Monday, November 13th, 2017
My pregnancy was no easy one. From all day nausea up to 26 weeks along with four viruses and surviving the NC summer with a toddler, it was quite the adventure! But knowing it was my last pregnancy I soaked up every little kick and hiccup I felt inside my belly while pondering if I was carrying a little boy or a girl. Every time I would dream of my baby it was always a girl as her birthday approached. As a second time Mom and birth doula I did all the things to prepare and felt good about the upcoming birth. The only tiny fear that kept rising up in the back of my mind was shoulder dystocia. One of my second trimester prenatals with one of the midwives, Belinda, turned into a long therapy session where she let me talk about all my concerns and reassured me that whether my fear was from being a doula who had experienced different birth situations or if it was my intuition, my body was capable and I was in good knowledgeable hands with the midwives.
Come 34 weeks my Braxton Hicks were becoming very regular, especially with activity and started to make me nervous. I ended up going to UNC after having them come every 3-5 minutes and last a minute with cramps when up and moving around, but thankfully I wasn’t dilated and was told just to take it easy. I did my best to ignore them and not stress over preterm labor while my mom and grandma pulled together to help out with household chores so I could lay low.
By 36 weeks I was having real prodromal like contractions every night and would wake at the peak of them while thinking *nope. Not happening little one! We are birthing at the birth center!* and go back to sleep. Once we hit 37 weeks I felt so relieved! My husband and I went on a dinner date to celebrate and during our date I felt those prodromal-like contractions again (thanks oxytocin!). I had stronger ones through the night that never went away by morning that felt like early labor to me. But once my toddler got up for the day, he began acting like he sensed something was going on and had so much anxious energy that my stress levels rose and contractions fizzled out. So I made sure I got a good nap and ate well just in case it would start back up that night when I was off Mom duty.
2:30 am I woke up to a massive gush of water pouring out of me into our bed. I knew my water was breaking and immediately reached behind me to wake my husband who took no time to barrel roll out of our bed to dodge the bodily fluids like it was acid. I’m pretty sure my water breaking in our bed was his biggest fear after birthing the baby in the car! He gathered towels and I notified the on call Midwife. Knowing labor would most likely start I scarfed down a Cliff bar and sipped some water and got in a nice shower. Contractions began in half an hour and were 5 minutes apart lasting 1 1/2 minutes in no time. We decided to get our things together and head to the Birth Center as soon as my mom arrived to be with our son. Not looking forward to the almost hour long drive in labor, I popped in my earphones and listened to my Hypno Babies track while reclined in the car trying to find a way to completely relax. We arrived at the Birth Center right around 5am at the same time as my doula (who also happens to be one of my best friends!) and our Birth photographer, Amanda. I already had to focus during contractions and intentionally breathe through them. We settled into the peach room and my doula, Dana, and Amanda figured out how to hang up my birth affirmation cards and twinkle lights to make our room look dreamy. Once settled in I felt a shift in contractions. By 7am I was trying to sit on the toilet for a few contractions but always stood up right before the peak hit because I felt so much pressure. “You guys are gonna have to glue me down!” I said…then shortly after I puked on my husband’s shoulder. Lydia was finishing up her shift and decided it was time for a cervical check before I got in the tub to make sure I was far enough along not to stall it. I chose not to know my progress (I was a 7) and she suggested we try the shower first. It was nice to do something different and feel the hot water on my back and belly. I made my husband get in with me to keep me company, and at this point I was definitely vocalizing through each rush and found great comfort and felt most grounded while holding my husbands shoulders. I remember recognizing signs of transition in myself but thinking maybe it was just more intense without the cushion of my water bag. But once I puked again mid contraction I was over the shower. We got out and feeling cool air of the room on my wet bathing suit top seemed so refreshing that I didn’t change out of it. I remember not knowing what I wanted to do. Being on all fours and leaning over pillows was awful, it was too soft and I needed to feel firm and steady. The bath was floaty and left me wondering what position I could manage to cope with all the intense back labor I was feeling. And I didn’t want to stay in it for the birth because I kept thinking that I needed to be able to flip hands and knees in case of a shoulder dystocia. And then I’d think *omg stop thinking shoulder dystocia! What is wrong with you?*
At this point things got blurry and my eyes were shut most of the time as I stayed at an 8/9 for a few hours! Some contractions never left before another one would ripple right back up into yet another back piercing peak. All I have to say is all hail the hip squeeze! My other friend/doula was able to join us and I needed every single person that was in that room to get me through. My husband was my emotional rock by my face, doulas were all about the counter pressure and my amazing Midwife, Rebecca, was like having a lifetime best friend in the room to lovingly coach me what to do…with just enough sweetness to make me feel at ease but enough firmness hidden in her tone to let me know that we needed to work together to get this baby out. We worked different positions as well as binding my belly, trying to get the last bit of dilation complete. Lunges, sitting in a squat, hands and knees over a bean bag and also side lying in bed. At one point we thought that my last bit of cervical lip had gone finally! To which I remember sobbing and saying, “Thank you Jesus!” Only to then (after some pushes that really hurt) be told it was back again…to which I responded with “F$@&.” I’m pretty sure my husband laughed at me at multiple points during labor. It was probably his way of coping with his typically super quiet wife roaring like a lion through this intense labor!
At last I was able to push. And I just remember wondering WHY it hurt so bad to do so? With my son it was a RELIEF to push and felt great to get him down and out. But this time it felt like my back was breaking and nothing was budging. It was then I saw more people flooding the room and one of my favorite midwives, Jessica, and her amazing purple hair at the bed. They had called in backup. Once I was told to specifically stay on my back with my knees at my head to push, I knew what was going on. Finally her head was visible and I was able to give little grunts as her head crowned. I really wanted to allow my body to stretch and not tear! My Mantra was just to think *stretching* to remember that was the sensation I was feeling and ended up saying it out loud. Then Rebecca told me to push really hard and as I did she simultaneously pressed on my pubic bone to allow baby girl’s head to fully emerge! I was told I needed to flip to hands and knees and immediately thought *CRAP it’s happening! This is shoulder dystocia* so I kicked myself over as fast as I could with a baby head sticking out of my vagina and began pushing as hard as I could with each contraction. The moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life, that still haunts me…is the moment I was told to push as hard as I could to free her body. I was ALREADY pushing as hard as I could. My mind was racing. I was absolutely terrified in that moment that I couldn’t free my baby. I wanted to collapse and sob and say that I couldn’t do it! And I was afraid that the overwhelming energy would cause me to let out my breath into a roar while I pushed instead of being able to contain it and focus it down to my baby. But then I heard my doulas both praying out loud over my body for Jesus to give me strength…all of this happened in a second and then I purple pushed so hard while gripping my husband’s hand, I thought my blood vessels would burst! Then I felt her trunk budge at last and finally was completely freed from my pelvis! When I rolled back over I saw her body on the bed with both Rebecca and Jessica working with her to get her to breathe and heard someone tell me to talk to her. It was the first time I was able to call her by name.
We had a daughter! “Iris! Hi baby! Mama is right here.” And then we heard the littlest cry. She was finally placed on my chest. The room was full of tears of gratefulness that she was ok! Our wild flower was born October 10th around noon weighing 10lbs 14.5 ounces and only 19 inches long, making mama work hard to finally meet her. And we couldn’t be any more in love with our little turkey! Or anymore thankful for our birth team. Never underestimate a mama’s intuition.
*All photographs taken by the amazing Amanda Ditzel of Manda’s Memories/Raleigh Birth Photography*