Elyse’s birth story
Before I was pregnant I wanted to have my baby at a birth center rather than a hospital. Of my friends and family who had hospital births, most of them ended up with c-sections, which I didn’t want if at all possible. I watched the documentary, “The Business of Being Born” and learned about the cycle of drugs hospitals often use and the doctor-centered approach to things rather than the woman- or baby-centered approach. One of my mom-friends recommend The Birthing Inn to have an unmedicated birth, which I believe is better for the baby although it is harder for the mom. I don’t look down on women who use drugs or surgery, it’s just not what I wanted. Everyone has their opinion about what’s best and you definitely hear a lot of them when you’re pregnant. I listened to birth stories from women at hospitals and birth centers to make an informed decision.
So skip ahead 9 months to my due date, Wednesday, August 31st. I stopped working the Friday before to get ready for the baby by finishing some house projects and getting organized. The due date came and went. My midwife, Susan, swept my membranes to try to jump start things on my due date and a few days later. I ate pineapple and spicy food, walked, and bounced on a yoga ball – none of which seemed to work.
Then, six days after my due date (a day after Labor Day) I woke up to an email from Susan saying she would be out of town that weekend and asked if I wanted to try more natural induction methods. Yes I did! I was trying really hard to be patient, but I just wanted my little girl to be here and me to not be pregnant anymore. Plus, I wanted the woman I had worked with for the past seven months to deliver my baby!
I met with Susan again for the membrane sweep and she gave me a recipe for a castor oil shake. The idea is the mixture will get your bowels moving which in turn will start contractions. I took the shake at 4pm and by 7pm I started feeling contractions. At first I didn’t know what I was actually feeling for, but the real ones were painful and my stomach was really tight. I started timing them and talked to Susan every hour. I also called my doula, Lesheana of the Little Dreamers Den, to give her a heads up and she came to my house around 10pm. We called our moms and they arrived about the same time as my doula.
At 11pm, we met Susan at The Birthing Inn and got settled in the first room. Tyler and I each had a bag of stuff, including clothes, food, and pain management tools. We didn’t use a lot of what we brought.
I put on the labor gown/robe Tyler bought me and Susan checked my progress. I was 3 cm dilated, but really hoped I was farther than that. To get her moving down and in the right position, I started doing labor circuits as instructed by my doula, Lesheana. I labored in the tub, in the shower, on the toilet, up the stairs, during squats, and while doing lunges. The two of them took turns applying pressure to my hips and massaging me to help ease the pain. Halfway through the night, I had dilated another centimeter so Susan and Lesheana suggested Tyler and I take a nap to rest before the work started again.
It was basically impossible to sleep through the contractions. Our room had a queen size bed with bars on the headboard. I would squeeze the bars through the contractions and then rest. It was very painful. I’m the type of person who needs 7-8 hours of sleep so I was hoping I could rest although it didn’t happen. Next time, I’ll try to take Susan’s advice and sleep when I start feeling contractions. This time, I was so excited and figured I was farther along.
When I first arrived at TBI, Susan guessed I would have my baby by 6am. Once that time passed, I ignored the clock. Time didn’t seem to exist. It was really strange how my body took over and I was in my own world. My birth team made sure I ate and drank to keep my energy up in the morning. I ate grapes, watermelon, cheese, and crackers. I drank water and coconut water. Unlike the hospital, you can eat and drink at a birthing center. I thought I would have eaten and drank more, but I was so preoccupied that I forgot about it. I’m glad they forced me because I needed the energy.
My favorite place to labor was the tub. I was naked (originally I thought I’d wear a swimsuit) and would just lean back and relax between contractions. Tyler was fully clothed sitting on the edge of the tub. When a contraction came, I would sit up on my haunches, put my elbows on Tyler’s knees, and squeeze his shirt by his waist. Later, he told me I was hurting him and I ripped his shirt. Whoops! I don’t feel bad.
My least favorite place to labor was on the toilet. I would sit on it backwards and hold the bar attached to the wall. For some reason this made my contractions more intense. The squats and lunges were hard, but I liked that it kept me busy. I felt like those were the only “stations” where I kept my eyes open. I think my eyes were closed 10 of the 12 hours I was at The Birthing Inn.
When Susan measured me and I was fully dilated. It was time to push. I mostly pushed while laying on the bed. Originally, I thought I would push in a position that used gravity more like the toilet. Tyler told me I pushed for about three hours, but I had no concept of time. I could only hear him, Susan, and Lesheana although many people were in and out of the room.
“One more push” was something I heard probably 20 times. It stopped being motivating! Elyse was stuck. I was lying on my back with my legs bent and my knees up my ears. I held on to my hamstrings and kept pushing, but I didn’t seem to make any progress. I looked up at Tyler at one point and told him I couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t crying – I didn’t cry at all the whole time – but my voice sounded like it. I think that was the hardest point for him since he couldn’t do anything to help me and it looked so painful.
Then Susan asked if I wanted an episiotomy while pretending her hands were scissors cutting the air. I said yes although early in my pregnancy this was what I really didn’t want to happen because I was scared of the long-term pain. She asked me a second time to confirm and then snipped. I didn’t feel it and pushed again by holding my breath rather than yelling with the pain like I did in the beginning. I also received an IV to keep my energy up.
I put my hand over the opening and felt her head crowning. This gave me encouragement that I was close, but I also knew her head kept sucking in, which delayed progress. I think I pushed another 15 minutes after the episiotomy. When she finally arrived I thought I pushed for an hour. Finally, she burst through at 11:41 am and I was exhausted.
I laid back on the bed, overwhelmed. Tyler said her head was cone-shaped and swollen at first. This made sense since her head kept ramming against me with every push. I looked at her briefly and then closed my eyes again. I don’t remember her even looking purple in the photo above.
With umbilical cord still intact, Elyse was placed on my stomach. She did the breast crawl, which was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever witnessed. I learned about it in my birth class. She instinctively knew to crawl up my body, from my belly to my breast, to nurse. It sounds unbelievable that a brand new baby could crawl or know where the food source is, but they do in an unmedicated birth. Another benefit of the breast crawl is that the baby does a fundal massage. My midwife also massaged it a little more. This was a little painful.
We opted for delayed cord cutting and Tyler got to do the honors. He didn’t plan on cutting it, but decided to in the moment. I’m really glad he did.
I breastfed her at The Birthing Inn with the help of Susan, while the midwife assistants cleaned and organized the room. I was also stitched up with anesthesia. At this point, our moms had been there for over 12 hours and our dads had been there a few hours. They are all divorced, so I’m sure it was a little awkward, but I’m happy they were all there to support us. The dads actually saw Ellie first because the moms went for a walk. We tried to time it when everyone was there, but since it seemed like a long time between her being born and them coming in after everything was cleaned and me getting stitched up with anesthesia, we just had them come in. I was too tired and sore to get out of bed more than necessary, so I just laid under the blankets with nothing but my Depends. Get some – you will wear them for a few days.
Tyler’s parents went home after awhile. My mom took a nap at my house and stayed with us the first night. My dad stayed at The Birthing Inn for another hour holding Elyse in the room, while Tyler and I slept.
Six hours after the birth we went home to rest. Elyse still had dried blood on her head, but I didn’t even think about it until the next day. I was told it wasn’t good for the baby’s skin to be washed right after birth. Our only visitors that night were my brother and his girlfriend. That night I slept with Elyse on my chest and although I was tired, I lightly slept all night because I was so happy and also terrified to keep this little girl alive.