The Birth of Paxton
by Katherine Portland, Oregon, USA
I’ve read so many birth stories, gone over the birth so many times in my mind, and still I don’t know where to start!
OK, the basics. Paxton was born at home, on April 30th, at 1:37 am, after just 3.5 hours of labor. He was born before the midwives arrived! He weighed 8 lbs, 10 oz, was 20 inches long, and had a head circumference of 14.75 in.
Scot (dh) and I had had an incredibly tiring day that day (actually the 29th). He’s in law school and it was finals week, one down, three finals and a paper to go. For weeks he’d been spending extra time studying so he could take some time off after the birth, and I’d been spending all that time apartment-bound with Torin, who just turned three on April 24th, because my blood pressure was creeping up up up to an almost unacceptable level (stay off your feet or you may HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL! my midwife and best friend threatened). So not only that but I’m not allowed to cook dinner, do laundry, or clean up the living room! Anyway, so we rented Boogie Nights.
At about ten pm, Torin started nursing to sleep while we watched the movie in bed, and I started having contractions. I thought they seemed kind of like “real” contractions, but I’d only had a couple of episodes of regular Braxton-Hicks contractions, and besides, I was nursing at the time, so they were probably amplified by the nipple stimulation (right?). So she fell asleep at 10:30, but the contractions didn’t stop. My only thought was, please, let the contractions go away so I can sleep, so Scot can sleep… So I was just lying in bed, trying to ignore them, resting, watching the movie, which ended at about 11:30. I mentioned several times in a joking manner that my contractions seemed kind of strong, but Scot, desperate for sleep, kept hoping that I really WAS kidding, and when the movie was over, fell immediately into a deep sleep, without a care in the world.
I tried to sleep too, but after I no longer had the movie to distract me, I couldn’t help but notice that the contractions were getting stronger and that I was pretty uncomfortable lying there in bed attempting to ignore them. So I thought, of course! lying down sometimes makes relatively weak contractions feel stronger, because it’s such a bad position for labor. What I really need is a bath, to relax me and let these contractions, these probably B-H contractions, maybe early labor contractions (as it turned out, HA!) just go away so I can sleep! At this point I started to get just the tiniest bit panicky, because I was so tired, Scot was so tired, and my labor with Torin was more than 30 hours — I didn’t expect this one to be that long, certainly, but I definitely thought I had ten or more hours still ahead; how would I ever be able to make it?
So I got in the tub at about midnight, filled up with hot water, as deep as possible. I laid back, thinking to myself, “Okay, Now I can really relax” only NOT! Within a few minutes it was obvious, finally sinking in to my weary brain, that I was really in labor. Still I thought there was plenty of time, to wake up Scot, to call the midwives — and these contractions are pretty intense, HOW am I going to make it through six, ten, twelve, ??? hours of this?!?
They became so intense I couldn’t get out of the bathtub by myself, so I called, “Scot!” to come and help me. The bedroom is right next to the bathroom, but he was so out of it that he did not wake up while I yelled, increasingly loudly, “Scot! Scot! Scot!” Finally after ten minutes of this (I swear I was looking at my watch the whole time) I grabbed a bath gel bottle and lobbed it toward the bedroom door, while yelling in a very panicky voice “Scot!!!” This combination caused him to leap out of bed in a dazed, rather humorous manner, but I was in no condition to see this humor at the time.
Still, I just thought I was being a wuss about the contractions. I thought, HOPEFULLY, these are active labor contractions, not just early labor — if the midwives check me and I’m not 6 or 7 cms dilated, I don’t know what I’ll do — I’ll have to shoot myself! I did not in any way consider that I might be in transition, which I probably was! At this point it was about 12:45 am on the 30th, and I had less than an hour of labor left.
Before I got out of the tub, I had Scot take my blood pressure — 130/98, high but not too high to stay home. I moved to the couch in the living room, thinking I should time a few contractions and then call the midwives. I only did a couple and then demanded that Scot page Noelle (the midwife) since I wanted her there whatever the technicalities of the contraction timing might be.
He’s a very calm person, never angry, rarely excited, so in his conversation with Noelle he came off very casually, like Katherine’s in labor, no big deal, come over when you can (though it was 12:56 am, I assumed she would head right over); since I had only timed two contractions before I said “The hell with it, just call Noelle!” he said to her, Katherine’s had a couple of contractions that lasted a minute and a half, two minutes apart — in his quiet way, it’s no wonder she got the impression that we had a ways to go! And Scot said later, that since he too was assuming that I was just in active labor, he thought I was being a big whiner as well!
So at this point, since our apartment was a big mess (and we had people coming over!), Scot started unloading and loading the dishwasher, much to my chagrin. I really needed him with me, doing counterpressure on my back. I was still doing okay with the contractions, despite my mental anguish, but tensing up at the peak. Just as the contractions would start coming down, and I would manage to relax and breathe again, Scot would wander away toward the kitchen, only to be called back within seconds and with me very annoyed with him. After I went through the “Why did we think this baby was a good idea? WHAT were we thinking? And WHY are you being such a jerk right now not meeting my needs?” I finally said “Scot, you CANNOT leave me here alone!”
So I was having a pretty hard time with the contractions, which by about 1:15 were right on top of each other, I could tell they were not quite “over” when the intensity would start to build again. From the minute we called the midwives, I had my eye on the clock wondering how soon they could possibly get there!!! I don’t know what I thought would happen, but I just kept thinking, Please, Noelle, get here soon! I was really starting to panic a little at this point.
I was also starting to feel a lot of pressure down low. I thought maybe all that pressure would break my bag of waters, so I decided to get off of the couch. Scot got some pillows, and I put two on the floor with my bath towel over them, to kneel on, leaning up against the couch. During my first contraction in that position I realized I was involuntarily pushing! I said, totally panicky, “Scot, I’m PUSHING!” Either I was pushing against an 8 cm cervix, thus making things even harder than they were already, or else the baby was coming!
So, I put my fingers into my vagina to see if I could feel anything, and there was his head, just a couple of inches in, right there! It felt really weird because the bag was still intact. I told Scot the baby was really coming, and afterward, he said that he was kind of freaking out at this point, so I’m glad that he was behind me and I couldn’t see his face. I couldn’t really believe that the baby was about to be born, but I was so relieved! The six to twelve more hours of labor that I was convinced I had still coming to me were not to materialize — SUCH a relief. I actually managed to be very calm — okay, relatively calm. Since I knew the baby was coming within a few minutes I didn’t mind the contractions so much, and actually welcomed them so that I could actively push my baby out.
So I pushed gently with the next couple of contractions, and POP! the bag of waters broke, sounding just like a balloon. That was 1:35 am. I was so glad, because at this point I didn’t want him to be born in the caul — how would we get him out?
With the next contraction, Paxton’s head was born, 1:36 am. The midwives, by the way, had still not arrived, so I asked Scot to check the baby’s neck for cord, which there was. He couldn’t get the cord over the baby’s head, so I reached down to try. I couldn’t either, but I did loosen it.
Then I realized that it had been awhile since his head was born (I think it was about a minute), since we had been trying to get the cord. I wasn’t sure if I was having a contraction, but I pushed a little anyway. Since my hand was already down there, I reached in a little and nudged one of his shoulders out. Then, he was born! I caught his head and neck with my right hand and guided him onto the pillows. “Look at the clock! Look at the clock!” I am a little bit obsessed with knowing the exact time in these sorts of situations, and in this case I didn’t have my glasses on and had to rely on Scot. It was 1:37 am.
Then we realized that he wasn’t breathing, after an initial gurgle. Any technical knowledge that I may have had just rushed out of my head, and our bulb syringe was up in the closet with the rest of the birth kit. I removed the cord from around his neck. I rubbed him with the towel and talked to him. I put my finger in his mouth to check for any huge globs of mucus (none, though). I checked his heart rate, which was good, so I was pretty sure he was fine, especially since he had gurgled. I took the opportunity to check his gender, and picked him up and kept rubbing him, and finally he “woke up” (that’s how it seemed to me). It had only been one minute, or a minute-and-a-half, and all was well.
Scot ran to get the blankets from another room, and we got him all wrapped up. The cord wasn’t long enough for me to sit down and hold him, so I was stuck on one knee and one foot, leaning against the couch, until the placenta came 15 minutes later — along with Noelle the midwife! Julie, her assistant and another good friend, arrived a few minutes after that. I was so glad to be able to relax and let them take care of everything!
Paxton was awake and alert, and nursed about half an hour after the birth. We all had a great time as the midwives examined the placenta, me (no tears!), and then the baby, took pictures, and cleaned up.
Paxton’s birth was a great birth! We had wanted the midwives to be there, and our 3 year-old, Torin, as well (she slept through it), but other than that, it was close to perfect. I doesn’t get much better than this.