Sharon's birth story starts, unofficially, in the middle of the night on Wednesday, September 7, 2011. This was the first time that I had felt any contractions, including Braxton Hicks. At the time, I didn't realize they were contractions because they felt too much like menstrual cramps. I remember recognizing they were there, but they weren't strong enough to wake me up. Thursday night, the same thing happened except they were strong enough to wake me up and keep me awake...every. ten. minutes. Ahren was up with me as well because as first-time-parents, "this must be it!" HA! I kept unofficial tabs on the contractions off and on all day Friday while I finished up last minute chores, errands and meal preparation for post-baby. Luckily the contractions didn't make an appearance until 4 or 5 in the morning on Saturday morning which was great because we needed some sleep. Unbeknownst to us, Friday night would be the last night we were going to get a full, uninterrupted night's sleep for a very, very long time. :)
Ahren and I spent the day Saturday taking it easy and resting. My contractions were all over the place, but the intensity had increased enough that I had to work through them a bit. Its possible that my lack of pain tolerance made them seem more intense than they really were, but I did my best to deal with them without making a big deal out of them. Our midwife, Kellie, taught us that it was best to ignore them as long as possible. This was good advice since we had no idea how long our journey to Sharon would be. We watched some TV shows and even started a game of Monopoly to take our mind off of things. My contractions were anywhere from 3-20 minutes apart all day, but as the evening dragged on they got further and further apart. Eventually, I went 45 minutes without a single contraction then all of a sudden, around 9:30pm I had a 4 minute contraction. Not 4 minutes APART, 4 minutes LONG. THAT got our attention.
I called Kellie and asked her if that was normal and she told me that "I could be getting started'. She suggested getting in the birth pool. She said if this was the real thing, being in the birth pool wouldn't change the frequency of the contractions, they would just keep coming. On the other hand, if it was not quite time, they would space out and possibly fizzle. I was happy to get in the pool. I knew from the record-setting hot summer we had that water and weightlessness was my friend. So into the pool I went. In a matter of 10 minutes, I had 4 contractions. I don't know about you, but that is not what I would consider slowing down. They had picked right up! Truth be told, this shocked us. We were actually a little concerned that Sharon would be here in no time and without our birth team here to help! Needless to say, we got on the phone with Kellie and let her know we'd like her to come over. We also called and asked Cole, our doula and Nicole, our birth photographer to head on over.
Kellie arrived around 11pm. I had gotten out of the birth pool in hopes things would slow down a bit. Kellie listened to the baby's heart beat for a long time, through several contractions. Meanwhile, Cole arrived. After Kellie finished listening to the baby, I asked her to check me to see how dilated I was. 4cm and 95% effaced. I was hoping for more progress, but that wasn't too bad. Shortly after Kellie checked me, our birth photographer, Nicole arrived.
We were up all night working through the contractions. I was having some back labor so Cole showed/taught us to use counter pressure and the double hip squeeze. I moved from the couch to standing to the birth ball to my hands and knees to hanging on and swaying with Ahren. I didn't like sitting on the birth ball because there was too much pressure. Come to find out, that is exactly what I needed to progress but it was too uncomfortable and I didn't understand at the time that it probably would have helped me a great deal. I was feeling frustrated because I couldn't find a good position to get into. Maybe I should have realized that I was in LABOR. I probably wasn't going to be COMFORTABLE until the baby was in my arms. :)
I remember alternating between cracking jokes, enjoying labor and being aggravated. I got out of the pool and was walking around becoming more intentional with my steps.
Ahren was with me the whole time. Cole and Nicole offered to stay with me so he could take a break, but he refused.
Kenna, our English Mastiff would drift in and out to check on me. I'm not sure if she knew what was going on, but her presence was perfect. Not too much and not too little.
Around 6:00am I asked Kellie to check me again to see how far along I was. I was 6cm and 100% effaced, 7cm during a contraction. I was a bit disappointed that in over 6 hours I had only progressed 2cm. I think my disappointment probably set me back a bit. About an hour later, my contractions started to fizzle. I was feeling very tired and worn out by this point and the fact that my contractions were spacing out again really frustrated me. If I was going to have this baby, then the contractions couldn't go away, they had to keep on coming.
From there Kellie and Cole reminded me that sometimes the labor position that I dislike most or that is most uncomfortable is what gets the job done faster. Kellie wanted me to labor on the toilet since you naturally relax your bottom on the toilet. THAT was really uncomfortable. She wanted me to just sit there through contractions and all but I didn't feel like I could. So we made a little deal. I would sit on the toilet through a contraction, get up and walk through the closet and back around to the toilet just in time for the next contraction. Ahren was with me the whole time while I was walking in circles. He was monumental during my labor with Sharon. I was still tensing up and fighting contractions (not on purpose) and the "release" cue we learned in Hypnobabies did the trick in getting me to relax. Ahren would gently touch my forehead and say "release". The birth team said you could just see the tension leave my body.
I remember expressing some fear about pushing and crowning. I was scared of the pain, which could very well be what was keeping my labor from progressing and what was preventing me from going into "labor land". My birth team got me to talk about it to try and release those fears.
At 8:00am walking the stairs was suggested to me. We were hoping to get Sharon to turn a little bit so I could keep progressing. Next up was the birth stool. I didn't like it much but I kept in mind that what was most uncomfortable was what would help me progress.
I didn't dare say anything to Kellie because if I mentioned it to her, she was obligated to take me to the hospital. I knew there wasn't anything wrong with me or Sharon so I felt comfortable staying home. I was just ready for her to be in my arms!
We had to continue to work to get my contractions to stay regular. In addition to the herbs I was taking, we started using the breast pump for nipple stimulation. My legs were so weak from standing up most of the night. It was almost 1:00pm on September 11th. I decided I wanted to get into the birth pool again to give my legs a break. We continued the nipple stimulation. I asked Kellie to check me again, but knowing the results of the last check, she asked me, "Why? What is the information going to tell you? How will it help you?”. I think she was trying to protect me from disappointment if I had not progressed any further.
I really wanted to know how dilated I was so that I could guess (yeah, right) how much longer our journey to Sharon would be. Since she didn't want to check me, I decided to check myself! Ha!! Its not like I was experienced at all in cervical checks to know whatever it was I was going to be feeling. But what I felt was not what I was expecting to feel. It was sort of soft. I was hoping to feel a head..which wouldn't have been soft. So, Kellie checked me and said I only had a little lip left on my cervix and that I could start pushing. Oh thank Heavens! Finally! I'd been waiting almost 31 hours for this. Little did I know, I still had a good bit of work ahead of me.
Once again I had trouble finding a position that felt right. I was in the pool and the ability to move around with little effort was so helpful. I eventually found that squatting felt best. Ahren offered me his arms to pull myself into position when I wanted to push. While I was resting between pushes Cole braced my back so I could relax. The pushing phase went very slowly. I felt like I was working so hard but not making much progress. With each push I could feel Sharon's head move down a little but when I stopped pushing I felt her head move back up a tiny bit. I remember asking Kellie how long it would take. She said everyone is individual and it just depends. Not really the answer I was looking for :)
I eventually started feeling the pressure that I had heard so much about. If I reached down I could feel Sharon's head. She wasn't crowning yet but she was right there. I was scared of the "ring of fire" and I told the birth team this. They were encouraging and said it doesn't last long but there is only one way out at this point. I kept pushing. The ring of fire was pretty intense but nothing I couldn't handle. Sharon's head was born and Kellie noticed the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. She removed the cord and with the next push her body was born! Ahren helped catch Sharon since he was front and center. My eyes had been closed for the majority of the pushing phase because I was so tired. I reached down in the water to grab my baby and bring her to my chest.
Her cord was wrapped around her neck a second time so it wasn't long enough to get Sharon to my chest. Kellie removed the cord from her neck and I held this long-awaited baby for the first time.
After Sharon was born she had a little trouble with some excess fluid/mucus in her system. We gave some time to see if she could clear it herself but after a few minutes Kellie felt suctioning her would be the best option.
Even after that, Sharon wasn't turning pink as quick as Kellie would have liked so she gave Sharon some oxygen.
All of this happened so fast. Our birth team, Kellie, her assistant Pam, and Cole knew exactly what to do. The worked efficiently and did not seemed stressed at all. In turn, Ahren and I were at ease.
About 15 minutes after Sharon was born, we got out of the birth pool.
Sharon latched on to nurse for the first time and she nursed for 2 hours. I had a little trouble figuring out the best way to hold her that was not only comfortable but helped her to maintain the latch.
At one point Pam, Kellie's birth assistant, and Cole were trying to help me with her latch and positioning.
After Sharon finished nursing Ahren cut the umbilical cord, about 3 hours after the birth.
Kellie did the newborn exam on our bed with us so we could be a part of it. She explained what she was doing and why.
Ahren and I were right there with Sharon to talk to her and comfort her. She was pretty mad. ;) After her exam, Sharon was weighed. 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 19 inches long.
While Sharon was getting checked out, Pam was getting the herbal bath ready for us. The herbs in the bath would help me heal and would help Sharon's cord fall off. The first herbal bath we had is one of my most cherished memories from Sharon's Birth Day. Except while she was nursing, she had been pretty vocal since her birth. Little did we know this was just a taste of what was to come over the next few months.
Once I got her ears under the water like Kellie advised, she was calm.
She was bright eyed and so alert just taking in all of her surroundings. She had her little fists right up by her jawline and I could imagine that was her favorite position while I was pregnant with her. It makes sense that she calmed down once her ears were under the water...up until a few hours prior that was all she knew. We continued to take herbal baths together twice a day for the next five or six days. Putting her ears under the water always got her to calm down if she was upset. After a while we got out of the bath. Kellie made sure we were all set up and comfortable in bed and then everyone went home.
I was on such a high from all the birth hormones that I could not sleep despite being up for close to 2 days and having had 3 nights of prodromal labor before labor started. Only a few days after Sharon was born I was already looking forward to the birth of my next baby. I "missed" my labor. Sharon's labor and birth was one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of my life. I don't believe we would have had such a positive and empowering experience had it not been for Kellie and our doula, Cole.
They were able to tell what would be best for our situation before I could even begin to figure that out. I was able to labor at my own pace, without feeling rushed. But once it was obvious I was frustrated with my lack of progress they stepped in and let me know what I needed to do. I also believe our exceptional birth experience has to do with us being at home. Had we gone to a hospital, with the lack of progression for so long, I probably would have had an "emergency" c-section. Now that we have had one baby at home there will be no question about where we have our next baby.