May 8th, 2011.
It’s Mother’s Day today. This is a very special Mother’s Day for me – it’s my first one as a mother! Exactly one month ago today, on April 8th, 2011, our little girl came into our lives. We were expecting her of course, but she was still a surprise because we didn’t know if we’d be having a boy or a girl. Nothing would have prepared me for the emotions I felt. The empowering experience of natural childbirth was overwhelming and the joy that followed when that little person entered the world! One day I hope to share this with her… (I warn you it’s very long!)
The Birth Story of Serenity Mya
We found out I was pregnant while I was getting some emergency tests done to see what was wrong with me. I had been having some pretty severe pains in my right side and thought I’d better get it checked out. We found out that it was none of the bad things that I had been warned about – but that I had a cyst. This type of cyst was caused by the hormones released in conception! I was pregnant! So the specialist I was to see became my ObGyn for my pregnancy by default. I started going for the monthly check-ups with him and we were planning on having a natural hospital birth. Although I felt somewhat uncomfortable about it, we thought it was best to just go with what was planned. I was finding it really hard to imagine my birth experience that way though; we liked our doctor but something didn’t feel right to me. We started taking a Hypnobabies class (which teaches self-hypnosis for a natural childbirth) and were planning to have the natural birth I wanted in the hospital. The high rates of interventions at the local hospitals scared me. I was afraid I would not even get a chance to try the techniques I would be learning in the Hypnobabies class. For a while, I told myself it was too late to do anything about it and that we were already too far down this path. We had already spoke to our doctor about our wishes and he seemed willing to “do his best” to let us try to have a natural birth. I still didn’t feel at ease. I made a list of questions to confront him with at our next visit. He was not at that appointment because he was in the middle of a C-section (which, don’t get me wrong – are sometimes very necessary) and we had the pleasure of meeting a doctor on his team. I didn’t feel she gave me satisfactory answers to my questions. I realized that she, or any other doctor on the team, could easily end up being the one delivering my baby which I really was not comfortable with. I decided to follow my instincts that I had been repressing and explore what other our other options we had. We researched some local midwives, met with our top choice and decided to switch during my 30th week of pregnancy. We never looked back!
When I started visualizing my birthing experience I imagined I would probably go past my “guess dates” of April 4th (based on the date given from the original ultrasounds at the hospital) or April 5th (as calculated by our midwife). I knew most first time moms statistically do go over their due dates and I was prepared to stay pregnant for as long as my little guy or girl needed me to be and until my body was ready. In my head I tried not to get attached to any particular date. When asked when I was due, I had been telling people “Oh, sometime in the first couple weeks of April”.
I had envisioned giving birth on a Friday. I don’t know why a Friday… I guess I thought it would be a good start to the weekend. In my head I told myself I would get a good nights sleep and wake up in the morning to some pressure waves (the term Hypnobabies uses for contractions) and progress that morning, going to our midwife’s house sometime in the afternoon for the uncomplicated natural home birth we had been planning.
For a couple weeks I had been feeling a lot of pressure in my pelvis bones. For the first time in my pregnancy I was becoming very uncomfortable. At times the pressure in my pelvis was so much it was difficult for me to walk or get in and out of bed. It literally felt like the baby was pushing down and spreading my bones apart. I figured it was a pretty good indication that my birthing time was near. I remember thinking that I was pretty lucky that this was the worst I had to deal with. Up until that point in my pregnancy I barely had any of the regular “pregnancy symptoms” besides being tired and a little heartburn for about a month.
I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant according to my “guess date”. It was a Friday morning. I had quit working at 38 weeks and Matthew, my husband, had Friday off. I recall waking up at six something in the morning feeling a little strange but I knew that even if it was the beginning of something that the best thing I could do was get some rest. So I literally looked at the clock and went back to sleep.
Around 8:00am I felt some tightening in my abdomen while I was still laying in bed. I wondered if it was a pressure wave. I had a 10:00am appointment with my midwife that morning, so we got up around 8:30am and started getting ready. We had breakfast but I wasn’t that hungry, I felt really strange. I had another pressure wave and knew that these were the real deal. Something was definitely starting to happen! I wondered if today was going to be the day…
By 9:00am I’d had three more pressure waves and decided to call my midwife Carolyn to see if she thought I should still come to my 10:00am appointment. I told her I had a feeling I would be seeing her later in the day and I didn’t want to go there, come home and then end up going back again! My pressure waves were 13-15 minutes apart and varied in length from 45-65 seconds. We agreed I should stay home and keep comfortable and just let her and her assistant Lori know if things progressed. Matthew called Lori on her cell and let her know what was happening. She was already downtown running a few errands so she offered to come over and check on me. I decided to put my Hypnobabies “Birthing Day Affirmations” track on and laid on the bed breathing and relaxing through my pressure waves.
In the meantime my husband Matthew called our doula Amy and gave her a heads up that today might be the day and we’d let her know if these pressure waves turned into anything. I called Amy again after I was done talking to our midwifes to let her know I wasn’t going to the 10:00am appointment any more and that Lori was coming to check on me. I told her we’d keep her up dated with my progress.
By, about 10:45 my pressure waves were 6 minutes apart. Matthew called Amy and let her know she could come over in the next hour or so – whenever she was ready but not to rush. The pressure waves were nice and easy to deal with at this point. They were regular and constantly getting longer. I think it was around this time I realized that this really was it – I was going to meet my baby today!
Around 11:00am Lori stopped by. She listened to the baby’s heartbeat, took my pulse and talked with me a little about what I was feeling. I was in early labor but with lots of time before anything should really get started so we agreed she should go have lunch with her friends and come back later when she was done unless we called her. I still felt very much in control and the pressure waves were not hard to deal with although they were getting more and more intense.
Around 12 noon Amy arrived. At this point my pressure waves were 5 minutes apart and were lasting 60 seconds. It was great to have Amy there reminding me to drink lots of liquids, go the washroom lots and try different positions to feel more comfortable and encourage the baby to descend. She suggested eating, but that was the last thing I wanted to do. I ended up being able to snack on some grapes but that was about it. It was getting harder to ignore the pressure waves and I went from the bed, to the bathroom, to standing, to the birthing ball leaning over onto the bed, back to laying down etc.
At 1:30pm, Lori came back to our house for a second visit. I knew things were getting more intense, but to be honest at this point I was really starting to focus on the CD and my breathing and “ahhhing” through the pressure waves that I barely noticed what everyone around me was doing at times. Lori asked me if I wanted her to check my cervix and I agreed. She said I was 100% effaced, about 4.5cm dilated and that the baby was at about a -1 station.
By 2:00pm she suggested we leave soon – although she said we needn’t hurry. Matthew started loading my packed bags into the car and getting things ready to leave. My pressure waves were now 2-3 minutes apart.
At 2:45 we left for Carolyn’s house (Birth Wellness) where the baby was going to be born. Carolyn has a beautiful home with one side of it dedicated to her midwifery practice. She has two birthing rooms, a beautiful birthing tub, and a few other rooms for family and friends to wait in if they want to be there too. Normally it takes about 12 minutes to go from our house down the interstate to her place. It just so happened that on the 8th of April they were repaving the interstate and unfortunately we had to drive an alternative route through the city. It only added another 15+ minutes to the drive, but I did not want to be in the car. It felt like forever. I listened to my Hypnobabies track on my iPod and kept telling myself we’d be there in no time. I was kind of “lying” in the passenger seat with my head between the driver’s and passenger seat leaning on things in the back seat. I don’t think this position would be comfortable normally and I have no idea how I ended up like that, but that is how I felt most comfortable at the time. I recall looking up and seeing road signs and being completely aware of which exits/roads we were taking and wondering if we were in fact going the quickest route. I was now having pressure waves so close together that when one finished, I didn’t even get a break and the next one was starting. I knew we would make it to Carolyn’s house, but part of me was laughing inside at the thought of Matthew having to pull over and deliver the baby on the way! The baby was kicking me a lot and I wondered if that meant he/she was getting ready to enter the world!
Around 3:15pm we arrived at Carolyn’s. She was expecting us and met us in the driveway. Lori and Amy who had each driven in their own vehicles arrived before us. The ladies helped me into the house and to the birthing room. I remember wanting to lay down on the bed. I think my pressure waves subsided for a few minutes until I settled in at Carolyn’s. Amy put the “Easy First Stage” track on and it helped me to relax and refocus. Carolyn asked me if I wanted her to check me and I said ok. At this point I was 7+cm and feeling relaxed and back under control after the horrible car ride. The midwives checked the baby and everything was great. I had a few more pressure waves and then decided to use the washroom. I had several pressure waves while sitting there listening to “Early First Stage”. Things were picking up again and getting pretty intense. Just before 4:00pm it was suggested that I could move into the tub if I wanted to. I did.
By 4:10pm, after having been in the tub for about 15 minutes, I started feeling like my body wanted to push. I was making sounds that I did not even realize I was making and it kind of surprised me. The noises turned into pushes and after another 10 minutes Amy switched the Hypnobabies track to the “Pushing Baby Out” track. Around this same time I started getting the hiccups which came and went during the rest of my birthing time.
At 4:45pm Carolyn checked me again to make sure there was no cervix left. I was at 10cm dilated and the baby was at +1 station. I began groaning a deeper “ahhhh” than I had ever imagined I could. It really didn’t even sound like me. I began letting my body do all the work – I really just went with it – as if I was just a passenger in someone else’s body. I remember thinking it was a little surreal because I didn’t consciously decide to do what I was doing, yet I just did it naturally. The midwives had their gloves on and were ready. I had been asked if Carolyn’s step-daughter could come and observe when it was time and I noticed that she was lingering near-by in the doorway. I felt like everyone (including me) thought the baby was just going to pop out because my first stage had been so easy and quick.
At this point I really had no sense of what time of day it was or how long I had been in the tub. At one point I remember hearing Kerry Tuschhoff’s voice at the end of the “Pushing Baby Out” track and then it ended. I noticed that Carolyn’s step-daughter was no longer waiting in the doorway to watch. I felt like Carolyn had checked on the baby’s heart rate many times since I had been in the tub. All of these things made me think that I must have been in the tub for much longer than I thought. In reality I was still actively pushing in the tub at 5:30pm. I remember hearing the Hypnobabies track end a second time and wondering how long the track was. Did most Hypno-moms listen to it just once? Why with all the pushing had the baby not come yet? I was getting distracted and was suddenly very aware of what was happening in the rest of the room. When I first got in the tub I was able to block everything out, listen only to the track and my own body/mind. Now I found myself listening to the external things including the others talking about me and what we should do next. I tried not to worry.
At 6:00pm Carolyn suggested I get out of the tub, take a washroom break and then we’d try another position. I sat on the toilet and leaned forward on Matthew and pushed there a few times. After that, we switched to the bed. I laid on my side with Matthew behind taking the weight of my top leg. I pushed for about 15 minutes. At around 6:30pm I moved to the birthing stool and pushed there for a while. I was losing energy and Carolyn gave me some black cohosh to help encourage my weakening pressure waves. Matthew sat behind me and I was able to lean on him and focus on my lower body and pushing. This position seemed like it was working for a while, but the baby was still not coming out! At this point I think the Hypnobabies track was still playing in the background, but to tell you the truth I was now so much inside my own body and thinking about getting the baby out I don’t think I was listening to it or anything else. I only got bits and pieces of the conversation and what was happening outside myself.
By 7:00pm there still was no progress. Carolyn encouraged me to change positions again. This time I moved to the bed to try pushing on my side while Matthew supported the top leg. This did not work. I tried pushing on all fours but it did not feel good. I tried holding my feet in each hand leaning back on my back… nothing was working! I started to lose focus again and come out of my zone. I realized that this was taking way longer than it should. Again I told myself not to be discouraged. The best comic relief through it all was my hiccups which had resurfaced again.
By 7:30pm I took another washroom break and Carolyn suggested staying on the toilet again and push for a bit to see if we could get the baby to go under my pubic bone. For some reason he or she did not want to come down any further. I had been the same since just after 4:00pm. I sat and tried pushing some more. By now I didn’t feel so much like my body was doing the pushing for me any more. Now I was much more focused and trying to follow instructions from Carolyn and Lori. Carolyn came over and told me to lean forward on her while I pushed a few more times. Lori brought me some more black cohosh because once again the strength of my uterus was fading… still nothing! Every time I thought I was making some progress nothing happened.
After a while of that not working, I stood up to try and push while standing up. It felt very “wrong” for me to be doing that and I moved back to the birthing stool. I was starting to feel like the marathon of changing positions was never going to end! I started intellectualizing things and knew this was longer than normal for the pushing phase. I started wondering if something was wrong with me or the baby… and if I would ever get this baby out! I’ll admit I wondered for a second if I would end up having to go to the hospital, but then I blocked that thought out of my head. I pushed in this new position and Lori came and fed me another couple spoonfuls of honey. I decided this had to be it. I had to get this baby out of me NOW and get this over with – it was taking way too long and I wanted to meet the little guy or girl today! I got a second wind and focused. With each pressure wave I had been pushing two or three times, but this time I held the push and pushed another four of five times. I meant business. Although I felt like I was still using Hypnobabies, it was not calm and quiet like the birthing videos I had watched. I became even more vocal and I pushed while I visualized the direction I wanted the baby to go in. I remember thinking “ok baby, this is it…” in my head. I started focusing even more when I pushed…
The next thing I remember was Carolyn, Lori and Amy encouraging me when they could see the baby’s black hair and the head in position. It took a while to get anything to move. The baby’s head was not coming down and then back up, and down and back up, as they often do in order for the body to prepare the perineum for what is to come. Everything seemed to just stay in the same spot. Finally after a few strong pushes, the baby’s head started to move downward. At this point Carolyn, who was putting pressure on my perineum so it wouldn’t tear, told me to slow down… I felt like it was almost impossible to stop the momentum. Someone said something about a hand and the next thing I knew I felt a sight discomfort or burning sensation for a second, and then with the next push the baby’s head came out. I did not realize at the time, but along with the head the baby’s left hand and arm emerged. (This positioning was probably the reason for the almost 4 hours of pushing!) I pushed again and the rest of the baby’s body came out. I kept asking if it was a boy or girl and at first no one could see, but then they announced it was a girl! I don’t remember this exactly, but I was reminded later that at that point I actually said, “Ohh…Well, that wasn’t so bad” and everyone kind of laughed at me. Our baby was born at exactly 8pm, the same time the chicken Carolyn’s husband had been grilling was done! She was handed to me and we all noticed how short the umbilical cord was. (I think they said it was 13 inches long.) I was helped over to the bed where I could lay down with her on me. This is when many mothers opt for skin-to-skin contact on their chest and they let the baby nurse right away to help stimulate the uterus and encourage the delivery of the placenta. I had no choice but to have the baby lay on my belly while we waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating. That is as far as it would reach. Once it had stopped Matthew cut the cord. Not long after that I delivered the placenta.
By 8:45 all that was done and the baby had been toweled off. We had a look at her and decided that we would name her Serenity. Our support team went to eat a much-deserved meal. They had been working so hard to help me – especially towards the end! Matthew warmed up some food and I ate too since I had not eaten much all day. I actually thought it was around 3pm when Serenity was born and was rather surprised to learn it was 8pm. It had been a long day. Now Matthew and I were alone with our baby. She nursed a little and I snuggled with her on the bed beside me. What an amazing feeling. I loved giving birth. I felt good although I was totally exhausted. I was completely amazed and in awe at what my body had just done! Matthew and I just enjoyed the moment with our new baby girl! It still felt a little surreal!
Since Serenity’s arm came out with her head I had some second-degree tearing that needed to be stitched up. Around 10:00pm Carolyn came back and got ready to stitch me up. Amy was about to leave but asked if I was ok and I asked if she would mind staying until the stitches were done. I laid on the bed listening to the “Deepening” track and focused on relaxing. It was a little uncomfortable. I was glad Amy was there reminding with some of the Hypnobabies cues. It felt like it took forever and I just wanted it to be over because it was hard to stay in one position for so long and the whole process had already taken so long. While this was going on Matthew was walking around Carolyn’s house bonding with his little girl and keeping her content and amused. At 10:50pm they were done and it was finally time for Serenity’s newborn exam. They checked her over and weighed her. She weighed 7 lbs exactly and was 20” long. She had a 12 1/2″ head and 13 1/4” chest. Everything looked great – she was perfect!
Carolyn said if we wanted, she would let us go home at midnight (4 hours after the birth), or we were welcome to stay the night and leave in the morning. I could not imagine getting into a car and sitting all the way home, so we all agreed it would be best for us to stay and leave in the morning after some rest.
Amy left just after 11:00pm and Carolyn and Lori went into another room to finish paperwork. Matthew and were I alone again with our new baby girl. That night we did not get a lot of sleep. We were still awake at 1:00am. I felt so privileged and happy to have been able to experience a natural unmediated childbirth. I was so amazed at what I had just been through and that we now had a sweet new life lying in the bed between us! She slept and nursed a few times throughout the night. I was a bit sore and very exhausted. Matthew had to help me get up etc, I couldn’t manage to do anything on my own, but it was still an amazing night. I could forget about anything as I laid there staring at our precious little girl.
We woke up in the morning and after chatting with Carolyn and Lori for a bit and thanking them for everything, we headed home – a new little family. We got to our house at about 10am and marveled at the miracle of birth. We had a daughter!