Grace’s Birth Story (very long!)
My due date was May 15 (Saturday,) and it passed by relatively uneventfully. On Sunday I woke up to a (very) slow leak of amniotic fluid and went to church with Liesbeth (my DW) because I wanted to stay moving as my back had been achy for the past few days. I was very uncomfortable that morning. I had woken up to some pretty strong cramping, but it went away as quick as it came. I felt like Gracie had dropped even more than she had in the weeks previous and I felt like I was crushing her head! That afternoon and evening I started having contractions 5 minutes apart. They lasted for several hours, but they did not increase in intensity or frequency. I also had a little bit of pink spotting- the very beginning of some bloody show. I knew things were starting to warm up, but I didn’t think it would be that night. I stayed in contact with Dana (our midwife) throughout the afternoon and evening and when I talked to her before bedtime I let her know that I didn’t think it was time for her to come yet. (It was going to be a four hour drive for her from Colorado Springs to Garden City, so it was debatable whether she should start her drive. I felt pretty confident and I wanted her to be able to drive safely.)
Liesbeth and I went to bed at about 10:00 that night and I asked the universe for some rest, and for labor to wait until morning after a peaceful night of sleep… and the universe blessed me with exactly that. I slept very well, which you can never be sure of when you are nine months pregnant! I got up only once to use the bathroom and was able to go right back to sleep. Throughout the night I had some crampy contractions with no regular pattern, and not strong enough to keep me awake at all. They stopped once I got out of bed. I called Dana to give her an update and told her I was going to eat some breakfast and do errands with Liesbeth. (We had both taken off of work that day with intentions of getting some things done before the baby came.) She encouraged me to get some herbs to help get labor moving in a more regular pattern since my body definitely seemed ready and I was leaking water. While we were out, the contractions started up again, no herbs necessary. Four to five minutes apart this time and with a sharp, low pain. I couldn’t handle the grocery store at that point, so Liesbeth dropped me off at home and went to Dillon’s to get some fruit and Gatorade. I called Dana and we agreed it was time for her to come!
Once Liesbeth came home, she started filling up the birth tub in the living room and I went to the bedroom to listen to my HypnoBabies hypnosis track. As I listened, my contractions increased in surprising rhythm with the cues in the track. Eventually, listening to the voice on the track was bothering me more than relaxing me, so I turned it off and headed into the living room to see how Liesbeth was doing. I could not talk through contractions any more, and after managing a few on my hands and knees on the sofa, I decided to strip down and get into the tub! It still felt early, but it just felt like time. The water was AMAZING. If anyone is considering using a birth tub to labor in, I highly recommend it! I was surprised at the sharpness of my contractions. I was not expecting to feel the low, sharp sensations of my cervix opening, and that threw me off from the HypnoBabies suggestion that contractions are just waves of pressure. Dana told me later that the reason I was feeling this was because my bag of water was bulging and helping to stretch my cervix. It HURT.
My contractions continued and I stayed in the tub for apparently the next four hours. It truly felt like less time. During contractions I needed Liesbeth to put her hand on my forehead and use our hypnosis “release” cue. This helped me to go into a hypnotic state and relax my body through contractions. In between, Liesbeth gave me sips of Gatorade and one or two bites of yogurt and I am pretty sure I slept! Periodically, Liesbeth added hot water to the pool and removed cold, since I was shivering between contractions. (And also sweating during them! Haha.) As things progressed, I started asking where Dana was, and how much longer she had to drive. I made Liesbeth call her a few times, I think. When she was an hour or so away in Holly (I think??? I am not sure about the times, it kind of blurs together) things started to become very intense. My contractions were hard and long, and in between my legs were convulsing and I threw up a few times. (Into a quickly-retrieved bowl!) Liesbeth was amazing. We thought things were moving fast, so Dana had her get everything set up for when she arrived. She told her that if I start to feel pushy she needed to call and turn on the speaker phone ASAP. Dana then drove 80 to get to us, praying not to get in an accident or pulled over.
When Dana arrived, I remember saying, “You beat the baby!” She introduced her friend who would be assisting her. (I had never met Stephanie before, but the two assistants who I HAD met were unavailable.) She encouraged me to get out of the tub and go to the bathroom. I did not want to get out of the tub but I knew that it was a good idea to get up, pee, and feel things out a bit. Getting out of the water was absolutely miserable. I had a contraction on the toilet and THAT was miserable. I was very cold, and after peeing, I went into the bedroom to lay down and cover up. Not such a good idea, really! Laying down on my side felt wonderful and relaxing between contractions, but during the contractions the pain was much greater than when I was in the tub. At this point I was really wondering why I was crazy enough to want to experience natural labor at home. Dana asked if she could check my dilation to see where things were at. Originally I had requested no vaginal exams, but I agreed- even though I knew it would be uncomfortable. She checked me out and it did in fact hurt. I was feeling pretty angry about that and I remember yelling at Dana and then apologizing, haha. She left the room without saying anything and I knew that my dilation was not where we had expected it to be. Granted, I know it is just a number and it doesn’t really mean much as far as how much longer it would be until pushing time… That is why I had requested no cervix exams in my birth preferences. When she came back I asked her what she had felt and she said I was dilated to about a 5.
At that point I was absolutely positive that I wanted to go to the hospital and have an epidural. Between contractions I would plead with Liesbeth and Dana to take me seriously. They kept reminding me of the reasons I wanted this home birth. They were very valid points, really! I was so serious that I wanted to go, and I asked Liesbeth to pack up a few of my things. Dana reminded me that riding in a car, walking into the hospital, talking to people, filling out paperwork, and waiting for the epidural would probably be a lot more miserable than laboring in the tub. I didn’t think it would take as long as she said, but it was true, so I kept thinking about that and moved back to the tub. Also, luckily, every time I’d start thinking too much about pain relief, I’d have another contraction, Liesbeth would use the hypnosis cues and hold my forehead, and I’d manage each one. The complaining period faded very soon after I got back into the pool. (Seriously friends, use the birth pool!)
I’m not really sure of the timelines, but I remember hating on Dana a lot during my labor. It wasn’t really her, and I was glad she was there, but I think I probably yelled at her a lot and I remember telling her to shut up. I complained because it hurt every time she’d use the doppler to check Grace’s heart tones. I was also really needing quiet, so I didn’t want to hear anyone talk, even to say useful or important things, haha. She took those cues and at one point she and Stephanie went around the corner to Pizza Hut for lunch. And towards the very end, they went into the basement to hang out while Liesbeth helped me through my contractions.
I was managing things pretty well and staying on top of the contractions, remaining quiet and calm except at the very peaks where I was vocalizing. Unfortunately they were coming very close together and long with double peaks and I was really not enjoying that part! I was getting maybe a 45 second break in between. During those seconds I completely zoned out. Finally there reached a point where I could not stay on top of the contractions with relaxation and breathing, which was really scary. However, Dana popped upstairs immediately when she heard the change in the sound of contractions. She asked me to try pushing the next contraction and see how it felt. I told her it hurt! She said I didn’t try very hard, which was true, so I tried a good one and my body continued the push involuntarily. Dana felt for my cervix, told my I was complete, and my baby was coming down! It took a few more contractions of pushing and I remember feeling her head with my hand. I used my hands to help support my tissues while I was crowning, and it was the strangest sensation when her head was out! Dana looped the umbilical cord out from around her neck I think, and very soon after her shoulders were out and I had a baby on my chest!
I could not stop looking at her. We waited for the contractions to start up again and a few minutes later I pushed out the placenta. Dana checked Grace’s heartbeat, gave her a hat, and we checked to make sure she was the girl we had been expecting. It was the most amazing thing to see that this little person had really just grown inside of me and come out!
Liesbeth held Grace and the placenta (in a bag but still attached to Gracie) while Dana and Stephanie helped me out of the tub and into the bathroom. I passed a few clots on the toilet and started feeling light headed. My uterus was taking its time to tighten back up and Dana was massaging it. I told her my feet were tingling and then I was starting to black out. I came to on the bathroom floor a couple of seconds later. Dana and Stephanie had caught me and put my legs in the air and started asking me questions to make sure I stayed with them. Dana gave me a shot of pitocin in the thigh to help my uterus contract. It took a while on the floor for me to feel strong enough to get up and crawl to the bed, and in the meantime, Dana helped clean me up and checked out my tearing (one first-degree tear.) I got one more dose of pitocin and plenty of oxygen from the tank. I was sad that I was missing spending that time with my baby, but Liesbeth was able to nurse her and I heard her singing to her in the other room so I knew she was just fine.
Finally I made it to bed where we measured Grace (she weighed 8 pounds!), checked out her placenta, and cut the cord. Someone got me some food, we talked about the birth certificate, and I nursed Grace. We called and texted a few people to let everyone know she was born. I had a little trouble getting out of bed to pee, so Dana put me under instructions to stay in bed that night until she came back in the morning. She also left us a syringe of pitocin just in case of a problem (we didn’t need to use it) and told us to call if we needed her. She and Stephanie went to stay at a nearby hotel that night. We did just fine, though I had a hard time sleeping after all of that! When they came back in the morning, they got me some food, and helped me to take a bath.
Overall it was a really really good experience, and I am glad that I had Grace at home instead of at the hospital, even if I complained a lot at some points. The HypnoBabies childbirth preparation program helped me immensely, though not in the ways I would have expected. I am thankful that our baby was able to come into the world in peace, we were able to snuggle and nurse her immediately, there were no bright lights, no injections, no eye goop, no obnoxious machines… We didn’t have to worry about being bothered all night while people checked various things. Because my pregnancy stayed low-risk the entire time and I trusted my body to do its job, I was a very good candidate for home birth and everything worked out perfectly.
And for those who are still skeptical about what I’ve been saying the entire pregnancy- NO, I will not be doing it again! I have a beautiful baby and she is perfect, but once was enough for me, thanks!
Mama to two, and second-time surrogate. Expecting May 2015.