Birth Photography by Megan of Break the Mold Photography
Birth Center: Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center
When my husband and I found out we were expecting, we were so excited about the prospect of going to a free-standing birth center that is local to us. My other two births had been in a hospital (with a FABULOUS midwife), but because of the hospital policies/procedures, there were interventions that were always pushed on me that made for less than optimum natural births. So, an out-of-hospital birth was something for us to get excited about! However, after a couple of weeks in the care of the midwives there, I knew something had to change. They weren’t returning calls, they didn’t give me results of abnormal blood-work, etc. So, I began looking for another option and found a hospital-based midwife group. Yes, so our birth would be in the hospital. Maybe it was for the best. We used this group until I was approximately 32 weeks and I began having fears about birthing in the hospital with this group of midwives that would only spend 8-10 minutes with me at each appointment…. So, another decision to change care… This time to the Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center. I’m so thankful I made that decision, because I’m almost certain my birth story would not have turned out the way it did if I had been anywhere else.
After several weeks of prodromal labor contractions, it finally happened. Labor was upon me. We were at Polishing the Pulpit (a Christian conference where 4,000 brothers and sisters gather for lectures, encouragement, and friendship — the highlight of my year), and I had decided to take a nap with my sweet little boy in my in-law’s hotel room. After laying down for about 30 minutes, I felt a trickle and then a gush. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my waters had broken. After texting my mother-in-law and husband, I called the midwife. Since I wasn’t contracting at the moment, we made the game plan to wait until that evening to go in to the birth center. We would arrive at the birth center at 8pm to get some rest there, before trying to stimulate labor early in the morning. The “rule” for that birth center is that I would need to be in active labor (regular contractions and at 4 cms) by 24 hours post-water breaking, so we would start around 4 in the morning and that would give us a safety net of 12 hours. I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t happen (which would then require a transfer to UT hospital), but decided to trust my body, and my midwife said that she was confident it would happen easily for me.
After leaving our sweet children with my in-laws (yes, and tears on my part!), we stopped by Arby’s for dinner. The cashier asked how I was doing (referring) to my large belly, and I just had to let her know that my water had just broken. After hemming and hawing about the fact that we were there after my water breaking, she gave us a discount and wished us luck.
At the birth center, my midwife tested my leaking to make sure it was amniotic fluid (I knew it was), and after confirming that yes, my water had broken, we settled in for the evening (after Daniel made a Walmart run, because we had forgotten our baby bag!). First on our “relaxing” agenda was to play a game of Battle of the Sexes that he had packed. This totally relaxed me. Up until then, I was a ball of nerves. A mixture of excited, scared, nervous, happy, and sad (about not having my other kids with us – and the transition – etc). The game was over. Daniel won (surprise!) and we started an episode of “Chuck”, one of our nightly routines before bed. As soon as it started, I began contracting and with those contractions I began shivering and shaking — which is very much unlike me. I moved to the recliner and let 15-20 minutes pass, before Daniel asked me if I wanted him to get Chris, the midwife (who was out in the nurses’ station area — it was just Daniel, myself, and Chris at the birth center at the time… so peaceful!!). She came in and checked me. I was 5-6 centimeters! It’s GO time!
I was so surprised and honestly, relieved. I asked if I could go ahead and labor in the birth pool, so she started setting it up. I sat on the birth ball waiting, and the contractions were coming about every 5 minutes. They weren’t super intense, just a steady coming and going.
Once I entered the water, there was immediate relaxation and relief. When contractions came, I used a combination of hypnobabies relaxation techniques and visualizations to help get me through them. My sweet Daniel was there by my side, stroking my hair, holding my head, and just generally being awesome. Our birth photographer arrived around midnight and I remember that in between contractions I was still able to hold a decent conversation.
All that changed, probably 1/2 an hour later. Contractions started getting more intense. But, I was dealing. I asked to be checked. I felt pushy. I needed (or at least thought I needed) to know how close I was. Chris, who was sitting quietly by me most of the time, silently checking baby’s heart tones every 20 minutes or so, reached in the water to check me and I was 7-8cm, but stretchy. She thought it would be okay if I needed to push down if I felt like it. I knew that I wasn’t feeling like I was pushing the baby out, but that I was pushing her down. (Probably due to her position, that we found out later was OP!).
Then it happened. The contractions started coming on top of each other. For five minutes straight I would deal with these massive waves. It was the most unrelenting intense pain ever. I tried to visualize. Daniel coached me and reminded me to take deeper breathes in with the contractions. Chris reminded me to breathe them away when they were finally over. I remember telling them that I needed a break. It wasn’t fair!
Daniel and Chris both were started to encourage me to change positions to try to get baby moved down. I turned over on all fours, but it was so intense, I couldn’t take it. So, I decided to make the super difficult decision to get out of the labor pool. I moved to the bed to try to relax, but I started loosing it – my cool, that is. I was trying to push the baby down, but the contractions were so intense, I just couldn’t focus. After some wild screaming, I was still panicking, but decided that I needed to go to the toilet to urinate. Once there, I definitely could not pee, but I could feel a little more movement happening and freedom to push while I was on the toilet. But, I started to panic again. I remember pleading that I needed something – medication – help – something. I looked into both Chris’s and Daniel’s eyes and they calmly told me that I was doing it. Baby would be here soon. I could do this.
After getting frustrated with them both (but, in a good way), we moved back to the bed. I asked for help holding my legs back. I knew that I could do it. That I had to do it. I started giving some major pushes and I could hear them saying that I was doing it. They could see her head. It was so difficult. With my other two children, pushing was always a relief. This one… no way… it was torture. But, I knew I was going to have to suck it up and do it. After a few more crazy pushes (and some super unlike me screams), I felt her head come out, and I kept pushing in the same contractions for her body to come out around 3:22 am.
Someone said, “Open your eyes! Your baby is here!”
I was so exhausted I had almost fallen right to sleep after she came out. I looked and grabbed her to my belly and remember saying “You’re here. That was so hard. You’re here. I can’t believe you’re here.”
After a few minutes, I heard the birth photographer ask if she was OP (occiput posterior). And the midwife said yes. So, that’s why it was so hard. She was “Sunny-side up”, her back was against my back, facing up into the world. Most babies who are OP end up turning before delivered, but not this little one. Well, not-so-little one. After nursing her and deciding that she looked like a Lorelei (we had been waffling back and forth about a name), Daniel and I were both curious, so we had the nurse go ahead weigh her. 9 pounds. Yes, a 9 pound OP natural birth out-of-hospital.
I was able to hold her for as long as I wanted. The nurse asked me permission before doing anything – from taking vitals to weighing her. I was in control. Just the way women should be in a normal physiological birth.
While the birth may not have been as peaceful as I wanted it due to some panicking on my part at the end, I’m so empowered by what happened and I feel closer to my husband than ever due to his amazing support through it all. I know in my heart that if I had been in a hospital setting, there would have been many many many interventions. I know I would not have been relaxed enough to birth her on my own, and it would have ended with either medication, suctioning, or c-section. I’m so grateful for the model of care provided at Lisa Ross that allowed me to work with my body, my baby, and have my wonderful husband at my side.
Welcome to the world, baby Lorelei. We love you with all our heart already. You are what our little family was missing.