A Son is Born: My Second (Amazing) Birth Story

Whenever I read birth stories I always want to get right to the good stuff. So let me break you off with a little preview.

At 11pm, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.

This is a good story. I promise. It is so good, in fact, that I feel a little guilty, almost sheepish to tell you all about it.

But forget that, I deserve a good birth story. I feel entitled to a good birth because of how terribly, heartbreakingly difficult my first birth was. This second birth was really everything I wanted it to be. As one of my favorite midwives, Pauline put it, "It was really healing. My first birth was traumatic. My second birth was a healing birth."

As I mentioned previously, I was in labor for over a week (sorta). Read about that in my earlier post, We Had a Baby. I'm going to jump ahead a little. My mom and dad had been visiting since Thursday and Friday respectively. My husband's folks came down on Friday as well. It was now Tuesday night, one day after my October 20th due date. The nightly contractions had started up again, and as we had done almost every night, we said good bye ... and maybe see you later! But probably not...because this baby will never come. [sad face]

I had an appointment the next day to go into the hospital or birth center to see Pauline the midwife and hopefully induce labor. I didn't exactly have a medical reason to induce labor. I just had been waiting for so long and I was already 5 centimeters dilated (FIVE!) and my membranes had been swept twice and my back hurt like the dickens (after MONTHS of physical therapy to avoid just such a thing) and I was ready to go. I also got myself this appointment because, for this pregnancy, I had been following a new school of thought:
Do Whatever the Flip You Want to Do and Don't Ask for Permission.

Just kidding, I asked permission, just ... I didn't shy away from asking. That's important! I asked for appointments with the midwives that I wanted to have appointments with. I asked to hear the baby's heartbeat again (please). I asked the ultrasound tech to "make sure" it was really a boy. Twice. (She was sure.) That's me waiting for the ultrasound at 20 weeks with my ominous blue shirt.

Back to the night of October 21st! After my folks left I decided we should probably start timing these contractions. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't time them. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I kinda had this suspicion about this round of contractions.

Jake would time them on his phone and I would often forget to tell him when they had ended. We could still see that they were 4-5 minutes apart and lasting, I don't know...maybe 50 seconds? After an hour of this I called the midwife after hours line. It was about 10pm.

Don't let this bossy lady into your waiting room.

hmv's Tips for an Easy Labor:

  1. Make it Short. Think minutes, not hours. Boo hours.
  2. Make it your second or third birth. Get things warmed up first. Birth canals need practice. Practice makes perfect.
  3. Make an appointment to get the baby out. This will frighten your little one into a speedy and timely birth.

DO NOT:

  1. Let anyone tell you "Oh I bet that baby will come early!" Run from these people. Something about these comments scares the baby into never coming out ever.
  2. Believe anyone who tells you things will be easier and faster this time. I didn't believe those jokers. Look at me now. Super easy/fast labor!

Anne the midwife answered my call and listened to me have a contraction. I made a little noise but mostly I handled it like a total pro so she was like, "Well, it sounds like the contractions are really regular, but you should keep timing them until they are 4-5 minutes apart and at least a minute long." Aww, crap, should have timed the duration a little better. "Also you should probably lay down and get some rest," Anne said, "I think this is probably leading up to active labor."

Well well wellllll...that was good news. Jake and I cleaned up the living room a little and made our way to bed. I can't recall if he texted his folks to warn them. I grabbed an ice pack and towel for my aching back and laid down in my nightgown, which was also a special hospital gown that I had made for me (seriously!) by a kind Indian lady on Etsy (not kidding, here is her storefront).


At 11pm, after snuggling in tight to bed, my water broke. To be frank, it practically exploded. All over the bed, the carpet on the way to the bathroom, the TWO towels I grabbed, and eventually the shower. It was a wonder that the entire house didn't fill up and threaten to drown us all.

When I first felt it, I went, "OH! ... Some water? I think?" And then I moved a millimeter and the gush happened. It was so much water I laughed and hooted and could not contain my excitement. It was happening!!

Now is as good a time as any to explain why going into labor like this was so thrilling to me. Yes, thrilling. Not terrifying. I am a woman who has endured a natural childbirth. I spent 14 hours huffing and puffing and pulsating with pitocin that made each contraction so intense that at times I wanted to pass out from the pain. I do not recommend that method of childbirth. Unless that's what you want to do, then I support what you want to do. But if you want my recommendation, I don't recommend a 100% natural pain-relief-free childbirth.

I do believe in nature though. I believe in women and our powerful bodies and our powerful drive to bring life into the world. It is an incredible thing. And I really wanted to experience that nature. I didn't want a highly medical birth all hooked up to machines with nurses and doctors telling me what to do. So scheduling that appointment for Wednesday morning was kind of a bummer. I wasn't thrilled to get poked and prodded, to have my water broken for me, to get pumped full of pitocin again, and then (yes) some pain medication. I didn't want to feel like the human machine on the end of a conveyor belt of interventions. But on balance, I really needed to have this baby and I was losing faith in nature to make it happen.

But whoa, nature came in at the 11th hour in kick ass way. Once my water broke we were off to the races. Contractions came on faster, and we had to move quickly. Jake called the midwives, his parents, my mom. The midwives told us to head straight to the hospital. Moments later (it seemed) Jake's folks were in our living room. I was doubled over the blue easy chair having a contraction and ruining my cute black leggings. (TMI? There was a LOT of water. And there was meconium in the water. If you know what that means you know what I mean about the leggings. Ick.)

Somehow I got into our car. Somehow we traveled down the Beltline and up to the hospital. Contractions continued. Jake kept talking me through each one. He was amazing. Up until this point, you see, our days had been somewhat stressful. I was emotional. I was incredibly uncomfortable. Some nights ended with us arguing or me getting upset about some little thing. Other nights ended with us eagerly anticipating what our little guy would look like and how amazing it would be to have a baby in our house again. I hoped that the night I would go into labor would be a good night. It turns out I really had nothing to worry about.

Contraction!!! (And a sweet booty to boot)

As we checked in at the front counter of the hospital I had another contraction. Right there on the counter. And YES, I had the wherewithal to ask my dear husband to capture the moment. You're welcome, world. The guy at the counter asked us, "so...you here for labor and delivery?" "Umm...YES" Jake said. (He loves this part of the story.) What the hell else do you think we might be here for in the middle of the night?!

The kind sir told my husband where he could find a wheelchair, and they wheeled me up to the 5th floor.

The hospital staff flew into action. The staff nurse checked us in while at the same time starting an IV for me while at the same time calling for the anesthesiologist. I had three things I kept running through my head during this: 1) we are with the PeaceHealth midwives, make sure they know that; 2) I am GBS-positive, so they need to run an IV with antibiotic for me as soon as humanly possible (the antibiotic makes sure that the mom doesn't pass this bacteria on to the baby and it is best if it runs for 4 hours before the baby comes out, and we knew this baby would come fast); and 3) I want an intrathecal.


"INTER-THEE-CUL," I pronounced it, and I pronounced it several times so they knew I was serious. A short, strange anesthesiologist was soon brought into the room. Despite his odd ways, he was my hero; I suspect that the intrathecal was the defining thing that made this birth my healing birth.

An intrathecal, also known as the "walking epidural," is administered by an injection into the spine. It generally contains the same mixture of narcotics and anesthesia that a traditional epidural has, but there is less of each drug. It wears off after 2-4 hours because it is not administered by catheter, so you can't turn it up or off, you just get what you get. The no-catheter thing was a huge PLUS in my book because catheters kind of freak me out. I didn't want a tube coming out of my back or out of my urethra. Even though the risk is low, there is some chance of causing permanent incontinence, and I just feel like that would really cramp my style. So no catheters for me. But Yes, pain medicine.

For me, the intrathecal worked very quickly, but it did not obliterate the pain. That was fine. I could manage the pain. Contractions remind me of waves in the ocean; they start slow like ripples, then build...build..buildBuildBUILD and CREST!... With the drugs, it worked more like ripple...ripple...build..build..BUILD/done. No crest. No incredible burst of pain in the hips. As the contractions came and went, coasting away in this tolerable, gentle way, I found myself delightfully surprised. So surprised that I started smiling and talking. Smiling!

"It's so much better," I told Jake. "It's not that bad."

Laughing away the contractions while in the on-all-fours position. easy peasy.

Laughing away the contractions while in the on-all-fours position. easy peasy.

Let's be clear: it was still very difficult and still painful, but I knew what else it could be, and it was not that. Let's just say my glass was half full right then.

So off we went. My contractions continued on and became closer together. When the midwives first checked me in the hospital, I was already 8 centimeters dilated. 8!!!!!! That means I went from 0 to 5 in the two weeks before, and from 5 to 8 in the two precious hours I was having contractions at home and then driving to the hospital. That's fast.

But we had to get to 10 centimeters, and I had a few tricks up my sleeve. My HypnoBabies training had previously taught me about the power of distraction. Although I wasn't planning to do things by the Hypno book again, I really liked this idea and totally planned to steal it. I wrote some up notecards with places and people from my life that I could think about and visualize during the contractions. Jake would read them to me and kind of walk me through each one. So, for example, he would tell me to imagine our backyard garden...think about the strawberries growing in the raised bed...remember Olivia picking the strawberries as soon as they ripened. And so on and so forth. It worked well. I dug it. Jake was a great co-captain.

My mom and dad were also aboard the baby-having ship. Yes, both my parents were there. My dad mainly rubbed my back and told me how well I was doing. You know, dad stuff. My mom did the same, but she also interacted with the nurses and midwives, and asked questions so Jake and I could focus on our thing, and also took some great pictures and video. I watched the video later and it was incredible. But it was weird. And there was a lot of my butt. Like, WAY too much. (No, don't bother scrolling ahead, it's never going to be linked here.)

Since I wasn't completely incapacitated by the drugs, and since my midwives were kickass, they let me change positions on the bed. I moved to this all-fours/child's pose for a while. It was nice. I shifted back to my right side when I got the urge to push. I planned to push on my side. I did that the first time and it worked well, and Patricia the midwife agreed that it would be a "beautiful way to push." Hells yeah. One person can grab your top leg and brace it, another person can block your bottom leg and you push on that person. It simulates a squatting position without the major downside of squatting, which is that it's F-ing impossible to squat when you're having a baby.

Although I knew I could push, I didn't want to throttle forward too fast. I pushed a little...pulled back...pushed again. When the energy rose I started pushing harder.


Now pause for a second. Suddenly I look around and see people rushing toward me. What is going on? Where are they going? Wait, they're passing me. They aren't going to me, they're going to my DAD, who has started to FAINT. Whaaa?? Can this be happening?! My first thought: "Oh my God I've destroyed my father with all this dramatic pushing, what have I done?!!" But my second thought: "No, wait, my dad is a registered nurse, he doesn't get freaked out by this stuff. What is wrong?" In the end, nothing was wrong. I mean, Dad was fine, just very dehydrated and very tired and the room was very hot (my fault, I asked them to crank it). The nurses got him some water and a chair and he felt better. Meanwhile, I got back to pushing a baby out of my uterus.

Jake is talking me through a contraction as my dad rubs my back. I'm almost ready to push.

Jake is talking me through a contraction as my dad rubs my back. I'm almost ready to push.

Pushing is not like contractions. In my opinion, it's better. It's so powerful and all-encompassing and there is just nothing like it in our human experience. (Well, there is one thing that is SORTA similar. Gross, I know, but it's true. As my friend and OB/GYN always says, if you're not pooping, you're not doing it right! Someone should needlepoint that.)

I felt very powerful in the last stage of labor. I felt in my element. In my regular life I take these cross-fit classes that are so hard, they kick your butt, but you kind of love it afterward. Pushing my baby out felt impossible at first; how can this work? Logistically it IS impossible. The reason why a 14 inch baby's head comes out of a 10cm opening is beyond comprehension. But then you just do it anyways. Nature kicks in again and you just try, knowing that it can't work...can it?

"Big push," the midwives said. And POP! He was out. Shoulders next, as Anne the midwife gently looped the cord back over his head. I reached down and felt his head emerge, impossibly, in one blessed moment. (Later they would tell me that all this pushing took only 5 minutes, but they must be lying.)

"Oh! My BOY!" I cried. And then I just cried and cried big tears of joy and relief and an emotion that has no name. It is the thing that bonds mothers. You know it when you feel it. And suddenly you are enveloped into this community of mothers. A community of women that goes back a bazzilion years and kazzilion babies. I suppose we would call it love, but there is no love like this. There just aren't words.

My favorite picture of us right after Henry was born and things settled down a bit.

For a few minutes, the NICU staff needed to take our baby into a side room and suck the fluid out of his lungs. Jake went with them. He watched as they shoved their tubes down to get the fluid and waited for him to cough, which he did, after an eternity lasting about 4 minutes. Baby boy was so blue when he came out, though they say that many babies look like that. He did not cry at first, and in the video that my mother took I heard myself tell him, "Cry!" a few seconds after he was out. This was by far the worst part of the birth for Jake. Somehow I was spared, either because I didn't understand what was happening, or because I did understand somewhere deep down that he was OK.

Jake, Patricia, Anne, me and Henry. Go team!

After we were finally reunited there was more crying and rejoicing and talking about what a "beautiful birth" this was, according to Patricia the midwife. They say you get the midwife that you need for your birth, and we certainly felt that way. Patricia brought a peaceful, calm presence to this birth, my "healing" birth. Anne brought the kind of no-nonsense/ you-can-do-this attitude that I like to see when I'm doing a cross-fit class or, you know, having a baby.

You know, it's true that you're never really "ready" to have a baby; you'll never have quite enough money or enough space or enough baby books to make you feel perfectly ready. But it is also true that you're not ready for how much love this guy is going to bring to your life. That was true when my daughter was born, and it was just as true this time as well. I am in awe of how much I love him.

Henry Jones has also graced us with relatively peaceful nights and a basically low-maintenance disposition. I don't want to jinx it, but he appears to be what the others have called an "Easy Baby." They DO exist! Of course, I will have several updates and changes to tell you about in the coming weeks, but for now, we are hopelessly, emphatically in love with our Little Henry.


Celebrate: A Child is Born

Last year on December 24th, I walked into our humble church in east Spokane along with some wise men, children bearing straw, and a few angels.  I was holding onto my 1-year-old Olivia who had been baptized in the church 4 months prior.  The church has high ceilings made of wood, everything is wood.  It's the kind of place that reminds you just how many people you really can fit onto a small square piece of land.  It looks small and grandiose at the same time.  A humble place. If you cannot donate to St. Anne's during the passing of the hat, don't despair; you can just as easily donate your adorable child to stand in as a camel or shepherd during the midnight* mass.  (*Midnight has been moved to 4:30 sharp.)  Baby Jesus will not judge you or begrudge you this offering.  He loves kids.

Off to have a baby!

The mass began and soon we were taken back to that story about Bethlehem, the star, the young Mary and Joseph, and the heavenly hosts.

As a Catholic-raised child, I learned a lot about the birth of Christ and the cast of characters that went with it.  But as they got to the part about Mary talking with the angel Gabriel, I started to feel some doubtful feelings.  It happens this way sometimes to Catholics like me.  The rest of you may find it obvious that things like a "virgin birth" are not exactly...well, possible.  Scientifically.  Ok, fine.  But I didn't know that for like 20+ years of my life.

I understood the story that had always been told to me:

An angel is sent to Mary.  Mary, he says, you are the handmaiden of the Lord, you will have a baby and call his name Jesus.  She is impregnated without ruining her virginity.  Basically a win-win on all accounts.

Mary tells Joseph, her betrothed.  He's not cool initially, later he has a dream and all is forgiven.

Let's go back a step, how is Mary able to bear the Child of God, the King of Kings?  Her mother (Saint Anne) gave birth to Mary free from sin.  This is the Immaculate Conception.  (Yes, the term is often confused, but it refers to Mary's birth.  And it is one of the dogmas of Catholicism.)  Since Mary was born without original sin, she is clear to carry the Savior.  Confused yet? Good.

Caesar Augustus decides to tax everyone, or take a census, or both, I'm not sure.  Add this to the list of irrational burdens that the Jews must endure under foreign rule.  So every man must return to his city of birth to pay this tax.  Why their city of birth?  I'm not sure, it's just easier that way, okay?

So, off they go to Bethlehem, the City of David.   (I assume it is significant that Joseph is tied to the line of David.  But if Mary was impregnated miraculously, then Jesus would not carry that bloodline.  Am I the only one to think of this?!  But as He grows up, everyone just assumes that He is Joseph's son, and I mean, He IS (except for the whole Son of God thing). But whatever, moving on.)

And once they arrive, they realize, crap!  Everyone else already got there and snagged all 13 hotels rooms (it was a small town).  Then a kindly innkeeper offers up the barn in back, and they're back in luck!

And the time came that Mary should be delivered.  And she did, presumably with a midwife who would have been called.  Don't even begin to tell me that Joseph wouldn't have called for a midwife, he would.

And Mary brought forth her first born son and lay him in a manger.  No crying He made.

In the fields there were shepherds keeping watch of their sheep.  But the angel came to them to deliver the amazing news, and when that didn't work, a sky full of heavenly hosts convinced them.  And off they ran to see the child who would become the King of the Jews.

Elsewhere, three wise men (who we now believe may have been early astronomers?) followed a star.  And they followed it straight to Baby Jesus, a few weeks after His birth.  But you know, better late than never, right?  Nothing that a little gold and myrrh can't cure.

* * *

"Madonna of the Streets"

"Madonna of the Streets"

That is the story, more or less.  I don't know if any of it is true, and my hunch (now) is that very little of it really is, but I'm not so sure that matters. History is just as much about what we make it.  History can have little to do with facts, and more to do with meaning.  Particularly in matters like this.

The story is really quite beautiful and meaningful when you strip away all the dogmatic nonsense.  Start with the virgin story.  Mary does not need to be a virgin for this story to work.  The virgin birth story is a thread that weaves through several cultures' origin stories or stories of God.  It may have several meanings, but one of the less savory ones is this: it explains the birth of a God without all the messy sex stuff that has always made women so unholy.  Women can be evil (impure, sinful, sexual) or pure (untouched, unsexual, the eternal mother).  Our cultures have typically not left room for much else.

But think about it this way:  Mary and Joseph marry young, and miraculously become pregnant with a quickness they can't understand.  They wouldn't understand.  Being young and somewhat uneducated in these matters, pregnancy would be a bit scary and a bit inexplicable.  Isn't it still?

But they pray and they ask their God for guidance, and God sends messengers to tell them it will all be ok.  Did it happen in a dream?  Certainly possible.  Were they angels?  Most definitely.

Then they must make a trip.  Joseph must care for Mary.  (He buys a reliable donkey.  Good gas milage, able to haul big loads.  Good thinking.)  They run into unexpected trouble.  They make the best of it.  (Find shelter.  Use the pregnancy card on the innkeeper.  Oh you have a stable?  Great, send blankets.  And a midwife.)

Then they have this moment, in the stable, alone.  I imagine them holding on with fear in their eyes but with a strength that comes from love and faith.  They believe that their purpose is bigger than themselves.  They believe that this child has come to the world to do something wonderful.  And their job, right now, is to get him here.

As I was sitting in our church on Christmas, I was reminded of this moment in my own life.  I remember that feeling... oh dear... I am truly alone, aren't I?  Who trusted me to do this job?!  But right now I can panic or I can push this baby out with all that I have.  There is no time to question whether you have that strength.  Then I remember, Jake grabbed my leg, my mom grabbed my arm.  I was not really alone.  I remember hearing them cheer.  There were others in the room.  And I think Someone else was there too.

And suddenly there she was.  There He was.  The King of Kings.  Prince of Peace.

And his name shall be called Wonderful...

Perhaps the most beautiful thing is how simple this story is, and yet how miraculous.  A baby is born every day.  This one was born to poor, young parents in a stable surrounded by animals and other earthly things.  And yet he gets the royal treatment. Nothing like the modern Prince George, mind you.  But this little king is greeted by an entourage too: shepherds, and later "wise" men.  He receives gifts that his family desperately needs as they are fleeing back to home (we skipped that part earlier, it's quite sad).  They travel far to see Him, a baby!

...Babies, if you're not already aware, make for rather lousy entertainment.  They coo a little, they sleep, they do other bodily functions...

And yet we travel far to see them.  We wait for them, and pray for them.  We put our hopes and dreams on them. We go through ups and downs and difficulty and uncertainty, but we go on making more of them.  And each one is a miracle.  And each one could grow up to be a king.  What a beautiful thing to celebrate.

Welcome, little one!

My birth story

My birth story has been hard to write.  The experience of giving birth was many things I expected -joyous, exciting, intense- and many things I did not -emotionally draining and even traumatic.  Many people told me that you cannot predict what your birth will be like and to expect some changes in the plan.  But that kind of advice doesn't really help prepare you, and I guess that's the point.

As many of you know, I prepared for a birth without medication using a technique of self-hypnosis.  We took an intensive birth preparation class called HypnoBabies, which I really liked.  Essentially, the class teaches you how to use deep relaxation, similar to meditation, to "turn off" your body when you need to and to focus on relaxing through the contractions.  Many women who used this technique said that they had pain-free births, and on average, women have shorter labors and fewer complications.  It was also a really nice way to prepare for birth because Jake and I would do practice exercises together that help you let go of fear and just relax.  Can't complain about that.  The actual reality of the birth experience was a little different.  But we'll get to that.

Ultimately, I wanted a healthy birth without interventions so that baby and I would be as safe and healthy as possible.  I think it's a common misconception that women who want a natural birth are martyring themselves for some heroic purpose.  I'm not anti-drugs; I love Advil and I've never gotten a prescription that I didn't fill immediately.  But I researched all-things birth for a long time and decided that the best thing I could do for me and the baby would be to use what nature gave me and avoid interventions.  Epidurals and pain meds are not 100% safe for mom or baby, they often lead to more and more interventions, and I have a close friend who recently endured one of the worse epidural-related complications...so I was motivated.  

But on to the story.  Stories are better with pictures, so here we go...

My sister Amy Lou getting my birth hair ready.

My sister Amy Lou getting my birth hair ready.

My water broke at 8am on Wednesday, August 10th.  I had an appointment that morning at 8:30am at the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center.  I'd been getting all my prenatal care there, and I highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, when I looked down to see that water was spilling out of me, I also saw that it was not clear.  I yelled to Jake in the kitchen, "I think my water just broke."  He came in and was a little confused too - to be honest, it kind of looked like I was just losing control of my bladder.  But I wasn't.  The discoloration was due to meconium in the water, which is the baby's first poo and is supposed to happen after they're born (ick).  It can be a sign of fetal distress ... or it can just happen because you are 6 days overdue (my situation).  

The Ladies M-V, at my side!

The Ladies M-V, at my side!

I told Jake to be ready for bad news, and we rushed to the Birth Center.  I called my mom and sister, Amy Lou, on the way.  Amy had been visiting for almost a week, waiting for baby to come.  I asked, "Is there any way you can delay your flight?  My water just broke."  Luckily, she was able to fly out later that night, so she and Mom headed over too.  My sister Maren had visited too but had to go home because she had final exams that week.  We were so sure that Baby O would be early or on time... but no!

So we went to the Birth Center, and Michelle the midwife confirmed what I suspected.  Because of the meconium I was considered "at risk," and we would have to give birth at the hospital instead of the Birth Center.  I would have to be on continuous fetal monitoring to watch her heartbeat, and if it dipped we might have to do a C-section.

Jake, having a tough time adjusting to the plush surroundings of Riverbend Hospital

We went home for about 10 minutes to grab our things and get over to the hospital (which is only about 10 minutes away).  Jake ran around the house like a mad man.  We had a bag packed but still needed to add several things.  I had thought we'd have time to do that while I labored at home for some time.  Nope! 

I did not really start "active labor" on my own.  I had these super wimpy contractions that really just made my belly hard and were barely noticeable. Pauline the midwife let me wait until about 1pm, and then she said I would need to get on Pitocin, the synthetic hormone that makes contractions and dilation happen.  I was not excited for this. Pitocin can make contractions much more intense, and of course it's a drug, which I wanted to avoid.

Waiting waiting...

Waiting waiting...

I had a big lunch at noon, which would be the last meal I would eat until breakfast the following day.  Pitocin can make you ill, so it was just juice and crackers after that.  And some tater tots that my awesome friend Missy brought to me.  In her purse. Haha take that, hospital rules!

I got hooked up with the Pitocin, and we were off.  The contractions became much more noticeable, but still manageable with our hypnosis techniques.

When we told the nurses that we were using HypnoBabies for a natural birth, they put this sign on the door to tell visitors that they needed to check with them before entering.  Very nice.

When we told the nurses that we were using HypnoBabies for a natural birth, they put this sign on the door to tell visitors that they needed to check with them before entering.  Very nice.

Pitocin is administered by IV starting at level "2" and increasing to level 4, 6, and so on.  I asked them to increase the Pitocin slowly because I wanted to give my body time to kick in on its own.  We moved up to level 4 after an hour or two.  Still manageable. 

Our nurse Judy was very impressed with us.  She told me to remember that my body is capable of much more than we can imagine and to hang in there.  Our next nurse, Evelyn, was not a natural birth believer.  When we told her about our plan she said, "Ok.....and you do know that there are other options, right?"  Ummm, what?!  Do you mean, have we heard of pain medication?  Yes.  Now please leave.  Evelyn quickly bumped me up to level 6 without asking or telling me.  Not cool.  The contractions got pretty intense, and I asked for the midwife (Hilary) to come back.  She had a little word with Evelyn.

Well, Evelyn turned out to be correct after all.  The Pitocin went back up to 6, and we were off again.  Each time it would increase I would feel it about 1-2 contractions later.  The feelings were about the same: an intense pulsating in my abdomen and pain throughout my pelvis - but it would become more intense.  Jake was with me, coaching me along, and using our self-hypnosis cues.  We also had iPod tracks to listen to, and he put those on a couple times.  At one point my mom took over for Jake.  She did something that really helped.  She gave me something to visualize during the contractions.  We visualized my grandmother, Lois, and my aunt and uncle's house in Tacoma where we always gather at Christmas.  This took my mind off the pain and kind of transported me to another place.

I had no real sense of time.  The hours passed quickly, but the contractions felt like an eternity.  I was stuck at 5 centimeters for 5 or 6 hours with no progression.  Around this time I had an important realization.  If I was going to get anywhere, we had to increase the Pitocin, and we had to do it steadily.  I told this to Jake, and he agreed.  He was just waiting for me to be ready for that.  As much as I wanted to trust my body and let the process happen organically, I also needed to trust my mind.  I could see that my body was not progressing without the help of this synthetic hormone.  I could be sad about that, or I could gather my courage and embrace the situation.

Gathering my courage

Gathering my courage

Hilary and Evelyn bumped the Pitocin up to level 7 for a while, and then quickly up to 8.  This was around 5-7pm.  My sister had been with us up to this point, but she had to catch a flight.  I remember seeing a kind of fear in her eyes as she got ready to go.  She looked like she was saying 'I'm proud of you, but I'm worried for you, and I feel bad that I have to leave.'  I told her it was ok, and it really was.  I was approaching a point where I could not think of anything other than what I was doing.

My dad arrived a few hours after Amy Lou had gone.  He came into the room and sat by me.  We did not say anything for a long time.  He just sat with me and held my hand and leaned in close.  It makes me emotional to think about it now.  It was such a sweet moment.  I was so glad he had come, but I was so overwhelmed with pain.  He seemed to understand all of that just by being close to me. He was my dad right then, just my dad.

After a few more contractions, my mom and dad commented that they were so impressed that I was staying calm through each one.  I would lean back, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing.  Usually Jake would hold my hand too and talk to me or use our cues.  This was what we had practiced, but it was so much tougher than I ever could have imagined. "If I didn't do this, it would be worse," I tried to explain.  It would have been easy to lose it; I was on a fine line between control and hysteria.  Like being 2 inches under the water during a crazy thunderstorm.

As we got into the night hours, there were no more visitors to the room.  Krystle the nurse took over for Evelyn.  When Evelyn left, I squeezed her hand and thanked her - she had really come around since her earlier comments, and I could tell she was genuinely pulling for us.  She said, "We can do better than that," and gave me a big hug.

The amazing thing about having Krystle take over at that time was that Krystle had been our HypnoBabies class instructor, too.  How serendipitous can you get?  She jumped right in and took over for Jake for a while.

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Here we are, Krystle, me, and Jake pre-contraction

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...and here's the team during a contraction - Krystle is in her element. I look so hot right now. Jake is getting TIRED.

When they turned the Pitocin up to level 9, a change happened.  I was on the birth ball when it hit me.  I remember slamming my foot on the ground in shock.  (**I want to warn any pregnant readers at this point- skip ahead to the birth pictures!**)  I yelled out, "Its changed!  Something is different!"  I felt pain and intensity like never before.  I started to lose my grip and felt myself crossing into hysteria.  It was scary, to be perfectly honest.  And it got worse.

Jake and Krystle convinced me to get back into the tub, and I did eventually.  This must have been between 11 and midnight.  I was on the toilet first, and I had a desperate conversation with Jake about pain medicine.  I pleaded with Jake to ask Krystle to give me something for the pain.  I could barely see straight.  I can only imagine that the pain is similar to having a broken bone, but the bone is your pelvis, and it keeps breaking every 2-3 minutes for 30 seconds or more at a time. (If you are pregnant and still reading, seriously, skip this. It won't be this hard for you. I plan to write another post about what I would do differently for my next birth (yes, I plan to have more kids), and this is one of those parts I would do differently.)

It breaks my heart to think of what was going through Jake's head at this time.  His wife is in terrible pain, but just days ago she was confidently convinced that she wanted a natural birth.  We both knew about the risks of a medicated birth, and now we were so close.  Plus, Krystle told Jake that if I got pain meds now, it could likely slow down the progress we'd made.  Jake decided against the drugs.  He got me into the tub, and I started to manage a little better.

Another couple of hours passed in the tub (maybe less? It's hard to remember), and this was by far the toughest part of the labor for me.  It was the transition period.  Jake was exhausted, so was I.  He tried so hard to keep me going, to have me think of other places and events - anything to take my mind off of the pain.  But I could see the tears welling up in his eyes.  There is no perfect way to capture this moment in words.  I will just say that there was a tremendous amount of love in the room, just an enormous outpouring of determination and love.

Krystle checked my progress and took Jake out of the room to deliver the results.  She said I was close to 10 centimeters (fully dilated) and would be pushing at any moment.  As they spoke, I felt another contraction come along.  I began to chant a word (something I had started doing when I felt the contractions coming, it helped me stay focused and it was my way of letting Jake know that another one was coming) - the word was either "open" or "Olive" (Olivia had too many syllables at this point).  But this contraction was different; suddenly I wanted to PUSH!  YEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!  Finally!

I yelled, "PUSHIIIIIIING!"  Jake rushed back in, "really?!"  "YES!"

I pushed a few more times in the tub, and Krystle said we'd better move to the bed.  Because I was hooked to an IV, and in very active labor, it took me some time to move around.  I got out, got toweled off, had another contraction in the bathroom, and then moved to the bed.  I laid on my side because it hurt to lie on my back.  No one told me I had to anything any differently, they all followed my lead; that was very nice.

"I am going to have this baby in 30 minutes," I thought to myself.  And you know what, I practically did.  About 30 or 40 minutes later, little miss Olivia swam into my outstretched arms.

You're HERE!

You're HERE!

Pushing a baby out is different than enduring contractions. Jake said that the color came back into my face, I looked focused and more present. Each push was simultaneously caused by an incredible surge of energy from somewhere within me and also causing a huge surge of energy, down and out. I immediately felt better too. With all this new found energy, I was so motivated to have this baby; I made a plan in my head.  I would wait until they told me she was crowning, and then I would push with all my might to get her head out - and I would get it out in 2 or 3 contractions.  I did this.  After big push #2, I asked, "Could the next one be it?"  Hilary said, "Yes. As soon as you're ready." 

The next contraction came and I puuuuuuuuuushed and puuuuuuuushed and I didn't stop even after the contraction ended.  Everyone was cheering me on.  "Push push PUSH, Hannah!"  The whole room was energized.  And then finally her head was out!  On the next two contractions her shoulders came out one at a time.  There was some tearing with the second shoulder, but I didn't feel it.  (Or at least, I didn't feel anything different than what was already going on down there.)

I reached down and grabbed my baby girl under the shoulders and pulled her slippery body all the way out.  Up onto my chest she went.  Jake was over the top excited.

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Jake cut the cord, tentatively - he said he didn't want to hurt her, even though he knew she couldn't feel it.

I pushed the placenta out with relatively no problem.  The nurses and Hilary had to push on my stomach to make sure everything was out (weird, I never really thought about this part of labor).  It was very painful, but I just kept looking into my perfect girl's eyes and that got me through.

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My mom, Grandma Lynnette, was there for the big push.

Olivia went to the breast right away, just like we hoped she would.  (Sometimes babies have difficulty with breastfeeding initially if the birth is heavily medicated.)  She nursed and looked up at me, and I looked at her.  It was incredibly sweet.  Jake was still elated.

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Daddy holds Olivia for the first time

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The fam charges in!

After Jake and I had some time with her, and the nurses had checked everything out (she was healthy!), Jake called to tell his family they could come in.  One second later the doorknob turned and in they came!  They were so excited to see her, they'd been waiting by the door.

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This was how we spent most of the next day

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We were taken to a recovery room after the birth, and we went straight to sleep (after some more time spent staring at our little miracle).  The next day was full of visitors, which was great!

Grandpa Ralph

Grandpa Ralph

Grandma Robin

Grandma Robin

Friends, Shane and Sarah

Friends, Shane and Sarah

My dad, Grandpa Gary

My dad, Grandpa Gary

Baby gifts!

Baby gifts!

Grandpa Denny and Grandma Lynnette, my mom

Grandpa Denny and Grandma Lynnette, my mom

My best gal, Missy

My best gal, Missy

"Uncle" Joe Joe

"Uncle" Joe Joe

We stayed one more night at the hospital, and left the following day.  I was so ready to go home.  I appreciated the help we got from the nurses, but I wanted to be comfortable in my own bed and couch, snuggled with my little girl.  I had lost a lot of blood, and it took a long time to heal. A LONG time. Jake stayed home with me for 2 weeks, and it was just great to have him there.  I couldn't have done it (any of this!) without him.

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Aunt Meggie picked some great clothes for Baby O after her first outfit was slightly puked on...and peed on

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Added bonus of a hospital birth: free food! (I ordered everything.)

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3 men and a baby

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A lady came in to take my picture for the website - I was so white from the blood loss, and this is 24 hours later!

Our little angel gets her hearing test

We're outta hereeee!

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Me and my girl

Was there ever a doubt that it was worth every hard-fought minute?  Look at this face.