Shannon’s First Birth: Home Birth Without Fear

April 5, 2012

My birth story begins several weeks before my guess date when I started having LOADS of pre-labor every night. I hadn’t had any Braxton-Hicks before then, and so that’s what I thought I was experiencing until I described my surges to my midwife (Cathy O’Bryant) and she told me they were the real deal.

Every night I would start having surges around 9 and they’d die off sometime during the night while I was sleeping. Thankfully, I never got psyched out thinking it was the real deal because my entire pregnancy I somehow knew I was going to go at least a week over my guest date (February 5th). February 13th rolled around and I remember lying in my bed that night and talking to my Heavenly Father. I truly enjoyed being pregnant, but that night I told him that I was ready to have my baby. I woke up at 6am the next morning and went to the bathroom. I remember being surprised that I’d gone 7 hours without peeing. I’d just had the best night’s rest I’d had in several months!  When I crawled back in bed I realized I was having fairly regular surges, about 6 minutes apart. I knew almost instantly that I was going to have my baby that day, but I squelched my excitement so that I could get a few more hours of rest that I knew I was going to need if I was really going to have my baby that day.

I woke again at 9 and laid in bed cuddling with my husband for a bit. My contractions were about 3 minutes apart at that point, but I was reluctant to say anything to Brenan on the off chance that it still was the pre-labor I’d been experiencing for two weeks. We eventually made it out of bed and I nonchalantly told Brenan about what I’d been experiencing over a bowl of cereal. I did so discreetly because my mom had flown in from Washington several days before and I wasn’t ready for her to jump around in excitement like she had been ever since she’d arrived.  This was her first grandchild and to say she was ecstatic would be an understatement.  However, a few minutes after that I was cleaning up the kitchen when my mom walked in and asked me a question right at the peak of the strongest surge I’d had yet and my mind was incapable of thinking up a reply. She knew I was in labor at that point and she and Brenan began asking me what I wanted to do. I decided things were really easy going at that point so I just called Cathy to see when I could stop by for my prenatal appointment (I hadn’t made an appointment the week before in hopes that I wouldn’t need one, but Monday had rolled around again and still no baby) I mentioned to her that I’d been having some surges and she said she was currently at a birth not far from me and would stop by afterwards to see how far along I was.

I told Brenan that he should go to school and I’d call him if I needed him. Meanwhile, my mom and I went grocery shopping. Looking back, I think I did the majority of my dilating in Wal-Mart. My surges really weren’t bad at all so long as I was moving. My mom would stop to grab something and I would pace back and forth in front of the cart. My mom and I joked about how most women would probably be rushing to the hospital at this point, meanwhile I was seeing how many miles I could walk in Wal-Mart. My mom asked several times if I wanted to go home, but I was convinced the baby was 16 hours away, as I had yet to experience any real discomfort.

Cathy arrived shortly after we got back to the house and we chatted for a bit and she eventually asked about my surges and offered to check me. I felt rather reluctant because I thought she would be like “oh, you’re at a 2” but to her surprise and mine I was an 8 and fully effaced with a bulging sack. It was about 1:30 at that point and my poor husband was just 30 minutes into his first of three classes of the day, but I decided I’d better tell him to come home. I didn’t really want to though, because I felt fairly certain that the baby was not going to come before he would be home at 4:30 and I didn’t need any help with my surges at that point either. My gut instinct turned out to be right. Cathy’s assistants arrived and we talked as I bounced on the birthing ball for the next 3 hours. Brenan expressed his disgruntlement that I didn’t need him to help me out with any of the Hypnobirthing techniques he’d learned and practiced, but he got to use them soon enough.

I reached the point where I decided I really wanted to soak in the tub and Brenan went to fill it up.  My mom decided it was time for her to leave (I’d never flat-out told her, but she knew I wanted the birth experience to be a private experience for Brenan and I and I’m very thankful that she’s the kind of mom that divined that on her own). I soaked in the tub for a while and Brenan read me a script.  Cathy checked me again and I was STILL at an 8. But that didn’t bother me, I was enjoying the tub and my baby would come when she was ready.

Things got a bit more difficult after that. I got out of the tub for a while and my surges started to ramp up. We did lots of things for a while to make the surges less uncomfortable. One thing I can say is that they weren’t ever unbearable, they were always something I could handle and I welcomed everyone with the knowledge that they were bringing me my baby. At one point Cathy had me lay on my bed with something propping up my butt for several surges. It took away all my back labor, but made the surges ten times stronger in the front. But it was something that had to be done to adjust how baby was entering the birth path. I practically begged to get back in the tub after that.

I don’t know how long I was in the tub, but the surges were getting ever stronger and most of them were overlapping. Brenan sat on the back corner of our soaking tub and I leaned up against him. I was very deep in myself at this point and don’t remember much, I remember my breathing went scawampus, and my body went all tingly for a while. I guess I was so out of it I forgot to breathe. Oops.  Brenan said my hands were like claws and I kept asking them to rub them. They put me on oxygen and I remember my jaw was locked but somehow I managed to ask Brenan to talk to me. He finally got to use his hypnobirthing, and he did it so well! I don’t even remember what he would say, but from then on he was constantly speaking words of affirmation to me and his voice is what I really remember. It’s what kept me strong through to the end.

After I regained my breath and the tingling went away Cathy told me I had to get out of the tub because I had a persistent cervical lip that might go away after hours of waiting, but possibly not, so it would be best if she helped it out of the way. I was convinced that I couldn’t stand up, let alone make it out of the tub to the bed, but I remembered my baby and how much I wanted to meet her and I remember actually saying out load “I can do this.”  Saying out loud made me believe it was true.  When I made it to the room and saw that Cathy wanted me to get into the same position on the bed as she’d had me in before I really wanted to refuse, but I trusted Cathy to know what was best, and thus what I remember as the “painful” part of my labor commenced. However, it’s also one of my fondest memories. Cathy had to push on my cervical lip during surges; meanwhile my body was ready to push my baby out, which I had to fight against because it would make the lip worse. Brenan held me in his arms with his face right next to mine and I focused every fiber of my being on him and NOT PUSHING.  Not  pushing was the hardest thing I had to do.  They told me to relax my lips and blow out, which I then vigorously began doing. Brenan told me later I was sending spit flying and sounded like a horse, which makes him all the more my hero because he still kept his face right there, talking me through the surges.

FINALLY Cathy said the lip was gone, though it could possibly come back, and I could get in the tub again if I wanted.  It felt soooo good to return to the water.  I knelt on my hands and knees and the urge to push hit me again, if possible, even stronger than before.  I was so excited to meet my baby girl and set to work with a very passionate determination.  I could feel her head inching down the birth path and I was grateful for my overlapping surges because I did NOT want to take a break, not when I was so close to my long awaited meeting. It was such a glorious feeling because of what it meant: my baby was coming. I thought at one point that I should slow down to prevent tearing, but then I reached down and felt her crowning and there was no way I was going to stop after that. I then moved to a squatting position up against Brenan, who had reclaimed his post in the corner of the tub. I remember the midwives were caught off guard at this point because she was coming faster than they were ready for her.  I looked down and her whole head was poking out and my first thought was “what an adorable ear.” Cathy said her shoulder was stuck and I needed to give another good push, I complied and out spilled my daughter.

She was placed in my arms as Cathy did who knows what to her, and I stared at her face.  Her eyes popped open and stared straight into mine.  It was so surreal.  I’d watched this moment a thousand times in birth videos.  I always thought I would cry at this point, but I was too in awe of my little girl to do anything but stare.  Tears would have just obscured my vision.

She hadn’t cried yet, or even appeared to take a breath, but I wasn’t worried, even as Cathy and the others began to work a little more vigorously on her.  I had faith in their skills, but more importantly, I had faith in my little Italia’s strength.  I knew she only needed a bit of time and she’d be fine.  All the while her umbilical cord was still attached and I birthed the placenta at some point.  She began to cough up mucus which was cleared away and soon enough I was able to cuddle her to my chest again.

I nursed her for the first time a few minutes later, sitting cross-legged on my bed as my husband sat next to me.  I was thrilled to learn that I only had a few skid marks that required no stitches.  Tali’s crowning must have been more controlled than I thought, I was right to have listened to my body.  After the midwives left, we had some time alone as a family before my mother returned

Looking back I think how scary things could have been if I hadn’t been so calm and chosen a midwife that I trusted wholeheartedly.  Every step of the way I knew that my body was simply doing what it was meant to do.  When people ask me about my birth, I tell them I loved everything about it.  It brought Brenan and I even closer and I love him so much for the wonderful strength he was for me in the end.  Quite often people say I was “lucky” when I tell them how much I enjoyed my “labor,” but the truth is, I wasn’t lucky, I was simply prepared.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emilie Ashby April 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm

It was an amazing birth and I was honored to be there as one of your attendants. You and your husband did an amazing job! Sometimes first timers can have overwhelming births, but yours seemed very present. Lots of love to your little family.

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