Sorcha Marian, born Sept 25th at 4:41am after 48 hours of labor
Sorcha is Gaelic for beacon, light, bright shining.
Birth of Sorcha, Our Beacon of Light
I had been having regular contractions every day for several weeks, but they always fizzled out and let me sleep at night. On the Thursday before she was born in particular, things seemed to progress all day until they spaced out again. Contractions had become a daily chore, but spaced out enough to sleep at night. Monday morning, at 4am, after only 4 hours of interrupted sleep, contractions began and were painful, distracting, and frequent. During the day, the contractions were every 5-10 minutes, regardless of what I did. I tried napping, but the contractions were more painful, although it did space out to every 15 minutes. I went to bed hoping to sleep or have a baby. During the night contractions spaced out again to every 15 minutes, and were painful enough to have to breath through. All night long. Again I was up for the day early. Dh decided to work from home, waiting to be needed. Contractions increased in intensity and frequency, so I called midwives Niki and Joella, and doulas Laura and Kristina. Niki and Joella decided to rearrange their appointments and come over around 3pm. I decided to have them check to see if I was making any progress, expecting little to nothing, and I was at 5cm and the baby at a +1. I cried. I was so happy to be in active labor rather than still being in an endless pattern of "practice". I was happy she was coming to be with us and that it wasn’t going to be long. HA! Yeah, right. My uterus was tilted out over the pelvis, and they thought it was probably slowing labor. So they put on the rebozo to help lift the uterus back over the pelvis. It felt really good, although after a while where the knot was hurt. Anyway, they left to get what they needed, including naps, I called the doulas to come over and had Michael set up the birth pool. After Laura and Kristina arrived, they timed me, and contractions were coming every 5 minutes. So I got in the pool. It was heaven. And contractions all but stopped. Great. We put on two movies. First we watched Big Trouble in Little China, which is one of my all time favorites. It was awesome. Then we watched Tango and Cash. They’re seriously funny movies that I’ve watched so many times that I can quote it and watch it without watching it, if you know what I mean. Then Jamie came in and was talking to Laura and Kristina and said to them, “I guess Sorcha is going to make it and get to be with us. But Charlie didn’t make it. He went to Heaven.” I didn’t realize he thought there was a chance she wouldn’t make it because I always felt that she was going to be fine, but here was my 5 year old saying he was happy that his little sister was going to be born and live with us instead of dying and going to Heaven. I hugged him and cried. After that, it was hard to not think about my Charlie and to not remember his labor and relive it. I tried to focus on Sorcha. I felt she was okay and that she would be okay. She was and is okay.
After the midwives returned, I got out and took a walk around the block with Mama, Laura, and Kristina. Sometimes I stopped to sway through contractions, but that didn’t really help, so I decided to walk through them. I felt like I was probably making better progress that way. We laughed and I said some really funny things, including how I just wanted to have the baby so I could sleep again. To heck with having a baby and all the wonder and joy, I just wanted sleep! Yeah, I guess a week of only a few hours sleep at night takes it’s toll. We laughed and got spunky. Mama had to stop walking a few times to concentrate on not peeing herself she was laughing so hard. There were many times on that walk that I laughed through a contraction, and as much as that hurt, it felt good. The cold air, the dark night sky, the company. And my baby moving her way down to meet us. At one point, we heard a car collision up the street (minor fender bender), and we joked about pranking the cops there about me being in labor and giving my statement about what we’d heard. I guess you probably had to be there.
When we got back, I had some dinner and walked around some more. I sat on the ball. I got back in the pool. In the pool, I still had contractions, but they spaced way out. I tried squatting but that didn’t help much. Joella checked me again, and I was around 9 cm, and the head had pulled back a bit. So I got out, wore the rebozo again, and walked. And OMG that hurt so very much. So of course that was working. I walked through some of the contractions, and stopped to sway through some of them. I tried sitting on the ball again, and contractions would totally stop. Every. Single. Time. So I walked through contractions, stopping every so often to sit on the ball for a rest. I would get up before anyone suggested it. I didn’t want to delay labor, I just wanted to catch my breath. I cussed a few times, which shocked Kristina. Oh, honey. I’m an army brat. And I may have said that I was never EVER going to get pregnant again. EVER. Haha! I even told my mom that if I even suggested getting pregnant again to remind me of this and to not let me even think about it. She humored me and said she would.
I remember being driven to keep walking. With labor going on so long I worried that they’d want to discuss going to the hospital. I couldn’t face that. They’d pressure me. I couldn’t do it. I knew my body was bringing her down, she was healthy and having a good time in there, active with a very steady and strong heart beat, with no signs of distress. I believed she probably had her hands up like Renna did and the walking and squatting would help. No one mentioned the hospital and I kept going.
Finally, we decided that things had progressed enough to lay down and get checked again. Head was right there, and tilted. Of course. Just like her sister. And then she said there was a cervical lip. And it was swelling. I had a moment of panic. I could hear the tension and concern in Joella’s voice and could sense the disappointment in the room although no one said anything. I knew from reading research that the baby’s head on the cervix will still draw back a swelling cervix, so I knew it was possible. But it’s not well understood and the position to continue labor in that situation, despite having good scientific backing, is not supported in the US. The cervix “swelling shut” is one of the big scares people talk about as reasons for c-sections. I’m sure there are cases where is has seemed the appropriate course of action, but I wasn’t sure it was necessary here. But I didn’t think I could defend that position at that moment and felt very vulnerable to whatever suggestions would be made. And in that brief moment after Joella said there was swelling, I imagined being told we needed to go to the hospital and imagined what it would be like. The contractions were coming so close and so strong that it seemed nothing short of extreme torture and I didn’t know how I would cope trying to slow labor in such chaos. Joella looked to Niki. Niki gave her some hand signal, and Joella turned to me and surprised me. She didn’t say anything about going to the hospital. She was going to push the cervix back and I was to push really hard. No problem! My body was doing that already, bearing down was exactly what I wanted to do. So I pushed really hard, and Joella said the head was almost out. I had pushed her head around the swollen part, something she had never seen before. YAY! Almost home free! And I pooped everywhere. All over everything. I couldn’t stop. Every contraction was also a bowel movement. I was so embarrassed and felt like it must be the biggest poo in the history of poop, but they were fine with it and even happy. As Kristina put it later, “the grosser things are and the more bodily functions going on at once, the more progress is being made and the closer you are to baby.” I remember being afraid she’d be born into poo, but she wasn’t.
When her head was out, I demanded they just pull her out. Haha! Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. And then Joella said something else. The shoulder was stuck. She barely got the words out before Niki and April were on top of me, pushing on my belly, pushing the baby. They told me to bear down as hard as I could. I was shocked but had no real time to react emotionally. I just pushed really hard. And then she was out at 4:41 am. Joella looked at her for a second, assessing her, then passed her up to lay on my belly. I was so happy she was there. I talked to her and stroked her. She was calm and beautiful and looking around like, “Cool. This is what the world is like.” At some point Niki and Joella discussed Sorcha’s breathing, saying she was fine, just calm and steady. I later learned that it’s unusual for a baby that got a shoulder stuck during delivery to not need “serious” help breathing. I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand or I would have worried. She was just laying there, looking around taking it all in, content.
Then the placenta finally came out and it was HUGE. And the cord was still pulsing. With the baby on my belly, and the placenta out, it was still pulsing. Joella was listening to it pulsing on the fetoscope, and asked Niki what she should do. Neither of them had ever seen that before. I guess I’m just full of firsts. Niki said with it being detached that Sorcha probably wasn’t getting anything from it, so she could cut it. Mama cut the cord and said it was very thick. She had to sort of saw on it with the scissors. Joella and Niki cleared away the bloody pads, and watched the bleeding. And kept watching it. I asked if I should try to get Sorcha to latch on to help shrink the uterus but they said it wasn’t necessary. I guess it was too much bleeding for that to help much. I think I did latch her on anyway, but she wasn’t that interested. They massaged the uterus but I was bleeding a lot, so I got two shots of pitocin and a pill. About the time the bleeding stopped, Sorcha latched on really started feeding. Overall I felt fine, and when I later got up to go to the bathroom, I didn’t get dizzy. Niki said some tolerate bloodloss better than others, so I probably didn’t need an iv unless I wanted it. I should just take my iron and drink a lot and not be alone when standing up for a while. They checked the uterus again, and it was much smaller, so they were really happy with that. I got stitched up, and they joked about being so tired they didn’t want to mess it up. April said that since she had been an EMT for so long she could stitch me up with her eyes closed and they’d be perfect. I liked that.
They assessed Sorcha, who by then had fed from both sides and was a happy girl. She pooped 4 times before they could get her weight. She was 9lbs 2oz, 21.5” long, and had a 14.75” head, at the normal angle but larger when tilted, of course. My Sorcha was finally born and safe in arms, 6 days late. My beacon of light, my joy. She has been a very easy baby and very happy and growing well. She’s impressed every pediatrician she’s seen with how robustly she’s growing on “just breastmilk”. That’s my girl. Her brothers and sister love her very much and love taking care of her and giving her kisses. She has already blessed them with smiles when they talk to her. Sean has decided Sorcha is his baby, and his partner the way Jamie and Renna are a pair. They are so very loving and I am so lucky to have been so blessed as be allowed to be their mother.
Periodically during labor, I talked to Sorcha, encouraging her to keep moving and working to be born. I didn’t talk to her that much because I remembered talking to Charlie during my labor with him. I had hoped he was still alive while I encouraged and consoled him to be born. I hoped we could see him alive before he died and that I could hold him and that he could feel in his entire body how much I loved him. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and most of the time I talked to him, believing us to be working together one last time, one flesh for the last time, he was already gone and it was just me. It was just me working to deliver what was left of his earthly existence. I wanted to feel that same oneness with Sorcha but this time with a living child, but couldn’t talk to her much. I didn’t want to remember Charlie’s death while giving his sister life. I probably should have just talked to her and let the memories come. They did anyway. I worried that that was keeping me from progressing, but after her birth and realizing that her head had been tilted, her hands up, and her shoulders cocked (because her head had been so tilted), I was relieved it was mostly her position.
Jamie and Renna saw Sorcha crowning, but Jamie freaked out about seeing the blood and Renna freaked out that I was so loud and in pain. Mama went to take care of them and missed the actual birth, which disappointed her greatly. She had missed Sean’s birth because he was born in a hospital and had to stay with Jamie and Renna while Michael went with me. She feels that seeing a live birth will help her healing after seeing Charlie’s stillbirth. Maybe next time. (Yes, I did say next time.) They came back after the birth to meet their new sister and to check on me. I couldn’t tell that Jamie had been crying, but they told me he’d been upset but I could tell Renna had been crying and reassured them both that I was okay and so was baby Sorcha. We talked about it a few times in the next few days (a periodically since then), and I told them the blood was okay, it’s just a part of having what Sorcha needed while she was in my body. I told them I was loud because it hurt, but it wasn’t horrible pain, but there was pain and by making noise I was letting it out so it didn’t hurt so much. They seemed happy with that.
I talked to Laura and Kristina later. They had said how very proud they were of how hard I worked, and they seemed to be at the time, but I thought it was normal supportive talk. After reading the post on their website about a mama working very hard to bring the baby into the world (me), I wondered if the labor really had been that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was DAMN HARD, but I figured I was just being a wuss or that most women had labors that long and hard. Or that it was my own demons (memories of Charlie, fear of going to the hospital and being pressured to progress or get cut open) making it so hard. I thought I just needed to suck it up and keep going because this was what every woman went through. Both Laura and Kristina emphatically said no. Apparently, for a healthy baby and mother labor and birth, it was one of the hardest they’d ever seen. They said they had never seen a mother labor so hard and for so long. It made me feel really good that the way I struggled and pushed myself internally wasn’t because I was a wuss but because it really was very hard. I pushed myself with thoughts of the baby I so desperately wanted to hold and see with my eyes and not just my heart. I pushed myself to keep going with the knowledge that women have done this for thousands of years and some have labored harder than others, but they all gave birth. Okay some mothers and babies died, but I was being well cared for and neither Sorcha nor I were in any danger. I pushed myself with the fear of going to the hospital and being pressured by protocol. I didn’t think being too tired was reason enough to stop helping my body labor. Laura, Kristina, and my mom kept me fed and hydrated which helped keep up my energy and hydration. I knew my body could do it, and I just had to keep going until it was over. I hung on through each contraction and pushed myself to keep doing what helped labor progress. Then I hung on some more knowing that it would all end eventually and any discomfort I felt was just temporary. Sorcha was coming. Finally. And no matter how awful it was, all I had to do was hang on and it would all be over and she’d be here and I’d feel great. And that’s exactly what happened.
Here she is, less than an hour old.
Here she is, later in the day.