It was May 9th, 2010, my due date. One of the things I love about the end of pregnancy is that you wake each day not knowing if your world will change that day. I had woken each day for the past few weeks with that thought, but on my due date I thought, “Well, not today.” Less than five percent of babies are born on their due date, so I figured if there was any day when I wouldn’t go into labor, it was today.
I was out of sorts from the first minute. My hormones were raging. I tried to play Chutes & Ladders with the kids while Andrew visited his mom. I was so irritable that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t seem to tolerate that Bel wanted to go up the chutes and down the ladders. I knew I was hormonal, and I blamed it on my psychological reaction to waddling around on my due date. My mood lifted when all four of us went out for lunch. I remember the warm sunshine. It was one of those glorious first summer-like days of the year, and I loved it. We ate lunch at D’Amico, crowded around a tiny little table. Andrew pointed out that this would be one of our last family meals at a table for four. Hmm… we were going to be a bigger family soon! I reached down with my left hand and felt Darth’s feet on my left side. He was completely ROT – his back was directly down my right side, and his feet were popping out my left. I enjoyed touching his feet.
Andrew and I decided to skip grocery shopping that day. Our house was pretty much void of food, and we had made an effort to keep ourselves reasonably stocked at the end of the pregnancy so that we would be sure to have food on hand for our family postpartum and for ourselves and our birth team. I brought this up as we walked up our front steps after lunch. I also mentioned offhandedly my moodiness. But whatever – it’s my due date, right? If there was ever a day I wouldn’t go into labor, it was on my due date.
I celebrated my due date with a bar of dark chocolate and a run around the lake. I’ve always enjoyed running while pregnant. It loosens up all the achy parts and gives me energy. The looks from strangers usually fire me up, too. Of all my pregnancy runs with the three kids, though, this one was my favorite. The sun shone through the leaves. The lake was sparkling with reflected sunlight. It seemed the whole world was out for a walk with their mom. I felt energetic and graceful. It was absolutely wonderful. I wondered how many more runs I would get in before giving birth. When I went for a run on Frank’s due date, I was a cranky bitch. I think I growled at someone who gave me a funny look, and I said to myself that I hated the lake and the sun and that I was more than ready to have a baby. I was in the exact opposite mood on this run and felt like I could handle a few more runs before going into labor.
One woman looked at me with her eyes popping out of her head. “WOW! You go, girl!” When I met her again on the opposite side of the lake, she asked, “When are you due?” I can’t tell you how fun it was to watch her reaction when I responded, “Today!” as I ran on past. That’s right! STARE ON!
Our neighbor lady chatted with me as I returned home. She said that she had all three of her kids on their due dates. Really?! What are the odds of that? I said something about feeling too good to go into labor today but that given the time and my history of fast labors (Bel was a rocket ship), I could still pull off a birth on my due date. I knew, though, that I felt way too good to go into labor soon.
But that was about to change.
It wasn’t long after I got back that I started to feel that late-pregnancy walking-impediment. You ladies know what I mean. This is the feeling at the end of pregnancy when your baby drops way low into your pelvis, and it’s hard to walk. In about an hour I went from running around the lake feeling as light as a feather to hardly being able to take two steps. “Whoa, Andrew. I think Darth dropped again.” He had dropped and bounced back up several times in the last month or two. “Wow. I think I may be done running with this pregnancy. Whew.” I repeated this message several times over the afternoon. In hindsight, I wonder if I wasn’t having contractions, because sometimes I could walk just fine and others I would be stopped in my tracks.
Late in the afternoon I joined the kids outside on the sidewalk in front of our house. Another curious neighbor came over to ask about when the baby was coming. (I hate that question.) And this is when the kids started acting strange. Kids and pets are tuned into nature better than the rest of us are, and they usually sense labor before we mothers do. Frank started acting funky, and then he peed his pants there on the sidewalk. At about that exact moment I felt something come out of me. I immediately wondered if it was a mucous plug or maybe some amniotic fluid. Or maybe it was my imagination. But I wanted to find out, so I scooped up Frank, and we went inside.
I found a spot the size of a quarter in my underwear. It didn’t seem like mucous, but there were no other signs of fluid leaking. Hmmm. I went back outside. It happened again. It continued to happen all afternoon. I’d change underwear, and twenty minutes later, another spot would appear.
Now, hindsight really is the clearest lens. I felt this stuff coming out every twenty minutes or so. Stupid me – I didn’t realize that I was having contractions, and the contractions were pushing out this stuff. I figured it wasn’t fluid since when I laid down, the stuff continued to come out every so often while I was lying there and didn’t change when I stood up. (Amniotic fluid that is leaking will pool in your vagina and will pour out when you stand.)
I didn’t say anything to Andrew. I figured it was nothing to get excited about since I couldn’t really go into labor on my due date, right? That would be so un-doula of me.
So, the kids had to sense something, because they were acting weird. Bel was super clingy and needed to cuddle with me on the couch while I tried to nap. We watched some stupid wedding show on cable. I hate those things but for some reason, that’s the only thing Bel would agree to watch besides Sponge Bob. She was practically smothering me she was so clingy.
After dinner we watched a nature show. Frank usually loves these, but instead of watching, he went completely berserk. He started biting and yelling and flung himself into things. It was completely out of character, and Andrew had to take him away and brought him upstairs to bed. Frank was acting so wild that Andrew skipped the bedtime story. We read stories to our kids before bed every night with the only exceptions being when they fall asleep in the car after a night out and we carry them sleeping to their beds. I knew that the situation was extreme if Frank didn’t get a story before bed. Strange.
Bel went to bed shortly after, and as I came back into the living room, I said to Andrew, “Something is happening.”
Andrew looked at me and smiled.
Now, I have to contrast this reaction with Andrew’s reactions to similar news on the other two labors. With Bel, he looked at me blankly and said, “You say that all the time.”
“Yes, but one of these times it will be real, and this seems real.” The blank expression stayed on his face (denial) as he later crawled into bed while I was on the phone with the hospital.
When I said the same thing with Frank, Andrew flew out of bed and was a tasmanian devil swirling around cleaning the house.
But this time he just smiled and sat back in the living room cozy chair. I told him about the stuff coming out. While I still felt like this was probably nothing, we agreed that I should call Clare, one of our midwives. We had two midwives, and I decided that when it came to labor, I would call Clare since she lived only a mile away from us.
Clare agreed that what I was feeling was likely not amniotic fluid but that given I was GBS positive, it would still be prudent to check my temperature periodically throughout the evening, if I happened to wake at night, and again in the morning. I hung up with Clare expecting to call her in the morning. I also called Sarah, our doula. She was out for a walk with a friend and said that she’d have only one glass of wine after the walk. I laughed and told her not to hold back for me, that this was probably not labor. She didn’t seem convinced of that, but I was.
Andrew and I settled into our cozy chairs and watched our recording of the previous night’s Saturday Night Live with Betty White. We don’t normally watch SNL, but we figured Betty White would be pretty funny. She was, and we laughed. It felt good.
We decided to go to bed. Andrew was brushing his teeth as I walked to the bathroom. When he looked at me, he stopped brushing, and said, “You’re in labor.”
“Nah, I don’t think so. I’m just really uncomfortable.”
“Honey,” he said, “I’ve seen you give birth twice. I know what you look like when you’re in labor, and you look like that now.”
“I don’t think I’m in labor. I’m just feeling achy for some reason…” And that’s when I noticed it. I paid attention to the ache I was feeling, and realized what it was. My uterus was tight, but it was different than the tightening of Braxton Hicks contractions. This was a tightening and ache that went straight to my core. It came from my base chakra and radiated red energy through my pelvis. It was a familiar sensation, one I remembered. I stopped mid-sentence with the realization of it, and as I looked at Andrew, he wiped his face on the towel and repeated, “Honey, you’re in labor!”
As if to drive the point home, I found the mucous plug when I went to the bathroom. Then I felt another contraction as I walked down to bed. I tried to text a message to Sarah and our photographer Emily R (also a doula), but my head was already foggy with hormones. I couldn’t remember how to spell “mucous,” and when I asked Andrew how to spell it, he laughed and said, “Wow. YOU ARE IN LABOR! Look at you!” Emily asked how soon after losing my mucous plug I went into labor with Bel and Frank. I responded with, “A few hours.” She said she’d keep her phone close.
I sent a similar text to Emily A and Anna, our friends who’d come to watch the kids. That message was simpler for me to type. It said, “Heads up – rumbling.” My contractions were about 5-10 minutes apart.
Andrew and I were giddy. We wondered what Darth would look like. We thought of the 24 hours ahead of us. Then we were serious. We talked about our fears. I honestly cannot tell you what Andrew’s fears where. (I guess I was preoccupied with mine.) I do remember what I told him about my fears. I knew the work I had ahead of me, and I was scared. I knew I could cope. What scared me is the loss of control. You see, you can’t say when you are ready for the hard stuff. It just happens whether you are ready at that moment or not. You kind of get dragged into labor, and you have to be ready to go with it. I knew it would be hard. I hoped my preparations would pay off with the coping tools I knew I would need.
We decided to listen to my Hypnobirthing track. It was about 10:30 pm. I had practiced with this track often enough that it was fully effective with me. I don’t think we got more than 30 seconds in when I fell into a sleep. I say “sleep,” but it’s not really sleep. I was in a deep state of relaxation. Once the track ended, I woke again, like I always do when the track ends. I felt calm and confident.
I decided to go to sleep, but every time I’d drift off, I’d get a contraction. They started to feel stronger, so I decided to time them. I’d snooze, and when one started, I’d open an eye to check the time.
Things felt stronger. I wondered if I should call someone. With Frank, I called our midwife when the contractions were 6-7 minutes apart to let her know what was going on. She said she wanted to come over despite that I felt like it was too early because she felt that with a second baby and my history of a fast labor, she preferred to come over. This time I didn’t feel like I needed help, but I wondered if I should call under the rationale that our last midwife had. I decided to wait until midnight. That was about 40 minutes away.
I recalled Bel’s birth where contractions started just like this, and once I hit active labor, she was born within an hour. Frank’s labor started more slowly and was a longer, normal birth. This was like Bel’s labor.
It was only 11:42 pm, and I said I was going to wait until midnight before calling anyone.
Three-to-four minutes and stronger.
At 11:54 pm I decided that this was too similar to Bel’s birth and I that I better call someone. I went upstairs, pausing part way up the steps with another contraction. I went to the bathroom and found bloody show.
Any doubt was gone. This is labor.
I called Clare at midnight and told her what was going on. She said she’d call Emme and would be on her way. I called the rest of the team, too. I woke Andrew and told him what was going on.
I turned on our exterior light. I settled onto the birth ball, rested my head on our dining table, and waited.
As the birth team started to arrive, my labor slowed down to a trickle.
The midwives assess Darth and me, they set everything up, and we waited. I don’t know how slow my contractions were at that point, but things had definitely slowed down considerably. Bit by bit people went to sleep.
Except Clare. She did yoga.
The second nap Andrew was asleep downstairs, so Sarah cuddled with me. The third I rested alone and listened to my Hypnobirthing track. In between rests I would walk around a bit and talked with Clare and Emily R. Emily was our photographer, but she’s also a doula and played that role for a bit while Sarah slept. For a while I sat on the ball, and Emily held a hot back on my back. Clare stayed with me and offered words of support. It was absolutely lovely.
At about 2:30 am I started to feel shaky and emotional. I wanted to see the kids. I crawled up the stairs as fast as I could between contractions. Once I got up there, strong, frequent contractions returned. You see, women give birth effectively when they feel safe and secure. We need to build our nests. For me, that meant having my family with me. I wanted my kids to be with me. So, once I got up to their rooms, I labored more effectively. I probably should have stayed up there, but I didn’t. I sat with Bel for a minute and told her I loved her and was proud of her. I wasn’t worried about her at all. I knew she would adjust well.
I had a harder time with Frank. He’d been my little man – my baby. I was worried about how he would adjust. I wanted to sit with him for a while, but the contractions were coming fast, and they were more than I could handle sitting down. I decided I needed to get downstairs. I stood at the top of the stairs, daunted by the thought of going down them. I waited for a contraction to pass, then I RAN down those stairs. I did NOT want to get a contraction half way down.
Clare commented on how I was able to go up and down those stairs pretty quickly. I laughed. I know – labor wasn’t kicking in just yet. But it sure felt that way upstairs!
In another between-nap moment, I chatted with Clare and Emily R in my darkened birth room. I expressed doubt about whether I was really in labor. Clare pointed out that I was in labor, but nobody would tell me how far apart my contractions were. I could have looked at one of the many clocks in our house, but labor hormones have a way of diminishing cognitive abilities. I never thought to look at a clock.
I realized at that moment that I was standing with my cheek pressed against the wall because the wall was cool. I saw myself from Clare’s eyes, and yes, I definitely looked like a woman in labor. We talked about what might be holding me back from kicking into a more active labor pattern. I talked a bit about my fears. I had already talked with Clare and Emme prenatally about how fast Frank descended during his birth. Once my water broke, he barreled his way out. It was a bit overwhelming, and Clare coached me prenatally on how to slow down the pushing stage of this birth (hence the Hypnobirthing). I also talked about how hard it was to say goodbye to this pregnancy because it was my last. She listened and acknowledged how normal this was. I felt emotional. I decided to lie down. It was about 4:00 am.
This was my third and last rest on the mattress on our floor. This is the one where I was alone and listened to my Hypnobirthing track. I went into my hypnosis-induced state of deep relaxation. I had four contractions during the track, so my brain figured out that contractions were about seven minutes apart. The last contraction was pretty strong and woke me out of my relaxation. I must have made a noise with it, because Clare and Emily R stopped talking. I see Clare noted this in my record, too. It was 4:36 am.
I went into the bathroom about 5:00 am. With my work schedule at the time, this was my usual waking time. So, I think my body started waking up per its usual routine. As I washed my hands, I felt a burst of energy. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Let’s do this. Let’s have a baby.”
I turned on the iPod. I had two playlists: 1) Birth – Soothin’ and 2) Birth – Rockin’. I chose Birth Rockin’. The first song was “I’ve Got a Feeling” by Paul McCartney. Remember when I wondered what my birth song would be? Oh, well. This is it. The music started, and I smiled. Almost immediately, I heard the patter of feet upstairs. Bel and Frank were up, and I met them at the stairs. Remember I said I needed them with me to complete my nest-building before I could go into labor?Well, I met them at the bottom of the stairs and was promptly doubled over by a contraction that was so strong I had to stop and focus.
I was so happy to see the kids. They were surprised to wake to a house full of people. They knew everyone, though, and knew immediately why they were there. Bel was excited.
I held Frank on my lap and worked through the tougher contractions that were now rolling in pretty frequently. Someone made me some toast, and I ate.
I went to the kitchen and swayed through contractions. Sarah and Emme continued to rub my back. Clare asked if we should wake up Andrew. I looked at the clock – 5:30 am. I thought that it would be good for him to sleep until 6:00, which is what time he normally wakes up. We let him sleep.
I went to the bathroom and got to fully appreciate the benefits of laboring on the toilet. The contractions started coming faster (2-3 minutes), and I hardly got a break. I remember shaking my head side to side, thinking, “No… no…” I was confused by that reaction. I didn’t want contractions to stop, but I still shook my head in protest.
The familiar wave came at the same time as a contraction. The toilet was right next to me, but I could not bend over to get to it. I yelled out for someone to help me, and Emme came running in with the closest suitable container she could find – our sauce pan. There I was, barfing into our sauce pan while I stood over our toilet. I was so frustrated. I could feel the toilet against my leg, and I was barfing into our cooking pot.
Clare and Emme’s notes say this was at 5:42 am and that I was in the tub by 5:44. I decided I didn’t care if I was going to be in labor for another ten hours, I wanted my tub. I stepped in and felt the warm water calm my body and my soul. Immediate relief.
I cannot say enough how effective warm water can be during labor. I stretched out in the tub and felt immense relief. I moved around and labored in all the positions I had practiced. I laughed. I enjoyed the massages that Sarah and Andrew gave me.
I started to feel Darth moving lower. I felt myself working. I know I’m getting closer, but my contractions still feel irregular. I wonder why things aren’t kicking into high gear.
At one point I laugh because I can feel Darth kicking out the front on my belly. Everyone watches. “Can you see that?” Yes, everyone can see it through the water. Wow. In hindsight, this is a clear indicator that Darth is completely posterior. He’s facing my belly and not my back. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why my labor was a bit slower and erratic? Who knows. I keep plugging along.
At 6:30 am I get out of the tub to go to the bathroom. I decide promptly that I’m not going to get out of the tub again. It is harder to labor out of the water, and I like it better in the tub.
I go completely into laborland. I’m focused on each contraction, and I doze between them. I hear my playlist Birth – Soothin’ playing in the background. I sign along with Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and Donna De Lory’s “He Ma Durga.” Before Walter was born, I saw a birth video of a woman who song psalms through her entire labor. I said I’m not a singer, but I bet I dance my way through. Well, I didn’t dance, but I sang.
He ma Durga
I want to love through your love
He ma Durga
I want to feel what you feel
He ma Durga
I want to see beyond this illusion
to what is real
I remember dozing between contractions with my face just above the water. The tip of my nose and the third eye on my forehead touched the surface. Peaceful.
I feel Darth getting lower. My sacrum stretches with each contraction. I do what I practiced. I tell myself I’m soft, and I open my back with the contractions and let him come down. I feel confident – I can do this.
I talk to my baby. I tell him we’re okay. “Baby, baby, baby,” I say. I remind him we are in this together. “Gentle, baby. Gentle.”
The kids pop in and out. People talk quietly every now and then. The sun starts to come up, and light comes through the window. Andrew points this out and says that it’s a beautiful morning to celebrate a birthday.
At about 7:15 am I had a monster of a contraction, and a ton of bloody show comes out. Emme and Clare had been checking in on Darth throughout the labor, and when they checked again. I hear them whispering. I sense something is wrong. I ask what’s going on. They tell me that Darth’s heart rate dropped pretty low with a contraction, and they’d keep an eye on it. He probably didn’t like the position I was in. I moved back to my hands and knees. They monitored closely, and his heart rate was fine after that, and they continued to reassure me, which I liked.
I continue to move around, and I get tons of care from my support team. I love it.
Around 7:30 contractions were stronger than ever. I had to really work through them, but I still felt like I was stuck in low gear. I couldn’t quite get the labor to move over the top. I was sitting in the tub, leaning back on the edge. Emme was supporting me. Sarah came back and took her place. At about 7:45 she suggested I do some lunges.
Hell no. I shake my head because I can’t get any words out. There is no way I’m moving. I can barely keep my coping techniques working as I am, and if I move, well, I don’t know what will happen.
But I know why she’s suggesting this. I need to help Darth move. Maybe he needs a final turn. Maybe he needs to turn his head. He needs me to help him move down and out. I sigh with resignation. I lean forward and put a leg out to the side and lunge.
I lunge. It sucks. I contract. It sucks. I switch to other leg.
A contraction comes on, and I NEED to sit back.
￼Another contraction comes, and I NEED to move onto my hands and knees. I have a contraction or two that fill my head with white light, and I want to escape. Another contraction comes, and I feel immense pressure. I hear myself grunt a bit. I feel pushy. I tell myself, “Peace and calm. Peace and calm.” I tell myself, “Breathe your baby down gently. Gentle gentle gentle.”
It’s about 8:00 am.
At 8:05, Emme asks me if I feel pushy. I say yes, and soon Andrew steps into the tub. I’m overcome with the contractions, but reminding myself to be gentle and to breathe down my baby help me get through the tough peaks. I don’t want an overwhelming pushing stage. I want this to be gentle.
I’m leaning onto Andrew while on my knees, and he’s kissing and hugging me. Every time a contraction comes, I grip his legs and let the intensity of the contractions push me forward into him as I keep everything inside me peaceful, calm, and gentle. I hear Clare using the words we discussed at our prenatal visits. “Peace and calm, Rebecca.”
When I am overcome, I swear. I say, “I hate this part!” I do. I really do. But I also love it, because it is in this moment that I find strength that I didn’t know I had. I do it. I give birth.
I am not pushing. I am breathing. I don’t know if my baby is coming down. Emme asks me to feel if there is a baby’s head crowing yet. I’m surprised by this question – so soon? I don’t feel anything. Not long later (one contraction?) Emme asks me to feel again. I feel a baby there!
Somebody points out that my water hasn’t broken. Emme asks if I felt the caul (the sack) over my baby’s head. I have no idea. I’ve felt one or two baby heads as they’ve emerged (not mine), and the water had always broken first. I don’t know what a caul feels like. At that moment, as if on queue, my water breaks. Everyone watching oooohs and awes at the sight of a cloud of vernix in the water. It’s 8:20 am.
At 8:21 I keep breathing and try to keep my body moving as gently as possible. I feel with my hand again and this time feel Darth’s head. It’s soft like a newborn’s head is when you kiss it. It’s so familiar. It’s so – baby.
At 8:23 I’m talking to Darth, “Gentle, gentle, gentle baby. Soft. Come down, baby. Gentle.” We gently move through each contraction. When I feel overcome, Sarah and Clare give me my words.
Breathe – gently, now.
We take our time. I do not rush. I feel so much pressure. My voice swings from low to high as the pressure builds. Emme asks me if she’d like her to check for a cord around Darth’s neck. I say yes. She tells me that after that, it’s all me, because I’m catching my baby.
At 8:30, another contraction comes, and I try to stay soft and peaceful. Someone says his head is out. I reach down and feel his head, his hair, his face, and his ear. My baby! Oh, my baby. There is really a baby there!
In that one moment, I recall every wiggle and kick of the months leading up to this. I know this baby. I cannot wait to hold him.
I don’t feel another contraction, and I say, “I can’t get it out.”
That’s right, I called Darth “it.” In three pregnancies, we were adamant about not referring to our baby as “it.” We always uses human pronouns. But here in this profound moment, I say, “I can’t get it out.”
Emme asks me to lean forward. I do. I push, and without thinking about any of this, I reach down and catch my baby. I feel his body, and I lift him up to me. I sit back, and our baby is between Andrew and me.
I look at his pudgy, scrunched up face and am completely overcome with love.
The next few moments take only seconds or minutes, but they feel like hours to me in my mind. Someone asks if we have a boy or a girl, I move a leg aside and see. I loudly proclaim, “It’s WAAAALLTTTER!”
Okay, so I totally stole Andrew’s moment. With each of our kids’ births, it’s been Andrew’s wish to announce the sex of our baby. The moments never played out like we planned, but their follies are the best memories of our babies’ births. With Bel, if you recall, he stood there in stunned silence and after several moments of silence, the nurse finally announced her sex. With Frank, he couldn’t decide if he wanted to say, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s Frank!” Instead, the memory of his awesome announcement of “It’s a Frank!” still makes us smile. And this time, well, I goofed it up and announced it myself. Andrew says he doesn’t care, and I know he doesn’t. I still feel bad, though. I got to birth Walt and hold him in his first seconds. And I stole the one thing Andrew had!
Soon Bel and Frank are there, too. We are all blissed looking at our newest Feyder. He doesn’t really open his eyes and won’t until the next day. He was a bit puffy from the birth. I still recognize his face, though, as if I’d always known it.
We get out of the tub and cuddle up on the mattress on the floor. The sun is shining through the window now, and we admire Walter. He’s nursing by 8:50 am, and Andrew holds him for the first time at 9:30 am. We relish calling everyone with the news. I loved calling my boss. Everyone at work had to know already, though, since Anna, Emily A, and I all work together and none of us came in to the office that morning. I also loved with Anna called our friend Rachel who lives in Maryland. I felt like she was there with us.
Emme and Clare continue to check on Walter and me throughout the morning. My blood pressure was a little high, which is apparently my norm for the end of pregnancy and birth. Other than that, we get stellar reviews. Soon, everyone goes home, and it’s just the Feyder Five cuddled up in our home. What an amazing day.
Happy birthday, dear Walter.
May 10th, 2010
8 lbs 6 oz
14 inch head circumference