Little Poppet Popped Out

They say that right before you go into labour your nesting instinct might kick into overdrive. This was definitely the case for me. But it didn't set off any red flags at the time. So the story of Little Poppet's birth begins with a feverish desire to "nest".  I decided on Friday the 13th that all of our clothes needed to be organized before Baby's due date, 11 days away.  I had our winter and summer clothes in giant piles in the middle of the living room, and I was sorting everything and putting it away. 

I recall that I began feeling the effects of a migraine around 7:00pm.  I've only had a handful of migraines in my life, and all but one occurred while I was pregnant.  They all start the same way; flashes and zigzags of light and blind spots, followed by stroke-like symptoms and finally exhaustion and a headache.

Husband sent me to bed with a Tylenol at 7:30.  He snuggled in beside me and played an online game.  I felt a 'pop' and woke up around 8:10.  I turned to Husband and told him my water broke.  I stood up next to the bed (where I'd put some towels a week prior in preparation of my water possibly breaking in bed--score one for me!), and wrapped my lower half in a big towel diaper.  I made my way to the bathroom. I was in complete shock, as Little Poppet wasn't due for another 10 days. 

I sat on the toilet and the water continued trickling in a steady stream, and would for the next hour.  I talked excitedly through the door to Husband who began to scramble in a panic.  "What do we do?!  Do we call the midwife?!"  I couldn't remember!  Were we allowed to call when my water broke or did we have to wait until I had contractions too?  Or bloody show?  When I was pondering this outloud, there it was--bloody show.  It was gross.  Do yourself a favour and refrain from google image searching that one.  Anyway, Husband started asking me a million questions outside the bathroom door.  I had to keep him calm and told him to go get the birth binder with instructions on When to Call the Midwife.  Sure enough, 'water breaking' was one of those reasons we should call.  So here we go! 

I had decided a long time ago that I wanted to labour at home, and birth in the hospital.  We live in a tiny 500 square foot apartment and it's quite cramped.  Plus, Husband was terrified of me birthing at home.  So my labour had started, and everyone had told me I had many hours of labour ahead of me.  So I tried to relax, but I kept thinking about that stupid pile of laundry in the middle of the floor.  How could I labour in a messy apartment?  And I wanted to vaccuum.  And the airconditioner hadn't been moved out of the window yet!  And the dishes weren't done.  And .. and .. and.... I thought I had more time!  I talked to the midwife, who told me to GO TO SLEEP and call her when my contractions had started.  I decided I'd do just a little more nesting until 10:30.  Then I'd go to bed.  After all, I felt fine!

At 10:00 the contractions started slowly.  I called the midwife, who asked to listen to a few of my contractions over the phone, and she could hear I was managing them just fine.  She ordered me to bed again when I told her I just wanted to do 30 minutes more housework.  So I reluctantly went to bed.  Well, TECHNICALLY I was IN bed.  I lay there with the lamp on and talked my husband through all the rest of the housework.  I don't know how anyone could sleep through that sort of pain and excitement anyway.  Husband came to bed at 10:30 and fell fast asleep.  I got out of bed at 10:30 and decided to try some comfort measures to manage my pain.

I was ready!  I had a birth ball, a long scarf tied over the doorframe, and planned on trying a warm bath too. I'd heard from a doula who taught our birth classes, that women who were able to manage their labour pain best did so because they'd mastered the three Rs (rhythm, repetition, and relaxation).  Some women stamp their feet.  Some women moan or chant.  Some women rock.  I had prepared myself for all sorts of options, but I didn't know what my body would decide to do.

I laboured by myself until about 11:30 while Husband slept.  I took a warm bath, which I hated during contractions, but it was wonderful between contractions.  I really thought I'd love the bath, but I really didn't.  All I could feel was the hard ceramic, and I couldn't get comfortable.  I did hip circles on the birth ball instead during this early labour time and it felt fantastic.  I tried bouncing out a rhythm but that still wasn't quite right.  I was starting to feel the pain more severely now.  I woke up Husband who helped me pace.  I felt hot, and reached for a Japense sensu fan I'd packed in my hospital bag.  

The pacing felt good.  I started counting my steps during contractions and fanning myself as fast as I could.  I counted each fanning motion; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7... For each contraction I counted and counted and counted.  I closed my eyes and concentrated on the counting.  I started to relax and lose myself in the rhythm of my pacing, fanning and counting.  I'd found my rhythm.  I'd found my repetition.  I was in the zone.  I closed my eyes and they only popped open a handful of times over the next few hours.  I wore a small path into our rug as I paced between the front door to our apartment and the bed.  I was moaning now, which felt good.  A few times I opened my eyes to see our sweet cat Purrsephone with the most upset and long face I'd ever seen on her.  I told Husband to pat her and tell her everything was OK.  Husband let her outside to the patio, and she disappeared for a few minutes.  When she returned she had a peanut shell in her mouth and she laid it at my feet.  She was trying her hardest to make the situation better, the only way she knew how--peanut shells.  Peanut shells to Purrsephone are just about the most magical and amazing creation on this earth.  I thanked my little house cat for her gift and continued my concentrated pacing.

Husband called my mother and father at 3am so my mum could make the 5 hour drive north and be there for the birth.  We figured we'd done the math right.  We didn't want to call her too soon because I needed to labour in as much peace and quiet as possible, with as few spectators as possible.

Oh and let's talk about those contractions now.  I felt so much pain and I felt psychologically weak and vulnerable. I remember taking a break from my pacing and opening my eyes.  At a weak point I looked at Husband and said, "I understand why women want epidurals.  I'm not saying I want one, but I understand".  My sweet sweet husband said, "just take them one contraction at a time.  You're OK once the contraction is over, right?"  I nodded.  "Just take them one at a time.  You're doing great!"  When he heard me struggling with another one, he said, "Breathe down to our baby.  Nice.  Slow.  Breaths."

I paced for so long with my eyes closed I don't even know how I managed not to run into anything.  The pacing and fanning helped so much with the pain that I actually began to feel worried that I'd somehow slowed my progression or stalled my labour.  Pacing for hours and fanning myself couldn't possibly be working that well.  The midwife assessed me over the phone every hour or so until she finally decided to come over when it was about 5am.  I lay on the bed between contractions to try to rest, and would stand up and begin my pacing when a contraction would begin.  She watched me pace through a few contractions and decided to check me. I was prepared to be disheartened, because I was so sure that I wasn't progressing.  But I was!  I was 5cm at the time.  We'd previously agreed to go to the hospital (7 min drive away) at around 6cm.  The midwife told me that I was doing so well at home with coping, so we put it off until I was ready. 

I breathed so well and so deeply--deep deep down to my baby--whenever I felt intense pain, and continued pacing and fanning.  The midwife grew concerned and said that I should really try to stay in bed for my contractions or this pacing would exhaust me.  She said I should be progressing about a 1/2 cm every hour, so I should really try to lie down and conserve my energy.   

I looked at the bed nervously.  She said the first two or three contractions lying down would feel the worst, but it would get better.  She wasn't kidding!  Lying down was by far the most painful part of my labour.  My whole body wanted to pace, and instead I was lying on my side.  Stationary.  Caged.  Shit got real.  I was no longer fanning myself with each contraction; I was just beating the fan against the headboard and screaming.  I tried so hard to relax my face, but the pain was overwhelming.  Poor Husband tried to take the fan away from me to help me, since it wasn't even open and acting as a fan anymore.  I just about lost it completely, screaming "No NO NO NO NO!" and held onto it for dear life.  He didn't understand that it still keeping the rhythm for me.  I NEEDED that fan. 

An hour later--around 6am--the midwife decided to check me again.  I threw up a little when she did so, but to everyone's shock I had already progressed to 8cm! The midwife told me that I could stay at home if I was comfortable and give birth there, because she had everything she needed.  Or I could go to the hospital when I was ready.  I looked at Husband, who looked horrified.  He looked terrified that I was going to ask to stay where I was.  I looked him in the eyes and told him I was ready to go. 

As we were walking out of the apartment building, I said to him, "I will go to the hospital, provided that you pull the car over and let me pace and fan myself with each contraction again.  I am NOT sitting in the car for a contraction.  Lying down was awful enough".  He reluctantly agreed.  I wore my PJs and slippers out the door and into the car.  We had to stop 3 times on the road in the middle of the night so I could get out of the car and pace.  So there I was; my big pregnant PJ-clad self hopping in and out of the car into the streets of our small town, fanning myself, and moaning loudly.  Drunk people were still walking home from the bars, but no one even noticed me.  

I knew I'd entered active labour by this time because I had to count between 18 and 26 steps before the contraction would end.  And I could feel another change.  My body was already starting to push on its own with each contraction.  I'd step out of the car, and feel my body push.  But don't worry... I knew I still had time.  
We arrived at the hospital and Husband made a few failed attempts at pulling into the emergency parking lot.  "No, Sweety, it's there, pull in there.." I said and pointed.  He was frantic, "Where am I going?!  Where is it?!" I held back my giggles because he was so upset.  He pulled into the correct entrance on the third try and I went up to L&D where the midwife met me in the elevator.  I remember her saying, "you're in transition now" and I thought, what?  But I'm not feeling out of control and crazy!!  I felt so calm and happy because I was able to walk again, and fan.  I was going to meet my baby soon.  So soon.  This was it!  

We went into the delivery room where she had all the lights dimmed and ready for me.  My second midwife was already there.  I ripped off my pj bottoms and undies and my midwife had me lie down and turn onto my side (oh no!  not again!) and she checked me.  I was 9.5cm and I desperately needed to push.  She said I only had a tiny bit of a lip left, which she helped to massage out of the way during my next contraction.  My desire to push was intense, and I had to.  I was losing control of my body.  I was just along for the ride.  She told me to go for it and it felt so good.  After a couple pushes I didn't feel I was making any progress, so I got on my hands and knees on the bed and ripped off my shirt.  

The sweat poured off of me, but I felt in control again.  My pushing was intense and it felt fantastic.  It felt so much better than the early labour contractions.  It felt better than the birth ball.  It felt better than the bathtub.  It even felt better than the pacing and the fan. I can't describe it except to say that I was a power house.  A warrior, and my body completely took over and forced that baby down.  I was screaming gutteral screams and they felt great.  Husband had the fan now and he was fanning me while I held myself up on my fists.  

After a few more pushes I was asked to get up and try to use the washroom in case my full bladder was preventing baby from descending.  I made my midwife promise that I wouldn't have a toilet baby.  So I went in there, had a few contractions on the toilet which I did not like (my pelvis didn't feel low enough), emptied my bladder, and went back to the bed on all fours.  I felt like a silverback gorilla, with my fists on the bed, and my thighs spread wide.  The midwife had to keep asking me to raise my bum cause I was squatted so low.

There were two of me.  My conscious mind would begin each push, and this powerhouse primal being would take over and finish the push, deep deep deep down inside me, using muscles I didn't even know I had.  I could literally hear my voice change midway through each push when the gorilla took over.  My arms were starting to get tired.  Between contractions I lay my head on the bed which was raised.  A few times some random hospital staff came in to get bloodwork done, etc.  With my bare ass in the air, vagina on display, and my face squished against the back of the bed, I politely greeted them with a sweet, "hello" and "nice to meet you".  It didn't occur to me how absurd the situation was until I heard my midwives giggling.  

With the next contraction I felt the dreaded "ring of fire", and this was probably the toughest part of my labour.  I do distinctly remember thinking that the pain wasn't all that bad though.  It was the toughest part of my labour mentally by far.  Remember that gorilla woman who was now in control of my pushing?  I had to rein her in now.  I had to contain the intense urge to force that baby out or risk tearing right up to my chin.  I had to contain that primal other self that had taken over.  The pushing needed to be completely controlled.  I managed to give slow very very gentle pushes, while my midwife held a warm cloth to my perineum and guided me.  I shook and heard myself whimpering with the mental exhaustion of trying to contain that tidal wave.  I'll never forget the sound of the shaking whimpers coming from my throat.  My teeth chattered.  I spread myself thinner than I've ever had to.  I felt like a shaking leaf caught in a hurricane.  I don't remember how many pushes it took to get her head out because it took all of my concentration.  But between contractions I relaxed.  

The sun was coming up now, and I remember peering through my legs and thinking the fall trees looked so lovely. The sun cast a firey orange light that burned up the edge of the forest. The next three pushes got my baby's head over my pelvic bone.  The head would crown, and go back in.  Then crown a little more, and go back in again.  Each time I pushed, there was a little more progress.  My midwives told me to reach down and feel my baby.  What?  My baby?  I felt carefully between my legs and discovered this big ball of beautiful baby hair and was instantly overjoyed.  Scratch that.  I felt slippery gooey hair all over the place and couldn't tell soft baby skull from vagina.  I placed my hand on what I thought was the baby's head, and said, "Is this it? 'Cause I can't tell!  Everything kinda feels the same."  So, once I was assured that what I was feeling was my baby's crown, then I felt instant joy.  

It had been close to 40 minutes now since I'd arrived at the hospital.  It was so calm and peaceful in the room between contractions.  My midwives spoke in soft hushed voices.  I asked Husband what he could see.  I closed my eyes and rest my head on the bed, still on all fours.  Then I felt a strange vibration deep in my birth canal, and heard the two midwives gasp and laugh and exclaim, "Oh my god!  Listen to that!  Look at that!"  I said, "What?  What's going on?!"  I felt a slight twinge of panic, despite the fact that my midwives seemed happily surprised.  "Your baby is crying" I was told.  My baby was vocalizing and didn't even have its head fully out of my birth canal!  Its chin was apparently still in there, and my Little Poppet was trying to cry and complain already!  I could feel my baby's lungs... throat, back, and whole body vibrating with each cry.  It was so sweet, and sounded so angry!  Everyone started laughing.  My midwives said it was quite unusual, but I just needed one more little push and the head would be out.  I gave a tiny push.  The rest of my little one came out with one final push, and was put on my chest for skin to skin immediately.  Little Poppet was the most beautiful and delicate creature in this world I'd ever laid eyes on. Instant love.  Husband and I looked in wonder at this perfect tiny little thing, screaming its head off.  It took a long time before I realised that neither of us knew the sex.  I looked at DH and said, "well? ..... what is it?"  The midwife showed him and he looked at me and said, "it's a girl".  We were both shocked.  A girl?  A GIRL!  We have a daughter. "Really?" I asked. The midwife beamed up at me as she rubbed Little Poppet with a towel, "yes". 

I thought I'd cry when my daughter was born.  I thought my husband would cry.  Instead, we all laughed and grinned from ear to ear.  Little Poppet cried for all of us.  Husband told me later that he didn't care even the slightest bit if our baby was a girl or boy.  Our baby was just so perfect.  It didn't matter what her name was, what her sex was, nothing.  She was here.  She was perfect.  She was ours, and we were hers.  With our entire hearts we were hers.

She complained and cried for nearly an hour.  I got about 2 hours of uninterrupted skin to skin time with her.  She had delayed cord clamping, and got all her shots and goodies done right on my chest.  I delivered the placenta with her there, but I'd needed a shot of pitocin in the thigh to do so.  She didn't need to leave me for a second.  Her goopy wet eyes squinted up at me and she cried and stared the whole time.  I could do nothing but kiss her and smile.  She looked nothing like me, and I kept asking her quietly, "Who are you, little girl?"  All I knew is that she was the most precious thing in the world, and I would protect her.

My mum arrived at 8:30--an hour and a half after Little Poppet was born (oops! I guess we didn't time it right).  She said that her greatest memory was walking into the room and seeing her daughter, naked in bed, holding her new baby and looking so peaceful and proud.  The midwives teased me when three hours later I was still naked as a jay bird.

My sweet little girl was finally weighed and measured around 9am after a rough and tough time trying to latch.  Her little mouth was so small she didn't do a very good job trying to nurse and she was SO frustrated.  It broke my heart to watch the midwife force her tiny face into my breast.  And she wouldn't latch and breastfeed properly until 6 weeks later, but that's another story.

They checked my tearing (I had a small tear they stitched up) and I handed Little Poppet over to Husband who got her dressed.  He then handed her to her mummi (Finnish for grandmother).  My mum held her for her first photo, and it was nearly 10 minutes before she realized she didn't even know Little Poppet's name. 

Little Poppet's first picture

The midwives made me try to urinate before I could be released.  It was really difficult--I equate it to asking your nose to run on command!  It took me nearly 25 minutes before I was finally able.  When I did, I got the all clear to go home.  This was 4 hours after birth.  I could stay if I wished, but I didn't feel any reason to.  I was completely full of adrenaline!  I felt on top of the world. Absolutely fantastic.  I still do.

I smiled so proudly as I walked past the nurses who congratulated me on my way out.  In the elevator, carrying my beautiful daughter I turned to my midwife and said jokingly, "Can I do that again?" She laughed and said that if she could be guaranteed a birth like the one I just had, she'd have a baby tomorrow.
Husband was an absolute champion.  He admitted to me later that he was terrified because I seemed to be in so much pain from my screaming and moaning. He said he felt useless and it was the hardest thing he'd ever gone through. 
I never knew he was scared.  He just kept telling me I was doing a great job, that I was strong, that I should breathe down to our baby, and that it wasn't long now.  He was the perfect partner.

My mum told me that labour pain was incredibly intense, but not the same as the pain from an injury.  I have to agree.  It was by far the worst pain of my life, but I never felt like I couldn't do it.  I just listened to my body and moved with the pain, screamed with the pain, and made it a part of the experience.  I wouldn't change a thing.