This time I have the birth from my perspective and my client’s point of view too. She shared her birth story with me and gave permission for me to share it as well. It’s so cool to read both because we each see things so differently and remember certain details better than others. It also paints a more complete picture of how the labor and birth went. I am so glad to be getting into the doula groove and attending births.
Almost a week before baby Hannah was born, there was a false alarm. That false alarm was so helpful for me and for Kadi as well. I was able to truly get things in order and tie up loose ends that I didn’t realize I had. On Hannah’s real birthday, Kadi texted me in the afternoon to let me know she was having somewhat regular contractions. She mentioned that she would take Lincoln (her 15 month old) for a walk and stay busy. Now that I knew she was in labor I got everything ready for when she would call me. When Kadi texted me that she was ready for me to come I was at a birthday party for a friend’s daughter. I left my older son at the party with a friend and I took my baby with me. As soon as I pulled into my driveway my father in law (he lives four hours away) pulled into my driveway too. I didn’t know that he was coming to town but I was so grateful that he did! I heated up some dinner for my baby and left those two to play until my husband got home. I grabbed my things and headed to Kadi’s house, on the way I noticed a big beautiful full moon and I arrived at her apartment at about 7:20ish. When I arrived she seemed so peaceful. She handled each contraction with ease and deep breaths. In between contractions she smiled and ate some cereal and fed little Lincoln some cereal too. The contractions were about three minutes apart when I got there, she had been keeping track on an index card. I decided to download an app to help us keep track easier. Her pregnant neighbor was there also. I was so glad that her neighbor could see what labor looks like and that it’s not scary, it’s an exciting time, and it can be peaceful and very enjoyable like Kadi demonstrated. I helped her neighbor with the car seat for baby Hannah and her husband put Lincoln to bed. We visited and talked in between contractions and when a wave would hit I would help Kadi with counter pressure on her hips.
I think it was shortly after 8:00 pm when Kadi decided she was ready to go. She had her bag all packed and her husband grabbed her a sweatshirt and her robe (so she didn’t have to wear pants) and we headed out the door. I joked that we could walk since we were only a few blocks away but she wasn’t interested. After a short drive we arrived. Once in, the nurse led us to triage (to monitor the baby for a short time and make sure Kadi was in active labor) and ask her a few questions. I remember during one contraction Kadi’s face was so calm, she was reminding me not to scowl as I did counter pressure on her knees. After triage we went to the birth center in the hospital. The room was so nice and peaceful. We set down all of our stuff and Kadi got comfortable on the ball, it was a little smaller than hers at home but it was okay for a little while. While she was getting settled I set up the diffuser and at some point I dimmed the lights and plugged in her affirmations. The room was so calming and Kadi was still handling each contraction with ease. After leaning over the ball for a few contractions, Kadi decided to move to the bed. She was comfortable on her side and asked if I could try some heat on her lower back. I plugged in my heating pad and then went to find a microwave so I could heat up my rice pack. Kadi and her husband Ben were laying down facing each other on the bed when I returned. There were waves playing and with each contraction they would kiss. It was so beautiful and for a few moments I felt like I was intruding, but I knew that my support was still welcome. I helped press her back with the heating pad when a contraction would start. Time was such a blur but I remember wondering if I could tell if transition was near. I honestly could not tell because she was so calm. A short while later, Kadi was ready to push, her husband called to inform the nurses and the doctor. They came in quietly and kept her just where she was (on all fours at this point) and they left the lights dim as well. I was so happy about that! I didn’t know what to expect, I had been to a couple of hospital births before this but I hadn’t attended a birth in one of these suites. Kadi pushed once and asked for the doctor to break her water, and after that she pushed once more and baby girl came right out. Once baby was out (10:17 pm) it was a little tricky for the doctor to hand baby Hannah to Kadi. After that, once Kadi held her baby girl it felt like such a big sigh of relief. All of that work (work that seemed pretty enjoyable for the most part) and the best pay off. Little Hannah was tiny and so beautiful. Kadi and her husband sat right next to each other and looked at their sweet baby for a couple of minutes, Ben cut the cord and soon after that a nurse took Hannah to a warmer. Kadi was glowing and so happy, she looked so empowered and bright eyed. Her husband Ben was happy too but so exhausted since he had been up for almost 24 hours. Thank goodness the birth suite had a queen bed so they could sit in bed together and enjoy their sweet new bundle. I enjoyed being apart of this birth so much. As always, I learned so much.
I wanted to share Hannah’s birth story because it was such an amazing experience for me. So here goes!
I had been preparing for a natural childbirth with reviewing my Curtis Method hypnobirth tracks and practices that I learned for my first birth. I felt like I didn’t utilize everything helpful that I’d learned the first time around like I wanted to, so I was determined to do so this time. My husband Ben suggested we also hire a doula to help out during labor and I am SO glad I did! I ended up hiring Sara, a confident doula who was a perfect fit for us. We met a few times during pregnancy to establish a relationship and make plans. She suggested that I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which I checked out from the library and finished the day before I went into labor. This was another one of the best decisions I made for this birth. Ina May Gaskin is considered a very knowledgeable and intuitive midwife. I was reassured after reading so many birth stories that I really did already know everything I needed to know to birth this baby. The confidence stayed with me as I began having contractions the evening of February 28. My boy was begging me to take him for a walk, which I obliged to. Almost as soon as we got going I began to feel the mild cramping in my abdomen and dull ache in my lower back characteristic of labor. I got so excited! I was 39 weeks 4 days and thought that was a pretty perfect time. I put him to bed after we got home, did a few chores to tidy up the house and then rested on the couch with a cup of herbal raspberry leaf tea and my book. My contractions continued to come every 10 – 15 minutes, but were getting stronger, so I texted Sara to let her know that tonight could be the night, and that I’d let her know if things progressed. I realized I still needed to finish packing my hospital bag and wash the lining of the carseat, so I took care of those loose ends. It was 11 pm and I decided I needed to get some rest if I was really in labor, so I went to go climb in bed with Ben (who had already been asleep for several hours preparing for his grave shift). I couldn’t fall asleep so I turned on my hypnobirth tracks which have often helped me fall asleep before, but to no avail this time as I was just too excited and…hungry…go figure. So I ate a bowl of cereal after Ben left for work and went back to bed. When I awoke just after 8 am, I laid in bed disappointed that my labor had stopped. I decided to just go about my day as usual, sensing that it wouldn’t be too much longer before labor picked back up again. Ben asked me if I wanted to go to the temple during Lincoln’s nap in the afternoon and I went. I sat in the temple waiting, being in awe about how God had created our bodies to be able to do such amazing things, like grow a baby and give birth, a process in and of itself that could be a wonderful and empowering experience if we let it, as countless women have proven it can be. The moment I sat down to begin doing initiatories (an ordinance performed in the temple) around 2 pm, I felt the mild contractions start again. Upon returning home and having Lincoln to care for, I decided the best thing to do was to take him for a long walk. My neighbor, Kayla, saw me head out and asked if she could join me. What a huge blessing that was! We talked the whole time, distracting me sufficiently from my early labor contractions. By the time we got home around 5 pm, however, I felt the need to start swaying and moving to make each contraction manageable. Ben took on the task of making a quick dinner of baked sweet potatoes smothered in a Madras lentil mix and feeding Lincoln while I ate in the living room, draped over my yoga ball. My contractions were getting strong enough that I felt the need to vocalize a low “ahh” sound. Each time I told myself to surrender and give in to each wave, and as I did so I could feel the tension leave my body and all that was left was not pain, but building pressure. I texted Sara to let her know I needed her to come over – it was time! While I waited for her to come, I knew I needed someone else there to help with counter pressure and massage so Ben could focus on getting Lincoln ready for bed before we needed to leave for the hospital. I called Kayla, who told me to call her if I needed anything. She came over and it felt so nice to have someone who cared about me to support me – which also helped relieve the stress I was starting to feel from having a fussy 15 month old in the background (who was unsure about what was going on with Mom and why was she making those noises??). Kayla helped with anything I needed her to do – amazing! By the time Sara came, my contractions were about 3 minutes apart, lasting anywhere between 45 seconds to a minute. Since I could still talk somewhat during contractions if I had something to say, we decided to wait just a little bit longer, not thinking they were strong enough yet. She took over for Kayla with doing counter pressure and the hip squeeze, which felt so good. I was hungry again, so I poured a bowl of cereal and ate that in between contractions, some of which were coming every one or two minutes, some every three or four minutes. It didn’t seem all that consistent, but at about 8 pm, I sensed it was time and we got my things packed in the car and headed to the hospital. I finally understood what other women were talking about when they said that going over bumps in the car was not a pleasant experience during a contraction, but it was all okay as Ben held my hand the whole way there (all of about 3 minutes – luckily we live so close to the hospital!). I was admitted to triage and when the nurse checked me I was already 7 cm dilated. I was so surprised because my contractions were strong, but didn’t feel as strong as I remember them feeling with my first labor at that point, which I believe is largely due to the fact that I wasn’t induced this time and felt more relaxed. That gave me another boost of confidence. She strapped the fetal monitor around my abdomen for 20 minutes while I rested in an incline position in the bed. It was actually a comfortable position to labor in, another surprise. Ben stroked my hair or held my hand to help me stay calm as Sara did counter pressure on my bent knees. The nurse asked me to rate my pain and I told her I didn’t want to. She was okay with that and respected my wishes to have a calm, quiet environment. When my 20 minutes were up, we moved to the Simply Birth suite, which is basically designed to be like having a home birth in the hospital with minimal intervention and the freedom to do as you need to do. Sara pulled out her diffuser to help set the mood and the lights were dimmed. I didn’t use the tub or shower like I thought I would since my labor was progressing so fast and what we were doing already was feeling great. We honestly had such a good time! In between contractions we were laughing and joking and talking like we were just hanging out. When a contraction would start my head would drop and I would moan and sway and Sara and Ben just knew to step in and help. At one point the hip squeeze and counter pressure didn’t feel good anymore so I just shook my head and Sara tried something else. I move from the yoga ball on the floor to the queen bed, which felt better on my knees, to a side lying position with Ben lying next to me. I asked about the hot/cold relief method and she grabbed her heating pad and pressed it firmly against my lower back, which felt amazing. I could feel the pressure getting stronger during my contractions, so I knew I was close to transition. I remembered reading in Ina May’s book about how she would often suggest to couples that they could kiss during contractions to encourage the flow of the oxytocin labor hormone and help keep the tension at bay. When I read about that I remember thinking I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that in the presence of the nurses or my doctor, Dr. Walker, or my doula, but when a huge contraction came I just instinctively knew it would help so I grabbed Ben’s face and kissed him until I hit the peak of the wave. After a couple of those, Ben looked at me and told me I should go into labor more often. That made us laugh. It wasn’t long before I felt the urge to push during one of my contractions. All I could get out was the word “pushing!” and Sara moved quickly to call in the nurse and Dr. Walker. I had planned to use the birth stool to have gravity help the baby descend, but when I had already started pushing in the side lying position in the bed, I decided to just roll over onto my hands and knees. That really opened up my pelvis, I know, because I could feel the baby descend through the birth canal. It was happening fast. I gripped the edge of the bed and pulled against it as I pushed. With the second push I could feel her crowning and I figured I had torn a little bit as I felt a burning sensation. I had planned to just try to breathe the baby down instead of pushing hard to prevent tearing, but it was so hard to hold back as she was moving through me so fast. This was the only time during the experience where I really felt pain. I was tensing up, but I was okay with it this time. With the next push at 10:17 pm, I felt her shoulders and the rest of her little body slide out and it was instant relief. In the natural childbirth world, you learn about how your hormones are your helpers in labor and how instantly after the baby is born your body triggers a cascade of hormones likened to a “cocktail” that make you feel amazing, like you’re on a runner’s high, only better. I felt that! Only I would describe it as euphoric. Dr. Walker asked me to roll over on my back and I could hardly comprehend what she was saying, so Ben helped me roll over and she placed Hannah’s tiny little body on my chest. I reached for her hand to hold it and to try to keep her warm as her skin color was initially a bit dusky. All I could think was how beautiful she was! I fell in love instantly with her. I felt so much love and gratitude for everyone around me for the duration of our stay, about 14 hours after Hannah’s birth. I felt much more capable of walking around and taking care of this new baby and myself, so we were discharged early. I don’t think I slept at all that first night. I just was still on such a high and kept looking over at her sleeping peacefully when I wasn’t nursing her. I knew this was going to be a grand adventure, and so far it has been wonderful. Thanks for making us a family of four, Sweet Pea.