On 07 Jan, at 40 weeks +2 days, we hiked as a family along The Pipe Track on Table Mountain. Much like my previous pregnancies, I had been having prodromal labor for a few weeks so had stopped paying much mind to the somewhat consistent contractions that came and went during the day.
When we got home at 15:00, as I stood up from the couch, i heard a “pop” noise and had a sudden urge to use the toilet. I suspected that my waters had broken and used a pH litmus paper to test - it immediately turned dark blue.
No contractions. That night I had contractions 15 min apart. I had a bloody show around 3:30am and was relieved to see that something was actually happening in my body. At 8am the midwife called to check in and I told her contractions were still sporadic and far apart and she said because my water broke and things weren’t really progressing she may have me go into the hospital around 9 or 10 for fetal monitoring. The kids went to a friends which i also thought might help me go into “the zone”.
I felt like I was on a bit of a timeline so I started walking up and down the stairs in my house, squatting, bouncing on the exercise ball. These activities had been part of my daily activities from about 37 weeks as I tried to get labor going.
When Susan called again she gently asked what I wanted to do. I felt so empowered and trusted in that moment, like she was listening, supporting and leaning into my bodies intuition. I said that I would really like to stay home but trusted her advice. She suggested I take a bit of castor oil and go for a brisk walk. My husband and I went for a walk along a nature trail in our neighborhood and I the contractions started getting more intense but still far apart. I wasn’t feeling the contractions so much as I could tell they were lasting longer and my belly was more firm. I was wearing a pad but my water was leaking so much from the walk that it was running down my legs by the time we got home. Susan and I had agreed upon meeting at 3pm at the hospital as it would be 24 hrs since my water broke and they would like to do fetal monitoring to make sure all was well with baby.
At 2pm I had Steve go buy castor oil and took a shot. Contractions were still about 10 minutes apart and increasing in intensity (yet quite different from my other labors-I only felt them in the front of my belly rather than the wrap around from the back feeling Iwas used to). I called the midwife and Bernice answered this time as she was on call. I explained that things were picking up (which I was in a bit of denial about but partially just wanted to buy myself some time to not go to hospital).
She said she was going to come over and would be there in 45 min.
My other four children were born in the evening and it was still quite early and very bright, even with the curtains drawn. I told Steve it was too bright to have a baby and he pulled out a ladder and rigged some pillows blocking out light from the skylight so the bedroom room would be darker.
When the midwife came at 15:30 I was starting to groan through contractions but thought maybe I was only doing that because she was there. She checked me and I was 3cm dilated and still quite posterior. She swept my membranes.
After she checked me the contractions were so intense (still 10 min apart) and I didn’t want to be around anyone so went and stood in my kitchen (which is like a super bright fish bowl surrounded by windows. The contractions started coming about a minute apart and I just wanted Steve to stand near me, a reassuring presence. I felt like I needed to squat and hold onto something above me so for the next contraction held onto the railing on the stairs. I remember saying, “I’m going to need to push soon.” and Bernice asked where I would like to give birth. She empowered me with beautiful phrases like, “your body will guide you”. We headed toward my bedroom where I squat at the end of my bed and focused on breathing baby out. Bernice was saying, “it won’t be long now” and in a few exhales, I felt the baby’s head being born. At 17:07 I was holding him in my arms and climbing into bed. Like with my other births, I had that feeling of shock and awe, “he’s born?!” He has settled into our family beautifully and is very much adored by all of us.
As I’m trying to recall all the details of the blur that is the last few days of bringing my fifth baby into the world, this detail of solidarity sticks out.
It brings me to wonder about the power that standing with someone in the mystery, the intensity, the pain, the unknown can have in life. It gets me to reimagine the times when my two year old wants to do something “all by myself” but wants me to stand close by and watch without intervening. The beauty and simultaneous dispiriting of listening to a grieving loved one. The revelry or cheering on a dear friend who is succeeding in their dream. A midwife who listens closely and knows when “its time”, a partner who empathizes and supports. - an excerpt from a recent post on @wholly_mother