Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Birth Story

Finally, here's Liberty's birth story, by request. May be tmi for some. You've been warned. :)

Liberty was about a week past her due date when I started having more regular contractions on the afternoon of the 28th of May. I posted the following on Facebook at 2:55: "Having some definite signs that we're getting closer. Could be soon...or not. We'll see."

At 6:24 in the evening I posted this: "...debating whether to call the midwife now or wait until I feel more sure this won't just die out. It's always a guessing game."

I did call the midwife, because the contractions were getting stronger, but I still wasn't certain it wouldn't fizzle out, as I've had that happen before. Another couple hours later at 8:24 I posted this: "Midwife and my parents are on alert. I'm going to attempt to relax, eat something, and do some timing."

I realized I'd neglected to eat enough and was feeling hungry, yet didn't really feel that much like eating anything anymore. That was probably a tactical error, as I just got hungrier as the night wore on. Thankfully it didn't cause me any major problems. And thankfully I could eat as I wanted and was able to throughout the labor, since I wasn't at the hospital where that's a no-no. I remember when I was in labor with Bethany at the hospital, all they'd give me was ice -- not really much help. But I don't really remember having much trouble w/hunger in my other labors, perhaps because of the timing of them? Note to self: be sure you eat plenty in early labor if there's ever a next time.

I didn't make any more Facebook posts until the next day, to announce the birth. Things were really picking up by the time of that last post in the evening. After about another hour I went ahead and called for the midwife to come, and she arrived a little after 10. By the time she got here I was pretty focused in my contractions. Mom came a little later, and so did the midwife's assistant.

We had borrowed a birth pool from some friends who kindly offered it, because I've always been interested in the idea of water birth (and still think it sounds neat), but I've also had some reservations about it, the main one being that I prefer to labor standing up. We borrowed the pool in case we thought we could use it, and we had thought we'd maybe set it up in case I wanted to use it during labor, but when we looked into the technicalities of setting it up and trying to figure out where we'd put it anyway, we decided it wasn't going to work this time under our circumstances. We didn't really have a good place to put it, and we didn't have the know-how to set it up. Rather than try to solve either of those problems, it was less stressful for both of us to just nix the idea of having it available for just a possibility. If I ever decide I really want a water birth in the future (if we ever are blessed with another child and conditions are such that I can have that option, of course) we can make better arrangements at that point (like having somebody else deal with it, lol). Now before you laugh and wonder how stressful could it possibly be to assemble a little birth pool, you should observe us working together on any 'simple' project of that kind! Thankfully, we do better working together during labor. :)

I said I prefer to labor standing up. It's more accurate to say I feel that I *must* to reduce the pain. It's much more bearable to me when I'm standing for some unknown reason. I walk around and then stand still during the contractions and lean on something, or else lean/hang (depending on which part of labor it is, ha) on John. That way his muscles are sore afterward too. It's only fair. ;)

I hated hospital laboring in part because they wanted me to sit down and strap on those horrid monitors. It felt so much worse that way. Yet it was hard to get used to the total freedom of the birth experience at home the first time I did it, too. I remember at my first home birth that at some point I finally realized I kept looking at my midwife expecting her to tell me what to do and she wasn't telling me anything, because that's not what she was there for. She was there to offer support and advice when I needed it, to make sure things were going okay, and to help with the delivery and such -- not to intervene or pressure me in any way. It was my labor and I could have it the way I wanted as long as I was doing well enough to have it at home. I'd known that intellectually already, but experiencing it was great. By this time, my third home birth, I was used to this.

I labored and birthed in our master bedroom. That's where I can have the most privacy and comfort. Tirzah was born in the same room in this house, and Zion in the master bedroom of our previous house (in southern Missouri).

We're not one of those families that invites the children or other family/friends to be in the room during the birth. I wouldn't mind my mom being there in theory but I don't know that either of us would deal well with it in reality (I think she'd have a hard time seeing me suffer and I wouldn't like seeing her cry over me either), and besides she does a great job with the children and they love it that way, so it works out great. This time the children were sleeping, so Mom just hung out in the living room in case they ended up waking and needed her, and then she was here to help after the birth, too. Thanks, Mom!

The midwife came in quietly and arranged her stuff -- we'd warned her that I kinda zone out and like to just be able to focus. She and John spread out vinyl tablecloths and shower curtains on the floor and bed (dark sheet on the bed too, over the shower curtain), and we were in business. Actually I was already in business. Another contraction, go with it, one at a time, you can do this, all things through Christ who strengthens you... and on and on, talking it through in my head. A prayer now and then, maybe more frequent the worse it gets, an occasional irrational urge to cry for my mommy like a big baby...

Every birth is different, and this was no exception. The contractions weren't incredibly horrible yet and I wasn't feeling them in what I'd come to expect was the place I "should" feel them most, owing to my experience in my first two births. Both of those births I had felt the contractions most intensely just under my scar from the abdominal incision for my appendectomy. With Zion (#3) it wasn't like that at all and I puzzled about it the whole time I was in labor -- it didn't feel like real labor. My water didn't break with her until I was ready to push, though, and once it broke, the next contraction was just like old times, that pain right in my gut! Ha, so that was it, I thought. Then Tirzah (#4) came. With her my water broke before anything really started with labor, yet I still didn't have the same kind of contractions I'd had before. I felt like something wasn't right in labor with her. It would start and stop. We discovered when she came that she was a compound presentation, with her little fist up next to her head.

Now this labor was bringing something else new. My water hadn't broken yet, and I again had none of that familiar pain, but I did feel an incredible pressure on my bladder with every contraction, as though the baby were pushing right down on it. It got to be pretty uncomfortable after a while. I discovered that if I leaned back a bit instead of forward like I usually do it helped relieve some of the pressure. Meanwhile I was getting hungrier. I think I ate a granola bar, something to take the edge off the hunger, but I was really concentrating on the labor. I was getting tired of standing though, and my feet were kind of hurting from so much standing and pacing back and forth under the strain. The midwife suggested I get in the shower for a while, so I did. I'd done that in some of my previous labors some, but this time it felt so much better I didn't want to get out, and I'm not sure how long I was in there but it was a loooong shower! I was thankful John had cranked up the water heater a few days before because Peter had croup with a virus that the children got (we wanted to be able to run the shower hot and long for as much steam as possible if needed to help him with his breathing). I was glad for the warm water, but when they checked Baby's heart rate after a while, it was decided that maybe I should tone the heat down a bit. So it felt more lukewarm after that, but was still quite helpful in reducing my pain.

By the time I was done with the shower I was really tired of standing. I did try to lie down at some point, but the contractions felt so much worse when I did that. Nevertheless, I was wearing down and didn't know how much longer I'd have to keep at this. Or how much longer I could. I was getting sooo tired.

And was I hungry! Suddenly I felt ravenously hungry. I tried getting on all fours and didn't know if it helped much or not but at least it let my legs rest a bit. John went to get me another granola bar at some point. Another note to self: If there's a next time, have snacks, etc. *in the room* so your husband doesn't have to leave you to get something for you when you're in labor. Or else maybe send the midwife, but not your husband, it makes you feel panicky when he's not *right* there and you're in labor -- no, this is not rational, but remember it anyway.

I think I might have forgotten about the granola bar by the time he got back. It just seemed to appear in front of me. I was on all fours and I was so hungry, but I think I was also at or approaching transition, unbeknownst to me. I took one bite and it tasted like paste. I gagged and was afraid I was going to lose it, and anything else I'd eaten. I totally did not want to do that for several reasons, but just then it felt extremely important that I not let myself lose this bite of granola. That's where experience with lots of morning sickness came in handy. I was (barely) able to get it down and keep it down. That small victory seemed great just then. It helped me feel more in control of the situation, because I was beginning to feel weak in the knees and legs, starting to chill and shake, and generally feeling out of control otherwise.

Things blur for me at this point in the story. At some point I also began to get concerned that something wasn't going right. My water had broken by this time. There was some blood after that and I think the midwife was a little concerned about it, she tried not to let on but there was something in the room that could be felt. But here it was, time to push, and it seemed that there may be some urgency about it. She encouraged me to find a position and try it. I hadn't had an urge to push for my last two labors and I didn't have an incredible urge to push in this one either. I think maybe I only have one when I'm told I can't ("wait for the doctor" in hospital), lol. This time I was actually concerned that I was going to push my bladder out with the baby since the baby's head seemed to be pushing down so hard on my bladder. Not really a helpful thought to have.

No one could have dissuaded me from that awful thought at that moment, though, because no one knew I was having it, and I couldn't tell anyone if I wanted to. In that part of labor I struggle to get any words out at all. It's all pain at that point, consuming pain, and I'm trying to ride the wave....

I think I was lying on my side. Pain. Lots of pain. Concern. Is everything okay? Am I okay? Am I going to have to go to the hospital? Is the baby okay? Pain.

"Push your baby out." The words reached me as though from far away. How long had they been knocking before I heard? It's the midwife asking me to push. Okay... I can't... I must. She's asking me, it must be important. No going back now. The only way out is through. Push. Words fail to express the pain.

What's that? Stop? Yes, I need to stop. She's telling me to stop. Something's wrong! Don't panic! But the head is out! I can tell it's out. Isn't everything supposed to be okay now? What's wrong?! Now she says to push again. How much longer? Push, one more time!

It was over. A mass of warm flesh was laid on my tummy. It was okay. We made it. I wasn't sure exactly what we made it through, but that wasn't really important now. I looked at this tiny (to me) little bundle, and wondered whether or not it was a girl like we'd been told it would be. John got a look before I did and said it was indeed a girl. Our fourth little girl, and our fifth living child (we've had 3 first-trimester miscarriages). It was 1:45 am.

The midwife exclaimed over how big she was. That's what always happens -- our babies surprise everyone by their size. She weighed 9 lbs. 3 oz.

Baby Liberty was kind of upset over the whole experience and didn't hesitate to let us know it. She didn't want to nurse but fussed at us a while. Then she just seemed to want to look at her new world, take it all in. I remember the wide eyes and the seemingly thoughtful nature she showed right from the start. It was a while before I got her to nurse well, but she did eventually take to it. And we were getting to know each other better the whole time. Those are such precious moments.

At the end of labor, there had been a couple of minor complications. The placenta had apparently been attached fairly low, so that just an edge of it was barely in the way when it was time to deliver, and maybe a bit of it had been on the cervix too, so that was what produced the bleeding. Then once her head was out, the cord was wrapped around her -- not her neck, but around her arm at the shoulder, and also around her thigh. The midwife had to rotate her to get the cord loose so that she could get the rest of the way out.

Birth is such an incredible experience, it's hard to describe. The drama of the transitions in physical and emotional states, representing similar change in the spiritual world... A woman goes from being pregnant to suddenly not being, but having a new little person to get to know and love and care for. She goes from incredibly intense pain and suffering to equally intense joy and delight in this new little soul.

This link will take you to pictures of Liberty taken not long after her birth.

Praise the Lord for His wonderful blessings! She brings us so much joy.

Here's a picture of Liberty with my ROCKSTAR midwife (that's for her, lol, she told somebody she had to say she was a rockstar midwife if they posted something of her once, so I figured I'd better follow suit), taken on the occasion of our 6-week checkup. I'll refrain from posting her name just to be on the side of caution, because our state isn't very nice to midwives sometimes. She's legal, but the conditions could be much better for these practitioners here. Thanks to her for the good work she does.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward." ~ Psalm 127:3


  1. Thank you for sharing! It really is just so amazing, isn't it?! I love how every birth story is different--even when it involves the same mom!! And how freeing to be able to follow your own instincts. . .that's just beautiful to me (who never got to do it that way--my biggest regret is I never had 'a mound of flesh' laid upon me b/c of surrounding medical circumstances--but I guess that just is part of my story!)

  2. Ok, I'm really glad to hear that even after giving birth four other times, you still don't have it all figured out! I am by nature a planner, so I always think I have the whole thing worked out in my head how it's going to be...and of course, it's never like that. And I suppose that's how it is for all of us. Glad you posted this. There is something so miraculous about the birth of a baby!

  3. Just got around to reading this, and who knows if you'll even see this comment.

    I love to hear about other womens' birth experiences. Thank you for sharing yours, as I know it's also a precious and private time.

    I did get hungry-ish with Isaac (my only labor), and I was allowed three kinds of fruit juice (which I rotated for variety) and jello by the hospital. The monitors were also my least favorite thing, but we got to walk around with a telemetry unit. Like you, I had the worst pain if I tried to lie down. Frustrating! They tell you to rest in early labor, but it's not easy to sleep standing up :). The birthing ball made a good position change, though.

    Your story is beautiful. Thanks again for sharing it.