On Thursday morning Tatum and I went to see my midwife, Susan, for my scheduled appointment. As I was 11 days past my ultrasound due date with Tatum, both of us assumed we had plenty of time and we scheduled the next appointment for the same time next week. My due date wasn’t until the 10th or 11th and it was only the 8th—we had plenty of time!
Then Tatum and I headed to the chiropractor, then Lowe’s where we loaded up on some discounted rosebushes and shrubs, made another trip to the grocery store because I was determined to be stocked up whenever this baby arrived, then headed home.
Instead of taking a nap like I’ve normally been doing while Tatum is napping, I decided to get my 14 tomato plants, 6 jalapeño plants, and 12 marigolds in my garden. And put up the fence around my last raised bed. And repot a bunch of plants. Basically I worked my butt off in the mid-eighty degree weather, taking water breaks inside and using peppermint oil on my neck to keep cool.
After four hours of working in the sun (which honestly felt glorious and I had the fleeting thought, “you know, I’m not even exhausted! I think I could even handle labor!”), I made some spaghetti, had my parents come over for dinner since Matt was at an after-work event, and took a shower to rinse off the dirt and sweat. I was having a number of Braxton-Hicks contractions, but that’s not unusual for me and I just attributed it to being dehydrated and having done so much physical labor.
While reading Tatum’s bedtime story around 9:30 I realized I must have had 6 or 7 Braxton-Hicks in the past hour. Braxton-Hicks aren’t painful—but your uterus tenses in a “practice” contraction and gets rock hard just like a muscle flexing. After we put Tatum to bed Matt ran me a bath since I really wanted another night of sleep after such a long day of work! I also used lavender essential oil because sometimes those can make you so relaxed that labor stops. When I got in the bath around 10 I decided to use my contraction timer on my phone just to see how close they were to each other. That was an eye opener! They were between 1 and 3 minutes apart—but still no pain! But then I had a couple of contractions that were “uncomfortable.” Then I needed to use the restroom. Twice. Hmmm….
I called Susan just to let her know what was up—12 contractions in about 30 minutes but most of them just painless. While talking to her, however, she had another client call in who was also having contractions. Uh-oh! She asked to call me back and in that time frame I had 2 or 3 more uncomfortable contractions. She called me back around 11 and asked if I wanted her to come check me. The other woman was having a contraction 20 minutes apart, so she was going to get ready and come over to see me just in case this was the real deal. I called my mom and told her I’d let her know if anything was really happening after Susan checked me. Matt started to pick up the house and get thing pre-ready to go.
When Susan got to our house around 11:30, we found I was 4cm dilated and already 50% effaced! “Sooo…I’m having my baby tonight?!” I asked. Susan smiled and said, “You’re having your baby tonight!” We made the phone calls, my parents headed over so my dad could take Tatum to Ammah’s house and Roy home with him (I think he would have tried to climb in the birthing pool with me), and my mom to be there for support.
Elizabeth, who is also a midwife, arrived as did MacKenzie, the student midwife (who was 30 weeks pregnant herself, bless her heart!). Matt moved the dining table against the windows, set out the tarp and blew up the birthing pool.
Contractions began to get regularly uncomfortable around midnight, and I tuned into a soundtrack from the Hypnobirthing CD on my headphones, turned the lights low in the bedroom and chilled in there for awhile. I breathed through contractions, swayed, rocked, and walked around for about an hour. I walked out in the backyard (admiring my day’s work), looking at the stars and feeling the coolness of the night air, leaning on Tatum’s slide to breathe through the contractions. Matt and my mom were placing bets on birth time, the midwives were hanging out in the nursery and everything was so calm and peaceful.
|This was taken around midnight when we knew we'd be having Kenna in our arms soon|
Elizabeth actually left to go attend to the other woman who’s contractions were beginning to come close together. Susan takes a really low number of clients and this lady’s first two births were both early, and my first one was so late she thought there was no way there could be an overlap—statistically speaking it was an incredibly low chance!
Thankfully my contractions were a few minutes apart, still. I remember with Tatum I would get literally less than a minute to recover between contractions before I would feel another one coming on—and it being my first labor those close contractions were exhausting, aggravating and freaky all at once. So this time getting to actually walk around, talk, breathe, and recover before another wave felt like luxury! I wonder if using the lavender and taking the bath prior to really beginning active labor helped slow contractions down—which I was completely OK with!
For those of you interested in how I used essential oils through labor, I applied Joy and Valor towards the beginning, and again around 1:00. When they began to get uncomfortable I used PanAway on my lower back and lower abdomen, and really think that helped with pain. I would occasionally rub some Gentle Baby on my chest and wrists as well, as it’s so calming.
Around 1:30 I asked Susan to check me again, and found that in two hours I had progressed to 8cm and 75% effaced! She also commented that Kenna was still high, but my cervix was very soft and stretch and all it would take was her coming down to dilate me the rest of the way. Around this time I asked Matt to fill the birthing pool and I began to vocalize through the contractions. I can’t imagine having to stay still through contractions—I was usually leaning on the bed or the kitchen bar and swaying back and forth, willing myself to relax everything and release and tension.
At 2ish I climbed into the birthing pool and OH what sweet relief!!!!!! It was around then I went through transition and began to really vocalize. I kept moving positions from my hands and knees to my side to kneeling but at this point nothing was comfortable.
At one point I found I needed something to say or recite besides “OOOOHHH!” or “OOOOH JESUS!” so the thing that popped in my mind was Psalm 34. In 6th grade our teacher, Miss Iris, had us learn the entire chapter, verse by verse, over the course of the year. Most of that chapter (I still confuse the last few verses) is still imprinted in my mind, and is my go-to Psalm. Not only were the actual words comforting and reassuring, but trying to remember the order of the verses, or pick up where I left off with the last contraction kept my mind focused on that instead of the double and triple-peaking contractions I was laboring through then.
Here is the chapter in its entirety, although I think I only got through the first 17 or 18 verses:
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.2
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.3
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.5
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.6
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.7
The angel[a] of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!9
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.10
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.12
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?13
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.14
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.16
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.18
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.20
He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.21
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.22
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
Climbing in I had another contraction and urge, and my water broke with a little bit of meconium in it. Then, in that what felt like a VERY VERY quick moment Kenna moved from very high in the birth canal to crowning! While I only pushed for 20 minutes with Tatum, I felt her dropping little by little, and even while pushing we’d see more of the head, then it would go back a little. But this all happened in one frightening and very painful contraction! I was VERY loud and felt my voice go from low and open to a higher pitch and nearing a scream. My arms were grabbing a hold of the handles on the sides of the pool and I remember them shaking violently when Susan came right into view and locked eyes with me. I honestly don’t remember what she said but I remember focusing on her eyes and reaching up behind me to grab onto Matt’s arm. I also got a visual of Tatum when she freaks out about something and thinking she must get it from the primal side of me because I felt like a toddler freaking out!
The next push Kenna’s head was born, and the push after that she came into this world at 2:44 am.
As Susan lifted her up and onto my chest I felt that overwhelming joy at finally holding her in my arms! She coughed a number of times and cleared her lungs. She wasn’t crying, but making those precious newborn noises. She felt smaller in my arms than Tatum had, as well. So little, tucked against me. I heard Matt laugh and begin to talk to her as well.
I remember, too, realizing that the cord must have been really short because I could feel it taut against my belly. Susan asked if I felt like I could get out of the pool to birth the placenta so with her and Matt’s help I did, and sat/reclined on the floor with Matt supporting me from behind.
When I again squatted and pushed the placenta came out easily—except for one piece of membrane stayed attached inside. I pushed, we waited, and I got to turn Kenna so I could get a good look at her face. The first thing I thought was how different from Tatum she looked. Her hair was fairer, her face not quite as chubby. She got a little mad and I started singing Tatum’s favorite nighttime lullaby, “Godspeed,” by the Dixie Chicks (except we sing “baby girl” instead of “little man,” and Tatum insists we add Roy to the last verse). I figured since she had been hearing it from inside the womb for months she would recognize it, and she certainly did! That baby quieted right down! She also nursed for a little bit.
This is the end of the "birth" story. There's more about the afterbirth portion, but if that isn't your cup of tea you can skip to the pictures at the end.
The membrane was still not detaching, so Matt cut Tatum’s cord once it stopped pulsing and held her as my mom took his place behind me. I don’t think we got any pictures of Matt holding her, but it is imprinted in my mind. The look on his face, his smiling and talking to her, then sitting down and rocking her. I took a tincture of herbs to help the contractions expel that last piece of membrane hanging on, then laid back on pillows so Susan could check my perineum. That membrane was still not detaching so after talking to me, Susan snipped the rest of the placenta away from it so I could have some mobility.
I went to the bathroom and Susan massaged my uterus, then I massaged it, all trying to get that danged membrane to detach. When it still didn’t, Susan talked to me about using pitocin to help my uterus contract and release that membrane. We moved to my bedroom and I got to hold my Kenna again while I got the shot in my thigh, and another herbal tincture. This went on for awhile, and that blasted piece of membrane didn’t detach until 4:30 or 5:00 I think. I was so tempted to just yank it out but knew leaving a piece of it inside made me prime for infection.
After that I still needed to be stitched up just a bit. I had a minor second degree tear, and Susan sutured the first row, but by the time she began the second, outer stitches the anesthetic was wearing off. We actually think I may be somewhat immune to it, because after Tatum was born no matter how much the midwife used I could still feel every single stitch. Because of the way I tore this time, Susan had given me the option to not suture but just take it very very easy for the next ten days, so when I began to feel every stitch I opted to just tie off what she had done and take it easy (I didn’t have that option last time).
So finally, around 6, Susan and MacKenzie had cleaned up everything, I was changed and cleaned, and we gave Kenna her newborn exam. She weighed in at 9 pounds 5 ounces, and 22 inches long. Everything beautifully and thankfully healthy.
The next day Kenna did develop a cephalohematoma, which are most commonly found in babies delivered with forceps, but we think she dropped so fast she literally banged her head against my pelvis to bruise it. So if you notice a little bump on her head the next few weeks it’s nothing to be alarmed about—it will resolve on its own. The kid just had to make a wham-bang entrance!