Monday, October 15, 2012

Susannah's Birth Story

The Week Of
I woke up the week of Zuzu's birth, on Monday morning, and just felt different. I told Tom that before Monday, I would have told anyone that I could be pregnant forever - I felt great! But woke up on Monday and felt ready. I also had my first real contractions on Monday and continued to have them throughout the week, inconsistently.

We had our 39 week appointment that Thursday, where Sam (the midwife) double-checked to make sure  the babe was head down via ultrasound. Everything looked good and we joked with the receptionist Braidy that we'd probably see her at the same time for the next three weeks.

That same night was Faith and Wine, a fun monthly event at our parish that I help put together along with a great group of ladies. I was running registration, as usual, and really enjoyed seeing and chatting with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while. I was in good spirits, didn't even mind repeating over and over again my due date and how I felt. After a great event, Mr. O and I watched the debate (ermagherd that was awful) and then hit the sack. 

The Beginning
Early Friday morning, I felt a big contraction and shifted positions to get more comfortable. Then, water - water everywhere! I sat up and told Tom to turn on the light, just saying "water there's water!"Just like the movies, my water broke in one huge gush - quite the dramatic start to labor. I had all this adrenaline as I stared at my soaked  sheets (mentally saying, these need to be bleached...) and thought, this can't be it - she can't be EARLY. But I reminded myself that water breaking, although a sure-fire sign of imminent labor, does not mean that I'm going to be having a baby anytime today even - I knew Sam would be comfortable with labor taking even 24 hours after my water broke, and that my body might be slow to labor since it was my first time. 

I called Sam who said to keep her posted and call back when contractions were 5 minutes apart - or, and this was highly emphasized - when I felt I needed to come in. In our conversation she really focused on how I felt; "do you think you need to come in, or are you okay at home?" she asked. I was so worried about being the first timer who was so sure she was in labor and ended up coming in too early, when I was only a few centimeters dialated. So I told I felt good at home and she was cool with that.

I took a shower and tried to process the reality that this is happening! I even told Tom not to cancel his plans for the day - I was sure it would take so long! I planned my day, decided I would spend it doing all my last minute chores - cooking, baking, cleaning. Our washer and dryers were scheduled to be delivered between noon and four, the workers were coming to finish putting on our new roof...maybe we'd head to the birth center that night, I thought. I downloaded a contraction timing app and wanted to get going with my day...except after an hour, my contractions were about a minute long and two minutes apart! Tom pointed this out and I was in total denial. "No way," I said. "The app must be broken." Tom was obviously nervous and pointed out that as long as I was pushing the 'start' and 'end' button at the right time, then no, it was not broken. Whoops! We called Sam, who assured me that if I felt ready, I could come in,  ran Blackacre to the neighbors, and off we went. 

Active Labor at the Birth Center
The rest of the day seems like a blur, but I can remember some parts distinctly. The ride to the BC was painful; sitting really hurt me. I offered up that pain for all of my friends who struggle with the cross of infertility. I had meant to make a list of those to offer up my labor for, but that was one of the many things that did not happen before October 12! I had wanted to pack an image of the Blessed Mother to take with us, bake cookies for my midwife and birth assistant, compile a list of people to text with the news...but none of that happened! I even had to pack my bag right before we went.

When we got there, Braidy said to go on back but the tub wasn't ready yet. At that point, I was already beyond wanting to talk to people; I just nodded and made my way back to the Ocean Room which I had requested. Thankfully, no one else was in labor at that time and they don't have office hours on Friday, so I was the only gal in the whole place!

I tried to sit on the birthing ball, but that hurt like the dickens! I tried to lay down, but that was worse. I paced around the room with my eyes closed, not talking. I asked Tom to see if I could get in the tub yet - he came back and said yes, Sam didn't want to check me especially since my water had already broken. I shucked my clothes off and was in there pronto! Braidy put on hypnobirthing music and labor progressed for the next three hours fairly uneventfully. I laid on my back in the tub and rode out each contraction by letting my hips free-float in the water (the tubs are humongous), because feeling any gravity on them made me think they were going to break in half. I labored in total silence for that big stretch of time; I hadn't even talked to Tom much. He was behind me doing light touch massage and I did tell him that when I raised my pointer finger, I was having a contraction, so that he would stop touching me during that. He also put a cool cloth on my forehead and neck, until I decided it infuriated me!

For almost the entire labor, it was just Tom and I in the room. My mom was on her way, Jen was on her way from North Carolina, my sister Kim was on vacation in North Carolina, my other sister was working, my father was at a funeral in Georgia...where was the huge group of family I had always planned on having at my birth!?! But I didn't really have the mental space to be upset about who was or wasn't there; I was unable to vocalize anything or even think about what was happening. I wanted to talk to Tom, but I couldn't - if I did, it felt like I would come out of a trance and the pain would overwhelm me. I had to stay in my head - it was the only place that I could be in control.

At one point, it got really bad. With a couple of contractions, I yelled out and felt a bit hysterical. Trying to stay in control, I told myself "You have to do this now because you're here - you don't have any other options. But I promise you this, if you make it through, we'll never do this again - next time we'll have a planned c-section or get an epidural or whatever! But we'll never do this again." But I was starting to worry - how far along was I? How much longer would it last? I wasn't sure that I could make it if I was only at 5 or 6cm. I came out of my trance and asked Tom to get Sam. When she came in, I told her I wanted to be checked and she readily complied. I almost started sobbing with joy when she announced, at almost noon, that I was 9 centimeters! My mom was still an hour away but I didn't care - I knew at that moment that I could make it, the end was in sight. 

The Big Push
Very shortly after that, I felt my body was ready to push, but I was not. I was not mentally ready to push - once or twice my body took over and made me push, and it felt like it broke me, I cried out in pain and nearly lost control. So I stayed in my reclined position in the tub with my hand on my forehead, my index finger pressed on my right temple. I had two lengthy conversations - one with my daughter, and one with myself (both completely silent and totally crazy feeling). To my daughter I said: "I get it - you're ready to come down the birth canal. But I can't help you yet. I will breathe and not resist the contractions, but you need to work your way down on your own. When you're close, I'll help you - but I can't help you just yet, okay?" I took a shorter contraction as her assent. To myself I said, "You can't focus on what's happening down there because if you do, you'll fall apart. Stay right here in your head and focus on this finger [the aforementioned index finger] - if you do that, you will be okay. You have to live in your head right now because the rest of your body is a really awful place to be." 

So I did. Finally, Abby - the birth assistant - strongly suggested it would really help if I could get in a position where gravity was working with me. I really didn't want to move, but I knew I should. I knelt and leaned my arms and head against the edge of the tub. My mom walked in the door at 1 pm and I had just gotten into that position. Pushing was very hard for me; it was here that I became vocal. My cries reminded me of what women in labor sound like in movies - in the 1800s! After each contraction, my body would shake and shake. I kept my head down against the side of the tub; I had no idea who was in the room, but I heard my birth playlist "Calm" fill the room and was grateful although also annoyed - why did I think music would really help at all!? I kept talking to the baby, in my head, as I worked through pushing. C'mon sweet girl, we can do this. When I reached a finger inside, I could feel her and knew she was so close - I wanted to rush, but knew it was bad for me. So I tried to take my time, even though I wanted it to be over - I wanted it to be over so badly. I was not proud or eager; I was not excited to meet my daughter or be a mom. I needed the pain to be done. I suddenly felt so tired. 

Crowning seemed to take such a long time. Forever really! My mom was right there and although it was not the group of women I had envisioned, a chorus of female voices talked to me after each contraction. "You're doing so well - it's almost over - you'll be holding your baby soon - keep going mama - you're so strong." The birthing assistants, Abby and Alexis, along with Braidy the receptionist and Sam and my mom,  were all there and softly encouraging me. I heard them murmur to each other between contractions "she's doing so well - she's so close - thank goodness you made it." I wanted to yell that I could HEAR THEM TALKING ABOUT ME, but I didn't even care. I just wanted it to be over. I was begging God, begging him to help me, to make it be over soon. At one point, I yelled "HOLY - " but didn't finish it. It was going to say "Holy God" but my midwife assumed I'd be finishing that with an expletive and chuckled. "You almost cursed!" she laughed, knowing that wasn't a habit of mine. 

Finally, her head came out and I wanted to cry. Wasn't it over? Wasn't it? No. I immediately turned around to face the back of the tub so that Abby and Sam could catch her. Some women are talented enough to reach down and pull up their own babies, but I knew I was not going to be able to do that. Still, the wait between that contraction and the next two, that pushed her body out, seemed to take such a long time. But then she was here. It was only an hour and fifteen of pushing, but to me, it had felt like ages. As Sam pulled her out of the water and brought  her to me, all I could only say over and over again was "is she all right? is she all right?" I felt so tired and worn, I felt sure she was in worse shape than I! Tom was kissing my forehead and saying how proud he was of me. I was not proud; I was tired and so, so happy it was over. 

They gave me a towel to wrap around her and keep her warm. Tom and I stared at her, in wonder, and then we sang to her - the Salve Regina. The first song she heard.

I'm sure the rest will come out in more detail, but we had quite the wait for the afterbirth (three hours, actually), and I had to have an IV because I was dehydrated. I passed out later because I overheated, giving my mom and Tom the scare of their lives. I am fine; so is baby. 

But as I held her in the tub and stared at her face, I thought "I can't remember what other names we considered..." and so we settled on our favorite, Susannah. Susannah Marshall, born at 2:12pm on 10/12. She weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 20 inches long. She appears to have blonde hair. Start to finish, my labor was just over 7 hours long.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my short labor, my healthy baby, and my beautiful life. 


  1. Oh my goodness, what a beauty! Congratulations!!!!

  2. Congratulations! She is beautiful and looks so peaceful!

  3. Congratulations! Great birth story..thanks for sharing. I love reading birth stories. She is beautiful!

  4. Congratulations! She is beautiful!


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