Welcome to 101 in 1001 goal #55: Write out Secora's birth story.
I'll be up front and let you know there are a few rather small things (well, one thing in particular) that is being slightly changed in the blog version of this story because it's our birth and there's one specific piece of information that I don't want public for a variety of reasons. The omitted facts don't really change the story though.
Secora's pregnancy was rough and that didn't change just because we were getting to the end of it. Just like with her sisters, I was experiencing contractions all day every day and all night every night. I was absolutely positive she was on her way numerous times. I didn't think there was any way she'd stay put until November. I was also getting very nervous about birthing her on my own. Like my previous pregnancies, I was dilated and effaced early on...like, 5-6cm and 70-80% weeks before the big day. The end of my pregnancy with Sierra had gone much the same way and she was born 3 hours after my water broke. Sedona was the same situation again only she came 3.5 hours after my water broke (though she was asynclitic and a LOT of that time was a difficult pushing phase). I had every reason to believe that if this baby was positioned well and my water broke, my midwife would have trouble making it in time.
So when things were really moving along on November 11th and my midwife happened to be in town for something else, she dropped by to check on me before she went home. She decided to sleep over and keep an eye on things. I felt a little weird about that, but she insisted she preferred sleeping on a couch to making a mad dash at 2am. So we just hung out (A Few Good Men was on TV) and I periodically went outside and walked up and down the stairs to keep things going.
Oh, didn't I mention? Secora was born in a hotel. I'll refrain from naming the hotel because the whole staff had been anxiously awaiting "the baby!" for weeks and were so excited to meet her and I don't think it ever occurred to them to consider perhaps the baby had actually been born IN the hotel. No worries, the supplies for a homebirth include shower curtain liners on the floor, mattress covers, sterilized sheets...that room had been stripped down and then later reassembled. No...ahem...messes were left behind at all. It is quite possible the night clerk at the desk that night wondered what the crazy lady in her PJ pants was doing walking the stairs though.
We had ended up in a hotel because we went all the way from Montana back to Texas for the birth. I had good intentions of finding of midwife in Montana, and going back to Texas was sort of a "well, we can if we need to" plan. I did some searching and found one midwife I was pretty comfortable with, so we went to interview her. Ended up being not very comfortable at all with her and really didn't like that the midwives in our area don't have back-up doctors. We heard the local hospital is very supportive of unmedicated birth and considered just hiring a family practice doctor, but were at a loss about what to do with the girls during the birth. In the end, my grandmother's passing happened to come at the end of my pregnancy, so we drove down to Texas then and the girls and I just stayed (in a long-term hotel) while Josh went back to Montana. In hindsight, I am so so so grateful that I was able to deliver again with the midwife I trust. I always felt safe, I had friends and family gathered around, and it was just an atmosphere I could not have gotten in Montana. I would have regretted giving that up.
So, back to this hotel birth: we had invited several people to the birth. One was asked to photograph everything and we ended up calling her, along with the midwife's assistant around 4am. Around 4:40, my water broke. I expected things to just really move along then, but they didn't. More walking, more stairs. Had some snacks, talked to everyone. I finally decided I might end up needing to call the back-up doctor because it just didn't feel like it was progressing like my other labors did. If I had a chance of ending up in the hospital, I wanted to nap first, so I told everyone I was going to lay down. Josh and I laid down to rest, the midwife and her assistant catnapped, and the photography friend ran across the street to get some breakfast.
As soon as I laid down, the contractions got stronger. With Sierra and Sedona, I had a lot of back pain with the contractions, but these were not in my back at all, they were completely in the front. In my head, I was thinking we still had a long way to go, but then a contraction hit that kind of freaked me out. It was strong enough to make me feel panicky, like I might not get through it. I'm well versed in the "self-doubt signpost" from 2 other unmedicated deliveries and teaching childbirth classes. I knew that "I can't handle these contractions" was a good thing and meant a baby was coming soon. I told Josh I was panicking and needed to be checked. He told Toni I wanted a cervical check and I was completely effaced and 9cm. I knew I was in transition, but I thought it'd still be a while to get through the labor and then the pushing would take time. Despite weeks of worrying that this phase of labor would go really fast, all I could think now was that I pushed for 2 hours with Sedona and it would be at least a couple of hours before baby arrived. My picture taking friend was back and I had her call 2 of the people who had been invited (my best friend, and a fellow childbirth educator who was training to be a doula), but I figured she should hold off on the other 2 because it'd be a while longer.
Boy was I mistaken! Everything was a bit of a blur after that.
When I was pregnant, Sierra had asked if she could be at the birth. After thinking it over for several months, I decided to leave that decision up to her. We had a very frank discussion (with diagrams and pictures) of how babies are born and she was still interested, so I showed her the unedited pictures of Sedona's birth. She was still interested, so I laid down some ground rules for her and told her it was her decision and she could change her mind at any time. She woke up at some point when I was in transition and I was aware she was awake and eating Lucky Charms. Josh left me very briefly to talk to her and it was everything I could do to not freak out while he was gone. When he came back, I kept trying to relax, but felt like I was much more tense than I had been with the other labors. I kept squeezing his hand really hard and telling him I couldn't relax and he kept saying I was doing fine (later he told me I was visibly tensing up but it would just be a second and then I'd make myself relax). I could handle the contractions, but it felt like my pubic bone was being pulled apart, which I had never experienced before and didn't expect. I think that was happening because she was moving down so fast, but I'm not sure. I do know it hurt more than the back labor I was used to and that I had lingering pain for several weeks after the birth.
I kept it together as long as I could and then all of a sudden, I told Josh and the midwife that I needed to push. According to the clock that's visible in the pictures, that happened at 7:33. My body was already pushing when I said it. The midwife told me to just listen to my body, but she was going to check me to be sure I was ready. She didn't really get a chance...she started to check me and said, "oh, there's baby's head!" I was still laying on my side on the bed at this point and she told me the baby was coming quickly and asked me if I wanted to stay on the bed or get on the birthing stool. The moment of birth is a moment of surrender and I was beyond rational thought already, so I just said, "I don't know". She took charge and told everyone to get me upright. She was trying to get warm compresses out, but they were in hot water and there wasn't anytime to cool them down, so she was putting them on my leg to be sure they weren't too hot for me, then using them for perineal support while Josh picked me up and sat me on the birthing stool and one of my friends moved my feet for me. This all happened around 7:38. There is video to prove that was almost eerily quiet in the room, but it didn't seem calm and quiet to me at the time. I remember Toni and Josh telling me several times to take big breaths so the baby had oxygen (which I did) and Toni telling me to try to slow down on the pushing and me telling her I couldn't. Secora was born at 7:42. Josh had predicted she would come at 7:40, so he tried to (jokingly) convince us to fudge the time. She was a little gurgley and needed to be suctioned out more than Sedona was (probably because the birth was so fast, typically the fluid is squeezed out of their lungs on the way out), and she had some bruising on her face (again, from coming so fast). She also had a very round head compared to the other girls. She was calm and quiet after she was suctioned, she only let out one squawk and then just stared at me. She wasn't interested in nursing right away, it was probably about half an hour before she latched on well. She wasn't keeping her body temperature up quite as well as she should have, so the midwife wrapped a heating pad around her while I was nursing her. Thanks to the wonders of natural positioning, warm compresses, olive oil and an experienced midwife, I had no tears at all, just like with Sedona.
Sierra was completely amazed. She handled it like a pro and you can tell from the pictures how excited she was to be there. After we all had a chance to say our hellos, I went to take a shower while the midwife did the newborn exam, then let daddy and big sister get her dressed. She was all ready for more snuggles and nursing when I got out of the shower. My mom took Sierra for the rest of the morning so we could rest until Sedona got out of school.
I put together a slideshow of pictures. All the pictures are edited so you don't have to worry about surprises, but it IS a birth so there are plenty of "not yet cleaned up baby" pictures. I do want to specify that probably had the worst set up possible for pictures...the room was dark except for a bright light behind me and there also wasn't much room. The song is "In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride...a choice that is as much in tribute to Sierra as it is to Secora. I can't emphasize enough how well Sierra handled being there, I wouldn't be surprised if she decided to be a doula or midwife when she grows up.
If you're interested, Sedona's birth story (also a home birth, but a more complicated one) was also posted on the blog several years ago