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pearl's birth story

Mother’s day, May 10th: The day I had predicted the baby would come…well after the initial estimated due date of the 3rd had past.  (My two older children have birthdays on the 10th in their respective months, so it a neat idea to imagine this baby having the same)

Mother’s day began nicely. I’d been having contractions since the night before and even remembered a few making their way into my dreams. I was meant to be able to sleep in so when I woke up, rather than getting out of bed, I piled all the pillows behind me and slept while sitting up since I was getting to be too big for comfort lying down. I could smell the delicious meal my husband was making for my mother’s day breakfast at my request…I could hear Ocean, our youngest, playing, and Marin, his big sister, cleaning the house. This was already the best mother’s day I’d ever had.

After my breakfast in bed of spinach tomato quiche, croissant with jam and butter and fruit, I rose, unable to sleep anymore. I had already made up my mind that the baby was coming that day so there was much to be done. Keeping an eye on contractions that seemed to be coming regularly, if not too close together, Lucas and I made the decision to send the kids off to his sister’s house around dinner time.  I wasn’t sure if the birth would be late enough where we’d have to wake them from sleep in order to head over, and being that I had to really concentrate on smiling and playing through the contractions while spending time with Ocean, I was sure this was it. Lucas had some work he needed to have finished by the end of the weekend, and that had been planned weeks in advance with the assumption baby would be here already so I was anxious for him to start, knowing it was a full day and night that I would likely be laboring alone. I began making comments to put the pressure on and felt myself getting nervous and annoyed at the prospect of no one being there with me.

Once the kids were gone and the workers were here, I retreated to my room. Everyone knew I was in labor, everyone knew the baby was a week late and I didn’t want to be a spectacle. I laid in bed and watched some bad Jesse James movie, texted a few friends, downloaded an app on my iphone to time contractions and pretty much stayed in that rotation for about seven hours. Lucas would come back periodically to check on me, usually about once every half hour and he would ask me if I needed anything, or how much closer the contractions had become.  Looking back now, I know he was nervous, but at the time I felt neglected and like he was just doing what he thought he was supposed to.  As for my contractions, they stayed a good eight to ten minutes apart and I could talk or read through them, rather as I would just read the directions on the contraction timer to ‘test’ myself. At some point during this, I realized that the work hubs was doing was going to take a lot longer than we’d expected and we got into a bit of an argument. At that point, everything slowed way down for at least an hour and I thought, “Ok. Fine. I’ll just drink a glass of wine and go to bed instead. “It was already late and I figured it would be best to just throw in the towel and birth the following day rather than try to push something that seemed so ill fitting with the rest of the activity in the house. The wine didn’t help much and I was a bit too antsy to sleep. Once I got back into my room, feeling safe, my body moved back into whatever labor it was in. I drew a hot bath and sat in it for a little while. At some point, I know I broke down into heavy sobbing and tears, feeling very sorry for myself that I was so lonely. After I let that go, it was easier to just accept that this was the situation and I could do with it what I wanted. I do remember feeling like just checking into a hospital so someone would “take care of me”.  

Around three am, Lucas was finally finished working. We reconnected and made up, kissed and hugged and related each other’s frustration and nervousness to one another and set about preparing the house for the midwives’ arrival. I noticed that the bathroom floor was a little dirty, and he wanted to vacuum everything. We buzzed around and cleaned. It felt good to scrub the walls and doorknobs and baseboards and anything else in my path. We also began filling up the birthing tub since I started to really feel my contractions ‘working’ and thought perhaps the only way I could rest would be to snooze in the tub. Neither of us could remember when our midwife, Leslie had told us to call…and this being my third birth, we weren’t sure if she would want advanced notice. Around 430am we called her. Since I had never noticed a regular pattern to the contractions, and had yet to see anything more than a little bit of extra mucousy discharge, it was difficult for me to declare I was definitely in labor. She told us to try to get some rest and call her in an hour or so if things picked up. We lay down and after one contraction, I realized that lying down wasn’t going to work for me. I piled up pillows behind me and managed to sleep for about a half an hour sitting up, waking up each time my body would contract. Lucas of course, passed completely out, snoring heavily. Around six, Leslie called back to check my progress and to gauge whether or not she should try to get on the road ahead of morning traffic. I told her that yes, we did fall asleep and that things had slowed down a bit, but that I was going to get up and walk around to see if things started moving quickly or not. I told her I would call her and we said goodbye. I got out of bed and walked into the living room, followed by the cat and the dog. It was dawn and very peaceful and lovely. I walked outside and breathed in the morning air. I was alone again. But this time it wasn’t sad. I felt at peace and reminded myself that the only one really doing anything here anyways, was me, and that I was strong and capable and fearless. I wandered around the house, stopping to breathe through each tightening of my uterus. I bounced on the birth ball for a bit, I did some yoga stretches, and I really wanted to lie down being so tired, but memory of Ocean’s birth reminded me that I needed to keep moving around in order to make any progress. I got in the birthing tub again after awhile and floated through a few contractions, but noticed that it really spaced out any activity and since my strength was dwindling, I knew that I needed to move faster instead, so I got out and woke Lucas to help me.

(I had met a doula a few weeks before and she agreed to assist my labor, and I had messaged her a few times throughout the night that I might need her. After talking with Leslie the last time, I texted Pati to come so she could help me get the contractions to come closer together and I figured it was late enough in the morning not to be a bother. In retrospect, I suppose I could have called her much earlier, but I felt like an imposition since she was attending my birth gratis and I honestly couldn’t think of much she would be able to assist with before this moment anyways.)

Once Lucas was awake, I started noticing the contractions were coming about 2 to 3 minutes apart, but they were only lasting about 45 seconds each. I also hadn’t had a single drop of bloody show or any real progression in discharge either. This was curious to me, as I always thought these were SURE signs of labor. Regardless, I had Lucas call Leslie and inform her as such. I had also noticed that I was feeling nauseous, so perhaps I really was nearing the end of this pregnancy. She decided to come out, but didn’t call her assistant right away. Lucas and I continued our labor dance, him giving me nipple stimulation and occasionally I would put my arms around his neck in order to breathe through a stronger contraction.

We had a really beautiful hour together, alone in our house, one that I will always remember and treasure. I am so grateful that we had that time to just be with each other in that moment.

Leslie arrived during a good strong contraction, and then Pati arrived moments later. Once all of the gear was brought in and hands were washed, Leslie asked to check my cervix. I was unsure what this check would reveal considering the sporadically timed contractions I had been having and the fact I’d had no show whatsoever. Turns out, I was dilated to 8cm, a vast relief and a bit of a surprise. Nothing about this labor was following the ‘rules’. Leslie called her assistant right away and told me that I should get in the tub. I hadn’t really thought I wanted to, but did anyways. After all, I did rent the thing. I suppose I should get a little of our money’s worth. I lit my birth candle I received as a gift from my blessingway with Ocean and got into the tub. Pati settled in slowly. I almost felt like telling her to do something so she would feel like she was there for a reason, but instead I just put my head down on the side of the birthing tub and let a few contractions wash over me. Everything seemed to be going slowly to me at this point. I look back and realize what a big hurry I was in at the end of it all. How I really wanted my contractions to start piggy backing, I wanted the fury of transition, I wanted to know it was happening and was going to end soon. I wanted my water to break, I wanted to push. I wanted all of this and RIGHT NOW.

The awesome thing about this labor is that it was my first one with the baby not being posterior. I have to say that the contractions from a posterior presentation are SO MUCH MORE painful and difficult to work through than contractions from a baby in the ‘right’ position. All of the pressure I felt was in my lower uterus and eventually my cervix and it never really spread from there, whereas in the past, I have had contractions that literally felt like they were consuming my entire body. I think this is also the reason I didn’t find myself needing to be in the birthing tub very much. Instead, the position that really felt good during contractions was any one in which my body was leaning forward, with my belly hanging.

Leslie commented that this was the part of labor that usually moved the quickest and if I got any urges to push, to go ahead with them. I brought up the fact that I never got the urge to push during Ocean’s birth and was curious to see if my body would comply this time. A few contractions later, and I suppose I started to feel pushy, but wasn’t entirely sure. I decided to get out of the tub so I could employ gravity a bit better to truly see what was going on. I moved to the bed and kneeled on the side of it. There was definitely a very heavy feeling in my pelvis during each contraction, one that would demand I open up to it, and I guess I must have interpreted that as the urge to push so I went with it. Earlier in my labor, I noticed that pushing during contractions really helped with the pain, and I found myself unconsciously doing it. I knew this might be bad for my cervix and cause swelling so I didn’t do it many times, but it did feel ‘good’ to do so. These later contractions didn’t really respond the same to the pushing; they just felt huge and heavy. Someone suggested I move into the side lying position and let someone hold my top leg back so I could get some leverage on pushing. Since this was the position I was in when Ocean was born, it was a familiar one to me and I had already considered it. We moved all of the gear and chux pads, and Lucas moved in to help me with my leg. I pushed through a few contractions and started to feel a little frustrated. I asked Leslie to check me and she discovered that I was nearly complete with an anterior lip on my cervix. My water was also still intact. Every single one of my labors has found me with this lip of cervix. Leslie reached into me during a contraction and tried to push it out of the way while I pushed down on the baby. This is seriously so annoyingly painful, even though I know how it’s going to feel each time…I decided, instead, to just weather through a few contractions without pushing to see if maybe my cervix would dilate on its own. I stood up and leaned against the side of the bed, bending my knees a bit through each contraction, opening. This was a very vocal labor for me, over and over I found myself saying to the baby “come on, baby. Come out and down and through.” I beckoned to my baby and tried to picture my cervix opening. I got sick after two contractions and remember Lucas telling me that it was ‘a good sign’. Again, I felt myself pushing and moved back onto the bed in the side lying position. I asked Leslie to break my water and she did on the following contraction. It was a gentle gush of warmth and I set to the task of pushing out my little baby. That lip was tenacious and Leslie helped me move it out of the way and around the baby’s head. I tried not to be mean, but every time she did it I just yelled at her to stop, even though once she finally succeeded, I felt SO much better.

By this time, I knew I just had to push and push and push until my baby would be here. In comparison to my last birth, where I never felt like I was making any progress while pushing until he was there on my chest, I could feel everything! I felt her move further and further down, and with a few comments from the midwife and some encouragement from the hubs, Pati and Cheryl, the midwife’s assistant, I knew exactly what was happening. I felt her move into the birth canal, and then when Leslie told me I just needed to push her up underneath my pubic bone, I could visualize that in my head and could push accordingly. This is not to say that by this time I didn’t feel like giving up. I was very tired and worn out after having virtually no sleep in 24 hours, but after complaining through a few contractions and saying ‘I can’t do it’ about ten times, I heard myself say ‘I have to do it’ and from that point on, I just PUSHED. This is the hugest effort I have ever had to put forth, this birthing of a baby. I sweat from every inch of my body. In between pushes, my head would loll on my neck and Pati would wipe my head with a cool cloth. I felt my eyes roll wildly and at some points I was just screaming and growling and grunting and cursing and it’s just so BIG, this feeling.  I even pushed when there was no contraction. I was unstoppable. I looked up at my husband a few times to find him crying with the intensity in the room, so I knew we were very close. Leslie was using a warm compress on my perineum and olive oil around my vagina to help baby move through, and placing her fingers inside me to direct my pushing in the right place (think: taking a huge crap). I felt the baby move underneath my pubic bone and start to crown. On direction, I reached down to feel her head for a quick moment during a contraction and unlike ocean’s birth when I was freaked out by that sensation, I love it! I felt as her face moved past my perineum, and could feel the vague stretching feeling. I wondered if I would tear, but didn’t honestly care at that point. I pushed until I heard something about her shoulders, then pushed some more, then they told me to ‘blow her out’ (whatever that means) so I panted a bit until I was being told to ‘grab your baby’! and I reached down quickly to take this beautifully blue, slippery, gorgeous little thing between my hands and onto my stomach and the whole time I just kept saying ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, my BABY’. The feeling of elation and wonder and relief was so insanely strong that, to this day, I still swell inside when I picture the first time I saw her face as I took her emerging body from my own. She was lovely and she began to cough and cry pretty quickly. I rubbed her skin and hands and feet and spoke to her while everyone kind of scrambled around me to prepare.

At 10:41, our daughter, miss Pearl Frances Dodson was born into the world in our bed, where she was made after teasing us for a good week past the time we’d expected her. She was eight pounds seven ounces and twenty and half inches long, sporting a fine head of dark red hair like her mother’s.  Her hands, feet and long fingers and toes were very wrinkly due to her extended stay in utero, though her placenta was very healthy and robust. I had no need for stitches, and just a few minor abrasions that are healing nicely.

Almost a week later, as I finish this tale, Pearl is a nursing champ and goes through many, many cloth diapers a day. She is widely alert when awake and when spoken to, seems to carry on this wordless conversation with her gaze.

More than anything else, what I took from this birth is power. It truly was all me. Spending so much time alone during the labor phase, looking back, makes it such a personal, intimate event with my baby that by the time anyone else was there, it was almost as if they weren’t. Sure, I loved the time with my husband, and the gentle care I received from the birth team, but had I been alone the entire time, I think I would have been just as ok. This, to me, is so fascinating and empowering and while I am sure there are many women before me who have achieved this realization, it is a new one for me, and one that makes me smile every time I consider it.

Looking back, I think I should have skipped the contraction timing. My contractions never became regular, and I recall more doubt than anything trying to figure out why while staring at that timer. Of course, my phone did keep me company while alone, but yeah…this labor did not follow the rules of longer, stronger and closer together and the timing was more confusing than informative.

After Ocean’s birth, I felt immediately like having another baby. So much so, that we even talked about it during labor. I am not so sure this time that I’m that hyper to get out and do it again. Labor is hard. Pregnancy is long. Having two young ones so close in age is a big job that I am happy I have so much help in doing. I kind of fear the time I’m left alone here with them for an entire day, but I know that we’ll make it. Marin and Ocean are very sweet to their younger sister and it just fills my heart to be this blessed with such a beautiful family. Tandem nursing is an adventure that I am only just embarking on, but its helping with the postpartum weight loss, considering I’m only a few pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight and its only been five days. I had a wonderful woman come to freeze dry and encapsulate my placenta, so I’ve been taking that every day since 2 days postpartum. I notice when I’ve not taken it, that I am more prone to tears and fatigue so there’s that. I definitely remember being far more weepy after Ocean’s birth. Sleeping is actually pretty good considering. We had one night where the two took turns waking each other up for about an hour, but other than that, our co-sleeping arrangement seems to be doing just great. Ocean is side - carred in the crib next to dad’s side of the bed and Pearl sleeps next to me, waking a few times a night to be changed and eat, but we just fall right back to sleep…

So the adventure begins as a family of five. What a wonderful and exciting time in all of our lives.

From may 09

the night before mother's day when the first few contractions began.

From may 09

finally, hubs takes a picture i love.

From fam

after my bath, 41 weeks.

From may 09

a few moments after birth

From may 09

marin meeting pearl for the first time

From phone pics

so many sleepy smiles...


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
What a beautiful story. She is precious!
May. 18th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
she is so beautiful! That story is awesome. So happy for you all!
May. 19th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
thank you for sharing that with us!! welcome pearl!
May. 19th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
she's lovely and her birth story is terrific. congratulations again!

and i don't believe in normal labor patterns anymore. eloise was born after 56 hours of labor, 54 of which were irregular contractions. :]
May. 19th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful!

you are amazing, mama! and that is one beautiful baby!

i hated timing ctx too. mine were pretty regular but you wouldn't think that if you looked at us trying to time them! lol.
May. 24th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

I am so very happy for you.

I decided not to time contractions last pregnancy for this very reason, at my first birth mine were always considered "too short" to be effective, which was bunk. I started the same sort of pattern of short but effective contractions with my second labor and decided to just ride through and trust my gut, my mom tried to mention how "short" they were during my labor and I nearly snapped her head off.

I love how different every pregnancy, labor, and birth is, and how at the end they bring us all our babies.

She's so beautiful! Happy babymoon.

After I had Sarah I was on cloud nine, thrilled with my accomplishment, but said I absolutely was not in too big a hurry to have another baby, took me until a year PP to start feeling the inklings toward another child and even when I got successfully pregnant at 18 months PP I still... didn't entirely feel ready.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )