[warning: nudity ahead! You may want to shoo your children. I have chosen to publish these photographs because I feel it's important for the public to understand normal childbirth.]
Elisabeth Diane Jones was born August 20, 2008 into mom's hands, with only Dad present. We were blessed with a beautiful, gentle, very positive, unhindered birth.
I started having contractions that day (the day after her due date) while at the park with Rychen (brother) and my mom. I didn't recognize them because they felt like cramps (and I had been having a lot of gas) which is pretty different from the contractions with Rychen's birth. Anyway, they were very irregular so I didn't pay attention until I realized "Hey, this cramping is off and on, and it keeps coming!" I started wondering if I was in labor, but still didn't take it seriously because every little thing lately had me thinking I was in labor!
When we got home, I got busy. (I didn't look at the clock, but probably 11:30?) It wasn't a rational thought. I still wasn't thinking "I am in labor." I just felt that I should clean things up. I picked up toys, pausing every few minutes for a contraction. As they kept coming, I began to do more birth preparation things like preparing many snacks for my son, and making sure everything I wanted for the birth was upstairs. Also, I was THIRSTY!! I kept chugging down water. I had made a special labor drink - water with chlorophyll, wheatgrass juice, lemon juice, and red raspberry tea. Also, I was shaking for some reason. I guess excitement. My voice was shaky when I spoke to him.
I just kept bustling around the house instinctually, wondering when I should call my husband. I didn't want to call too soon, and I never thought "I am in labor," so I kept putting it off (also, my mom was hanging out, I never told her either). At 12:40 or so, I was in the kitchen and noticed I was stopping and breathing through each contraction, and I had three in a row. Suddenly it hit me, and I thought "I need to call Rychen!" I told him I was in labor but it was hard to judge how serious it was. The contractions kept coming but weren't lasting very long (I think they were coming every 3 minutes or so). At that point I didn't really feel I needed him, I told him "Just come when you can." But by the time he got home, I was thinking "Where is he!!!!!!?"
A funny thing happened while I waited for him. I was getting a text message ready to send to the midwives on call, to say "FYI I'm in labor" and then I had an incoming text from my Sister-in-law saying "Congrats!" I was so confused, and then terrified once I realized what happened -- a few days earlier I had drafted a text saying "Baby is born! We'll call you later" to send to our immediate family. Somehow, it got sent! Everybody thought I had had the baby! But I forgot who all I had sent it to. And I don't know much about texting, so here I was in active labor trying to figure out my phone, and calling back to say "oops" all while pretending I wasn't in labor currently! I was just scared that people were going to start calling or dropping by if they thought the baby was born.
Rychen got home around 1:15. I was upstairs setting out shower curtains and chux pads. I was still very shaky and haphazardly gave him a tour of our upstairs, showing where I wanted to be, what things were for, etc. I was telling him about the text mix-up and he was being chatty telling me about work and I had to say "Ssh!!" and I went inward for a contraction.
I didn't know what I wanted, should I get in the bath? I said fill it up, but I don't want to get in yet. I wasn't in pain, and felt that I should just keep doing what I was doing--seemed to be working so far (standing, moving around, etc.) so I decided to dance a little. I had Josh Groban music playing.
I remember glancing at my index cards that I had prepared with affirmations and scriptures. I thought "I don't want to read anything!" I never touched them. And Rychen half-seriously said, "Should I update your facebook status to say you are in labor?" I said, I don't feel like doing anything! So at this point I was definitely in active labor.
Around 1:45 I got in the bath. We were still chatting a bit, I was upright in the tub. When a contraction came I would lay down in the water and breathe through it. I wanted to keep dancing to Josh Groban and had a sudden urge of intimacy. I said, "Do you feel like getting naked?" I wanted to stand up and slow dance naked in between contractions. But by the time he was undressed, I had moved on to another idea and didn't feel like doing that anymore.
So I was in the bath only about twenty or thirty minutes. I was kneeling up--I only needed my lower abdomen submerged. In fact, I felt very hot and weak, so we put cold washcloths on my upper body. I even turned on the faucet and splashed myself with freezing cold water. It felt awesome! This is one thing my instinct told me to do. I can't explain it. Anyway, I was kneeling up. Rychen was sitting or kneeling outside the tub and would tell me when my jaw was tight (a tight jaw is a tight vagina). We made out to loosen it up. I also got this incredibly strange sucking urge during contractions, and I sucked his arm! It seemed to work really well to get me through.
Also, my mind was racing with thoughts (as usual) and I kept vocalizing my insights. I was jabbering on about how much I loved him, how this is the pinnacle of God's creation, how I was realizing my womanhood, how special it was to be an eternal family, etc. At one point I heard my son laugh downstairs and I just said, "Our son is happy! We are a happy family!" (the cheesy things you say during labor...) Another funny thing is that as I was feeling so spiritual and grateful, I was filled with sadness for all those moms who give birth but never really realize this joy of fulfilling their real womanhood.
I was focusing on all these happy, spiritual things. I never shut up! It got me through and made it a really positive experience. I kept affirming how "This is God's design" and "This is so beautiful! This is so wonderful!" I was also talking a lot to my baby. I told my baby "You are doing so good! There is nothing to be afraid of. Come out to us! It's time for your earth life. It is so wonderful, God's plan for us, don't be afraid!"
But it was still intense. I couldn't talk during the contractions anymore, but I needed him to put pressure on my hips, so I tried motioning. He was busy between the contractions, going to get the clock, etc. (to which I said "I don't need to see that!") and I couldn't communicate when I needed him. Or, I'd tell him to do something and he'd start doing it, but I'd say "No! AFTER this contraction is over!" He later said, it was hard to tell when a contraction was starting and stopping, since I didn't tell him or give any indication. He could only tell when I would motion with hands instead of verbalizing (I wasn't making noise with the contractions, or maybe just at the peaks).
Rychen suggested I get out of the bath for a minute (I had asked him to remind me to do this). I got up and went into the other room, got on all fours, and sang along to Josh Groban. (This was around 2:15 I think?) Rychen mentioned something and I snapped at him, and then it hit me: "I'm in transition already?" It was a bit more intense out of the water, so after one contractions I went straight back! Then I told him "I am feeling that thing I felt with Rychen P.!" You know what -- the most uncomfortable urge ever... "I feel like I have a huge fart!" That feeling just drove me crazy! I felt myself and yelled out, "I can feel the head! I can feel the head!" That part is so amazing because all this time, I was wondering what was in my belly, and now I could actually touch it! But there was some sort of ridge under the head so I thought I should hold back. Also, I wondered why there was no hair. I couldn't quite make out what I was feeling. After another contraction, I felt again, and this time I could make it out. I said, "Oooh, that's the membranes!" That's why it was smooth instead of hairy. I could feel the membranes glide around and the hard head underneath. One more contraction (with pushing), and this time my perineum was huge and bulging! I was thinking, "Oh no, how is this huge head going to make it through!?" And at this point, I was certainly making noise with the pushing. This urge was so intense, and so uncomfortable! I didn't want to push it out but I couldn't hold it in. I was growling all over the place, thinking my mom can probably hear me. (Speaking of her, we still had never officially said I was in labor. Maybe she figured it out. - Later she said, she never heard anything. Just the music playing.) My water broke with the second-to-last push (and by the way, I never saw a mucous plug).
Oh also, my son had wanted to watch her come out. The deal was that we'd come get him when she was ready to come out, but I'd say "I'll try, but sometimes it just happens too fast." Well, when I began to push, I said "Go get Bub." As soon as Rychen turned around, I said, "No, wait." I didn't know how long I'd be pushing, and I didn't want to be growling in front of him. The next time I pushed, I did it again! "Go get him! No, Don't!"
The next thing I knew, the baby was out. There was no crowning moment, I didn't feel any stretching, and there was no pause between the head and body. She just popped out. I was shouting, "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh!!!!!!" as I scooped her out of the water and immediately started rubbing her, facedown, as I had visualized. Rychen had to ask me to check the gender. I did, and then did a double take! I screamed out, "IT'S A GIRL!!!!! IT'S A GIRL!!!!!!!!!" For sure thinking my mom could hear me. In that moment we had both forgotten about Rychen P., then I had to say, "Well, go get him!"
Big brother meets his new baby sister
The baby was purple but breathing. So I just focused on rubbing her, keeping her face down, and her head low. She was snorting a lot, so I had somebody grab the bulb to suction her (my mom and son were watching this). My mom asked about the gender so I turned her over to show Rychen P. "Is there a penis?" I asked him. (This was how we had talked about it, and how he'd be able to tell if it was a boy or girl.) He said, "No, there is no penis!" Somebody was taking a picture of me (everything was happening at once) and I smiled at the camera and yelled, "We have an absence of penis!"
"Absense of penis! Yay!!!"
Anyway, I was still rubbing her as she kept snorting. I felt fine about it, but I told my mom, "Can you call the midwife and just tell her what is happening?" So she made a quick phone call and said, that is fine. The cord was short and I could feel it stretching between me and her. Also I remembered I was going to take motherwort to prevent hemorhage, so I told Rychen to give it to me. I was also drinking water with cinnamon tincture in it. I was very focused on my baby and wasn't worrying too much about blood loss, but I did just want to get the placenta out so that I could relax about the whole thing. Plus, the bath water was getting pretty red, and you just can't judge how much blood is in it. So we were just doing everything we could do, have the baby at the breast, Rychen was squeezing my uterus, and I took Angelica. We kept doing this for ten minutes or so. It wasn't frantic or anything (I felt great, no lightheadedness or anything) but I just really wanted it out. I got up and felt some minor pushing urges, but a part of me didn't want to push again! Rychen P. said "There's the placenta!" which confused me, but I realized the membranes were hanging out of me! I tried to push, coughed, took Angelica again, and also started talking to my placenta, saying "Thank you for all you have done. Your job is complete. I release you." And I got up to sit on the edge of the tub (instinct?) then it fell out.
Immediately, I picked it up (still holding the baby this whole time) and put it in my lap! It was slippery. So I asked for the bowl. I held the bowl in my lap and asked Rychen to cut me a peice. (I had planned on chewing some) It tasted fine, and slid down my throat! I wanted more. He cut me a few more peices and I kept eating it up. Watching this all, Rychen P. was enthralled. I asked him, "Do you want some?" ha ha! He said no.
Then I realized I could get out of the bath now. So I got up and walked to the bed. We sat there and nursed. She was really intent on it, and was already getting frustrated when she didn't latch right. I was sitting in an awkward position with my shoulders hunched over, and began to feel very sore. We kept nursing and re-latching. I was very focused on her and hadn't realized the awkward position I was in, but I finally asked for some pillows to lay back. We kept nursing like this for probably 4 hours, while making phone calls, etc. People wanted to know the weight but I didn't want to disturb my sweet girl to do that. Also, the placenta was sitting in a bowl next to me this whole time. Finally we said, "Oh yeah, let's cut that." So Rychen P. got to cut the cord -- very carefully, with Dad's guidance.
Nursing in bed with big brother, and my post-partum grapes!
At some point in there we decided on the name Elisabeth for sure. I hadn't mentioned the middle name, I was waiting to tell my mom. So when it was just me and her, I told her I had something to tell her, but I would cry. I teared up as I said, "Her middle name is Diane. Because you are my hero." She teared up too and said I was her hero. It was a very touching moment :)
In the evening I got up and put my clothes back on, and sat in a comfortable chair while Rychen changed the bed sheets. She was done nursing now so we decided to weigh her. In the previous hours she had already pooped twice (with no warning, I didn't know until I put my hand in it!) so the weight was off a little. The weight was 7 lb. 2 oz. and we decided to call it 7 lb. 4 oz (I think that was my birth weight so it sounded good). Also around this time I started feeling starved (weak, nauseas) so I ate a couple avocados and lots of raisins.
Then we were ready for visitors so Rychen's parents came over for a visit. I had a headache and said I was going right to bed when they left (7 pm). It took an hour to get Rychen P. to sleep--he wanted to cuddle but Elisabeth was nursing again. Rychen had been so doting and accomodating up til now, and here we were trying to tell a tired boy that Mom had a higher priority...oh boy. Well we invited him to sleep in our bed for the night. Elisabeth went to sleep so I rolled the other way and cuddled Rychen until he fell asleep. Then I lay in bed suddenly wide awake! I just lay there in ecstasy, between my two babies. It was so sweet. I didn't sleep until 4 am! A combination of hormones, active excited mind, and getting up for a midnight meal of placenta and avocado! I had sleeping Elisabeth in a carrier as I ate my food and then sat on the front porch. The midnight air was so peaceful. I took some time to reflect on what happened that day. It was another precious moment with my new daugther.
The next day I was up, we visited a lot, blogged, etc. and had a birthday party for Elisabeth and her Grandma Jones, whose birthday was that next day. Also, my midwife friend visited us and did a newborn exam. She said Elisabeth has the signs of a 41-week gestation (longer finger nails, detailed hands and feet, and little vernix) so maybe we conceived earlier than we thought. Also this friend is filing our birth certificate as if she attended our birth. Hooray! (That can be a pain in the neck for UC births) Anyway, I didn't notice until that afternoon that I had a tear (for some reason I didn't feel it until then). So now (Saturday) I am taking it easy to let it heal. Breastfeeding is going great, except it's hard to do in the dark. She needs me to get her latched on. I don't have much of an appetite so have been grazing on fruit mostly. The afterpains were uncomfortable while nursing or laying on my side, but are fine now.
She measures 7 lb. 4 oz., 19.5 inches, and 13 inch head circumference.
The day after the birth I was only down 10 lbs. So a pregnancy really only requires that much? I have 15 lbs. to lose. Hopefully it will come off easily in the next couple weeks. I really do hope so, because I don't have any clothes that fit right now. Just sweats, and my largest tee shirts are a bit tight. I guess I need a size medium but I don't own any. I have just been wearing tank tops and this nursing shirt I made up. I don't even fit into my jeans that I wore through half my pregnancy! Maybe my hips spread or something.
So, we had an unassisted birth with no midwife, and it was wonderful. I never had a prenatal visit, only casually (I did get palpated every time I was visiting with one of my midwife friends, and asked them lots of questions via e-mail throughout the pregnancy). We did have midwives on call but the birth was so quick I never even thought about it. I never thought "Hey we are doing this ourselves." I was in such instinctual mode that I was just thinking about the present moment and birthing my baby the way women throughout history have done it on their own. We were really blessed to have conditions line up for us, the fact that it was daytime, that Rychen P. was able to stay home and not bother us, and that it was quick enough that I never had a chance to fear or doubt! I just thought positive thoughts and went with it. We had all sorts of medical equipment handy but didn't need anything, and I didn't use any of the remedies or acupressure I had prepared.
So the birth was less than an hour of hard labor, and a couple hours prior to that, I called Rychen at 12:45, he was home at 1:15, and the birth was at 2:27. I was excited and positive the whole time, even though all the cramping was driving me crazy! Unassisted birthing is awesome because my inhibitions were so low, I could do anything I wanted (even having a midwife would have given me some inhibitions) like singing, talking, making out (and then some), talking about silly or spiritual things, etc……Birth is really awesome when you approach it like a sexual event. Because that's exactly what it is! I felt so close to Rychen and so Divine as I reached the pinnacle of womanhood. Some women birth alone but I am so glad Rychen was with me because the whole conception, pregnancy, birth, etc…. is a divine process between a man and a woman, and nobody else. During the labor I really felt strongly about that. It really increased my testimony. Even though I was going through such physical work, it was a wonderful, exciting, spiritual experience. I am so thankful it worked for us, that our prayers were answered, that we didn't need any medical attention, etc. I got exactly the birth I had been praying for and preparing myself for. The work pays off!!