Thursday, February 14, 2013

Laurie, Robin, and Holden's Birth Story

Since my due date was Feb. 19, I had been purposefully planning things between now and then. I had an observation scheduled tomorrow, knitting club and yoga on Saturday, Lydia's Valentine's Day pizza lunch at school... Earlier in this pregnancy, I had felt like our little boy would not make it to his due date. As the date approached, however, I began to assume he would be late, and I feared that my body wouldn't go into labor on its own at all.

Wednesday was a hard day for lots of reasons, and because Robin had commitments until about 9:30 that evening, I called our friend Casey to come hang out with Lydia and I while we made her Valentines for school. I kept saying things like "Since I might be pregnant for two more weeks..."

Enter 6 AM. Actually, back up. We very rarely sleep with Lydia. However, last night, a running mind kept me awake, and when Lydia called and said she was scared around 3 in the morning, I decided that, since our days as a family of three were numbered, I would go sleep with her. I laid with her and we snuggled, and soon, we were both asleep. At about 6:10, still laying in her bed, I woke to a popping feeling in my low belly, followed by some intense cramping that wrapped around to my back. Still in a sleepy fog, I realized as I felt a sudden gush that this might be labor and that, while I had overslept, going to school was not going to be in the cards today. I woke Robin, asked him to call his sister and let her know that we would need her to come get Lydia, placed a request for a sub--my long-term sub had a prior commitment today--and began making the important calls--to the clinic, to our doula, to my parents to inform them that Lydia would likely need to be picked up from school today.

Meanwhile, contraction #2 happened at about 6:35-40. This was comforting; I began to trust that my body would go into labor on its own as it had with Lydia and we wouldn't be up against an "expiration date" due to my water breaking before labor had started. I felt giddy and excited, and we quickly packed a bag--something I had been putting off--and debated going in to the hospital right away. As we waited for Heidi to pick up Lydia, I realized that my contractions albeit quite manageable, were getting closer and closer together so keeping in mind all of the stories of second labors going so much faster than first and knowing that Lydia arrived in a speedy six hours, we decided to head to the hospital with the intention of leaving if labor wasn't progressing the way we wanted it to.

I quickly started to rely on leaning over and supporting myself on the bed, sofa, etc., and making low noises in an effort to stay relaxed. I swayed like we do in prenatal yoga. It was easy to keep my mind off of panic and anxiety with Lydia running around. She was so giddy and sweet, and I knew that the next time I saw her, we would be a family of four. Heidi came, Robin got Lydia into her car, and we headed to Abbott-Northwestern. Watching the clock, I felt like we had made the right decision in going to the hospital; I was also enjoying the lack of panic in our drive; when we drove to the hospital with Lydia, I was in a lot of pain and I didn't have a handle on what was going on. This time, my contractions, while feeling more intense, were still very manageable, and I had more confidence. We arrived at the Mother-Baby Center at about 7:35, left our car in the turnaround with the intention of Robin going down to pick it up once we were settled, and headed up to the Maternal Assessment Center. I was weighed, celebrated that I had stayed under my weight-gain goal, and got onto the bed to be monitored. Baby's heartbeat looked good and he was responding well to contractions.

Then...the exciting part. The nurse checked my cervix and announced that we were at seven centimeters! She unplugged the monitors and sent us to the birthing wing; they held off on asking me intake questions or doing anything deemed unnecessary. From that point on, the nurses took it upon themselves to support me in labor. It was incredible. They helped me get into the position I preferred for contractions--my hands and knees--and rather than force me to wear the heartrate monitor on a belt, the nurse held it in place during contractions. After going through a few and deeming the baby as doing well, they took me off the monitors and allowed me to labor as I wished, free of cords and belts. Contractions were definitely becoming more intense, and Robin was doing an incredible job of supporting me, hugging me tightly between contractions and rubbing my back during them.

At some point during this time, Brook, our doula arrived. She quickly found a spot on the side opposite Robin, and I continued to labor on my hands and knees. As I began to feel the urge to push, the midwife did another cervical exam. She did the exam while I was on my hands and knees rather than making me flip over and labor on my back. She determined that I had yet to reach complete dilation; there was still an anterior lip she could feel, so she asked that I hold off on pushing. This was definitely the hardest part. Brook explained that pushing could cause the lip to swell and actually slow down progress, so I worked hard to relax through contractions and allow my body to do the work it needed to do. I took deep breaths, thought "one breath at a time," and made low moaning sounds on the exhales. The midwife strongly encouraged me to lay on my left side to encourage progress; first I opted to stay on my hands and knees, and then, when she said it might reduce the urge to push, I took her suggestion.

At that point, Robin would push on my hip during contractions and Brook would hold my hands. I was feeling really warm, so I had cold washcloths on my head and neck, and Brook and the nurse fanned me to help me cool off. Contractions were definitely getting more intense, and I was fighting the urge to push. I continued with my yoga breathing, with low moaning sounds, and kept my mind in the moment. I allowed myself to verbalize my feelings between contractions and found that by the time the words passed my lips, I had processed and come to peace with any feelings of anxiety or panic. Then, all of a sudden, I really felt like pushing was no longer something I couldn't do. The midwife did another check, saying that she would try to push the lip back if it was still there, and in the midst, I started pushing. I think she said it was okay to start, though I'm not sure. I pushed gently at first, following my body's lead. As I remembered with Lydia, pushing was such a relief. I had something to do with contractions rather than just manage them. I did not, however, remember how intense it got when the baby was actually ready to come out. I managed to continue to follow my body's lead, and my body was saying, "PUSSSSHHHHHH!!!!!!" I was still laying on my left side, and at some point, I determined that I could NOT keep my top leg down anymore, so up it went. Brook stood and supported my leg with her shoulder. There I pushed for about twenty minutes and suddenly, the baby's head was out.

I had requested that, if possible, I catch the baby, but the position I was in made that difficult and I wasn't in the frame of mind to do so. I had specified that if I was not able, I would love for Robin to have the opportunity, so after the midwife situated the baby, I pushed some more, and at 9:21 AM, roughly three hours after the onset of labor and less than thirty minutes of pushing, Robin caught our son. He was placed immediately on my chest, and I felt immense, immense relief. This roller coaster of a pregnancy was over, and we had a big, pink, crying little boy. He was covered in white vernix, had a head of thick dark hair, and felt so wonderfully snuggly. When Lydia was born, I was really overwhelmed; I couldn't believe we actually had a child. With Holden, I just felt gratitude and love. Gratitude for his immediate, apparent thriving health and love for this little boy whose journey to the outside brought with it so much emotional challenge and growth for me.

The nurses and midwife respected all of our requests. They did all procedures with Holden laying on me, they waited for his cord to stop pulsing, they respected my wish to decline pitocin after delivery, and when it became apparent that my bleeding was enough to warrant pitocin, they engaged in a dialogue with me about it rather than informing me what I "needed" to do. Brook continued to massage my legs and feet, and I felt so, so nurtured, respected, and cared for. Abbott-Northwestern has somewhat of a bad rap amongst the natural/normal childbirth community, and in our experience with the HealthPartners midwives at Abbott, we felt incredibly supported in our wishes for a drug-free, minimal intervention birth. As I've compared Holden's birth to Lydia's, Holden's was so much more hands-off and centered around Robin and me. They did not automatically bathe him, they left us to be as a family, and many of their assumed procedures were things that, in Texas, we had to specify. They waited nearly an hour to weigh and measure him, letting us snuggle instead and now, thirteen hours after birth, Holden has yet to leave our sight. 

We spent the day as a group of three, and shortly after five, my parents, Lydia, Heidi, and my brother Markus came to meet the newest addition. There is so much more to be said, pictures to share, reflections to be made, but right now, I am feeling such overwhelming peace, gratitude, joy, and love, I am going to leave it at this--the amazing story of Holden's birth. I couldn't have asked for any better.


  1. Absolutely beautiful birth story! I'm so very happy for you and your family! - Jenny Sims

  2. Your experience at ANW sounds so similar to mine. The nurses and HP midwives were so wonderful and respected and encouraged my wishes for a natural birth. I, too, got to hold my baby and start to nurse him for an hour before a bath and weight and all that. I'm so glad your experience was everything you had hoped. Can't wait to meet the little man! :)

  3. I can't wait to see all of you and hold him. so grateful that the birth went as you had hoped.

  4. What a great birth story! Way to go, Laurie, Robin, and Holden!