*Disclaimer: This is a birth story. Birth is graphic and parts of this post may also be. This post is written primarily for my own benefit, but also so Haven may one day know the story of her birth. And, of course, I want to share our story with my midwife friends and others interested in the art of birth.
Also: After much prayer and discussion Eric and I decided to attempt to deliver our baby at home. Homebirth is not for everyone, but it was perfect for us this time around. If you want more details on how we arrived at this decision, feel free to ask.
Saturday morning I woke feeling a little strange. We had a long list of tasks to accomplish that day and I told Eric I wasn't sure about going on all our errands because "I'm kind of uncomfortable." We decided to head out and just be ready to come home at a moment's notice. We went yard-saling, stopped at the bank, ate at Costco, and then I hung pictures in Eric's office for two hours while Eric wheeled Elijah around in his fancy office chair. We headed home. We took a family nap and awoke to incredibly loud tornado sirens. I asked Eric to turn them off. He kept sleeping. We got up because Elijah was now awake. I had bloody show but no painful contractions. Grampa called to warn us of the tornadoes. Matt called to warn us about the tornadoes. "I know you guys probably don't have the news on...." We called our fabulous midwife, Susie Meeks, to give her a heads up on the beginnings of my labor. Grampa called again to warn us of the tornadoes. "I hope you guys aren't out in the woods..."
We started cleaning the house. We waited. We called Susie back an hour later. We called Grampa and asked him to come get Elijah.
We went for a walk, crossing the now-soaking-wet field. I jumped over the bump in the middle of the field because it had turned into its own little creek. Our feet were soaked. Eric carried Elijah. I walked. My contractions came every 3-5 minutes but still weren't really painful. Elijah played with sticks while I walked up to the gate-down past the bridge-up to the gate. Elijah was getting clingy. I think it was the first time he has ever been able to play in the dark. We all looked at the moon which was large, bright, and shining right over the gate. Elijah was happy to see the moon (he asks about it frequently) and I was happy to finally be able to point it out to him. Eric got nervous, primarily out of concern that all his cleaning jobs wouldn't get done. Grammie and Grampa drove up. We headed back across the sopping field.
Grammie came out to meet us in the field. She looked really worried. It was the same face she had right after I had Elijah, the same face she had when she saw Laura just a few minutes before Luke arrived. It is a face that makes me want to ask a lot of questions.
Elijah went home with Grammie and Grampa. Eric started super cleaning. I think I took a shower.
Susie arrived. I was four centimeters. Susie described my bloody show as mucous-plug loss "instead of the show that happens at 8 cm." I thought, "of course I'm not 8 cm!" (Although one does always hold out hope that they'll have one of those rare pain-free labors.) I walked around shaking my hips and willing the baby down. Eric took a picture of me. In this first picture I'm talking but I also look petrified. In the second picture I tried to act like I wasn't in labor.Susie and Eric spent two or so hours rearranging furniture and converting Elijah's room into a birthing room. I walked around, sat on the ball, moved my hips in circles and generally felt like I was doing a great job laboring.
My back started hurting. The baby was sunny-side up. My back hurt. I became worried, unsure if I could make it through a super long labor. "Those babies take forever to come," I kept thinking.
After checking the baby's heart rate again, we all went to take a rest a few minutes after midnight. Eric (of course!) fell right to sleep saying, "Wake me up if you need me." Susie slept upstairs in our freshly made bed. Susie put me "on the wagon wheel," her term for various positions used to turn the baby. I put my butt way up in the air and my head down on the bed; I went on my hands and knees; I pretzled right; I pretzled left. I stayed in each of these positions for a few contractions, then switched to the next position. I slept in between the contractions as I was able. I prayed a lot that this baby would flip over. I prayed more. Every time Eric would wake up I would say, "Why don't you pray for the baby to flip." Eric prayed then promptly fell back asleep. I was glad he was sleeping.
I got up to use the bathroom about every hour. I was determined not to let an enlarged bladder prolong this labor. During one turn on the wagon wheel I felt the baby flip. My back immediately stopped hurting. Contractions continued. I cried and thanked God for turning this baby.
Around 5:00 AM I woke up noticing that I was arching my back and gritting my teeth through a contraction. I thought, "Uh-oh. That's not good." I woke up Eric saying "I need you to help me." Eric woke up Susie. Susie talked to me then made a pot of coffee. Eric held me through my contractions. He pressed on my back. He would lean against the wall for leverage and I would lean on him and moan through each contraction. It was amazing how much his presence helped me. If he would go off to get or do something all I could think was, "Hurry! I don't want to have a contraction by myself!" I was so glad that Eric was there...right there, helping. We called Cindy, Susie's nurse. We called Rita, our special fried we had asked to help during the birth. They both arrived shortly.
Susie listened to the baby. The heartbeat was immediately audible; it was loud and clear, not muffled as it had been earlier. "I think your baby has turned!" Susie said. I choked back tears and agreed. Susie checked me. 5 cm. "Oh crap," I thought, "I can't do this forever!" I really wanted to cry. I had tried to prepare myself for this, but preparation often is not a potent enough antidote for tears of disappointment.
Contractions continued. They hurt. I got in the little kiddie pool we had set up in Elijah's room. Eric sat on a little stool right behind the pool. I leaned on his lap. The pool was amazing. I won't say it relaxed me, but it certainly helped me to bear the contractions. I hurt. I moaned and tried to breathe through the contractions. Eric breathed and moaned with me. We stayed in there for about an hour and a half. Rita made everyone eggs for breakfast. I could hear the three ladies talking softly in the kitchen. It was nice. I was glad Rita was taking care of everyone. I was glad Susie was taking care of me.
Susie eventually came in and recommended I try to go to the bathroom since I'd been in the same position for quite a while. I didn't want to move. I knew moving would make the contractions harder and more painful. I walked to the bathroom (really just a few feet) with several painful stops for contractions. They were terrible. I wasn't dealing well with them anymore. I started to feel out of control. I tried to pee.
Eric wanted Susie to check me and see what kind of progress had been made. I wanted the contractions to stop. I got on the bed and Susie checked me. 8 cm. "Really just a lip on the left side." I rolled over on my left side. My contractions were out of control. I didn't even try to stay in control at this point. I just started saying, "Someone help me. No one is helping me!" Eric said, "I'm helping you" in a voice of disbelief, almost like he wanted to laugh. Later he said that he didn't know what to do at that point; was right there - what kind of help did I want? I had no time in between the pain to communicate. I was trying to say that it needed to be over right now!
I asked Susie to break my water. She gave me this look like, "Oh, you don't really want me to do that." I kept asking, thinking "I will have some relief when my water breaks." No one broke my water. Susie and I had never talked about AROM. I thought, "Oh no, she thinks I don't want that. I'm not one of those people!!!" My contractions were terrible. They wouldn't stop and I barely had a break in between. Susie kept saying things like, "We'll see if it breaks with the next contraction." Then another contraction would come, costing me my opportunity to scream for AROM. Finally I said, "Why aren't you breaking my water?!?!?!?!" Eric said that he and Susie exchanged glances. Susie, in her super calm voice, said, "OK, I'll break it." She broke my water. Clear. I was relieved. I was complete.
"Where do you want to have this baby?" Susie asked. "Do you want to have the baby in the pool or on the bed?" "Tell me what to do," I responded with what felt like a weird, crazy look in my eyes. (I maintained this semi-crazed look until soon after delivery. Perhaps I'll think of it as being focused.) Eric interjected, "OK, we're getting in the pool." I was so, so glad he was taking control and telling me what to do. It was EXACTLY what I needed right then. In retrospect it was a great call - I had done much better laboring in the pool than in the bed.
Walking the three steps to the pool was terrible. Someone had mentioned I could start pushing whenever I felt like it. I think I had started pushing around 8 cm. I got in the pool. Rita came and held my hand which was strangely comforting. I feel like I got really calm. I knew I just had to push. The waiting was over. I pushed. I pushed HARD. I pushed with and without a contraction. I held the baby's head without pushing in between a contraction. I was so surprised that I could do this. The head emerged with my next contraction. I felt great relief. Then I felt
something else!. I thought, "Oh no, I am done with this! This baby is coming out now!" I pushed. Both shoulders emerged...at the same time.
Rita gasped. I had a baby. I held my baby. Cindy worked hard to suction and rub. I held my baby. Finally I looked at Rita and said, "What is it?" "A little girl!" she replied in a tearful, joyful voice. "A baby girl...my baby girl" I kept repeating. I held her and held her and held her. I never counted her fingers or toes. I never examined her. I just held her. She was born at 8:18 AM, just about three and a half hours after hard labor really started.
I don't remember much of the hour in between the birth and the repair. I moved to the bed at some point and nursed her. She proved to be a good eater right from the start, just like our Elijah. Eric, Rita, Cindy, and Susie worked hard and fast to clean up the room. I sat there staring at them and holding my baby. Rita brought me tea. I examined my placenta and asked Eric to take pictures. I was really pleased that it looked so much better than Elijah's had.
Mom arrived. I showered, prepping Mom with "you'll need to come in here in case I faint in the shower. It happens." Susie got a few minutes of baby holding time. Cindy did the newborn exam, took numerous temperatures, and generally oversaw baby care.
Grammie brought Elijah home. Elijah met his new sister.
We thanked God together for the arrival of our dear girl, Haven Elizabeth.
Joyfully, we are now a family of four.