(by Kitty Lakey, about the birth of David Dominick, born 05.27.07)
I'd been having contractions since my thirty-second week. A fun little stint with pre-term labor had already dilated me to two centimeters. Later in my pregnancy I dilated another two centimeters, bringing me to a grand total of four centimeters. I thought my labor may be a quick one but I didn't want to get my hopes up. I was thinking half the time of my labor with Jonathan, which would've been about six hours, and a pretty typical labor for a second child. Every time I took a trip to the bathroom I focused on the story in Ina May’s book about the flower opening up. My midwife was out of town, having left a week before for a midwifery conference in Costa Rica. She was due back in three days and I was overdue by five days. We even tried to induce via herbs before she left. Well needless to say, it didn't work. Apparently David Dominick just wasn't ready.
The day I went into labor I got very little sleep, which was just unusual. Normally I slept like a lioness during my pregnancy, nine hours at night and a nap every day. I was trying very hard to stay rested at the advice of the midwife, knowing that I could go into labor at any minute and I didn't want to be to tired to make it through. I'm a night owl so I went to bed at around one-ish, feeling fine but very tired. I was awoken an hour later by some serious contractions. No stop watch necessary, these did not need to be timed. Hoping, from lack of sleep, that this was a false start, I tried to go back to bed. No luck, lying down just seemed to intensify the contractions. About two-thirty I woke Dave up and told him to call the midwife and my aunt Vita. Dave dialed and handed me the phone, I paged Sarah and Vita wasn't answering. He began to pack, while I breathed through my contractions. I stopped him every few contractions for a leaning post and moral support. Sarah, the midwife that was filling in for Harmony, called back. I had had a couple visits with her and felt comfortable with her. By this time my bag of waters was leaking, it took me a few minutes to realize I hadn't peed myself. Sarah listened to me and told me to come on in! What a shocker, I thought she'd tell me to go back to bed, that is what had happened exactly one week before. I had really begun to think I was going to be pregnant forever and come to terms with it, I think that is why I finally when into labor.
Dave called his mom since we couldn't get a hold of Vita. Dave didn't tell his mom to come, but thankfully she came anyway! Dave continued to pack everything on the list while stopping occasionally to ask me questions. I remember being able to answer most of the questions. So Dinah (Dave's mom) shows up and we sat in the living room waiting for Dave to finish packing. I don't know how far apart the contractions were at this point I just remember thinking, wow this is really it!
On the ride to the birthing center I breathed through my contractions while Dave repeatedly apologized with each contraction. I told him not to apologize and please watch his driving because I couldn't do it this time. The roads were clear and the weather was cool. A beautiful time for little man to be born. The ride was relaxing and the contractions were steady and getting stronger. The pain had me questioning my ability to do this without pain medication. I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind and focus on my breathing and opening up.
On the walk up to the birth center I had several strong contractions to the point of stopping and leaning on Dave for support. Dave walked me in and went back out to get our bags. The birthing tub was ready. Sarah checked my dilation before I got in. I was six to seven centimeters dilated! At some point I had dilated three more centimeters, what great news! With each contraction I tried to keep in mind that was one step closer to having my baby. I got in the tub which felt pretty good, but I was only in for a few minutes. Sarah had to check his heart rate; normally they can check the heart rate in the water but she couldn't get it, most likely due to his positioning. So I clambered out of the tub. It felt very cold after being in the warm water, and got onto the bed. She got his heart rate right away and it was in the one-forties, perfect. So back in the tub I went. Dave started making jokes about my luxurious hot tub, so I joked back all I needed were the jets. Unbeknownst to me the tub actually had jets. So Sarah turned them on for me. As the contractions got even stronger yet I aimed my back at the jets of water. Dave held my hand, encouraged me and fed me Gatorade and water from the side of the tub. A flurry of activity was going on around me but I was too busy to notice. I was in transition, I only know I was in transition because momentarily I felt like I was going to toss my cookies. The midwives' assistants started bailing water out of the tub so Dave could get in with me.
That's when I began to lose control, yelling in pain. I'd say I could bear the pain ninety percent of the time and then I'd start to lose it. I tried to remember to relax, make low sounds and relax my muscles but the pain was really getting to me. I remember thinking this it, I'm not going anywhere now even if I wanted to. I thought those women who tried to run from this were nuts, I mean really where are you going to go. Sarah asked me why I was yelling. I told her because of the pain, then she asked where it hurt. I told her in the front of my abdomen and at my hips and pelvis. So she asked me to get on my hands and knees and had Dave press my hips together. I was more than willing to try anything that would relieve the pain. She told Dave where to push and said "push as hard as you can, you won't hurt her", he did, and mid-contraction I said "not that hard!" This relieved the pain in the front of my abdomen but also intensified the contractions and the feeling of pressure. I remember Sarah saying "Kitty, that's just your baby trying to get around your sacrum"as she poured water over my back. It was so intense at this point I was yelling out in pain with each contraction. She must have sensed I was feeling a little desperate and came around to the front of the tub and got in my face. To help me focus she got right in front of my face and said "try not to yell so much, it will scare the baby and make him poop." That really got my attention, I didn't want any meconium in my baby's system. So I tried to tone it down, the contractions were so strong at this point I just couldn't stop myself from yelling as hard as I tried, the pain was just too intense. I think at this point I said for the first and only time "I can't do this", but it didn't matter, my body was doing this, whether I liked it or not. So I tried to flow with it.
Shortly after that I began to realize that I was yelling all my energy up and out. I had read about this but didn't really believe it. I realized I needed to use that energy to push that baby out! So with the next contraction that's what I focused all my energy on doing. I don't remember telling Sarah that's what I was going to do, I just did it. Looking back, it is incredible that your body just knows how and when to do this but at the time you don't think about that. Even with the first push I could feel his head. She tried to check for his head but by then his head had retracted. With the next contraction she checked and could feel his head, I thought maybe that feeling of him being that far down was in my head, but no it was real! She asked me if I wanted to feel his head and I reached down and felt it. I just couldn't believe it!
The next contraction I began to feel the infamous ring of fire. It wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. Sarah said "Okay Kitty, now just ease his head out slowly." Some how I controlled it, and did just that, and his head came out. The whole time I was thinking of the girl in our prenatal class that tore, Harmony told me the girl wished she'd waited and push her baby out slowly so she hadn't torn. The birth instructor used the expression spaghetti off a spoon, and that is just what it felt like. The next contraction he was completely out, he just slid out with no effort, like spaghetti off a spoon. Then Sarah guided him in the water underneath me into my arms. Someone handed me a receiving blanket to wrap him in. I wrapped him up and held him in the water with me. The first thing I said was I can't believe I did it, I was in shock. We sat and cuddled and bonded for a few minutes while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing.When the cord stopped pulsing Dave nervously cut it with a little resistance (on his part and the cords). Then I handed the baby to Dave and got out at the midwives urging. As I exited, clots came falling out, it felt like worms, which was pretty gross. Sarah wanted the placenta delivered. She asked me to squat on the bed to deliver it. In my mind that seemed impossible, but I had just accomplished the impossible so I gave it a try, with one push the placenta came out with a thud. I sat down on the bed, which seemed like the most comfortable bed ever and one of the midwife's assistant's brought in some of the snacks we brought with us. Apples, cheese and crackers and a protein smoothie, they encouraged me to eat.
Meanwhile Sarah checked my bleeding and they weighed and measured the baby and checked his reflexes. I couldn't believe it, a nine-pound baby with a fifteen-centimeter head and no tears. He was twenty-one inches of perfection. He had a perfect ten apgar score, I guess you could say he was a perfect ten!
His birth, although painful, was intensely empowering. I chose this mostly for the health of the baby, the idea that it would empower me seemed ridiculous. Now, having experienced it, I know first hand that this is true. I conquered my fears and came out on the other side!