(Picture taken two days ago. I didn’t have any suitable delivery pictures that hadn’t already made an appearance on the blog!)
The birth of our little Dorothy Elizabeth was an incredible experience. It was miraculous really, easily one of the most beautiful, sacred experiences of my life. I’ve always known birth is special and that the veil is thin as spirits are brought to Earth. Still, I wasn’t expecting such an outpouring of the Spirit and such strong, physical manifestations of Heavenly Father’s love and power as what happened. I’ve been pondering all that occurred over and over since it happened, each time learning more. I am amazed. I am so full of gratitude. Heaven was so very, very close.
So here’s the problem: I really enjoyed sharing Truman’s birth story on the blog, and I’d like to share Dorothy’s too. But how much to share is the question. Frankly, it just doesn’t feel right for me to put the story in it’s entirety as the top post on a public blog. Yet… I’d like to share some of it. In my mind it is difficult to separate the sacred from the basic physical details, but I guess I’ve carefully told the story enough times now that I know I can do it.
And don’t worry. I have the complete version of the story recorded for Dorothy. I will of course want to share every single detail with her. I just wish she could tell me every single detail of what she experienced during her birth. Wouldn’t that be marvelous?
And now, the obligatory WARNING to all who are squeamish or embarrassed by such things: I’m going to tell the whole physical aspect of the story. Words like “cervix,” and “bowels,” are involved, so if you don’t want to hear it… don’t read!
On with the story:
On Jan 9th, one day after my due date, I had an appointment with the midwives. I saw Ray, and asked him to check me and see if we could sweep the membranes to get labor in gear. He did the check and declared my cervix a “mystery.” He couldn’t even find it! Dorothy was super far down and there was “no earthly reason,” why my cervix should still be so far back… but back it was! There would be no membrane sweeping that day. We scheduled an induction for the following week.
I went home feeling a bit down about it, but resigned. I still had a cold and my head hurt so I wasn’t feeling particularly up to delivering a baby anyway. Perhaps waiting another week was best. I decided to give myself a break for the rest of the day both physically and emotionally. I let the house go, watched shows with the boys and even laid down in the afternoon while they were awake (something I never do!). By the time dinner rolled around I forced myself to get up and at the very least get homework, piano practice, and dinner done. We tackled homework first, followed by a simple pancake dinner and before too long Corey was home. Somewhere in the mix of it all I felt a little bit of fluid discharge. It felt remarkably like warm amniotic fluid, but it wasn’t a gush so I tried not to think too much of it. Then at 6:45pm I sat down with Jack to do his piano practice and I felt a huge pop/gush. I knew my water had broken.
I made a quick excuse to Jack, told Corey what had happened and went straight upstairs to clean myself up. As I took care of things my mucus plug passed and any doubt I had that labor was eminent passed with it. I made a call to Labor and Delivery to see how they wanted us to proceed. They told me they wanted me to come in right away, but they were willing to let me help get the boys in bed and things settled for the night first. The house was an utter mess (so embarrassing!!!) but there was nothing to do about that now! At least we got homework done and I could help get the boys in bed first before our friend Rachel came over to spend the night. (Ed and Cindy took over in the morning.)
We told the boys what had transpired. They were very curious and totally thrilled! We did our regular night time routine, grabbed everything we needed for the hospital, and Corey gave me a simple, beautiful blessing. Rachel came over, got the instructions, gave me a quick hug, and off we went!
We arrived at the hospital just as our friends Katie and Alex Parent were leaving, which was fun! I got another hug from a friend and we proceeded on our way. When we got inside the hospital we were a bit confused about where to go but thankfully a nice doctor was on his way out for the night and he offered to walk us up after we asked him for directions. We got to labor and delivery at about 8:45pm and started the check-in process. First they needed to verify that my water had, in fact, broken… it had. Then I answered a million questions and they monitored the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. I knew I was having braxton hicks and nothing more. What they recorded confirmed it.
After talking with the nurse, it was time for me to talk to the on-call Midwife, Carissa. Carissa was lovely. I sure love the midwives! We discussed my options for the evening (since I wasn’t contracting) and we decided to get settled in our room on the LDRP floor (woot, woot!) and try to sleep through the night. If my body didn’t start contracting on it’s own then come morning time Carissa would come back and talk about more options to get me started. Hoping to avoid petocin at all costs I was extremely grateful she was willing to let me wait and see if my body started up on it’s own. As we walked to our room the nurse told us that if we had been seeing the OB’s I would have immediately been put on petocin and had to be continuously monitored and not allowed to labor in the tub. Let me say it again: I love the midwives!
By about 10pm we were settled in our room and tried to get some sleep. Corey was able to catch a little bit, but I wasn’t! With every braxton hicks or movement of the baby more fluid discharged. I was in and out of the bathroom often to change pads. I think my body also knew I wanted a water-birth and as such was emptying my bowels in preparation (Women often opt for an enema if they are going to have a water-birth. I really didn’t want one!). And as if all that weren’t enough I was deep in thought as well, and nothing prevents me from sleeping like my thoughts. Thankfully they were good ones that would help me through the delivery. In fact I would say they were more helpful than sleep.
Around midnight I finally started to feel real, early labor contractions. They were low, crampy, not too painful, but definitely real. I was so relieved! I worked through those contractions mostly in the bed, but come 2am I felt antsy and ready to involve Corey. I woke him up and we put on the Gilmore Girls (we own the first season). For the next 2 hours we semi-watched them and took little walks all over the very small LDRP floor. The contractions were uncomfortable but still quite manageable. I really enjoyed spending the time with Corey.
By 4 am the contractions had intensified and I was ready to get in the tub. I had held off because I knew that the longer I waited, the more dramatic the effect the water would have once I got in. I worried that I was getting in too soon, but when I sat down in the water I knew I had made the right choice. Instant, dramatic relief! It was wonderful!
The next 2 hours were very quiet ones. I was able to think well and seriously again and I didn’t make a sound except for breathing. I went very inside myself and focused with each contraction, making my body welcome them and relax. Amazingly, after getting in the tub I didn’t feel any more pain. Like… any. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. It took an incredible amount of work not to feel the pain. It took intense breathing, focused thought, and willing my body to relax where and when I told it to. But, I know I was given power, strength and knowledge beyond my own, so was able to do it. I was able to relax both during and between the contractions, hence, no pain. It was remarkable and wonderful to feel so in control and capable. And, of course, Corey was a wonderful support. He held my hand, fed me ice chips, got tissues for my runny nose, and kept the water warm.
Carissa came and checked on me at about 6am. Even though I knew better, a little part of me doubted what I was experiencing. I worried that I wasn’t feeling pain because I wasn’t progressing so I asked her to check me. Also, while I wasn’t in pain, I was certainly feeling fatigue. Whether or not I felt pain didn’t make it any less of a physically demanding experience! I still had that cold and headache, and I hadn’t slept a wink all night. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up, and I wanted some reassurance that things were working and that I was almost done. Carissa tried to check me in the water but couldn’t quite do what she needed to, so I got out and went to the bed. She proclaimed me to be at a 7! I was very heartened! With Truman I got to a 7 and half an hour later I was pushing!
After being checked I got back into the tub all full of fresh, warm water where again, I felt wonderful.
Now my only worry was this: Would I know when it was time to push? With Truman I never actually felt the sensation to do it. Ray had just seen me losing control and suggested we start. He had helped to guide my cervix forward and Truman was born! I wondered if I would have a similar experience? I told Carissa how things happened with Truman and asked what she thought we should do. She didn’t really answer! She just told me I was doing great and that I should trust my body. If I felt like pushing… I should push. She would help if needed. So, with her encouragement I decided I’d try pushing with the next contraction. As soon as I did, I knew it was wrong and that I should wait.
I went back to breathing, relaxing, focusing and working. Carissa stayed with us, which was wonderful. She used a quiet voice and said encouraging things like “You are doing amazingly well Ashlee!” She patted my back and helped me remember to relax in my shoulders (I was concentrating on relaxing other places). She took over feeding me ice chips and wiping my nose. She helped me realize that I was hyperventilating (I felt tingly in my lips and arms) and she instructed me to simply slow down my exhale which solved the problem in a few minutes. Have I said it enough yet? I love the midwives!
At 7 Carissa got called away to help with an emergency C-Section. She instructed the nurses to give me my IV (A new policy on the 4th floor… everyone has to have them. It wasn’t hooked up to anything, it was simply in place “just in case.”). After 3 tries (Apparently I have super “valvey,” veins) they got it in and it was back to just Corey and I. I didn’t try to push. I just kept working through the contractions which were coming closer and closer together.
Come 8am it was time for a shift change and guess who was on call? Ray! My favorite midwife! The one that delivered Truman! I was thrilled to think he’d be delivering us again. I trusted that he would remember what we had to do last time and that he’d instruct and help me again this time. He passed off with Carissa and then came into the bathroom where he stayed put until the end despite the fact he hadn’t changed into scrubs yet. Good thing the midwives are laid back and don’t so much care about details like that because I didn’t want him to leave!
He was excited to be with us. Apparently it’s a point of pride with the midwives to deliver more than one baby for a family. Funny, huh?
I asked Ray about pushing just as I had asked Carissa, thinking he would give me a straight answer (Not that I hadn’t appreciated Carissa’s advice to just trust myself! I was having a hard time doing it though!). But guess what? He told me the same thing! The only bit of advice that he offered was to have me change positions. He had me put my head at the top of the tub and my feet up on a little ledge. It felt even better than where I had been, and that’s where I stayed until she was born. Ray had only been there for a few minutes when I felt like it was time to start pushing. I can’t say that I felt a huge need to push or that I felt like my body was telling me to do it. I just wanted to. And when I pushed with a contraction it felt productive and right and good. Still a ton of work (I was transitioning and pushing a baby out after all!) but still no pain. I was even relaxed and able to talk in between contractions, which to me was crazy! I couldn’t even think about doing that with both Alaster and Truman’s deliveries (I was un-medicated during both of their transitions). At one point between pushing I even told Ray “I’m starting to believe those ladies who say there’s such a thing as pain free child birth,” to which he just laughed.
Ray told me that with each push he was seeing more and more of her head… something I would just have to trust because it felt no different to me. I felt pressure in the general area and could tell it was close, but didn’t feel anything other than my body working. It was incredibly tiring, but also amazing and wonderful and good! Ray asked me at one point to reach down and feel her head, but that really freaks me out so I told him no!
Now here’s where the story changes. I had felt so very in control and focused. I was hardly making a sound except for breathing and talking when I felt like it, and I chose to push quite deliberately. I did not at all feel like my body was making me (something I have heard from a lot of women… that when they pushed it was more like their body just kind of took over and they had no choice) I even chose during a few contractions NOT to push, feeling like I needed to rest instead. However. I do NOT remember making the choice to push at the end. All I remember is uncontrolled screaming and pain so horrific I thought I would die! It was just happening all of the sudden and I lost ALL control. I wish so badly I could say that I was graceful right up until the very end, but my nose is already bigger than I’d like. No need to make it grow further. The pain was horrible. SO, SO horrible! I believe it was made even more sharp by the fact that just seconds previously I had been in such a happy, calm place. The sudden contrast was shocking. It was almost like an out of body experience. I was feeling it but I was confused and detached and surprised and not able thinking straight. I remember screaming “GET HER OUT!!!” because I thought Ray was supposed to pull her out of me! I thought for a few frantic seconds “Why isn’t he doing it? Why isn’t he doing it?” Crazy, huh?!? Corey or Ray may have been talking to me, but I didn’t hear a thing. Finally at some point I snapped to and remembered I had to push. So even though I knew it would hurt like hellfire and damnation (which I assure you it did)… I pushed. And at 8:46am Dorothy was born.
I asked Corey later how long I screamed. It felt like a long time given all the things that went through my mind as it was happening. I was super embarrassed even though I really think what I screamed and how I screamed it was completely out of my control. Corey assured me it all happened in 10 seconds or less. Really? Only 10 seconds? Wow. Ray confirmed that to me later when he remarked how quickly it all happened. He said I was pushing slowly and gradually and then all the sudden in one intense push she was here!
I absolutely recommend water-birth, particularly to women who enjoy laboring in the water. It was incredible. However, I must also in the same breath warn you that the afterbirth is NOT pleasant (is it ever though?!?). It’s not safe to have the after birth in the water so even though I felt like I had just been ripped in two and was still in raw, raw, awful pain I had to stand up with my baby and walk to the bed. Only a few feet, but still. Ugh. Usually they don’t cut the cord till you get to the bed, but I insisted they do it as soon as I stood up in the tub. Her cord was short and it was so, so awkward and weird!
I hate afterbirth. Seriously. “You want to do what??? Can’t it WAIT?!? Didn’t you see what I just did?!? Give me my baby and go away please!” Is pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. I know many of you other women can relate! Poor, poor Ray. Last time I tried to be nice and brave but this time I was just… a baby. I hated every second of it (even pushing the placenta out which I know is not a big deal!) and everyone in the room knew it by the time we were done. They must have been so annoyed! In my defense I needed stitches and I felt half of them despite the shot they administered (which was a barrel of monkeys in itself…not!) to numb me. AND… I had just delivered a baby for Pete’s Sake!
But when it was over, it was over. And we had our little “Gift of God.” She was so beautiful and so perfect! As I mentioned before, she was absolutely calm and awake when they gave her to me. I really have no idea what she experienced during labor and delivery, but when I look back on the experience I feel a sense of camaraderie with her. We did it baby girl! We did it together!
I will always cherish the memory of Dorothy’s delivery, just as I cherish each of the boys deliveries. Her birth felt ideal to me in every possible way. But despite differences and difficulties each of my children’s births has been remarkable and beautiful in it’s own way.
How grateful I am for a healthy body and my healthy, pink, gorgeous babies!