Joel's Birth Story
Birth Story: Part I, Early Labor
Many people had told me that on the day they gave birth, they woke up feeling that something big was going to happen that day--that they just intuitively knew that was labor day. Every day from 37 weeks on, I would wake up and think, "Do I feel different? Is today the day?" And every day a tiny bit of disappointment would trickle in when I didn't feel different. I had everything prepared at school so that if I went into labor over the winter break, it would be ready for the sub. Winter break came and went. I went to school day after day trying to keep a polite smile on my face when I got asked over and over and over again, "You haven't had that baby yet!?" I'd look down at my big belly. All signs pointed to no.
I love my job, but it was getting more and more difficult to go and there were stressors that were not helpful to me, the baby, or the labor process. Justin and I decided that I would start my leave on Tuesday, January 21st whether the baby had come or not. That weekend we tried some "natural" ways to induce labor. All old wives' tales with no proof that they actually work, but it was worth a shot--I did exercises, walked, ate spicy Mexican food, etc. On Tuesday, we had an appointment with Shannon at 5:00. The week before I had dilated to 1 cm. At this appointment I was dilated to 2 cm and I chose to have my membranes swept in an attempt to get labor moving. Shannon said if it was going to help, things would start moving within 24 to 48 hours. Afterward I felt very crampy. Justin and I went to dinner and enjoyed what we thought would be the last evening with just the two of us. I thought for sure I would go into labor during the night. But I woke up the next morning with no apparent change. Shannon and Hunter (my doula) had told me to let them know if my mucus plug came out. Around 9 on Wednesday, it did. I texted them both, but at that point I had no regular contractions. Losing the mucus plug does not necessarily mean labor will happen immediately. It could be days up to weeks, so I tried not to get too excited. Around 10, contractions did start coming every 15 minutes or so, but were very manageable.
My glasses had broken in half the night before and I needed to go get new ones. Time was of the essence since it seemed baby might be coming soon and I was thinking it would be nice to be able to see him! Justin had gone to work so I asked him to come home so that he could go with me to get glasses. I wanted his help tracking contractions and didn't want to be away from home by myself if labor picked up. He got home soon after and we went to Willowbrook Mall. I needed my eye doctor to fax the prescription to the eye glass place. Of course we got there around noon and the doctor was closed from 12 to 1, so we had to wait for them to reopen. We walked around the mall, ate lunch, ordered a birthday cookie cake for Joel in hopes that we would be celebrating soon, and finally got to pick out glasses. Contractions were coming every 10 minutes or so. When one came on, we would stop walking and wait for it to pass, but they were still manageable. We used an app to track them that we were able to e-mail to Shannon. We sent it to her around 12:45. I wanted to know if I should tell my parents to start their 5 hour trip down. At that time, contractions were still inconsistent and weren't lasting terribly long. Shannon was very kind and encouraging, but I kind of felt like she was thinking, "Oh, how adorable...Kacy thinks this is labor..." 🙂 It wasn't hard labor, to be sure, but I was hopeful it was the real deal.
I picked out new glasses frames, but it would be several hours before they were ready so we headed home and my mother-in-law picked them up later. At 2:45ish, we arrived home and decided to rest for a little bit before going to the chiropractor when he opened at 3:30. By that time, contractions were coming every 5-6 minutes. We walked into the chiropractor and the line was sooo long. The receptionist said (tongue-in-cheek) that she was disappointed to see us that day because she was hoping we'd be having a baby. I said, "We're about to! Contractions are about 5 minutes apart." Some people in the line heard me say that and insisted that we go ahead of them. We gladly accepted their offer! I felt really good after getting adjusted. My neck, spine, and hips were lined up, which would help make sure baby was in the right position, ultimately helping me during labor.
After the chiropractor, we went to Shannon's house because I wanted to be checked to see if any progress had been made. During the check-up I had a little mini-meltdown. I blame hormones and being tired, but for some reason everything just hit me and I started doubting my ability to labor without medication. I had a little cry session, Shannon & Justin gave me some words of encouragement and I felt better.
When she checked me around 5 o'clock, I had moved from 2 cm to 3 cm. She swept my membranes again in hopes of getting things moving. And boy did things get moving!
Birth Story: Part II, Active Labor
Shannon had said when I moved into active labor, I would feel a shift--that I would know it when I felt it. On our way home we stopped at Sonic to get a milkshake and some famous Sonic ice, thinking I might like to suck on the ice to stay hydrated during labor. I had texted my doula, Hunter, to update her on my progress. I mentioned that I might like her to come over to keep me company and offer encouragement after my mini-meltdown. I didn't know how quickly things would get going, so I told her to get her kids dinner and to bed and come at her leisure.
Contractions were coming more frequently, lasting longer, and were more intense. We got home around 6. I texted my chiropractor and asked him to come to the house. I expected it to be a long night and the adjustment I had earlier felt so good, I wanted another one. Dr. Mick got to the house when I was in the middle of a pretty significant contraction. I finished and told him he had about 3 minutes before another one hit and he needed to work quickly. After the adjustment, he prayed for us, then another contraction hit. I have no recollection of him leaving because I was on the floor working my way through it. I texted Shannon and told her that I wasn't sure, but I think I had hit the shift she referred to. I took back what I had told Hunter about taking her time to come over and said, "I need you."
I had also been texting my friend Jennifer who had a home birth just weeks before and I wanted some affirmation that it could be done. I told her contractions were coming about 4 minutes apart. She said, "Please tell me your midwife or doula is there!!" It was right around then that I went radio silent because everything started happening so quickly. I'm not even sure I responded.
My preferred position to deal with contractions was on my hands and knees. If I was standing when one hit, I would just collapse on the floor. I was already tired by that point, which made me nervous because there was no telling how long I had left to go. I was lying on the bed in between a contraction and someone was rubbing my back. I assumed it was Justin, but when I looked up, it was Hunter. I had no idea that she or Shannon had even arrived. I was in what's called "Labor Land." It's a beautiful, oblivious place.
Shannon started blowing up and filling the birthing pool in our bedroom. If you had asked me how much time had passed between the time they got there and when the pool was ready, I would guess about 30 minutes. Apparently it was more like 2 hours. I was so excited when the pool was ready. Laboring "on land" was not doing it for me. I loved being in the warm, soothing water. Once in the pool, I fell asleep in between almost every contraction. I'd heard women say that they slept between contractions and I just couldn't imagine how that was true because it's just a couple of minutes in between. It seems weird to go to sleep for so short a time, but I believe now it's just one of God's sweet mercies during labor!
The lights were low, candles were lit. Justin had made me some beautiful affirmation posters that were hanging all around the room so that I could see them when I opened my eyes between contractions. A very calming playlist (also thanks to Justin) was playing in the background and that was very comforting.
When a contraction came, I tried to remember the coping techniques I learned in our Bradley class. I would do a scan of my body from top to bottom to make sure I wasn't tensing my body. Shannon and Hunter often had to remind me to relax my face. In my head I would picture something resembling a seismograph. As the contraction wave came, I pictured a line going up, holding steady for a little bit, then falling down again, like a bell curve. I knew it was only a matter of time before the line would fall. Each contraction was finite; it wouldn't last forever. I just had to ride the wave until it was over.
Throughout labor, I continued to vomit. I expected that, as my stomach had been revolting against me almost the entire pregnancy. I hadn't eaten anything since lunch and didn't have a chance to eat dinner before active labor started. My birth team was a well oiled machine. I would say I needed the barf bucket and within moments it would be in front of me. When I was finished, there would be a washcloth ready and my water cup in front of my mouth, ready to rehydrate.
Shannon told me I had to go to the bathroom. She said I could go in the pool or get out and go to the toilet. The thought of getting out of the tub and making it across the room seemed insurmountable. I really wanted to go in the tub, but my body wouldn't let me, so I had to get out. I'm pretty sure this is when I hit transition because the contractions were coming so quickly, I couldn't find a quiet moment to leave the toilet afterward. Finally I managed to start crawling across the bathroom. Little by little I tried to make my way back to the birthing pool. My mom arrived at this time as I was laying on the bathroom floor. I think it was around 10:30 (just in time! I delivered about an hour later!)
I asked Shannon and Hunter, "So what do I do now? I just do this forever?" Everything seemed so monotonous and repetitive. My water hadn't broken yet and I asked when that might happen. Shannon wanted to check me to see where I was. In theory I wanted to know, but there was so little down time in between contractions that I didn't want to waste what little rest I had with an uncomfortable check. I continued to crawl across the floor when I felt gushing liquid. I announced that I was wetting my pants! But no--it was my water breaking! Thank goodness we had a trail of shower curtains from the tub to the toilet.
I finally made it back to the tub and Shannon checked me--9.5 cm! I remember everyone cheering and getting excited. I was so close! I had a few more contractions then felt the urge to push. Everyone (Justin, Shannon, Hunter, Amber the birth assistant, my mom, and Abby the photographer) gathered around the tub. Justin was helping hold me up from outside the tub and his arms were getting tired. He asked if he could get in. Earlier I had told him no, but at this point I didn't care what he did. They told him to change very quickly. He got in and was able to support me (physically, mentally, and emotionally) as I pushed. Every time I felt a contraction coming on I would say, "Okay" and everyone would get into position. At one point, I think someone asked me how I felt and I said, "Okay" and remember everyone assuming their positions. I said, "I just mean okay. Not 'okay okay'!" 🙂
Pushing is very frustrating because you take 2 steps forward during a contraction, then 1 step (or more) back while waiting for the next one. I could feel the progress then feel him inching back in. Eventually I felt the dreaded ring of fire. That is a very accurate term. After about 25 minutes of pushing, his head came out and very shortly after, his body. His cord was wrapped around his neck twice, but I knew Shannon had everything under control. The next thing I knew, Joel was on my chest, looking up at us with his eyes wide open. He didn't even cry. Everything was just so calm and peaceful and lovely.
Physically, one of the best things about having an unmedicated birth is that you feel pretty normal again right after. I could walk and move. Baby and I were both alert because we didn't have drugs in our system. Emotionally, I felt so empowered and liberated. I could do anything!
We stayed in the pool for a little while longer, admiring Joel. Shannon said I needed sugar so I got to drink a Dr. Pepper (well-deserved, I think!) and enjoyed that very much. We wanted to do delayed cord clamping & cutting, so we let the cord pulse for awhile then got out of the pool. Joel and I took an herbal bath to help ease some postpartum discomforts. My birth team worked to clean everything up while Justin and I enjoyed Joel. You never would have known a birth had just taken place there!
I think it was around 1:30 or 2:00 that we were ready for all the grandparents to come in. We enjoyed eating Joel's birthday cookie cake and drank sparkling cider. Our parents gathered around and prayed over us. It was a really lovely birth day celebration for our baby boy.