I woke while it was still dark to a mild yet different from my normal contraction. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom where I find repeated confirmation this was no average morning. My body was giving me clues, this was the beginnings of labor. I was 38 weeks and had been 3cm dilated at my doctor’s office the day before. Everything had gone really well for that appointment. It was as if a certain favor and grace had begun to surround me:
Birth was near, I could sense it.
After processing the realization I checked the time, 4:00 AM. Not exactly when I wanted to wake my husband and 5 little ones, but we had a lot to do to get our clan out the door. For my seventh birth we had chosen Karmanos Natural Birth Center at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. I had heard an ad about Karmanos on the radio early in my pregnancy. Interested in the appeal to women who wanted to birth naturally, I looked them up on the internet. What I saw was a gorgeous, state of the art facility. It was exciting to imagine delivering there throughout the long months of waiting. Now the day had arrived! We had done some preparations for the birth, like planned outfits for each child set aside and ready to go. My husband and I dressed kids and packed supplies.
We had a few helpers in waiting. The plan was for the children to remain with us for the birth. We had toured Karmanos at 36 weeks and seen how family friendly it was. Just newly opened, the birth center was attached to the labor and delivery wing with its’ own outdoor area and waiting room for family members. Lots of double checking and we were finally all packed up ready to leave the driveway at 6:00 AM. I text my girlfriend Kate from MOPS to let her know what’s going on. She has volunteered to sit with the children so my husband can be with me during labor. I was playing it safe by getting ready this early. We were about an hour drive away from the hospital, depending on traffic.
First stop, McDonald’s! We order breakfast for everyone but I don’t have much of an appetite. Next we discuss a drug store stop closer to the hospital for crayons and coloring books. Labor is slow but my body has been working throughout the night. We take our time driving in, getting everyone fed and picking up the extras we want for the kids. Once we arrive, my family drops me at the front entrance. I take the elevator up to the birth center/regular labor and delivery. I must go through triage to be admitted for a natural birth. I answer a host of questions, undress, and get hooked up to monitors. A nurse tells me I am 3-4 cm dilated and I wait for the doctor to come in. I am nervous about my blood pressure, which has been a little high, so I pull out my cell phone and play some Jim Gaffigan on YouTube. This has become a habit for me during my third trimester. For the first time in my life I was considered high risk, but only because of my age. I endured weeks of NST’s (non-stress tests), which had honestly been stressful. I found that taking my mind off of the monitors and experiencing some joy worked wonders. My laughter echos throughout the triage unit where no one else seems to have a reason to laugh this hard!
My OB is in the office on Wednesdays, so I meet the attending Doc and we discuss my status. He listens to me and we seem to both know it’s time, yet he is not ready to admit me without a more trackable pattern of steady contractions. He offered for me to walk around with my family for a couple of hours to see if labor will progress. The doctor knows I am coming from across town and I agree this is a good plan. I redress and head downstairs for a snack. Beaumont is beautiful and I take a moment to soak the experience up.
Back on the main floor of the hospital I find an array of temptations, yet when I check my purse I realize my husband has all the cash. One quick call and he picks me up at the front door. We Google the nearest Wal-Mart because we still have a couple of purchases to make including an infant carrier. Once at Wal-Mart I grab some fun stuff, too – a black and mint polka dot bikini for me to wear in the birth tub! Since beginning to walk around, I feel increasing pressure and contractions seem to be more noticeable in my lower back. I am determined to get things moving as I cross the store alone to pick out some hair accessories for the girls. It was a joyful, peaceful trip. To have my whole family together, shopping and waiting for this baby to be born, I felt euphoric. We finished up and headed off to find a local park hoping to get the kids outside for a little bit. We took our time with no real rush, almost knowing when to head back into triage. Again we decided not to unpack our family until I am admitted, so I head upstairs alone. This time, triage is full. The night before had been a “Strawberry Moon” full and low. I sit in a packed waiting room for about 10 minutes before being called back, once more relying on Gaffigan to keep my calm. The nurse checks my vitals and hooks me up to a monitor for baby’s heart tones and contractions.
Even though I took over three hours to make way back, I’m relieved to see the same doctor greet me with, “Any progress?”. I tell him about the increased pressure and back pain. Once again he checks me. This time 5 cm! The doctor discusses breaking my water once I’m settled in my room and gives the nurse the green light to admit me into the birth center! It’s now 12:30 pm. I dress and head off to find reception so I can text my girlfriend and call my husband. Months of planning and hoping for a natural birth experienced at Karmanos have paid off, I am being admitted! With all the excitement, I haven’t really eaten since a light breakfast of egg muffin and my herbal birth tea I had concocted the night before. I call my husband back to graciously beg him to grab a coke or mountain dew on his way up. I need some sugar for this event and the birth center allows the freedom to eat or drink during labor!
Timing is everything and I am still thinking about my support people falling into place as I am lead to my suite. I remember my affirmations and think about God, “It’s all going to be fine, it is in His hands.” I am overcome with emotion as I enter my beautiful room. Time for a few pics before I get into my focus mode.
The nurse asks if I want her to run the bath and have some aromatherapy, “Lavender?”. “Yes!” I smile. I change into my bikini and climb into the tub. The increased pressure and now steady contractions are calmed by the heat and the dispensation of gravity through water. I relax and look out the window. I am filled with gratitude to be in this environment. My nurse is at the computer silently typing in my information. My husband is still tending to all the kids in the birth center’s waiting room.
I focus on the birth. I tune into my contractions which have steadily increased. The pressure and aching are now mostly in my lower back. The jets and water soothe the pain which is still minimal. One thing that I have always enjoyed about natural birth is that you experience a contraction, then your body gives you a break and you seemingly “return to normal” in between the waves. My phone is near by and Kate is texting me she has arrived. Within minutes of receiving that text my husband joins me in the room. We make the decision to move me to the bed as the back pain is now becoming too intense to bear in the tub without mobility. Once on the bed the nurse applies pressure to my lower back which eases the intensity. She has my husband take over and I couch him through the contraction, though talking is becoming increasingly difficult. Constant pressure feels best and no movement. Only consistent pressure in the center of my lower back helps me get through contractions which are coming about every 3-4 minutes. I am entering transition, the most intense part of birth. While I was in the tub I was able to talk my contractions down, “Pain-free, pain-free, pain-free” I would chant. Mind over matter, it work as a stop sign from my head to the pain in the lower part of my body. Now I need to work through movement. I ask the nurse how we can use the birthing ball at this point to involve gravity. There are two types of birthing balls available, one round and one in the shape of a peanut for lying on your side. Our nurse coaches me and we try both. I can think in between contractions and I know from experience once I am able to push, the worst of the pain is over. I lean over the round ball with the top half of my body weight and allow my lower body to relax. My husband is still nearby assisting with pressure to my back. I experience several contractions using the birthing balls and then move to lying almost flat-out on the bed. The doctor pops in letting us know he is also attending a first time mom in a nearby room. He checks my cervix and breaks my water, telling the nurse to call him when I am ready to push.
I hold my husband’s and the nurse’s hands through the most difficult parts, breathing intentionally deep. It is strangely silent and peaceful in my suite and throughout the center. I pray during the calm,
“There’s no God like Jehovah”
“Lord, let the pain end as soon as possible”
In more of a whisper now I repeat myself, centering my mind on my goal. I am almost there. I ask for more lavender and the nurse rushes to get some. She soaks a small clothe in the oil and places it in a cup. My husband holds it near my face and I inhale deeply through the next waves of progress. The lavender helps. I begin pushing my breath out through almost closed lips and rotating my head from left to right to combat the climax. I didn’t really get it, but pushing had begun. The nurse on one side holding my right hand and Colin on my left, they both keeping telling me how well I am doing. Their words feel great to hear and keep returning my mind to the positive reality of what I am experiencing. I am reacting by instinct and have fought hard to keep control, but I am feeling somewhat helpless. I just want the pain to be over. I am trying to communicate with my helpers that I am not sure what to do at this point, I know the end is near, but I do not know which position is best. Then, just as suddenly, I feel the baby is ready to come out. “The baby is coming!” I announce. The nurse stands up and turns away from the bed to put on gloves and call the doctor. With the next contraction I close my eyes and push with all my might – One giant burst of strength and our new baby was out! Labor had become so intense that there was no holding back on my part! Thankfully my husband is familiar with how fast I push. As soon as I said it was time, he knew to place his hands into position. It happened so fast, my husband caught our daughter as she came blasting into the world! The nurse turned around, stunned, at the sound of the baby’s first cry. She immediately spoke into the phone, “Baby is here!” and abruptly hung up. She reassured us that the baby looked great and in a flash the room was full of helping hands. The doctor darted into position, as if he had been there all along. As a team the staff tend to me and the baby. Our daughter was born @ exactly 4:39pm, 6lbs 13oz and 20 inches long, healthy and perfect.
To date I have had three home births and four hospital births. Out of the seven, all but one I laboured naturally and without the use of medications. Every natural birth did require preparations on my part. I had to work with my caregivers to see if I was a good candidate for natural birth and I needed to read up on possible procedures to be an educated patient. I also used faith with positive affirmations. I memorized scripture and statements that reaffirmed all my positive expectations for labor. I then repeated them out loud throughout the pregnancy, especially anytime I felt fear or worry. I had to meditate on positive truths to combat fear during each of my pregnancies, it was never an easy process to mentally prepare for. Natural birth is hard work, but the intensity of labor does subside and your mind is fully able to be in the present moment. As a teen mom, birth was the unknown. I used drugs for my first labor. As a result I felt drugged for most of the experience. Along with heavy pain meds I received an epidural. I had stayed awake most of the night before and there is no shame in needing something when you become too fatigued. I did, however, learn after my first natural birth that when the pain becomes most intense, I was very close to the end. When I felt like it was too much, it was almost over. Birth is very manageable and the amount of pain, when added up, is brief. In between every contraction there was a break, to breathe and regroup. Which ever way you chose to labor and give birth, you can celebrate your story and growing through the experience. Even as a young mother, giving birth was profound. Birth is beautiful and intimate. Embrace it, celebrate it – do not fear it. #PleasingAbba #TeenMom