Vivian Elise – A Birth Story

A due date is an elusive thing.  I had been told not to set too much store by it, and I’m happy now that I didn’t…

My story begins in mid-September 2007, when my husband and I discovered to our immense joy that we were expecting.  We had recently experienced two miscarriages while trying for our second child.  We decided to wait at least four months with this one before we told anyone.  Just in case.

I am blessed with mild morning sickness.  My nausea was minimal and I never threw up, not once.  Close to Christmastime, we finally told our families our happy news.  A spring baby!

It wasn’t until January that I decided to get serious about finding an obstetrician.  There was one doctor in particular that several of our friends in the area recommended, and we decided to give him a try.  I was very impressed with him as a doctor.  He was soft-spoken, kind, and optimistic.  I was in his care for two months.

When I was about six months pregnant, I decided that four years was a long stretch of time between now and when I had given birth to our first baby, and that I should do some reading as a refresher.  I more or less randomly selected some books from my local library.  The first one I checked out was “The Joy of Natural Childbirth” by Helen Wessel.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on giving birth naturally, but was curious.  The book is written from a Christian perspective, and, being Christian, I identified with it a lot.  By the end of the book, I was very excited about the book and open to at least thinking about natural childbirth.

I decided to read the book that had inspired Helen Wessel’s book, “Childbirth Without Fear” by Grandly Dick-Read.  I became even more excited and was leaning very strongly towards natural childbirth.  Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband.  I shared much more of my reading with him.  He was in his second year of medical school and very interested in the physiological aspect.  His greatest concern was the safety of me and the baby.  Other than that, though, his response was always, “Honey, you’re the one giving birth.  You choose how you’d like to do it and I’ll support you.”

I was reluctant, though, about home birth.  Maybe a birthing center?  I soon discovered that they are nonexistent in Nevada. There went that option.  Okay.  Maybe a home birth would work.  That would mean a midwife.  But where to start?  My obstetrician’s website stated that his practice offered midwifery.  When I asked about it, I was told that—No, they no longer offered the service.  Their midwife had left the practice six months ago.  I obtained her name and number.  She happily agreed to a free consultation at our home.

We were filled with questions, which we wrote down in preparation.  When April arrived, I was immediately at ease with her.  She was friendly, personable, and always seemed to be smiling.  She spent a full hour answering our questions, and was very thorough in her answers.  And yet, I never had the feeling she was trying to “sell herself” to us as a midwife.  I felt that she simply wanted us to be informed so that we could make the best decision we could for our situation.

We told her we’d need some time to think about it.  We talked about it, prayed about it, and talked some more about it.  We felt very peaceful about a home birth and asked April if she would do us the honor of being our midwife.  Now what to do about my kind obstetrician?  I called and cancelled all of my future appointments and sent him a card thanking him for the excellent care, and explaining that I had chosen home birth.

I thoroughly enjoyed my prenatal visits with April.  The first few of them were at our home, and the last several were at her office.  No matter where we were, she always took plenty of time to answer our questions.  More than once, she was with me a full hour! ‘Never,’ I thought, ‘would I have been allowed this much time with an obstetrician in an office’.

The weeks crawled by.  My anticipation mounted as my due date, May 18th, approached.  Many of my family members were hoping the baby would come on May 20th, which is the birthday of my late brother.  The twentieth came and went.  May 23rd was my husband’s late grandmother’s birthday.  Maybe…?  Nope.  Perhaps May 25th?  That was my late sister’s birthday.  Nothing.

I had a prenatal visit on May 29th—my 41-week appointment.  For a few weeks up until that point, my cervix had been 3-4 cm dilated and 50% to 70% effaced.  I was ecstatic when April, upon checking me, announced I was about 5 cm dilated and almost completely effaced!  We had discussed some natural methods of induction, such as cervical massage, but I told her that as long as she considered the baby and me to be healthy and without risks, I wanted to start labor spontaneously.  I’m almost certain that the baby is going to come within the next twenty-four hours,” she said.  “I would suggest getting a nap in today!”

We picked up our son from school.  As soon as we got home, my husband and I went straight to bed for a nap.  At about 4:30 p.m., I was awakened by what felt like a Braxton-Hicks, but more intense.  I vaguely wondered if it was a “real” contraction.  After a few of those, I got to use the bathroom.  When I was done, I called for my husband.  “Come look at this!,” I said, trying not to sound alarmed. At the bottom of the toilet bowl was a blood clot bigger than a half dollar.

I began recording my contractions at about 5:00 p.m. as they seemed to be coming regularly.  They were two minutes apart.  I kept looking at the paper, thinking, “Are they supposed to start at two minutes apart.  I continued recording them as I baked a frozen pizza and we ate dinner.  At 6:30 p.m., I called April and told her about the clot and contractions.  “I’m supposed to call my mom and sister when labor starts so they can drive here from St. George, but I don’t want to call if this is not true labor!”  We hung up and I made a necessary phone calls while the tub filled.  My husband sent our son across the street to the neighbors’ house so he could focus on helping me.

I took a nice long bath.  I had heard of a women singing through contractions, so I decided to try it.  It “worked” for me.  It helped me focus.  (I had also heard the saying, “tense mouth, tense cervix”. Singing helped relax my mouth.)

The contractions were slowly increasing in intensity.  I got out of the tub and wrapped a navy blue flowered toga around me.  We got the bed stripped, then lay a plastic shower curtain and old sheets on it.  I tried lying down on it and relaxing.  My husband opened the organic kukui nut massage oil I had bought especially for this moment and started to rub my back.  “No, no!,” I said.  “It doesn’t help!” And I immediately hopped off the bed.

A few weeks before, I had chosen some guitar Christmas music to listen to while in labor.  (We listen to Christmas music year round.)  While it played, my husband and I danced in our bedroom.  I put my arms around his neck and swayed my hips when a contraction came.  “I think it’s time to call April,” I said after awhile.

We moved to the living room so that we could hear when April and her assistant, Kim, came.  Kim arrived first; it was roughly 7:30 p.m.  I was in “laborland” by that time, giving full concentration and focus to each contraction, and noticing little else.  She prepared a warm compress for my lower back.  Oh, it felt so good!  And I couldn’t stop saying so, over and over.  I talked to the baby, saying, “It’s time to come, darling.  It will be fine.  We’ll work together, okay?”

Soon after Kim arrived, April came.  At this point, I was on my elbows and knees.  When a contraction came, I would bury my face in a pillow and moan.  Not a soft, whimpering moan, but a powerful sustained “Oh” moan.  Once in a while, at the peak of a contraction, my low moan would slip into a high-pitched yell.  When this happened, the midwife or her assistant would gently remind me to keep my voice as low as I could.  My husband would press my hips into my body and moan with me.  He was fantastic.  A solid rock for me.  He did whatever he was asked and never faltered.

After this went on for awhile, I had the vague thought floating in the back of my mind that I should try to keep my cervix relaxed. So I tried to concentrate on “staying open”, which is a difficult thing to do when your entire body feels like clenching up in defense against the pressure.

A few different times between contractions, I would turn to April or Kim and asked, “How long is this part supposed to go on?” “Does this go on for hours and hours?”   I wasn’t necessarily complaining.  I was asking very sincerely.  I wanted, needed, a time-frame. I needed to know where the end would be.  In a half-hour?  In a few hours?  Several more hours? A bit to my dismay, but to my credit, they sidestepped giving me a time-frame and instead continued to offer me encouragement: “You’re doing so well, Anjalique!  You’re doing exactly what you need to do to birth your baby.  Let’s just take them one at a time.”  When I thought back on it, why did I think they were supposed to know exactly how long it was going to be?!

At about this time, I think everyone realized that I wasn’t about to be moved back to the bed.  I was laboring fine right where I was.  Out of nowhere, it seemed to me, a large plastic sheet was spread out over the floor and then covered with one of our old blankets.

Just when I didn’t think the pressure in my body could get any more powerful, it did.  I’ve heard other women compare giving birth to being strapped to the front of a steam engine going full speed.  You have no control over where it’s going; you’re just along for the ride.  That’s exactly how I felt at this point.  My body was in control and I could do nothing to change it’s course.  I couldn’t stay still.  I began crawling on my hands and knees back and forth across the living room floor.  I began to feel a bit desperate.  Desperate for it to be done.  To have my baby in my arms. “Check me!,” I gasped to April when I had a brief break.  She did, and then announced calmly and pleasantly, Anjalique, you’re a nine!”  I felt tremendous relief.  “Thank you, God,” I repeated over and over, and I meant it.

A bit more crawling, and then, “I think I was pushing!”  I don’t know if it was a suggestion or an instinct, but I was suddenly kneeling next to the couch and leaning my upper body on the cushion.  The pressure was tremendous.  I buried my face in the cushion and pushed as hard as I could.  Something burst, startling me.  I turned my head and asked, “What was that?” A voice behind me said, “Your membranes ruptured!”  Membranes?  I had completely forgotten about them.  Ruptured this late in labor?  Okay.  One step closer.

I felt a bit of a burning sensation at the opening.  I had read about this—it meant that the baby’s head was crowning and stretching skin.  “Ring of fire,” I said over my shoulder to the three behind me.  “Good!,” they answered.  “Getting close!”

I pushed a few times with all my energy I had.  I remember at about this time saying something like, “I can’t do this anymore!” And everyone came right back with, “Yes, you can! Your body was made for this.  You’re almost done.”  The encouragement I received from my birthing team during labor meant a great deal to me and gave me the little nudges I needed to keep going.

Soon, her head was out.  My husband immediately informed me that she looked just like our son had when he was a baby!  I caught my breath.  “Give me another big push, Anjalique,” April said.  I bore down in silent determination.  The rest of her came out all at once into her father’s waiting hands.  What a marvelous feeling!  I knew that the hard work was done; now I could enjoy my little one.  In a moment, I heard a glorious, lusty cry.  And in another moment, the door flung open and my mom and sister came rushing in.

There were a few wonderful moments of exclamations and excitement and then my husband handed her under to me, the cord still attached.  I took her in my hands and carefully turned around to sit on the ground with her.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her!  She was warm and beautiful and new.  I held her to my chest and we sat, skin to skin, for a long time looking at one another.  I talked to her and looked her all over.  ‘This is the beautiful fruit of labor,’ I thought as I cuddled her.  How lovely it was to sit there and revel in that moment.  She and I were healthy and alert and together!  I passed the placenta without much ado and asked if I had any tears.  “No,” April said.  “Just a small “skid-mark.”  I breathed another sigh of relief.  I noted as I looked down at my legs and at the floor that there was what looked to me like a large amount of blood.  (Later, April told me that it had been more blood than she usually sees.)

I don’t know how long we sat there.  Eventually, someone asked if we’d like to take a warm bath together.  “Yes, that sounds great!”  Someone helped me walk into the bathroom and get down into the tub.  ‘How nice to be able to walk and have my faculties about me so soon afterward,’ I thought silently to myself.  I propped her on my legs and we had a nice , long, leisurely bath.  I wanted the two of us to get cleaned off before my son came in to see his sister; I didn’t want to frighten him with the sight of blood.  Soon, the four of us were finally together.  The four of us!  It took some time to get used to thinking and saying that!  But this beautiful little life had made our family that much more complete.

Having my son grow four years in the blink of an eye, I was now warned about how swiftly babies grow into toddlers, and toddlers grow into children.  I held our baby’s tiny, warm body close to me and determined to savor every moment that she was with us.