Clare was due on January 26th but at our midwife appointment on Wednesday, Sarah told us that the baby had dropped and could come any time. By Wednesday night I was feeling pretty tired. I was supposed to be working on the final touches in Bean's room but just couldn't pull myself together to do it. Instead I had a pretty easy night on the couch. I decided to grab a bath that night to warm up and soothe my sore back. When I got out of the tub, I didn't feel so great - very hot - like I had the water too warm and was lightheaded. I was worried a bit about Bean, that it would bother her if I'd got my body temperature too high for too long. So, I sat still for a bit, just in my towel to try to cool off. When I moved to switch positions, I felt a kind of a 'pop' and was pretty sure I sensed the telltale sign of 'water breaking'. I sat still some more, unsure. When Rob came into the room a couple of minutes later I told him that I thought maybe my water had just broken - he was so excited! Seriously, the guy couldn't have lit up more if he were a Christmas tree! I reminded him that Bean's room was not done, the house still looked like a tornado had been through, and tomorrow was supposed to be my day to clean! ... Then I joined him in his excitement (although I was just slightly more trepidatious). I stood up so that I could get dressed as we waited to see if I was correct and got all the verification I needed. I've heard that some women have water breaking more like a trickle but I was not one of those women. It was a lot, I was wet, and it was gross. Luckily, I was sitting on a towel. ! The time was now roughly 9:10 pm.
Rob paged our midwife, who urged us to try to get some sleep before contractions started and suggested that they might not even start for a long time. If they didn't start within 18 - 24 hours, we'd start talking about chemical induction. Rob and I scrambled to pack the last items in our labour bag. We called family and friends to update them on the current situation. I thought that contractions were starting but they were mild and it was hard to tell at first. We didn't have any snacks yet, so Rob was going to run out to the 24 hour grocery store to pick us up some things. That was just when I had my first significant contraction and Rob thought he should stay with me. We talked to Kev and Su who offered to bring us what we needed from the store. At this point we'd been timing the contractions which were consistently 3 to 4 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. Kevin and Su were here by 10:45 and I was starting to have trouble talking through them. By 11 we called the midwife again. Contractions were strong now and had been 3-4 minutes apart for over an hour and I'd started having mild 'pushing urges'. We were supposed to wait to call until labour was a bit more established but I just felt like I needed them. Esther and Sarah arrived at 11:45. Contractions were still regular but had drastically increased in strength and were 45 seconds long. Sarah checked my cervix - 90% effaced and 2 cm dilated. Apparently, this meant that I was progressing quickly. The baby was really really low and was ready to come out. However, the pushing urges were a problem. If I gave into them, I risked causing the cervix to swell and close - not what you'd want. I needed to not push. I didn't know how to do that! Sarah, who is slightly less experienced, asked Esther if things were moving along fast enough to justify going to the hospital at that point. I asked, if they thought it was ok, could we please go now. Getting to the hospital felt a bit like a challenge at this point and I was sweaty and just wanted to get it done before it got any harder or any colder. Sarah helped me learn how to breathe through the contractions and to resist the pushing. The techniques I'd learned in the prenatal class and at Pilates were just not working for me. Rob grabbed all of our 'stuff', loaded the car, got my coat and his, while I got into my boots and dressed warmly for the ride. I was feeling a little too oblivious to the world to really notice what was going on. By midnight we were at the hospital and by 12:15 we were in our room and in the tub. Our birthing room came with a really great bathtub and this was where I did most of my labouring.
Sarah continued to help me breath through the contractions. The urge to push was getting harder to get through, lasting not just at the peak of the contraction but longer through it. At 1:15 I was 6 cm dilated. For reference, an 'average' labour progress at a rate of 1 cm per hour or two. I stayed in the tub and with Sarah nearby and Rob cheering me on and holding my hand and fetching me juice I got through each contraction, one by one by one. I had such a great team. The time went flying by. Each contraction was hard but I was able to really really relax between each one. I somehow even feel asleep a couple of times! I was so, so lucky! At about 2:15, Sarah checked me again. I wanted to know how much progress I'd made but was nervous too. For me, having my cervix checked was just about the worst part of the labouring. I was hoping that I'd be at least at 8 cm .. but the best news was that I was fully dilated .. 10 cm .. and I could start pushing! We moved out of the tub and on to the birthing bed. The midwives told me that I could position myself however I wanted. I think I chose an unusual position. I started pushing and I could feel the baby making progress during the contraction but then we'd lose ground in between. I made a deal with Bean -- only forward progress. She had to try her best and I'd try to use all those dancer muscles to hold her in place (I may never have bladder control again, but dammit I wasn't slowing down the labour!). So, from then on, during contractions I pushed and between contractions I held and we were off to the races. At crowning, Sarah helped deliver the head in slow, careful steps to avoid tearing. She did great and the baby was very very nice to me! After her head was out though, she got a bit stuck. Her shoulder was caught behind my pubic bone. I need to turn around so Sarah could assist. I'm pretty sure at this point I was like - 'are you crazy!' but again .. with Sarah's help we got turned around and sitting so that she could see better. I'm told by those in the vicinity that this was something of a sight. How weird, eh? After the move, Sarah had to reach in to grab Bean - and help her out. For all that labour is supposed to be excruciating, this was the pain that really stood out to me as painful. It only lasted a few seconds but man - I think my eyes nearly popped out of my head! Apparently, this is also when I tore just a tiny, tiny bit. On the next push (or was it two?) we had our girl! At the time though, we still weren't sure whether she was a girl or a boy! She stayed with us on my chest for a few minutes as we soaked it all in. When the cord was clamped (we did the thing where you don't clamp until the blood stops moving through it a bit) we did the check: definitely a girl! And she was definitely going to be Clare. Clare Elizabeth Ho. She was born at 2:52 am after 34 minutes of pushing, just under 6 hours of labour. Rob cut the cord and she was all ours.
As we hung out together the midwives went about their job. First thing was for me to get a shot to help deliver the placenta, which we did shortly thereafter. I got four stitches for 2 small tears. We got pictures. Rob and Clare hung out together. Clare tried her hand at feeding -- she took to it immediately (her dad was especially proud of her). She got weighed in, 6 lbs and 14 oz and measured, 19.75 inches. APGAR score was great. She was great! Everything was just right!
My feeling about the birth during and after was that it was very different than what had been described to me, even though I tried not to have any expectations. It felt hard, certainly, but it never felt insurmountable or overwhelming. The thing that did hold true to what I thought is that it was very personal. I was very oblivious to what was going on around me at the time. It was all about me and the baby and Rob. Of course, Sarah played an extremely critical role, the connection was for us three. I'm a very lucky woman to have had such an amazing experience. So many woman have traumatic experiences that I just feel blessed and thankful. I don't think things could have gone any better in my wildest dreams.