I cannot believe it's been three years since our baby girl came into this world. I had grand plans of writing her birth story within the first week of her life, but that didn't happen. I knew that the longer I waited the more I would forget. And, while I'm sure some of my details are fuzzy, I still remember parts of it like it was yesterday. Some things are just burned in my mind and I'm grateful that I remember them. BUT, just in case, I want to record the story here (as I remember it 3 years later) so that C will have it someday (I don't know why she'd want to read her own birth story, but I read a whole book of them that I found fascinating so maybe she'll be weird like me).
As most of you know Cady was born at the Women's Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, NC. I know the midwife model of care is not for everyone, but it worked well for us. In fact, I cannot imagine better pregnancy/childbirth care than what I/we received. I'm already nervous about the next time given that there are no birth centers in AL. But, as usual, I digress...
Well, because I'm me, I had been charting while we were trying to conceive so I had a pretty good idea when said conception occurred. Given my calculations, my due date was May 27. The midwives had a couple of other due dates at different times based on the chart, but I stuck with May 27. I don't know why. It just felt right. Thankfully, little bit made her appearance on May 27. We were ready (or, as ready as you can be!). In fact, I was wanting her to appear "on time" so badly that I took evening primrose oil for a couple of nights to try to speed up the process. But, as with every baby, C came when it was time. If you want to read the rest of the story, click the read more link below. Just a warning, things may get a little graphic.
I started having contractions on Monday morning, May 26 (Memorial Day!), but I wasn't sure they were contractions. They were a little uncomfortable, but nothing incredibly painful. Thankfully my mom had arrived the night before so I wasn't stressed about delivering C without her there. Since I thought this *might* be it, I decided this was as good a time as any to try to finalize our list of names. Yeah, we still hadn't decided for sure at this point. In fact, I was convinced that we needed to have a little boy's name picked out just in case, but Chad gently reminded me that we were having a GIRL and we really needed to narrow our list of girls names. So, we did. We wrote them on an index card and the index card came with us to the birth center. But, the birth center was still not on the radar screen. I still wasn't sure this was going to progress.
Mom and I decided to go run some errands. Chad decided to wash the siding on the front of our house. Funny what you decide is critical to do before the baby arrives. I wanted a pedicure; Chad wanted the outside of our house clean. The contractions came and went as we went to the nail salon, the material store, etc. They were getting a little more uncomfortable, but it was still manageable. I just found myself stopping and waiting them out. I admit though that I had a slight fear that my water was going to break and make a huge mess while we were out and about. Thankfully it did not.
The day progressed fairly uneventfully. We had friends (April, Dustin, Hollis, and Mrs. Carol) over for dinner. We continued to talk about possible names. Maybe the index card came after this??? A decided that I was *definitely* in labor and that she needed to get home and get things settled so that she could come back when I headed to the birth center. I admitted that the contractions did seem to be coming a bit more regularly, but they were no where near as close as our midwife wanted them to be before we headed to the birth center.
In fact, after our dinner guests left, Chad called the midwife and checked in with her. She thought that I was definitely showing the early signs of labor and encouraged me to take a hot bath and some Tylenol PM. She hoped that would allow me to get one more night of good rest before the difficult part of labor began. Um, no. That did not happen. I took my bath and I took the Tylenol PM, but I did not get a full night's rest to get ready for labor. Nope.
I went to the bathroom and have blocked (thankfully) some of the memories of everything that happened there. I do remember thinking, "hmm...that doesn't look like anything I've seen before. Could it be? Why, yes, I think it is..." before informing my mom that I thought I'd just lost my mucus plug. It sounds gross, I know, but it's part of the process so just roll with me. Then I got a HUGE unmistakable contraction around 11-ish at which point I looked at my mom and said something to the effect of "this hurts." She confirmed that childbirth did, indeed, hurt.
Chad had already gone to lay down so that he could be well rested, but that didn't last long either. I made him aware of the painful goings-on :-) There was another call to the midwife somewhere in here, but I don't remember all of the particulars. She wasn't too concerned yet though. She'd been through this a lot more than I had though and I was just a wee bit panicked. What if we waited too long to go? What if I suffered through transition in the car? What if...
The rest of the night is kind of a blur as labor progressed pretty quickly after that. I labored in our bed, standing in our bathroom, some in the bathtub (I think), and who knows where else. I was mostly in the bed and mostly naked. It was hot, hot, hot!!! Thank goodness for fans and blue gatorade. Ah, blue gatorade. It helped me get through some rough times. Chad timed the contractions when I told him about them, but I swear I must have slept through some of them because the times were somewhat erratic. From time to time, Chad would urge me to change positions as that's known to speed up labor, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to speed it up! I would get semi-comfortable laboring in a position and not want to move because I would learn how to manage the pain in that particular position. Chad and Mom provided me amazing moral support and necessary breathing tutorials. It's funny how some of the stuff you *know* you should do goes out the window when you feel like something is trying to kill you from the inside.
The laboring went on, with us dozing some in the bed and my mom on the floor, until it was morning and I decided that it was time to go. Chad wasn't sure because my contractions still weren't as close as the midwives had suggested they be before coming in (something like 2 or 3 minutes apart), but I assured him that I was ready and it was time. I was nice about it, I'm sure (ha!). He called the midwife on duty (Leigh Ann - one of our favorites, YAY!) and she was already at the birth center. She said she had gone ahead after our last call because she had thought we might come in sooner. She asked which room we wanted (how awesome is that - we had a pick because I was the ONLY one in labor at the center that morning!) and it was ready when we got there.
On the way to the birth center, Chad and Mom made some necessary calls and I tried not to die. Okay, so I realize that that's overly dramatic, but I was feeling the pain at this point. In fact, at one point I told Chad, "If we get there and I'm only 1 or 2 centimeters, you can just put me back in the car, take me to the hospital, and tell them to get this thing out of me!" Yeah, I was in just a wee bit of pain. Thankfully, I was further along than that. Unfortunately, one of my worst fears had occurred. I was starting to go through transition in the car. Joy.
When we arrived at the birth center (around 7 a.m.), I walked into the room and began shedding clothes immediately. It's amazing how modesty goes out the window during childbirth. I could have cared less. My body was on fire and I just wanted relief. Leigh Ann "checked" me and informed me that I was about 6 or 7 centimeters dialated. She was really proud of me. She said that I had come at just the right time. Phew. Seriously, this was SUCH a huge relief. She filled up the HUGE tub with warm water and let me get in. That was nice. Or, as nice as things can be during transition, I suppose.
Chad put on some Indigo Girls (graciously provided by one Susan D. Jones) and I tried to go to a happy place. Mom and Chad were still having to help me monitor my breathing and I'm not gonna lie, I began to question my "no drugs" policy just a bit right about this time. In fact, I think I asked for a little something (no epidurals at the birth center, but they did have some narcotics), but Leigh Ann assured me that I was progressing quickly and would have a baby by noon. And, my amazing Mom and husband kept reminding me that I could do it and that I had always done anything I had set my mind to. BUT, the best thing was when I had the most awful contraction imaginable...the one where you can practically see the baby trying to escape via bursting through the lining of your stomach...and Leigh Ann calmly told me that it would not get any worse than that. That brought relief. Then I felt like I really could do it because I had survived it once and knew that I could do it again.
Soon I got out of the tub because I had decided that I did *not* want to have a water birth. Also, Leigh Ann was about to be "off" duty and Maureen (another favorite!) came on. At this point my water still had not broken and I had so much pressure in my rear end that I felt like it was going to explode. I know that might be TMI, but it's true. It was awful. More to the point, I felt like if something did explode out of my rear end, it would be A-okay with me because I knew I'd feel a million times better ;-)
When Maureen checked me, I had reached 10 centimeters. My water was still intact. Now, I must take this moment to note that some doctors might have taken it upon themselves to bust my water themselves. Tsk-tsk. Instead, Maureen encouraged me to go to the bathroom and try to squat/go to the potty. I informed her that that hurt, but I did what I was told. While semi-squatting in the bathroom, my water burst. This was not a polite little trickle. The bag of waters exploded. It went all over the walls of the bathroom, all over Chad, and all over Maureeen. I realize that this is TMI, but you chose to keep reading. :-) The relief I felt at this moment was immense. I almost felt like the hardest part was over...almost.
Maureen told me to go back to the bed because it was time to start pushing. She was going to change clothes. I was a little concerned that she was going to change clothes at such a critical time, but I did not question her. She was back in plenty of time, of course. It was pushing time. I pushed on my side, which was a great position for the way C was situated in there and for maximum? comfort. One leg was up in the air, of course, which I'm sure would look fantastic on video had I allowed the glorious event to be videoed.
Still, pushing, not surprisingly, was painful. I remember screaming in pain at one point (April - who was in the waiting room - told me later that she called Dustin at this point and told him to pray because it was time and I was in pain. She was right!) and am now so very thankful that I was not in a hospital with a dozen other moms to hear me! Apparently by screaming, I was wasting valuable pushing energy. I was given a washcloth to bite down on and it helped me refocus the screaming energy to push out my 8 pound, 10 ounce child.
Side note: In my birth plan, I had assured anyone who would be involved that I didn't really want to watch the baby being born via mirror. I think I might next time, but this time I felt like I had enough going on. I don't remember if a mirror was held up or not, but I know they asked me if I wanted one. I confirmed that I did not, but they were persistent with wanting to get me as involved as possible in the birth process. I'm grateful for this now.
There was another midwife in the room in addition to the Maureen and the nurse. This midwife was doing an internship or something. They asked if it was okay for her to observe and, well, who was I to say no? ;-) I'm glad I said it was fine because this amazing woman massaged my back during some of the pushing. It was glorious (or, as glorious as anything can be in the midst of the physically taxing work of labor).
So, I bit my washcloth and pushed. Maureen used olive oil to help my perineum (I think that's right?) stretch and allow the baby's head to emerge. As Cady was crowning, Maureen urged me to reach down and feel my baby's head. I wasn't sure I wanted to, but I did because I was wanting to get on with it. Now, of course, I'm glad I took that moment to feel her little head coming out of my body. It's amazing to think that she was ever that small. Cady came out with a few more pushes and was, of course, perfect. She was laid on my chest immediately and the picture below captures those first few moments better than any words could (note my blue mouth/tongue thanks to the Gatorade). There had been a knot in the umbilical cord (pictures of which were never posted - and never will be- because, well, it was too close to other things that even I in my openness do not wish to share) and we were relieved that Cady did not seem to suffer as a result of it.
Moments later out came the placenta and afterbirth. Yeah, I know, ew. But, that had to happen before everyone would leave us alone ;-) We spent a few precious moments with our daughter who quickly found my breast and began to nurse. We decided on a name and soon welcomed April in to meet our new arrival. Eventually, grandparents and great grandparents and ministers arrived to give their best wishes. Cady was weighed and measured and had a hearing test. I ate thanks to A and pottied and just generally marveled at this wonderful little person who was once inside me and was now on the outside. I also informed her that she would be an only child because I wasn't sure I wanted to go through all that again!
We left the birth center about 4 p.m. and headed home. We had arrived around 7 a.m. and Cady had been born at 9:54 a.m. It was surprisingly fast and straightforward for a first birth. A precious friend (Debra Freeman) brought dinner that night and Chad's dad got a birthday cake for our baby girl. I was exhausted, but exhilarated. A nice warm shower at home helped me feel a little more normal and we all settled in to begin the transition to a family of three.
Childbirth is intense, and, yes, natural childbirth is painful, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It was one of the hardest things that I've ever done and yet also one of the most natural. I was so proud of myself and so impressed with my body. My body was amazing (if I do say so myself!). I did have a small tear and 1? 1.5? internal stitch(es), but thanks to midwives who were patient with my body and Maureen's magic with the olive oil, I avoided an episiotomy or a huge tear. I know that these things are unavoidable sometimes, but I'm thankful that a little olive oil and a steady voice urging me to slow down for a minute helped me avoid them.
I'm grateful for the brevity of my labor, and for C's relatively small head, I can assure you. But, I'm also thankful that I was able to have a natural childbirth. This is not always possible and I do not take the gift for granted. I know that my experience is not necessarily normative so don't hear me claiming that; I'm just recounting my experience because I think it's important to tell good birth stories in addition to the scary ones. It was, in part, reading those loads of positive birth stories that helped me know I could do it too. They gave me the confidence to continue laboring at home (sans midwife, doctor, etc.) and the knowledge of things I could expect. Maybe my own story can do that for someone else. Or, maybe you'll all just think I'm nuts. But, I'm still glad I wrote it if it does nothing but help me. I'm thankful I took the time to remember and to record...even if it is 3 years later.
If/when we have another child, I plan to go the natural route again. I know some folks think I'm crazy for choosing to give birth in this way and that's fine. Maybe I am. Or, maybe I have some sub-conscious need to feel that power and control again...that moment when I realized that I could do it and my body took over and just did its thing.
I'm sure I'll edit this story as I remember other things, but this is a good start. At least some of it is finally written somewhere besides in my head. Chad wrote his version of the birth story and gave it to me as one of my Christmas presents last year. It was the perfect gift. With his permission, maybe I'll post his remembrances next week. It's fun to see how we remember those days differently.