[another] birth story

>> 1.03.2014

It feel appropriate to be writing this post to Perry Como crooning Christmas songs in my ear. I have an insane amount of anticipation and excitement for Christmas this year, and those were the same things I have been feeling for the last few weeks while waiting for my daughter--anticipation and excitement.

42 weeks and 1 day. That's how long this girl curled herself up inside of me and waited to be born.
I went into this pregnancy expecting to go past 40 weeks, but I absolutely never expected to go past 42. This girl is already teaching me things like patience, and endurance, and sticking to your guns. But, I digress.

When we found out we were pregnant, after moving back from the UK, I knew immediately that I would not be birthing in a hospital. I'd had an excellent experience with midwifery care while I was pregnant with Jameson, and in the time since his birth, I've become an even stronger advocate for letting birth be a natural process, not a medical procedure. So, we started looking around and eventually settled on a birth center for this pregnancy. My prenatal care was fantastic, I loved hanging out in this renovated Victorian house at each appointment, and couldn't wait to give birth in a really fancy tub and crawl in that King sized bed afterwards. 

When we hit 40 weeks, my midwives and I began discussing what I wanted to do about letting the pregnancy progress naturally, and exactly how long I wanted to wait before we started to try some natural induction procedures. I honestly did not think she'd be much later than her brother (41 weeks and 1 day), so I said that I'd really rather hold off on anything until at least 41 weeks. I'd have a baby by then anyway.

Well, 41 weeks came and went, and I'd had not even a hint of a contraction. No signs of labor at all. At my prenatal appointment we began to discuss induction a little more. According to state law, if a woman hits 42 weeks in her pregnancy, a physician has to be notified and consulted. If she continues and gets to 43 weeks, her care then must be transferred to an OB at a hospital, which essentially means that they'd hand you a Pitocin drip as soon as you walked through those doors. Keeping this in mind, we decided to go ahead and see if I made it to 42 weeks. If I did, we'd do a membrane sweep as well as some homeopathic remedies and start trying to get this girl out before the 43 week mark. But really, there's no way I'd make it to 42 weeks, because who actually is pregnant that long?

And then I actually did hit 42 weeks, and I was pregnant that long. Go figure. So, at my appointment on that 42 week mark, I had my first check (2 cm dilated, 50% effaced) and a very aggressive sweep and stretch, as well as a few different homeopathic remedies to take every hour. I was nice and crampy on the way home, and finally started seeing some interesting things every time I'd go to the bathroom, and I just KNEW that labor was imminent. Contractions were highly irregular, but they were there and I decided there was no way that I could just sit at home and wait for things to pick up. So, Hubs and Jameson and I went out to run a few "nonessential" errands to get my mind off of things and also give us something to do. I put Jameson to bed that night thinking that it was going to be his last night as an only child, and then Hubs and I watched a pretty awful movie while I continued to try and do a few things to keep contractions going. Around 11:30 I decided it was time to try and get some sleep before labor really picked up, which I figured was going to happen sometime in the next few hours.

I woke up the next morning around 8 am with a sore uterus, but no more contractions or labor signs. The frustration and disappointment was so overwhelming that I laid in bed and just cried for awhile. I was supposed to have a baby by now. I'd held out as long as I possibly could and tried to be patient and let her take her time, but this was the last straw. I felt so defeated at that moment that I just wanted to give up. Thankfully, Hubs knew how upset I was and we decided that more distraction was in order so that we could get through the morning and afternoon before I had to be back at the midwife (at the "just in case" appointment that we'd made the day before, which I was totally not planning on showing up for). So, we went to my favorite breakfast place, I ate a lot of pancakes and just generally tried to enjoy being a family of three for a little while longer.

I called my mom to drive me to the midwife that afternoon, as contractions started to become irregular again but painful enough that I didn't want to be driving on the freeway and trying to get through them. As soon as we walked in the door, my favorite midwife looked at me and just shook her head. "How are you still pregnant?" she asked. I couldn't even say anything and just shook my head back at her. I had another check and found out that I was now 5cm dilated, 60% effaced and all those sporadic contractions the night before had forced her to roll over and get into the right position for birth (she had flipped back-to-back just a few weeks earlier). When I heard all of this, I wanted to start singing Hallelujah. The night before had actually served a purpose, and 5 cm was already halfway there, which meant that I was actually going to get to have this baby before Thanksgiving. Amazing. They did one more sweep and stretch and I started having irregular contractions pretty much as soon as we walked out of the office. I was hungry, and knew that I needed something in me before labor really picked up, so mom and I decided to finally go order the 'labor-inducing' pizza that everyone had been telling me about, just in case this girl still needed an extra push.

I remember getting into the car and leaning forward because the midwives had told me to watch my position so that Evie wouldn't roll back over, and then as we were driving, I realized I had a death grip on the upper door handle and was leaning forward to try and help control the pain I was in. When we got to the restaurant, I couldn't sit still and rocked my way through lunch, feeling contractions and trying to focus on the conversation I was having with my mom. I ate about half my pizza and then looked at mom and said, "Okay. I need to go home, put on some sweatpants, and start timing contractions." She sort of gave me this look and said, "Are you sure you want to go home? Do you want me to just take you straight back to the birth center?"
"No. I want to go home. I need my sweatpants, and I need to time these for just a little while to make sure that things are really happening." I think I was almost afraid to believe that it was all finally starting, and I also didn't want to show up at the birth center and labor there for seven hours, or some ridiculous amount of time, when I could have been at home with my family for a little while longer.

I called my dad on the drive home and told him that things were happening, but he definitely didn't need to leave work right away. He, however, had been waiting a good two weeks to finally get the 'I'm in labor' phone call, and so he jumped right on it and said that he'd leave now and meet us at my apartment. By the time I got home, contractions were about 3 minutes apart and almost a minute long. I rolled around on my birthing ball for about a half hour and they continued to get stronger and closer together. I was doing my best to keep my face loose and relaxed as well as making sure my throat stayed open--I wanted to try and stay in control of my emotions as much as possible this time and I knew that I had to make sure that I relaxed and focused through each contraction. Finally, about an hour after we got home, I went to the bathroom and it's like a switch went off. 'It's time to go. We need to go now.' I thought. I called the midwives to let them know that I was definitely ready to come in and I'm sure they were overjoyed to hear that they were finally, FINALLY going to get to deliver this baby. I told them I'd be there in about a half an hour, and they said that they would be waiting.

It was such a weirdly emotional place when I was telling Jameson goodbye--I missed him already and my heart was so full of how much I loved him, but at the same time I could only half focus on that moment as I was starting to try and really get into labor and concentrate on bringing this girl into the world. I gave him a hug and a kiss and he was all sorts of mature and in control as he left to go to grandma and grandpa's house. My big boy.

The drive to the birth center was one of the worst parts, and I knew it would be. I sat on the edge of the front seat and held onto the dashboard and back of the seat like they were a lifeline. I could not have been happier to see the "Better Birth" sign and pull into that parking lot. By now it was around 6:30, only three hours after we'd left from my appointment. As soon as I walked in, the midwives told me to go ahead and go straight upstairs while they finished up with a client. Finally, finally, I was getting to use that gorgeous tub I'd been dreaming about! I had a few contractions in the bedroom while the tub was filling, and they checked Evelyn's heart rate to make sure she was handling things okay. Harmony, my favorite midwife, asked if I wanted them to check me or if I just wanted to get in the tub and I practically ran past her as I stripped down and got in that pool. "I just want to get in NOW, please."

The tub was as amazing as I'd remembered with Jameson, and I sunk into that hot water and did my best to relax and focus on the fact that I was now in the place where I'd be bringing Evelyn into the outside world. From this point on, time became sort of a blur and everything I did was out of instinct, rather than focusing on the clock. I remember the contractions feeling different in the tub. It's a more, sort of focused pain, rather than all over. Each time I'd feel one coming, I'd try and talk myself through it mentally. 'Remember it's like a wave--you have to dive into it instead of fight it. Let it take you over.' When I'd start to get panicky, I had Hubs read me a list of verses that I'd found a few days before and the power of Scripture was overwhelming to me in those moments. It was one of the most amazing experiences--I'd hear promises from the Lord coming out of my Husband's mouth and the contractions in those moments almost turned into this amazing sort of worship. My body was doing exactly what God had designed it to do, I was birthing this child that was 'fearfully and wonderfully made' and God was there, seeing me through it all, taking that fear and tension and giving me His peace. It seems strange to think back on it now, that contractions and pain could become worship, but it was amazing at the time and I will hold that in my heart forever.

At some point our birth photographer arrived, and I was coherent enough to say hello and smile. I started to hear her camera click, and soon enough it became just another noise in the background. I remember getting out of the tub a couple of times to pee (I'd read a friend's birth story where her bladder became too full at the end and she ended up having to have a catheter before she could start pushing, and I was NOT going to let that happen to me!) and feeling so lightheaded and dizzy. I kept saying, "I'm going to throw up. I feel like I'm going to pass out." I'd been drinking Gatorade to try and keep myself hydrated, but I needed more calories/sugar. The midwife suggested I have some sort of juice or honey and I remember being so annoyed that the stuff I'd bought specifically for labor wasn't doing the job. Ha. They finally got me to start drinking some cranberry juice and a little while later I realized that I wasn't actually going to black out while pushing out this baby--this is why I trust the professionals.

Eventually I hit transition. My mental talk became, "Natural birth?! Why in the hell would anyone want to do this naturally? They need to give me something for the pain NOW!" Then the rational side of my brain would remind me that as soon as I started talking that way, I was closer than I'd ever been. But then the irrational side would start to pipe up and wonder if I was REALLY in transition, or if I was just trying to hippy-voodoo myself into believing it. I started having to really breathe through each contraction and focus on keeping my body as loose as I could. I remember having flashbacks to Jameson's birth and the panic and terror I had felt then, and reminding myself that this was different and I was in control of this. I was restless in the tub and couldn't find a comfortable position. I squatted, I knelt, I sat cross-legged--everything had something that bothered me about it. I kept telling myself, "You won't remember this. You won't remember how bad this is!" I have no idea how long this period lasted. I wanted a clock and a cervical check so badly, but I knew that neither of those things were going to help me out in any way. Finally, FINALLY I started feeling a small urge to push with each contraction. I was afraid that it was just me wanting to push and not actually being ready, so I told my midwife, "I think I'm feeling pushy. I'm trying not to push, because I don't know if I really need to or if I just want to." She was so encouraging and gentle, and just told me to listen to my body and follow it's lead. I began to feel something coming down and thought, "Wow, that feels way smaller than a head, but maybe I'm just really relaxed!" I reached down to see if I could feel any hair and right at that moment my water broke--it was like a shot had gone off and I felt this blast of water pushing past my hand. So bizarre!

The next contraction hit and all of a sudden I realized that Evelyn was THERE, crowning and ready to come out. I could not believe it. With Jameson it had taken twenty minutes to get to this point and I was so prepared to try and take this slowly so that I could try and control it as much as possible. Apparently, my body and my daughter had different ideas. I was so shocked by the sudden pain and the pressure that I lost all sense of keeping my face relaxed and breathing her out--instead I gritted my teeth and yelled like the devil. She slid back up after that contraction, and it took two more before her head was out. At one point I had to fight against this insane urge I had to keep pushing after the contraction was over, even though it was pain like I'd never felt to try and stop. Finally, the right contraction hit. I pushed and her head was out and into my hand. I felt her wrinkly skin and her hair and that was the only thing that managed to keep me calm enough to finish the job. I remember asking Cheryl if she was okay and everyone telling me that she was fine, but I had to stay under the water. Harmony had me flip over onto my back so we could catch her, and with one more contraction and a total of eight minutes of pushing, Evelyn Darling was born at 9:23 pm on November 21, 2013.

I held her in my arms and was hysterical with relief and love for this sweet girl, and so overcome with how awesome her birth experience had been. Evie latched on like a pro a few minutes after birth, and eventually we moved from the tub to the giant King-sized bed I had been dreaming about. The hours after that are a blur of being stitched up (the worst. Yikes.), getting her newborn exam done, Jameson meeting her for the first time, and finally getting some real food. The midwives and post-partum staff were amazing, and the whole time I kept thinking, "This is exactly what I wanted!" We got to go home five hours after she was born and spent the first night cuddled up in our own bed with our newest family member. Absolute bliss.

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