I wanted to write about our birth story so I would remember the details and also to encourage others to believe in and be confident in having the birth experience they desire. I struggled early on in pregnancy with fear of even learning more about childbirth, and all of the negative stories that people felt the need to share with me didn't help my courage. I believe that the options which women have or should have regarding childbirth, positive stories, and a knowledge of the amazing things our bodies are designed to handle need to be shared more.
We attended a 6-week natural birth class by Adair of Blue Heron Birth Education. The class helped me to face my fears, understand what we might expect and how my body naturally can handle it, coping methods, and how the two of us could partner in the process. We also hired a doula -- Jessica of Sacred Birth Services. She was amazing during the entire labor and birth experience, knowing exactly what I was going through, what I needed, how she and Paul could support me, and coach me through what was happening. She and Paul were a great team and I felt supported the entire time.
This education and support helped me to feel confident in my body's ability to birth our baby. During my pregnancy, I continued to stay active (but only ran sporadically until week 20) by walking, light strength training, and mostly just doing work outside. I continued to eat healthfully, and really felt quite great throughout the second and third trimesters. The day before Bria was born, Paul and I worked in the greenhouse planting seeds together. I often thought about how labor would compare to running a marathon or doing a triathlon; I found that the only similarities were my mindset of believing I could do it, and the point at which you kind of enter a primal mentality of just continuing on without having your mind engaged completely with the outside world. Other than that, I would say that labor was way harder than any physical activity I had ever done. The biggest difference was control -- during a race you have complete control over your body and could stop at any time, during labor, you have to surrender all control and accept and let your body do what it needs to do.
Bria's Birth Day
Per my doctor's recommendations and not wanting to risk reaching the 42 week mark and dealing with possible induction, for the week prior to Bria's birth I did natural induction methods daily (pumping for 5 minutes, sex, drinking raspberry leaf tea). But on Wednesday evening I was unusually tired and went straight to bed after visiting with some friends. During the night, I woke up a couple of times to pee and felt a little crampy. Around 4am I woke up and was wide awake for about an hour. Around 6:15am I woke up again and noticed that I was having cramps in a pattern and started timing them. I woke Paul up and told him I was having contractions about 6 minutes apart; we got out of bed at 6:45am. We notified our doula, ate breakfast, showered, took care of things around the house, finished packing and read together. Before lunch we went for a mile walk with Nacho. The walking seemed to make my contractions more irregular. Around noon, Paul went and got us Baguette sandwiches to eat. After lunch I sat on the toilet and it made the contractions more intense and they were still consistently 4-6 minutes apart and about 1 minute long. After communication with the doula, we decided to go to the hospital and meet her at 2:30pm.
We went to triage and the nurse talked very loud as if I was deaf, which stressed me out and disrupted my focus. I requested my doctor come and check my cervix -- it was only at 2cm but her head was engaged and I was 90% effaced. They suggested I walk around the hallways for a couple of hours and then they would recheck me. We decided we wanted to go home, but the doctor was doing a c-section and the nurses were no where to be found so we ended up staying in the triage room until 5:15pm. Once again, walking the hallways seemed to slow things down. So I did some sitting on the toiled and the doula had me do some different stretches and positions to help the baby's alignment. When my doctor returned and checked me, I was still only at 2cm. This felt very discouraging since I was still working pretty hard and had been having consistent contractions still.
We left the hospital at 5:15pm and stopped by my parents house to eat supper. My contractions were still 1 minute long about every 5 minutes. We got home around 7pm and I decided to try to rest and nap in-between contractions, which didn't work. We were laying on the bed when I had a contraction and felt liquid come out at 7:57pm. I went down to the bathroom and had a some more contractions and lost more fluid (water broke and some mucus plug). As soon as this happened my contractions got more intense and were 3 minutes apart. I started shaking. Things progressed rapidly at this point. Paul texted the doula and we went heading back to the hospital. We got to the hospital at 8:45pm. Paul dropped me off and I went in to register in the ER. The lady asked me what was wrong, I told her I as in labor, to which she replied "you're pregnant?". About then I had another contraction and then she realized I was serious. I struggled through two contractions at her counter and then Paul and Jessica came.
They came with a wheelchair to take me to triage at labor and delivery, but I decided I'd rather walk (which took a while because I had to keep stopping for contractions). In the triage room they had me get into a gown and hooked me up to the monitor. Around 9:30pm, the resident came in and explained that despite the pH test confirming my water had broken, he needed to use a speculum to examine to make sure. I told Paul there was no way he was going to do that and Paul nicely declined the exam. So he just checked my cervix and told me I was at 4cm but the baby was super low. At this point, I felt pretty discouraged and verbalized it to Paul and Jessica. I was working super hard with hard and frequent contractions and wasn't sure how much longer I could do it with how slow my progress had been all day. They admitted me and moved me to a labor and delivery room around 9:30pm.
As soon as we got into the labor and delivery room, Paul and Jessica worked to make the environment nice for me. Jessica diffused essential oils, dimmed the lights, and got me peppermint oil on a washcloth to smell since I had been feeling very nauseous. I tried a few contractions on all fours on the bed but it didn't seem to make it more tolerable and I was feeling really tired to be able to hold myself up like that. I was so shaky. I laid on my right side on the bed and then flipped to my left side. Jessica sat facing me, encouraging me and giving me sips of water. Paul stood behind me, holding my body up and putting pressure on my lower back.
Around 10:30pm, immediately following a contraction, the next contraction my body was pushing. I didn't know how to handle that intense pushing and was unsuccessfully trying to continue to breathe through it. Jessica said if we call in the nurse (no one had been in since I was admitted and I was not on any monitoring) they will want to check my cervix. After a few more contractions, the nurse came in and saw what was happening, she checked me and said I was fully dilated. I was surprised and relieved (I went from 4 to 10cm in 1 hour). Immediately, another nurse, the resident doctor and the NICU team (since Bria had pooped in the water) came in, turned on the lights, and started setting up. I kept my eyes shut, focusing on my task, and didn't even see who all was in the room or what they were doing. Jessica coached me through holding my breath and pushing three times with each contraction. It was a challenge to get the hang of this different breathing and sensations. The resident stated that he needed me to get onto my back with my legs in the stirrups for delivery. I was adamant that I was not going to change positions and Paul and Jessica knew I wouldn't want to. Paul told him that I was going to deliver on my side and that they would help open my pelvis. Soon after that, my doctor came in and someone said "Dr. Parker is here", to which I gave a little smile. Paul helped me hold my top leg up during each contraction and put pressure against my lower back. The nurse monitored the baby's heartbeat in between contractions. I could hear Dr. Parker say "good, Shelli" each time I pushed. They poured mineral oil on my vagina a few times to help with lubrication. I was sweating and my temperature was high so Jessica kept giving me sips of ice water and putting cold wet washcloths on me. They helped me get my gowns off. It was so intense and hard but I knew that soon I would meet my baby. Bria came out in one big push at 11:09pm. Paul got to be involved and watch the entire process up close.
As soon as Bria came out, they set her on my chest. She stayed on my for 2 hours, undisturbed. They delayed the cord clamping and then I cut the cord. I effortlessly pushed out the placenta and the doctor showed it to us. He then stitched me up because I had a second degree tear (which he said was very common for first time vaginal births and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it). Bria came out healthy, looking great, and nursed for an hour. They then weighed her and cleaned me up and moved us to our postpartum room around 2:45am.
All of the care I received at the hospital was fantastic and everyone was very respectful to follow the birth preferences document Paul gave them. When my doctor came to check on me Friday at lunch he said we could go home anytime since we had no medications or interventions and were doing great. We were extremely thankful that everything went how we had hoped! It was such an intense, beautiful and empowering experience.