Continuing the posting of my past birth’s leading up to the birth of our newest addition, here is Behn’s story.
The Birth of Behnjamin Shen
Born at home June 23, 2006
8 pounds 15 ounces
21 inches long
13.5 inch head circumference
I had had several months of prodromal labor with both of my pregnancies, though the contractions were stronger and closer together with my second. When I went into labor with my first I actually had about 5 hours of early labor, but I didn’t really realize I was in labor until my water broke, at which point hard labor hit immediately and my daughter was born 3 hours later. With this pregnancy, my second, I thought I was in early labor 3 or 4 times a week for the last 6 weeks of the pregnancy. After so many let downs, I decided the only way I would know when I was in labor would be when my water broke, which I expected to happen spontaneously. I was also reminded by my midwife during the 40th week that with “real labor” the contractions will move up above my belly button, so that gave me 2 unmistakable signs to look for to know when I was really in labor…
Labor and Birth
On the morning of June 23, 2006, six days past my estimated due date, I woke up to a very crampy contraction. I immediately thought “today is the day.” It was about 5:45 am. I got up to go to the bathroom where I had contractions that seemed to be about 3 minutes apart. I was in there for maybe 15 minutes. The contractions were definitely different than the ones I’d been having, but the cramping was very low in my belly. I went back to the bed intending to work through them on my own for a while and let Kolby get some sleep. I was very nervous and my body was shaking uncontrollably, in a random tremor-like way. I tapped Kolby on the arm and said his name… he didn’t move… I more frantically tapped him and said his name with a little more urgency. He woke up and without even meaning to I immediately said, “I’m in labor. We sat on the bed together for a while, him trying to calm me down. Juelie had been sleeping on the floor beside the bed and woke up asking if mommy was having the baby today.
About 20 minutes later I was in the living room on my knees leaning over the birth ball. I was in and out of the bathroom every few contractions, where I would have contractions sitting on the toilet leaning over bracing myself on the side of the tub, and squatting down hanging onto the edge of the sink. Kolby called my sister to have her come over and get breakfast for Juels. He called the midwife who was just finishing up with another birth, and he called our doula. By this time I was beginning to vocalize through contractions. The sun was out already and I complained that it was too bright in the room so Kolby taped a blanket up over the living room window.
The contractions were getting stronger and I could feel a lot of pressure and my cervix stretching during the contractions. Things were moving fast, but the contractions were still under my belly button and my water still hadn’t broken, so I figured I wasn’t really in “active” labor yet. It was getting difficult to hang on to the birth ball during contractions. I kept putting one arm on the floor to steady myself, or rocking the ball back and forth. I was getting louder and louder. At some point I had a very strong contraction and I remember saying, “these contractions are going to break my water!” There was SO much pressure. The center of the pain was low in my belly, like where you would feel menstrual cramps and extended up to my belly button.
I was so tired in between contractions and since my water hadn’t broken I figured I still had some time to go. I told Kolby I wanted to try lying down in bed, figuring I could relax better between contractions there. We laid down in bed, Kolby laying behind me. By this time I felt as though I was writhing in pain , gripping a pillow as the contractions peaked. I was moaning as loudly as I possibly could, struggling to keep my sounds low, and trying to put all of the energy of the contractions into sound to get it out of my body enough to take the edge off the pain. I was still shaking uncontrollably between contractions. I was thinking that I wasn’t handling things well, because I still didn’t think that the most intense part of labor had come yet since my waters were still intact. I was worried that when my water broke I wouldn’t be able to handle it, since I was just barely hanging in there as it were. There was an incredible amount of pressure with the contractions. I hadn’t gotten in the birth pool yet because I wanted to save the water for when I really needed relief.
I only had about 3 or 4 contractions laying on the bed before I announced I needed to get in the pool, at which point I jumped up, tore off my pants leaving only my sports bra on, and practically ran to the living room, getting into the pool as quickly as possible as another contraction was building. I got on my knees and gripped the side of the pool with my arms as the contraction peaked, then took off the now wet sports bra and threw it on the floor. I really was having a hard time making it through contractions. It was feeling like they were so much bigger and more powerful than I was. Within a few minutes I had a contraction and as it was begging to taper down I felt my body push. I think you could say this is where I began to panic a bit. It was still just Kolby, my sister, Juels, and me. My body was pushing on it’s own, something I only experienced during the last few pushes during my first labor (where I had pushed for an hour without a strong urge). I started to feel my vagina stretching open with the contractions and something pushing down through it. I kept saying, “There’s a head, I feel a head!”
Kolby didn’t really believe me, I knew he didn’t believe me. Still, he told me if my body was pushing then that’s what it needed to do and to go with what my body was telling me to do. He had been on the phone with the midwives and told me they were just down the street. I pushed again and felt what I thought was the head move way down, stretch me out, and then slide back up again. With the next contraction the “head” I’d felt came down again… and exploded! It was my water! I called out that my water had just broken, and in that instant I felt an intense “hard” pressure in my butt, and then I remembered– THAT is what a head feels like! Moments later the midwives walked in the door. Morgan, the back up midwife (my usual midwife wasn’t feeling well), Theresa, one of the interns I’d seen at many of my prenatal appointments, and another midwife I hadn’t met before. I heard Morgan introduce her as they hurried in, but can’t recall her name.
Things get pretty blurry from here. This was about 35 minutes after I got into the pool. I couldn’t tell where one contraction ended and another began. I was lost in a jumble of pain and involuntary pushing, with a few voluntary pushes in between. I was feeling pretty desperate to get this baby out. Morgan had me move around to where she could see me better. Juels had gotten in the tub at some point when I had said, “if she’s going to help catch you’d better get her in here NOW!” I was starting to feel a strong burning as I was stretching around the baby’s head. Still in panic mode, I could hear myself saying, “It burns! It burns so bad!” This was fear speaking, it did burn, but not nearly as bad as my first baby had. I was scared that the burn was going to become as bad as it had been with my first labor. I vaguely remember Morgan saying the baby’s hand was up by his face. Kolby says he thinks she pushed it back in. I couldn’t tell if what I was feeling was the midwife or the baby, and so I asked her and she assured me it was the baby, which for some reason made it okay to me. Before I knew it the head was out. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe I had been pushing in the first place, much less that my baby’s head was now outside my body. Morgan lifted the cord from around his neck. Kolby and Juels touched his head. I kept saying random unintentional things like, “Is his head really out? Is he okay?” I even asked if he was alive. Morgan had me turn around and lean my back into the side of the tub, I had been on my knees the entire time. I kept trying to stay in a squat but for some reason needed to go back to my knees again. I really didn’t want to turn around as that had been very uncomfortable during my first labor. However, I didn’t sit down, I kept my bottom up about a foot off the bottom of the pool. I was scared to see the baby’s head, but I couldn’t see it below my belly anyway. I had always been terrified of that moment when the baby emerges from my body and I was totally disconnected from it during my first labor, with no interest whatsoever in seeing the baby come out, much less touching the baby. Well, this time I was so desperate to get the baby out and so in need of reassurance that I really was almost there that I reached down and felt his soft little head. This gave me so much comfort and motivation. His head was out for about 2 and a half minutes before I got another contraction with an urge to push, I believe the midwife had me start pushing before the contraction even began as she maneuvered his shoulders to help them out. Kolby and Juelie caught him, though I didn’t see them do it. My eyes must have been closed because for some reason I didn’t see his birth. He was born 9 minutes after the midwives arrived.
The next thing I know I’m being handed a light haired, light skinned little boy. I was pretty surprised since my husband is half Chinese and we’d both had dreams of a baby boy with thick black hair and tan skin. I didn’t care. I didn’t care what he looked like. I didn’t care that he looked so tiny and I had been obsessed during my pregnancy with having a baby close to or over 10 pounds. Nothing mattered but that I was holding my baby. I started talking to him and kissing him. He was pretty limp though he pinked up quickly.
I touched the cord and felt it pulsating, something I’d wanted to feel for a long time and didn’t get to with my first baby. I still had a crampy feeling low in my belly, but the contractions had stopped, something that was also different from my first baby. It seemed like so much time was passing and I was worried the placenta wouldn’t come. The midwives weren’t concerned about it. Morgan just asked me if I wanted to deliver it in the tub or outside the tub where she had set up a nest of Chux pads on the floor. I wanted to deliver in the tub but it just wasn’t working.
The cord had long since stopped pulsating so Kolby cut it and I got out to deliver the placenta, which didn’t come easily or comfortably. After I had delivered it Morgan helped me into the bedroom. I got a little light headed on the way there but for the most part I felt really well. I laid on the bed to be checked.
Eventually the baby was brought in and the room filled with chatter. Our doula got there sometime around this point. The midwives were asking me questions and filling out paper work. Behn was wrapped in a towel. I worked on getting him interested in nursing as I lay on the bed. He passed meconium right onto the towel. We switched him to a clean towel.
A while later he passed more into the towel and went on to wiggle in it and managed to smear it all over the bottom half of his tiny body. Morgan cleaned him up. By the time we weighed him he was 8 pounds 15 ounces, but they guessed before all the poop he would have been more like 9 pounds 2 ounces. A few hours later and after some successful nursing he was measured, 21 inches long. One of the midwives showed Kolby and Juelie the placenta while I nursed the baby. Kolby video taped the “placenta tour” and Juelie got to feel all the different parts of it.
I was starving, Kolby cooked a chicken breast for me, which I ate about 10 bites of between distractions and nursing, and I drank a cup of postpartum tea my doula had made for me. I got up to go into the bathroom to try to urinate, the midwives wanted me to before they left. When I came back from the bathroom 15-20 minutes later the baby wasn’t quite the nice healthy pink color he had been when I’d last seen him. He was purplish all over his arms, legs, belly, and face. Morgan came in and looked at him and noticed it too. This was about 3 hours after birth. They checked his heart and respiratory rates and everything seemed normal. Morgan decided to call over to the hospital to consult with one of the physicians there who had helped her with questions she’d had at many other births. The baby was starting to turn pink again, but the doctor decided it would be best to bring him in, just to be safe.
By the time we got ready to go out the door, about 2 hours after we first noticed the odd coloring, the baby was back to his healthy color again. The doctor wanted Morgan to bring him in on oxygen, but he looked fine now so we got in the car and she just brought the oxygen tank along. We got to the NICU 5 hours and 15 minutes after the birth. The baby looked fine and all the tests they ran came out perfect. The x-rays showed a tiny bit of fluid in his right lung. They had 2 guesses as to the cause of the problem. 1) He’d been born so fast the birth canal wasn’t able to aspirate all of the amniotic fluid out of his lungs. 2) He had inhaled a tiny bit of breastmilk during his first feeding, which they said is pretty common. We assume it was the second guess, since the problem didn’t show up until several hours after the birth. They decided to keep him overnight for monitoring and to avoid having to discharge and then re-admit him if any problems came up during the night. We spent about 4 hours in an exam-type room with the baby in a little bed under heat lamps with monitors attached to him. The nurses attempted to draw blood from his arm and heel multiple times and were barely able to get enough for the more “important” of the tests the doctor ordered. I sat nearby on a hard stool, so sleepy I could barely keep myself upright, and starving (once again). After a few hours my doula have me some Emergen-C and Kolby brought me a cup of chamomile tea. They said they wanted to keep him over night for monitoring and would get us a room, but that ended up taking several hours. Once we knew that everything was alright the remaining 2 midwives, Morgan and Theresa (the other one had left our house before we noticed the problem with the baby) left, and our doula went home a little while before we got our room, which was around 5:00. My sister had taken Juels and gone to get some snacks and some things from home. Once she got back Kolby went to pickup dinner from a friend who had made it for us. While we were waiting I ate 2 graham crackers, then FINALLY at around 6:00 I got to eat a real meal for the first time that day. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to eat in the room (I ended up sneaking food all through the night between the nurses checking on us.)
I didn’t get the chance to lay down to try to rest until between 12:30 and 12:45 am on the 24th. I got about 45 minutes of sleep. I was up nursing the baby for the next few hours. At one point Kolby took the baby and I fell in and out of sleep for 15-20 minutes before he needed to nurse again.
Kolby went to sleep and the baby and I stayed up nursing until 5:45 am. I laid down to nurse him, because I couldn’t sit up any longer. I fell asleep with the baby lying on the couch with me (totally natural for us since we co-sleep) and the nurse came in and woke me up 15 minutes later telling me the baby could get hurt and that I needed to put him in the little crib, which I had not put him in once since we’d gotten into the room. He was still hooked up to monitors but they had moved the couch closer to the crib so that I could sit down and be able to nurse him. Well, I knew that if I put him in the crib he’d just wake up and want to nurse again so instead I just sat up and watched him for about an hour and a half, then woke Kolby up so he could watch the baby and I could go to the restroom.
We got home at about 10 am, and around 1:00 pm I finally got a nap and a little bit of food in my stomach.
All in all, the birth was good. I just wish I’d have listened to my body better and not tried so hard to gauge where things were based on my previous labor experience. This labor was similar in that it was fast (2 hours 20 minutes from the first contraction to birth), but otherwise it was so very different. To me it only felt like it was about 45 minutes long. I kept looking at the baby after ward saying, “I just can’t believe its over!” My “fool proof” sings for telling when I was in serious labor ended up meaning nothing at all since my water didn’t break until after I started pushing and the center of the contractions stayed low in my belly the entire time. Just like with my first baby it took me a day or two to process the experience and fall in love with my baby. I felt for him immediately after he was born, in that I’d worked hard for him and felt protective toward him, but I didn’t really bond with him until several days after.
We all love him so much, and Juelie is doing amazingly well as a big sister. Behnjamin is such a wonderful blessing!