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A Healing Home Birth After a Fourth Degree Tear: Part Two

A Healing Home Birth After a Fourth Degree Tear: Part Two

If you haven’t read Part One of this story, please start here.


 

The choice for me to have a homebirth was easy. I was emotionally and physically healed from my 4th degree tear, and BOTH are necessary to deliver vaginally again, which I call a VBAST (vaginal birth after a severe tear). For others who have had a 4th degree tear, the choice of future deliveries is not so easy. I am in a Facebook support group for mom’s who have had a 4th degree tear (which is the ONLY active support group for us!) and the decision to have a VBAST, or to even get pregnant again, is a terrifying one. Some women have had PTSD from their deliveries and emotionally cannot have another vaginal delivery. Some, like I mentioned before, physically cannot have another vaginal delivery because of ongoing problems like incontinence.

Others, like myself, feel like they have to have another vaginal delivery to emotionally heal from their 4th degree tear. I wanted to prove to myself that my body could do it all by itself. I wanted the birth that I wasn’t able to have the first time. There are risks to this of course. You could have another severe tear and cause more damage. The risk of another severe tear is small, about 7%, but that is higher than other moms who haven’t had a severe tear, about 1-2%. However, I was willing to take that risk. I did A LOT of research on ways to decrease the chances of another tear and I felt like the best way for me to do that was at home, which I also did A LOT of research on.

To avoid another severe tear, I wanted to avoid an epidural and pain meds (easy to do at home!), because those would lead to the next two things that increase the risk – coached pushing and pushing in the lithotomy position (on your back with feet up in stirrups). I also did not want, under any circumstances, an episiotomy or assisted delivery (vacuum or forceps). I chose to have a water birth, because the water softens the perineum and makes it easier to stretch during delivery. I also watched as many natural birth videos on YouTube as possible! These really helped me to inspire and motivate me, and to see what worked for other women.

I am extremely lucky to live in an Amish area, so homebirths are common. I had a lot of options for a homebirth midwife, but one midwifery group really stood out to me. Their practice has been around since 1978 and has a very good reputation in the area. They also provide all options in one place – you can deliver in their free standing birth center, at home, or at one of the local hospitals. It is rare that you are able to find a midwife group that provides all three of those. The peace of mind knowing your midwife would still be able to be with you should you have to transfer to a hospital was priceless.

With my second son I was due on a Sunday, so my mom drove the 13 hours from Georgia on the Wednesday before to be here for the birth. There was one stipulation from my husband for us to have a home birth – my mom had to be there! After having some crampy contractions for several nights in a row, I was worried the baby was not going to wait on my mom. But he did! That Wednesday night I woke up at 2:30am to use the bathroom and realized I had been “dreaming” that I was having contractions. When I laid back down I had three contractions that were seven, then four minutes apart, so I woke up my husband and said, “Sorry, but I think we might have a 9/11 baby.” Neither one of us had wanted a September 11th baby and my husband had a couple of important meetings at work that day, but he didn’t make it to those appointments…I also woke up my mom and told her the baby must have been waiting on her.

We spent the next two hours doing some last minute cleaning and setting everything up for the birth, including the birth pool. Contractions were four minutes apart, but not strong (I had a pregnancy full of Braxton Hicks and these were definitely different, but not strong yet). After we set everything up I laid down to sleep for two hours and contractions spread out to about 10-15 minutes. After I got up, I called the on call midwife, Autumn, at 8am to tell her I wouldn’t be making it to my 9:15 appointment, because I was in labor. I kept busy the rest of the morning and contractions stayed around ten minutes apart. I started having bloody show at 10am. At 2:30pm I asked my mom to check my dilation before I called to update Autumn (remember, my mom is a labor and delivery nurse). I was 4cm, 80%, and -1 station.

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The next few hours the contractions continued to get stronger and closer together, but still not bad. We continued to keep busy by making a big pot of soup and warming the water in the birth pool. I decided to call Autumn at 5:45pm to come over, because contractions had been every five and a half minutes for the past hour and I knew she was 45 minutes away. She got to our house just before 7pm and the nurse, Diane, arrived shortly after. Autumn checked me soon after she got there, but I did not want to know my dilation from that point on (after delivery I found out I was 8cm at that point! I DID NOT think I was that far along).

Over the next couple of hours the contractions picked up some, so I had to walk around and breathe though them. One thing that really helped was someone rubbing a hot pack on my low back while I rubbed my stomach during a contraction. Around 8:30pm there was a change in the midwife’s shift, so Lori came and took over for Autumn. All three of them, Lori, Autumn, and Diane, had very calm and relaxing vibes. They sat at our dining room table taking notes and making conversation. Other than the occasional monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat, there was no other poking or prodding going on.

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Around 9:45pm I was getting tired and mentioned possibly getting in the tub, but I didn’t want to get in too early and stall things. Lori encouraged me that she did not think things would stall and I should get in the tub. Again, I had no idea how dilated I was, but she knew I was at least 8cm.

In the tub, my back was really bothering me, so I decided to get on my knees and lean over the edge. I spread my knees apart to really open up my pelvis and after a few contractions I felt a “pop” during a contraction and things got really intense. I thought it was my water breaking, but Lori said it didn’t. I think it was his head moving down. The next couple of contractions I got a little nauseous and started getting the urge to push. One of the things on my birth plan was that I didn’t want any coached pushing – I wanted to just trust my body’s lead. It was a good thing, because my urges were all over the place. There’s NO WAY I would have been able to push the typical way – counting to ten three times during a contraction. She checked my dilation again and I was 9cm and fully effaced and could be stretched to 10cm (she didn’t tell me).

Lori monitored his heart rate and got a reading of 100 on the Doppler and was worried for a short time, but we eventually realized it was the placenta pulsing and not the baby. During that time though, I changed position from my knees to my back. She checked me one last time to make sure I was fully dilated and didn’t have a cervical lip. After pushing so long with my first son, I didn’t want to take the chance of pushing against a cervical lip this time! I got the all clear to push and within 10-15 minutes he started crowning.

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Wow, is that intense! With my first I had the pudendal nerve block, so I didn’t feel a thing when they used the vacuum to pull him out. So crowning/ring of fire was all new to me and had been my greatest fear the whole time – along with having a bad tear again. I was somehow able to breathe through crowning and push him out slowly over about 4 contractions. I was making a bit of noise during this time and right before Chase was born our dog came over and put her head on my shoulder. It was the sweetest thing ever! I gave her a big kiss and she went back to lying on the couch like she had been doing throughout my labor.

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The next contraction Chase Benjamin was born at 10:40pm. It was the most incredible feeling in the world! I just looked at him and said, “I cannot believe I just did that!” I did end up with a 2nd degree tear right along the episiotomy scar, but I expected some tearing and the recovery was so much easier compared to my first son. He was 7lbs 11oz 20 1/4in and looked a lot like his big brother.

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Choosing a home birth with a midwife has been one of the best decisions of my life. It was a beautiful, healing experience after my first delivery. I want anyone who has had a 4th degree tear to know that another vaginal delivery IS possible if they want one!4thTearPart8

A Healing Home Birth After a Fourth Degree Tear: Part One

A Healing Home Birth After a Fourth Degree Tear: Part One

I always knew I would have natural childbirths. My mom had four very fast labors and delivered naturally. My sister followed in her footsteps. Childbirth wasn’t something that I feared. It is a normal bodily function that women have been doing for thousands of years! I would just be another one of those women…

When I got pregnant with my first son, I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It confirmed for me that childbirth is a normal thing, but it also introduced the idea of homebirth. Before reading it I had already chosen an OB practice that was part of the hospital group that I worked for, so financially it made sense to me at the time to just deliver with them at the hospital. I knew that my mom, who has over thirty years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse, along with my husband would be with me for delivery. So even though I liked the idea of a homebirth, I thought I would just go into the hospital and stick to my guns about having an intervention free birth.

Well the day after my due date, I woke up to my water “breaking” – it was more of a slow leak than a gush. It was a Saturday, so we spent the day doing normal Saturday things. I bounced on my birth ball, went to our friend’s son’s first birthday party, just waiting for contractions to pick up. Around 4pm I had my first decent “gush” of water, so I called the OB to tell her my water had broken. She advised me to go to the hospital, because I was GBS positive and would need to have antibiotics, especially since my water had broken.

We got to the hospital around 6pm. I told them that my water had broken at 4pm, because I wanted to give my body more time for labor to start on its own and I knew I was going to be getting antibiotics anyway, so the chance of infection was greatly reduced. Since it was a weekend my doctor was a first year resident and my OB, who had I met once or twice during my whole pregnancy, was on call for when labor picked up. This wasn’t a huge deal to me, because like I said, I had only met my OB a couple of times; I wasn’t really attached to her. Plus, the nurses are the ones you spend most of the time with anyway.

BUT this resident lost my respect quickly. The first time she came into my room she told me she wanted to start Pitocin immediately, because they wanted babies to be delivered within 12 hours of the water being broken. That did not go over very well with me, or my mom. We knew that the most conservative recommendations are 24 hours, some even going to 48 or 72 hours. She had nothing to say when we pointed out these recommendations. This pissed me off for two reasons – first, because she lied to ME and lost all accountability as my provider, and second, because she has most likely lied to a lot of other mothers who trusted her at her word. Not every woman in labor has a mother with them who has over 30 years of experience in the field.

So I was able to hold off the Pitocin until 6am the following morning when I was only 2cm dilated after walking the halls of the hospital all night long. Luckily labor progressed very quickly after that. I was checked a little before 10am, after contractions got really intense, and was 5cm. About ten minutes later I was pushing! What a relief pushing was! It felt great! It was absolutely exhausting and took all of my energy to push, but it also took away the pain of the contraction.

I had coached pushing. The nurses were counting to ten while I pushed and did that three times during each contraction. Around 7 or 8 I wanted to stop pushing. Every. single. time. It did not feel natural to me to push like that and looking back I wish I would have just yelled, “SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” But I didn’t.

Unfortunately, I just think nurses/OBs/even some midwives just don’t know any better. They think that’s the way it’s supposed to happen. My nurses were wonderful and were not rushing me at all. And my mom, who like I mentioned was a labor and delivery nurse for decades, was even counting, too. With so many people in hospitals having epidurals or pain meds, I don’t think nurses or OBs see a lot of natural childbirth, so they don’t know how it could be if a woman just listened to her body. I pushed and pushed like they were telling me to do for three and a half hours. His head was just not coming. I tried all kinds of positions – side lying, all fours, squatting, squatting while pulling on a rope…I was exhausted. I’m talking like I was falling asleep between contractions, then waking up to push, then falling back asleep exhausted.

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The OB came in and said she knew I didn’t want a C-section, but he just wasn’t coming. She thought using a vacuum was the best thing to do. Did I mention I was exhausted? Honestly if she would have walked in the door and said, “We need to do a C-section.” I would have said, “OK.” That is why it is so important to have a birth plan, a provider you trust, and loved ones who know what you want, because in labor, especially at the end, you don’t have the strength to do anything else but labor. I’m not saying I did not need a vacuum at that point, because I did. I had exhausted myself too much to push him out on my own. I was three and a half hours too late for that. If I could go back and change one thing about his birth (there are many, but this is the biggest), I would not have had coached pushing. I would have just listened to my body and pushed with its urges. If I had done that, I don’t think I would have needed the vacuum.

The OB gave me a pudendal nerve block, episiotomy, and used the vacuum to pull him out. I didn’t feel a thing. Nothing. I had my eyes closed while pushing and they had to tell me to open them when he was born. It was 1:26pm. Abram Jonathan (AJ) was 7 lbs 8oz and 20.5 in. I don’t even remember seeing him after he was born. I had asked for immediate skin to skin and delayed cord clamping, but because she used the vacuum she said she had to cut it right away so he could be taken over to the NICU team on the other side of the room to be examined. Again, I was exhausted and had no fight in me, so I said, “Ok.”

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It took about thirty minutes to stitch me up because of the 4th degree tear that I had, and almost all of that time, my son was laying in the little plastic box thing, being cleaned, weighed, etc. I’m pretty sure my mom and husband held him before I did. At that point, I honestly didn’t care. I was so exhausted that I was barely awake and I think I might have been in a little bit of a state of shock. It wasn’t until after my second son was born that I really realized how awful my experience was. I mean don’t get me wrong, I knew it wasn’t great, but I didn’t realize how traumatizing it really was.

Emotionally I was somehow fine after his birth. I had such a great support system with my husband, mom, and in-laws that I didn’t go through any postpartum depression. Physically, I healed very well. I think my OB did a great job of stitching me back up, so that really helped with my healing. They had me doing Kegels right away to help the blood flow to the area and promote healing. I also had my mom with me for two and a half weeks after his birth to help around the house. It still took nine months to feel completely “back to normal,” but compared to other moms who have had a 4th degree tear, that isn’t very long at all. Some moms have permanent damage and need multiple surgeries after. Some are still not able to have sex even years later, because it is too painful.

Something that I wish I would have done after his birth was see a pelvic floor specialist and start pelvic floor therapy. I was never referred to a specialist and looking back I think it should be routine for all women who have had a severe tear to see one, and to do therapy. Even though I may feel great now, there is always the thought in the back of my mind about how I might be in a couple of decades. All of our pelvic floors weaken as we get older, so what kind of problems could I be facing later in life?

After my son was born, I knew that I never wanted to have another birth like that again. Even before I got pregnant a second time, I was researching homebirths. A C-section never crossed my mind for my next birth, because I knew that there were things that I could do differently. I trusted my body. I didn’t feel like my body had failed me.


Please visit tomorrow to read part two of this story.

Quinlan’s Birth Story

Quinlan’s Birth Story

It took me over a month to write my son, Sawyer’s, birth story. There was so much to process. Some parts were so traumatic and others felt triumphant. I spent over a year in therapy after his birth, to work through my anger and fears associated with the violation that came with being physically and verbally assaulted through my labor. The on call OB had been very resentful of my natural birth plan when we had to transfer, due to Sawyer’s early entrance at 35 plus weeks. Knowing that the OB can no longer accept transfers and had to go through a medical board hearing gave me a small peace of mind, but many emotions were still looming over my head when we started trying to get pregnant for the second time, at 18 months postpartum.

The next month, we were pregnant. We were still nursing and I have irregular cycles due to P.C.O.S., so I was shocked that things happened as quickly as they did. I went back on the hunt for a midwife, asking many more questions this time. I was looking for someone who wasn’t afraid of a challenge, someone who could help me work through my fears, and accomplish my goal of another natural birth, despite my fears. After interviewing three awesome midwives, I met Christy, and knew she was the one, despite being the furthest away from our home.

The pregnancy was very different from my first in many ways. I was much sicker than I had been with my son and the heartburn was so intense! I tried to rest, as much as one can with a two year old, and maintained a very limited work schedule. At 23 and 29 weeks, I lost a piece of my mucous plug. It was the exact same timing as I had with my son. I opted out of cervical checks this time, hoping the lack of stimulation might help me go a little longer, but I started preparing for a possible early arrival.

We decided to do a Mother’s Blessing way this time. I felt like I could use all the support and encouragement I could get from my mama friends as time got closer. A pendant was made with positive messages and birth affirmations. There was also a lovely bead ceremony where everyone said how we met, attributes they admired, hopes for the upcoming birth, and why they chose the bead. It was one of the most emotional and spiritual things I had ever done. I feel like every woman should get the honor of being surrounded by the people they love and be uplifted by that. We strung the beads together and I wore them through the birth.

At 33 weeks, I met with a resonance re-patterning therapist who helped me clear some more of the birth fears. I had never done it before, but Christy recommended it. We met over three hours. At the end of the session she told me I needed to write down a list of affirmations and tuck them into a safe place. She said I would need them at some point in the labor to confirm that I was making the right decision, not coming from a place of fear. I didn’t think much of it and tucked it into my nearly packed birth kit.

At 34 weeks on the dot, I was scheduled to teach a makeup class to mothers. When my mother came over to keep my son, I commented that the baby felt low. The class went well and was hosted in a beautiful home. The last 30 minutes of the class, someone dropped a glass of red wine on a beautiful, white wool rug. A few minutes later, a bottle of tequila was dropped on the glass kitchen table. The bottle didn’t break, but a big hunk of the table broke off! My friend, who had hired me said, “These things come in threes! I hope your water doesn’t break!” I told her to knock on wood! We rode back out of town together and I came in to snuggle and nurse my two year old.

I felt a small gush and knew that my water had broken. It was very strange, because my son’s labor had been 60 hours and the only intervention I asked for was to break my water. I called my mother and midwife who were really hoping that it was just pee. I told them that pee doesn’t come from that particular area. I was hoping for a high tear and that maybe it would repair itself so we could stay home as long as possible. Every so often another uncontrollable gush would happen. I hopped in the shower to slow things down and collect my thoughts. I asked my husband to get in with me and he sat behind me, holding me so I could gain the strength I needed to move forward.

Contractions started coming every 45 minutes, then 30, then 15, then 3. We decided to go to the closest hospital, which also had an excellent NICU. I called one of my clients, who works as the head nurse practitioner of the NICU, and asked her to see who the doctor on call was. She told me I was in very good hands and I got ready to face my biggest fear, another hospital birth. I remembered the paper in my birth kit and read over it twice. I wiped my tears and we headed out.

When we got to the hospital, I opted to take the stairs. I think my husband and mother thought I was crazy, but I knew this labor was going much faster than my last and I needed it to move quickly before I could get caught up in my own head. I had one cervical check the whole labor. I came in the hospital at 100% effaced and 6cm dilated. My last labor, it had taken me 3 days to reach 6cm. This birth, it had taken about 3 hours.

The nurse was very pushy about paperwork and consent forms, which was a huge trigger for me, due to my last birth experience. We argued through contractions and I finally sent my mother out of the room to talk with her. Whatever she said changed the nurse’s attitude and I signed the papers not really worrying about it this time, because I knew this baby would be here soon.

I started squatting through contractions and holding onto the bed, vocalizing through the contractions. My midwife showed up around the time things started getting more intense. Since my first son was posterior until shortly before birth, the back labor was awful and everyone took turns doing counter pressure as hard as they could. This time, I did not want to be touched at all, so my poor husband, who thought he knew what to expect this time, was thrown yet another curve ball.

At some point, I got onto my hands and knees on the floor and started rocking my hips. I knew it wouldn’t be too much longer. I hadn’t met the doctor yet, and thought she might not make it in time. I pondered this for a moment and decided that it didn’t really matter, because I had the people I needed right there in the room! I decided not to say anything. Shortly after that, I got an overwhelming sensation that I had to use the bathroom. “I have to poop!” I said. My midwife grabbed a bed pad and laid it underneath me. I was squatting and felt the head moving down. Just then, a tiny piece of poop came out. My midwife looked over and said, “That is the tiniest turd I have even seen!” We both died laughing, as babies head kept moving down. My midwife asked if I could reach in and feel the head, trying to see how far away we were from go time. I got one joint of my finger in and felt the head. As I said this, my mother asked if I felt any hair. My two year old is still pretty much bald. I told her I hadn’t noticed as I was kind of busy trying to have a baby right then!

The urge to push was getting stronger and the doctor must have heard I was getting close, because she came in and was all business. Here I am, on my hands and knees, butt towards the door, and she asks me how I would like to deliver. “On my hands and knees,” I said. She showed no emotion, but told me that was fine, but we would NOT be delivering on the floor! I then looked up at the hospital bed, which had suddenly become as tall as Mount Everest. Somehow, I climbed up and it was time to start pushing.

Since my first had ended in an unnecessary third degree episiotomy against my written and verbal consent, staying on my hands and knees made me feel grounded and less vulnerable. I did not want any coaching on how and when to push and I think everyone instinctually knew that. My midwife and husband stayed by my head, holding my hands, and giving me encouragement. They helped my tones stay low, so I could harness my energy on pushing. My mother and doctor stayed at the foot of the bed, watching the baby descend. My mother was very excited to see that the baby had hair and was so ready for me to push baby out, but I stayed calm and pushed slowly and on my terms. I needed to move with my body’s instincts and did not want to tear after my last experience. I pushed through the pain and slowed things down as she was crowning. The body quickly followed the head and they cut the cord, which I was bummed about, to take her over to the NICU team.

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Yes, it was a girl! We hadn’t found out the gender and were thrilled to find out she was a beautiful little girl. She weighed 4 pounds 14 oz and was 17 and ¼ inches long. She was actually bigger than her brother, who had come at nearly 36 weeks. She had some trouble breathing on her own, and I got to see her a few minutes before she began her 12 day stint in the NICU. She is now two weeks old and home with her family, nursing like a champ, and growing every day. While her birth wasn’t the dreamy, home, water birth that I had been dreaming of, it was healing in its own right. I faced my biggest fear of another hospital birth and had a beautiful birth on my own terms, in my own way. I am proud that I accomplished another natural hospital birth and that I am able to show hospital providers what birth can look like.

Natural Birth: Conquered with Type 1 Diabetes, Polyhydramnios, Macrosomia, and Shoulder Dystocia

Natural Birth: Conquered with Type 1 Diabetes, Polyhydramnios, Macrosomia, and Shoulder Dystocia

The night before Kate’s birthday, I left work early. I’d been having contractions for weeks, but something was different that night. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but knew I needed to get home and get to bed.

A little background: I was getting so many contractions due to having severe polyhydramnios. I had almost double the amount of amniotic fluid than a normal pregnancy would have. The doctor had placed me on Nifedipine to slow the contractions in the hopes of getting me to 37 weeks, which I was still 5 days away from.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I literally did not sleep one wink. I was beyond uncomfortable – so full, so tight, so restless. I tried every possible position, on every piece of furniture. I tried walking, reading, relaxation tapes, and solitaire. Nothing worked. This was a whole new level of discomfort; I had crossed into “the miserable.”

As the morning sunlight filtered through my living room windows, and I was faced with another day of tortuous, preggo anguish, I broke down. I cried that cry of frustration, of discouragement. That cry when you realize there is nothing you can do to change your situation. All you can do is wait and endure.

And pray. So I prayed, out loud – a desperate plea through my tears:

“God please. Please help me. Give me a leak. Something. Anything. Relieve this pressure in my belly. I can’t do this much longer.”

I shuffled into my bedroom, plopped into bed and, amazingly, I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke and found myself lying in a puddle.

Ummm. What. Is. This. My water?! Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh…Don’t panic.

I totally panicked.

I slowly got out of bed to use the bathroom and fluid gushed out of me and proceeded to gush with every step I took.

Holy smokes, this is the real deal.

I hurriedly walked across the house to the hubs office and, through my shaking voice and trembling body, informed him of the news. I called Laura, my doula, and then called Dr. B, who had graciously given me his cell number. He was excited and said it would be best to get to the hospital soon as this was my second baby and things could progress pretty quickly. Hard contractions hadn’t really kicked into gear yet, but I didn’t want to take any chances. So off we went.

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The ride there was a mixed bag of emotions. One moment I was crying and saying, “I’m not ready! I’m not ready!” The next moment I was relieved, knowing we’d get to meet our baby girl soon and this discomfort would finally come to an end. I prayed for good nurses and that I could progress through labor naturally. Since I was still almost four weeks from my due date, there was a chance my body wouldn’t progress and would need some form of induction, which I was hoping to avoid. I kept reading my affirmation list, trying to stay positive and focused.

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We got checked into triage, the nurse checked me and I was only 1cm. Dang it! She made the comment that they would “let” me try to progress on my own for “about four hours,” before inducing labor. I knew that had to be bogus, four hours is nothing and my water hadn’t been broken for too long! I couldn’t wait for her to call my Dr. He knew the plan, he knew my wishes, my fears, my anxieties, my concerns. Then Laura arrived and my anxiety instantly lowered.  I knew I needed her to help keep me focused and calm and get me through another med-free birth. (If you’re on the fence about getting a doula, HIRE THE DOULA. They are worth every penny.) They admitted me to a labor room, started an IV for antibiotics, due to being GBS positive, and also hooked me up to the monitors.

(A note about monitoring: Protocol usually states, as a diabetic, I need to be continuously monitored – meaning I’m practically tied to the bed. The. Entire. Time. This is the worst thing for someone trying to go without pain meds. I needed to be able to pace the room, walk the halls, get in the shower. My Dr. knew this and was fine with intermittent monitoring. My by-the-book nurse, however, was not a fan. Thankfully the hospital had wireless monitors, so I could still roam the halls while they kept an eye on baby’s heart rate and my contractions. Once my Dr. showed up, he allowed me to get off the monitors for an hour at a time.)

Then I made the appalling request for food. Slight panic flashed across my nurse’s eyes. (Typically it’s fluids only, in case you need a C-section.) She said no, then called Dr. B at my behest, and sure enough, he allowed me to eat. I’m sorry, but if having a baby is like running a marathon, as one OB told me once, you kind-of need to eat for energy, right?

As far as blood sugar management, the goal was to keep my insulin pump on. I did NOT want an insulin drip.  The worst thing you can do to a diabetic, in my opinion, is take away their control over their own sugars. We checked my blood sugar every hour and I titrated my insulin via my pump as needed. The whole labor I stayed between 70-125! I ate some oatmeal, eggs, crackers, and a fruit leather. I never took any boluses; I just let my basal do the work.

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Early in labor I got a text from Dr. B that read: How you doing mama? Keep those blood sugars perfect so we can keep the pump. You are a super mama!

Seriously? Best. OB. Ever.

Contractions were starting to kick in – very mild, but at least they were present. Hubs and I walked the halls, chilled in the room with Sting and Simon and Garfunkel playing in the background as our labor soundtrack.

Eventually Dr. B showed up, smiling from ear to ear, so excited and energized. Contractions were coming about every three minutes, but I told him they weren’t very intense. He said step it up! Don’t just walk the halls. JOG the halls, lunge the halls, squat, power walk, take a shower – do everything possible to get labor going. NOW.

So we did lots of this:

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(At one point during our run, my pants actually, without warning, fell straight to the ground….right in front of the nurse’s station….in front of Dr. B.  We laughed so hard, but unfortunately it’s not on tape.)

I hate jogging, but I have to say, I was having a blast. We snuck outside, got some fresh air, walked some stairs, and checked out the gift shop. Then we headed back for more jogging around the labor ward, pausing during the stronger contractions to breathe through them and really focus on relaxing my body. The hubs and Laura were at my side the whole time. Laura reminded me to relax my shoulders, hubs held my belly up during contractions to ease the pressure. Mind you, I’m also continuing to gush fluid THE WHOLE TIME, especially during contractions. It was a little ridiculous, running down my legs, onto the floor…it wasn’t slowing down at all.

I remember telling hubs and Laura, “This can’t be labor. I’m having too much fun.” Of course, I knew that would change. At some point Dr. B offered to check me, Laura suggested I decline, as there weren’t really enough signs yet that things had changed significantly. I agreed. Plus, since my water had already broken, the more “checks” I had, the higher the risk for infection. Dr. B went home, instructing us to call if needed.

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Hubs and I jumped in the shower and that’s when things took a turn. Everything intensified dramatically. I had to focus more during contractions and started to turn inward. It was getting real now.

At this point we stayed in the labor room. I paced the room, back and forth and back again, over and over, leaning on my IV pole for support, moaning through the contractions to focus my breath to move the baby downward. At times I said aloud, “I can do this, I am doing this, my body is made for this, I can do this.” Hubs and Laura were encouraging me the whole way, cheering me on.

I was feeling A LOT of pressure down below; I could feel her moving down. The contractions became more and more intense. I kept pacing, pacing, pacing. I would pause at times, during the peak of the contraction, and focus on the leaf pattern on the tile floor, tracing the leaves over and over with my eyes, trying to keep myself distracted from the pain. I was so ready for the nurse to check me, and by this time, miss by-the-book nurse had gone home. I so hoped and prayed that I was getting close. She checked me out and, praise God, I was at 8cm!

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“And…,” the nurse said. “You have a forebag.”

Dr. B had mentioned this earlier in the day. The way I understood it at the time, there are actually two layers of the amniotic sac. The one the baby is in and then the forebag, like an outer layer. Apparently what had ruptured for me was the forebag. So there was another inner bag that had not ruptured yet, the bag that had the baby directly in it. I couldn’t believe it. All this fluid gushing out and the actual sac the baby was in had not even ruptured. Ugggg!

Doc showed up shortly after that and I was faced with a decision. I could continue what I was doing and wait however many hours until the other water bag broke and baby fully engaged, OR I could allow Dr. B to break the bag. He assured me I would go from an 8 to 10cm in almost no time at all, once the bag was ruptured. I knew this meant a significant increase in the intensity of the contractions and…time to push. The whole pregnancy I had been dreading, D-R-E-A-D-I-N-G pushing. Pushing is my arch nemesis. Pushing is my Moriarty, my Kryptonite. I pushed an exhausting two hours with my first baby. It was not enjoyable. I was always out of breath and felt overwhelmed. I was not ready to push. Just writing this brings back all those anxious feelings.

But I decided to go for it. Pop the dang bag and let’s get this baby OUT.

I got in position, contracting, and uncomfortable the whole time. I felt and heard the “pop” and felt, again, the warm gush of fluid. Instantly I was fully effaced and 10cm and could push whenever ready.

Let me just say, the “urge to push” cannot be ignored or suppressed. It’s a full-on, involuntary convulsion. Kind-of like when you vomit – that heaving, retching sensation – except it’s in your vagina, and it hurts.

I tried various positions – leaning on the back of the bed, hands and knees, squatting, side-lying and slightly reclined. Dr. B suggested reclined to get better leverage and I’d have less chance of tearing.

I don’t know how to best describe how I felt during this phase of labor, so I’m just going to be honest:

I totally lost it. I freaked. I panicked. I lost all composure, all focus. I broke down and kept saying, “I can’t do it, I can’t.” What if she’s too big? What if I can’t get her out? What if I’m not strong enough? What if I run out of air?

Everyone around me kept telling me to stay positive and that I was pushing, I was doing it. But I pushed and pushed and wasn’t getting anywhere. Dr. B kept telling me to stop pushing with my face. He showed me where to focus my pushing. So I tried and tried….and got nowhere. I can’t tell you how frustrating and discouraging it all was. I panicked again thinking maybe my sugar was low. Dr. B assured me it wasn’t and he was right. With every contraction the nurse, my doula, the doctor, and my hubs would psych me up hardcore. They would count out loud, “1-2-3-4-5-6, keep pushing, push hard, don’t let it go, 7-8-9-10, take a deep breath, push again. Go! Go! 1-2-3-4….,” and on and on with each contraction. “Push her to the ceiling! 1-2-3-4! Chin to chest!! 5-6-7! Act like you’re pooping, 8-9-10! You got this! You can do this!”  I could never make it all the way to ten; I was losing my breath too quickly and couldn’t focus the energy downward to get her out. I was done for. Dr. B kept telling me I was close, but I didn’t believe him.

I have no idea how much time had passed, but it felt like hours that I was pushing. I was so exhausted, so weak from pushing yet full of adrenaline, my whole body was shaking. It was all at once terrifying and exhilarating. Eventually, by some miracle, I got it right. I started listening to just one voice, the nurse who said, “Push her to the ceiling,” and that worked. She was crowning! Dr. B told me to listen carefully to his voice, because there would come a point where I needed to stop pushing or to push very lightly. I knew if she was indeed a chunky babe, there was a chance of shoulder dystocia (shoulder getting caught on my pubic bone). Her abdomen always measured so massive, I figured the doctor just wanted to go slow for those reasons. Next thing I know the nurse is putting, what seemed like all her weight, onto my pelvic bone and was pushing – freaking HARD. It was like in CPR, when you do chest compressions, except this was on my pelvis. Not pleasant. I continued to focus on Dr. B’s directions as he slowly worked baby out of me.  Hubs and Laura continued their supportive words, “Almost there….She’s got a full head of hair!….You got this….She’s almost out!”  And finally at 9:18pm, nearly 14 hours after my initial water break, baby was officially BORN. Easily the biggest relief of my life.

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Dr. placed her directly on my chest as we all gasped at how huge she was. I knew she’d be big….but she was a tank. I just kept saying, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! She’s huge! Oh my gosh!” We couldn’t wait to see how much she actually weighed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it, because babe needed her shoulder checked ASAP. The nurse took her to the warmer to get vitals and check her shoulder. Her right shoulder was stuck for a full 40 seconds so they needed to make sure she had good tone on that side and there was no nerve damage. She did fine.

Next, the weight: 9lbs 9oz.

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Holy smokes chub.

I attempted to breastfeed her, but she was somewhat lethargic. She scored great on her APGARs (8/9) but her blood sugar was 37. Baby’s blood sugars can run lower than adults, but 37 was pushing it. Also, due to her being almost four weeks early, she had trouble with the whole suck/swallow/breathe routine. Because of all of this, they suggested trying some formula to get something in her to bring up her sugars and then maybe she would be more interested in breastfeeding. She managed to get some of that down. All the while, Dr. B tended to my wounds.

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As soon as baby and that lovely placenta were out, Dr. gave me Cytotec and started Pitocin in my IV, as Laura gently massaged my uterus to minimize the risk of hemorrhage. Because my uterus had been so stretched, both from a larger baby AND all that extra amniotic fluid, it would then be harder for it to contract down properly, putting me at risk for excess bleeding.

Then the stitching – I managed to sustain only a mild 2nd degree tear, but acquired a decent size hematoma that needed to be drained and stitched back together. Good times. He worked on me for a really, really long time. I gladly accepted some Ibuprofen and Percocet, some water and snacks. I held my sweet baby, Kate, smiled at hubs, and said, “We did it.” I thanked God over and over for getting us through it all. This was no easy pregnancy, but she was here. We both survived, all my fears had been conquered.  Diabetes can’t hold us down! And I had the most amazing support team on the planet.

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Photographs by Laura C., Birth Doula. You can visit her website or Facebook for more information.

A Wilde Birth Story, from NYC

A Wilde Birth Story, from NYC

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We named him Wilde, just as his entry into this world was. My partner, Simon, and I arrived to the hospital early on a late, September, Monday morning. My water had broken and I had been laboring lightly at home. I was just barely full term, four days into my 37th week of pregnancy. My midwife said to come into the birthing center so she could check to make sure all was okay. If it was, they’d send me home to labor.

We had been preparing for this day for months. We took ten birthing classes, including a Bradley course and extensive Hypnobirthing preparation. After watching the Business of Being Born, ten years earlier, I had committed myself to a natural child birth. I wanted to go through that rite of passage that is labor and fully earn my badge, without having any numbing effects. Any time someone would say, “The best made plans…” I would think, Yeah, but I’ll be different. I will have the birth I want.

When I sat with the midwife that morning, she looked at my blood pressure reading wide-eyed and with worry. I felt my best made plans quickly slip away. My blood pressure was through the roof, 190/100. She explained to me that I had preeclampsia, a pregnancy-induced high blood pressure condition, and that the only cure was delivery. I immediately flashed to Sybil in Downton Abbey, thinking that if this were the turn of the century, I’d be toast.

As the midwife discussed the course of action to induce with Pitocin, I immediately jumped to the worst case scenario and suggested they just wheel me in for a C-section right then and there. The midwife humored me and said we didn’t have to jump there. Besides, going through a labor process would be good for me and my baby. The important thing would be to keep my blood pressure in check, staving off a seizure or stroke.

In the hospital room, I resigned myself to putting on the hospital gown. My birthing ball, birthing outfit, the arnica massage oil, and the aroma therapy seemed so far from where I was at. I lay in the bed, hooked up to an IV, catheter, a blood pressure cuff, and a fetal monitor. I curled up on my side and the tears came. Simon embraced me as I fell apart in her arms. The disappointment I felt was so deep. I felt like a fool for being so narrowly focused on a birth plan that had only one outcome: no interventions. I felt lost and afraid of what was to come. The other side to all of this seemed impossibly far away.

At 6pm, after 10 hours at the hospital, I was one centimeter dilated. I slowly let go and turned inward as the Pitocin started to advance my labor. My birthing team: Kori, my doula; Shannon, my midwife; Kate, my doctor; and Simon my partner, became my rocks through the building intensity. Each had a position to assume during every contraction; Simon held my hand, Kori pressed into my hips, and Shannon held my feet. Kate made sure my blood pressure was steady, not easy to do with readings like 201 over 110. I ended up on Magnesium Sulfite and high blood pressure drugs to keep things as stable as possible.

With my blood pressure still so high, it became clear that I needed to deliver this baby as soon as possible. At about 9pm, three hours after starting the Pitocin, contractions built to a jagged peak in their intensity. I had the conversation with my midwife of when to begin the epidural. She suggested I wait 40 minutes to coincide with the blood draw I was slated to already have. After another strong contraction rattled my body, I reasoned that I didn’t care if my blood was drawn twice. I wanted relief from the ever-increasing pain.

Then, at 9:30pm, like lightning through my body striking my uterus, I had a contraction like none of the others before. I was compelled to hold the bar on the bed and bear down. The sound that escaped me was an electric scream – hard and fast. Shannon jumped up and said, “I am going to check you now.” I resisted and said I was afraid another contraction would come, but she was already inside of me. Then she proclaimed, “We’re there! 10 centimeters!” I hardly could believe it; I made it. The energy in the room suddenly shifted with excitement.

With Kori coaching me along, she said, “It’s time to push your baby out! Get in a position you want and follow what your body tells you to do.” I immediately got up, flipped onto all fours, gripped the back of the tilted up hospital bed, and rode the bucking horse of the next three contractions. Each one was stronger than the next. Each felt crazier than the last. Kate and Kori reminded me to make deep, grounded sounds, to direct the energy down and out. It’s also what I had practiced, but felt so hard to harness in the moment. I felt the baby move down. I reached down and felt the top of his head. He felt like a pear inside of me and all I could see was green. He felt small and possible to move. With the next contraction, I embraced Simon with all of my might, bore down, brought my breath to the deepest place I could, and birthed my baby.

Wilde came out screaming and perfect. I held him in utter disbelief, feeling victorious and incredibly grateful.

You can view Wilde’s first wonderful day by clicking the link here: Wilde_Day1 – Medium

Photography by Sarah F. Keough

The Story of Aurora

The Story of Aurora

This story is hard for me to write, because while it ends with a glorious rainbow baby, it begins with an intensely bad storm. February 5, 2014, Chris and I learned that we were expecting our second child. We were surprised, but glad. I called my parents that night at Barnes Jewish Hospital, where my dad was a patient, and told them the news. One week later, I had a miscarriage. Then on the 13th of the month, we found out that Dad was going to come home on hospice — although his cancer was gone, the stem cell transplant which had cured him was now seen as a foreign thing and his body was in rejection. On the 14th, as my parents pulled into their driveway, Dad died.

On March 17th, 2014, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was happy, because we had been trying for another baby, but also intensely frightened. My world, as I knew it, had been shattered with the recent deaths in my family and I didn’t think I could handle losing another child. A dear friend came over and prayed with me that day. Chris was ecstatic, not scared, and he kept encouraging me.

I had ultrasounds at six, seven, and eight weeks pregnant, all showing a heartbeat and normal development. It became more real and something I was allowing myself to hope for: another beautiful blessing from the Lord!

I was so much sicker this pregnancy than with Abbi. It was so bad that I spent almost a week laying around so I would throw up less. I felt GREEN, even when medicated. My sweet husband did a lot more of Abbi’s diaper changes during this time, so that I wouldn’t have to gag over the smell.

I looked pregnant much faster this time around. At Katie, my sister-in-law’s wedding, I was 12 weeks along and visibly pregnant. At 14 weeks, I began feeling the baby kick from time to time. I called her my little womb ninja, because she was so active.

At 17 weeks, the morning sickness finally subsided. Things were looking up. I thought the worst was over.

A week later, my world came crashing down when my husband of eight years was killed in a car wreck on his way home from a church mission trip. All the way to the hospital that night, as I waited to find out his condition, our little child kicked around in my pelvis, as if to reassure me. On the way home, without my husband the next day, she kicked and kicked again, reminding me just how much I still had to live for. The grief vomiting began that day and lasted for the next 4 weeks.

I found out the day before Chris’ visitation that I was expecting another baby girl. At the ultrasound that day, my Mom, Chris’ mom, my sister, and my older daughter all got to watch. They got to see this tiny, beautiful person moving around inside my womb. Chris and I had previously discussed and agreed upon the first name Aurora if the baby was a girl. I kept her middle name secret from everyone until her birth.

During the five-hour-long visitation for the daddy of my children, I had the worst migraine of my life. A combination of pregnancy hormones, crying most of the day every day for a week, exhaustion, and stress all had my head in a mess of pain. Partway through the visitation, Mom made me step outside to see, in the sky above the church, the biggest double rainbow I have ever seen. It seemed to originate over the place where Chris’ body lay. I believe God sent that rainbow, in part, to show me that life would still hold beauty. My “rainbow baby” was in the works, after all.

Once I hit 22 weeks, I enjoyed the pregnancy. It was pretty uneventful from that point until 34 weeks, when I found out that Aurora was in a footling breech position. I feared that she would not turn head down before labor and that I would now need a C-section. For me, the idea of being a single mom to a toddler and a newborn was scary enough, without the added concern of trying to recover from surgery at the same time. My little ninja, as I had previously dubbed her, would routinely flip between feet down and head down, sometimes more than once in a day. I could feel her flipping — a sensation of a five-minute long contraction followed by kicking or pressure in different places.

One afternoon, when I was 37 ½ weeks along, I was getting ready to take Abbi to the sitter’s so I could nap before work. I started contracting HARD, all of a sudden. They were so strong they were taking my breath away. I didn’t have the strength or energy to take her to the babysitter’s, so I called to see if she could come get her. She took Abbi and I continued to labor, or so it felt like. I called my doulas and one of them came over. The contractions were super intense for 20 minutes, then regular and painful for a couple more. I spent some time in the tub, trying to relax and remain calm. My doula was with me, and she felt my belly. She encouraged me that it felt like the baby was now head down again. I went to bed shortly after and the labor stopped.

That evening my OB doc confirmed that Aurora was head down. From then on, she behaved herself and stayed put.

The week I was due, I had some GI upset for two hours, two nights in a row. Sunday, the first night of it, I packed my hospital bag. The second night of it, I was at work at the hospital and the bag was in the car, just in case. Then on Tuesday the 18th, I was at home and asleep after a long night at work. Around 1 pm, I woke up and got up from bed to use the bathroom. As I stood, I felt fluid leaking, but I assumed it was urine, because that’s just how pregnancy can be. I went back to bed and then contracted painfully every seven to eight minutes for an hour. I was tired, and I was supposed to work that night, so I told myself, “If this is really labor, and my water broke, then it will get more intense and I won’t be able to go back to sleep.” Thus I continued to lie in bed, the contractions eased up, and I slept.

My alarm went off around 4 pm and I got up, showered, and headed to the babysitter’s house to eat dinner with her family and my toddler. Abbi was especially cuddly with me on the couch that night and I wonder if a part of her knew, instinctually, that something was up. It was, in fact, her last moments of having me to herself. Before I left for work, I again had the nagging suspicion that my water had broken.

I went to work. I clocked in. I got ready to work on labor and delivery. Then I went to the bathroom and decided that, yes, maybe my water really did break. I wasn’t contracting though. I went to my good friend, who was our charge nurse, and told her the situation. I clocked out and became a patient. We sent a test down to lab to confirm my suspicions, and I called to give my mom and my doulas the heads-up.

While waiting, I began to contract. They were painless at the beginning. Then I started to walk the unit, like so many other women had before and would after me. I started having strong enough contractions that I had to stop and breathe through them. The verdict was in: this was the real deal. About 30 minutes later, the test results finally came back and confirmed what I’d already figured out. I called Mom and she came in.

She labored with me for a while. I remember sitting on the birthing ball a lot in the early stages. Mom and I talked about some of the emotional fall-out of what this birth meant to me…for nearly five months after my husband’s death, his DNA literally grew, lived, and thrived inside my body. It was a kind of beautiful, marital intimacy to have that child created by our love, inhabit me for those months following his death. Giving birth meant no longer carrying Chris inside me, at least not physically or literally. We cried together and held each other as I continued to labor.

Birthing room three was finally clean for me and I moved in. We kept it a dark, quiet birthing space so I could do the work I needed to do. I called my doula, Trish, and she came in, bringing the glorious birthing tub with her. She set it up and filled it. A dear co-worker of mine brought me contra-band (real food!) from Steak ‘N Shake. I ate my cheeseburger and was thankful for the sustenance.

My sweet nurse, Amy, who was my nurse when I delivered my first child, was working that night and I got to choose her to care for me again. She was great, always as unobtrusive as possible to the process of my more natural birth experience. She checked with Doppler the heart tones from time to time and Aurora sounded fine. It was such a blessing not to be strapped to a continuous monitor!

At some point, my doula, Carolyn, came in, too. Both these doulas are so special to me, and Carolyn was there for my first child’s birth. She had seen me labor once before, but with my husband at my side. She understood, on a different level, what was “missing” from this labor, because she had seen it first-hand.

I was in and out of the birthing tub at that point. Somewhere around 4:30am I was in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet. Just Carolyn was with me, face to face. Some gentle music was playing and it was very dark. I remember being in active labor and then just dealing with my feelings. “I need Chris.” I sobbed into Carolyn’s arms and then would stop to moan and breathe through an awful double-peak contraction. As she held me in her arms, she “held space” for me. She let me feel what I felt and validated me in that vulnerability so I could move through it.

Somewhere around 5am, she mentioned I might want to have my wonderful nurse, Amy, check my dilatation. I was hesitant to do this, only because I was fearful that I wouldn’t have made any “progress” since I had been checked before. I decided to go ahead and do it. 5 cm, -2 station, bulgy forebag, was the “word”. The 5 cm was okay, but the fact that the baby still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis concerned me. Unfortunately it’s hard to “turn off” the labor and delivery nurse part of me, even in labor! I declined having the doc come in to break the forebag.

The very next contraction after I was checked, I think I went complete. All of a sudden it just felt more intense than ever and all I knew was that I needed to get back in that birthing tub IMMEDIATELY.

Once back in the water, I kind of felt like pushing, but I kind of didn’t feel like pushing and I said this aloud. I screamed with a few contractions as the discomfort was becoming unreal, but my doulas reminded me to keep it nice and low, guttural. I got quieter and more focused. I felt my forebag break into the water of the tub.

Somewhere in this span of minutes I remember thinking how stupid I was to get pregnant again and why didn’t I get an epidural like a “normal” person and this could not be worth it! I continued to push, quietly moaning, on my knees in the tub. My doulas and my mom were very near, with Carolyn face to face with me. I think I must have said the words, “I can’t do this,” which my wise nurse, Amy, took to mean it was time to get Dr. Bishop in the room. She went to the desk to get him, and they came back in.

Moments after they entered the room, I whispered, “She’s crowning.” Then I whispered, “Her head’s out.” Then I felt the shoulders come, but the baby didn’t finish gliding out fast enough for my liking, so I reached down and I pulled her from my body. We had a “Lion King” moment as I lifted her out of the water with her cord still attached, and said, “Oh! I delivered my baby!” She was beautiful and squishy and perfect, her head free of any molding.

Someone helped us out of the tub and into the bed then and the moment was so surreal, I can’t even picture who they were. I had a lot of varicosities, and so I was still in an excruciating amount of pain immediately after her birth. Thankfully, though, there was no tearing.

At 5:35am, on November 19th, 2014, Aurora Kay Williams came earth-side. It was worth all the pain in the world to see that little face. Even the little detail of her birthdate — the 19th — is meaningful, because her daddy was born on October 19th. She was God’s fulfillment to me of His goodness — His faithfulness — the fact that rainbows follow the storms, but it takes trust and perseverance to get there. My Jesus promised me hope and He gave it to me in a 7 lb. 8.6 oz baby girl.

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This is Aubree: A Disabled Daughter Story

This is Aubree: A Disabled Daughter Story

disableddaughter4This is Aubree.

She was delivered on the 11th of November, 2012, at 7:02pm via an emergency C-section, after a 52 hour labour in which she suffered a lack of sufficient oxygen and blood supply to her brain. This caused extensive damage, known as Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy.

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She didn’t meet her milestones and at 14 months old, we were told she would never walk or talk, would never be more than she was then.

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Since then, she has undergone countless tests, MRI scans, genetic testing and the like. She has weekly physiotherapy and occupational therapy appointments and has improved by leaps and bounds.

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Her official diagnosis is Bilateral Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy GMFCS III-IV. She is globally developmentally delayed, has absence seizures, aspirates fluids and is visually impaired. She is unable to speak, stand, walk, or feed herself, but she has made our lives better by simply existing.

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Nothing will ever prepare you for parenthood, much less parenting a disabled child, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming love you have for them either, it’s beyond humbling.

A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

All three of my births were far from empowering experiences. I never felt like some sort of superhero. I never felt strong. In fact, after my daughter’s birth, I think I just barely showed up for the others. I checked myself out, terrified of the pain and what was going to happen in the hospital. I mentally stepped out of the experience.

At the young age of 19, I gave birth to my daughter. I had spent weeks working on my birth plan. I wanted so many things for this experience. I had wanted a private room, with just her father and I, my mother when she got there, and the doctor. I wanted dim lights and soft music. Everything I wanted disappeared, because when they realized what was needed to get her into this world, the room filled with people, bright lights, and loud noise.

I had entered the emergency room with a harsh set of contractions that were barely giving me seconds between to breath. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was rising. I didn’t know she was stuck, that her head was twisted in my pelvis…that she, my dear daughter, was going to fracture my butt on her way out. I didn’t know that twelve hours of labor, an epidural, a vacuum, and forceps were going to be needed to get her into this world.

And she didn’t cry. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. All of that, and she was silent. The last shred of my birthing plan was tossed out the window as my daughter wasn’t placed on my chest, but instead whisked away to a table surrounded by nurses and doctors and I couldn’t see her. It took 15 minutes for them to bring her to me. Her lungs had been acting up and the cord had been around her neck and her poor head had the marks of the forceps on them, but they gave her to me finally, my quiet baby, and she were perfect.

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So almost three years later, when I found myself back in the hospital to deliver my son, I hadn’t even bothered with a birthing plan. I figured they were a joke, and not worth my time. I just signed up for the epidural and lay and waited for my body to do what it would do. No one ever taught me how to labor. I didn’t have a clue what to do, except pushing. I remembered pushing and so when they told me it was time, I got to work. Mentally, I prepared myself for the vacuum and the forceps and the tearing that would come along with that. I prepared myself for them to take him away from me for a little while. I tried hard to focus on pushing and not let myself get upset about those things.

It was a surprise when instead, a mere six hours after entering the hospital, my son slid into this world and they laid him on my chest. And he was silent. There was nothing wrong with his lungs, and he had come out easily on his own, but he was quiet. My son looked around the room with his dark blue eyes, and didn’t make a sound. It was terrifying. I wanted him to scream his head off, but he didn’t. He was healthy and happy and we even left the hospital a day early with him to come home.

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Now, fast-forward seven years and there I was, talking to the nurses as they hooked up my IVs and the doctor ran through the procedure for the Pitocin. I was barely a week overdue with my youngest son, but the doctor felt he was getting too large and that I needed some help to move him along. In hind sight, I should have let my body do its own thing, but I had no experience with trusting my body. All of my birthing experiences had been dictated by my daughter’s birth when I was too young to trust myself and I let everything I wanted be tossed away.

Two days of induced labor later and we were making little progress. I got to 6cm and they broke my water. I moved up to 7cm and froze there. Suddenly my cervix started to swell and we got back to 6cm, then 5cm. The doctor came in and told me we were going to have to have a C-section. I broke apart, right there on the bed. I completely fell apart. I’d never had surgery and I was terrified of what this meant. I watched my husband back away; sit on the couch and cry.

I don’t remember much from those moments of prep.

I remember a young boy, one who seemed far too young to be working there, coming to take blood work from me. I was sobbing and he kept patting my arm. I apologized for crying and he told me not to say I was sorry.

I remember one of the nurses saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t let him cut through your tattoo.” She laughed and I didn’t.

I remember telling my aunt not to call my mother yet, that it would frighten her and my children.

I remember them taking me away and into a freezing cold room and I looked up and told them to stop everything. “I want my husband. Where is my husband?”

And for once, everyone listened to me. For once, I got exactly what I wanted. Everyone stopped and they moved aside so I could see my husband outside the window as he slid on the blue gown and cap and shoe covers. They didn’t touch me again until he came in the room and then sat him down right next to my face.

I don’t remember my youngest son’s birth much. I don’t remember how it felt, but I remember these moments with my husband so clearly. They completely changed our relationship, opened it up to a whole other level, and made me fall in love with him in a deeper way.

Because when they finally pulled, that large baby boy from me, he cried and cried and I laughed.

“I’ve never had a baby that cried.”

I watched tears fall silently from my husband’s eyes. He barely even looked over at our son as they brought him around and they showed him to us. He simply buried his forehead against mine and cried. Our son was beautiful and screaming his little head off.

But when they asked my husband if he wanted to go with the baby or stay with me, he quickly said, “I’m not leaving her.”

He never took his forehead from mine, my hand clasped tightly in his. Our son was taken to our room with my aunt and best friend, while my husband and I sat together and marveled in one another.
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I have three, beautiful children…and three different birthing stories. They don’t seem nearly as empowering as others I’ve read here. I didn’t go without pain management. I didn’t have much of a birth plan after my first. I just went with the flow of the doctors and nurses around me…

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But I have that moment with my husband where he chose to stay by my side, where he showed every bit of weakness and strength and fear and love that was in him, and I had babies that were quiet and a baby who cried.

I wish I had an empowering story to share about overcoming the pain to have the delivery I wanted, but I truly believe that things happen the way they are meant to and that there is value in everything. These experiences will help me when one day I have a daughter or son who might find they are preparing to help bring a baby into this world.

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I will tell my daughter to trust herself and her body and to learn from others how to handle labor.

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And I will tell my sons to do as their father did.

Homebirth of EllieMae

Homebirth of EllieMae

In the days leading up to the birth of EllieMae, I had been having contractions irregularly that would, right on time, wake me in the middle of the night, as well as my husband, Jeremiah. They would last for a few hours and then flitter away as if nothing had happened. I was sure I was going to be pregnant forever. I had never been this pregnant before! With my first baby, Oliver, he had made his appearance into the birthing pool in our home at 37 weeks and 5 days after a long, but peaceful three day labor. So as I headed into the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I fully expected to be holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms by at least 39 weeks. I was absolutely positive that I would go into labor early.

Contractions came and went…along with my due date. It was at 40 weeks and 5 days that I woke up from an afternoon nap, exhausted and feeling as if the room and my body were on fire. I could tell that my blood pressure was high and decided to check it out. Looking at the numbers on the machine, I was sure it was wrong. There was no way it was so high! I checked it 3 more times. Then, I called my midwife, Debi.

She asked me to run over to her office and we would see what was going on. By the time we got there, it had settled and was much lower. I was so uneasy, and was ready to have a cervical check to see what was happening. To my surprise, I was already at 4 centimeters! I asked her to go ahead and do a sweep and try to get things to progress. My husband and I hopped in the car and ran to grab some food before heading back home to tuck our little boy into bed for the night.

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Once home, I put on some music and began to pick up around our bedroom. It was now close to 10:00PM, and we were getting ready for bed. My son and husband lay in bed, watching cartoons and chatting, while I danced around the room to music and did some light cleaning. It was then that the rushes started to come over me. They were light at first, but within minutes they became heavy and hard and I was finding it difficult to speak through them. My beautiful 22 month old son came to my feet and asked to dance with me to the music. He swayed with me, holding my hands as I moved through the contraction.

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After my husband laid my son to bed in his room, he made me a bath so that I could relax and get through some contractions easier until it was time for the midwives. Once I was in the water, I knew I couldn’t stay there long. I twisted and turned and wiggled and cried out. Nothing made the rushes ease. They were coming quickly and they were intense. My husband sent texts to the photographer and the midwives, as my contractions were coming two to three minutes apart.

“Surely this will slow.”
“It can’t be happening this fast.”
“This isn’t how birth happens!”

I told myself these things as the contractions kept coming, one after the next. No breaks. No breathing. This was a battle I had never felt before, not like this. My previous labor had been so long and gradual, that I had time to catch my breath and talk myself through each contraction. This was a different ball game.

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By a little after 12:30AM, the midwives had arrived and were setting out their things. Debi looked at me and asked, “Are you feeling like you need to push?” With the fiercest voice I had ever used, I shouted, “Yes!”

Moments later, a contraction began, and I bent over the bed to rest my arms and find some form of relief. My eyes came up and I saw the face of my wonderful photographer, Rebekah, peering through the crack in the door over her camera. She was videoing this moment in time that I was feeling so broken. I was glad to see she was there for this and after the split second I thought that, I felt a gush. I knew I had peed myself on camera! It wasn’t until after the birth, that I realized that it was my water breaking.

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As politely as a woman in labor can do, I excused myself to the bathroom. Once I sat down, the rush that came took me somewhere else. I was looking down on this violent scene that was so quickly pulling my baby down. I felt the most intense pressure and my body took over where my mind couldn’t function. It wasn’t until I reached my hand down and felt my baby’s head that I knew she was really coming. This was it! It was almost over, and the pain would leave me! I felt so much relief. I was about to meet my baby girl and this was all with it. I shouted, “She’s coming!”

ellie5Debi asked me if I wanted to deliver her on the toilet. The only thing I knew I wanted was for her to be out here with us. Debi and Jeremiah grabbed under my arms and helped me to the bed. The room was buzzing. People were moving and grabbing things and preparing for the birth that was moments away. As my husband put on his gloves, I asked where my mother was. One of the midwives ran to the living room to get her. My mother later told me that the midwife had shouted, “If you want to see this, you better get in here!”

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I continued to push, as the room was spinning around me. I reached down to feel my baby’s head slide out of me and I laughed out loud shouting, “That’s my baby!” In what felt like a mere second, my husband lifted my baby girl up and into my arms.

ellie7She was here, a short three hours after the contractions started. A tailspin of emotion filled me and I was taken back by her beauty and the unbelievable similarity between her and her big brother. She was perfect. I was filled with an unspeakable joy!

We spent the next couple of hours nursing, snuggling, taking an herb bath, and getting to know our newest family member.

She is the perfect addition to the family we are building. Everything we didn’t know to ask for and more. She is peaceful and patient and perfectly on time.ellie8

Photography by Rebekah Mustaleski at Growing Wings Photography.

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