Tag Archives: labor

A Very Revealing Baby Story: The 5-1-1

At forty one weeks and five days pregnant, I’d done some kumbaya-natural birth acrobatics to better position Willa, which resulted in the feeling of someone farting somewhere in my cervix, followed by a release of fluid and blood.

I guessed that this sensation had been my water breaking, but the presence of blood and its quantity surprised me. The dark red stain on our couch made me glad we’d splurged for the performance fabric. As a newlywed purchasing the couch, I’d imagined more glamorous spills— think toppling glass of red wine versus bodily fluid cocktail—but at least the couch wasn’t ruined.

At any point in pregnancy, blood is not usually a good omen. Drew called the midwife’s office on the phone for next steps, but I knew at this point we’d be going in. First time moms are encouraged to feel like their insides are exploding before they arrive at the hospital. The past weeks had been a game of chicken for my pain tolerance, various sensations qualifying or not qualifying as labor.  

The nurses who administered my non-stress tests in the hospital applied the term “Braxton Hicks contractions” to both the mere visual tightening of the skin on my stomach and piercing pains that stopped me in my tracks. I heard the phrase “You’ll know” more times than I did as a single evangelical Christian in my twenties. And after all the starting and stopping, teasing pain, I was going into the hospital on a technicality. As in technically, my couch cushion was covered with blood, and technically, I couldn’t feel the baby moving anymore.

I was unsure if I was sitting or standing as my mom moved my limbs for me, inching a pair of black leggings up my calves to replace my wet nightgown. I watched Drew and my mom bustle around me from miles away, trying to watch my present situation with as little detail as possible.

Patches of Drew’s conversation with the midwife floated across the distance, “Um, she said it felt like someone farted in her crotch…” God bless that man, I thought. I wanted to help communicate the feeling, the stain on the couch, and the motionless baby so that they’d know it was real, that I wasn’t just making it all up.

I was transported back to my days as a kid feeling like a fraud on the exam table at our family doctor’s office. Though I was feeling sick as a dog, the nurse would hold up the beeping ear thermometer and announce that my temperature was 97.9 degrees.  Now like then, I didn’t want them to think I was weak or lying or exaggerating.

I didn’t want them to think I was weak or lying or exaggerating.

Drew must have communicated the situation well enough, as I was now being helped to the car, then set on top of a towel on the front seat. We turned onto the path back to the hospital, well-worn from all the visits and tests required of a post-term baby. We met every stoplight and backed up four way stop along the way. As my body rocked forward at another halting stop, I recited the string of numbers from our birthing class over and over in my head: 5-1-1.

These were the magic natural birthing numbers to avoid a medicated birth. I should stay at home until my labor sustained a pattern of five minutes between one minute long contractions for at least one hour. Going in before this established labor progression placed moms at risk of pressure to induce. Best to wait and keep your distance from the fly by night anesthesiologist with his spine numbing juice.

I felt simultaneously repelled and drawn by the medical metropolis.

But here I was, headed to the hospital on my drop cloth, having to disregard the plan altogether. I felt simultaneously repelled and drawn by the medical metropolis. My suspicions and training as a birth vigilante made me afraid, but my fear made me desperate for the monitors and sensors that would tell me that Willa was still with us. So we crawled on down York road, rushing out of the gates of the green lights and halting suddenly with the next block of stopped cars. The condensing and releasing traffic carried us along.

Amidst the other concerns, I knew that with the blood and fluid, a twenty four hour timer started ticking. Early in my pregnancy, they found traces of group B strep in my urine. One in six women carry strep B, and since it was found in my urine, I never got a fighting chance to binge on yogurt and probiotics prior to my third trimester swab. My natural birth allies assured me these precautions would prevent a false positive.

Having strep B in your nether regions was just one of many things with conflicting narratives among birthing philosophies. Things get reputations for being a real thing or not a real thing, a legitimate consideration for the safety of you and your baby or an elaborate myth perpetrated by lawsuit weary hospitals and C-section happy doctors.

Regardless of its seriousness, I’d tested positive for it, and with my particular practice, that put certain limitations and stipulations around Willa’s birth. I’d need antibiotics through an IV port and the actual birth could not take place in the birthing tub. In addition, in the unlikely chance that my water broke early in the birthing process, I’d have twenty four hours to deliver.

When we arrived in the birthing ward, I skipped the triage room altogether. A nurse with a tinkling charm bracelet led me to the tidy birthing suite I had dreamed of since I first looked up the hospital before we were expecting.

The delivery room was large with an impressive birthing tub featuring all kinds of jets and buttons. In the advertised pictures, a pair of white slippers were laid out on a mat in front of the tub, like the set-up at a mid-luxury hotel. On the side of a tub laid a packaged fish tank net for scooping up unsavory items that surfaced in the tub.

IMG_2541Once in the room, they ushered me quickly to the bed where I lifted my shirt for the application of the cold jelly that went under the monitors. The blue and pink elastic bands were stretched across my bump and the monitors were tucked in place.
And then it came, the sweet percussion of Willa’s heart, fast and strong, muffled only by the tiny occasional movements of her body. I looked up to Drew and my mom and began to weep with relief, tapping my foot on the bed to the beat of our daughter’s heart.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: The Sidelying Release

Around fifteen percent of women have their water break before going into active labor. If you are like me, most of the amniotic sacs you have seen, or will see, break in your life have belonged to the the cast of Friends or have taken place due to multiple viewings of the movie “Where The Heart Is” with Natalie Portman (which I suppose predisposes us to a whole slew of misconceptions about pregnancy and birth).

The gurus insist that pregnant women will most likely bypass this messy occurrence despite its over representation in the birth of every on-screen baby. Our birthing instructors and childbearing girlfriends assure us that our water may even hold out so long that a birth professional will have to prod it with what looks like the crochet hook my grandma uses to bind off her knitting projects.

I’ve never been that worried about my water breaking anyway, even in a public place. Many pregnant women bemoan the idea of their water breaking in front of their students or male colleagues. Screw that. It’s a free opportunity to pee yourself in public with no repercussions or shame. When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

So water-breaking joined swimsuit-wearing and a Donald Trump presidency as things I didn’t need to worry about until later on. My immediate attention was focused on my 41 week and 5 day bump, willing my daughter to turn inside of me so I could push her out to the rhythm of my carefully practiced inhales and exhales.

The midwife had been solemn about Willa’s positioning. Even after we left the exam room with its posters of growing babies and plastic models of vaginas, the comforting hand of the midwife still laid heavily on my shoulder. She warned me in the sweet way women are often informed about bad news or potential crisis—solace without information.

I couldn’t get her hand off my shoulder all the way home or when I laid down on the couch with a “harumph,” whining about the unfairness of it all. My shoulder still dipped under the weight of her warning, and I knew the pressure wouldn’t lighten until I tried the prescribed twists, turns, and stretches that might coax Willa to turn her face away from the front of my belly.

The living room became mission command for our endeavors to rotate the baby around. I had spent the previous weeks pining for less time with Willa inside me. At the suggestion of one friend, I got on my hands and knees in the shower and yelled at my belly, “Come out Willa! Come ouuuuuttttt!” Now with a deadline for induction and a baby not ideally situated, I wanted all the time I could get.

Drew typed away at the computer, scouring the Spinning Babies website to find the cure all method for the posterior positioned baby. He found long lists of possible scenarios that could be summed up in the phrase, “everyone is different.” Nothing very helpful for a woman on the night before her induction.

My mom’s phone murmured with a constant stream of YouTube videos featuring women with calm voices positioning giant pregnant women on medical exam tables and couches. The women smiled, mere examples of the predicament of their viewers. They stared vacantly ahead like the person you’re supposed to watch in a workout video giving the low impact modification for each move: “If you have troubles with your knees, watch Mary Ellen for an adjustment,” But the Mary Ellen’s never look like the sweating, heaving messes looking to her for relief from the classic plank position or full push-up. Their half extended movements and shallow squats don’t fit their demeanor and bikini ready bodies.

After Drew and my mom gathered a consensus from popular advice on the internet, we went for a position called “the sidelying release,” offered in a YouTube video with a lot of thumbs up. I laid down on my left side, hanging my bulging belly over the side of the couch and letting Drew and my mom position me, pausing and unpausing the video to find the magic contortion. It was uncomfortable, and I was skeptical of my two-amateur chiropractors trying desperately to make everything alright.

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

According to the woman in the video (with an unfortunate haircut), we were supposed to take little breaks in between stretches, so we began the process of moving me, which took a great deal of willpower these days. Much use of the words “hoist” and “maneuver,” and careful count downs for the most minor adjustments.

On my sit bones once again, I leaned forward over my “birthing ball,” the one I’d been bouncing and gyrating on for the last month to wiggle Willa out. My cheek rested on the cold rubber, my arms arched over the curve of its sphere.

And then I felt something odd, something I didn’t have words for…the sensation of someone farting in my crotch. I know, not a great description, but the only analogy I had to put to the sensation.

The black nightgown I wore felt warm and soaked. I tilted myself forward and saw a large wet circle where I’d been sitting on the couch. The baby stopped moving inside of me, and as I took stock of the situation, I noticed something else on the couch.

Blood. A lot of it.

We needed to leave, we needed to get the baby out.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: Sunny Side Up

Willa was sunny side up.

This is a very sweet way to describe the reality of a baby in the posterior position.

It implies optimism and a nod to an Americana past, as if one can order up their labor pain at the counter of a greasy spoon diner alongside locals in trucker hats perusing the local gazette. A husky voiced waitress with a name like Madge or Paula might ask if I’d like my intense back labor with a choice of short stack, toast, or English muffin on the side.

While there are many things in labor that could benefit from some sugar coating, “sunnyside up” doesn’t need such a jaunty tone. Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.” These things could use a little poetic reimagining since they are so aptly named that it’s hard to bring them up in general conversation.

Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.”

Or perhaps we should stop using the term “water breaking” so that women know to expect something different than a bottle of Evian spilling out from between their legs.

For weeks I’d gathered comfort from the fact that our baby was head down. When you reached the requisite amount of weeks at my prenatal yoga class, our instructor would check in with us on our baby’s positioning so that a downward facing dog wouldn’t compromise our babies’ optimal escape plans.

“Head down?”

She’d parrot the question down the line of tired looking women gyrating their hips on deflating yoga balls. Her question became a form of attendance, a greeting. And how are you today? I’m fine. Head is down.

I so eagerly shared my positional news each week that the instructor started to anticipate my update. “And baby’s head is down, right?” This baby is head down and this momma is ready to naturally birth this baby all kumbaya style into a tub of warm water in a dimly lit room with the wafting scent of lavender in the air.

If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Ina May assured me that I shouldn’t have any problems as long as I had copious amounts of sex to naturally induce labor and if called my contractions “rushes” and armed myself with positions and sounds and information to get me through the most natural thing I’d ever do. If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Enough. Enough. Enough. Baby is head down.

At our appointment the afternoon before our induction, we found out Willa was facing up in the posterior position. I had been going to these appointments at the midwife more and more frequently and all the tissues and centimeters were progressing. The braxton hicks had been coming frequently and leaving me wondering with each tightening and pain… is this excruciating enough to be labor? Will these stabbing back pains ease down if I take an Epsom Salt bath and call my mom to tell her it might be time?

thats-my-occiput-by-tully-283x300

Posterior (OP) Position (Image Courtesy of Spinning Babies)

We were at the finish line, almost two weeks past the due date, when the midwife felt Willa’s positioning and her face contorted with concern. She started to ease me into the fact that the baby wasn’t dropping right  and appeared to be in the posterior position, I didn’t get it. Head down, ready to go. Her pauses and hand on my shoulder told me things were no longer optimal. She told me I needed to do everything I could to get the baby in a better position.

She gave me the address to a website. The domain name made me worry I was in for a night of circus acrobatics. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to be done, but instead I needed to flip and turn and twist and try hard enough to birth my baby naturally.

Madge, I’ll take my labor over-easy instead.