by Lacey, USA
Trystan was born on Mother's Day, May 8, 2005 at 7:15am. He was 3 weeks and 1 day early. (What a wonderful Mother's Day gift!) He weighed 6 pounds 4.6 ounces and was 18.5 inches long. He was perfectly healthy and is the joy of my life.
A Little History
I knew even before I got pregnant that I wanted a totally natural, intervention-free birth. So I searched for a natural childbirth class (The Bradley Method) and read as many natural birth stories as I could find for inspiration, guidance, and support. It's amazing the responses I got from most people when I told them I planned a natural birth – they'd give me ‘the look' and ‘yeah right, that'll happen, you just wait!' was so frustrating! So I searched for support.
I knew I needed to find a birth guardian who felt the same way that I did. Thankfully, I found two – one at Tripler Army Medical Center in the midwifery unit. Her name is Major Munroe, and she helped usher my son into the world. She was his birth guardian, the first person to hold him, and a very talented midwife who helped me have the exact labor and delivery I wanted. The other is my extremely talented, caring doula, Rosemary. She coached me in relaxation methods, hypno-birthing, and all things ‘natural'about labor and delivery. She supported me and kept me focused on the fact that my body would and could do exactly what it was designed to do. And the rest, as they say, is history..
I had a lot of what you'd call ‘typical' symptoms that labor was around the corner. Yet I didn't pay much attention because Trystan wasn't due until the end of the month. I had flu-like symptoms for days then finally gave up and went to see Major Munroe. She asked me why I hadn't been to see her sooner and I told her Trystan wasn't sick, so I didn't want to medicate him. I had hoped I'd just get over it. I got in a little trouble for that, and she prescribed me a few meds and encouraged me to drink Echinacea hot tea in addition to my Red Raspberry Leaf tea.
In hindsight, I am so glad she did, since I was unknowingly about to go into labor and really needed my strength! At this appointment, approximately 36 weeks, I discovered I was already 30% effaced and dilated 1cm and Trystan was at -2 station. I freaked out when she said ‘Oh wow, his head is right here. I couldn't believe she could already touch his head! In fact, I was a little jealous she got to touch him and I couldn't yet!
Knowing I was already progressing made things a little more ‘real'. I notified my family (as I live in Hawaii and they are all in the Southeast) things might be happening a little earlier than May 30th! Little did I know then..
As soon as I kicked that bug, I went into major nesting mode. May 4th, I spent nearly the entire day making and freezing casseroles to stock up, many of which I didn't even like but the absolute need to do it was overwhelming. So bake, I did! May 5th, I cleaned my house from top to bottom including mowing the yard and my neighbor's yard. Not run-of-the-mill cleaning – I even vacuumed the bathrooms! Crazy pregnant woman nesting for sure!
The next day, still a little tired from my whirlwind cleaning adventure, I accompanied my husband to his squadron shop party at Kailua Beach Park. I had an indescribable need to swim that day, much like the overpowering need to freeze casseroles. It was almost like my body was telling me I needed to submerge and relax in the water in order to engage Trystan in the correct position. So, swim I did, in my non-maternity bikini! I also had some contractions during the party – tightening like Braxton Hicks, but harder.
The Big Flood
On the 7th, around 4:15pm, I was standing at the kitchen sink when I felt a small gush of hot liquid. I went to the bathroom and verified my water had broken. I checked in with Rosemary and Major Munroe and continued leaking a tiny bit here and there. My husband just knew I was in labor at this point so he started cleaning out the jeep and washing both cars (and smiling really BIG). I was in denial. Complete and total denial. I figured there just had to be some other explanation for the fluid. Surely. I wasn't quite 37 weeks so my water was not supposed to break yet and it was only a teeny bit of fluid! I sent him off to rent a movie.
At 8pm, I started rocking back and forth on my birthing ball, leaning over it on my belly. Then, I felt this strange POP and thought ‘what the…??'. I stood up and a ton of amniotic fluid came gushing out! And kept gushing out – I had the proverbial ‘water breaking' like you'd see on TV. So my water broke for sure by 8:15pm on May 7th. There was no doubt I was in labor then!
I called my husband and told him to come back, that things had changed. He hurried home with the video in hand. Over the next couple of hours I continued having intermittent huge gushes of amniotic fluid. Rosemary was concerned that since I continued having these huge gushes, Trystan's umbilical cord could drop into my birth canal, but Major Munroe reassured me everything would be fine. Rosemary offered to come to my house (we lived on opposite sides of the island) to help me labor, but I was feeling fine so I told her to wait until I couldn't handle it. In hindsight, it might have helped to have her here because we could have started hypno-birthing before I was in really hard labor. Since I was so early, we hadn't practiced that much. In the end though, I did fine without it.
I started having menstrual-like cramps and they progressed and got stronger and stronger. Rosemary advised me by phone (she was checking in pretty often now) to utilize a couple of acupressure points to help get the contractions even harder (since I'm now on the ‘your water broke' clock according to the hospital). It worked, immediately. They were about 4 minutes apart when I decided I wanted to eat then rest, so I ate a bowl of bland chicken noodle soup.
My husband and I lay down and tried to doze, but I couldn't sleep. He, however, was out like a light. I got up and started walking around and the contractions started coming much faster immediately – about every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes apart and lasting for about a minute. This went on about 45 minutes so we put in another call to my doula and midwife and they shared the sentiment ‘Lacey, come to the hospital now!' Rosemary told me to meet her at the Emergency Room entrance. I actually didn't want to go yet – I could tell there was no ‘urgency' within myself but I did what they said. So we packed up, grabbed the movie we'd just rented to return (couldn't stand the thought of a late fee) and headed to the hospital. My husband made calls to my parents on the way. It was about 2:30am May 8th.
That was the worst drive ever! The roads here are horrible (think potholes that could swallow a car), and every time we'd hit a bump during a contraction I thought I was going to pull the arm off my seat. I didn't notice, but my husband told me he was going about 90 most of the way there. We had to get all the way to the other side of the island. When we reached Tripler around 3am, I was 90% effaced and 3 cm dilated and Trystan was -1.I really hoped I'd be farther than that, but Major Munroe did remind me how much I'd progressed since my appointment a few days earlier.
During one contraction, she commented to Rosemary “Don't you wish you had a video camera to tape this to show your clients? She's handling these perfectly.” I'll never forget that. A laboring woman needs to hear that kind of encouragement! I was sitting on the bed while they did some external monitoring of my BP and Trystan's heart rate etc. and just putting my chin to my chest and breathing during contractions.
Time to Move
Rosemary wanted me to walk to get things going, so I changed into a hospital gown and robe and we started walking the halls and up and down the stairwell. Yes, I walked flights of stairs while in labor. She also had me doing the ‘duck walk' down the hall, which no doubt looked hilarious, but it worked! With each contraction, I'd lean against the wall or railing and rock back and forth. None of the relaxation poses I'd learned in my Bradley Class really worked beyond that one, so I stuck with it. I started having a little back pressure, and Rosemary showed my husband how to feel Trystan's head through my back with each contraction and provide counter-pressure. At this point I was still easily talking and handling the contractions on my own. It was very comforting though to have Rosemary's expertise there talking me through them.
We headed back to the room and I did some lunges on a chair. I always loved my birthing ball during my pregnancy, but it was not comfortable at all during hard labor. I felt like I had to use the bathroom and was sitting on the toilet when a contraction hit. Then, I started throwing up. Not fun! Everyone came running into the bathroom. But both my midwife and doula got very excited by my vomiting – they said ‘oh, good sign!' I was thinking ‘you've got to be kidding me! I need to go and can't because every time a contraction hits (pretty fast and furious at this point) I throw up! I got really tired all of a sudden and told them I wanted to rest, so they let me lay in bed and sleep between contractions until 5:30am.
Oh Heavenly Water
They woke me at 5:30 and I got in the jacuzzi tub with all the jets wide open. It was heavenly! I was 100% effaced and 4cm dilated. My husband fed me ice pieces and kept a cool rag on my forehead, which was fantastic. He'd constantly change out the rag so it would stay nice and cool – amazingly comforting.
I started having to move with the contractions, swaying back and forth in the water. It was no longer comfortable to just float and there was no way I could implement the Bradley Method of laying on my side. I needed to move. I had my eyes closed, turned inwardly during most all of the ‘hard' labor. Rosemary would occasionally snap me out of it by calling my name and telling me to look her in the eye. She'd encourage me and advise me on what I needed to do – like slow down my breathing after the contraction was over. It helped so much having direction.
I was so tuned into Trystan and my body it was hard to focus on breathing etc. During one hard contraction I said “I want him OUT.” Rosemary told me to tell him that – that I wanted him to move down and out. So, I started singing my ‘birthsong.' I was telling Trystan ‘down' and ‘out' in a low guttural tone with each contraction to make him move. (Never imagined myself being vocal during labor, but Rosemary told me to do it, and it sure helped!) My worst moment (in hindsight, this was no doubt Transition) was during one contraction I thought “there is no way I can do this 18 hours. I am too exhausted.” The pain was bearable, but I was really getting tired. I'd only slept about 5 of the previous 48 hours. I don't know where I got '18hours', but I immediately switched to positive self-talk that I certainly could, and would, and just take one contraction at a time.
Time for Courage
Rosemary told me to open my eyes and look at her and said ‘This will take a lot of courage Lacey, because the contractions will be much stronger when you move, but if you can change positions and get on your hands and knees, it will help speed things up.' So, flip I did and immediately had one wallop of a contraction. With that one, I said ‘I'm pushing!” and my midwife came running into the bathroom. They were telling me not to push and I was saying ‘Are you kidding? I can't help it!' So, Major Munroe checked me again. After about an hour in the tub, I went from 4cm to 10cm!
She said ‘you have to get out of the tub, now. Now, Lacey. It's time to have a baby!' So much for my dreams of a water birth! Ha! He was in the birth canal! My thought was ‘no way! Already!?!'
That was the hardest part of my entire labor & delivery – getting out of the water and walking all the way across the room (it's a BIG room), with the baby right there to get on the bed. I was having contractions right on top of each other until I lay down again. There was no ‘wave' pattern – they just hit, hard and then subsided. They told me it was time to have this baby and time to start pushing. I couldn't believe it! I was still in denial I was about to become a mom. I know I had this baby growing in my womb the past 9ish months and I'd had all that time to prepare mentally, but I was totally in denial that my little son was about to leave the security of my womb in exchange for the security of my arms. How was that possible???
It is now Mother's Day
I lay on the bed and Major Munroe checked me again to make sure there wasn't a lip on my cervix. I then got into a somewhat sitting position, pulled my legs to my chest, tucked my chin, and curled over my belly. I pushed through 5 or 6 contractions. It took a couple of times before I figured out exactly HOW to push effectively. I was moving him the first couple, but not enough for my liking. Rosemary put my hand on his head – he was right there – my husband could see him from the moment I laid on the bed. I couldn't believe it! It helped me push better feeling how much I was moving him, even though originally I didn't want to do that. However, I never had that overwhelming feeling to push I'd read so much about once I got on the bed – I just pushed w/ each contraction. Actually, I didn't want to push at all -I wanted him to come out on his own as I'd read about and seen in other natural births. But they had other plans for us. Rosemary said ‘You'll have this baby at 7:15!' (and that's exactly when he made his debut!)
I was in a total fog between these contractions and sleeping. They were a lot more spaced out then earlier ones.
Cheerleading and the BIG Moment
Well, everyone started really cheering me on saying ‘he's right there – don't stop now. You're about to have this baby! He's got a lot of hair! You're doing great!' Major Munroe was doing perineal massage, which I never felt, to help prevent tearing and she used baby shampoo as a lubricant! Much better than when you get hosed down with iodine. I remember between some of the contractions looking at my husband and smiling – he stayed right beside me the whole time and had big tears in his eyes. He never left me once I was in hard labor – not for a drink or anything. Not even for our cameras (much to my chagrin).
I finally got mad. That's how I pushed him out – I got really ticked off and a huge burst of energy so I pushed as hard as I could. I wanted him out NOW. They told me to push through the Ring of Fire, but I never felt that. Then, out popped his head. I felt him turn inside to align his shoulders, then they told me to grunt push him out the rest of the way. I remember thinking – I still have to push! You're kidding, right? Somehow I'd gotten the notion that he'd just slide out then on his own. So I did little pushes and out he came – the feeling of his body leaving mine is one I'll never forget. It was like I was just empty then. Vacant. They immediately plopped him on my belly and I just couldn't believe that was MY baby. He was completely covered in vernix and totally alert. His umbilical cord was too short for him to nurse so I had to wait until the cord stopped pulsing.
Meanwhile, I got to hold him and pet him and play with his fingers and toes and just marvel at my little miracle. He got to lay on my belly about 2 hours before they started giving him a bath and doing tests etc. The first words out of my mouth after he was born were (as I hit my husband hard on the arm) “Where are our cameras???” which is so very like me because I'm a hobbyist photographer. I'd packed 4 cameras for the big moment, and they were all still packed.
The placenta came out pretty quickly after Trystan did and burned – that thing was big. It was much more uncomfortable passing the placenta than giving birth to Trystan! I was actually squirming up the table to get away from it as it delivered. Very interesting to behold – the thing that sustained my baby all this time..
We had no complications – his heartrate was always good, no tears, no episiotomy, no stitches. 9/9 apgar (my nurse said she'd never seen a 10 – apparently, they don't give them), and he passed all his tests w/ no probs. He started nursing like a champ and has his whole life.
A lot of things were totally different than I imagined. I thought it would hurt having him in my birth canal, but it didn't at all. It just fell ‘full'. I never imagined I'd be ‘vocal' but I was in the tub, and it helped a lot. I thought I'd feel the ‘ring of fire' but I didn't – just in one spot. And I never dreamed I'd be so internally focused – I was pretty oblivious to what was going on around me. I was totally engrossed in what was happening in my body and focused on how we (baby & I) were working together through the whole birth experience. And I never figured I could love someone so totally that I'd give my life for his in a second, after just seeing him for the first time. And actually, it's true you fall in love with your spouse all over again when you see him with your new squirming child for the first time.
Ready to do it Again
I have absolutely no regrets (other than no pictures!) with the way my labor and delivery unfolded. It was what I prepared for and dreamed of. Even though my time in hard labor was about 4 hours, with about 15-20 minutes of pushing, it seems like mere moments. I think being educated about the birth process and my options helped immensely. I am so glad I read all the stories I did (knowledge is power!) and found birth guardians who believedin a woman's ability to have children naturally. My recovery period was basically non-existent (I was begging to go home just hours after he was born), and for that, I credit my intervention-free delivery. Within one day of Trystan's birth, I was already talking about doing it again! And next time, I'll keep my eyes open and smile for the camera.