Baby Sulema’s Birth
The evening before my due date I started feeling a little strange, like there might be something going on with me hormonally. I felt like I had chills as if I was getting sick, but I didn’t feel like I was getting sick. Francisco said my face looked flushed. We went to bed that evening hoping we would get to meet our little one soon.
I woke up around 2:30 a.m. feeling crampy. I immediately thought this might be early labor and lay in bed trying to sleep but I couldn’t sleep because the contractions, while mild, were coming every five minutes. I talked to my midwife, Susanna, on the phone a few times to update her on my progress. She asked questions about the contractions, encouraged me to try to sleep and told me if this is labor it’s very early.
I called Susanna again about an hour later to let her know how things were progressing. She again told me it’s still early on, but asked if I was comfortable with her not being there. At that point, I was. At a little after 6:00 a.m. I asked Francisco to call Susanna to ask her to come over. I was starting to worry if we waited much longer she would get stuck in rush hour traffic and I didn’t want to risk having the baby while Susanna was stuck in traffic!
At about 7:30 a.m. Susanna arrived. I was in the bedroom. She immediately asked Francisco to start boiling a big pot of water to sterilize her tools. She came into the bedroom and said she wanted to check me to see how far along I was. I was dilated 1 centimeter, 85% effaced and baby was at -1 station. During this check Susanna stretched my cervix open to 3 centimeters. It was painful but really got labor going quickly.
Soon after Susanna arrived I labored for a little while in the living room/kitchen area to be near Francisco and Susanna. Susanna wanted me to eat. Earlier that morning I had a smoothie because I knew I was supposed to eat and that was really the only thing I could stomach. Susanna suggested I eat eggs, which sounded disgusting, so I went to the kitchen to try to find something somewhat appetizing. While I was standing in the kitchen I felt a very strong contraction come on. I dropped to hands and knees, then told Susanna I felt sick. She immediately got me a bowl and I vomited up all of the smoothie. Yuck! I left the kitchen and didn’t consider eating anything else.
After leaving the kitchen I went back to bed. Around 9:00 a.m. Susanna told me we were going to go for a walk in the neighborhood. That sounded awful; I could not imagine a worse way to have a contraction than to be outside walking. I procrastinated and tried to get out of going on the labor walk.
Susanna checked me before the walk; I was 4.5 centimeters dilated, 90% effaced and the baby was still at -1 station. It was nice to know I had made progress and was about halfway there, but I was not dilated enough to get out of going for the walk.
We left for the walk at about 9:20 a.m. Susanna told me when contractions came during the walk Francisco and I were supposed to both drop into a squat with me leaning on him. As we were getting ready for the walk I had a contraction at the front door. Susanna dropped into a squat with me and demonstrated how we should do it.
We left for the walk, an dit was the most beautiful spring day I have ever seen. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, the sky was clear and blue, the trees were in bloom, and the temperature was perfect. Everything was extremely vivid. It felt like a day made for a birth!
Contractions were coming one on top of the next; it felt like I couldn’t walk five feet without stopping and squatting through another contraction. I would walk a few feet then turn to Francisco and say, “Okay, let’s do another.” We would both squat down, and he was a perfect support; I leaned completely into him and found myself moaning through very intense contractions. Neighbors were stopping as they drove by to make sure we were okay. Susanna intercepted everyone and said, “everything’s fine, we’re just having a baby.” I remember hearing one man say something along the lines of, “it sounds like she’s ready.” (I didn’t care in the least at the time, but it’s a pretty funny scene to look back on!) Susanna must have agreed because she cut the walk short and we turned around and went home.
We got home at about 10:00 a.m. and I went straight to the toilet, where Susanna told me to continue laboring. In retrospect, I know now I was in transition while I was on the toilet. At the time I felt like the contractions were really intense and I didn’t feel I was managing them well. I felt my hips were tight and I told Susanna, “I can’t relax on the toilet.” I wanted to go back to bed, but she suggested I get in the tub. I immediately said yes, thinking the water might give me some relief.
I did get about a minute or two of relief as soon as I got in the water. Susanna checked me right away and told me, “you’re 9 centimeters if not complete.” She immediately yelled to Francisco, who was now back in the kitchen. I remember Susanna yelling, “Francisco!” He didn’t respond, and I yelled, “We’re going to have a baby!” It was about 10:20 a.m. at this time.
I started pushing around 10:40 a.m. I was getting light-headed and started breathing oxygen after each push. Susanna was checking the baby’s heartbeat regularly and determined the baby wasn’t happy when I lay on my back. She suggested I lay on my left side. I couldn’t get comfortable in that position in the bathtub I started out lying down and wasn’t making much progress so I switched to a squat position in the tub. Francisco was in charge of turning on the oxygen and giving me the mask after every single push. We had a good rhythm going – I would push, take a couple of breaths of oxygen, push again, breathe oxygen, etc., until the contraction ended. I have always heard people say it feels good to push, and I definitely experienced that. It was hard work to push but I did not feel pain when I was pushing.
At some point, Susanna told me to feel the head. I reached down and felt a soft hairy head, but really had no emotion or interest and just wanted to get back to work. In what seemed like no time, Luna (Susanna’s assistant midwife) arrived just as I was delivering Sulema’s head. Then I heard Susanna say very calmly, “the cord is around the baby’s neck twice.” As soon as I heard that I pushed hard and the rest of Sulema’s body came out. It was 11:32 a.m.
I didn’t see Susanna unwrap the cord, but I think she got it unwrapped even before the body came out. I was standing in the tub and Susanna handed me the baby who was already making noises and turning pink. I was in complete shock. Every time I watch a birth video I get teary when the baby is born, but I had none of those emotions when Sulema was born. I was simply in shock. I remember saying something like, “I can’t believe it,” over and over again and just staring at the tiny person in my arms.
Almost immediately after I stood up with Sulema in my arms I felt something warm. I looked down and saw a stream of pee going from the baby into the tub. Before I had time to look at where the pee was coming from I heard Francisco say, “It’s a girl!”
Susanna and Luna helped me out of the tub and into the bed while I held Sulema, who was still connected to me. We lay in bed together while Susanna and Luna checked out my tear and waited for me to deliver the placenta. Susanna said the tear was most likely caused by Sulema’s shoulders – I’m sure it happened when I did that last big push because I really pushed hard and fast. Eventually, they gave me a shot of Pitocin in the leg to get the placenta out so they could start stitching me up. The placenta came out easily and I felt the same weird empty feeling in my abdomen that I felt when Sulema was born. They kept the placenta in a bowl and proceeded to repair my tear. The stitches took a while, but weren’t painful and healed well. Later that day Susanna showed us the placenta and explained how it works – that was very cool to see. She stayed and helped clean up and made sure we were all doing well.
Susanna left that evening then returned the next day, a few days later, then a week later and a month later. It was wonderful to have that in-home support while I was healing and adjusting to having a newborn.