Some moments of Lake’s birth are very clear to me still, some are very vague, some time frames are unclear as they seemed to be racing by, but nobody was watching a clock.
On January 4th I woke up with contractions that seemed to be gathering steam. The contractions faded throughout the afternoon and then stopped. I had contractions and thought I was in labour twice over the previous two weeks.
We went for post-dates fetal assessment on January 19th. Already seven to ten days past any estimated due date, we had a serious discussion about induction. I had to negotiate more days of assessment rather than jump right to induction. By the time we left I was really fed up and annoyed about the pressure to have interventions I didn't want. Later in the evening I had a couple of contractions before going to bed.
About two hours later, at about 1:30 am I woke up to two strong and close together contractions and woke Dale up right away. Our daughter, Shaw, woke up and needed Daddy. He was able to get her right back to sleep and come back to check on me.
We timed some contractions before calling the midwife. After half an hour, we called the midwife telling her that they were already about two minutes apart and she said she was on the way. I think she could hear me chanting through my contractions over the phone.
Dale went into action getting the bed and the pool ready. I called my friend Lisa telling her things seemed to be happening, but probably still playing down just how quickly it felt like it was going. She, too, was on her way.
The bed was ready and the pool was filling, but not fast enough for me, I felt desperate to get in. Lisa arrived with her daughter, Avalon, while I was leaning on the side of the bed trying to keep my hips moving and hanging my head over a bucket feeling nauseous. In my head when the nausea hit I thought, "Wait a second, nausea is usually at transition. Oh my gosh, I'm in tr... blech... I'm in transition. Oh my gosh. This is coming fast. Oh my... blech... the midwife is never going to make it in time. Get me into the pool! Ok, I'm getting in, I need to get in. I NEED to get in." I announced I was getting in and Dale and Lisa helped me step into the pool.
As soon as I knelt down and my belly was under water I felt the relief of the weightlessness. It was a miracle how good it felt so immediately. The contractions seemed like they were already on top of each other, but I thought I would have some time. I think I had only a few contractions in the pool before suddenly I felt my body bearing down on its own and I let out a pushing grunt and felt the pop of a small pocket of amniotic fluid as my water broke.
At this, Dale and Lisa both came running over to the pool knowing that there was some pushing happening already, clearly, by the looks on their faces, shocked at this turn of events. Apparently everyone was under the assumption that there would be more time to settle into things before the action got serious. I clearly remember Dale, with just a tinge of panic in his voice, telling me to, “Breathe, Sue, breathe” when he realized that pushing meant baby was coming.
I was completely beyond any consideration of the midwife's presence or lack thereof. I never had any thoughts of fear or doubt as my body was doing exactly what it knew to do. The pushing just couldn't be helped. It was not a conscious effort to push with my contractions, my contractions were doing it all on their own, I was even trying to hold them back to prevent baby coming through too quickly and causing any tearing.
I was leaning on one side of the pool with one arm dangling on the outside and checking on the descent of baby with the other. I could feel the edge of the amniotic sack across the top of baby's head and it took another couple of contractions to bring the head to crowning. Dale was giving counter pressure by pushing on my tail bone, it’s amazing that such a seemingly small touch can make such a big difference.
At crowning this was the only point I actually felt like I was able to really relax every bit of me to slow things down... for maybe a split second. Even just a split second like that does wonders in encouragement when in the midst of pushing a baby out. I had one hand on baby's head at crowning, and then brought both together to bring her head out into my hands.
It was an unbelievable feeling being the one person bringing and welcoming my baby into the world. I was doing commentary with each progression, announcing that the head was coming and then that the head was out. With excitement in her voice, Lisa assured me saying, "Sue, that's the worst bit!" also giving away just a hint of how quickly we'd have baby with us.
Because I was on my knees still leaning forward against the side of the pool neither Lisa nor Dale could see as it was happening, until the head was out and Dale could see what I could feel. When the head was fully out, the baby actually started squirming, I was so happy and amazed and overwhelmed when I exclaimed, "The baby is moving!" It was a sensation I'm not sure I will forget and when I was telling Dale about it afterwards he said he could see it when I was saying it and it was a very strange thing to witness. The head was moving as if the baby was trying to wriggle itself the rest of the way out of the womb.
I think it was with the next contraction that the little mover and shaker got past the shoulders and I felt a whoosh as the rest of the baby and just about the whole of my amniotic fluid came rushing out. At the same time, I reminded Dale to keep the baby under the water as we had talked about. Dale had it all under control and passed baby to me, back through my legs and helped me turn around at the same time.
Right away as I was bringing the baby up I saw that she was a girl and somewhat stole Dale's big moment blurting that announcement. He introduced her to the world by her names.
Lisa jumped into action to rub baby to get the breathing going. While being totally overwhelmed by the moment, I was trying to do the same rubbing her little feet to bring the pink into the blue. She started to breathe on my chest and I could see on one side of her face she had inherited at least one of my dimples. I was shocked to see someone already so familiar.
It was so exciting that we had just done it all on our own and had a perfect new little person to show for it. Dale realized we should note the time of her birth and I remember him launching himself across our bed to get a look at the clock. Lisa said it was 'around 3:30,' Dale said '3:29' so that's what we're going with.
I took in how clear the water in the pool was, no blood at all, she came up to me so clean and beautiful. I was actually briefly able to absorb the moment; we were in our own home, our own bedroom with just one good friend with us having just caught our new baby together. Dale said, "So, this is Lake Keohane Elliott". It was so perfect, still holding her in the water, that this was the name we had chosen.
I was starting to shake and reluctantly moved to the bed to get dry and cozy with Lake under the blankets. Again it was a perfect moment still connected to my new baby girl through her umbilical cord, but having her lying beside me to look at and touch and be totally amazed with.
After all of the commotion delivering the baby not having disturbed her, Shaw woke up again, around four o'clock in the morning. At first we wondered if we should get her back to sleep or introduce her to her new sister. Dale opted to bring her into our bed and introduce her to her new little sister. She wasn't really awake at first, but when we pointed out the new baby she was suddenly wide eyed and fully aware. She cuddled on Dale's lap while they admired our new girl together. Then she told us, "I'm happy with my baby sister."
It was about 50 minutes after Lake was born that we heard a car in the driveway and Dale said the midwife was here. She came in expecting to hear me still chanting through contractions or at least some commotion of birth still going on. She said that when she came in and it was all quiet she thought my labour must have petered out again and we'd gone back to bed.
She came up to the bedroom and I saw the look of complete surprise on her face to see me lying in the bed with the top of a new little baby head peeking out. She started asking me how I was doing and where we stood with the placenta and then checking on the baby. She asked if I was now OK with cutting the cord and asked Dale if he wanted to do the honours. He said he would. Lake and I were still lying in the bed when the midwife clamped and Dale cut the cord.
Following the cutting, the midwife helped me up almost right away, but without rushing me to bring the placenta out. One push over a bowl on the floor and the placenta came. It was a very small placenta and came out intact with no signs of age even though we think Lake was a little late coming. The amniotic sack was a little ragged in the midwife's words, so she told me to keep an eye on things in the days to come. She also checked me for any lacerations and found no sign of any tearing or even abrasion.
The midwife needed a closer look at Lake. Her temperature was a little low so we cozied her up to a hot water bottle and back under the blankets with me for a feed. She didn't eat so much as just try to figure out the whole process. When she was done and a little warmer, it was time for a checkup and weigh-in.
Lake weighed in at eight pounds, one ounce, a full pound heavier than her sister. We'll never know exactly how late she was, if at all. I think she really was waiting for just the perfect moment to arrive -- and it was.
By: Sue Appleton
Sue Appleton is a mother of two sensational little girls, Shaw and Lake, and wife of baby catcher and stellar guy, Dale. She is a birth doula in Saint John, New Brunswick.
This birth story was taken from our Summer 2011 issue of Birthing Magazine