Ike, my amazing husband, had been sick for a few days with tonsillitis and he had not slept well on Thursday night (thankfully, he was not contagious anymore!), so he slept all morning, and I dozed and played around on the internet until noon. I had been having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions that were not painful at all. By around 11:30, I was feeling pretty antsy. We had been cooped up in the house all week and I wanted to get out. So we decided to get some Christmas shopping done. We went to a local (huge!) antique shop and walked around for a couple of hours, shopping for our families. I kept having the Braxton Hicks, so when we went home, we decided that we would go take a walk to see if we could keep them going. We stopped at home before heading to the trail, and while I was checking my email, I felt a gush of liquid! When it kept going, I walked to the bathroom and just as I was saying, “I think my water just broke,” it started running down my leg and I knew then that it definitely was my water! I sat on the toilet for a half an hour or so because the water kept on flowing.
Ike called our midwife, Debi, and told her what happened. She was already closer to us than to her own house, so she headed our way to check on me. Ike called Miriam, our sister-in-law, to let her know because she was coming to the birth and she needed to get her kids to the babysitter. He then called our parents and I texted a few close friends. At this point, we were asking for prayers that contractions would start and we could get this party started! (Little did I know that they would start fast and strong, and we wouldn’t have time to tell anyone that labor really had started. My parents didn’t even leave their house, 12 hours away, until after the baby was born, because they didn’t know that labor had really started!).
I had a few light contractions on the toilet and desperately wanted them to keep going, so when the flow of water seemed to lighten up, I put in a panty liner and started bustling around the house. The contractions really started to pick up when I was doing the dishes, I had to stop washing during contractions and focus on relaxing.
Around 4:00, Debi arrived. She evaluated the baby and me and told us that she wanted us to go for a walk to keep the contractions going. So we went across the street and walk around a track that goes around the park so we could come home quickly if we wanted. I made it once around the track because I was shivering from the cold and couldn’t relax during contractions.
We came back in the house and got the bedroom set up for labor (Debi had already set up all of her supplies in there) – we lit candles and Ike started playing a Fernando Ortega playlist on grooveshark. At this point, about 5:00 I think, was when I started to vocalize through my contractions. Deep, low moaning, in my throat and chest. I labored sitting on the birth ball and leaning on Ike, and also on my knees, leaning on the birth ball with Ike rubbing the small of my back. Around 6:00, my contractions were getting closer and closer and Ike couldn’t be running around doing things (getting me water and food, getting himself dinner, or doing other various things), so I decided that I wanted Miriam to start making her way over. So Ike called her. Shortly after, I got in the shower. The hot water felt amazing. Unfortunately, our hot water heater is teeny tiny, so I was only able to stay in the shower for 10 minutes – maybe three contractions.
Soon after getting out of the shower, around 6:15, Miriam arrived. She made a couple of burritos for Ike to eat. He scarfed them down in between contractions, which were now 3-4 minutes apart. I labored in the kitchen with Miriam and Ike for a while, sitting on the birth ball and leaning on Ike. Once, Miriam was rubbing my back and Ike was supporting me in the front, and I bit his arm! I tried not to but I couldn’t help it! So then Miriam got me a wet washcloth to bite on and we moved back to the bedroom. I labored in many different positions, tried the shower again (a disaster with that awful, terrible, no good, very bad water heater), and ended up back in the bedroom again.
I started to get really tired and discouraged, saying that I didn’t want to do it anymore and I didn’t think I could and I just wanted a break. I really wanted to rest more in between contractions, so I finally moved to the bed. As the contractions got more intense, I had to find ways to keep myself motivated and in the right frame of mind. I kept thinking about what I read on the “Birth Without Fear” blog, “your contractions are not too strong for you, they are you.” I also was picturing my baby pressing down and dilating me further, so she could come out. These visualizations and reminders are what got me through many contractions and my doubtful thoughts and fears when I didn’t want to go on. Around 7:00, my vocalizations started to change, it was harder to keep them low. So Debi came in and asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes – I had to know what progress I had made. I was 6-7 centimeters! I wished that I had been farther along because I wanted to be ready to push so I could be done. But the others in the room said that was pretty good for only four hours of labor (and on the other side, it sure is!).
At this point, I asked someone to cover up the clock; I knew that I would keep looking at it and get discouraged. It was getting really rough. Carley, Debi’s assistant, showed up around 8:00. I had never met her before, but she had an amazingly peaceful presence. Up until this point, I wanted to just labor with Ike, but around 9, I really wanted more support, so we called in Debi and Carley (Miriam was nursing Nora in the car). When Miriam came back in, I asked how Nora was doing (I was concerned because she hadn’t nursed the last time she tried) and everyone laughed. I didn’t understand what was so funny, but apparently a laboring woman doesn’t normally think about her niece’s well-being.
Around 10:00, I started to feel like I might want to push, and around 10:15, Debi checked me and said there was just a lip of cervix, but it was very stretchy, so pushing would likely get it out of the way. I tried a few pushes on my own, but it didn’t feel like I was doing anything. So I asked Debi for some help and she gave me a few pointers. After a few more contractions and pushes, I definitely felt like each push was more effective, I started to feel the baby move down (coolest feeling ever – and such a relief after hours of intense contractions!).
When Debi checked to see if the lip of the cervix was still there, she said that the baby’s head was in a kind of wonky position. It wasn’t in the ideal place for her to come out. I was sitting up, leaning on pillows pushing, but Debi told me that I needed to move down onto my back (even though that was not a comfortable position and it didn’t take advantage of gravity) and push a few times to help the baby maneuver into the right position. I trusted that Debi knew what she was talking about. I did not feel like she made me do this or that I was manipulated at all – I was secure in knowing that Debi knew what she was doing and doing what was best for me and my baby. I stayed in this position for a while until Debi checked the baby’s position, said she was good, and told me that I could get in any position that I wanted. So I got on my knees and leaned on a stack of pillows to push. This position felt great and I felt like we were making progress. Finally, I moved onto my left side because I couldn’t hold myself up on my knees anymore. Miriam was holding my right foot up (it shook a lot when I was pushing – turns out I gave her quite a bruise from pushing up against her shoulder).
At this point, I could feel her moving a little bit further down with each push. This was so encouraging and motivating. Pushing hurt, but it felt so good to do something and move her down and out. For a long time, the others could see her head when I pushed, and it went back up in between contractions. This moving back actually felt good, a bit of relief from the pressure on my perineum. Finally, when she stopped going back in, I was able to feel her head with my hand. It was incredible! And so motivating! I pushed for a while longer, and then I felt the ring of fire. It really did feel like my entire bottom was on fire! With encouragement from everyone around me, I pushed with everything I had. They told me that her head was out! I pushed again with all of my strength – here came her shoulders! And then I saw her come out and into my arms! She was purple and slippery and wiggly – just perfect. As I held her, her arms kept reaching up and touching my face. I couldn’t really believe what was happening! My baby? In my arms?
The contractions didn’t stop, though, and I remembered that I had to push out the placenta. It was so hard to push out! It hurt so badly! I found out later that half of the placenta had come out and my cervix started to clamp down on it. Debi had to manually re-dilate me and dig out the rest of the placenta. No wonder it hurt. Just think about that for a moment. Manually re-dilate and dig. Later, Debi apologized later for having to do this, but I would rather have gone through that than surgery later to get it out!
After the placenta was out, Ike cut the cord. I was able to finally rest. And my baby was in my arms! Kaelyn Anaiah had made it safe and sound.
Later, Debi told me that if I had been in the hospital, they would have given me a c-section. I didn’t know this, but while I was pushing, Kaelyn’s heart rate kept dropping. It did this because when she came out, her cord was wrapped around her neck, her arm, her chest, and her leg! No wonder it got compressed when I pushed (and no wonder they encouraged me to push so hard at the end!); however, her heart rate recovered well in between contractions for most of the time I was pushing. The midwives had gathered resuscitation equipment, but thankfully they didn’t even need to use it. Since we are in Chattanooga, a city with a c-section rate that is higher than our national average, both midwives were pretty sure that if I had been in a hospital, they would have jumped the gun and cut me open. Thankfully, Debi knew just what to do and when it is and when it isn’t okay for baby’s heart rate to drop. Thankfully, they skillfully kept the fetal monitor facing away from Ike and I, so that I could focus on getting her out and not worrying. They did an amazing job and everyone was healthy and safe because of their lack of action. Praise God for leading us to homebirth and Debi – who had the strong, soft, supporting hands that I needed. Praise him for Carley, an amazingly calming presence. Praise him for Miriam, who also was instrumental in this birth – she took photos and a beating for me. I needed her sisterly support. Praise him for Ike; I couldn’t have gotten through any contractions and the pushing without his physical support, comforting touch, and words of encouragement, he was like water to me. Finally, praise God for our baby, Kaelyn Anaiah! After losing three babies, God has given us one that I got to give birth to, that we get to hug and hold and take care of, that he brought safely into this world (when things could have gone so wrong, he brought her to my arms unharmed) and who get to watch grow up and hopefully, gently point her towards the Lord. Now onto the adventure of parenting!
Oh! She was born on 11/11/11 at 00:11, 6 lbs 6oz, and 20 inches of pure beauty!