Talysen Jacob Schwartz
December 13, 2012
I love birth stories. So much so that I decided, in 2008, to turn them into a doctoral dissertation. I can read birth stories for hours. I love the details, I love the emotion, and I love those moments that change a woman forever.
For that reason, it is hard for me to know where to begin in writing my own story. For simplicity’s sake, I will preface the story with two things.
First, I had been having early labor for weeks. It started around week 35, and I was worried that I would have a baby so early that it would require a hospital birth, and also worried that I would have a baby before Thanksgiving. This was definitely not in my plans, as I had a large family gathering descending on my house for the holiday weekend. Fortunately, I made it safely past both the Thanksgiving weekend, and the 37 week mark, making a homebirth a safe option. I fully expected to have a baby by 38 weeks, though. I was fine being pregnant longer, but still surprised to make it past that date.
Second, a few weeks before the birth I had been browsing through some of my birth books and saw a statistic that mentioned that 30,000 women give birth on any given day. I was moved by the image of laboring alongside 29,999 other women, our strength building one another up, our common goal of birthing healthy babies creating a bubble of intention much larger than anything I could create on my own. I intended to draw on that strength when the time came.
On December 12, I had had enough. I didn’t want a 12/12/12 baby – I had done the numerology for 12-12-2012, which is an 11. 11’s are a very spiritual number, and create both beautiful and conflicted energy. However, both of the names we had picked out were also 11’s, and I figured that was plenty 11 energy for one person (not to mention for that one person’s mother!). Adding a 12/12 birthdate felt like too much for me! However, I couldn’t help but feel the pull of this baby being ready to be born. I was also becoming sleep-deprived, being up every night with contractions for hours on end, and was constipated. I decided to take a very small dose of castor oil – I figured at that small of a dose, I would probably just clear my bowels & fall asleep. I also knew that castor oil in small doses does not tend to induce labors unless both mama & baby are ready.
Around 7pm, I began making trips to the bathroom. I was having contractions, but nothing stronger or more regular than what I had been having daily up to that point. I was so relieved to be pooping – I know, TMI, right? But seriously, it was a huge relief. In between bathroom trips I sat on my ball, watched TV, ate some snacks, joked with Joe, read bedtime stories to Athan. You know, a normal night.
It was about 11:15 when I got up to go to the bathroom for the 97th time. OK, maybe the 6th or 7th time. Anyway, when I stood up it felt like I peed a little. Like any woman 2 days past her EDD, I wondered if my water had broken. I began rummaging through my bathroom drawers trying to find my Ph paper – amniotic fluid is very alkaline, while urine is very acidic. Ph paper is a perfect test to see which fluid you are dealing with. I finally find it, rub the liquid from my fingers on a piece of paper, and watch as it turns blue (alkaline). Literally just as this happened, my water BROKE. I mean BROKE – like a water balloon bursting all over the floor. I starting laughing, and I called out to Joe “Um yeah, my water just broke!” I couldn’t help but keep laughing, as the water kept coming. Did I mention I was still wearing pants? I had grabbed a towel, that I was now standing over, and what felt like 2 gallons of fluid gushed out to the floor.
I cleaned up my puddle, put on a skirt & a cloth pad, and sent texts to my midwife & photographer. Cathy, the MW, texted back & said they (she & her assistant Julia) would be right over). I told Ginger (the photographer) that we would let her know when we needed her. For the first 10-15 minutes, nothing happened. And then the first REAL contraction hit. I texted Ginger again, and said “On second thought, you should head up now!” She lives about 40 minutes away, and I knew she would need to gather her things, etc. Joe got busy filing the pool.
Suddenly I felt really cold. I put on warm socks, a sweatshirt, and wrapped a blanket around my waist. I had to go change my cloth pads every couple of minutes – each contraction basically soaked the pad with fluid. I ran out quickly, and found a chux pad to sit on. I was rocking on my ball, using the bathroom, leaning on the bathroom counter, leaning on the bathroom doorway. I would guess I was having contractions every 5-6 minutes, though we never did time them.
There is an interesting ‘side story’ to this birth that started right around this time. Joe, who had been completely fine as we were watching TV earlier, was suddenly nauseous. He would sit with me for a few minutes, then go off to the other bathroom. He ended up throwing up a few times. I really wondered if he was going to be able to support me through this labor at all. Fortunately, Craig & Jordan were on alert as well (one of us had told them when my water broke, too), and so I knew there would be people around to help. It didn’t make me happy to think of Joe being unavailable, but I didn’t feel devastated by it, either. It was just the way things were going.
*note – a lot of the details from here on out were pieced together over a few days after the birth. I had very little concept of time, and the birth was so fast that I really didn’t know what was going on!*
A little after midnight, Cathy, Julia, & Ginger all arrived. I was mid-contraction, leaning on the side of my bed, when Cathy came in to my room. She waited quietly, and then asked how I was doing. I was still wrapped in my blanket, laboring normally, and said that other than being cold, and my back hurting, I was OK so far. She asked if I wanted her to check me. Throughout my pregnancy, I had thought I would decline any internal checks. However, I had asked her to check me about 5 days before, as I wanted to know if all of the daily labor was making any progress. I was curious to know what to expect at this point (I was 1-2 cm, 50% effaced, and pretty posterior at the previous check). I figured I was maybe 3 cm, but hoped that I was more effaced & less posterior by now. I was shocked to hear her say “6 centimeters, fully effaced, I can’t even really feel the edges.” So either in 5 days, or an hour, or some combination of the two, my cervix had gone from 1-2cm to 6; from 50% to 100%; and from posterior to ‘right there.’ I figured another 6 hours or so, and I would have a baby! It was about 12:30am. Ginger came in to say hello, and snapped a few pictures.
I continued to labor on the ball, or standing wherever I happened to be as I was walking around. When Joe needed to leave the room, he sent Julia in. By now I was asking for hip squeezes, as the back pain was getting pretty intense. He was doing his best to stay close by, and running off to throw up when he needed to. I went in to use the bathroom, and hated the feeling of sitting on the toilet through a contraction. I was so glad when it was over and I could stand back up.
That was when I started shaking uncontrollably. By now I had removed several of the layers of clothing. I was no longer cold, and that shaking could only mean one thing. My thinking brain, however, was incredulous. “There is no way I can be in transition already!” I remember thinking. I decided to get into the birth pool. I stripped off the last few items of clothing, except the black ‘bra’ I wore throughout the labor & birth. Getting into the water felt wonderful, though I was wishing it was slightly hotter. I liked being able to be on my hands & knees, taking some pressure off my back as my belly floated in the pool. According to Cathy’s notes, it was about 1:15am.
Pretty soon, the contractions started coming right on top of one another. I told Joe I needed him near me – I couldn’t cope when he was out of the room at that point. He diligently found a spot on the floor next to the pool, and held my hand. I was getting tiny breaks between the contractions – some as little as 10 seconds, and most less than a minute. They hurt in my back more than anything, so Joe did his best to give me some counter pressure when he could. By now he was yawning through the contractions – he wasn’t tired, he said, but he couldn’t help it. I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. Because I was getting almost no time to rest between contractions, I rarely was able to take full, complete cleansing breaths. I swore a few times, I cried a little, I asked for a bowl into which I heaved many times but never actually vomited (a first for me, I threw up with all 3 previous births). There were sips of Gatorade, ice chips, and water handed to me. There was a cold cloth that felt SO good on my face & neck – I felt like I was overheating at this point. There were encouraging words from Joe, Cathy, Julia, & Ginger. There was pain, and noise, and quiet, and water.
At some point, I remembered those 29,999 other women. I remembered that I only had to deal with one contraction at a time. I remembered that there would be a baby coming soon. I remembered that I had done this three times before, and that each time it was worth it. I also remembered that after tonight, I would never have to do this again. Even if tonight lasted into this morning, or even this afternoon or evening, this was the last time I would do this. It would end, eventually. Those thoughts calmed me, and the panic I was feeling at the peaks of the contractions began to subside.
It was then that I realized I had been pushing through my contractions. I even said out loud, “I think I’m pushing.” Joe’s reply was a sarcastic, “You think?” It was sweet & made me giggle in my mind. Cathy said something about if this was the position I wanted to be in that when the baby emerged she would pass him up through my legs to me. I couldn’t imagine moving, so I shook my head & said OK. I began pushing with a little more might – the gentle movements that my body was doing didn’t feel as if they would be enough. It felt good to push against the pain. But after a handful of contractions, I remember HATING being on my knees. I said something like “I don’t want to be in this position anymore!” and as soon as that contraction ended I turned over into a semi-reclined squat. That felt much better! Another interesting note is that when I started pushing, Joe felt miraculously fine. Nausea gone, yawning over. He was just fine….
I continued pushing in this position. I was worried, however, about having a cervical lip. All three of my previous births had involved an anterior cervical lip that was stretched over baby’s head by the midwife or OB involved. I said to Cathy, “What if I’m pushing against a lip?” Joe said “So what?” or something to that effect, and my thinking brain wanted to explain all of the so what – the danger of swelling, etc. But the rest of me was too busy having a baby, so Cathy quickly reached in and said “There’s no lip, you are doing just fine.” Then I REALLY started to push. I reached in to feel where the baby’s head was – I could tell I would be able to feel it. I felt him there, really low but with a few inches to move down. I could only feel a small part of his head – maybe an inch across and 2 inches long. It was motivating, though. It was the first time I had felt my baby without parts of me between us.
I also remember that at some point in there, I started talking out loud to my baby. “Move down, baby” I would say, or “Come on baby mama is ready to meet you.” The first time I said something out loud I felt a bit awkward. I knew, though, that baby needed to hear me talk to him, so I just kept saying things during every contraction break. It seemed to help the whole process.
The whole time, Joe was whispering wonderful things in my ear. I don’t remember what, exactly. Telling me I was doing a great job, saying our baby would be here soon, that kind of thing.
I pushed through 4 or 5 contractions (they were still only about 2 minutes or so apart), and felt again to see how much he had moved. My findings: he hadn’t moved at all. That was when I realized how much I could feel him up against my tailbone. I knew he was stuck there – it didn’t feel like he was in danger or anything, but I knew it was going to take some real effort to move him past that obstacle. I think I said something out loud about it, I remember Cathy telling me to visualize him moving up & out. I got up into a full squat, pushed a few times with everything I had, and felt him move past my tailbone, until he was crowning. Then I leaned back a bit.
One of the great things about the water, in this birth, was that there was NO WAY I could put any weight on my tailbone. Sitting was totally out of the question. Because of the partial weightlessness, I was able to keep my weight on my hands and feet & keep my bottom off of the ground. There was no way I would have been able to do that on the bed or floor. My arms hurt like hell for days after, but it was worth it. At some point, I asked to have my boys brought in. They had been in the living room, watching a movie and waiting patiently. They were in the bathroom with us for about the last 15 minutes until the birth.
Those last couple of pushes, I let my body do the work. I helped a little – tiny grunty pushes. I could feel that familiar ‘ring of fire’ that comes with an emerging baby head. It was interesting, though, that it felt so different than my first three. With each of them, I felt as though my clitoris was going to tear off – I remember putting pressure on it and that helped so much. This time, though, it felt very different. This time it felt as though everything was going to tear. We gently pushed together – me & baby – until his head was out. Something felt like it was cutting me, and I yelled STOP a no one in particular. Cathy was reaching to check for a cord, but she stopped, told me what she was doing, waited a second, then checked. No cord. Good.
Ginger got several great pictures of this moment. Had it not been for the pictures, and what everyone had told me, I would have had no idea that he was born face up, posterior, and looking right at everyone through the water. Hence the back pain, different feeling as the head was being born, and the sore tailbone to follow.
This is one of those moments where ignorance is bliss. First time I had a baby, I had NO IDEA how much those emerging shoulders would hurt. But I’m birthing baby #4. I seriously did NOT want to finish this process. I remember thinking, he’s fine right there… except of course he wasn’t, and neither was I. So I gave one last huge push, and screamed as he came through. Then we lifted him up out of the water to my chest, where he proceeded to make the cutest little mewing sounds. It was 2:45 am. He was breathing well and pinked up fast. We checked, and sure enough, boy number four. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Except for those things that need to be noted. Like my beautiful 13 year old son crying, because he was so happy to see me so happy (I am even more grateful to Ginger for catching that moment!). Or the look on my 6-year old’s face as he became a big brother. And the look of pride on my 11-year old’s face as he cut the baby’s cord. There was also the fact that my midwife had to leave pretty quickly after the birth, as another mama had called to say that her water broke around 2:30am. Cathy didn’t make it on time – the other baby was born at 2:55am.
We stayed in the water for about 15 minutes or so. The placenta came out pretty quickly after the birth. Daddy held baby Talysen while I got out of the tub & walked gingerly to the bed. Sitting was NOT an option, as my tailbone felt as though it had been broken. Julia stayed behind and took care of clean-up. She also weighed & measured Talysen – 7 lbs 6 oz, 21 inches. Corbin’s size, exactly. No tears for me, but Talysen ended up with 2 pretty good sized hematomas on his head. They didn’t seem to cause him any pain, but they caused us some stress so we had them checked out at about 2 weeks. They were fine, and cleared up by 6 weeks.
Overall, it was a beautiful birth. I couldn’t believe how short it was – 3 ½ hours from water breaking to holding a baby. I always refer to myself as a ‘marathoner’ with my 19.5, 27, and 11 hour previous births. Of course 11 hours is totally average, but I never would have guessed that this one would be so fast. The joy of climbing into your own bed with your new baby is one you have to experience to understand. We didn’t even put any clothes on him, just a diaper and a towel to keep him warm, and he slept skin-to-skin on my chest from 4am until we woke up around 8 or 9. I was able to have all three of my other ‘babies’ present for the moment of their brother’s birth, which is something I know they will never forget. Gabe has commented that “It must have taken a lot of power to get Talysen out” and he is right- it did take a lot of power. I am clear, though, that it wasn’t just MY power. It was the power of those 29,999 other women; it was Joe taking some of the energy so that I did not have the burden of all of it; and it was the power of a mother who knows just how beautiful and transformation birth really is.