Today, Flora June Blair is one month old. I can hardly believe it. What was our family like before June arrived? I don’t even remember. To mark the day, I wanted to write down her birth story before I forget the details.
Do you think it’s possible to mentally shut down labor? To stop contractions with your brain because you can’t wrap your head around the day? I think that’s what I did.
You may have seen my Walk of Shame post on May 7th. Early that morning, my brother-in-law, Mark, had answered our middle-of-the-night call and quickly come to our home to watch over our little sleeping flock. At about 3:30am, we checked into the hospital. It was 5 days before my due date. My contractions were strong and coming 3 to 5 minutes apart. I was clearly in active labor and we settled into our birthing room, excited, nervous and ready to have the baby.
I’ll be honest, I was sure we would arrive at the hospital and have the baby within the hour. It was going to work out perfectly. The baby would be born around 4:30 or 5:00 AM. We’d be settled into our recovery room by 6:00 AM. Then Ben Blair would head home and be there when the kids awoke. He’d manage their day — make lunches, get kids to and from school and bring them to the hospital that afternoon. Easy peasy.
But after I’d been monitored and checked, I realized the plan wasn’t happening. I was 90% effaced, but only 2 centimeters dilated. At some point, it sunk in that this labor still had a ways to go. That Ben Blair would not be home by 6:00 AM. That I’d need to make like a thousand arrangements to get my 5 other kids through their day. And just like that, my contractions stopped. Completely stopped. (You may wonder why we didn’t have childcare plans in place. We actually did, but I promise, it’s surprisingly difficult to nail anything down when you don’t know the exact day the baby is going to arrive.)
The midwife consulted with me. This was my 6th baby and she was afraid the labor would progress quickly once the contractions started again. She wanted me to stay at the hospital — I could walk the halls and that would probably start things up. But I was 100% sure nothing was going to happen labor-wise until I settled my head, so we went home with a plan to labor there and come back when I was farther along. You can imagine my embarrassment as we sent Mark home, apologizing for dragging him out of bed in the middle of the night. (I’m still blushing!)
We went about our Friday as usual (sort-of as usual — we were missing quite a few hours of sleep). Kids woke up. Dressed and ate. Went to middle school, went to elementary school, went to preschool. Went to dance class. And then, as each child came home and things started settling down for the day, (homework, dinner, baths, pjs, make arrangements for Ralph to go to the Father & Son campout with a substitute day) the contractions started right up again stronger than ever. I am not even kidding you.
We made new childcare plans for the night ahead, and started monitoring contractions.
Doctors typically recommend heading to the hospital when contractions are 3-5 minutes apart. This guideline was in my head and made it hard to know when to call the midwife. The contractions were so hard! I would fall to my knees and rock back on forth on all fours to get through them. But then, I would get these luxurious 9 and 10 minutes breaks between each one which made them manageable. And confusing.
I finally called the midwife to get some advice on when I should come in and how I should manage the contraction pain in the meantime. She heard my voice and told me to come in immediately. So we did.
We showed up at the hospital for the second time that day. It was around 8:00 PM. The midwife, Mary, checked me and told me the baby would arrive in the next half hour or so. She said if we broke my water, the baby would come in just a few minutes. (Random tidbit: 6 pregnancies and my water has never broken on its own.)
I continued getting breaks between contractions and I’m telling you, it made the whole thing so much more doable. I could laugh and joke and chat between each. It was so civilized. Then I’d summon every relaxation technique I knew when I would feel a contraction coming on. If it came on steadily, I could manage the pain really well. Once in awhile I’d have one that would come on really strong right from the beginning, and then I would panic and tense and it hurt like crazy.
After a few more contractions I decided I was worn out. I asked Mary to break my water and she did.
[Tangent: I know there are women that feel empowered by childbirth (more power to them!), but I am not one of them. I feel empowered by many things, but childbirth isn’t on the list. Yes, I’m glad I’ve experienced it. No, it’s not my favorite thing. I’ve concluded there is no easy way to get that baby out of you. I’ve had 6 births. Half medicated, half un-medicated. And really, either way is exhausting and painful. Because this whole other person has to come out of your body. The last few minutes of labor just about kill me. I basically throw a 3-year-old tantrum where I fuss and yell that I can’t do it, that I don’t want to do it, that I want it to stop, that I hate it, that it’s too hard, etc. And at the same time I have another voice in my head that’s far more reasonable saying: you have to do it, you don’t have a choice, it won’t stop hurting till you do it, just do it.]
After my water was broken, Ben Blair stopped taking photos and the room got serious. I had a couple of intense contractions and then it was time to push. And suddenly she arrived. After one push. One really painful push with accompanying tantrum.
Then I calmed down. Then I met my daughter. And she was perfect. She looked so exactly like each of my other babies that I knew her immediately and said something like: Well hello. I’ve seen you before.
It was 9:10 pm. May 7th, 2010.
The followup: June was tiny. 6 pounds even. (Blessed day: no stitches!) We settled into our recovery room at around midnight. The room had a bed for Ben Blair which was wonderful. I was ravenous and ate a giant sandwich. We got as much sleep as we could that night and the next morning we checked out as soon as possible. I couldn’t wait to get home and introduce Flora June to her brothers and sisters. You can read about June’s Homecoming here. Oh. And you can see lots more birth photos here.
P.S. — I’d love your thoughts on the Pregnancy/Adoption/Birth series I posted through my pregnancy. Shall I continue them?