Sometimes when birth does not go exactly the way we planned, we can look back and learn from our experiences, take away the blessed moments and rejoice in them. I love how Christy shares her story and I hope you will as well!
January 18th was my official due date, though I had been telling everyone the 20th just because that was the original date I had come up with and 20ths are meaningful to us (dating and wedding anniversaries are both 20ths.) Both days came and went with nothing more than my traditional contractions that came every evening when my husband and I walked laps around our outdoor mall. They always went away after I got home and sat down.
I was very committed to waiting until baby was ready to come and tried really hard to not be impatient. At my 41wk midwife appointment I had the first twinge of really wanting to push things forward because once I hit 42wks I could no longer have a home birth by Colorado law. I trusted that God would direct the timing however and tried to quell my anxiousness. My midwife, Lisa, said that we would chat again on Friday (the 27th) and if nothing had happened we could discuss ways of starting some natural induction efforts.
I was also struggling with a horrible rash that we were assuming was PUPPPs. The itchiness was just about unbearable most nights and I would often lay awake in the dark crying and begging God for it to all be over. That rash was the absolute worst part of my pregnancy and was the biggest reason I wanted that baby OUT. I was told that it would disappear soon after birth, but in reality I continued to fight it for more than a month after my son was born.
I told myself I could make it at least until Friday. I wanted to give my baby all the time he/she needed. I knew God would give all the grace I needed to get through each moment. I did a lot of mental preparation that last week. I knew that birth was simply part of life and that God had given me everything I needed through Jesus. I repeated so many truths to myself over and over in those last weeks. I told myself that God would be near and give me strength. I told myself that pain is a necessary part of life and growth. I chose to embrace this birth as something I wanted and was choosing, not as something that was forced on me in order to get this child out of me. I told myself that I would accept and embrace the pain and choose to not take it out on anyone around me, but to let it do it’s work.
Despite all of this, I woke up Thursday morning with a feeling of urgency. Both God and my body were telling me it was time to take action. I felt that something wasn't quite right and I could no longer just wait for baby to pick the timing, but that I needed to step in and get things moving. I called my midwife and she was fully on board with following my gut and seeing what we could to do move things along, both for the baby’s sake, and because the rash was making me so miserable and exhausted. She, and the assisting midwife, Joanna, came over that afternoon to check me (first time that had been done) and strip my membranes. My midwife had actually never stripped membranes before but Joanna had and talked her through it. (Side note: I was truly struck at this point with how committed my midwife was to letting babies come on their own, and also how trusting she was of my gut feeling that something wasn't quite right, enough so to do something she had never done before.) She was very gentle and it hurt, but not too bad. Later Joanna did it again and I could tell she was much more confident. It hurt so, so much more that time! Lisa also had me start taking caster oil. That was the grossest thing I have ever put in my mouth. It is such a thick, oily stuff that I could hardly get it down without gagging and it coming right back up.
The midwives left for a while to give me some space and my mom and youngest brothers came over for a bit and walked around the yard with me. It was sweet to see how excited my mom was for her first born to have her first baby! I told Chris I would let him know when things started picking up, but he was too excited and just came home at lunch time. Mom and the boys left a bit after Chris got there. The midwives came back and checked me again, set up the birth room, and said to get some rest and call them later. Chris and I watched something on Netflix and then headed to bed about 9.
I had just put my nightgown on and was walking around the end of the bed when the first real contraction hit and stopped me in my tracks. I looked up at Chris with wide eyes. He asked, “A contraction?” and I just nodded. Once it passed I told him to call Lisa. She said to time them for a while and try to sleep if we could. I was completely exhausted from a long day of anticipation and walking and everything else (besides I was always exhausted at the end of the day at that point,) but I simply could not sleep. I don’t think it was even an hour before I asked Chris to call Lisa back and ask her to come. I’m not sure why I felt like I needed her there so soon, but I suddenly felt that she was my security blanket and I really wanted her to be there for my peace of mind.
I moved downstairs to the guestroom that was set up as our birth room. I quickly wanted nothing to do with moving around at all and spent the next few hours on my side only half conscious between contractions. Every hour or so I would have a particularly strong one that would make me vomit. I don’t know if that was a side affect of the caster oil or just the way my body responds to pain but it was icky either way. If I hadn't been so tired going into it I would have liked to try to be up and moving around but I was so very exhausted from the very beginning and slept as best I could between contractions. I never knew I could sleep for two minute snatches like that. Some time during the night Lisa said I could go ahead and get in the birthing pool and see if it helped me relax. I loved that thing and wasn't too happy when she wanted me to get back out a couple hours later so she could check me.
Breathing was my best friend during labor. The harder a contraction, the more I would relax and breathe through it. Sometimes I felt like I was hardly conscious, hardly “there” at all. Chris could not even tell when I was having contractions most of the night except when Lisa was having us time them. I had wondered frequently how I would handle the pain of labor but I found that as things got more intense I was able to completely pull into myself and focus on breathing and coping and stay totally calm. I know all my mental preparation in the weeks before really helped. I had no conscious thoughts of talking myself through things during labor (I hardly had any conscious thoughts at all) but I know the truth was there, embedded in my subconscious, and was a huge part of my ability to stay calm and relaxed.
I had terrible back labor almost from the start. I hardly even noticed my stomach contracting because the back pain was so awful. At some point in the early morning hours I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure how much longer my back could take that kind of intense cramping. I asked Lisa how much longer she thought it might be. She said it didn’t seem like things were progressing very quickly based on my pain level. She said it needed to get a lot worse before much was going to happen. I was disappointed and a little overwhelmed because I didn’t know if I could handle much worse. If I lost control I knew bad things would happen. I wondered if she just couldn’t tell how bad it really was, but I figured I probably just had no idea how bad it was really going to get. Looking back I think I just hid pain really well because I was progressing faster than we thought.
I moved back and forth between the pool and lying on my side on the bed most of the night. Chris sat in a chair near me. I probably seemed to ignore him, but I was always relieved each time I opened my eyes and saw him there. I needed his presence.
At one point Lisa came in and sent Chris upstairs to rest for a bit, saying she would sit with me. I was semi-reclining in the pool with my eyes closed most of the time. We suddenly heard a really strange noise. I opened my eyes and looked at Lisa. We were both puzzled by it. She got up and looked around the room. We wondered if it could be an alarm of some kind. It was just a steady, sort of high pitched whine. Eventually we realized that it was a hole in the side of the pool leaking air! She asked me if we had any duct tape and I was able to tell her exactly where I had last seen it. She teased me about it later. Here I was in hard labor, hardly able to speak most of the time, and describing exactly on what shelf in the laundry room the duct tape was sitting.
I lost all concept of time during most of my labor but I remember the sun finally coming up and a little bit later Lisa and Joanna checked me again. I was getting a feeling that Lisa was concerned I wasn’t progressing very fast. I felt like there was a little bit of tension in the room. Finally Lisa announced that I was about 9cm and almost completely effaced. Everyone was so relieved. I had been feeling that I was getting close but I was unsure of myself because I had never done this before. Joanna gave me a back rub and some counter pressure during contractions and I was amazed to find how much it helped. I wished I had thought to ask for that before. From then on things seemed to get moving and everyone was much more involved. I had someone press on my back with every contraction. I was relieved to find that help and thought maybe I could handle more after all.
Around 9 in the morning Joanna checked me again, said I was complete, and broke my water. Only a couple minutes later I felt the urge to push, however Lisa and Joanna came back in the room with some hard news. Lisa said that there was quite a bit of meconium in the water which could mean the baby was under stress, and also be dangerous if the baby had aspirated any of it. She said everything was probably just fine but she wanted us to transfer to the hospital just in case the baby needed extra care. I think Chris and I just stared blankly for a minute. We felt we were so close to meeting our little one, and now everything was changing. We totally trusted Lisa’s judgment and knew this was a very hard decision for her and I remember nodding in agreement because I knew she wouldn’t make us transfer unless she really felt it was necessary. At the same time I remember thinking that maybe if I just pushed that baby out right there she couldn’t make me go. I did not see how I could possibly get dressed, get in the car and go to the hospital right then. Chris brought me dry clothes and tried to help me get dressed and moved to the car. I glared at him and mostly refused to move. My contractions were right on top of each other and I was not the least bit happy about what they were making me do. I’m sure I made it difficult. I was practically dragged across the house. They did finally get me in the car on my hands and knees and Lisa sat next to me while Chris drove and Joanna followed behind. I was so thankful the hospital was only 7 minutes away. It seemed like such a long 7 minutes.
I had told myself over and over in the last weeks of pregnancy that no matter how I felt I did not need to take it out on others. I remember quietly asking Lisa to push on my back (though maybe with a tinge of desperation,) even though I felt like screaming at the world. I was honestly shocked at how well I was able to stay calm and composed. Something in me just new that the moment I gave in to the pain I would loose all control and it would be a fast down hill road. Things did seem to slow down a bit on the car ride and until I got up to the hospital room. I assume my body kinda put things on hold while everything was changing. I know labors can get stuck if there is too much distracting mom, and I really appreciated that at the moment!
We got to the hospital, found a wheel chair, and had a hard time getting passed the front desk. They wanted all my information right then and didn’t seem to understand that I was not only in labor but ready to push. Apparently they thought I was too calm. I wondered if I needed to start screaming to get the point across. Someone finally wheeled me upstairs to a room. I remember her saying “You can tell me if you have a contraction.” I didn’t say anything but I was thinking “First of all, what good would that do? And second, I’ve already had 3 while you’ve been pushing me.” Chris pulled me out of the wheelchair and helped get my pants off and I climbed onto the bed on my hands and knees. I knew right then that I was gonna push that baby out no matter what anyone said. I announced my intention and the room was suddenly a flurry of activity. It all got kinda hazy at that point. I know there were people around me, flipping me onto my back, strapping on a monitor, clipping things on my finger, etc. I remember a nurse asking where the doctor was and telling someone to find him right away – multiple times. I remember Chris behind me and leaning against him. I remember being told to push, and push harder. Pretty much the only conscious thought I can remember was about the pushing. Lisa had told me at an appointment that we would take it really slow and carefully, and I remember thinking this was NOT slow, as the nurse next to me yelled “Push! Push! Push!” I was thinking “I AM pushing!” I remember feeling Chris’ excitement and people saying they could see the head. I wished I could be excited too, but I was working too hard to have any emotion at the moment. The nurse asked me multiple times if I wanted to reach down and feel my baby's head. I half wished I could, but I was too focused on pushing to even try to divert enough brain power to do that. There was a sudden whoosh of release, and the doctor announced it was a boy, Chris cut the cord (spraying blood everywhere,) and they whisked the baby off to the other side of the room to make sure he was ok. We had only been at the hospital for about 30 minutes.
This was the worst part of the whole experience for me, because suddenly, I was alone, Chris had gone to see the baby, the doctor was pushing on my stomach and it seemed even more painful than the whole labor process. The nurse stuck some needle into my leg (something to try to get the bleeding stop) and I started to realize the doctor was a little concerned about how much blood I was loosing. I started crying a little bit then. I just wanted my husband and my baby and for all the pain and strangers to melt away.
Chris came over and said “He definitely looks like a Miles. I think we should name him Miles.” (We had two boy names that I hadn’t been able to choose between. Miles had always been Chris’ favorite.) I was so frustrated because I hadn’t even SEEN him yet. The doctor, nurses, and my husband all got to hold him before I did. I hated that. I was his mama and I had such a hard time giving up that right to be the first to hold my baby. I tried to watch him over there with the nurses, Chris standing over their shoulders, but I was too distracted by the pain from the doctor pushing on my stomach and the stitches.
Pretty soon Chris brought him over and I held him for the first time. My little Miles. My son. All 10lbs 5oz of him. And that 15″ head. Yeah. No wonder I tore.
My mom had come to the hospital when we did and was waiting outside. The doctor talked to her on his way out, and it was only from that conversation that I ever had any idea how much blood I really lost. He said he was just thankful they didn't need to do a transfusion. He told my mom that he had only ever heard one little "ouch" out of me the whole time. "They don't make women like that any more." He said. My mom was so proud. Chris asked me if she could come in a few minutes later and I was so happy to see her. It was so special to have her there after all I had just been through and know I was her baby, and then get to introduce my baby to her.
Miles was just fine, but because of all my bleeding I needed to be at the hospital and would have likely ended up as an emergency transfer if we were not already there. That kiddo was just so big. God knew. He orchestrated all the timing just as I knew He would.
We finally got home two days later and I felt that life could begin again. I really don’t like hospitals. I’m thankful it was there when I needed it, and I do not truly regret the way things happened. I know I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome with circumstances as they were.
It was an amazing time getting to know this child, who was ours. To know him, as Miles, and not just “little one” or “the baby.” He is so precious.
----- It has been 16 months now since Miles was born and I am 5 months pregnant with our second. Looking back at how everything played out I am truly thankful. It was hard for me to not get the home birth I had dreamed of, and sure, there were things that happened at the hospital that I would never have chosen (such as no delayed cord clamping, having to fight to keep my baby with me, oh and the BILLS!) but all things considered I had nothing to truly regret. Now that I look toward the birth of our second I find I am finally struggling through some of the emotions and fears I expected after coming home from the hospital. I'm afraid I'll never get my home birth. I felt so prepared last time and then everything changed out side of my control, and I have no assurances that it won't happen again. When I picture introducing Miles to his little sibling it is always in a hospital setting, because that is all I've known. I am working hard to purge that picture from my mind. My midwife assures me that there is no reason for anything to go wrong this time and that we will accomplish our beautiful birth at home. I know I just have to trust God with these emotions, and to work through them as best I can. I know that LIFE is worth every struggle and it is such a privilege to be a mama and such a integral part of bringing life into the world.
Wow, what a journey! Thank you so much for sharing with us! Please leave Christy a comment here, if this story encouraged you! Also, you may want to visit her blog. http://www.chrisnchristy.com/