I'm on fire!!
Not literally, but actually that title is a bit apropos as last night I almost started a kitchen fire. I shant get into the details, but everything's cool, thankfully! Phew. :P
Nah, I'm on fire because I've been re-inspired to write Mia's birth story almost a year de post facto. I just read Jamie's birth story about baby Dylan and that was basically all the push (no pun intended) I needed to rewrite this story.
As I've alluded to before, Mia was born at a free-standing birth center. Before I was even pregnant or had the thought of being pregnant, I was nonchalantly invited to see a screening of "The Business of Being Born," at USF's College of Public Health by my nurse friend, Laura. That viewing, plus a few other casual conversations with people along the way, basically changed the way I thought about childbirth, and convinced me I wanted to pursue the natural route. When I found I was pregnant, I was still a patient at an ob/gyn group and saw them up until 28 weeks, as Greg & I were still making decisions about where we wanted to deliver Mia. At the ob/gyn group, we could choose one of two hospitals in the area, and I'd heard great things about both. However, when I asked my primary OB about the chances of delivering naturally (which for me, means no pain medication, little to no interventions), she said that probably 10% or less of her patients actually end up delivering naturally, although perhaps more than that percentage wanted to. When I heard that, my heart sank. I really liked the group and the two doctors I had seen the most, but my goal was for a natural delivery and I just didn't feel optimistic staying with them that I would achieve my goal.
Earlier on in my pregnancy, I had toured a nearby birthing center (Labor of Love). A church friend worked there as a birth assistant, and I knew several acquaintances who had delivered there. Of course, they all loved it and raved about it: "It was great!" "I would never go anywhere else." "The staff there is so awesome." So, once Greg got to tour it as well, and we talked to more people about it, just about the time I was to undergo my glucose testing, I made the switch. Once we made the switch, we were pretty hard-core about it, because we knew we needed to stay strong about our decision and that some people would give us grief about it. I think some of the grief was also laced with concern. Concern that delivering at a birth center would be risky if there were emergencies. But we talked to the staff there and found out: they don't take chances. You have to qualify to birth there, in other words, be low-risk. If there's a question, they consult with fellow midwives, or the doctor's office that consults with them. They're not afraid to tell you to go to the hospital to get something checked out, which I did once for high blood pressure. There's a fire station very closeby, and an ambulance can be there within minutes and take you to the closest hospital, which is 7-10 minutes away. But, I wasn't focusing on the "what ifs" at that point really. I was focusing on how to make this experience the most pain-free, easy & peaceful experience possible. And thanks to God, it was. Here's our story.
I measured within range, but probably always a bit on the smaller side, throughout the last half of my pregnancy. I never really got HUGE, as I looked back on it, but I was still within the fundal measurement range and my weight gain was normal as well. However, as a new mom, I thought, hmmm, maybe my April 29 due date is a bit off. I'll probably deliver a week or two late. And the birth center lets you go up to two weeks, although they try to help you along so you don't get to 42 weeks! I had been taking an herbal supplement and some evening primrose oil just to help my body to get ready anyway, but as I told my chiropractor I thought, "I'll probably be late. I don't feel super huge, and I'm not getting crampy or anything, so (even though I quit my job a week and a half before my due date) I'll probably have a lot of time before she gets here." He said a lot of times a mother's intuition is correct, and I tend to believe him on a lot of things, so I figured he was right. But sometimes a mom's intuition and a baby's will aren't always in stride, and I'm cool with that.
(37 weeks, 2 days)
April 25 was a Saturday where Greg & I had planned to get a lot done. We were about to go to IKEA in Orlando to look at a couch for our front room, but we called before we left and found out it wasn't in stock. Bummer. So, since we weren't going to go, our plans for the day were now up in the air, and we just decided to take it easy, and piddled around the house doing odds & ends, but nothing too strenuous. We had been pretty busy almost every weekend prior, making sure baby gear and Mia's room were ready. Saturday night, we went to Five Guys Burgers & Fries, and saw my younger brother Jackson in the parking lot with his girlfriend Katie. They were going to get dinner at nearby Chipotle, but after they were done, they came inside to Five Guys and socialized with us. I remember being glad we ran into them, because Jackson was about to graduate from Florida College, and I knew I wouldn't see him much anymore. We joked that by ordering the cajun fries I'd go into labor. We joked about a lot of things, and then they were on their way to some other social engagement. Greg & I left, stopped by Lowe's, and then headed home. I read a few more pages in my Bradley book, had Greg check out some of the pages I wanted him to read about labor, had a good "freeing" conversation about some fears of parenthood, did some relaxation exercises, and just hung out till real late. Unnecessarily late, perhaps, but we had no idea what was in store.
About 5:12am Sunday, I woke up thinking, hmm...those fries did NOT sit right with me! I got up feeling a funky cramp in my belly and headed to the bathroom. I laid back down again, and around 5:30, felt the same crampy feeling. I woke up Greg and said, "I think I may be having contractions. I just had one 15 minutes ago and now here's another one."
Greg's response was comical. He got up right away and started cleaning a lot of things in our house. He may have even vacuumed. I tried to eat a few things but found out my body wasn't holding down food. I got on the birthing ball and swayed around, and around 7 or so, we texted our friend Juline and shared our symptoms and she said, "Sounds like labor :)" Hearing someone else confirm that was exciting and a bit surreal. You anticipate it, but are sometimes in disbelief when it happens, especially because in our case, we still had "3 days" to go!
Around 8, Greg called our doula, Stephanie, and she came over to observe and monitor my contractions. Greg downloaded an app on his iPhone called contraction master, which was an awesome tool to track how long each contraction was and the time inbetween. I pretty much stayed in our tub from 8-11, when Stephanie decided it was time to head to the birth center.
Of course, the leisurely drive to the birth center was anything but. Greg was a bit impatient with all the stoplights and drivers we encountered. I unfortunately was puking into a little bowl we had brought with us, and Stephanie was in her car following. We got to the birth center around 11:30 and as soon as we saw our midwife Andrea, I felt a bit relieved and also happy/sad. She checked me and I was 4cm dilated and 95% effaced! Only 6 more centimeters to go.
From 11:30am-4:45pm, I labored. A lot. They gave me some IV fluids as soon as I got there because anything I tried to eat, I'd regurgitate. Plus, I needed an antiobiotic becuase I had tested positive for GBS, which was delivered through the IV. The IV fluids were super helpful in giving me some energy again, and later in the afternoon, I was able to sip some water and/or energy water. We tried every labor position, the bed being the most uncomfortable. The birthing ball and rocking chair were also out, as they relaxed me too much and my labor stalled. So, my doula had me walk around the back portion of the birth center, outside, and squat during a lot of contractions. Those were tough, but oh so necessary to getting Mia further down the birth canal. I also sat on the toilet a lot. (Sidenote: This is a very relaxing sitting position for a lot of women, myself included.) I also tried the tub towards the end, indifferent about a water birth. From 3-4:30, my contractions were incredibly intense. I was shaking through the ends of each contractions because they were so powerful. Andrea encouraged me to vocalize through the end of them and not let myself tense up, so while I had been very quiet through most of my labor and had my eyes closed, I started moaning, which sounded like a very strong humming. I should add that Juline arrived after 12, and added a very calm and confident voice to the labor.
Around 4:45pm, I was checked and found out I was complete! I was pleasantly surprised and also a bit scared. I knew my body had done a lot of hard work but still wasn't expecting this to be "the time." I was encouraged to start pushing through the next contraction, even though I hadn't felt the urge to push yet. However, once I started pushing, the urge soon followed.
I had no idea how to push or how to get leverage and it was a bit hard to find that leverage in the tub. Plus, the tub is so relaxing and masks a lot of pain, so I wasn't sure how effective my pushing had been. After several pushes in the tub, Andrea suggested we move to the bed and start pushing there. She had a guarded intensity that told me we needed to work fast. Once I got more leverage by sitting back on the bed, I was able to push better. I was also given oxygen to keep my vitals up. And this is about the only time I got "loud" during labor. I was grunting pretty forcefully when I pushed to the point that I scratched my throat!
I really had to bear down to push Mia out. At one point, they told me they could see a bit of her hair & head and I was able to feel that. Crazy! For the next push I really needed to get her out more, but instead of crowning, Mia literally came flying out. Andrea caught her, but it was a bit of a juggling act, because I don't think everybody was ready for her to come out so quickly. It was 5:36pm. Happy birthday, Mia!!
They immediately put Mia on my chest and gave her some oxygen and she perked up right away. Greg got to cut her cord and hold her for a long time after she was born while I got the lovely task of expelling the placenta!
You know some people immediately cry when their baby is born? I wasn't actually the emotional one when Mia was born, Greg was more emotional than I was. I was shocked, happy and relieved. I couldn't believe she had arrived and I did it! I've now birthed a baby. That was a really big deal. I'm so grateful we had the pleasant birth experience. I could not have asked for anything more. Everything was very peaceful. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, and our whole labor team was super supportive and calming and encouraged us the whole time.
I think things that made our birth experience go so well:
- the people [a midwife who had delivered hundreds of babies healthy & safe; calm birth assistants (Nicole); friends (Juline); and our amazing doula who really helped the labor progress by putting me in situations where my body was forced to take action; and of course Greg who stood by throughout everything]
- the place (the birth center is well-equipped for several situations and has lots of ways for you to relieve pressure throughout contractions and is cozy & comfortable)
- the preparation (we went to childbirth classes, read books, talked, did relaxation exercises, so that when the time came we had an idea of what to expect)
- the plan & the providence (God certainly had a hand in delivering Mia safely and there were times when I was in so much pain that I thought, Jesus has felt worse than this...I can do this!!)
Even though it was super tough work, knowing there's a goal in sight makes it so much more bearable. My doula told me weeks before Mia was born, when I said my one fear about going the natural route was not being successful, was that any woman can do it. It's humanly possible, you just have to know what your limits are. And I stretched my limits and opened my heart that day and now we have a "Lil' Mia"!