Gregory is now a whopping 8 days old, so I figured it was about time that I wrote out our birth story.
I’ve decided to include 2 versions: one for the faint at heart, the second for a more accurate picture of what happened.
The first version: I started pre-labor at around 5am, Saturday the 16th. Jesse and I tried everything the midwife was advising, but my contractions (which were real and very uncomfortable, sometimes lasting 1.5 minutes) were not regulating themselves, indicating that I wasn’t in active labor. Sometimes they were coming every 10 minutes, sometimes every 24. At around 4pm, my midwife Cherie called and told me to pack our bags and come on down to the birth center for a checkup.
Once there, Cherie did an exam and found I was 3 cm dilated. She said the baby was coming, one way or another, within the next day or two, it was just a matter of how tired I would be from all the pre-labor once active labor kicked in. Her solution was to break my water in order to start active labor. Within 10 minutes of walking around the block to “get things started”, my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. Within 15, they were 1-2 minutes apart. At 6pm we walked back to the birth center and were brought to the upstairs birth room (someone else was already laboring in the downstairs room– busy weekend for the birth center!). We immediately began trying different comfort measures as things got harder and harder. Around 9pm, the other midwife, Beverly, checked me and said I was still only 7 inches dilated. Apparently, Gregory’s head was not in the proper position, which was inhibiting dilation. At around midnight was when we began pushing. He crowned around 1:45am, and at 2:22am he was born!
Second version: This one includes more of the gory details. Just a fair warning.
At 5pm once we arrived at the birth center, I was feeling pretty exhausted, having only gotten 3 hrs of sleep the night before (we had stayed out late at Starbucks with the Unruhs). I was also feeling very discouraged, seeing as I’d been having contractions for 12 hrs. I was really worried I’d have to go days like this.
The minute Cherie said, “You’re going to have this baby tonight!”, however, I felt relieved. Courtney and I have talked about how pregnancy is like training and training for a marathon, only, not ever knowing when it is supposed to begin. The anticipation begins to eat at you.
Relief turned to concentration, as I barely had time to recover anymore between contractions. As Jesse and I walked around the park, we called Jenny and Jason, asking them to bring dinner to us once everything was over (this was supposed to be Julie’s job, but she was out of town for the weekend).
We walked back to the birth center once I felt like I couldn’t walk anymore. Debbie, the nurse, brought us to the upstairs birth room. Jesse and I tried different positions we were taught during our class, using the birth ball, pillows on the bed, you name it. Things were so intense though, that not a lot was happening. I was pretty convinced I was already in transition, although that didn’t occur until much later. The contractions were only 1-2 minutes apart, and they were pretty intense.
Then Beverly came up to check me. She said that I was still only 4 cm dilated, mostly because Gregory’s head was not only tilted, it was pulled back towards my tailbone. The next couple minutes were the most painful of the whole experience. While I was in each contraction, Beverly used her fingers to literally PULL my cervix forward into position. I thought the contractions hurt before– this was twice as bad. But she assured me this was the only way to get him into proper position for full dilation to occur. This went on for about 1/2 hr. NOT FUN. But the way he was facing and tilting was the reason for all the back labor I was experiencing (back labor= intense tailbone/back pain, like tons of sharp knives being shoved in).
A lot of the details get fuzzy from here on out. It’s amazing how much you forget in just a week! I remember that I kept repeating I wanted to get in the shower, since hot water has always been very comforting. In fact, I had actually wanted to labor and give birth in the tub, but the downstairs birth room had been taken just moments before we got there. The shower, then, was the only option.
Beverly did want me to use the toilet first, however. It was here that the contractions got so bad I started uncontrollably throwing up. Jesse and Beverly has both walked away for a moment, so all the Gatorade and water I’d been drinking all day went on the floor and my lap. They ran in with a pan so I could finish.
I stayed in the shower until it stopped feeling good. Beverly (or Jesse, I don’t remember) helped me into my “birthing gown”, as I like to call it. The midwife had suggested I buy a black short nightgown to use for the birth, so that if there were pictures, they would be “share-able”. We went back to the birthing room, where I labored some more with Jesse. I tried really hard not to keep throwing up, because Beverly had said that if I did, they would need to put me on an IV for fluids. Eventually, however, I couldn’t help it, and I started throwing up again. Let me tell you, throwing up during contractions HURTS, mostly because the act of throwing up causes another contraction to start right on the heels of the previous one.
Here, I insert a part of the story that Jesse told me happened. I don’t really remember it. Back when Jesse and I discussed our birth plan, I said I would want only want pain medication under two conditions– if I was given pitocin (which induces transition-like contractions without any of the build up– very very painful!), or if labor went longer than 16 hours. We reached the 16 hour mark at 9pm. At this time, it was 10pm. All of a sudden, I said to Jesse, “I’m going.” He said, “going? where? to the bathroom?”. “No, to the hospital.” I said. “I want pain meds. I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore.” But I didn’t actually move or go anywhere.
After that, Jesse and I finally found a position that really worked for me to manage the contractions. Using the bed post, I straddled the bean shaped birth ball, rocking back and forth. I think that this helped keep all the weight off my back. The rocking also helped me distribute the pain more evenly throughout my hips so that no one place was taking the brunt of the whole contraction. In between the contractions, I would fall back on Jesse’s chest, since he was sitting behind me on a stool, massaging my back and applying our hot rice socks. We got into a really good rhythm– it was the first time I thought to myself, “I can do this! It’s not so bad!”
That feeling ended abruptly when Beverly came back again to inflict the cervix-pulling exercise. She made me get rid of the birth ball, instead just having me squat on the ground with my hands still on the bed post. During the contraction, she would “pull”, in between, I would stand up and catch my breath. At this point, they started feeding me some Coco Cola through a straw, all in an effort to perk me up and give me more energy (apparently, that’s what all the IV fluids were supposed to have done, but I was too wiped for it to make a difference).
Eventually, once I was at 9cm, they put a mirror down there and told me to start pushing. I had always said I didn’t want the mirror (it’s a common thing) because I’d be grossed out, but it was actually SUPER helpful. I could visualize what I was doing and what was working. Eventually, we could see the smallest white circle.
“That’s the head! He must be bald!” Beverly said.
Obviously, he isn’t bald. What we were seeing was the very back of his neck. His head was so tilted that he was literally coming out neck first.
Cherie had joined us by this time, seeing as the woman downstairs had finally given birth. She took a look, then told me the white circle was as big as a dime. Once it was a silver dollar, we could head to the bed for the final pushing stage.
I’m very goal oriented, so this imagery really helped. I was determined that these contractions were sooo bad, I wasn’t going to let a single one go by without it being profitable in some way. What I found was that pushing actually HELPED the pain, which gave me even more of an incentive to work with my body. I pushed as hard as I could for an hour, before it was finally time to finish pushing on the bed.
Here’s where we hit a few more roadblocks. The position they had me pushing in– on my my back, knees in the air, feet supported by Jesse on one side and Cherie on the other, was causing me to hyperventilate. I didn’t realize I was breathing so fast– I was simply trying to use every ounce of my being to get Gregory out! As a result of me breathing so fast, they had to let my legs rest in between contractions. This caused Gregory to slide back in after every contraction, eliminating any progress made.
In between every contraction, they checked Gregory’s heart rate with a doppler. At this point, Cherie looked at me and said that his heart rate was becoming sporadic, as a result of my fast breathing and being stuck too long in the birth canal. She made it clear that although I was doing my best to push as hard as I could, my uterus was completely worn out from 21 hours of contractions. Gregory was in distress, and needed to come out now to avoid huge complications for him.
This was the only point during the whole labor where I got scared. I also panicked and felt guilty. Here was my baby, within inches of being born, and my body was unable to push him out, no matter how hard I tried.
Cherie then said that if I couldn’t get him out with one more contraction, she was going to need to perform an episiotomy. Jesse could see that I was panicking, so he said a few quick pep talk words. One more contraction went by, with no results. Cherie gave me the warning– on the next contraction she was going to perform the episiotomy. It happened– yeah, it sucked, but at that point, everything was happening so fast, that I didn’t care any more. I just wanted to know that Gregory was safe.
That’s when Cherie told me to push now, without a contraction. It was tough, because contractions tend to help the whole process! But it turns out this is the best way to get a baby out once there’s been an episiotomy– they can “control the damage” better, so to speak.
I pushed on my own, and out came Gregory. Right as I heard him cry, I heard Cherie tell Jesse to catch him. They helped pull his head out, and all of a sudden, he just slipped right out. I remember feeling his shoulders and body. It felt like a bag of bones, falling out. Kinda weird to describe, but now I wouldn’t trade remembering that sensation for anything.
And there he was! They put him on my chest, and I just remember recognizing his face (I used to stare at his ultrasound photo), and yet feeling like I’d just seen the most unique face I’d ever encountered. It was just how I’d always dreamed I’d meet my first baby.
And then they were cleaning me off, cleaning Gregory off (he pooped all over everything as a result of the distress he was in), giving me a shot of pitocin to slow the bleeding and stitching me up. And all was well!
Overall: While I banned the words, “another” and “next” from any conversation those first few days (unless they included words like “adoption” or “epidural”), by Friday I was already dreaming about my next child’s birth, reliving Gregory’s and realizing I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sure, I would’ve liked labor to be shorter. But I’m also glad I got to feel everything. I know that sounds weird, but I can’t imagine missing out on that final few moments. The rest pretty much sucked, but the pushing stage ended up being my favorite part. The pain was totally doable– if I hadn’t been so tired, things would’ve been even more manageable.
I’m also very grateful that I had him at the birth center. Jesse and I are pretty convinced that had I chosen to have him at the hospital, I probably would’ve been advised to have a C-Section, as there were multiple places in which it could’ve just seemed like my body wasn’t able to progress. Turns out, there was a reason, and although their methods were a little un-orthodox, the midwives were patient and worked with my body for hours in an effort to let it do what it was made to do.
I am recovering well. All eight of my stitches have dissolved, and my tailbone (which the midwife is pretty sure I fractured as a result of all the back labor) has healed. Gregory had a slight case of jaundice the first few days, but we cured it by taking him out in the sunlight for 2-3 minute intervals.
So there you have it– our birth story! I might have Jesse post something covering the details I can’t remember. Another viewpoint might be interesting as well.
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