Thank you, Leacoln, for sharing Eliana’s story with us.
Eliana Grace, born Friday, March 20, 2015, 10:31pm.
I hadn’t been sleeping well for the last two months of my pregnancy. The night before I went into labor was no exception. My mom had just come into town to stay until Eliana was born. We watched “The Business of Being Born,” and I went to bed around 12:30am. I woke up around 2:30am thinking I had been asleep for a while. When I checked my phone and saw the time, I was slightly annoyed and decided to get up to pee. After using the restroom I decided I was unusually hungry but didn’t want to wake my mom since she was sleeping on our couch. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep so I turned on the TV.
As I reclined in bed I started having what I thought were more Braxton hicks contractions because I had been having them pretty regularly for the last week. Something was different about these contractions though. I was having a slight menstrual cramp feeling with them. They seemed to be coming somewhat regularly so I decided to time them just for fun. I wanted to see if there was anything to them without getting overly worked up thinking I was in labor. They came at 5 minutes, 9 minutes, 7 minutes and were lasting anywhere between 45 seconds to 1 minute. Not what I was thinking early labor would look like. But they didn’t stop and were just a little painful. I decided to text Jeremy and let him know something different was happening. I timed them until around 4:30am when I decided that I would wake my mom up to see what she thought. So back to bed we went to watch TV and time contractions. After and hour or so we decided we were hungry. We had pizza that was left over from the night before: Dominos Hawaiian pizza. Maybe it was the pineapple that set off labor!
Jeremy came home around 6:30 and I was preparing to go back to bed. The contractions had eased a bit and I thought maybe I was just having prodromal labor. I still wasn’t convinced that she would make her appearance that very day, but maybe that weekend. I went back to bed around 7:30 but the contractions kept me from sleeping well. I started timing them again around 10am and decided something was definitely happening. They were more regular now- about 5 minutes apart and lasting around 45 seconds each. I immediately woke Jeremy up because we had some prepping to do! I called my midwife to let her know what had been going on since I woke up in the early morning. She had been trying to convince me that I wouldn’t have my baby until around 42 weeks but after I told her about the regularity of the contractions she congratulated me and said it sounded like I was going to meet my baby that day!
Oh my, I was so excited! I told my mom what the midwife had said and had her begin to prepare my “laborade.” Jeremy began preparing our bedroom by moving the bed, placing the tarps,and inflating the birth pool. I paced the floors to keep the contractions coming steady and had breakfast. I was now reaching the point that I had to stop and sway my hips with each contraction. I could still talk and laugh through them but they were definitely getting my attention. I decided to shower just incase things kept progressing. I thought the warm water might ease the contractions but I think they actually made them stronger!
The preparation continued until around 1:30. My mother in law came over to get our dogs and we had prayer together as a family. It was a beautiful moment that brought such peace over us all. I knew Ellie’s birth was going to be amazing.
At this point I was beginning to get tired from all of the pacing so I sat on the birth ball and began to bounce. This seemed to ease the contractions and slow them down. On one hand I was thankful because I was tired and on the other I didn’t want things to slow down. I wanted to hold my baby! I decided it was better to rest and be prepared in case this was a long labor. I moved to the couch and propped my feet up on my ball. I dozed there for almost two hours and the contractions were far apart and not so strong. At 3:30pm I decided I would move to the bed and sleep as best as I could.
The short walk from the living room to the bedroom got the contractions revved up again. I lay down with Jeremy and just tried to sleep between them. At this point they were coming every 3 minutes and lasting about a minute a piece. It was impossible to rest through these. I let out my first cry of pain. This contraction brought tears. It was enough to wake Jeremy up. He insisted I call the midwife back to tell her how things had progressed. After a few more of those strong contractions, I agreed.
At 5:30pm I had him call because I was in too much pain to carry on a conversation. I also let him know to call the birth photographer to let her know this was it. At this point we brought out my comfort measures box. I had peppermint essential oil, chapstick, a rice sock and several massagers. First I tried my oil because it seemed to really work in our birth class. I couldn’t focus on holding the cotton ball to my nose and getting through a contraction at the same time. I need both hands on the dresser and to have hips swaying. That’s all I could manage. Jeremy then asked if I wanted to try the rice sock. He heated it and rolled it over my lower back and it felt so good. He told me our midwife was on the other side of town and would be here in about 45 minutes to an hour. I thought, “Oh my gosh, another HOUR before someone who knows that they’re doing gets here?!”
I couldn’t focus on timing contractions or on anything that was happening around me. I kept my eyes closed and moaned a low “ohhhhhhh,” during each contraction as I held the rice sock under my belly. Jeremy and my mom were working on filling up the birth pool. I didn’t know what time it was or how close together my contractions were. I was in what my midwife refers to as, “Labor Land.”
The next thing I know the midwife is standing beside me asking how I’m doing. I give her a smile and reply, “Ok.” She asked me if I wanted to be checked for dilation. I did because I wanted to know where I was and maybe how much longer I had to go. For the first time in maybe a couple of hours I moved from where I had planted myself in front of the dresser and got on the bed.
The check was the first vaginal exam I had had for my entire pregnancy. And it. Was. Painful. I later found out that my cervix was so thin that she had to double check herself to make sure I was actually as far along as I was. When the midwife told me I was 7cm I was so shocked! I thought for sure I would only be 4 or 5. Periodically through the contractions I would remember snippets of things I had read in birth stories and Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth. The night before I had just read an excerpt that said, “If you can make it through 5cm, it’s likely that you will have a unmedicated, natural child birth.” That gave me so much encouragement! The snippets of information seemed to come to me just as I needed them. I knew I needed to keep my voice low to relax my perineum; I needed to relax and not fight the contractions, but surrender to them.
After my vaginal exam, I quickly got in the pool. The warm water felt so good and helped me to relax even more. I think it was around 6:45pm. From that point on, I had no concept of time or what was happening around me. I was lost in the cycle of contracting, moaning through it, and resting before the next contraction came.
Occasionally someone would offer me a sip of my laborade. My midwife offered encouraging words and told me how great I was doing. I remember the birth photographer saying how this made her want another baby. Jeremy was constantly at my side, offering his own words of encouragement and a loving touch. I remember from my birth class that a momma in labor should be encouraged to pee often to help her remain relaxed. The baby was getting lower and I could feel each contraction pushing her against my bladder. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of the water. I asked if I could pee in the pool. Half kidding, half not. They told me I could if I wanted but it would benefit me to get up and walk. I decided to do what was best for my labor and walk to the bathroom. I was able to pee but the contractions that came while I sat on the toilet were painful. Suddenly, I felt like I was going to throw up and said so. Someone was quickly at my side with a bowl, but I don’t remember who. I told Jeremy I didn’t want to throw up (I hate throwing up more than anything in the world.) I couldn’t control the vomit and the contractions so I decided to let it go. Surprisingly, vomiting is the easy part of labor. I cleared my stomach and got back into the pool.
I had no idea what time it was and refrained from asking. I was afraid I would be disappointed. I wanted to ask how long it would be before I could push but I didn’t want another vaginal exam, and I was afraid of the answer. So I just kept doing everything I had been doing. I never allowed myself to say, “I can’t do this.” I knew I had too many supportive people around me and this baby was coming out one way or the other. I didn’t have a choice. There was no time or room for negative thoughts. I did allow myself to say, “This really hurts.” Because it did. But that was okay, because this was pain with a purpose. There’s was something beautiful waiting at the end of this pain. It wasn’t going to last forever. I had a loving husband beside me who was doing everything he could to comfort me. There was always a hand to hold, encouraging words spoken, and sometimes a kiss on the forehead. At this point he also kept cold rags on my forehead and chest to keep me as cool and comfortable as possible.
There came a time when the contractions seemed to slow down. They were still very painful but I was able to nod off between them. I heard Jeremy ask, “Rest and be thankful phase?” which was a term we had learned in my birth class. I couldn’t think though. I was just so thankful for the rest that came between contractions. When they picked back up though, there was something different accompanying them. I had been moaning a loud “ohhhhhh” through each one. Now there was an “uhh” on the end. A short grunt. With each moan my body began to bear down on its own. I was scared. I didn’t want to push too soon because I knew that would cause my cervix to swell if it hadn’t dilated completely. So I asked if it was ok to start pushing. My midwife told me to listen to my body.
The “uhhh” was still attaching itself to the end of my moans. I was pushing! I wanted to know how many pushes it would take to push my baby out but I knew no one could answer that for me. Pushing was the hardest for me to mentally tame. It hurt and my bottom was tense. I couldn’t figure out how to relax it. My midwife reminded me with each push, “Relax your bottom.” I told her I was trying but I didn’t know how. I tried to blow my breath out after the contractions to try and relax and release tension but that just seemed to cause my body to push as well.
Finally I decided that I was going to put my all in it and REALLY push with my body instead of trying to just get through it. It was hurting but fighting it wasn’t easing the pain or helping my baby. I decided it was something I had to bear. This is when I really started making progress. (I don’t know how close together the contractions were but later I was told I pushed for about an hour before Ellie was born.)
I felt like with each push I was going to push my whole bottom out. Like I might explode down there from the pressure. Logically I knew that wasn’t going to happen but it felt like it would. Instinctively, I suddenly reached down and touched my vagina. With that push I could feel her head push again my perineum. I was getting so close! A few more pushes and the midwives said they could see hair! Suddenly the room was buzzing with activity. The lights came on and I could hear my mom and mother in law in the door way telling me I was amazing and that I could do it. Everyone was offering their encouragement.
I remembered reading about how women “roared” their babies out. I didn’t feel like I was roaring but I was definitely getting loud. It wasn’t a high pitched scream, because I knew better than to do that. That would only tighten my perineum and I didn’t want that. It was more of a low growling noise. Sort of like when a muscle head is lifting weights at the gym.
My hand was still at my bottom when the midwives put the mirror in the pool. I could see hair too! My baby was right there. I was touching her. I just needed to push her on out. At this point my midwife had me tuck my chin to my chest and really push. Ellie’s head began to come out but the contraction ended and she went back in. Ugh, disappointment. The next contraction came and I tried again. She came out up to her ears but I could feel myself tearing and got scared. The contraction ended and she slipped back in. At this point I decided my baby was coming out on the next contraction. My midwife began to hold me at the point on my body where the tear was beginning. With next contraction I might have roared, but I know I pushed with everything I had. I tore. I felt it. But my baby had to come out. Finally! Her head was delivered! I heard our mothers gasping and crying with excitement.
I knew her body had to born quickly. I saw one midwife look at the time piece around her neck. I knew I may have to move to prevent shoulder dystocia. Suddenly one midwife was instructing me to stand up and lean over the side of the pool. Ok, anything to get this baby out. They helped me up and positioned me over the side of the pool. I let out some of the loudest and most purposeful sounds I have ever made and her body slid out above water. I quickly turned around to see that Jeremy had jumped into the pool to catch her. He handed her to me and I sat back down. She was slick! And beautiful. And the most perfect baby I had ever seen. It was done! She was born at 10:31pm.
I rubbed her back to stimulate her first breath. She wasn’t breathing as quickly as I thought she should so I kept asking if she was ok and the midwives assured me she was. I noticed that the pool water was more red than I thought it should be but I really didn’t pay it any mind. I was too happy and euphoric to care. I feel like I only sat down for a couple minutes before the midwives asked me to get out of the pool. When I stood up, blood gushed out of me. I handed Ellie to Jeremy while the midwives helped me out. As I stepped out of the pool the blood just kept coming. I should have been scared but I wasn’t. I thought, “I could bleed out and die.” But I wasn’t scared or worried. Maybe it was the prayer we prayed earlier, maybe it was the adrenaline running through my system. I’m not sure.
The two steps from the pool to bed was exhausting. I was helped onto the bed and Ellie was placed on my chest again. I was informed that I needed a shot of pitocin. I thought, “Ok, I just gave birth. Do you think I’m afraid of a needle?” I got the shot in my left thigh and a minute or so later I delivered the placenta. The midwives began pressing on my uterus from the outside. It was painful but I needed the compression to help the bleeding stop. With each compression I could feel blood run out. I was too busy rubbing and cleaning my new baby to care. After the bleeding was taken care of, the cord was clamped and Jeremy was able to cut it. We then were left alone for 45 minutes to an hour to bond as a new little family.
Later the midwives came back to do the newborn exam and begin the cleanup. There was so much going on around me but I was lost in the moment staring at my newborn. I couldn’t believe this came out of me! I did it! I had my home birth. It was over. I remember reading how afterwards women felt “empowered,” and “like birth warriors.” I didn’t feel any of that. I felt like I had done something that needed to be done. I had a goal and I completed it. I didn’t feel like super woman like I thought I would. I just felt like I had done something women had been doing for thousands of years. I had done something that was as intrinsic to human nature as breathing. I also realized why women got the epidurals! I remember thinking, “I don’t know if I could do that again.”
After cleanup was competed I was told I would need a couple of stitches. So daddy and Eliana had some skin to skin time while I was stitched up. It was a little uncomfortable but once again, I had just given birth. I wasn’t afraid of a needle. The midwives walked me to the toilet and wiped the blood from my legs and feet. They helped me get into the mesh underwear with the mega giant pads that could soak up a whole pool. I can’t explain the level of care they gave me. It was absolutely wonderful. They weren’t grossed out by anything and I really felt like my own mother was taking care of me.
My primary midwife gave me some postpartum care instructions and told me how amazing I was. And just like that, it was all over. It was just my new baby and my family. It was 2am and I was eating Taco Bell in my own bed with my husband and my new baby. We didn’t have a hundred people waiting in the waiting room to rush in as soon as Ellie came out. There wouldn’t be nurses coming in and out all night. No one would be trying to take my baby to the nursery or to perform tests. There were no IV’s or beeping machines. It was exactly the way I wanted it. I had been surrounded by people who loved, supported, and believed in me. The results showed it. I was healthy and so was baby. Everyone who attended was in awe of what had happened.
Eliana’s birth was natural, beautiful, and successful. I wished more women could experience the love and support during labor that I had experienced that night. As Laura Stavoe Harm said, “There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”