Jen's Birth Story
My family might say that I was a good storyteller when I was in elementary school. I would disagree, but I promised my baby and myself that I would write down this story so that someday they would read it and realize what an amazing experience it was, and what an amazing place The Midwife Center is.
I had been a gynecological client of The Midwife Center for a few years when my husband, Darren, and I started trying to get pregnant. I knew that it was the perfect place for us to deliver because we didn't want to have our baby in a hospital, but there's too much dog hair at our house for a home birth.
Nevertheless, I still had to convince my mother, a nurse of 40 years who was quite used to hospital protocol and the security of a hospital setting if an emergency were to occur. I took my mom and my mother-in-law to The Midwife Center's weekly orientation so that they could see the center, ask questions, and overcome any fears regarding delivery of a baby there. At the end of the night, I asked them how they felt about a birthing center delivery. My mother-in-law agreed with our decision, but my mom was still not convinced. The what-ifs of an emergency were holding her back. Despite my mother's hesitation, we decided we would still deliver at the center if possible. Throughout the pregnancy, we were happy with the care we received at each visit, and my mom stayed quiet about her fears of the delivery at the birth center.
Waiting for labor
With an estimated delivery date of Saturday, August 27, I started my leave from work that same day. I thought if the baby still wasn't ready to be born, I could use the time the following week to rest and think about the change that was about to occur in my life. My 40-week appointment was on Wednesday August 31, and after the appointment, I got anxious about the possibility of needing to be induced.
I called the center on the morning of September 1. The midwife Kathy reassured me that induction was a long way away and that she would expect me to be in over the weekend. I felt much better and went about my day. That afternoon, I had contractions that seemed to be more regular, but completely bearable. I thought to myself, "If this is labor, I can totally handle it!"
I was supposed to go headpiece shopping for my good friend's wedding, but decided I had better stay close to home to rest and to try jump-starting labor through ankle massage, nipple stimulation, and sex. One of the techniques did the trick, because at 10:00 p.m. my water broke. I called The Midwife Center and spoke to Abby, another midwife. She stated that the first stage of labor could take some time and to stay home for now.
Darren rushed to his office to file his time-sheet since he knew he wouldn't be in the next day. Luckily, his office is only a few minutes away because the contractions quickly started to become more lively. While he was gone, I called my mom and our doula to let them know it was go time and we would call them when we needed them.
Once my husband arrived back home, the contractions had shifted to my back which led me to the lean on the birth ball while Darren applied counter pressure to my hips. Our two dogs were on the floor surrounding me and I felt good about the process so far. At 11:30 p.m., with contractions 2.5 minutes apart and strengthening, I asked Darren to call our doula. I needed someone who had been through the process to be with me. Cortney arrived with positive vibes and a yummy, energizing juice that she kindly helped me to sip every few minutes. I continued on the birthing ball with contractions holding steady at 2.5 minutes apart until around 12:45 a.m.
Darren called Abby again. We were all nervous that everything might be moving a little too quickly and I was ready to move to the next phase of the process. I remember wondering how I was supposed to ride in the car with surges forcing me to lean forward and moan. Because the car seat was already in place, I sat in the passenger seat but faced the back seat and bent over as much as the car would allow. The ride seemed to take forever - we hit every red light.
Arriving at The Midwife Center
When we finally pulled in to the parking space, we were unsure if Abby and Jamie, the nurse, had arrived yet. Another contraction enveloped me and I leaned on our car while moaning. I remember hearing people in the distance and wondering what they must be thinking as I vocalized in the middle of the night in the Strip District.
Jamie opened the door to let us into the center and I walked back to the Desert Room. At this point, time seemed to shift. Some moments felt like they lasted forever and some felt like they flew by. It felt like it took an hour to walk from the car to the birthing room. Each step I took lasted an eternity and I felt as if I had to think about each movement - one foot forward, slide my hand along the wall, support my back with the other hand, next foot forward, slide my hand along the wall, other foot forward again, slide my hand further along the wall, finally turn my body into the room.
Then, when I entered the room, time altered again and everything happened so quickly. Abby checked me...four centimeters...my mom arrived...Jamie monitored with the Doppler...I worked through a few contractions...I ripped my dress and panties off...I climbed into the Jacuzzi tub. All of that felt like a matter of seconds. Then it was as if the warm water of the tub slowed everything down again.
In the tub, the contractions were still in my back, so with each one I would let everyone know it was coming and one person would apply counter pressure to my hips and someone else would rub my spine. Throughout the labor, I kept thinking about how hard my team was working too. I felt bad. I wanted them to be able to relax and just enjoy the end result; I was the one that was supposed to be doing all of the hard work!
I labored in the tub for 2.5 hours and when checked, had progressed to six centimeters. I groaned. "How could that be? I should be ten by now." I remember feeling so tired. It must have been 4:00 a.m. by then. The exhaustion led me to state that I should have just scheduled a c-section. This comment led everyone to say, "Oh come on! You're doing it!" I definitely wasn't serious about my comment, but labor makes you say some pretty interesting things. Soon, I proclaimed that I was becoming a prune and decided it was time to get out of the tub. I moved back to the bed and tried a few other positions but being on my side was the only way that I felt I could relax through the contractions like my HypnoBirthing class taught me.
Throughout the entire process, Abby and Jamie continued to check the baby's heart rate. It was dipping quite a bit during contractions and I remember that the only time I opened my eyes during the entire laboring process was when they had trouble finding the heartbeat at all. There is nothing scarier, but there wasn't one moment when I felt unsafe. I had so much confidence in Abby and Jamie. I knew they would make the appropriate decision for whatever situation arose. Looking back, I wonder what my mom was thinking.
After awhile, Abby checked me a third time and I was at eight centimeters. Again, I groaned. I wished all of it would end because I could not believe the intensity of the contractions. Well, I was about to get my wish. I suddenly felt the urge to push and Abby checked me once more to find that I was now 10 centimeters. "What does that mean?" I said. She said it meant I was fully dilated. "But, what does that mean?" I said again. She said I could push!
I told her that she would have to coach me through this part because I wasn't sure what to do. However, when the next contraction came, it all seemed to flow naturally from my body and I entered into my own little world. I pushed and pushed and yelled and yelled and Abby proclaimed that she saw hair! But I couldn't understand why I still had to push. Where was the baby?
I asked Abby why it was so hard. Surprised by my question, reassuringly, she told me that this was the first time I pushed a human being out of my vagina. Ah, yes, that is true. This called for more pushing! At that point, it was a shift change, so Priscilla, the nurse and Theresa, the midwife entered the room. I barely noticed they were there, but I could tell there were more voices cheering me on. They kept telling me I was almost done and instructing me to put my chin to my chest and to keep my voice within me (I'm getting goose bumps just writing this!).
The power of the pushing was incredible! It felt like something had taken over me. I felt like I was being torn in half but the desire to keep pushing was overwhelming. Finally, I distinctly remember Priscilla telling me to "PUSH, PUSH, PUSH! Now take a big breath and PUSH again!" The baby's head was out and the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck. So quickly Abby unwrapped the cord, pushed the baby's shoulder down, out came the rest of the body, and onto my chest the baby went. I honestly don't know how I even took the baby from her. It was as if it just appeared and somehow I managed to hold on.
At 7:07 a.m. on September 2, 2011, after nine hours of labor, our baby was here. I looked into those little eyes and couldn't believe they were the eyes of my baby. I could hear my husband crying. I was overwhelmed with exhilaration, exhaustion, and love and I remember thinking, "I'm not crying. I thought for sure I would cry." I told myself that it was okay that I wasn't crying and then I realized that we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl. My husband peeked under the blanket and announced that it was a boy! He cut the cord and then I said goodbye to Abby, Jamie, and my wonderful doula Cortney. From that point on, everything became a little more technical: pitocin, placenta, stitches, blood pressure, pulse, weight, phone calls, and Facebook posts.
Once all of that was taken care of, Priscilla made us a delicious breakfast of omelets, English muffins and juice. I was starving and it was so tasty. Everyone left us alone to enjoy our breakfast and to talk about what to name our little boy. We decided to stick with our original favorite - Andrew Raymond - after my grandfather and my husband's great-grandfather. Priscilla returned with my mom to hear our decision and told us that we could leave to go home at 11:00 a.m., but that we would need to take the baby to the doctor due to the holiday weekend. So, she made us an appointment for 2:00 p.m. and told us to stay at the center to rest until then. I tried to sleep but I just could not stop looking at my baby.
Finally, I showered and Priscilla went over our instructions. We headed to the doctor with my mom and I was shocked at how sore I was as we walked into the doctor's office. He doted on our baby, told us everything was fine and to bring him back in a week to be weighed. We were home and on the couch by 3:30 p.m.
At some point shortly after arriving at home, I asked my mom what she thought of the experience. She said she thought it was wonderful. She thought Abby and Jamie handled everything so well and was especially pleased with the way they continued to monitor the baby's heart rate during labor. Priscilla and Theresa's postpartum care was top notch too, and my mom expressed that she was so glad that everything happened the way that I wanted. And, while I didn't need her approval to deliver at The Midwife Center, I am definitely glad that my mom now thinks it is a great place. I know she will spread the word about the center and I hope that helps it continue to grow. In some way, I think the experience changed my mom a little; at least I know it changed her way of thinking about out of hospital deliveries.
I, on the other hand, am definitely a changed woman. I love pregnancy and pregnant women now. I used to think it was cute, but now I know it's beautiful, amazing, and incredible. And, my birth experience was primal in that I almost felt like I experienced my birth again. That led me to have a new, deeper relationship with my mom. I understand her better and I understand our mother/daughter relationship better.
Also, I trust my body so much more. It has definitely changed since having a baby and I have to relearn myself just a little but I know the changes are natural and I know I will navigate through them. Now, I feel more confident in my abilities. After all, I am raising another human being. The experience also led me to realize that it does take a village, and my village is full of wonderful, caring people.
Finally, my experience convinced me that I am powerful. I hope that women reading my birth story and learning about The Midwife Center will be convinced of their power too. This realization can only lead to good things in our big, scary world. I'm so glad The Midwife Center is here to offer these priceless moments to everyone.