I just LOVE how excited this mama is about labor and birth even though she admits it wasn't easy. That is the indescribable thing about birth- it can be so hard- but so empowering at the same time. Enjoy this first time mama birth story!
Birth Center Water Birth, First Time Mama
Here is the amazing experience that was the birth of my first daughter, in April 2011. I hope this can be encouraging to other first time mamas~ the way your first birth is experienced has so much effect on your confidence level for subsequent births! My second daughter is due April of 2013 and I seriously can't wait to experience birth again! I wish all women could experience birth like this. Thing is, they can.
Things finally started on Saturday April 9th. All week I had been having strongish Braxton Hicks contractions. Occasionally that week there would be a phase (usually in the evening) where I would think it was maybe the start of things, but my contractions would always die down when I went to bed. I lost some mucous plug Thursday night, and again Saturday morning.
By now Alex (my husband) was getting VERY impatient, and ready to meet his daughter. Saturday, April 9th I woke up feeling feverish and achy, I had the virus that was going through our family. (Everyone had been in bed with 104 degree fevers) I prayed that I wouldn't go into labor while I felt this miserable, and called my midwife, Patricia, and asked her what I could take to get rid of this quick, since I was 4 days past my due date. She gave me a list of things, and assured me that most of the time, women's bodies will hold off birth until they are healed. I napped on the couch 'til 3pm, and felt very crampy. Alex left after lunch to go ride his dirtbike at Mom and Dad's.
I mentioned before he left that I felt "birthy" (a term I stole from the student midwife at my last prenata)...and said I'd call him if it became anything. I decided I felt like getting out of the house, and had some snacks I wanted to buy before the birth, so I got ready and went to Safeway. Just before leaving I had a contraction that made me lean on the kitchen table and "breathe through" it. I second guessed whether I should be going grocery shopping! But the next contractions just felt like Braxton Hicks, so away I went. Mom wanted me to pick up something at the grocery for her, so I went out to her house and spent the rest of the afternoon there.
On my way home, I went through town and got Papa Murphy's pizza. Throughout supper I got contractions every 15-20min, and would get down on my hands and knees and sway, or else do knee-to-chest, in hopes of turning my posterior baby. We went to McDonald's RedBox about 8:30 and rented Open Season III, to have something to occupy us with, instead of obsessing over early labor. On the way I got several contractions - extremely uncomfortable while buckled in to the front seat. I was unable to concentrate on watching the movie, as contractions were coming every 10 min, and painful. I continued to sway on hands and knees, which was the most comfortable position.
About halfway through the movie (not worth watching, for the record) I insisted Alex come to bed NOW because I wanted to get some rest and thought maybe it would stop altogether and pick up in the morning. It didn't stop, and sleep would not come... so I called Patricia (10:30pm) and told her I was in labor, contractions were 5-7min apart now. I said I didn't feel like I needed to go to the birth center yet, and she said she'd get a couple hours of sleep and to call her when I wanted her to go get the room ready for me.
Alex was applying counter pressure on my low back and doing pelvic presses. I could not lie down during these contractions. I HAD to be on my hands and knees swaying and moaning softly. At one point I tried soaking in the bathtub, but it was way too small to find a comfy position in. By 12:20, contractions were consistently 5 min apart... sometimes with a milder contraction in between. Alex decided to take back the movie we had rented, and I said no way was I going to drive to town again, and didn't want to be left alone, so I decided now was the time to call my mom and Laurel (my sister) ,who I had planned to have at the birth, to come.
They arrived around 1:00am. As they walked in the front door, a contraction was just beginning and I was leaning over the birth ball. Them coming made my contractions space out to 7-10min. for the next few, but they soon picked back up. They continued at 5min apart, and increased in intensity. I continued to labor in the living room, either leaning over the birth ball or on my hands and knees. At 3:00am, I decided I was ready to go to Bella Vie, so I called Patricia, who said she'd be there in half an hour and get the tub ready for me.
Right as we were getting ready to leave, there was a contraction where I was leaning on the kitchen counter with my mom doing counter pressure on my low back, and I suddenly felt like I needed to be straddling something so I had her put one leg out and I pushed hard against the counter and onto her leg (in my crotch). Weird position, I know... I have never heard of anyone wanting counter pressure in their crotch during labor, but it helped immensely, and I ended up doing that during most contractions... especially as they got stronger toward the end. During the ride to Bella Vie, the "rushes" came every 2-3min. I was in the backseat with Alex, cramped up on my hands and knees TRYING to find a comfy position... and eat a banana between contractions.
We got to the birth center at 3:45am. Patricia checked the baby's heartbeat and felt my belly and informed me that Kayelle was no longer posterior, and perfectly aligned! YAY for all the hands and knees/knee to chest... it paid off! At 4:15 I had a few strings of bloody show. Exciting. Got in the tub at 4:30am. Contractions were 2-4min apart. Alex got in with me and continued counter pressure and timed contractions on his iContraction app. And sipped at his cup of steaming coffee.
I would usually squeeze my mom's hands and rock back and forth. Laurel was sitting at the edge of the tub reading "Natural Family Living" and "HypnoBirthing" (probably noticing how UN-hypnotized I was acting), and snapping pictures here and there. The midwives would just come in quietly (usually Carmen, always with a calm smile on her face) and check the heartbeat every half hour and bring me ice water and Recharge energy drinks. I was getting pretty tired by now.
I slept between contractions, and had basically no concept of time. Every third heartbeat check, they wanted to do it during a contraction. That was no fun. Thankfully, the Doppler was waterproof so I could stay in the tub. Her heart tones continued to sound great. It was fun to be able to see Carmen pick up a heart beat lower down each time. We were making progress. Around 5:30am Carmen came in with breakfast- delicious french toast and bacon and mixed fruit, for Alex and me. Mom fed me bites between contractions - I didn't want to be caught with a bite on the way in when a rush hit.
A couple times one would start when I had a bite in my mouth... I would hurry to drink it down before it got intense, or else spit it out on the edge of the tub. Gross. But by 7:05am, contractions had slowed to 6-7min apart, so we decided to get out of the tub. I was really tired so Carmen suggested we just nap on the bed for a little. Alex and I lay down... I fell fast asleep, only to be awakened 5min later with a contraction. I threw up a BUNCH- thankfully they had a bowl ready. The next few contractions were 9-14min apart, and I threw up one more time. Contractions hurt MUCH worse out of the tub.
Finally, at 7:50am everyone convinced me to get up and walk outside; it was time to get things moving again. There is a small orchard and Christmas tree field on Bella Vie's property, which we walked in. The walking brought contractions to 4-5 min apart again, and the cool morning air felt very invigorating. During those contractions, I would hang on Alex's neck, and -once again- straddle Mom's leg, pushing down with all my might. When we realized they were consistently closer together, we went back inside.
At this point, I had Alex kneel beside the bed with one leg up, which I sat on, then my mom or Laurel would be behind me doing pelvic presses. I had my arms around his neck and was squeezing his shoulders, and rocking back and forth. (At one point somewhere in here I had a sobbing spell. For no apparent reason. All those hormones. I kept telling everyone over and over through my tears, "I'm fine, I'm fine. It really doesn't hurt that bad. I'm not even sad." Comical, in hindsight.) Poor Alex, his knee that was on the ground started really getting sore, so I let him move long enough to get a folded towel under it. Then my mom took his place, but she was just not quite the right size to make it comfy. :)
Patricia and Carmen soon came in with a birth stool and ball, thinking I could get the same straddling effect out of the stool, but I really was not interested in sitting on anything but a leg. By now, contractions were about 90sec long and every 2 min. They never really let up completely, but did die down enough that it was bearable (well, obviously, the whole thing was bearable - though soon I wouldn't be thinking so. :) ), and I could take drinks between the peaks. Oh, and I should mention by this time I was getting VERY LOUD. There was an antique armoire with a mirror on its door, beside the bed in the corner. I was annoyed because I could see my reflection... and didn't like to watch myself during contractions, so I told someone to open the door, so I wasn't facing the mirror. It was just very distracting and annoying, like I would look at myself and start to laugh and loose concentration.
Things were getting intense enough that we decided the tub would be fine by now. At 9:30am, I again entered the tub. It was just way too relaxing because soon, contractions were only every 4min....then 6min. Groan!!! At 10:15am, out again, and on to the ball. That made the contractions very intense. Back to 3min apart with two peaks, in between it would just become milder. I never really had a transition period without any breaks in the contractions like many women say, for which I was VERY thankful. Such a beautiful design, the way our bodies are made to store up energy between contractions.
I had no concept of time, and didn't even realize they were lasting so much longer than before, or that the "off-times" were getting shorter. Soon Patricia and Carmen came in and put Chux pads on the bed, and continued to "stand by" for the rest of the birth. I asked what they were doing- I remember thinking "Oh no! They think I want to give birth on the bed!" (I was planning a waterbirth) They assured me they were just prepping it for after the birth. I thought, "Wow, my MIDWIFE actually thinks I am going to have my baby soon!!!" Patricia said she could tell I was getting close because the sounds I was making were "less controlled".
I continued to bounce/roll on the birth ball through most of transition (I am just assuming that was transition by the way things were going- I had asked to not have any vaginal exams unless necessary), Carmen had a bowl of hot water, and they were dipping hand towels, wringing them out, and pressing them against my back. A few times nobody could find the exact place I needed the pressure, so I would just grab the towel and do it myself. I also pressed out and down against my groin/hips. At 11:30am I got up to get back in the tub. I stood up and had a contraction (hanging on Alex's neck) which ended in a grunt and a slight push- not much, the end of the contraction just had a downward pull, and my moan turned to a grunt.
Once in the tub, my contractions became very intense. (Though I still had breaks) There was so much pressure; I could feel the baby moving through my pelvis. The worst pain in the whole birth was the way my bones felt during this part, and throughout pushing. It was weird and hard to explain, something I have never read in other peoples birth stories. I was totally not expecting that. I was kind of losing it at this point and writhing around, and my sounds were more panicked and not as deep.
Patricia became the only person I would look at as she breathed with me, saying "Breathe your baby down." She always could tell by looking at my belly when a contraction was starting and stopping, and would look right in my eyes and make sounds that I could match. It was SO extremely helpful. Some contractions at this point ended in a slight push, but not all of them. I was so extremely worn out by now, all I really wanted to do was go to bed. I told them all, "Can't I just go to bed and finish this when I get up?" I half laughed at the thought, knowing I was pretty much stuck with the job now.
At about 1:00pm I started really pushing (and roaring) with every contraction- not just here and there. When Patricia first saw this she told me to go ahead and push if I felt like it, but if I felt any sharp pain right above my pubic bone, it might mean my cervix wasn't ready. Again, I didn't want to be checked before pushing. No pain like she had described, so I kept pushing for about an hour or more. I was very focused... one time Alex reached out to touch me or rub my back, and I snapped, "Don't touch me!" Patricia told him, "Don't take it personally, Alex, most women just don't like to be touched during this part."
Between these contractions I would fall into deep sleep. It was wild! My arms would be floating in the water and Alex (or someone else when he got tired) would be holding all the weight of my head so it wouldn't dunk under water. I was a little grouchy by now, and I remember being so irritated when I would start to feel a rush coming on - I mean, DUH!!! I'm trying to SLEEP!!! Once, Patricia told me to reach inside and tell her if I could feel a water bag bulging... I could! I kept pushing. Soon I reached inside again and thought I couldn't feel the amniotic sac any more. I said so, grumpily. Patricia asked if I felt the head; nope. "Where did it go, did it go back up in?" (sarcasm) "Obviously, cause it's not there anymore!" I said. I knew it hadn't, but I was just feeling very negative.
As a contraction began I said, "No, no, NO!" Laurel smiled at me and said, "Think, 'yes, yes, YES!'" It was like she was reading my mind- as I said, "no" I was thinking I should really be saying "yes". I tried to get a more positive attitude after that, but it was hard to do when I was so tired. I blame the degree of my exhaustion on the fact that I had the flu. After a few more pushes, I reached in again, and could feel the bag about an inch inside me, and then 1/2 inch behind that I could feel the baby's head!!! I still felt like there was no way I could get her out. This was just not as MUCH progress as I wanted! One time I turned toward Alex and said, "Pray for me!" We all bowed our heads and Alex prayed out loud.
A little after 2:00pm, Patricia told me, "I am sure you can do this on your own, in your own time, and it would probably be gentlest for you and the baby, but I know you are very tired, so if you want, we can try some more directed pushing, maybe on the birth stool or the toilet. Just tell me if you feel like you need help." She told me to not let out so much breath as I pushed, and to push way down low in my bottom, like I was pooping. So instead of trying to have a baby, I just started trying to poop. That helped me use the right muscles. Before, I was trying to get around the pain and make it hurt less, instead of pushing right into it. At 2:20pm, I stood up to get out of the tub as I had decided to use the toilet, and some fluid dribbled out. My water had broken. I got a contraction as I stood up, and, WOW, I felt WAY more pressure when not in the tub. I hadn't thought that was possible.
I did a couple contractions standing in the tub, holding Alex's hands, I remember telling everyone "I'm going to poop!" each time a contraction began. They assured me that would be quite alright. Then I made my way across the bathroom to the the toilet, where things really starting happening. Soon, I started to feel my skin stretching. Everyone was excitedly telling me they could see the head! At the time, I didn't even care, which seems really odd looking back. I was slightly annoyed that everyone was smiling and excited, and I was the one with so much work ahead of me! (though I didn't realize only 30 minutes! I still thought I had hours to go)
Patricia held a mirror so I could see the head, and I reached down and felt it, which was really exciting and awesome! Laurel snapped a picture then, and it's the only one during the pushing stage where I am smiling (half-way?). In fact, it's the only one where my face isn't contorted into an expression I never knew possible! After that, Carmen got a warmed mattress pad and made a "floor bed" on the bathroom floor, so if I had her on the toilet we could quickly move to it and have a comfy place to relax and bond with the baby. It seemed very surreal at the time, to think about actually holding and seeing Kayelle.
Patricia told me if I wanted to get back in the tub, it wouldn't slow things down now that I was at "the point of no return". I was confused about what I wanted to do, and Laurel said, "Just get in the tub if you want a waterbirth!" Not sure why that seemed like such a hard decision at the time. Once in the tub, more of her head inched out with each push. I couldn't believe how hard her head felt. It unquestionably felt like a person's head. I looked down and saw lots of dark hair on her head. It was so fun to be able to touch her head as it was coming out. I was still feeling the strange, strong pain in my pelvic bones, a feeling that was definitely more intense that the stretching part, or any contraction.
Patricia later told me that the way my hips visibly spread open was much more noticeable than most women's. She said she thinks it's because I have very small internal pelvic dimensions, which would also explain the intense pain in my pelvis. It's pretty cool how the combination of our bones and our babies' cranial bones shifting makes it possible for even a small pelvis to do what it needs to for birth. Finally, she was at a full crown, and that one push to get her head completely out brought such relief. I reached down and felt her cute little ears. So sweet.
After her head was out, I had a few moments of feeling completely normal. This is probably my favorite memory of her birth~ feeling her head between my legs and watching her dark hair sway in the water. I was kind of dreading pushing her body out, thinking it would be like another head, and that it would be really nice to just sit there with her neck in me. Patricia told Alex to get ready to catch her because probably one more contraction would do it. Then that One Contraction came and with two more good hard pushes she slipped right out (I couldn't believe how easily). Alex lifted her up and into my arms.
What an awesome feeling! It was 3:03pm. Her cord was tightly wrapped around her neck, chest and between her legs. Patricia told me to unloop it, but there was not much slack, and I couldn't get it off and keep her head above water at the same time, so I handed her to Patricia and kind of stuck my bottom up as far as I could - she held Kayelle upside down by her feet and the cord just flopped right off. Kayelle did NOT like that. It was a good reminder for her to start breathing though. :) She gave her back to me, and she soon started gurgling... then crying loudly, which continued for a good 20 minutes.
I was having mild contractions, and Patricia told me to push for the placenta only when I felt pressure. (Oh, great, forgot that still had to come out.) I pushed wimpily with a contraction, and decided I was going to have to hand off Kayelle to focus on this, I thought I might drop her or squeeze her too tight. I went to hand her to Alex....Alex? He was out of the tub already and making phone calls to his family. No time wasted there! So my mom got to be the second to (kinda) hold Kayelle. She reached in the tub and just held her while she floated in the water. I pushed twice for the placenta, which came slithering out gently; I could hardly feel it. Then they helped me out of the tub and onto the bed.
I had lost quite a bit of blood and was pretty light headed and faint feeling when I stood up. I snuggled into bed with my new sweet (and very cone-headed!) Kayelle and a proud daddy (after he got off the phone, that is). Oh, and a placenta in a ziploc bag - we didn't cut the cord until about 2 hours after birth. (Waiting a couple hours makes the blood all drain into the baby, and her cord stub fell off when she was 3 days old)
I no longer felt exhausted, just elated and very in love with the new little baby on my chest! I did it! Patricia examined me and I hadn't torn at all - just a couple "skid marks". By a week postpartum I didn't even feel sore. Kayelle cried nearly the entire first night and since I was still light-headed, Alex spent most of the night up walking and bouncing Kayelle, while I rested. He has been a great dad from the start! She really wasn't interested in nursing for several hours, probably because her palate was sore from all the molding, though she did great after the first couple days.
The little not so fairy-tale postpartum details: My uterus wasn't clamping down very well, because my bladder was so full and I couldn't make myself pee because my urethra was "in shock", swollen from the pressure of the baby in my birth canal for so long. Patricia was doing fist massage on my uterus to get the bleeding stopped, which really hurt. She offered to catheterize me, and since I had still been unsuccessful at urinating, I said I would like for her to. She tried, to no avail. It was seriously worse than the birth itself trying to get a tube up a swollen urethra. She decided to skip it, since she saw how painful it was to me, painful enough to make me try harder to pee, which I soon succeeded at. :) What an accomplishment. All in all, I'd rather have a baby naturally than be catheterized. Once all that was over and we had rested a bit, we cut the cord and weighed her- 7lb 4oz.
Looking back, my birth was an awesome experience. It really was my birth plan to a "T". I had such great support from all my birth attendants, and the involvement of the midwives was perfect- there when I needed them, otherwise leaving me to do my thing on my own. I do wish I would have somehow had more energy left by the time I got to the pushing stage. I remember thinking that I didn't even care if this baby ever came out, and I immediately felt guilty for thinking that once she was in my arms. I wonder if it would've been easier if I hadn't had the flu at the time of birth. I never wished I had pain relief or an epidural .
(Though, at one point during pushing I asked myself if I would prefer a large needle in my spine and temporary paralysis of half my body? - I decided, NO way, but some forceps might be nice about now! *haha*Then, looking down and feeling how tight things were with just a baby in there, I decided that shoving some huge metal tongs in besides would really not make things easier for me or the baby! I am amazed at how clearly I remember some of my thoughts at that point!)
It wasn't that the pain was so unbearable, it was just the complete exhaustion, and feeling like there was NO end, and NO way I would get her out. I was just kind of there, it felt like there was an absence of time. Several times I remember looking at my mom's and Laurel's sympathetic expressions thinking, "Poor thing, she hurts so much for me, and it's really not THAT bad to be the one doing this." When I tell people my labor was close to 19 hours, they act like it was soo long and hard. (yes, it was hard, but that's kind of what I expected birth to be) I really didn't feel like my birth was long at all- especially for the first time! I was just taking it one contraction at a time, resting in between, and it was very do-able. Now I can't wait to have another one and see how my second birth compares with the first! :) I never tire of looking at my birth pictures and recalling all the details.
Welcome to the world Kayelle Celine!