My Birth Story
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! To celebrate this holiday, I’d like to share something I am truly grateful for, and that is my beautiful, healthy daughter, Elisa. She was born naturally and at home. I am also thankful for my current healthily progressing pregnancy which will also end, undoubtedly as beautifully, naturally, and at home.
Elisa’s birth was an amazing experience and one that I would like to share. This was written several days after she was born, when my memory was still fresh, and has not been updated. In terms of childbirth, parenting, and living; this is about as natural as it gets. Coming soon will be Dad’s version.
Elisa was born at home on April 19th at 12:33am. She weighed 8.6 lbs. and measured 21.5 ins. This is the story of her birth.
Elisa was due on April 22, 2012. My pregnancy was complication free and very comfortable for me. My feet and ankles swelled towards the end, I had to eat A LOT of fiber to keep my digestion on track, and a full night of sleep (minus the frequent bathroom breaks), required a perfectly arranged array of pillows surrounding me, but I can’t say I really was bothered too much by any of it. I never got morning sickness or mood swings from hormones. Hot Husband and I decided not to get any ultrasounds, which is an unusual decision that even surprised the midwife when we brought it up. She said that as long as we are certain of our due date, my growth is normal, and the heart rate (which is monitored using Doppler), remains normal, I don’t have to get one. I remained very active throughout, running and lifting weights until January and doing Zumba and other lighter cardio after that. In the end, I was exercising four days/week, albeit very lightly. My last day of Zumba was April 7th and my last day at the gym was April 14th. I was also very diligent about eating well and drinking water. I credit these efforts to how strong I felt even at the end. If I hadn’t been so excited to meet my little one, I’d have been happy to stay pregnant.
During the week before I went into labor, I began having Braxton-Hicks contractions. They were not painful and didn’t cause a disruption to what I was doing. On Saturday, April 14th, I came home from an evening at my mom’s house and got sick for the first time. As soon as I did, I felt back to 100% and there was just a feeling in my body that things were starting to change. I called Dawn Rogula, our midwife, around midnight that evening and told her that I felt that something was starting to happen. The following day, the swelling in my feet began increasing a great deal, but nothing else in particular happened other than a feeling that I had that the baby would be coming soon. Monday morning, the mucus that serves as a protective barrier and lines my cervix came out. This is oftentimes a sign that labor will happen within a few hours or days. I was due at work at 11am so I called, KM, my friend and supervisor, and let her know that I’d be coming in, but wasn’t expecting to make it through the day. There still was nothing happening that I could put my finger on beyond a feeling that I had though. I went into work, tied up loose ends and left and lunch, opting to cash in vacation time for the rest of the week until I went into labor instead of feeling uncomfortably far from home. My mom came up to my house and spent the rest of the day and the following with me. Since I still wasn’t actually in labor, we mostly relaxed and took walks. Hot Husband also set up the birth pool in the kitchen so that we’d be ready with it when the time came.
At around 9pm on Tuesday evening, as I was cooking dinner for the three of us, I had my first real contraction. It doubled me over and as I had been told previously, I’d recognize when it was a real one. I tried to ignore it, per advice from Dawn, since it could still be a very long time before active labor began. Contractions continued at around 1 ½ hours apart through the night and finally at 3am, I woke Hot Husband up and let him know. I tried to keep sleeping, but mostly laid in bed faking it. At 5:30am I got up and showered for the day and my mom and I took a walk. Contractions narrowed to 60 minutes apart, but we still weren’t bothering to monitor them closely. I cooked breakfast and tried to stay busy around the house, but the contractions were distracting. The water I had been retaining also started to drain out apparently because I was going to the bathroom every few minutes. Finally, I curled up in my bed and read Stephen King’s Misery while my mom and Hot Husband deep cleaned our house. I ate pretzel crisps and strawberry ice cream throughout the day.
In the afternoon, my contractions started to get closer together and we started timing them when they were less than 30 min apart. Hot Husband kept track of the time as we watched them slowly narrow and become more distracting. Once they hit around 20 minutes, I fell asleep and had a 45 minute gap, but it picked up after that. For the most part though, Hot Husband stayed by my side and timed contractions. He’d rub my feet when they were occurring and oftentimes my mom rubbed my head. I stayed on our bed almost the whole time (the exception primarily being bathroom breaks), and preferred to be on my hands and knees when the contractions hit. I had been keeping in touch with Dawn throughout so she knew my progress and at 5pm I finally asked her to come up because they were between 4-6 minutes apart. She arrived around 6pm and during that time, Hot Husband and my mom added hot water to the pool and turned on the heat element so that it’d be warm.
I consider active labor to have started sometime between asking Dawn to come and her arrival. I’d describe the contractions as going from uncomfortable to painful around that time also. I think this is when I started making noises when they’d occur because the tightening feeling was intense. Mostly, the contractions were in my lower abdomen and I wasn’t feeling anything elsewhere at that point. I was drinking water as much as possible, through a straw in a glass that someone would bring to my mouth when I could relax, and threw up quite a few times. To be honest, I looked forward to throwing up because it was a distraction that made the contractions less painful. I tried getting into the pool during this time to see what it did for the pain, but it didn’t help and it was just slippery so I got out and went back to my bed.
At a certain point, I’d guess 9pm or so, Dawn announced that I was fully dilated and that although my water had not broken, there was no need to wait for it and we could start pushing. Once I began pushing, I started experiencing lower back pain. Dawn taught Hot Husband to stand behind me and support the weight of my hips, which helped, but didn’t totally fix the problem. My position on all fours made the back pain worse, but any other position made the contraction pain worse. We ended up going back to the pool and Hot Husband got in and sat behind me. The water took the pressure off my back so that I could focus on the pushing.
I would estimate that I pushed for three hours, but my account of time may be blurry. Hot Husband supported my weight with his legs around me and when the contractions came, Dawn would counter the pressure so that I was pushing the way I needed to be. Early on in this process, my water finally did break. The contractions hurt terribly and I would collapse into Hot Husband between them to relax for the short time that I had. Gradually, Elisa made her way past my pelvic bone and lower and lower through the birth canal. Dawn used Doppler to monitor her heart rate, which remained steady throughout. Once she was close to coming out, but not quite showing yet, my pushing became very painful. I could feel where she was, but she put up a fight actually showing her head. A couple of times she came out and retreated back in. By this time, when I had a contraction, I would lean forward so I had my arms around Dawn or my mom. Between, I would collapse onto Hot Husband and I think I’d fall asleep for 30 seconds. I was exhausted and it was painful in a blinding way, which I’m sure was apparent by the amount of noise I was making, but it was a pain that forced me to focus on the job I was doing and the pushing instead of blacking out or wishing I could make it stop. My contractions were naturally occurring in threes and on the third of the set, I would get the feeling that I needed to push. I waited for these and let myself breath through the other two. I remember biting Hot Husband leg one time and his response was to offer me his arm as an alternative, but I realized that I had done it and stopped biting. I did pull my mom and Hot Husband’s hair a lot, but it probably hurt them a lot less than it hurt me. I remember thinking that if people started showing up to my house, I’d let them in just to stand around the pool and give me more people to hang onto. I was WAY beyond being self-conscious about myself, the amount of noise I was making, my needs, or anything else at that point.
Eventually, I could feel that Elisa was VERY close. Dawn offered that I could reach down and feel her or lean over and look, but I did not want a visual to go with what I was feeling so I never knew how far along she was coming. It came to a time when I tried to relax between contractions, but Dawn would not let me. I had no idea how far along in the delivery I was, but I knew it was close and continued to push as I was being told. The pain was absolutely indescribable and I remember telling Dawn to stop scratching me with her finger nails, (which upon reflection, I know she was not doing). She made me flip over again onto my hands and knees to push, which I later learned was when Elisa had her head out all ready. I have no idea how long this part took, but I did know at the time that any push could be my last so I kept doing it no matter how it felt.
Suddenly, or to me it felt sudden, she swooshed out and the pain stopped. Dawn wrapped her into a towel, I flipped over so I was resting in Hot Husband’s arms, and the baby was placed into mine. She was blue, but she was breathing and moving and crying. She had a bit of a rasp in her breathing so we kept patting her back to keep her crying until it stopped. I couldn’t stop counting her fingers and toes and staring at her big eyes that were open and staring back. We didn’t know her gender yet and I wasn’t ready to check. I was so overwhelmed that she was safe and too totally exhausted, mentally and physically, to allow one more thing into my consciousness, to care about looking. The bed in the nursery was set up with plastic sheets so, with assistance, I moved to lie there with my new little baby. Hot Husband held her while we moved, but she was still attached to me with her cord. We waited for the placenta to pass and during that time, I was able to nurse her. She was a good eater from the beginning. Finally, I’d say 30-40 minutes passed, I looked and saw that the little baby I had been waiting for was a girl. As per our plan, we called in my mom and Dawn, who had been in the kitchen cleaning up the pool, to flip the coin and pick her name. My mom flipped and Dawn assigned the letter E to heads and L to tails. Hot Husband won the coin toss, but he offered to reconsider and I declined the offer. Our perfect little baby became Elisa.
Elisa stayed attached to her cord even after the placenta was delivered, until the blood stopped pumping through it. Hot Husband was finally able to cut it and he took her in his arms. My mom ran a bath for me in our tub so that I could start cleaning off. When I sat up and saw the blood on the bed, I asked Dawn if that was an organ that I was seeing. Again, upon reflection that is ridiculous, and she explained that it was blood clots and that it was totally normal. With help, I moved into the bath tub and soaked to clean off while Hot Husband sat in the bathroom with me holding EA. Eventually, I stood and took a shower, which also included eating ice cream since my head started getting light. I made it to my bed after that and found out that perhaps due to the long time it took for Elisa to show her head, I had sustained no tearing and my swelling was minimum. Hot Husband and I laid in bed with our new daughter, she ate again, and we finally put her to sleep in the bassinet next to us.
I am proud that our baby girl was born at home and I would not change my birth experience for anything. Our transition was comfortable over the following days since we were in our own house. I even made banana bread the next morning in the bread maker when Elisa was still sleeping. I feel that for an experience that would have been physically traumatic (for lack of a better word), no matter where it took place, I was well taken care of and surrounded by people who loved me and that I trusted. Hot Husband and my mom played an integral part in the process and Dawn was someone whom I had come to be comfortable with. She stayed by my side throughout and allowed me to do what my body told me it needed to do, instead of orchestrating what the birth should be like. Discomfort, pain, whatever I was going through during the labor, was part of the process and I am glad that I experienced it as it was meant to be experienced. During that time, I felt that I was getting my needs met so that I could focus my energy on bringing Elisa into the world in a way that her body and my body were telling me that it needed to happen. This might be redundant at this point, but her delivery was 100% natural, without any interventions for pain or progression.
Today, Elisa is on her fifth day and she is doing wonderfully. She is eating very well and I am getting a lot more sleep than I had expected. She fusses occasionally, but is getting her needs met instantly so she has cried very little since the first day when she was (understandably), just terrified of the world around her. Since I had very little damage, I’m healing well and feeling very good. There’s obvious discomfort, but less than I would have expected so I have had no trouble taking walks and using the bathroom. Hot Husband is so wonderful and supportive and helpful both with the baby, and with understanding what my body has gone through in the past ten months. The new little family is happy and safe.