Before Nathan's birth, I read everything I could get my hands on about the things that happened to Luke and I that I didn't intend to repeat. I searched high and low for a midwife that would attend a home birth. At the time, it was illegal to have a home birth in Wyoming (it is legal now!). I had two options. Have an unattended home birth or go to the hospital. Since I wasn't comfortable being unattended, I decided I really only had one option.
For several weeks I had been willing my body to go into labor. I had a separated pelvis for the last few months of my pregnancy and it was excruciating at times. Having that kind of constant pain and a toddler were just about all I could handle. I was so frustrated with my body for not starting labor 10 days early like Luke's labor that I worried I would end up being induced again.
About two days before Nathan's due date, I decided to give all my troubles up to God. After I had done that, I felt so much better! I was relaxed and didn't feel this cloud of worry hanging over me. I was able to enjoy my last days with Luke as an only child. I also realized how blessed I was to be able to carry a baby to term and that we were both healthy. Little did I know what the very next day would hold!
Around two in the morning, Luke woke up. I picked him up and took him to my bed and sang him back to sleep. When I was sure he was sleeping, I carried him back to his crib. As I laid him back down, I had a pretty strong contraction. I didn't think much of it - I'd been having contractions off and on for several months. I went back to bed, but couldn't sleep. I got up and started walking around the house, thinking the contractions would stop if I was moving as they had in the past. It didn't take long for me to realize this wasn't a drill, it was the real deal.
I started counting through the waves of contractions (one one thousand, two one thousand) as a way to focus my mind and "time" the contractions. Not wanting to alarm my mom, I called my friend Cindy. I didn't have a clock with a second hand to time the contractions with and I asked Cindy to time them for me. They were already only four minutes apart and lasting nearly a minute! Cindy came over to my house for support. I was determined to stay home as long as possible - the less time I spent at the hospital the less chance there was of medical intervention. Even though my contractions were close together and long, I didn't feel any pain unless someone interrupted my counting. That was my focus and as long as I was focused, my body did what it needed to.
I called Phyllis, my midwife. She told me to stay home as long as I was comfortable and it would probably be a while before I needed to head to the hospital. She thanked me for the heads up. I also called my doula since she had to travel about 60 miles - I wanted her to have plenty of time.
Within an hour, I felt that I needed some air. I went outside to walk down the street. I had to stop along the way twice to vomit. Now I know that is a sign of transition. I was also starting to confuse my numbers, counting some twice and skipping others. Confusion is also a sign of transition. I suddenly had to use the bathroom and waddled back to the house as fast as I could. Once there, my water broke. The fluid was clear and smelled sweet, a good sign! Cindy kept telling me I needed to go to the hospital, but I insisted it wasn't time. I had only been in labor 3 hours.
Around 5:30, I found myself on my hands and knees on the living room floor over a bucket. The contractions were making me extremely nauseous, but I continued to count through them. They still weren't really painful, but they were exhausting and by the time I counted to 50 I had to remind myself, "Okay, it's almost over, it won't last 'till 60". Most of the time, that was true, but some of them lasted long enough for me to count to 75! I went between the floor and the toilet for an hour or so - all the while SD (who finally woke up) and Cindy begging me to get in the car.
At 6:50, I finally decided to go to the hospital. Cindy let us use her SUV as I didn't think I could get into my little car. The drive to the hospital was the worst part of the night - I was unable to walk, sway or otherwise move my body in the way it was telling me to. When we got to the hospital, I walked past admissions to the elevator. The secretary asked if I wanted a nurse to bring down a wheelchair and I wasted no time in telling her (probably a little rudely) that I didn't have time for that. I had two contractions in the elevator.
When I got to Labor & Delivery, Phyllis was there behind the desk, knitting. She came to give me a hug and I used her support to get through the next contraction, still counting. As Phyllis and the nurses debated about what room to put me in (like they didn't know I was coming), I realized they had no idea how close I was to delivering. Finally a nurse showed me to a room and held up a specimen cup. "Just a little tinkle" she insisted. I tried to tell her I couldn't do that right now, I really just needed to make myself comfortable and regain my focus! I was starting to panic and the contractions became extremely painful when I wasn't counting through them. The nurse began to help me out of my coat and noticed I was counting and told me to stop. The computer would count the contractions once I was being monitored. I felt like biting her head off, but I said nothing - I didn't want to lose my focus over something so petty. I went into the bathroom with the cup and shut the door. I took off my shoes and pants, threw them into a corner and sat down. Oh, the relief! The pressure on my pelvis was gone as my legs supported my weight and it felt so much better. It was 7:05am.
Nearly ten minutes passed (so I'm told) before a nurse knocked on the door and asked if I was okay. I told her I was fine. I started to feel my whole midsection tighten - tight enough to make me involuntarily grunt. Then Phyllis came in and I noticed that my mom and sister, Jessie, and my doula had arrived. Phyllis sat down on the shower and said, "Tell me what you feel." I said, "Phyllis, I feel like pushing." Her eyes widened and she pulled a pair of gloves from her pocket to check me. I must have been ready to go because she said, "Ladies, suit up!" The nurses shuttled back and forth, talking under their breath about moving me to the bed. I prayed they wouldn't push the issue.
I closed my eyes and blocked everything out. I imagined being in the sun, the warmth of it on my shoulders. I remembered watching my mare, Rosie, having her first little foal. She didn't panic. She didn't fight it. She simply lay there and let nature take it's course. I was still counting, but I was also listening to my doula, Christi, tell me what a great job I was doing. I opened my eyes to see Phyllis sitting on the floor in front of me, patiently waiting to welcome my little guy into the world. It was right at shift change for the nurses, and there were four of them standing in the doorway along with my mom, sister, SD, and Christi. I looked at Phyllis and said, "I want to sleep." She just smiled as I closed my eyes. I really do think I dozed - even if it was just for a minute.
The next contraction brought renewed energy and I was ready for it. I could feel Nathan's little body moving and turning - then suddenly, I felt his head making it's way out. I started to panic a little, remembering the pain of Luke crowning, but I quickly got my thoughts under control and returned to counting. I stood up as Nathan's head slipped out into my hands and the rest of his body soon followed. I just looked at him for a bit - all 7 pounds and 8 ounces of him. After four hours of labor and only 20 minutes in the hospital, this was THE single most amazing moment of my life! I lifted my shirt and brought him to my chest. He didn't cry, but took a few gurgley breaths and blinked in the bright light. Then he turned his head and began to search for my breast. I just can't get over how amazing that moment was - it was as if I was being told I'd struggled enough and this little guy was going to heal the hurt from Luke's birth.
I was given a towel to dry him off, but I rubbed as much vernix into his skin as I could (rubbing it in prevents baby's skin from peeling in the weeks following birth). SD cut the cord once it stopped pulsing and I snuggled Nathan even closer. My work was not over, as the placenta had yet to make an appearance. Phyllis applied traction to the cord (basically, she pulled on it) and I could feel it on the inside - it didn't occur to me at the time, but even farmers and ranchers know that pulling on a cord can mean leaving a newborn motherless as she would likely bleed to death. The placenta did come out in it's entirety, but the bleeding was serious.
I moved to the bed with a towel between my legs (my pelvic pain was miraculously cured!) and the movement and gravity made the bleeding worsen. A nurse came at me with a loaded syringe and prepared to jab it into my thigh when I grabbed her wrist. "What do you think you're doing?!" I was not happy about not being asked or even told what was going on. She said it was pitocin, to make my uterus contract harder and try to stop the bleeding. Remembering my previous experience with pitocin, I said absolutely NOT. Phyllis came then and told me it was either that or get an IV with a pitocin drip but the bleeding had to be stopped. I agreed to the injection.
Nathan was left skin to skin with me for the first three hours of his life. No one else touched him aside from Phyllis holding him while I walked to the bed. He was not poked, prodded or bathed. I didn't even allow them to use a suction bulb to clean out his nose and mouth as he seemed to be breathing just fine. He was not vaccinated, given eye antibiotics, or injected with vitamin K. He was not circumcised - yet (but that's another post). The nurses just about had to sit on their hands after I had refused for him to be weighed and measured three times. Did they think he would shrink if I held him too long? The weight of his little body sleeping on my chest helped me immensely in the hours ahead.
The next few hours were miserable. The nurses came in every ten minutes to push on my uterus and when they did, not only was it excruciating, the blood just gushed. I had started to shiver from the blood loss. I was given two cytotec pills (a drug that causes such powerful contractions it is used for abortion) to help stop the bleeding by contracting my uterus. It was awful. I was ready to ask for an epidural and I'd already had my baby! When Nathan was nursing (which was pretty much constantly) it made the cramping worse. Fortunately, the bleeding eventually started to let up however; the effects of the cytotec lasted for days. It wasn't something I'd wish on my worst enemies.
We weren't even in the hospital 24 hours. With a clean bill of health, we went home the next morning. Nathan was a champion nurser and never lost any weight. When my supply came in on the third day after his birth, I was overjoyed to hear him greedily gulping down the milk. Sometimes I thought he was drowning he was swallowing so fast! I praise God for allowing me to have the healing, empowering birth experience I needed to help heal the hurt of the past.
If I had it to do over, I would have stayed home and had an unattended home birth. If the placenta had been left to detach on it's own, I would have had no problem delivering Nathan by myself as I wouldn't have had the excessive bleeding. But, lesson learned. I am thankful for the experience I had and for my healthy baby boy!
I love to read birth stories. It can be a healing and enlightening experience to write out your birth story and if you would like to, you're more than welcome to put it in the comments!