**Disclaimer: I just want to preface this birth story by telling you that I LOVE the Allen Birthing Center and the midwives there. As you read my birth story, I might come across as angry or annoyed - and at the time I was a little bit. However, I totally understand that my midwife, Carol, made the best decision she could with the information she was given. My labors progress weird and fast. There's no formula for that. So, please know that I am in no way upset with the way my labor/delivery happened. I made it to the birth center in time and that's all I care about. Carol, Teri and the Allen Birth Center will FOREVER have a special place in my heart and if the Lord chooses to give us another blessing I will have my next child there!**
I'd been having Braxton Hicks contractions since around 25 weeks pregnant and about the middle of December the strong, period-like cramps started. The cramps had me convinced that I would deliver early since I didn't have cramps until the day before Cannon was born. Cannon was five days early, so I was all set for a New Years Baby (Cason was due on January 6, 2012)!
The week before Christmas, Cannon and I both came down with a nasty cold which settled in his ears and in my sinuses. A few days before Christmas I finally went to CareNow and was put on a Z-Pack for a sinus infection, and a few days after Christmas Cannon was diagnosed with the start of an ear infection. I was worried that I would go into labor with the pounding headache and stuffy nose but was assured by my midwife that sick, pregnant women rarely go into labor as their bodies know not to overload themselves. I was also terrified of going into labor on Christmas and not having our birth photographer their to capture the moment. When I woke up on December 26th feeling much better and still pregnant, I breathed a sigh of relief and decided it was time to start the "let's get Cason here" campaign.
I started taking my six-week pregnancy tea again (I had stopped drinking it for fear it was sending me into labor too early) and Cannon and I resumed our daily walks - only this time I was power walking right through all of those contactions. I was done being pregnant and ready to hold my baby - mainly because having to lift and care for Cannon while so huge was WEARING ME OUT!
Well, the days went by. I went to my 38 week check-up at the birthing center and then my 39 week check-up and each time I had only dilated to a 1 1/2. My trusty midwife informed me that when you've been sick and your body has shut down labor, it takes a few days to gear back up and get going again. And so we waited.
On Thursday, January 5th, I woke up around 6:00 am with a fairly strong contraction. Not breathtaking, but it was definitely stronger than a cramp. I noted the time, closed my eyes and waited. Sure enough, 10 minutes later there was another contraction. I waited through four contractions and finally told Danny that today might be the day and that contractions were coming every 8-10 minutes. We got up and packed all of our last minute things for the birth center.
By 8:00 am, Cannon was stirring and my contractions were still every 10 minutes apart. "This may not be the super fast labor I was expecting" I thought. My Mom came and picked Cannon up around 8:30 am to watch him for the day. We all thought that Cason was surely coming at any hour.
Danny and I spent the morning eating breakfast, watching the news, walking around the block and resting on the couch, but instead of picking up my contractions started slowing down. Soon they were every 12-15 minutes apart. By early afternoon they were faintly coming every 20 minutes, if that, and I was discouraged. What was happening? Should I walk to try to speed them up, or should I rest so that if I go into labor late at night I'm not exhausted. I didn't know what to do. Danny called the Allen Birthing Center and they graciously fit us in for an impromptu appointment to check things out.
After our second walk of the day, during which I barely felt any cramping, we headed to the birthing center. It was round 3:30 pm. Amy checked my progress and listened to my concerns. I was 3 1/2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. My body was definitely working, but she thought it might be slowing down because I was tired. Sometimes ones body shuts down and a good night's sleep kicks things back into gear. She recommended rest, a bath, and even Tylenol PM or Benedryl, if I was comfortable taking something to help me sleep. Well, I was scared to take any medicine that would induce drowsiness as those things KNOCK ME OUT, and I didn't want to labor in a fog, but a bath, well, I was comfortable with that.
My parents agreed to watch Cannon over night, so Danny picked up Pei Wei and a "One Day" at the Redbox and we settled in for a relaxing evening. I ended up going to bed after dinner, a movie and a bath around 10:00 pm in the hopes for a good night's sleep. I was nervously excited, but hoping to rest up. I knew we were close to meeting Cason.
Around 12:30 am I woke up with a start. I was in the middle of a very strong contraction. Much stronger than anything I'd had the previous day. I steadied my breathing and tried to relax. Ten minutes later, another extremely hard contractions. One after the other they came . . . ten minutes apart. WHAT WAS GOING ON? I knew this was game time, but I was worried that they would slow down again since they were so far apart. I finally work Danny at 1:00 or 1:30 am (time warps when you're in labor) and told him this was it. At this point I was laboring on my side in bed or on the floor on my hands and knees. I was having to "work" to relax. I carried my scripture cards each time I changed position.
At 2:00 am I told Danny to call the Allen Birthing Center and notify the midwife on call. I already knew it was Carol, but I thought we should double-check before waking her up in the middle of the night. Danny talked with her for what seemed like an hour. Finally, he came back and reported that she wanted me to try to sleep in between contractions if they were only 8-10 minutes apart.
I nearly cried.
There was no sleeping in between contractions. They were never really ending, they were just peaking and then tapering off into a hard cramp and then peaking again 8 minutes later. Danny suggested we try to labor for an hour before we call her again. I buckled down for some concentrated breathing.
Twenty minutes later I was alternating between laboring in bed (Carol said I should rest, so I was trying my best) and laboring on the toilet. Cason was SO LOW that every contraction felt like I need to go to the bathroom. That was the same sensation I had just before my water broke with Cannon, so I knew we were nearing the end. When I got up to go to the bathroom, my contractions sped up and came every 4-5 minutes. When I went back to bed they slowed down to every 8-10 minutes.
I asked Danny to call Carol again. I really wanted to be at the birthing center. I didn't want my water to break at home because I knew once my water broke the baby was coming . . . FAST. And I didn't want to have to ride in the car AGAIN with pushing contractions.
Danny called. Again, he talked to her for what seemed like eternity. I didn't realize it at the time but he was trying to convince her to head to the birthing center so we could come. He was trying to explain how our previous birth progressed quickly and how I felt like things were nearing the end. She wasn't so easily convinced. And, who can blame her. Normal childbirth textbooks say that when contractions are 10 minutes apart you're probably in the early stages and could have HOURS left. What midwife wants to get up at 3 am just to sit with a labor woman for the next 12 hours? I knew we were much closer to birthing a baby than 12 hours though. Finally she asked to speak to me. Through moans and groans I finished a contraction and got on the phone. I explained to her how low he felt in my pelvis, how I felt the urge to pee with every contraction, how the contractions sped up and slowed down, and how I really wanted to come to the birthing center. She told me that if my contractions were slowing when I laid down that I probably wasn't in active labor.
I cried. On the phone. With the midwife.
She tried to encourage me. She knew I was having a hard time but reminded me that I was doing great.
I hung up the phone and cried some more.
"WHY WON'T ANYONE BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY I'M IN LABOR?!?!?!"
I was beyond frustrated and getting panicky. First Danny with Cannon's birth and now Carole with Cason's birth.
"This was why I chose to deliver at the birthing center," I moaned to Danny, "so I could labor in a safe place. I didn't want to go through another crazy labor and here I am worried that I'm going to give birth at home."
I continued laboring on the floor at the foot of our bed, moaning, groaning and swaying from side to side while on all fours with each contraction. Danny was diligently squeezing my hips harder and harder as I demanded and faithfully timing each contraction.
Finally, after another 20 minutes, I asked Danny to call Carole for a third time.
"If she won't let us go to the birthing center now, then please just drive me to Allen Presbyterian Hospital. They won't, no, they can't, turn me away, and I'm NOT having this baby at home."
At this point my contractions had sped up to 3-4 minutes apart no matter my position. Danny was off the phone in a matter of minutes. Carol had agreed to meet us at the birthing center. I'm not sure if we wore her down or my contractions were now close enough together. She was going to call us when she was 10 minutes away.
"Let's go right now." I begged Danny. "We can be there waiting when she arrives."
"She's 30 minutes away." Danny replied. "What are you going to do? Labor on the porch? In the dark?"
That sounded better to me than having my water break at home, or even worse, in the car.
At 3:00 am Carol called and said she'd be there soon.
The car was already packed. We were ready to go. I had one contraction in the kitchen, leaning on the counter. I walked to the car and had another one on the driveway, leaning on the rearview mirror. As soon as that contraction was over we were in the car driving. All I wanted was to be in that big jacuzzi tub at the birthing center. I wanted to experience the wonders of being in water during labor that everyone raves about. Less than 10 minutes later we were pulling up to the birthing center and I had only had one contraction in the car. I was out of the car before Danny completely stopped as another contraction was coming on and I couldn't handle another one sitting down.
Childbirth is funny. Some memories are oddly muddled and foggy. Time passes without recognition. I have no recollection of the hours or minutes of the night, how fast or slow things were happening. Other memories are starkly clear. I can distinctly remember locations of contractions. Leaning on the birthing center's mailbox as I stumble out of the still moving car. Breathing into the bannister as soon as we walked into the dimly lit birthing center wondering WHERE THE HECK was Carol?!
Immediately she came out of the back kitchen and told me to come into the office to get checked. "CHECKED?" I thought. "She wants to CHECK ME?" That was the last thing I wanted to do. That involved climbing onto an exam bed, holding still, being touched! At this point in labor I rarely like being touched. The slighted sensations aggravate me. Danny's hair bristling on my back while he squeezed my hips together annoyed me to no end. Danny touching me too soft, or too hard. An itchy tag on my shirt. It seemed every nerve ending I had was turned on high.
Well, check me she did only to announce that I was 9 cm dilated with a bulging bag of water. It was all I could do not to scream "I TOLD YOU SO!" right there in that exam room.
Upstairs we went while Carol busied herself getting things ready and calling her birth assistant. Danny texted Keri, our birth photographer, "9 cm." She replied that she was speeding by still 30 minutes away.
It was 3:15 am.
We settled into the birthing room. And by settled in, I mean I took off my yoga pants and proceeded to labor in the bathroom, on the bed, on the floor, on my side, on all fours. It was transition in full force. NOTHING felt good. Carol and Danny sat on the end of the bed. At one point I remember hearing low talking. I remember feeling alone and wondering how they could just chit chat at time like this. I looked at Carol and asked "What should I be doing?" I wanted to her to give me a magic position, a cure all suggestion, something, anything that would help me cope/relieve the pain. She just replied, "Do whatever feels good to."
"Well, everything I know to do isn't working," is what I thought. She knew what I had forgotten. There was nothing she could do to help me now. It was just a matter of painful minutes that I had to get through myself. Me and Cason. It was just the two of us now, working, breathing, pressing, relaxing to bring him out.
I knew what needed to happen next. I was waiting, one agonizing contraction at a time, for my water to break. That familiar low pressure was there. The sensation with every contraction that I needed to go to the bathroom wouldn't go away. I contemplated asking Carol to break my water just to get things over with, but I knew it would be better for things to progress naturally. Surely it couldn't be long now.
After what seemed an agonizingly long time, but was probably only 5-6 contractions, my water broke. Fast and gushing and with a pop. Relief. And a smile. I remember smiling and talking and then thinking, I shouldn't be able to talk at this point in labor. The time was 4:01 am.
The break was short-lived. Pushing contractions quickly started. At some point Danny had turned on the iPod and I remember hearing "1234" by the Plain White Ts playing in the background. I wanted him to turn the music louder, I wanted it to be blaring in my face, something, anything to distract me from the intensity, but I couldn't even whisper a word. I couldn't even ask for water. I remember turning to him and before I could even ask, Carol was telling him to give me a drink. It was like she somehow knew how dry and sandy my mouth had become with the breathing.
After one or two pushing contractions, Teri, the birth assistant arrived. I didn't know it, but I had been waiting for her the entire time. Immediately she was in my ear telling me that I was doing a great job, that I was making progress, that it was almost over. I had been wanting someone to tell me what was going on, how things were progressing, IF things were progressing and if they could see his little head yet.
At 4:08 am Keri, our birth photographer walked into the room and I remember smiling at her and thinking, what a greeting. I'm spread eagle on the bed and groaning as she walked in the door. But she had made it and I couldn't be more pleased.
Soon after Keri arrived Cason crowned and I felt the infamous ring of fire, only it didn't go away. I was expecting him to crown and then recede when the the contraction ended and I stopped pushing. But he didn't go back in. His little head just stayed there and so did that burning ring of fire. He was stuck. I knew he was. I asked if I could push again, and Carol suggested I wait until the next contraction. WAIT! That seemed the impossibly task. Finally, the slightest hint of the start of a contraction and I pushed and pushed and pushed. And then Cason gave a give. A strong, hard, straight-legged kick straight into my stomach. He was trying to help, to work his way out. I remember screaming "Just get him OUT!" and his head was born. Carol began saying "easy, easy, easy" and I returned from my faraway laboring place to slow down, to relax, to wait.
Danny said it was at this point that Carol and Teri were noting that the cord was wrapped around the neck. When I stopped pushing Carol grabbed the cord and pulled it gently away from Cason's neck. With my next push she let the cord slip over Cason's shoulder as he was born. And again, relief. Wet, slippery, joyful relief.
Caught by Daddy and on my chest in a second, Cason was born. It was 4:14 am. Four hours after starting hard labor. One hour after arriving at the birth center. Thirteen minutes after my water broke. Six minutes after the photographer arrived. And exactly on time on his due date.
He didn't cry right away and I was worried. He was gray and limp. He looked so little and yet just seconds before had felt impossibly big. Teri wrapped him in a blanket as he lay on my chest and rubbed him down. She suctioned his nose and mouth and then there was a cry. A glorious newborn squeal. The indignant squawk that his perfect little world in my womb had been disrupted. And soon Carol told me to relax, smile, he was perfect.
And from that moment time started flying by. I held him low on my chest waiting for the cord, which was somewhat short, to stop pulsing. Teri introduced herself and I laughed, because I have a tendency to meet the people that help deliver my babies AFTER my babies are born. I barely remember delivering the placenta. A flash here, a snap there from Keri's camera. Danny texting, calling family. Carol letting me know that I had a laceration but wouldn't even require a stitch. Cason nursing like a champ. Cannon arriving and not knowing what to do with the bundle in my arms.
Parents and brothers arriving and oohing and aahing over the newest life in our family tree. Showering. Eating bacon, eggs and toast from the Allen Cafe. Cuddling with Danny and Cason on the bed. Packing up. Driving home with my son only six hours old. Hours and hours of skin to skin in my very own bedroom.
Then I blinked.
The pain of labor dims, but the memories sharpen, fixated in my mind. And my beautiful little thing grows too fast in my arms and time flies.
*Song lyrics in italics from "Beautiful Things" by Gungor, our song for our second son.