Warning this is a birth story, birthing is beautiful, but messy business. You’re warned.
This is a terrible picture, and was taken a week before Anders was born, but it’s the closest I have to the “going into the hospital” belly shot. I might have had a few other things on my mind!
At midnight of January 29th I lay awake and was flooded with an unexplainable sense of anxiety. Already a week and a day over my due date, the anticipation was killing me. I was just about to get up and do something, when I felt a small rupture and a rush of warm liquid. I jumped up and walked into the bathroom. Having had a false alarm a few weeks earlier, I wanted to make sure that this time my water had indeed broke. This time it was clear as the “water” continued to flow steadily for the next 40 minutes making it nearly impossible for me to leave the bathroom. After I was positive I was passing amniotic fluid I called the midwives and was told by Mary Bolles, the midwife on call, that I should come in so I could start my first round of Penicilin, being strep B+. I awoke Tom, called to secure someone to come over and stay with Scotland (Lindsay Arb) and we started packing up. I was immediately overwhelmed. Tom was ecstatic. He jumped up, smiling and rushed around the house getting everything ready. I felt serious, focused. After Lindsay arrived we drove to the hospital, true to Seattle style it was raining. We arrived around 2:15am. I started my first dose of penicillin at 2:50. The midwives advised me to try to lay down and get some rest, so we could assure I got my two doses of penicillin. I tried to sleep, but increasingly intense contractions prevented me. I laid on the bed for about an hour before I started to pace the room swaying my hips and moving my arms in the air to try to relax through the contractions. They were consistently three minutes apart. This continued for about an hour, and then I woke up Tom to invite him to walk the halls with me. At this point the contractions were getting very intense and after a few sections of hall I decided I didn’t want to labor in such a public way so we headed back to the room. Tom was an immense help through all of this, voicing encouragement, massaging my back, and just being there. After a bit more monitoring I decided to try the birthing ball, which felt terrible, and so we switched gears and I tried the jacuzzi. At this point, around 7:00am or so, I was so exhausted from not having slept that I would often fall asleep between contractions. The jacuzzi allowed me to rest up between. I told Tom I thought the jacuzzi was probably slowing my labor, but that it was worth it because I just needed a rest. He sat there next to the tub, keeping the water at the right temperature, holding my hand, and giving me encouragement, and sympathy. Around 8:00 the nurse suggested I get out for a bit so they could monitor the baby. I got out and they put on the straps, I held on to Tom as I worked through several very intense contractions. I felt amazing support and comfort hugging him so. At that point I expressed a need to use the bathroom. The nurse, Marci, a maternal and experienced nurse, asked if I’d had a pelvic exam. When I told her I hadn’t, she voiced concern over my using the bathroom. But knowing I needed to have a BM I insisted I go. She said ok, but called in the midwife. I sat on the toilet and cleared myself and then all of a sudden I felt the babies head pushing down strong, and I started yelling “He’s coming, he’s coming! Oh my, he’s coming.” Tom, jumped into action, telling me to close my legs and pulling me up off the toilet as he and the nurses rushed me to the bed. I wobbled over there and laid down- the midwife and her student rushed in and everyone prepared. I then worked through the last stage of labor. I had a nurse Marcy and nursing student, Kari who stood by my right side. Marci coached me through the pushes and Kari held my hand and rubbed my arm. Mary and Rachel sat at the end of the bed, applying gentle pressure and administering a lubricant as they guided the head through the passage way. Tom sat on my left holding my hand, and assuring me. Things progressed ever so slowly for me at this point, and at times I felt helpless to push the baby out. When I laid on the bed they checked me and could feel the head right there. I kept voicing apologies for not being able to go faster, and asked if I ought to try the squatting bar. They encouraged me to listen to my body, and do whatever I thought would be best, but also suggested that going slowly was going to be the best thing for my tissues. Unlike with Scotland where I used the squatting bar and felt great power and strength, this time lying on my side without anything but a few nurses to push against, I felt much less able to “bear down.” The pain was intense and I gave out many a loud whimper, followed by a “I can do this! I got this.” The love and support I felt from the four women and my husband was so sweet. Though my eyes were closed, I could feel their presence and their strength. I stretched out enough that we could all see, an oval of hair, I reached down and touched the wet wrinkly patch of skin and apologized for not being able to move him through faster. He stayed there for a little while as I tried to push him through but felt complete resistance. The nurses and midwives waited patiently assuring me that things would stretch out and that I just need to relax and let things open up. After a bit of this he made some movement, then a bit more, then a bit more, and then woosh at 8:54am out he came and they pulled him from me and placed him on my lap a squiggling, bluish wet chubby baby. I squealed with delight and relief and kept saying “My baby, my baby!” All the nurses exclaimed at his size and a quick measurement confirmed a head of 15inches. The nurses and Tom worked to clean him off and the midwives set to work helping me with the afterbirth, and then stitching me up. The placenta was huge and very healthy. Anders was a bit blue and took a bit to really cry out. Tom (who had been resuscitating babies all month) quickly started rubbing his back and encouraging him to cry.
During the pushing I apologized many times to Anders for squeezing his head so much and not being able to push him through faster.
It’s interesting to compare the emotions I felt between the two pregnancies. With Scotland I felt very independent, very powerful, and very in charge. With Anders I felt much more vulnerable, more needy- more dependent. When I told Tom that I felt I had been weaker, less sure with this labor he was surprised. He felt I had been more peaceful. He said with Scotland he had been offended several times, while with this labor he had felt truly a part. Thinking on it again I realized I had leaned on him more with this labor, allowing him to hold me and help me, while with Scotland I had more often pushed him away or commanded him. As I laid on the bed in the pushing stage, squeezing Tom’s hand with my left hand, I looked over to my right and asked “Can I hold someone’s hand?” Kari immediately volunteered. I proceeded to grip her hand throughout the entire end of the delivery and as they stitched me up, I had probably been holding her hand (at a very awkward angle for her) for an hour or so when I realized that I was doing so, and that it was probably not a very comfortable angle for her. I apologized, but she smiled sweetly, expressing a willingness to help in anyway she could. I expressed thanks several times to Marcy for coaching me through the pushing.
In the end, baby in arms I looked at this semi circle of women around me and felt this amazing unity and connection with these women I had just met. I sensed an overpowering appreciation for women and our power together. I felt grateful for having pushed myself to a pain so immense that I needed these women, and of course my dear husband, to get me through it. It was a beautiful experience.
Anders quickly pinked up and shocked everyone, but me, when he weighed in at 10 pounds 9.9 ounces, and measured 21.5 inches. Everyone just kept saying how remarkable it was that with my thin frame I had birthed such a large baby vaginally and without anesthesia. I had been saying for weeks that I was pretty sure I had a big baby, and was rather nervous about having gone so far beyond my due date, as a result.
I had a second degree tear, and the stitching up afterwards was very intense and painful. But I held my baby and I was happy.
Anders had beautiful dark hair, that was neat and short. He eyes and face were swollen but he pinked up quickly and had a nice dark rosy coloring. He laid peacefully on my chest. I felt immense joy and relief, having him finally in my arms.
Lindsay had, meanwhile, gotten Scotland up and fed and took him over to Meri Koons to play until we picked him up around noon.
I lost a lot of blood again, and because I had a student midwife it took a while to get all stitched up, but from everyone’s account she did a terrific job.
Tom went to get Scotland after lunch. They arrived, Tom bringing me a gorgeous cyclamen, and Scotter bring Anders his teddy “Clara” as a gift. He was clearly happy to see me and climbed up on the bed. He asked “Are you sore?” “Can you pick me up?” (Tom had discussed how Scotland was going to have to be gentle with me for a while.) Tom took Anders to the couch and Scotland said, “I want to show him how to jump!” He then proceeded to jump up and down. Tom then helped him hold Anders and he smiled sweetly and with awe at his little brother, kissing him gently on the forehead. He watched with great curiosity as Tom unwrapped the blankets and revealed Anders’s tiny toes, and clamped belly button. The rest of the evening passed with treats, watching a bit of Pete’s dragon, nurses in and out, and Scotland trying out all the controls on the bed, goofing around, etc. We had a lovely “celebratory dinner” courtesy of the hospital, during which we enjoyed several rounds of toasts. Even Scotland joined in on the fun saying several sweet toasts. “This one is for Mommy. Because I love her, and I’m glad I know her!”
Tom took Scotland home around 8:00 and I spent the night feeding Anders, getting checked and trying to sleep. Anders slept much of the night in my arms. The next morning I felt much better and was able to get up and around the room and prepare to leave. (A delight, after a rough recovery with Scotland.) I was really impressed by how considerate and kind all the nurses and doctors were, and pleased to have delivered at Northwest Hospital.
We checked out around 12:30, headed to Five guys for lunch (because my hematocrit was low at 27, and so we figured I better get a burger to boost my iron levels!) and then headed home. Anders started to cry a bit on the way home and Scotland immediately started to sing to him. Anders calmed, and then a little while later started to whimper again. Again Scotland sang and Anders calmed. My heart melted at my eldest son’s thoughtfulness. Looking back my eyes grew wet as I saw “My boys.” I’m a mother of two. We’re a family of four. Here goes. . .
Anders Cyril Foutz- one day old.