The Birth of Keller Ryan
By Kacie P.
I awoke in the wee hours of February 24, 2011, exactly 41 weeks along, feeling strong cramps in my abdomen. I questioned the startling pain due to all of the prodromal labor I experienced in the weeks leading up to my due date. I was unsure if it was “real labor”, so I decided to get up and pace around for a bit. When nothing happened, I crawled back in bed to rest. Just as I got comfortable, another contraction began. This time my husband, Justin, woke up as I was getting out of bed. After a few more contractions, we decided to time them. They seemed too close and intense for what I expected early labor to feel like, but since my previous pregnancies were induced with Pitocin, I had nothing to compare them to. The contractions were about 6 minutes apart. I decided to get in the tub to see if they would slow down while Justin called my mom and our doula. My mom hopped in her car and headed over. Our doula suggested that we wait an hour to make sure the contractions were consistent before she came to our house. After all, labor lasts for hours, right?
After an hour, Justin called our doula to inform her that the contractions were still coming strong, so she decided to head our way. It seemed as though my contractions were getting very close, and I grew impatient lying in the tub. A sense of anxiety flooded my body as I paced around my house and rocked on my yoga ball. The contractions kept getting closer and more intense. I asked Justin to time them again and to our surprise, they were only 2 minutes apart. He called our doula as I was having another contraction. She heard my anguish over the phone and suggested that she meet us at the hospital.
As we made our way out to the car, I realized there was no way I would be able to sit. The most comfortable, although unflattering, position I could get into was on my hands and knees in the backseat of my car. Justin drove, and my mom rode up front. It was just after 6:00 am and we were off to the hospital. As soon as the car started moving, I felt sick. I rolled the window down, stuck my head out, and the fresh air calmed my nausea. Justin was flying down I-35 with the flashers on, one hand on the wheel, texting our doula, and the other hand reaching in the back seat applying pressure to my lower back. There I was, on my hands and knees, moaning, with my head sticking out the window like a dog.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we didn’t know where to go. With all of my planning and preparing for this baby I never figured out the best parking and entrance to labor and delivery. Justin pulled up to the ER, hopped out with me, and left my mom in charge of parking. The security guard insisted that I sit in a wheelchair, claiming that he would be able to get me there faster. I was in transition labor at this point and couldn’t fathom sitting in that chair, but complied anyway. It seemed as though he was poking along, taking me on a Sunday stroll. While the guard was pushing me into the ER, I jumped out of it saying, “I can move faster than this!” An orderly approached Justin and asked what he could do for us while I made a pit stop at the nearest trash can to get sick. Justin told him where we needed to go and when he turned around to get me, I was gone. According to Justin, I was running to Labor and Delivery.
When we arrived to our final destination, our doula was waiting for us at the front desk and had our room ready. At that moment, I was starting to have another contraction. I leaned over the nurse’s station as another woman was checking in for her scheduled induction. I started breathing heavily and moaning while Justin and our doula rubbed my back and calmly talked me through it. Apparently, the woman was taken aback by my contraction, because she felt the need to tell the nurse that she would be wanting an epidural.
As soon as I got to the room, the nursing staff wanted to get an initial reading on the fetal monitor machine and measure a few contractions to make sure the baby was handling them well. In addition to that, I had to sign a stack of papers and answer ridiculous questions. What is the point in preregistering? Needless to say, my signature was not it’s normal pretty self - it was an ugly scribble across the pages.
At this point, I found out I was dilated to 7cm and our doula told me it was ok to get into the tub. I stripped my clothes off as fast as I could and made my way to the water. I believe I ran, actually. As soon as my body was submerged in the warm water, I felt weightless. The warmth was so soothing, and the feeling of weightlessness was such an amazing relief. It was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be.
I got very nauseous and started to vomit again. With all the straining from being sick, my water broke. Not long after that, my contractions stopped. I asked what was going on. I was afraid since my contractions stopped, I was having false labor again and they would send me home. The pause in my labor lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. In that time, I became slightly aware of my surroundings and started to worry if my mascara had smeared. I specifically remember telling my birth photographer, “My pictures are going to be ruined. I have raccoon eyes!”
When the contractions came back, they were different. With each one, my body began pushing uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to push because I wasn’t at 10cm yet.
I remember asking, “What do I do? I feel like I have to push.”
“Then push!” our doula and photographer answered.
It seemed silly, but I needed someone to tell me it was ok, even though my body was already doing it. After a while, I began to have a feeling of defeat and said that I couldn’t do it anymore. It was so hard to get those words out; they tasted so bitter.
As little Keller’s head finally began to descend, I reached down to feel. Talk about an intense rush of emotions. I knew that my baby was right there, literally at my fingertips, and he was depending on me to bring him into this world. I was beside myself.
After a 4 hour labor, and a few more pushes, the Little Nugget was born. At a whopping 10 lbs. and 2 oz., 22 ¼ in long, he was more like a chicken strip.
There are so many emotions a mother feels after giving birth to her child: relief, adoration, sentimentality, euphoria, and accomplishment, to name a few. And I felt all of my discomfort disappear.
I have to say, giving birth to my little water baby using the Bradley Method was truly one of the most precious moments of my life. I was able to give my son the gift of life without the use of any chemicals or medicines in our bodies. It’s unfortunate that many women travel blindly through their pregnancies not knowing that there is a wealth of knowledge out there related to pregnancy and birth choices. I was one of those women. I originally thought the Bradley classes will help me achieve my goal of having an unmedicated birth. After a few classes, we began asking our OB questions, and quickly realized she was not on board with our newly discovered birth plan. We were lucky to have had the support to leave our OB in our 30th week and switch to a midwife.
Justin and our doula did and amazing job keeping me calm and relaxed. Justin knew exactly what to do and how to soothe me without having to say one word. I owe that all to our doula/Bradley instructor and her teaching us the Bradley way. I am passionate about recommending this way of birthing to everyone. Yes, a Bradley birth is harder than calling an anesthesiologist to give you an epidural, but the results are so much better in so many ways.
If I could go back and do anything differently, I would choose to have a home birth. The drive to the hospital was unbearable. The poking, signing, and odd questions that consumed the first half hour I was there annoyed me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the care I received, and the staff was very respectful of our birth choices, but next time I would much rather be in the comforts of my own home, surrounded by the ones I love.
The Birth of Reagan Allen
By Veronica J.
On December 9, 2010, at 8:22 A.M., my son entered this world, at home, surrounded by family and an amazing birth team. While his birth is probably one of the most profound parts of my life, what makes this story interesting are the events that led up to this beautiful home birth. It should be a reminder that, right now, we still have choices when we seek healthcare.
For women, birth is a whole body experience. But it also encompasses the heart, mind, and soul, and for me, choosing where and how to give birth was a lesson in letting go of convention, and learning to trust what my instincts were telling me.
When I found out I was pregnant, the first call I made was to my husband. The second call was to an OB/GYN that was listed with my insurance company. Having just moved to the area, I had no relationships with any local doctors, so I thought the best I could do was read some reviews online and pick one. The doctor seemed competent enough, and both my husband and I felt comfortable putting our care in her hands.
As the pregnancy progressed without incident, I knew I wanted to try for an unmedicated delivery. It amazed me how many people actually believe that this can’t be done. So off I went, back to the internet looking for a natural childbirth educator. Luckily we found a class series relatively close by that would end a few days after my due date, and would accommodate my husband’s football watching schedule.
After a few weeks of attending classes, we started asking our doctor questions about intervention rates and hospital procedures, and expressed our desire for a natural birth. The standard answer seemed to be that if all was going well, no intervention would be necessary. We thought that was great, because if things weren’t going “well”, of course we would want intervention, right? Little did we know “well” was such an arbitrary term.
A few weeks went by and my husband suggested we tour the hospital. A very pleasant Labor and Delivery nurse greeted us, and proceeded to show us around the floor. While the facilities were very nice and clean, she started telling us about continual monitoring, IV fluids, and how the baby “must” go to the nursery after delivery. When we asked if there were any alternatives to these procedures, she politely said no.
We were a bit disappointed by her responses, but we knew our options were limited because of our location and figured we could live with it. We asked our childbirth educator to doula for us, believing that this would increase or chances for a natural birth, and help us to advocate for ourselves and our baby.
The due date got closer, and my hesitance to birth at the hospital grew stronger. We had joked about staying home and having my son there, but I had never considered it a viable option. Living on the family farm, and so far away from any kind of emergency care, weighed heavily on me. Less than a month from our due date, we started to discuss the possibility of getting out of the hospital with our doula. She immediately contacted several midwives that would discuss our options with us. My husband and I both felt strongly that we were moving in the right direction.
While we both felt it was important to keep this decision to ourselves, the one person I wanted to tell was my mother. We’ve always been very close, and her opinion has always meant a lot to me. So there I was standing in my kitchen, telling her that we were considering a home birth. The woman honestly thought I had lost my mind. It took her several days, and a really long conversation with my husband, for her to decide that I might not be crazy. But her disapproval and concern about the “what ifs” took its toll on me, so much so that I had all but given up on the idea of a home birth.
I was just over two weeks from my due date, and scheduled to see my OB that morning. I woke up early with severe lower back pain, so I decided to try to find a chiropractor certified in the Webster technique. Although the one I found was almost fifty miles away, I knew the pain relief would be worth the drive, so I scheduled to see her following my OB appointment. Little did I know she would have such an impact on my decision to birth at home.
My OB appointment was business as usual, until she gave me a cervical exam. It became extremely uncomfortable, and it took everything in me not to start crying. Both my husband and the attending nurse reached for my hands to comfort me. When the doctor was done, she said I was at one centimeter, and I could expect some spotting. Then she did a sonogram and told me that I would have a large baby. I bled for over two days after that.
After that appointment, I ran to the truck. My husband followed and knew something was wrong. I got in and just fell apart. I couldn’t even tell him what was wrong. I felt so violated – like I had been taken advantage of. While we drove to the chiropractor's office, I did my best to get it together.
We walked into her office and it was so quiet and peaceful. Dr. C introduced herself to me and then we started talking about my pregnancy. She asked where I was going to deliver, so I told her what hospital, but then I decided to tell her that we were considering a home birth instead. She told me about her two home births and how wonderful they were. She also reminded me that, as women, our bodies are built to give birth, and that we needed to trust our bodies to be able to have healthy births and children.
When we were finished, I felt so much better both physically and emotionally. My convictions were renewed, and I told my husband that I knew we were doing the right thing by taking our birth out of the hospital. Now, it was just a matter of finding a midwife that would take me two weeks before my due date.
Fortunately, one of the midwives that my doula had contacted for us agreed to take me. She immediately put all of my worries and concerns to rest, and even encouraged my skeptical mother to become a part of the process. At my first appointment with her, she answered all of our questions, and even helped my mom to be at ease, so much so that she really started to support my home birth decision. She was impressed by how much courtesy and respect the midwives showed me, and by their attentiveness to both my physical and emotional health.
I only had three appointments with my midwives before labor started. I labored for two nights before the birth of my son. The contractions would die out before morning, so I did my best to get as much rest as possible. My midwife came to see me in the mornings to make sure everything was going well. I went to see Dr. C to help ease round ligament pain, and help the baby drop farther into my pelvis.
By the third night, contractions were picking up again, and this time they were for real. I labored hard for just over four hours before I reached ten centimeters. Some contractions lasted almost three minutes in duration, and at one point I remember saying that I totally understand why women get epidurals. There’s not much that I remember from that night. I labored on the bed with my husband and doula by my side. The midwives started arriving after 2 A.M. I couldn’t wait to get into the birth pool, and when I finally did, it felt every bit as good as I had imagined.
I started to feel “pushy” around 4 A.M., and everyone encouraged me to follow my body’s lead, and push with my contractions. I pushed and pushed, but I couldn’t seem to get him past my pubic bone. So I moved. On the bed, in the bathroom, back to the birth pool, and over again. And the whole troupe followed. Finally, after four hours, a rebozo, and lots of muscle from the team, the midwives moved over and my husband had the privilege of guiding our son into the world.
When they laid his little eight pound body on my chest, I couldn’t help but count his ten little fingers, and ten little toes. He just looked up and gazed at my husband and me, like he knew who we were the whole time. I remember thinking how lucky I was to get to be his mom. And I’ve thought it every day since.
For a while I was upset about the way my doctor disrespected me. It turns out that she swept my membranes that day, and my midwife knew it as soon as I told her the story. Strangely, I am grateful for what she did to me. Her actions are what finally caused me to change practitioners, and since, I have become a real proponent of the midwifery model of care. Even my mother, the skeptic, has sung the praises of midwifery.
While home birth may not be for everyone, I strongly urge that every person becomes an active participant in their healthcare decisions. Pregnancy and childbirth are not ailments or diseases. They are major life events that should be treated with reverence and respect.
Looking at my perfect baby boy tells me I did the right thing. In the end, I am just thankful that I had the people and resources to facilitate that move. I’m only sorry that I didn’t do it sooner.