Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Badass Birth Story

Odessa Lark Pauline was born at 12:15 am in the backseat of our van, 10 lbs, 2 oz.

I type this arduously with my right hand. My left hand is holding my fourth daughter. I think that birth stories are best when written one-handed. Or, at least, that's the only way I've ever don it.

Labor started early yesterday morning, the baby's due date. This was to be our peaceful, calm homebirth. Things, well, worked out, but in their own ways,

It was 3am when my wife woke me up to tell me that she was having contractions that were long and deep. Every five minutes she'd have a contraction that lasted 30-60 seconds. We stayed awake because she couldn't sleep through the pains. We got out of bed, ate some eggs, and walked around the house taking care of some final odds and ends. The one task I didn't get around to was cleaning out the car, raising a seat from the floor and installing the new car seat.

Around 8am, Randi fell asleep on the couch. This was remarkable. We took the breather.

Things picked up again around noon. She started having contractions that she couldn't talk through. But she was discouraged by the brevity of the contractions--45 seconds--and by how tired she already was.

At 4, our support team came. We had two midwives and a friend to help wrangle the three already born girls. They encouraged my wife and helped to steel her resolve to birth this baby. It wasn't too long after they arrived that we filled the badass birthing tub and my wife got in.

Transition hit my wife hard. I can tell transition by her body language and the desperation in her eyes. It's usually a good sign when the wife moans that she can't do it, that she needs meds, a hospital, a cesarean, a lobotomy. That's when I step up the encouragement.

It may seem heartless, by my role as a birthing coach has never been one of empathy. I try not to indulge the fear of pain that inevitably comes across during most natural births. Instead, I see myself as emissary of my wife's wishes--to have a natural childbirth. I don't get panicked. I recognize the fear and the pain, but I push her to see the progress and speak to her strength and her heart.

In most cases, it's easy to push her on. But in the case of last night, the fear, the pain, and the exhaustion were present and were winning the battle against progress. No progress was made in almost 6 hours of transition. Hours and hours after I assured her that we were almost to the pushing stage, she was still fighting.

Scary. My wife's vocalizations went from healthy to scary. To not moans, but shrieks. Screams. Tears. During our second birth, there was one blood-curdling scream that my wife emitted that I will never forget when she moved into a painful position. This time, she surpassed that shriek over and over with every contraction for hours on end.

The midwives broke my wife's water, and this offered temporary relief. Then one midwife put her hand on her cervix and held it out of the way during contractions. Still, there was no progress. Randi felt like she had to push--pushing is usually her thing; when she starts pushing, we have a baby 15 minutes later, previously. But pushing did nothing. The cervix was still at a 7, still in the way.

The midwife said, "This baby isn't going anywhere any time soon."

My wife said, "I've had three babies. This doesn't feel right. I need help." Her rational plea turned into the worst screams for help that you can imagine. When your wife looks you in the eyes and sobs for you to call 911 with everything she's got, your job of emissary is over; you help the girl out.

We got her out of the bath and started heading down stairs. We were taking her to the hospital. The midwives assured us that no one was in danger; mother and child were fine, there was no distress. But pain, panic, and exhaustion ruled the day. It was time to thrown in the towel.

One midwife rode with us. My wife crawled into the car--right where they baby's seat and car seat would have been had I done my job earlier. The midwife ran to her car in the driveway to get a bulb syringe "in case we deliver in the car." The midwife sat next to her. The hospital was 8 miles away. I drove. Fast.

Randi screamed. She screamed and she screamed. Finally, as we entered the parking lot, the midwife yelled for me to pull over, that she needed my help.

I ran around to the side of the car. We flipped my wife onto her back and pulled off her pants. There was the top of my daughter's head.

Randi was stricken with pain. Her hips had hurt all through the pregnancy, and labor had been harder than ever on them. She couldn't open her legs. Our midwife pried her legs apart and I started pushing around the baby's head, trying to get her out.

One push later, and there was my daughter's face. I was shaking. Fluids rushed around the head and down my arms and all over the car.

Another push, and there were her shoulders. "Get ready to catch her!" my midwife yelled.

I grabbed the shoulders and the baby's head and pulled her out. I put the baby, up on my wife's chest. Her face changed. She had her baby.

We sat there for a while and made sure the baby was breathing and made sure that the mom wasn't hemorrhaging. We drove home.

The placenta was delivered in the car. When it stopped pulsing, I cut the cord and we took mother and daughter inside and up stairs, back to bed.

Things didn't go as planned. But we rolled with it (so to speak). But that's how this whole pregnancy has been. This baby is "our little plan C" after all. We never planned on her. She has defied every plan we've had. We are thankful for her and her stubborness. She has completed our family, made us more whole, made our worlds happier.

I am thankful for my wife. She is a fucking rockstar of childbirthing. She's an animal that knows what she needs and does everything she can for her babies.

We are thankful for this strange, intense experience. We are thankful that everyone is healthy and that Randi got to have her natural childbirth, regardless of the circumstances.

6 comments:

Jess said...

badass dad indeed! we all knew it would be an interesting birth story... i'm sure little odessa will keep you on your toes from here on out. great job, sol! you did everything just the way i wish a birthing partner would for me <3

-blizz

Amy Awesome said...

You guys are both rock stars, I am forever in awe of you both. This is a seriously incredible birth story!

Heidi said...

That's just unbelievable and amazing and how the two of you held it together through all of that I will not know but I think you both deserve some big ole badges of heroism! What a great team. I hope the big girls managed ok through such a long process too and I'm glad that everyone is safe and healthy and home and wonderful. I can't wait to see more and hear more. But hopefully that kind of birth story is one I only read about - in 6 months I want to know nothing of it! :P Great job guys!

Heidi said...

That's just unbelievable and amazing and how the two of you held it together through all of that I will not know but I think you both deserve some big ole badges of heroism! What a great team. I hope the big girls managed ok through such a long process too and I'm glad that everyone is safe and healthy and home and wonderful. I can't wait to see more and hear more. But hopefully that kind of birth story is one I only read about - in 6 months I want to know nothing of it! :P Great job guys!

Sol Smith said...

Heidi -- I'm actually planning on writing another post about the big girls and the birth. It would have fit fine into this narrative, but it would have made it much longer and taken too much focus away from the primary relationship between mother, father, and new baby. Not that birth isn't a family affair, but this was a very in-depth birth.

But looking back, I did make them invisible, which isn't fair. But I also made our friend JodiAnn and the midwives invisible. If you took any one of them away, it all would have collapsed.

Jody said...

Amazing story! Life changing for you at so many levels....wow!