In the beginning of our marriage, BJ and I spent four sometimes-glorious/sometimes-frigid years living in Minneapolis. We made many friends there, including a sweet friend named Katie who volunteered with a group that we also did. I found Katie to be intriguing--always positive, always interesting, and always hard-working. When she volunteered to share her birth story of her daughter Gabi, I was pleased. I'm sure you will be too. Without further ado, meet Katie, in her own words.
Born March 2, 2013 3:58AM
Before Noah, our first, was born, my thoughts and focus were spent on enjoying being pregnant and the bigger picture, becoming a mom and a family of three. My fears, emotions, anxieties, excitement and anticipation were all pointed in that direction. Although I had, by happy accident, come into a relationship with a small group of midwives for my prenatal and birth care, and had a birth plan written out, I thought very little about the actual process of giving birth. When I was 41 weeks along with him, I was finally ready to meet him face-to-face, but he showed no signs of budging. We made an appointment to be induced for week 42, assuming we’d be cancelling it upon his arrival. Week 42, Day 0 came anyway! We went into the hospital on a Monday morning to be induced, which I mistakenly thought would be a pretty quick process – until the midwife told me otherwise. As the Pitocin drip started, I was a little nervous, but that soon gave way to boredom (and hunger!) as nothing happened for hours and hours. About seven hours later the REAL fun started, and six hours after that I demanded an epidural. Once the epidural got there, 45 minutes later, the needle prick, a strong contraction and my water breaking all happened at the same time. After about an hour or two of my body and Noah recovering from the hormonal rush and change in meds, I was able to sleep for a few hours, then woke up knowing it was time to meet our son – almost. Two hours of pushing later, I met my Noah for the first time! 22 hours after the Pitocin drip started. Needless to say, most of the process didn’t follow my ‘birth plan’ in any way. I had originally requested a med-free water birth. I was able to labor in the tub for stints during contractions, but since I was monitored and on Pitocin, they had to check my cervix regularly which meant getting in and out of the tub, which was unpleasant, to say the least. After a few times of that, I resorted myself to the hospital bed for the duration of labor.
When we were expecting our second, I thought more about the birth process – partially forgetting the pain but also knowing more what I was getting into. In light of how Noah’s birth went down, I didn’t even write up a birth plan. I told the midwives I was open to what happened, and that I hoped to avoid induction but was more concerned with a safe birth for our little girl. I was also open to a water birth, or whatever transpired. I also was working full-time, in school and taking care of our 20-month old, so there was not much time for quiet reflection and preparing myself emotionally for a new child and her birth. As with Noah, 41 weeks came and went. I was not looking forward to an induction, but started to come to terms with the probability. I had my membranes stripped around week 40, which brought on about an hour of strong Braxton-Hicks contractions, which soon faded back to no progress.
The last few appointments with the midwife had led to some additional testing, as baby girl seemed to not grow much between appointments, and had limited activity while I was getting checked. It turned out later that the reason for that was that the appointments were all scheduled at the same time each week, during her nap time At 41 weeks and a day, a Friday, I got a call from the midwife – she was in the office that day doing paperwork and going over charts. Although it wasn’t a typical patient day for her, she told me she didn’t want to head into the weekend without checking on the baby again. I appreciated her attention, went in, and she sent me down to the hospital to do an hour of observation to make sure that blood flow, fluids, response, and everything else was fine. It all checked out, and she called and set up an appointment for Monday, with the comment that “I don’t think we’ll be needing this appointment.”
That evening, I started noticing slight contractions while putting Noah to bed. I had experienced Braxton-Hicks since the mid-twenties weeks with both children, and that was about the intensity of these, though they seemed to be more regular than usual. They strengthened, and about 9:30pm I camped out on the couch with my husband and my phone, and started timing them. Around 11:30pm, they were affecting my ability to talk/do anything else but breathe through them, so I called the midwife and she said she’d call me back in an hour to check in. She ended up falling asleep, so didn’t call on the hour mark. In the meantime, I walked around, got down on all fours, tried laying down (not a great option), and drew myself a bath. At 1:15am, I called her from the bathtub. She asked if I thought it was time to come in, and I said yes. She said she’d meet me at the front door of the hospital. I called my mother-in-law, who I had ‘put on alert’ earlier in the evening so she would have her phone next to her in bed. She came over right away, and my husband was driving me to the hospital by 1:30am. (We live conveniently close to both sets of parents.) Lucky for me, my husband works at the hospital where we were to deliver, so he could autopilot his way there (with a bit of speeding) and knew which back roads were a little less bumpy. I rode the whole way backwards, hugging the passenger seatback for support. The midwife wheeled me up for check in, and I was already dilated to 6cm.
We were admitted at 2:20am and went to the delivery room. The
room with the tub was available, and I wanted to labor that way for
as long as possible. Kristen (midwife) asked if I wanted an epidural
and after a few indecisive minutes, I said yes. If this labor lasted
anywhere as long as Noah’s did, I didn’t think I would make it
through. She put in the order while Neil and the nurse helped me into
the tub. I had about two more contractions in the tub, which I got
through by squeezing/biting a pillow and not a few choice words, and
then my water broke. The next contraction felt different – like I
had to push. I mentioned that to Kristen and she looked surprised.
She checked, and sure enough, my little girl was on the move. I had a
moment of panic when she told me that we weren’t going to be able
to have the epidural – which at the time I very much felt I needed.
Neil calmly reminded me “she’s saying Gabi is coming now – it
won’t be more hours of this – she’s coming now.” At the next
contraction, it was very clear I was pushing, although I didn’t
feel like I was pushing – my body was doing it for me. While
pushing with Noah, I really did need to bear down and push – like
they do in the movies, except much harder .
With this one, it was like she and my body were working together –
I could feel her twisting and moving down. The midwife and Neil
helped me reposition to where it would be a safe arrival/easier
catch. I had heard of ‘the ring of fire,’ but now I know. The
last 2-3 contractions/pushes I am sure I screamed, swore, whatever.
It was not a quiet, peaceful beginning for my little girl, but
hopefully she didn’t hear too much of that as she was busy being
born and came out into the water for her first second or two of life
out of the womb. She was born at 3:58am, one and a half hours after we signed in to
the hospital. As soon as she was born, she was placed on my chest and
her warm, slippery, sweet body felt right at home in my arms. My
sweet, spunky, independent Gabi was here. Her name means “the Lord
is my strength,” and that is what we want for her – that she is
strong and relies on God to sustain that trait he’s given her. She
happened to be born on my amazing sister-in-law’s birthday, so we
changed her planned middle name on the spot. Gabrielle Ann.
(Conveniently, three of our four grandmothers have this as their middle name
as well, so they are thrilled.)
|Managing a smile at 2:56AM--one hour before delivery|
I was shaking from hormones, adrenaline, or who knows what else, while Neil held Gabi and the nurse and midwife helped me back to the bed to deliver the placenta and to survey ‘the damage.’ I was able to nurse for the first time almost right away, which was a great distraction from whatever the midwife was taking care of ‘down there.’ I have to say, that recovery after her birth was much easier than after Noah’s – though I am not sure what to attribute that to. He was my first, was 1lb 5oz larger with a bigger head, labor was longer, or perhaps Pitocin or the epidural had some impact, I am not sure. Being able to deliver into the warm tub when my body was ready naturally was a much better post-birth experience. I did tear with her, but I healed better and more quickly.
Now that Gabi is almost 20 months old, I think of giving birth almost romantically. I am NOT discounting the pain in any way, because I did not have a pain-free birth either time. It was exhausting and consuming. One regret I have is that during most of the in-hospital labor, including the final pushes, I had my eyes closed and was very much ‘in my head,’ not much aware of what else was going on. I wish I had a clear memory of watching Gabi being born. If I have the chance to go through that experience again, I will still be open to any possibility – because it’s more important to me that my child arrives safely than that my expectations are met. I am fortunate to have more ‘progressive’ hospitals at my convenience that support alternative birth methods and allow/provide midwives, support breastfeeding, have baby-to-chest as a policy unless there is an emergency situation and in general, are flexible for parents during this intense and special time. Since I didn’t go in with a specific plan, I didn’t have expectations either. I ended up being ‘surprise proud’ of myself that I could actually birth a child in that way. I am glad that I had my first experience with Noah to be able to appreciate two ends of the spectrum; and I have my two precious ‘rewards’ to show for those labors.