This was the birth that turned everything I knew about how I birth on it's head. Let's start at the beginning.
I thought we were done with suprise pregnancies but there we were, the line had appeared. My period math had been inaccurate and apparently I'd been too lazy to go get the diaphragm and here we were. Four kids, that's a massive family by DC suburb standards. Shoot, even three seems a little nutty by those standards but 4 was crazy. I had always thought I would like 4, Matt had thought we could be done at 2, I was considering stopping at 3 but before we could decide any of that, here comes number 4. I found out in the morning and didn't want to drop that kind of news on Dilbert at work so I bugged my friend Fergy about it instead. I sent her a picture of the test, followed by an OMG and a WTF and probably several other obscenities. When Dilbert got home, I sat with my 16 month old in my lap and told him that that thing we'd been wondering about was in fact the case. He took it pretty stoically, as he does most things.
I checked in with my midwife and she had me come in for an appointment just to talk things out. I was pretty freaked out and she talked me off the wall. My first baby was a suprise and I had thought we were done with surprises. Our middle two had been planned and I liked having some warning. My midwife listened to my ravings and calmed me down and by the time I left her office I was actually looking forward to this baby. Somehow in all the crazy of finding out I was pregnant, I'd forgotten about how awesome babies are and she helped me remember.
As our move to the Pittsburgh area approached, I looked around on the Google and found a new midwife up in PA. Pennsylvania is pretty different from VA in it's attitude about midwives. There are lots and lots of hospital based CNMs but they don't credential out of hospital midwives so they are difficult to find and evaluate. I found one who was in the right area and seemed to have enough experience. I asked a lot of questions and she had all the answers I was comfortable with. The only iffy thing was that when I told her about my experience with Joel, she told me that she would have counseled me differently. I think her exact words were "I would have encouraged you to make a different choice." I found this a little judgmental but with so few midwives around, I figured one little thing like that shouldn't make or break this decision.
When I first met New Midwife we talked about a lot of the same things we had on the phone. We sat in my new, unfurnished living room and chatted about homeschooling and kids and this weird rash that the Walnut had at the time. We talked a lot and then finally got around to birth. I asked more and deeper questions and she asked about my previous births. She really seemed to have all the answers so we gave her a deposit and went on our merry way.
She suggested that we become friends on facebook so that we could get to know eachother better in the short time we had. I was already 20 weeks so we were getting started half way through this pregnancy. New Midwife is very opinionated and very open and sometimes forceful about her opinions. People often forget who the audience is when they are behind the facebook curtain so maybe she didn't mean for me to see this or maybe she did and hoped it would change my mind. I don't know. I do know that she'd asked if we were looking for a church. I know I told her that we were trying out a few of the Methodist churches in the area but hadn't settled on one yet. I know I said that I'd been going to Methodist churches since the Pudding was born and that I felt comfortable with that theology. Then on facebook I see that New Midwife has posted a link to the web site of the United Methodist Church. The link led to the church's stance on abortion which basically says that we don't like it, we believe it's ending a life but that because of the unique circumstances of each woman seeking one, they believe that it should remain a legal option that is rarely used.
Now, this may not seem like much but here's the thing. Because the church has this stance, that allowed my pastor to offer me comfort and guidance while we were going through our ordeal with Joel. She offered to come to the hospital with us, to baptize Joel. She performed a funeral for him. She wouldn't have been able to do most of that and still keep her job had she been a minister in a Baptist church.
So, when New Midwife posted this link accompanied by a rant about how far this church had drifted from the truth of the Gospel, I was hurt. I tried to ignore the post, but people kept commenting on it so it kept getting kicked to the top of my news feed and the comments hurt too. Finally, I felt like the comments I was reading were missing the point of the church's stance. I spoke up and told my story, my Joel story. I told about the condition that he had and the information we were given at the time. I told about how sweet and encouraging my pastor had been when we were going through all that and what a blessing it had been to me to have someone guide me through it. I told about the risks of not doing it and weighing those against the risks of having it done and why the former outweighed the latter. New Midwife said she was sorry that I'd been made to feel like my body would be damaged by not having him when we did. Her husband, after chiding me for having a female pastor, said that just because my pastor had said it wasn't a sin didn't make it so. Several others speculated on what could have been done to save my baby.
When I saw her next we didn't talk about it but I was thinking about it the whole time. I was hurt that she thought I'd been manipulated by my doctors. I'd done my own research and made my own decisions. I wasn't bullied or pushed into anything. I made the best decision for my current and future family and I felt belittled by her comments. I talked to a few other people, including my old midwife but there just didn't seem to be anything we could do. New Midwife is and always has been very sweet and friendly to me in person. But in order to preserve whatever relationship we had left, I hid her posts on Facebook. What a silly world we live in, where little comments said while hiding behind a keyboard can cause so much trouble. I probably should have just hidden her posts as soon as I saw it but you know how it is when someone is wrong on the internet. It's sometimes impossible to stop yourself from setting them straight.
As my due date approached, I grew enormous. I was depressed, I think. I missed my friends and my whole world down in VA. I was physically miserable due to my wacky hips and lower back. My kids would tear the house apart all day and I couldn't bend over to put things right. I wasn't happy. I kept having little contractions, tickle contractions, nothing to write home about but they just kept comming. One Saturday I asked if my midwife could come check me because these little contractions, even though they weren't intense, just seemed to keep on coming and I was wondering what they heck was going on. She checked and found me nearly completely effaced but not dilated. It was a relief to know I wasn't dilating yet. My friend Fergy and Supermom were coming up from VA and I wanted to have plenty of warning before this baby made his appearance.
Finally, after yet another evening of heartburn and hip pain, I looked at Dilbert with desperation in my eyes and said, "Can we go upstairs and have sex just so we can get this baby out?"
I woke up at about 5:30 the next morning with more little contractions. Then I realized that my water was leaking. I'd never had that happen before. With my natural labors, the water has stayed intact until the birth is imminent. Not this time. I waddled to the bathroom and took a shower to get the amniotic fluid off, all the time having contractions about 3 minutes apart. They weren't bad but they were more than the tickly contractions had been. Dilbert called Fergy and Supermom and they got on the road. We let New Midwife know what was up but told her we didn't need her yet. I got dressed and moved around our bedroom a lot. Dilbert went downstairs to clean the kitchen since he knew people would be coming soon and our house looked like a bomb had hit it. He was buzzing around cleaning things and I was focusing on contractions. I told him he was stressing me out with all his hurry and that it didn't matter if the house was clean or not, the baby was coming. He kept cleaning anyway.
I remember staying in my room a lot, walking and swaying or laying down, whatever felt right at the time. Matt came in from time to time and the kids were excited because we knew the baby was coming today. Then around 10, the contractions died down to nothing. I lay down to rest and they were just gone. I was just starting to panic about it when at 11, I heard the car door close and knew my friends had arrived. I had a big contraction and waited for them to come up. I was so happy to see them I didn't realize that this big stall in labor is actually a symptom of a breach positioned baby. More on that later.
It was so good to have my friends with me. They knew just what to say and we had so much fun just hanging out while I labored. We joked our way through some castor oil, to make my labor pick back up after the stall. We walked around the back yard and enjoyed the sunshine. I told them about what I wanted to do with the yard once the weather warmed up enough. We chatted with a few neighbors that were out. Everytime I felt a contraction coming on I would lean forward and put my hands on my knees and let my belly hang. It seemed to help me keep loose to do this. I'm sure it' looked interesting to the neighbors.
Around 2 or 3 I told Dilbert he could call the midwife. While we waited for her I remember standing around my kitchen island and someone looked up the phrases you're not supposed to say to laboring women. We thought they were funny so they all started saying them to me. It was things like "Are you OK?" "Does it hurt?" "Wow, that one sounded bad!" I remember laughing a little even during the contraction.
The midwife got there and I was starting to feel like it was time to go upstairs and have a baby. The contractions seemed more intense and I just felt like I was about to hit transition.
The sequence of events gets a little fuzzy for me here but the next thing I remember I was on the bed on my hands and knees and I knew things were about to go crazy. My beautiful Pudding was there on the chair in my room watching and I remember telling her that pretty soon I was going to have to push and that I would probably sound really crazy and it would probably hurt but that I would be ok and that it was just want I needed to do to get the baby out. I will always be proud that I thought to reassure her at that moment.
Well, I didn't feel pushy yet but New Midwife said I could try pushing with the next contraction. I did but that big, uncontrollable urge to push didn't happen. I kept waiting for that urge to just take over my body and get that baby out but it just didn't come. I would half-heartedly push with each contraction but I couldn't find a position that was working for me and I wasn't making much progress.
I got down on the floor, my back against the bed and my feet held by my friends. I tried pushing this way for a few minutes and the midwife started seeing meconium. She asked to check me and when she did, she discovered that baby was breech.
The fun thing about breech birth is that it doesn't trigger that happy little expulsion reflex. That squishy little bum doesn't press the right places like a big hard head does so it's a lot harder to get them out. You also have to very be very careful getting them out because if you startle them, they can end up stuck and there's nothing you can do. So, we were in a tricky situation.
I remember everyone telling me to push and trying to be encouraging. I got on my hands and knees again and tried to push but every time a contraction came I felt scared and tried to fight it. I didn't want to push because pushing hurt and I had to mentally decide to do it, I really wanted my body to just take over, get my mind out of the way but it wouldn't.
Finally, after lots of little pushes and more whining and fighting and begging to go to the hospital for a c-section, the midwife told me to reach back and feel my babies feet. His bum had come out first and his little feet and legs had just fallen out. Finally, finally the urge to push came and I gave one great heave and he was out.
Now, I didn't see this part but everyone else told me about it later. Remember, I was on my hands and knees, and the baby had come breach. Other than myself, no one else had touched him at all. So, when his head was finally born, he landed bum first on the chuck pads on the floor. Apparently he actually sat there for a minute, propped up on his own arms and legs and looked around at everyone, blinking. He didn't cry, which freaked me out because I couldn't see him and I'd been worrying ever since I started pushing and we found out he was breach about all the risks I'd read about. So, while everyone was marveling at his froggy like squat, I was freaking out because I didn't think he was breathing. After a beat, New Midwife rolled him over and got him to cry to clear his lungs and I was able to sit back and actually see him for the first time.
He was smaller than I'd expected, smaller than my last two babies and he didn't have the huge Hanson head that my other kids all had. He had huge eyes in a tiny little face and he blinked up at me as they handed him to me. He was covered with vernix felt very slippery.
When I was pushing and things had gotten a little scary, Fergy had sent the kids out. They came back in now and surrounded me and I was so glad to see them. I don't even really understand why because I was so tired and I didn't want them around for very long but I wanted them close. Having just come through this very scary birth, I wanted to see the fruits of my labors, all my labors. I wanted to know that they were close and safe and that they knew I was safe.
The midwife and her assistant cleaned things up and made me take a shower after a bit, they checked over Filburt (8 lbs, 3 oz. 20 inches) and made sure he was latching alright and then left us alone. Supermom made me some eggs and toast and Fergy and Dilbert got the kids to bed. My only job was to look at baby, who was pretty sleepy. And so began our journey as a family with 4 kids.