I had birth plans. Lots of them.
None of them happened.
Well, except the whole getting the baby out of my belly part. That happened. Which is the most important part of said plan. So in that way, all's well that ends well.
I dreamed of a birth without medical intervention – a natural childbirth that occurred without induction, pain medication, or surgical procedures. I decided on this because I thought it would be best for ME and MY baby. (You might feel differently for you and your baby. That's great!) I felt it was the healthiest option for us both and it fit into my ideals about birthing as a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey and rite of passage. I also thought that a childbirth that forced me to cope with my pain would cause me to trust in and rely on God in a way that no other experience could.
My birth went differently than I had planned in almost every way. Ironically, for this very reason I was forced to rely on God in a different and possibly more difficult (for me, the control freak) way than I had originally imagined.
I chose the UNTHealth Nurse-Midwives as my health care providers. I strongly considered a home birth, but based on some stories from friends who had to transfer to hospitals from home and because of some concerns Tanner had, I decided the Nurse Midwives were a great option. They are six women who practice traditional midwivery, but in the setting of a hospital. You can even have a water birth. However, if something goes wrong or if you decide you want medical intervention, you are already there in the hospital. Because she is also a nurse, your midwife, who you have spent the last nine months building a bond of trust with, can continue to be your health care provider. She can even scrub in and assist if you need a C-section. I was comforted knowing that if I needed medical intervention I wouldn't have to be handed over to people who didn't support or understand my desires for my birth experience.
I remember praying with Tanner in the waiting room before our meet-and-greet appointment with the Nurse Midwives and asking for God to confirm whether he wanted us to partner with these women and trust our baby's birth and my birth experience to them. The confirmation I felt during our meeting was so overwhelming. Turns out, a home birth would have been disastrous anyway considering that at the time Ailee was born, our home was in complete, floor-ripped-out renovation mode. Sawdust and nail guns shouldn't be part of anyone's birth plan, unless you're planning on giving birth to Pinocchio or something.
During my prenatal care, I worked with my midwives to make important decisions about the baby's impending birth. They were on board with all my hopes. The book I read to prepare for birth was Birthing From Within, which I recommend if you are wanting a natural childbirth. It's super tree-hugger-ish and earth-mother-ish, but it is a great preparation tool. I also took a child birth class based on Birthing From Within led by an amazing woman, Natalie Meek at Labor With Love, who took many concepts of the book and adapted them to fit them into a Christ-centered perspective. God used her as a great tool to prepare and soften my heart because when I was so rigid about my natural-childbirth dreams and philosophies, she gently reminded me that while those goals were wonderful and I should pursue them, whatever decisions I had to make to get my baby here safely and healthily were ones that could be celebrated. I was not a failure if the birth went down a path other than the one I had so carefully scripted. I needed that message in my heart.
The Birth Begins, Sort of
My water broke at 1:00 am on June 19th, two days before my due date. This still impresses me because one of the Midwives said she thought I would not be too late or too early, but right on my due-date, give or take a couple days. Cue Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
It took me a while to realize my water had broke (Is that even correct grammar?) because I hadn't experienced any contractions yet. I woke up in the middle of the night, went to the bathroom, and when I swung my leg up to get back in bed, some fluid came out. TMI, but I had been having a little bit of incontinence in the late stages of pregnancy, so I chalked it up to that. I changed my underwear and got back in bed.
A lot of tossing and turning ensued, followed by some more fluid, another clean set of XXXXL granny panties and about 10-15 frantic minutes on my iPhone Googling the crap out of "how do I know if my water broke?" When I got up to go to the bathroom again, I had another large gush of clear fluid. I did a bunch of bizarre stuff like smelling the fluid and taking PH tests before I finally decided my water had broke and called the midwives. I know it seems dense, but I was so confused because I'd had no labor. Everything I'd read said only 10% or less of women experience their water breaking before labor starts.
Yay for being the 10%.
The Midwife on call said it sounded like my membranes had ruptured, and she encouraged me to stay at home and labor until my contractions were consistently close together and strong. I'd never get to labor at home, though.
I filled Tanner in on what was going on. I was never really able to go back to sleep after that. I mostly laid in bed and looked up stuff on the Internet. The longer I waited with no labor, the more confused and anxious I got. I also started noticing that the fluid (which was CONSTANTLY leaking from me) had a greenish tinge to it. Some more iPhone research gave me the suspicion that it was meconium staining, meaning that the baby had released a bowel movement into the amniotic fluid before birth. Another call to my midwife confirmed the likelihood of this. She didn't sound too concerned, though, and said to keep an eye on the darkness of the fluid, which at that time was a very light barely-there green.
At some point in the morning, I started having a surge of contractions close together and stronger than anything I had experienced up the that point. It was nothing compared to what I would feel later, but at that point, I didn't know what to expect! Everything Tanner and I had learned about the 5-1-1 rule (contractions are 5 minutes apart, one minute long, and last for one hour) went out the window. Being 45 minutes away from the hospital and having a friend who barely made it there in time to pop her little sucker out, Tanner was ready for us to GO! I called the after hours number, and while we waited to hear back, we got our stuff together, picked up my mom who was staying next door at our friend's house, and hit the road, JACK.
On the way, the Midwife called me back and said, "DO NOT COME TO THE HOSPITAL." It was too soon, and she was worried if I was there too early, I would not end up with the birth I wanted. We were all already in the car, though, and not wanting to waste the gas, we headed into town anyway for some health food. Since I couldn't fulfill the stereotype of the small-town girl having her water break in Walmart, ala Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is, I figured tottering around McDonalds with a larger-than-life maxi pad full of amniotic fluid while occasionally hunching over with small contractions as I ordered a sausage biscuit that would probably make it's reprise as I pushed my baby out was a close second.
Next we headed to the car vacuum station station to clean the truck out. I had a decent contraction there when I got out of the car, and when the attendant saw the whale grimacing in the parking lot, he decided to give us a coupon for a free car wash. Gold level. I never get gold level. Yay.
Next it was back home where we installed the car seat and took the dogs for a loooong walk. My "labor" had pretty much slowed to non-existent, so I hopped up on a step stool and started painting ceiling trim.
At 1pm, 12 hours after my membranes had ruptured, we called the midwives. I updated them on the situation, also letting them know that the green tinge in my fluid had gotten a little darker. They told us to come in.
As far as the story goes, I'll end it there for now and pick it up later. It's a long (30 hour +) story.
(All the photos, except for the disgusting one of me in my pink bra, are by Recollections Photography)