Team effort: The birth of Topher
For more than nine months, our prayers (and the prayers […]
For more than nine months, our prayers (and the prayers of so many for us) were for a natural delivery of a healthy baby. At 20 weeks, that prayer evolved to a natural delivery of a healthy baby BOY.
From the beginning, we were blessed with an amazing birth team, led by our midwife, Lori. Her years of experience, combined with incredible intuitiveness and calm yet powerful strength walked us through each week of pregnancy, up to the day of delivery. Anticipating a birth is a strange thing, as every birth is different, and there really is no “normal.” This variability lead to quite a bit of uncertainty for me anticipating just when and how my labor would begin.
For me, contractions started light, sporadic and spread out. They began on a Saturday night, four days before I’d deliver. It was hard to calm down once they began. In the back of my head I couldn’t shake the thought that surely labor was right around the corner. As the time went by, though, life went on as scheduled. I was left to wonder just when we’d turn that corner.
Tuesday morning came, and the contractions were much more regular. I began to have to work—or at least focus—through each one, eventually finding myself breathing through each contraction on my hands and knees in the nursery we’d bring our baby home to.
After lunch on Tuesday, the contractions were coming every five minutes and lasting one minute. This was our sign. I called our midwife and set the ball rolling to head to the birth center. When we arrived and got settled into our room, I was again comforted (and assured) by our choice to birth there, which felt more comfortable than clinical.
At this point, the contractions were like a light switch, requiring me to focus and breath with intention, but allowing me to pick up where I left off with those around me in between each one. While I labored, our birth team (our midwife, Lori, and two wonderful nurses) discreetly set up for the birth, but we hardly knew they were there. I had the freedom to move around, choose the positions that felt best and snack as I labored. Such a gift to keep me calm, comfortable and focused!
As the contractions got stronger, the role of my husband got more and more vital. Through each contraction, he applied strong counter pressure where I needed it, and when each wave had passed he spoke the words of encouragement and affirmation I needed straight to my heart.
From here on out, I completely lost track of time. I knew that every 30 minutes our midwife or nurse would check the baby’s heart tones, but besides that, I had no concept of time. Eventually, about four hours after we had arrived, my contractions had progressed enough that I asked if I could get in the birthing tub to labor. Once I was in the tub, it was so nice to feel the warm water poured over my belly. During each contraction, one of our nurses would pour warm water over my back which was equally comforting!
The contractions were strong; I began “singing my birth song” as our midwife says. Through every contraction I repeated to myself I can do all things (with the inhale) through Christ who gives me strength (with the exhale). If I forgot about this for even a moment, the pain was too strong, and I would quickly have to come back to my affirmation. I repeated this with every contraction for hours, as I dropped my jaw, made low moaning sounds and focused all of my energy down through each contraction.
Enduring one contraction after another was really tough. At one point (the only point in my labor), I started crying soft tears and muttered that I didn’t think I could do it, but my husband confidently assured me that he knew I could. I would not have made it through labor and delivery without all four of them (my husband, midwife and two nurses).
After laboring in the tub for more than an hour (long enough that my knees felt bruised and I was hesitant to turn over for each contraction because I didn’t want to kneel on the hard floor of the tub—luckily our nurse brought me some towels to fold up!, I started to feel some pressure with each contraction. This gave me hope because I thought we must be close to the time to push! This was a welcome thought, as anything that meant I was closer to delivery was a step in the right direction.
Our midwife checked me just after 9 p.m., and I was at 9 and a half centimeters! At this point, in my mind, I thought, “OK, once we get to 10 centimeters, I’ll push three or four times, and we’ll have a baby!” This was not exactly how it would go …
I got out of the tub and on to the bed to get ready for pushing. I pushed on my side, on my hands and knees, got up and squatted with my husband holding all my weight up in his arms … nothing was making me comfortable.
There was a lip on my cervix (and the last half inch) that wouldn’t open, and it was making pushing really tough. While I was in pain, the required endurance was the hardest part. When our midwife told me that it could be a couple hours of pushing, I thought to myself, I can’t do this. But then, I thought about how I didn’t really have a choice, so directing everything I had towards pushing was the best option.
With each push I had to bear down, hold my breath and send all of my energy down low to a sustained push for as long as I could. Then, I’d take a quick breath and do it all over again. I wanted to quit. I didn’t think I had the endurance. I’d stop pushing and our midwife would urge me to “not waste my contraction,” and push one more time. I’d look around the room for anyone to lock eyes with me and give me some relief. But instead, they all offered the same message, “You can do this; you have all the strength you need to do this.” My husband fanned me almost continuously for hours. He got me water, then juice (for more energy) and held my hand through many of the pushes. He told me later that a few times my face turned purple—I was working so hard!
I still had no concept of what time it was or how long I’d been laboring. At one point, my husband commented, “Well, I guess his birthday will be March 2.” It was after midnight!
By 12:13 a.m., our midwife could see/feel baby’s head. There was still a tendon working against me (sometimes having strong pelvic floor muscles can work against a mama). Half an hour later, baby was visibly crowning, and I was able to reach down and touch his head! WHOA—it was the craziest thing ever, and apparently my face said it all because everyone laughed at my reaction.
That was the all the motivation I needed. From then on, I pushed continuously (even when I wasn’t having a contraction—which our birth team discouraged me from doing so I could rest) because all I knew was I wanted to power through and get to meet our baby!
Just a minute before 1 a.m. a head emerged, very quickly followed by (in the same push) the rest of our sweet boy’s body, and our son was born!
When he first came out, he needed some suctioning and was pretty gray. I was concerned, asking, “Why isn’t he crying?” But our birth team was amazing. They immediately placed our baby on my tummy for skin-to-skin, and I remember just staring in amazement thinking, That baby was inside me?!
Dad got to cut the umbilical cord, which he said was harder than he’d expected, and just two minutes and four seconds later, I heard his first cry—the most amazing sound I’d ever heard—and his tiny, little body turned a healthy pink.
Everything after our baby’s arrival was a blur and icing on the cake: working on establishing nursing, finding out our baby’s measurements, enjoying breakfast (cooked by dad) in bed, relaxing in an herbal bath for me and even our first nap as a family of three. By 7 a.m., we were packed up and ready to head home with our newest family member. I cannot imagine our birth in any other setting, or with any other team. We are forever grateful for our birth team, BirthCentered and answered prayers.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!
By Caitlin Kissee
Images: The Art of Unscripted