Over the week and a half before Anna was born, I struggled with knowing whether I was in labor. The saying that “you’ll know” didn’t prove right for me… until Thursday afternoon, June 18th, at 1:30pm. But, before I start into this portion of the story, let me back up.
At my 39 week and 3 day appointment, Robert and I randomly met the instructor of the birthing class at Nativiti, Megan, who also happens to be a doula. We clicked with her right away and Robert decided we should hire her to assist with the labor and delivery. So, we set up an appointment to meet with her on the next Monday, June 8th, (a day after my due date) with the agreement that if I went into labor before then, she would be there. So, my due date came and went with no start of labor. On Monday, Megan came over so we could ask any questions and get comfortable with her approach to labor support. While we met, she gave me a foot reflexology treatment, which is known to encourage the onset of labor. Before she left, we discussed that we would call her when I felt crampiness and contractions had begun. Early Tuesday morning, June 9th, when I woke to go to the bathroom, I started feeling crampiness and was having contractions. By the time Robert’s alarm went off, the contractions were pretty consistent. I told Robert that he might want to shut his alarm off b/c I thought I was labor. Robert jumped up to gather the bags and then I got up, ate breakfast, and we took a walk with the dogs. My contractions continued consistently, so we called Megan. She arrived within an hour and gave me another reflexology treatment. By noon, I was very tired due to having been up since 2am, so Megan encouraged me to take a nap. I told Megan she didn’t have to hang around while I napped, so she left. The contractions subsided while I napped, but when I awoke a couple hours later, I started having consistent contractions again. When Robert woke up a few hours later, we called Megan and she suggested we go to dinner and a movie to move around a bit. I was craving a big salad, so we went to Cheesecake Factory; we then walked around the mall a bit. I purchased a couple new bras and while we were checking out, Robert was telling the clerk that we thought I was in labor. The woman checking out next to me heard him and got all weird; she hurriedly put her wallet in her purse and ran out of the store, saying she couldn’t be around a laboring woman. Strange! After this, we went to see the movie “Up”. About half way through the movie, I started feeling more uncomfortable contractions and started thinking that this might be it. As we slowly walked to the car, I told Robert how I was feeling and then I called Megan on the way home. She said she could head to our house right away. After experiencing these contractions most of the day, I told her to hold off until we got home and I laid down. I wanted to ensure they were going to continue and see if the intensity was indeed increasing or if my body was fooling me. Turns out this was a good call b/c by the time I got into bed, the contractions had subsided. Robert was all ready to time and record the contractions, but there was nothing. Through the night, when I got up to use the restroom, I wasn’t having any contractions. I found myself feeling pretty discouraged. Already being past due, I was frustrated that labor wasn’t progressing. I just wanted to meet my baby! Again, by the time Robert’s alarm went off on Wednesday, June 10th, I was having contractions again. Robert stayed home with me, but by the middle of the day, the contractions subsided. We went to my 40 week appointment that afternoon and Katherine told me I was experiencing false labor. Bummer!
So, in the next week, I tried many things to induce labor. I had a prenatal massage on Friday and the masseuse concentrated on those areas that are known to induce labor (feet, thighs, etc.). On my 30th birthday, I had a foot reflexology treatment by Megan’s partner Abi. On Tuesday, June 16th, the day I picked Mom and Nicole up from the airport, Melanie swept my membranes, gave me Evening Primrose to take, and gave me the recipe to eggplant parmigiana (a recipe from a restaurant in Georgia that is known for sending women into labor within 48 hours of eating it). On Wednesday, after confirming via ultrasound that the baby had enough amniotic fluid to continue, Mom and I made the eggplant parmigiana and I ate a large portion.
When I woke up on the morning of Thursday, June 18th, I was having contractions again but this time there was a bit more discomfort. I told Robert what I was feeling when he got up, but told him to go to work because I had been fooled twice before and didn’t want him staying home again until I knew for sure. Mom, Nicole, and I had planned to go to the mall that morning, as I would be able to do some walking in the air-conditioning. Due to my swelling and blood pressure, I couldn’t handle to walk outside in the heat, especially since Houston has been experiencing record heat. So, we ran some errands and headed to the mall. While at the mall, my contractions intensified. By the time we left the mall, I had to slow down significantly to handle the contractions. We headed home to have lunch and by the time we got there, Robert was home from work. I ate my 2nd meal of eggplant parmigiana. By the time I finished my lunch, I had a contraction that I was unable to sit through. The discomfort I was feeling in my back was turning into back labor. At this point (~1:30pm), I went to lie on my side on the couch to concentrate on managing the pain of the contractions. Robert joined me in the living room and faithfully recorded the frequency and duration of my contractions. Within an hour, once we were certain I was in labor, he called Megan to have her come over. When she arrived, she gave me a foot massage as I continued to lay on the couch. Then, she made me change positions, as staying in 1 position for too long can potentially slow labor. Over the next several hours, I labored in a variety of positions – standing and leaning on Robert while Megan put pressure on my lower back to help ease the back labor, sitting on the exercise ball, leaning on the island, etc.. My memories of these contractions are that they were pretty painful at the peak and then slowly faded away. I had to breathe hard and purposefully to handle the pain; I remember feeling nauseous through some of the contractions, but thankfully I never vomited. Megan helped me to stay aware of the sensations I was experiencing besides the contractions, such as Robert’s touch and the easy listening music that was playing. Since it is important to go to the restroom frequently (since anything in the bladder can slow progress), I made frequent trips to the bathroom, which I started to dread b/c the change of position typically brought on a couple quick-hitting contractions. Thankfully Robert stayed right with me the whole time. Throughout my labor, if Robert wasn’t “in position” to assist me through a coming contraction, I would get a bit disoriented and not handle that contraction well. Mom and Nicole also helped while I labored; Nicole made sure I had plenty to drink and Mom helped get things ready to go to Nativiti. At some point that afternoon, Megan made me a cup of red raspberry leaf tea to drink, which I had been drinking since ~20 weeks (when I switched from the OB to the midwives) due to its uterine-toning properties.
Robert and Megan helping me through a contraction:
By 7pm, my contractions had consistently been 1 – 1½ minutes long and 3 minutes apart for an hour, so Robert called the birthing center to say we were headed that way. Melanie, the midwife who owns the birthing center, was there to meet us and Katherine was on her way in since she was the midwife on call that evening. Mom, Nicole, Megan, and Robert got the car out, loaded up, and cooled down since it was in the upper 90s. I walked outside slowly and hugged Mom and Nicole goodbye. Megan got me situated in the car with a pillow behind me and 2 tennis balls positioned to put pressure on my lower back. Robert then slowly pulled out of the driveway and did his best to miss bumps in the road. He was driving very cautiously, so I told him he could drive quickly and just be extra careful while I was having a contraction. I had 3 on the way to the birthing center and they were pretty painful since I had to manage them completely on my own. When we arrived, Robert helped me walk into the birthing center and Melanie greeted us. She then listened to the baby’s heart beat, which was doing well beating in the 140s; the arrhythmia that Melanie had detected at 38 weeks was still present. Since I was having back labor and the baby was positioned with her back on my right side (which is a less ideal position than having her back away from my spine or on my left side), Melanie encouraged me to labor for a while on the exercise ball. So, I did that while leaning on Robert.
Laying on the exercise ball:
Shortly after this, Katherine arrived and checked my progress. I was dilated to 4 cm, which was pretty good, but not enough to get into the Jacuzzi tub yet. Katherine said I had to be at 7 cm to get in the tub. Robert asked when she thought that would be; her response of “could be tonight, could be tomorrow morning” set me back a bit mentally because I was very eager to get in the water! I put that out of my mind, though, and continued taking 1 contraction at a time. Then, Megan had me get up and walk a bit, which I did very slowly. I believe by this point I was in “labor land.” I stood in the common area for a few contractions as Megan tried to talk me into going outside. At this point, Katherine and Megan showed us that Robert should bend over and I should then lean on him with my belly hanging during contractions to encourage the baby to flip to my left side. Finally, I worked up enough energy to walk outside to my car, where I had a couple contractions leaning on the trunk. The sound of the passing traffic on I-45 down the road was a good distraction, but it was still hot out, so I requested we head back inside. At that point, Megan mentioned that I could get in the shower if I wanted. I jumped on that idea because I knew the water hitting my body would help. Nativiti is located in a house that has been converted to include the necessities of a birthing center, but the rooms are still very homey and comfortable. The bathroom is a regular bathroom with a tub / shower combo. So, Robert and I headed into the bathroom, Megan brought me a birthing ball to sit on, and I got in the shower. It felt really good and relieved some of the pain of contractions. Still experiencing bad back labor, I would simply say “back” when a contraction came on and Robert would reach into the shower and push on my lower back. I was in the shower for ~30 minutes and then Robert suggested I get out in order to prevent running out of hot water for when they needed to fill the Jacuzzi tub up for me. When I went back into the birthing room, Katherine came in and I told her I really wanted to get into the tub, so she asked if I wanted to be checked and I said I did. Being checked was no fun because I had to lay flat on my back on the bed, which has to be the toughest position to labor in. Regardless, it had to be done. I closed my eyes to manage the pain and when I opened them, I saw a big smile on Katherine’s face and she said I was at 7 cm. Hallelujah! I proceeded to get up, strip down, and move as quickly as I could to the tub because I wanted to get in the water before my next contraction. It was about 10:30 pm at this point. Megan told me later that she never saw me move so fast! The water felt great! They call the affect the “aqua-dural” because it definitely lessens the pain. I was still having back labor but it was more manageable in the tub. Robert, once he returned from eating the Whataburger that my mom and Nicole had brought him, sat on one side of the tub and held my hand, while either Megan or Katherine sat on the other side holding my other hand. When I had contractions, they encouraged me to push on them with my hands and to keep my legs relaxed. At this point, I was in transition, the most painful part of labor when the baby is descending through the birth canal. Every 15 minutes or so, they would use the Doppler to check the baby’s heart rate and each time they would have to go lower down my abdomen to find it… we were making progress! I remember multiple contractions that had double peaks. I also remember praying that God would give me a little longer break between a couple contractions to allow me to rest; He was faithful to my request. At one point, Robert said “you haven’t had a contraction in a while”; I had no extra energy to tell him that was a good thing, so I just slapped his hand, as to say “be quiet!”. During transition, the student midwife, Caroline, arrived; she was great support, telling me I was doing a great job and giving lots of encouragement. Encouragement and support are a must to progress successfully through natural childbirth, and I had a lot of both from Robert, Megan, Katherine, and Caroline.
At some point when I mustered enough extra energy between contractions, I asked Katherine when I could start pushing. She said it was up to me, but to start out pushing lightly. On the next contraction, I pushed and then continued to push on most of the successive contractions. After a number of pushes, the bag of water bulged out. Everyone got excited and they showed me in the mirror. It looked and felt like a balloon partially blown up. With some more pushes, the baby’s head was crowning and the bag of water was still intact. At some point, in the next couple of pushes, my water started leaking, at which point they saw that there was meconium (baby’s 1st bowel movement) in the water, so Caroline tore the bag of water open. It was ~1:20 am. With the next number of contractions, the baby’s head continued to move out. At some point, I asked how hard I should be pushing, to which the midwives said I should push until I felt burning. I asked this at the perfect time because I felt the burn on the next contraction, so I simply said “burn” and Caroline helped me breathe like I was blowing out birthday cake candles, which curbed my pushing. By doing this, they were helping me to stretch the perineum and prevent tearing. So, I handled the next bunch of contractions in much the same way. Then, I mustered the energy to ask the midwives if they thought I could push the baby out on the next contraction; they said it would probably be a few more. Well, the next contraction came, I pushed hard, and I simply couldn’t stop pushing and here came Anna at 1:38am! In a very short period of time, Anna’s head and shoulders came out, Robert caught her, Caroline discovered the cord was wrapped pretty tightly around her neck, Caroline pulled Anna up and towards me, unwrapped the cord, and then her bottom and legs came out. To this day, I do not remember any pain when she was born; thank God for all the endorphins! Robert then moved her up to lie on my chest! This all happened so quickly that both Robert and I were a bit
shocked! The look on Robert’s face was pure amazement and I held Anna in awe, a bit bewildered by how quick everything went at the end and by the fact that she was in my arms. Wow! How amazing! It was an hour and 8 minutes from when I started pushing lightly to when Anna was born, but I only actively pushed for 25 minutes. I give the credit for this to the pitchers of red raspberry leaf tea I drank at the end of my pregnancy.
Anna looking up at me:
While the umbilical cord pulsated, giving Anna just the right amount of blood to start life, I held her on my chest amazed and astonished. She was so alert! She looked up at me like “Hi Mommy, I’m here!”. It was so amazing. When the cord was done pulsating, Robert cut it. Then, Katherine picked Anna up, wrapped her in a towel, and gave her to Robert. I then had to deliver the placenta, which was obviously no big deal after birthing a baby! By the time the placenta came, the tub had been emptied, and I sat there shaking, not because I was cold but because of all the hormones. Katherine and Caroline showed me the placenta, which looked to me like red egg-foo-young. Caroline asked if I drank a lot of milk during my pregnancy (yes) b/c there were calcium deposits in it.
From this point until we got home, I was wide awake! I got out of the tub and made my way to the bed, where Anna and I made our first attempt at breastfeeding. She did a great job; it just amazes me how instinctual this is to a baby. While I was nursing her, I had to choose what I wanted for an early breakfast; before the birthing center will let a new mom leave, she must have eaten a meal. IHOP is just up the road and the sound of pancakes was enticing; it took me a minute to decide between regular, whole grain nut, and chocolate chip. I went with the regular pancakes, some eggs with cheese, and sausage with chocolate milk. Robert placed the order and then drove up the road to pick it up while Anna continued to nurse. When Robert returned, I tried my first attempt at multitasking while nursing; it wasn’t that easy, so thankfully Sally (the birth assistant) helped me out by cutting up my food. Once I finished eating and Anna finished nursing, the midwives returned to do Anna’s newborn screening. Before they weighed her, they guessed that she weighed around 7 lbs, so when they put her on the scale and it read 8 lbs 8 oz, they were shocked! She was measured to be 20.5” long. They did her footprints, checked her eyes, etc.; she was rated as an 8 – 9 on the APGAR scale. Caroline listened to her heart for a while and did not hear the arrhythmia, but then later Katherine listened and heard a few irregular beats. Thus, they told us to be sure to see the pediatrician that day. Based on the creases on the bottom of her feet, the midwives determined her gestational age to be 41+ weeks, which means she was truly “late” based on her conception / due date. When Caroline gave her the vitamin K shot, she didn’t even fuss a little. What a great baby! Robert was concerned about the ridges on Anna’s head, but the midwives said this was normal – just her skull bones overlapping to allow her to pass through the birth canal. Her head was perfectly round by the next day. The poor thing did have some nice bruises on the back of her head, likely from hitting my pelvic bone as she made her way out. They went away within a few days.
Anna in the bath:
After Anna’s exam, the midwives stitched me up. I had a 2nd degree tear, but nothing horrible. I was still wide awake and “high” on the endorphins; I was talking to the midwives and birth assistant about this book called “Princess” I had been reading while Robert dozed while holding Anna and laying on the bed. When they finished stitching me up, Anna and I took an herbal sitz bath together. Sally told me to put Anna’s ears under the water, but obviously keep her eyes, nose, and mouth out of the water, as this would simulate the noises in the womb. Anna seemed to enjoy that. Once we finished the bath, Robert dressed Anna. I used the restroom and got dressed. At this point, we were ready to go home, so Robert put Anna in her car seat and loaded the car. I slowly walked out to the common area while Robert finished up and then slowly walked to the car.
Daddy dressing Anna:
By this time, Mom had called our cells, but we were too busy to answer. When we arrived home, Robert went inside to get my mom and she came out into the driveway to meet her granddaughter! It was SO nice to be home already; I was really glad I didn’t have to stay somewhere like a hospital for a number of days! Sally told Robert and I that we should all nap for 3 hours once we got home… well, that didn’t happen. Due to Anna still having a heart arrhythmia, we wanted to take her to the pediatrician first thing. So, while we waited for the doctor’s office to open, Robert called some people to tell them of Anna’s birth and Anna and I just hung out in the glider. We then headed to the doctor’s office for a 9am appointment. By this point, I was moving pretty slowly, but I was still able to walk just fine. We ended up waiting for an hour, which meant that both Robert and I were starving! Robert raided some vending machines and brought me a Sprite, cereal bar, and a Milky Way – real healthy way to start my breastfeeding diet, but I needed something. Finally, the doctor examined Anna and didn’t hear the arrhythmia, but as a precaution, wrote us orders to go to the hospital for an EKG. After going home so I could use the restroom (at that point, I obviously couldn’t just walk into a public restroom to go – I needed all the right supplies that were at home) and nurse Anna, Mom, Nicole, Robert Anna, and I headed to the hospital for Anna’s EKG. It turned out that the office that the doctor told us to go to couldn’t do a newborn EKG, so we had to go into the actual hospital. By this point, I was in no mood to walk, especially since my sandal busted on the way in, so a nice gentleman pushed me over there in a wheelchair. Our poor little girl then had to have 12 super-sticky sensors put on her little chest for the EKG, but again she amazed us when she didn’t even whimper when the woman pulled them off. Later that day, the pediatrician called with the good news that there was no more arrhythmia and our baby girl was perfectly healthy! Praise God!
Wanting to announce Anna’s arrival, when we got home I spent some time with my baby in my arms at the computer sending e-mails. Robert snoozed for about an hour. As night time approached, Anna was getting fussy and by midnight or 1am (at which point I’d been up for ~42 hours straight), Robert kindly took Anna and held her in his arms in the La-Z-Boy in our room so I could get some sleep.
Wow! What a whirlwind and a blessing! As I’ve already said, Robert and I are very happy with the natural childbirth experience and our time at Nativiti! It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it! My recovery has been good. I’ve only taken 4 Ibuprofen for the pain – proof that God designed our bodies for the task of birthing babies!
You may be wondering… do I believe I went into labor due to the eggplant parmigiana? No. I believe it was simply Anna’s time to arrive. However, when you are over a week past due, you would try anything that gives you hope, too! If you find yourself in this predicament, go to http://www.scalinis.com/Bambino.htm and try it for yourself.