The Birth of Sagan Draigh
by Sarah Martin
Matt called in to work and we set the plastic sheets out on the bed and got the video camera set up. I went to my baby altar and untied the knot that I had tied there at the beginning of the pregnancy. The baby responded by giving me a huge hug (contraction). I spent the rest of the day laboring off and on. By evening, things had slowed, but they picked up again at night. I spent most of that night awake, either in the bathtub or my big blue rocker (Matt’s gift to me after Maya was born). The contractions were still very painless, but more and more intense. In the morning, they seemed to suddenly die off completely. Luckily, Matt had the next three days off because Tuesday and Wednesday proceeded exactly the same way. He kept bringing cup after cup of labor tea and glasses of cold water to me. I focused on opening my cervix and continued to steadily lose mucus, but no blood at all. I enjoyed labor tremendously and Maya and I would dance around the living room or read books between contractions. I would get frustrated from time to time, but I would write it down in my journal and feel almost immediately relieved.
By Wednesday evening, I was getting worried that Matt would have to go back to work and I would still be in labor. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take care of Maya by myself if I was having contractions every ten minutes. As soon as I voiced this fear, I started to feel much more calm and centered. I knew at that moment that the baby would be born by morning. I put a clean terrycloth cover on the changing table and set out a little cotton gown and cloth diaper. Maya nursed to sleep around 9. I called my mom and told her that things were still going the same as they had been, but I would keep her updated. A while after I got off the phone, I felt pain in my right hip/groin area during a contraction. I remembered getting a tremendous cramp in that area on a walk to a friend’s house weeks earlier. I realized that it must be a pinched nerve. Later I discovered that the placenta was lying right over the nerve, putting pressure on it with every contraction.
From that point on (about 10 pm) the contractions became stronger and the pain on the right side of my groin became worse. I had a large stack of pillows in the corner of the bed that stretched over to the side of the cosleeper. I leaned against these, but could not find a way to make my right leg and groin comfortable. Every time I moved my leg during a contraction, all of the muscles would lock up and it would hurt. I had to find a better position between contractions. If it weren’t for that pinched nerve, the contractions would have been crampy and intense, but not painful at all. Somewhere in this time, I hit transition. I knew that’s what it was at my first thought of, “I can’t do this anymore!” Then I started feeling nauseous and shaky. At 11:15, I felt my first bag of water break and a bit of it poured out onto the towel in front of me. I started visualizing the baby coming down. I was excited because I was sure I would give birth any minute now. I got a nice half hour break here with no contractions or pain. This entire time, Matt was sitting on the bed with me.
At about quarter to twelve, I started to feel “pushy” contractions. It felt as though my body was starting to bear down a bit more. The hip and groin pain gradually came back. I would lean over the pillows into the cosleeper with each contraction. Finally, a little after one I decided to try laboring on the toilet. That had worked really well at Maya’s birth. Matt and I went into the bathroom. Sitting didn’t help at all, but standing and leaning on the vanity wasn’t so bad, so I did that for a while. Suddenly, I had the urge to start pushing. I gave a push, but didn’t feel like it got me anywhere, so I stopped. At this point, I was getting very frustrated with the pain I was in. I told Matt that I didn’t want it to feel like this and I was angry that it hurt. I said that I wasn’t sure I could take much more. I was starting to wonder if this would go on for days like my early labor had.
Suddenly, we heard Maya crying for us. She had woken up and wanted to nurse back to sleep. Matt went to her, but all she wanted was me. We decided to call his mom who lives a few houses away. While Matt waited with Maya, I reached inside and felt the second bag of water bulging. My mother-in-law was over within 4 minutes – I can’t believe she got out of bed and dressed that fast. She took Maya (who was thrilled to see her Grandma and immediately forgot about nursing and Mommy) to play in the other room and Matt came back into the bathroom with me.
I decided to just give in to the contractions, try to forget about the pinched nerve and just let my body do its job. I started hanging over Matt for each contraction. After three of those, I got the urge to grab something. I put one hand on the vanity and one on Matt’s shoulder and my water popped with a huge splash. Matt was drenched from head to toe! (Looking back, I find it hysterically funny!) “That’s what we were waiting for!” Matt announced. I sat back onto the toilet and my body continued to push on its own. I started to stand back up and Matt said, “You’re having this baby right now.” Then I tipped my hips forward a bit and realized that he was right.
I could feel the baby’s head sliding out. I remember thinking that it was huge – this head was so much bigger than Maya’s. From Matt’s point of view, he wasn’t sure what he was looking at right away. Then he realized that the cord was over the top of the baby’s head. He gently pushed it to the side. I put my hand on the baby’s head and kept repeating out loud, “I have to be patient” as I waited for him to come without pushing. It burned slightly, but most of all it was just intense stretching. After what seemed like forever, his head was out and with one push, his body slid right out. Matt instinctively brought him around to the side to avoid wrapping the cord around his neck. We looked down at the same moment and both saw that he was a boy! I realized then that I had really been expecting a girl. I was so surprised.
He was covered with vernix. He gave out a loud gurgle and Matt tried to suction his nose and mouth with his own mouth, but there was nothing to suck out – he had cleared it himself. He gave one complaint as I brought him up to my breast and he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He had been kicking and awake the entire three day labor and must have been exhausted. It was about 2 am, but there is no clock in that part of the house, so we don’t know for sure. Matt’s mom brought Maya in. She smiled and said, “new baby!” We headed back to the bedroom.
All of the sudden I heard Matt’s mom say, “Here it comes.” I looked down and saw blood pouring out of me. I hadn’t thought about putting a towel between my legs. Of course, I was in the middle of the only carpeted room in our house, so I continued to the next room, leaving a trail behind me. Matt brought me a towel and I climbed back into bed. Right away I began nursing the baby who latched on perfectly. Maya soon wanted to nurse as well. I was still having a lot of pain in my right groin and leg, but I was enjoying our new little boy so much that it didn’t really matter. After about an hour of tandem nursing and cuddling, I got up and squatted over a chux pad and delivered the placenta. We put it in a beautiful bowl and wrapped it in a cloth diaper. I handed Sagan to his daddy and got up to wipe off my legs and pee. I had one small skid mark, but no tears at all!
I came back to the bedroom with a burst of energy, put fresh sheets on the bed and a plastic one on my side. Then I lied down with Maya and nursed her off to sleep. It only took about two minutes since she was exhausted. Matt’s mom did our dishes, threw in a load of wash and headed for home. Matt handed Sagan back to me. We called my parents who left NY to meet their new grandson a few hours later. Matt, Maya, Sagan and I cuddled into bed and slept from about 3:30 till seven. We had talked about a lotus birth (where the cord is not cut until it falls off naturally), but it was difficult to tandem nurse and keep Maya from sitting on the placenta, so we cut the cord about seven hours after the birth. It had stopped pulsing long ago. Matt tested the cord blood with an Eldon card and Sagan is Rh-, just like Maya and I (Matt is Rh+).
We are guessing that Sagan was a little over seven pounds at birth and about 20 inches long. He was definitely bigger than Maya was. He has been nursing very well from the beginning. Maya absolutely loves him. My milk came in two days after birth and I haven’t had any engorgement this time at all. I cannot imagine ever having another baby any other way than unassisted. It was absolutely incredible but at the same time it felt like it was completely normal. It has been so easy to adjust to this birth.
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Reflections on the birth
It turned out that Sagan was around eight pounds at birth, not the seven we originally thought he was.
I think that I would have had a painless birth had it not been for that pinched nerve. With my next pregnancy, I will definately see a chiropractor to take care of any aches and pains I have during pregnancy and make sure I’m aligned right.
I believe my loss of focus near the end was due to the fact that I wasn’t totally convinced that my body could complete the process on its own (I was induced with Maya). Next time I want to remember how short Sagan’s hard labor and birth really were.
I think we will try a waterbirth next time. I really think that the water would have taken a lot of pressure off of my hip.
My parents stayed for the 10 days after the birth. Although I appreciated their help, especially with Maya, we have decided on at least a two week period of seclusion after the next baby is born. Emotionally, it is very draining to have so many people around right after giving birth. I think that I also felt the need to “perform” and show everyone how great I felt after birth instead of just taking it easy and bonding with my new baby.
Other than those things, the birth was perfect. I can’t imagine ever wanting to do it differently. I am so glad it was just our family who welcomed Sagan into the world. I want the same for however many babies are in our future!