Out of the Nest, Into Our Arms
By: Melissa Teske
On Tuesday, September 18, 2012 I taught my last yoga class before my maternity leave. As we were pulling out of the parking lot I told you that I now had no more responsibilities and you could come whenever you were ready (Dad had been telling you this for a few days now, getting more and more excited for your arrival, so I actually said “okay, we’re really ready now”). Suddenly, a verse from a song popped into my head that I haven’t heard since my college days. We’d sing this song as friends would graduate and head off to continue their journey.
“Mmm mmm I want to linger.
Mmm mmm a little longer.
Mmm mmm a little longer here with you.”
The song is so sweet and simple. It brought tears to my eyes as I know you were telling me we would be savoring the end of our precious time together with you nestled cozily in my tummy. Although I loved being pregnant and was not one of those women who was uncomfortable and longing to be done with pregnancy, I was getting very excited for the experience of birth and to hold you in my arms.
That afternoon I had an appointment with our wonderful midwife Jan and her assistant Val. I always looked forward to my appointments because we had so much fun and I felt both supported and empowered as a woman having a natural, beautiful life experience. That day Dad was being silly as usual, teasing Jan and Val that he was going to be naked in the tub with me. After they told him an early sign of labor can be diarrhea or bloody show, he asked them if they got picture texts on their phones. You Dad also continually begged Jan to tell him the day you would arrive, pretending he was convinced she knew and kept this secret to herself. At the appointment I had lost a little weight, which we discussed was an early sign, along with being 85% effaced since about 34 weeks (normally there would be no internal check, but that week I was having enough early signs of labor we thought it would be prudent to take a peek). I was also having more and more Braxton Hicks and period like cramping. Things were happening and our anticipation grew.
That afternoon my friend and doula Jess came over with her baby Jeremiah to share with me her new aromatherapy oils she was planning to use during your birth. We told Jer that he should talk with you and tell you about how much you will like it earth side. It turns out little Jer gives great pep talks!
The next morning I awoke to bloody show and was giddy with excitement. I was sure labor would be starting any second. I didn’t want to wake Daddy yet so I lay on the couch and tried to sleep just like we learned in our natural childbirth class with Coral. However, I was too excited to sleep and finally woke your Dad around 6:30am and told him. Neither of us could rest so we puttered around the house a bit and finally called Jan around 7:30am to let her know. She said to keep her up to date throughout the day as she had 2 other mama’s possibly in pre-labor.
We decided Dad should go to work as nothing was happening. Still convinced contractions would start at any moment, I rushed around the house nesting like crazy, preparing snacks for my birth team and making a risotto so that no ingredients in the fridge would go to waste. After my flurry of activity, I sat down for lunch and started to accept that today might not be the day. I decided I should try to go about my day as usual. I went on a walk and called your Dad, however got startled when I noticed a little puppy circling my feet. Dad and I have been calling each other “puppy” since before we were married. Another message from you! Dad thought I was calling to tell him I was starting labor so unfortunately I disappointed him. I continued on my walk, finally fully accepting you were likely not coming today. Later on I texted Dad (who turned out to be in a meeting and again got his hopes up – oops) to pick up a movie on his way home from work so that we would have a distraction that evening.
While we watched the movie I was having some random Braxton Hicks contractions. We tried to time them, but they were too sporadic and it was just frustrating us so we decided to relax and just forget about trying to figure out if something was happening. I went to bed around 9:00pm and woke up around 10:30pm to some contractions. They seemed like they were coming more consistently so I began to time them. They were about 6 minutes apart for 45 seconds long. They weren’t overly strong, but I didn’t feel comfortable lying in bed any longer. I called Dad from my cell phone since he could never hear me yell for him when he was in the basement. We started timing the contractions on contractionmaster.com and from what I remember in about an hour span they went from 6 minutes apart to about 2-3 minutes apart, still lasting 45 seconds. In the midst of another nesting frenzy, I started to realize that this was it. At least enough that I finally allowed Dustin to “call and bother Jan.” Jan and Val were finishing up at a birth in Port Washington and said they’d come straight over once they finished caring for the new mama and baby. Knowing they were coming really made things real. I still remember hoping we weren’t wasting their time.
I was bouncing on the birth ball in the meditation music room and eating some minestrone soup Dad had warmed up for me. Once I finished eating I kept running around doing silly little things and then running to the hallway and dropping to my hands and knees to breathe through contractions. For some reason returning to that same spot in the hallway was comforting. Dad kept begging me to go to bed to get some rest. I thought he was crazy because there was no way I could lay down during a contraction and with such short breaks in between it seemed pointless. Dad made us a nest of blankets and pillows on the living room floor right next to the couch and finally convinced me to labor there. Despite my initial resistance, it worked out great once I got into a routine. During contractions I’d pop up to hands and knees and between them I’d lie down in my nest and usually fall asleep until the next one. Dad kept asking when he should call our doula, my friend Jess. I really didn’t want to bother her since I was still handling things fine on my own and it was, after all, the middle of the night. But I finally felt I needed some female energy and support so I let Dad call Jess around 2:00am and she said she’d be over within the hour.
For me time seemed to fly. By the time Jess and the midwives arrived around 3:00am I was definitely in my own world. I remember I didn’t even turn to look at Jess, but just mumbled hello. The midwives were hauling their equipment in and once they got settled they did an internal check. I was 5-6 centimeters. I remember expecting to be a bit further along, but was ultimately happy with my progress. My mom’s labor lasted around 11 hours total and I had it in my head that mine would be about 8-10 hours because I was so physically active during pregnancy, taking lots of walks and teaching and practicing yoga right up until the end.
The midwives needed to save their energy since they just came from another birth so they headed to the guest bedroom to get some sleep. Dustin, Jess and I stayed in the little nest area of the living room and I continued to labor on hands and knees and sleep between contractions. Having Jess there with me was amazing. She rubbed my back, stroked my hair, kept me hydrated, breathed “Ooooooh” for open during the contractions and most importantly provided her calming energy to keep me centered. Dad stayed by my side resting on the sofa. It was important to me that Dad was always physically close.
I remember being so surprised when Jess asked me if she should close the curtains since the sun was coming up. How could it be morning already? Hadn’t we just gotten started?
The midwives had been taking turns getting up to check our vitals. Your heartbeat stayed strong the entire time and I knew you were confident in this natural process. I remember Jan telling me I could get in the tub at any time, but I may want to save it until I REALLY need it. I wasn’t to that point just yet and wanted to stay in my familiar cocoon. After a while Val convinced me it was time to try a new position to keep things moving along. I sat on the ball and leaned over the armchair, but remember not liking that because the first contraction was so intense. Dad reminded me what Coral told us during the birth class, that when you change positions the first few contractions are much stronger so make sure to give it a chance. I think I ended up standing up, leaning over the arm of the chair and swaying my hips.
The next thing I really remember is coming back from the bathroom and declaring I needed the tub. Sinking into that tub was the BEST feeling at that moment in time. Aaaaaahhhhh. The warm water enveloped me and it felt so good. It was also nice being in the room I meditate in and Dad practices piano. Jess put on my favorite cd, musical selections by my favorite spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. The time in the tub is pretty much a blur for me. I think I had gotten in about 8:30am. I was definitely in labor land. I slept or meditated between contractions. I was still resuming the hands and knees position during contractions as that felt the most natural. Maybe it was all those pelvic tilts I did while I was pregnant to ensure you were in a great position.
During a bathroom break the midwives had me get on the bed and do a second internal check. I was about 7 centimeters. I expected to be farther along, but remembered what we learned in our class. The last few centimeters usually go very quickly. I headed back to the tub and once again loved the feeling of relief as I relaxed into that warm water.
At some point I started to feel the urge to push. At first it was just a slight urge, but before long it got very powerful and there was no choice, but to push. I remember asking Jan “what about transition?” and she said I’d already been in transition. I was sure that was going to be the hardest part and I’d had no idea it was already over! I felt encouraged by that.
Pushing was a much different experience than I had expected. In so many of the home birth/natural birth stories I’d read the woman said the pushing felt great because they were finally doing something and also that their body did most of the work and they just allowed the it to do the pushing. For me, the pushing was the hardest part. The intensity of it frightened me. It felt like I was struck with a bolt of energy that completely took me over. Each contraction had me pushing about 6 times and I remember thinking it was just too much and after the first 4 pushes I think I would start to resist them. I was trying very hard to surrender to the energy and work with it, but this was challenging for me. Dad says he told me he could see your hair waving in the water, but I don’t really remember that. My water broke with a pop after the first few pushes. They told me the pressure would get more intense now…”yikes” I thought. How is that even possible?
I think I had been pushing for a little over an hour when the midwives suggested we move to the bed to try some different positions to help get your head under my pubic bone. At first this sounded like a horrible idea to me, but once I heard it could speed things along I knew it was worth a try.
They got me settled on our bed and we first started with a side lying position where I’d pull my top leg into my chest. I had a hard time relaxing between contractions because I was scared of the next one. Everyone was so great, providing me with encouragement. The best part during this time was being shown your head in the mirror as I pushed. Wow – was that motivation! There you were! I remembered all this hard work had the best prize waiting for me at the end. They even had me put my finger in the birth canal and touch your head. Amazing!
The midwives suggested I try lying on my back for just a few contractions. Jess supported me from behind and the midwives held my legs and had me press my feet into their hands. Everyone was so lovely supporting my body as well during the rest periods. I felt very cared for and everyone was very confident in my ability, which gave me strength.
Jan then told me that if I wanted a water birth we needed to get back to the tub. I had promised you that you would be born in the water so I waddled down the hall with everyone’s support and got back into the tub…aaaah. The warm water was again so comforting. The last bit in the tub went fast for me. At one point I looked out the window and was amazed to see it just looked like an ordinary day out there. Business as usual for the squirrels and birds in the big tree in the backyard.
But inside the most magical thing was happening. We were getting closer and closer to your arrival. Dad came close to me and I said “get that corn breath away from me!!!” In my altered state of mind I thought Dad was sitting and watching me while munching on a bag of corn chips like this was the final act of a play or something. How could he be snacking at a time like this?!?!? In reality, Dad had been in the kitchen baking the lasagna like I had asked and had a few chips to tide him over. Haha!
From hands and knees they had me step one foot out and push from a runners start position. I pushed and pushed with all my might and “pop” out was your head. Hooray!!!! With the next push the rest of your body was out and Daddy caught you and held you under the water while I flipped around and lifted my leg over the cord with the help of the midwives. It was 3:17pm on Thursday, September 20th, one day before my “guess date”.
When Daddy set you in my arms it was a love I’d never felt before. I gazed in awe at the gorgeous miracle snuggled onto my chest. I was bursting with emotion and Dad and I both cried with the greatest joy we’d ever known. We kissed each other and you. You let out a hearty cry and clutched onto the rose quartz necklace I’d been wearing just for you during pregnancy and specifically for your birth. Everything else stopped as our new family got to know one another.
At some point they wanted me to try pushing out the placenta, but it wasn’t happening in the tub. They got us out and soon after I birthed your beautiful home for the last nine months. This was clearly no big deal after pushing out an 8lb 6oz and 20” long baby! You began to nurse right away and I couldn’t believe how natural and easy it was. Jan clamped the cord long after it stopped pulsating and Dad cut it.
The midwives finished caring for me and moved me into the guest bedroom where we spent your first two days since it was closest to the bathroom. It was so amazing being at home already. I remember thinking during the birth how glad I was to be at home where I didn’t have the option of an epidural because it would have been very difficult to resist at certain points. Never during the process did I feel fear about being at home – only comfort and relief of not having to go anywhere and the safety of being in our familiar environment. My entire support team was fabulous. Each providing something I needed. I felt completely safe and loved in their care. The midwives have been to our home several times since the birth to check on us and answer our new parent questions. This kind of care made all the difference for us. We will for sure have any future children at home and hope to have this same support team.
So that’s the story of how you arrived little Robin! Thank you for choosing us to be your parents. We love you!