Friday, December 27, 2013. I woke up at 6 AM. I was frustrated that I hadn’t gone into labor even though we watched the Desolation of Smaug the night before (I had hoped an intense movie would induce labor). So I took out my frustration by making Michael a nice breakfast: crustless quiche and sausage. Michael barely had time to eat it before taking off for work at 6:50.
Mom and I went to grandma’s water aerobics class and I bounced around in the water in a modified version of the exercises. It felt so good to be in the water! When I got out I felt like my stomach was full of bowling balls.
Mom and I took a shower at the pool and went home and took a nap. Then we walked about a mile and a half to grandma’s house for lunch. I had a few crampy contractions on our walk but it didn’t feel like real labor yet. After that, we looked at houses that mom and dad were thinking of buying and renting out in Lebanon and Sweet Home. I had a few contractions in the car but I wasn’t sure they were contractions. Grandma dropped us off at the birth center for my appointment. We were 40 minutes early so mom and I went for a walk on the nice bike paths in the park nearby. I had a few contractions then too and they made me stop and breathe through them, but I was still in denial about being in labor.
We had the appointment and talked about inducing. We thought about having her strip my membranes but I had talked to the doula about it before and she discouraged me from doing it because she knew how much having a natural birth meant to me. The previous night (Thursday) I had a biophysical profile, which is an ultrasound to see how the baby is doing since he was getting so far past his due date. It was nice for my mom to see the baby, especially since I was getting worried that she wouldn’t be able to meet him before she had to fly back to New Hampshire. Anyway, we went over the results of the test and he was doing really great. After the appointment, the midwives went with me to the Lebanon hospital for a non stress test. It measured my contractions and the fetal heart rate. I was surprised to see that I was having contractions 8 minutes apart and mentioned that it was “interesting to see what a contraction felt like.” The midwives told me to go home, eat, and get lots of sleep.
We stopped by Ben and Amanda’s for dinner and played a fun board game with Jenny, Rachael, and Heath but my contractions got too intense and we decided to go home. I downloaded an app on my phone that helped me time the contractions. They were 6 to 10 minutes apart and lasted about a minute each. I called Debbie (the midwife) to tell her my stats and then went to bed at 9:30. I couldn’t sleep though the contractions though and kept getting up and walking around, going to the bathroom, and eating. Finally, around 11, I woke Michael up and said, “I can’t do this. It hurts. Help me!” He calmed me down and I started looking for good positions to get into. I asked for the birth ball but didn’t use it. The only position that felt good was on my knees with my arms and head resting on the bed. I would rock my hips back and forth to ease the pain. It was what felt right.
We called Irma, our doula, and she came over to our house. When she arrived she did this really awesome counter pressure thing on my back that felt amazing. She helped me through a contraction or two, and then suggested that we head over to the birth center right away since we had such a long car ride ahead of us. We called Debbie to tell her we were on our way and got in the car.
I had been really worried about the car ride over to the birth center. I thought it would be excruciating to not be able to move and respond to my body. I went to turn on the gentle classical music I had picked out to help me relax during labor, but when we turned the iPod on a DJ Teisto techno song was playing. The strong rhythmic beats of the music helped me get into a rhythm with my contractions and body and I didn’t want to switch over to the piano music. The car ride over was actually relatively fun! I clung on to the handle near the ceiling during contractions and was able to move my hips around a bit.
It was a chilly, very foggy night. When we got there Emily had arrived but she didn’t have a key. I didn’t care. I just wanted to stay in the car because I felt like I was doing so well there. We left the door open and eventually I got out and leaned on the frame of the car. It was soooo cold! But the cold felt good.
When the other two midwives arrived they unlocked the building and I rushed into the room that I liked the best. I fell down on my knees in front of the couch and got back into the rhythm I had at home, swaying my hips and resting my head on the seat of the couch.
I wore a blue nightgown at first and alternated between throwing off my slippers, bathrobe, and blanket during contractions and putting them on again when they were over. People tried to touch me sometimes for comfort and support but I firmly told them not to, except Irma when she did the awesome hip massage thing. Even then I think I asked her to stop touching me a couple times. The outside sensation was too distracting. I had to focus and pull inward and I really learned to listen to my body. I wandered the halls a little, when walking felt right. I would lay down in between contractions, sometimes on the couch with a ton of pillows around me and sometimes on the bed. I tried to get through contractions while laying down, but soon found it hurt less if I got up before it was in full swing to be on my hands and knees because I would always inevitably have to get up and assume that position.
Not long after we arrived Debbie suggested I could get in the tub. At one of our prenatal visits she explained that usually she didn’t encourage people to get into the birth tub until their labor was really hard because the relief the water brings works a lot better. I didn’t think my labor was hard enough to warrant getting into the tub, but I really wanted to and so I did. The water felt so good! I leaned over the edge of the tub on a towel during contractions and leaned back and sipped recharge in between them. Eventually (probably after an hour?) the relief of the water wore off and they suggested that I get out and labor by the couch some more. I really didn’t want to get out but I needed to try something different.
I alternated between the tub and the couch a few more times. As I walked by the clock near the bathroom I occasionally noted the time, just out of curiosity. I tried not to think about it too much. I had a fear that the clock was going to rule my labor and force me into interventions I didn’t want. I felt like the midwives monitored me a lot, which was annoying. When I was having a contraction I asked them to stop because it was distracting.
I prayed and prayed all throughout labor, asking God for help and strength to be able to get through this and for the baby to be healthy. I know he heard and answered my prayers.
Nearing the end of my labor, I stood and leaned on the arm rest of the couch and I did a weird dance in my mommy diaper. I bent and straightened my knees and rocked my hips. I felt like an awkward duck with a huge butt bobbing around. I must have looked really silly but I didn’t mind that people could see me. It was what my body needed to do.
I thought that my water had broken and it was slowly leaking throughout the whole labor, but it didn’t actually break until transition. During transition I started to panic about pushing and delivery. I was convinced that the baby was not going to be able to come “that way” and said “can’t we just do a C-Section?” No need for an epidural. The baby was not going to fit.
Not long after my water broke I started to get the urge the push. Debbie checked my cervix for the first time and I was at 8 cm and got the go ahead to push. I constantly felt like I needed to poop. It was horrible. I was so uncomfortable and in so much pain. I was really scared to push because I didn’t want to tear (I ended up needing to go to the hospital after the birth because my tears were more intense than the midwife felt she could handle). At first I did really little grunty pushes that were not very effective. The midwives coached me on pushing (which I really diddn’t like, but needed). They told me to hold my breath and push as hard as I can and then even harder. I really didn’t like that. It was so uncomfortable and felt so unnatural. I wanted this part to be over and NEVER EVER do it again. I was so sure at the time that 1. The baby was NOT going to come out and 2. I would never have another child.
Debbie held one of my legs up to my chest in a squat and Michael held the other leg. He wasn’t putting enough counter pressure and I asked if someone else could do it instead. They just told him how to do it correctly and it worked a little better. I think it must have been really intense for him (after the birth when I was getting stitches he held the same leg still and I KNOW that was an intense experience for him). I had a few really loud, blood curdling screams like in the movies while women are in labor because it HURT. They told me to do lower sounds so I growled and moaned at the end of the screams.
They had me reach down and touch his head and I gasped when I thought I felt it. I could not believe it. No, really, I couldn’t. My mom took pictures of Quin’s head as it was crowning so I could see all the progress I was making. It looked like such a tiny part of the head and I was still convinced he wasn’t going to come out that way.
I was ready to give up but my birth team kept coaching me and encouraging me to push, push, push. I just listened and followed their instructions, all the while thinking, “this isn’t going to work guys. The baby is not going to be born.” I felt too tired to express these thoughts and just kept pushing. Eventually I stopped thinking altogether and just followed their directions. Finally, the head came out. It felt really uncomfortable to have his neck still in there. After one more push the rest of him slid out. I remember looking down at the water swirling with blood and seeing body parts. It was really alien and I was honestly quite scared of the creature in the water. But, despite those feelings I had an uncontrollable urge to pick him up and hold him. I remember reaching for him and holding up this tiny, purple human. His face was so square and scrunched up, but it was so beautiful. It was weird and a little creepy how he could move on his own. I thought I was the one who picked him up and put him on my chest, but Evy actually caught him and helped him onto me. I looked down at my infant son for the first time, in awe that he was actually here! Not to mention that labor was over. Everyone celebrated and cheered! I was so filled with joy. It was like no happiness I had ever experienced before.
I cradled him in my arms, still not sure how to hold him right but wanting him to be close to me. I said things like “he’s so beautiful!” and “You’re here! You made it! Welcome to Earth.” He started crying a little and I sang him the song I had picked out and sung a lot to him while I was pregnant, “I Will Follow God’s Plan.” He stopped crying and lifted his head off my chest and gazed into my eyes as I sang as though he recognized it. It was the most amazing moment.
We definitely bonded at that first moment, but I fell deeply in love with him during the car ride home. We kept the iPod on and listed to some beautiful love songs. The song “1000 miles” by Vanessa Carlton came on and I kept trying to look at his face but it was so dark in the car. At the moment the song got to “if I could just see you tonight”, we passed under a street lamp, which light up his face so I could see him. It was a glorious moment. We also listened to “La Vie En Rose” by Louis Armstrong and I cried as I sang along and fell more and more deeply in love with my little boy.
The first scripture we read as a family was 3rd Nephi, chapter 17; the one where Jesus blesses the little ones and angels minister to them. I just bawled and bawled with happiness! While in the hospital for stitches I sang my aunt Brenda’s song “Behold your little ones” to him during our first successful nursing session. The song was about that very scripture. Having it be the first scripture we read was a witness to me of God’s love and watchful care over me and my family because it has so much meaning to me as a mother.
Michael here. I remember that we called Irma, our Doula who came over and she told us almost immediately that we ought to get to the birth center. She did tell me not to speed, though. I thought that was kinda funny. We drove from our apartment in the night through some thick fog to get there. Jessica had put together a playlist on our ipod full of gentle, soothing, labor music, but once she was actually in labor she had another idea. We listened to some techno and heavier, energetic songs, including “I’m so sick” by Flyleaf. I thought for sure it was gonna be a rave party through the night, but we ended up doing that only a little longer at the center. When we got there though, only one of the midwives had shown up, Emily, the younger of the three, and she had taken her husbands car to get there, whose key ring did not include the key to the birth center. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long before the others got there. They went to work hovering around Jessica while I unloaded bags from the car. Once that was done, I rarely left her side. She labored for many hours becoming more and more tired. She tried to lay down, but would get up on her hands and knees and sway her hips, breathing slowly and deeply, occasionally moaning. It was difficult for her to keep changing positions since she was so full and tired, but we kept encouraging her. She would sometimes say she couldn’t do it. Only once did she mention non-natural methods, saying “Can’t I just get a c-section?” Other times she would say with confidence, “I CAN do this!” At the end of one contraction she said to me proudly, “I beasted that one.” It was awesome. But perhaps her most memorable moment during labor was when she shouted “I AM A GIANT BLACK PANTHER!” That was pretty attractive.
During labor she ate very little, some crackers, tortilla chips and a little cheese, sips of a tropical punch flavored healthy juice called “Recharge” and a lot of water. She would simply say what she wanted most of the time; “water” and I would hold her purple water bottle to her mouth while she took a quick drink. Sometimes I would anticipate it and just hold it close so she could sip it.
I was taught in “the Birth Partner” book and at classes that I might have to do the whole “take charge” routine and get in her face and tell her how to breathe or something like that. She never needed any of that though. She handled it all herself like a boss. All of us were so impressed with her strength. She said to me later that she didn’t think of labor as this terrible thing happening to her, but as something she was DOING and that her contractions were good. There were some times when she would get to the bathtub and labor there, enjoying the warm water, then get out again to lay down. This went on through the night and all next morning.
At some point she was just so tired and the Debbie, the head midwife suggested an herb that would let her sleep for a very short while. After some hesitation, we agreed and lay down for all of 20 minutes. It was a very good thing too, because almost as soon as she woke up, she went into pushing mode. She got in the tub and the urge to push began to come. Up to now, she had only moaned, but here she screamed. We told her to try low sounds, which she did. I think she felt more in control making those sounds. In an effort to try to help her opening up her pelvic area, one of the midwives and I grabbed a hold of her feet and pressed them towards her so her knees were up to her ears. After a while, we saw hair! He had a lot of hair to begin with so that was cool.
Then she started to bleed. I guess because blood is heavier than water, it came out of a newly forming wound like a red under-water waterfall and slowly pooled up at the bottom of the tub. It slowly spread out and when she stirred up the water as she pushed, it mixed and turned the whole tub red. The doula told me this was normal, but I still was panicking on the inside. It became harder to see what was going on beyond the waters surface. Finally, the midwives announced ‘Okay!’ we have a head!’ or words to that effect. ‘And an arm!’ or something like that. Jessica had birthed both his head and arm at the same time, which is probably the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed anyone do. It’s also what caused so much blood…
Nevertheless, all that was temporarily forgotten as the rest of our baby came out. He was under the water for a few seconds and we slowly lifted him up. He was a dark blueish purple and covered in white vernex. I remember his gums being really red too. And he was moving around and everything! Not very well of course; he kept his limbs bent and he had kind of a quivering motion to him.
I cried. Just a little. I was a daddy! It happened! They placed him on Jessica’s chest and we watched him struggle to get his first breaths. A midwife rubbed him a little to stimulate it I guess, but he didn’t need very much of that. He quietly gurgled as I cheered him on. He cried softly then and cried again and again, and then I knew he would be okay. While all this was happening, Jessica had turned from a suffering panther to the most joyous and tired woman I ever saw. She was so happy. She held onto him with so much love and kissed his head while greeting him to the world saying “you made it!” She sang a song to him while he was there, “My life is a gift” I think it was called. Everyone in the room was crying at this point, except me, I was quietly laughing to myself out of happiness. I could do nothing but just watch him. Then he impressed everyone by lifting up his head shakily right off his mother’s chest to look at her as she sang. We could tell he knew his mom. They asked Jessica what his name was. “Quin” she said, and it was so loving the way she said it.
The umbilical cord seemed really… I don’t know, kind of pretty, even. Almost pearlescent. And twisted in a perfect spiral down it length. They clamped off a portion close to his belly and handed me a pair of small sharp scissors and I cut the cord. It was kind of tough but cut well enough. It had a sort of star shaped pattern on the inside. Kinda cool.
She got to hold him for a little while, then I decided I didn’t care whether I got dirty or not so I just took off my shirt so I could hold him skin to skin. By this time, he had begun to turn from purple to a very healthy pink flesh color, the kind people have.
Anyway, when I got to hold him for the first time. It was different. It’s hard to describe. Self-defining really. I wanted to be a dad all my life. I remember that I held babies and loved them when I was barely more than a toddler myself. At one point I saw a commercial for a documentary whose premise was the men couldn’t make good parents because they were too aggressive or something. I said right then that I was going to prove that wrong. That was when I was about ten. Now I’m thirty. That feeling I had when I held Quin was what I wanted, and I recognized it when I felt it. But it was not what I was expecting. It was so much more. I felt a weight of responsibility as big as a world suddenly upon me, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I felt strong. REALLY strong. I looked down at him in my arms, this little guy who needed so much help. He had been asking for help through his cries and struggles. It was as if he was saying ‘help! Help me, daddy! I don’t know how to do it! I don’t know what to do! Help me to live! It’s so hard!” Oh my little boy. I looked at him and said, “I’ll be your dad. I’ll help you. Don’t worry. I’ll be here for you.” My son. My little boy. I have so much love for him. It brought me closer to God than any other feeling I could possibly imagine. I know our Heavenly Father loves us, and especially after feeling this way. If I can feel that much love, how much more does he for us? The master of the universe by his very word can quietly command the elements to form into planets and stars without number. But I am convinced that he too shouted for joy over his children and continues to shout to the whole of creation about how happy he is to be our Father.
As for Quin, it’s as though he wasn’t a stranger. Sure he was with us while Jessica was pregnant, but I feel like he’s always been around. Just hanging out. Waiting for his chance to finally have a body so he could really be with us. He was familiar, like an old soul with so much personality, just with a young body.
While I was holding him, I watched the midwives take care of Jessica. They drained the tub, and set a pad under her. They tugged on the rest of the cord to get the placenta out. It did after a while and in my opinion, it was the opposite of the cord. Just plain ugly. Also, an enormous blood clot the size of my fist. Jessica was still bleeding pretty bad and the midwife that could do minor stitches said this too much for her. So, we all went to the hospital which was thankfully nearby. Quin did pretty good on the trip over. We got Jessica all stitched up (there were a lot of stitches) and I helped her stay upright and not choking herself under her own weight as she passed out. Twice. I mention all these parts because this was the scary stuff for me. I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel that kind of fear for their one and only. I was so worried about her and stayed protectively by her side. Though I did eat most of the dinner we ordered from room service… A big ‘ol ceaser salad and some other stuff.
After we got back to the birth center, we got bedded down. Sometime in the middle of the night, Quin was fussy and crying, so I walked around quietly humming the “I love you so much” lullaby my mom used to sing to me. I hummed for about an hour and finally went to sleep with him while lying on a couch with him next to me. I think I did pretty well.
Sheryl here. I planned to arrive a week after Jessica's due date. I thought (hoped) the baby would be born by then so I would get to spend time with him before returning home. I am new to this whole natural birth thing, so it was a foreign concept to me to just wait and not be induced. I had to have it explained to me and readjust my thinking. I had to remind myself that this is Jessica's deal to do her way. The doula was very confident and in charge and made me feel unnecessary, but was a huge comfort to Jessica.
At 10 days overdue, a non-stress test and biophysical profile was required. It was a relief to see that the baby and placenta were functioning fine. The day Jessica went into labor she was in denial that she was going into labor because she didn't want to be disappointed if the contractions stopped. After swim aerobics and two long walks, I was pretty sure she was in the early stages of labor. Michael joined us at the birthing center for her appointment at 5PM. The midwives were great. Evy was the one assigned to Jessica as she is completing her training with her supervisor looking on. There was another midwife in training who took notes and observed (she had lots of advice on breastfeeding). I called them the three fairy godmothers (from Sleeping Beauty).
After the hour-long appointment, at the birthing center we all went to the hospital for the stress test. It was cool for Jessica and Michael to see what laboring in a hospital would be like. Definitely cool for them to SEE the contractions of early labor on the monitor.
I went to bed that night and slept, vaguely aware of the doula coming and them leaving for the birthing center. I decided to get a good night's sleep and come over in the morning. Michael had left some bags at Ben and Amanda's the night before, so I picked those up before driving to Lebanon. When I got there, the midwives and Michael were asleep. Jessica was in active labor with the doula encouraging me. I asked, "Why is everyone asleep and Jessica's doing all the work here?" This coming from the only person there who had slept all night.
It was amazing to watch Jessica in labor. During a contraction, she did this swaying motion with her hips. She was either standing, sometimes leaning over the couch or bed, or she was on all fours. She was calm and inwardly focused. She didn't want anyone touching her or distracting her. Only occasionally did she seem unsure of herself or get discouraged that it was taking so long. At one point, she swayed while leaning on Michael. It was a slow dance to their wedding song "Unforgettable." It was very intimate and Michael liked being able to "help" her for a few minutes. Not long after her short nap, her water broke and she started to feel the urge to push. They had her get into the birthing tub at that point. She pushed for 1 1/2 hours. This was by far the hardest time for her because she was already so tired. At one point she said "This part is stupid." We all kept encouraging her. I took pictures to show her the progress she was making.
Finally, Jessica delivered a very big, healthy boy. They placed him on her. She told us his name is Quin, after his great-grandfather. He coughed and cried for a few seconds. Jessica sang to him "I Will Follow God's Plan for Me" and he stopped crying, lifted up his head and looked at her. It was very spiritual and everyone observing was crying and said it was the most beautiful welcome they had ever seen. I thought Michael was going to jump into the tub, he was so anxious to be close to his son. He took off his shirt to hold Quin skin to skin, while the midwives attended Jessica. They wanted to give her pitocin to help her deliver the placenta, but she refused and did it herself.
Did I mention how big Quin was. We didn't know until later in the day--9 lbs 4 oz with a head circumference of 15 inches. He came out superman style with an arm next to his head. Needless to say, Jessica had some internal tearing that was beyond what the midwife was allowed to do. We had to take Jessica to the Lebanon hospital for suturing. Irma, the doula, went home at this point. A nice lady doctor came in on-call to do the stitching. With the wonderful natural birth behind her, Jessica had anesethia with her feet in stirrups in a hospital bed--quite a contrast to the water birth two hours before. Jessica was so exhausted from laboring and not eating much that she passed out twice while at the hospital. The revived her with smelling salts. After resting, eating and drinking she was ready for the ride back to the birthing center.
Quin is such a sweet baby. He took a few days to get good at breastfeeding (while Jessica learned how to express excess milk) and now he's a pro. Jessica often sings to him while nursing--sometimes Primary songs, sometimes silly love songs that she changes the words to. Quin is amazingly alert for a newborn. He lifts his strong neck up to look around with his bright, blue eyes. Sometimes his eyebrows come together in concentration as he's trying to make sense of this world. He likes to be held by his dad. His parents love him so much and rarely put him down. When he was a few days old, my dad (great grandpa Eldon) asked if Jessica was still singing to him When I told him "Yes," he said "What a lucky little guy." The first week of his life, Jessica asked "What did I do to deserve such a perfect baby." Seems like they are both fortunate and meant to be together.