I have had lots of pregnant family members lately, and my friends, Jenny and Gina, are the only ones I get to talk to about birth because I’m sure my family members don’t want to hear most of what I have to say. And I am dying to tell someone what I think I know about birth! Absolutely dying to!
So, I’m going to write a blog post about it as catharsis for myself.
This is the story of Zachary’s birth:
Zachary James born 4/24/04 at 1:24 p.m.
As any VBAC birth story must, Zachary’s birth story begins with his sister’s birth, 21 months prior. Zoe was a breech baby throughout our pregnancy, and no amount of Eastern or Western medicine, plus a little bit of Internet knowledge thrown in for good measure, was going to make her change her mind. (Note to self, lying upside down on an ironing board at a 45 degree angle, not so easy.) If Zoe had been a frank breech, it would have presented few problems for our wonderful midwife who had delivered many breech babies. Zoe was a footling breech, which caused us enough concern that, after repeated attempts to turn her, we chose to have a c-section with the OB our midwife referred us to. As he was sewing up my incision, the surgeon was assuring me that I should have no trouble having a vaginal birth the next time, and he was doing his part to be sure with the type of incision he did and the way he was sewing me up.
Thanks to my outstanding prenatal care and a superb surgeon, the surgery and recovery came off with no problems. I was home in 2 days and feeling good. The main issue was that my body did such a good job healing me from the c-section, there was nothing left to produce milk. Hence, breastfeeding was a struggle for the first 6-8 weeks. Again, with the help of our midwife, we got that figured out and we settled into our life.
Fast forward 12 months and we discover baby #2 is on the way. After much research and discussion with our same midwife, we again committed to a planned home birth.
The pregnancy that was to be Zachary was smooth sailing. The only procedure we had done was an ultrasound at the beginning because we had no idea when we became pregnant. Gosh, we were 12 weeks along by then, so we didn’t even have to wait to tell people.
My in-laws were staying with us in our new house on the night before what would be Zachary’s birthday. In my quest to be their favorite daughter-in-law, not only did I have their first grandchild while they were visiting us from Vermont, I was going to have their second grandchild while they were in town visiting as well.
I talked to my friend, Gina, at 9 p.m. on April 23. “Go to bed,” I told her. “It isn’t going to happen tonight.”
Gina was going to make a 4 hour drive to be with us once I went into labor. Having four children of her own, this was no small favor. After talking to her, I went in to sleep with Zoe and dozed off. Around 11 p.m., I woke up, very uncomfortable. I woke up Chris, and asked him to go lay with Zoe so I could be moving around. For some reason it was critical to me that Zoe not be alone, even though she was asleep. I guess I realized this would be her last night as an only child, and I didn’t want her to feel like the new baby was taking us away already.
Until 3:30 a.m. I shuffled back and forth from our bed to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet was the only comfortable position I could find when the contractions came over me. After a contraction passed, I would make my way back to bed, where I would lay down on top of the covers to sleep for 3-4 minutes until I felt the next contraction coming on.
At 3:30 I had had enough of doing this alone. I woke Chris up, again, asked him to get his parents up and tell them to pack up their stuff because they were going to need to get out. (I was getting a wee bit testy by this time.) His parents had known this was a possibility, and since my parents live 1/4 mile away, they had another warm, inviting home they could head to, with Zoe, to pass the time until they got to meet the latest addition. I also asked Chris to call our midwife. She has 6 children, and her husband was out of town this weekend, so we knew it might take her a little time to get things organized so she could get to us.
I passed the time by taking a shower and sitting on the birth ball, walking around the house, and asking Chris why the heck his parents weren’t already gone. I had very strong urges to vocalize my way through contractions, and I wasn’t totally comfortable doing that with the extra people in the house. Plus, a few curse words were coming to my mind, and I didn’t want Zoe to hear them.
Just as the house emptied of our house guests, our midwife arrived. Her two nurses came soon after that, and Gina made it around 7 a.m. Everyone was comfortable and friendly and so amazingly supportive. I was very much in a faraway place, though I was aware of what everyone said to me. Our midwife, was making suggestions on position, encouraging me to drink, and keep moving. I spent a lot of time squatting, moaning, talking to the baby, encouraging it to work its way down, and walking around. Soaking in our sunken tub was a tremendous respite. I was able to relax enough between contractions to fall asleep. Then I realized I was slipping under the water as I fell asleep, so I asked Chris, who was sitting on the end of the tub READING A MAGAZINE if he could keep an eye on me so I didn’t drown. He agreed.
Being in the tub felt fantastic, but it also slowed my contractions, so our birthing team set up the birthing chair as I began the quest to push the baby out. My memory of the pushing phase is rather odd. It seemed like a lot of time was spent waiting for each contraction to come, then working my way through it, then waiting again. It was very hard to give myself up to the pain and do things that would make the contractions harder, stronger, and more frequent. To make yourself do something for the greater good isn’t easy, even when you recognize the reason for it. Our midwife wanted to see stronger labor patterns, so I began to use the breast pump to up the hormone support in my system. She also had me getting up and swaying between contractions to use gravity to my advantage.
Gina was faithfully videotaping for us and trading off with Chris as the person sitting behind me and supporting me as I leaned back for contractions. Having a female friend there who has also given birth was really a huge factor for me.
On the video of all of this, there are some classic moments where people are talking to me, I respond, and then everyone laughs like I’ve just said the funniest thing in the world. For example, our midwife says as I am sitting on the birthing stool, taking my hand and guiding it, “Here’s your baby’s head. Can you feel that?” “No,” I respond, thinking to myself, if this baby’s head is that squishy, that surely can’t be good. Another precious memory is the midwife and the two nurses constantly encouraging me, telling me “that was a great contraction, the baby’s really moving down now.” The other three of us, who don’t attend births on a regular basis, began to feel that these were actually fibs and that this baby wasn’t really going to be born.
Despite all this, I never once doubted that I would succeed at having this baby at home. And I never once thought of needing pain relief. It hurt, but it wasn’t a bad pain, and it was manageable.
Finally we were almost there, and since I wanted a water birth, now was the time to move back to the tub. Chris climbed in with me in his swimming suit, two pushes, and out came Zachary. I was so suprised he was finally here after pushing for over 2 hours, our midwife had to say, “Reach down and pick up your baby.” There he was.
Zachary needed some oxygen to perk him up after his exhausting journey, but less than an hour after he was born, he and Zoe and I were back soaking in the tub, relaxing together. Shortly after that he met all his grandparents who were all thrilled to be present, and then we had a family nap.
I needed a few stitches for a mild tear, but other than that there were no problems. I completed a sprint distance triathlon 11 weeks later, and I will forever be grateful that we chose to have Zachary at home. It was an amazing experience, surrounded by amazing people.
This is the story of Noa’s Birth:
Noa Moxie born 11/09/06 at 3:03 a.m.
Since it was only the second night after my father’s death, our family was again staying overnight at my parent’s house. The children were asleep in bed, Chris was up at our house trying to get some work done, and I was laying in the recliner, visiting with my mom. I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant, and praying this baby would wait until after Thursday night’s visitation and Friday morning’s funeral to be born. God’s timing is often better than our hopes.
Chris came back down to the house around 10:25 p.m., not having been able to get much work done. I got up out of the recliner, glad to see him back, and as I walked across the living room floor toward him, my water broke. That had not happened with either of my previous two pregnancies, so that was a new sensation.
I immediately called our midwife, who suggested I try and go to bed and get some rest since no contractions had started. My mother came out to say goodnight before we went to bed and Chris said, “Wait one minute.” It took her a minute to believe me, but then she looked thrilled.
By now it was 11 p.m., and I realized I was not going to want to stay at Mom and Dad’s, but needed to be at our house, near the birthing tub. Mom gladly agreed to take care of the kids for the night and Chris and I headed up to our house.
I was having great success staying focused on relaxing, as my weeks of hypnobirthing practice had trained me to. Chris was talking me through surges with lovely images of our hiking in Italy, a trip to the beach, and just being with me. I spent a great deal of time in the tub, relaxing into each surge. Then things got really intense.
Now we’ll switch to a timeline:
2:00 Chris says “Maybe we should call Carey now.”
Jennie says: Okay
2:15 Jennie says: Call Carey and see if she’s on her way.
Chris calls and gets Don, Carey’s husband, who said Carey was on her way.
2:20 Jennie says: Call and see where she is.
Chris says: I just called, she’s on her way.
Jennie says: CALL HER!
2:30 Jennie says: Call her and tell her this is going really fast. 2:40 Jennie says: Buddie, you need to call her and find out how to deliver this baby.
Chris calls Carey: Carey, Jennie thinks this isn’t going to take much longer. What should I do to get ready?
Carey tells Chris: Just two things: First, get out of the water. We don’t want to have this baby in the tub. Second, don’t pull on the head.
Chris says: Carey says you’ll need to get out of the tub if you get the urge to push.
Jennie thinks: Try and make me get out of the tub.
2:50 Carey calls and tells Chris: I’m in Altoona, and I’m stuck behind a train.
Chris tells Jennie: She’s in Altoona.
2:55 Jennie gets out of the tub and moves to the bed.
Jennie tells Chris: I’m sorry but you’re going to have to deliver this baby.
Chris opens window shade so he can see lights on our driveway the minute they appear.
2:59 Jennie says repeatedly: Tell me if you see lights. 3:00 Chris says: I see lights. She’s coming up the driveway.
(We learned from Carey at her first postpartum home visit that she drove part way up the driveway and came to some new reflector lights we had put in. Not recognizing those she almost turned around.)
3:02 Carey walks up the stairs to our bedroom as the baby crowns. 3:03 Carey walks in the bedroom door as the baby’s head emerges.
The body quickly follows and Baby Noa has arrived. Her father doesn’t pass out from relief, and her mother is over the moon with excitement, relief, and euphoria. Baby and Mom are doing fantastically well.
Noa squawked for a couple seconds, then opened her beautiful blue eyes in the dimly lit room and looked around and started nuzzling to nurse.
3:30 Angie, Carey’s nurse, arrives to help with the baby processes. Jennie and Noa take a bath to relax. 5:30 Carey and Angie are on their way back home, while the newest family member snuggles down to sleep.
Noa weighed 7 lbs. She was 19 inches long. She is doing fantastically.
What I did not mention in Noa’s birth story is that, for the third birth in a row, I managed to have our babies when Chris’ parents just happened to be visiting from Vermont. Not only do I win the “Daughter-In-Law of A Lifetime Award” for this, but it also worries Buds and me that his parents have some sort of unnatural control over my birth hormones. Hmmm…
So, here’s what I believe about birth:
1) Have an outstanding midwife–who has a stand alone practice. For us, homebirth was a magical, critical piece of the puzzle, but I realize it is not for everyone. A midwife, though, should be a part of the puzzle for every woman. The care you receive, and the education available is unmatched. Even if you high-risk out to an OB, the midwife is still a critical partner.
2) If you choose to give birth in a hospital, hire a doula. Even if you have the most amazing partner in the world, you must have another support person there. At the very least, having a friend who has given birth makes a huge difference. I have served as an untrained doula for two friends, and the amazing gift they gave of allowing me to be there was a blessing to me, plus I was able to run around and do the little things to help make life easier for them and their birth partners.
3) If you choose not to have a midwife or a doula, at the very least, do your own homework. We are big fans of The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth by Henci Goer. It is not a feel-good book. It is very biased, very study-based.
4) When you are choosing a health care partner, ask the interesting questions at your first appointment:
- What is your c-section rate? (If they say, “We don’t track that number. We only do c-sections that are medically necessary.” Run like the wind.)
- How do you feel about me eating and drinking during labor? (It is called “labor” for a reason. No one runs a marathon without refueling.)
- When should I bring in my birth plan for us to discuss? (If they laugh or indicate derision about a birth plan, again, run like the wind.)
5) We took a birth class, I read more than 20 books about birth, watched educational birthing videos, and countless “Baby Stories,” but nothing equaled Hypnobirthing for a fantastic birth experience. Not only did it allow me to work with my body in a way that amazed me, it allowed Chris to be a fully-present, vital piece of the birth. It was one of the most awe-some moments in a marriage that has been pretty magical.
Phew! I feel so much better. Even if no one is ever influenced by this post: My mom and Gina, the two people who consistently read my blog are both done having children. (Right, Gina?) I’m glad I wrote it.