Now that my little blessing is 6 months old I am finally getting around to writing out her birth story. Amazingly, I remember almost all of it. I am a little confused on the 2 days prior due to lack of sleep so I had to get a little help with that timeline.
My intention from the beginning was to have an all natural, drug-free birth. I felt VERY strongly about this. Years before getting pregnant I had read books on The Bradley Method and had decided that I wanted a Bradley Birth in a birthing center. I am a firm believer that birth is a very natural and normal process. I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t want to be treated like I was sick or in need of emergency medical attention when I didn’t. Luckily, I found Allen Birthing Center and they were fabulous! They allowed me to make my own decisions regarding my pregnancy, labor, and post partum care. The center is also an old house built in 1908. My kind of place. It has beautiful, old, hard wood floors and super comfortable bedrooms (birthing suites).
My mom had told me a million times how she was in labor for days but the doctors didn’t believe her until they hooked her up to a machine and could see that she was, in fact, in true labor. She talked through all of her contractions. The “pre-labor” contractions were just as intense as the real ones. Seeing as I have a very similar pain tolerance as my mom, I was afraid my labor would be the same. And it was.
My due date was June 23rd. Early in pregnancy, I fully expected to not give birth until July since the average first time mom, without medical intervention, goes 41 weeks and 5 days. As May hit, I had Braxton Hicks all day long, every day. They got pretty intense at times. I felt like I was on the edge of labor for over a month. But nothing ever happened. I bounced a birthing ball A LOT during this time! On June 26th, we thought the time had finally come. I had lost my mucus plug, was contracting very consistently, and had been laboring in my bath tub for hours. My mom and mother in law (former L&D nurse) were already in town. We called Ryan home from work. I had a checkup scheduled that day anyway, so we all went together to see just how much I had progressed. I had had no internal examinations up until the week prior. That one was solely for my own curiosity. Basically, there had been no progess. At this appointment, they checked because I knew I was in labor. When the midwife informed me that I had made absolutely no progress, I broke down. I had been laboring for hours and hours and nothing had happened? Nothing!? We went back home and I was put to bed. Sleep didn’t really happen from this point out. But I was sent to bed regardless.
The next 2 ½ days were a blur. They were spent moving between the couch, the birthing ball, and mainly, the bath tub. Labor is so much easier in the tub! We had one more run to the birthing center in the middle of the night on 27th. I was once again told that no progress had happened. I was just mad at that point. I kept being told that there would be a significant difference in contractions. (There was no difference.) No one seemed to be understanding that the contractions I was having were real. My mom understood because she was the same way. My mother in law would feel my stomach with each contraction and just be amazed that no progress was happening. Back into the tub I went. At one point I threw up. I NEVER throw up. I knew we had to be getting closer.
On Friday, out of desperation, I had my mother in law check my dilation. It has been years since she worked in the L&D but thankfully, she didn’t mind doing it. She said, “Holli you aren’t going to believe this. You are a 4!” Well praise God! Had she not checked me, I don’t think anyone would’ve ever convinced me to go back to the birthing center. I was sure nothing was happening. We called Ryan home (again) and he called the birthing center at around 11 or 11:30. They told us to come in about 2:30. Back to the tub I went to await our departure. Thankfully my mom had plenty of frozen wash cloths in the freezer to keep my face and neck cool in the hot water. My sister showed up, helped me dress, and put plenty of dry shampoo in my dirty hair. Thanks sister! So much for me looking cute in my birth pictures. (2 days earlier, the first time we went to the birth center I looked much cuter!)
When we finally arrived at the birth center my midwife, Amy, checked me and confirmed that I was almost a 4. She gave me some black cohash and told me to roll around on the birthing ball for 30 minutes to an hour to see what kind of progress I made before admitting me. Admitting me? You better admit me! I said, “please don’t send me home!” She assured me, “honey, you are having that baby tonight.” Praise the Lord! Let’s roll! Thankfully there was no one else laboring at the time so I was able to choose the room I wanted. (A lady was admitted a couple hours after me. She gave birth to a little boy named Bennett. How neat is that?)
Amy had my mom and sister bring me some soup so I could keep my energy up. I basically hadn’t eaten in 2 days. The last thing I wanted was food. Ryan force fed me while I was rolling back and forth on the ball, leaning over the bed. Halfway through the soup, I threw up again. No more soup for me. Soon after, I stood up and all of a sudden SWOOSH. My water broke all over the floor and my husband’s white shoes. Sorry honey! (Don’t worry, the fluid was clear and his shoes cleaned nicely!) My mom said she heard my water break outside in the hallway. Nice.
Basically our whole family showed up before I was even admitted. We told them not to show up yet. Oh well. Everyone was excited. We ended up with about 8-10 people there. I wasn’t paying attention. I was working. I think everyone in that room saw everything I have but I seriously did not care. Luckily, the birth center, being a house, had a lot of extra rooms and even a kitchen for everyone to hang out in.
I had been begging to get in the birthing tub since I got there. Amy told me to walk the stairs several times and then she would check to make sure things were moving along. Up and down, up and down. Many stops along the way for contractions. (When I went back and watch the video I noticed just how hard my husband was working. He was providing me with counter pressure on my low back and hips with each contraction. Apparently I wanted him to push REALLY hard. He was putting every ounce of strength he had into each and every contraction I had. He is in fantastic shape. Good thing or I don’t think he would’ve made it! I could not have done it without him. That pressure made everything so much better!)
Finally, Amy checked me again. I think we were at like a 5 at this point. She let me get in the tub. Ahhhhh heaven! (In order to check me, she had me lay back on the bed. I had a contraction or 2 while I was laying flat. It was awful!!! Why on earth do hospitals put laboring women on their backs? Horrible idea! It is so much worse. However, this was when I met Teri, the birth assistant. She laid her hand on my forehead and it felt like I was in the presence of God. She has some magical hands! Peace just swept over me.)
At this point I lost all track of time. I was so focused on deep breathing through my contractions and I was very sleep deprived. I would almost fall asleep between contractions. I could feel my legs give out, I would catch myself, wake up, and then it was time for another one. I was very quiet. My mom, or someone – whoever was there- would squeeze my foot with each contraction. That gave me something else to think about. It helped me a lot.
A while later, Amy informed me that I had not emptied my bladder in several hours. She wanted me to try. That didn’t work. Knowing something wasn’t quite right, she wanted to check me again. When she did, she realized that Ry had angled herself and wasn’t fully pressing on my cervix. This is why I was in labor so long before anything actually happened. She tried to move her (super fun!) but she wasn’t able to accomplish much. She asked me to lean over the bed, raise one leg onto to ledge and lunge to the side back and forth during contractions to shift Ry’s position. (Alternating sides each contraction) Ridiculously difficult. I couldn’t even get my leg up to the ledge on my own. Ryan had to raise my leg up for me. I completely zoned out during this. Ryan had turned on a Pandora radio station playing soft Christian music. It was the perfect tempo and very relaxing. I remember someone singing, I think it was my sister in law, Bethani, that’s it. After 30-45 minutes of this Amy asked me to walk around the bed twice during contractions while holding onto Ryan. He held almost all my weight because I was totally laying over on him. That was the slowest shuffle ever. At this point she checked me again to see if Ry had changed her position. She determined that I was sitting at about a 7. Back into the tub I went. (Thank goodness!)
About this time my body started to push a little with each contraction. I was now ready for Ryan to get in the tub with me. (Sidenote: Men, don’t be grossed out about getting in a birth tub with your wife. She is pushing a baby out of her lady parts. I think you can handle the water. You can shower later.) Ryan got behind me so that I could lean up against him. I had my arms wrapped around his legs and I used them for leverage while pushing. He had his hands resting gently on my belly. I had sworn that I would not push a baby out in that position, (I wanted to be on my knees or on hand and knees) but at that point, those positions weren’t as comfortable. We had planned to have Ryan catch his namesake but I needed his strength behind me. I asked him if it was ok for him to stay where he was. Thankfully, he was fine with that.
Another thing I was very happy about was not having to be internally checked all the time. I knew that when my body was ready it would push. My body didn’t need permission from someone to say, “Ok, you are at a 10. You can push now.” Trust me, my body figured it out! I was still pretty quiet at this point with the exception of a few uncontrollable grunts. That is, until my midwife said, “I can see her hair.” Umm excuse me? My child has hair? “Hair!? What? She has hair?” I reached down and touched her head. So cool! Now the serious pushing started. I was so happy to be able to push on my own time and as long or as hard as felt comfortable to me. No one was screaming at me to push. I just did what felt right. I only really pushed for about 10 minutes.
Ryan Rachelle slipped her way into the water at 8:55PM on Friday, June 28th. I caught her first, quickly followed by her daddy. She was placed on my chest while we waited for her cord to stop pulsating. (We had chosen to do delayed cord clamping since up to 1/3 of a baby’s blood is in the cord at birth. That is, after all, her blood and she needed all of it.) We were stunned that she had hair, and even more stunned that her hair was dark. How did that happen? (My mom had had a dream that our baby had dark hair and dark eyes. We all joked about that because our baby would never have dark hair. We were wrong!) She had a perfect little nose, and beautiful, full lips. I was born 2 weeks early and weighed 9lbs, 6oz. We assumed Ry would be huge as well. Much to our surprise she weighed only 8lbs, 7.5oz. Besides repeating “Praise God!” over and over, I also kept saying, “I’m so glad you aren’t huge!” She started tugging at my bra almost immediately. She was a hungry girl and knew where to get the goods!
Once the cord stopped pulsating, Ryan cut it. I passed my sweet girl over to her daddy while the midwives helped me out of the tub and into the bed. When they brought Ry to me, she literally reached out, grabbed my boob, and shoved it in her mouth. She wasn’t playing around. She wanted some milkies!
A little while later, after delivering the placenta (which I was able to do in my own time), it was time to see if there was any damage from delivery. Due to her positioning, I did tear and had to be stitched up. This wasn’t near as bad as I expected it to be. Apparently, I had a pretty significant tear in comparison to what they usually see at the birth center which is usually pretty minimal.
After that was all done, our family, who had been kicked out during the stitching process, returned to the room. We weighed her, measured her, and washed her hair. (She did not receive a bath for about a week. We rubbed the vernix into her skin. And to those freaking out, she smelled amazing!)
4 hours after Miss Ryan made her way into the world, we headed home. I rode in the back seat with her, sang to her my baby song and she fell asleep holding my finger. I sang to her a lot when she was in my belly. She still responds to my singing almost immediately. We brought her inside and introduced her to her doggie brothers. They kissed her, and she reached out to touch them. They’ve been buds every since.
There is so much more that I could say about my labor experience. Was it hard? Yes. But it was wonderful. I can’t imagine it any other way. I fully believe that had I gone to the hospital at that first sign of labor, I would’ve been pressured to receive pitocin. I then would’ve been labeled “failure to progress” and sent in for a c-section. All my little girl needed was time.
We realize how blessed we are to have had such a wonderful experience and we give God all the glory. We also thank Allen Birthing Center for allowing us to make our own decisions and for empowering families every day to have safe, natural, peaceful deliveries. To quote my father in law that night, “this is the way it should be.”