Rosemary’s speedy arrival.
In part two of a three-part series about Nina and Matt’s birth journey, Nina shares the birth story of her second child Rosemary. Read about her very different experience in Part 1.
“Hypnobirthing is bullshit,”
I weakly declared between contractions.”
I’d spent the last few months reading a Hypnobirthing book that promised if could get myself in the right headspace, I would not feel any of the pain commonly associated with childbirth. I’d be smiling! No one would even believe I was in active labor because of the gleam of pure serenity upon my visage. Though I never bothered to take a class, I supplemented my nightly chapters with what Matt called “hypno-baths”: I’d listen to a hypnosis CD I’d found on Apple Music while submerged in my Epsom-salted happy place. By placing his hand on my shoulder, according to the lore, Matt was supposedly going to be able to instantly transport me back to my candlelit aquatic den.
I tried, dear reader. Really I did. But when your body is squeezing in on itself with the force of 10,000 menstrual cycles and your baby is adding injury to insult with frantic kicks to your insides and your midwife is simultaneously pressing against your aching girth on the outside with a fetal heartbeat monitor … it’s really effing hard to imagine each breath filling up a bright blue balloon and then floating away.
Aside from this brief dalliance with mind control, I’d come to my second pregnancy older and wiser, determined not to spend so much time mentally curating the twee birth of my dreams like I’d done the first time. That had led to incredible disappointment and a sense of personal failure when things did not go exactly to plan, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. (You can read the full tale here; abridged version: my water broke on a Monday, I had to go to the hospital for an induction on Wednesday, and the kid didn’t show up until Friday after 43 hours of hard labor.)
I definitely wanted to be at the Minnesota Birth Center rather than the hospital this time around, but I tried to be more chill about the possibility that it might not be in the cards for me. I acknowledged but did not celebrate each milestone that made a Birth Center birth more likely: after an early ultrasound gave cause for concern that there may be a developmental abnormality, a subsequent genetic test came back all clear; I passed the gestational diabetes and Group B Strep screens; my blood pressure was always enviable; I made it to 37 weeks without going into labor. All of this would be meaningless, of course, if I had PROM (premature rupture of membranes – your water breaks before you’re in labor) like I did with my son. The other big variable was timing. The baby was due on Dec. 27, and since I’d already met my health insurance deductible for 2017, going into labor on the wrong side of the new year would result in a much more expensive bill. Despite the first go-round with induction being one of the worst experiences of my life, I flirted with the idea of requesting the intervention if I’d had no action by Dec. 30.
In the last few weeks before the due date I’d grown more and more certain that I was carrying a punctual little lady, and she would burst forth into the world on her due date proper or a day adjacent. As the date drew closer, I checked more milestones off my mental list: I managed to stay at work through the office closing for the holidays on Dec. 22. Our son, who was diagnosed with strep throat that same day (UGH), made it through enough of his antibiotics that he would no longer be contagious. We spent Christmas Eve and then Christmas at my in-laws’ without my water breaking on their carpet. Since I felt fairly confident labor was imminent, we made the decision to leave our son at his grandma’s that night and make our way home. My spidey sense had indeed been tingling, because not an hour after returning to our house I lost my … er… “life cork.” After that, my contractions – still quite irregular at this point – changed from the painless Braxton Hicks tightening I’d been experiencing for months to becoming moderately achy. They started to get closer together from 2-4 a.m. that night but eventually dissipated.
They continued the next day every 30-45 minutes or so as I went to the chiropractor for a final adjustment, got a pedicure, and went to lunch. By about 9 that evening they were getting increasingly painful and close together. We decided to go to bed at around 11, and this martyr moaned as quietly as she possibly could through the contractions that were coming anywhere from 5-15 minutes apart. We were in the middle of another brutal cold snap, and I was just desperate not to have to go outside when it was 2 a.m. and -7 F (-11 windchill). By 6 a.m. the contractions had tapered off to every 25 minutes, allowing me to get a bit of rest. As soon as I got out of bed they picked right back up again, and by 8:30 we’d achieved 5:1:1 (contractions five minutes apart lasting for one minute over the course of an hour), our signal to call the midwife. After chatting with the midwife on call and our doulas, we decided to labor at home a while longer before heading to the Birth Center.
Matt made me a gigantic bowl of oatmeal and blueberries and put on an episode of trashy TV to distract me. I took a shower, with Matt waiting just outside the bathroom in case things got nutty. I tried to go back to bed afterward, but at around 10 I ran to the bathroom to throw up the entirety of my breakfast. “It’s time!” I yelled to Matt, and he started warming up the car.
By this time my contractions were three minutes apart, luckily the amount of time it would take us to drive the mile from our house to the Birth Center. I made Matt wait in the driveway for a contraction to pass before starting to drive, and then once we got there, I had to ride out another one in the parking lot before waddling inside. We were greeted by midwife Chelsea and Justine, one of our doulas. Sarah, the midwife who’d caught Arthur and who we’d asked to be present at this birth as well, was on her way despite it being her day off. Chelsea had already filled the tub for me, and after doing a fetal heart rate and mama blood pressure check (but no cervical checks), I sunk in.
I’m slowly losing memory of how I felt while things were ramping up, but I do know my constant refrain was how HEAVY this little girl was in my pelvis. “Heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy…” I moaned during contractions. That eventually transitioned to, “Low low low low low low no no no no no owwwwwwwwww…” while I tried (and failed) to imagine my cervix opening like a flower.
Curiously, my chosen mantra
was never uddered.
Doula Staci switched out with Justine about an hour in. She had me take alternating sips of water and apple juice, and suggested different ways to position my hulking bod to help my pelvis open. She also held the barf bag as I puked all those fluids up because she is a GD angel. Time does not operate in a normal way during labor, so I have no clue how long I was in the tub. Eventually I got out and hung out for awhile on a birth ball at the foot of the bed with my head resting on two pillows atop it. I caught a whiff of something hospital bleach-y and thought I might ralph again, so I asked Staci if she had anything that smelled good. Of course she did! She wafted something that smelled like orange Christmas under my nose and I liked it a lot.
I decided I wanted to get back in the bath. I positioned myself so my head was in the corner, resting on a towel on the rim of the tub, with my rump facing the room. Matt had very determinedly stayed by my upper half at the head of the bed when our son was born, but this setup left him nowhere else to be but at the business end. Angel Staci poured hot water over my back during every contraction, which felt heavenly. Not too long afterward, I felt the urge to push. I had had second-degree tears in my undercarriage with Arthur that I didn’t want to repeat, so I tried as best I could to go slowly. What felt like hours later (but I guess was only like five minutes?) I had her head out, and shortly afterward I felt the relief of pushing out her body.
At 12:44, after only two hours and change at the Birth Center and a mere seven minutes of pushing, Midwife Sarah handed Rosemary Helen to me through my legs. As I lifted her out of the water she reached toward me and took her first gasping breaths. It was an unbelievable moment that Staci managed to catch on film.
After I birthed the placenta in the tub, I emerged from the water and stumble-walked toward the bed, where they put my beautiful little girl on my chest. She was able to latch soon after, and the nurse and midwives departed to give Matt, Rosie, and I the room to ourselves to enjoy a lovely cuddle puddle. An hour or so later, they came back in with a loaf of fresh-baked bread, butter, and local honey, an MBC specialty. I have never in my life tasted anything so incredibly delicious, and I’ve lusted after it every single day since.
After a few more temperature and blood pressure checks, the nurse cleared us to go home a bit before 5 p.m, after having been gone for less than the length of a workday. People have been shocked when I’ve told them that we were home a mere four hours postpartum, but it was wonderful to be able to sleep in our own bed that night, with nary a beeboop machine in sight.
It may not have been a hypnobirth, but I ended up with the twee, curated birth experience of my dreams after all.