Ethan’s Birth Story

The last two months leading up to Ethan’s birth I had been having a bit of a rough time. I know that probably sounds a bit melodramatic to all of you out there, but I was just really sick of being pregnant.

I had several slightly serious cases of false alarms to the point where my sister-in-law told me that I am the queen of false labor. There were so many false alarms that if I was having contractions I didn’t even really tell anybody because I figured they would most likely be another false alarm. Sometimes I’d casually mention to Stephen that I was having contractions and he’d get excited, but it would always wind up being nothing.

I was getting sick all of the false alarms. Then there was also the heartburn, the feeling that my hips were going to fall apart due to that lovely Relaxin hormone, sciatica and back pain in general, feeling like it took a crane to turn over in bed every night, and the insomnia. I was just tired. I broke down into overwhelmed tears at least twice a week, whinning that I just didn’t want to be pregnant anymore.

Even though I was too chicken to try it with Jillian, I decided that castor oil might be worth a shot this time. Plus, since I’d had infinitely less morning sickness this time around I didn’t have the lingering tummy issues as close at hand in my memory. I asked Morgan a few details about her experience and whether the juice actually helped with the taste and all that just before Christmas. 

My original plan had been to do it on my first due date of Monday, Dec. 28, but I wound up spending the day ridding my bedroom of the mounds of baby clothes that were slowly taking over and organizing the closet in the kids’ room. Tuesday I decided to run all my last minute leftover post-Christmas errands like returning things to the mall and spending gift cards. Wednesday I had no plans. So, I got up and spent the morning eating a good breakfast, making sure I was getting plenty of hydration in preparation and playing with Jillian. 

Now, I realize that two days past the first of my three due dates (Jan. 6 and 7 were the others) is really within the normal range and due dates are averages and all that. The crunchy, no interventions unless absolutely necessary part of me was saying that I was crazy and that the baby would come when it was ready and that I needed to stick to doing the “right” thing. But I was just sick of being pregnant. Two consecutive years of my life had been spent as a baby factory. I was just done.

At 11am I put Jillian down for her nap (though she didn’t actually go to sleep until noon) and then got the bottle of castor oil out from under the sink in our bathroom. I came downstairs feeling slightly anxious, but determined to try something to get this show on the road. I figured the worse that could happen were some tummy troubles. Morgan had told me that the juice really did help with the taste and that baking soda was suggested to her to make it fizzy. Instead of trying to figure out my own fizzy concoction I just decided to go with some “natural” orange soda from Trader Joe’s instead. So, in a glass I mixed 2 tbsp castor oil, 1 individual serving size bottle of Orangina and the juice of 1 tangerine for extra orange-y-ness. I stirred the whole thing together and was slightly grossed out by the globs of oil floating on the top.

But I was determined. I was going to do this thing. So I gulped it all down as fast as I could over the sink. It actually didn’t taste much different than Orangina normally does. It was the texture that got me. Drinking thick oil is just sick. But I did it and I didn’t gag it back up like I had expected to. Then I anxiously waited for something to happen. About 3:30pm the castor oil kicked in and had the intended effect that it is supposed to have on one’s digestive system. I was in the bathroom for about 15 minutes. And then more nothing. I had a few more tummy rumblings throughout the day, but it eventually did absolutely nothing in the labor department.

I did also try walking a lot, but that usually just made my low back, hips and pelvis hurt like crazy and then I’d be glued to the couch trying to recover for the rest of the day.

The week after my next set of due dates, my midwife wanted me to call the OB I had seen up until November for an NST, just to make sure everything was still going alright with me and the baby. I was disappointed to find that the OB and I were not on the same page as far as birth was concerned. I had misinterpretted several things he said during his care and treatment to mean that he was fine with my plans to homebirth and fine with being a backup doctor for my homebirth. I learned otherwise. I still think he is a good OB, but was still disappointed to learn his true views on homebirth in the last week of my pregnancy and that he was unwilling to give me an NST for insurance liability reasons. His best suggestion for me was to head to our county hospital and get myself checked in to be induced.

As the week progressed on, I kept getting more and more worried that my body wasn’t cooperating and that I’d get too overdue for my midwife to be able to legally attend my birth.

The night of Jan. 14 I was starting to get more and more anxious because my deadline was fast approaching. So I texted my midwife and was telling her I was having a hard time with all the “what-ifs” because of the past few days. What ifs like, “What if I don’t have my baby by the end of the week?” or “What if something is wrong and that’s why I’m not going into labor?” That was about 9:18pm.

She texted back that it was highly unlikely anything was going wrong because I’d had tests and ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy to confirm as much. She reinforced my confidence in my body being designed to do this and doing it when it was ready. So I tried to stop worrying, but still slightly felt like I was going to be pregnant forever.

We watched a couple episodes of The West Wing (on DVD) and went to bed.

At 1:40am I woke up to pee. I got to the bathroom and felt a gush before I had a chance. I was kind of confused because with Jillian I felt a big bubble and then felt it pop and then felt the gush. This felt more like the fluid had just been sitting in there for awhile and came out.

So I told Stephen that I thought that maybe my water broke, but I wasn’t sure. I told him to call our midwife. He kind of ho-hummed about it. I still wasn’t having contractions.

Got back in bed and another gush. Ran back to the bathroom. Another gush. Yep, my water definitely broke.

Stephen still hadn’t called our midwife. I was kind of annoyed. I nagged, he called at 1:45am.

By about 2am I was definitely having contractions.

We started timing them.

Called the midwife again. I told Stephen to make up the bed (for a homebirth you make up the bed with two sets of sheets with a giant plastic sheet in between… you get the first set all yucky and then when you pull those and the plastic off you have a nice ready to go made bed).

I decided I wanted to take a bath. The day before in the shower I forgot to shampoo my hair and thought I might try to wash my hair too while things were still light. Except then I’d have a contraction and decide I didn’t want to afterall. I stayed in the tub until about 4am. This time the water actually did help me manage the pain for most of my labor a lot better. The key was a folded up towel on the bottom of the tub so that it wasn’t so hard to sit on.

Then I started to feel like I really did not want to be in the tub. I just had a feeling things were about to change and that I wanted out. I almost had a claustrophobic type feeling in there.

Made it to our bed. Contractions got much more intense. I didn’t scream much like last time, but I did have some issues with breathing. I started to hyperventilate a little at some point and felt all tingly all over. Stephen had to really coach me to breathe and I still wasn’t doing that great of a job. I’m pretty sure this was transition.

I know my brother-in-law came at some point during that and picked up our daughter. Stephen wanted to go talk to him, but I told Stephen that I really needed him so he didn’t. Our brother-in-law managed to find the keys to our van and everything Jillian needed on his own and get out without me basically even knowing he was there. Awesome.

Right around 5am I started feeling the need to push. Did two contractions on my side laying down like this. Then I told Stephen I needed to push. He said I didn’t, but I knew I did. After the first few pushes our midwife arrived. Pushing seemed to take forever this time, but really it was less than an hour. I guess Ethan was slightly transverse at first, but then he turned posterior. He was also much bigger than Jillian. The sliding back part after you’ve pushed during a contraction is still the part I hate the most, it is so uncomfortable.

Stephen says he’ll likely not forget the point when Ethan was crowning and I yelled, “Burn! Burn! Burn!” instead of my usual grunt. He said I sounded like a Puritan witch hunter (someone’s been reading a little too much colonial history lately, I think).

Anyway, at 5:49am he was out and up on my chest. For all the worry about being post-due Ethan was born completely covered in that lovely white cottage cheese vernix stuff. At 11 days overdue Jillian only had a couple of very small chunks. So my midwife is fairly certain he was born right on time.

So here’s a testiment to my husband’s improved Bradley Method coaching skills. Ethan weighed in this morning at a whopping 8lbs 14oz (Jillian was 7lbs 4oz), but I managed to only get one tiny little tear and that was because Ethan came out with his hand up by his cheek. Stephen helped me breath correctly and mostly stay calm through almost every single contraction. I couldn’t have done this well without him.