It’s true that your mind and body forget labor. I made sure to write down the story of Josie’s birth within the first weeks of her life. Almost a 10 months later, I recall almost none of the pain of labor. I know it existed, the same way I know Josie used to be so tiny, but there seems to be a gray blur where the actual memory should exist.
I do know that giving birth at Mountain Midwifery absolutely contributes to my pleasant memories of labor and delivery. I had an amazing birth, for which I feel incredibly thankful. I know this is not everyone’s story.
Our midwives had advised us to ignore early signs of labor for as long as possible. So when I laid down to take a nap that Sunday afternoon and thought I felt a contraction, I ignored it and tried to fall asleep. Josie was still moving around in my belly. After an hour of laying down and 3 more mild contractions, I gave up on the nap. But I was hesitant about telling Bear that I thought labor had begun.
Every 2 weeks, since week 14, we had been taking pregnancy photos. This was the day we were due for week 40. So I found Bear outside to prepare for the photo and told him I thought I was feeling the beginnings of labor. After we finished taking the photo, Bear asked if I thought it was really contractions I was feeling. I told him it was different than anything else I had felt, but that I had no idea, because I’d never done this before!
Bear asked if we needed to start timing the contractions and I thought it was too early to begin timing and paying attention. So we watched Netflix for a few hours to pass time and distract myself from the mild contractions.
That evening, I had had plans with my friend Christie, an amazing massage therapist, to paint with me in my studio. I texted her that afternoon that I thought labor had begun so she should check in before coming over. Since my contractions remained manageable, Christie offered to come over and rub my feet and bring me anything I wanted. Turtle sundae in hand, Christie arrived around 8. She reminded us that it was the super moon eclipse night and the three of us went outside to view it. I remembered asking our midwife if the full moon would bring on labor. She had said there really wasn’t any effidence that there was a correlation.
I am convinced that Christie rubbing my feet, concentrating on the pressure points in my ankle, which connect to the uterus, were what helped my labor go so quickly later on. Her foot massage, and girl talk, were nice distractions as the contractions intensified. She kept asking if we should be timing contractions or calling yet. I assured her, it wasn’t time. I continued to use my breathe through each contraction, focusing on the sensations in my feet.
Bear later told me that when Christie went to leave, she told him that he needed to start timing my contractions. I drew myself a bath and Bear joined me in the bathroom with the contraction timing app pulled up on his phone. I had to tell him when my contractions were starting and stopping. I labored in the tub for about an hour and then got out and got dressed and returned to the bathroom.
The midwives at MMC had told us to follow the 3:1:1 rule in determining when to call the birth center. This meant, contractions every 3 minutes, lasting 1 minute for an hour. Bear noticed my contractions had gotten more frequent and closer together very quickly. So at 10:20pm, while we hadn’t hit the 3:1:1 rule, Bear called the midwife to check in. I continued to labor on the bathroom floor. I remember Bear telling me that the midwife on call would be Aubrey and giving him a thumbs up from the bathroom floor where I was laboring on all fours.
The midwife said to call again in 30 minutes and check in. Bear proceeded to gather the bags, make a sandwich ( I had insisted that he needed to think about his own needs during delivery because I was not going to be able to take care of him or worry about him.) Our chocolate lab was 1 week post knee surgery, so Bear gave him his evening medication and let the dogs out. He sent our neighbor a text, notifying them that the baby was on the way and could they please feed the dogs in the morning.
While Bear did this, I continued to labor in the bathroom, timing my own contractions with the app. I brushed my teeth and thought about how I’d never gotten my nap in for the day and unsure how long labor would last. I had a particularly intense contraction, sending me to the floor again and my water broke! I called out to Bear and he looked over the contractions. I had had 4 more contractions in 10 minutes. He called the midwife and updated them and we were told it was time to make our way in.
I changed into dry clothes and Bear pulled the car out of the garage and loaded it up. As I sat in the car waiting for Bear to lock up, I called out, “did you remember to make your sandwich?”
We only had a 10 minute drive to the birth center. Caught at a red light, Bear asked if he should run it. I told him we were fine to wait. He later told me he thought I was going to have the baby in the car, my contractions were so intense.
I remember looking at the dash clock and noted it was 10:40 when we arrived. Jenna, the nurse helped me into the birth center. Sine my water had broke, Aubry didn’t do a cervical exam. In fact, we never did do one for the pregnancy.
I felt nauseous and vomited my last meal-so glad it was only ice cream! I needed to pee, so I was helped over to the toilet. When I had finished Aubry suggested I continue laboring on the toilet, if that felt good. It did. She suggested I sit backwards and use the handrail for leverage. Bear came and sat next to me and held my hand. We were left alone in the bathroom area in our room and someone began drawing a bath. At one point, Bear asked me a question, I just looked at him and said “what?” He laughed, he could tell I was in ‘labor land’ (a term we had learned in our birth class at MMC) and unable to focus on anything else. I remember being aware of the moment, a bit like I was observing the whole seen from above, watching and unable to interact.
As my contractions passed through my body, I pushed up on my legs off the toilet and then sat back down again. With each contraction, I looked forward to the intensity ending and knowing a break would come. The midwife offered breathing tips and suggested I focus my energy downward. The usefulness of the toilet as a laboring aid passed and I was ready to move. The sling was suggested, but while they were adjusting it for me, I decided I wanted to get in the tub.
I climbed into the tub and felt nauseous again. This time I only threw up water because I had been drinking so much and it was the only thing left in my stomach. The nurse put some essential oil on a cloth under my nose to help the nausea, and then put the oil in an oil diffuser. Feeling better, I got comfortable in the eater, submerging almost my entire body. Bear reached across the tub to hold my hand. As my contractions came, I rolled onto my side and placed a hand on my belly to make it through. I continued to focus on my breath and to remember “this is temporary.” I remember wondering how an epidural could help anyone through the painful contractions. I felt like nothing could diminish their intensity.
I could hear the nurse, midwife and Bear talking, but they felt worlds away, like there was an invisible wall between us that I could not pass. My thoughts still processed through my own head in a very clear way, but there was no way for me to communicate to anyone. I hear our midwife tell Bear that my blood show had happened. I just listened and continued through my contractions.
I began to feel pressure on my vagina. I wondered if i was allowed to begin to push. Would someone tell me it was time, like in the movies? With each contraction my body pushed more. The midwife had me roll over in the tub and told me I was doing a great job. I assumed it was fine for me to continue to push since I wasn’t being told otherwise.
Our midwife announced “Lexis, your baby has hair.” I reached down and felt the soft hair floating in the water and giggled. Another contraction and my body pushed again. I didn’t have to try to push, by body was deciding for me. The head came out and I was asked to step out of the tub and kneel on all fours on the floor. Out of the water, I had to put more effort into pushing the body and finishing the delivery. And then our dark haired baby was laying underneath me.
My first words to our daughter were “I love you so much.”