Julianne’s Perspective

I started researching natural childbirth soon after Stephen and I found out I was pregnant. Luckily I had a laptop with access to many medical journal databases, and I read study after study about childbirth and interventions. It was eye opening. I had always assumed I would give birth in a hospital, where I would get a sweet, sweet epidural. There would also be a lot of nurses running around in a panic and yelling at me. That’s what happened in the movies!

Cody-webI decided I wanted to avoid medications and interventions, if at all possible, and realized that for me, the best chance of having a birth like that would be out of a hospital. I approached Stephen with the idea of a home birth. He was skeptical at first, and we agreed to think about it awhile.

Around the same time we started having issues with our OB. When I thought about how that woman would be delivering our baby, I got very scared. I told Stephen we needed to find someone else, even if that meant skipping a month’s appointment while we searched. Stephen agreed.

This turned out to probably be one of the best decisions we could have made. Another couple from our Bradley classes ended up with this OB for their birth, and their experience was pretty much what I expected a birth with her would be like. In their birth story, the father wrote about shaking with fear whenever she would walk into the room. I know exactly how he felt.

We decided to set up a consultation with Toni to ask her a few questions and get a general feel for what a birth with her would be like. Stephen and I had already put together the beginnings of a birth plan, and we went through it with her. She eagerly, and completely, addressed everything we asked her and we never felt rushed. We set up our first appointment.

My due date was officially January 31, 2012. I had been having light contractions for hours at a time since 38 weeks. They never seemed very serious, and I figured that was all there was to the pre-labor stuff. Any day now I would start having stronger, more regular contractions, and in about a day there would be a baby.

Thursday, February 9 – I took a nap that afternoon and woke up around 5:00 pm with contractions 10-18 minutes apart. I was excited that I finally had contractions I could time. Stephen and I got a good night’s sleep, and in the morning I timed the contractions at 8 minutes apart. Just in case, I asked Stephen to stay home from work. For the past week I had a feeling that Friday was going to be a big day and it looked like it might be shaping up to be true.

All morning the contractions steadily got closer together and more intense. We spent the time cleaning the house and baking cupcakes. After lunch, they suddenly jumped to 2-3 minutes apart, lasting for a minute, and getting hard to stand and talk through. This made frosting cupcakes difficult. The contractions stayed that way for about an hour, so Stephen gave Toni a call. She arrived at 3:30 pm and told me I was only at 1 cm. I couldn’t believe it because it felt like too much was going on to be just at 1 cm.

Toni suggested going for a walk or going to see a movie to pass the time and distract us. I felt a little too tired to go out, so we opted to just walk around the neighborhood. After about 20 minutes of walking the contractions really picked up, and I just wanted to get home and crawl in bed to try to rest while I had the chance. We only got a few hours of sleep.

Saturday began with the same consistent contractions, and I was very frustrated by my lack of sleep and progress.  I called up Toni hoping for some advice, but she said all we could do was wait and try to rest. I told Stephen the baby had to come today because I couldn’t do this for much longer. The contractions stayed the same most of the day.

After midnight I gave up on getting any sleep and simply tried to get comfortable. Stephen was massaging my back, but I could tell he was getting tired. He would massage for one contraction and sleep through the next few. I told him I thought a warm bath would probably help, so he drew one up.  It was heavenly and I immediately wanted to fall asleep. Unfortunately we have a terrible bathroom, and there was no way to safely lie down and relax. I had never been so tired in my entire life, and it seemed like sleep was just out of my reach. It was an infuriating feeling!

Cody-O'Neal-webAt about 4 am Sunday morning, my frustration started to get the better of me. Contractions were 3.5 minutes apart and lasting for a minute. I didn’t really feel any different than I had on Friday afternoon, and I was so discouraged. I just sat in the bathtub crying for a bit.

I’m not sure how we reached the decision, but at some point Stephen called Toni and asked her to come over. I perked up a bit. We weren’t going to have a baby without Toni here, so if she was here then we were having a baby. That’s how it works, right?

Toni arrived at 6 am and checked me again. She said I was 3 cm and 100% effaced. On one hand I was glad there was some change, but I was hoping for more. Many women I had heard about seemed to just magically get to 3 cm with hardly a contraction. What was wrong with me? Here I was, already an exhausted, emotional mess, and all over pre-labor contractions?! I felt like such a wimp. A while later, Andrea and Anne showed up to help Toni.

Over the next few hours I mostly labored in bed and tried to relax through the contractions. When I was successful, the contractions were hardly noticeable, but it took a lot of concentration and I was pretty tired at that point. After every contraction I felt the urge to stand up and pace for a bit, and I tried to ignore it until the urge became overwhelming after 3 or 4 contractions. When I got tired of the constant up and down, I labored while draped over my exercise ball.

Around 4 pm I was back in the bathtub. I remember suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. We were having a baby and I was not ready for that. I sat in the bathtub and started crying, again. I started talking to Stephen about some of my greatest fears about raising a child, and made him promise none of them would ever happen. We also talked about whether we were having a boy or a girl, and the different things we would do while he or she was growing up. One thing is for sure, we are going to build a very cool tree house.

At some point someone asked if I felt like the contractions were more intense. No one understood that was the whole frustrating problem! They felt exactly the same as they had since Friday afternoon and that wasn’t even really labor. There was no progress! I heard Toni explaining to Stephen that after a while you can get used to the pain and don’t necessarily notice when it gets more intense.

Around 7:30 pm I was at 9 cm, which was very exciting news, and it helped me find some more energy to keep going. Over the next few hours I kept moving between the bed, exercise ball and the tub, but I stayed at 9 cm. I was getting very discouraged. Stephen tells me I started snapping at people and was very irritable, but I remember trying hard to stay calm because I knew adrenaline would slow labor and make it more painful. The urge to stand after each contraction was getting more intense, and I think that was more tiring than anything.

At this point I withdrew even more and focused a lot on talking myself through each contraction. I was exhausted but I firmly believed this was more of a mental challenge than a physical one, so it didn’t matter what I felt. What I felt was a distraction that needed to be shoved into a dark corner somewhere while I focused on moving forward.

When it seemed like progression was stalling, Toni tried to manually slip the last lip of cervix back, but it wouldn’t hold through a contraction. We tried some different positions that I remember learning would be helpful in situations like this, but I still wasn’t making any progress. Toni noticed that being upright during contractions just made me swell up, so she recommended side lying in bed to get the swelling to go down.

While I was resting, they noticed that the baby’s heartbeat had moved closer to my left hip and we needed the baby to move back into position before going any further. I only thought I felt discouraged earlier, but this felt like someone was just having fun at our expense. I got on my hands and knees and Toni, Andrea and Anne took turns using a rebozo wrapped around my belly to try to move the baby. It was like they were polishing a bowling ball and my belly was the ball. After a couple of contractions I felt the baby slowly moving back into position.Cody-&-Mommy-web

After baby moved back in place, I was checked again and was still at 9 cm.  Everyone left the room so Stephen and I could wait out some more contractions and relax. I had seen it was close to midnight and I was so upset that yet another day had passed with no baby. I started thinking about all the birth stories I had read about labor stalling at the very end and the baby not dropping for various reasons. They usually ended with c-sections. I wondered what it was that was preventing baby from dropping and that last bit of dilation from happening. This lack of progression was stressful for me, and I wondered if it bothered the baby.

I thought about how tired I was and how nice it would be to go to the hospital and just get this baby cut out. I realized that when I thought things like this I was suppose to remind myself of all the reasons I wanted a med-free birth, but I couldn’t remember any reasons at that moment. I knew at some point I wouldn’t be able to will myself to keep going, and I would run out of second winds. We were going on no sleep for the past 36 hours, and only a few hours of sleep during the 36 hours before that. I wondered what would happen when a woman physically couldn’t keep going anymore, and her body shut down. I felt like I was quickly reaching that point and if it was going to happen, I wanted to get to the hospital a few hours beforehand.

I asked Toni if she thought anything was wrong with the baby and she said no. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I looked over at Stephen and realized I hadn’t looked at his face in a long time. He had probably only left my side for a few minutes over the last 36 hours, but I had barely looked at him because I was so wrapped up in myself. He had an expression I had never seen before and I realized he would be very disappointed if we ended up at the hospital. During the previous months, we had many discussions where I adamantly insisted I wasn’t going to the hospital unless it was an emergency. While I couldn’t remember why I felt so strongly about staying home, I could see he wasn’t ready to give up, and I was too tired to try to change his mind. I said I didn’t want to go.

Soon after, my body started pushing on its own, but I still had a lip of cervix in the way. Toni tried again to manually slip the cervix back through the pushing contractions, but it still wouldn’t hold so I couldn’t actively push. I think for the next two and a half hours I just let my body push while I tried to dilate that last bit.

I’m pretty fuzzy about what happened after this point. I think I started making a lot more noise, and I pretty much gave up trying to relax a whole lot during contractions. It took too much energy, and I didn’t care if anything hurt at this point. We were having this baby even if I had to cut it out myself!

We tried some different positions to encourage things to move along, including hanging from the rebozo, which was draped over the door. None of it worked. At 2:30 am, Toni was finally able to slip the last bit of cervix out of the way and I could push! I immediately felt a difference in pressure so I got pretty excited that I could finally feel a change. The involuntary pushes also immediately kicked into high gear. All day, my contractions had never been too close together, and they still weren’t, but the pushes were almost right on top of each other.

We moved to the birthing stool, but I couldn’t stay sitting up.  Stephen somehow got behind me and I leaned against his legs. It must have been very painful for him, but he never shifted or said a word.

At first I forgot how to push, but with a few reminders I remembered and tried to apply everything. I remember that I was supposed to take two deep breaths between pushes, and Toni wanted me to hold each push awhile. The pushes were so close together and strong that I barely had time for one quick breath between them, and pushing for longer seemed impossible. It wouldn’t leave me time to breathe! It felt like my body was pushing harder on its own than anything I could add to it. I was just struggling to hang on. It was like the beginning of a roller coaster ride, and I was holding onto the back of the last car, flapping around in the wind as it sped away.

After a contraction, I would be gasping for air and I was grateful Andrea kept reminding me to take deep breaths. I don’t know why I couldn’t remember something as easy as that. I would indicate when a contraction was beginning, but after it seemed like one was over, sometimes one or two pushes would come out of nowhere. Every time they would catch Toni off guard, which amused me.

Anne was monitoring the baby’s heart beat, and it began to slow down at times. When it began to dip below 100, Toni asked Anne to get out the oxygen. She told us what was happening, something about the head getting compressed, but I couldn’t really focus on what she said. She started stressing that the baby needed to come out. I wondered how serious this was, and what could happen if it took too long for the baby to come out. A couple of scary scenarios flashed through my head, but I dismissed them. What no one else seemed to realize was my kid was going to be the strongest, healthiest baby they had ever seen. I knew everything was going to be okay. Even so, I tried hard to get at least one deep breath of the oxygen for the baby between pushes, and to somehow push harder.

Andrea and Toni would hold up a mirror so Stephen and I could see the head crowning. Suddenly the head and body were out and Toni put a very slippery baby in my lap. I grabbed it and looked down in confusion. I think I had been so wrapped up in just getting from one moment to the next for so long, that I had forgotten what the end result would be. It seemed like there was a lot of action going on around me, but the second I looked at his face, it felt like everything stopped for a second and that moment burned itself into my memory. I got a quick peak before he was covered with a towel and saw he was a boy. He was screaming his little heart out, which I figured couldn’t be a bad thing. I sat there and quietly took him all in.

Stephen cut the cord and then we moved to the bed where I got to hold Cody for a while. I was in shock and completely exhausted, but relieved it was over. Cody had his newborn tests done on the bed by my feet. Stephen gave him a tour of the house while I took a shower and got a few stitches for a small tear.

Cody was born at 4:06 am on February 13, 2012. He was 1 week and 6 days overdue. He weighed exactly 8 lbs and 21 ¼” long.

It took a while for Stephen and me to sort out what happened during labor. It turns out that Cody had his right hand by his neck, which probably prevented him from dropping in a timely manner. He also probably had his head tilted because of the hand, which also slowed things down. Cody was born with scabs on both of his hands from where he likes to suck when he gets really worked up. The scabs looked fairly fresh to me, and I have a feeling he had both of his hands up by his mouth until just a few days before he was born. If we had been in a hospital, I am sure we would have ended up with a c-section, and despite my thoughts during labor, I have since remembered why I didn’t want to be cut open.

A few days later, I was thinking about the labor and remembered it was supposed to be painful. I don’t think of mine as painful. The contractions were never too bad because they stayed the same for days, and I’m really surprised that pushing didn’t hurt a bit. Towards the end my hips did hurt a lot, and I was a big baby about it, but the worst part was the frustration when those pesky contractions wouldn’t let me sleep! The whole thing was more annoying than painful, and for that I’m actually glad for the long labor. I think it allowed me to build up to such an insane endorphin high that it took me a week postpartum to realize how sore I was from everything.

I have never felt as amazing as I did during those first few days after Cody was born. I felt like I was glowing so brightly that I must have been visible from outer space. I was so happy with how everything went, and words can’t express how incredibly grateful I am to everyone who helped us along the way.

When I was pregnant I often wondered if I would regret choosing a home birth. In hindsight I can say with 100% certainty that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. While the labor could have been easier, we ended up with a delivery that was healthiest for both me and Cody. Cody is about as healthy, calm and low maintenance as a newborn can be. We’ll never know for sure if any of that is a result of his birth, but I am so glad that I can look back and think that we did everything we possibly could for him.

I would definitely choose a home birth again. I think a home birth environment is the best fit for my personality. When I have stressful work to do, I really need to be left alone. I don’t handle interruptions well. Even though we had a 3 person midwife team in our tiny house, they never were in the way or causing any stress. In fact, I feel bad that they were at our house for so long and I hardly saw or spoke to them! It’s not that I didn’t want to, but I seemed to have a hard time verbalizing anything during labor. I think I was too tired to talk.

I am very grateful to Stephen for being supportive in every way I needed him to be, because otherwise I think we would have ended up at the hospital. Throughout the pregnancy and during labor, Stephen was always 100% supportive and positive about everything. I am so proud of how he stepped up and got really involved in the pregnancy and labor. He took 4 weeks off work after Cody was born and took over the household chores, and a lot of the baby duties. He was the first to figure out a lot of this baby stuff, and he taught it to me.

Stephen’s thoughts

Choosing to go with a midwife was a great decision overall. Toni Kimpel was knowledgeable on just about every topic that we needed help or information on. She was supportive and positive throughout the entire labor and never did anything to go against what we wanted to do.Stephen-and-Cody-web

The length of the labor was a total shock to us. I dropped off the dogs on Friday afternoon thinking I would have a baby that evening. We made birthday cupcakes as well, for our baby that we assumed was about to arrive.

What a rough ride we went through. If we had known he would be so stubborn coming out, I do believe we would have spent far more time trying to nap and rest before Julianne got to the point of no longer being able to rest through her contractions. I had joked with Andrea and Anne that we were having a race to see who would be first: Anne and Andrea completing the jigsaw puzzle we had out, or Julianne having the baby.

I had never been so exhausted in my life. I spent my time always getting things for Jules, or keeping her company, relaxed or massaged as best I could. However, I was quickly starting to shut down as my body couldn’t keep going without taking little micro naps to keep pushing on. Afterwards, when Julianne’s mom showed up to see Cody, I passed out on the couch and slept through her Dad and brother ringing our doorbell.

There were lots of little things we could have done better. We had a swimming pool, and planned to labor in it for a while, but we didn’t realize how quickly the water would cool off because the floor was so cold. We could have been better prepared to accommodate Toni and her team for a longer haul since they were with us for so long. We could have recruited a doula to help keep us going through the whole process. We didn’t have easy things to quickly snack on – we were so busy getting through labor we didn’t have much time to spend prepping anything more complicated than a peanut butter sandwich.

I was overwhelmed when Cody was born. A sense of pride, joy and relief all swept over me for this new life that we had brought into this world. We had such a trial in labor to get that far, and when it was over, it was a huge relief to be done and have a healthy little one to hold.

Enough whining from me- Cody is awesome, and his birth was incredible!