Jeremy, Sydney, and I went to Anchorage to pick up Papa and Nenaw (my parents) on August 11, 2012, which was our estimated due date for Baby August. We joked that it would be really awesome if we went out to dinner at the Moose’s Tooth and then just stopped off at the birth center to give birth, since we were right there by it. We were so thrilled to see my parents, and made it to the Moose’s Tooth, and all the way back home, without stopping off at the birth center. We had a great visit with them, even though they were exhausted and on North Carolina time.
We went to bed, and at about 2:05 am, I woke up and needed to poop, bad. My labor had started with Sydney in this way, but I’d had so many stops and starts with this baby, that I had put it out of my mind to consider labor until I couldn’t ignore the contractions. As soon as I was finished using the bathroom, I had a sudden feeling of not only was I in labor, but it was time to leave the house for the birth center, in an expedient fashion. I did not, however, voice this to Jeremy, and instead climbed back into bed, where Sydney had opted not to sleep that night, so I was free to paw and writhe about on the bed while making my labor sound of choice, an angry cat sound. Jeremy woke up, and asked me if I was ok. After I continued to make more sounds, he leaped out of bed, in a semi-calm fashion, and got dressed and brushed his teeth. Then he went into the room where my parents and Sydney were sleeping, and told them it was time to go.
Within 10-20 minutes, we were in the van, and on the way to the birth center. The midwives and our doula, Stella were called at some point, and I started timing my contractions. Less than 4 minutes apart. We weren’t very smart the night before, and had not filled the van up, so we had to stop for gas. While timing my contractions, I tapped on the glass to let Jeremy know they were 3 minutes apart, he got a bit freaked out. Because our midwife was at a birth at the hospital, a different midwife called me back, and I was talking to her, and was overheard by Jeremy, who was driving, and he thought I was saying I had the “urge to push”, and started to gun it, until he found out I was not feeling like I needed to push. We eventually made it to the birth center, where my cervix was checked by midwife Felicity, 5 and a half centimeters.
I began cruising the medical building where the birth center is housed, and ascending and descending the stairs, in individual steps and lunges, with Jeremy or Stella applying counter pressure. I was very happy that we had the entire building to ourselves, and we were the only people at the birth center. While I labored, Sydney toodled the building with Papa and Nenaw, and made great use of the elevators. Never had she been awakened at 2 something in the morning to play, so this was a real treat.
My contractions were coming about a minute apart, and Stella said it might be a good idea to get them to be spaced a bit more, so I went to the bed, and got on all 4s, howling like an angry cat. At some point, I switched to the birth ball, which was awesome, and my hips could be free to move, and I could be supported. I opened my eyes, coming out of one contraction, and midwife Karen was there. In the quiet, respectful nature of my labor atmosphere, she had appeared, so gently, and I was greeted with a smile.
I need to take a moment to mention that while planning for this labor and birth, music was a huge consideration. Music, for me, is what makes life flow so nicely, music helps life make sense at times, and music has helped me carry on through some tough times. So, I knew that music should be strongly considered for this birth. At first, I began to put instrumental and relaxation music on my iPod, but then began to consider that there were other types of music I might like. I ended up with quite a bit of music, from different artists that help my days pass more smoothly at times, they included: John Mayer, Deathcab for Cutie, most of the Garden State soundtrack, The Fray, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. None of the songs were about birth, but they were all songs that I enjoy. The playlist was named Baby August, and at times during my labor, I was so very grateful for the music we had playing in the background. It added to the atmosphere, the ambiance, and really helped me to remain calm.
As labor progressed, I became increasingly more uncomfortable, but stayed fairly relaxed, with lots of vocalizations. I could feel my support system there, though my eyes were closed most of the time, their gentle, positive presence was ever present. It felt truly amazing. Most of the time, my parents were in the common area of the birth center with Sydney, keeping her entertained, and sometimes, they would enter the birth arena to quietly view what was taking place. I am so thankful, that though no expectations were discussed about them attending the birth, they were so peaceful and wonderful an addition to the birth environment.
As labor progressed I had to use the bathroom, and asked for Jeremy to hold onto me. I was shaking and feeling increased pressure and my contractions were growing ever more effective. I knew I was in transition. I went to the bed to be checked and was 8 centimeters. I think I labored some more on the ball, then went to the bathroom again, and said I wanted to get in the tub, which was then filled, and I got in. Shortly after I got in the tub, Sydney entered the room, dressed in her swimsuit, and got in with me. She showered my belly and legs with water and love, and was just so peaceful and gentle and quiet. This is sort of a rare thing for Sydney-girl to be, and so that’s why I mention this. She realized the situation called for calm, and everyone else in the room was so calm and quiet, and she followed suit. I am so very proud of her. She stayed in the tub with me for a bit. Sydney was allowed to remain in the tub with me as long as I was not pushing.
I labored in there, sitting, working through contractions, becoming increasingly more uncomfortable, feeling like birth was right around the corner, and becoming a bit doubtful about whether I could give birth. I wanted to escape, and I began to feel like I could push, as my tones changed, and the midwife noticed. She checked me, and I had a cervical lip left along the front of my cervix, next to my pubic bone, so that each time I had a contraction, I got an intense pinchy feeling that translated to me as intense pain. I began to vocalize more in words, and because I knew my daughter was in the room, I tried to be aware of what I was saying, so most of what I said was, “OUCH!” The midwife left her fingers in there for a contraction and had me push to get the lip to go over the baby’s head, and asked me if I wanted to get on all 4s to try to get that to move (either out of the tub or in the tub), I decided I was NOT getting out of the tub.
I got on all 4s, and found that there was pain to be had in getting the lip to disappear. I continued to be cognizant of the fact that Sydney was in the room, but finally gave way with a word that is not so nice, and rhymes with ‘duck’. The midwife laughed and noted that the baby was likely not far behind. I continued to feel a lot of pain, and then sat back down in the tub after several minutes to be checked again. With the help of the midwife’s fingers, I was able to push hard enough to get the lip past the baby’s head, and to a position of rocking back and forth under the pubic bone. None of this was a picnic, and far more painful than I thought it could possibly be.
A note about pain: I will say that I had no idea that it would be painful at all, and I know that sounds very silly, but in my preparation for Sydney’s birth, I took HypnoBirthing that addresses comfort levels and not feelings of pain, and I had an epidural during her birth (not because of pain, but out of sheer exhaustion), so I experienced little pain. At this point, I had been in labor for about 5 hours, as compared to reaching the pushing stage in about 20 hours with Sydney, so my ability to process what was happening was different. There were many differences in my labors, and at this point, the baby was very ready to be born, quite literally around a turn, just around the corner, so close. I was very afraid at this point, afraid I couldn’t push the baby out, afraid of the pain (if it already hurt this much), and I wanted to ask to go to the hospital. But my inner dialogue was something like this… “Oh my God, I need pain relief! I need to go to the hospital. I wouldn’t make it to the hospital though, the baby is about to be born. The only way to get the baby out is to push the baby out. I can do this.”
The midwife kept reminding me to not hold back, because I was fighting what my body was trying to do, out of fear and pain. The patience of the midwife’s voice, and the whispering in my ear by Stella was incredible. At one point, I remember Stella telling me I could do it, and I started to repeat, “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK…” (While my inner voice was saying the complete: “Ok, I can do this”) over and over again. The rocking of the baby’s head continued, until one huge push, and there was no stopping what was taking place. I was no longer in control at all of my body, as the Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER) took over, and I shook all over and felt like I was yelling inside. I really wish we had video of the labor/birth at this point, because I feel like I lost all control. I know I was making noise, I felt like the baby was going to come racing out. I kept feeling for the head, and eventually I felt it. I remember feeling immense pressure and fullness as the baby’s head was emerging, especially at the front of my pelvis, and as if the skin from my urethra back were splitting, never to return to true form again. And, I couldn’t stop any of this.
While all of this was happening, Sydney was being held by Nenaw, and in all of the noise and commotion that I was producing, Sydney hid her face in Nenaw’s shoulder. She was scared. Nenaw reassured her, but she wanted to cry from seeing me in a struggle. Sydney eventually turned her head back to watch.
My midwife provided support of my perineum, and my husband waited with hands ready to receive our baby. My eyes remained closed the entire time, and on one of the pushes, the head came forth. Soon after, another push, and the shoulders, and the body slid out into my husband’s hands, and next thing I knew, our baby was on my chest. I was relieved to meet the baby, relieved to meet on the outside, joyful about everything. We asked Sydney if she wanted to tell us who the baby was, and she announced that it was “Collin”. This surprised no one, since all of us thought the baby was a boy, and everyone was elated to finally see him. Sydney stood there, looking at him, talking to him (we told her this was one of her jobs after the baby was born).
I don’t remember much, other than thinking that our Collin looked just like his big sister did at birth. He looked at me, calmly, wide eyed, as if he were in shock about what had just happened (I was too, my son). I continued to feel immense pressure, and about 2 minutes after he was born, I was informed that his cord had finished pulsating, and so it was clamped and cut. This was a choice that was incredibly important to us, so that Collin could receive all of his cord blood, to help him acclimate to the outside world and breathe more easily. The placenta was soon birthed, and Jeremy was asked to remove his shirt for skin to skin bonding to begin with our son. We were moved to the bed to begin bonding as a family. Collin was able to latch on, after he was laid on my chest again. After some time, Collin was weighed and measured. He was a whopping 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 21 inches long! (Sydney was 6 pounds and 10 ounces and 19 and a half inches long) Soon after that, I was wheeled down the hall to be stitched up (I tore in the same place as I did with Sydney). Collin was assessed and given his Vitamin K injection, a decision we weighed very heavily, and after much consideration, we decided we would rather he have a vitamin injection than a blood transfusion if for some reason he should have a bleed before his blood clotting factors became present.
I was brought back, and we were able to relax for some time, eat, and were attended by the most wonderful midwife assistant named Cindy. I really am so grateful for her presence after Collin’s birth. She was there as a gentle presence in the background, and after the midwife left, she remained there, helping me use the bathroom, showing me how to smash my uterus to make it clamp down, and just there as a resource for our family. We left the birth center about 4 and a half hours following Collin’s birth, and have been adjusting to life ever since as a family of 4.
Afterthoughts about Collin’s Birth:
After giving birth to Collin, I felt completely different than I did when I gave birth to Sydney. There were so many differences in their births and the time immediately following. Sydney’s birth, for me, has brought up many angry feelings that are still healing. In some ways, I felt robbed of what my experience with her birth could have been. That is another post entirely. I’d do it a million times over, to get my Sydney-girl, of course, but there are some things I wish I’d known, wish I’d said, wish I’d done differently. Can’t go back, so I prepared for Collin’s birth differently. Following Sydney’s birth, there was no sense of dignity, peace or silence. There was always some sort of noise and activity, always someone coming in to look at my “bottom”, and at times, the nurses would bring in nurses that were not assigned to me, to see the trauma that had ensued from pushing her out. No sense of respect.
Following Collin’s birth, and during his birth, there was nothing but dignity and respect. I never felt barked at or talked down to, and there was silence and peace when the time was right. There was encouragement, support, comfort, and an overall environment of positive energy. I am so thankful to have given birth at the birth center, and there is nothing I would change about my experience there.
Currently, I am 15 days postpartum. My postpartum period with Sydney was rough, to say the least. We had some trouble with breastfeeding, sleeping, stress, and all kinds of other things. I remember at some points wanting to throw her out the two story window, and being so weepy and frustrated all the time. What I did not know then, I know now. I will share.
Collin’s postpartum period has been filled with me accepting help from others, lying down to heal, napping nearly naked (skin-to-skin) with him, tons of breastfeeding, my primarily holding him, taking my time, being patient with myself, and consuming my placenta. Yes, I said it, I’m consuming my placenta. I had it encapsulated, in a process where it is herbed, steamed, dehydrated then ground up and put into capsules. Benefits include increased milk production, decreased postpartum mood disorders, and a more even keel feeling. My postpartum period this time, because of the combination of everything I mentioned above, has been incredible. I was weepy on day 2, when my parents had to leave, and I still am missing them terribly. My patience has been thin sometimes, and I feel tired a lot of the time, but I think that comes with the territory. I am joyful to have our son, to have all the love and support we have received, and I look forward to everyday.
I mentioned that Collin latched on well at the birth center. All of that changed by our 24 hour visit with nurse Jen (she came to our home, so super nice). Collin had been refusing to nurse, had had no dirty or wet diapers since the day of his birth, and was extremely fussy. Nurse Jen looked him over, and suggested that we see the lactation consultant at the birth center after trying to express or pump milk and feed it to Collin in a spoon or syringe. I tried this, and he nursed a bit that day, but we had a terrible night filled with him crying, and my cringing because of a poor latch. Because my parents were leaving on day 2, we decided I would stay home with Collin to heal some more, and we would go to the lactation consultant on day 3 if we needed to. Another night of crying and feeling like my nipple was being sawn off with razor blades told me it was time to seek help. We saw LC Sarah, and she assessed his latch (weak and poor), saw that his lower jaw is short, and that he has a tight frenulum on his upper lip. She suggested we go see the chiropractor. I have to sing the praises of our chiropractor!!! I called, 5 minutes out, less than an hour before they were closing, and asked if we could be seen, affirmative. We were seen immediately. While there, during the adjustment, Collin peed for the first time since birth, and we borrowed some clothing of the chiropractor’s son (he’s over a year old). He also received a skull massage and cranio-sacral adjustment, and I received instruction on helping with his lower jaw. Since seeing the lactation consultant and chiropractor, Collin has been a champion nurser! At his 11 day visit with the pediatrician, he had gained 13.5 ounces since birth, and grown a half an inch! Go breast milk!
Sydney has really adjusted so well to being a big sister, and has worn this hat beautifully. She, perhaps, is a model big sister, and is so very proud of her little brother. Her challenge in adjusting was that she felt abandoned and unloved by me. I was able to set this straight with her, and reassure her of my undying love for her, and things have been much smoother ever since. Sydney is very gentle with Collin, and is always ready with a “Hi, Collin!!!” and “Is he awake?!” She loves to hold him and talk to him most, and has been extremely helpful with so much. She has also made a huge transition as a 5 year old: she started kindergarten!!! We are so extremely proud of her, as we always are, and are so pleasantly surprised by how well she has adjusted and acclimated to life as a big sister.
I would like to thank some people who have helped make our transition so smooth:
Midwife Assistant Cindy
Dr. Jessica (chiropractor)
Dad & Cheryl
Grams and Poppy
Ladies that are participating in our Meal Train
Everyone who sent me a bead and a cloth
And most of all, Jeremy and Sydney