Bryce's Birth

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I went into labor around 9:30 Sunday night. It took a long time for us to realize it was the real thing. We were both convinced this was never really going to happen. We'd been lead to hope and then let down so many times. I think Clint started realizing it before I did because he started to work at covering the floor with plastic to get ready for the birth. I asked him to start setting up the pool because I was in so much pain during contractions and wanted the relief of some pain from sitting in water. I finally called my midwife, Richelle at around midnight. By the time Richelle arrived my contractions (which had been coming every 8 minutes or so) were now coming every 3-4 minutes. Richelle had me get out of the pool to check on the baby and my dilation. She found the baby's heartbeat and I was dilated to a 6 1/2 or 7. I apologize for not being very organized about recounting the events but I do want to mention that these contractions felt different than any I had previously experienced. They were tight but didn't feel crampy like the "productive" contractions I had felt before. This time they were accompanied by sharp pain down low at my cervix. To deal with the pain at first I would close my eyes, breath heavily but steady and slow, and rock back and forth. When Richelle arrived she suggested I relax my jaw completely, let my mouth hang open, and make long, very deep sounds from the back of my throat. Once I got the hang of this sound it was very helpful. I felt like near the end it was the only thing that got me through a contraction. It gave me something I had to concentrate on very intently which was a distraction from the pain. I also felt a direct connection between the relaxing of my jaw and the relief of some pain. Clint and the midwives also applied pressure to my lower back while pushing on my knees. I was in a sitting position.

Okay, so here I am back in the pool after Richelle checked my dilation and she's now attempting to routinely check the baby's heartbeat while I'm continuing labor in the water. There's suddenly something wrong with her Doppler though and she cannot find the heartbeat. She's moving from one side to the other and getting a little frantic but trying hard to disguise it while I continue contracting and making my birthing sounds. By this time my contractions are so close together and I don't even have time to recollect myself in between. Richelle carefully poses the question, "Are you feeling the baby kick on this side or this side?" My response frightened everyone, even myself, when I realized I hadn't felt him move for the last few contractions. Richelle had me get out of the water and into my bed to lay down so she could find the heartbeat with her stethoscope. This movement from pool to bed was done with a great degree of difficulty since, as I mentioned before, my contractions were back to back. Lying down was extremely painful during contractions as well. Shortly after lying down however the baby moved, which brought a huge sigh of relief from everyone because this meant there was definitely a heartbeat. She also heard the heartbeat at a completely normal rate through her stethoscope. She checked my dilation once more. I was at an 8 and 100% effaced. They helped me back into the pool quickly and within minutes I found myself pushing. I was in a semi-squatting position with my feet pulled close but my elbows leaning back on the edge of the pool. My husband, Clint was to my right leaning over and applying pressure and one of the midwife interns was to my left. I had my right hand gripping Clint's shirt at his shoulder and my left was squeezing two of the midwife's fingers. (Clint told me later that he was feeling bad because he looked over and saw that her fingers were entirely purple from my squeezing. My reply to this was "I think I would have ripped them off if I could have in that moment!") Up until this point the worst pain I had felt in my life was the pain felt during contractions. Now came the new and greater pain of the baby descending through the birth canal. I do remember being glad to be feeling something different for a change. I also remember thinking briefly that I should try to do this slowly so as to avoid tearing.

Both thoughts were fleeting and interrupted by the most intense urge to push. I could not do anything else. I forgot about breathing, staying calm and collected, and anything else in the world besides pushing. As I pushed my water burst and (according to Richelle who was keeping a record since I had no awareness of time whatsoever) 4 minutes later Bryce was born. This was at 1:33 AM. I felt a burning sensation when his head crowned and I felt the relief of some pressure when his head had completely emerged. I opened my eyes for a moment to try and see his head but couldn't from my angle and I wasn't about to move and inch. Bryce started moving at this point which made me jump and was very uncomfortable. I gave another heavy push and out he slithered. I opened my eyes to see his little back and bum float to the surface of the water. Clint and Richelle reached out together and place him on my chest. He let out one tiny wail and then rested on my chest, breathed easily and looked around. His color and breathing were great from the beginning. I was still in my own labor-land where nothing seemed completely real. I remember loving how excited Clint was. I had finally done it and it was over.

After several minutes they had Clint cut the cord and Richelle had me squat again to try and expel the placenta. I remember being annoyed that I had just given birth and now I had to put effort into giving birth to the placenta. It wasn't too difficult and didn't hurt at all though. They got me out of the water and moved to the bed where they checked my bleeding and discovered I was hemorrhaging. Richelle acted quickly, having one of her apprentices mix an herbal concoction in a few ounces of water, telling me to drink and not to think about it. It tasted nasty. Richelle then quickly gave me a shot of pitocin in my thigh. They continued monitoring my bleeding and thought it had slowed only to find when they felt my abdomen that my uterus was pooling with blood. Two of them applied pressure, expelling lots of huge clots of blood. They continued pushing, which hurt, until they got everything out. Then Richelle gave me 3 little droppers full of another herb under my tongue, which burned. Between these 3 treatments my bleeding slowed to a normal rate. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open through all of this, which I realize now was from loss of blood. Once the bleeding was under control Richelle set to work at stitching me up. She had a local anesthetic she had to stick me with several times. Even then I could still feel it a bit when she stitched me up but I'm sure the anesthesia took the greater part of the pain away. Lori, one of the apprentices, held my hand and patted my leg the whole time, which helped with the pain. Richelle took her time stitching and was very careful to get me put back together correctly. Clint stood behind her holding a light and watched the whole thing. He said he felt like that part especially was handled with more care and dignity and was much more appropriate than my previous doctor had done in the hospital. After the midwives were all finished with me they turned their attention to the baby. Actually, I forgot to mention that they had me nurse Bryce before they stitched me up because they didn't want him to fall asleep before he got a chance to nurse. He was still naked and wrapped in a towel, being held by his daddy this whole time. Richelle checked him over thoroughly while I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Lori made me. Kim, the other apprentice was cleaning out the pool and pumping the water out the window through a hose. Bryce passed all his reflex tests with flying colors. His coloring and breathing were still perfect. He weighed 7 lbs. 4 oz. Which made him my smallest baby (even at 12 days overdue) and he was 21 inches long which made him my longest baby as well. He already filled out his newborn size outfit lengthwise but his tiny legs are like toothpicks. He's 5 days old today and I can already see his cheeks and thighs filling out a little. He's a great eater.

Richelle checked my blood pressure and my bleeding several more times before she left to make sure it was still under control. She didn't leave until 5:45 AM. Because of my blood loss she told me to stay in bed for 2 days, getting up only to use the bathroom and Clint had to help me every time to make sure I didn't pass out. He actually had to carry me back to the bed the first couple times.

Now that I've recounted the events of the birth I want to touch on my feelings about the whole event. Writing this all down has made me realize how miserable it must sound to an outsider who may be reading this. At first, that's how I felt too. During my intense 4-hour labor I reached a point where I actually said out loud, "I'm not sure I want to do this anymore." Of course I had no choice at this point and somehow I mustered up the energy to deal with the pain and carry myself through the events that were transpiring even though I wanted to escape the pain. For a while I think I felt bad about feeling that way but I realize that's a normal feeling. How could it not be for me especially who has had 2 previous births with an epidural and virtually no pain? Before we had a chance to sleep at all after the birth Clint asked me how I felt about how it all happened. I told him I wasn't ready to talk about it yet because remembering the birth at that point was too painful. I could bring myself back in my mind and experience the pain all over again because I remembered it so well. It was too painful to remember. A strange thing happened after I'd woken up from my first sleep. I could remember how I had thought of describing the pain but I could not remember exactly how the pain felt. This was the beginning of God's gift regarding childbirth. As my mother put it, "He makes you forget the pain so you'll do it all again," By day 3 my memory of the birth had morphed into something romantic. All I could see looking back was the miracle of the whole event. I remember brief images like the first time I laid eyes on my beautiful baby-his little bum and back floating to the top of the water. I remember looking up into Clint's eyes and seeing the emotion and excitement on his face. I was (and am still) filled with the most intense feelings of love towards my baby and my husband. These emotions are very unusual for me to feel so early. With both of my medicated hospital births I remember nothing but lack of sleep and struggling with negative or neutral feelings towards baby and husband and especially towards myself. This time I feel proud of myself. I feel strong and I feel so overwhelmingly happy.

The questions I've gotten most are:

"Would you do it again?"

To this I answer "yes". Although it's extremely premature to be thinking about another baby yet, if I found myself pregnant again someday then I believe I would opt for another home birth.

"Are you glad you did it?"

Yes, extremely, although it took a couple days to feel that way.

"What did Clint think about the whole experience?"

Clint loved it. I'd really like him to write down his experience but I can tell you that he was very involved in the birth and not only felt needed but really was needed. I couldn't have done it without him. This helped him find more joy and excitement during and after the birth and it helped him bond with the baby faster than ever before. He was more involved during the pregnancy as well. Richelle encouraged him to attend all prenatal appointments with me. Each appointment was one hour long so there was plenty of time for discussion and for Clint to ask questions he had when the occasion arose. Since Richelle doesn't routinely check dilation before labor Clint learned how to do it himself and would occasionally check for me. He was actively involved in helping me through contractions by applying pressure to my lower back. He loved that it was all at home in our own comfortable and familiar environment. He was completely in charge of caring for me afterwards, which brought us closer together as husband and wife. This birth was a more private and personal experience to us as a couple, which was beautiful.

"During the painful parts if you were offered an epidural do you think you would have taken one?"

Yes, I believe I would have because I wanted a way to escape. However, I would have been disappointed in myself later since it was not what I really wanted. I also think I wouldn't have had the same experience afterwards like I have had this time. This is one of the reasons I'm glad I did it at home where drugs weren't an option.

"Did Richelle give you any pain meds for after having him or have you had nothing?"

I gave myself some ibuprofen and Tylenol. Richelle is a lay midwife, meaning she's not an RN and is not able to prescribe medication. She gave me nothing for pain. The after pains were really bad the first day or two, especially when I nursed. I had to concentrate on breathing and rock back and forth during those contractions, just like the beginning of my labor. They only lasted a couple of days though. Then they turned in to heavy period cramps and that was more manageable. They are completely gone now.

"How has your recovery been compared to your other recoveries?"

Physically I think it's felt the same, besides having no meds of course. I feel stronger in dealing with the pain though. I know I've just been through much worse and this is nothing compared to it so it makes it easier to handle. Emotionally I've been recovering much faster I believe.

"Was it weird to just all of a sudden have a baby in your home...since you didn't have the hospital transition?"

No. It was actually really nice. I loved having Clint take care of me and he seemed to genuinely enjoy it too. It felt completely normal to be home in our own bed. We slept better, had no interruptions, could hear nobody else's crying baby but our own, and had no strange squeaking carts rattling by in the hallway outside our room. I got more rest because I was at home and that has aided in recovery as well.

"Is there anything you would have changed (besides maybe him coming sooner!)?"

I've been thinking about this one for a while and I've decided there really isn't anything I would change. Not everything turned out how I'd planned it. I had planned on being the one to catch the baby myself but in the moment I didn't have the strength to reach down and touch him at all. But now that I know how that moment felt I think that was an impossible expectation for me. I don't feel bad about how it happened. I also didn't sound as calm and collected as I'd pictured either. But I don't regret it. I was just doing what came naturally and I think that's the beauty of it. I'm a stronger woman for everything that happened.

"So how was this birth compared to your previous births in the hospital?"

This question is virtually impossible to answer. Because I was induced with my first 2 babies and never actually went in to labor on my own, and because I had an epidural, and the environment was so different, and the entire attitude towards birth of the birth attendants was completely dissimilar, I can't really compare the experiences because the only thing they have in common for me is the fact that, in the end, they both produced a baby! All I can say is I feel like I've finally experience childbirth the way God intended it to be for me and I'm happy about it.

Katie is a mom of three children in Utah County. Bryce was her first natural birth, and her first home birth.

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