In case you missed it, here’s Part I.
Although early labor took a few days for me, whenever people ask how long I consider my laboring process to be, I tell them about 6-8 hours or so. That’s because, although the rushes –or contractions – of early labor were uncomfortable, they were nothing like those that came the night of Isaac’s birth, and once things really started getting going, it was a fast and furious process.
[We blew up the pool a day before the little guy arrived.]
After dinner on Monday the 25th, Ben could tell that something in my rushes had changed. I asked him to time them so that I didn’t become obsessed with the numbers, which he did for about an hour. At around 8pm he called our midwife Tina and our doula/birthing assistant Sonya and said that I was having minute long rushes every five minutes. This is when I consider my active labor to have started. My concept of time from that night is hazy – I went deep into my own body and nothing else mattered to me – but I’ll do my best to piece it all together.
At around 10pm, Sonya came by to check on me. At this point I was on the ground in our bedroom, rocking through rushes but having conversations in between. The rushes became more and more intense to the point where the only thing that felt good was dropping to my knees while leaning against the birthing ball, rocking my hips, and moaning or flapping my lips during each exhalation. I focused on loosening my jaw and envisioned opening up – a bright full moon between my legs in which my baby would emerge easily and gracefully – and kept connecting with the baby, telling him there was nothing to fear. Sonya wasn’t sure how long labor would last, so she suggested that I take some catnip and valerian root tincture and try to rest. She asked if we wanted her to sleep in our living room just in case, but since she lives only 5 minutes away I said she should go home and try to get some rest as well.
I took the tinctures and tried to get into bed, but it was horrendous to go through the rushes while on my back. Ben tried stacking all the pillows we had on our bed so that I could try sleeping in different positions in between rushes, but it was too intense for me and after a few minutes I wound up back on my knees on the ground, this time deliriously tired and a bit loopy from the tinctures. I told Ben that he should try to get some rest, so he went to the guest bedroom and laid down while I worked through the rushes, which were quickly getting even stronger and more steady.
At about this point I started feeling really cold and shaking constantly, which made me really want Sonya back. Around midnight I woke Ben up and asked him to call Sonya. I told him that I needed a heater [we had found one in the process of moving] and that I was getting nervous about the process of labor. He did a great job of keeping me calm and reminding me that I was capable of anything.
By 12:30am, Sonya was back at our house – she tried putting pressure on my lower back during contractions, which felt great at first. My mom was doing everything I had asked for – offering me positive feedback and coconut water between rushes – and Ben was reminding me to breathe and gently stroking with my hair, then taking Sonya’s place massaging my back.
Soon I got very introverted and suddenly I couldn’t stand anyone touching me or offering me drinks. I knew it was important to keep hydrated because we weren’t sure how long the labor would last, but at one point I almost started crying because I was so sick of sipping. Robin’s advice of allowing myself to be selfish during labor came to me, and I sternly told people ”Don’t Touch Me” when they’d try to massage me during rushes.
Ben now began filling the pool with warm water as I walked the halls of our home between the rushes, dropping down and circling my hips whenever the sensation would take over my body, which was happening more and more often. Mom and Ben lit candles in the living room and put on some music.
I lost all sense of time and space, and went completely inside to get through the intense rushes. I’m not a religious person [I consider myself spiritual], but my mantra became Give it to God, and I found that if I repeated the phrase over and over during my rushes, I was able to get through them easier. I felt like I was being watched over and didn’t feel so alone in the process.
At about 1am, Sonya recognized that I was progressing quickly so she called Tina. The fear that I felt had since disappeared and it was all I could do to just stay present and focus on getting through one rush at a time. I was on my knees almost exclusively because the rushes were so strong and close together. I told my Mom I couldn’t stand any more coconut water because I was nauseous, and I heard myself saying things like, “What if Tina gets here and says I’m not in labor?” and “I’m just so tired… I just wanna sleep for a minute.” When I heard myself say these things, I knew that I was going into the transitional phase [when I would soon be pushing], but I kept thinking it wasn’t possible to be progressing through active labor so quickly.
The pool looked so warm – and I was still shaking profusely – so I practically begged Sonya to let me get in the pool, but she said it wasn’t time yet [later she told me that getting in the pool would have slowed my progress, and labor isn’t about being comfortable, it’s about getting the baby out]. She and Ben kept encouraging me to walk between the rushes, but I could only get a few steps before having to get back on the floor. Nonetheless, I knew that it would help me have the baby, so I kept getting up. I kept telling the baby it was time; I kept calling out to God.
And then, around 1:30am, Tina showed up like an angel in my doorway. Her presence was so calming to me and her touch was so reassuring that I almost started sobbing right then and there. She watched me through a few rushes [I had started feeling the urge to push] before calmly kneeling down next to me and saying, “You’re feeling lots of pressure in your lower back, huh?” After I nodded she said, “Have you tried to poo yet?” And I must have given her the stinkest eye possible, because that was the last thing on my mind at the moment. She said, “I think your bag of waters is trying to break, and sitting on the toilet will help. Why don’t you go to the bathroom and just try to poo.” She went outside with Sonya to gather all her supplies.
Sitting upright during rushes was so painful for me, but I trusted Tina and felt so desperate to relieve the intense sensations that I was willing to try anything. I made my way to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. When a rush came I wanted to cry, but something inside me said to push through, so I listened. I opened up my legs wide and pushed like I was having a huge bowel movement and POP! My waters literally burst into and about two feet in front of the toilet! Isaac’s head fell into my birth canal so quickly that I felt like he was going to drop into the bowl.
I heard myself scream, “Oh My GOD! MY WATER BROKE!!!” I was shocked; it was the first time I was freaking out during the whole process and I didn’t even recognize my own voice. Ben came into the bathroom and calmly said, “It’s okay Haley, just breathe” and I yelled back at him, “What do you mean? I’m gonna have this baby in the toilet! Go. Get. TINA!” So he went out into the night and told Tina “Haley’s water broke. She’s freaking out.” Tina – calm as can be – took her sweet time gathering her supplies while I waddled – half-naked with my hands between my legs to keep the baby from falling out [or so I thought] – from the bathroom to the living room and asked no one in particular if it was alright to get into the pool yet.
My waters burst around 2am, and shortly after I crawled into the pool, staying on all fours and leaning against the side as the waves continued to crash over me. Give it to God, Give it to God. My body was still shaking, but my mind saw the finish line in sight: I could now push this baby out!
I don’t know how quite to explain the way in which the innate took over and did all the work from here on out. I don’t remember the candles, or the music, or time… but I remember the way my low moans morphed into uncontrollable, powerful roars. I don’t remember just how many pushes it took, or where everyone stood… but I remember feeling as if the entire Universe opened up between my legs to release my son. I remember Tina telling me that I needed to slow down and Ben reminding me that I needed to breathe.
From what Ben says, after I got into the pool at 2 o’clock, it was only about 5 rushes before Isaac joined us at 2:44am.
- Rush – PUSH! – Ouch ouch ouch. Tina feels me in the water and says “Good job. Your baby is in the birth canal… about a third of the way to crowning.”
- Rush – PUSH – I feel myself opening up and hear sounds I never knew possible coming from me. Tina says the baby’s crowning and tells me to feel his head. I feel his head and then feel it disappear back into me, so I say, “oh no, he went back in!”, to which everyone laughs.
- Rush – PUSH – His head comes down and stays down. Tina tells Ben that if he wants to catch the baby, he needs to get behind me now. I hear them telling me to breathe.
- Rush – PUSH! – I am more determined to push this baby out than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I feel the fear and charge through anyway – froggy squatting in the pool and bearing down. I feel like I’ve been torn inside out as the baby’s head emerges from me. I was ready to push him completely out, but Tina tells me to slow down, stop and feel my baby’s head. I’m afraid to touch anything down there because I fear I’ve broken myself, but I feel his head and wait for the next rush, which apparently took about 4 minutes to come.
- Final rush – PUSH – the baby’s body slides out of me, I turn over, and he’s placed on my chest immediately. I’m in shock at how calm, yet wide awake and aware he is from the beginning. Tina says “2:44 am” and tells us to talk to him and rub his back vigorously because he’s a little pale and doesn’t cry [he didn’t actually cry until hours after his birth].
I was in pure shock at how surreal it was to finally meet the little being who has been my sidekick for the past ten months. His perfection rocked me to my core and Ben and I were so in love that it took a few minutes before we realized we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl.
I birthed my placenta in the pool before going over to the couch to dry off with my family. Isaac latched onto my breast beautifully while I sipped herbal remedies from Tina, and then Ben got skin-to-skin time with Isaac while Tina helped me into the shower and then bed.
Ben and I stared at our little one for hours while they weighed and measured him, and then left us to get comfy in our own bed. We finally got to bed around 5am, this time as a family of three!
I never spoke much about my “birth plan” because I honestly knew that I would have done whatever was necessary to have my baby come out healthy and happy, but this truly was my perfect birth. Isaac was born at home in a serene environment surrounded by love. I am so grateful to say that the experience was truly life-changing in the most beautiful and positive way, and if I had it to do all over again, I’d do it just the same [I’d just be sure to get some rest the few days beforehand ].
I look forward to sharing my healing process with you all, but for now, I’ll just say that, as it turns out, I didn’t tear open the way I thought I did. I didn’t tear at all, actually. I had two “skid marks” that healed beautifully in just a few days. Nonetheless, I now have a healthy, happy baby, which to me is way more important than temporary pain.
Thanks so much for being so patient as I put together this post. The past two weeks have been the most challenging and rewarding days of all my life, and I’m taking it all one moment at a time. I look forward to the days where I’ll be able to post more regularly again, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying every single moment as this kid’s Mommy:
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