A Pregnancy & Birth Story- A Family Journey
I wanted to share this birth story with you because it is more than a birth story- it covers pregnancy all the way through the first week of life. And like so many of us, this mom and her decisions change as time goes on and she decides what it is that she and her family want. I hope you find her experience thoughtful, familiar, and meaningful, as I did. (Note, there is a hospital transfer at the end of this birth story.)
Kaelyn’s birth story actually begins at the start of my pregnancy. I went on quite a journey through my pregnancy, and that journey changed how and where I would birth my baby. I don’t feel like you can fully understand or appreciate the story of her birth without me sharing that journey. That being said, it makes this story long. You don’t have to read the whole thing, although I really hope that you do. I put in section headings in case you want to skip ahead or just read the actual birth part. Oh, and in case any of you squeamish people are wondering, it’s not graphic.
So here goes…
Kaelyn’s Birth, Welcome to the World Baby Girl!
Chris (hubby and Daddy)
Rachel (doula and student mid-wife, but functioning in the capacity of doula)
Jessica (assistant mid-wife)
Anita (Hypnobirthing instructor)
Long before I became pregnant, I fully intended to have a traditional hospital birth, complete with an epidural so I would feel nothing. After all, why choose to feel pain when you don’t have to? And what if something happened? I viewed childbirth as an intensely painful (and potentially dangerous) experience that a woman had to endure in order to have a child. And I held to this belief into my pregnancy.
When I was 4 months pregnant, a friend shared her home birth experiences with me and encouraged me to read a few books on natural childbirth. Thank you Miranda! Even after hearing about her very positive natural home births, I could not fathom the idea of having my baby at home or without drugs. But I took her recommendations (mostly out of curiosity) and began to read the first book: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, one of the nation’s leading midwives. This is a great book to read while you’re pregnant.
I wasn’t very far into the book when I began to see another side of childbirth. Something totally different than what the media portrays, and different from the horror stories I’d heard from friends and family. I (slowly) began to realize that a woman’s body was made to birth a baby, naturally and without the interventions we so commonly use today. And it’s those interventions that tend to cause most of the problems and dangers we experience with childbirth today.
I was by no means convinced to have a natural (or home) birth at this point, but I was fascinated by what I was reading, and I couldn’t put the book down. I read story after story about real women who had positive, natural birth experiences. I read appalling statistics about childbirth in America that left me shocked and horrified. And I learned that for such an advanced and modern country, we approach childbirth in a way that sets it up for failure.
By the time I finished the book (a couple weeks later) I had decided to ‘try’ for a natural birth. I figured I’d give it my best effort, but if it was too awful I’d fall back on an epidural. The next few books I read focused specifically on interventions: all the things doctors do to you during labor and birth. Things like IV fluids, internal fetal monitoring, pain medication, Pitocin, etc. The books shared things no one really talks about, like how one intervention tends to create the need for another and another and another. And before you know it, you’ve got them all. And not to mention all the side effects mom and baby experience throughout that whole process.
By that point, I’d made a decision to have a fully natural, unmedicated, intervention-free birth in the hospital. That was a very empowering decision for me, and I was excited about being present and active, and truly experiencing the birth of my baby!
Right around that same time Chris and I started attending our childbirth classes, and we were introduced to water birthing. I was vaguely aware of the concept of a water birth, but I didn’t know much about it. Throughout our classes, our instructor showed several videos of babies being born in the water. It was fascinating, and I was really drawn to that type of birth experience. But I was 29 weeks pregnant, and I didn’t think there was any way I could switch to a water birth so late into my pregnancy (especially since I would need a new doctor and a different hospital). So I continued along with my plan to birth naturally, out of the water, at Sutter Roseville hospital.
Hypnobirthing? What is THAT?
Also around that time another friend shared her birth stories with me. Thank you Mary! She had done Hypnobirthing with her babies, and loved her birth experiences. When she first mentioned Hypnobirthing (many weeks prior) I dismissed it as some wacky way of pain management that was too far out there for me. But as she shared more, I again became curious. I can be curious to a fault sometimes. But in this case it was good.
She suggested I read the book to learn more about it: Hypnobirthing, the Mongan Method. I loaded it on my Kindle and began reading. The book opened with the bold declaration that natural childbirth doesn’t have to be painful. I had to read that several times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Yes, it was actually saying that you can have a pain-free, unmedicated birth. I was definitely intrigued, and continued reading.
During this time, I had finally decided to hire a doula (after having changed my mind back and forth several times) and was in the process of contacting different ones to interview. One lady, Anita, emailed me back and said that while she wasn’t doing doula work anymore, she was teaching a Hypnobirthing class starting the following week. Wait, what? I emailed about doula services and she responded with an invitation to her Hypnobirthing class, right as I was reading the Hypnobirthing book?
I talked some more with Mary and talked with Chris, and we decided to take the 5 week class on the off chance that it might be helpful. I wasn’t convinced yet, but I was willing to be open-minded and give it a try. There were two couples in the class in addition to us, and we all met in Anita’s home. As the classes progressed and as I read the rest of the book, I began to believe that childbirth indeed does not have to be painful.
Back to the story…
Each week in class we watched videos of Hypnobirthing moms giving birth in a peaceful, relaxed state. Many of them were water births. I was seeing and hearing about water births all over the place. I had recently met a new friend who’d had two home water births and was pregnant again and planning a third. She raved about them, and patiently answered my many questions. Thank you Sophie! So once again I found myself (now at 35 weeks pregnant) seriously considering a water birth. But again I decided that I was way too far along to make such a drastic change. I’m not a last minute person, and this was pretty much last minute. I was nearly full term, and the thought of switching doctors and hospitals when my baby could really come anytime seemed absolutely crazy. So I decided that while I would love to have a water birth this time, it didn’t seem logistically possible, and I would save it for my next birth.
One of the things we did during our Hypnobirthing class was discuss and formulate our birth plans. We were all planning natural hospital births, and we wanted to make sure that our hospital experiences were as much in line with the Hypnobirthing philosophies as possible. As a former doula, Anita had tons of firsthand experience with our two chosen hospitals (Sutter Roseville and Sutter Davis) and what their standard procedures were in different situations. She knew where we’d likely have to push for our birth plans to be respected and where we might really have some trouble with hospital/doctor policies. I had already discussed my birth plan with my doctor, and she was largely okay with it, except on a few points. So I already had some idea of what I might be up against should I have a long labor, or if there were any concerns with my baby when she was born.
On our last night of class (June 22nd) we got to listen to a mom (and former Hypnobirthing student) share about her home water birth experience. She had decided at 36 weeks pregnant to change from a planned birth at Kaiser to a home water birth, and had a wonderful birth experience. That really got me thinking. I was comfortable with everything about my birth plan except for where it involved the hospital. I was concerned that my birth plan wouldn’t be respected should my labor progress slowly, and I’d end up with some sort of intervention. Thus the downward spiral would begin. The more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became. Not about giving birth, but about being in the hospital when I did.
A Last Minute Course Correction
Three days later (Friday) when Chris and I were driving home from his brother’s wedding rehearsal (10 days before my due date) I shared my concerns with him. I was really wishing there was some way to not have my baby in the hospital. Chris had his own uneasiness regarding the hospital, which he’d actually had from the very beginning of my pregnancy.
Those of you who know me know that I’m a planner. I’m not in the least bit a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, last-minute kind of person. Everything about this baby and pregnancy was planned out long in advance. For me to be considering making a change to those plans so close to my due date (especially such a major change) was huge! We had a two and a half hour drive to discuss it, and by the time we got home just after midnight, I realized that having my baby, this baby, at home in the water truly was important to me, even if it meant making a last minute detour. That night I emailed Rachel and Anita and asked for their advice and thoughts on how to make that happen.
I laid in bed and prayed for a long time that night, and by the time I fell asleep, I had such a sense of peace surrounding the whole situation. I went to sleep knowing with absolute certainty that I would have the home water birth I so desired. I didn’t know how it was all going to come together when I could go into labor any day, but I knew God would work out the details.
And that’s exactly what He did! Saturday morning we drove back up to Santa Rosa for the wedding, and when we got home again Saturday night, I had a response back from Anita with the name of a highly recommended midwife she’d worked with a lot, Tuesday Benavidez-Knight. I fired off an email to Tuesday briefly explaining my situation, and by early Monday morning she had responded. I spoke with Rachel on Monday as well, and she had a list of a few midwives for me to contact. The first one she gave me was Tuesday! The same lady Anita had recommended. Rachel also spoke very highly of her, but she told me that she was likely already be booked or may not want to take on my birth since it was so last minute.
I was stoked! God was fitting all the pieces together, and this was just the beginning. I talked with Tuesday that afternoon. Not only was she available, but after a long conversation about my pregnancy and health history and after sharing with her my strong desire to birth at home, she was willing to take me on, even though I was 39 weeks pregnant. How cool is that!! And she had a tub available so I could have a water birth. We scheduled our first appointment for Wednesday.
On June 25th I had been thinking, “If only I could have a home water birth”, and by June 28th (in only 3 days, and over a weekend) God worked everything out to make that desire a reality.
That week we picked up the birthing tub, I ordered the birth kit Tuesday wanted, and Chris and I shopped for and organized all the towels and blankets and supplies the midwives would need. By Friday night (7/2/10) we were ready to go. My due date of July 6th came and went which was no surprise. I had expected to go beyond 40 weeks. I had a second appointment with Tuesday and Jessica the next day (July 7th), and we finalized all the details of who would come when and how everything was going to work. I was beyond excited!
Everything started very early Sunday morning July 11th. I had been up late Saturday night reading a really good book that I finally put down just after midnight. I went to the bathroom before bed, and discovered my uterine seal was missing. Yikes! Labor was going to begin anytime now. As I crawled into bed a few minutes later, I had a mini panic attack. I suddenly didn’t feel ready. I let myself freak out for about 15 minutes, and then I started listening to my birthing affirmations. By the time I’d listened to them two times all the way through, I was calm again and ready for labor whenever it began. I fell asleep just after 1am.
At 4am I woke up feeling what I was pretty sure was a real contraction (or surge as we call them in Hypnobirthing). It wasn’t particularly intense, but it was definitely different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been feeling for several weeks. It came and went, and I laid there thinking, ‘This is it!’ Nothing happened for several minutes, so I went back to sleep. A few minutes later I was up again with another one. The surges continued, but they were pretty mild, and I was able to doze between them. At one point I watched the clock, and it seemed they were just under 10 minutes apart.
By 7am I was tired of laying in bed, and they were getting stronger. I moved to the couch and began reading my book where I’d left off a few hours earlier. I finished my book just before 9:30am, and decided to wake up Chris. He was really excited! My surges were coming more often, and I asked him to time them. They were 5-6 minutes apart, and lasting about 45 seconds.
We (meaning Chris) started right away to get everything ready for the birth. He hauled in the tub, setup the video camera, got the bed ready, and laid out all the supplies. My surges continued every 5 minutes or so throughout the whole day and into the evening.
At some point overnight they got more intense. I was experiencing back labor, and it was difficult to find a comfortable and supportive position for my back. Sleeping was definitely out of the question. The surges themselves were not painful (as long as I stayed relaxed using the relaxation and breathing techniques I learned in the Hypnobirthing classes) but my back was hurting, and my back muscles were fatiguing. We tried all kinds of different positions. I sat on the birthing ball, laid on my side, went on hands and knees, leaned over a chair, laid on my other side, sat on the weight bench, laid on pillows. I’m sure there were more still that I can’t remember. For hours I tried a new position every couple surges.
Finally I determined that standing up and leaning against the wall seemed to be the most comfortable position for my back. By the middle of the night I was really tired. I’d been awake since 4am, nearly 24 hours. I was literally falling asleep on my feet, and I’d jolt awake as I started to tip. I was afraid I’d fall over, so I asked Chris to bring in a kitchen chair for me to sit on in between surges. That worked well until I found myself again jolted awake as I began to tip off the chair. I was laboring in our bedroom, so I moved the chair over next to our elliptical machine. That way I could stand and lean against the machine during the surges and sit on the chair and hold the handle in between. Now that I was no longer afraid of falling off the chair, I told Chris to try and get some sleep. That was sometime around 2 or 3am.
I labored by myself for the next few hours. Stand and breath through a surge, sit down and try to get a minute or two of sleep. Then repeat. I tried to time my surges, but my brain wasn’t working too well at that point. It seemed they were still about 5 minutes apart, but now lasting closer to 90 seconds. And sometimes an extra one would sneak in there, but it would be shorter and less intense.
Still Going…24 Hours Later
I woke Chris up around 5am. I was tired of laboring by myself and wanted both his companionship and encouragement again. I was also curious to see how long the surges were lasting and if they were any closer together (I’d given up trying to time them on my own). They were about the same. 4-5 minutes apart, 90 seconds long, but they felt way more intense. Chris massaged my back and helped me focus and relax through a couple more hours.
Around 7:30am Chris suggested I try to relax in our bathtub. He filled it up for me, and I got in hoping it would help sooth my aching back muscles. My surges were about 4 minute apart at this point. Chris called Rachel to give her an update, and she decided that she’d get ready to head over. She felt like there were things she could do to help me stay comfortable. Chris and I weren’t sure when we should have her come. We didn’t really understand how she would be helping, (even though we’d discussed this in our pre-natal visits, it was still sort of fuzzy) and we were concerned about having her come too soon. I’m really glad she just decided for us!
Also while I was in the tub Chris called Tuesday, and she and I talked about how I was feeling and my progress. Since I’d been laboring for over 24 hours with no sleep, Tuesday felt like it was important to see how dilated I was. Depending on how far along I was, we could either slow things down to let me get some sleep, or speed things up and get the show on the road. I was agreeable to that, although I was pretty sure I didn’t want to slow things down. She sent Jessica over to check me.
Jessica arrived around 8:30am, and determined I was 3cm dilated and that my cervix was really soft and stretchy (which she said was good). She asked what I wanted to do. I wanted to get things moving along, so she suggested I eat a good breakfast and then go out for a walk. A few minutes after Jessica left, Rachel arrived.
Rachel had some ideas for encouraging the baby to rotate into the anterior (preferred) position. She advised me to wait on eating until afterward because she was going to have me be in a position that would put pressure on my stomach, and she said I might feel nauseated if it was full of food. I agreed to wait on the food.
Rachel did a technique called a ‘diaphragmatic release’. She had me lay in a reclining position, and she placed one hand under my sacrum and the other below my belly button. She talked me through a visualization of the baby moving into the ideal position for birth. Apparently this helped me relax. I have no memory of Rachel doing this particular technique or the visualization. I remember the next two things she did, but not this one. I’m glad she was keeping notes on all this!
That took about 45 minutes, and the baby was very active during this time. After that she had me lay on my left side to let gravity help the baby rotate. I laid that way for about 15 minutes. Finally Rachel had me move to hands and knees which would help the baby’s back come around to the front of my belly. She stroked my belly to encourage the baby to move. When she was finished I got to eat (tortellini and Greek yogurt). My breakfast turned into an early lunch.
The things Rachel did seemed to help a lot. I was no longer having the intense back labor I’d previously experienced. However, since I’d already been laboring that way for so long, those muscles were burning, aching, and exhausted.
It was 11am now, and we all shuffled into the backyard to walk. I didn’t want to walk around the block because I have a very nosy neighbor across the street, and I didn’t want any extra attention. My backyard doesn’t have much shade, and it was already really hot. We were having a week of 100+ degree days. Walking was really hard since my back was so sore, so Chris (the creative and ingenious man that he is) got my hiking poles and a giant umbrella. The poles really helped to take some weight off my back which made walking much easier. He held the umbrella over my head, and the three of us walked laps across the backyard and around the patio. I remember thinking that we must look pretty silly and that someone ought to take a picture, but my surges quickly starting coming faster, and my desire for a picture was completely forgotten.
After 30 minutes of walking we went back inside. Chris brushed my hair to help me relax, and Rachel held a bag of frozen fruit against my back. My surges were now 3 minutes apart, and I became much more serious. I was having to concentrate on my breathing through each surge, and was very quiet in between surges. I stayed like this for about an hour, and then became nauseated. Rachel gave me some peppermint essential oil to smell on a washcloth, which helped briefly, but sadly didn’t prevent me from throwing up.
A little before 1pm Rachel suggested I try taking a shower. It sounded like an awful idea (I didn’t feel like getting wet right then), but I gave it a try. Chris sprayed water on my back. It felt wonderful! After that I laid on our bed and listened to my Hypnobirthing CD. Rachel said I seemed very relaxed and peaceful. I was but my back felt like it was on fire. So I went back to standing up, leaning on the kitchen island, and rocking through each surge.
It was around this time that Chris asked if I would be okay with Rachel for a little while. He said he had to go send a few emails. I was so confused. It was Sunday. Who could he possibly need to email? I asked if he was going to let our families know that I was in labor. He said he was going to do that and respond to some payroll emails. What? On Sunday? It was then that he told me it wasn’t Sunday anymore. It was Monday. Since I hadn’t actually gone to sleep, I didn’t realize we were on a whole new day. Of course he needed to take care of payroll emails on Monday. Monday is our biggest payroll day of the week!
Tub Time, Yippee!
I vaguely remember Rachel calling Tuesday and giving her an update a time or two. She must have told her things were moving along because around 1:40pm she and Jessica arrived. I remember Tuesday commenting that I looked so calm and peaceful. She checked me and said I was 8 cm with the baby at -1 station, just above the middle of my pelvis, and my water bag was bulging. I asked if that meant I could get into the tub now. She said yes, and started filling it. I was thrilled! I was looking forward to laboring in the water! My surges were 4 minutes apart and very strong now.
I got into the tub just before 3pm. It was much easier to change positions in the water, but I found that kneeling was the easiest and most comfortable. Rachel suggested that we use the bag of frozen fruit against my back as we’d been doing earlier. I remember asking her if it wouldn’t melt in the warm water. She said it would take awhile. When it finally did melt, someone filled up a big Ziploc with ice and Chris and Rachel continued to take turns pressing that against my back. It felt really nice. The cool ice mixed with the warm water seemed to help sooth my aching muscles.
I was very inward focused at this point, in touch with my body, and concentrating on the sensations I was experiencing, breathing through them, and staying relaxed. I wasn’t talking much, and everyone present was doing a great job of keeping my environment quiet and peaceful. They came and went quietly, left the room if they needed to have a conversation, and just sat quietly with me around the tub. I would open my eyes periodically and see one or more of them just sitting, watching. Chris was there with me the whole time, stroking my arm or telling me I was doing great. At just the right times a cup of water would appear magically in front of me, and occasionally someone brought me some yogurt or another snack. At one point I listened to my birthing affirmations, and later someone put on some peaceful music. It was a wonderfully calm atmosphere; exactly what I had wanted.
Around 4:30pm I started to feel pressure, which meant the baby was moving lower into my pelvis.
At 6pm Tuesday did another exam and said I was almost completely dilated with just a rim of my cervix around the baby’s head. I could feel my water bag and more pressure, and I started to feel like pushing. I tried several different positions, but squatting and kneeling seemed to still work the best. My legs were getting stiff and crampy from being in those positions for so long.
Pushing was a VERY STRANGE sensation. It felt like there was so much power coming from my body with each surge. I didn’t know what to do with it for the longest time. I could literally feel the bones in my pelvis shifting outward. I remember thinking ‘this is NOT normal’. Tuesday assured me that it was normal. My body knew what to do, and I shouldn’t fight it. She told me to think of the surges like ocean waves, and just flow with them. I think I was subconsciously resisting pushing even though I was physically trying to push. It just didn’t feel normal, and it took me awhile to wrap my head around it and gear up mentally.
On and off I noticed Tuesday, Rachel, or Jessica checking the baby’s heart tones and reporting that they were strong and normal. I think they did it about every 15 minutes although I didn’t always notice. I was very happy to hear the baby was doing well despite my long labor.
My water released at 7:20pm (another very strange sensation) and Rachel said it was then that I started pushing more actively. I had been trying to ‘breath the baby down’ as is described in the Hypnobirthing book, but couldn’t really figure out what that meant, and it didn’t appear to be working, so Jessica and Tuesday helped me focus and gave me some suggestions. Chris reminded me to keep my face and jaw loose and relaxed.
Around 8pm Tuesday did another exam and said there was still a ‘lip’ of cervix in front of the baby’s head. She stretched it as I pushed through a couple surges to allow the head to pass through. Yikes! That was youchy, and really the only ‘painful’ part of my whole labor/birth experience. After that I felt like I was finally starting to make progress. I could feel the baby’s head getting closer. I could even feel her hair! By 9pm her head was visible when I pushed.
I opened my eyes at one point after a surge and noticed that someone had turned off the lights. We were all sitting in the bathroom in the dark. That was nice. I remember asking if we were still on Monday. Yes, it was still Monday. I also asked if my baby was going to be born today, and Tuesday said she thought she would be.
Tuesday and Rachel each suggested that I get out of the tub and try pushing on the bed or while sitting on the toilet. I really wanted to stay in the water. It was so much work to get in and out of the tub and I was exhausted. My core ached from hours of pushing and my legs were sore from squatting. I really wanted my baby to be born IN the water, and I was afraid that if I got out and pushed, I wouldn’t want to get back in, and she’d end up being born out of the water. As a compromise, I stood up in the water and pushed through a few surges.
After another hour of pushing someone brought me a yucky tasting concoction to drink (cotton root bark) to strengthen my surges. I remember thinking, ‘They’re strong enough! Why make them stronger?’ But I drank it, and boy did they get stronger. And fast! Within minutes they were not only stronger, but longer and closer together. I felt like I hardly got a break from one when another would begin. There was no time for me to relax and catch my breath in between, and it was making me even more exhausted.
At 10:15pm Tuesday had a talk with me. She told me that she knew I was tired, and that she wanted to help me birth this baby before I was completely out of energy. I had been laboring for over 42 hours (w/out sleep) and pushing for nearly 4 hours. She told me that gravity would really help to move the baby down so I could push her out, and told me it was time to get out of the tub and push while sitting on the toilet. It took all 4 of them (Chris, Rachel, Tuesday, and Jessica) to get me out of the tub. My legs just didn’t want to work anymore, and I felt like I couldn’t walk. I also felt like I had a huge watermelon or bowling ball in my pelvis. Childbirth is full of strange sensations. This was another one! It just didn’t feel normal, and it made walking (even just the few feet to the toilet) nearly impossible. I finally made it and sat down.
After what Tuesday said about gravity helping to move the baby down, I was afraid that the baby would come quickly and be born in the toilet. Rachel assured me that would not happen. I was able to relax a little bit after hearing that and refocus on pushing. I pushed through 2 surges and felt like the baby’s head was crowning. Very calmly I announced that I was pretty sure her head was coming out. I don’t think anyone really believed me, but Tuesday had me come back over to the tub so she could check. I stood there and pushed through one more surge. Sure enough, she was crowning!
Back into the tub I went. And back into the squatting position. I had been out of the tub for only 15 minutes. I had one or two more surges in the water, and her head was born! As I rested after that last surge, I asked Tuesday if I was now supposed to push the body out. She said I could whenever I was ready. I rested another moment or two, and on the next surge I felt her body slither out (that’s exactly what it felt like…slithering). Tuesday passed her through the water between my legs and Jessica helped me lift her from the water.
Kaelyn Christine was born at 10:45pm, Monday night, July 12, 2010. She was 8 pounds, 6 ounces and 22 inches tall.
Hello Kaelyn, I’m Your Mommy
Welcome to the world baby girl! Mommy and Daddy are so excited to meet you!
I held her in the water up against my chest while everybody got to work checking her over, suctioning her nose and mouth, and putting blankets and towels around us. Finally I could relax. As I held Kaelyn up against me, she just stared right up at me. It was amazing! Chris was right there looking at her over my shoulder and holding her hand. She grabbed onto his finger right away. Already she had quite the grip!
At one point Chris asked if we knew for sure she was a girl. He had been concerned that despite two ultrasound pronouncements that we were having a girl, she might come out a boy. Tuesday said I’d have to check. I did, and sure enough, we had our little girl! Rachel commented on how molded Kaelyn’s head was from coming through the birth canal. I couldn’t really see what she meant until later when I looked back through the video and pictures. No wonder it took me so long to push her out!
Kaelyn had good Apgar scores and cried right away, although she quickly quieted down. We stayed in the water a bit longer. I don’t really know how long, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Then everyone once again helped me out of the tub and up onto the bed. I had Kaelyn in my arms the whole time. Chris came up on the bed with me, and the three of us laid there and bonded while I birthed the placenta. Tuesday and Jessica showed us all the parts of the placenta and cord, and then asked Chris if he wanted to cut the cord. He declined, so I asked to do it.
Not What We Imagined
Over the course of that first hour, it became apparent that Kaelyn seemed to be having difficulty breathing. Tuesday and Jessica tried rubbing her, suctioning her airway, and giving her ventilation breaths, first by mouth and then by bag and mask. All this was done while Kaelyn was in my arms. But she was beginning to show more signs that breathing was challenging, and she was unable to nurse. Around midnight Tuesday decided that Kaelyn needed to go to the hospital, and she called 911 for an ambulance.
A few minutes later there were 5 big, burly men standing in my bedroom. I was really pretty out of it at that point. I remember asking why there were so many of them. Apparently it’s standard procedure. Although no one said so, I though that they were going to take her to the hospital, fix her breathing, and then we’d bring her home in the morning. I had no idea we wouldn’t bring her home for a whole week. Tuesday took Kaelyn from me and put a diaper on her while Chris went into the garage to get her car seat. They strapped her in and put a blanket over her, and Chris and Tuesday went with Kaelyn and the 5 burly men to the hospital. Jessica and Rachel stayed with me.
Chris rode in the ambulance with Kaelyn and held her tiny hand. He told me that as they were arriving at the hospital, she was turning blue. It turned out that she had some fluid in her lungs (fairly common and in no way resulting from her being born in the water) that wasn’t fully expelled during labor and birth, and it was just too hard for her tiny lungs to breath on their own. Chris called me with updates as he had them, and after they had Kaelyn stable, Tuesday came back. Chris continued to stay with her. Jessica and Rachel helped me get cleaned up, and someone brought me a plate of food. I called my mom to come over, and rested in bed while Jessica and Rachel emptied the tub, put all the blankets and towels into the wash, and got everything else cleaned up and put away. I think it was around 3am when everyone finally headed home.
Around 4am Chris called again and said they had admitted Kaelyn to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), she was asleep, and there wasn’t anything he could do by being there. My Dad went to pick him up. I think it was about 6am when we finally got to sleep.
Life in the NICU
I was supposed to be on bed rest for 2 weeks (I lost a lot of blood), but Tuesday gave me permission to go to and from the hospital if I promised to take it easy and rest whenever possible. My Mom drove me to the hospital when I woke up (around 11am). Kaelyn was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and wires and a machine that made it easier for her to breathe. I was able to hold her hand and stroke her arm, but they wouldn’t let me hold her that day. The nurses kept referring to her as ‘very sick’ which made me really angry. She wasn’t ‘sick’. She was having trouble breathing. Those are two different things.
By evening she was breathing on her own and doing much better. I was able to hold her skin to skin and breastfeed the following day (Wed). Chris got to hold her for the first time that day. He even read her a story (Wacky Wednesday). We helped give her a bath, and my parents were able to hold her too. From that point on, Kaelyn did not need to be in the NICU anymore. She wasn’t on any machines, she was healthy, eating well, and growing. She was by far the biggest baby there. The only reason the doctors insisted she stay for a full 7 days was to finish off a course of antibiotics they had started when she was admitted. They talked about the possibility of a lung infection if we discontinued the antibiotics, so we reluctantly agreed. Looking back at the situation, and knowing what I know now, I would probably have done things different that first week, and checked her out early, but it’s hard to say for sure.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’ll have another home birth (or water birth) after this experience. The answer is ABSOLUTELY yes! I couldn’t imagine giving birth any other way. It was exactly the gentle, peaceful birth experience I wanted.
Being at home, I was able to allow my body to labor at it’s own pace, without fear of interventions. I didn’t have nurses continually checking my progress, telling me we’d have to try some type of something-or-other if things didn’t get going. I didn’t have a doctor tell me she’d need to use a vacuum extractor or forceps to remove my baby after 2 or 3 hours of pushing because it wasn’t happening fast enough. And best of all, I was able to hold Kaelyn for her first hour of life. No one held her that night but me. The midwives didn’t need to take her away to work on her as doctors and nurses would have insisted on doing in the hospital. We got to cuddle skin to skin and bond during that most important first hour after birth.
After having an unmedicated, natural birth, I can’t imagine being completely numb to all those sensations, or not being able to work with my body through the whole process. There is something empowering about giving birth naturally that I can’t quite describe. I don’t know that I completely understand it even. I just know it has changed who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kaelyn, you are truly a gift from God and a blessing in our lives, and I can’t image life without you. I love you more than you will ever know.