The Day Before
It was another Wednesday and I knew that I'd more-than-likely make it to 4:30pm without going into labor. We meet with my midwife on Wednesday's and at the previous appointment we thought it would potentially be my last. By that time I had hit my 41 week mark and knew labor was definitely looming and hoping it would come before my unscheduled 42 week appointment. By Tuesday spontaneous labor hadn't happened so she called to set up the time for us to meet the following day. 4:30 came and nope, no labor so we assumed the appointment. My vitals, urine sample, and baby movements and heart rate where wonderful and there was really nothing to do but to hope I would go into labor soon.
We talked about natural induction and how she would come over and start the process when I actually hit my 42 week mark (Thursday the 13th), she also brought up her vacation that was scheduled starting Saturday the 15th. She said it would be no problem for her to miss the first bit, if induction didn't take even up until Sunday and to not worry about pushing her vacation back. Obviously it would be nice to not have to miss it but she would not leave until baby was born. We talked about the option to start late Thursday night in hope to labor through the night and have him by Friday day. Phil wasn't too keen on potentially being up all night with me in labor all Thursday night and obviously getting no sleep the night after he was born, but it was difficult to weigh our options not knowing how long it could potentially take for the induction to take effect and for labor to start and also not knowing how long I could be in labor for. She told us to think about it and to call her tomorrow (Thursday) with what we had decided. Phil and I talked and thought the best option would be for her to come Friday morning to start the induction then, so we'd have at least a good solid sleep on Thursday night to prepare us for labor on Friday. Well, as it turned out, our solid night sleep was that night instead.
The Morning Of : Stage 1 Of Labor
I awoke on Thursday morning at 7:30am feeling braxton-hick's that were lower than the usual practice labor and were seemingly more consistent than what I had had before. It felt like the numbing tinge a women feels while having a period cramp enveloping the lower stomach and back area. Immediately I just knew, this was different, today is the day. I had prayed for the past few weeks that I would feel to know when I would go into labor and despite feeling cramps, I had peace in my heart that it would happen before the day was through. I got up, said my morning prayer, made myself a protein shake and made the decision to let Phil sleep even though rushes of excitement were making me giddy. Unable to contain my feelings I sat down and wrote a blog post but withheld posting it because I wanted Phil to be the first to know.
I went back in to our room to lay down and attempt to sleep through the surges staring at the man who laid peacefully sleeping with him not knowing that today our little creation that I've been nurturing in my belly would make him a daddy. A few more surges came and they were much less comfortable to tolerate while lying down so I stood up instead. Around 10 I could see Phil awakening so I laied back down next to him as he turned to me and said groggily, "How are you feeling?" I responded with a huge smile beaming on my face, "Gooood, I'm pretty sure I've been feeling labor begin." "Really?!" He said, a smile soon overcoming him. "How would you like to become a daddy today?!" "That would be awesome," he said. Our prayers to not have to do any form of induction were answered. Not only that but our prayers to not have him come early were also answered.
We both showered and got ready for the day spending a last few intimate moments as a family of two. Phil's dad had already planned to come over to finish working on editing videos and was here for a few hours. During that time I did my makeup, dried and curled my hair breathing through surges as they came. I took some last pregnant belly 'selfie's' in my bedroom mirror feeling so proud that I had made it this far feeling so great with a few exceptions of back aches and muscle aches (those were mostly due to the squats we did on Monday in attempts to 'help the baby along') within the additional time I had carrying baby-boy. I eventually shut the bedroom door, turned on my Hypnobirthing affirmations and just focused on generating a positive atmosphere and how I wanted my birth to go and had my handy contraction timer on my phone helping me keep track of their consistency. They were coming every 1-4 minutes and would last about 30 seconds to a minute each but were averaging about 40 seconds a piece.
I did a lot of pacing for the next couple of hours while Phil worked on the videos. At 12:33 I called Richelle my midwife to let her know that our plan to begin induction would very likely not be necessary and informed her of the consistency of the surges. She let me know a bit of what to expect, told me to stay hydrated and to be sure to eat to keep my energy up. She said she would be in Orem around 6 pm that evening and if we hadn't called her before then that she would stop by regardless to check up on me.
Phil had finished up with his dad a little after 2:30 and we ate some leftover Thai curry. I called Richelle again because my surges were now about 1 minute apart but still only lasting 30 seconds to a minute and I just wanted to be aware of what exactly would constitute the need to have her come over. She informed me that for a first-time mom it is normal to have contractions that close together because the uterus is basically getting used to it's new role and that when they get further apart and longer or stronger, that is when I would have her come. She told me, "you wouldn't feel like calling me, you'd be having Phil call me." She also assured me that if I felt like I just needed her support at any point that she would come. I told her we planned on going out and getting ice cream to pass the time and she said by-all-means to go and do something, so that's exactly what we did.
While we waited for our cones a woman passed by me and exclaimed, "you look miserable," and continued walking. I wasn't with it enough to respond for I would have retorted, "Why thank you! I happen to be in 1st stage labor, so I can only imagine what I look like based on what I feel like!" I found it ironic that out of nearly 10 months of being pregnant that is the first time I've had anyone in public make any remarks about my pregnancy, my belly, how I appear etc. Needless to say it made me laugh. The only time someone tells me I look miserable is when I have full right to look so.
Once we got our ice cream we did a slow lap around the store and then headed home. I felt great, just easing my way through the surges, closing my eyes, breathing and then returning to my full self, laughing and enjoying my time with the husby, talking about how crazy this whole thing is, how excited we were and how grateful we were that it was really happening.
We got home around 5 pm and turned on one of our favorite movies, Megamind, as I waded through the surges, continuing to pace or lean against the counter in the kitchen. Around 6 I got to a point where I just wanted to relax and not be on my feet anymore so I went and filled up our bathroom tub with warm water. I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had, as is said 'lost my mucus plug' but wasn't sure until I had Phil ask Richelle in a later conversation. I got in the water and immediately it eased a great deal of my discomfort. Philip came in a couple of times to check up on me or bring me my re-filled water cup. I started to feel that the time was nearing that I would really need to focus, when Phil came back in he asked me if I wanted him to start filling the birthing pool and I said yes. I also wanted him to get the status on when Richelle would be stopping by so I had an idea of the timetable I'd be mentally working with. He called her and she asked how we felt if she were there by 9. I felt that 8 o'clock would be more "do-able" and would set me more at ease to just have here there at that point even if my labor continued for a few hours after she would arrive. She confirmed that in fact I had passed the mucus plug which gave me a boost knowing things really were happening.
The Afternoon-Evening Of: Stage 2 of Labor
Once the tub in the baby's room was filled I changed and got in. Philip set up my laptop and began playing my Hypnobirthing relaxation scripts and affirmations, as well as his iPad playing a white noise soundtrack of the sound of rain. He also came in and set up a side table for me to put my water cup next to the tub where he also placed a bowl of ice-water for washcloths to put on my neck and shoulders.
Around 7:15 I really started to feel that point of 'focus time' Richelle had described. Each surge had a stronger effect on my body but would still only last about 1 minute at the longest. I got to the point where I became rather vocal and would just start speaking to myself telling my body to relax and to open or for my breath to fill my belly like a balloon. (All Hypnobirthing type prompts) I would repeat the phrases that were used in the affirmations as Phil knelt by the pool giving me prompts to breath and relax, telling me how much he loves me, doing light touch massage and kissing my shoulders and forehead. I got to the point where I just wanted Phil to do relaxation scripts and to just talk me through the surges rather than listening to the audio version.
Phil got a phone call around 8 from Richelle saying that she would be about 20 minutes late. I knew I could make it fine without her another 20 minuets because time seemed to really speed along. I spent time in different positions in the tub, whichever felt comfortable at the moment. I laid on my side or would hang my arms over the tub and let my body just float in the warm water. I also spent the majority of time upright on my knees allowing gravity to help bring the baby down. As soon as Richelle got there I felt a sense of, "okay, now I can have this baby," and my mentality changed from simply biding the time to "go-time." She came in and started getting her things set up and asked me if she could check my cervical dilation, when she checked she found that I was at 8 centimeters.
The only time I had been checked before this point was at my 39 week appointment when I chose to have her test me for Group B strep, I was at a soft 1cm at that point. Dilation to me is just a number, it wouldn't matter if I were walking around at a 5 for three weeks, unless I were in labor, it's not really an indication of how much time I have until baby is born. I didn't want or feel it was necessary to know until I was in labor and even then I didn't want to get checked too early because if I were only still at a one or a two it would just be a cause for discouragement. Though, knowing I had made it all the way to an 8 gave me a rush of energy accompanied by a great amount of surreal bewilderment. I was really going to have a baby and I was almost there. Holy cow I was almost there!
I spent most of this stage of labor with my eyes closed trying to remain relaxed and when the surges would come I would do my best to breathe through them. I became rather loopy, I guess you could say, as I would slur my speech and moan a bit. If asked a question or spoken to I would moan out a response and was speaking as though I were a patient coming out of post-op and the knockout drugs were wearing off. I couldn't help myself and was completely aware that I sounded like a crazy person but I honestly had no control over my speech nor did I care. At one point Richelle prompted me to think of Jello or told me I needed to be Jello. I repeated "But I haaave to be Jellohhh! I don't want to be crème brûlée!" Everyone chuckled. Apparently I still have a sense of humor while riding on natural oxytocin. :)
It was only about 10-30 minutes (I'd lost track of minutes at this point) after Richelle got there that I could feel the baby moving further down and I had the first short and sudden urge to push. It was such a bizarre sensation because my body was literally pushing on it's own. This part really threw me for a loop. By this point the surges were much further in-between but the further into the transition phase I got they still didn't last for more than 40 seconds. Richelle and or one of her assistants named Liz were aiding Phil in pushing against my back or hips with each surge to relieve some of the pressure. Richelle would also intermittently check with a sonogram his heart rate both in a surge and out of one. He was sounding great and each time I would hear his heart beating I would speak to him telling him how great he was doing.
At some point between these surges I reached down to see if I could feel his head yet but instead felt a little bulge that felt like a thin water balloon. Not thinking and because it's in my nature to want to pop things I poked my finger right through it, breaking my own water. That was pretty surreal. The surges would continue to come and I could feel him trying to make his way out with each surge but they weren't lasting long enough for me to hold him there and get him deep enough to crown. My body became overrun with adrenaline and it was making me have the quivers which in turn was making me tense up when the pushing feelings came. In my birthing course it talked about breathing the baby down and visualizing your breath going down like a J motion rather than attempting to hold your breath and "purple" push the baby out. (To purple push is basically to push so hard your face turns purple and the veins pop out of your forehead, you know, like Julianne Moore in the film 9 Months.) This kind of pushing can actually be counter productive as it hinders oxygen from getting to the right places down under and can cause strenuous damage to the perineum and all-in-all stop that area from opening up. If you just hold your breath and try pushing like that, you'll see what I mean by it tensing up.
Well because I had all this adrenaline that was making my body shake and each time his head came down with each surge my body would tense up and I would start to hold my breath. Exactly what I didn't want. My goal for this birth was to walk away with an intact perineum and these urges and my reaction to them were scaring me a bit. Fear is just about the worst thing for a woman giving birth and I got to the point where I really felt that I wasn't going to be able to do this, or if so I would be doing this for hours and hours, it seemed rather endless. I think the little guy knew this because he gave me a little 5-7 minute pause where I didn't feel like pushing. Richelle could sense that I was tensing up and brought to my attention what I was doing. Despite me being aware in my mind that I wasn't doing something right, having someone verbalize it helped me to better approach it. With this time and Richelle's guidance I was able to re-focus and train myself to accept what my body was doing and instead of fighting it, allowing it while also breathing through it instead of clenching up and holding my breath.
During this bit of a pause Richelle asked if she could check the position of the baby and he was in perfect position. I think she knew he was ready, what I love about her is how intuitive she is about birth. She leaned against the tup and asked, "Can I make a suggestion?" She would always approach giving me instruction whether it be a position change or seeing if it was ok to check dilation or the position of the baby as if she was just giving advice and I wasn't ever obliged to take it. Even though I had spent many hours over the corse of our prenatal visits it really wasn't until this experience that I really felt such a deep and unshaken confidence in her abilities and expertise. She looked at me and suggested that I stand up on my knees and hold up my arms while Phil stood on his feet outside the tub and would support my arms through the surges. I of course agreed and Phil and I tried it through a few surges before she told me, "We're just going to leave the room and let you both work through it and when we hear that you're ready we will come back in."
She did just that and as I hung on the shoulders of my incredible husband and worked through a couple more surges. I decided since they weren't lasting long enough that I needed to basically manually keep him in position with my muscles. Another surge came and I removed one arm from Phil's shoulder and reached down to see if I could feel his head. I kept my hand there as another surge came and I let go of Phil completely and came into a somewhat squat-like position as his head started to crown. Richelle instructed Phil on where to place his hands waiting to catch him. Within moments little-buddy's head emerged and with a few little pop-pop's his shoulder's and the rest of his body slid out as Phil caught him and brought him out of the water.
I opened my eyes when I felt the release and saw my baby boy for the first time. Wide-eyed and in shock I kept repeating, "I can't believe I just did that! I just had a baby! I just did that!" Followed by a "Oh my gosh he's sooo cuuuute! I can't believe you just did that! You're such an amazing baby" Then looking up at Phil exclaiming, "We have a baby!"
The Night Of - Morning After: Stage 3 of Labor
Emerson James was born at 10:11pm on Thursday the 13th after 14 and a half hours of labor. I had done it. I gave birth to my baby in my home, without drugs, without induction, just as I had prayed for and trusted in God that I would be able to do. From the moment Phil and I decided that we wanted to do a home birth we simply felt right about it and it couldn't have been better. Here this little angel had joined our family and we became his parents. It was so beautiful!
I held him to my chest while he cried out his adorable newborn wail and the Midwife assistants, Liz and Katrina, added more warm water to the tub. Within 3-5 minutes the placenta indicated that it had detached and Richelle began massaging my belly to help aid my uterus in contracting to expel it. Within a few minutes I gave a slight push and it was out. After being in the tub with my slippery bundle for about 15 minutes Richelle asked if I would be ok getting out as I seemed to be bleeding more than usual and she wanted to have more of an idea of what was causing it.
They bundled up little-buddy in some towels, still attached to the cord and placenta that they had put in a bag and gave him to Phil for some skin to skin while I got out of the tub. (Learn more about cord clamping here.) They helped stand me up and as I had been forewarned by Richelle, I felt light headed so she directed me to come down on the floor and put my head between my knees. Liz went to the kitchen and got me a greek yoghurt to eat so I could regain some strength and get some glucose into my body. I ate the yoghurt and crawled to our room and got on the bed that had been prepared with chucks pads above and plastic under the sheets. They propped me up and brought in little E to have me hold him and to breast feed in order to help my uterus contract and aid in closing my blood vessels. Emerson was low in temperature so they brought a heating pad to put on the outside of the blankets.
My uterus wasn't responding very well and the bleeding continued so she had me go from a semi-reclined position to laying flat while I held my little boy at my side. While there she checked to see if I had torn. My perineum was completely intact but I did have a good collection of internal pocket tears. Richelle continued to massage my uterus which made me feel like I was in labor again. The amount of blankets on the bed and due to the memory foam on our bed it was too squishy and was overwhelming me. Even though the atmosphere was peaceful and everyone was calm, inside I was feeling flustered and disappointed that I had torn.
After about an hour and a half after Emerson was born and his temperature had risen they had Phil cut the cord and the assistants did his Apgar assessment and measurements. He weighed in at 8lbs 8oz and 21 inches long. Little-buddy had passed his meconium and continued to do so when Phil tried to put a diaper on him. This was the first diaper this new daddy had changed ever, a grand initiation into fatherhood. At this point Richelle examined the placenta and found that there was a piece missing which shed some light on why my uterus wasn't responding very well, I had a retained placenta. As soon as I felt stable enough she had me empty my bladder and return to the bed. She let me know what had happened and of my options to get a shot of Pitocin (or something similar to it) in my leg and the possibility of infection if it went untreated with the possibility I would have to be transferred to the hospital if I continued to loose too much blood. I had full confidence in whatever Richelle thought was necessary to do and before she gave me the shot I had Phil give me a Priesthood blessing while I held Emerson in my arms. He blessed me that I would be able to pass the membrane and that there would be no infection, he also blessed me with peace and comfort and even though I didn't doubt that everything would be alright, it gave me a second reminder that God was taking care of me and that everything would truly be alright.
Richelle gave me the shot and had Katrina put some herbal drops under my tongue that would aid in stimulating the uterus to continue surging. The drops were incredibly bitter but were washed down with a fruit smoothie that made them tolerable to swallow. Richelle had made a smoothie out of fruit, juices and a small piece of my placenta which in Chinese Medicine is used to help regulate hormones after birth and also speed up recovery. The effect the shot and the drops had on me soon kicked in just when I had thought the surges were over, it felt again that my body was in the early stages of labor. Once the bleeding had minimized Richelle sutured up the tears which took about an hour. Phil held my hand and talked to me as she administered the anesthetic and once it took effect he took Emerson to the other room and had some male-bonding time while us women chatted about the history of suturing and childbirth as I laid there getting stitched. The whole thing was rather surreal but incredibly comfortable even though I'd never met Liz before and only having met Katrina a couple of times there was just something about having them there as women that was so nice. Liz told me not have regrets just because I had torn and that I should be happy that I had done just as I had hoped by keeping my perineum intact.
Once that was all done and I was stable they cleaned up, gathered their gear, gave Phil instruction of what supplements I needed to be taking and headed out around 4 am. Richelle had me take a couple of capsules of Goldenrod, used to flush out impurities in the uterus, a type of natural antibiotic, as well as these small pink pills every 4 hours that would promote surges of the uterus. I would have to say the two days after giving birth were worse than actually giving birth because it felt like the birth had never ended and I didn't have the energy to retain my focus on relaxing. Accompanied by the residual surges it felt like my insides were coming out and down under was incredibly sore and swollen from the suturing. My mind could think of nothing else but my birthing experience. For the first few nights after Emerson was born I spent running through it over and over again in my mind. I couldn't think of anything else and kept reliving every moment of it. I had all the Hypnobirthing scripts and affirmations on repeat in my mind as I held my little one in my arms feeling the rushes of oxytocin and mommy hormones overpowering me, filling my whole being with an overwhelming sense of joy and amazement while also being completely aware of my body and what it had just done. Being sore and feeling my uterus continuing to work, I just laid there breathing in my newborn's smell listening to him breathing air for the first time with his new little body. There really are no words to describe the feelings that are felt as a brand new mother other than amazement. I had my little boy in my arms, he was real, he wasn't just movements in my belly and oh how sweet he was. Sweeter and more perfect than I ever could have imagined.
A Few Days After: Post-Partum Recovery
I had spent most of those first three days in bed, sleeping as much as possible. I would get up to use the restroom and my heart would race, my energy was incredibly low, and my back was carrying the majority of my weight as my stomach muscles were finding their way back into position. I had never felt like this before, never having been through any type of medical procedure it was such a bizarre thing for me to be physically incapable of everyday things. Phil really stepped up and took such incredible care of me. He was at my every beaconing call and always had food by the bedside and my water cup filled. By day four I was feeling much more normal and was walking with much more ease but still swollen and walking, well, more waddling my way around.
On day six we took Emerson to his first pediatric appointment and he weighed in at 8.1 having lost 7 ounces from his birth weight. His vitals and everything were great, his belly button stump was looking great and he was healthy as healthy can be. When we got home I went to the restroom and noticed that I had finally passed the membrane. I assume because I had spent much of appointment standing, gravity allowed for it to come with out any effort on my part. Within 12 hours after passing it the swelling went down completely and my energy went up significantly. By day seven I started feeling about 95% back to normal and on day eight I had enough energy to clean my bathroom, do the dishes and a few loads of laundry.
We had our first family outing on Saturday the 22nd to go to our good friend's Brittany and Anthony's reception and came home to meet with Richelle for a post-natal visit. She asked how my first week had gone, asked when I had passed the membrane and checked my stitches to see how I was healing up. She was very impressed by how quickly I was healing especially since I had forgotten to get the supplies for the compfry paste she usually makes up for healing. I informed her that I had been putting a few drops of Sacred Frankincense oil in my pads and that is what could have made healing that much faster. She was in awe and said, "I'm going to start recommending Frankincense to all my mom's now!" She checked Emerson's vitals and re-weighed him and he was just a few ounces short of gaining all his weight back since his appointment on Thursday.
Once all the technicalities were done she sat down and simply wanted to talk about the birth and how it went. She expressed how beautiful my birth was and how honored she was to have been my midwife. She asked me how I felt about everything and I welled up and told her that I was so incredibly pleased. "I would have had it no other way." I told her I had always believed in natural birth and from the moment Phil and I discussed doing a home birth and making that first call to her to ask her to be our midwife I knew it was how this little one was suppose to come into this world. I expressed how much of an advocate I've been for home birth before but now that I had experienced it for myself I can say now with credibility that I would have it no other way. I reflected also on the fact that I had had a few complications (tearing and a retained placenta) that I was actually glad I had experienced those things because it proved the competency of midwifery in the childbirth field and had given me an even deeper respect for her personally as my midwife.
Baby-boy is now 2 weeks and a few hours old, eating like a champ with more than enough milk supply and sleeping like an angel. I feel amazing now that he is in a good routine and I seem to better understand his little prompts. It's funny, the more sleep I get though, the more tired I feel. I suppose the adrenaline is wearing off. I look back now, two weeks later at my birthing experience now more fully comprehending the whole thing and am so pleased with how everything went. It may sound strange but I'm glad I had a few "complications" per say, because that experience has given me an even greater empowerment in my abilities as a woman and amazement at the strength I never knew I had. My experience has heightened my confidence in midwifery and home birth and now I have my own birthing experience to back up what I had believed all along. I believed I could do it, I believed my midwife to be equally if not more experienced than most OB's are at administering to a woman doing an unmedicated vaginal birth with no interventions. I believed in my body and my baby. I knew if I would just take care of myself both physically and mentally that I could do it. And guess what?! I DID IT! Holy moly I did it!