On the night of the 13th-14th, I kept waking up with painful contractions that made my back hurt. I didn't bother keeping track of them, but they seemed to be pretty far apart. I just put my heating pad against my back and tried to sleep, but I didn't end up getting much sleep that night.
That day (the 14th), I continued to have contractions, but they were averaging maybe 1.5-2 hours apart. I started to think that maybe I'd be having the baby the next day, and I got a little excited because the next day would be the baby's due date, and it would be neat for it to be born that day.
At around 6 PM, I had a contraction, then went to the bathroom, and saw that I had started passing a little bit of blood-tinged mucous, but not enough to be the mucous plug.
After my husband got home from work, we decided to go to Walmart to pick up a few things. I wanted to get a pack of disposable wipes to use for the meconium diapers, and I realized that I could only find one pair of diaper pins, so I wanted to pick up a couple more packs. And we wanted to stock up on groceries too. We walked around Walmart for a couple of hours, and the contractions were 30 minutes apart. They were painful enough that I had to stop and close my eyes and sway through them, and I couldn't talk. On the way home, the last couple of contractions were only 20 minutes apart.
I sent a few text messages to my friend, Shannon, letting her know that I was in labour. She's interested in unassisted birth, and very supportive, and she's always had helpful things to say. For a while, I had been thinking it would be helpful to talk to her if I get panicky during labour, so a few weeks ago, I finally asked her if it'd be okay if I called her for support if I need it, and she said she'd love that. So I told her that I was in labour, and confirmed that it'd be okay for me to call her in the middle of the night.
When we got home, Andrew put the groceries away, while I got Joon ready for bed. I got her changed into her pajamas, and nursed her down on the couch. I had another contraction while I was nursing her, and it was pretty bad. As I got her ready for bed, I told her the baby might be here tomorrow. She said "No! You're not having contractions!" I told her I was, a little bit. She said "But you're not crying." We had been discussing pregnancy and birth, and watching birth videos, so she'd know what to expect if she was awake when I gave birth. We talked about it for a minute, and then I put her to bed.
We decided to get the birth pool set up before we went to bed, so Andrew went and grabbed the bin full of birth supplies, and brought it down to the kitchen. He unpacked the birth pool, and started inflating it with the electric pump. Meanwhile, my mom came home, and we told her what was going on. We moved the kitchen table and chairs, and we set down a drop cloth, and put a blanket on top of it. When the pool was inflated, we set it on top of the blanket.
I cleaned up the house a bit, just in case my friend Shannon would be coming over. I went through the birth supplies, and pulled out all the labour support things, and arranged them on the tables so they'd be ready when I needed them.
At around 10:20, I went to the bathroom again, and passed my mucous plug. Contractions were still about 30 minutes apart at that point. We went to bed, hoping, but not expecting, to get some sleep. I brought my laptop up to the bedroom and set it up on the nightstand.
As soon as I laid down, the contractions started getting closer together, and steadily increasing in intensity. There was no way I was going to sleep, but I wanted to let Andrew sleep for as long as possible. I was labouring on my left side for as long as it was bearable. Pretty soon, I had to moan through the contractions. Sometimes my moaning would wake Andrew up, and he'd help me through the contraction, touching me and encouraging me. At one point I tried laying on my right side, and immediately had really bad back pain, and a particularly painful contraction. I thought I really shouldn't be on my right side.
I had a contraction that was so bad it made me get up onto my hands and knees, and then my water broke immediately after. That was at 1:21 AM. I had a couple of prefolds on the nightstand, and I grabbed them and held them on the outside of my underwear, then ran to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and pushed a little to see if any more fluid would gush. It didn't, and all of the fluid from the first gush had been absorbed by the regular pad that I had been wearing, so I replaced that pad with the prefolds.
I went downstairs and grabbed the birth ball, and set it in front of the nightstand where I had my laptop set up. I noticed I was shivering between contractions, and it wasn't from being cold. I updated my journal, and then sat there on the birth ball, just reading my friends page, and some birth forums and random things.
I sat on the birth ball and rocked my hips while I wasn't having contractions. At first, I was able to continue rocking on the ball during the contractions, but before long, that no longer worked for me. With each contraction, I had to quickly kick the ball out from under me, and then get on my hand and knees, or squat while holding onto the side of the bed. I found it helpful to have my hands on the bottom of the bed frame, so the wood pressed onto the acupressure points between the thumb and index finger. At this point, I was moaning very loudly. I made a point to tell myself to relax during contractions. I noticed that my abdominal muscles would automatically tense up, and that made it more painful. When I relaxed my abdominal muscles, it helped ease some of the pain. I also found it helped to rub the under side of my belly.
I continued like that for a little more than an hour. I timed some of the contractions, and they were consistently 7 minutes apart, and 90 seconds long. I kept wondering whether I should wake Andrew and start working on filling the pool. I didn't want to get in too early and have it slow my labour, or have the water get cold before I really needed it. I decided I would just wait and see, and my body would tell me when the time was right.
At 3AM, I knew it was time. I woke Andrew and told him we needed to start getting the pool ready. We went downstairs to the kitchen, and he got the hose and adapter hooked up to the sink, and started filling the pool.
I worked on setting up the rest of the supplies. I got out the crock pot, filled it with hot water, and put in some washcloths to use for warm compresses. I had a bag full of different candles meant to enhance specific chakras; red for power and courage, indigo for will power, orange for reproductive system, white for intuition. I lit some of the candles, and then set up the oil burner with some rose and bergamot essential oils. I laid out the other comfort measures on the kitchen table; rolling pin and dryer balls to use to massage my back, the book Mind Over Labor which has calming visualizations, Smooth Transitions tincture, a few other things.
I opened my notebook to a list of comfort measures for Andrew and my mom to suggest, a guide for how to recognize when I'm in transition, a list of helpful things to say during transition, and what to do in case the baby needs help after the birth. I set out the bowl full of supplies for after the birth (cord clamps, scissors, hanging scale, measuring tapes, etc.).
While I was setting things up, I continued to have contractions, and I had to lean over a chair and rub downward on my belly. I walked through the kitchen, moaning and rocking and working through each contraction, waiting for the pool to fill up. I was using acupressure, starting with the point between the thumb and index finger, and then I found it more helpful to use my thumb to press the point in the roof of the mouth. Finally I just couldn't take being on land anymore, and I stripped off my pajamas and climbed into the pool.
The water helped the pain a lot, but the contractions continued to get more and more intense. I continued using the acupressure with each contraction, sometimes using more than one point at the same time. After a while, I got the most relief from squeezing my earlobes, so I used that one the most. I leaned over the side of the pool, making sure to let my mouth hang open and moan lowly. Sometimes, while pressing the roof of my mouth with my thumb, it was difficult to keep my mouth open, and I ended up sucking my thumb while moaning quietly.
Andrew had a kitchen chair set up beside the pool, and he sat there and touched me and said the most helpful things. He offered me water after each contraction, and he brought me whatever I asked for. He asked if I wanted music, and I said yes, so he got my laptop and opened up my birth playlist. He asked if he should start filming, and I said yes, so he set up the camcorder in the living room. He said it looked really bad because the lights were so low, and was that okay? At that point I was thinking, "Pssh, I don't care how it looks, just turn it on and get back over here!" but I have no idea what I actually said.
Andrew turned off the water, and took the hose out of the tub. I was leaning back against the side of the pool. John Cale's version of Hallelujah was playing, and I started singing along. I was taking deep breaths at the beginning and end of each contraction.
The contractions got worse, and I kept changing positions, trying to get comfortable. My moans and other noises got much louder, and I had to try really hard to keep them low-pitched. This quickly became impossible, and I'd start each contraction with going "ohhhhhhhhh" which then changed to a "ahhahhahh!"
At around 4:40 AM, I started losing control. The contractions were two minutes long, with only 30 seconds between them. A bad contraction had me flailing my arms and hitting the side of the pool. I thought I was going to throw up, I told Andrew, and he brought me the bucket. I held onto it and didn't actually throw up, so I just kept holding it until Andrew took it.
I started really wanting my mom, but she was in bed. I wanted to ask Andrew to go wake her up, but I didn't want him to leave me, even for a few seconds. So I just wished she was there. Within a few minutes, she woke up and came upstairs. I was in the middle of a contraction, so all I could do was look at her, then close my eyes again and finish working through the contraction.
With the next contraction, I was crying "mama", saying "oh god", hitting the side of the pool, while trying to continue to use the acupressure points. My mom and Andrew were both helping me.
The music started skipping, and it was awful, but I tried to ignore it. I felt too hot, so I asked for cold for my forehead. Andrew went to the sink to get a cold compress, and then my computer just went completely insane and the music turned into the most horrible noise. I was still in the middle of a contraction, and this noise was unbearable. I said "make it stop" my mom asked "make what stop?" I said "the music." Andrew gave me the cold rag, and then went to try to stop the noise. The computer had the blue screen of death, and I think he had to unplug it and take the battery out to get it to stop.
It was 4:47 AM. I was in transition now. I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do, so I kept moving around, trying to make it less painful. I flung my arms around, grabbing at the pool liner, until Andrew and my mom both took my hands, and I squeezed them. I was screaming. I said things like "I can't do it," "oh my god, it hurts so bad," "This sucks" "Oh god, what do I do?" "Ohh no" "Fuck!"
At 4:53, my mom asked if I wanted the Smooth Transitions tincture. I was busy with a contraction, so I shushed her. A few seconds later, she asked again, and I said "Just wait."
And then I was pushing. I didn't even realize it at first. All I knew was that I was having a tough contraction that I didn't know if I could handle, and then there was a tiny catch in my breathing, and it felt better. They were just tiny preliminary pushes, less than a second long.
That contraction ended, and I asked my mom for the tincture. I had no idea that transition was already over, I honestly thought that it was just getting started, and that it would last for a while. My mom went to get the tincture, and found that it was still sealed. She told me that it would take a second for her to open the wrapper. I was starting another contraction, and I just could not deal with having to wait a few seconds. I cried "Oh god, why isn't it open yet?" Andrew told me "It's okay," and I said "Oh my god, no, it's not okay. You don't know what this is like. Oh, it hurts so bad."
My body gave two more little pushes, two seconds each. Then my mom had the tincture open, and I opened my mouth, and she gave me a dropperful. I held it in my mouth, and then swallowed. I felt calmer, and quietly finished the contraction, and was quiet while waiting for the next contraction.
As the next contraction started, my body automatically started doing little pushes. Pushing made it a lot easier, but then I stopped pushing, and it got scary again. I kept repeating "I don't wanna." I said "I can't," my mom told me "Yes, you can." I said "I don't know what to do, mama." She said "have a baby, that's all you can do." I said "What do I do?" Mom kept saying "Relax," then she said, "Let nature take its course."
Somehow, during all of my screaming and complaining, I never wanted to go to the hospital. I wanted it to be over, I wanted to not be in labour. When it got really bad I even wished I never got pregnant. But I never once wanted to transfer, I never even considered drugs to be an option.
At this point, it still hadn't hit me that I was already through transition and well into the pushing stage. But then I realized that I was in between contractions, and I was still in pain. I thought maybe the baby was starting to crown. I reached down, and touched my vulva, and couldn't feel the head.
And then another contraction started, and I really started pushing. I pushed for six seconds, then reached down and felt the baby crowning! I shrieked "ohhh, baby! Ohhh, it's there! It's right there!"
I pushed for another two seconds, and the baby's head was out! I said "Don't touch, don't touch, don't touch." Then I just breathed quietly for the next fourty seconds while waiting for another contraction.
The next contraction started, and Andrew asked if I wanted him to get the camera. I yelled "Camera!" and he scrambled to the living room to grab the camcorder and bring it closer. I said "I can't!" then told myself "Yes, I can!" I pushed for four seconds, paused and took a breath. I pushed for another four seconds, and the baby flew out and shot across the pool!
I grabbed the baby out of the water, and pulled it to my chest. I said ""Ohh, my baby! Ohh, that's my baby!" It was quiet for few seconds, then let out a tiny mewling sound. Andrew and my mom were beside me, touching me and the baby, while I held it and just looked in wonder at the amazing new life I had just brought into the world. My mom checked the clock and announced the time: 5:01 AM.
We sat there and took in the new baby. The baby's skin was covered in vernix. It was so thick, it looked like vanilla frosting on a cake. The crown of the head was slimy. There was a little bit of brown hair, not much, but more than Joon had when she was born. No eyebrows, just like Joon. The facial features were very similar to Joon's, but somehow different. The cheeks were fatter. It was beautiful.
I held my baby to my chest, and looked at all the tiny little fingers and toes. I wiped some of the vernix away from it's face. After a few minutes, I thought to check the baby's sex. A girl! We had another girl!
I started having more contractions. The first ones were pretty painful, they made me moan a little bit. Andrew asked how long it should take for the placenta to come out, and I told him usually about half an hour. Andrew got my camera and took a few pictures, but they didn't come out very well, because we had the lights low, and we left the flash off. Andrew brought me some coconut juice.
The baby started rooting around, and so I offered her my breast. She rooted for a minute, licked at the nipple, then latched on perfectly. She was fifteen minutes old when she had her first feed.
I had a pretty painful contraction, and felt like pushing, so I pushed, and thought the placenta was coming out, but it was just a huge blood clot. The afterpains were hurting my back, and I felt like I needed to change position. I handed the baby to my mom, and then rolled onto my right side, then my mom gave the baby back to me.
I birthed the placenta, then handed it to my mom, who put it into the bowl. By that time, the cord was white and limp. We tried to figure out who was going to cut the cord, and who was going to hold what. I handed the baby to Andrew, and my mom held the placenta bowl. I wanted to get out of the pool to do the cord cutting. Finally, my mom put the bowl down on the chair, and Andrew crouched beside it with the baby. My mom got me a towel, and helped me out of the pool. I picked up the bowl, and put the towel down on the chair. My mom held the bowl, and I grabbed the clamps and scissors. I clamped the cord and cut it,
She was getting cold from being out of the water, so we wrapped a towel around her, and I held her again. I got the hat and booties I crocheted for her, and I tried to put the hat on her, but her head was a little too big for it to go on the whole way. My mom brought me a blanket, and I took the towel off of the baby, held her to my chest, and wrapped the blanket around both of us.
After a little while, I wanted to go into the living room. I had my mom bring me a prefold to wear as a pad. She opened up a pair of mesh underwear for me, and helped me put them on. As I stood up, I had a big gush of blood that sprayed onto the kitchen floor. I put the prefold in my underwear, wiped the blood off my legs, and walked into the living room.
I sat in the living room for a short time, then I remembered the placenta. No one else had a strong enough stomach to cut up the placenta, so I went in the kitchen to do it myself. I examined the placenta and membranes to make sure everything was intact, then started cutting off chunks about the size of the end of my pinky finger. I placed one piece in my mouth and just let it sit there, and put the rest of the pieces in ice cube trays so I could freeze them without having them stick together.
As I was finishing up with the placenta, I heard Joon knocking on her bedroom door. She opened her door, then started coming down the stairs. Andrew went to the bottom of the stairs, holding the baby in his arms. When Joon saw the baby, she said "Ah, it came out! Now we can go swimming!" Andrew asked Joon if she wanted to meet her little sister, and she did. My mom picked up Joon, and she looked at the baby. She was very excited, but nervous, and scared to touch her.
Andrew asked if I was hungry, and then he made breakfast for all of us. We had bacon, eggs, and cinnamon raisin bread, and it was fantastic! I got so hungry while waiting, Andrew brought me a piece of bacon while the rest was cooking, and I ate it on the couch while nursing the baby.
After breakfast, Andrew was holding the baby, wrapped in a blanket, still without a diaper. She passed meconium, and it got all over her legs and feet. It took several wipes to get her clean, and she was very upset about it.
We decided to go ahead and weigh her, and I got the hanging scale and sling. She was 8 pounds 6 ounces! Two ounces heavier than Joon.
When I went to the bathroom, I was surprised that I didn't have any pain at all. I looked at my vulva with a mirror. It looked completely normal. I didn't tear, and there wasn't even any swelling. I didn't even need to use the peri bottle, or the comfrey compresses I had prepared.
I was sitting on the couch, nursing Penelope, and Joon asked for some milk. I asked if she wanted to share with her sister, and she climbed up and sat next to me, and I tandem nursed them for the first time.
At some point, my mom took Joon out shopping. They went to Goodwill, and my mom bought Joon a toy horse, and Joon picked out a plush tiger as a present for the baby. While they were gone, Andrew and I just hung out with the baby, and talked about names. We both loved the name Enola, but felt that it wasn't going to work well for a first name. Enola immediately became her middle name, and then we just had to figure out a good first name. We had a handful of names that we had both liked, but none of them really seemed to fit. Then we considered Penelope, and it suited her perfectly.
So it was decided, she was Penelope Enola.
Joon and my mom made Penelope's Birth Day cake. We had decided to go with a boxed mix, because we knew things would be too busy to bake from scratch. Joon helped my mom bake the cake, and then they frosted it, and we had Penny's Birth Day party. Joon had picked out a few presents for her, and helped wrap them a couple of weeks ago. We sat on the couch, and as I nursed Penny, Joon opened her presents and piled them all on my lap beside her. She also gave her a birthday card that she had picked out. It showed zoo animals riding a ferris wheel, and it said "It's your birthday. Hope it's a wild ride!"
Then we went to the kitchen, and Joon sang the Happy Birthday song, first the regular way, and then the version that says "you live in a zoo, you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too." Joon picked out three candles, and she blew them out for Penny. She kept talking about Penelope's umbilical cord, and then she told me that my vulva is bleeding. I just about died, because we were recording this to share with family. It was so funny.
We spent the rest of the day just hanging out and bonding. Then, when I was tired, I went to my own bed, with my husband and my new tiny baby.
Five minutes after birth:
Meeting for the first time:
Tandem nursing my girls:
Penelope's birthday party. Penelope was nursing. Joon opened all her presents and piled them beside her.