Leading up to our upcoming birth, I thought it would be fun to post our previous birth stories. Here is the story of my 1st child, Juelie. Juelie will be turning 11 years old this month, I can’t believe it, seems like it was only yesterday! Note: Juelie was born during my first marriage, in case there was any confusion as to how my husband turns from leprechaun to China-man between this post and the next.
The Birth of Juelie Anise
Born at home April 30, 2002
9 pounds 4 ounces
20 1/2 inches long
14.25 inch head circumference
April 29, 2002, 7:30pm; Sitting in front of the sewing machine, finishing up the sling that would soon cradle my first child. There were so many things to get ready for her and this was last on my list. I was almost finished with it.
I had been having pre-labor contractions for the past couple of months. Everyone suspected that I would deliver before my due date because of this. So here I was a week PAST my due date… still pregnant… still expanding… acquiring new stretch marks by the day! I knew that I hadn’t been ready to give birth. There were so many things still changing and developing inside me. I was becoming a mother. I always thought that was something that happened when the baby was born- it’s not. It’s a process. Every day I could feel myself getting closer and closer to being ready. I didn’t know how long it would take but I knew the time was fast approaching. When I first found out I was pregnant I sat on my bathroom floor thinking, “I’m really going to give birth, it is GOING to happen”. I was terrified. But in this process of unfolding the fear was slowly disappearing. On this day, as I sat sewing my baby’s sling, I wasn’t afraid anymore.
For the past week my contractions had turned from painless to feeling somewhat like menstrual cramps. They came and went. A few nights I was up most of the night with them thinking, “is this going to be it?” As I sat there they came again, but much stronger this time. I must have been feeling them for about 15 or 20 minutes when my husband came in the room to see how things were going with the sling. This is the moment I realized something was different. This is when I realized that I was extremely irritable, and extremely hungry. I was upset because I was having trouble sewing the last three stitches on the pillow of the sling. So while my husband was attempting to step in and help I, nearly involuntarily, announced that I needed to eat– NOW! I’m not sure that he thought too much of it because he sat down at the sewing machine and I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. I was walking back from the bathroom through the bedroom to the room my husband was in when I felt the need to lay down on the bed. When I had sat down on the toilet the pain had gotten worse. I lay down and started crying. Not because I was in real pain, not because I was sad, or scared… I think I cried because I was letting go. My husband came into the bedroom to see what I was doing and I told him what I was feeling and, again, that I needed to eat. He told me to lay down and then went into the kitchen to make dinner. I ate three hamburgers, corn on the cob, and drank something like 3 glasses of juice. My contractions were three minutes apart at this time. I got online to find a birthday card to email to a friend and my husband cleaned the house up a little and finished some projects he had been working on. We were on and off the phone with our doula.
I decided I had to shave my legs. I thought there was no way I would be able to do all the relaxation we’d learned in our Bradley classes if my legs were poking and itching each other. So I got the electric razor and climbed up on the bed, meanwhile my husband began filling the birth tub with hot water.
My contractions were getting stronger, a few times I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through them. My husband was lying on the bed next to where I was sitting trying to get some sleep in case he might have to go to work the next day. He must have been having some serious denial issues or something. I felt a strong sensation taking over my body. I was beginning a contraction, and it was going to be a big one. I immediately let myself fall over in the bed. I knew that I did not want to be sitting up when it peaked. It was the most painful one I had had yet. As it was starting to let down I heard a loud “POP”. We were silent for a moment. “What was that?” I said to my husband. He was as puzzled as I was, but said that he had felt the force from it move the bed. Then a rush of liquid came pouring out of me. My water had broken. I started screaming for him to get towels. As he stuffed them under me I had another contraction, and then another. With each contraction more and more fluid came. I started panicking, I was terrified. My husband called our doula while I went to the bathroom. We decided we weren’t ready for her to come quite yet, but by the time I got out of the bathroom I had changed my mind. I was completely freaked out. I needed someone who knew what I was feeling, and had gone through this themselves, just to come and tell me that things were progressing normally. My husband called our doula back and told her that we needed her to come now and then he called our midwife. Help was on the way.
About 45 minutes or so later our doula showed up and then our midwife a few minutes after. I don’t remember much of that 45 minutes. It seems like they were there practically the moment the phone was hung up. By now my contractions were double peaking and were very intense. The tub was still not even half full due to the lack of hot water, so our doula started heating up pots of water on the stove. I was lying on the bed and my husband was there squeezing my hand through contractions and coaching my breathing, reminding me to keep my vocalizations low. My midwife checked me a few minutes after she arrived and determined that I was 6 centimeters dilated and fully effaced.
About an hour later the birth tub was finally filled. I tore off what little clothes I had left on– I didn’t care at this point, and sank into the water. I labored for about an hour in the tub. I was crouched on my knees, leaning forward, resting my arms and face the side. I was barely aware of anything going on around me. My eyes were shut tight and I was concentrating harder than I could have ever thought possible. My midwife was reclining on the end of bed while her assistant monitored my temperature and the baby’s heartbeat. This was extremely annoying. I had myself braced in every way for contractions and she was interrupting me. Luckily for her, I was working too hard to complain. My husband was right there with me, on the outside of the tub. My doula was helping coach, bringing me water, and helping my husband fan me.
This, I think, was the most amazing part of my daughter’s birth. It was intense, and painful. I was turned completely inward, locked deep inside my body. Feeling so many sensations, which, aside from being painful, were absolutely wonderful. I could feel her moving. I could feel the progress my body was making. I’d have a few contractions, then an intense one, sometimes double or triple peaked. Then her little body would scoot down lower, closer and closer to the outside world. My husband and I were totally tuned into each other. I never at any point felt that I was giving birth on my own. Everyone in the room was participating, but especially my husband. He was experiencing labor right along with me. Most people can describe any pain by saying it is either sharp or dull. Labor pain was neither. It was hard. Hard, forceful pain. It was different from anything else. It was exhausting and all consuming. It was an almost overwhelming sensation thrusting low down in my abdomen. It was working pain. The time in between contractions was lengthening. During these times I was more relaxed than I have ever been. I floated in the warm water, absorbed the humidity. I knew that at any moment this tranquility would inevitably be robbed from me, but it didn’t matter. It felt SO good.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I heard myself say. My doula kindly reminded me that that probably meant I was in transition and my labor was about to change and was almost over. I already knew this. I realized it as soon as I heard my own voice, but I needed her to say that to me right then. Soon after my midwife checked me for the second time and announced that I was at 10 centimeters and could begin pushing at any time. This was a little surprising to me because I hadn’t felt any urge to push at all. I tried pushing a little with the next few contractions. I was shocked by how hard it was. My body rhythm was changing and it took me some time and practice to catch up with it. I tried not pushing with contractions, and then pushing. I hated the feeling of pushing but I realized quickly that it made the pain in my abdomen disappear. This change was more than welcome by me, no matter what it felt like. I started to feel a slight burning sensation around my vaginal opening with each push. I had been waiting for this the whole time. It was my landmark. I knew that when it started to burn that would mean that the baby’s head was right there, almost ready to be born. My husband got in the tub with me. I had started pushing in the squatting position and then my midwife asked me to try sitting up pulling my knees back with each push. I told my doula that I felt dizzy and she came quickly with juice instead of water. Her and my husband kept asking me if I wanted some lip balm because my lips looked chapped. I kept saying no because they felt fine to me. Finally she just put some on me. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about much of anything. I could have been anywhere with anyone watching. As long as my husband was there nothing mattered.
We decided to change positions again. My husband sat with his back against the side of the tub. I got up on my knees with my arms around his neck. I’m so glad I got into this position, while it wasn’t the optimal birthing position for me, and I had wanted my husband to catch the baby, it made pushing much easier. He kept telling me to use his strength, which I did. We worked together beautifully.
The burning continued to build in intensity. My midwife said that the baby’s head should be out with one more push. It was now just after 3:00am on April 30th. I was still holding back a little, fearing the burning sensation of being stretched fully. I felt something, some part of my baby, outside my body. The midwives said that we didn’t get it in that push, but would in the next one for sure. So I gave it all I had. No more messing around. I pushed with all the strength and determination I had in me. The burn now was the most intense thing I have ever felt. It was awful. It was agony. I screamed and then felt her head come out. “Is she ugly?” I inquired breathlessly. “No,” I was assured, “she’s exceptionally beautiful!” Another, almost equally painful push and out came her shoulders followed by a lumpy, slippery, body. “Is she out yet?” I asked, wanting to be absolutely sure.
I turned around to look at her, lifting my leg up over the cord and getting myself into a sitting position. Somehow my husband was holding her, I don’t remember who handed her to him or why he got to hold her first, but it really didn’t matter to me. We looked her over for a few minutes. He was so excited, I was just glad that part of it was over. I wasn’t emotional at all like I had always thought I would be. I think that what many people don’t realize is that when the baby is born, the woman is still in labor. It’s nowhere near as intense, but it is still labor. I asked if I could hold her and took my baby into my arms. I held her to my breast. The first thing I noticed was that she had just one dimple on her left cheek. She wasn’t too interested in nursing and I was having a hard time keeping her face above water with the third stage contractions coming rhythmically. I handed her to my husband and we decided to have him cut the cord then, as opposed to waiting to deliver the placenta as we had stated in our birth plan. I needed to finish delivering and thought it would be easier without being attached to her. Since the cord had long since finished pulsating we figured it wouldn’t do any harm. I sat on the edge of the tub and delivered the placenta, which took a while because some of the membranes were still attached and my midwife’s assistant had to hold the placenta close to my body and twist it around and around until all the membranes had released.
I got out of the tub and went over to the bed where my midwife cleaned and inspected me. My husband got out of the tub with the baby (this was about 20 minutes after she was born) and climbed in bed with me. We nursed for a few minutes. My midwife decided that I needed stitches for a small tear and repaired me while my husband and I talked about our baby, studied, and played with her. She was so peaceful. I can’t remember her crying at all. She just cuddled, soft, and pink, and content. We ate strawberries and drank orange juice and chatted with our midwives and doula. What I had felt come out of me before her head was born was her arm. Apparently she had been sucking her left fist and it got stuck against her right cheek when I went into labor. My midwife had said when I got out of the tub that she bet that baby was at least 9 pounds. I couldn’t believe that, so I asked if we could weigh her then. Sure enough, 9 pounds 4 ounces!
Eventually everyone left and me, my husband, and our new baby all settled in to bed to sleep. Well, they slept. I lay awake for hours with visions of the birth stuck in my head. I kept replaying it over and over again, trying to accept that it had happened, and was over. For the rest of that day I felt quite detached from my baby. I would nurse her and then give her right back to my husband. It was a difficult transition to go from being pregnant with her to having her outside my body. Then next day though, I fell in love with her and have been ever since. When I think of our birth the feelings that come back to me are romantic and intimate and absolutely wonderful. I wouldn’t change a single thing about our birth, and if I get the opportunity to have a second child I will do everything in my power to recreate this experience.