I take any opportunity to share Coco’s Birth Story, so of COURSE it would appear here.
The short version – Corinne Jae was born 3/2/09 at 1:03 pm in Peaster, TX at Heart’s Desire Midwifery Birth Center. I wrote this account three days later.
WARNING – IF YOU ARE A GUY WHO ISN’T INTO THIS TYPE OF THING, OR OTHERWISE SQUEAMISH ABOUT THE STATUS OF MY CERVIX, SKIP THIS POST! Thanks!
I know the gory birth story is the thing of interest here (and I will be quite verbose, no fear!) but I feel like I should mention a couple of things in preface.
1) My husband is the hands-down the best husband on this planet, and the best partner I could ever want. I wouldn’t have even considered choosing a birth center or home birth if I didn’t have Jason there with me. He challenges me to think bigger, learn more, and experience everything, then holds my hand when I doubt myself.
Through a series of fortunate events (beginning with the fabulous Trisha Blizzard, and then through Angelica and Lynsey), we found the perfect midwife for our baby and our birth. Kelly Miller is a huge part of our miracle. She helped us embrace our philosophy for our daughter from the moment Coco entered the world. Thank you Kelly – we love you so much for that!
3) I am a huge drama queen and my only disappointments with the birth were a) I wish it had been videotaped because I am too quickly forgetting, and b) had I known it wouldn’t be very long – I would have been a bigger crybaby in the first 4 hours.
Now – on with the show:
Monday morning, March 2, 2009, I had been awake for just a few minutes, and at 6:31 (official clock radio time!) I heard two little pops. For some reason the night before I had thought maybe I should start sleeping with a pad on since my due date was about a week away. The pops are followed by a little gush, and I get up, go to the bathroom, and shift around to see if I continue to gush, and just to confirm I didn’t pee on myself. I am, in fact, still leaking clear fluid, so I send a text to my midwife, Kelly. I didn’t want to wake up her whole house, and really, my plan was to go back to sleep at this point and see if I can rest until contractions start. It’s still pretty incredible to me that I can send a text message to my care provider (although she is pretty incredible all the way around!)
Here is the abridged version of our text exchange:
Me: Good morning, my water just broke, Guess I won’t come to the hand meeting (Homebirth Association of North Dallas)… it is clear and no ctx… I will keep u posted. Nice of baby to wait for Monday…
Kelly: OK. Let me know. How much fluid?
Me: Not a 2-liter but two little pops and a small gush. Maybe half a cup?
Kelly: Ok – and Coco is still moving fine?
Me: She was moving fine last night haven’t felt anything this morning but will have a little cup of juice and let you know asap. Having a ctx now, but not too bad… Going to try to hold off on waking Jason.
Kelly: Sounds good, let me know.
I check in with Kelly that I have timed 5 contractions, 5 minutes apart and we discuss the type of contractions. They are different than what I have had the past three weeks, but I have broken my water so it makes sense they would be different now. I also tell her I want Jason to be able to get up and leisurely pack the car, so she advises I should probably wake him up now.
Me (via text): I think I want the company now anyway.
I call Kelly and we talk a little more about how the contractions feel. At this point, I am simultaneously sending Lynsey Stone (our birth photographer) a message on Facebook, and figure I will actually call her later on if I haven’t heard back from her. She immediately calls me back too, because she is awesome like that. I also see on Google, it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Go figure.
I make coffee (not for me – I don’t drink coffee) and go wake Jason up. I’ll interject that he has been furiously cleaning all weekend and I knew he probably didn’t go to bed until 3 or 4 am the night before.
Our conversation goes like this:
Me (shaking him gently): Hey, wanna have a baby today?
Him (waking up): Sure, why?
Me: My water broke.
Later on that night, on our way home from the birth, I asked him what the heck kind of response “Where” was…. he replied that he assumed that he needed to clean it up.
He is a really awesome husband!
So, I caught him up to speed with my conversation with Kelly, and let him know Lynsey was notified and I leave him to wake up so I can finish up a couple of emails. He calls his parents, and just as we are packing up to leave, Kelly sends a check-in text.
There is a bit of blood and mucus in the water now, and I let her know we will be out the door in 10 minutes.
I text Lynsey in the car. I try to call my mom too, but she is sick home from work, so I leave her an undoubtedly bizarre message.
Somehow we make it to the birthing center (usually 1 1/2 hours away) in about an hour. This is the only time I use my carefully prepared Itunes labor list that I have working on for 6 months. It absolutely helps in the car, and contractions are manageable at 5 minutes apart.
Once we get to the center, Kelly checks me. I am dilated to a 4. Molly (who is the midwife over the entire center) calls Lynsey at about 11 to let her know and she plans to head out soon.
This is about the end of my rational thought – SO I will make my best guess about times from here on out.
After the check, they tell me the contractions will probably be rough for the next two or three contractions.
I want to lay on the bed on my side during the contractions, and Kelly wants me to stand up or be otherwise vertical. I argue with her (I’m arguing, she is gently suggesting), and we compromise to do three contractions laying down and three standing up. I think I did more than three laying down though – as I remember Kelly stepping out for just a moment, and thinking “ha, ha – I am having more than three and still laying down!”
I change in to my cute labor sundress (I had packed several) and put on a fashionable Depends undergarment since I am leaking and getting pretty bloody. They are on me to keep going to the bathroom, because an empty bladder makes for more comfortable contractions.
Around this time, I understand Molly asked Jason if it seemed like I had a noticeable change in demeanor. She came and let us know (in her very calm, collected voice) a few minutes later between contractions (score! still on the bed) that it seemed like I was progressing quickly.
I was so nauseous in between contractions, and I remember having brief moments where I thought about that being a sign of transition, but it was too soon for that (right? I had only been there an hour!).
Finally – and in reality this was probably only 30 minutes later – Kelly busted me and made get vertical. Someone suggested sitting on the giant birth ball, so I got situated on the ball at the end of the bed, with Jason sitting on the bed with my head in his lap and Kim (another excellent midwife who had taken over for Kelly for a couple of minutes) massaging my back.
A couple of contractions went by during which I recall starting to wanting to push, and thinking about getting in the pool, and wondering where my birth photographer was (since I was wearing a REALLY cute sundress!).
I told Kim, “I’m feeling really pushy, and it is too soon.” She told me it might not be too soon, and whenever I wanted to move into the pool we could go. I think the next contraction I decided I didn’t care anymore about looking cute, and it was time to move. I was flexible prior to labor about whether I would birth in the pool or not, but in the moment – it was absolutely where I wanted to be. The pool is like a heated, jetted hot tub, with thick padding, not like your garden tub in your master bath.
Molly mentioned somewhere in this time that Lynsey was struck in traffic in Weatherford (who knew Weatherford has traffic?) but had been instructed to “come in shooting.”
Kim was stripping the top off the pool while I was having Jason strip me down. I was insistent it was time to get in the pool. It is about noon, maybe 12:15. It is a beautiful day outside, and I can actually see the horse pasture from the window right over the tub. Little thoughts like that are a calming moment in between the insanity of my body working to expel my little alien.
Kelly checked me in the pool after a couple of contractions. Kelly declared I was completely dilated with the exception of a cervical lip.
Now, I have NO idea what a cervical lip is in all practicality, and I can’t describe for you what that means. But I quickly learned that the options were to wait it out for the “cervical lip” to move on it’s own, or Kelly could manually hold it back, but that wouldn’t be very comfortable.
I spend a couple of contractions seeing if the lip moves, and while it does decrease, my patience is also decreasing! Time to get baby out, and they can do whatever they need to at that point. I think Kelly was holding the lip, which meant her hand was inside of me during some contractions, but I don’t recall feeling it, or thinking that I would rather wait. The jets get turned off in the whirlpool in expectation of pushing.
I think now I am floating face up in the pool and pushing. I am thrusting my feet against the side of the pool, and people are telling me to relax and I am thinking they are crazy if they think I can push while floating and “relaxing”. I am not at the beach checking out the ocean floor in scuba gear.
Someone has the brilliant idea to tell me to flip over, sort of on my hands and knees, but with a leg out, and some other complexities. I manage to flip over, hanging my arms over the edge of the pool, and tell them to move my legs around to where ever they see fit.
I think my expectation of pushing was more like having a large puppy, and less like birthing a baby giraffe. It felt much more like a baby giraffe or a baby calf, all legs and arms flopping out – although in the end – they handed me a baby human, not a baby horse.
I had moments of lucid thought where I found it absolutely fascinating that I could hear and feel the bones in my body shifting to allow the bones in her body to escape. Those moments were few and far between – but I did have them. I did not feel a “ring of fire” although I am not sure if that was a result of the water, or something Kelly was doing on her end.
Someone later asked if I screamed a lot. I don’t think I screamed, since that would have been unproductive, but I made a lot of noise. If you have seen “The Business of Being Born” – Ricki Lake’s midwife (Cara Muhlhahn) shows her birth on that documentary. She seemed to make the most obnoxious guttural cow noises while birthing her baby. Yeah – that is what I think I sounded like! And as I was doing it, I kept thinking that I sounded like “that annoying midwife on BOBB.”
I felt Coco shift down during one contraction, and I think Kelly could see the top of her head. She then went back up, and thankfully someone told me that was normal and she would come out more on the next contraction.
The next contraction came, and baby stayed lodged down in that odd place with her 13 3/4 inch head wedged at the bottom of my pelvis. In these progressively-getting-weirder moments of calm between contractions, I reflected on the positive feedback Kelly had given me weeks prior regarding the ischial spines in my pelvis. They are not sharp, particularly, and I wondered if I would be feeling a stabbing pain if they had been. Some people have sharp ischial spines. I have a good pelvis for birthing I think and that made me confident weeks in advance.
Logical thoughts in a totally illogical moment, but I survived without fixating on the fact that there was a baby lodged in me, and she was escaping at any cost.
Pretty quickly and after a few more pushes – she was out. Well, the tough part was. Her head and shoulders were free but I stopped short of pushing the rest of her out.
My overactive brain waited for that moment to recall that one of the best ways to prevent perineal tearing was to “breathe” the baby out, letting the body do the work, rather than forcing her out with pushing. So – with baby half out – I decided now was the time to breathe the baby out.
Fortunately – my ever-so-competant team told me to push her out, and Kelly’s urgent tone, coupled with Jason whispering in my ear “you have to finish the job!” persuaded me to get her out.
Baby has broken free, and I am alive after a few slightly surreal moments of thinking I might break in half. It is 1:03 p.m. – 6 and a half hours after the first indication a baby would be coming today.
If you are so inclined to envision it – I now have a baby out of the water, but I am on my hands and knees and she is behind me. I had seen videos of babies born this way, so when Kim told me I needed to lift a leg and spin around so Coco could lay on my chest, I knew what to do. The cord was a little short so she laid on my chest without nursing while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. I realize Lynsey made it just in time about now, and am so excited. I am trying to get slightly covered up so we have some decent PG-13 birth pool pictures. She hasn’t screamed like most babies coming into the bright lights of a hospital room. In fact, it will be 2 days before we hear her really let loose a good scream, but in her first moments she is serene and alert, adjusting to life on the the outside world.
After the cord stopped pulsing, Jason cut it and he took Coco to a chair in the corner of the room and wrapped her up and talked to her.
I eventually delivered the placenta in the water about 30 minutes later. The placenta birthing was an annoyance. There is no way around saying that. I was anticipating it being something like birthing the baby, so I wasn’t mentally willing it free, though it wasn’t anything like that. No bones. The midwives reminded me there were no bones, and that I would feel a lot better without the placenta in there. Somehow they talked me in to it (although I am sure that placenta was coming out whether I accepted it or not!) and I pushed the placenta out too.
I will interject here that at no time did anyone tug on the cord or try to massage my uterus to hurry the placenta out, or anything of the sort. I knew they weren’t going to do that – but for some reason now that my slightly rational brain had reappeared, I was concerned about the uncomfortable details of giving birth again.
After that, I got out of the pool (which was NOT a gory mess, surprisingly) and wrapped up in a robe. I go back to the bedroom, where my body figures out that I have done something different today than I usually do on Mondays.
Right after was like having the flu for 30 minutes – I was hot, then cold, and I finally threw up. I held the baby for a few minutes and she nursed, then she went back to daddy so I could concentrate on recovering for a bit. Jason called our families and sent a first picture via text message. All they got on that first call was her name, which we hadn’t told to anyone, and time of birth. Weight and height would be a little later.
Quickly I felt stable, and a post birth herbal bath was drawn complete with candles and another great view (in a different room) of the beautiful day outside. After I was in there a few minutes, Coco came in too, and immediately looked completely at peace submerged back in the water. In theory, only her face was exposed, but every time we tried to submerge her feet, she would startle. Kooky Pisces water baby. So she floated on me mostly underwater with her face and toes exposed for a while.
After our bath, we did our newborn exam and determined she was 7 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches long. Jason held the scale while she was weighed, and she gripped our fingers while Kelly did all of the necessary examining.
My turn was next – nothing extraordinary to tell here, it was once again confirmed that I did NOT break in half during the whole event, and in fact suffered only a minor tear that optionally got one stitch. Most likely, had I not had an episiotomy with Todd’s birth, that tear could have been avoided too.
Molly distracted me with a story about surgical glue while Kelly put in my one stitch. And yes, even with a drug-free birth – you still get lidocaine for the stitch! They also sweet talked me through it by promising me a Tylenol afterwards. Nothing says good times to me like some old-fashion pharmaceuticals!
Lynsey’s baby Eden had arrived while all of this was going on, and we got Coco dressed and Lynsey snapped a couple of pictures of the two of them together before she left. We weren’t far behind, pulling out of the birth center about 8 pm, with our perfect 7 hour old baby. We stopped at Starbucks for an iced green tea (Coco and I stayed in the car), and headed home for some spaghetti and a lovely first night together in our own bed.
One might say were extremely lucky to have such a relatively easy birth, although there is another school of thought that most births would be relatively easy if treated in a way that respects the natural process that our bodies are designed for.
I don’t have an agenda one way or another. I have friends who have had wonderful planned c-sections and I respect their choices and decisions just like I want them to respect mine. My hope is that we have options to choose a path that will put us in the best position to have the birth we want. If labor and baby hadn’t cooperated, I truly believe I would have been okay with a transfer or even a c-section – healthy Coco was always my top priority. But, my implicit trust in Jason, Kelly, Kim and Molly gave me the freedom to focus on laboring in a completely safe environment where I could let my guard down and just be. It is an unusual way to spend a Monday, but something I would recommend to anyone who wants to live in the moment…
Stay tuned for whatever happens next Monday.