My water broke with a gush. I was sitting on the couch with my knees curled up under me, when suddenly a huge contraction came. Right at the height of it, I felt a pop and the water started flowing. My previous experiences with water breaking were trickles to streams, but never a gush. I wasn’t expecting it. I hadn’t been having contractions that night. I looked over at my husband and said, “Wet,” in a small voice. It was all I could think of to say. I got off the couch and headed to the bathroom as fast as my sore hips would allow. By the time I got across the room to the bathroom, my pants were soaked. I sat on the toilet and let the water drain and drain.
I’d been having contractions from about 20 weeks that were very cervical and very intense. I was just having normal toning contractions, but they started intense and only got more so as the pregnancy progressed. Sometime in late March or early April my hips started to hurt constantly. By May I could barely walk. So when my water broke on May 7th, even though I was only 38 weeks pregnant, I was more than ready to meet my baby.
During my third birth, once my water broke, things progressed quickly to birth. We expected this one to do the same. Chris suggested we take a shower. We were in high spirits. The past few weeks had been hard on the whole family and we were eager to meet our baby.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go quite the way we expect. We went to bed that night without sign of any more contractions. That night was awful. I must have started having contractions that were rousing me, but only to the point of not being able to tell if I was awake or dreaming. It was a swirl of pain and nightmare. Maddie’s favorite video game at the time was Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. I dreamt that they were attacking me, swarms of Lilliputian Pirate-Legos, hurting me. When morning finally came, I wasn’t rested at all.
The next day, Tuesday, we hung around the house doing not much of anything. Tuesday night was another really bad night of half-dreams and pain. Wednesday morning, I asked Chris to move one of our mattresses into the living room. I don’t know why, but in my half-labor, sleep deprived state I decided that all of the torment was because I was trying to sleep in our basement bedroom. I figured if I slept upstairs, everything would be okay. Wednesday afternoon we went fishing. I really wanted to be outside in the fresh air. We had a good time. I was still gushing fluid periodically, and right as we left I overflowed the adult diaper I was wearing and my pants got soaked. Other than that, and a few contractions on the ride home, it was uneventful.
About once a day (and then again at night) I was having a set of contractions that were very regular, would last for a couple hours and then go away. Each subsequent set would be closer and stronger than the previous set, but they didn’t change within the set. Interestingly, I found that if I concentrated during a contraction, I could “feel” how dilated I was. I never confirmed this with any internal exams, so I don’t know how accurate it was, but Wednesday I guessed myself at about 5cm.
Wednesday night was better. I had contractions that woke me, but they weren’t mixed in with dreams of tormenting Lego-demons, so it was a much better night. Sleeping in the living room seemed to help, and I woke up at least semi-rested.
Thursday I took the kids to our homeschool soccer club. It was the first time since my waters had broken that I had seen anyone other than my family. It was so good to hang out with other moms, commiserate about how much the end of pregnancy sucks, and just relax. I had started to go a little nuts. Days felt like years, and it seemed this baby would never come. Each new set of contractions would get my hopes up, only to end with no sign of baby.
Friday I went to a La Leche League meeting. Contractions started there and continued while a friend and I took the kids to a playground for a bit after the meeting. I guessed myself at a solid 7 cm at this point and was feeling hopeful that this might be “it.” Chris called, and we decided to go out to lunch at Chili’s. Contractions continued, and seemed to be strengthening. We ordered and ate. I couldn’t eat during contractions now, and noticed that my arms were shaking, even between the pains. I also noticed more than one server looking at me a little funny. When I wanted to start moaning with the contractions, even in the middle of the restaurant, I figured we’d better get home. We paid, and brought our half-eaten food with us.
By the time we reached the car, though, I knew it was over. That bout of contractions was done. I nearly lost my mind at that point; I was so frustrated and disappointed. I spent a large chunk of that evening whining to my fellow midwifery students but getting some much-needed support in return.
Saturday we decided to take the kids fishing again. But before we could leave, around noon, the next set of contractions began. We slowly started to get ready to go, but at about one, my husband knew it was time. He told the kids we weren’t going fishing. They were so disappointed! I had to try to explain to them that I was having contractions and that the baby might be coming, but that if the contractions stopped, we would still go fishing. Emily thought that this would be a good time to give momma some alone time, and couldn’t they go fishing without me? We let them watch a movie in their room instead.
At this point I was lying down on our upstairs mattress, but now I wanted to be up and moving. I sat up on the chaise couch, with a chair in front of me. I would stand and hold the chair, swaying my hips, head tilted towards the ceiling, and relaxing to the best of my ability. Chris brought me Gatorade and I drank it, and then threw it up. I got out of my clothes and wrapped myself in a blanket. Shannon (the same lovely Shannon from Emily’s birth story!) called so that I would have her number on my caller ID if I needed it. I’m sure she knew right away that it was time- I could barely form a sentence and so we didn’t stay on long. But I did not know it was time. I was still sure it would stop.
I started alternating between the chaise and laboring on the toilet, taking a few contractions in each place, then making the short walk to the other. I couldn’t find any comfortable position or pattern of behaviors that helped. With Lauren’s birth, I’d managed to fall into a contraction ritual naturally. This time, nothing seemed helpful. The kids were coming in and out occasionally, but it wasn’t until about three o’clock that it bothered me. I remember it was three because all of a sudden my contractions stopped. Again. But this time I was glad. I was ready for the break, to let this part of labor be over and do the rest another time. I came fully back into my head, out of the fog of labor. But the contractions didn’t stop. Not fully. They spaced way out, and didn’t hurt anymore. I remember wishing I could push through them, but not feeling any urge, I didn’t.
This went on for an hour, maybe a little more. I was in the bathroom now, for most of it. My husband was on a chair (he set it over the bathtub edge, half in and half out) and I was supporting myself with my arms over his knees. I was frustrated. I was feeling watched. I wanted labor to stop. I wanted Chris to call my friend Laura to watch the kids, so I could have the baby. I didn’t know what I wanted, but it wasn’t this. If the contractions were going to stop, why didn’t they just STOP? I didn’t want to keep feeling this way, stuck in this half-labor. I decided to try resting on the bed, the way I had been when these contractions started. I wanted to rest, to sleep.
The very next contraction felt like I was ripping in half. Suddenly this contraction was reaching peaks not hit before in this labor. I felt like I was trying to crawl out of my skin. My low-pitched vocalizing became high-pitched muffled screams. I was suddenly acutely aware of my children in the next room, and they were acutely aware of me. Over the next few contractions, Emily asked several times if I was dying. She didn’t sound worried. She asked it in the same sort of way one might ask what was for supper. We tried to reassure her, but she didn’t seem to need or want reassurance. She just seemed to need the information so she could plan the rest of her day. Maddie kept trying to look between my legs, as if the baby might sneak out without her knowing.
These contractions were still fairly far apart, long enough to let me recover and then fully dread the next one. It only took two or three before I was ready to go to the hospital. I was scheming all of the ways I could talk Chris into taking me there, when Emily asked if we were going to use the birth pool downstairs. It was already set up from when I soaked in it earlier in the week. I had planned a land birth, upstairs, but I figured I might as well. At least then I could say I tried everything when I gave in and went to the hospital. So we all piled downstairs, then Chris sent the girls right back upstairs to watch My Little Pony.
Chris immediately started filling the pool, while I pondered the enormity of what I had just committed to. If we were going to fill the pool, use all that water, spend all that time, I was going to have to labor down here for AT LEAST another hour before I would be able to talk him into taking me to the hospital. An hour seemed like ages. I didn’t know if I could make it. But I knew that I had to do something. I needed a contraction ritual to keep me going. Those words kept playing over and over in my mind. Contraction ritual. Contraction ritual. The only one I could think of was the one that had helped with Lauren’s birth. So as the next contraction started (we had managed to get downstairs and get the pool filling in the space between contractions!) I set my mind to getting through. I moaned lowly and circled my hips, back and forth, back and forth. As the contraction ebbed, I was elated. It worked! It wasn’t fun, but I did it. Maybe I could do this.
The pool was still filling, and I heard the air hissing out. But unlike with Lauren’s birth, this time we found the hole. Chris patched it with packing tape as best as he could and we were just praying it would hold for a little while.
I got through the second downstairs contraction the same as the first. I didn’t want to do this, but I could get through a few more. But then I was done. Only a few more.
After the second contraction, the water from the hose was cold. Chris went to turn it off, and the third contraction started. I went into my ritual and was doing okay, but then it peaked. Pain ripped through me, from my pubic bone to my chest. I flung myself on my side in the water and shouted to Chris, “This pain! It isn’t normal! You have to get me to the hospital!” Inside, I was thinking, “I ruptured! I’m dying! I’m dying!” All the while I’m in the midst of this awful contraction that will not end. Suddenly I feel my belly convulse and I’m feeling pain lower. Ring of fire? YES! I know what this means! So I shout to Chris, “She’s coming!” That’s how I remember it. In slow motion. Lots of space. It all happened really quickly though, so what it sounded like to him was, “You have to get me to the hospital she’s coming catch!” I don’t remember adding the “Catch!” part, but he swears I said it. I rolled over onto my back, Chris makes it from across the room, and he says to me, “The head is out! Keep going!” Still in the midst of this one crazy contraction, my body is pushing- it felt like vomiting, actually- this baby out of me. I can feel all of the bones, but they feel like bones in a bag of jelly, all disarticulated and random, catching, flowing, ebbing, rushing. Then I feel empty, and the contraction is over, and I open my eyes to see Chris with a floppy, purple baby! And then things really get chaotic! “Give her to me!” “Is it a girl?” “I don’t know, I didn’t check” “Call the girls down” “What time is it?” “Yes it’s a girl” “4:55” “Let me double check” “Yes, it’s really a girl” “Where’s the camera?” “Girls, meet your new sister”
(Note: During all of this, the baby turned nicely pink, breathed a few times, and cried once, all within the first 20 seconds or so. She continued to breathe beautifully. The floppy and purple baby was only my very first thoughts of the initial sight of her. She looked like a totally normal, just born baby. And she made a quick, easy transition without any help whatsoever. We were watching carefully. So, no worries, okay?)
I felt something squishy, and thought it was the placenta, so I grabbed it and handed it to Chris. Only it wasn’t the placenta, it was a gigantic blood clot, the size of a dinner plate. He looked confused, then a bit disgusted, and then calmly deposited it into the toilet. Is he awesome or what? The placenta came right after and we put it into the placenta bowl, and just let it float there in the water.
Chris suggested we name her Chloe Charlotte right there. I wasn’t ready to make a big decision like that right then, though, and asked if we could sleep on it. I just wanted to rest. Chris and I just looked at each other and said together, “It’s OVER!” Sigh of enormous relief.
I could only rest for a few moments though, because the air was still leaking out of the pool, and it looked like it might collapse at any moment. We also realized it was flipping FREEZING in our basement, because we hadn’t planned to birth there and we’d still only been down there for less than 20 minutes at this point and now we had a wet, tiny newborn. I’m not sure how we managed to get me and the baby and the placenta out of the pool and onto the downstairs mattress, but we did, and, after getting us blanketed and setting up a space heater, Chris started draining the water, so it wouldn’t spill and flood our basement.
We started making calls and spreading the good news, starting with Shannon, of course! After a little bit of recovery time downstairs, and the first nursing, I realized I was probably bleeding on our bedsheets, and handed the baby to Chris. Maddie helped me get cleaned up a bit, then we all went upstairs, snuggled skin to skin and ate pizza! Yep, we had a pizza party. It was awesome! A new baby on my chest and pizza, in my cozy chair at home. What could be better?
Later, after we put the girls to bed, we weighed and measured our new babe. We weighed her in a blanket-lined casserole dish on top of my postage scale. It was so cute! I totally forgot to take a picture though. While we were weighing her, I accidentally knocked the placenta bowl off of the counter and it fell to the floor. Fortunately she had a long cord, and wasn’t hurt, but we decided it would be a good idea to cut the cord. It was after one in the morning and had been eight hours since she was born. Somehow, the cord cutting seems to really complete the birth for me. There she was, all 8 lbs, 2oz and 19.5 inches of our new little Chloe Charlotte, fully and completely born. It was over! She is here!