March 27, 2002 was one of the most amazing days of my life. My second baby girl, Nova Gabriella Austin, was born at 10:08 into her daddy's arms. I think giving birth to Nova was one of the hardest things I've ever done. However, now that some of the post-birth amnesia has kicked in, it also feels like one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. (Though I do remember enough to know that I never want to do THAT again!)
I woke up on the 27th very early, around 2:30 or so. I went to the bathroom and realized I was having contractions. It was immediately clear that I was not going back to bed just yet. I set up a space in the living room to labor in, thinking everything would probably peter out by the time the sun was up. It was quite lovely. I sat or leaned on my birth ball, rocking and moaning, or just breathing. My candles were lit and I had classical music playing. I checked my cervix and it didn't seem to be dialated *at all.* This was sort of discouraging as I'd thought I was 1-2 around 32 weeks when my prodomal labor started. Nick arrived home from work ~3:30. He'd had some sort of crisis that I'd encouraged him to stay and get resolved. He asked if I was in labor. "Go to bed," I said. I didn't want to talk, I wanted to go down inside myself, alone.
Time passed. I started feeling hungry around 4:30. I had a banana and stick some homemade mini-pizzas in the oven. *Finally* the pizzas were cooked and I started to munch on them. I got maybe halfway through one and had to rush to the bathroom. Okay, no problem. I empty my bowels. Pretty soon I start to feel nauseous. Am I gonna throw up? I'm not sure, but grab a (relatively) clean waste basket. I don't want to have to put my head in the toilet! Not five minutes later I sat down on the toilet and threw up. Okay. So yeah, this could be it.
Fifteen minutes or so elapsed and I noticed some bloody show. Yay! This is awesome! I'm doing so great; this is *easy.* I'm smiling and feeling good. I feel encouraged that something is actually happening. My confidence in myself is growing, and I'm really enjoying my labor.
It's probably 6 now, and I'm starting to feel hot and sweaty. Pretty gross, actually. So, into the shower I go. I press against the wall and moan, visualizing my cervix opening. At one point, I feel a small gush of fluid and think, "Was that my waters? Nah... Couldn't be, there wasn't enough fluid. Musta just peed." I note that whatever it was seemed to be clear, cause I couldn't see any color. I'm pretty sure that it was my membranes breaking though, because that's the point at which everything starting getting pretty surreal.
Unfortunately, the shower did NOT last long enough for me. I noticed the water was not as hot as I wanted it, so I climbed out and went to wake Nick up. I needed him to go find the hot water heater and turn the temp ALL the way up! The poor tired guy gets up, goes downstairs and then comes back up and climbs back into bed. I'm thinking, "Umm... Hello?! I'm in labor here!" However, I'm feeling pretty out of it, so I don't say anything.
I never do get back into the shower. I stay in the bathroom, sometimes sitting on the toilet, sometimes squatting, sometimes standing. I'm feeling pretty uncomfortable and vocalizing LOUDLY. I start feeling scared and briefly contemplate going to the hospital. I'm at the point of no return, so it's time to look inside myself, say a little prayer, and make a decision. I decide that I'm OK, I'm just overwhelmed by the INTENSITY of it all. There's nothing that MAN can do for me, except drug me up and/or cut on me. *I* am the one who has to deliver this baby, nobody else can do it for me.
Around 7:30 I start feeling pushy and panicked. I'm in the bathroom and just start SCREAMING to Nick (aka Forrest), "FORREST!!! I NEED YOU RIGHT NOW!!!" In no time at all, he's there by me, telling me I'm doing great, that everything is wonderful. He was amazing, everything I could have hoped he'd be. I did some pushing here and there, primarily at the peak of the contractions. I couldn't stop myself, so I focused on the belief that my body wouldn't let me hurt myself if I listened to it. Ultimately, my ability to stay home and birth my baby myself was based on my belief that the Creator perfectly capable of birthing, and s/he would get me through it.
Most of the next few hours are a blur to me now. I'm pretty sure I was in transition at this point, and it felt as if it were taking FOREVER. I remember crying that I was scared, I couldn't do it, I just wanted "it" out of me. I wanted it to stop, I wanted the pain to go away. I was afraid, there seemed like a lot of blood. I was very loud, because it felt so intense, I truly didn't know if I could handle it. I seriously contemplated going to the hospital to ask for a c-section. (I did dismiss the thought pretty quickly though, but it sounded pretty good at the time.) Birthing is hard work! No wonder they call it "labor!"
Finally, I got the break I'd been sobbing for. I was sitting on the toilet with a warm compress and found the courage to reach inside and feel for the baby's head. I wanted to know how close "he" was. Elation! Right there, just past my second knuckle. It was the most incredible thing I've ever felt. Excitedly I exclaimed, "I can feel the baby's head!" Nick moaned in response, "Oh Wow!" I could also feel the edge of the amniotic sac, though I didn't realize what it was at the time.
I'm starting to push more in earnest, and it feels like it's going SO **SLOWLY**! I say as much to Nick... "It's taking too long, she's not coming!" Of course, she was coming, it just felt like forever. My expectations didn't include what felt like such long, drawn out intensity. Today, it makes me smile to remember how convinced I was that my labor was never going to end.
Finally, as I stood with one leg up on the toilet, the baby began to crown. Oh man, it burns! WOW! I feel like I'm being stretched to my limits. I tell Nick I'm going to tear in front, I need the hot compress there, he disagrees. He thinks that if I'm going to tear, it'll be "in back." (Later he told me that my perineum was all white and he was sure I was going to tear.)
At this point, time has no meaning to me. I bear down hard and finally get the head out. What a relief! Nick used a clean rag and wiped out Nova's mouth. He tells me I can push again. I think, "SHIT! I *am* pushing!" It feels like an eternity has passed. (In reality, it was only about a minute.) I ask if *either* of the shoulders are out. (I'm not actually having a contrations, I'm just trying to pull like hell because I want to get Nova out of inside me and into my arms!) "No," comes the reply. A feeling of dread settles on me. My biggest fear was the possibility of shoulder dystocia, an extremely rare but incredibly dangerous circumstance where the shoulders get stuck behind the pubic bone.
A contraction finally builds up and I exclaim, "She's coming!" And she does come... Both shoulders at once! Wow! Everything that followed her delivery is a blur to me now... I remember stepping over her cord and Nick handing her to me. Him saying he's going to pass out, and laying down on the floor outside the bathroom. Me exclaiming, "She's breathing!" and "It's a girl!" and wanting to cry at the sheer joy and intensity of it all. I remember saying, "Welcome Baby Nova" and "Come on now" and "I love you." I kissed her and rubbed her chest and legs because her breathing was somewhat grunty and her color was poor.
I wish that I could end the story by saying, "Thankfully, she pinked right up. I birth the placenta, we cut her cord, washed up, and climbed into bed to nurse." Unfortunately, that's not how it went. Before she was born, Nick noticed meconium in the waters, and called 911 with my unhappy consent. Apparentlythe call didn't go through the way it should have, because after she was born, they still had not arrived. He called them again.
I sat on the toilet and realized the placenta was coming. Nick got me a glass bowl to birth it into. I was relieved to have delivered it before the EMTs arrived. I'd felt nervous they might put traction on the cord, causing me to bleed. Still, I felt concerned that Nova was so sleepy. Wasn't she supposed to want to nurse right off? I guess she was all tuckered out from being born!
EMTs arrived 20-30 minutes after the birth while I was sitting the bathtub. They checked her over, cut her cord. We were both taken to UCSF to get check out. Nova's lungs were clear, thankfully, which meant she hadn't aspirated any meconium. Yay Daddy for getting it all out! Meconium isn't automatically an emergency complication, but it can sometimes mean that baby is in distress. Since Nick wasn't prepared to deal with possible MAS (meconium aspiration syndrome), it's understandable that he wanted someone else there who definitely *would* know what to do.
To make a long story shorter, we spent about 30 hours in the hospital. For the most part, it went pretty well. It wasn't how I had wanted the first two days of my baby's life to go, that's how life goes sometimes. I'm home with my perfect baby girl, and she's safe and healthy.
When I think of Nova's birth, I am filled with such intense emotions. While it felt so gloriously *right,* I also recognize how dreadfully terrible it could have turned out. There are so many things that *might* have happened. Death happens, birth happens, it's all a part of life. Babies die in the hospital, babies die at home. Most people don't ever really face that reality. We don't want to face it as a reality.
By birthing at home,I was able to listen to my body, to give myself over to the birth. I experienced the intensity of pure, raw birth... I truly felt between the worlds. It exhilarated me; it terrified me. I feel as if it was too much for a mere mortal to experience. I feel aged, like I've seen the Deity and lived to tell the tale. And I thank God for that experience. I've been blessed.