In honor of Ellie’s first birthday, I’m sharing her birth story with you. It’s very long so my feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t read the whole thing! If you want, you can skip down to the very end to see a couple pictures of Ellie and me just after she was born. Or if you want to skip this post entirely, that’s OK too!
I just wrote this story in the past week so I’m not totally clear on all the details. What I do know entirely clearly is that Ellie is an incredibly precious girl and I am so glad to have been given the privilege of giving birth to her.
One word of explanation: Nik and I greatly desired an unmedicated and intervention free birth for our baby. So we chose to deliver at the Special Beginnings Birth Center near Annapolis, Maryland. It’s the only free-standing birth center in Maryland and about an hour’s drive away. You’ll read references to the birth center in the story below.
You were born on a Wednesday. The Monday before, I decided to finish a really big project that I needed to do for church. There was something inside of me pushing me to get it done. So I did a lot of typing, sent many emails, typed some more, and finally finished it on Tuesday afternoon.
As it turned out, that was me, your mama, nesting. I just didn’t know it.
Monday night, I slept horribly. I felt like I was awake more than I was asleep. I had to go to the bathroom a lot. I was uncomfortable. Tuesday morning, I went to Bible study. The women there told me I looked tired and yes, indeed, I was. However, I was only 39 weeks pregnant and I was figuring that you were going to be two weeks late. So I figured that I had at least three more weeks to go of being pregnant.
Tuesday afternoon, I mostly finished packing to go to the birth center and decided to make beef stock so that I would have something nourishing to drink while I was laboring with you.
All Tuesday afternoon, I was uncomfortable. I thought I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions (those are the practice kind). I also had a PowerPoint announcement that I had to make for church. So I did that and emailed it to the person in charge at around 3:45 pm.
Then I went to the bathroom and saw blood. This is normal and doesn’t have to mean that the baby is coming right away. But the blood combined with contractions made me think that something might be going on. So I called your Nana and I also called your Auntie Meggan. Auntie Meggan has plenty of experience with birthing babies (5 of them!) and so she convinced me to call my midwife. First, I called your Baba and told him that maybe, just maybe, the baby was coming but don’t get excited because it’s probably a false alarm. It turned out to be a good thing that I did this because he had to get lots of papers ready for his students at school. So he tore around for an hour at school, frantically trying to get everything ready in case he didn’t come back to school the next day.
In the meantime, I called my midwife. By the time I called, it was after hours so I got the answering service. They told me the midwife would be calling back. When she did call back, it was Megan! Although we liked all the midwives at Special Beginnings, Meggan was our favorite. She was also our friend and so we were so excited that she was on call the night that you decided to come!
Meggan listened to me and then told me that I needed to eat a good dinner and go for a walk. So Baba and I made and ate dinner (lamb chops and salad). Meanwhile, I kept bleeding and I kept feeling more and more uncomfortable. The contractions didn’t really hurt that badly but kept on coming pretty consistently. We needed to go for a walk but we also kept thinking of things that we hadn’t done yet – things like download songs for me to sing to while laboring, make a list of people to call, pack for the birth center, etc. At some point though, we made ourselves go outside to go for a walk. We only made it about four houses away from our house before I decided that we needed to turn around and go back home. Around 9:00, we called Megan and reported what was going on. She told me that I should just try to go to sleep and to give her a call when things got more serious.
We finished up our packing and got ready for bed. I wrote a note which said, “Put the stock in the refrigerator,” because I was afraid that I was going to let my really good beef stock spoil! I put the note on the door so we’d remember to do it before we left the house.
Baba and I laid down in bed by around 10:00. He fell asleep because he was tired from his long day of teaching. I tried to rest but really could not fall asleep. At around 11:00 pm, I had to get out of bed because my contractions were getting strong enough that I couldn’t stay lying down. From then on, I alternated sitting in the living room on the couch with sitting in the bathroom on the toilet. I thought that I was going to want to be listening to music or having Baba rub my back. But what I really wanted was for everything to be quiet and dark. I didn’t want anyone to touch me or to talk to me. So I was glad that it was night time. Sometime around 1:00, Baba came out to the living room and helped me time my contractions. He remembered that he had a timer in his tennis coaching bag so we used that. He also used the Birth Partner book which had a good chart in it of the progression of the contractions. At that time, my contractions were coming quite steadily but still fairly far apart. We called Megan and she said that it sounded like I was still early in the process. She said that we could come to the birth center whenever we wanted but that she thought we should wait at home a while longer.
Baba went back to bed and I stayed out in the living room by myself. I tried to lean against the cushions and sleep a little bit. At one point, I jolted awake and didn’t feel a contraction. I was so sad because I thought that the contractions had stopped and I really wanted you to come out! But then another one started and that made me very happy! By this time, I needed to do some of the slow, controlled breathing that we had practiced. The contractions were not super painful but I needed to be really mindful of myself as I pulled through them.
Around 3:45, Baba came out again and we started timing my contractions. By now, they were coming very steadily, at fairly frequent regular intervals. So we called Meggan and agreed to meet her at the birth center. It was about an hour’s drive for us to get there so we agreed to meet at 5:30 am.
We quickly went through the house, gathered up our things, put the beef stock in the refrigerator, and left the house for the last time without you! The drive to Special Beginnings was much easier than I had expected. I was dreading being forced to sit, strapped in by a seat belt, while the contractions came. Because it was dark outside, I was able to stay sunk deep within myself. As each contraction came, I just shifted around as best I could in my seat until it ended. We got to the Curtis Creek Drawbridge and it was down. Hooray! My biggest fear was that we were going to get stuck waiting for it to go down. I even managed to sleep in tiny bits as we drove.
When we got to the birth center, Megan came out to meet us. By this time, it was just starting to get light outside. I had another big contraction as I reached the end of our car and I had to stop to breathe and get through it. When we got inside, Baba said that he was going to go out to get our bags. I wanted him to wait until Megan checked me to make sure that it wasn’t a false alarm but he brought them in anyway. He said he knew that I was really in labor!
We went right inside and I sat down on the bed. Meggan checked me and I was already six centimeters dilated! Hooray! Not a false alarm! Baba was right! You really were coming! I walked around the room for a few minutes, working through my contractions. It was a four-poster bed and I liked being able to hang onto the pole at the end of the bed for support through the worst of the contractions. Fairly soon, I asked Megan to fill up the birthing tub for me. In the meantime, I sent some text messages and made some phone calls, telling our family and my friends that you were really on the way. I asked them to pray for us and I know that many people did. A few of my friends even had candles lit, reminding them to pray for me.
Soon the birthing pool was ready. I changed into a tank top and climbed in. The hot water felt SO good on my giant, contracting belly. I quickly slid into a sort of squatting position with my stomach against the front of the pool and my arms hanging over the side. I stayed in that position until you were born!
The next hour or so is very fuzzy in my mind. I had lots of contractions but I was so sunk down deep into myself that I don’t remember much of what was going on. I know that Baba sat on a stool with me next to the pool. Megan sat in a chair next to the pool too and we were all just very quiet as my body took over. Occasionally Megan reached into the pool with the Doppler to listen to your heartbeat. You were doing great and so I didn’t even have to move. Megan was really great because she didn’t talk to me unless she saw that I might need a little bit of help. Mainly, Megan and Nik were very quiet and just let me labor in peace. I was so grateful for the quiet calm environment of the birth center that allowed me to labor this way.
At some point, I had two or three really big contractions that almost overwhelmed me. Then, I felt like I needed to push. So I tucked my chin in and started to breathe the way we’d practiced and apologized for pushing too soon. Megan said that I might be getting the urge to push because it was time to push. So she checked me (for only the second time) and YES!!! TEN CENTIMETERS!! I was so surprised because we’d only been at the birth center for about an hour and a half and I figured we had lots of time left to go!
Megan told me I could push whenever I wanted to. I went back into my squatting position, leaned up against the side of the pool. I held Baba’s hand and as my body told me to, I pushed. I pushed hard and I pushed with all my might. I also squeezed Baba’s hand and thigh really hard too! It helped me to hold on to him! In between urges to push, I think I sometimes fell asleep. I don’t remember much of that time either. I do remember saying “Ow” a lot and also “That really hurts.” But that’s all I remember!
At some point, Megan called the nurse to come. Breda came in not too long before you were born. So as I was pushing, she was getting the room ready for your arrival. She was wonderful too. Soon, they told me to put my hand down between my legs. You were there! I could feel your head! They told me that I needed to move into a slightly different position so that they could catch you when you came out. I was in such a strong trance that I don’t really remember doing that. I just remember pushing with all my might, resting, and then pushing again whenever my body told me to push.
All of a sudden, I heard, “Hold your baby! Hold your baby!” You were out! You came out so fast I didn’t even know you were out! Your whole body came out in one push. All together, I pushed for about 40 minutes. I know you helped me too. We were a great team.
You were born at 7:50 am on Wednesday, September 29, 2010.
After you were born, I stayed in the pool for a few minutes. At first, I just held you. I didn’t even look to see if you were a girl or a boy. Just knowing that you were my baby was enough! But after a couple minutes, someone reminded me that we needed to look. So I looked and – a girl! You were a girl! My dreams were right!
After the umbilical cord stopped pulsating, Baba cut it and then we got out of the pool. I got to hold you right away. Your little body nestled in perfectly on my chest and I was so glad to finally get to hold the little baby who I had been carrying inside of me for 39 weeks.
I kept on holding you the whole time, while they were testing you and making sure you were healthy. You did need a little bit of oxygen because your breathing sounded raspy but other than that, everything was perfect.
After a few minutes, I handed you to Baba because I had to work on pushing out the placenta. This was a little bit painful but nothing like pushing you out! In the meantime, you and Baba were having some good skin-to-skin bonding time together. Soon, you pooped black sticky meconium all over his bare chest! Thank you for choosing to do that on him and not me!
After a couple hours, we helped you nurse for the first time. That was a funny feeling! It was so amazing that you knew what to do even though you were so new to this world.
After you were born, Baba said to me, “I didn’t know we were going to have a water birth.” I answered, “Neither did I!” We really hadn’t talked about where you were going to be born (in or out of the pool) but once I got in that water I didn’t want to get out! So you were born into that water and I’m so glad I was able to give birth to you in there.
In the next few hours, I had to have 3 stitches, Yiayia brought us breakfast, and we both got cleaned up and dressed. After about six hours, we were ready to go home. It was wonderful to be able to go home and not have to stay in a hospital. We got home around 3:00 pm on your birthday. Although I was exhausted, I was also filled with the most amazing energy. I guess the books were right when they said that an unmedicated labor and delivery gives the mother a bunch of really useful hormones to help her feel awesome!
Ellie, giving birth to you is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done in my whole life. I’m so glad that you are in our family. We are grateful for you every single day. We love you so very, very much.
My love always,