If you're not interested in all the bloody details and cursing, you should read the rated-G version instead. I have links to photos here, but if you're not interested in seeing me completely naked, be careful what links you click. Also, this is completely unedited and off the top of my head. Feel free to email me if you see errors, but I'll probably just laugh and never correct them. I've been writing this in spurts lasting only a few minutes. It seems everytime I sit down, the baby wants to be fed. Go figure.
I had been feeling crampy and bitchy all morning. I got up to go to the bathroom for what seemed like the hundredth time that day. As soon as I stepped on the floor of the kitchen, I felt this little pop, similar to a water balloon breaking, and then I felt a trickle of water run down my leg. "My water just broke." I said to Terry. Good thing I was standing in the kitchen and not on the carpet. "Really?" he asked. I'm sure he wasn't expecting it at 2:15 in the afternoon. "It's about fucking time!" I spouted off. You can see that by this point in the nearly 10-month pregancy (actually 283 days to be precise), I had lost nearly all sense of humor.
I managed to make a few more steps into the bathroom and then gushed more amniotic fluid into the toilet. It was a little greenish, which meant the baby had pooped inside of me. This is actually fairly common, but it can be a problem if the baby isn't born for many hours afterward. Baby's first poop, called meconium, is a tarish black goop that can be caustic to the baby's lungs, but it is at least diluted by amniotic fluid.
While I was on the toilet assessing the situation, Terry asked if he should call our midwife, Yelena. He did. I hadn't started having contractions, so we told her we'd call back once things got rolling. Terry then called my friend Julie (who's a recently trained doula--a birthing assistant) to tell her that labor would be starting soon.
No sooner did he hang up when contractions started. At first, they were about 5 minutes apart and fairly mild. I told Terry he should call back Yelena and Julie. My previous two labors went fairly quickly (6 hours and 3 hours), so I expected this one to be fast as well.
I called out to Devin and Erin that the baby was going to come soon. They both got so excited, they were screaming and yelling and running around the house. I got them both to settle down a bit and explained that we needed the house to be quiet and that they could play on the computer or in their room just as long as they were quiet. I had prepared Devin to make phone calls by giving him a list of names and numbers, just in case Terry wasn't home. Devin asked me if he could start calling people, so I said he could. A few of the people he called got messages saying "Hi, this is Devin. My mom's water balloon just broke..." He's such a cutie, but I had figured that he would understand it better if I explained to him that the baby was in a waterballoon in my belly. It's amazing what kids remember!
I managed to walk up stairs with a towel between my legs. The contractions were strong but I was getting a little break in between. With each contraction, a little more amniotic fluid would leak out. It has a very sterile smell to it, almost like formaldehyde. Usually it's pale yellow, but because of the meconium, it was a little green. I sat on towels and between contrations would switch to a clean towel.
At about 2:45 or 3:00 Julie arrived. My recollection of time is probably off a bit, but I do know she arrived first. Terry had put down plastic and towels on the floor and I got a few large medical pads for the bed--the same ones they use in the hospital. Julie started to rub my back. Around this time, contractions quickly progressed to less than two minutes apart with very little time in between. I went from wanting massages to wanting everyone to leave me alone within a few seconds.
According to Julie (and our video tape), my 3 and a half-year-old daughter was fascinated with the entire birth. She helped Julie prepare warm compresses for my belly and she even put her little hand on my belly to comfort me. It was wonderful to see her expression in the video--she was totally interested in what was happening and in helping out. I think kids pick up on vibes from everyone around them. Since a homebirth is very peaceful and natural, my kids weren't exposed to anyone in a worried or panicked state. Because of this, I think their experience of the birth gave them a closeness to their sister that would have been lost if we had delivered in the hospital and just brought home the baby. I know it's a controversial idea, having kids attend a birth, but I think it was a wonderful gift for them to witness a new life coming into the world. I've seen a closeness between Devin and Erin that I attribute to Erin's homebirth. Devin has always been very caring and protective of her, and now I'm seeing that same caring come from both Devin and Erin for Teagan.
Devin, who had been at Erin's home birth, was a little less interested than Erin in this birth, but he still wanted to help out. He called his grandparents to tell them what had started and was very proud that he could help us in some way. Erin hardly ever left the bedroom, but Devin came in and out several times.
Sometime after 3:00, Yelena arrived. She got her equipment ready and did a check on the baby's heart rate. All was fine except for the fact that I was in a ton of pain and the little monitoring that Yelena did hurt my contracting belly. (The fetal monitoring done in the hospital with Devin's birth hurt a lot more than this. They strapped this huge belt around my belly and wanted to keep it there for hours. At least I had been assertive enough to ask them to take it off, but they still persisted in poking me throughout the labor.) It was hot in the house and I went from wanting hot compresses on my lower belly to wanting cold wash cloths. Between contractions, I sponged down as quickly as I could. I could feel the sweat dripping down my face and my body.
My contractions were nearly constant, like riding a wave of pain from menstrual-type cramps to the worst pain I've felt. Labor is weird that way--that the pain can be so transitory. I knew that once the baby was out, I'd feel so much better.
Yelena's assistant Maureen arrived. I vaguely remember Terry telling me this, but when I was coping with the labor I ignored everything going on around me. For all I cared, I could have been giving birth in Time Square with thousands of people staring at me. My eyes were closed and I didn't pay much attention to the quiet whispers from the people in the room. However, around this time I got a whiff of cinnamon gum. This is usually my favorite type of gum, but during labor I didn't want any smells. I groaned, "Who has cinnamon gum?" The smell went away quickly. I learned after the labor that when I asked this question, everyone stopped and looked around the room for the guilty party--Julie stuck out her tongue and showed them that she had a cinnamon Altoid. She quickly threw it away.
Yelena and Julie thought my baby was posterior because of the flatness of my stomach (photo). Usually babies are born facing your back (anterior). A posterior baby can cause a lot more pain because they are facing up and the back of their head rubs against your spine. As it was, the baby was sort of transverse. It was facing my right thigh. Anyway, Yelena suggested that I try laboring on my knees with my body lightly supported by pillows. This was around 3:30 in the afternoon and about an hour into the labor. I rocked my hips and moaned a lot. The deep tones of my moaning helped relieve some of the pain. I rocked and moaned like this for 10-15 minutes. Around 3:45 I felt like pushing, so I pushed slightly with one contraction and it made the contraction easier to handle. During the next one (only about a minute later), I moaned "e;I'm pushing!" I also started chanting "Out!", a suggestion I got from watching Julie's birth video.
Being on my knees felt fine for my stomach but it was too much of a load for my knees, so I decided to get on my side. I had delivered Erin while laying on my left side, so I figured it would work with this baby, too. I was wrong. Once I got on my left side, I felt the baby's head pushing on my cervix. The stretching was very painful and constant--unlike the contractions. I didn't have the energy to get back up on my knees or onto all fours, so I flopped onto my back and felt much better. I knew that laboring on your back can be difficult, but it seemed to work for me at the time.
I pushed with the next contraction and was really surprised at the sensation. I had my left hand on my belly, pushing on the baby's butt, and my right hand between my legs waiting for the baby to present itself. With Devin, everyone in the hospital kept telling me to push and I did it even though my body didn't feel like pushing. With Erin, I didn't push at all; she just sort of oozed out. With this baby, I pushed and felt her move inside me--like she was moving up closer to the cervix.
By lying on my back, the baby's head and body were closer to my spine. Each push felt like a lot of pressure pushing on the muscles between my legs. On one hand, it's not unlike having a bowl movement. In fact, I did poop a bit during pushing. This is very common during labor, especially quick labors because you don't have time to go to the bathroom early in labor. Also, as the baby moves down, it pushes on your rectum. During one contraction, the baby's head moved completely out of the cervix and into my vagina. I mumbled this to Terry and Yelena. Terry was holding my head up slightly and getting me water. Between each contraction I would drink a few sips of water and get a wash cloth for my face and body. I started feeling nauseous, so I asked for the puke bowl. I threw up during my other labors, but I guess this one was too quick. I never actually threw up, but the nausea stayed with me until the baby was out.
With the next contraction, I felt the head move from the top of my vagina to crowning (photo of crowning). Yelena told me to put my chin to my chest to help push properly, but it felt so uncomfortable. Looking back on it, I know that having your chin to your chest makes you less likely to carry tension in your face. It also helps you push with the right muscles. But having pushed out two other kids, I knew what muscles to use. With this birth I had a much keener awareness of my body. I completely felt the baby as it moved through me. Yelena asked me to move my right hand so she could see the baby's head. "I see lots of black hair!" Black hair? Must just be because it's all wet. Yelena kept adding oil to my crotch to help lubricate the area. I would rub the oil around my hands. It's a weird feeling having a baby's head partially in you and partially out of you. Everything feels wet and hairy, but then if I pushed and it's squishy, I knew I was touching myself. If it was hard (and wet and hairy), I knew it was the baby.
Feeling the baby's head crowning, I knew I was nearly through. I said outloud, but more for myself than for anyone in the room, "I can do this!" Everyone seemed to echo me in unison: "Yes Kelly, you can do it." Even though I was in a lot of pain, I smiled knowing that my baby was nearly out. I felt a joy that I hadn't felt with the other deliveries. Maybe I felt it because I knew this was my last child. Maybe it was because I couldn't wait to discover if it was a boy or a girl. Maybe it was because I knew the pain would be over soon. Whatever the reason, that joy helped me get through the next few contractions. Terry tried moving my head forward again to get my chin to chest, but I moaned NO and he relaxed.
My friend KC arrived just as the baby's head pushed out a bit further. Everyone told me to look in the mirror to see the baby. I looked up and saw the head half-way out of me, but I quickly closed my eyes to concentrate on the coming contractions. Before the next one came, I moaned, "KC leave the room, get down wind, or just go over by the door." Even though she was about 8 feet away from me, I could smell the cigarette smoke on her clothes. She immediately moved, but I know everyone in the room must've wondered what I was up to. KC knew why I had asked her to moved and later even said she probably should've changed clothes before coming over. It's weird what bothers you during labor, but for me I cannot tolerate smells other than my own. (And boy was I stinky with sweat!)
With the next contraction I pushed the head out in one long OUT! groan. It didn't seem like I had any break after that. I immediately felt the shoulders start moving out and I could feel Yelena moving the baby and helping it out. When the chest came out, my low groans turned into a high-pitched Ah! I hadn't expected the body to be so tough to deliver. With Devin and Erin, the head was the worst part and the body was only slightly easier. With this one, it was quite the reverse. I'd find out later that it was because the head was 15 inches and the chest was 16 inches around. Amazing how much more an inch can hurt.
Yelena immediately put the baby on my stomach. I thanked God that it was all over. I looked at my new, wet and bloody baby. "Is it a boy or girl?" A few voices say I need to find out myself, but I'm too tired to move. I raise the blanket and Terry looks. "It's Teagan. We have a little girl!" I smiled and started talking to her. (photo of Teagan on my belly right after birth)
She was a little purple bundle. Yelena and Maureen both commented on her size, but to me she was the smallest little baby. I held her close and smiled again. I did it! I thought.
Immediately, Devin and Erin climb up the bed to my shoulders. They wanted a close-up look at their new sister. I gave Devin a kiss on his cheek. Erin hugged her Dad. We were all excited that Teagan was finally with us!
After a few minutes, I gave Teagan to Terry so I could sit up and deliver the placenta. Once I sat up, I took Teagan and nursed her. Wow! That little package had a suck stronger than a vacuum cleaner! As I nursed her, I went through three painful contractions (photo of placenta coming out) to deliver the placenta (photo of placenta). Yelena estimated that it was a 3 pounder! (photo of placenta being examined) It's pretty interesting that as soon as I had Teagan latched on to my breast (photo or nursing), it only took a minute or two for my body to produce enough oxytocin to get the contractions going again. Oxytocin is a hormone that is excreted when you nurse, but it is also excreted during sex and during labor. It makes the uterus contract and heal faster.
Delivering this placenta hurt more than the other times. I had heard that it is harder with each child. After the placenta came, Yelena pushed down on my stomach to help squeeze out any blood and clots. This feels like a cup or so of blood and goop just coming out of you. Yes, it's gross. KC later remarked about how much blood there was, and "that much blood has a smell." That's a funny statement coming from someone who majored in antropology and studied decaying animal corpses.
Having gone through labor naturally, I felt alert and on an adrenaline high. I asked for an ice pack for my crotch and oooh did it feel good! Everyone started cleaning up the mess, getting clean pads for me to sit on and clean blankets to wrap around Teagan. It's amazing how normal all the talk gets once the baby is out. We were all excited, but the tones of voice and such were as if we had been at the dinner table. Everyone asked Devin and Erin what they thought of their new sister. Devin got up to call his grandparents and tell them they missed the birth. (He had called them an hour earlier.) And I just sat there peacefully nursing Teagan.
Yelena was anxious to weigh Teagan. The largest baby she had delivered was 11 pounds 6 ounces. Everyone was guessing somewhere in the 11-pound range. Of course I went through the same denial I did with Erin, thinking the baby was really tiny. We were all surprized when she weighed 12 pounds! (photo of weighing) And to think what she would've weighed if she hadn't pooped during and after labor!
My mom arrived about an hour and half after the birth. Julie had already left and Yelena and Maureen were writing up the birth in my chart. My mom started cooking dinner for us. I went and took a shower. After a natural birth, I could easily get up and walk around. (For most hospital births, the mother gets an epidural, which means she also gets an IV, fetal monitoring, and a catheter. All of this means she'll be bed-bound for hours if not the better part of a day.) I can't tell you how good it feels to take a shower after birth.
We all have adjusted quickly to having Teagan in our lives. She's an easy baby (photo). She will sleep up to 3 hours once a night. The other times she's up every hour and a half to two hours. But this is all very typical for a newborn. She hardly every cries. In fact, I could probably count the number of cries on my fingers. She's such an adorable bundle (photo). We still don't know where that black hair comes from, but other than that she looks just like Devin did. After everyone left for the night, I took Teagan into the bath with me. (photo) She relaxed and really enjoyed it. Unlike most babies, she really seems to love the water.
I truly feel I'm the luckiest mom in the whole world.
Here are some more photos:
Momma and her three kids
Devin and Erin before Teagan was born
Erin checks out her new sister
Yelena and Terry examine Teagan
Devin, Grandpa Bill, and Teagan
You can email me if you have comments or questions about this.