Thursday, January 6, 2011

Birth Story

As soon as I titled this post "Birth Story" I remembered that my last post was titled "Birth Plan." It's nice to have a plan, but I prefer a story. It's hard to know how to begin or end this story, though. There are so many points in time that I could consider the beginning and the final push was certainly not the end. I guess I'll start with the day I went into labor and see where things go.
Wednesday the 29th I had an urge to get out of the house and get as much done as possible. I went to the mall and spent my gift cards; I went to the craft store and stocked up on a lot of yarn; I went to the Family Video and rented a handful of movies; I went to Meijer to buy groceries for the week; I went to Babies R Us to get some final items. As I was checking out of Babies R Us I thought, "I'll go home, make some dinner, put away these newborn diapers, and settle down on my couch to watch movies and knit for two weeks." My due date was three days away, and I fully expected to go ten or more days late.
Just as I was getting dinner on the stove around seven, I started to feel some contractions. I figured they were a response to all of the walking I had done that day. My midwife had told me to "welcome" the cramps that I would be feeling prior to labor as I began to dilate, so I welcomed them and ate my dinner. We watched a James Bond movie and the contractions continued. Towards the end of the movie I was sitting on the floor and rocking around in circles, still insisting to Pete that they were just "practice" contractions that would go away. He wasn't convinced.
After the movie I called my midwife, Yolanda, just to tell her what I was feeling. She asked me a few questions and said, "Well, I think we might have a baby tonight!" I said, "Really, you think so?" She laughed. "I don't know. You tell me." I still didn't think I was going to have a baby that night, but it was nice to know she was home and waiting for my next call.
The instructor of the Bradley birth class we attended had mentioned several times, "If you go into labor in the evening, go to sleep!" So Pete went to bed around eleven and I stayed on the couch, trying to doze. I'm not sure if I actually slept, but I did get nicely disoriented. Looking at my midwife's notes, I see that I called her again at midnight to tell her that the contractions were strong and five minutes apart, but apparently I told her I still didn't want her to come over. I vaguely remember saying, "I don't know what you would do if you were here. Get some more sleep." I dozed in and out of contractions and then took a shower.
Pete had been in and out of the bedroom to check on me, and at three in the morning he told me my contractions were two minutes apart. "Seriously?!" I couldn't believe it. We hadn't even told our moms in Chicago to start driving up for the birth, and my contractions were two minutes apart. Pete called our parents and started cleaning the house -- something I had made him promise to do if I went into labor while the house was messy. Meanwhile, I called Yolanda and told her to get her shoes on.
As soon as I hung up I felt a movement and a sudden heaviness -- he had dropped. "I feel like pushing," I told Pete. I didn't see his response, but I imagine that woke him up out of any grogginess. At this point I was on my knees, draped over the side of the couch, swaying my belly in circles. My deep breathing was slowly becoming more vocal. At the height of some of my contractions, I found myself exhaling through my teeth (as I had learned in class) to lessen the pushing urge.
Fifteen minutes later I heard Yolanda's voice in the kitchen just as I was (loudly) nearing the peak of a contraction. She swooped into the living room and put a warm, lavender scented towel on my lower back. It smelled wonderful. It hurt like hell. "Don't touch me!" I yelled, wishing I had the vocabulary to add, "But thank you, it smells lovely."
As soon as the contraction was over she whisked me over the bathroom and told me to sit on the toilet. I sat on it backwards so that I could rest my arms and head on the back of the tank. As soon as I sat down I heard a rush. Pete and Yolanda were putting plastic and sheets down on the bed, so I yelled over, "My water just broke!"
And with that -- it was on. I don't really remember what it felt like, but I do remember that it sounded like a herd of cows mooing in my bathroom. I couldn't control the intensity of my moans, but I could control the pitch, so I kept my voice low like I had read in Ina May's books. (High pitch noises make you tense up; deep and low noises have the opposite effect.) Sometime during this chorus of cows, my friend Kelly arrived and helped Pete and Yolanda set up.
I only remember being on the toilet for a few minutes, but the notes say that I was in there for over thirty. Once things were ready, Yolanda moved me over to the bed to check my dilation. Then she said, "Okay, Joy. With this next contraction you're going to breathe in and out twice. Then breathe in a third time, hold the breath, and push."
"What? I'm pushing?" The whole time that I had been in the bathroom I knew I was in transition, but somehow I hadn't fully accepted that I was in labor. "So, I'm really actually in labor?" Pete and Kelly half laughed, half smirked. "You're definitely in labor," Yolanda said.
Suddenly Yolanda's beeper went off, and she said, "I am so sorry. I have to go make a call." I pushed with Pete and Kelly on either side of me. When Yolanda came back I asked, "Do you have another birth tonight?" She nodded. "Two other births, actually. I've never had three births at one time." All throughout my pregnancy I had this nervous inkling that she was going to have multiple births at the time I went into labor. What I didn't imagine is that she would be at my birth and calling back-up for the others. I was so thankful that she was there that I didn't mind when she would leave the room to coordinate back-up for her other births.
Pushing was difficult, but I was so thankful to finally be doing something that it felt like a relief. After each contraction Yolanda checked heart tones and reported that he was doing well. About ten minutes into pushing she said, "I'm hearing cord tones where his neck is, and he's getting sucked back up after each push, so I'm pretty sure the cord is around his neck. This is really common and his heart tones are recovering just fine, but we don't want him to stay here forever. You'll have to really focus and push."
We found the most effective position for me to push: Pete and Kelly each held up one leg and Yolanda held both of my hands to pull me up for leverage. I felt stronger than I ever have before -- I couldn't believe what I was doing. At the same time, I had never felt so weak. Towards the end Yolanda asked Pete to turn the space heater on, and I said, "No! Don't move, Pete." She looked at me and said, "It will only take a moment, and the room needs to be a little warmer for the baby." Pete let go of my leg and I let out a big growl (Kelly does a great imitation if you're ever interested); it hurt so much to have that leg unsupported. No one else could do the work for me, and yet I needed every person who was there.

After about 40 minutes of pushing Yolanda gave me some final instructions and helped me focus as intently as possible. I had planned on pushing with ease and grace -- none of that panting and grimacing that you see in movie labor scenes. But with the cord wrapped around his neck and what turned out to be a crooked presentation, I pushed for 45 minutes. With everything I had, I pushed.
And then suddenly -- completely out of the blue -- there was a living, squirming infant laying across me. My infant. Mine. I watched him quickly turn pink as he started to cry. I stroked his back and fingered his little feet. I smelled him, I cuddled him, my heart broke open in gratitude for him, and all in that same instant, I loved him. He was here.

Pete and I exchanged, "Can you believe we did this?" looks, and I saw the spaced-out look of amazement in his eyes -- an expression I still see when he looks at Anders now, two weeks later.

After everything was said and done (read: after I plopped out the placenta), Yolanda stayed to do some basic things. But seeing as how she had two other births in process, she left me in Kelly's capable RN hands to attend one of the other births. Back when I had decided to have a home birth, I wondered if I was going to miss having the constant care of nurses and doctors after the birth. I guess God led me to invite the right people to be there with me. I had a house full of people attending to my every need, and everyone who was there loved me and loved my baby. It was the best care I could have asked for. Nicole came over quickly after and I lounged around with her and Kelly. An hour or so after the birth they helped me to the bathroom. On the way back I started feeling a little dizzy. The next thing I knew I was sitting up in bed, carrying on conversation. "Do you remember fainting?" Kelly asked me. I had no memory of it, but apparently I had collapsed right into Nicole's arms. I decided to stay put in bed for a little longer.
The next few hours were a blur as family and my friend Beth arrived from Chicago. Pete and I drifted in and out of sleep with Anders.

Today is exactly two weeks after the birth, and it will be my first day washing a dish or heating up my own lunch. My mother-in-law stayed with us for the first few days, then my mother came for nine days. I've heard the term "Mother the mother" in regards to how a new mom should be cared for. I was thoroughly mothered by both my mothers and some dear friends. Now Pete is back at work and Anders and I have plans to nap, nurse and cuddle, watch movies and knit while friends continue to deliver meals.
Everything about Anders' birth was a miracle to me, and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I am in awe of God's amazing design for birth and new life. I thank Him continuously for the healthy delivery of my wonderful son, and for the incredible husband, family and community that I've been blessed with. My heart is full.


Kasey said...

BOO-YA! Awesome story. Brave moo'ing woman right there. Joy of my life.

graceling said...

What a lovely story, Joy. You have inspired me to write our birth story (nearly 3 months after the fact:)

Angie said...

bravissimo!!!! birth is so beautiful! i'm in awe every time i hear of it. i love it! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Amanda said...

Thanks for sharing your story . . . it made my (work) night!! Can't wait to meet Anders.

Lissa Fae said...

awesome joy!! he's so precious!!

mama blessed said...

oh i love it.
and i am so jealous.

Eileen said...

Thanks for directing me to your blog! I loved reading the story! Births are all so unique and I am so excited about the journey is taking me on!

Samantha said...


You should write a book about your first year or so with Anders. These posts are so beautiful and satisfying and wonderful! Makes me look forward to my own kids - and reconsider the hospital birth, hmm...

lindsblog said...

I hope you don't mind me snooping on your blog, but I LOVE birth stories and this was excellent. Thanks for sharing! -Lisa