Birth Services

Joyce Kimball, CPM

Birth Stories

Gael's Birth

Labor with Gael was long and difficult. I was getting mild contractions on Wednesday morning (during my rotation at the Large Animal Hospital). They were like mild menstrual cramps combined with Braxton-Hicks contractions, and they were very even at about 40 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. They went away Wednesday afternoon and all was quiet through Thursday evening, but I think I knew from those Wednesday morning contractions that the baby was on his way. Perhaps my bike ride on Tuesday evening (to the grocery store and back, hauling a big buy) was a subconscious effort to bring on labor.

At any rate, the contractions returned on Thursday night, and maintained about a 40 minute to 1 hour frequency through Thursday night. I slept on the couch between contractions and, though they woke me up, I could handle them lying down, so as soon as they finished I could go back to sleep.

Still, come Friday morning I was tired and pretty cranky. I called Dina, my midwife, to let her know I was getting contractions about every half hour by then; we both kind of figured the baby would be arriving some time that day. I took care of some items on my to-do list (making soup and calling the researcher of a study on Hyperemesis Gravidarum that I was volunteering for to go over the permission forms).

Contractions were about the same frequency for a while, though more intense...and then, around mid-day, they kind of petered out for a while. I went for a walk with Pollo, Cailán, and Bella along the train tracks, and I was able to walk just fine – in fact, the contractions stopped. However, even without active contractions coming, I felt achy all the time and really cranky. I don’t really remember how I spent the early afternoon; more small chores, I think.

In the late afternoon I called Dina again and reported, with some frustration, that the contractions had not been getting any closer together than about one every 10 minutes (they were a minute or 90 seconds long). She reminded me that sometimes women have contractions off and on for a week before giving birth. I believe she thought that my labor had stalled, or was going to. But I was calling her again by 6 pm, and I think I sounded pretty desperate. The contractions were just so painful. My hip flexors and back were in agony along with my uterine muscles. I was exhausted and wished I could sit down, but I was petrified of a contraction catching me sitting; I felt so vulnerable sitting, like it hurt 10x more but once it started I couldn’t stand up because moving that much mid-contraction was incredibly painful. I was calling/yelling for Pollo to come and would hang around his neck, pulling and squeezing and pressing my head into his chest.

Cailán was still at home, and he seemed a bit concerned about me; he watched wide-eyed and brought me his toys as offerings; I’m sure he thought they would make me feel better.

I got in the shower and the water helped for as long as I was in; when I got out the pain hit full-force again. At that point Casey stopped by and I asked her if she would take Cailán for a while. I was still able to care enough about appearances that I tried to grit my teeth through the contractions that came while she was there, but I was fast losing that focus.

By the time Dina arrived at just after 6:30, I was starting to feel that drift into another world. Kim (the apprentice midwife) was on her way and would be bringing the tub. Even though I knew it was dangerous, I started focusing on the arrival of the tub as if it would be the answer to all my troubles. I got in the shower to wait but the shower water wasn’t really soothing at all anymore.

By the time Kim finally arrived, after a stop at Joyce’s to pick up my records, I was holed up in the bathroom and seriously suffering. The tub took forever to fill, and then – most frustrating of all – was too hot! Dina wouldn’t let me in until it had dropped below a certain temperature. I was so angry – that the tub had taken so long to fill, that it was too hot, that I was in such pain. Anger was the main emotion. I tried to express it to Dina without being a total jerk, in hopes that in expressing it I could let it go, but I’m not sure I really ever did.

Finally I got in the water. Instead of the instant soothing I experienced during Cailán’s birth, the tub really didn’t make me feel any better. The bottom wasn’t blown up enough, and I could feel my knees pressing uncomfortably into the kitchen floor beneath. The contractions were kicking the shit out of me. Instead of feeling like I could sink into them and work with them, I felt like they were breaking over my head, suffocating and drowning me each time.

Finally I started to feel like I needed to push. I pushed once (or twice?) in the tub, then Dina asked me to get out. I stood on the kitchen floor and pushed once or twice more. My water broke, and I felt great relief. I remembered the article Joyce had given me about avoiding tearing the perineum by not pushing immediately when you felt like it, and I kind of wondered why Dina wasn’t guiding me more. I figured if she wasn’t telling me not to push, I wasn’t going to I pushed....or rather, I didn’t try to stop it from happening.

Another push or two, and I felt the ring of fire. I think I gasped out, “Is that the baby – I think the baby’s right there.” Then I felt the indescribable relief of the head popping out. Another push, and the rest of the baby slithered out. I heard a strong cry. For a moment I didn’t care about anything – I was just so relieved it was over. Then I must have knelt down, and someone handed the baby to me. It was minute or more until someone – me? – asked if it was a boy or girl, and then we checked. A little, perfect boy. Even in my dazed state, I could tell his color was beautiful – pink and vital. His head was round. Perfect.

I delivered the placenta less than 10 minutes later, and the description I’d read, of it feeling like a large, wet tampon, was spot-on. After the drama of Cailán’s placenta, this was so easy – at least one easy part of this delivery!

We moved to the couch, and the midwives took Gael to wipe him off, weigh him (7 lbs even, which is exactly what I guessed when I saw him) and measure him (18 inches). He cried lustily through this process and was glad to get back to my chest; he found my breast and latched on right away.

After he’d nursed (and pooped sticky meconium on me!), I got up to take a shower and eat dinner at the table with the midwives. (They said they’d never seen anyone shower and eat sitting at the table after giving birth!) I hadn’t torn at all, and I felt great. Probably the relief of leaving the pain of the last 24 hours behind, plus all that oxytocin, contributed to my elation.

Later, Dina told me that Gael’s hand and arm had been over his head. This is probably why the dilation/effacement stage of labor had been so prolonged and painful; the pressure exerted by his head and hand/arm wasn’t even, so I had to dilate more. However, perhaps due to the long period of dilation, the pushing phase was really fast – no more than 8 minutes. After 24 hours plus of contractions! This could also explain why Gael sailed through his birth experience so easily and with so few bruises; the canal was as wide as possible, and he pushed his way out with his hand and arm!

His “pose” on entry – as well as those hard jabs he was giving me from the inside back in months 7 and 8 (I can still feel those knees or whatever it was trying to wear a hole in my belly) – make me think he’s a fighter. Somehow “Gael” puts me in mind of a fighter, so I think it’s a good name.