Lorraine's Birth Story
I really feel like I need to go back to James' birth to be at the beginning of Raina's.
James' birth was a straightforward, standard medicalized American birth. I was uninformed by my own choosing and dealt with trauma from it. As I researched and learned about birth in the months after, I was amazed by what birth COULD be-a calm, normal, peaceful experience. There are so many hospital policies that are not evidence based (constant external fetal monitoring, cervical checks, timing labor, laboring on your back, routine eye goop, etc.). One of my best friends had a home birth which spurred my research more. I read many books (The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, Birthing From Within, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, The Gift of Giving Life, The Birth Book, Spiritual Midwifery, and more) and watched documentaries. Everything was so inspiring! I truly was excited to have another baby and I knew I would need to do everything in my power to be low-risk and have the out of hospital birth I thought would help heal me. Within a year of his birth I had a short list of midwives and doulas and birth preparation courses to consider when we decided to have another babe.
A little after James turned two, we felt it was time to start trying for another baby. Thanks to fertility awareness, we got pregnant immediately. I was so excited! I really wanted this baby and I wanted another chance to birth.
I interviewed and chose my midwives and doula quickly, and got my Hypnobabies stuff soon too (thanks Chelice!).
Fast forward to March 2. I went to a routine prenatal at the birth center. We did all of the normal stuff-pee in a cup, weight, listen to baby, take my temperature. They took my blood pressure last, because it tends to be high at the beginning of the appointments. It was high-I think 130/100? They took it a couple more times and couldn't get the bottom number under 100. Since I have a family history of preeclampsia and pregnancy induced hypertension, I'd been concerned my entire pregnancy about my blood pressure becoming an issue for me. The midwives said there was no protein in my urine (which is a sign of preeclampsia) but that they wanted to take blood to run labs for HELLP syndrome, and have me do a 24 hour urine collection for preeclampsia. If either came back with a diagnosis, they would legally have to transfer my care and I would have to birth at a hospital. I was so stressed.
March 3, I got to put all my pee in containers and refrigerate them. So fun! I cried a lot that day, thinking of the trauma of James' birth and how I could face it all over again. I had no idea what Obs or CNMs were in our network. We paid with our HSA and didn't submit anything to insurance for this birth. My doula would come with us anywhere, which helped, but I just wanted to birth with my midwives at the birth center in peace. That evening Danny gave me a blessing. It was so sweet. He promised me he would be with me no matter what, and told me to have confidence in myself and my body.
I brought my pee in March 4 to the midwives and had another appointment. We chatted and joked around first, and then they took my blood pressure. 130/114. Even worse. My stress level skyrocketed. We talked best and worst case scenarios and ultimately I decided to have them strip my membranes and stretch my cervix in hopes to induce labor. My ideal birth was to let my baby choose her birthday. One of the scrips on Hypnobabies says “Babies are born on their birthdays, not when doctors decide.” However, I agreed that this was the best option (something I love about most out of hospital midwives-true informed consent and leaving decisions in the mother's hands!). So they stripped and stretched. This was my first cervical check my entire pregnancy. Because we had chosen the student midwife program, both the student and head midwife took a turn stripping and stretching. There were hands up me for awhile! I was at a 4 (which really doesn't mean anything, but still excited me) and they stretched me to a 5.5/6. The student midwife then massaged some clary sage oil onto my feet while I continued laying down. They took my blood pressure after and it was perfect! Too bad I couldn't lay around being massaged all day. They sent me home with instructions to pump and to give them a call in the evening and let them know how I was doing. They warned me that when a woman is manually dilated like I was, that her body can need to “catch up”-that birth might take longer than I may expect when I am starting at a 6 because my body had me starting at a 4.
James and I came home and I took a shower. After lunch we headed to Thanksgiving Point with my sister and her son. I had surges here and there the whole time. They were uncomfortable but that was it. We got home around 4/4:30 and I started pumping. I did a few rounds of 15 minute sessions. I could tell the surges were picking up so I asked Danny to get home by 5:30. My mom called during one pumping session and it was kind of hard for me to pay attention to what she was saying-my surges definitely picked up during pumping. Danny got home and says he could tell I was starting my birthing time. He made dinner and I tried to eat but couldn't. Every time I had a surge I had to stop and breathe and focus on relaxing. A few times I dropped to the floor on all fours to try and be more comfortable. By 7, my waves were about a minute or more long and and a minute apart.
After Danny put James down, we started Pitch Perfect to try to help me relax more. I tried out my birth ball and other positions but pretty quickly decided to take a bath because the surges were picking up. I turned my Hypnobabies Birthing Day Affirmations track on-and didn't turn it off until baby girl was born. The surges lengthened out around 8:30 while I was in the bath. I had texted my doula, Megan, around 8 to tell her this was the real deal. The surges were intense and I asked her to come in an hour. I also called the midwives but I don't remember this conversation. When I got out of the bath I was nauseous and had the shakes. I felt like the waves were getting stronger, and my contraction timer says they were over a minute long and 1-4 minutes apart. I must have really been in birth mode because I don't remember a ton from here on out. When I felt the signs of transition, I almost panicked. “We need to leave NOW!” I thought to myself. It was extremely difficult to verbalize anything. I had bloody show at this point and loose stool, all good signs of impending birth. I grabbed a towel and dried myself off, and then had to take the surges on my hands and knees. Danny was watching TV and in between waves I called to him-it was really difficult to break my focus to call for him. I asked him to get me a nursing tank from my drawer, and to call my sister who would be sleeping at our house while we were at the birth center.
It was around 9 and I called the midwives again to let them know this was really it. They said to come to the birth center at 9:30. My sister got to our house around 9 and Megan texted around then too and asked if I was ready for her to come. I replied “Please”. Our birth bag hadn't been packed yet, because I wasn't even 39 weeks. I'd been mentally planning to go up to 2 weeks overdue-telling people I was due at the mid/end of March-so that and a whole list of other things weren't done. I'd been working on packing since we got home from Thanksgiving Point, and tried to finish around then. The only thing that I wanted that didn't make it was bobby pins!! Kind of important.
When Haley got to our house she massaged me some (I think my feet?) and tried to help me be comfortable. I had the affirmations track playing in my earbuds this whole time. Danny was doing the dishes and trying to finish up some last minute things around the house. I was on hands and knees a lot or lying down, just trying to find relief from the pressure and yes, pain. I wish my Hypnobabies experience involved only pressure and no pain, but it didn't. Megan got here and helped with counter pressure and hip squeezes and showed Haley how to help too while Danny got ready. Finally it was time to go. Haley or Megan reminded me about my birthing necklace from my mother's blessing, which I was so grateful for. I wanted to wear it. All the women who had attended it brought a bead that symbolized something, and I really loved the necklace.
We got in the car and started driving. Thankfully the birth center is only like 1.5 miles away, but I had a big surge as we were driving and it was awful. Oh, it was so bad to have one in the car. I jumped out when we got there and headed in. I had another surge as I walked in the lobby and leaned over on the side table there. I vaguely heard someone come in behind me and squeeze my hips. I thought it was Megan, but it was Danny! He was so awesome for my whole labor.
The midwives had me come into one room for their “triage”-temp, blood pressure, listen to baby, and my last cervical check of labor. It was HORRIBLE to be checked while my surges were so strong and frequent. I had stopped timing them around 9 but it felt like they were every minute for at least a minute. Again, because we were doing the student midwife program, both the student and head midwife did a cervical check. The consensus was that I was a 7.5/8. Megan was so excited for me, and the midwives said I was officially admitted. One left to fill the birth tub while I changed into my swimsuit. Megan kept saying that I looked so pretty-one of her doula shirts has the Ina May Gaskin quote, “If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during labor, then someone isn’t treating her right.” I love that! This entire time I am just focused on relaxing and I want that huge tub BADLY!
Once my suit is on we went into the birthing suite and into the bathroom. I took my headphones out and told Danny or Megan I wanted it playing still but didn't know where to put it. One of them took care of it and I climbed in. Oh, the relief! It was so so nice at first. I think I made a couple jokes and the student midwife, Mimi, had me sign some papers. During waves I would get on my hands and knees and Danny and Megan would do counter pressure or hip squeezes. We were entirely left alone, except for every 30 minutes when Mimi would come listen to heart tones. At some point I had to poop again and I told them I did-and clarified that this was NOT baby pushing poop, it was real poop. Then I made them leave me alone for that. Probably after an hour the tub wasn't helping anymore and I wanted to try other things. I got out and dried off and moved into the bedroom. I sat on the birth ball for awhile and Megan and Danny tried things that way, but it didn't help so much. I tried positions while on the bed, no luck. They tried using the rebozo to relieve pressure and pain, and nothing. I was feeling it all in my hips and lower back. It was so so intense. When a wave would start all I could say was “help” and Danny and Megan would try various things. I feel like, with all that I've read, most naturally laboring women get a nice break between surges during transition. I did not, at all. It was one after the other. Honestly I felt like I couldn't get a handle on them. During a wave I would close my eyes, breathe as deeply as I could, and say to myself “peace” while directing anesthesia to my birthing muscles (as per Hypnobabies). I definitely stayed relaxed, but the anesthesia didn't work and there was pain. This entire time I'm thinking, “this is why women go to the hospital and get epidurals. I can honestly say I get it now. Also, I would like to get one.” But the only thing my mouth would say was “help”.
Danny says it was around midnight when I got back in the tub. They had drained it and refilled it and the heat helped but not a ton. Mimi had me take my bottoms off. Soon I felt that moaning and swaying helped. I tried to keep my voice deep and my face relaxed, all like Ina May says to do: if your face muscles are relaxed, your pelvic floor is relaxed. I would say help when I needed it, though I feel like I was starting to realize I was really on my own now. I moved just a little in the tub, because for some reason it was very difficult to change positions. Still we were alone with the exception of every 30 minutes Mimi would check for heart tones. That part was also awful since she had to during a wave and yikes, the last thing you want during one is someone touching your belly!!
The intensity and pain were definitely picking up here. I remember thinking “this is awful, this is a nightmare” and trying to figure out how I could escape it with an epidural. But I could barely move from seated to hands and knees so I knew there was no way I could get to the car. The birth center offers nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which I also was thinking I wanted to try, but I couldn't get those words out either. I really could not verbalize any of my thoughts. I remember praying for help but feeling like I needed to experience all of this. One line in a script from Hypnobabies talks about how birth can be healing, and this applied so much to me. At some point I looked at Megan and asked her to tell me that I could do it, and she did. She and Danny would just touch me during waves and that was huge, the support. At once point I just reached out for Danny's hand during a wave. I needed to know I wasn't alone even though I was working alone, in a way.
Probably around 1am I realized that pushing relieved some pressure and pain. I wouldn't say that I felt like pushing-my body wasn't doing it for me-but it helped. This is where I started the deep grunting noises that I had read about in all of the natural birth stories I had devoured over the last three years. It was so intense and it hurt so badly. I kept focusing on relaxing my face and making deep noises while I pushed. I remember saying “I'm dying, I can't do this anymore,” right at the end, and hearing several people say that I could and I was. I opened my eyes surprised to see not only Megan and Danny, but Suzanne (the head midwife and the founder of Better Birth), Mimi, and two more student midwives-I probably hadn't opened my eyes since I got back in the tub. They had heard my pushy noises and knew we were close! I too should have realized I was almost done when I felt like I couldn't do it-and I really was believing that I couldn't. It was so, so hard. Several times I tried to feel for her, but I couldn't feel anything baby like.
At first the midwives told me to push while sitting with my legs on the tub wall, but that hurt and wasn't comfortable. I was pulling on and squeezing Danny's hand while pushing this way. My water did break while I was pushing this way. Then I turned around and held onto the bars on the wall and pushed on my knees. They kept reminding me to keep my butt in the water. I think that is so that her face didn't touch air and then become submerged again, but I'm not sure. Again I said I couldn't do it, and this is the only time where my breathing picked up. I worked really hard to slow it back down and relax more, which was so difficult. Then I reached down and realized her head was almost out! Knowing this, I pushed and pushed really hard. I am sure I should have tried to slow down, but I was DONE and it was so intense and I really don't think I actually could have slowed down.
After 8 minutes of pushing, she was out, around 1:16 am. I think they kind of nudged her up between my legs and I reached down and grabbed her. “I did it,” was all I could say, over and over. I felt wide eyed and amazed, because I really didn't think I could. Even though Megan kept saying “Raina is almost here! You get to meet her so soon!” I didn't actually make the connection that all this pain and intensity led to a baby. Clearly I knew, but it wasn't on my mind. I was so focused on my current situation. I pulled her to my chest and I immediately felt great! So, so great. It was unreal. I held her and sat back and breathed. She was so so cheesy!! I could barely tell what she looked like because of all the vernix! Mimi gave me an injection of pitocin which is not routine, but which I agreed to because high blood pressure can cause the placenta to not want to detach. They also said I needed to get out of the tub to deliver the placenta due to my blood pressure. So after a couple minutes, they helped me stand and get out of the tub. I walked to the bed and climbed on holding my baby! That was one of the most awesome parts of no epidural-I could be up and moving right away. We snuggled in the bed, skin to skin, staring at each other. I made jokes and smiled and laughed and oh, it was amazing. Danny laid next to us and she nursed while I pushed out my placenta and the midwives stitched me up. I was just in heaven. I don't think I stopped smiling!
Probably after an hour or so they did the newborn exam, all with my baby girl right in front of me. This was a huge thing for me, as James was taken from me soon after birth for no reason but routine procedure. It still causes me stress to think about, but Raina's birth has definitely helped heal a lot of that. She was 6 lbs 10 oz and 19.75 inches. Her head was 13 inches-I don't know what James' was at birth but it was in the 97th percentile at 2 weeks old, and hers was in the 23rd at birth. Overall she was much more petite than him, except for her feet. She was at least a week early, though. At the end of our bed they checked her reflexes and body parts and soon handed her back to me and we nursed again. Megan is also a photographer, so she had been taking pictures throughout the birth and finished up with the newborn exam. Then that angel of a woman left.
Danny, Raina, and I were left for the rest of our stay until our discharge at 7 am. They slept, but I had to pee a ton and I was starving and thirsty. And on a huge high from achieving my goal of a natural childbirth. At 6:30 Danny installed the carseat correctly for a newborn and I packed up our bag, and we were home by 7:15 am. This was also a huge plus to using a birth center! It was amazing to be home soon after birth. Haley met us at the door and I told her our birth story, saying I didn't know if I would ever have another baby (I'm already over that!) because it was so intense and not at all pain free (but I will definitely do it again!!). James woke up soon after that and came and met his sister, and we all started to get used to a new family dynamic.