The Birth of Dek*

*Child in Thai

Sean and Prang and their family have been escaping hot season up in Prang’s mountain village. We’ve been staying with them since we arrived in Thailand, partly so we’re in the city when the baby is born in case wee need good medical care.

The night before Dek was born, Sean arrived with his 3 oldest kids in tow, two 6 year olds, a 3 year old, and his new intern, Brady, who is a recent high school graduate.

“How are you?” He asked.

“Still pregnant.” I replied, gesturing at my huge belly.

“That’s why I called before,” he said. “I figured if you were in labor I probably shouldn’t come.”

“Yeah, that would be an interesting situation.” I agreed.

I had seen a few signs in the past few days that this late baby might finally be making an appearance soon. There was more cervical mucus making an appearance in the past few days, as we drove to Burma and back. But that had been the situation for the past 3-4 weeks. I had thought  labor might be soon, and turned out to be totally wrong.

I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night we arrived back in Chiang Mai from the border, and between that, and a whole day in the car, my feet were ginormous. I was feeling a little worried about how swollen they had become, and that they hadn’t gone down at all during the night as they usually do.

Right after dinner I told Aaron that I was going to take a walk to try and get some blood circulating and see if it would help the swelling. There were moments during the walk when I felt like I might be having a contraction. There was some pressure on my cervix that wasn’t exactly like a baby just kicking, and my uterus felt hard when I touched it. But they were so mild that I told myself that I was just finally having some Braxton Hicks warm up action and they would stop once I sat down to rest.

Which they did. By the time I went to bed there were no contractions and I fell asleep very easily.

But, when I had my shower there had been a tiny bit of mucus that was a different color and I started to think that maybe, maybe, we were getting near the end, finally, and this baby would come soon. So I asked Aaron to work on my feet for me, both because he can always get the swelling to subside a lot, and because he’s really good with pressure points that strengthen contractions. I thought it would be worth a try to get some pressure point action in, to keep things from subsiding again into nothing. Aaron promised to do so when he came to bed. He had a late conference call with someone back in the US, and then he and Sean had plans to hang out for a while, as brothers like to do on occasion.

Sometime in the night I woke up and Aaron was rubbing my feet, as promised. He said it was after 2am when I asked him. Whenever he hit a pressure point I had a really strong contraction. Which was great, because I hadn’t had any up to that point. He kept up the pressure point work for a while longer. Just as I was falling asleep again, Bam Bam woke up and needed things. Mostly he needed to pee, but it still takes him a while to figure that part out, and he asks for other things in the meantime.

When I took him to the bathroom, I went too, because I was needing to pee very frequently at this point and I was thinking, “That head seems even lower than usual.”

I think the rest of my mucus plug came out that time on the toilet, but it didn’t quite register because I was so tired by that point.

I thought, “I’d better call the midwife first thing in the morning, it looks like it could be tomorrow.”

But it took another half hour or more to get Bam Bam back to sleep. So, while I waited for him to settle, I quickly emailed my parents, and Aaron’s, to let them know that maybe tomorrow something might happen. I was having mild, intermittent, contractions. It was around 4 in the morning.

Then I tried to go back to sleep. I managed it, for the most part, except for those contractions that would wake me up from time to time and were strong enough that I had to quietly breath through them and occasionally put my hand against my back. (Ok, I may have been grabbing the head board too, but they really didn’t feel all that strong.) But I was determined to get some sleep, since I needed to rest if I was going to be in labor in the morning. I lay as still as possible and fell deeply asleep in between each contraction. I have no idea how many there were. It didn’t feel like they were all that frequent.

Toward sunrise I started to feel hungry at the end of each contraction. But I didn’t want to get up yet.I ignored the hungry feeling as long as I could, and slept as much as I could, until the feeling that I needed to vomit, now, had me jumping out of bed and running to get a bowl.

I went all out this year for a father’s day present.

I grabbed a bowl, ran to the back porch, chugged all the water in my bottle, and braced myself to throw up. (It’s always better to throw up with water in your stomach than with it completely empty.) But I didn’t throw up. Instead, the contractions intensified, one contraction after another, without any pauses, and they weren’t gentle anymore. I paced back and forth through them, trying to figure out what to do. There was a house full of people, some on the couch, little kids just waking, my room was pretty untidy and I still needed to sanitize the birth pool.

Still not realizing how close I actually was, I did realize that I was not going to be able to prepare everything as I had hoped to, and had thought I would have the time to do.

While I grappled with this thought, I had to go the bathroom, like now, number 2. I decided I really didn’t like having contractions on the toilet.

My face was so sweaty all I could think of was getting my hair up and off of it and my neck. I took my puke bowl and water with me and moved to the bedroom, where, in between killer contractions I pulled my hair up. This is when Aaron woke up and I told him I was having contractions.

My nausea had turned out to be hunger. I asked Aaron to get me some muesli while I texted the midwife. I have a clunker of a phone for Thai phone calls, I have to tap the keys several times to select the right letter. Texting takes longer than usual. It took at least 5 contractions, alternating between eating as fast as I could between them and trying to write a text.

I started out trying to say, “Contractions, not super close together but getting strong,” and realized as I typed that that wasn’t true. So I concluded it with, “NVM that was pretty close. I wonder if you’ll make it?”

She texted back to say it would take her about 4 hours. I wasn’t sure I had that long. These texts were at 6:20. When she called she asked if I needed her to try and get on the 7:55 plane. By this time part of me was finally clueing into the fact that this labor was going way too fast for that to work. “I think it will be too late.” I said. 

She listened to me as I went through yet another contraction and said, “That was really strong. I think you’re right. I’m not going to make it. What are you going to do?”

Just last week a friend had put me in touch with D, who is a midwife in training. D had asked if she could observe my home birth while she’s in Thailand, because it’s part of her course requirements. I was to be the second home birth she’d ever attended. She’s staying nearby so I said I’d call her.

“Ok. I’ll keep my phone close. Call if you need me to talk you through anything.” Then she hung up and I called D.

“I think I’m doing this one solo,” I told her. “If you’d like to come you should get here now. It’s going to be super fast.”

“I’m on my way”, she said and hung up.

This whole time Aaron was trying to get the birth pool ready. He washed it and bleached it and was clearing a corner of our room to set it up. I was obsessing about things being put away properly and was telling him where it all went.

After hanging up with D, I realized that I’d been standing and pacing through every single contraction since waking up and I thought to myself, “If I lie down these may slow down again, and I’ll get a bit of a break.”

So I lay down.

As soon as the next contraction hit I realized that I had an urge to push and heard myself grunting, as one does when pushing. I thought, “No, not yet, not on Prang’s bed. I’m not ready! I need the pool.”

But there’s not much you can do to stop yourself from pushing once the urge hits, though I tried. A second later I told Aaron, “My water just broke, hand me that towel!”

He laughed in disbelief. I tucked the towel under me as well as I could to catch everything and braced myself for the next contraction, because contractions after your water breaks are usually a lot harder.

Except, instead of a regular contraction I had to push again, hard!

“I’m pushing!” I announced. “And I’m pooping! I don’t know where to go.”

By this point the birth pool was just not happening, but it took three more contractions, and pushes, for me to decide what to do. I didn’t want to be on the bed, and get blood and poo all over it. I didn’t want to kneel on the floor either. I kept thinking, “I can’t push a baby out, I’m still wearing underwear.”

Fortunately, I had put a pad on in the middle of the night after I saw the mucus plug loosening, so some of the fluid and all of the poo was at least contained.

“Help me get to the shower.” I decided.

In the space between contractions we got to the bathroom. I stripped down and knelt on the tile floor, holding onto Aaron for support. Next contraction, as I bore down, I realized a huge problem. I had no traction. My knees were slipping. And it hurt to try and stabilize with my leg muscles as I knelt there and pushed. There were no towels in the bathroom, Aaron couldn’t leave because I needed him for support. The only other people awake in the house were little kids, and maybe Brady. How was I going to get something stable to kneel on?

That’s when I heard D’s voice asking where I was.

“I’m in the bathroom. I’m pushing. Please bring me a towel.”

She did. Then, between contractions, she brought everything else as we needed it also, Which was awesome.

For some reason I felt the need to narrate this one as it was happening. Maybe because I needed others to know how fast it was going too. So as D came in I announced, “Ring of fire! Already to ring of fire!”

She of course could see pretty well. She’s attended at least 70 births since her training started. So she didn’t really need me to tell her on the next contraction when I reached down that there was already a head between my legs and he was crowning. But I told her anyway.

I don’t remember exactly, but it seems like it was 8-10 contractions between getting to the shower and delivering his head. In between I was telling D where to find the stack of sterile towels and the rest of the birth kit, which was somewhat less organized than it had once been since I tossed much of it in a bag to take along on our road trip to Burma. Just in case.

I had my hand under his head. I didn’t want him landing on the floor, and it felt very long waiting for his body to turn and deliver the rest of the way. Especially because he kicked out and squirmed twice while halfway out. That was uncomfortable, to say the least. But then his body eased out and he was all blue and floppy and that’s when D was really, really amazing.

I was too dazed those first few seconds to really notice his condition much and she, very calmly, suggested I stimulate him.

I started to, but not very aggressively, as he made little tiny noises. Then she came into the shower, gently trading places with Aaron, and rubbed his body until his color started to turn pink and he started to cry in earnest and take deep breaths. She said something about not being able to suction him and I remembered I had a bulb syringe in the kit too. She found that and suctioned him as well.

I tried to get comfortable on the floor as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and the placenta to deliver. Our kids had heard him crying, and they each peeked a head in to look for a moment while we waited. Except Bam Bam, he stayed asleep until the end.

I was very uncomfortable, kneeling on that floor, holding a baby close to me, cord still attached, and tired. We got started on figuring out what to do about the cord.

With a lot of help from D, we tied it off with some clean thread, used rubbing alcohol to sterilize the site, and Aaron’s super sharp knife. Aaron cut the cord, and Dek and I were separate for the first time. Aaron wrapped him in a clean towel and took him out of the room, while I knelt again to push out the placenta. It came right away and I realized that part of why I was so uncomfortable was that it was sitting there on my perineum waiting to come out.

Then I showered, and D stayed with me to make sure I was ok. Everything had gone so quickly that I wasn’t nearly as tired or shaky when standing as I have been in the past. Last time I needed Aaron to hold me up and help me walk to the bed. This time I stood, and walked, all on my own. In keeping with the OCD tendencies I had been displaying for the last hour or so, I not only showered but rinsed out the whole shower and all the blood and poo off the towels, “So they would be easier to wash later.” Had I the energy I think I would have also cleaned and organized my whole bedroom and swept it out. I may have had some adrenaline coursing through me just then. But, by the time I finished showering and walked to the bedroom I was ready to lay down. All the kids were on the bed, which had been cleaned up a bit, and the Boy was holding his new baby brother. So I laid down with them to enjoy our new baby.

By this time the kids had told everyone on the property that our baby was born and Cindy came over to see. She and Adam were great. They fed our kids all day, and watched them for much of it, and Sean watched them and fed them when we went into the hospital later. I laid in bed and slept a lot. And updated facebook.

Cindy made him a birthday cake.

D checked his heart rate and vitals, making sure all was well, and then checked me as well, making sure I could pee and that my uterus was contracting properly. She brought me food. I finally finished my breakfast, and was lovely and competent the whole time. I’m so glad she asked if she could come and watch. She ended up being very, very helpful.

It was 6:30am when I called D. He was born at 6:56am. I had been fully awake approximately one hour.

Looking back I realize that I had been in active labor since at least 4 am, but had been too much in denial/too tired to realize it. So to me it felt like he was born in less than an hour, though it was more like 3 or 4, which is still super fast, but not as fast as it felt to me.

And that’s how my two week overdue boy finally made his appearance, making up for lost time I suppose. He weighed in at 8lbs 13oz, and it seems he was just waiting for his great grandpa’s birthday before making his entrance.
all content © Carrien Blue

10 thoughts on “The Birth of Dek*

  1. Congratulations, Blue family! These days, birthing always makes me kind of nervous (despite my better judgment & because of my own non-ideal births), so I'm extra glad and relieved he's here and everything went well. And hey – three cheers for your dusty old uterus! 😉

  2. I know! I'm actually almost completely done with postpartum bleeding already, and it's only been 4 days! Old and tired, yeah right. it's just getting more efficient each time. 🙂

  3. Hey Carrien! Just saw Suzie yesterday and we were talking about you:) miss ya and so glad to see baby was born! Wht an adenture!! Praying for your work in Thailand! Tell the kiddos we said "hi!"

  4. What an intense birth story! Having had very traditional hospital births with epidurals for all of mine, I really enjoy reading about different kinds of deliveries — yours was certainly no exception! 🙂 He is absolutely darling. Thanks for linking to this in the newsletter!

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