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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Abigail's birth story; part 2

  • Disclaimer: Both this post and part 1 are long.  I'm a detail-oriented person.  Get over it.  In good news, this one has pictures!
  • Disclaimer the second: This is the actual labor story.  It includes pictures and details that some may feel includes TMI (but nothing explicit, don't worry).  If you're squeamish or uncomfortable about things like that, I suggest you skip this post.
  • tl;dr: For those of you who don't like long things like this, I plan on writing an abridged version, hopefully in the next day or two, leaving out most of the detail and just doing the basics.


Wednesday, January 25, I went in for a routine check up.  I was a day shy of 39 weeks.  (Or for you non-birth term people, I was a week and one day before my due date.)  Heather checked me and I was 100% effaced, dilated to a 6 and Abby was at a +1.  I asked Heather, "What does it mean that she's at a +1?"  Heather replied, "It means your baby is about to fall out."  Oh good.  But she also pointed out that I could go into labor that night, or not for 2 weeks.  Being that close didn't necessarily mean I was ready to go.  But she did tell me that she likes to offer to any woman that close a natural induction.  If my body wasn't ready, nothing would happen.  If my body was ready, then it'd help start natural labor.  She said normally they start at 5 or 6 pm and are holding a baby by midnight.  I told her I'd talk to BJ and let her know.

On the way home I called Jalin to see which she'd prefer, since she'd be the one driving 10 hours.  Do I get induced that night or Thursday night and give her a chance to actually drive down beforehand so she could actually be there for labor?  But with the risk that it might not take and she'd be down here for a week and never see baby because she'd have to get back because Brett was going out of town.  Or would she rather I don't get induced and just hope I didn't go into labor until Brett got home (my due date) so she could come down then and get a full week in, but risk not getting here until Abby was a week old.  She called Brett to see what he thought and he said, "Go get ready!  Leave today!"  So then I called BJ and asked his opinion.  We talked about the various options and decided that since I felt so strongly about needing support, it would be better to have Jalin there.  So we decided to schedule for Thursday evening.  I called up Heather and set it up for 6 pm.

I got home and immediately started calling people.  I did feel a little guilty calling other people before my mom, but I decided I should let people know who were actually doing stuff for the birth first.  Thanks Mom for still loving me despite hearing the news through the grapevine!  :D  Jalin was called so she could pack and drive the 10ish hours to get here.  Mom Homer was called to make sure she could still take Kessa.  Jessa was chatted at to see if she was available to take pictures.  Carrie was called to let her know that her doula-ing would be required (and in good news, she had time to prepare!)  And then I called my mom.  :)

I ran a few errands to get last-minute things I hadn't yet purchased (like an electrolyte energy drink) then came home and started cleaning.  Things weren't too bad, but I really wanted them to look nice for all those people being here.  Though, I did end up spending a lot of time just laying down and resting.

Thursday BJ went to work and Kessa and I cleaned up a bit more and played and rested.  Jalin got here, I think, around 11 am.  We did a few more things, but were mostly just lazy and let the girls play.  (Jalin brought her two youngest kids, Tamra and Aimee.)  Eventually Jalin took her kids to her sister-in-law's house (thanks again, Melanie!) to spend the night and I made a simple stir fry dinner.  BJ stopped by Riverton on his way home to help his dad bring down a bed for our guest room (we procrastinated that one till the last minute, didn't we?).  Carrie showed up a little before 6, but no one else did.  6:20 rolls around and we're still the only ones there.  Finally BJ, his dad, mom and Teresa showed up with the bed, a dresser and a fun chair for our loft.  They got the bed set up while I did a couple of last minute things with Carrie (like setting up the liners under the birth pool and mattress) and then they took off back home with Kessa in tow.  Somewhere in there Jessa showed up (poor girl got lost) and eventually Jalin showed up, too.  Around 6:30 or so when Heather still wasn't there, I decided to call and make sure we had, in fact, scheduled it.  Because it isn't like Heather to be late.   I woke her up from a nap and turns out there had been a miscommunication and she had thought we had tentatively set it up, but that I was going to call back and confirm first.  Oops.  So she headed out right then.

Heather got here as well as Eva and Lisa, two midwives-in-training and they started to set their things up.  Lisa gave me some homeopathic pills to put under my tongue to help get contractions going.  About 7:30, before they started everything, I figured going to the bathroom would be a good idea.  So I did.  When I was done, I leaned back on the toilet and suddenly showered the toilet room with water.  I was quite surprised for a few reasons.  1) That had never, ever happened to me before.  What the heck just happened?  2) I was sure I was done going to the bathroom, so certainly that couldn't have been pee.  Which means 3) did my water just break?!  That's insane because a) what amazing timing is that?! and b) neither my mom nor my sister had ever had their water break spontaneously.  They always had to have it artificially ruptured while in labor.  As Jalin puts it, "We have leather bags."  (one of my remaining fears was that partway through labor I was going to have to make the decision of artificially breaking my water.  And that was just too close to the situation at Kessa's birth.  I feared it'd bring back those same fears, which I did not want at this labor.) So I had not at all expected to have my water break on its own.  And right before being induced, too?  So wait, I'm going to labor on my own, but at the most ideal time when everyone that's going to be there is already there?  I get to do the entire labor with my support team?!  Sweet.

Laying on the bed, just before induction.
So I went out to find everyone else and said, "So, I'm not 100% sure, but I'm at least 90% sure that my water just broke."  Everyone looked at me in surprise.  So I explained what happened and they all laughed at the awesome timing.  I was still feeling great, hadn't felt a contraction yet, and I felt remarkably lucky and amazed by the whole thing.  Heather had me get on the bed to check me and said I was dilated to an 8 on one side and a 9 on the other.  (I didn't realize that you could be dilated to different amounts.)  She decided to carry on with the induction anyway, but a shorter form of it, just to help labor progress more quickly.  I laid down on my bed while Heather put some capsules of evening primrose in my cervix to help it soften faster then taught Carrie how to massage my belly.  I laid on my side while she rubbed clary sage and fennel essential oils into my belly.  (While Heather was doing it and showing Carrie, Carrie was massaging my feet, too.)  It was interesting because with the amniotic fluid level down, my belly was much more defined.  It almost peaked from Abby's spine.


See how funny my belly is shaped?
Turns out amniotic fluid makes things
nice and round.
At one point while Heather was doing the massage (or maybe back when she was checking me?) we were talking about how progressed I was and how I was still so happy and laughing and just so myself.  Well, I wasn't feeling any contractions!  Why shouldn't I be happy and laughing?  Remember how excited I was for this?  Then Heather asked, "Did you just feel that contraction?"  [blink]  "That was a contraction?  I just thought it was the baby moving."  "Well, she moved, too, but it was during a contraction."  Huh.  Who knew?  I really wasn't feeling anything other than baby moving around.  I was definitely ok with this.  I think Jalin was jealous, though, because by the time she was that far along there was no more laughing and joking.  (Sorry, Jalin!) By this point we started speculating on if there was any truth to Damian's claims as kids that I was adopted.  Or Dad's claims that I was found under a rock.  Because so far, my labor was nothing like anything mom or Jalin ever experienced.

Leaning on Carrie during my first real contraction
(that I could feel, anyway)
At 8:10 (thanks Jalin for keeping track of times!) they told me to go on a walk.  Prior to my water breaking, the plan was to go outside for an hour walk.  Of course it was raining hard, so we had planned on going down to the church to walk (I knew it was open because there was a RS activity there that night).  So I put on my chacos and started getting ready to go outside.  At that point Carrie stepped in and suggested that maybe we just walk around downstairs in the kitchen.  I was good with not going out into the rain, so I agreed.  And thank heavens for her because by the time we made it down the stairs, I was definitely feeling the contractions.  She had me lean against her so that I could relax while breathing through the contractions.  At that point I was suddenly grateful for all of my practice breathing.  I was able to logically think about balloon breathing and lifting my uterus with my breath in order to make the contraction faster and more efficient.  And by focusing on my breath instead of on the contraction, it was pretty easy to get through.

Leaning on BJ while Carrie provided physical relief.
Once it passed we started walking, and we didn't get far at all before I was then leaning on BJ while Carrie started doing a hip press.  I didn't like that; it just didn't feel right.  So I told her and she stopped.  I liked leaning against BJ better for three reasons: 1) he's taller than Carrie, so I could just rest my head on his shoulder instead of leaning down onto Carrie's and 2) I know BJ a lot better, so it felt much more comfortable leaning against him for comfort and 3) it left Carrie open to give me the physical support I needed. The contraction stopped and we walked a little more.  At the top of the stairs we stopped again.  And again before we even made it to the bedroom.  We didn't time the contractions, but it was very clear that they were coming quickly without much time in between.

On the birthing ball so I could relax my legs.
I had told Carrie downstairs that it was too hard to stand up.  I felt like I needed to relax my legs, but I couldn't because I was standing on them.  So as soon as we got up to the bedroom, I sat on the birthing ball* with BJ in front of me to lean on.  Then Carrie sat behind me on the birthing stool and massaged my back.  I'll probably say this twenty times, but holy cow, I loved the massage all through labor.  It was just so wonderful and relaxing.  BJ was also fantastic.  He spent all of his time just focused on me and telling me how amazing I was, how excited he was for Abby to be here and how proud of me he was for all the work I was doing to get her here.  He reminded me to relax and just spoke words of comfort and peace.  He whispered how much he loved me.  He held my hand and stroked my face.  And periodically he would say things that would just make me laugh or smile.  I remember very clearly being in the middle of a contraction and smiling at him and thinking, "This is insane.  I'm genuinely smiling in the middle of a contraction!"

See?  A smile during a contraction!
Around 8:30 I started feeling like I needed to poop, which I learned with Kessa was a cue that my body was getting ready to push.  So I told them that I was starting to feel, just a little bit, an urge to push.  But I kept thinking about parts of my HypnoBirthing book that talked about pushing and how it's counter-productive.  How "purple pushing" was a bi-product of drugging moms and using forceps and vacuums to pull out babies.  And when they stopped using them, they just figured that the baby needed help coming out still, so moms were encouraged to push till their face turned purple.  But really, when you push like that, your sphincter muscles tighten up, and actually make it harder for the baby to come out and increase your chances of tearing.  And as a counter-argument to the idea that babies need help coming out, they cited instances of moms in comas that birth babies without anyone even knowing they're in labor.  I just kept thinking about how my body could push out that baby without me actually having to push.  So I kept reminding myself to keep my sphincters loose (which you can do by keeping your throat and jaw open and loose and relaxing your body) and let my body tell me what to do instead of letting culture tell me what to do.

BJ holding my hand in the tub.
After a few minutes on the birthing ball, I started watching the tub.  They started filling it up with water back when Carrie was massaging my belly, but it was big and took awhile to fill.  With every contraction I thought more and more longingly of sitting in the water.  I watched it every time my eyes were open.  (As a side note, I found that whenever a contraction came, I would close my eyes and focus on breathing through it.  Sometimes it was hard to consciously recognize when it was over.  But I quickly learned that my eyes would slowly open when it was done.  I think that was a cue for everyone else, too.  When my eyes were open, they could talk to me, but when my eyes closed, it was like the whole room just stopped.  Later in labor I just kept my eyes closed for most of it, though they'd still flicker open momentarily when the contraction was over and sporadically between contractions.)  Finally I asked if the tub was full enough and they said it was, so I hopped on in at 8:40.  (Ok, not really.  I slowly walked over with the help of BJ and Carrie and slowly lowered myself in.)

Everyone just there, supporting me through a contraction.
I knelt in the water and leaned against the side of the tub with my arms, putting my head on the side of the pool and holding BJ's hands.  I stayed that way for almost 2 hours.  Later Carrie told me that she couldn't believe I stayed in the same position the entire time.  But it was the only one that made sense to me!  It's funny how your body tells you where you should be while in labor.  I remember someone suggesting that I could sit down in the tub and rest my back against the wall and I remember thinking, "Are you crazy?  That just doesn't even sound comfortable.  At all.  Don't you realize I'd be sitting on my baby's head?"  I didn't say anything, though.  I just ignored the suggestion.  And yes, kneeling in one position for 2 hours does make your legs fall asleep, in case anyone is curious.  Oh sure, I moved from kneeling down to kneeling up periodically, but my knees were still bent.  I find it entertaining that kneeling was the most comfortable, since kneeling outside of water (say, at the temple) makes me black out.  Apparently water must help blood circulation, though, because I never felt light-headed.  But after awhile I realized my legs were asleep.  It's a really weird feeling, btw, having your legs fall asleep underwater.  The tingling is there but it's… muted.  It didn't hurt, nor was it really uncomfortable.  But it was definitely asleep. I can't really explain it.  If you really want to understand, go kneel in your bathtub for an hour or two.  :)  So periodically I'd stretch out my legs behind me, one at a time, between contractions.

This video is very dark, but that's because the lights were out.
The pictures all look light, but that's only thanks to flash.
The noise at the beginning are Abby's heart tones.
Then you get to hear me vocalizing through contractions.
It wasn't long in the tub before I realized that simple breathing wasn't going to get me through anymore.  The contractions were getting tighter, longer, stronger and more intense.  So once again I went back to what I'd read in my book and latched onto the idea of vocalized breathing.  Basically, when I breathed out, I added my vocal cords to my breath.  Kind of like a moan, I guess.  Using your vocal cords also helps keep your sphincters open and relaxed, so it helps speed up labor.  Amazingly, I could feel some of the tension drain out of me every time I breathed.  The contractions were physically easier to deal with every time I vocalized.  It was amazing.  It was apparently obvious to everyone else, too when my breathing became more and more vocalized.  Jalin noted on the blog at 8:57 that I was getting more labored in my breathing.  I remember when they really started to get hard and my vocalizing was at its loudest that Carrie told me that these are the contractions that really count.

In which we take a short break to talk about my support team

BJ kissing me, or maybe whispering
In fact, let's take a moment to talk about my support team.  Holy cow, they were amazing.  First there was BJ, right there in front of me the whole time.  There for me to rest my head against, to hold my hand, and to remind me to relax.  There to make me smile.  Once during a contraction he wasn't talking and I realized I just needed to hear his voice, so I asked him to say something.  I think I caught him off guard with nothing to say.  I expected him to start describing a field of wild flowers or maybe a waterfall or something, because he had been doing that and that's what he did during Kessa's labor.  Instead he started singing Jingle Bells.  Middle of a contraction and I busted up laughing.  A small laugh, mind you, but definitely a laugh.  I told him with a smile to stop and rolled my eyes.  "But it made you smile!"  "It made me think of Kessa."  "Yes, but that made you smile!"  Which is true, it did.

Getting massage through a contraction.
I often hear stories about women who in labor don't want their husbands doing anything.  If the husband tries to talk or help, they get mad.  I've heard of women yelling at their husbands during labor.  I really and truly cannot fathom doing that.  Probably in part because I never yell at BJ outside of labor, so why would I during labor?  It's just not my personality.  And in part because I need BJ.  He is my pillar and strength always.  So during one of the hardest events of my life, of course I need him there to support me.  I can't even imagine labor without him right there with me.  But I can empathize the tiniest bit.  During Kessa's labor, I hadn't eaten for 22+ hours.  I was starving.  I was exhausted physically.  More than anything, I craved a turkey and swiss sandwich.  I asked for one probably every 20 minutes.  So in prep for this birth, I bought turkey and swiss, just in case.  I mean, if they were going to let me eat in labor, why not be prepared?   But the biggest difference in this case was that I had eaten a real dinner at 6.  I wasn't famished.  I still had energy.  So when BJ at one point asked if I wanted my turkey and swiss sandwich yet, the idea was so strange and foreign that I couldn't fathom why he was even asking such a ridiculous question.  Not to mention that it was in the middle of a contraction, so I couldn't really tell him so.  Instead I just swatted my hand at him and scrunched up my face in disgust while shaking my head quickly. Later Jalin told me that they had been wondering what BJ did to make me so mad.  Haha.  Seconds later I had totally forgotten it.

Carrie and Abigail
Next up?  Carrie.  Why did I ever even question hiring a doula?  Goodness.  Anyone out there considering hiring a doula, just do it.  You won't regret it.  (Unless you get a bad doula.  But that's not my fault.)  Heck, I'll even link you to her website just because I loved her that much.  She was right there with me the entire time.  Though, most of the time I couldn't see her because she was behind me giving me massage and pressure.  But periodically she'd whisper words of encouragement and praise, reminding me she was right there with me.  Here and there when I needed something, she'd be the first one to jump and run to get it.  She kept cold wash cloths on my neck and back.  She kept my water bottle filled (I think I emptied it 3 or 4 times during those 2.5 hours) and reminded me to stay hydrated.  After labor she spent probably an hour massaging my legs, helping them relax during the after-pains.  She consistently asked what I needed and how I was doing.  She jumped on any little thing she could do to make things easier for me.  She had music playing in the background and had people change it whenever a song came on that she didn't think was appropriate for the situation.  It later got changed to one of BJ's pandora stations.  For the most part, I think the music worked great and Carrie knew exactly when to skip a song.  Though, I do remember her once changing Enya in the middle of a contraction, so I couldn't talk, but I wanted to say, "No!  I like Enya!  Keep her!"  haha.  I got over it, though.  She also brought battery-operated candles that were scented vanilla to put on the window sill.  (Oh, the lights were off for the majority, if not all, of labor.)

Heather and Abigail
Heather was quiet through most of it.  I think.  Honestly, I didn't keep track of who was where for most of it.  I was rather self-focused.  (And I don't feel bad at all about it!)  I know she spent some time out in the loft and some time in with me.  I remember seeing her sitting in a chair next to the tub, offering to check me if I wanted, but it was up to me.  And I remember thinking, "Maybe I should let her check me, just so everyone knows where we're at" while at the same time thinking, "but when in the world would I have her do it?  It's not very comfortable, y'know."  At that point I was near the end.  And contractions were coming very close together.  I didn't get much of a break in between them and I could feel a tiny bit lingering between.  So getting checked just didn't sound appealing.  So I mostly just ignored the suggestion.  Turns out, when I don't know how to answer someone's suggestions, I just ignore them.  Sorry, everyone!  It didn't surprise me that she wasn't super active in labor.  I had quite the support team around me.  There probably wasn't even room for Heather.  Plus, she teaches a lot.  She lets her students learn by experience.  She does it all the time at appointments (with my permission—and I love it, because as she teaches them, I get to learn, too!) so it didn't surprise me when she did it during labor, too.  I knew she was always near, watching for problems, and that was enough.  I remember while I was pushing Abby out, Heather was right there making sure everything was going perfectly.  She gave me suggestions.  She reminded me to listen to my body.  She made sure her assistants were documenting everything they needed to. Just her presence throughout and her active role at the end were very comforting to me.

Heather, Carrie, Abigail, Molly and Lisa.
Eva not pictured as she had to rush to another birth.
Her assistants were also amazing.  Eva was the most active, as she's training to be a midwife.  Then there was Lisa who was actively involved, but I rarely saw.  Then there was Molly who kind of took the lead in a lot of things.  Which makes sense, because she was at the majority of my prenatals.  She came late.  I knew she was coming, but was very self-absorbed when she came.  I remember once opening my eyes between contractions and seeing her kneeling next to the tub.  It surprised me, because I hadn't heard her come in at all.  Honestly, I have no idea who did what, but I know they were all involved and wonderful.  I remember at one point holding BJ's hand while one person massaged my shoulders, another massaged my lower back and another put pressure on my tailbone, because it was starting to ache.  I remember thinking, "Man.  This isn't so bad.  I'm being totally spoiled here."  I had probably 3+ hours of constant massage that night.

Then there was Jalin and Jessa.  Neither of them were physically supporting me (like I said, there probably wasn't room around me).  But Jalin sat where I could see her and kept my blog updated, which I had really, really wanted.  I really appreciate looking back on all the live posts from Kessa's birth and wanted that again with Abby.  She commented at the right times and stayed silent during the right times.  (Except that once when her phone rang.  Hah!)  Jessa was in and out periodically, taking pictures and doing homework.  I'm pretty sure that the further along it went, the more she stayed in the room, to be sure not to miss anything.  And man, I'm glad she was there.  She got some great pictures.  Thanks, Jessa!  (Jalin took some, too, when Jessa wasn't there.)  With both of them I remember opening my eyes between contractions and making eye contact at various times.  I remember their encouraging and excited smiles.  I remember feeling a rush of peace and love every time I caught their eyes.  It's amazing what a simple look can convey.  (I'm also glad Jessa was there because she's scared of labor thanks to media and horror stories, and I wanted her to see that labor didn't have to be all about screaming and terror.  I'm glad that everything went so smoothly so she could have a different perspective to draw upon when she's at that point in her life.)

Back to our regular scheduled programming… the last of labor

It started getting intense.  Breathing was getting quite heavy.  I stopped opening my eyes in between contractions for the most part.  I started to lose a bit of faith and started dreading what was coming.  I was ready to be done.  (My guess?  I was in transition.)  I kept reminding myself that my body COULD do this.  And it would.  I even told myself I was probably in transition, which is the hardest part.  I tried really hard not to vocalize any negative comments, because I wanted to focus on the positive.  I wanted to stay relaxed and positive.  I wanted to work WITH the contractions, not against them.  So I started focusing more and more on the contractions.  During a contraction, when it was starting to just get too hard, even with vocalizing, I would remind myself to relax my body.  I can't tell you how many times I totally surprised myself when I would remind myself to relax only to realize that I was relaxed.  Without even needing to consciously relax, when a contraction came, my body just automatically relaxed.  Apparently listening to all those scripts and practicing relaxing really did work!  My body was just trained to do it.  Very few times did I have to consciously relax.  But in a way, that was bad.  Because I didn't have anything to focus on during the contraction.  So instead I focused more and more on the breathing.  Of lifting my uterus with deep breaths.  Of vocalizing.  Of counting how long my breaths were.

We did it!
BJ, at one point, kissed me (or I kissed him?  I don't remember) and that sparked some conversation.  The conclusion was that it's good to kiss doing labor.  Kiss 'em in; kiss 'em out.  :)  But I discovered that when I just needed something else to focus on, kissing him was a perfect fill.  (And now no one can claim that a doula takes the supportive role away from the husband.)

Jessa, at one point, asked me on a scale of 1-10, how much it hurt.  I didn't want to answer for two reasons.  1) In HypnoBirthing, they tell you to never answer that question.  Because as soon as you think of it as pain and label it, it becomes pain.  2) My brain was not in the mood to think about it and come up with some sort of logical answer to the question.  It wasn't working in logic mode.  It was working in "in the moment" mode.  To switch gears seemed completely counter-intuitive.  So I just kind of waved her off and said, "I'm not going to answer that."  I think Jalin and Jessa interpreted that as, "Man, she must be at the top of the scale!"  But that wasn't it at all.  I simply just didn't have an answer for them.  The birth assistants started trying to come up with the best word to describe contractions.  "Pain isn't the right word," they explained.  They tried out a few different words and finally concluded on "intense."  They asked me if I agreed that it was the right word.  Again, I wasn't in the right mindset to debate grammar and choice of words, so I just agreed with them.  "This is intense."  Because, well, it was.  Honestly, though, I still don't know what the best word was.  I'm still not sure that I'd say pain was the right word.  And it was definitely intense.  Pressure doesn't seem to be adequate.  I'm not sure there is a word to describe it.

I was definitely ready to be done, though.  I started expressing my wish to just be done.  It was probably around 9ish or so that I started saying I wanted to be done.  I remember Carrie telling me that I was doing great and that she was sure that I'd be done by midnight.  I had no idea what time it was, but I knew that midnight was still hours away.  And instead of being heartened by the fact, I was dismayed.  "Midnight," I told her, "is way too far away."  And I prayed fervently that it wouldn't take that long.  Since I wasn't letting Heather check me, I would randomly reach down and feel for myself.  I could definitely feel a head, but it just seemed so far away.  I was starting to really feel the urge to bear down and just get her out, though I think most of that was just a desire to be done, not an actual need to push.  I just wanted her to be right there, ready to crown.  But instead she was at least 2/3rds of my finger length away!  Which, looking at my finger now, isn't that far.  But it sure seemed like it at the time!

Every time I felt the urge to bear down, I would try to do so with breathing and as relaxed as possible.  And every time I'd start to push a little, I'd feel this gush of liquid, and then the urge would be gone.  At first I wondered if I was peeing in the tub, which sounded gross, but I didn't really care and it wouldn't surprise me, considering all the water I was drinking.  But then I realized that it was probably just more amniotic fluid.  That the initial breakage and subsequent leakage didn't get it all out.  And that to get the baby out, the fluid had to come out first.  This happened several times.


Everyone focused during crowning.
Poor BJ didn't get to see anything
till they handedher to me.
But the urge was getting stronger every time.  I started kneeling up higher.  They started to fill the tub up more.  I think to raise the water level, since I was getting higher (and in a water birth baby has to stay completely immersed until she's completely out and ready to come out of the water for good.) and to get it warmer, which they failed at because at first they started to put straight cold water in and didn't realize it until I started saying, "Cold!" and when they put a new cold compress on my neck, I eloquently said, "Not that, THAT!" and gestured at the water.  They quickly fixed it. But I think it distracted them at just the wrong moment because just then I realized that I was gonna push, no matter what I wanted and did just that.  But I knew that they were all distracted with the water, but I also knew that they needed to redirect their attention.  So through the push I grunted, "PUSHING!!!!" (and yes, when I recall that word, it is definitely in caps and italics.)  At first no one paid me any mind, because pushing usually takes awhile, but they didn't realize that I had been dealing with that urge for awhile.  I felt Abby's head come out and reached down to feel it.  I felt the Ring of Fire and remembered from a birthing blog that you can reduce tearing by pressing on the side of the head that burns the most to relieve pressure on the perineum.  So I did.  And then I heard Molly exclaim, "She's crowning!"  (Perhaps I should have chosen a better word?)  At which point the room exploded in movement.  Heather was suddenly directing everyone and leaning over to catch the baby.  Everyone else was doing who knows what.  I just remember a sudden flurry of activity.  Jalin was suddenly right there by the tub.  Jessa was up taking pictures.  Poor BJ was in front of me and couldn't see a thing.  And once the urge to push was gone, I sat there with Abigail's head half out of me, my hand on her head, thinking, "Oh hey, this isn't so bad. I could do this again.  Wait… am I really thinking this mid-crown?!"  And then the next contraction came and my vocalized breathing became more of a yell as I pushed the rest of her head out and I changed my mind about doing it again.  But during that moment between contractions, it really and truly didn't hurt.  And it was just magical that I could actually feel her head right there and I wasn't in any pain.

There's Eva on the left!
And me holding my brand new baby.
With Kessa, I remember getting the head out, and the rest was a piece of cake.  The rest of her body just slithered out.  I don't remember pushing the placenta out.  I don't remember any afterbirth contractions.  I remember wincing through stitches (Kessa's hand was on her face) but it didn't take long.  But maybe that's because I was holding Kessa and admiring her?  But then again, I remember when she came out just feeling this huge relief that it was finally over and just being ready to collapse and go to sleep.  And when Claudia, my midwife then, told me she was going to pass Kessa through my legs and help me turn over so I could hold her, I remember being slightly surprised.  I had forgotten for a moment that I now had a baby.  I was so relieved to be done that the relief overwhelmed that instant bond and love I thought I would feel.  I held her and loved her, but instead of thinking, "Man, she was worth that," I thought, "Man, I'm so glad that's over.  Oh look, a baby!"

So much love. How can you put it into words?
With Abby, her head came out and I remember having to push the rest of her body out.  (9:56 pm) It wasn't as intense, but it was still memorable.  I remember easily turning over and them handing me to her.  And I remember looking at her face and thinking, "This is my baby!  We did it!  She's here!"  I couldn't stop looking at her and kissing her and just loving her.  I was so overwhelmed by her spirit that I momentarily forgot labor and thought only of her.  It was a beautiful moment.

Mommy and Daddy admiring Abby.
I stayed in the tub just holding and loving Abigail for about 15 minutes or so before they started fussing over my placenta and made me push it out.  (But I didn't wanna.  I was done with pushing.  Turns out, it was easy, though.)  And then I started bleeding and they were a little concerned about the amount of blood I was losing, so they gave me this truly awful concoction of apple cider vinegar, honey and cayenne pepper.  Ugh.  They didn't even warn me what was in it.  Just told me to open my mouth and stuck a dropper in.  Oh my goodness gracious.  I about died. I swear it about burned a hole in my tongue.  I gasped for water and drank probably half of my water bottle in one fell swoop.  And then they gave me more!!!  They were simply not nice in that moment.  (Later Eva, who gave it to me, told me that she drinks that every morning with double the cayenne and that she had no sympathy for me.  I think she's insane.)

And then I remember afterbirth contractions kicking in.  I remember after about 15 minutes in the tub I got out and BJ held Abby while they helped me into bed where I got Abby back and we were covered in towels and blankets.  And I remember thinking, "I thought I was done!  Why does my tummy still hurt?"  And then they reminded me that I was having afterbirth contractions and that they were good, because they'd help shrink my uterus back to its normal size.  And that if they hurt, I could treat them like normal contractions and breathe through them.  But I didn't want to focus on breathing!  I had a baby now!  I wanted labor to be done so I could just lay there and stare at her!  I really was annoyed at the whole affair.  And then I still had to get stitches and it took longer and was more painful than with Kessa.  (They think her hand was up by her face.  But since she crowned so fast, no one saw for sure.)

But really, when it comes down to a choice of 1) not remembering much of the after-labor stuff, but also not getting that immediate bond and rush of awe and 2) remembering all the after-labor pains and annoyances but also being overwhelmed with amazement and love, I choose the latter.

Checking heart tones while she laid there contentedly
Right after Abby was born, they handed her up to me and I sat back in the tub just holding her (with a towel on her to keep her warm) and loving her.  I kept kissing her and talking to her.  And the whole time she just laid there with her eyes closed, completely content with the world.  It took her 2 full minutes before she ever even made a sound, and that was more of a squawk than a cry.  Several people expressed concern over how quiet and calm she was being.  (What, aren't babies supposed to cry their lungs out the second they hit air?)  But Heather was really chill about it.  She just kept checking her heart rate, which was good, and kept saying, "As long as her heart rate is good, I don't care if she cries or not."  I loved it.  It seemed so fitting.  After a relatively calm and relaxed labor, Abigail was born calm and relaxed.  I had heard of that happening; that it's common for babies born during a calm labor to be calm themselves.  So part of me expected it and part of me glowed with pride over my perfect baby.  (Lest you hate me, she has now proven that she has quite the well-developed set of lungs.)

The after stuff

Daddy holding Abby while we all sat
wrapped in towels to keep warm.
They let BJ, Abby and I just lay in bed for quite awhile after she was born.  They used that time to clean up.  (That's a very common question I get about home births.  Who cleans up?  In every case I've heard of, it's the midwife and her staff.)  They washed all my towels we used.  They drained and took down the birthing tub.  (And discovered that there was an air leak on the bottom, which meant that by the end of labor, I had had no padding beneath me.  I was basically sitting on the carpet with plastic under me.)  They prepared after-birth stuff for me, like ice packs, herbal stuff, etc.  Carrie sat with me and massaged my legs while we talked and I stared at Abby.  (Turns out, afterbirth pains make me tense up and make my legs ache.  When she massaged them, it helped me relax through them.)

Cutting the cord, probably an hour or so
after birth.
After probably an hour or so, I agreed to let them do the newborn exam and stitch me up.  Oh. did I mention that the cord was still attached the whole time?  They had the placenta wrapped in a chux pad on the bed with us.  We got to watch them do the placenta exam to make sure it was all in one piece.  It was fascinating.  Neither BJ nor I even saw my placenta with Kessa.  She told us it was a little calcified, but nothing scary.  She said it was enough that it was time for baby to come, but not super badly calcified.  So Molly and Lisa (Eva had to rush off to another birth down in Springville just after Abigail was born) cut the cord and did their stuff with Abby (weighing, measuring, eye drops, vitamin K, y'know.  All that stuff) while Heather stitched me up.  Jalin sat on one side of me, supporting my leg while Carrie sat on the other, doing the same.  I won't go into details, but I will say that I hate stitches.  Honestly, that was the most painful part of labor and the part I will remember as being the worst of the whole ordeal.  Goal for next birth?  Figure out how to avoid tearing.

She weighed 8 lb. 5 oz.
They helped me get up to change clothes and use the bathroom while BJ had Abby.  Carrie and … Jalin, I think? changed the sheets on our bed.  (Jessa had gone home by this point.)  After all that was over we took some pictures of them with Abby (I'm still sad that we didn't get one with Eva in it) then they gave her back, finished up the last of their packing and they all left right around midnight.

I didn't even have to get out of bed (well, except to go to the bathroom).  I just waved them goodbye, then cuddled up to go to sleep.  (Though, sleep escaped me because my body was still pumping with adrenaline.  I mostly just stared and cuddled with Abby, feeding her whenever she woke up, half sleeping between feedings for the first half of the night, then finally getting real sleep for the last half.)  I never had to deal with nurses waking me up to take my vitals.  I was able to walk without assistance (it took me 3 days to do that with Kessa).  I never had to waddle out to my car with a big bag of stuff, nor have the hospital staff check to make sure our car seat was in our car.  I just went to sleep, then woke up to go down into my own kitchen to eat freshly cooked waffles and bacon and eggs.  Then I got to sit (well, lay) on my comfortable couches and move around freely whenever I wanted.  I had everything I wanted right there.  I never had to groan because I wanted something I hadn't thought to pack.  I loved it.

So my thoughts on home birth now that it's over?  I loved it.  I loved never having to drive while in labor.  I loved being in the comfort of my own home the whole time.  I loved having everyone come to me.  It felt much more like everyone was there to support me instead of me going to their workplace.  My favorite part was definitely all the support.  I feel like labor is one of the few times when a girl is allowed to be totally selfish.  And I absolutely loved knowing that all of those people were there for me.  That their entire focus was making sure I was as comfortable as possible, and looking out for my and Abby's safety.  How can all of that love and support not make a person feel so good?  That's what I'm going to remember the most about this birth.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

The End

And as a funny post script (can you do that outside of letters?), guess how long it took BJ to get his laptop out?  :)

Ok, ok.  It was at least an hour and a half,
maybe even two hours later.  And for what it's worth,
I got on my iPod around the same time to announce
the birth to the Facebook world.

Other perspectives
Also, I've asked several of the people who were there to write up their version of the birth story.  The more I talk to them, the more I realize we all saw things a little differently.  As they come in, I'll post them and link them here.  I think it'll be a fun keepsake for Abigail later.

*I've had several people ask me what a birthing ball is and what purpose it serves.  Basically it's a giant rubber ball.  The same kind you can exercise on.  When you sit on it, it promotes good posture, rolling your hips forward.  That opens up your pelvis wider and also puts the baby's head directly over the cervix.  Gravity and contractions press the baby up against the cervix more directly and speed up dilation and effacement.


MegRuth said...

I loved reading this whole thing (ok I skipped the part before you actually started your serious labor breathing) but I read everything from your walk around the house on!

You are a serious champion! And Abby is so gogrgeous, like her mama! Congratulations, again! I wish I had been able to be there with you. Such a wonderful experience for your family.

Much Love.

Kelley said...

Thanks for sharing Tianna, I loved it!! It makes me want to do a homebirth next time (if I wasn't so scared about it being a VBAC). It sounds amazing, and I love all the details you included. Congratulations again, and good luck with that new baby!!

Marble Madness said...

What a pleasure to read this. I mentioned before that my Mom had half her kids at home. Having read her journals and the reasons behind her decision and your story... Oh man, if I ever get the chance, I am seriously going to look into home-births! Sounded heavenly! :) Way to go Tianna... you're one my heros! :)

Carly said...

Yay! I'm so glad it was such a positive experience. I'm going to need to look into some of your breathing techniques. I've actually never read an official book on breathing or hypnobirthing. I didn't know about the raising the uterus while breathing idea (I just chant in my head: open, open, open... to try to open my cervix. Haha! Winging it :)). And I agree: the post delivery is the WORST part. Hands down (I started hyperventilating actually!)

Anyhow, this was helpful and informative for me! I might email you again in a few weeks or months looking for book titles...

ANYHOW! I'm so happy it was just what you wanted. That's how it should be. I hope you are enjoying that sweet new baby girl.

Denise said...

Tianna, thank you for sharing! What a WONDERFUL birth. I had to fight back tears. (I'm not pregnant, right?)

Honestly, the worst part of being in the hospital with Joel was afterward, when they kept waking me up. The birth itself went terrifically, but I wish I could have just gone home right away. Thanks for reminding me of more reasons to go for a home birth next time. :)

Also, I did not tear. I can't say exactly why, but my guess is the Kegels that I did throughout pregnancy, as well as the fact that I delivered on my hands and knees. It sure wasn't because I supported my perineum, or pushed slowly! I didn't feel like I had an option to not add my efforts to bearing down... Though, my midwife was using hot compresses on my perineum, which probably helped. Much luck to you on not tearing again. Recovery was so much nicer with no stitches!

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Carrie said...


You are amazing! Thank you for posting and sharing your story! The spirit in the room when Abby was born was so strong. The love and peace that was felt by all was empowering. I thank you for allowing be to be part of your birth team. It was an honor. Abigail is beautiful and so are you!! Much love to you all!

Thora said...

It's so great to read about Abby's birth! What's the balloon breathing you mentioned? I've mainly done vocalized breathing with birth, and I do like it, but I definitely wouldn't mind more birthing techniques. Back when I was pregnant with Lydia I read the Hypnobirthing book, but doing the exercises made Avram and I laugh, and hypnosis has always seemed funny to me, so we never got anywhere with it - I think if you can do it, it's great, though. So, would you say it might be worth reading the Hypnobirthing book again? I notice you didn't mention doing some of the hypnobirthing techniques, so do you think it'd be useful even if not fully incorporated? Your story is so inspiring - I can't do a homebirth because of circumstances (ie, money and insurance and Ohio has really expensive midwives), but I did switch midwives with this pregnancy, and I'm excited because today I had my first appointment with them, and I should be able to not only labor in a tub, but also deliver in one at the hospital, so that's the next best thing. I got to labor in a tub with Lydia at the hospital (Mt. Timp. hospital), and it was my favorite part of any labor I've had thus far. Someday, though, I'd love a homebirth. Thanks for taking the time to write it all out - I've read all five posts about the birth, and I'd love to read more!

Allie said...

Thanks for posting this story! You answered a bunch of questions I've been wondering about midwife-assisted home birth. It sounded beautiful. So glad Abby got into the world all right!! I wish you all every happiness. <3

Kim said...

Have you ever considered writing novels? I think you would be really good at it. ;). I think my after labor was the worst with #2. Hopefully that will get better for you next tie.

Driel said...

Wow, that was an epistle, but a beautiful epistle!!! Birth is amazing!! Way to go!!