I woke up at 1:30, after only two hours of sleep, because of a contraction. I didn’t want to make too much out of it, though, because there had been two previous nights I’d woken up with contractions that had petered out after about two hours. Ruby woke up about ten minutes later, and I went in to nurse her back to sleep. As we were sitting together, I felt a stronger contraction, but I kind of chalked it up to the fact that nursing releases oxytocin, which is also a hormone that stimulates contractions. I’d nursed Ruby every day and it hadn’t yet succeeded in getting my overdue baby here yet.
But long after Ruby had gone back to sleep, the contractions kept coming. So I woke Kyle up around two or two-thirty. He made me eggs and bacon because I was hungry and it’s a good idea to eat some before labor. I also woke my mom up to braid my hair (I didn’t want it falling in my face during labor), but she went back to bed because there wasn’t much for her to do other than watch me having contractions. We called my midwife at around 3, and she arrived at 3:30.
When my midwife checked me, I was 6 centimeters. We did a vaginal wash since I had tested positive for GBS (the wash strips the bacteria out of the birth canal, reducing chances of infection), which was the worst because it meant I had to labor lying down ten minutes while we did it. I was coping really well with labor at this point, and my midwife complimented me on how well I was handling the contractions. I was pretty proud of myself, but it turns out that pride cometh before the fall, because this labor was about to get a lot harder.
We had been planning on having another water birth, but there were some problems with getting the tub set up, and after a little while Kyle came into the bedroom where I was laboring to tell me that it just wasn’t going to happen. I was laboring on my knees, resting on a yoga ball, and I told him that I would have the baby right there if that’s what God wanted instead of in a tub. I didn’t care, and I sure as heck didn’t want to move anywhere, anyways.
At around this point, I felt water leaking out, and I told my midwife I couldn’t tell if I had peed or if my water had broken. She looked at the pad I was kneeling on and told me my water had broken–and to get ready. Baby could come any time now, and considering my history there was a good chance baby would come quickly. I started feeling the urge to push, so I buried deep inside and pushed.
And pushed. And pushed.
And it was hard. It was so hard. I was so tired. After a while, my midwife checked me again, and was surprised to find my bag of waters was still intact. It turns out that baby is actually encapsulated in two membranes, and occasionally the outer membrane breaks and allows some amniotic fluid out, but the interior membrane stays intact. So my midwife broke the other membrane, and felt baby move down the birth canal some. She also told me I was only 8 centimeters dilated. I needed to stop pushing until baby descended more and I finished dilating.
It was incredibly demoralizing to hear that I was only eight centimeters dilated. The contractions were so intense, and I was so tired with only two hours of sleep. When I labored with Ruby, I was excited at the opportunity to meet my baby, to finally not be pregnant anymore, to experience birth. Ruby’s birth was euphoric and beautiful for me. But with Sherman, I was beaten down by being a week and a half overdue, I was tired of hearing comments about how I should have just gotten induced by then, and oh, your baby hasn’t come yet? And I was just. So. Very. Tired. So when I heard that baby wasn’t all that close to coming after all, I just wanted to quit.
Unfortunately, labor’s not really something that you get to quit. You’ve got to get on through.
But I was tired. So I told my birth team (Kyle, my midwife, and the birth assistant) that I wanted to lie down. My midwife thought that it would be better for me to stand up and to let gravity assist and pull baby down the birth canal. I know that this is an incredibly effective position for moving baby down the birth canal, so I stood instead for a number of contractions (who knows how many?). Kyle held me up, my midwife and birth assistant supported my knees and legs, and I prayed that baby would move down.
I repeated the same mantra I had used during Ruby’s birth, but this time it held greater urgency and agitation.
By the grace of God, I can bear all things. By the grace of God, I can bear all things. By the grace of God, I can bear all things.
After a little while, I declared that I needed to lie down on the bed for a bit. I was just so very tired, I didn’t think I could bear one more contraction. So I got down on the bed, but I immediately regretted it. Laying down while laboring is the worst. It is the pits. I hate it. So it soldiered up onto my hands and knees on the bed and somebody made pillows appear to support me.
I was agitated. I was tired. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this for. I was praying for help, I was struggling, and I was trying to focus and be more positive.
I think my midwife could tell how hard it was getting for me. She sat down next to me on the bed and she said, “Eliza, for this next wave, I want you to relax. I just want you to let go and relax. Don’t worry about pushing the baby out, don’t worry about anything. Just relax.”
So I did. I stopped trying. When the next contraction came, I let go.
By the grace of God, I can bear all things.
I relinquished control.
By the grace of God, I can bear all things.
I relaxed my body and a miracle happened. I felt the baby–who I hadn’t felt at all in the birth canal–move all the way down the birth canal and begin crowning against my perineum. Just like that. In one contraction, after all of the hard, seemingly useless ones before. All I had to do was let go of the fatigue, the effort, let go of trying to be in charge.
Somebody exclaimed, “Guess what I can see!”, but I already knew. It was a head. The head of my beautiful baby. God had heard my prayers, and my baby was coming. Baby was almost here. I was almost done.
With a little coaching about how to breathe while I was delivering baby, I birthed the head. Then the shoulders. But baby was still in there. Usually after the shoulders come out, baby just slithers out, but my baby was still in there. It was terrifically unfair. But with one more push, baby’s chest and body was delivered. Kyle caught the baby, and somebody told me that it was a boy. I felt very pleased because I had been right–it was my baby boy.
Kyle then tried to walk off with the baby still attached to me and the umbilical cord, but he was quickly stopped, and I still tease him about it today. They passed Sherman up through my legs, and I rolled over onto my back, finally able to lay down. Finally able to rest.
Sherman was born at about 6:00 in the morning. He weighed 8 lbs 8 oz, a full pound and five ounces more than Ruby had. When they were measuring him, they discovered that his head was 14 inches…and his chest was also 14 inches. No wonder his chest needed an extra nudge to get out–it was enormous! He had this big, barrel chest, and tiny little chicken legs. He was so adorable.
My mom came into the room at this point; evidently she hadn’t wanted to get in the way. Our apartment is relatively small, and she didn’t want to crowd. But when she heard Sherman cry, she came in to see what was going on. Amy arrived. Ruby woke up.
Sherman nursed beautifully. I cuddled him for a while, then Kyle and Amy took him out to the front room while I got some stitches.
I laid on the bed for a while, wishing to feel the euphoria that I had felt after Ruby was born. But instead of euphoria, I was left with a sense of profound gratitude. This labor had been hard. Very hard. But at the end, when I was out of energy and at the edge of my capacity, I had been granted a miracle. The birth assistant later told me that she’d never seen something like that happen before. During that last contraction they could literally see my body opening up as the baby descended to crown. She said she’d never seen it happen that quickly.
Kyle and I tried to nap after the midwife left. Kyle managed to nap for hours, but after thirty minutes I woke up, too keyed up with hormones to sleep. So I went out to the front room to sit in the recliner and love on my sweet baby. My sweet, overdue, big Sherman. Finally in my arms instead of in my womb.