On September 7, 2006 at 11:35 a.m., Hope Lois Reyburn Walsh was born at our house.
It was the most amazing experience. Everything went exactly as we wanted minus a third degree tear.
My contractions woke me up around 1:15 a.m. on Thursday morning. I could tell these were the real thing this time. They weren't strong enough to keep me awake but I was too distracted to sleep so I got up around 2:30 and started cutting up fruit, organizing the basement etc. Unknown to me, John built a new shed, went for a 23km run, brushed his teeth, and recited the original lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" (under its original title, "Boy this Joint is Big"). Ahem. It seems John has provided some edits while I stepped away. Back to the story... By 4:00, I was getting back pain that was difficult to deal with on my own so I woke up John and he came down to the basement with me and provided counter-pressure on my lower back. It really helped me get through the contractions pretty easily. Or so it seemed anyway. My contractions were getting steadily closer together so we decided at 5:30 a.m. to call my friend Pam who had graciously volunteered to take Emily to daycare or pick her up or do whatever we needed. So, we set everything up with Pam who aimed to be at our house at 7:00 around the time Emily normally wakes up. At 6:00 my contractions were 5 minutes apart so we called our midwife, Sarah. She talked to me (kind of) through a contraction on the phone and after listening to me and us speaking she decided she should come over.
I stayed in the basement while John got Emily going on her morning routine. Pam helped me through the contractions. This worked really well because nothing seemed too out of the ordinary for Emily except that it was Daddy instead of Mummy doing her morning. Sarah arrived as well around the same time as Pam and gave me a vaginal exam. I was 5 cm dilated. This was great news for me as I was moving along quickly, as Sarah had predicted. It gave me a motivation boost. Of course, my contractions slowed down as soon as Sarah arrived. This was actually helpful for me though because I needed to take a course of penicillin (I had tested positive for Group B Strep). This would have been difficult if my contractions stayed 5 minutes apart as it takes 20 minutes to take the course of antibiotics. The contractions moved to 10 minutes apart so it was easier for me.
After Pam left with Emily, Sarah suggested that John and I go back to bed for a while and try and get some rest between contractions. I think this was around 9:00 (I lost track of time a little, not surprisingly). This was great. I was able to doze off between contractions and breathe through a few. After a few more though I needed the counter-pressure on my back again so I would get on my hands and knees and John would do his thing again. I actually spent most of my early and active labour on my hands and knees. I was really worried about the baby turning posterior like Emily was - an experience I didn't want to relive. Staying on hands and knees is the best position to encourage baby to be in an anterior position. It totally worked for me. For most of my labour she was perfectly placed with her back towards my left side and then at the end of our rest session in our bedroom, around 10:00 a.m., I had four contractions come one right after another and during the last one I felt her move and then I had less back pressure all of a sudden and I was sure she moved into an anterior position. At that point, Sarah had come upstairs to check the baby's heart rate. She suggested that we move back to the basement where I planned to deliver her. On the way downstairs I had one more contraction - the piano served me well there. Then I got into the pool and right away started feeling a strong urge to push.
I got scared at this point because it was exactly the same feeling I had with Emily, yet even though I tried pushing her, I didn't get anywhere in bringing her down. However, that fear was replaced with elation when I heard Sarah call my other midwife, Claudia, and ask her to come as soon as possible. That made me feel great! I knew that things were happening just as they should. I heard Sarah tell Claudia that I was at 10 cm and ready to push. Another huge motivator. In fact, Sarah said to us that she hoped Claudia got there soon because she didn't want the baby to come until she got there. It made me feel like this would be quick. In reality, the pushing took an hour and 20 minutes but it felt like 15 minutes to me.
Pushing. Wow, there is some serious work. I think labour is labelled 'labour' just because of that stage. I have never exerted so much physical effort into anything in my life. The great thing though was that between the contractions I felt no pain and just rested and floated in the birthing pool. I pushed at first leaning over the side and grabbing John's legs while he put counter-pressure on my hips. After a while I started to cramp in my legs so Sarah had me flip over. I squatted and pushed and then, so Sarah could see better, I had my pelvis in front of me. During the breaks I just let my hips float up. Things were moving quickly and Sarah was having trouble seeing. Sometime during all this Claudia arrived with Cathy, a midwifery student. Sarah had me focus all my energy on my pushes by having me stay as quiet as possible during the pushes. This really helped too. Anyway, I crowned, Sarah held me back from pushing further but during the next contraction, Hope's head came out with her hand up around her face. The speed of that and her hand resulted in a big tear. I could tell - not from pain, but from how quick it happened. I just assumed that I tore. I think that if I had left the tub for the delivery the tear wouldn't have been so bad but I just wasn't willing to move.
So, after that I felt that I had done it. John had to remind me that it wasn't over yet. I had to stay focussed. Quickly, her shoulders came (which hurt more than the head, by the way) and then she was out, on my chest, and having her cord unwrapped from her neck (it was around twice). No problem though. It was an absolutely glorious, empowering experience. I really felt like I had accomplished, with John, something huge. And poor John only suffered from squished fingers, legs and some pelvic bruisng of his own. I won't embellish.
We left the now very gross pool and I delivered the placenta. Hope was wrapped up beside me soon after that, sucking on my finger but clearly ready to breastfeed. We got going on that while we waited for another midwife, Sandra, known to be an expert suturer to arrive. Sandra spent 30 minutes repairing my 3rd degree tear. I was so thankful for her expertise. Otherwise, I would have had to transfer to a hospital for suturing and be admitted. That would have royally sucked.
After that it was just a really beautiful time of a group of women (and one great guy), laughing and talking, drinking tea and eating toast while listening to Claudia play the piano upstairs. Turns out she was playing a hymn: Oh God, Dear Womb. Very cool indeed.
You know, the idea of uterine rupture never even crossed my mind during the delivery. I just felt that everything was happening as it should - my body was doing what it was designed to do, the baby was doing what she was supposed to do. None of those fears that OBs put into our heads about VBACs entered my mind. I think that came from a lot of research on my part and the total confidence and joy of the midwives that were with me.
After everyone left, John, Hope and I were left to sleep the rest of the afternoon away in the basement. Emily had supper at Pam's and was thrilled to come home and meet her sister. Since then it has pretty much been perfect.