(written by Sarah, about the birth of Chandra Rose, born 04.05.11)
I had some mild early labor on April 4, but I also had a high fever, chills, a high pulse, cough, and body aches. Some small contractions, but nothing productive. My midwife, Harmony Miller, and I both suspected it was the flu and she said the fever probably stalled my labor. Later that evening the fever spiked to just under 104. Harmony told me if it got to 105 to head to the ER, but to rest and take cool baths in the meantime to try to bring it down. By bedtime it was back down to 102.
I woke up at 2:15 am with a small twingy cramp. Soon that turned into 35-second long contractions that peaked at 20 seconds. I went to the bathroom, thinking it wasn't going to go much of anywhere because I was still sick. Fever had stalled me once, but with the spike I guess my body decided that it was time to get the baby out where she was safe. The plan was to have her in the tub at Rosemary Birthing Home in Sarasota, but there wasn’t time to get down there. My water broke while I was on the toilet and by 2:45 I was on the bathroom floor, unable to move and unable to keep my voice down because the pain was so intense.
My son J, age 5, had been sleeping in bed with me and my then-fiance Ritesh, as he’d had a cold and wasn’t settling in his own bed. He was screaming right along with me - I woke him up, I guess, and he wasn’t thrilled about that. Our roommate Jess woke up too (heck, I’m surprised half the neighborhood didn’t wake up!) and she came into the bathroom to remind me that I hadn't wanted to have the baby at home. I told her as nicely as I could manage that if she wanted to be born at home, I wasn't about to try to stop her. Ritesh called my mom to get J, then called the midwife and got everything set up, then drew a bath for me.
I got in the tub. Birthing assistant Heidi arrived before Harmony did and she sat with me while Ritesh checked to make sure everything was ready. I remember her asking me how I was doing and thinking that was just about the silliest question I'd ever heard.
Water birth was always the plan, but after Harmony arrived she said the tub in our bathroom wasn’t clean enough. Just as well; the water wasn’t helping me as much as I’d hoped, and it wasn’t really deep enough anyway. Heidi and student midwife Priscilla did sanitize the tub in the hall bathroom, but by the time it was ready she was already close to crowning (I could feel hair when I reached down to check before they had arrived) and if I’d made an attempt to walk to that tub she’d probably have been born in the hallway.
They helped me move to the bed a little after 3:30. I had a big red water bottle that I sipped from between contractions and hugged during them when Ritesh wasn't right there. Scamp, my miniature dachshund, had been banished from the room but his yelping outside the bedroom door was distracting me, so I told them to let him in and just please keep him off the bed. He was surprisingly very good once he was allowed in - he poked his cold little nose up the side of bed to check on me and stayed out of the way from there.
I don’t even know how many pushes it was to get her out - way more than the two pushes it had taken to get J out when he was born. The birth team asked once or twice if I wanted to change from my semi-reclining position, but that was just where I felt most comfortable. I was sick, dizzy and exhausted and I barely had the energy to lean up on my elbows, let alone sit, squat or get on all fours. I felt safest in the position I was in. Her head was out at 3:49, and the rest of her followed at 3:51. She was born covered in vernix, and lots of it, with a full head of long black hair (I had never seen such hair on a newborn!) and big brown eyes. I was surprised to learn that she was born sunny-side up, because I hadn't had even a hint of back labor. All of the contractions had been up front.
Harmony put her on my chest and I hugged and snuggled my sticky, wide-eyed little girl. Someone draped a receiving blanket over her to keep her warm and we just lay there for a bit while the placenta worked its way out. I nursed her and it was probably an hour before Ritesh cut the cord and we got weight and measurements on the baby. She weighed 7 pounds exactly, 21 inches long, with a 13 1/2 inch head. I was honestly surprised that I didn’t tear with her - it felt like I did, but the midwife said there wasn’t even a hint of a tear.
The birth team did clean-up, made sure I ate, and went over some aftercare instructions; they left around 6 or so. We were finally able to get some rest after the excitement of the night. I was woken up around 7 when my sister came to get J's things for school, but after that I went back to sleep. The three of us slept until around noon, a good, long, much-needed rest. Ritesh called into both his jobs once he woke up to announce the baby's arrival and tell them he'd be staying home that day.
My fever and other symptoms didn't go away for two days after her arrival, so Harmony and Carmela told me to head to the ER to get checked out. Turns out I had pneumonia, and a short round of antibiotics got rid of it. A good testament to breastfeeding and the antibodies the baby gets from mom - Chandra didn't even get the slightest hint of illness, despite being quite literally attached to me all the time while I was battling pneumonia.
Author's note: The date on the first photo is wrong; the date resets every time I change the batteries in the camera. Chandra Rose arrived in the wee hours of the morning on April 5, 2011, following a short, very intense labor.