The EPIC BIRTH of ROSEMARY VALENTINE – August 20, 2011
Warning…the story will take longer to read than it took me to have a baby
My sweet friend Abbey R wrote in a card to me weeks before my birth “This birth is going to be EPIC!”. I was facing a lot of self doubt about the epic-ness of it all, but I trusted Abbey’s judgement – she’s is the ultimate epic birther, and she’s a little mental like me. So if she had faith in it, I could too.
I thought a lot about that phrase through my labor and it mentally set the tone for me. The theme in my head and my home was one of community and the power of women to support each other and that was the part that made it epic. I’m not even sure I can possibly convey how loved and cared for I felt by the women who blessed us with their presence at this birth. But I guess I should start at the beginning….
Some background, for those who don’t know: My first child, Todd, was born in 1996 at a hospital in Southwest Fort Worth. I was induced, quite happily, some time after 40 weeks, since my doc had a golf game out of town that weekend and I was done being pregnant. There was no medical reason at all for the induction. Pit was started at like 8 am, they gave me some demerol, broke my water, gave me an epidural, and through sheer force of will (’cause I couldn’t feel a thing!) I pushed an 8 lb, 4 oz boy out around 3 pm. They wheeled us to the curb around 9 am the next morning and wished us luck. Like a root canal, only with a baby.
12 years later for baby number 2, Coco, I chose a birth center. At 39 weeks, 1 day, I had an amazing but overwhelmingly fast birth of a 7 lb, 12 oz girl.
That birth clocked in at 6 hours total, and only 2 hours after I got to the birth center. I loved the experience I had with my midwife and the birth center, although I didn’t have the fabled “birth high”. I suspect that was because it hit me like a train and I was planning to labor dramatically and with lots of rice socks, music and warm compresses for at least 8-12 hours (since there was no Pit and it had been over a decade I expected it to take a little longer). I had taken a uterine toner called Gentle Birth, that is herbal and shortens labor. Live and learn….
Preparing for number three, I had contractions early on, starting around 23 weeks. It wasn’t dilating me at all, but I suspected my uterus was doing it’s own toning, and I didn’t do anything at all to prep. No uterine toners, no EPO, no red rasberry leaf tea, nothing.
I also planned a home birth this time. I burned over half my labor last time getting my stuff packed up and driving to the birth center. I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could – and home was a better option so I wouldn’t have to travel. My midwife for number 2, Kelly, had relocated down south to San Angelo, about 4 hours away, but by mere circumstance had three past clients in Fort Worth who were due in August and we were able to work it out so she could provide my care again.
But that meant my primary midwife would be hours away once labor began (Cue ominous music)…
Since Coco came at 39 weeks, I started my mental countdown at 38 weeks. Surely it would be any day now, right? Of course not. During week 39, I stayed active figuring I would jostle her out at some point. I vacillated between being patient and being annoyed, and trying to let go of that small desire for this birth, and this baby, to be just like Coco’s (because while it was hectic, it was at least was familiar and mainly good).
Two days from my due date, one of my best friends, Bonnie, and I had gone to Blue Mesa for our last date before baby – I wasn’t sure if I wanted to eat Mexican and possibly be puking it all up in transition later, but I took the risk. The next morning I took a single dose of some left over uterine toner, I was getting antsy. Then I remembered why I didn’t want to take it – it’s main claim to fame is a shorter labor. I don’t want one of those! So I didn’t take it again.
40 weeks, 2 days, Bonnie calls me at 10:30 am and tells me to come over that afternoon and take some last minute maternity shots. Her theory being that it would be super cool to have those pictures mere days before baby was on the outside rather than the inside.
That night (Friday), Jason picked up the house on my request and we watched a movie. I had contractions, but they weren’t anything I couldn’t sleep through
- and I had been having contractions for months. I figured if anything was legitimate, it would wake me up from sleep.
Around 5:50 am, one wakes me up. At the time, I assume it’s just that I needed to go to the bathroom. Contractions always are miserable with a full bladder. So I make a quick pit stop then come back to bed. But I’m up again, and now texting Kelly. This is legit and she’s on her way. I’ve read enough accidental unassisted birth stories that start with “I didn’t want to wake my birth team, so I decided to wait it out until 8 am.”
Nope, that’s not gonna be me! I at least want them at the ready. At 6:30 I text my birth team, just a heads up, don’t come yet, and I’ll call in a bit. Thankfully they suspect that it’s going to be fast and they all start packing up.
I guess I should give the run down on my birth posse at this point. This is possibly the best birth team every assembled. In addition to Kelly and her assistant, we had 5 professionals coming to the birth, all of whom I am privileged to be able to call friends (as well as a couple of additional friends, but I didn’t even manage to call them!).
My doula Tonya lives about 2 miles from me – so we felt good no matter how fast baby came, she would probably make it. And I knew I would need awesome labor support as soon as possible.
The historical documentation of the event was covered by Ceci, a birth photographer and videographer, doing video, and Val, a still birth photographer, taking a zillion still photos.
My incredible friend Alexa was coming with the description of her role in my birth plan as “general joy and happiness”, or as what she humbly calls “house doula”. I won’t go on about how she walks into a room and the whole place lights up… but anyone who knows her knows why you would want her at your birth. She made a cake with Coco while I labored, put together a 5-star brunch spread, and did a couple of loads of laundry.
How she did all of that in such a short time I will never know… but that’s Alexa.
Finally, Bonnie (and her baby, Reese) was coming with the primary job of wrangling Coco during the birth, but happens to also be an excellent multitasker and professional photographer. So YES, I did have three photographers, but, as Bonnie pointed out – having a second shooter at a wedding is totally normal. Bonnie is also insanely level headed, and I thought that might be beneficial in a crunch.
I talk to everyone over the course of the next hour mainly via text (around 7:30 a.m.), and tell them, yeah, start driving. Bonnie and I talk on the phone. I’m having to pause through contractions. I can’t talk through them. I realize I haven’t heard back from Alexa, and ask Tonya to call her.
At about 8:00, Val is the first to arrive. I don’t remember much of our conversation, although I remember she said she was going to drive up and wait in my driveway if I had said I wasn’t ready for her to come. I love that girl.
I suspect I’m starting transition based on how I’m feeling. But, I’m still texting… My last text to Bonnie was “I’m freaking nauseous already – I hope this isn’t quite this fast!” to which she replied “Just relax, I’ll be there soon. At least you won’t be puking Blue Mesa.”
At 8:13, my texting-in-transistion extravaganza continues, and I message Tonya, “Hmmmm hurry, I’m nauseous already”.
to which she replies “I’m in the van”. Thank goodness!
I was planning on texting/ calling a few more people who didn’t have official “jobs” but were just coming to hang out and commune with us. I had decided to wait a while and not wake them up at 6 am, but I guess I should have. Those communications never happened because, well, after that I just couldn’t function to do it, and Jason was busy dealing with me.
I labored on the couch for what seemed like forever, but actually was just a few minutes. Jason was still waking up, drinking coffee and rubbing my back. He had started filling the tub. Coco was sharing my ear buds with me, not protesting the music as she usually does. I don’t think I could have handled Parry Gripp’s This is the Best Burrito while laboring.
I got up and moved to the bar, standing and leaning up against it for one
contraction or maybe two. Maybe I remembered to go to the bathroom to pee, although somehow I doubt it. Later, Jason and I wondered where Coco was during the blank space between 8:15 and 9 am. Val told us he turned on Curious George (a dvd that was still on in the living room as I pushed out the baby) and Bonnie got there a few minutes later.
Then I moved to the bedroom, where I would remain for half an hour as everyone started arriving. I stayed pretty much on my right side the entire time, and my version of what was happening is clouded by intense never-ending contractions.
There was never a moment where I wanted to transport or get an epidural, but I kept thinking about the bottle of vicodin in my medicine cabinet, left over from some injury or another… My friend Jeanine and I had joked about having such a short labor that I could just take a vicodin and sail through it. So at the height of contractions, I would wonder if I could somehow sneak into the kitchen and take a vicodin when no one was looking. But moving was not really an option at that point.
At only 8:21, less than half an hour after Val had gotten there, and mere minutes since the Blue Mesa text from Bonnie, I had a missed call from Kelly (of course I didn’t see it). She called Jason instead and asked him what was going on. His response was that his wife “said” she was in labor (thanks, babe) and was on the bed mooing, yes mooing, but my water hadn’t broken.
I would later discover that this was one of his expectations for the birth – my water would break like last time and precede real labor. He was supporting me with lots of hip squeezes and snuggles like he believed me though – so his doubt wasn’t apparent to me at all. He’s such an awesome hubby and I couldn’t keep getting these girls out drug-free without him!
Kelly can hear me in the background, and knows I am most certainly in labor and it’s progressing fast. She was calling to tell us that Kim, her backup midwife in Fort Worth (who’s a birth guru in her own right) and her assistant Abbie will be headed our way; another momma is in labor in San Angelo. This was something that wasn’t unexpected or not okay – we knew going in that it was a possibility. Kim had attended Coco’s birth, and we trust her as implicitly as Kelly, so this switch wasn’t a big deal.
But, even without that mom in labor, I’m pretty sure Kelly knew at that time (from the sound of the “mooing”) that she wasn’t going to make it in time. Kim was 45 minutes out, and it looked like a mad dash for her to get here. Abbie, living in Flower Mound, was the closest and had already been on the way to Kim’s that morning for appointments.
I’m unaware of what’s going on at this point (shocking right) but I do know that Bonnie, Tonya, Ceci, and Alexa are now all there. And there is NO midwife. This doesn’t really concern me. We have had this conversation many, many times. When births progress this quickly it usually means nothing is wrong. Tonya hangs with me for a bit, gets some hot rice socks that are SO nice, and squeezes my hips. A great doula is worth millions. Seriously. I love my husband, but four hands rubbing your back and getting you hot rice socks is way better than two and I don’t know any husbands with four hands.
Then Tonya is on the phone with Kelly, I’m not sure what that conversation was, I suspect it was about midwife arrival details, and the fact that yes this is happening fast. But that’s speculation on my part.
All I know is that another contraction is crashing down on top of me, and while Jason’s attempts are good – Tonya is a professional hip squeezer. And in the moment I can’t even remember my friend’s name. I start yelling “Doula, HELP! Doula, HELP!” And she comes and I survive another one.
Somewhere in here I tell them I need to get in the pool, and Alexa has to put cold water in it because it’s too hot (we never used the heater or jets, just hot from our water heater).
Tonya suggests changing position to hands and knees on my bed, I get on my hands and knees briefly, then immediately slump to my left side instead. I’m pushing when on hands and knees and tell them that.
For whatever reason I got the distinct impression that if we were having an unassisted birth for some reason it would be preferable that we stay in the bedroom. That’s just not happening though. While I hate swimming pools and hot tubs in the rest of my life – I AM a waterbirther. Or an epidural birther. And since the anesthesiologist didn’t RSVP – the big jacuzzi will get the win today. That pool is only a few dozen feet away and I AM getting into it to have this baby.
Abbie is close they tell me. I give Abbie one more contraction to show up and then I am getting in the pool regardless of the temperature or the likelihood of an unassisted birth. Why am I always waiting for SOMEONE to show up before I get in the darn pool?? This was the only moment in my birth that resembled Coco’s in the least, although this time it wasn’t anything more than a short distraction for me.
No midwife was pushing this baby out – I was. Their presence was simply for safety and comfort, not necessity. I am the only person who has to be present for the birth of my baby, followed by my husband.
I’m still clutching my iPod. I’m singing All-Star, by Smash Mouth, while listening on my earbuds, and even in the other room they can hear me, although they can’t quite figure out the context of my chants.
Abbie arrives and introduces herself, and it seems like I told her I thought we had met at a Tarrant County Birth Network meeting. Yes, I’m thinking about TCBN and I’m pretty sure I’m completely dilated. I don’t care. No one is slowing my dash to the pool.
It’s 9:09, I make the walk from the bedroom to the front room where we have to pool set up.
I get into the pool. Bliss. I can do this, I can survive it. I tell my friends, “This baby is going to fall out, people”. (Alexa took notes!) My gosh, how do people have babies anyplace other than water? And why do I wait each time until the bitter end? Seems like someone said something about checking me. I either thought or verbalized that they were welcome to do whatever they wanted, I was still pushing.
I’m on hands and knees, in the position I birthed Coco. I like that position. No one checks me.
Abbie gets heart tones. She mentions that she hasn’t read my birth plan, and asks if Jason is going to catch. Jason isn’t concerned about catching and he’s in a good spot with Coco (the same spot he was when Coco was born) talking me through the pushing.
9:15 I tell them “Here we go!” and a minute later, “I’m ready to push this baby out.”
Kim is on the phone, she’s nearby, but it certainly seems like this is going to happen before she gets there. I push a few times – we do that awful, tragic dance where it feels like she’s going to pop
out, and then she gets sucked back in. I forget the part where that’s a good thing because I’m stretching. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I tell them all, “I’m a rockstar”. Nice.
Pushing again. I try to keep my voice low. I’m doing a crap job of it apparently though, because Kim is coaching Tonya on the phone, who is then coaching me. Bonnie tells Coco it’s the song mommies sing to get their babies out, and Coco believes her. We have practiced for months for this moment, my sweet big girl and I. Every night at bath time, or in the shower, we’ve talked about baby Romy coming out of mommy in a big, big tub in the front room, and we’ve practiced making the moaning noises together that I will make. She can “Ahhhh” with the best of them.
I’m thankful in between pushing contractions that it’s happening the way I promised Coco it would, in a pool, in our home, while I make guttural cow noises. I’m thankful to be surrounded by such amazing wonderful women and a beautifully perfect husband, and two sweet, sweet little girls who are there today to welcome a new sister and a new friend (although baby Reese, only months old herself, slept through the whole thing on my couch!). I’m thankful for the love that my new baby was being born into. She crowns at 9:24 am, my water breaks, and is born one minute later.
Another pushing contraction. Finally, her head is out, then her shoulders. Like her big sister, she stops there, halfway out of my body, underwater, and looking around. The contraction is over, but it seems like they are telling me to push her out, and so I do. Just like last time.
I’m terribly thankful for Abbie in that moment, the student midwife. I am thrilled that I wasn’t checked my entire labor (although I would have never thought I would be happy about that – I like to know what’s going on). I am thrilled I was so unwatched, and able to just verbalize where I was without anyone verifying it. I know in my heart I was beginning transition on the floor of my living room, and I didn’t need someone else to tell me. It was amazingly empowering to labor with only my own internal guidance and be able to say, unequivocally “I’m pushing my baby out”. But in that still moment where a baby is hanging half out of you, and you want someone to tell you whether you should push it out, or wait until the next contractions – I am thrilled to have a professional there to do it.
She’s finally out, I throw a leg over the cord, and meet Rosemary Valentine. I am overcome in a different way than my last birth, joyous to meet my new baby. While my labor
was almost half the time of my labor with Coco (3 1/2 hours with Romy, 6 1/2 with Coco), I don’t have the “hit by a train” sensation that I did last time. In fact, the whole room seems shinier to me, there’s a glow coming off of this little uncarved block laying on my chest, with all of the potential in the universe there for her to enjoy. Her daddy leans in and whispers in her ear, something so soft that even I don’t hear it. I have the privilege of introducing Romy to Coco. I have the privilege of introducing Romy to the world…
Alexa sticks her head in at some point and asks me if the smell of cooking eggs and bacon would bother me. No, I tell her, and then wonder why she would be cooking eggs and bacon. I don’t remember having eggs and bacon… but then she’s gone again and I am back staring at the baby.
Kim arrived somewhere in all of this, we talk about the placenta. I hate the placenta. I don’t want to stop holding the baby, and the midwives tell me that I can push the placenta out while holding the baby. My placentas don’t give up that easy though, so I know I should hand her off. We cut the cord after it’s done pulsing, and Jason and Coco get to enjoy some quiet time talking to her.
The crowd mainly disperses, I remark to Kim how she told me at my last birth it would feel juicy to get the placenta out, and it was nothing like pushing the baby out because there are no bones. She mentions that Romy appears to be a bigger baby than Coco and the placenta may be big too. Bonnie and Tonya stay with me, rubbing my lower back, while I have contractions and try to push the stupid placenta out. I hate the placenta – did I mention that? I’m glad I can encapsulate them and eat them, it’s punishment for being such a hassle to deliver.
I take some herbal stuff, Bonnie & Tonya are still stuck doing doula work on me even though baby is out. I will love them forever for this. Helping a mama birth a placenta isn’t glamorous or awesome in any way, shape or form. It’s much more vulnerable and self conscious for me, since the crazy endorphins have mainly subsided. The midwives suggest they or I do manual traction on the placenta, since it has released and is sitting at the top of the cervix. I opt to do it myself, which means I am
gently tugging on the cord while pushing. One hour and one minute after pushing the baby out, I birth the placenta using mooing, back massage, and manual traction.
They throw a fuzzy pink robe on me and make the trek back to my bedroom. As I walk through the house, I glance up at the kitchen counter… It looks like Sunday buffet at the Marriott. Where did all that food come from????
I’m laying down, waiting for the nausea and post birth yuckiness, but instead I end up with a breakfast tray with juice, and chocolate peanut butter croissants and eggs and bacon and cheese and turkey on croissants. And fresh grapes and watermelon. The nausea never comes. Eating brings back the little bit of color I have lost and refuels me.
Everyone needs a house doula.
Jason comes into the room with me and we have a quiet moment. We hear everyone in our kitchen, the bubbling conversation of the women who helped us bring our second daughter safely earthside. There is an overwhelming sense of community in our home, as they chat over brunch.
I can’t make out the conversations, and I don’t try. I just enjoy my food and my sweet family.
We do our newborn exam. My healthy baby with 1 and 5 minute apgars of 10 has a tiny stork bite on her neck, but is otherwise perfection. She weighs in at 8 lbs 13 oz and is 19 3/4″ long. A full pound and an ounce more than my last baby and over half a pound larger than my first.
This is a little shocking. I’m typically under 100 pounds when I’m not pregnant. This is a big baby for me! I’m surely going to discover I have massive tears from this gigantor baby. But, no, I have only a minor tear, that is easily repaired with super glue at my 2 day appointment. Fat does indeed squish!
After singing happy birthd
ay to Romy with the cake that Alexa and Coco made while I labored, we settle into an herbal bath and I chat with my friends and Coco. After everyone packs up to leave, we spend a few moments with Abbie and Kim getting our postpartum instructions.
It’s about 2:00 in the afternoon, 24 hours after my maternity pictures with Bonnie on Friday. Romy is 4 and a half hours old. Coco is wild and needs a nap. Jason turns the Curious George DVD on for her for just a minute while he finishes up with me and the midwives. When he goes back to the living room, she’s slumped over on the couch, exhausted from the excitement of the day.
He carries her into our king size bed, where she and Romy nap together and I lay between them, too excited and energized to sleep. We send some texts and begin the exhilarating task of notifying friends and family. While they watched their Saturday cartoons and enjoyed sleeping in on a Saturday morning, we were busy working hard in our living room, birthing a small miracle among friends.