Miriam Bathsheba joined our family on 12/13/09 at 1:07 PM, weighing 8 lbs and measuring 21 inches long.
I'm still, days later, in awe at what a difference this experience was for me...emotionally and physically. In a way this was so much harder than Naomi's birth was, and yet, in a way, it's been so much easier. The pregnancy with Naomi was easier on me physically, even if it was high risk. Naomi was born as intervention free as possible in a hospital, with an OB-the safest place to be with her, and I respect that, but I'm so glad that I had the option to choose a homebirth this time, because for me, for us, it was the right choice. I'm sitting here, days after Miriam's birth and mentally I'm in a place I absolutely couldn't have been at this point after Naomi's birth. (For what it's worth, I probably should have been evaluated for and quite likely treated for PPD after Naomi's birth, but I was foolish and stubborn and didn't ask for help when I needed it-and I know how it affected my relationship with Naomi, too.)
With my brother in the hospital, (he spent about six weeks total in the hospital due to complications caused by a surgical error during an appendectomy) it was easy to identify what was holding things up this time. Still on December 3, contractions started up at 5 minutes apart, lasting a minute, and enough to be noticeable-in fact, zedrikcayne was the one who pointed out to me that they were coming five minutes apart. I told Cayne not to call the midwife or anything yet, because they were still not too difficult to get through.
Friday morning, they were still at the same interval, slightly more intense. I took a bath, hung out, Cayne stayed home from work that day. I still didn't think it was real labor. I told Cayne to call the midwife at his discretion...I didn't think it was time yet, but I know that he gets anxious before I do about these things. The weather was miserable-cold and rainy, and the three of us went to the grocery store to get some food in case it really was labor, so we could feed the midwife and her assistant-the best doula in the world who is now studying midwifery. (Kelli is our midwife, Maggie is her assistant-she was the doula with us when Naomi was born.) We walked through the grocery store, things kept going, got a little more intense, but never got closer together. We talked to Kelli on Friday evening, and said "Maybe this weekend, maybe not...we'll see, and we'll keep in touch." I mentioned possibly breaking out the breast pump and trying to get things moving. Things kept up at about five minutes apart all weekend long, and I was tired and grumpy and not sleeping well. We baked oatmeal cookies (lactation cookies.) Monday rolled around, still at five minutes apart, and Cayne decided to take the day off. I had a midwife appointment that evening, and Kelli asked if I'd tried pumping at all. I told her "no" and I also said that I knew the baby had his or her own time line for coming and that I was trying very hard to respect that, even if I was frustrated and exhausted. She reminded me that I was doing the right thing by respecting the baby's time line. She also refused to make an appointment for the following week.
It's worth noting that between when the contractions started on Thursday and the beginning of the next week, my brother was extubated, got significantly worse and was reintubated. My sister also went back to California for a job interview.
Cayne took Tuesday off as well, and stayed with me. We got a few things done around the house, but I was still exhausted, grumpy and contracting. Wednesday and Thursday more of the same. Cayne took Naomi to yoga on Wednesday and let me stay home and rest. Some short trips for errands and food, but no progress. I'm getting disheartened and frustrated. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, my brother had a tracheostomy, and began improving significantly. By Friday he was cranky and demanding shorts-he'd regained some modesty. On Friday, nine days after they began, my contractions finally shifted to four minutes apart and got a little more intense. They actually took some focus to get through and sometimes even a little noise. Friday night, as had become the norm, Mom called me while she was driving home from the hospital with the evening update. But instead of just the usual evening update, we had a normal conversation-one where I told her what Naomi was up to and everyday things. It finally felt like some of the dread had lifted.
Saturday, things continued at 4 minutes apart. My in laws arrived Saturday evening, and arranged to pick up Naomi the following day so we could have a little break and some rest. Cayne and I stayed up late, opened a bottle of wine and watched Saturday Night Live. He went to bed a bit before I did, I dozed off on the couch, finished my wine and was really grouchy about having had a week of contractions and no baby, along with very little sleep.
I crawled into bed a little to get some sleep, and figured I'd take a shower in the morning, before my in laws showed up. I woke up at about 6:15 in the morning, got out of bed to pee and had contractions that were really strong and three minutes apart. I used the bathroom and decided to get back into bed, figuring that either the contractions would pick up and it would be time to call the midwife or they would slow down again and I'd be able to get some sleep. Fifteen or so minutes later, Cayne showed up at my door, listened to me go through a contraction and said to me, "I had a feeling I needed to be up early this morning. Is it time to call Kelli?" I told him to wait about an hour to make sure that things kept moving and then we could call Kelli. I climbed back up on the bed and tried to get comfortable, but gave up soon after and began moving around the house to try and find a comfortable place to labor. I tried sitting, I tried kneeling in front of the couch, nothing worked well. I retreated to the bathtub because that's the place that had given me the most relief when laboring with Naomi. I got into the water and repeatedly hummed or sang the Shaker hymn (or dance tune depending who you ask) "Simple Gifts." It fit with my decision to approach the labor as a gift and a blessing. It was in a sense, my theme music through this part of labor.
Time passed, Cayne called Kelli-we were vague about who would call Maggie though, and so I asked him to call her. Maggie reassured Cayne that Kelli had already called her and that Kelli was picking her up so they would both be here in about an hour. Meanwhile, Naomi woke up, and needed breakfast and attention. Cayne called his parents (who were staying at a hotel about 20 or so minutes away from us) who told him that they were just finishing breakfast, but that they had had a feeling that they might need to be up early today as well. I ate some cheese and bread and drank water while I hung out in the bathtub. While I thought I wanted Naomi around, once she joined me in the bathroom, I also, very quickly realized that she be a distraction, taking me out of the place I needed to be in. I looked at her carefully, at how grown up she looked, babbling and talking, and walking, and realized that this was the last moments I'd have like this-as mother of one child, with the two of us together, alone. I wept a little at the loss of this, no matter how much I looked forward to Miriam, there was still a sense of loss. Still, I was glad for her presence while I sat in the tub, moaning through contractions, and playing with Naomi and her rubber duck in between them. Kelli and Maggie showed up.
A short while later, Cayne's parents showed up. He and his Dad got Naomi's things packed up, installed a car seat in their car for her, and his Mom visited briefly with me in the bathtub. (Totally awkward-I'm naked in the tub contracting and trying to carry on a conversation with my mother in law. Oh well, whatever.)
I kissed Naomi good bye for the last time as mother of an only child. She would come home as my first baby, suddenly grown up more than I'd realized. Naomi departed with her grandparents (she was fine with it, I was weepy.)
Kelli and Maggie checked fetal heart tones, temperature and blood pressure while I was in the tub, we talked, they made sure I'd eaten and had something to drink, and they let me be, while they set up in the living room.
The tub, however, turned out to be the wrong place to be. I'd really thought I'd want to be in the water, I thought I'd envisioned a lovely and peaceful waterbirth. It just wasn't right. I emerged from the bathroom a short while later, dried off and showed up in the living room wearing nothing but a grey night shirt. Still with intense contractions.
We danced our way through labor this time. Together. I'd call for Cayne during contractions, face him and lean into his chest, letting him hold me up. It was truly a labor of love and a team effort. I'd moan my way through contractions and then let go of him as they passed. Sometimes we kissed and nuzzled. I even gave him a hickey, by accident, while contracting.
At one point, I asked for my vanilla scented lotion on my legs. It sounds strange, but the position that I adopted in order to facilitate the application of said lotion was actually a really good pelvis-opening position. (One foot up on the step stool, other foot on the ground.)
Kelli was sitting at my dining room table, crocheting. It was wonderful to have her there-non- invasive, but present and calming. Maggie sat and read. Kelli looked up at one point, leaned over, and scrunched up her face, noting aloud the presence of a green spirit guide in the den-and told us the spirit guide for the baby was already there. As woo-woo as this might sound to some people, I embraced this thought, I think, perhaps, it helped shorten things for me.
Mostly, I paced my way between contractions...I tried a couple of other positions-sitting on the ball, sitting on the couch, kneeling in front of things and leaning, but it didn't feel right. ("Not right. It's just not right.") Every time I sat down, I'd get back up.
At some point, I went into the bathroom to pee, and when I wiped, there was some red blood. I commented on it to Kelli and Maggie who assumed it was just bloody show, as I hadn't had it yet.
We kept pacing around the living room. Kelli looked up, sniffed the air and Maggie said to her, "Amniotic fluid smell?" They spread some big chux on the floor. Not too long after (though I have no idea how long) and while I was leaning against Cayne, there was a big splash, and my water broke, all over the floor. And on his feet, too. The contractions changed after this. An old shower curtain we had around made an appearance on the floor to protect the rug, too.
Someone asked me if I'd had any calories today. I told them yes, I'd eaten cheese and bread and water. They offered juice-I'd gotten through Naomi's labor with apple juice and purple popsicles...though juice sounded like a terrible idea, I did ask for a purple popsicle, which I ate heartily. After a few hours of contractions on my feet, Maggie and Kelli were encouraging me to try and sit down for a little while. I sat on the birth stool, eyes closed, moaning and rocking, and eating my popsicle. Kelli said something about looking like a birth goddess, I laughed and said something about "Do birth goddesses have popsicles?"
I got up and paced more between contractions. They were intense, regular and hard. I could feel the baby in my lower back-she'd been ROA (right occiput anterior) but the contractions were intense in my low back and in my tush.
Maggie encouraged me to go to the bathroom, because I hadn't emptied my bladder in quite a while. Contractions while sitting on the toilet where intensely painful and very hard to get through. I began to feel panic rising while I was doing this, the pain intensified in a way that didn't feel like transition but just felt like it hurt too much to keep going. Cayne was with me, but as I felt my breathing change and could identify the emotion, I told him that I needed Maggie in that moment. I knew fear was the wrong thing to feel, that it was going to stop or slow my labor, that it would interfere with what was going on. He called for her, and she crouched in front of me and asked what was wrong. I was so deep in my emotions, and in trying to cope with contractions that I couldn't do much more than choke out "Fear." She asked what I was afraid of, and I couldn't put it into words...I still don't know what it was-was it pain, was it trying to parent two children, was it something else entirely? No idea. I choked out "Don't know what" in between contractions and small pushes to move the baby down. She took my hand, she leaned over and she gave me a Maggie-style pep talk...a little guided imagery to get to a safe place and let me release the fear.
I left the bathroom, and paced through contractions for a short while longer, pushing gently but not very effectively. I felt the fear, the discouragement, the doubt, the exhaustion that was transition-it was very clear and very vivid. I felt it leaning over, hands braced on a chair, hearing in my head the voice that said "I can't do this anymore, I'm too exhausted." That voice was immediately followed by the one that said, "Hey, this is probably transition, which means that we're getting close to the end. Go away, Doubt." It worked, too.
And here's the part where they boiled water for something other than tea too! Kelli used warm compresses with herbs that smelled terrific on my perineum-it's a little weird to do when I was standing up but they felt good as the baby's head moved lower and things stretched more.
Kelli used a finger in my vagina to help me direct my pushing in the right place and commented that I have a deep enough pelvis that it really should have five stations not four, but that she was pretty sure that baby was at +2 station. ("Station" refers to the position of the top of the baby's head relative to the ischeal spines-the narrowest part of the pelvis. Minus means baby's head is above, plus means baby's head is below.) I paced in small circles at one point during this stage. (Interesting note-elephants in the wild give birth in groups, where laboring mother or mothers are protected from predators by a circling herd. Captive elephants often go through a sort of tail chasing motion while laboring, which is believed to be their effort to replicate the circling herd. I didn't think about the circling herd until after I'd had Miriam, but it just stuck in my head when I thought about the way I moved.)
I was very, very tired. Maggie suggested that I try laying down on the floor-a place I'd spent a good part of early labor with Naomi. They brought me a few pillows from my bedroom, and I lay down kind of in the rescue position. Widget came over and tried to get in my face and cuddle with me. I pet him in between contractions, and when I felt the beginning of a contraction, I'd roll up onto hands and knees, have my contraction, and then collapse back down to rest. This took up probably, the last hour or so of labor. I was still pushing ineffectively-I just couldn't find the right spot. And then, things changed. I found something deep inside me. I went through a moment that Cayne describes as "speaking in tongues"-really I just flapped my tongue against my top lip (there's a linguistic or speech-pathology description for this, and I don't remember what it is.) And then, I roared the baby out. With each contraction, I pushed, and with each push, I roared. Cayne says I roared the way I do when I play with Naomi-a sort of "raaaawwwwwwr" sound, only much louder than when we play together. (That volume is why I was glad she wasn't here-I didn't worry about frightening her as I roared Miriam out.) A few contractions and pushes, and I could feel her head ready to crown. I dug in even more, with Cayne sitting near my head, and pushed fiercely, and her head was out...with Kelli not even having time to put gloves on before catching the baby so she didn't hit the floor. The cord was wrapped around her three times-around her neck, torso and arm/shoulder, so I was told not to push while the cord was unwrapped from her...and oh my was that difficult. It couldn't have been very long, but I was begging to push..."Can I push now, please? Kelli, can I push now?" I also said (according to Cayne) "I would really like to push now, please. While it seemed like forever, it wasn't very long and still on hands and knees, I pushed Miriam Bathsheba out into the world with just a few more contractions-shoulders, torso, and all.
Of course, being on hands and knees, there was no way that I could see what sex she was, nor could I tell anything about her. Despite the fact that I'd been looking forward to Cayne telling me the sex of the baby (which had been one of my favorite moments from Naomi's birth-having him tell me the sex of the baby,) suddenly I knew that wasn't the right thing this time. I asked, perhaps with incredible passion, to find out myself. And of course this was challenging for everyone who could see her...to not use a gendered pronoun to describe the baby as they were talking to me. (Darn English and your lack of gender neutral pronouns in widespread use.) When it was clear that the placenta had detached and the cord stopped pulsing (though the placenta had not yet emerged) they helped me onto my back and placed a blanket covered bundle into my arms. I pulled back the blanket and discovered what appears to be a girl. And then I tried to get her into position to nurse, which didn't work very well while I was flat on my back. I could see the skid mark on her neck and shoulder and torso where the cord had been wrapped, too.
After my vulva and vagina had been inspected for damage (no tears, no skid marks, nothing but a little bruise at the introitus, go me) I got off the floor with some help, and sat on the couch (on some chux and towels, of course) to nurse the baby and wait for the placenta. We sat, chatted, waited, I nursed Miriam, and felt a sense of peace that I never felt at the hospital with Naomi's birth. Eventually, I grunted and had a few more contractions, and the placenta plopped out, caught by Kelli, and placed into a metal bowl to take a look at. The blood early in labor may have been from a minor abruption-nothing serious, nothing that affected Miriam, or anything. Only one, slightly calcified spot (she could have stayed in longer if she needed to.) We discussed whether or not we wanted to keep the placenta and plant it (what we'd originally planned to do) but I realized I couldn't do that-if I'd done it, I couldn't have left this house with that part of us here, and I didn't want to try and dig it up. Instead, we decided to send the placenta with Kelli, who has a "placenta garden"-a garden where she plants placentas and plants...ours was planted last week on Solstice. Before it was packed up though, I asked if I there was a spare glove around and could I check it out. So there I am, nursing baby with one hand, feeling the placenta with the other and it was amazing. It was just cool-Kelli was explaining the lobes and branches and different features. I mean, I may not be a blood and guts type (which is why I'll never go to nursing or midwifery school) but how cool it was to get to check out the one I grew inside me.
After that, Kelli helped me to the bathroom (with a Chux between my legs so I didn't bleed all over the floor) and I got to put the funky mesh underpants on, and clean up a bit.
Maggie and Kelli cleaned up the birth supplies, started a load of laundry-seriously, you wouldn't know there was a baby born in my living room when they left, we chatted, did some paperwork, and I cuddled and nursed Miriam.
As is "tradition" with Bradley method births, we drank orange juice once Miriam was born. (Watch a Bradley method birth video and if you see the couple at the end, they're probably drinking orange juice. We did it as a joke with Naomi, but now we felt like we had to do it.) Then, after the celebratory orange juice, we popped open a bottle of champagne and made mimosas for everyone. (It was brunch time...early afternoon, on a Sunday-why not?)
And soon after, Maggie and Kelli left us, and we settled down to get to know Miriam. She fell asleep, I passed her off to Cayne, took a shower, and came back to cuddle, nurse and nap until his parents brought Naomi home and we could get down to being a family of four.
And that is the story of how Miriam joined our family. I think the best comment ever might have been Maggie's Facebook status update that evening...which said that she "welcomes baby Miriam, born early this afternoon, at home, on purpose."