In honor of my sweet girl’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I would share my birth story. It’s pretty graphic, so if you aren’t interested in the details of childbirthing, you may want to skip this one.
It was about 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 16, 2014, when I started having abdominal cramps. I got up to go to the bathroom and noticed some blood. I thought maybe I had passed my mucus plug. I woke Chris up and told him what was happening. We decided it was time to call the birth center.
Although we were somewhat anxious anticipating what was to come, we were getting excited about the possibility of meeting our little girl soon! I called the birth center and midwife Lexa was on call. She asked me a series of questions and concluded that the bleeding was probably a result of a popped blood vessel caused by baby girl’s head moving lower into the birth canal. She encouraged me to get some sleep and call back if anything changed. I continued to have abdominal cramping periodically, but I didn’t think it was contractions, because everyone I had talked with described contractions as a tightening of the stomach. I just thought this was pre-labor.
Later that morning, I called the birth center again to update them on my status—still cramping and still bleeding. At this point, Emily was on call and she asked me a series of questions, made sure that I wasn’t bleeding excessively, and also encouraged me to get some sleep. She expected that I would be in labor soon and asked me to call back between 5:00-6:00 PM, if not before.
Not long after, my mom called to see how I was doing. There was an ice storm expected to come through on Monday and she and Dad wanted to make sure they could get here when the time came. I called Emily back at the birth center to get her opinion of when I would go into labor and if my parents should go ahead and make the 6-hour drive. Of course, she wasn’t able to tell me when I’d go into labor, since everyone is different and nothing is for sure with these things. We decided it’d be better for them to go ahead and make the trip in light of the pending ice storm, just in case I did go into labor. They got on the road about 3:00 PM that afternoon. I was still cramping and bleeding at this point, so it seemed to be a safe bet.
As the afternoon progressed, though, the cramping began to subside. I called and spoke with Emily again around 5:45 PM and told her what I was experiencing. She said it sounded like labor had stalled for now, and again emphasized the need for rest as it could start back up at any point. My parents arrived that evening around 9:00 or 10:00 PM.
The next morning I woke up around 5:00 AM with cramps again. They seemed to be pretty consistent, so we started to time them, realizing that these “cramps” may just be contractions after all. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to remember each one (not sure why I tried…), so at 8:04 AM, we began recording the contractions on paper—how long and how far apart. I can tell you that I was so thankful to have my parents already here. It was great to have some extra hands to help with meals that day and also to support me through my contractions. Chris helped me change positions throughout the day as the contractions got stronger. I tried to get some rest, but with intense pain every few minutes, it became very difficult.
I called the birth center to update the midwife on call. This time it was Allison. She listened to what I had to say and then, you guessed it, encouraged me to get some sleep. She recommended taking Tylenol PM to help me sleep, but me being stubborn and not wanting to take anything while pregnant (I only took two Mucinex the entire time I was pregnant due to excessive coughing that kept me up all night during Christmas), I decided against it. I just tried to sleep as best I could and took it easy all day. Honestly, most of the day was a blur.
Mom and Dad went out and got dinner for us from Panera Bread. I ate it between contractions on the floor in the living room. After dinner and a few contractions, I threw up. What would an Anna story be without some vomiting?
During my prenatal care, we had been told that it would be time to head to the birth center when my contractions were “4-1-1” or four or less minutes apart, lasting at least one minute, for more than one hour. We were diligently timing my contractions, and although they were definitely lasting more than one minute, they were still ranging between five and seven minutes apart, with a few outliers. Chris was really great about watching the clock and telling me when I was at the peak of each contraction, so I would know when it would start easing off. The pain was getting increasingly intense. I thought maybe I was moving into active labor, but I wasn’t convinced. I was continuing to change positions and Chris and my parents were making themselves available to hold my hands, rub my back, etc. as each contraction came on. I put a call into Allison again to see if she thought I needed to come in. My contractions still weren’t consistently four minutes or less apart and I could still walk and talk (barely) during them, so I was told to wait.
Not long after that, I was sitting on the floor with my back against the couch when my water broke. “Okay, now it’s got to be time to go in!” I thought. My dad went to go start the car and I called Allison again. She very calmly said, “Okay. How far apart are your contractions?” They STILL were not four minutes or less apart, so she said I could come in if I wanted to, but I really didn’t have to. She also told me that my contractions would become much more intense now that my water had broken. Sheesh. My mom went to go tell my dad to come back inside. It was around 8:00-8:30 PM at this point.
Within the following thirty minutes, my contractions got much closer together and much more intense, as I’d been warned. We called Allison once more and she said it was time to come in. Finally! The guys made sure everything was loaded into the car (I kept thinking of things I wanted to add to the labor bag) and got it warmed up. It had already begun to ice over, so the walkway from our apartment to the parking lot was pretty treacherous, especially for a pregnant lady in labor! Chris and Dad helped me get up the stairs and to the car safely. Dad drove his car and Chris drove our car while I sat in the back with my mom. We are only about 15 minutes from the birth center, so I had two contractions on the way there. My mom held my left hand and I held onto the handle with my right hand. We made it to the birth center around 9:00ish. Chris and Dad helped me into the building and we went straight to the room where I would deliver.
About the time I made it to the bed, another contraction hit and I was leaned over the bed trying to breathe through it when Allison walked in and said something along the lines of, “Well it looks like you’re to the ‘can’t walk, can’t talk’ stage.” “Uhhh, yeah, I thought… I’ve been there for a while!” I climbed up on the bed for Allison to check me. I was at 0 station, 100% effaced, 7 centimeters dilated. Wow. “You did good!” she said. It felt pretty good to know that I had made it that far into labor at home, but I couldn’t believe I had been in active labor all that time and not realized it! I was introduced to Jane, our nurse, as she checked my vitals and baby girl’s heart rate. Everything looked good.
By the way, God cares about the details. During my prenatal care, while Chris and I were pleased with all of the midwives, we had hoped Allison would be the one to catch our girl.
I had packed this cute little nursing nightgown with a matching robe and slipper socks for labor, but by this time I was already in transition, so the cute little nightgown was the farthest thing from my mind.
I decided to labor in the tub, per Allison’s guidance. Chris never left my side. I started out leaning back in the tub, but that wasn’t working. I quickly moved to my knees, leaning over the side of the tub, while Chris held my hands. At this point, I was having three contractions right on top of one another, so when Chris kindly told me, “You’re at the peak… you’re coming back down… it’s almost over,” I quickly rebutted, “No it’s not!” I couldn’t believe that the contractions could get any worse. Silly me.
Allison and Jane came in to check on us occasionally. Jane would check baby girl’s heart rate about every 30 minutes with the Doppler. She encouraged me to keep my vocalizations low, to help with the pain. Allison asked if I would like her to turn on an oil diffuser. I said, “I’ll try anything!” Lavender soon filled the room. I was surprised how hands-off they were during this stage, but reflecting back, I am thankful for being able to work through it just the two of us.
I labored for about two hours before it came time to push. Jane and Allison encouraged me to go the bathroom at this point.
Funny side story: I really did not want baby girl to be born on St. Patrick’s Day. I felt pretty strongly about it and Chris knew this. While I was sitting on the toilet, I looked up at Chris between contractions and asked him, “What time is it?” He answered, “11:45.” He claims that a look of pure joy came over my face. I knew that I wasn’t going to push her out in the next fifteen minutes. It’s the little things…
I was assisted back to the bed, where Allison suggested that I try laboring on my left side. Chris stood by the bed and held my right hand, while Jane sat on the bed in front of me, often grabbing my left hand much to my comfort.
The details are foggier than I’d like, but I know at some point during this phase, Allison and Jane were preparing for baby girl’s arrival as they gathered various items around the room. It felt very strange to know that in a matter of moments my baby would finally be where I could see her. She had already been in the world for nine months, but now I could see her… her little hands and feet, her eyes, her nose, if she had a head full of hair. I’m not sure exactly what they were doing, what they were gathering (I was a little preoccupied), but it made baby girl’s arrival very real and it was a strange, but wonderful feeling.
My contractions were insanely painful at this point. I was making all kinds of crazy noises. I remembered from my birth class that vocalizing would help the midwife be able to tell where I was in a contraction. I remembered the instructor sounding ridiculous when she demonstrated vocalizing during the class and then I thought, “That’s exactly what I sound like,” and sure enough Allison could tell when I was at the peak of the contraction based on my groans.
This stage was when I had all the thoughts you’re warned about: “I’ll never have another baby,” “I’m going to die,” “Can we please stop and try again tomorrow?” I even prayed that God would stop the contractions and getting mad that he didn’t and then thinking, “Well I guess he probably wants me to have this baby.” Oh, the rationale of a woman… in labor.
The door opened and shut a few times during this stage and I hoped my parents couldn’t hear me. I found out later that they could and that my Dad almost squeezed my mom’s hand off as she was being reminded of her own birth experiences.
Eventually Allison told me it was time to push. It was a little after midnight now. Chris was responsible for holding my left leg up while Allison performed perineal massage to help me avoid a tear (It worked, too! I didn’t tear, Praise the Lord!). A lot of the details from this stage have since left me, but I remember saying, “I sound like a gremlin!” and pushing my guts out.
I had heard that some women experience relief during the pushing stage and that you feel as if you are working with your body instead of against it. This was true for me to a degree. I felt like the contractions were actually doing something, rather than just causing me pain, but what I didn’t expect was the burning. Every time I pushed, it felt like I was on fire.
Allison and Jane kept telling me how great I was doing. True or not, I needed to hear it. After a few pushes, Allison recommended that I switch sides. I thought any movement I made would cause baby girl’s head to retract, but she assured me that would not happen. Thank you Lord! I pushed as hard and as long as I possibly could each time. Especially after Allison began to tell me that we were close.
Allison noticed at some point that baby girl’s head appeared to be a little crooked. This possibly explained why I had been in labor for so long. She suggested that I try pushing on all fours. I only did this for one push. Then, I began pushing in the sitting position. I had wanted to avoid this position if at all possible, but Allison thought it would be beneficial. I grabbed my legs around the back of my thighs and for the first time, had a front row seat to my baby being born. What I saw shocked me. I didn’t realize that things would stretch the way they did. At first, I thought her head was so small… and then it hit me… that is her head?! Wow. My body is an amazing thing. Allison continued to tell me that we were so close, that it may only take one more push. This kept me going, even though it took more than one. Not many more, though. I managed to push for only 45 minutes. It didn’t feel that long, honestly.
When I saw her, my baby girl, my daughter, my gift from God… I can’t even describe the feeling. The closest word I’ve been able to come up with is euphoric. It was the most amazing and beautiful moment of my life. She was beautiful. Absolutely perfect. I wanted to pull her closer, but we opted for delayed cord clamping, so she was still attached for a few minutes, oh but she was there, in my arms. What a joy. It still gives me butterflies. It was all worth it. Every moment where I was experiencing the most excruciating pain of my life and thought I wasn’t going to live… all worth it without question.
Allison suggested that I try breastfeeding in the side-lying position. She immediately latched on. It wasn’t so easy later, but that first time was perfect. It’s amazing that she knew what to do instinctively.
God is so good. What a wonderful Creator we have.
I’d like to add that due to excessive bleeding, I had to have a shot of pitocin after delivery. I was hoping to have a completely intervention-free labor and delivery, but I am thankful that no interventions were necessary while baby girl was still in the womb. God is good! We were able to take our bundle of joy home within ten hours of her being born.
With a grateful heart, I can say that I had the most wonderful birth experience. I do not take this lightly as I know many women can’t say the same. It is all grace.
Every day with her since then has been a gift. She is joyful, giggly, thoughtful, cautious, loving, intelligent, and beautiful. She was created in the image of God. She is loved by her dad and me, her grandparents, her great-grandparents, her great-great-grandmother and above all, her Heavenly Father.