Same deal applies as previous two posts... skip if you don't like hearing crazy (and somewhat graphic) details about labor and birth, cuz here it comes, baby. (no pun intended)
Previously on Clancy's blog...
From Brynja's Story, Part 2
..."You know, I wonder if that membrane is completely ruptured?"
"When I was checking you, I thought I felt some membrane still covering the baby's head."
"How can that be?" I asked. "My water is broken, right?" Clearly, from all the "gushing" fluids earlier.
She told me that the amniotic sac actually has two layers. The outer one is thick and strong and the inner one is thin and weak and they usually break together. She even told me the names of them, but I don't recall them now. It might have been that just the outer layer broke.
"Would you like me to see if I can break that?" she asked.
"Sure. Yep. Do it." I replied.
So, the nurse fetched her the magic crochet hook and voila! There was still a little membrane left that she broke.
And that's when all hell broke loose....
...So it turns out that hell is a woman in unmedicated labor with a baby that won't descend. But hell broke loose, fo shizzle.
I thought things had been crazy up to that point, but I found out that I didn't even know crazy yet. The second membrane was broken and the time was now somewhere around 6:55pm, give or take five minutes. (I was told this later. Time was completely irrelevant to me at that point.) If you recall, Brynja was born at 7:14pm. This is not an unusual time line for my labors. I have always gone from 7 or 8 cm to a babe-in-arms in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes, if not faster. What was different in this case was what was happening in my body to create this outcome.
In my previous labors, I was present but my body was in control. I just rode the waves and managed the enormity of the pain and the process of birth. It was amazing really. I never realized until just now what went on during those births. It was as if the part of me that makes me ME was separate from my body... I guess that would be my spirit. I wasn't having an "out of body" experience, but I had to get myself out of the way of my body. Does that make any sense? This is hard to explain. To deal with bringing my first three babies into the world, I had to rise above my body and just let it do what it was built to do. It all just happened so beautifully and I got to participate as more of an observer. Not that I wasn't participating.... I was participating as completely as I knew how to, but I didn't have a say in what my body was doing... my body was just birthing that lovely finished product called baby, as it was engineered so divinely to do. I couldn't have made my body do differently if I tried. (Don't know if I was successful at explaining, but I think I've hit the beating-a-dead-horse point in this explanation.)
But for this birth, the baby was not descending right. I didn't and don't know why. There were no answers then and now there's only speculation. Whatever it was, it made things not behave in that perfectly engineered way that allowed me to just ride those contraction waves and watch it all unfold. I had to take control and make things happen.
So, yes. My second little membrane had been broken. I had a contraction or two... maybe. I can't remember exactly, but Helene's report kept echoing in my head.
7 cm.... 7 cm.... 7cm... 7cm... 7cm!!
And then I got mad.
I was taking control and this baby was coming out.
I don't know that I can explain what transpired in those next 10 or 15 minutes, but for my own clarity, I'm going to try. And, to be a little raw here, I'm scared to voice all this. This whole story has been so hard for me to write. Obviously, since it took me three months to finish the first installment and more than a month to finish the second. But writing it all out has also been... what's the word?... healing? Giving closure? I'm not sure, but it's been a good process for me. I've had many strange feelings surrounding this experience and writing is my best therapy.
So, after Helene broke that membrane and I got mad, I remember sitting Indian-style on the bed and going through a few contractions. During those, I remember grabbing the arms of the bed and, with all the energy I could put into my lats, traps and delts, lifting my whole body (except perhaps my legs) off of the bed in some sort of hovering push-up thing. I remember trying to create that feeling in my body of needing to push. I was making some hellish noise and probably striking fear into every laboring woman on the floor. I did several contractions like that and Helene said something to the effect of, "Clancy, I think you should move to hands and knees and try a few contractions that way."
I don't really even remember moving as she suggested, but I labored through a few contractions that way, and she was right. It was the next necessary position to get the baby down and I knew it. I could feel it.
That's when "The Beast" emerged. "The Beast" that had been laying dormant... in the depths of my soul. Dramatic, you say? Yes. Yes, it is. And yes, it was.
Unprompted from Helene, I turned that hands and knees labor position to a crouch position of sorts. I felt like a frog, with my feet flat on the bed, my hamstrings resting on my calves and my hands down pushing on the bed in front of me. I might have been sitting like a frog, but a werewolf might be a better description, noises included. It was guttural, gut-wrenching howls. And roaring. Literally. I was roaring. I'll never forget the first roar that erupted as I forced that baby down. My mom was standing behind me and to my right and as I roared, she laughed. The moment she laughed my head whipped around and I'm sure my eyes were daggers. That's how I felt. She immediately stifled her laugh and stammered, "Oh, it's not funny at all! It just took me by surprise!" I think I took the whole room by surprise. But the intensity of the experience had everyone present aching for me.
I learned later that all those who came to support me were praying. My dad told me that he was praying and imagining himself as a funnel with the powers of heaven pouring down from above, through him and straight at me. He said he was sending every ounce of strength he had into me and my baby. Rebby was pleading for it to be over. Lacy and my mom too. I also learned that my father-in-law, who was hundreds of miles away and knew only that I was in labor, felt like something was going wrong. He prayed all afternoon and evening too. And even my cousin, also miles and miles away, had an intense feeling that something was wrong... a specific thing... and plead with God to "save her cousin".
I say "The Beast" somewhat in jest, but something truly primal was occurring in that room. I was MAKING that baby come down. There was nothing automatic about it like my previous labors. I, along with all the powers of heaven being sent my way, was bringing that baby into this world and I was telling my body so and IT. WAS. OBEYING.
It was truly amazing. And unfathomably hard. I can hardly even remember the exquisite intensity of those 15 or so minutes, except that it was the hardest thing I've EVER done in my life.
I hadn't felt pushing urges, but I was pushing anyway. And pushing. And roaring. And pushing. And eventually, I started to feel pressure! In previous labors, that pressure was the part I hated the very most. Pushing was so hard for me and I didn't ever want to do it because it is the most bizarre feeling in the world. But this time, it was such a welcome change and it meant that the end was near, so I embraced it.
I started asking Helene if she could see a head yet. What I didn't realize was that my frog/werewolf position kept her from seeing anything because I had my back to the bed in the upright position. She told me I could keep pushing that way, but I needed to turn around so she could see. Strangely, after all this madness, I didn't want to push in this position turned around because I didn't want everyone to see my butt. So weird that I cared about that at that point.
So, I turned around, but I semi-reclined on the bed. Actually, I was positioned so strange... I was all crooked at a weird angle, but once I got turned around, I was stuck because the baby was right there and there was no time for anything else.
And, just like everything else about this labor, this part went differently too, but for once, it was in my favor. My other babies I've had ZERO control when it came to the pushing. I wanted that discomfort and strangeness to get over with so badly, I just pushed like crazy and rocketed those babies right out! This time, I was in complete control. Helene would tell me to back off and I would. She tell me to do a little bit of a push and I would. She said to take it easy and I did. It was amazing. All of a sudden, I felt perfectly in control and clear in my head. I had been a crazy-insane basket case for the last seven hours and suddenly I was clear-headed. Amazing.
I eased the baby's head out and as she emerged, I remember Helene saying, "Oh my gosh! Look at that cord around her neck! We've got to keep this baby close.... things are really tight." I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, nor did I care. It was almost over. The rest of her little body was eased out and I had a baby. A big baby. I was overjoyed! I've never been so relieved in all my life. NEVER! It was absolutely amazing. AMAZING!
All that followed happened very quickly...the baby was out and lying on the bed below me and I heard Helene say, again, something about the cord around her neck. I looked and saw it. It was still around her neck and tightly. Helene quickly unwound the cord and said as she did, "Count them: one, Two, THREE, FOUR TIMES!" Brynja's cord was around her neck FOUR times! As soon as she was unwound, they put her right on me and I saw her precious face. And she looked at me.
There is something so magical about that moment. The blood. The joy. The relief. The cessation of pain. The look in that newborn face. Sometimes the bond is immediate, sometimes it takes a little more time, but the wonder! The wonder of that moment is something I'll never get used to. I've been privileged to experience it four times, and it's just as amazing this last time as it was the first time.
She didn't want to cry for us and she stayed purple for a minute or so. I don't remember being scared, but I remember Helene rubbing Brynja and saying over and over, "Come on, baby. Cry for your mamma." And then she did. And so did most everyone in the room.
My first thoughts were that she was going to be heavier than my other babies. She just looked fuller in her skin. At 8# 3oz, I was right. My second thought was the profound relief that it was over. And that feeling didn't go away for weeks. In fact, if I think long on the experience, the feeling awakens anew. That relief will likely be a lifelong thing. Relief that it had an ending at 7:14pm, and relief that she made it here safe and sound.*
*There was a video recorder running there at the end and Helene said, "This girl must have something special to do here. We don't see many make it out with the cord around their necks four times."
In retrospect, I honestly feel as though Brynja's stubbornness to descend into the birth canal in a normal way saved her life. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about and she would have been fine... that's what my pediatrician seemed to think, but I have very strong feelings that had she stayed long in the birth canal, she would not be here. And also, if I had allowed myself to get an epidural, which I considered when I was in that Jacuzzi, I would not have been able to feel what needed to happen to get her down and quickly, and that would have kept her in the birth canal for too long. I think this would have ended in a Cesarean Section or worse had I gotten an epidural.
I've looked at it long and hard for four months now. I've analyzed and questioned, and that is my conclusion. Maybe someone with more medical background than I would say that I'm wrong and tell me the reasons why, but I would still stand by what I said. I think it all went as it had to. It was for her safe arrival that things went the way they went.
And I'm so grateful.