Baby Revira's Birth Story
The Definition Of Perfection: A Baby's Birth Goes According To Plan
In recounting our birth story, I finally fully understand the definition of a word I have used so many times: perfection.
Although I write this after a generous dose of oxytocin from breastfeeding, I will try not to embellish beyond belief. Perfection is a word and concept I rarely use or believed in, unsure of it's even existence. However, after going through the experience of childbirth and now being able to be a part of this incredible baby's life, I realize that what happened more than a week ago was as close to perfection as I could experience. Let's start at 3:00 a.m., Thursday, August 4th.
Kai had been working late for the last few weeks, trying to get a project done before the baby arrived, and came to bed around 2:00 a.m. I had been sleeping for only a few hours when I woke up for my 3:00 a.m. bathroom trip and noticed that some fluid was dripping out of me...a lot of it. I hurried to the bathroom convinced I was finally having the incontinence issue during pregnancy that I hadn't yet had. I was wrong.
"Um, Kai? I think my water just broke," I said calmly from the toilet. I was more amazed than scared, as if the entire pregnancy I wasn't fully convinced that it would conclude with actual labor. It felt like a science experiment had begun, as if I could say "Hey, Kai, the water is boiling" in a similar fashion.
Kai got out of bed and stopped at the fridge for a glass of water on the way to the bathroom. He sat down on the floor next to me and casually drank the water. "Are you ready?" I asked him. "Maybe you should just go back to bed," he said. I called Cheryl first, one of the midwives at the birth center. She gave me the same advice to go back to bed, monitor any contractions, eat something, take a shower, whatever I needed to do to prepare, but mostly just get some rest. She sounded excited and calming, having a tone of reassurance I had gotten used to throughout the pregnancy. So, I went back to bed.
Contractions started within 10 minutes of hanging up the phone. They were 10 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute. I laid there quietly and let Kai get some sleep. The contractions weren't that painful and I was excited that they were so timely and steady. I knew I'd have a baby in my arms within 24 hours.
By 6 a.m. I felt the urge to get out of bed and start preparing. I ate, took a shower, put in a load of laundry, and packed some last minute things. I politely told Kai, "If you have anything you want to do before we go, now is the time." He answered from bed "15 more minutes." I laughed, but knew he was tired and going into labor with little sleep wasn't going to be a good idea. We laid in bed a minute and my contractions slowed down. It felt so nice to be relaxed, in labor, and in his arms. But then, another contraction hit that was so intense I ran to the bathroom to throw up. Kai took this as a cue to get up as things were getting serious, and we started our birth journey, first by going to my mom's house to drop off our dog. I figured I'd labor there a little bit and get to the birth center around 10 a.m. if things were staying steady. After all, I had a prenatal appointment already scheduled then.
By the time we got to mom's, the contractions were pretty strong. Mom seemed nervously excited. Every 5 minutes or so I'd simply get down on all fours and do some breathing into the rug of choice and then get up and promptly go to the bathroom. I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad, I can just fall to the floor for the next few hours, no problem." However, I soon realized that things were becoming even more intense and I'd soon not be able to make the car ride to the birth center, so we were off. Being in a car during a contraction was the worst, but at least we were only a few minutes away.
We arrived at the birth center at 9:30 a.m. I walked straight into the birthing suite and got on the bed to have a contraction on all fours. Midwife Amy and her apprentice, Sky, were there to greet me. I was excited to show them my progress. I said something to the effect of, "So that's that," after the contraction ended. They smiled and started preparing quietly in the background as I labored. Sky brought me some "Emergen-C" to drink and nurse, Jill, made me some oatmeal. I'd have a contraction and then shove my face with food and drink before another one started.
I went through a few contractions and asked Amy if I could get in the tub. She said she'd rather have me wait a bit to make sure it wouldn't slow my progress to get in there. So I had about five more contractions and asked again. Now, instead of being mostly silent through them, I had begun moaning a bit. Amy said she'd start to fill the tub and I got more excited. I was in the tub for just a short time when I asked if Kai would join me as I wanted something to push against during a contraction. He didn't hesitate, as with the entire birth, he calmly did whatever I or the others asked of him. He was collected and encouraging; completely there for me and baby. Within what felt like an hour, but was probably more like two, Amy checked my cervix as I was feeling closer to wanting to push. She found that it was not fully open on one side and kept her hand there during a contraction to see if she could help it move a bit. It didn't seem to work, but I didn't get the sense that she was nervous. I was totally in my body and couldn't feel any outside anxiety or stress in the room. Everyone was calm and reassuring.
Amy told me that if I stuck my finger in just a little bit, I could feel the baby's head. I hesitated, but put my finger in only about 2 inches. I felt it. How amazing it was to know my body had already brought the baby's head that far! She could have said how far dilated I was, but instead, letting me feel the head made the progress more real, more encouraging that my body was doing exactly what it needed to be doing.
The contractions continued and were painful, but never unbearable. I breathed through them and would take a cleansing breath through my nose at the end. Sky massaged my legs, Kai put pressure on my back. Jill checked my cervix to confirm what Amy had found. Although they didn't tell me this at the time, they realized the baby was "occiput posterior" or "sunny side up," which means she was facing up toward my front rather than toward my back. This position makes pushing a baby out difficult because the very top of the head is against the cervix, instead of the crown, which is smaller. Jill confirmed that although it would take a bit more pushing, my pelvis was able to fit the baby's head through at this angle.
I'm sure some women would have wanted to know all these details during birth, but I'm happy I wasn't distracted with measurements, dilations and technical terms. I like that I was told what I needed to know, and what positions I could try rather than how far dilated or what an occiput posterior baby would mean (four hours of pushing for me!)
Amy asked politely if I could get out of the tub and have Amber, the birth center's resident chiropractor, take a look at my sacrum (my lower back). I was helped onto the bed and Amber laid her hands gently on my back during a contraction. From one contraction she could tell what needed to be adjusted. Kai was standing by my head and held my hand during each contraction. I remember pushing my face into his shorts, which were cool and wet from the tub. I could hear him breathe above all the other noises. In between contractions, I'd try to match his rhythm. I had my eyes closed, but I could feel him looking at me. Most importantly, I could feel his confidence in me, in my body, in our baby, and in the women surrounding us.
Amber adjusted my sacrum with a tool that made a snapping noise, but didn't hurt a bit. It felt great actually, releasing all the tension in my back. A few more contractions and Amy suggested I go to the bathroom to labor on the toilet or in the shower, anything upright to keep baby moving down. After Amber's adjustment, each contraction actually felt like the baby was moving further down. I had no urge to stop, wanting each contraction to come, only getting frustrated when they'd pause for longer than a few minutes. I welcomed them into my body, silently telling my baby to descend with each contraction. The pain and intensity was increasing and I told Kai, "If this isn't transition, I am not sure what is." Nobody seemed to believe me because I wasn't howling or asking for drugs or anything of the such.
It wasn't until everything was done that someone said it probably was transition, looking back. I amazed myself that I could talk through it instead of scream. All the stories we had heard mentioned transition being the time of wanting to give up or give into drugs. Those thoughts never crossed my mind. I trusted my body, and honestly didn't feel like I had time to think about anything else but remaining focused on each contraction and getting this baby out.
I went to the toilet, which was one of my favorite positions to labor. Not only could I go to the bathroom during a contraction (which would happen whether on the toilet or not), but I could also put my head on the assistance bar behind the toilet which was nice and cool. Then I went to the shower and Amy thought it would be a good idea to have a few contractions squatting. I waited for the burn of her head crowning to begin. I asked everyone how long it would be. Not long was all I could gather, but it still felt like it was taking forever to feel her crown. Amanda, another midwifery apprentice, was to my right, Kai to my left. I sat on the birthing stool in between contractions and squatted down during them, leaning my head on Kai's. Everyone continued telling me how amazingly well I was doing. I believed them, and agreed. I felt my baby descending, I felt it starting to burn, and finally I saw everyone put on a new pair of rubber gloves. I knew this meant I was close. Jill asked Kai if she could get him a granola bar, to make sure he wouldn't faint at the sight of things. He accepted.
A few contractions later her head was out and her body slipped out with ease immediately after. I sat on the stool and held her, pink and screaming nicely. She looked amazing and felt warm and soft. I loved it. As soon as I saw her face come out of me, I felt no pain. The rest of the room disappeared except for me, her, and Kai. It was 2:51 p.m., just nine minutes under 12 hours from start to finish.
Kai cut the cord after it was done pulsing. A few minutes later my placenta came out with a lot of blood and I was escorted to the bed to make sure I wasn't bleeding too much. I felt weak and shaky. Oxygen please. Kai lay next to me holding the baby. Thankfully, within a half hour I was stitched up (from tearing), breastfeeding, and laying in a cozy bed, not bleeding too much. I was happy. The baby was healthy and alert, I was healthy, Kai was the perfect companion for labor, and all the staff at the birth center worked together like a finely tuned machine.
We were alone in the room for a bit and Kai said, "I am so glad we had our baby here instead of a hospital." Amy, Amanda, Sky, Jill, and Amber were beyond my most wild expectations of what a birth team could be. They worked quietly in the background, but were there when I needed them. Everything they suggested helped. Everything I told them I wanted was upheld. They had reminded me to breathe through my nose, to push with all my energy toward my bottom. It was as if they were so knowledgeable and respectful of the birthing process that they were actually inside of my body with me. They knew exactly what I needed to do to work with my body in bringing this baby out.
Within six hours of birth, we were headed home to our own bed with our 7 pound, 2 ounce (3.23 kilogram for Kai), 19 3/4 inch baby girl, Revira. My baby sleeping on my chest in my bed was perhaps the best feeling I could have ever imagined. She is perfect, and I wouldn't change a thing about our birth. Thank you Amy, Sky, Amanda, Jill, Amber, Greta, and everyone at Health Foundations; and thank you Kai: of everything we've been through, this is by far the most incredible.
This article previously appeared on npr.org