But unlike with my others, I don't really know where to start. Do I start when I first really knew it was really time? Do I start a week earlier when it could have, and perhaps should have, been time? Do I start by explaining what that even means?
Yes, I'll start there.
So this really isn't part 1 of the actual birth, but it's important, and might even help some of you mamas out there in the future.
See, once upon a time there were some abdominal muscles that separated during one of my pregnancies. Which pregnancy I don't know, because none of the 4 obstetricians I've had ever bothered to check or talk to me about the importance of the upper and lower abdominal muscles going together properly after delivery. But when my belly was low and protruding at just 16 weeks gestation this time, my dear midwife (bless her) did check and discovered that they're pretty bad. Which can lead to inability to strengthen the core, back pain, and, most importantly for this story: malpositioned babies.
God is so clever. Once baby is big enough, his or her head gets heavy and gravity turns baby upside down. The natural shape of the uterus combined with the super duper powers of the abdominal muscles, keeps baby in the ideal delivery position once he or she is big enough to actually be born, which is to say with back facing out and slightly to mama's left (anterior positioning. It's labor gold). Once baby is locked and loaded like this, the body launches it's natural labor sequence and although labor and delivery is no walk in the park, you have the best chance of a complication-free birth with as few interventions as possible and the easiest possible recovery.
When the ab muscles are separated, on the other hand, baby kind of has a lot of room to swing back and forth rather than being locked into place. So instead of being "locked and loaded" baby is sorta-loaded-not-really-locked and trying to go back to back with mama (posterior positioning), which can cause a) a very long lead up to active labor as the "launch sequence" tries to launch (prodromal labor), b) terrible back pain during labor itself and c) super difficult (read: PAINFUL YES WAY MORE PAINFUL THAN ANTERIOR DELIVERY HOLY COW JUST TRUST ME) delivery of the head.
For anyone who put up with all my whining in the week leading up to little Mary's birth, the malpositioned little nugget being unable to properly launch the labor launch sequence is what was causing all those almost false alarms...and being at minimum 4 cm dilation without going into active labor. And the way we confirmed that she could have, and perhaps should have, been born that week earlier is that she was an entire pound heavier than her siblings at birth, and 2-3" longer than any of them were. Her nails were long, long, long, and my placenta....well, it was finished. It did it's job but it was done. It had the look of an "old" placenta, which scares me a little. Because without a hearty placenta, baby doesn't get what she needs, right?
So here's where we are: doctor doesn't check or mention anything about separated ab muscles--> you can't fix it while you're pregnant --> baby is malpositioned --> days or weeks of prodromal labor --> more painful active labor --> more difficult delivery --> increased risk of dangers due to baby potentially being born post-term.
Now I'm not saying that no doctor ever notices or cares or shares this information with you, but I know none of my doctors ever did. My sweet midwife has observed and taught and helped me more than I ever thought I could learn or be helped at this stage in the game. I mean, hello? This is my fifth baby. Shouldn't I already have all the pertinent information?
But I didn't. And although in the end everything worked out, there were some sticky spots and not-great moments that could have been prevented with the right post-natal care in the past.
So if you've had a baby in the past and hope to or plan to or may have another baby in the future, find out about the state of your ab muscles. Not that they need to be visible or remarkable or anything like that. They just need to be together- their natural, healthiest state. Some women never have to deal with or worry about the separation, but some do. I am one of those second some.
Once I finish the actual birth story (we'll call that part 2 of the series), I'll talk about the steps we're taking to try and get my very separated abs back to their 12-years-and-5-babies-ago position. And if I can do it, I know you can do it too!