Contractions began at 2:37 a.m. I woke to go to the bathroom and after returning to bed felt a “tightening.” I wondered if this was a contraction… and decided to record the time just in case. Several minutes later, another. Is this real, is this our birth day? Contractions continued throughout the evening. As they were not overly intense, I tried to rest between them and noted the time when they came. Sleep was attempted but not successfully attained. Cody and I both put messages into work letting them know we would not be in. Around 10 am the contractions weakened and became more sporadic. They continued throughout the day, but did not hinder daily actions. I put in a few hours of work and went for a walk with my mama before heading to my 41 week appointment with our midwife. After an exam, she confirmed I was 1 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Our babe was also in a +1 station, very low in the pelvis. We headed home and prepared to get a good night’s rest knowing that the moment we would welcome our child was soon approaching.
Tuesday, April 14
I fell asleep around 10 pm and woke at 12:38 am to a contraction. Contractions came several minutes apart but felt stronger and more on purpose than those from the previous day. After about an hour I decided to get out of bed and walk around to encourage the contractions to come regularly. Cody sat with me throughout the early morning hours in our living room. Around 4 am I got into the shower and contractions were coming in waves every couple of minutes. We decided it was time to go. I called our photographer, Cody loaded the car, and we were on our way.
6:00 AM (ish)
We checked into the Reedsburg Area Medical Center’s Birth Center. It was important for us to labor at home as long as possible. I did not want to spend hours laboring at the hospital. I was hopeful that when they checked me, I would have made good progress at home. When the nurse informed me that I was 5 cm dilated, I was happy. We were half way there, and contractions were coming regularly and strong. The nurse filled the tub with water and my and baby’s vitals were wonderful. We’d soon be holding our baby!
The tub was a relief. The warm water felt good and “cushioned” me during contractions. Shortly after getting in, my friend/photographer arrived, then my mother.
My focus was on Cody and the contractions. When I would think about my labor during pregnancy, my fear was that I would get scared, that I would tense up and not work with my body. Thinking back about my labor, I can happily say, I didn’t get scared of the contractions, I was in control of my labor, and was well supported by those around me. The contractions were doing the work, preparing my body to deliver our baby. At one point I left the tub to empty my bladder and sat on the toilet for a couple of contractions. After leaving the bathroom, and returning to the labor room, the song that came up on my iPod’s “pregnancy” playlist was Garth Brook’s Mom. I held on to Cody and rocked with him as this song threw me into emotion. The words hit home now more than ever, soon we’d be meeting our baby. Soon, this baby would be meeting their Mom. I wept, I sang. I rocked with my husband, The contractions continued in waves.
I got back into the tub and between contractions rested. The playlist continued and I sang along with the songs. Focusing on the lyrics helped relax me and pass time between contractions. Rachel joked that I could sell the playlist. At moments, it almost seems choreographed with songs like Mom, Let Her Go, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and a set of classics from Mozart. Apparently the music moved more than just me and our emotions were felt by all those in the room.
Our audience grew throughout my labor. Cody’s mom arrived. We also granted permission for two student nurses to observe. It was a kindness I wanted to extend based on my reading and research. Many in the OB field never get to witness natural child-birth. Who knows where these nurses will end up, perhaps in a facility that has high rates of intervention-lead births, rather than mother-lead births. I could allow them to see how it could be. Also in the room were my midwife and two nurses. 10 of us fit into that small space, but I was cushioned by the water, focusing only on Cody. It didn’t matter who was there. I never felt crowded or overwhelmed or exposed. And I think it was an experience for those present.
Between contractions, if I wasn’t resting, I was trying to maintain my humor. I asked my midwife at one point to just reach in and pull our baby out. I made conversation with my husband and watched the emotion on his face as he supported me the best he could. I listened to the conversations taking place in the room. I remember looking down and noticed my belly button was no longer stretched, it had returned, and there was a large gap from chest to baby bump. It was fun to witness the changes and realize how awesome our bodies are, how this incredible design of God’s works so perfectly.
Time to Push!
At one point my contractions became something more. I recalled reading that your body will tell you when to push. It does! It did! I resisted however. I didn’t want to push if I wasn’t yet fully dilated. With the next contraction, my midwife checked me and pushed back the remaining rim of my cervix. I was given the green light to push on the next contraction. The urge was incredible. It literally lifted me from the tub. With a water birth, it’s important to stay under the water completely, and its also important for my midwife to be able to monitor progress and see everything so they had me turn sideways in the tub, this gave me more leverage to push against the sides. My mother was behind me, my husband and midwife in front. I was supported and I was on the verge of welcoming my child.
Contractions continued, and while they were intense, they were short. I pushed and roared (literally–the low noises escaping me were raw and animalistic) but once the contraction stopped, so did I. I relied on the contractions for strength. Despite the encouragement from those around me to keep pushing, I stopped once the contraction was over.
During this entire time, following each contraction the nurse checked the baby’s heart rate with the doppler. In the back of my mind I feared hearing the words “the baby’s heart rate is dropping.” Those words never came. With each check of my babe, the heart rate boomed loud and steady for all to hear. It never once wavered, there was never any distress. The student nurse assisting us made a great statement that filled me with joy. “Listen to that strong heart beat. This baby loves their mama.”
We were so close. My babe was nearly crowning. As we got to this point, some fear did set in. With each push I felt my bottom stretching, knew I was about to tear, and as a result I timidly approached my next contractions. Out loud, in that room full of people, I prayed for strength. I talked to myself, reminding me, that I could do this, that only I could do this.
I knew I was going to tear. I knew I’d have to feel more pain that I had up to this point before it would be over. With the next contraction, I gave more of myself and pushed . My babe’s head emerged as I tore. And the contraction was over. There s/he was, so close to exiting. And we waited, waited for the next contraction, which took several minutes.
With the next and final contraction, I pushed our baby out. In a fluid motion, our baby entered the tub into our midwife’s hands. She immediately brought our child to my chest, into my arms. It was surreal. And the pain was gone. Replaced by awe and love and gratitude. I was holding our baby, our healthy, beautiful baby. A baby with a head full of dark hair and stormy blue eyes. A babe that let out a cry the moment it broke the water’s surface. My jaw dropped, the tears rolled, my heart swelled.
I looked at my husband. His look, his reaction was one I wanted to see and witness. Together he and I created this life, together we prepared for the arrival, and together we labored and anticipated. He was happy, proud, emotional, and relieved. He was in the moment with me. In that moment in time, the three of us were the only ones who existed.
My babe was in my arms facing toward me, still connected to the umbilical cord. We did not yet know the gender. My midwife asked if we were ready to find out. I held our babe for a moment longer and remember thinking to myself, “I don’t feel a penis!” I lowered our babe and revealed to the room that we had a daughter. I was so in love. She was absolutely perfect.
I turned to Cody and asked him a question I had asked him many times before, “what are we going to do with a girl?” This was our inside joke. …we have decided we are going to raise her to be smart and hate boys!
Cody cut the cord then took our sweet angel to meet her grandmothers.
The staff helped me out of the tub and to the bed. This is when the second phase of labor began for me, though I can adamantly say, I’d take child-birth again and again over the aftermath of our daughter’s birth.
In short, my uterus was done. It did its job, it expelled my little girl. But usually, afterwards, it is supposed to keep working, continue contracting to stop the bleeding and shrink down. Mine was tired. So the bleeding would not stop. Getting the bleeding under control was priority 1. A nurse approached me with a needle in her hand and was heading for my arm. I drew back and told her “no!” She looked at me with astonishment. My midwife said, “Lori, we have to. It’s pitocin, we need your uterus to contract.” I begrudgingly permitted and laid my head back thinking how ironic it was that I went through my full labor and birth without medication only to have it administered now. But fine, do what you have to do to me. My baby is out, she is here, and God willing nothing will enter her system.
The nurse returned to insert an IV. She prepped my arm, warned me of the impending poke, and stuck me. She missed. Puzzled, she attempted again at a different location along my vein. Strike two. I was shocked. I have good veins, have never been missed. Turns out that the blood loss caused my veins to shrink/collapse making it pretty hard to get the IV in. After the botched attempt, the nurse returned with another needle, this time heading for the other arm. I again protested, indicating that I already had a shot. My midwife popped up from between my legs and again pleaded to get the shot in me. I thought the IV was for fluids, but turns out the IV was attempted to hook me to a full bag of Pitocin. Because they could not get the IV in, a second shot was administered. Guess I’d rather have the two small shots than a full bag dripping into my system.
The bleeding lightened and was under control. Now the focus turned to my tear. I won’t’ go into the details on this, but it was a rough one. In most cases women tear to the back, I tore to the front, a “star-shaped” tear my midwife explained. An OB surgeon was brought in to do the repair. The process was awful and painful and two weeks later I am still working to get healed and be able to walk normally.
For my baby girl, it was worth it. Whatever had to happen to me is superficial and just a memory of the experience that ushered her into this world. Our sweet Connie Elizabeth arrived weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces, 20.5 inches long. My mother’s name is Connie, she now has a namesake. Elizabeth is Cody’s maternal grandmother’s name, but we all know her as Betty. I love traditional names, and this is a great way for us to honor some wonderful women in our lives. According to “name meanings,” Connie means strong-willed or wise. Elizabeth means God is satisfaction/oath of God.
I’d say she has a good foundation.
Our labor at the RAMC Birth Center was documented by Rachel Manzke Photography. To have this documentation is nothing short of a gift. Reviewing the images reminds me of the moments and while I recall my experience vividly now, as time passes, the images and videos will provide me with recall and flood me with the emotions we shared that amazing day.
Thank you to the wonderful nursing staff at RAMC who took such wonderful care of us and enabled us to live out our birth plan — a natural water birth. Our baby girl came into this world, lively. She latched right away for feeding and remained alert for hours after birth. Again, it was surreal.
Until you become a mother, you can never truly appreciate the sacrifice other women have made for their families. You also can not comprehend the overwhelming love, joy and pride a new parent has and holds for their child. To my mother, and all the mothers, bravo! You are amazing.
This next chapter of our lives is just beginning. Our sweet angel is two weeks old today and I am already wishing for time to slow down. The cliché that time flies is so true…. she changes each day, growing, strengthening. Every day she showers me with love and smiles. Every day I am awe of her amazing soul, bonded to mine.
My sweet Connie Elizabeth, thank you for the powerful gift of being a mother. You’ll never comprehend how much you consume me or how deep my love for you goes. Not until you welcome your own babe. (Which is many, many, many years from now!)
And thank you, Cody. My constant rock and fan. I’m excited for our new adventures together. Our lil family. What a blessing!