Monday, September 29, 2008

The Birth Story (revised)

Six months ago, Margaret was born at 6:45pm. Being born is something magical. After a birth, a family is completely changed forever. Very few events can completely change your family like that- not even death changes your family. I think that's why family is such a happy thing- it can only be added to, never taken away from.

In July I re-wrote Margaret's birth story to be published. By this, I mean I added a lot more and re-arranged some of my thoughts. Birth isn't linear, so it's difficult to write it down.

I thought that it'd be nice for her 6 month birthday to re-post the birth story with my new add-ons. Warning: it's long, and even then can't capture all my feelings those 44 hours.

I was getting a little antsy about my baby coming. She was born Saturday March 29, 2008 at 6:45pm; this was 42 weeks and 3 days gestation from my last period and 43 weeks gestation based on my ovulation date. I had been having regular Braxton Hicks contractions all week varying from 3 minutes apart to 10 minutes apart.

Thursday, the 27th, Krysta, a friend from church came over and brought us split pea soup for dinner. We had just gotten up from a nap and had slept through dinner (that was my last "good" sleep). By the time we finished talking with her, I was trying to hide the fact that the contractions had just gotten stronger. It was 10:30pm. After we ate, I tried to lie down in our bath tub. At about midnight we went to bed. I struggled all night to sleep and eventually gave up at 4 in the morning. I remember looking over at McKay thinking, “He shouldn't get to sleep if I can't!” So I woke him up.

Friday morning, I realized that we should probably blow up the birthing pool we borrowed. A friend of ours let us borrow a pump and McKay blew up the pool and filled it with hot water. During this time I was laboring on our birth ball and it felt pretty good. I tried some relaxation techniques that really helped control the contractions. In fact, McKay couldn't tell when I was having contractions. In my head, I was relaxed- I sent thoughts of “letting go” to my muscles. I was handling everything and was very calm.

Once the pool was filled I labored in it and McKay would make hot compresses out of washcloths and press them on my back for the back pain and would boil water. I had made a list of birth affirmations and he would read them aloud to me. He was doing the work of at least three people.

It was my brother's birthday (he turned 11) so I called him. On the phone, I told my mother, “Oh, I'm having some contractions right now.” I didn't speak on the phone long, but Jared told me, “Maybe you'll have the baby on my birthday.” “Maybe,” I managed to breathe (oh that contraction!).

Most of Friday was just contraction after contraction of back labor.

At some point I asked for a blessing and I was told to be patient and that I would receive the inspiration on what to do next. That evening I started losing my mucous plug which was exciting because it meant progress was being made. Was it exciting! I think I was practically jumping up and down- and if I wasn't literally jumping, I definitely was inside. I continued losing my mucous plug up until Saturday morning. That night I pretty much didn't sleep and around 5 in the morning I was getting frustrated with the lack of progress. I was feeling like I didn't know what I was doing and the prospect of another full day of back labor was so overwhelming. It had been so long and so fruitless- or at least, I felt like there were no noticeable changes.

I called my friend, J. She is training to be a doula, so I knew that walking into a laboring woman's home wouldn't phase her. She had been very supportive during my pregnancy and had told me that it wouldn't bother her if I called in the middle of the night. I left a message on her machine at about 5:45am. Twenty minutes later she showed up at my door with some breakfast. Her husband, Chris, had urged her to bring power drinks for McKay, thinking that McKay was probably getting tired, too.

I explained to J that I was in labor and what I was feeling. I felt hopeless and that the inspiration I had been promised wasn't coming; I was frustrated with how long my labor was- I didn't want to wait another day to finally have a baby.

She gave us the food, which I ended up throwing up later that morning. My diet during labor consisted of mostly grape juice, Powerade for electrolytes, noodles, fruits, and donuts (go carbs!). J took over the job of boiling water so McKay could put pressure on my lower back during the back labor. I had really hard back labor through the day. I threw up again sometime that afternoon, but we hid the clocks so I wouldn't be bothered by the time, so I don't know when. It was during this time that the labor was the toughest: it had been going on for a long time and I couldn't feel any progress.

There were a few times that J offered to go home. She wasn't there as my doula- just as a friend and was worried that her presence was throwing off my birth groove. I told her that she could stay. It seemed less lonely to have her there.

The blessings I was given were my driving force. When I got frustrated, I would ask for another- I was reminded me to have faith and patience; they helped me to pick myself back up and focus. One blessing in particular told me to remember all the women who had come before me and their strength and that I had that same strength. It was the words of the blessings that I would repeat in my head.

At some point, probably around 4pm, I realized that I didn't need McKay to apply pressure during the contractions. That meant either the baby was moving down or had moved down or that labor was going to be stalled. I was getting really tired of the back labor but was beginning to feel pushy. I wasn't sure how dilated I was so I didn't want to push too much, but I started vocalizing through contractions. I tried various positions- I had read that being on the toilet was helpful, but as soon as I tried, I knew it wouldn't be helpful to me. I also tried laboring on the birth ball, and in and out of the pool. I was up for anything.

At some point, we turned on the stereo. I was up for trying just about anything to relax and help this baby out. I think we tried some soft, hymn-like music, but it bugged me too much. I have a playlist titled, “Heather's Happy Music” which is an eclectic mix with musicians like The Proclaimers, AC/DC, They Might Be Giants, and Weird Al Yankovic. It was much better.

Around 6 I started pushing with the contractions and could feel which contractions were productive and which weren't. I put my finger up my vagina and felt that the baby was about 4 inches back. I thought I felt the head, it was very smooth. "I feel the head!" I exclaimed. McKay and J looked very happy and I felt reassured that this baby would come quickly. For the next while I would push with the contractions (and sometimes without contractions because I was so anxious to see my baby). I was finally making progress that I could measure, which gave me hope. I started ignoring the fact that I was supposed to wait for contractions and pushed whenever I got antsy. I discovered that pushing sort of induced a contraction: I would push without a contraction, but then my body would make a contraction and push with me. I was holding on to McKay's hands and leaning over the edge of the pool. I was telling myself, “I are not alone in this; many women have done this before. Their strength is my strength.”

At some point in my pushing stage, the stereo played “I Like to Move It, Move It” by Reel 2 Real. I was doing lots of squats- up and down and thought about how true it is that I like to “move it move it.” I told the baby that I wouldn't mind if it decided to “move it move it” down the birth canal. Now when I look back on my birth, that's my theme song, though I didn't pay attention to which song was playing as she was born.

The next time I checked how far back the baby was, there was about an inch and a half to go! I was almost there!

McKay moved behind me into the water and I gripped J's hands. In the next few pushes I started feeling something crowning, but the ring of fire was not as strong as I expected. It was only a little bit of a sting. That's definitely not how I imagined the ring of fire at all! Ring of stinging, maybe, but no fire. I felt something hanging out of my vagina and put my hand down there and there was something really squishy. Weird. I thought my water had broken at some point in the pool and I had just not noticed. I stood up for McKay so he could see what it was. It was my bag of waters- I guess that's why I had never noticed it breaking.

I knew it was soon, so I gave a few more hard pushes and finally felt the ring of fire. (That's what I had been expecting!) The part that stung the most was up in front, I didn't feel any pain near my perineum. McKay saw the head coming and I finished pushing it out. I knew at this point that there usually is a lull while the baby turns to get the shoulders through. I kept thinking McKay was pulling on the head and told him to stop. He said he wasn't. I felt the shoulders turn and I helped push them through. Two shoulders and an arm were pushed out, and then there was a slight pause before the rest of baby spilled out. The baby was still in the water sack until the feet came out, at which point it broke. McKay passed the baby to me between my legs and I brought it up out of the water for its first breath.. I noticed she was a girl but didn't say anything yet. J and McKay started to help unwrap the cord which was around her arm. Boy, was she slippery! Then it was announced that we had a Margaret. We checked the time and it was 6:45- I had labored for 44 hours.

I had just given birth! I felt that I had made it through my rite of passage into motherhood. I was strong and had done something amazing. No more doubts, no more “what ifs,” just pure, solid “I did it!”

When Margaret was born, she was very pink and started fussing and breathing right away. There was a good amount of vernix on her, which reassured me that she wasn't “overdue” and that everything was fine. There was a little stain of meconium on the top of her head, but that was it, and it was barely noticeable.

I started breastfeeding in the pool and then J suggested getting out of the pool and helped me out. I reclined on the couch, nursing our little Margaret. McKay gave me a blessing for the placenta to come quickly. I started noticing afterpains of my uterus clamping down as I was nursing (and, boy were they intense!). About 10 minutes after the birth, the placenta started coming out and was sitting in my vagina. I scooted towards the edge of the couch and it just fell out into a bowl with a lot of blood clots. Soon after, we grabbed our sterilized meat scissors and a piece of cotton yarn. The cord wasn't pulsing so I tied it off and McKay cut the cord. McKay examined the placenta and it was all there. I asked J at what point she thought I had hit transition. And she said, “A long time ago.” I had shown signs that morning but none recently. Either that meant my second stage was really long or didn't really exist.

One of my favorite parts of this story occurred 15 minutes after the birth. There was a knock at the door. I was naked on the couch, cuddling my little one. McKay answered the door, bare chested in his swimming trunks. I recognized the voice- it was Kelly from church. She had brought me some strawberries. I was a little confused at why she was there- but I remembered that she had called on Friday when I was in labor (we had ignored her call). She assumed we had the baby on Friday and thought I'd like some strawberries to snack on post partum. I called to her from our couch, “I had the baby 15 minutes ago and I'm still naked!” I meant it as a “if you don't mind me being naked, you can come in” offer but I guess she didn't want to.

I will totally go this route again (and again and again!). I love this birth. I loved experiencing it and I love sharing it. McKay was such a help and I was glad that J came so McKay could focus on helping me with the back labor on Saturday. Next time I'm going to do more stretching (hips, legs, back) during pregnancy; maybe it'll help me be able to walk better afterwards (I think all the sqautting caused me to pull a muscle). The pool was the best thing because by Saturday, the birth ball didn't feel comfortable anymore (I tried it, believe me). After having done it, birth didn't feel extreme- just natural.

About 14 hours old:
Last week:


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Every UC story I read is so inspiring. It is wonderful that you have been able to experience birth in it's natural form :) And now, you have a beautiful little girl! Way to go!

  3. I loved reading that - thank you for sharing with us!

  4. Great birth story, even the fourth time around. :) I just love seeing how Margaret's grown.

  5. you're right, it was long! i had to put the baby down for a nap to make sure i had enough time to give your story my full attention.

    but it was beautiful. i'm so glad you shared your feelings of frustration and worry. so many women feel that if they don't love every minute of their birth that they have somehow done it wrong. so it was good to hear how normal it is.

    well done heather, from one uc momma to another. :)

  6. I am always thrilled reading your birth story! Margaret is getting so big!

  7. Birth stories of all types are always so invigorating to me. It reminds me of my own birth and the sense of accomplishment and joy and relief I felt when my little boy finally entered the world.

    I would be very interested to read McKay's version of the birth story.


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