Welcome to the birth story of my third son! Upon careful reflection, I cannot determine how much of this story to share, so it shall be presented in two forms:brief/succinct and too much information. Wait, you say, shouldn't a birth story start with labour and end with birth? To that I say, probably, but I can't help myself..
The Birth Story
On a Saturday evening, my third son was born after my being at the hospital for 4 and a half hours. He is healthy and only took two pushes?! Also, he was the largest of my three sons at birth.
But it just doesn't seem like enough, does it? So let us go back in time, back to the beginning of labour.
Thus It Begins
Our story begins on a regular Thursday afternoon. Okay, so it wasn't a regular Thursday. It was the Thursday in my 36th week of pregnancy. I had long been worried that I would go early with birth of my third child. People kept telling me that I had dropped and expressing surprise of when my due date was. Evidently, I looked a cow who needed milking. Really, I was measuring the right number for the right number of weeks, but still all these idle comments sat on my mind, and combined with the fact that my eldest son was born at 37 weeks +4 and my second son was born at 37 weeks +2, I worried. I tried not to worry. I prayed about it and gave it to my heavenly Father and three minutes later tried to take it back again. I cleaned the house and got told off for nesting too early. I was exhausted from all that my mind wanted to get done before I had three to run after. I had this theory that the baby wouldn't come until I'd finished off my to do list (ask many mothers about their birth story and the baby seems to come as a case of relief - "As soon as I finished [insert large task here] I felt done and whoosh, the waters, they broke".), thus I kept adding to my to do list. I got a good deal accomplished.
Thursday (36 + 4)
Whilst sitting at my sewing machine during naptime, I realized that I was having regular tightenings. I had been having those on and off for the past day and passed it off as Braxton-Hicks, but these had a definite constancy to them. They didn't hurt, but it was still before 37 weeks and I was nervous (also, people are always claiming that the more babies you have, the faster they come). I called my husband and after the boys woke up, we went to the hospital. I went so that they would tell me they were Braxton-Hicks, maybe tell me to put my feet up for a few days and la-dee-da all would be fine.
Except. They told me I was in labour. Early labour, sure, but the contractions were registering, consistant and constant. I was advised to go home and wash the floor, which I did with alacrity. I had wanted to scrub that floor for quite sometime, but first I celebrated by thoroughly vacuuming. It was delightful. Sure enough, that evening I was having somewhat painful contractions 3 minutes apart. Went to the hospital. After about an hour, they slowed down. The midwife considered breaking my water, but said the head was "ballotable*, I was only 2-3 cm," therefore it wasn't a safe option. Anyway, it was my third baby. Baby would hurry themself up soon, surely, she thought. I sent myself home to get some sleep before it started up again. They calmed down while I slept. Fine and dandy, I thought, false alarm. Except. The next day I was still in labour. Constant, consistant tightenings. Even at night, when I'd get up to use the washroom, they would be there.
I was somewhat pleased, as I was concerned for my dear husband. Sure, we had lovely ladies from the church to come and help out when we were at the hospital, but I couldn't expect them to be there all the time from birth 'til I came home and Adrian still had to get work done. Getting work done with the boys "helping" is sometimes interesting. Add a computer to the mix and you've lost the day. Fine, I thought, this baby can hold on for awhile. Just need to get to 37 weeks! And then it's not early. And if I can make it until my sister comes, whoo!
It was not a comfortable wait. The contractions stayed with me, never longer than 10-15 minutes apart and softer when I slept, but always there. They got worse when I was active. I had two young boys to play with. It was often uncomfortable. The end of the day was usually worst, though some mornings would start with strong, frequent contractions. Sitting slowed them.
Tuesday (37 + 2)
The contractions would not ease up and were three minutes apart. I waited until the boys were asleep (just as I had the first time) and then my husband and I called lovely ladies from the church to come and sit with the boys. I was crying in pain. Surely, this would be over soon. I was worn out from the constant pain. Everyone and her sister was telling me that a days-long labour like this meant a quick birth. Bring it on. I wanted to meet my baby. Sure, my sister wouldn't be around for a couple more days. Adrian could survive with the boys. Except. He had a wedding on Saturday.
At the hospital, I was told that the head was still ballotable and I was 3-4 cm. After sitting for awhile, the contractions slowed again. I got frustrated. And left. And sobbed in the parking lot. On the walk to the car. In the car. Huge, racking sobs of frustration, of longing to meet my child, of anxiety, of confusion - surely my body should be able to manage birth a third time. The pain was real. The contractions were real, but there was no result, only pain. Only waiting. And I was tired. Weary of patience, of wondering if this was really happening.
We took the long way home from the hospital and stopped at the ocean. We stood in the dark and I sobbed on the wooden railing while Adrian held me and understood my frustration, my ache. He's good at holding me.
We got home and had tea with the lovely lady in our house. I bit back pain and ignored contractions and tried to be a pleasant host - something that I fail at on a good day. As I crawled into bed that night, I felt oddly powerful. Like even though I could not cause birth to happen, I was somehow able to stop it progressing. Surely, then I would be able to hold this baby in until my sister came. I would not go back to the hospital until my water broke, because then I would be sure that it was happening, no more second guesses.
Wednesday (37 + 3)
Loss of mucus plug. Lots of wondering and waiting.
Friday (37 + 5)
My sister arrived.
Saturday (37 + 6)
The day was like any other. The pain was there. Movement made it worse and more often. Naomi started to time me about lunch. Only five minutes apart. So what, I thought, I've been there before. The wedding was scheduled for three. I decided to sit around and not do too much. While I got ready for the wedding, they were 3-4 minutes apart and so strong and long that I started to cling to things to remain upright. Fine and dandy. Weddings aren't long. I can make it and then lie down and calm the contractions again.
It was a lovely day for an outdoor wedding. The sun was shining and filtered through the trees in showers of brightness. The bride was late. The contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and lasting about a minute-minute and a half. Adrian invited people to sit. I adjusted my sunglasses and hoped no one looked at my face as I stood behind the chairs and watched Naomi mind my sons. I could not help. I could not move. As he got to the sermon, I had to sit. Use my power. Slow this madness. I had to wait. I collapsed on the ground. My sons climbed on me, ran past me, went up the hill. I closed my eyes and felt the sun bite my shoulders. I shifted slightly to the shade. The contractions slowed. I was winning.
The wedding was finished and Adrian came to me. The act of standing brought the contractions to full force once more. I clenched my jaw and asked to leave, then said, "No, do they need you for photos?" So off he went for photos. When they realized I was in labour, they decided to do the group photo right away. We smiled for the photos and then got in the car. Dropped Nao and the boys at home, got changed, burst of pained tears coming from me. I wiped them away and hid the pain from the boys, held them close, told them I loved them and got in the car. Got to the hospital at 4:30 pm. I told Adrian if I wasn't at least 6 cm, I was leaving the hospital. I was 6 cm. I writhed in pain waiting for baby to rush out the way everyone had promised me baby would.
Baby would not be rushed.
The pain grew worse and worse, the contractions held long. My water still had not broken. The midwife couldn't get enough to make it break, the head pushed down so firmly. I felt like I needed to pee a lot, but didn't really. I must be sweating off the water I'm drinking, I thought. I took a shower and screamed when the contractions hit. The screaming scared me. In my other births, I only screamed when pushing, when the pain got too hard for me. How was this too hard for me now? My third birth, I should be able to do this. I gave up and asked for gas. So I couldn't go natural, it was just gas, just like I'd had for my first two.
Through it all, Adrian held and supported me. He talked me through the pain and gave me something to think about. The stories that worked best were the ones about the boys, or our marriage. Even against the wall of pain, I could hold an image of my beautiful sons and I could stand through the pain, bear through it. I would hang on Adrian's shoulders and crouch through the pain. It seemed to help, the bouncing up and down, like I could do something to help that baby out. I only bit him once. I pray a lot in labour. Mostly prayers for mercy and help. After the shower, I wore a hospital gown, but as I hung off the top of the raised end of the bed, it was in the way. I apologized to the midwife. I make a lot of jokes during labour, in between pain. It's strange, but when the contractions aren't, the pain really goes away. The midwife was used to me. She had helped birth Small.
I felt the need to push. She agreed, I was definitely at 10 cm. The pain was unbearable though. I needed to push, but I was unable to push. I could not push. I tried so hard, but it wouldn't work. Like my foot was on the floor, but the car was still in park. All the revs in the world wouldn't make it go.
Suddenly at 8:42 pm, my waters broke. I felt relief. Blessed, sweet relief. God is merciful. I was crouched on the bed, holding the raised bed head. I could breathe again. The midwife called the doctor. I needed to push. One push and his head was out. I could feel it. Adrian said it. Even as I was still processing that, my body needed to push again, and out came his body. The midwife only had time to get one glove on to catch him, my perfect, beautiful, amazing son, born at 8:45 pm.
It was so odd, how quickly he came out. With my first two, it took half and hour and then an hour of pushing to get the baby out. It had been odd processes of bearing down when not pushing to hold the child in place and work him out. Not this time. Gravity helped. God helped. A week and half of labour helped. I take it that as much I wanted to meet him, he wanted to meet me. And then I had to turn around and sit down so I could hold him. I cannot explain the moment of holding one's own child for the first time, but it is incredible. Magnificent. It makes you feel whole, and like your heart will explode with joy.
The doctor came in. And then the other news happened. My placenta was stuck. The cord had torn and it was not coming out. After giving birth with only gas, my option was to now get a spinal block and have it removed.
Being wheeled into the surgery was so bizarre. I felt for women who have to have an emergency caesar. The room is cold. Everyone is there and contributing to your lack of modesty. Time passes and you can do nothing. And not being able to feel your legs?
The Land of Too Much Information
As a matter of procedure, they catheterised me to make sure I was empty. I probably will be, I said, talking too much from nerves, from joy at having a new son and from fear. I trusted the doctors and staff, but I did not want to be in the room, away from my son and husband. I wanted to hold them still. Sure, I'd been holding Baby since he was born, but I craved him. Labour is such an intense time and such an oddly wonderful time as my husband helps and supports me so much. It's an intensely private time for the two of us and I cherish those moments together when I get to appreciate my other half - the one who enables me to keep going.
Even though I had peed so many times in labour, I was not empty. Far from it. They got off 1 1/2 litres from my bladder. The number shocked me. Them, as well.
They started explaining to me why birth had been so hard. With a full bladder and full waters, Baby could not get past and manoeuver down. Probably, they theorized, my bladder had not been emptying properly for the week of labour and that's why he couldn't progress. Why was this? My bladder had gotten kinked somehow. It could have been from my body being worn out giving birth to three babies in three years. At any rate, placenta was removed and the process of healing my bladder was it's own adventure that probably doesn't need to be discussed. I will say this, I stayed in hospital until Monday night and it is all fixed thankyouverymuch. (I think the closest you can come to experiencing this would be to cut the ends of an empty pop bottle, put a (large) squid in a bag full of water and affix another bag of water in the tube. Then try to force the squid through the tube. Fun, huh?)
My Adrian and son were waiting for me in the room. I held them and they held me. We had tender, delightful moments and then I sent Adrian home. It was after 11 and he had church and three baptisms to do in the morning.
I didn't sleep much that night. Baby made noises, and because of the GD, they needed to keep a very close eye on his sugars. Everytime I started to fall asleep, I was woken up by a nurse or Baby or just the odd odd feeling of my legs coming back. Like when you go to the dentist except for the freezing feeling was everywhere from my ribs down. I got them back by 5 am.
This birth was my hardest. It was the longest I've held a baby in (still haven't made it to 38 weeks). But this Baby is no less loved, no less cherished. All of my sons' births are precious memories, even if they are hellish to experience. But I wouldn't trade my boys for anything.
*Ballotable - the most frustrating term in the universe, meaning that the mass (in this case, head) can be moved. It is one of my least favourite words and can now cause irrational frustration in me.