person suggested a personalized ‘Welcome to the World’ cake instead – it was perfect. As we sang ‘Welcome to the world Rajiv’ to the tune of Happy Birthday that night, Rohit was so excited about cake and me about my beautiful family. I cried much of the song – tears of happiness then, and quite a few times since. Life is really, really good. Aside from wishing my water had broken on its own and I’d had a completely natural onset of labor, there’s nothing I would’ve changed about my experience bringing Rajiv into our family. Maybe some of my experiences in my prior delivery and earlier in this pregnancy weren’t so great, but it made me savor our water birth experience and midwifery care that much more.
I don’t know if we’ll be having any more kids or not. The first few days, I was a little panicked thinking ‘this is the last time of X, Y, and Z’ but then realized that instead of fretting about it being an experience I may not have again, I should just smile and soak it in. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. :O)
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