“There is a secret in our culture and it is not that birth is painful but that women are strong” - Laura Stavoe Harm
Just a little warning that I am not going to hold anything back in terms of details which makes this post a. long and b. what some may see a graphic. Also, I was completely naked for the birth and for about 3 hours after so I put in the most modest pictures I could get, but there's still a lot of skin. I hope I didn't slip in a nip or some bush, but if I did I honestly don't care that much. There. Consider yourself warned.
I'm not even sure where to begin with Bennett's birth story as it honestly seemed to be so segmented. I don't even really know how long to say I labored for. I suppose it begins around 2:30 am on August 28. I awoke to a contraction and some cramping not unlike I'd been having off and on for that past week. After about an hour on the toilet and cramping I turned on the light in the bathroom to check the toilet paper when I wiped and there was red blood. I was ecstatic! That was my "this is it" moment of labor. I knew it was immanent. That was around 3:30 am. I decided to start timing contractions. They were sporadic, but in the neighborhood of 5-10 min apart and around a minute long. I called my midwife at 4:30 am to give her a heads up. We debated on whether she should come to me at this point but I was managing them fine and the last two had been further apart so I told her I'd keep her posted. Another hour passed in which the contractions diminished to more like 15 min apart. They were still strong and sometimes over a minute, but they were drifting further and further apart. By 8 in the morning I had had a solid hour without one, then I had one and went another whole hour without one. I was frustrated and confused. Was this labor? My midwife couldn't answer that for me but told me to go about my day and try to rest when I could. It would either go away or pick up one way or the other.
We decided around 10:30 or so to walk over to my mom's. I figured a walk might help contractions pick up and the distraction of being around people would be good for my sanity. While at my mom's I started noticing the contractions again, but a bit more regularly. I also noticed that Ben was moving a ton. I started to get concerned about his being so active so I texted the midwife just to check in about it. She told me she would be in my area and would like to just check in on us, but thought that the baby was really just settling into position and once he got there labor would really pick up. So we left my mom's to meet the midwife. On the walk home I had 3 contractions (my mom lives maybe 10 walking minutes away). One we got home I started trying to eat some lunch (this was about 12 noon) but the contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I was still breathing through them just fine and able to talk and joke and be totally normal in between them. My midwife arrived and Ritchie started setting up the pool and ran to pick up some food for all of us. My mom came and took Max to the park and told us she'd check in in an hour for his nap to see what to do.
Here's where time start to become hazy. I know I was checked around 1 pm and I was 4 cm but definitely "in labor" according to my midwife. I remember feeling very defeated by that. I thought "Well, it looks like I have a long day ahead of me". I pulled myself together and put myself back into the right head space for labor. I dealt with the contractions one at a time. I decided I would want to get into the tub soon and I needed to do the hibicleanse because I was Group B positive. That had to be done in the shower so Ritchie and I headed upstairs. I do remember Diana (my midwife) telling me to have my mom keep Max out of the house because I was in a great space for labor and she was afraid Max would distract me too much. Once up in the shower is where everything really picked up. I had a few contractions in the shower and the water felt wonderful during them. After maybe 4 contractions up there (I haven't a clue at this point the space or time of contractions - I was just rolling with it, but I know I could no longer be cheerful in between them and I had gone from deep breathing through them to long, low moaning and deep, steady hip swaying) I decided I would feel best in the tub so Ritchie helped me downstairs. I didn't even want to get dressed, I just wanted to get downstairs and into that tub, but it felt like I was having a contraction with every step I tried to take. Once in the hallway I saw that my doula (also a Diana!) had arrived. She immediately held me through the moaning and the rocking and told me what an amazing job I was doing. She kept guiding the noises lower and lower if I started to get whiney. I just wanted to get in the tub, but the water was pretty cold so Ritchie was trying to set it up. This annoyed me. I didn't really care whether it was cold or not, I just wanted IN it. I told my doula that it was at this point that I requested the epidural with Max. I remember the look on her face and also noticed my midwife was now in scrubs and frantically setting up for the birth. I also remember someone (no idea who) saying that Lisa (the second midwife) might not make it on time. I remember thinking that they were all crazy. I had JUST been checked and was a 4. Why were they all acting like this kid was coming out soon?
I started to panic a bit as the contractions came crashing through me one after the other. I had several in a row with no break and started to worry that, since I still had so long to go, that I couldn't do this. I got in the tub and told my doula that I was scared and worried. I told her that I hadn't even gone through transition yet and it was already so painful so how would I ever make it through? It was at this point that both the midwife and the doula started telling me that the baby would be here really soon and they think I already went through transition before I entered the tub. Somewhere in all of this talking (haha - I'm chatty even in labor) I had a few contractions that had my legs shaking and I felt Ben's head plummet down the vaginal canal and I was screaming, "Pressure! I'm going to split in half! I'm going to throw up! I don't want to throw up!" and then when my midwife tried to check me I screamed, "Don't touch me! Please, don't touch me!"
I want to say I was in the tub for 5 minutes or so when I felt a pop and realized my water broke. I told my midwife. She told me I needed to stand up straight so she could hear the baby's heart. She hadn't checked and was getting very antsy about it. I kept telling her no. No way was I getting up from where I was. She insisted and Ritchie and my doula lifted me up and held me there while she listened. Ben sounded perfect, thank goodness. I sunk back in the water to another intense contraction. This time my midwife ignored my pleas not to be checked and checked me anyway. Then she told me I needed to get out of the water right away so she could check me. I wanted to know why. She said, "Either I'm feeling a water bag, or that might not be the baby's head coming down and I need to do an internal exam with you out of the water right away." I'm pretty sure I told her no, but everyone told me to pull it together and do it for Ben. So, somehow I got out of the water and threw myself onto the couch on all fours. The couch was completely covered in various protectants. Anyway, my midwife checked me and it turns out my water had broke, but the baby was coming so quickly that his head hadn't had time to mold so what she had felt were simply folds of skin on the top of his head. I was told everything was fantastic and I needed to decide where I was going to have this baby. I want to remind you that I was checked at 1 and at this point it wasn't even 2 pm yet. I had no idea what time it was, but I knew it hadn't been long so I was stunned. Have the baby? Like now? Yes, they all assured me. He was coming. I decided I didn't want to move and that I would have him right there on my hands and knees on the couch. I wasn't moving! I did a few pushes there and the second midwife walked through the door around then. For those of you who haven't been to my house, the couch is the first thing you see when you walk through our front door and my ass was facing the front door, up high in the air. I specifically remember thinking that she must love to walk in and see that first thing! I enjoy that I can make jokes in my head while in the hardest part of labor.
So, I'm ass up and pushing and it occurs to me that my couch really isn't deep enough for me to get my legs open wide enough to birth a baby. So I flopped over onto right side and threw my left leg up in the air. I pushed there. The pushing was painful, but felt really great compared to some of the last few contractions I had had. I could feel him moving down and making progress. I could feel myself stretching. I got the epidural around 9cm with Max so all of these sensations were new to me. I actually enjoyed them. I remember saying that it hurt like hell, but it felt so amazing all at once. It wasn't long before my midwife told me that with the next contraction or two I would feel that ring of fire people talk about and it would burn and sting and I would want to pull away from it, but that I just needed to push through it. I did feel that, but right as Ben was crowning I got a charlie horse leg cramp. It hurt like hell - way more than the crowning did and I kept screaming, "My leg! My leg! I have a leg cramp!". Haha! So I guess the one thing I can tell people about the pain of natural child birth and crowing and the ring of fire is that a charlie horse leg cramp honestly hurts worse.
The most amazing part was (even through the leg cramp) I could feel his head, then each shoulder and then his abdomen pop out of me. And then one final tiny push for his butt and legs. I brought him up to my chest immediately and our love affair began. Well, it began AFTER Ritchie finally rubbed my calf and got rid of that damn cramp. He was born at 2:31 pm. Just 12 hours after feeling the very first contraction of that day. Just three hours after my contractions became regular Just one hour and thirty minutes after I was told I was 4 cm. How long would I say my labor is? I would say I have no idea, but it felt REALLY insanely fast.
That's my midwife, Diana. I love her!
My midwife and the second midwife, Lisa admiring us loving our baby.
After the birth there was a tad bit of drama with the placenta. It didn't want to come out. Well, it wanted to come halfway out. So the midwife had to hold it there to keep it from ripping out and causing bleeding. They were waiting for some contractions to come and get it out, but they weren't happening so they tried herbs. That didn't work. Finally, after an hour they gave me a shot of pitocin. That worked. Within 5 minutes it was completely out. It was actually all quite scary because if it hadn't come out very soon I would have been in an ambulance to the hospital to have them get it out. I really didn't want that and so I'm very grateful it came out quickly after the pitocin shot. I did tear slightly and needed a few stitches. We also had to weigh and measure the baby and get the house a bit cleaned up. I wanted all of that to happen before Max came home to meet his brother.
Max was really curious about the baby for all of 20 seconds before running off to play. He's handled the transition like a pro and seems to really love the baby. He pats him gently and asks about him, but otherwise just goes about his day being the happy, loving boy he is. My love for Max has grown ten-fold watching him become a brother. I just know these two will be best friends. They have seemingly similar temperaments and I honestly don't know how anyone couldn't get along well with Max anyway. He's made me so proud through all of this.
He's such a champ. Still loves his momma despite her bringing in this new cub.
As we've moved through the last 5 days I've fallen madly and deeply in love with Bennett. With both births I have not felt that instant love right as the baby is born. I feel awe at the process and relieved that they are healthy and all went well. But I fall in love with my babies over time. I felt guilty about this with Max, but have learned to embrace our journey and how it all plays out. With Max it took a little longer. I left his birth feeling a bit wounded. I was really focused on my recovery and nursing was so painful that I resented having to nurse him. I loved him, but it was very challenging for me to feel strong maternal love for him other than keep him safe and feed him because that was all I had the energy for. With Ben (and I believe strongly that this has everything to do with how I birthed him) it came much easier. Nursing is just as painful, but I enjoy it now. My recovery has been smooth and easy. I've been able to really connect with him because of the support I received in the first few days post pardum. My midwife has been a huge support and I've always felt safe and confident with her. We've been in constant contact since the birth and yet we're still at home where we can rest and recover without interruption. After having done it both ways I couldn't imagine ever choosing a hospital birth again. Bennett's birth has healed me. I walk away from this experience feeling empowered. I DID IT. I had a natural child birth. I trusted by body. I didn't need an iv, an epidural, pitocin to make my contractions longer, stronger or closer together. My body did it all on its own. This was what I needed to feel complete in my journey to motherhood. I'm so grateful for my experience now with Maxton because it led us to make this choice. And, this? Home birth? Well, home birth was the best decision I could have made. Earlier I was talking to Ritchie and told him that I still couldn't really believe that we had done a home birth. I said, "We're bad ass." It's so true. We're totally bad ass.
Bennett Andrew Lincoln
August 28, 2011
8 pounds 8 ounces
21 inches long