The Birth of Ella Grace
Ella's Birth Story
The estimated due date for my precious baby girl was 31 January 2013 and I never expected her to arrive on or before that date. I also didn't expect her to come as late as her big brother either, which was 12 days. So, at my 40 week appointment with my wonderful midwife, we discussed a plan for what to do as I passed the EDD. Cindi said she couldn't let me go past 42 weeks and at 41 weeks she would strip my membranes to encourage labor to begin. She was confident that would probably get things going since I'd be post-date & my body would likely be ready, whereas many doctors try stripping membranes weeks before the due date when the body isn't ready, so it often doesn't do any good in those instances (as happened with my son).
So, we scheduled my 41 week appointment while hoping I'd come in with a newborn that day instead. I had to reschedule the appointment and, being afraid of what going to 42 weeks may mean (as in Pitocin at a hospital), I opted to make the appointment 2 days earlier.
On 5 Feb, I went to my appointment and I was 2cm so we decided to try stripping my membranes. I figured since I was 5 days late it should work! I asked Cindi when I could possibly expect the contractions to start if this worked and the contractions started exactly when she said they would. I'd had Braxton Hicks for over a month so I was a little nervous that I wouldn't realize when the real labor contractions were starting, but these were different and exactly as Cindi described them - they were painful way down low & wrapped around my lower back. So, contractions started around 8pm & continued a few hours. When I got in bed I thought labor was beginning and I wouldn't get any rest that night because I wasn't sleeping between them. The next thing I know, I'm waking up the next morning with no contractions. Around 8am they started up again so I hoped that meant baby Ella had let me rest & now things would really get going. I went on with my day as usual with a few contractions here & there but nothing increasing & that evening it all stopped.
The next day, 7 Feb, was my 41 week mark. I was able to go in that day for an appointment after all and I was 4-5cm so the contractions were doing something!! Cindi stripped my membranes again & expressed concern that I would have a fast labor & delivery - so much so that she was worried my hubby, Philip, may end up delivering Ella on the highway if my water broke at home. It was around Noon at this point, I think, and she offered to break my water right then and we'd stay at the birth center expecting Ella to come quickly, or we could come back at 6:30pm to break my water. I wanted to return at 6:30 so we could grab my bags from home & get our son to my brother. By now I was really getting nervous about enduring a fast, intense labor!
So we got our bags and gave my brother our son's car seat so he could pick him up from school. Then we headed to my mom's to wait until 6:30 since she lives near the birth center. Cindi sent Philip a text asking if we could push it to 7:00pm so we grabbed some dinner and then arrived at the birth center around 6:45.
The birth assistants came out to help us carry the bags in which was nice! We went into the birthing suite where the lights were already dimmed. We set things down and Philip immediately started setting out the candles...
When Cindi stripped my membranes earlier it did get the contractions going again pretty good. The birth assistants took my vitals and then Cindi asked if we wanted to break my water so Philip answered exactly the way I was feeling - that since everyone was there, we may as well get it going so everyone wouldn't be stuck there longer than necessary.
Cindi checked me and I was still at 5cm so we waited for the next contraction for her to break my water. I expected a huge gush but it was only a small amount, as if I'd just wet myself. Now the waiting game began for everyone else and my real work was beginning. Quickly, I might add! The very next contraction was more intense but bearable. Since Philip hadn't eaten his dinner yet I told him to go ahead and eat before I really needed him. I sat on the birthing ball for several contractions while Cindi and her birth team periodically checked Ella's heartbeat and Philip encouraged me & applied pressure to my lower back when I needed it. I was aware I was progressing because I noticed my attitude & concentration changing. I could only tell Philip "back, please" when I needed him to apply pressure. I asked to get in the birthing tub soon & Cindi asked me to try a few contractions sitting on the toilet. I did, and the contractions were intensifying while they prepared the tub.
I finally got in the tub, hoping for more relief than it provided, but this was the quick, intense labor I had feared. I sat in the tub trying to relax between the contractions but they seemed to be almost back to back (at least to me!) and when I had a contraction I would tense up my arms, pushing myself up in the process. Philip was outside the tub leaning over the side toward me. I realized I was getting more & more vocal & thought back to my doula commenting 6 years ago that my son's birth was the most quiet she'd attended. But I couldn't help it this time! And now with every contraction I was crunching over down into the pain. I would occasionally try to straighten up & lean back instead but that was hard to do. After a few rounds of that, Cindi recommended I sit on the seat in the tub rather than the bottom, and that Philip sit on the back corner so I could lean back against his legs with my arms hanging over his knees. I think I must've been pretty close now because before we moved into that position, I apparently started bearing down rather than just hunching over into the pain. I remember Cindi gently telling me to make low sounds during contractions and I know I was getting louder & higher pitched...she also asked at one point if I needed to bear down but I don't know when I felt that urge, I only realized at some point that's what I was doing.
So, I'm on the corner seat with Philip behind me and bearing down & I guess pushing now. I don't know how long this continued, but eventually I was aware I was definitely in the process of pushing her out & saw Cindi peeking in the water with a flashlight to see if she was crowning. :) After she crowned, I waited for the next contraction to push a little more with all my might. It was so awesome to feel her little head pop out (it didn't feel so little at that moment) and I yelled "her head is out!" I heard Cindi tell me the baby was then going to turn and I felt her turn!!! I asked if she was ok with her head out underwater while I waited for another contraction & of course she was fine! Cindi said I could reach down to grab her, but as much as I wanted to, I needed to concentrate to push her body out. Philip couldn't reach far enough from behind me to grab her but he could touch her head. :) During the next contraction, I pushed with all my might while Cindi simply placed her hands under Ella until I got her out, then Cindi told me to reach down and pick her up! That was so very amazing to lift her out of the water and onto my chest!!!!! I held her at the water level to look at her briefly then brought her onto my chest. Just then, Philip mentioned we needed to get her ears pierced - so much for not wanting a girl nor being willing to dress her up girly!
Cindi said I needed to get out of the tub so she could see where the bleeding was coming from which scared me for a minute, but it was only from my tear.
I got onto the bed, still holding Ella on my chest while Cindi ever-so-gently stitched me up. The birth assistants checked our vitals and I barely knew they were in the room working to clean the tub and doing the other things they do.
I delivered the source of my baby's nourishment and after the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Philip got to cut the cord. It felt a little like a ribbon cutting ceremony at a grand opening! After some snuggle time, Cindi measured Ella and checked her over. Daddy got to weigh her which was so beautiful to watch.
I was helped to the restroom and to the shower. It felt like I could only move in slow motion. I got dressed and back to the bed where Philip had been snuggling with our new daughter skin-to-skin.
The entire experience was so very different than the birth of my son in the hospital. It was nothing but quiet, gentle support. No bugging me to do an internal monitor, trying to hurry me along with Pitocin, or telling me it's time to push. No talk of a cesarean due to pushing for 3 hours when baby wasn't in an optimum position & my body wasn't ready yet. Just allowing me to do what I needed, when I needed, as I needed, with gentle guidance only when I needed it.