Jillian’s Birth Story

Three months before Stephen and I got married in 2003, I began my first round of birth control because supposedly it takes that long to be completely effective. I was still finishing up college and had decided that I was in no way ready for a baby. I had watched several friends get pregnant on their honeymoons and it scared the crap out of me. Actually, it scared me so much that I insisted that we didn’t rely solely on the birth control pills for the first few months just to be sure.

I don’t know why I was so scared. Up until that point I had always wanted to be a mom. I even had a few names picked out: Aubrey (my dad always said he wanted to name me that), Kaziah (the name of one of the daughters from the end of the book of Job), Samuel and Patrick (both names that I just liked). A huge part of it was that I wanted to make sure I finished school. I also really wanted to work. I wanted to find a job that I loved doing and make all that schooling count for something. It was partly family expectations and partly my own. Growing up most my life in Bakersfield there was just this stigma of getting stuck here and marrying the first guy you fell for.

I think in a lot of ways this ambition to succeed coupled with the birth control really changed a lot of my goals and wants around. Looking back, I’m not so sure messing with all your hormones is such a good idea, especially in the long term. The scientists and drug companies can say whatever they want about the safety and benefits, but I know I was a completely different person while I was on that stuff even though I didn’t really realize it until after it was out of my system. What should have been a big red flag change though was that I started saying and feeling that I absolutely didn’t ever want to have kids.

I stayed on birth control until Oct. 2006 when the stuff started having a noticeable physical change and impact on my body. I was now on “the Patch” (OrthoEvra) and I started hearing about all these blood clot cases which really freaked me out. I’m not sure if they were in my head or not, but I started getting these weird pains in my calves and thighs. After reading all those stories I was convinced that I was developing a blood clot.

The final straw though was that somehow my body got completely confused by the birth control. For those of you that don’t know about how the stuff is supposed to work this is the basics: you take the hormones for 3 weeks (in my case this was done by applying a patch to my abdomen once a week) and then you take a placebo or nothing at all for 1 week so your body has a period (this was done by using no patch for that week). Well, what I mean by confused was that somehow my body started thinking that when I had the patch on that was the placebo week and the placebo week was the hormone week. Let me tell you, 3 week periods are not fun even if they are “milder” or whatever else the manufacturer says. I went through two cycles like this and just couldn’t handle it anymore so I went cold turkey on the stuff.

At this point I still didn’t think I was “ready” to have kids even though I had basically met all my other life goals for success: I was living my dream as a writer, I got two Kern Press Club awards for my writing, and I got promoted to editor all in a matter of a few months.

The longer I was off the birth control the more I started to notice how different I felt and acted now that I was no longer on it. By Dec. 2006 I was determined to have a baby.

Us at Stephen’s cousin’s wedding Dec. 30, 2006. This was the day I was sure about my decision and told Stephen I was finally ready to have kids.

My parents never really had any trouble (as far as I know) getting pregnant. I think that’s sort of how they wound up with four of us. So I just figured it would be the same for me. I assumed I had inherited all those genes that had made having me and my sisters so easy. So when I didn’t have a period in January and February of 2007 I thought I had to be pregnant and the negative home pregnancy tests were just wrong.

I went to go see my new OB/GYN and he confirmed that I was not pregnant. I was a little disappointed, but also freaked out that my body was going to be permanently screwed over because of birth control. I explained that I really wanted a baby, like NOW! So even though we hadn’t been “trying” for a year like most OBs require, he immediately started me on a combination of Prevera and Clomid. He was sure I would get pregnant right away. The drugs were supposed to get my body back into a regular 28 day cycle and I was supposed to start ovulating. A blog I read explained this whole process way better than I possibly could:

“Oh, the days of fertility drugs: they are days of monotonously charting basal body temperatures, peeing on sticks and in cups, thinking of the calendar in terms of Days 1-28, having sex when you are not in the mood and having to abstain when you are. The first cycle made me hyper hormonal–mood-swingy, temper-tantrummy, hot-flashy, and didn’t work for crap. My ovaries laughed in the face of 50 miligrams. “Ha ha,” they said; “you’ll have to come up with something a leetle more potent than that to get us off the couch. Pansies!” So we turned up the heat: 100 miligrams, the do-or-die-dosage. More accurately, the do-or-be-forced-to-start-thinking-how-far-into-debt-you’re-willing-to-go-for-an-ankle-biter dosage.”

The first problem was that even though the drugs were supposed to make my cycles 28 days, they did not (I now know mine are typically around 40-50 days long). I’m not sure how many rounds of Clomid we did, but none of them worked. Or so I thought.

In August 2007, I had what I thought was an early case of the flu combined with a really heavy, clotty period (talk about a miserable experience!). I went in to see my regular doctor to get some kind of treatment for this flu-like bug I had. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me except that my liver enzyme levels were abnormally high. He started looking into liver disease, fatty liver, Krohn’s disease and a billion other scary sounding things. I remember it was August that it happened because we were only a few weeks away from moving into our new house and I remember calling Stephen from the guest room at his parents’ in hysterics because of what the doctor had said and given me as possibilities for why my liver enzymes were so high. I honestly thought I was going to die at that point.

I even got sent to a GI doctor for a consult. None of them could figure out what was wrong with me. I had taken a pregnancy test a few weeks before and misread it. I thought it was negative, but apparently even a very faint second line is a positive test. Oh the things they don’t teach you in sex education class!

In late November, after I saw a picture of a friend’s positive test that looked just like mine, I looked up the symptoms of miscarriage (which include flu-like symptoms, a heavy and clotted period, and elevated liver enzyme levels) and I put it all together.

Well anyway by the time I figured all this out towards the end of December, we had already pretty much given up on the whole having kids thing. We had done our last round of Clomid/Prevera in November without success. Adoption locally seemed too heartbreaking after hearing our friends’ stories, adoption internationally seemed out of our price range, as did getting a referral from my OB to the local fertility specialist for in-vitro fertilization, which wasn’t guaranteed to work anyway.

So it was decided that I would be a career woman and since I wasn’t happy as an editor (I really missed writing) and all the doors for writing opportunities seemed to be closing, I decided I was going to follow my other passion: the law. I applied and got accepted to The George Washington University’s masters in paralegal studies program. I agreed to continue being an editor until the end of January and began applying for even the lowest of low jobs at local law firms.

My offer of admission from The George Washington University.

Even though the baby thing seemed a lost cause I continued to chart my cycles because I liked knowing what was going on with my body a little better.

When I started feeling tired during Christmas, I didn’t really think anything of it. I just figured it was from all the stuff we had been doing that month and the stress of changing careers. When I started feeling like I had the stomach flu at New Years I again didn’t think anything of it, just figured I had picked it up from one of the many family members and friends we had been in contact with over the holidays. When I woke up on Jan. 18 and realized that 54 days was a long cycle even for me, I still didn’t think I’d get a positive test that morning. I figured that yet again I was being impatient and that I would start my period any day now. I used the last pregnancy test I had thinking, “This is a stupid waste of a test. There’s no way I’m pregnant.”

And then it was positive. I called Stephen immediately. He was on his way to breakfast with a friend. He made me repeat myself three times. We were both in shock. I called my OB’s new medical group he had joined to set up my first prenatal appointment. The receptionist was really rude and said that they couldn’t give me an appointment until I had a positive blood test. So she called in the blood work request and I did that during my lunch hour. The lab gave me a little card with a bar code I could call to get the results. I called that night and the blood test was positive too.

A week after that positive test the morning sickness really hit and it hit hard. I couldn’t keep anything down and I was vomiting up to 20 times a day. I didn’t make it into work the last week I was supposed to and I had to drop out of the masters program. We didn’t plan on telling anyone until the first trimester was over, but I was so sick that we just had to tell people what was going on. It was really frustrating because people would just tell me to “keep trying”, drink Gatorade and eat crackers. None of that stuff helped at all.

Another frustrating thing was that it was impossible to get through to my OB’s office. On more than one occasion I was simply told that they were dealing with more important problems than mine. Meanwhile I was throwing up everything I tried to put in my body and rapidly losing weight. Some days it was so bad that I honestly prayed for a miscarriage so I wouldn’t have to be pregnant anymore. I still wanted a baby, but the morning sickness seemed unbearable. I lost 22lbs during the first trimester. From that low point I gained back 33 lbs, for an overall pregnancy weight gain of 11lbs. It seemed like the only way I could get their attention about how bad things really were was to bypass the receptionist phone bank and show up to the waiting area all pale and sickly with my puke bucket in hand.

Size 14 pants that had been tight on me pre-pregnancy.

At one point I was going to the ER at least once a week to get IVs for dehydration. Those experiences were not pleasant. My OB’s office wanted me to go to the ER all the way across town because that is the hospital they worked with. It was a 30 minute car ride each way and I usually puked the whole way. One time they were so full because it was flu season that I had to sit on a bench in the hallway to get my IV. I was freezing and I just wanted to go home. I was told by more than one nurse there that I just needed to eat crackers first thing in the morning when I got up. It was so annoying.

Hospital ID bracelet after one of my many ER trips

After several trips to the ER, I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum and finally put on home IV therapy. I definitely started to feel better when I was hydrated. A couple weeks later I had a PICC line placed because I had no more good veins for the temporary IVs to be placed.

The PICC line insertion site. I still have a little round, pink scar on my arm from it.

During this time we had some really great family members and friends that helped us out. My sister-in-law came up one weekend and cooked us a bunch of food and helped around the house. Lots of people from the church brought over meals. Our pastor’s wife also came over one day and cleaned our house. It really made a difference in my day when someone would come over, even if it was just for a few minutes. If I ever hear about another person I know going through severe morning sickness I want to make a point of helping them out.

I started to feel much better around 14-15 weeks and got my PICC line removed. At this point my OB also diagnosed me with pregnancy induced hyperthyroidism and started me on medication for it. I was still throwing up from time to time, but I even felt good enough to go on a week long vacation to the Pacific Northwest to visit my sister and some friends.

When we got back I started doing research on pregnancy and birth so I could start writing my birth plan. We also found out that we were having a girl.

Ultrasound taken May 7 clearly depicting that there are no boy parts between the legs.

I came up with a birth plan and took it to my next prenatal exam. My OB told me that having an IV and pushing on my back were non-negotiable. So after reading The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, I started to seriously consider having our baby at home. Ina May’s book was pivotal in helping me to see that my body was not a failure.

I said something about these considerations on my blog and was surprised to receive several recommendations for local midwives. Stephen was completely against the home birth idea when I mentioned it to him. He thought it was dangerous and was given confirmation in his beliefs by the many medical professionals that he worked with.

Despite this, I decided to make an appointment for us to meet with one of the local licensed midwives in Bakersfield. My first choice, based on two recommendations, was full for September so she recommended another midwife that had also been recommended to me by another friend.

Even though I was all worked up about this idea and kept saying to Stephen that I had research to back me up, I knew that he was not on board at all. In some ways, right after I made the appointment with The midwife, I figured that the meeting would just be a waste of her time. I knew it would take a lot to convince him that this was safe and not weird.

The weekend prior to that appointment, My sister-in-law and her husband came up for a visit. They brought The Business of Being Born with them and we watched it. After the movie we had a little discussion with them about it and then we talked a little more by ourselves before going to sleep that night. Stephen said he had a more open mind about meeting with The midwife. The movie made a big impact and was a perfect way to get a condensed version of the information into his head without requiring him to read a book. The next day he told me that the movie got him thinking of some good questions to ask the midwife and that he was glad we were exploring other options.

The meeting went so well. She stayed and talked with us for about 2 hours. It was the longest I’d ever gotten to sit down and talk with anyone about my pregnancy, birth plans, etc. I think the most I’d gotten from my OB was about 5 minutes and nurses even less. She wanted to hear all about my hyperemesis and the thyroid stuff. I had talked about it a little on the phone with her before the appointment and since our phone conversation she had done research on both problems and was able to tell me what she had found. She told us about her experience, why she became a midwife, where she went to school and tons of other stuff she had witnessed as a midwife. She answered questions before we could even ask them and gave us information we didn’t even think to ask for.

The whole experience was really great. We both really liked her and felt so comfortable with her. After the meeting I pretty much had my mind made up that this is what I wanted to do, that it would be completely safe and she was the right person to be with me through the whole process. It is one of the first times that I really felt cared for during the pregnancy by someone outside of my friends or family. After the meeting, Stephen said that having a home birth definitely deserved serious consideration and that if I already had my mind made up either way that he would support me with what I wanted to do. That was a huge change in his position.

I was completely sure about my decision at about 25 weeks. Because of the difficult first trimester that I had and the hyperthyroidism, I decided to continue seeing my OB and my midwife also arranged for the other midwife I’d wanted as my first choice to also attend my birth as backup. When we told him of our decision to have a home birth, my OB agreed to continue to see me even though he had serious concerns about it. In retrospect, I wish I had switched to my midwife’s backup OB at this point because the next 17 weeks of haggling were just more stress that I really didn’t need. At each appointment after we told him of our decision he tried to give me every crazy excuse for why I couldn’t have a home birth. He even suggested that the baby could get E-Coli , which is now an inside joke between my midwife and us. Just saying “E-Coli” can send us into giggles.

As the weeks progressed, I watched Stephen get more and more on board with the idea of having the baby at home. At first I thought he was still against it, but going along with things to make me happy. The process really helped him learn to trust God and the way He designed things to work. It finally got to the point where I was no longer afraid to bring Stephen with me to OB appointments where I thought he would scare Stephen out of the home birth. Stephen became my greatest advocate for the birth that I wanted.

Maternity photos taken by my friend, Marissa Mercado.

After being told countless times that I would go into labor early because of the hyperthyroidism, my due date of Sept. 13 came and went uneventfully. I was having plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions, but they just weren’t amounting to anything. I tried nearly every old wives tale for inducing labor except castor oil because I was too chicken after all the tummy troubles I’d experienced for months and months. A did buy some, but a bout of morning sickness the night before I was going to try it scared me off.

I had an appointment with my midwife on Friday, Sept. 19, the day before I hit 41 weeks. She checked me and I was still only 2cm dilated. She applied some evening primrose oil to my cervix and irritated it a little in the hopes that it would start labor. She wanted me to make an appointment with my OB to have an NST done the following week. I had skipped my last scheduled appointment with him at 39 weeks because he was already talking about inducing. I was not looking forward to going back.

My 41 week belly shot taken Sept. 19.

I sucked it up, made the appointment and went in on Tuesday, Sept. 23. My appointment was about two-and-a-half hours long. I thought it would never end! He didn’t even bring up the fact that I didn’t show up to the last appointment. At first he wanted to start an induction that afternoon or Wednesday morning with Cervadil. I got a big long speech about the risks of meconium, aspiration and pneumonia. I’m pretty sure he thought I’d given up on the whole home birth idea at this point and “came to the light”.

Luckily, my OB forgot his doppler so he decided to step out for a couple minutes which gave Stephen and I an opportunity to talk. I made it clear that there was no way I wanted to be induced yet. So when my OB came back in Stephen brought up the fact that there are other OBs that let patients go to 42 weeks. My OB said that wasn’t really “the trend” anymore and that most now recommend 41.5 “because in 1 out of 10 cases it is absolutely necessary and even if it is overkill for those other 9 we don’t know when that 1 is going to be.”

We told my OB about how I’d been having a lot of false labor, that I’d lost some of my mucus plug and that I’d been feeling really crampy which told us that my body was getting ready and doing what it was supposed to do. We told him we wanted to go as long as possible letting things progress naturally. So Stephen asked my OB if he’d be open to letting me go until Friday before beginning an induction. My OB said that depending on the results from a cervical check, an NST and an ultrasound he might be open to that.

So first my OB listened to the heartbeat with the Doppler. Luckily Jillian was in quite the feisty mood so she was moving around. He said the fact that she was moving around a lot meant there was plenty of amniotic fluid.

Then he did a cervical check. I noticed that this time it was a lot rougher and more painful and that it went a lot deeper. When I winced and whimpered from the pain, he said he was just checking out my pelvis. After it was done he said that I was still 2cm and “soft”. He then told me that my pelvis was an odd shape and it might give me trouble during childbirth.

My OB told me that I’d have my NST and then the ultrasound and that I needed to drink 32 ounces of water before the ultrasound. I wasn’t sure when that was supposed to happen because both things were back to back and I didn’t have that much water with me.

So we went to a different area of the practice for our NST. They got a good reading with plenty of information. So we passed that test. The nurse monitoring the NST told me that I didn’t need to drink that much water, that there was no way I’d be able to hold in that much water and not to worry about it, she’d speak to my doctor. Thank goodness.

Next up was the ultrasound. They actually got me in there pretty quick which was surprising to me. One time when I’d actually had a scheduled ultrasound appointment I think I was waiting there for at least an hour, if not more. This time they were squeezing us in. The ultrasound tech said Jillian got good marks on the biophysical. She said I had good amniotic fluid, but it was a little low. So next up was back to my OB’s office.

As we walked back to the office I told Stephen that there was a lot of debate surrounding the whole low amniotic fluid thing and that I really hadn’t had a huge amount to drink that day so that could be a contributing factor.

So we got back to my OB’s office knowing that basically everything was healthy and OK. He told us that he was going out of town on Friday and another OB from the group which we had seen at one point earlier in the pregnancy, would be the on call doctor that weekend. I said that was fine with us. Well then he started trying to convince us to have the Cervadil placed Thursday afternoon so that he could catch the baby on Friday before he left for the trip. I said no and that I wanted to wait until Friday. My blood was nearly boiling at the thought of scheduling my daughter’s birth around his vacation schedule!

So after some pleading, we all agreed to Friday morning. Then he did another ultrasound to see how big she was. According that ultrasound she was 7.5 lbs.

After the appointment I called my midwife and told her about everything. She said from what I described that my OB stripped my membranes without telling me when he did the cervical check. It made me a little mad that he did that without telling me. My midwife said that at this point in the game that it was fine and it might send me into labor on my own which would be good anyway. I could tell she was kind of mad for me about the membrane stripping though. She was like, “You know what? Good! I hope it backfires on him and you go into labor on your own so you don’t have to have your baby in the hospital!” She also said we would talk on Thursday about some things that we could do if I hadn’t gone into labor yet.

That night Stephen and I decided we just needed to get out and do something to take our minds off of everything. We’d been given a gift card to BJs for our anniversary. So we decided to go there. I had fettuccine alfredo and Stephen had a chicken sandwich. We watched the Dodger game on the big screens. Our plan was to go to dinner and then walk around the nearby park to see if we could get things going. Well, I started having contractions during dinner. These contractions were different than the other ones I’d been having off and on in the weeks prior. They hurt more. It hurt just to walk to the bathroom from our table and out to the car.

I’d feel a lot of pelvic pressure and cramps. With my hands on my belly I could feel it tighten and lift up. Sometimes the pressure and cramps still weren’t going away in between so the only way I could tell if the contraction was over was to keep prodding at my belly until I was sure that it was soft again.

When we got home I started trying to time them, but they didn’t really have any kind of pattern.

Since it was taking a lot of concentration to even know when I was having a contraction I decided to ignore it as best I could. I was also dealing with hive outbreaks because it was almond harvesting season, so I just took some Benadryl and fell asleep.

I woke back up a little after midnight kind of feeling like I was on fire because the Benadryl had worn off and the hives were massive.

I was still having contractions, but the hives made it pretty easy to ignore them. I apologized to Stephen who was sleeping and started drawing up an oatmeal bath which I soaked in for an hour. By the time the bath was over it was safe for another dose of Benadryl which I took.

I woke up several times throughout the night to put on skin creams, take more Benadryl and use ice packs to soothe the hives. I was still having contractions whenever I’d wake.

The morning of Wednesday, Sept. 24 I noticed that the contractions were getting more intense, but I was still so itchy that I really couldn’t focus on them. I could definitely tell though when one began and ended easily.

I headed to the grocery store to get some more oatmeal and some breakfast goods. I felt several contractions in the store. I noticed the hives were subsiding a bit except on my face. My face was just all red and swollen like I had a sunburn.

I got home and ground up some of the oatmeal in my food processor to make a fine powder which I then mixed into a paste and did kind of a spa type body mask with. I was still having contractions, but not really paying attention to them. I took a shower to wash off all the oatmeal paste and in the shower I really started to notice my contractions more because I wasn’t feeling all itchy for once.

When I got out I decided to lay down for awhile and start timing them. They started out about 5-8 minutes apart and 1 minute long. I took a break from timing them for awhile and then resumed. This time they were 1-3 minutes apart and about 40 seconds long.

I called my midwife to give her a heads up and Stephen came home at lunch so I told him that I was still having contractions. I sent him back to work though because they were not so intense that I couldn’t think about anything else when they happened.

I decided to go on a walk to see if I could help things along. It was really weird. When I’d go walking before, I always got Braxton Hicks until my belly just got really hard and stayed that way for the rest of the walk. Well that happened, but I could tell I was still having “real” contractions on top of that. I could still feel the pelvic pressure coming and going even though my belly kind of stayed tight and hard the whole walk.

I wrote on my blog about what was going on because I knew so many people were checking in to see if I’d had the baby yet.

My sister-in-law called at around 3:30pm and things were definitely getting more intense as we talked. A couple times I had to just stop talking to her and concentrate on breathing. They were still irregular at this point though and not all of them were intense. By the time we’d finished our conversation I decided to call Stephen and have him come home.

Stephen came home between 4 and 4:30pm. I actually had him install our car seat as soon as he got there. Pretty silly of us not to already have it installed. I wanted it in there though so that if we did have to do an emergency transfer for some reason, we’d be able to transport her with no problems. Plus it gave him something to do so that I didn’t feel like I was being hovered over.

Things continued to get intense and Stephen called my midwife at some point. She came over and checked me at 7pm and I was 3cm, but she could stretch me to 4cm. She said that labor could still take awhile. I was laughing at her jokes and sometimes managing to be completely calm through a contraction which indicated I was not in active labor just yet. My contractions were also still irregularly spaced. So she told us to go about doing things normally, sleep when it was bedtime, get something to eat, etc. She left to go do a few errands and told us to keep her posted with my progress and to of course call if my water broke.

After she left we decided to try and go get something to eat. At this point it seriously hurt for me to walk during a contraction. I had one as we were heading out the door and just sort of flopped down on the floor of Jillian’s bedroom until it was over. I made it to the car and figured I could handle sitting in there until we could get to a drive thru. Well, we barely made it down the street when I could no longer tolerate the car ride. It hurt so bad. We just turned around and headed back to the house. I knew we had a frozen pot pie that Stephen could eat and I had leftover fettuccini from the night before.

So Stephen heated up our dinner while I sat on an exercise ball in our living room. I was able to eat a few bites, but started to feel a little nauseous and the contractions were just getting much, much more intense.

I went in our room to labor on our bed for a little while and next thing I knew my water had broken. It was about 8pm at this point. I was just laying there breathing through the contraction when I felt some major pressure, then like a bubble, the bubble popped and hot liquid was all over me. It completely shocked me. It was pretty gross feeling too. Stephen was still in the living room eating his dinner and I was just like, “uh, my water broke.”

Stephen called my midwife again and helped me make my way to the bathroom where I had a few more contractions on the toilet. My midwife asked him some questions about the fluid and warned that my contractions would get even more intense now that I’d lost my cushion. Since the water breakage happened on fabric it was kind of hard to tell, but from what we could see it was clear with a couple small chunks of vernix in it.

I switched between laboring in the tub, on the toilet, our bed and on the exercise ball until my midwife got there. I knew I was in transition at some point because I started shaking like crazy and I puked up the few bites of dinner I’d managed to consume earlier.

The most comfortable place at that point was actually the toilet and that was where I was still when my midwife arrived. I couldn’t stand the feeling of anything on me so I had no clothes on. Before she got there Stephen asked if I wanted to at least put on a sports bra, but I just said I didn’t care anymore and I didn’t want clothes. I thought it would bother me more because I tend to be pretty modest, but labor was so consuming that I didn’t really even notice.

I had to lean back so she could listen for the heartbeat with the Doppler which was really uncomfortable. After that I tried laboring in the tub again, but I just couldn’t get comfortable in there and the water wasn’t really helping much with the contractions. This was really disappointing to me after hearing so many times that warm water was supposed to be nature’s epidural.

I got out and sat on the exercise ball for a few minutes where she checked my vitals and listened to the heartbeat again with the Doppler. And then I felt like I was going to puke again. There wasn’t much in my stomach so it was mostly just a lot of dry heaving. It totally didn’t phase my midwife though, which was nice. She held the bowl for me and even grabbed the spit strand away when I was done.

I made my way back to the bed because that seemed like the most comfortable place. I’d also started feeling a lot of pressure at that point and like I kind of wanted to push. My midwife checked me at 9:50pm and I was already 8cm. The contractions were so unbelievably painful at this point. I must have screamed “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” about a zillion times. Several times it was really hard to remember to breathe and I remember one time where I almost felt like there was no way I could take a breath because the contraction was so intense. It helped me the most when Stephen would tell me that yes, I could breathe and tell me to take breaths in and out with him.

I was still feeling the need to push and sometimes I did a little during some of the contractions even though I wasn’t really supposed to yet. It was like I couldn’t control my body. My midwife checked me again at 10:40pm and I was 9.5cm. She had me switch sides so it would put pressure elsewhere and get that last lip of cervix to go. At 11pm I was fully dilated and really feeling the need to push. My midwife asked me if I wanted to get into a different position. I got into a more upright position because laying on my side to push didn’t really seem like it would be comfortable. Stephen and my midwife got a bunch of pillows to help with this and Stephen helped prop me up too. I did push a couple times once I was fully dilated, but my midwife said my active pushing phase was only about 18 minutes.

The pushing phase was really uncomfortable. It really hurt when Jillian would slide back after the contraction was over. I wanted to just keep on pushing the whole time so she wouldn’t slide back. One time my midwife said, “Are you still having a contraction?” When I told her that I wasn’t she said I needed to stop pushing and to only push during a contraction. She was really calm about it. I think I whinned about it hurting to stop when the baby slid back up. She said, “Remember, it’s two steps forward and one step back.” In between these contractions my legs were shaking and quivering like crazy. I remember kind of yelling, “I just want to stop shaking!” I also remember trying to close my legs up which she wouldn’t let me do.

When Jillian really started to crown it burned and burned and burned. They really weren’t kidding about that whole “ring of fire” thing. At one point Stephen got to see her head crowning and a little later my midwife told me I could touch the top of her head as she was coming out. It was kind of weird and wrinkly. I think it was only a couple pushes after that and she pretty much shot out of me at 11:28pm. Almost immediately my midwife handed her off to me and we were covered in towels.

The other midwife arrived about 2 minutes later to help with all the after stuff. My midwife said she normally wouldn’t have asked for backup with such a quickly progressing labor, but had her come because I was at a higher risk for postpartum hemmorage due to hyperthyroidism and Jillian was at a higher risk for needing resuscitation due to the medication I was on for the hyperthyroidism.

I delivered the placenta a few minutes later. It just felt like this really gooey blob slurping out of me.  Then Stephen cut the cord. My midwife was really great about getting Stephen involved with stuff. Sometime after this we all realized that we hadn’t made sure Jillian was actually a girl. So I checked really quick.

The other midwife was great too because she helped with the nursing part which I really didn’t even know what to do about. I’d spent so much time researching birth and pregnancy that by the time it came to read about breastfeeding I was pretty much over the idea of doing any more research and wanting to just read a novel already (which I did, quite a few actually). She helped coach me to get my latch going. She also spoon fed me a bowl of Cheerios while I was breastfeeding which was pretty awesome.

During this time my midwife gave Stephen a guided tour of the placenta as she examined it to make sure there were no pieces broken off.

Jillian got a good nurse in and then I passed her off to Stephen so the midwives could take a look at the damage. I was still feeling the burning so I figured there was some. I had one first degree tear that it was debatable whether or not I could get stitches. After they gave me all the pros and cons I decided against the stitches and opted for 7 days bedrest instead. There was also another place that they said was more like a gash and really no way to sew up. That part really, really burned. Since there didn’t wind up being any post birth problems, the other took off some time after that.

My midwife had me get into an herby bath to help soothe things. Jillian joined me a few minutes later after being weighed by Stephen. She weighed 7lbs 4oz. She had made a major poopy mess in her receiving blankets so she really needed some cleaning up. We stayed in the bath until the water got pretty tepid. Then Stephen took Jillian and my midwife helped get me all cleaned up, dried off and ready for bed.

My midwife did a newborn exam on Jillian and she got a perfect on her Apgar scores. Then Stephen put on her first diaper which she promptly soiled. Then a second diaper and dressed her for bed. My midwife showed him how to swaddle her and then they handed her to me. We curled up together ready for a good sleep.

Us after everything was over, just before heading to bed.

My midwife kissed me on my head and said she wished all first time moms could be like me, that I should be very proud and that I was labor pro before she headed home. I think it was about 4am at this point. Finally, we went to bed. Well except that I really couldn’t sleep. The adrenaline finally wore off and I went to sleep some time the next afternoon.

It was a long journey, but I am so glad for the miracle that God has blessed us with in Jillian. I love being a mom more than I could have ever known I would. In some ways I am glad I went through the pregnancy I did as well because it taught me to let down my pride and be selfless, two qualities I need every single day now that I am a mom. I’m so thankful for my midwife who took me on and helped me to have the natural home birth that I wanted. I know of no OB or pediatrician that would take middle of the night phone calls personally to help me figure out if my contractions were real or not, encourage me through nursing difficulties, let me know what to do about a blocked tear duct, and all the other sometimes silly, sometimes desperate and sometimes normal things I encountered both as a pregnant woman and then as a new mom. This whole process opened me up to a new philosophy of care and I am so glad I got to experience it. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to impart that kind of care to someone else one day.

Bean at 10 weeks old, already a homebirth advocate. 🙂