Monday, July 9, 2012

Eliana's Wonderful Arrival

I'll use my notes and texts from the day I was in labor to help me remember everything, as well as ask people who were there if I'm leaving anything out.I would have preferred to write Ellie's birth story closer to when it happened, but that first week was hectic enough as we all adjusted to life with a newborn, and after that, mastitis hit. Not very good blog writing situations!
Ellie was born on Saturday, June 6th, at 2:03 a.m. I knew I was probably going to be holding her soon about 25 hours before that, when I woke up at 1 a.m. Friday with what felt like menstrual cramps. I think I was in that half asleep/half awake mode for a little while feeling uncomfortable, when all of the sudden, it hit me--I can't be having menstrual cramps, I'm pregnant! I immediately started smiling and excitedly went to use the bathroom to see if there were any other signs. I got even more excited when I had some "bloody show" (part of my mucus plug). With Ezra, I'd had that around 1 a.m. and he was born at 10:34 a.m. I tapped Josh awake and let him know that we were probably going to have a baby today, and he may get to come home from work early. He asked what we should do now--pray and go back to sleep? I agreed, and he dozed back off.
We had gotten our smart phones (yes, we are officially caught up with the 21st century now) in just a few days before, and I used mine to download an app for keeping up with contractions. I wish I'd known how to take a screen shot, because it was basically a big button that either said, "begin contraction," or "stop contraction," with a list of previous times, etc. underneath. I thought it was very ironic that pushing "stop contraction" wouldn't actually stop a contraction, ha! Not that I wanted to stop contractions--I was ready to have this little girl! This was day 9 past her 'due date.' I had actually enjoyed the extra pregnancy time since I'd been so busy with school (school=work since I'm a teacher), but now I needed her to get going in the next few days so we could have the home birth I'd been hoping for (you can only have a home birth up to a certain amount past the due date). Plus, I'd been following "the plan" (see previous post), and the "nasty herbs" were getting to me!
Example of the 'stop contraction' screen
(my app actually had a big red button that said 'stop contraction')

At the time I was up downloading apps and such, my contractions were about 7 minutes apart. Typically, you hear that you should go to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, so you might think I'd be getting ready to give birth right now, but I knew I could have a long while to go, especially since my contractions were just the mild, crampy kind right then. I decided to get sleep while I could.
When I woke up around 7, my contractions had all but stopped--until I started moving around again. They were typically 7-10 minutes apart all day, sometimes getting closer, sometimes getting further apart, but I knew they were getting somewhere.
When I woke up, I decided that we would just play it by ear and see how the day went. I had been wanting to make play dough with Ezra all week, so I decided it was now or never. After breakfast, we got to work making 'salt dough' (recipe here). The contractions were definitely present as I kneaded the dough, and I ended up sitting down to finish while Ezra watched cartoons--he liked the part where he got to mix and put the food coloring in, but the blending of the dough until the color was spread throughout got old fast for a two year old.
Ezra and his "cookies"

After that, we just did our day as usual--chores, lunch, laundry, etc.--and the contractions did what contractions do--made me a little uncomfortable every now and then and started to increase in intensity, but not to the point that I needed to call Josh to come home.
We had an appointment with our midwife scheduled for 5 p.m., so I started getting ready for that before Josh got home. I texted his mom just to let her know that I was having regular contractions (they were back to around 7 minutes apart again) and that she may end up watching Ezra soon. I also asked if she could watch him while we went to the midwife appointment. Shortly afterwards, Josh got home and got into the shower, and I decided to call our midwife, Tressia, to let her know I thought I was making progress. I gave her the update and she asked if we wanted to keep our appointment or just wait and see if we needed to call her that night to have the baby. I decided to keep our appointment, since we'd already arranged for Ezra and so I could see if I was really making progress like I thought I was. My contractions stopped at first when we were in the car, but I guess the change of scenery just affected me temporarily. By the time we got out of the car at Tressia's house, I had to stop for a moment or two before walking up her front steps.
Midwives are really smart. What I mean is, they can sense how far along you are by the way you are handling yourself, etc. When I walked in her front door, she said, "You aren't going to have this baby here, are you?" She was sort of joking--I think. Most people would have just barely guessed I was in labor. The only sign was me getting quieter when talking through a contraction. I kept trying to test myself by talking through them to see if I was getting closer to labor--this may not make sense, but with Ezra, the midwife on call at Vanderbilt had told me to wait until I couldn't talk through a contraction to come in (she knew I wanted to have an all-natural birth, so this was so I could be sure to avoid as many interventions as possible; the less time you are in the hospital=the less chance of unnecessary interventions).
For the longest time, Tressia just sat there in silence, looking at me. It started to unnerve me a bit, kind of like when you have an awful case of the hiccups and then someone demands you hiccup for them and you suddenly can't. The contractions were definitely there, though. We talked about what we needed to do next and I decided to have her check me there and we'd see where we were, then Josh and I would head home, grabbing some supper on the road. She was debating on whether to leave right behind us or wait a bit. When she checked me, I was dilated to 4 cm (I had been at 2 cm three days before) and my cervix was much thinner. That made me really excited. We had been discussing Ezra's birth story (remember it was about 9 hours from the moment I knew I was for sure in labor-I'd been contracting all day the day before-and him being born). Since second births are usually quicker, she estimated we'd have a baby in around 5 hours (around midnight). Cue the extreme excitement! :) We decided we would head home and she would leave in one hour to meet us at the house. That would give us time to grab supper, make sure Ezra was all arranged, and do a quick tidy of the house. Josh would go ahead and start filling the birth tub when we got home, since it would take 2 fill ups from our hot water heater.
We grabbed some supper on the way home and called our moms to fill them in. Once we got home, we tidied up the living room and Josh got started on filling up the birth tub, which was set up next to our bed (remember me mentioning how I woke up every morning to see an unused birth tub in a previous post?). We had gone to Lowe's to get an adapter for our bathroom sink so we could use a water hose to fill the tub earlier in the week. When we tested it the night we bought it, it worked fine. On the night of Eliana's birth--not so much. It started leaking at the faucet opening first, and Josh was trying to fix it and quickly getting stressed. Then I came into the bathroom to see what was going on and noticed the floor was wet. Somehow (we still have no idea how), the sink had started leaking underneath the cabinet. The only clue we have as to what happened is that a random rubber washer came out of the sink when Josh disconnected the adapter. We still don't know where it was from and are now using the guest bathroom sink until Josh's brother (a licensed plumber) can come take a look at it.
We ended up using Ezra's large toy bucket that we put his outdoor toys in to fill the tub (after we completely disinfected it). Once that got going, Josh was able to calm down more, which helped me (my contractions stopped during the initial panic mode).
My mom arrived, followed shortly afterwards by Tressia. Josh helped Tressia unload all of her supplies (I should have gotten a good picture of all the supplies midwives bring, to help settle the nerves of those who think I was putting myself in an extremely dangerous situation) and we explained the issue with the sink adapter. I had changed into pajama pants and was just laboring along, sitting on my yoga ball or the couch and visiting with my mom, Tressia, and Josh.
Not long after this, my mom got a phone call and announced that my grandparents were on their way. This was a bit unsettling at first, since I hadn't expected them to be there and my grandmother struggles with her memory, which gets worse the later she is up--and we weren't expecting a baby before midnight! She was just so excited and my grandpa wanted her to get to be there if she wanted to be there, so they got in the car and were on their way! I just decided to 'go with the flow' and didn't let it bother me. They actually didn't end up staying for the birth, but visited for part of the time I was in labor.
Some time after my grandparents had arrived, my contractions were getting more intense. Still not bad, but it was taking more concentration to breathe through them. Now, this wasn't the "hee, hee, hoo" stuff from birth classes or the movies...if you've ever done yoga, you will know the type of breathing I'm talking about. I would sense the contractions coming and start breathing in very slowly and relaxed, trying to time it so that it was time to breathe out at the peak of the contraction. It worked really well!
The contractions were starting to get more intense, though, as I said, so I asked Tressia if I should get in the tub now. She said it was totally up to me.
When I had Ezra at Vanderbilt, there was a birth tub available, but they told me I'd have to get out when it was time to push. This made zero sense to me--to go from relief straight to the most painful part of labor?! Didn't seem too thought through, so I didn't even ask for it. This time I could get in and out as I pleased, which was great. Home birth provides a lot of freedom in choices like these. They may not sound like a big deal, but it's really nice to not be regulated by someone else's rules when you know what will help you feel better!
I got into the pool for a while (sorry I can't be more detailed, but monitoring lengths of time weren't my priority, ha) and it was amazing. I wondered if my labor had stopped at first because the warm water helped so much! I was in there for a while, then felt like doing something different, so I got out, put on my robe, and laid down on the bed. Josh and Tressia were the only ones in the bedroom and Josh was joking around and telling Tressia stories from his Bathroom Reader books (he is addicted to those books, in case you aren't aware--he can tell you random facts about anything and everything). I eventually asked him to stop with the stories, when he started reading one called "Bouncing Babies" about incidents when babies had fallen, etc. (they were always unharmed, but it was strange to be talking about while I was in labor). Tressia left the bedroom for a little while and Josh and I talked and I just laid there trying to rest as much as possible. I would have liked to have slept, but I was too excited, so I just relaxed. After that break, I got back into the tub. I think this is when my grandparents left. It may have been the first time I was in the tub--I'm not sure. I just know my grandma came to tell me goodbye while I was in the tub. Side note: The midwife used the doppler to monitor Eliana's heartbeat periodically while I was in the tub (it was always just fine).
Ashley, our midwife's apprentice, came into the room when I was in the tub the second time. She and Tressia whispered quietly on the other side of the room while they got things ready (they could tell things would be happening soon). Josh sat on the bed and offered support. At some point while the girls were getting things ready, I started to feel like pushing would be soon. I didn't feel like I needed to push at this point, but I could tell that my contractions were getting closer together and when there is less of a break, there is more "intensity" (I know it sounds weird, or even like I'm lying, but I still wasn't in pain--just aware of these contractions because if I didn't breathe through them like I described before, they would take my breath away).
Tressia noticed the shift in my breathing right away (I started to make some noise--kind of like a sigh--when I was breathing out) and asked if I was getting ready to push. I told her I thought I might be. She came and asked if I would like to be checked and I said I would. (Note: I didn't have to get out of the tub to be checked=nice!) She checked between contractions (which took a few minutes because they were really close together by then), and I was dilated to 8 and completely effaced. She said I needed to wait through a few more contractions before I pushed. I wasn't worried about it, because I didn't have an overwhelming urge to push yet, just a sense that I would be to that stage soon. I'm not sure how many more contractions I went through, but I'd guess it was around 15-20 more minutes until she checked me again, and I was at 10 centimeters (complete=time to push). She told me I could push whenever I was ready, but I still didn't feel like I had to. My mom and Josh's mom came into the room as I got ready to push to offer support.
I remembered that during "transition" (the last stage of labor before pushing) with Ezra, I'd had to work really hard not to push--more evidence that the water helped tremendously! I had pushed while on my knees with Ezra, but wanted to see how I felt sitting in the water first this time, so I pushed that way for a few contractions. I felt like nothing was happening, so I re-situated into a kneeling position. My head and arms were resting on the side of the tub (where Josh was holding my hands as I pushed) and my knees weren't feeling tired or hurting at all, thankfully, because the bottom of the pool had pockets of air (really cool invention, this birth tub!) to cushion me. Several more pushes and the midwife, who was using a flashlight to see what was going on down there, asked if she could check me again. I don't think she could have tried to sneak it in between contractions if she'd tried by this point.
After checking me, she gave me some not-so-great news: as the baby's head had come down, it had kind of brought the cervix down with it, and I was back at 8 centimeters. This could have been devastating to me as a mother now in hard labor thinking it would all be over in just a few minutes, but she was so caring and gentle as she explained what was going on, and told me I just needed to go through a few contractions without pushing to let it open up again. She was very encouraging, and I knew I had made it through a stage of not being able to push with Ezra, so I would be able to do it again. It was not the most enjoyable time of labor, I'll admit. I had to resort to using the "horse face"--blowing air through your mouth in such a way to make "ppphhhbbbttt" (horse-like? think of blowing 'raspberries,' only a bit looser lipped) sounds. A midwife had told us about this before my labor with Ezra, and I'd used it during the transition stage when I couldn't push. The theory is, your mouth has to be relaxed to do this, which means you are more relaxed--strangely, it proved to be true. I had actually had the thought, Yay, I didn't have to use the horse face during this labor! Oh well, time to suck up my pride (you can't have worries about how you look or sound during labor, people--it's not about you, anyway--and, honestly, you don't care) and make ridiculous sounds!
My sister told me later that she and my sister-in-law heard me making these 'raspberry' sounds and that my sister-in-law didn't believe it was me at first. She said, "I told her it's part of your 'process' or something, but I couldn't remember why you did it." (Ha!) They were in the living room, which served as our 'waiting room,' I guess.
After a few difficult contractions (difficult because when your body says, "Push!" it's really hard to convince it otherwise), I got to the point I didn't think I could keep from pushing anymore. Tressia checked me, and I was almost there. She kept her hands on my cervix and helped it open through the next contraction or two (details are a bit blurry here as I was concentrating on not exploding, ha) and then I could push again. By this time the contractions had officially started to hurt. Josh stood on the other side of the tub and bent over into the tub some so he could apply counter-pressure to my hips. Counter-pressure=the next best thing to the water for pain relief (it had saved me during Ezra's labor too). I had held hands with my mother in law and my sister and then my mom over the back of the hospital bed when I pushed with Ezra, but there wasn't really a good position they could get in with me in the tub, plus I remember I felt guilty about crushing their hands, so I didn't want to hurt anyone. Instead I grabbed onto Josh's khaki shorts and just squeezed my fists together around his cargo pocket. He told me later he was afraid I was going to pull his pants off a few times. Sorry, hon! My mom and mother in law stood near the tub, encouraging me. Tressia and Ashley coached me along, told me I was doing great, and offered suggestions if I needed them.
This time around, I did much better during the pushing stage. With Ezra, I was so concerned that if I didn't progress according to the hospital's timetable they would intervene, that I pushed as hard and fast as I could. I don't think I even paid attention to when I was having contractions. This didn't have optimal results. I did deliver him after only 45 minutes of pushing, but I also ended up with a second degree tear and hemorrhoids. NOT fun!
I was so thankful to know that this time my baby's birth was on her own time and I could take my time and go with labor as it progressed with no worry of someone telling me I wasn't progressing fast enough and interfering. I waited for each contraction and pushed with them. I had hoped I'd have her within a few pushes (second babies are supposed to be faster, right?<--probably a myth), but this didn't happen. My water did break though (Finally! was my initial thought) and as the contractions/pushing intensified, I could feel that Eliana's head was moving downward. I'd read about women feeling their baby move down, and I thought they meant they felt the whole baby move (and maybe they did), but I didn't feel that. I did feel a head getting heavier and larger. I know her head wasn't actually getting larger, but the area where she was moving into was. I had this flickering of a thought: She seems bigger. I'm not sure the thought even completed itself since I was pushing almost constantly, but I remembered it being there after she was born and we were talking about how big her head (and the rest of her) was.
As she was about to be born, I didn't experience the 'ring of fire' you hear women talk about. I did feel some burning, but not nearly as horribly as I did with Ezra. Don't let me come across as "Superwoman" (I have an aunt who calls me this now, since she found out I had natural births)--it hurt. But I knew this was the shortest part and she would be in my arms very soon! That is the best motivation ever. :) It was hard to get her head out (it really only took a few pushes, but they were the most intense part of my labor).
Once her head was out, the midwife told the moms to go get everyone else, she was about to be born. Funny thing--I thought I'd just pushed her head out, but when I heard her say that, I thought maybe it wasn't and I almost panicked. I thought, "If that wasn't her head, I don't know if I'm going to be able to go much longer!" I asked quickly if her head was out, and was so relieved to hear, "Yes!"
My sister and sister in law came in, and I think my dad was in there too. I'd have been weird-ed out if I had cared a bit by that point (like I said, you just don't care during labor, and if you do, you're worrying about the wrong things), but I was just thinking about holding her in my arms, and I had no idea who came in and who didn't! One more push and she would be here! I waited until another contraction came (there was a break after her head was out), and pushed with all my might. That wonderful feeling of the baby coming out followed. I remember how amazing the relief was when Ezra came out. I didn't feel the same degree of relief this time because I wasn't in as much pain before. I was so excited to hold her and turned around immediately. She was just so beautiful!!
Ellie's first picture, taken by Daddy!
Into my arms she went, as someone handed me a towel, the midwife suctioned her nose and mouth, and someone added some warm water to the tub to help keep us warm (we had been adding pots of hot water periodically to keep the water at a warm enough temperature for a newborn). Josh cut the cord. Eliana and I stayed in the tub for a little while. Family members came and took pictures and talked about how amazingly beautiful she was while Tressia and Ashley got things ready for when I got out of the tub. Josh was given Eliana, all bundled up, and he went back into the living room so everyone could ogle her while I cleaned up.
Daddy showing off his baby girl

Most people would stop here, but I know some people are curious about home birth, so I'll continue. I started to have contractions again in the tub. It was shocking at first--I'd forgotten about the afterbirth! Tressia and Ashley helped me out of the tub--it took a few tries, since I was tired and trying to get out between contractions (by the way, these contractions weren't like the ones I had while giving birth, but milder). I sat on a little stool (a birthing stool) to deliver the placenta. There were waterproof liners spread out all over our floor around the tub, so no worries about a mess. Next, Tressia asked me if I wanted to take a shower or a bath. I opted for shower since it would be quicker and I could get back to Ellie sooner (not to mention, I don't know how easy getting up out of a tub would have been at this point--I felt short of breath since my lungs suddenly had more room--I know that doesn't make sense, but it's what happened). Tressia stood nearby the doorway in case I got dizzy or needed anything. I let her know when I was ready to get out, and she helped me out of the tub and had me sit on the toilet so I could get dressed easier. She helped me get dressed (had to situate those lovely, huge old lady pads) and get into bed. She checked me to see if I had torn. Remember, with Ezra I had a second degree tear and he was 6 lbs. 12 oz. Eliana was 8 lbs. 10 oz. I had a tiny tear that didn't require stitches (insert "Hallelujah Chorus" here), but I did have a varicose vein that was bleeding some. I had developed vulvar variscosities around month 5 of this pregnancy. Look it up if you want to, or just trust me that it is an extremely unpleasant condition in which your girly parts are swollen to the size of a grapefruit and there's nothing you can do about it except give birth (they don't mention this in the "Congratulations, you're pregnant!" brochure for some reason). Thankfully, the bleeding stopped on its own and we didn't have to take any further measures for my safety.
With all that out of the way, it was time to check out Eliana from head to toe. I didn't hear it, but when Tressia pulled her out of the water, she said, "That's not a six pound baby!" We'd assumed she'd be around the same size as Ezra (6 lbs. 12 oz.) or smaller, since girls are generally smaller. Now, she asked if there were any guesses as to weight, and said she was at least 7 pounds. I remember literally thinking, Psshh...yeah right. To me, she still looked like a tiny newborn! She put her into this lovely little baby weighing device (sorry, don't know the name, but your baby looks pretty adorable in it) and slowly said, "Okay.....eight pounds.....(my jaw dropped to the floor)....ten ounces!" I was still trying to pick up my jaw from the floor...I had no clue I could even make a baby that big! I really couldn't believe I hadn't torn from a baby two pounds heavier than my first.
Eliana being weighed

The measurements and checking went on, "21 and 1/4 inches long..." with Josh's sister recording for the midwife (our sisters had come back into the room during this time and the midwife's apprentice was off making herb packets for my post partum recovery--think of natural Tucks pads).
Aunt Sarah taking down measurements
(excuse the blurriness--someone else was using
 my camera and wasn't sure which settings to use)
After that, Tressia and Ashley cleaned up everything else--bagged up stuff for the trash, put towels, etc. in the washer, and drained, deflated, and packed up the birth pool. My family members came to my bedside to tell me goodbye, and we settled in for the, morning. I think it was around 4 a.m. when we got settled into bed. My mom and sister went ahead and spent the 'night' until the morning since they live out of town, but everyone else lives in town, so they went home. My dad was going to work shortly, so he left too (he had slept in Ezra's floor for a few hours before Ellie made her debut). My sister's husband was there too, actually, but he slept in Ellie's floor the whole time (they didn't get there until 9 or 10 p.m. and he works in town). He barely remembered my sister letting him know Ellie had been born.
The thing I'd looked forward to the most about having a home birth was being able to cuddle up in my own bed with my baby and husband afterwards and go to sleep! It was pretty great, although the lack of pain trumped it.
Ignore the mismatched sheets...they were the ones on the bed just in case my water broke, etc.
The next morning (only a few hours later), I woke up really hungry and we let Josh's parents know we were up and ready to see Ezra whenever they were ready to bring him. Since Josh's mom had been there up until after Ellie was born, we knew she'd be tired. Oh, and funny story--Ezra kept Josh's dad up until 2 a.m. before going to sleep!! I think he just knew something was up, because he's spent the night there before with no issues.
He was protective of the donuts, lol.

A little while later, Ezra brought us donuts and met his little sister for the first time. His first question was, "where is her bottle?" (we told him she didn't need one right now). Then when someone else was holding her, he looked across the room, pointed at her, and said, "Ellie came out?" and grabbed my shirt and pulled it up and poked at my smaller belly, and announced more assuredly to everyone in the room, "Ellie came out!" He was also obsessed with her "tiny hands." He kept touching them over and over and saying, "She has tiny hands!" He also pointed out all her other parts and brought her one of his cars. The first few days he kept telling me Ellie wanted various toys of his, but he eventually realized she didn't do anything with them, ha. That first week was full of adjustment for him, but he's really doing a lot better now. Even now, he has some moments where he wants me to put Eliana down and hold him, and I do every time I have the chance. In the meantime, he's really become a daddy's boy, and the other night, Josh said, "I think Ellie being born is the best thing that could have happened for me and Ez." (aww...)
A morning during week one...ignore our messy coffee table!

One of my favorite pictures ever!
Ezra's first morning home with Ellie--can't you just see the love in his eyes?!

Ez and El

My two guys--best buddies!
Hope you enjoyed this long-awaited birth story post! I'll do a post shortly of cute pictures/moments of Eliana. She is one month old today! I can't believe it--I am pretty sure she was just born last week...time is flying by too fast already!


  1. What a good birth encouraging, and so peaceful. Thanks for sharing!! Reading the parts where you were reflecting on Ezra's hospital birth, and your fears of intervention hit home for me. I share those feelings and have chosen a home birth this time because of that as well. I wish more women were exposed to stories like yours and understood how wonderful birth could be. =)

    1. I have to admit, I am still shocked at how peaceful and nearly painless it was. I'll be doing thi next time for sure!