Birth Story: "We Are Stronger Than We Know"

Birth of Baby Viggo | 24 December 2012

By Sarah Bach-Bergs

all of usOur little one was 11 days overdue — it was honestly getting a bit emotionally trying on me. I literally began to think that I would FOREVER be pregnant (not cool — except for the part about forever being able to go to prenatal yoga! Ha!) I was beginning to get worried about many things – like “will I give birth to a 15 pound baby?!” or “will I actually be able to push this baby out if it gets too big?!” or “will I even be able to give birth at Health Foundations naturally or will I have to go into some cold hospital to be induced?!” All of these things were circling my brain. And even though I was very aware of “letting them go” and telling myself that “what will be will be,” I couldn’t help but find myself worrying about these things on a frequent basis.

I also was aware that there is no “right way” to birth but I also was very determined and passionate about giving birth naturally, at a birth center, with those that have been with me through this whole journey. Some things are just hard to let go of or imagine otherwise, even if you hold no judgement on other ways of birthing.

inductionAnyway… our little one DID finally arrive! I gave birth to a BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY on the morning of Christmas Eve — 7:55 a.m. to be exact — at Health Foundations Family Health & Birth Center. Viggo Edison made his grand entrance in the bright, beautiful morning sun weighing in at 9lbs, 3oz and 22 1/4 inches long. Details you say? Well, here’s the birth story, in a nutshell….

On December 22, 2012, my husband Tom and I headed to Maplewood to hit up the Toys ‘R Us. I had a Groupon coupon to use by the 24th and was stressing about getting it redeemed — big time. This HAD to be taken care of TONIGHT! So, we jumped in the car, even though I was having slight contractions, and decided to hit up the most chaotic store in the Twin Cities metro area around the holiday season. If nothing was going to send me into labor – THIS would.

I didn’t think much of the contractions as this had been going on for nearly a week (seriously). My contractions would start in the early evening and proceed, about 5 minutes apart at the least, throughout the night. The past couple of days, the contractions throughout the night were strong enough to wake me up consistently and sometimes labor through them on my hands and knees in bed. However, when morning would roll around, they would either completely stop or they would space so far apart that you couldn’t even really consider it close to “labor” — just annoying little pains here and there throughout the day.

However, while in Toys R’ Us, my contractions got stronger and closer together. They were consistently 5 minutes apart. The longer we spent in the toy store, the closer together they got. Some of them became about 2 minutes apart! I told Tom that if we didn’t leave soon, I was going to give birth in a toy store. We made it to the car, stopping in the parking lot every once in awhile to breathe through a contraction.

When we hopped in the car, I decided that Pizza Ranch pizza buffet was a MUST…NOW. So, I took my vegan husband and vegetarian me to the Pizza Ranch and ate as much pizza (not all vegetarian mind you) that I could. Talk about a last-minute pregnancy craving! Yum. We actually dubbed it my “Pizza Ranch Farewell Tour.” The signal to leave Pizza Ranch – besides having dessert pizza – was when I had a contraction that was so strong I started crying. We decided to head home.

Two brothersWhen we got home, we immediately went to bed knowing that we needed as much rest as possible with things near to the end. “I remember Sarah having a rough night and barely sleeping in between contractions,” said Tom when asked about his interpretation of this stage (literally, I don’t remember this portion of labor AT ALL. I must’ve been in coping mode!)

The next day, December 23, I didn’t even get out of bed until late afternoon. Tom brought me all of my meals in bed and I labored consistently throughout the day. Finally, Tom convinced me to get up and take a walk around the block to get things moving. It was a rough half block. “She asked to stop and go back,” remembers Tom. “But we were already halfway around the block so it was the same distance either way … I just encouraged her to keep going.” We stopped several times and I hung onto Tom as I labored through the contractions. I don’t even want to think about what the cars driving by were thinking as they saw this on the sidewalk!

Around 9 p.m. we called our midwife at Health Foundations and gave her the “heads up” that this might be the “real deal” this time – I just couldn’t sleep. She told me to get an over-the-counter sleep aid, take one, and try to get as much rest as I possibly could. Tom ran to Walgreens to pick up the sleep aid and when he got home, I willingly popped one in my mouth. This did NOTHING for me.

after birth2It was now about 1 a.m. on the morning of Christmas Eve and my contractions were still strong and consistent but not picking up much. I knew that getting in the bathtub historically slowed my contractions down and sometimes nearly stopped them altogether. I also knew that working “towards” the pain was where I needed to go — but I needed a break. So, I ran the bath water hoping to get a tad bit of relief. Sitting in the bath, my contractions continued to get stronger and closer together. They were about a minute and a half in length and about a minute apart. The bath WASN’T giving me a break.

That’s when I knew it was the real deal.

Tom called our midwife and told her where the contractions were at. She indicated we needed to get to the birth center ASAP! Originally, I was hesitant about Tom calling our midwife. I think I was literally in denial about the labor. I also didn’t want it to be a “false alarm,” especially given that it was the night before Christmas Eve! I just kept telling myself I wasn’t close enough yet and it wasn’t time to go in. Yet, laboring in the tub was so constant that it did worry me a bit.

So, we grabbed our packed bags and food and hopped in the car (not before working through many contractions on the way to the car). Once we got to the birth center around 2:30/3 a.m., we settled in, had our midwife check me, called our doula and began “moving.” We walked the stairs, up and down, and walked circles in the yoga studio and tried to move this baby down.

kissyContractions were strong but I felt like prenatal yoga had well-prepared me for the importance of the breath. As a close friend once told me, everything we experience is merely temporary – something we can breathe through. This same friend also had once told me that NOTHING in labor can overpower us, because it IS us. I tapped into this energy frequently throughout my laboring. This gave me strength. I focused on my breath even though I was often reminded by my birth partners (my husband, my doula, my midwives) to SLOOOOW my breath down. This was incredibly helpful in feeling like I had “control” and was opening up. Breath is SO POWERFUL.

I used MANY mechanisms of working through labor – standing with my arms around my husband’s neck and squatting (allowing him to hold my weight), sitting on the birthing stool in the shower with the hot water on my back (helped tremendously with my back labor), facing backwards on the toilet, on the birthing ball (swiveling my hips on the ball felt SO GOOD and reminded me of yoga), etc. etc.

Finally, my midwives decided to check me again at 6:50 a.m. It was decided that we should break my waters as they had not broken yet. I kind of had an emotional break down at this moment in my labor. In my first birth experience with my oldest son Odin, they also had to break my waters and I vividly remember how intense labor got after the baby no longer had water cradling his every move.

I KNEW we needed to move in that direction but it was a lot emotionally to take in. It felt like I was standing at the gates of labor land — filled with both excitement and intense fear of what was to come. I HAD to walk through that gate. I had a little cry; we talked it through — my husband, my midwives and I; and then we did it. We broke the waters. I waited … I waited for the freight train to hit me. But it didn’t happen like I had expected.

dad and viggoMy midwives suggested we get up and move around to get things going. I stood … and didn’t move from there. I experienced intense contraction after contraction after contraction right in that spot. I hung onto the strong shoulders of my dear husband, let him hold my weight, and dropped into a squat with every contraction. I had about 5-10 seconds of breathing time in between each one – and man did I soak up those 5-10 seconds!

Before I knew it, we were headed to the toilet again to labor. After a few “opening” contractions on the toilet, I requested to go to the birthing tub. I got in and had a few really strong contractions there — ones that made me feel the urge to push. I did. I pushed hard. I didn’t remember it being this hard!

I noticed my midwives were doing some “private communicating” via post-it notes. I just focused inward and tried to direct my energy towards baby. My midwives suggested I get out of the tub and onto a birthing stool. I tried to convince them to bring the birthing stool in the tub but I ended up getting out of the water and giving some good hard labor pushes on the birthing stool. Before I knew it, we were headed towards the bed, per the midwives suggestion again (this kind of pissed me off — I DIDN’T want to give birth laying down on a bed. I wanted the help of gravity on my side to bring this baby down, yet there was a part of me that just put trust in my caretakers as not ONCE throughout my labor had they suggested anything I didn’t want to do. I knew there was a rhyme or reason why this was suggested and at this point, I was so OUT of my head and into my body that I didn’t give it much “head thought”).

I got on my back and put my legs up by my shoulders (it kind of reminded me of happy baby pose, but I was not a happy baby!). My doula and the birth assistant helped hold my legs. My midwife was helping push my cervix aside. I pushed and pushed. I WANTED THIS BABY OUT!!! I felt the baby coming out and I never let it stop its descend. I wonder how long I pushed and pushed and pushed for? I didn’t let up. Soon, I felt the crowning and the baby’s head coming out. Once the head was out, my midwives said to flip over on my hands and knees and put my foot up by my hands.  I did this — and my baby was born!

breastfeeding2I heard his beautiful cry echo off the walls of the birth center room. At this point, I still didn’t know the sex of the baby. I felt the umbilical cord between my legs and reached down for my baby. “What is it?! What is it?!” I kept asking. The baby was facing down, towards the bed. I turned it over and saw that big ball sack! A BOY! We had another baby boy!

Turns out, and I didn’t know this at the time, but when I came into the birth center at 2:30 a.m. that morning, I was 5 cm dilated. When they checked me at 6:55 a.m., I was STILL 5 cm dilated. I had not progressed AT ALL. Thank God they didn’t tell me this or I would’ve given up and said “I can’t do it!” (labor math makes complete sense when you’re in labor but is never accurate when your birth story plays out). According to labor math in this case, I’d be laboring forever and never progressing! All that work for nothing?! But, they didn’t tell me and instead just suggested breaking my waters. That means, from 6:55 a.m., when they broke my waters, to 7:55 a.m., I went from 5 cm to holding our baby boy in my arms. In ONE HOUR! Holy man! I couldn’t believe it!

sleeping

On top of that, my baby was born OP or “sunny side up” as they say. His face was facing upwards. We knew he was OP a week before but usually OP babies will turn accordingly during labor. My little guy did not. THIS is why my midwives knew I couldn’t have a water birth — they knew I’d probably have to get on my hands and knees once baby’s head was out — as I did. And convincing me to get out of a birthing tub when baby’s head is hanging out of my vagina probably was going to be harder than anything. To add to it all, once his head was delivered, his shoulders got stuck and they had to help him out. It’s actually amazing to me that he was born with the ease he was given these factors.  I felt blessed that they trusted in me, and me in them to make this labor happen — that I was able to deliver at Health Foundations with the sun shining in the windows that Christmas Eve morning.

My 9lb, 3oz baby boy came into the world with some resistance, but he’s here with us and eats like a banshee! Every hour and a half on average. I’m a milk machine these days.

In the end, like my friend said, NOTHING can overpower us in labor, because it IS us. We are stronger than we know — and THIS may be, ultimately, what scares us. Who are we to be that strong? But, really, who are we NOT to be?