Oh, what a day (actually more than a day) it was.
On, Monday, November 29, kk woke at 3:56 a.m. calmly announcing that her water was breaking. She gushed and gushed some more. We texted our midwife and doula just to let them know it had begun.
We laid down layers of towels on the bed to catch the waterfall seepage of amniotic fluid and tried our best to sleep while k mildly contracted. At 7:00 a.m. I got up and watched the sun rise. Pink slashes on the sky. Orange lines rising over the downtown cityscape of Ypsilanti.
I took a shower and put on some cords and a t-shirt. Good thing I wore a toughly built belt (it came into play later). Then around 7:30 k got up with her contractions increasing all along and coming every 5 minutes. She showered and put on some leg warmers, one of her grandmother’s slips and a sweater. I gave her some breakfast and her contractions got more painful.
Around 10:30 our doula (also, good friend) [I’ll call her Steadfast doula for the duration of this story], arrived. And, shortly thereafter, kk experienced puke fest 2010 in our bedroom. She puked in a bag; she puked in a bowl; I emptied the bowl; she puked some more…Did I mention I have a huge aversion to vomit? But that deep inner-survival spirit went all hot and got activated; plus our doula stroked k’s back, stayed near her mouth and handed off the full bowl. Then, I emptied the bowl again and again and rinsed it, etc.
My mom came around the time that our doula arrived.
From then on out, kk’s contractions were wicked and coming every 3-6 minutes. From then on, means for hours and hours.
Around noon our midwife, SP of trillium birth services who I will dub Awesome One for the purposes of this telling, arrived (at least I think it was around noon, but time started getting flaky for me).
K ended up testing positive for strep group B, so Awesome One brought the hardcore cleaning fluid, and I sprayed it all over k's birthing parts every four hours.
My darling labored on her side in bed, she labored on the floor of the baby’s room with Steadfast in front of her and me behind, she labored on the toilet—where my thick belt proved to be an awesome handle/anchor, she labored on the ball, she labored with me in the shower, she labored and labored.
laboring in bed
laboring on the floor of baby's room. check out my belt it was a magnificent handle when cradle by my massive hips throughout the labor.
Later in the afternoon, S, Awesome One’s assistant arrived (I will call her Trigger Finger for this story cause she took photographs for us all night long with our new fancy camera, and I am ever thankful for her gift to us).
All of the laboring described thus far took place in the upstairs of our house. Please note we only have one bathroom and it is upstairs. During this afternoon and into the evening of my beloved contracted and tranced and breathed deeply and moaned and avoided the sound owwwww which was ever-present on her bone dry lips.
K was in this incredible tranced out place. Now I must digress from the major theme of this telling—the birth story of our daughter—to explain how K’s trance-like state so resembled the death trances of dying people. I have sat vigil with people in the process of leaving this world. And, from my perspective, there are direct parallels between the death vigils I have witnessed and this birth vigil.
Throughout the sunlit afternoon time of k’s labor, when I would gently cup K’s chin and ask her to open her eyes and look in to my eyes, there were times when that not-of-this-world edge was so present in her stare that my heart skipped beats and salt water welled in my eyes. My breath would get caught up in the distance that was enunciated in K’s stare. She was elsewhere—landed tightly on an otherworldly precipice; a place I could not touch. This place left my chest echoing with the hollowness of what it would mean if k were to fade from this time, from our life together. Of course, I quickly slapped my flushed face back from this chatter of loss and into the moments at hand—the hard work that was the birthing of our daughter. But these strange like-death moments will live for always on my heart. These coming and leaving edges are so close. I think they may blur at times.
Around 7:00 in the evening Steadfast decided K needed a change of scenery and also, on the dl to me, she confided that K really needed to know that she could do this and while we were all there to help her through it, in the end, she was going to have to do it alone with all of her strength. So…we made her walk down the stairs. The plan was to make her walk back up the stairs after making it to the foyer, but by this time Steadfast, Awesome One, and Trigger Finger had concocted a new plan.
getting ready to walk downstairs
K had not planned to use a birthing tub at all. Even though my darling is a water person through and through (the kind of carefree swimmer who will swim a mile out from the pontoon with no flotation devices leaving me perturbed at what I deem to be unsafe practices), she did not have a desire to birth in a pool. However, after 12 hours of laboring, Awesome One thought the pool seemed like a good idea. So, she drove home to collect a birthing pool. By a little after 8:00 in the evening, the pool was full and K was laboring hard in it.
Around 9:00 our good friend and chosen family member, Auntie A, arrived. Her resilience and strength proved invaluable through the next many hours. The pool time was the party part of the labor. K was still in pain and eventually started having the urge to push in the pool, but I played a mix I had made in consultation with K and we sang (even kk sang at times) and thumped around and A and I even drank a beer.
Below: A slew of birthing pool laboring pics
The mix was 4 hours and 22 minutes and then we killed the music and K labored in silence and when it was not silence she labored to our conversations, my crass jokes, and the ticking away of the minutes.
This is the mix (there is nothing like assisting your beloved in birth as she twitch dances while contracting to the Cramps and/or Bikini Kill):
Around 11ish k started having a serious urge to push. Awesome One performed her first check on k, at this time, and realized that k’s cervical lip was hanging out and that was causing no progress to occur. Also, Willa was turned all whack, so AO worked to turn Willa and overcome the cervical lip. We learned that as long as the damn lip persisted pushing would continue to amount to nill.
Through all of this our whole team stroked and held and talked with kk. My mom would hold k’s head and Auntie A poured countless pitchers of water over K’s back. Steadfast held her hands on k’s low back for what must have totaled hours and I bent over and kissed her and whispered to her and hoped for relief.
Little did we know relief was a long way off.
Eventually, our wise midwife and team decided it was time for a change of scenery and they also determined that k was dehydrated. Her contractions had been slowing. Around 2:00 a.m. we headed back upstairs and the hunkering down/rest and re-hydration period began. Awesome One administered some homeopathic to help Willa turn and everyone in the house went to rest. Auntie A and Steadfast pulled out the thermarests and sleeping bags and slumbered on the art room floor, my ma stuffed blankets around her body and slept upright in the chair in the nursery, Awesome One and Trigger Finger took naps on the couch and chair downstairs, and K and I tried to rest in our bed.
I pumped fluids into k every 8 minutes. And for about an hour K sucked inward instead of pushed through her contractions in order to try to help turn Willa. Toward the end of this period the urge to push returned with a vengeance and k pushed and pushed as we tried to get some shut eye. No sleep came to either of us. And, during this rest period, when it seemed as thought there was no end in sight, I wept heavily. K heard me and I apologized to her, but she said it was okay.
Around 3:30 in the morning, Awesome One checked K and decided the cervical lip had receded. We determined that K would move to the toilet and push for one half hour, if after that time there had been no progress we would begin to get things in order for transport to the hospital. Our midwife was concerned that if k pushed for two more hours at home with no progress, upon arrival at the hospital unwanted medical interventions would be more likely to happen due to k’s intense exhaustion. So, AO wanted her to limit her exhaustion (ha).
We moved to the toilet and k gripped my belt like a true champ. Her strength abounded from some primal depths that I have never accessed (and never plan to access unless I am stuck in a cold cavern trying to survive and waiting for the rescue party to arrive). Up until this time, the baby’s heart was beating normally and strong. During toilet pushing, her little heart rate plummeted a little (it went from the strong 130s to 110ish). AO assured us it was still okay and so k pushed and pushed.
AO kept asking K if she felt progress. The answer was no for the first many toilet minutes. A half hour slipped by quicker than flick of a light switch. Around 45 minutes into this pushing AO asked about progress again, and K said I think poop is coming out. AO said this was good, but really there was no poop.
About an hour into the toilet pushing, we decided to begin prep for transport to the hospital. K came off the toilet and went back to our bed to labor there. I knew K was dreading going to the hospital and so was I. While we live in a progressive bubble and the University of Michigan hospital has always been ultra-respectful of our relationship, I was having a hard time swallowing the idea of bright lights and over-zealous residents poking and prodding my beloved.
After being back in the bedroom for a few minutes, our midwife looked me in the eye and I recognized this otherworldly intuition in her stare. She said, “let’s do one more check for progress, before we leave for the hospital.” By this time K had been in labor for 24 hours, and any progress would have been like a cool rain on a steamy summer afternoon.
AO checked K on our bed through a push and she said, “there is progress; let’s stay here!”
We all agreed and new energy fell on our small camp of strong women.
Auntie A and Steadfast took on the job of human stirrups. My mom and I held k’s hands and I helped k curl through each push into a human C. A and Steadfast pushed k’s legs in a crazy pose back by her ears and Awesome One turned and checked and reported progress down on the home front. Trigger Finger took pictures throughout.
We are almost to the end of it--the final pushing time
We all yelled and screamed with K through this whole last part of pushing. The verbage flying around consisted of:
“dig in deep”
“get her out. Just get her out!”
“you can do it. You are doing it”
“She’s coming, she’s almost here, her head is peeking out.”
“reach down and feel her k; she really is there.”
“Dig in, dig in, dig in.”
“Deeper k; deeper; push deeper!”
Our faces together, through this part of Willa being born, tell a story of grand perseverance and strength. I am forever thankful to have been a part of a group of women with deep calm and entrenched fierceness who beckoned the birth of our daughter through physical and verbal encouragement for my beloved.
After a couple of hours on the bed (at least I think it was a couple of hours), our daughter’s sweet, cone head came busting through what for those moments in time was the most beautiful place on earth—the soft, swollen, stretched and fleshy parts between the legs of my beloved. A place full of the power of giving life.
And then her shoulders. And then her body. Awesome One placed her directly on k’s chest. She had muscle tone and open eyes, but she had not taken her first breath; she was not breathing. AO called for the life-starter kit (oxygen pumper thing) and after a couple of doses of that, she went right to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This is the only time, during this long, hard labor, that I lost it. I jumped from the bed beside k and paced and fidgeted. Trigger finger calmed me by placing her hands on me and telling me this had happened to her two girls also and that it was normal and that many infants need a jumpstart. All of this took place over a few seconds, but it seemed long and endless. AO flicked Willa’s feet and then she took a breath.
Her little breathing body was still on kk and I laid hands on them both—my two great loves. My kk and my Willa.
The cord pulsed for a bit. K was still laboring out the placenta. AO had given her a shot of pitocin to help expel it because AO did not want my kk to push any more after such a long time of pushing.
I cut the cord.
And then we were three.
Protected: waning days
6 months ago