As of tomorrow I will have been a mom for four years. Holy shit. Four years ago tonight, I went into labour. Since I am feeling a little nostalgic about it all, I thought I would share my Monster's birth story. Everybody loves a good birth story, right?
Okay, but before I share the story, I have a bit of explaining to do. Consider it setting the stage.
I birthed the Monster at home, as planned, with my partner and our midwives. It is, like every birth story, unique, scattered, chaotic, overwhelming, quite impossible for me to really describe.
When I went into labour, I had the intense feeling that I wasn't ready yet. It was only 5 days until my due date, but my midwives had been sure that I would be 'late', rather than 'early'. I had only just stopped working the week before. Three days earlier my midwife had assured me that the baby's head still hadn't even dropped.
We were prepared, though, if such a thing is possible. Our home-birth kit was ready - garbage bags, blue pads, olive oil, plastic sheeting, bending straws... We had done a midwife-based birthing preparation course, which was awesome. I had read Birthing from Within (affiliate link), which I highly recommend.
But I hadn't yet gotten my head around the idea of soon being not-pregnant, soon being a mom. I also hadn't yet really slowed down my thoughts to try to prepare myself for the physical ordeal I would soon face.
So my first reaction to those first contractions was NOOOOO, NOT YET. I still want to think about this a little longer.
As it turned out, my birth was very speedy, what they call precipitous labour - less than three hours of active labour for a first-time mom. And though I am glad it did not last several days, and I am thrilled that I laboured naturally and delivered my baby without any drugs and in the coziness of my own living room, birthing so quickly did not make for an easy birth experience. It was too fast.
Very fast births can be traumatic.
Yes, the outcome was perfect. And the experience was beautiful and powerful and raw.
But, it was also like getting run over by a truck. In fact, and possibly unrelated to the speed of my labour, I broke my tailbone during labour, which slowed down my recovery and kept me in pain (and, in retrospect, shock) for weeks after my Monster was born.
The birth was beautiful, and I am proud of my body and its strength. I only emphasize the fact that there was trauma because everybody's reaction to news of a fast birth is, lucky you.
Three hours might be a perfect length for a quick and straightforward second birth (wait 'til I tell you how long my second birth lasted), but it was just so, so, so fast for a first birth.
I have a theory about this. It probably isn't very original or anything, but maybe because I have heard and read very little about precipitous labour, I haven't come across this anywhere else.
My theory goes like this. You know the zone you're supposed to get yourself into while you labour? All those endorphins pumping through you are supposed to help you float off into labour land. Your body and mind start to flow with the rhythm of your contractions. Nobody claims that it feels delightful or anything, but that the zone helps you to cope. This natural druggy state is also credited with why so many women have only foggy memories of their births afterward, and their experience of pain quickly becomes hazy and vague.
Well, with no time for your body to produce those endorphins, and no actual rhythm to try to flow with, the pain and intensity are all felt more acutely, and there is no time to focus, to relax, to brace yourself, to allow yourself to open.
It is violent. That is how it felt. And I remember it in all its pain and glory.
I have absolutely no idea how I would have dealt with a different type of birth, a slower one that might have allowed me to get into a zone, to inhabit labour land for a while. I might have had time to use the kiddie pool we were going to fill up for me to labour in (or to even remember that we had it). I might have actually made the empanadas we were going to make for our midwives as our project for early labour. I might have opted for drugs or a hospital transfer. I might have just had more time to freak out.
Once again, yes yes yes, it was also beautiful. And I am proud. And I am very happy not to have any regrets about my choices. I had the home birth I had dreamed of. My baby was healthy and beautiful. My partner was a superstar, my midwives were compassionate and competent. Luckily, happily, it all worked out wonderfully. In this sense, yes, calling my birth experience lucky is quite appropriate.
But not because it was so fast.
Now, with that wordy and anti-climactic caveat out of the way, here is the Monster's actual birth story.