Tuesday, April 30, 2013

the birth of a soul, part II

One thing that kept my mind occupied during the last few weeks of pregnancy was the wonder.
The wonder of when labor would start.. would it be 5 minutes from now? or 2 weeks from now?

The wonder of what it would feel like to see our baby, that we'd waited so long to meet, for the first time. Its easy to think of how you'll react, how you'll feel.. Its easy to try to loop it into the same category as other great moments in your life, like the day you got engaged.. you're wedding day...
In reality, there's nothing you've ever felt, or will ever feel I imagine, that comes even remotely close to it. Its a once in a lifetime, earth-shaking feeling that take over your mind and body, the moment you lock eyes with your first baby.

And its that moment, the one you've looked forward to for 9 months, that you nervously await with every little cramp or practice contraction you feel in those last few weeks. Until one day, its just here.

The morning that Henry was born, Chris and I drove up our country road toward the two-lane highway that led to the hospital, 15 or so miles away. The country road we'd driven up and down every day we'd lived on our farm. I always imagined my drive to the hospital to filled with me thinking deep thoughts about becoming a parent, or how this was the last trip we'd make to town without our baby with us. 
For me, it wasn't like that at all. I was only concentrating on breathing and getting through the discomfort and pain. Chris said things like "This is the last sunrise we'll see before our baby is here." or "This is the last time we'll pull off Peterstown blacktop onto 251 not being parents". The old me, the one who wasn't in pain, would have loved to share in these thoughts but I was elsewhere. Every bump and pothole in the highway gave me a jolt of dull pain. I braced myself trying to absorb the bumps with my arms before they got to my body. The trip to the hospital flew by. Before I knew it I was walking through the emergency room doors with Chris on our way to admissions.  I had called OB and let them know that that girl that had been calling back and forth all night was finally coming in to get checked.

When we walked through the automatic doors a contraction hit me and I had to stop. It was pretty intense and I spotted a newspaper dispenser and grabbed hold to keep me on my feet. I was keeled over the yellow newspaper holder, when Chris, many steps ahead of me, finally looked back and realized I wasn't right behind him. He had told the receptionists that he was here with his pregnant wife who was in labor, to which they replied, "Well, where is she?" They quickly got me a wheelchair and headed towards the elevators. Once we were on the OB floor they took me to a labor and delivery room and told me to sit tight... they'd be sending a nurse in to check me soon. It seemed like forever before someone poked their head in the room. In reality it was only about 20 minutes. I was breathing through my contractions like a trooper and the nurse noticed and said something like "Well, you seem to be doing ok with the pain".

She waited for a contraction to subside before she checked me to see where I stood with dilation.
When she finished she said with much disbelief and surprise on her face that I was at an 8 or a 9.
AN 8 OR A 9!! I couldn't believe it. Not only was I in REAL labor, but it was almost over! I mean, we'd come into the hospital thinking we'd be sent home. We'd even left all of our overnight bags and our camera in our car, we were so sure of it. So this was a nice surprise. Somehow, I'd managed  to get through the most painful portion of dilation (the dreaded TRANSITION phase) on my own, drug free & at home. The nurse, now with much more pep in her step, said she wanted to get a second opinion just to be sure and left the room. In walked another woman with even more pep in her step. She checked me and told me I was a good solid 8 and that she was calling my midwife (who lives 30 min away) to come in because we were going to have a baby very shortly.

This is when I started to let fear creep back in. I knew that I was dilated to a point where I probably wouldn't be able to get an epidural if I felt the need. There wouldn't be enough time...
This scared me.. Even though I'd made it through so much of labor on my own, I just kept waiting for it to become unbearable, like everyone had described to me. I kept thinking to myself that if I could get through any part of labor on my own, the worst must be yet to come. On the other hand, I was so proud of myself and sort of happy in a weird way that I couldn't get the epidural. All of the books I'd been reading feverishly on labor and breastfeeding had said that an unmedicated birth was the best option.. especially if I planned on breastfeeding. And breastfeeding was something I wanted so desperately to be able to do. There are SO MANY benefits breastfeeding awards to a baby and I wanted that for my child. All the books said unmedicated babies have an easier time latching on and can sometimes nurse within minutes of being born. All the same, I had no idea what I was in for, being a first-timer and all, so I was pretty scared and nervous about going through with the idea of an all natural birth.

I gritted my teeth through another contraction and did my breathing exercise while I waited my Angie, my midwife, to arrive. Soon enough she walked in with a big comforting smile on her face and said "So I hear we're going to be having a baby very soon!" She hollered at the nurses to start filling up the birthing tub for my water birth.We had taken a 45 minute "class" on water-birth at the hospital earlier on in the pregnancy. We were open to anything that would aid in my relaxation during labor and, from what we heard in the class and from the midwives, water-birth could offer that. Along with being an easier transition into the world for the baby, it is believed to help speed labor along and aid contractions in being more efficient, since the mother is more relaxed in the warm water of the tub. We decided that we would try it, and if I didn't like it I could always get out and deliver on the hospital bed.

So, the water birth tub... It took what seemed like forever to fill up. My midwife left the room and left the OB floor for a few minutes. One of the nurses came in the room and asked me if I'd felt like pushing yet. I told her that I'd had my first small urge to push when I walked through the hospital doors. I told her that it had become stronger in the past few minutes. She sort of panicked and told me not to push because they had to find Angie. Just as she was scrambling to get out of the room to have her paged, Angie walked in. At that same moment, the tub was finally filled to the perfect level. 
She checked me and felt that I was 100% dilated and effaced and +2, which I believe meant that the baby had descended lower into the birth canal. She said she could feel my bag of water just sitting there.

"Well.. Are you ready to get in the tub and have that baby?" She asked in her encouraging, excited tone. Her voice is one that makes you feel like everything is perfectly fine and normal and that birth is going to be a cake-walk. She's just great. I nervously said "I suppose its time".
I got into the tub and leaned my back against the soft side. My feet stretched out before me almost touching the other end of the blow-up tub. The bottom of the tub was cushioned with air and the water was the perfect temperature.. not too hot but plenty warm enough to put my head back, close my eyes, and feel a warming comfort. The first contraction I had in the tub was intense. All of a sudden there was an underwater explosion of sorts... My water had broken. It didn't hurt at all, it just sort of felt like a water ballon breaking in between my thighs.

Angie said that the contractions would be getting more intense now. I worried.
A couple contractions later I felt that pushing urge again, but this time I couldn't hold back like I'd done before in the hospital bed. This time, whether I was consciously pushing or not, my body was going to be pushing. That was the strangest thing about my birth.. the way my body just took over and knew what to do. The intensity of the pushing was making me only want to consciously push at half-strength, but my body wasn't having it. My body pushed with all its might with each contraction. I was able to get at least 3 good pushes in with each contraction. I was lucky in that my contractions never got any closer together than 4 or 5 minutes. So in between each one I was able to rest. I would lay my head back against the soft side and look up with my eyes closed, holding Chris's hand. In those minutes of rest, I was somewhere else. I was out of my body. I was in a completely relaxed, comfortable state. I'd feel the first hint of a contraction coming and I'd be back in my position ready to go.
Angie kept saying things like "That's perfect, Janell." "You're doing so great." "That's completely normal." Chris kept telling me that I was doing great and that I was almost there. 
In the beginning I thought they were both full of it. I just felt like all the pushing I was doing wasn't getting the baby any closer. I think I was just waiting for the baby to be too big or something that would force me to have a C section. I thought they were just telling me those things to keep me calm.  The next contraction came and this time I could feel a lot of pressure and stretching. I could feel the baby's head moving downward.  A couple more contractions came and I dug my feet in, grabbed Chris's hand, and gritted my teeth as I bore down with each push. Angie said "You're crowning. One more set of pushes and that baby's head will be out. You're doing great."

The next contraction struck and I pushed with all my might. It seemed like the contraction lasted 10 minutes but in reality it was only a couple. This part didn't feel the greatest but I attribute a lot of that to my fear. I was afraid of having a dreaded tear happen and having to have an episotomy so I attempted to hold back. Something clicked in my head just then and I realized that I'd be doing this forever if I didn't give it my all.  So the next contraction I was determined to get the head out. And I did.

It felt like a rush of liquid escaped me. I kept on pushing to get passed the shoulders. Angie kept encouraging me and Chris kept whispering that I was doing great and that he was so proud of me.
Finally, in my most intense push of the whole thing, the shoulders emerged and the baby was out.

I had my eyes closed and didn't quite realize that it was over. I was DONE pushing!
When I opened them, Angie and Chris had their hands on either side of our baby and had brought him to the surface. I looked into our baby's face and felt that rush of emotions. Every emotion balled into one. I was crying and laughing at the same time. I couldn't help but let out an exhausted laugh at that beautiful face. He was everything I'd ever wanted and he was here. Of course we didn't know he was a he yet.

Angie clamped off the umbilical cord, which was too short to allow him to be laid on my chest just yet, and Chris reached down to cut the cord. As he did he noticed a little something else and said "Is that a BOY?!?" I started laughing even more. We had a SON. We had a baby boy.

They laid him on my chest momentarily before handing him off to Chris in a chair so I could get out and onto the bed.  I held him close and felt his warm skin against mine and it was the most beautiful feeling ever. I didn't want to let him go but they don't want you to deliver the placenta in the water so they helped me out and sat me on the bed. They covered me in warm cotton blankets and Chris placed our son on my chest where he nursed less than 10 minutes after birth.

"Well, I guess he's a Henry then," I said.

Henry was the only boys name we'd universally LOVED for years.
We'd brought our baby name books along in case we'd ended up with a girl because we had a very long "short" list of girl names and none of them were THE ONE. So, in the end, I guess that worked out.

We spent the next few hours in a state of utter bliss. Never had we ever seen someone so perfect.
And he was all ours.

Our birth story is something that I cherish and hold near to my heart. Its something that I never thought I could do so well. I am so very very proud of myself for going through it naturally, even if I was scared and not very confident. I did it and that's all that matters. It was a beautiful
experience and it was worth every minute of labor.


  1. Beautiful Janell! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing. Its so amazing to hear how beautiful it can be natural and its exactly how I want it. Really encouraging!

  2. Thanks Jen :) And you are very welcome. If you are looking for a good book on pretty much every type of birth scenario (natural, medicated, planned c-section, un-planned c-section) I loved "The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion" by Amanda V. French. It clearly describes all of the pros and cons of each and goes into good detail so you're better prepared on what to expect. Highly recommended to help with those first time mama jitters


shoot me a line or two