Around 5 pm on Saturday, June 23, my contractions picked up. Scott and I started timing them, but then stopped timing. Later we decide to time again and they were close to 5-6 minutes. apart. We kept saying, just one more contraction, then we'll call the midwife. We both had that fear that the contractions would fizzle out. We finally called Allison around (or close to . . . can't remember now!) midnight or so and then called Amy to see if she could come over. I wanted Scott to get some sleep, and I knew Amy would be supportive and helpful. Scott heated up the tub and made sure I was doing well before he went to bed.
Amy arrived shortly after I called. She was such a comfort, and I'm so glad she was able to be there. She helped me relax, focus, and stay strong. She made sure I had water and that I was comfortable. When Allison arrived, we all talked for a while. Sometime later, I think around 5 am, she did a vaginal exam to check my dilation and I was around 6 cm! I called my sister-in-law and mother-in-law to let them I was now "officially" in labor. They had previously requested that I call them as soon as I was in labor so they could start praying. Then I woke Scott up. I don't remember much about the morning until I got in the tub. I remember I kept saying it hurt, and I stayed on my side on the bed with Jonathan's stuffed animal duckie between my knees, as I had been throughout the whole labor up until getting in the tub. I had been on my left side for a long while, but the muscles in my right leg kept cramping really bad so I switched to my right side. The contractions hurt more, but somehow that seemed better than my leg cramping. Looking back, I think laboring wasn't so bad. I was able to breathe through the contractions and tried very hard to relax. Shortly before I got in the birthing tub, I would make trips to the bathroom and get really shaky but when I lay back down on my side the shakiness went away. I also remember Jasmine arrived shortly before I got in the tub, or sometime around then.
Allison did another vaginal exam around (I think, again I don't really remember times well) 7 am or so. I was around 7 cm. I decided to go ahead and get in the tub. Right around then, transition hit full force, and I kind of was off in another place mentally . . . still whining about it hurting all the while. Then suddenly they were saying to me "you're back!" and I realized I'd been "gone". It was really weird, but cool when I realized I'd made it through transition!
The tub felt really good, especially because I was having major back pain after the contractions. I think back muscles were working very hard to make up for my stomach muscles. On either side of my spine, my back muscles would cramp badly after the contractions. Being in the tub helped tremendously, as the weight was eased off my back. It also was very relaxing!
I remember feeling like I constantly had to empty my bladder. I kept getting out of the tub and waddling down the hall to the restroom. I had this fear that my bladder was getting crushed in there! During contractions that's kind of what it felt like.
While I was in the tub, Jonathan woke up. Jonathan knew everyone in the room and felt comfortable walking about. He saw me in the tub and came over to me. I'm glad we'd set up the tub to test it previously, because he felt very comfortable seeing me relaxing in the water. Oh, the tub really did feel so good. Every woman should at least be able to labor in a birth tub if they want to. The warm water was lovely and relaxing.
Allison asked if I felt like I wanted to push, and said I might try. I did, and it scared me a bit. Looking back, I was probably ready physically but not yet mentally. After a few more contractions I started to push. For some reason, I didn't feel right in the tub. Once, a mother told me that when a woman is able to move freely and assume any position she feels is best (at the time) the laboring woman will often instinctively birth her baby in the place and position best for the situation. This makes a lot of sense to me. Allison suggested getting on the birth stool to help me learn how to push. Scott sat behind me, supporting me with his arms and the birth stool was very comfortable. Allison talked to me and encouraged me. I truly wish with all my heart that every woman had someone like Allison to help her through her labor. It makes the biggest difference to have someone saying what you need and so desire to hear. It's like she knew just what to say to make me smile, soothe my fears and doubts, and encourage me to keep going. It helped me stay in touch with how beautiful and wonderful and natural birth is, instead of getting caught up in fear and worry. At that point I really was still smiling (not during contractions of course!). We have a picture of me on the birth stool, Scott behind me and Allison talking and I'm smiling, almost laughing. It's truly amazing, especially because when most people think of birth they think it's all horrible. I don't think it is. I also must add that Jasmine and Amy were both also wonderful, supportive and amazing. I am thankful for everyone who surrounded me during Hannah's birth. Jonathan came up to me at one point between contractions to nurse. It was so cute. I told him he could nurse later, and he gave my baby belly a big hug and snuggled close. Then he walked away to drink some juice. See, Jonathan was great support too!
During the next contraction I pushed, and she guided me to help me know when I was pushing effectively. This helped tremendously. I think we pushed through one more contraction on the birthing stool and then I felt like I just really needed to go somewhere else. I had suddenly become uncomfortable and wanted to move. The bedroom seemed lightyears away, and I didn't want to get back in the tub. I wanted to lie down. The floor in the playroom was looking very appealing! I chose the couch in the playroom instead. It's a couch that was my grandmother's for years and years, and then when she replaced it she gave it to me. I plopped down on my side, and they put pads under me. My pushing urges very quickly got stronger. I was pushing harder during the contractions and it was starting to hurt just a little. I pushed while kind of on my side with my left leg up and bent. Jasmine brought cool wash cloths for my face, and Scott was sitting on the floor right next to my head. He held Jonathan when Jonathan wanted to be near. Amy was taking pictures and helping with Jonathan.
During pushing, my water broke!!! It felt kind of like a gush, but not as big of a gush as I thought the water breaking would feel! Allison said it was dark and pea-soup-like with meconium and wanted to check baby's heart tones. She'd checked them frequently throughout labor and always baby's heart was beating strong. Again, baby's heart tones were strong and so I went on with pushing! I think my water broke sometime around 8:15 am or so.
The pushing had started getting intense, and it started to hurt more. I felt a little panic. Jonathan was a bit scared and would cry a little when I had a contraction. Everyone said they could see baby's hair! Allison had a mirror and asked me if I wanted to look. I wanted to, and I couldn't see over my tummy!!!! I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't see. She moved the mirror a bit and I still couldn't see so I just gave up. I think she also suggested I reach down to feel baby's head. I remember thinking of how much I thought I'd want to do that . . . but I didn't. I really didn't. The pain just made me want to get the baby out and anything other than getting the baby out at that time was just a distraction. My left leg started to cramp up, and I was crying and wanting my leg to relax. There seemed to be no comfortable place to put it. I asked Allison if I could flip over on my hands and knees and the moment she said okay. I flipped on over! It felt sooooo much better in that position. As I said before, I do believe that we just sometimes know what position is best for each situation. It just seemed like the "right" position to be in as did being on my side just before.
Baby's head was crowning, and the pain started to feel overwhelming. I have never felt pain like that in my life. It really, really hurt. When I pushed during a contraction, it pretty much felt like baby's head was made of a million tiny glass shards and that her head was expanding and on the outside it felt like someone was taking a million pins to my perineum. I was making loud noises and trying not to fight the pain. It was so overwhelming that it was more like the pain enveloped me. Jasmine kept bringing cool cloths over and now was putting them on my neck and back. It felt very soothing.
Around 8:30 am Allison had told me that she thought baby would be in my arms by 9 am. I should've been encouraged, but instead 30 minutes of that seemed like it would be an eternity!! I started pushing harder, and unfortunately I wasn't taking in as many breaths. I wanted the baby OUT! I pushed as hard as I possibly could. The pain I had been feeling was from baby crowning. Baby crowned through about 3 pushes, roughly 15 minutes. Our baby came sliding out at 8:44am!!!!!!!! They passed baby up through my legs, and Scott helped her through and up onto my chest. I sat up on the couch, holding our brand new baby. Oh! Such precious joy!!! I felt no pain at all. Baby was all gooey and squishy and so incredibly beautiful. I said, "Jonathan come see your brand new baby . . . "then I had to look! Haha! . . . "baby GIRL!!!!!!!" Oh, I know I said, "I did it! I did it! I gave birth!!!!" and I know I said a few other words in my elated and giddy stated. I lay down on the couch with Hannah Elizabeth in my arms and just wanted to cry a river of joyful tears. She had a full head of hair and was so lovely and snuggly.
We moved into the bedroom to get cleaned up. They weighed Hannah and did the reflex tests and such. Scott cut the cord! Hannah weighted 9 lbs, and measured 21 inches long. She had a 14-inch head and 14 1/2 inch chest. Her apgar scores were 8 and 9, same as Jonathan's. I had really done a number on my face during the pushing from not breathing enough. It looked like I had bright red freckles or chicken pox all over my face. They weren't raised, but I looked awful. I had the blood eyes too. I won't be showing the after birth pictures to many people! Haha. Hannah and Jonathan both nursed, with Jonathan pointing to Hannah's cheek for me to tell him "baby sister Hannah" all the while. It was adorable!
Scott put on Hannah's first diaper! I had a small tear, which we decided to let heal without stitches. Allison said that Hannah's shoulder got me on the way out. It was such a wonderful thing to be able to bond with baby right after the birth. After Jonathan's birth they took him away for two hours and wouldn't bring him to me despite my numerous requests. Hannah was there right next to me the whole time, and when she nursed, she nursed like a champ. It was blissful. The biggest moment for me was when Scott walked over to me (I was resting on the bed with Hannah) and everyone had left the room. He told me how beautiful he thought everything was and had gone, and how proud he was of me. He had tears in his eyes and I wish so much I could bottle up that moment!!! I'll remember and cherish it forever.
Almost two weeks later, writing her birth story still makes me tear up with joy. I'm still not feeling near 100%, but I'm getting better. I had always thought women who had vaginal births had it so easy, but I realize now it can hurt really bad and be hard to recover from. That said, I've loved every minute of it and I wouldn't trade it for the world. At two weeks out from my c-section with Jonathan, I was still in bed almost constantly and still taking vicodin. Now, here I am typing Hannah's birth story on the computer on the floor (can't sit completely upright yet) and I've even made one trip out of the house in the last week, to see the chiropractor! Don't misunderstand though, I still AM hurting and I still stay in bed or rest on the couch most of every day. But, emotionally I feel really good. I'm hormonal, and have had a few tearful moments but nothing like the devastation I felt after having the c-section. I am impressed with any woman who feels well enough in the same week after giving birth to go out of the house, as I still feel so awful. I stayed in bed asleep almost constantly for the first week. This second week I've been more awake and restless. I've been wearing a belly binder 24/7 (minus showers!) because my stomach muscles were so floppy and shot. It has really helped a great deal to get them back in place. I figure I'll stop wearing it maybe after my two-week check up, maybe. While the pain is a bummer, it doesn't even compare to the weeks and weeks of pain I felt after the c-section. I feel better every few days, and I look forward to being able to sit upright and use the restroom without it hurting. I also look forward to our first evening walk. I can only stand up for a bit at a time before the pain starts in.
Thank the Lord, my mother-in-law came to help us and take care of us this past week. That is probably the one single reason I've been able to finish this birth story! She cleaned and cooked and made sure I had plenty of water and fruit. She took very good care of all us. She even cleaned up blood off our carpet and cleaned out our refrigerator and painted over our son's drawings in the front room. You know you have a gem of a mother-in-law when she's willing to do so much. She is lovely. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have also helped us a great deal. They brought us dinners, helped clean our house, did laundry and mowed our lawn!! Scott has been wonderful too, truly amazing. He's been waking with Hannah in the night when she won't nurse back to sleep, and changing almost all of the diapers. Before his mom came to help, he cooked all the meals and remembered to bring me water. I consider myself very blessed. My dad will be coming here on Sunday to stay for the week to help out. Scott and I are both so thankful to have parents who care about us so much, and are willing to come out without notice to help us. I think later in life, when our children are older, I'd like to be a postpartum doula or something. I think every woman needs someone to help them after having a baby . . . just to cook, clean, or run errands so mom and/or dad can have plenty of time to bond with baby and relax.
Jonathan adores Hannah. He gives her kisses, wants to nurse when she nurses, and points to her cheeks constantly so I'll say "Hannah". He's had so much energy this last week!
I've had some thoughts running around in my head since the birth that I feel I need to "release". I am so thankful that I was able to have a homebirth. It was a very natural and normal thing to me. When I was in labor and after the birth I was able to eat when I was hungry (and not to mention I had really yummy food to eat!) use my own restroom, take showers in my own shower, not have a number of total strangers hovering around me waiting for "something bad" to happen, my son was present, and I had wonderful supportive people there to encourage me on in labor and take good care of me after the birth. What was really cool too is that Allison prayed for us, reminded us of the Lord's strength and His power throughout the week of prodromal labor, labor and Hannah's birth. I had people around me who believed in birth and in me. I really wish hospitals were less interventive and more supportive to the laboring woman and I am so sad that homebirth is not more supported for healthy, low-risk pregnant women. If I had been giving birth in a hospital, the majority of ob-gyns would've augmented or induced my labor with pitocin since my contractions were slow to start. I think that is a dangerous thing, as it has been proven that induction and augmentation is not good for the scarred uterus (I personally think it's not good at all). Also, I would have most likely been confined to a bed with the "routine" IV, not able to get up and shower or walk around freely. I also imagine that most doctors would've given me an episiotomy when our daughter was crowning for so long. Hannah did crown for a while, and she was just fine! She was quite healthy, I must say! I know that not all hospitals and not all doctors intervene so much, but it saddens me that the interventions are the norm and the doctors who don't intervene and have confidence in birth are rare. So many think it needs to be "fixed" when truly it works just as it should on its own!
I am thankful for how long it took for Hannah to crown. It was extremely painful, yes . . . but it humbled me and I believe it was necessary for my body. I think that the time spent during crowning probably prevented me from tearing, since I had plenty of time to stretch. Hannah's head was hardly molded, and it was her shoulder that caused my tear, not her head. I am also thankful for the pain, because one . . . as I said it humbled me . . . and two, Allison has said to me that I labored and pushed for two births (Jonathan's c-section was planned), and that makes a lot of sense to me.
While I am a little sad and disappointed that Hannah was not born in the water, I am thrilled that Hannah was born on my grandma's couch! I'm also thankful that she had a safe, natural, gentle birth. We recently picked up the pictures that Amy took. She took some in black & white and some in color. She had taken pictures of the labor, birth and afterward. They are all just beautiful. The black & white pictures are timeless and absolutely divine.
I really believe that God had such mercy on me to give me this experience. I am so thankful. I have already said I want to have a waterbirth at home if/when we are blessed with another child. I told Scott that I'd just need to forget a bit of the pain first!! Allison has assured me that the first labor and birth is the most painful, and so I have high hopes that if/when I give birth again, it will be easier! Hannah's birth was very healing for me. It didn't take away the pain and loss I feel from Jonathan's birth, and it didn't magically make everything better but it did start the healing process with a very nice jumpstart. I will forever cherish having Hannah here at home. It was very special. Scott and I hope to give her and Jonathan siblings also born at home in the future.