In just two births I experienced a LOT! The full version of each story can be found below:
OLIVIA’s FULL BIRTH STORY
There is nothing in life that is 100% within your control. No matter what you plan you have to be prepared for the unexpected. In life you have to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes easier said than done. One of those times was your birth…
40 weeks had come and gone, not surprising since the average first time pregnancy is around 41 weeks. My pregnancy followed the “text book” almost to a T so I expected labor and birth to be the same. Since I was birthing at The Allen Birthing Center I would legally have to transfer to a hospital after 42 weeks, but didn’t think there was any way that was going to happen. Then 41 weeks past. At my weekly check up I was 100% effaced but not dilated at all. According to the books that usually results in a much faster labor than someone who starts dilating before completely effacing. You just didn’t want to go by the books! 41 weeks 1 day…2 days…nothing, I was starting to get nervous.
It was Wednesday (your Aunt Caitlin’s and my cousin Christina’s Birthday…didn’t get to write an entry for their birthdays because of what ended up happening) and I was determined to get things moving. I had already been walking everyday and had started taking Evening Primrose Oil, “Labor Start Up”, and Red Raspberry Leaf to try and naturally induce labor. After trying to not sit for more than 5 minutes in a row all day, lots of squats, cleaning the whole apartment…again, walking laps around Gigi’s kitchen, and some birthday cake haha, the day was almost over. Your dad and I were about to walk out the door and head home when a Braxton Hicks contraction hit, but this was different than the others I had felt.
At about 10:00 another weird pain, and 5 minutes later another. This could be it…I ran my mind through all my Bradley Birth training about how to make sure labor was real labor: sleep, eat, drink, shower, walk and if contractions continue to worsen they’re real.
Drink: I’d been drinking water all night so I checked that one off
Eat: I’d eaten dinner but had a snack anyway…didn’t really sit well with my stomach
Sleep: ya that was not gonna happen so I jumped in the…
Shower: it helped me relax, but the contractions were still there and getting stronger
I thought about waking your Daddy up, but decided to wait since he’d been up since 4am the day before (if this was really labor he’d need as much sleep as possible) so I just paced the apartment.
The contractions were getting really strong really fast. I was trying deal by myself until 3 but didn’t even make it until 1. I finally had to wake up your dad up…who had no idea what was going on and his reaction was quite amusing.
Everything seemed to be progressing normally until I started throwing up…not expected that early in labor so we called the midwife on call for the birth center. All the signs pointed towards being in active labor so she wanted to see us. I expected to be at least 2-3cm dilated and figured we’d be there until we had you…little did I know that was only the beginning of our adventure and things were going to be a lot more complicated than we thought!
Due to a procedure I had for abnormal cells, I had some scar tissue on my cervix. We didn’t think it would be a problem for labor, but the scar tissue ended up being centered on my cervix and was preventing me from dilating at all. So after 6 hours of labor I was still 100% effaced but that was it. We already had a Non-stress test scheduled for 8:30 that morning so they sent us home to try to get some rest.
The next 24 hours were exhausting! The non-stress test came back fine so I was cleared to continue laboring, but they sent us home again since I was STILL not dilated. I tried to sleep, went to the chiropractor to see if that would help at all, was able to eat some food, and did a lot more pacing. By this time both your dad and I had lost track of time and everything became a blur. We went back to the birth center sometime that night before midnight and finally had some good news…dilation! But only 1 cm. UGH! After 24 hours in active labor 1 cm! Carol, the midwife on call for the weekend had us stay at the birth center for a while but didn’t want to admit me yet since I was progressing so slowly. So we walked and I threw up and we walked some more and I threw up some more. No one really had an explanation as to what was going on, but I was getting really worried about my blood sugar. I couldn’t keep anything down and was getting more tired by the minute. I was really starting to doubt if I’d be able to have you on my own.
Sometime around 3…I think…I got checked again and had progressed to almost 2 cm so once again we got sent home. Carol told us to come back as soon as anything changed and I’d be admitted no matter what. We’d have to consider breaking my water and if things still weren’t moving by that afternoon I’d have to be transferred.
Back at home there was nothing to do but wait. The contractions were painful but nothing I couldn’t handle. However after 36 hours of no sleep, the exhaustion hurt more than the contractions (and still throwing up really wasn’t helping either). We were back at the birth center around 10 or 11 and I was stuck at 3cm. Here was the time line Carol gave us: take lots of red raspberry and cohosh to try to give the contractions some extra power, break my water around noon, and at 3 if we hadn’t made much progress I’d transfer to Presby Allen before my body just gave out. So I drank the nasty cohosh…threw it up, my water broke on its own some time before noon, checked again and was at 4cm, I’m pretty sure about then was when I became a crazy person (I don’t really remember what happened), Carol gave her birth assistant a call to tell her to head to the birth center, and I was checked again around 2 (I was at 5cm). So we were making progress, but it was slow. I wanted a water birth so Carol got the tub ready and I got in to see if I could relax. I wasn’t in there very long when the contractions started to hit one right after the other. Denise, the birth assistant arrived, and Carol told her all what had happened and that I wasn’t even to 6cm when I got in the tub so it’s probably be a while. Nope! Not your plan little Miss!
I got out for another check at 3:00 expecting to not have progressed at all and was preparing myself mentally for a hospital birth. I think we were all shocked when this dilation check turned into Carol saying “oh wow your baby is almost crowning. Denise you showed up right on time we’re about to have a baby”.
What? That easy? Ok! I pushed for less than 10 minutes and you were here at 3:13pm weighing 8lbs 1 oz and 20 ¾ inches long.
The surprises didn’t stop there! Turns out you were quite the acrobat while I was pregnant with you and you somehow tied a “true knot” in your cord (in over 30yrs experience Carol had never seen one in person). My placenta also had a strange feature; the blood vessels supplying you with oxygen and everything else you needed to survive were not supported with any kind of membrane. Your life was literally hanging by a thread (well several threads but you get the picture). If anything physically traumatizing had happened or if you were pressing on your cord wrong you wouldn’t have made it. God was definitely looking out for you.
Your daddy caught you and handed you to me. We forgot all about our sleep deprivation and just sat there in silence looking at you. While your daddy was learning how to dress a new born (he said he’s never putting you in anything with sleeves again haha) I heard Carol make a comment that made me remember there were so many advantages to having a natural birth “Look at her sitting with up with her legs criss-cross, can’t even tell she just had a baby”. And of course the biggest short-term advantage was being home by 7:00 that same night! As for long term perks, I don’t have to deal with any injection sites or medication side affect, and you got to enter this world alert, un medicated, and never had to be separated from us. After almost 48 hours we were home and could finally go to sleep…even if it was only 3 hours and then you were up to eat…
Love you baby girl,
JJ’s FULL BIRTH STORY
7/18/14, a week ago we were about to embark on a journey I never imagined. After Olivia’s birth, which lasted nearly 42 hours, I had her whole story written in just 2 days. Yes she was my only child at the time and I had to have my story written to turn in with my application to become a childbirth educator, but mainly I was so excited I wanted to share ASAP. I had an amazing experience despite the hard work, I had no processing to do, I felt great physically, and I was in total blissful baby moon mode. This whole pregnancy with Jonathan I kept talking to people about how much easier 2nd babies are and how I was almost scared to have too fast of a labor. This was going to be my easy birth. I was wrong .
I decided that by the end of today I need to have at least an abbreviated version of everything written down so I can keep it all straight and once again I want to share my experience so that others who have to throw out their whole “birth plan” know that things can still go PERFECTLY.
Im writing this in two versions because I know the emotional side will take much longer to write and I want to use it as a time to process everything that happened. So here is Jonathan James’ birth story round one:
our morning at the birth center had been a little crazy. I blinked and it was almost lunch time. The phones quieted down and the thought “I don’t think I’ve felt Jonathan move at all today” crossed my mind. I shrugged it off and figured after I ate lunch he’d wake up and all would go back to normal. I ate went back to my desk and reclined for a moment focusing on where his little butt would usually wiggle. Nothing. I worried for a moment but assumed I hadn’t waited long enough for the food to kick in. Finally a little movement! I went about my day and when it hit 3:00 it dawned on me once again that he didn’t wake up the way I thought he would after a big lunch.
Working in at the birth center where I had my daughter and now would have my son was a strange but very cool dynamic through pregnancy. I knew I was in excellent hands but didn’t want to take advantage of having my care providers around at least 2 days of each week. I battled on whether or not to say anything and when another problem visit called to report they were stuck in traffic I just nonchalantly through out “hey when would decreased fetal movement be a concern?”
Our midwife Carol and student midwife Kristen both shook their heads and laughed “what’s the point of working in a birth center if you couldn’t have extra fetal testing to give you piece of mind??”
Kristen set me up on the NST and I just laid there staring at his heart rate. 130…perfect. I felt much better and like I had been worried for nothing. That feeling was short lived. This was the point I realized it was going to be such a blessing and curse to know the “lingo” and medical terminology involved in birth. The NST strip continued to print out and I knew he wasn’t responding appropriately. Kristen brought me some juice to wake him up and hopefully get a better reading. He definitely woke up but not in the way we wanted. With any movement he had slight heart deceleration. It came right back up but as this pattern continued the concern grew.
Carols initial thought was to have me repeat NST 2-3x/week until he arrived, but after studying the strip again we decided a Biophysical Profile (a specific sonogram test) was needed “just as reassurance”.
I had scheduled myself at North Star for the next morning and once again expected to go in everything to be fine and continue care at the birth center with extra monitoring. Once again knowing what a BPP was suppose to look like and what ours looked like made my heart sink a little. He looked fine physically but still was not moving.
Home to wait.
Carol tried to call but poor reception kept us from hearing each other. Luckily we could text.
At 1:22pm she said “JJ needs to come out”
Because she has privileges at the hospital our midwife Leslie took over my care and we met at the birth center to come up with a plan. I did another NST which looked much better than the previous days and reviewed the BPP with Leslie. “It’s not black and white, we’re stuck in a grey area” was the first phrase of many people would say over the next two days that left me in limbo. After lots of waiting and analyzing, the decision was made with our referring physician Dr Pierce to transfer for an induction and see how JJ tolerated labor.
We checked into our room and tried to mentally prepare for what was in store.
-cervidil for 12 hours which I was hoping would just send me into labor
-add pitocin at 8:30 the next morning
-possible balloon catheter if I was not progressing
-continuous monitoring to track JJs decels and if they got worse we’d do a cesarean. If he looked great I could have a water birth. It was all still up in the air.
I went to sleep early hoping to be awoken by labor pains and that’s just what happened. From 1-5am they got stronger and I had to wake Thomas up to help me through them. Since I expected this labor to be so much fast than my first I was worried about Leslie not being called in time so I asked to be checked. I was only a 2. For whatever reason the contractions only lasted another few minutes then stopped and I was able to get some rest. 8:00 rolled by and I got the cervidil removed and another check that revealed I was still at a 2. The past 12 hours had really done nothing. I knew in my mind my body was not ready to go into labor and I was about to force it to.
Leslie arrived, pitocin started, and we decided to place the balloon catheter. This is where I remember everything but lost track of time. Things picked up and getting comfortable was difficult. In my last birth I was free to move in anyway, the birth ball was my best friend and I could walk without having to think. Add an IV pole, pitocin, fetal monitor, and balloon cath and it’s a whole new game. One of the positives I had found at this point is that in my future interactions with clients I can tell them I’ve birthed both ways and what each entails. I’ve literally done it all! I was laboring on pit without pain medication and although more difficult still doable.
The cath eventually came out which meant I was dilated to about a 5 and JJ was still doing good. Not perfect not bad but good. Good meant vaginal birth and I was finally excited! Thomas and I set out to walk the halls and I figured this would be the last big burst of energy we’d have to give before meeting our son. With Olivia I went from 6 to baby in 7 minutes so I knew things were about to get intense and I’d soon have my baby in my arms. I power walked through contractions determined to keep things moving. They moved us into the “tub room” so we’d be able to do a water birth if JJ continued to have the patterns he was. Back in for a check which revealed 7cm dilated and baby low. They called for the tub and tears of joy filled my eyes for the first time in 24 hours. We had done it! JJ was doing great i was still coping well and we were going to get our water birth.
Then that plan went out the window. The mobile/waterproof monitor was not working properly and the whole reason I was at the hospital was to be monitored. The tub was wheeled away.
I began to feel pushy but thought I was too clear headed and talkative to be ready. “I don’t want to be wrong” I told Leslie. She said I could push with a couple contractions which did provide relief so she wanted to check me again. 8.
Being on my back for the exam made me sick, which made me feel more pushy. Once again reliving my previous birth I thought a few good pushes would complete my dilation and we’d be done, but no such luck.
No change with hard pushes usually means you have to stop pushing to prevent the cervix from swelling and slowing things down even more. That’s just what Leslie told me I’d have to do. I asked right then if it was too late for an epidural because I knew fighting my body would not be easy. I think that’s when Thomas knew this was once again not going according to plan. Anesthesiology was on call not in house that day and the nurses said she lives 20 minutes away. I rounded up in my head to 40 minutes and tried to convince myself I could make it that long. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When your whole being is screaming at you to do something and you try to do the opposite it’s awful. Thankfully I had lost track of time because apparently it took over an hour and a half for the anesthesiologist to get to me.
A nap for me and dinner for Thomas.
Updates sent to friends and family.
We would wait until I was complete. Use the lowest dosage of pain meds and hopefully by the time I needed to push some of my feeling would be back so I could be more efficient.
Then suddenly JJ wasn’t doing good anymore. He was “ok”. More decels but he was still recovering well.
Dr Pierce showed up and another check showed I was at a 9. Our plan was still in place.
Everyone left the room and Thomas started watching the monitor. I was watching him and the volume on the monitor had been turned down so I didn’t know what was going on.
“Oh shit I’m sure the doctor will be walking in any minute”
I turned my head to the screen to see a huge decel and JJs slowest recovery yet. “OR here we come I thought”. Dr. Pierce was there in a matter of seconds and evaluated me again. He asked about my last birth and stood there thinking. I was shocked I wasn’t already being wheeled back.
The new plan:
-go into the OR with a “double set up”
-if I could push past the little bit of cervix left without a decel from JJ. We were good to go
-if he deceled again we’d be doing an emergency c/s
Dr pierce said as we were headed back “this is a 50/50 I don’t know what’s going to happen”
We all got prepped and sent back to the OR. I pushed and pushed (and apparently did very well for someone with an epidural) but baby didn’t move. He also didn’t decel. We were stuck. Pierce considered forceps for a moment but determined JJ was just barely too high.
“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to section you”
For two days the words is been dreading were finally spoken. In the moment I knew that’s what had to be done so I just said ok and closed my eyes.
This is the part that I’m really trying to process so for now I’ll just say that it was the scariest moment of my life. Turns out JJ had his cord wrapped around his neck 5 times! No one in the room had ever seen that. As if I wasn’t emotional enough already, getting hit with the thought that my baby statistically speaking should not be here and that I almost didn’t say anything that Thursday sent me through every emotion there is.
All in all we were in and out of the OR in about 30 minutes and wheeled into recovery where Olivia was able to come meet baby brother. She was instantly in love! I got to hold both of my babies in the recovery room which was the most amazing feeling in the world.
Jonathan was born at 9:51pm weighing 7 pounds 10 ounces and was 21 inches long. We were at the hospital for 2 days with a truly amazing nursing staff that made our stay as great as a hospital stay can be. Jonathan never left us and Olivia even got to stay one night with us.
For having to go through literally everything I never wanted to go through, it was a great experience with the greatest of all outcomes, a healthy baby