When we first found out we were pregnant, we knew we had to decide where we wanted to deliver. At a hospital? At a birth center? At home? We had lots of things to consider, but it basically always comes down to one question: drugs or no drugs? We ended up deciding on a natural water birth in a birth center for many reasons (which I’ll go into later). The birth center we chose was a beautiful little house with two rooms for delivering babes. (They have a smaller client base than a hospital, so two rooms is plenty! They rarely need them both at the same time…)
In the main birth room there is a big, beautiful tub for labor and delivery, should you choose to use it. It is surrounded by soft, sheer curtains that drape overhead and is next to a large, comfy bed. Compared to a stark white hospital room with monitors and IV’s and beeping machine things… I was a big fan of this room! Every time we walked in there I would hug Kip and imagine how our perfect water birth would be.
Well, that was what I imagined.
This is our story.
I started to feel contractions coming on sometime Friday morning (nearly two weeks overdue) after Kip left for work at 10 A.M. They were consistently 10 minutes apart, but not painful at all. I called my Mom to come keep me company. I thought, “Surely this is it!” and I didn’t want to be by myself for “it!” Mom and I did some cleaning and organizing, trying to occupy both our minds with something else. I guess we hoped if we were keeping busy, I would suddenly go into major labor or my water would break or something. (I was this close to going to the trampoline store…) I sent Kip a text message, letting him know what was going on but that I didn’t think he needed to come home yet. I should have known better- the poor man couldn’t focus on anything after that! Good gosh his wife is in labor and he’s an hour away!?! He ended up coming home a few hours early and getting his shift covered for the next day. Surely we’d have a baby by then!
|iPhone panorama of the main birth room and my goofy husband. 🙂|
Contractions came and went. I used the breast pump to try to encourage stronger contractions, and I drank some disgusting-tasting herbal tea that is supposed to do the same. They both worked (contractions got stronger), but labor never progressed.
Saturday I was scheduled for a non-stress test on the baby to make sure she was still doing fine and dandy all bundled up in my tummy. My big sister, Bambi, made the two hour drive from her house to come with us, hoping for a baby that day. I told Betty, one of our midwives, about my contractions. Her reaction was one I could have expected but was still disappointed to see- she wasn’t excited. She wasn’t jumping out of her skin to check me to see if I was in active labor. Obviously these were early signs of a baby coming, but it wasn’t anything to call Grandma about. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t… yet. Bambi drove back home and we did the same… discouraged, frustrated, and impatient. I cried (then) to Kip that I was angry with God. We had prayed for an early delivery and here we were, two weeks overdue. Saturday was not a fun day.
Sunday morning, 4:00 A.M. More contractions, but this time I couldn’t sleep through them. They actually… hurt. Hmmm, okay. So I got out of bed, but left Kip snoozing. I didn’t want to wake him for another false alarm. I drank a glass of water and used a contraction timer app to see how far apart they were. (Thank the Lord for whoever invented that!) 8 minutes, then 6, then 11, then 15. Huh? Not consistent, but they were strong enough at 6:00 A.M. that I decided to make Kip some breakfast and coffee and wake him up. I sent my sister a text message telling her that it seemed like this was finally the real deal, but not to leave her house yet. What did she do? She started driving, of course. 🙂
I wanted to labor at home as long as I could without risking having the baby in the car or on the front porch of the birth center. 🙂 I tried to hold off calling the midwife until I absolutely had to. My Mom and sister arrived at our apartment around 9 A.M. We all hung out in the living room as I continued to have contractions that were about 8-10 minutes apart. In between them I would laugh and joke with my family, but as soon as one came on I was holding Kip’s hand and really focusing on getting through them.
|Kip timing my contractions… Not checking Facebook. 😉|
Kip and I decided to take a walk around the apartment complex to encourage the contractions- thankfully it was a beautiful day. Texas weather in January… Gotta love it! Every so often we would have to stop and I would hang from Kip’s shoulders and wait for the contraction to pass. Things were picking up.
I was encouraged to eat while I was still able to, so I requested one of my favorites- New York Sub Hub. 🙂 Yes, that’s a Dr Pepper… Don’t judge me because I drank DP while in labor. Don’t. Even.
Afterwards, I decided to give the midwife a call. Contractions were strong enough and close enough that I felt it was time. It was 12:30 in the afternoon. I stepped out on the balcony and hoped she’d answer before another contraction came. It rang, and rang, and rang… but there was no answer…
“Okay, okay. It’s okay.” I knew I wasn’t quite far along enough to worry- that is, I knew I wasn’t about to have a baby right there on the balcony. But the midwife “on call” did not answer my call! Aaaahh!
I went inside and my sister smiled (she was just a little excited) and asked me what she said. “Uhh, she didn’t answer…” Smile fades. “She didn’t answer?!” I decided to wait another hour and I’d call again. Contractions continued to creep in around my tummy and lower back. Stronger, longer, and closer together…
At 1:15 in the afternoon I called again, and was told that the scheduled midwife was sick and to call the birth center. I gave the center a call and they told me to come on in and “Kathleen will check you out.” Um, Kathleen? I don’t know Kathleen. In all my weeks of prenatal visits, this is the one midwife I had never seen and now she was about to deliver my baby?? What if she’s creepy? What if she drops Rosie? What if she’s too mean or too nice or too old, or, or, or…. I was tempted to cry, but I knew if I lost control then I’d never get it back!
Right as we were leaving, I realized that when I called there were two midwives at the center. It was Sunday. That could only mean one thing… someone else was in labor, too. Someone was in that big beautiful room with that big beautiful birth tub I had imagined myself in. That someone was not me. Oookay. Just “keep it together…”
My family encouraged me as I told them the news that we would probably not have the water birth we wanted. Kip and I got our birth bag and paraphernalia together and drove the short 5 minutes to the center. At my last appointment I was dilated to 2 cm, and I was hoping to be further this time. When we arrived, we met Kathleen, the woman who would eventually deliver our baby. Immediately we knew- God ordained her to be our midwife. She was such a lovely woman. She was assertive but sensitive, straight-forward but empathetic. Exactly the personality type I needed! She checked my cervix and, LO AND BEHOLD… I was still at 2cm. No progress. Hmph. Needless to say, I was disappointed again. She sent me home to labor more where I would be more comfortable.
|Notice the tea. It definitely helped contractions- it also definitely tasted awful.|
We spent the next few hours at home, snacking on fruit while I sat on the exercise ball and had strong contractions every 5 minutes. Kip and I sat outside on our balcony for about an hour, enjoying the weather and getting funny looks from our neighbors. At 4:00 P.M. I sent Kathleen a text, asking if she would check me again. I was starting to feel desperate, but I kept telling myself to “keep it together…” She told me to come in at 5:00 P.M.
An hour later we were driving to the center, and that 5 minute drive didn’t seem so short anymore. I remember having one contraction in the car and moaning in pain, then feeling embarrassed because it seemed like I was so loud in that small car. (Ha. Loud. Yeah. That concern soon went out the window.) Kathleen checked and said I had progressed to a 3, which I was ecstatic to hear. At least something was changing! She said I could go back home, or I could stay and “see how things progress.” Once I had another contraction I knew I couldn’t handle being in the car again. We stayed.
Now, here’s where it all gets blurry. The hours seemed so long and so short at the same time. I walked, leaned on the bed, sat on the ball… I did everything I could to get through one contraction at a time, every 3 minutes or so. But the one thing that was my security, that kept me together and helped me feel any sense of comfort was my incredible husband. He was wonderful. He knew what to say, when to say it, and when to be silent. He left my side only once for about three seconds to stretch his legs and take a break. He reminded me that the Lord was taking care of me, he encouraged me to continue and to push through the pain. He was the physical form of the Lord’s hand with me. I knew it the whole time.
One small other thing- I made a playlist on my computer that I wanted to play to help me through labor. Mom and Kip tried everything to get it to play, but it just wouldn’t. I really didn’t care, but I’m so thankful my Mom decided to play one song on her iPad. It wasn’t on my playlist, but I’ll never forget it. It was just what I needed to hear. (I never asked- Mama, did you pick that song on purpose?! :))
“Be still, my soul: The Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy Heavenly Friend through stormy ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”
I still had the tub on my mind, whether I actually delivered in there or not (it was a significantly smaller tub than the one we planned on, and it was not designed for birth). I had heard over and over about how soothing laboring in the water was, and I just. wanted. IN. I was told to wait until I was at 6cm so I wouldn’t risk slowing labor down. But at 5cm I was ready for that water and dadgummit I was going to get in. I guess I was complaining so much about it that they finally began filling up the tub. It took a long time to fill it up, but even the sound of the faucet running was helpful- at least SOMETHING was happening! 😉 I tried to walk some more, and I made sure to pass by the tub between each contraction to check on its progress.
At 8 P.M. when the tub was full, my sister told me I could get in. I quickly lowered myself into the water while the last little bit poured in from the faucet. Bambi stuck her hand under the water and exclaimed, “It’s ice cold!” The hot water heater broke before we could get the tub completely full! But the water we had was somewhat warm, and I probably would have stayed in even if it had ice cubes floating in it. It felt soooo good to feel a little bit weightless, a little bit normal and a little bit relaxed. Around this time, my brother and sister-in-law arrived. They had come to pray with us, but once they heard our dilemma they became my water heater: a boiling pot on the stove, a coffee pot, a Keurig, and cups in the microwave were all used to heat up water so my Mom could periodically bring some in to warm up the bathtub. I have no clue how long they did this for me, but it sure helped and I was very, very thankful for them. Afterward my brother said, “I always wondered why they said to boil water when a woman was in labor! Now I know!”
I reached transition during this time, which is what everyone claims to be the most painful part of labor. I learned they were 100% right. Once right after a contraction, my sister/super-doula mentioned that she heard it might help if they poured water over my stomach during a contraction. I really didn’t think anything could help me at that point, but I think I mumbled “Sure, we can try” or something along those lines. She did it once and then I wouldn’t let her stop. She and Kip sat by the tub and poured water over my tummy for about two hours (or so she says… to me it felt like 10 million). The pain continued to climb, as did my voice, but the water pouring over me and the sweet words from my husband and his tears dripping onto my shoulder kept me going. He was with me.
I eventually moved to the bed around 10:20 P.M. My fingers were pruny and I wanted to have a little more mobility. I had accepted that I wasn’t going to have a water birth long ago. At this point, I just wanted any dang kind of birth that would get this baby out! My sister asked if I wanted to change into a dry shirt. I think I said “yes” but wouldn’t let them help me change- the contractions were coming too quick and I was too tired. I laid on the bed and had a baby right then and there. Just kidding. I fell asleep. Yep, asleep!! Suddenly contractions that came every 2-3 minutes slowed down to 10 minutes. After about a 20 minute rest, Kathleen came in and told me I needed to let her try to get things going or I needed to get up and walk some more. Walking was the last thing I wanted to do.
Up to this point my water had still not broken. They had asked me several times throughout labor if I wanted them to break it, but I wanted to wait. I heard the contractions got way more painful once the water broke, so I was perfectly content to give birth to that baby in her water bag. But it was “time to get things moving,” she said, so I opted to have my water broken. Uh, HELLO! It was go-time after that. It seems like I almost immediately felt a difference in my whole body. I began to push, which was less painful than it was just hard work. HARD work. It was actually a relief to push. I felt like I was being active instead of just waiting for the next contraction to happen. Kip and Bambi kept commenting on how they could see the baby moving down by the way my tummy looked. “Good,” I thought, “Can I have my C-section now?!”
I was doing my best to “keep it together,” but I wanted to quit. I grew louder. At some point I asked for drugs (haha), and then changed my mind. I kept saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t.” And every time, Bambi would say, “You are doing it, Hannah! You’re doing so good!” Kip stayed silent and wiped my face with a cold washcloth between contractions. My strong, silent comfort on one side, my knowing, encouraging sister on the other, each holding one of my hands. And then there was my sweet Mom, who I knew without a doubt was praying for me. She was talking to God through my labor, and He was answering her. They’ll never know how much I needed all of them right there.
After two hours of pushing, Rosie-Lou seemed to be a little stuck. Her head was visible, but she wasn’t moving down anymore. The word “episiotomy” seems to be kind of a taboo word in Midwifery, but something needed to be done. Kathleen gave me the option, and we took it. I received local anesthetic, a small incision, and minutes later Rosie was born. (So that “ring of fire” I had heard so much about? I never felt it!) They put her on my tummy, but I could barely raise my head to look at her. I was worn. out. The first thing I did was reach down and make sure she was actually a girl. 😉 (Hey, sometimes those sonograms don’t see everything, ya know?) She was the sweetest, tiniest little thing I had ever seen. Her eyes were wide open and she had the sweetest little cone head. Once she calmed down, she heard Kip’s voice and turned towards him… She recognized her Daddy’s voice! My heart melted. At 2:05 A.M. she was finally here in our arms, and that 22 hours of labor (first contraction to birth) was finally over.