Rowen Mae’s Birth Story

I know this is…four (almost five!) months late, but I thought I would share my birth story. A little background: For as long as I can remember, I knew I was going to birth naturally, or at least give it a try. I don’t like to take pain relievers or any regular conventional medicine, so I think this was part of the reason for not wanting pain relief during (or after) labor. And then I read a ton about it when I was pregnant, and we took birth classes from our doula, Linda, which was so so helpful. But in the weeks leading up to my due date, whenever I would think about labor I would get a little scared. Lindy recommended that I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, written by a hippie midwife.

The first half of the book was all individual women’s natural birth stories. So whenever I would feel nervous or scared of what would happen, I would just think back to some of those stories, and think “Those women did it, so I can too! My body is meant to birth. And for thousands of years, there were no pain killers. There were no epidurals. So I can do this!” (Also, I tried to prepare myself mentally for something going wrong, in case I did need interventions. I still wanted to be happy with my baby even if it didn’t go perfectly the way I wanted it to). So here it goes. This is an edited abstract from my journal:

So, I’ll start with Wednesday night. Wednesday was my due date. I kind of expected that this would not happen on my due date because only like 10% of babies get born on their due date. (I looked this up. I was kind of obsessive). But during and after dinner, I kept getting those Braxton Hicks pretty strong, and they were starting to feel a little different than what I was used to. I could feel my uterus tighten right at the bottom. That was the difference. But I ignored it. It was my due date, it wasn’t going to happen. I was sitting on my exercise ball at the table, reading “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” (a book about girls and the princess culture), because I was pretty terrified of having a girl. And Coleman was reading, preparing a lesson for Junior Achievement. Eventually I told Coleman that I thought they could be real, so we started timing my contractions. They were about 15 minutes apart. So even if they were real, no cause for alarm. So we decided to watch a movie, and relax.

Just before we started the movie, I texted Lindy (our doula), to let her know that maybe I was starting labor. She quickly called back, told us to sleep, and to call back if the contractions get much worse. She also summarized this poem about how from the time they cut the cord, its all about letting the baby go, and how the baby will never be so close to you anymore. How I’ll miss feeling her move inside of me, and also how it won’t be just Coleman and I anymore, we’ll have a child, so enjoy tonight with Coleman. For the past few days we have been kind of joking about that- every night we are like- could be our last (with just us)! It was weird to think that tonight actually might be our last. Anyway all of this made me cry. So tender!

We got ready for sleep, I got excited and put on the night gown I bought to labor in. Coleman gave me a foot massage with lavender oil, and we were ready to rest. Before we went to sleep, my husband gave me a priesthood blessing. In the blessing, I was reminded of what Jesus went through during the atonement, and how he truly understands everything I was about to go through, all the pain and joy. I thought about that periodically throughout the night. Even though it was extremely hard and painful, I am grateful that I had this though to turn to, and I was able to pray for more strength.

About 5 or 10 minutes into our sleep, the contractions were just too painful to stay still, so I got up and started walking around. When I walked they stopped hurting. I just had to do my yoga breathing and pace around the house and it was better. I told Coleman to stay asleep because I was fine, but he of course would not. I moved all our hospital bags to the living room by the door (to get ready for when we did have to leave) while Coleman made me some red raspberry leaf tea (this is supposed to help speed the labor process), and the tea was amazing! The warm water soothed my contractions and felt so good! I bounced on my exercise ball and did little stretches. We had the yoga mat laid out, essential oils diffusing, my birthing music, the lights dimmed… it was a very soothing environment. Everything was going well.

Cole and I were trying to keep track of how far apart they were with my contraction timer app. I didn’t really want to keep track, but I wanted to know when to call the doctor. When they were 4-6 minutes apart, Coleman called the doctor. He told us to call him again when we were headed to the hospital. Once the contractions started to get worse, I got on the yoga mat on all fours and Coleman applied counter pressure to my back during each contraction. This was such a life-saver. I just breathed through the contractions. And Coleman helped. I loved the oil diffuser. Geranium essential oil was my favorite oil during this time. The smell took me away from the present moment. Weird to describe it like that, but it is how I felt. And somewhere around this moment I thought about how nice it would be to have a home birth. Because everything was continuing to get more painful so quickly. I wished I could just stay there at home. But you can’t make a decision like that last minute. So we had to stick with our plan.

The contractions kept getting more and more intense, I told him we needed to go to the hospital. I couldn’t imagine getting through these contractions in the car without Coleman’s help. Especially if they got even more painful, which they were supposed to. We called Lindy to let her know we were going to go to the hospital, and maybe she could meet us there. This was around 2 am. She lived close to the hospital (a half hour drive) so we felt that it would be easiest just to do that. But she said she could come to our home and then drive us to the hospital, and Coleman could help me through the pain in the back seat. Even though I kind of wanted to leave just then, I really liked the idea of Coleman being with me in the back seat on the way to the hospital. This would be much more doable for me.

When she came over, I had in my mind that we were going to go soon, but everyone else seemed content to stay at home for a little while longer. I was so comfortable here, so I didn’t complain, I just tried hard not to think about the whole driving to the hospital, being at the hospital. I had several more strong, painful contractions and Lindy was helping me breathe while Coleman did his counter pressure. At some point I finally said “Okay, we should go to the hospital!” Lindy said okay, but told me that based on her experience, it might actually get a lot more intense. I asked her how far she thought I was dilated, and her guess was about 2-3 cm, but maybe more… just based on my reactions to the contractions and her experience. (Doulas are coaches, not medical people, so she couldn’t check to see for sure). I couldn’t imagine the birthing thing getting much more intense, I didn’t know what I was going to do if this was what 2-3 cm felt like. But I didn’t want to go to the hospital until the very end (to lessen the chances of birthing interventions). So I agreed to stay home a little while longer.

Either I must have progressed very quickly, or I might have been father along than we thought, because the next few contractions were very different. I couldn’t identify it at the time, but looking back, I felt the start of my pushing contractions. I was afraid to push, I thought that it was too early but that is what I felt like doing. I did a little, and my water broke. After that happened, I had a break from my contractions for 5 or 10 minutes. This was such a nice relief.

But then the contractions came back. And they were much more intense, they were undeniably urging me to push. I remember reading in my book how women just knew when their bodies were ready to push. When I read that I thought it was weird, and I thought that I wouldn’t know when it was the right time to push. But I knew. My body was telling me that now was time. Coleman helped me with counter pressure still, but it didn’t help the same as before because the pain was in a different area, my body was pushing. It was so weird how different the contractions felt.

The pushing urges were so intense, I started crying and telling everyone (Coleman and Lindy) we needed to leave and I kept saying “The baby is coming! The baby is coming!” I remember leaning against the wall, facing it, with my arms above my head, and Lindy said “Do we need to call an ambulance, or do you want to drive?” I was just crying and I said “I don’t know! I don’t know!”. I guess we decided to go via car because next thing I knew, I was being helped down our million porch steps. I told Coleman that we shouldn’t have bought this house, too many steps down our front porch. I had our rebozo scarf tied around my waist with tennis balls over my waist and under the scarf so Coleman could give me counter pressure when I needed it in the car. I was so afraid because I felt like pushing so bad, but I was afraid to because I wasn’t ready for her to come. Not in the car.

Everyone was so supportive on the car ride. Lindy reminded me to breathe, I just remember closing my eyes and listening to her voice, and breathing. It was so nice to have Coleman next to me in the car, helping me. My body wasn’t letting me push into the contractions, which did not feel so good. I wanted to let go, but I couldn’t because I didn’t want to have the baby yet.

Earlier in the night, I had tried to eat because I wanted energy, but I just didn’t feel like eating. I had a few bites but couldn’t eat more. I was really trying to eat too since I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to eat once we got to the hospital (which is just ridiculous. I did research and it isn’t a science-based rule at all, your body needs energy to labor. However, they don’t want you to get sick in the hospital if you need interventions). In the car I was all of a sudden hungry. I ate half an energy bar. That felt good. But when we got off the exit I just felt super sick. We didn’t have a bag, and I ended up losing everything I had eaten on the yoga mat we were sitting on, and on Coleman. He contained it but his shorts were covered in my nastiness! I felt bad because…it was really gross. But he kept helping me anyways. And this is why I love him.

After that I just remember feeling that we were not going to make it. Even though we were off the exit, I just kept thinking I was not going to make it. It was so uncomfortable to push/ suppress pushes while cooped up in a car, even without seatbelts on. I just wanted to pull over then have the baby, but it was so cold outside. I didn’t want to do that.

It was about 5:30am when we got to the hospital, and we had to enter through the emergency entrance because it was after hours. I waddled in and Coleman walked closely behind me and told the woman at the desk “We’re having a baby!” And then I moaned, “I’m ready to push! I’m ready to push! I’m pushing!!!” Next thing I know, they are wheeling me to triage to make sure I’m actually in labor. Seriously? Since I wasn’t at the hospital, I had no idea how far dilated I was through the night, but at this point I knew for sure that I am pushing out my baby. And they separated us for this. Lindy warned us this would happen. I demanded that they let Coleman come over and over again, and telling everyone that I was pushing. I wanted to get in a delivery room NOW. I was crying as the nurse was pushing me. She asked me “Are you crying because you are in pain?” I don’t think I even replied to that, but I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure if I was in pain or not, but I knew all I wanted to do was push but I couldn’t easily do that right now stuck in this wheel chair and that was frustrating, and they took Coleman away from me so I was all alone. And that’s why I was crying.

They took me into a room and I told them again that I wanted Coleman. I heard a nurse tell another nurse “She wants her boyfriend.” I corrected her and said “He’s my husband!” and a few seconds later another nurse was there and asked if I could answer her questions in front of him- I guess this was a privacy thing and I said “Yes!” so then he came in. Finally. And when they checked me, it only took half a second for the nurse to see that I was in labor and fully dilated. I had told them I was pushing for ten minutes. Stupid hospital rules… Now I finally got to go into a room and get out of that wheel chair.

I had imagined not being on the bed for the delivery, but the bed looked nice and soft. I asked them for the pushing bar, but they had to get it set up first so I just climbed on the bed and started pushing- I was on all fours (cat/cow yoga position) which the nurses did not seem to like very much. One nurse was trying to get an IV started in my right arm while another nurse was trying to get the fetal monitor going on my stomach. I remember wanting everyone to just go away and leave me alone, and let me focus on pushing, and I’m pretty sure I told them so too. I was not a very nice patient. I wanted the lights to go down, it was way too bright in that room. I told them I didn’t want the IV and I didn’t want the fetal monitor. They kept telling me why I needed those things but I told them no. The lady with the IV messed up her first attempt which resulted in my right hand totally swelling up so bad and turning purple (it actually hurt really bad, I’m surprised I felt it over the pain of the contractions), but the second attempt worked on my arm. They didn’t even use it during delivery so I still thought this was pointless. They told me it was for an emergency.

The fetal monitor nurse was not so successful. They had a belt thing around my waist and the darn white monitors kept falling out (apparently because of the way I was positioned, I was supposed to be lying on my back) so the nurse was constantly next to me trying to get the heartbeat. Sometimes they would find it and say “That’s your baby!” and I was like “Great, now let me keep pushing.” It was such a relief to start pushing during contractions, but it was so extremely painful.

Lindy was parking the car so she was gone for a little while but she met us in the room. And she was just an angel. I was facing an empty wall, and Lindy stood in front of me to the left side, all the nurses were to my right. I was still on all fours, and she suggested that I lean against the bed so I didn’t have to support my whole body while pushing, so I scooted up and put my chest against the bed, and my arms over the back of it. This felt so much better…although when I changed to that position the monitors fell out again…So fetal monitor nurse came back over to fix the monitor and I told her to stop (again), that I didn’t need it and she said “We need to make sure you’re baby is alive, don’t you want to hear her heartbeat?” and I remember saying “I know she’s alive!!” Like I said, I was not a very nice patient. I wanted everyone to leave me alone. She said “In this position it is really hard…” I’m still pushing on and off as my contractions came and went, but mostly came. Over and over again.

And then I hear nurses say that my doctor was on his way, but they had two other doctors there in the doorway ready to take over in case he didn’t make it in time. I was told that the doctors wanted to come into the room and maybe check me or something, but we had a good nurse who told them that I was good on my own, we didn’t need them to help. Thank you, nurse. I kept pushing and Lindy kept helping me breathe, it kind of was like I was in yoga class doing breathing exercises, and she was the instructor, walking me through the breathing. Inhale, and exhale…. feel everything around you… Fetal monitor nurse is still messing with the monitors and I’m getting so distracted and annoyed because of it. I remember Lindy saying “…breathe out everything that is not serving you…” and I could hear in her voice that she meant the nurse with the monitors who would not go away. This was helpful. I tried to tune out fetal monitor nurse and the bright lights, which no one would dim, and tune into Lindy’s voice.

I kept trying to breathe, and push, and breathe…over and over again…My doctor finally came in I think and he was smiling and sounded way too chipper. He said that my position was really working for me, and everything was looking great, and I was doing so well. Everyone kept saying that. Words of encouragement – which were wonderful, but I didn’t know how much longer this would be and I felt like my pushes weren’t actually doing much. And I was in so much pain. I felt like it was never going to end. The pressure…so much pressure…and the pushing…I was grunting into the contractions which I think helped with progression, but it still felt like it was never going to end. I tried to picture being finished. I longed to be lying on the bed, Rowen in my arms, skin to skin, everything over. I remember really thinking that wouldn’t happen. I remember crying “…why isn’t it working??…I’m trying my best…”

Then I remembered Coleman’s blessing. I remembered about the Atonement. I thought about Jesus in Gethsemane. I know he suffered far worse pains than I did that night, so I of course don’t want to compare, but this was the most painful experience of my life so far. This was the worst pain I had ever felt. I thought about Him, maybe at some point thinking the pain would never end, wanting it to be over when the pain just kept coming and wouldn’t stop. The angel was there to help him, encourage him. I felt a connection. Like He really did understand. I prayed for help.

Everything was getting more painful. A couple times I thought I reached the most painful part, the “ring of fire” as Lindy called it, just to find the next second it got more painful. I could feel Rowen’s head bobbing up and down, over and over again. I would push and she would descend, but on my break she would come up again. My doctor said “Soon on one of these pushes she will want to stay.” Soon after that, I felt the ring of fire, I knew this time, without a doubt, this was it. This is what all of those women in my book were trying to describe. But it is indescribable. Then it went away. Rowen must have came up again.

Lindy kept saying “…push into it, just push into it…” This was so hard, I kept picturing it over, picturing laying down, with by baby and it all being over. I realized that I had no clue what she would look like. Apparently she had hair because everyone kept saying “look at all that hair!!” At one point I did reach down and feel. They were right- lots of hair. So I felt the fire ring and then on my break it went away, but I wanted to be over so I kept pushing. Coleman said I did this a lot. Pushed when I wasn’t contracting, and it was bad. My doctor said I needed to stop doing that because those pushes weren’t effective, and they just took away my energy. I had a few long breaks. And while they were nice because I could breathe, I just wanted to get her out. I wanted this to be over. The doctor said the contraction after a long break is sometimes really powerful. It was all such a blur, and I am already starting to forget some of the pain, but I remember that it was so painful. The stretching and opening was just so painful.

I remember thinking of getting a positive pregnancy test again, and not being excited, but being terrified because this time I would know that I would have to go through this birthing experience all over again. How was anyone ever excited to be pregnant a second time after this experience? Why would anyone get pregnant on purpose after feeling this unbelievable pain?

So I kept pushing into the ring of fire because I wanted to be done, I wanted her out, I wanted this to be over and I knew the only way to do that was to push my hardest even though pushing made everything hurt so much worse. During one of my pushes, the head came out, then the body, and after 12 hours of total labor and two hours of pushing, it was over! I rolled over and they handed me my baby, still attached to the cord. It was a weird experience. I think I was in shock. But I do remember looking at her, looking at all of that hair- so, so much hair- it was long and dark and beautiful. I didn’t expect my baby to be very cute right away. But this one was. She was crying a little, but not a lot. From the minute she was born, her eyes were wide open and beautiful and she was looking around, looking all around, then looking at me. She was completely alert and so adorable. It was a special moment. Even though I was still pretty much in shock from it all.

They let Coleman cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. I was able to feed her right away, and they didn’t take her away from me. Not for at least an hour. I got to hold her for a long time, which felt good, but kinda weird and foreign. I was a mom now. And Rowen was just so cute, so much cuter than I ever expected.

A few days later in the car I was thinking back again. I was talking to Coleman about how grateful I am that I was able to have my natural birth. I was in so much pain those first few days out of the hospital (of course no pain meds for me), but thinking back, I realized that everything went just as I wanted it to. I didn’t want to be in the hospital for very long, I didn’t want the cord cut immediately, I wanted to be with her after the birth, and unmedicated. Everything worked out just like we hoped for. Just like the little picture in my mind. They didn’t even try to take her away from me after the birth. Everything really did go so perfect. I am so grateful for that. And even though it was so painful, it was a truly empowering experience. It is so amazing what our bodies can do! And I must say, I totally understand why people have their babies at home. I pushed for two hours, but I think if I were to have stayed at home, I would have pushed for much less time. All of the changing rooms and lights and noises and people… I think these things made it much harder and more painful. Anyways, I am still so grateful that everything worked out as we wanted it to. And I’m so grateful for our little girl. She is so sweet and perfect.

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Special thanks to our wonderful doula, Lindy. She helped us so much in birthing preparations and, of course, during the actual birth. It was so wonderful to hear her soothing voice through the toughest parts. Thank you Lindy! You can find her website here.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie
    Mar 23, 2014 @ 03:39:33

    Love it! And muscle memory makes the following births even better! 🙂

    Reply

  2. Rachel Brown
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 00:02:19

    I have asked so many people what it’s like to give birth but never described the way you have, thannk you! What a beautiful experience… how awesome you wrote it all down. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Jean Wimmer
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 14:08:29

    You did a great job! The memories of all the pain do fade and the sight of a newborn will touch your heart! You will have a desire to have another child when the time is right. And you will be able to have another birth! You are a great example to many young women! Thanks for your story!

    Reply

    • xochinelson
      Mar 25, 2014 @ 03:32:41

      Thank you! It’s true, I’m glad I wrote this down right away after the birth because I am already starting to forget. Amazing how that works. Thanks for being a great example to us in seminary. I was going through my stuff a little while ago and found the sweetest note from you. Thanks!

      Reply

  4. Allie Schroeder
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 21:50:38

    Xochi! Wow, this was a beautiful post–birth is seriously sooooo neat!! Thanks for sharing, I loved reading it and your darling little family is beautiful! I am due in June and have been interested in natural birth ever since an infant development class I took my last semester at BYU. I have been reading Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan, but any more resources or recommendations?? Were you involved with the Bradley Method? Where did you find more info about pressure points or what you did with tennis balls that seemed to really help? I don’t have a doula and am giving birth at the hospital with an OBGYN that seems accepting of natural birth, but I would love any recommendations you have as I am trying to keep positive and not let me fear of not being able to do it take control!

    Reply

    • xochinelson
      Mar 27, 2014 @ 01:38:43

      Congrats on your pregnancy! That is so exciting, and it is such a special time.

      We learned about the pressure points and natural pain relieving positions in our birth class from our doula. She taught “Birthing from Within” classes, but I have heard good things about the Bradley Method too. There is a book titled “Birthing From Within” by Pam England (that goes along with the classes), and I read several chapters from this book. They were very helpful. I also would recommend the book I mentioned in the post, “Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin. She has some very weird stories and examples (she was a hippie midwife in the 70s), but it turned out to be a lot more helpful than I expected, just reading the real stories from real women was so inspiring.

      Our doula was really into this “rebozo scarf” (we just used a really large large regular scarf), and she taught us lots of ways to relieve pain using the scarf. You can google that and find cool ways to use it during labor. And I can email you some pictures, it is hard to describe how to use it in words…

      Also, I don’t know if you to yoga, but for me, my experience in yoga with breathing and meditation really helped. It probably talks about this in your hypnobirthing book- just the super long, deep breaths and concentration/meditation that I learned from yoga and also birth classes helped so much during labor because you forget to breathe when you are in so much pain. So just taking one breath at a time, and getting into the meditation “zone” really helps.

      I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have other questions. I am so so happy that we went natural. It is really so empowering and for us, it was just an amazing experience. I’m excited for you!

      Reply

  5. Haley McMurray
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 00:50:43

    Xochi, you are seriously an amazing woman. I am blown away by your courage. My birth experiences were AWFUL and I had pain meds with both. I felt like I had no control over my body or my baby or my brain, for that matter. Reading your story about how you remained focus on the outcome and the Savior’s ability to empathize with your pain to get you through it was really beautiful. And I’m seriously jealous that you were well, ballsy, enough to stand up for yourself at the hospital and remain in the position your body needed and tell them what you did NOT need. I’m such a weenie but you’ve totally inspired me. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m going to read it a million times over the next 6 months!

    Reply

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