Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clara's Birth Story

My midwife came for a home visit on Friday, February 6th. She brought the birth kit by, which had been delayed in the mail, and chatted with me about plans for the birth. When she went to examine and measure my belly by palpitating it, though, she almost couldn't feel anything because the braxton hicks were so regular and consistent. After she left, I laid down and felt the continuous rhythmic contractions strengthen and regulate. At 2 PM, I got up and began to time them. They were consistently about four minutes apart and lasting about a minute long, though not strong. I called James and asked him to come home.

The "Birth Kit"

In the next few hours, James got home and helped ready the house for birth, my parents came by and picked up Titus, the midwife came over and began setting up her equipment, James' mom came by with a few items, and a church friend came over to get our car to fix its brakes. I was still contracting regularly, but smiling. At 6PM, the midwife decided to check me to see where I was at. I was disappointed to learn that I hadn't dilated at all! At that point, the midwife encouraged us to relax, eat, get some sleep, and try as much as possible to discourage the contractions. She left her things, but went home. James and I ate dinner, watched an old Jimmy Stewart film--"Shop Around the Corner", and went to bed.

James read Colossians with me and prayed for me. The contractions were less frequent now, but a lot more painful. Although we turned off the light and tried to sleep, it was getting difficult. At 11 PM, I felt a really strong contraction, stood up, and felt my water break. James immediately called the midwife who had us time contractions for a half an hour and call her back. The contractions were a lot more painful now, and James helped by pushing on my back. The midwife came over and camped in the living room while we tried to labor and sleep. The worst contractions were when I had dozed for a few moments and then woke up to the intense pain at the peak. The midwife coached me to try circular breathing. We labored all night in bed, in the bathtub, on the birth ball, and so on. I was having long, irregular breaks between the contractions, but the contractions were fairly intense. At 8AM Saturday morning, the midwife checked me again and I was at 2 cm. Progress, but very slow progress. Again the midwife encouraged us to rest, eat, shower, and get ready for a long day--Oh, and call my mother to come help!

The morning progressed much the same way the night had. I labored in the shower, on a chair, on the birth ball, while walking. James carried two pink tennis balls and pressed them into my back or held me up while I leaned into him. I was feeling pretty discouraged and weepy. I had said a few times during the process that I didn't want to do it anymore. Mom came and began to set our home to rights, encouraged me, fed us, and made things feel more festive and positive. James and I were exhausted--especially, James because he could sleep but wouldn't. I wanted to sleep but couldn't. At 2 PM, the midwife returned and checked me again. This time I was at 5 cm. My contractions were still strong, but not regular. Also, I would have one three minute contraction, then the next one would be only one minute. The midwife sent us both on a walk. It was below zero outside, and I waddled like a penguin, but James held me up every time I hurt.

Ready for our walk

At 6PM, we were still going like this. The midwife came in and told me that she was supposed to have me go into the hospital if I had not gone into "active labor" (which is more than 4 cm) by 24 hours of my water breaking. Technically I had, but my labor was progressing so slowly that she was concerned that my uterus would get tired and either A. not have the strength to push the baby out when it was time or B. not contract down to size after the baby's birth and cause hemorrhaging. There was also concern for the baby (whose heart tones had been checked about every hour of this whole process and was doing great) getting tired or stressed and then there was meconium in the waters, which had not changed at all and still showed to be old meconium, but still could pose a danger. She asked if we wanted to go to the hospital or try a few things first. James and I talked and decided to do everything we could to get the labor moving. We knew that if by 10 there was no improvement, we were probably looking at a transfer.

The midwife began giving me herbs every twenty minutes, had me use a breast pump, and labor in the shower. I began to squat, walk, and sway during contractions (rather than relaxing through them). They sped up to three minutes apart and became much more intense. We all got a bit excited. After two hours, the midwife stopped giving me the herbs, to see if my body would take over. The contractions gradually slowed and spaced out again. I stayed on my feet and tried leaning and swaying into the contractions, but they felt elusive and "hard to find." At 9PM, the midwife checked me again, and I was still at 5 cm. We had to make a decision.

Although it meant abandoning everything I'd hoped for in my baby's birth, for the health of the baby, for my rest, for keeping the transfer a positive one with options and not an emergency one calling for an automatic c-section, we decided to go to the hospital. James and I talked on the way to the hospital. We had an unknown on-call doctor, I would have to have an IV, we would be asking for pitocin, I would have all the monitoring, and I would probably be asking for an epidural (I was exhausted and needed sleep, had 5 more cm to go, and was frankly terrified of pitocin induced contractions after so many hours of natural ones). But, I told James. I do not want an internal fetal monitor (it screws into the baby's scalp). I still hoped to give my baby as gentle birth as possible.

It was no fun laboring through getting our stuff together, driving, and walking into the hospital. It was even less fun as I was put in bed, strapped with monitors, stuck with a 2 inch long needle in my hand (it STILL hurts!), fitted with a blood pressure cuff, and so on. A little while later the doctor came in, introduced himself, and told us that I needed an internal fetal monitor and and internal contraction monitor or I would get an automatic c-section. I cried out, "No!" and he started in on how I wanted a healthy baby, didn't I? I stopped communicating right there and let James and the midwife handle it. It turned out that the monitors strapped to me weren't very effective and in order for them to be assured of the baby's safety, I had to have the internal monitoring. I agreed. It was horrible feeling the baby squirm as they applied the monitor, but I just talked to my baby and loved my baby, and we survived.

Laboring at the hospital

I have to stop here and say that my nightmare doctor was offset by an angelic host of nurses. I never expected to hear the words that I heard from them. They quietly assured me that they understood that this was hard for me and not what I was planning, but that it was going to be okay. They showed every sign of being on my side, rooting for me, excited for me. They communicated with my midwife and let her help me, communicate with me, and work with them. They excitedly shared good news about my labor. New nurses came in at shift change (one kindly telling me that she had had a home birth and understood what I wanted), but the old nurses didn't leave because they were so invested in seeing my baby born. God hand picked those sweet ladies.

At 2AM, Sunday Morning, the epidural and pitocin drip were in place (the pitocin was set to 2), the nurse checked me and excitedly shared that I was at 7 cm! I was incredibly uncomfortable and now no longer able to move from the bed. I could feel much of the contractions, just not my legs. I had been shaking since coming into the hospital, now I was shaking uncontrollably and my eyes were dilating rapidly. Close to 3AM, I asked them to call the nurse because I felt awful. The nurse came and checked me again. I was at 9.5 cm! Now I had something to be excited about! I wanted to get moving, turn off all of the things pumping into my body and get ready to push, but no one came back to my room. My midwife encouraged me to relax and let the contractions bring down my baby while waiting for the urge to push.

A little before, 5AM I became really concerned because now I was feeling hardly anything at all, especially not my legs. This time when the nurse checked me, she found absolutely no cervix and all baby! For the next hour and a half, my midwife and the nurse coached me using different positions and techniques in pushing. Mom and James worked to hold my legs and all four encouraged me. At one point, I heard my midwife ask, "Did we make any progress with that one?" and heard the nurse say, "No, no, but she's doing fine." It was gratifying to watch the huge peaks of MY effort on the contraction monitor (finally, I could make my body do what I wanted it to!) and gradually to see my baby's head a little more each time reflected in the mirror they set up for me. Honestly though, even though my mother was close to crying she was so excited about seeing her grandbaby, I really didn't believe that it ever would be over.

Suddenly the nurse asked James to push a button and the room was immediately swarmed with people. The doctor came in once more and took over from the nurse in preparation to catch my baby. The NICU doctors and nurses came in ready to check the baby for any meconium aspiration. No matter how much I had begged the nurses to let me have my baby on my belly immediately after birth and let the cord stop pulsating before they cut it, I was denied because of the meconium. It was one final important loss. My midwife stayed right beside me though and helped me focus despite the complete lack of privacy and the menacing feeling that the doctor provided (I was so afraid at this point that I was going to have my baby taken out by forceps or vacuum extraction).

Then, that wonderful moment when all 41 1/2 hours of labor became worth it. The baby crowned and suddenly, the most beautiful face in the world appeared: dark hair matted in curly wisps to a perfectly formed head and a purple face scrunched with plump cheeks and pursed lips. A few seconds later, I felt my baby leave my body. My midwife gently encouraged me to look at my baby, but my position wouldn't let me. I kept saying, "Oh, my baby, my beautiful baby. Thank you, God. Thank you, God." Then my mother grabbed my arm, "Andrea! It's a girl," She said over and over with tears in her eyes. Someone put a pair of scissors into James' hand and had him cut the cord, and he followed her over to the warming table where they checked her out and rubbed her down. Her Apgars were 8 and 9. I heard him saying, "Okay, give her to her mother now." Finally, they laid her on my chest and covered us with baby blankets. It was all over, and, from that moment on, I wasn't separated from my baby again nor had anything done to either of us that I didn't whole heartedly agree to.

My sweet baby girl--I'd do it all again for you!

I have so much to be grateful for. God was with me through it all, even when it felt like He was far away, His hand was gently guiding and protecting Clara and me.

I have so much appreciation and respect for my sweet husband who never rested or let up his support while I labored. Even in those brief hours when I felt no pain, he did not stop reassuring me with gentle touches and refreshing me with sips of water. I will never forget that unselfish love.

I am so glad that God provided my mother's love and support for me during my marathon labor. She was such a rock, and I loved how well she got along with the midwife! Brief times during the whole ordeal, it felt like a bit of a party.

Mom and Clara sharing a birthday snuggle.

My midwife was wonderful. I am so thankful for her calm and diligent care for us. Her decisions saved me from a c-section and her diplomatic communication soothed so much angst at the hospital. She helped me stay grounded and focused when I needed it most. She also endured my whole labor and then turned me over to a doctor for the last 10 minutes who will get paid by my insurance company while she won't. She's now doing home visits for my sweet Clara and me. I wish SHE had been the one to catch my baby at home the way we had hoped and planned, but I'm so glad that she was willing to do what she thought best for us.

Clara getting weighed by the midwife at her 3-day check-up.

I'm also thankful for my sweet baby girl, Clara, who suprised me in looking absolutely nothing like a Bobo. = ) I am so grateful for her strong heart, persistant strength, and patience to come through it all with me. I've shared my body with her for nine months, now I look forward to sharing the rest of my life with her as her mother. God is good.

~Happily Ever After~


  1. Wow, Andrea that was a beautiful story. I saw the length of the post and decided I would just read a little part of it now, and then come back to it later. But when I started reading, I couldn't stop!

    Though I know it all didn't work out like you had wanted to, it is great to have the blessings of "back up" plans today in those necessary events.

    Love you guys and look forward to lots of pictures!

  2. Wow! What a story. I can certainly sympathize that it didn't go as you had planned. I'm glad you had a healthy baby, and that you also are healthy!

    Labors are so unpredictable, I have found.

    I hope your next one goes smoothly!

  3. okay, this brought me to tears. you have such a wonderful (and wordy)style of writing that leaves nothing out (which i ABSOLUTELY LOVE AND ADORE!). . . . i hope that your heart was not broken by the decisions you had to make, what a wonderful little gift you have for all your efforts . . thank you for sharing your triumphs and pains in this process with us. . . it gives me new strength to be ready for whatever comes in our next birth! please keep sharing that chubby cheeked cherub with us all!

  4. WOnderful story. Thanks for sharing it with us all! I hope you all are doing well and resting and bonding well! What a difficult thing, having to do things nothing like you planned! But what a blessing we have knowing God is always in control, even when we aren't and things don't happen like we plan. Enjoy your little bundle!
    PS. You are much stronger than I. There is no way I could have endured so much labor. My 2 hours was plenty for me, thank you very much!

  5. I'm sorry you had such a difficult time. But what a beautiful blessing. The memory of the pain will fade, but the blessing will just keep growing!

  6. Thanks for sharing your story. I am sad that you had to change your plans. I can understand how it must be disappointing. Be kind to yourself and, most importantly, enjoy your new little one!


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