(Started Friday 7/29/16)
He’s here! Our sweet, cherished, much-loved, and hard-earned son Sayer Augustus arrived on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 6:03 a.m after over 30 hours of labor. He weighed 7 lbs., 13.2 oz., was 20.5″ long, and has a head full of brown hair. (So much hair!) We think his eyes are blue, but it’s really hard to tell yet. He looks a whole lot like his brother Silas did at birth, which is a first for us – his six older siblings all look very different from one another. It’s fun to compare Silas & Sayer’s pictures and see how much they look alike. Sayer’s hair is darker and fuller, and his eyes are lighter – but otherwise, they are carbon copies so far!
He is currently two days old and doing very well. My mother-in-law has been taking care of my family since Tuesday evening and has been an enormous blessing (as she always is). She is leaving tomorrow (sniff). My older daughters have also been indispensable and more helpful than I ever imagined. They are wonderful kids! This morning was hard, as Sayer was just plain hungry. So he cried and cried and refused to latch after a while. But by this afternoon, I finally coaxed him to nurse again, and he realized the good stuff is coming. And how he’s sleeping and eating peacefully again. I am loving and soaking up these first precious days with him – oh, how quickly it’s over. He will be enormous before I can blink, and life will be a blur of family and homeschooling and homekeeping, and I will long for these days. So I’m trying my best to sit back and just stare at him as I recover from his marathon birth.
I am still processing many details of his birth. I think I’m going to try to give a basic overview, and perhaps I will add to it as time goes on. Some details are very difficult/personal and may never be shared here, but if you are a loved one, feel free to engage me in conversation. I love each one of my birth stories and am an advocate for informed birth, and as such, I enjoy talking with people about it. I have had two hospital births, one freestanding birth center birth, and four homebirths, and each has taught me something. Writing them down helps me sort, file, & remember. But this birth was very hard, and I don’t think I’m even ready to write some things down yet.
Last Wednesday, at 38 weeks even, I was barely 2 cm dilated, 70% effaced, and cervix posterior. This was discouraging news for me, as I am always more progressed at 38 weeks. Like many grand multiparas, I had been having prodromal labor, regular & irregular contractions, etc. for a couple of weeks. Usually, this progresses me far enough that when labor actually decides to go full force, it’s not too long before the baby’s here. This time, I was concerned that labor would be either a long way off, or a very long one, as it seemed like my body was working but things weren’t progressing. My instincts were correct.
Labor began Monday night (38 weeks, 5 days). I started having regular contractions that felt like early labor in the evening, and when I went to bed, I would barely drift off to sleep before a contraction would wake me up. By 2 a.m., I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, so I started tracking labor on my phone. Contractions were regular and timeable (10-12 min apart, 60-90 sec long) and lasted all night. I woke my husband up at some point (I think around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning?) and told him what was going on. I was starting to deal with some serious anxiety about this labor – it wasn’t picking up and I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid that once things finally got serious, I’d have no energy left to push. Sleep deprivation makes things so much harder. Anxiety feeds the fear-pain-tension cycle. As someone who has had five beautiful, unmedicated, out-of-hospital births, I knew that this anxiety was not normal for me and was very much working against me. I talked with our midwife, Hannah, and she was very encouraging and had some great advice. I told her we’d let her know when we needed her, but I knew things were going very slowly and it would be a while.
We tried several things throughout the day Tuesday (38 weeks, 6 days). Labor paused a couple of times for an hour or so, but always picked back up. I tried lavender epsom salt baths, a glass of wine, napping, etc – but the labor persisted. I wanted labor to pause so I could rest and finish with the energy and strength I knew I’d need, but it was not to be. Eventually, the contractions got closer together. By midnight Tuesday (which I guess is actually Wednesday?) they were 5-7 min apart and feeling slightly stronger. I had been in labor over 24 hours and was looking at a second night without any sleep – and I was completely spent. I tried very hard to get some sleep, but labor just kept on coming. Persistent, hard work, but not getting stronger. I was completely and utterly exhausted. My body and mind were spent, and my spirit was having trouble dragging them along.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we decided to go to the hospital for an epidural. I knew that I needed labor to either pick up and finish or stop – I needed rest. There was no way I was going to be able to push out the baby after essentially being awake since Monday morning. I knew that an epidural would give me a chance to rest. I hoped that labor would then progress, as well. We prayed and talked for many hours and had complete peace over this decision. Hannah was very supportive of whatever we decided.
On a clear, beautiful, starry morning, we were admitted to labor & delivery. I was now 39 weeks even. After over 24 hours of labor, I was still only 4-5 cm, 90% effaced, and cervix still somewhat posterior! (This from the woman who has had two labors start-to-finish in 1.5 hrs or less!) Baby’s head was high. I just needed to rest. I had an epidural at 3 a.m., and rested until I was ready to push.
I felt the urge to push after a couple of hours. I didn’t know how pushing would go with an epidural – the last one I had was 13 years ago, and it was my first birth. A lifetime ago. Turns out, whether because of the epidural or because of his position or because I was totally exhausted, pushing was much harder this time. I worked really hard. It was still only 10 minutes, but my last five babies were pushed out in 5 minutes or less. I started on hands and knees, but it wasn’t working for me, so I asked for the squatting bar. Even with the epidural, I was able to use the bar with the end of the bed dropped and push in a squat (with nurses helping me get there!). Sayer was born at 6:03 a.m. – after 30 hours of labor over three days – with a lump on his head from bad presentation – AND a nuchal hand (hand by his face). No wonder it took so long. No wonder things never progressed. His head was poorly positioned and labor was working against me until the very end.
The nurses and staff at the hospital were largely wonderful, helpful, and encouraging. Many were fascinated by my birth history and asked me lots of questions. I was treated well, with respect, and the post-birth care was exactly how I wanted it – the baby was not taken from me without my consent, ever. The cord was left alone until it was done pulsing. We had an hour of skin-to-skin before a nurse came to weight & measure him – and she didn’t do any of the things I declined (no bath, no shots or eye ointment). We were able to leave after 24 hours to come home to our family.
There are things that were hard, and things that I regret. I was so completely exhausted that I was not able to be my own best advocate, and in dealing with the hospital midwife I was given, I consented to choices I regret. Overall, the choice to go to the hospital was one I would make again in a heartbeat. But I would make sure to have a clear-headed, well-rested advocate with me! If I ever were to plan a hospital birth, I would make sure to have a doula. Obviously, this hospital birth was not planned, so things went differently. In the end, Sayer is healthy, and I was able to push him out, and those things are priceless to me.
I think this is the type of birth that will take months, if not years, to truly process. I keep remembering things – facts, emotions, hazy memories – and piecing it all together. I second guess decisions we made, mourn the homebirth I didn’t get to have, and deal with huge feelings that I didn’t know were there. Simultaneously, I’m filled with gratefulness, joy at a healthy baby, confirmation and peace at most decisions we made. Throw in post partum hormones and I’m bit of a gigantic roller coaster mess right now. And that’s okay. I have a great family – truly the best husband & children a woman could ever want – and my sweet baby is like a healing balm all by himself.