One year ago today, we welcomed our sweet baby Sam into the world. It took me almost a year to finish writing these memories out, which is an excellent indicator of how this past year has been: busy. 🙂 The best kind of busy there is! I am getting ready to take my babies out for a birthday cupcake, but for those who are interested, here is Samuel’s birth story. 🙂
This is my perspective on our second natural birth at a birth center. It’s meant to be an encouraging birth story for those who might be feeling nervous about natural birth. Details are polite but still truthful. Haha. Honestly, if you aren’t interested in birth I’m not sure you’d make it all the way to the end anyway… soo…. 😉 Here ya go!
I’m willing to bet that almost every pregnant woman convinces herself her baby will come before his or her due date. No matter how much we tell ourselves we won’t do it, by the time 37-38 weeks rolls around… we’re at the end of our rope and wondering, “Why on earth am I still pregnant?!” (And for those that actually deliver early- I salute you!)
Samuel’s due date, March 26th, came and went. We even entered a new month and even the Braxton-Hicks contractions had died down.
During this time, several Texas Spring storms popped up and rolled over our little bitty farmhouse. What does that have to do with a birth story? Well, try (finally!!!) having consistent contractions for nearly an entire day, only for a tornado warning to sound just North of where you live. Mmm, nope. I have been scared of storms/tornadoes since I saw the movie Twister as a kid. Scarred for life, I tell you. Kip came home that day to a hormonal + overdue + terrified mess of a woman. So, he did what any man would do in this situation… basically, whatever the insane woman wants. He loaded us up in the car, we picked up my Mom from where she was staying down the street, and we drove South until we were out of the storm clouds… and conveniently in a Chick Fil A parking lot. 😉 Kip still says he thinks it was all a dramatic ruse to eat CFA for dinner. To make it up to him, we also went to Cabela’s where I had to borrow my Mom’s shirt because I left our house in such a hurry… I was only wearing an undershirt & no jacket. Seriously, y’all. I can’t make this stuff up.
Saturday morning, April 5th arrived. We had plans to meet with family for breakfast at IHOP- just what my overdue soul needed: pancakes. I rolled my round self out of bed to head to the bathroom and… um, what was that? Yep, water- breaking? Leaking? Not sure, but Iknow (seriously hope) I didn’t just pee my pants.
After some deliberation and realizing I was having zero signs of active labor, we determined to keep our breakfast plans, despite my family’s refusal to deliver my baby at the International House of Pancakes. I told them not to worry (as if they’d listen), and sent my midwife, Kathaleen, a text letting her know what was up. She asked us to come to the birth center at noon.
Our visit with Kathaleen was simply to check to see if my water had actually broken or if I was doomed to be embarrassed about wetting my pants for the rest of my life. The visit got pushed back to 12:30, then 1:30, then cancelled, then rescheduled again… for various reasons. Kip and I dropped Rosie off at home with my Mom, and went to walk around the Mall and like, buy oil for the car or something. Idk. Apparently it was important at the time. 😉
As we walked around the mall, I must have looked like I was about to pop. Literally everyone was looking at me. Really cool for self-esteem. Finally, we left and at 3:00 PM we arrived at the birth center.
I had a full exam. Kathaleen checked and said my water was leaking (Whew! Not pee!) but maybe not completely broken, and that I was dilated and effaced more. She told us, “We’ll bet on having a baby tonight.” And I just hoped and prayed she was right.
The appointment lasted longer than we anticipated, so I think we finally got home at around 5:00 PM. We sat on the couch with Rosie, ate some dinner, and (by my request) rented “Hairspray” online. Yep. You know, the one with Zac Efron and John Travolta? Kip would never tolerate this movie any other day, but I love it and I figured being in labor was a good excuse as any to get my way. 😉 As I ate dinner and sang “Good Morning, Baltimore”, I noticed my contractions were picking up significantly. They came about 10 minutes apart and were definitely becoming, well, noticeable. I just chilled, did normal evening things, and sat on the exercise ball.
At 8pm, I took Rosie to her room, cradled her one last time as my only baby and told her tomorrow morning she’d wake up and be a big sister. My heart is in my throat just thinking about it. I truly wanted to stay in that moment with her forever, even if I was the only one who felt the depth of it. But, I sang “Jesus Loves Me” once through and put her in her crib for the night, trying to slip out of her room before another contraction hit.
I came back to the living room to finish my movie. The intensity of the contractions picked up, probably because I felt more relaxed knowing Rosie was asleep. I sat back down on the exercise ball, and with each contraction I would kneel on the floor and lean forward onto the couch. Kip was right with me for each one, applying counter pressure to my lower back, which helped soooo, so much. It almost made the pain go away… Almost. (Note: during my first labor, I sort of just sat & waited for labor to happen to me… This time, I was armed with more knowledge on how to make my contractions more efficient. Kneeling, leaning forward, squatting, etc, really, really helped! Instead of letting labor happen to me, I labored.)
My wonderful Mother-in-law drove three hours and arrived around 11 PM to stay at the house with Rosie. I didn’t know how long this labor would be, so I decided to try to get some sleep. (Ha.) Kip and I laid down for about an hour, and contractions picked up more… enough to let out a low moan for each one. I sent Kathaleen a text around midnight and said I would feel better if I could come to the birth center soon. She told me to come when I was ready. I was definitely ready.
We waited for a contraction to pass, and made the 5 minute drive to the birth center. During the short trip, I believe I had two contractions. That freaked Kip out a little, haha. I could still talk and smile between them, so I was a little afraid I wasn’t very far along into labor and that we’d be in for a long night. To my surprise, when I was checked I was dilated to a 5 and about 80% effaced! I was so, so thankful. Halfway there!
My mom and our sweet friend Carol arrived shortly after we did. They kept us encouraged and lighthearted even though they were sacrificing their sleep to be with us. I drank a huge, very strong cup of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea with way too much honey and walked around our birth suite. The music I had chosen for this night played in the background. About two hours went by like this, where we could have conversation between contractions, but when one hit I needed to focus on getting through it. I originally planned for a water birth, so I got into the big birth tub and labored there for a while. Shortly after that was when labor really picked up. I needed all my mental energy and focus, during and between contractions. Even the slightest distraction between contractions could throw me off for the next one. The room got quiet, except for my moaning and Oceans playing in the background: “I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine.”
Every few minutes I would feel the energy of my muscles tightening, slowly getting stronger and stronger until it peaked at the moment I thought it wouldn’t end, and then it would slowly fade out. During each one I would say aloud, “Just this one, just this one. Just finish this one.” Each contraction was one step closer.
After a couple hours in the birth tub, my fingers were pruny, my feet were falling asleep from being up on my knees, and I knew these distractions would hinder my labor. A water birth was not worth making things last any longer than they needed to! Also, I realized… I had to go to the bathroom. I was not about to do all that in this tub. And that’s all I’ll say about that. (Any Mom who has birthed a baby understands what I’m getting at here…)
So, I asked my Mom and Carol if they minded stepping out for a bit. (And this is where the pictures take a break…) I needed to get out of the water, but wasn’t sure where exactly I would go… and I knew walking half-naked with others in the room would distract me as well. They sweetly stepped out and I automatically missed my Mama. But I had asked them to be there to pray, and I knew that’s exactly what they were doing. Looking back, I am glad I took the initiative to remove even the slightest distraction, because Samuel came very quickly after that! But i’m ahead of myself… 🙂
I moved to the bed, had one contraction standing next to it and couldn’t handle that. It was just too intense. I got on my hands and knees on the bed, had another contraction, and couldn’t handle that either. Someone got me a birth ball to lean on, and this is about the time the I can’t‘s and the just get through this one‘s started mixing together. Donnellyn, another attending midwife and one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met, grabbed my hands and told me, “Hannah, you CAN. You CAN do all things through Christ who gives you strength, and I need you to tell me that.” I knew that was true, but it sure didn’t feel that way. She held my hands while I pushed. All of the sudden, I felt Samuel make a huge move downward through my hips. I will never, ever forget that feeling. Not painful, but strange. Encouraging. Empowering. Humbling. I felt grateful.
Side note here: I’ve said this before, but birth is the most amazing experience. The words “hard” or “difficult” don’t even begin to cover it. I have never been so absolutely certain that I can’t do something, and yet, I do it. I have to. It is the deepest, darkest place I have ever been in my soul. And then suddenly, light… and it is finished. Momentary affliction that results in an eternal 8 pounds of glory… Reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…”
I moved onto my side on the bed and began to push. Now, with Rosie, I had to have a very minor episiotomy. I tried to push for two hours and it just wasn’t working. A tiny bit of help and she was born almost immediately. I think a few things contributed to this, mainly the fact that I was lying flat on my back, coupled with sheer exhaustion. I knew this time around I wanted to avoid being on my back at all costs. I never imagined I would give birth on my side, but someone suggested that position for pushing, and I thought, “Sure, whatever! Just get this baby out!”
At this point, things felt kind of insane for… I honestly don’t know how long. Samuel’s heart rate began to drop. Suddenly I had three different voices telling me to do different things. “Breathe deep, Hannah.” “Puuush, push, push!” I couldn’t do both at the same time! An oxygen mask appeared and was placed over my face. I finally decided to listen to Kip. He was whispering “Breathe deep for our baby, Hannah. I need you to breathe for Samuel.” I took deep breaths and waited for a contraction to come again. I heard baby Sam’s heart rate pick back up on the monitor. I didn’t have to wait long, another contraction came and I reached to feel my baby. He was soooo close.
Because of the local anesthetic during the episiotomy for Rosie’s birth, I never felt the “ring of fire” so many women have described. But here it was. To push into pain, to lean hard into it because you know you have to for it to ever end… is the deepest, strangest mental battle I’ve ever faced. I gave everything I had, and suddenly I felt him- he was out! Or so I thought. Why wasn’t everyone celebrating? “Is he out?!?” I asked. Someone told me, “His head is out! One more push and you’re done!” I immediately thought, “THAT WAS JUST HIS HEAD?!”
And then, just when I thought I had already given everything, God supplied one more gust of energy to feel his shoulders and then the rest of him come into the world, right at 4:02 AM.
It took maybe 30 seconds for them to put him on my tummy, but it felt like forever. I just kept asking “Is he okay?? Is he okay??” Everyone assured me he was. They put his sweet, squishy self on my tummy, and he just looked up at me with an expression that said, “What the heck just happened?!”
I told him, “Hi, I’m your Mama!” Birth assistants put a little hat on him, and I asked for my Mom who was already making her way in the door with Carol not far behind. 🙂 And, remember that little story at the beginning about my fear of storms? Not even kidding, less than 10 minutes after he was born, I looked through the skylight above me and saw lightning, heard thunder, and then… the power went out. I thought, “You have GOT to be kidding me!” Thankfully our birth center kicks butt and the power came back on almost immediately, and a small thunderstorm passed over us very quickly. But ugh, that small moment of despair!
As everyone came to admire and check on Samuel, I was just absolutely exhausted. Kip cut the cord, and I slowly maneuvered myself to be semi-upright on the bed. I remember my thighs and abs were just killing me…. so sore from all that squatting and pushing, and I was uncontrollably shaking with adrenaline. Our wonderful midwives very quickly began applying essential oils to help me deliver the placenta, but it just wouldn’t come. I tried to push, but I had no energy left. The minutes were ticking by, and we were getting too close to an hour with no placenta… I was looking at a possible hospital transfer straight in the face and I just couldn’t believe it. All of that work we just did to have a beautiful natural birth, only to end up in a hospital? No way. We resorted to a shot of Pitocin in my leg, which didn’t seem to help much either. Everyone prayed. Donnelyn put her hand on my knee and prayed in the name of Jesus that this placenta would deliver in that exact moment. And you know what? It did! Right at the one hour mark. Samuel had just started to nurse really well, and Praise the Lord, I think that did the trick!
Once we got cleaned up, fed, and a bit rested, Samuel and I got to take the most amazing herbal bath. My quads and abs didn’t actually relax until we did this. Oh it was soooo nice, and I’ll never forget how Samuel just laid his head back in the water, totally relaxed, and fell sound asleep. It was so precious and made me laugh so much!
After a few hours, we loaded up our new bundle and arrived home around 7:30 AM, just before Rosie woke up for the day. And like that, our whole world changed. For the better.