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This might very well be the longest blog I will post…but guess what?! Our little girl is HERE. I spent the last few weeks before her birth preparing myself for labor. I felt that the blog was a distraction and didn’t want anything keeping me from being completely in tune with my mind and body leading up to this life changing experience.
To be honest, I thought I would have gotten my birth story up sooner…I think I underestimated how exhausted I would be. There were also some complications which resulted in a longer recovery for me (I’ll go into these more later). For those of you who have been following my blog since my first post about my pregnancy, thank you. I am so excited to finally share with you my birth story and announce the birth of our beautiful baby girl! To those of you who have just recently started following me – welcome to the family!
I’m going to share my birth story first, so if you’re only here for the baby pictures, scroll down to the bottom. I also want to give a short disclaimer that I will be talking about some pretty in-depth stuff. Some of it may be TMI for some of you, so if you don’t care about pregnancy, natural delivery, or birth – you should probably skip to the bottom too. I really want to be honest and transparent for those who truly want to know what it was like for me to have an all natural delivery. There’s no point in hiding things or pretending that (11 days after delivery) I’m not laying on the couch typing this because it’s still painful to sit in most positions. I want to be real with you all! So for those brave enough or interested enough, keep reading.
As a first time mom, I wasn’t sure what labor would feel like. I’d been having braxton hicks for several weeks leading up to her due date and was told that contractions would be like those – only painful. Well, her due date came and went without a single painful contraction. I was disappointed, despite knowing that the average first time mom goes about 41 weeks and a couple days (I gave birth at 41 and 2). So on Tuesday of the following week, I was excited when those braxton hicks started to get painful. In fact, I could hardly sleep through them that night. Wednesday morning I hit 41 weeks. I was still having the same painful contractions I’d had all night and they seemed to be time-able – they were coming every 7-10 minutes when I first woke up. Tim had to go to work but told me he would be close in case it started to progress. As the afternoon went by, the contractions started to come closer, every 5-7 minutes, then about every 5. They lasted for about a minute long and this had been going on for some time. I was still able to ignore them at this point because I’d been watching Netflix, but my mom thought I should head to the birth center anyway. Tim came home and we drove up there, only to be told that I was just 2cm dilated and to go home and sleep. I went home and struggled through another night of those same contractions – I didn’t sleep at all. Thursday morning the contractions were still going on, slightly stronger this time and I was convinced that I must have dilated another couple centimeters by now! Here is my advice to those of you who are going natural (or even if you’re doing an epidural) – don’t get discouraged! Early labor usually goes by really slowly for first time moms and I just let it get to my head.
Anyway, we call the midwife Thursday morning (per her directions) and she tells us to go ahead and come in to get checked. We stopped by my grandmother’s to pick up my mom and headed up there. The drive to the birth center is about an hour from where we’re staying, by the way, so it’s not a fun drive while you’re in labor. I was starting to be in more pain at this point and didn’t really have much of an appetite (I never do when I’m in pain). We got there and she told me I was now 3-4cm. Active labor is generally considered to begin around 4cm, but the birth center will not admit you until you are at a 6. This is partly because they only have 3 birthing rooms, but also because they have rules on how long they are allowed to let you labor there without further assistance. Baby had also been OP (“sunny side up”) when we went in the first time, which is not a good position for birth – but was now LOP, which means she had turned more on her side. The midwife told us to stay in the area, go walk around, shop, and come back in a couple hours. We went to a place nearby called Kitchen Kettle Village (which I totally recommend visiting if you are in the Lancaster area) and spent about 3 hours there, walking around, looking through the shops, etc. I felt really in tune with my body at this point and could feel the labor progressing. Contractions were getting more painful, I had to focus more on breathing through them and could no longer walk through them. I would have to sit down or lean against Tim as they came. Pretty sure everyone that saw me was a little worried I’d have the baby there.
After the 3 hour mark we went back to the birth center and were very excited to find out I was 6-7cm! They took us back to the birthing room and set everything up. Also, for those of you wondering why I have an IV in my arm, it’s because I tested positive for GBS during my pregnancy (there’s a little more on that in my previous post). They had to give me antibiotics through the IV every 4 hours to decrease the chance of her picking up the bacteria during birth. Directly after we got there, I spent an hour or so working through some of the contractions with Tim. Mom got some pictures (although I didn’t even notice her there). After that I got in the tub and was in the tub for about 3 hours. I was shaking uncontrollably at this point, even though I was still able to breathe through the contractions and count my breaths (this was something that really helped me and gave me something to focus on). I think the shaking was partly from the pain, partly the hormones, and partly that I felt cold despite the room being plenty warm.
After I got out of the tub the midwives checked my dilation again, only to find that I was still at a 6-7. This was very disappointing to me because I’d been told that 5-10cm was usually faster than 1-5. Also because I’d been struggling through 3 hours of these painful contractions that weren’t going anywhere. I decided not to get back in the tub because I felt like that may have slowed down my labor. The midwife told me that she would give me a few more hours but that if I didn’t progress we would need to make some decisions. She also told me that although baby had turned more on her side, which was an ok position for birth, her head seemed to be somewhat asynclitic. This means that it is kind of tipped toward one shoulder, making the wider part of the head come out first, rather than the narrowest part (when the head is angled correctly). We did something called the miles circuit to try and get her to disengage so that she could adjust her head position. The contractions were much more painful in these positions, but I told myself that we had to at least try. If you want to know more about the miles circuit and the exact exercises I did, you can find info on it here. It didn’t work for me, but I should have been doing it throughout early labor to be more effective.
After doing the miles circuit, walking laps around the outside of the birthing center, and bouncing on the birthing ball, the midwife checked me again (this was 3 hours later). I was still 6-7cm. At this point I was ready to cry. I felt like I’d literally tried everything and it just wasn’t progressing. I was stuck in this cycle of painful contractions every 3-4 minutes that weren’t progressing me at all. She gave me 3 options, 2 of which involved going to the hospital (pitocin, epidural, etc). The other option was that she could break my water there – since it hadn’t broken at this point – and see if that would progress me. She told me she could let me labor for 2 more hours after they broke my water. If I didn’t progress after that, they would have to send me to the hospital.
After discussing it with Tim (and my mom), I decided to let her break my water and try to progress from there. Almost immediately I got in the shower. I felt like I was only in there for 30 minutes, although mom says it was closer to an hour. I could tell right away that my body was beginning to work with me again. The contractions came much stronger, much more intense, and much closer together – almost one right after the other. I believe I was in transition then. I’d been silent up until this point but felt that vocalizing a little helped me make progress. I let myself make some quiet, low groans and thought to myself “down and out” with each contraction. By the time I got out of the shower, I sat on the birthing ball for what felt like just a couple minutes, contractions coming hard and fast, before I felt like I needed to push. . I pushed on the toilet for a little while, then on the bed while kneeling, but finally decided that I wanted to be on my side. With each contraction I could feel my body almost take over and force me to push. Since I was able to feel everything, I learned very quickly what was an effective push and what wasn’t. This was the hardest part for me. I really had to call out to God for strength and force myself to push against the pain (which is exactly the opposite of what you want to do). I remember the midwife at one point telling me to reach down and feel her head as she crowned – it helped me visualize where she was and remind me what all of this was for. I truly believe that if her head had been in the correct position, it would not have been quite as hard or painful. Regardless, God gave me the strength I needed. I pushed for an hour and she was here!
Both of these photos are directly after birth. I felt so beyond relieved to finally have her her in my arms! And Tim’s face in the second photo says everything – look how excited he is! Unfortunately, because of her head still being asynclitic, I tore pretty severely. The midwives told me I tore about 4cm up, although I had just a small tear down (2 stitches). I also hemorrhaged and lost a TON of blood. This was the only time that I saw my wonderful husband struggle. He and God were my strength throughout the labor and he was just so serene and supportive. I could not have asked for a better partner to do this with. When the midwives started getting these concerned looks on their face, I could tell he was worried. They told me that if they couldn’t stop the bleeding they would have to put their hands up there and make sure there wasn’t anything left. They were discussing it with each other and looked worried, which in turn worried everyone in the room. Tim actually had to walk out of the room at this point – he told me later that he just had to leave for a minute so that he could focus and pray. When he came back a few minutes later, they had stopped the bleeding and everything was fine.
After that came the stitches…the numbing was the worst part! I didn’t see the needle, but Tim said it was pretty crazy. That part was hard to sit still through. Once it kicked in though, I was able to relax and let them stitch me up. I actually have a picture of me eating a sandwich while the midwives are stitching me up. I was just so hungry after the birth! I ate like 3 sandwiches within the first hour after she was born. At first I wasn’t sure they were even going to stitch me up there. Since the upward tear was so extensive, my midwife told me she wasn’t sure they could fix that at the birth center. She ended up calling in the other midwife on call and they worked together to stitch it up! I honestly felt much better about having two women stitch up that area than some random doctor that would’ve been called in if I’d had to go to the hospital. They were so careful and really worked together to make sure they did the best job they could. I have no doubts about their abilities.
This is where I want to give a shout out to my mom. I had originally been on the fence about having her in the room with me during the entire labor, but I am so glad I did. She had just completed her doula training a few weeks before I was due and came up to PA at that point to stay with me until I went into labor. She ended up staying almost a month! She was also invaluable during labor. When Tim wasn’t sure what to do, she could give suggestions. When I needed my water filled up or an extra blanket, she went and got it while Tim helped me. If Tim needed a break to eat something, she would help me. I told her before I went into labor that this was something I really wanted to be mostly between me and Tim…she did a wonderful job of respecting that wish, yet still being an immense help. Her doula training really came in handy with some of the positions we used to help try and adjust baby’s position and make labor more comfortable for me. She was so encouraging. I am truly grateful for her presence there and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sorry mom for bruising your hand when I was pushing haha.
I feel just immensely blessed to have had this birth experience. I asked God for a natural birth and He gave it to me! It might not have been exactly the way I wanted or exactly the way I imagined, but it was amazing. I am completely floored by what our bodies can do! I have this crazy new respect for my body and what God did through me. I’m amazed by the sheer power and strength I never knew my body possessed. I am so thankful to everyone that has helped me. The Lord enabled me to work so calmly through the contractions that the midwives compared me to Amish mamas they’d worked with that had already had 6 kids! Tim was so strong, loving, caring, and encouraging…I don’t think I could have done it without him. My mom was encouraging without being pushy and her doula training helped a lot throughout the labor. A huge thanks as well to all the amazing people praying so hard for me – especially to those who gave up their sleep to stay up praying until she was born. I am so thankful for all of the prayers. Lastly, thank you to all the members of the church who volunteered their time and energy to cook meals for me every single night for the first week! That was such a huge blessing.
And now the part you’ve all been waiting for…
Welcome to the world Mila Jane Holmes! Born 6/22 at 3:44AM at 6lbs 10oz and 19″ long.
If you’ve made it through this entire post, please leave a comment so I can thank you! I’m humbled that anyone would be interested enough to read about my experiences, especially when I let it get so long – but hey! This is probably one of the biggest experiences of my life.
Feeling thankful, emotional, and blessed beyond measure,