April, 2013 was the longest month of my life. I thought I had experienced long months before, but not until the last month of my first pregnancy did I realize what l-o-n-g truly meant. Many women who had gone before me into the harrowing occupation of motherhood had warned me, but there is nothing to prepare you for childbirth like childbirth. Just a couple days before my month ended, I finally read a book that referred to the very last segment of pregnancy as “the labor month,” and I thought, “YES, exactly.” To start our birth story accurately, I need to start way before the birth even began, and give you a brief history of our pregnancy and the choices we made as we started our family.
Last Spring, when Frank got the full time job with FedEx in Corvallis and we moved (back) to Oregon, we decided to start “trying” to start our family. I was 31, and had been diagnosed with endometriosis ten years prior, so we weren’t sure how long it would take or if it would take. It didn’t take too long at all! We started trying in June and had a positive test by the end of July. WOW! Here we go... I didn’t feel pregnant for several weeks, but around week 7 or 8, I started feeling sick, nauseous, all day long most days. I tried everything to keep the nausea at bay, but nothing seemed to work. People kept telling me it would be over by week 12, then week 16, then week 20... by week 26, I finally started having “normal” days again, thank the Lord. One morning (probably around week 18), Frank walked into the bathroom after I had my normal morning dry-heave-into-the-sink-with-no-results routine. I looked at him and said, “I’m not sure I can do this again, just sayin.” And he looked at me with the most confused, disappointed look on his face. The woman he married who wanted 4 kids had been replaced by a dry heaving, gagging, puking hot mess. Pregnancy was hard for both of us. Between weeks 26 and 38, everything calmed down and life was good again. It was fun watching my belly grow, and we drove people crazy with our decision to not find out the gender. We also enjoyed our regular visits with our midwives, Carol & Julia.
Before we got pregnant we had talked about choosing natural child birth. We each had a sister-in-law who chose natural child birth with their children and had fabulous experiences all 4 times. Early on in our pregnancy we netflixed the film “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary by Ricki Lake (Don’t let that turn you off. If you haven’t seen this, we highly recommend it and considering the options you have when it comes to giving birth). Watching this eye opening film solidified our decision to have a natural-as-possible experience. We drove an hour and a half to Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center, northwest of Salem, where my nephew Henry had been born. It was beautiful and the entire staff seemed amazing, but it was an hour and a half away. In fact, our home is 20 minutes from any medical facility. And given the fact that it would have taken Frank at least an hour and a half to get home from work, we decided the best possible scenario would be for me to stay home and have everyone come to me for the delivery. Our 2 hour interview with Bella Vie led us to another consultation, much closer to home, with Carol Severson, who has Mid Valley Birthing Services, based out of Albany. We got along with Carol right away. I felt very comfortable with her 30 plus years of experience, her personality and our shared faith. She had a couple girls working with her who were working on their midwifery licenses, one of whom, Julia, started conducting many of our appointments and we got to know her very well. We had Julia and Carol out to our house for dinner to talk about our birth plan. Julia came back for dinner a couple times to teach us more about natural birth techniques and breastfeeding. Her specialized care for us parents-to-be was an incredible blessing. Julia has two toddlers herself, so her recent experiences combined with her midwifery training made her an excellent resource. Being able to build relationships with Carol and Julia was essential to our positive home birth experience.
About a month before I was due, Julia gave me some nitrazine paper, in order to test any fluid I might notice as we got closer to the birth. The paper would turn a certain color if the fluid was amniotic, letting us know my bag of waters had broken. (Most women don’t experience a sudden gush, but more a slow leak.) On Easter night, I tested some fluid I noticed and the paper turned dark bluish/purple, like it would for amniotic fluid! We had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday, so Julia gave us the run down on what to do and not do now that my water was leaking. She said it was likely we would be having a baby that week.
By Thursday, April 4th, I had been experiencing contractions off and on for a couple days. Combined with my leaking fluid, we decided to try some natural techniques to induce labor. My contractions picked up, and Julia came to our house. We were all hopeful that our baby would be born that night. After about 7 hours of regular contractions, Julia checked me and I was only dilated 2 cm. I was exhausted so we all agreed to go to bed and see where I was in the morning. At 6:30 am, I hadn’t had any contractions since falling asleep and waking back up around 4:30. Julia packed up and left and I was extremely disappointed.
For the next two and half weeks, I had contractions off and on. Sometimes they last several hours, sometimes they went as fast as they came. I was no longer leaking any fluid. (Which probably means my sack tore, and healed itself.) By Tuesday, April 23rd, almost 2 weeks past my due date, I was very tired and extremely frustrated. The baby’s head was down, I had been 2 cm dilated for 2 weeks. I felt stuck. My mom, Frank and I met with the ladies at their office and when Julia asked how I was doing, I lost it. I just started bawling, expressing my frustration and confusion and concern. Was something wrong with me? They both calmly explained (for the 10th time) that if something was wrong, they would know. My blood pressure was perfect, my weekly urine tests were normal, and the baby’s heart beat was healthy. They conducted an exam, during which Carol stripped my membranes. My mom and I went to lunch at a Thai restaurant and then got pedicures.
Two hours after the pedicure, mom and I arrived home and I flopped into bed, exhausted. I felt a contraction almost immediately after lying down. About 5 minutes later, another one hit. And then another one. After all the false starts, I was afraid to be hopeful, but still, something felt different. Frank came home from work, and we relaxed, going to bed early. No matter what I did, the contractions didn’t stop. Hope grew. At 12:30 am, I woke up, still feeling contractions regularly. They were stronger than anything I had experienced all month. I decided we should call Julia. She arrived 45 minutes after we called her. I contracted throughout the early morning, as I kinda slept off and on. She rested on the couch and came in to check my heart rate, blood pressure, and baby’s heart rate about every hour. At 4:30 am, I was dilated 5 cm!
Around 8 am, everyone was up, eating breakfast. I felt good. The contractions were still coming and I knew my baby would come that day! Finally! Around 10 am, my contractions started slowing down. Julia had Frank and I take walks outside in the sunshine and she had me take black & blue cohosh (herbs) every half hour for a couple hours. They picked back up, and at about 2 pm, on my way to the bathroom after a contraction, another one hit. I had to brace myself in the doorway. It was strong and sudden. By the time I walked 5 steps to the bathroom, another one just like it hit. And then another one... the tide turned, and I was finally in transition. From that point on, I labored mostly on our bed, trying to find comfortable positions to labor in. I’m not sure what time everything happened after that. I remember Frank lying next to me telling me I was “doing good” the whole time. I remember my water bottle constantly being held up to my mouth (thank God for Camelbaks!). I remember one of the midwives rubbing my feet through contractions, which felt so good!
I know at one point, they decided to break my water. Right after that, I heard Carol say, “I think this baby is trying to turn on us.” I looked down at my belly, where she was looking and saw a huge slope to the left. The baby looked like it had bunched up on my right side. Carol was calm and confident as she explained to me what I had to do. She had me turn onto my left side, and lift my right leg as high up and close to my chest as I possibly could. I labored in that position for what felt like forever. The contractions felt 5 times stronger. Every 20 minutes Julia dropped little herbs that tasted like sugar under my tongue.
I had snacks when I felt hungry during labor. I rested when I felt like I needed it. I drank a lot of water. Sometimes I felt nauseous, but I never puked. I stood and “danced” with Frank through contractions at one point. Sometimes I just pushed all my weight into him as I waited for the contraction to stop. He held me through the whole process. Frank was an amazing birth partner and I felt so blessed to have him in the room with me almost the entire time. (He had to eat once in a while!)
Finally, around 9 pm, the pushing started. I was on my knees at the foot of our bed, on the floor. Shortly after I started pushing, Carol had me lift a knee and put my foot on the ground, so I was in a half squat position. That was much more comfortable. I had my arms wrapped around Frank’s shoulders. Julia and Carol were beside & behind me, my mom was on stand by, next to Frank. Carol switched places with Frank, so he could catch the baby with Julia. Then Carol needed to monitor the baby’s heart rate, so my mom stepped in. She and I each wrapped an arm around the foot of our bed, and wrapped our other arms around each other as I pushed through each contraction. At some point in this process I thought to myself, "I would take drugs now!" (It would have been too late.) I also thought, "I can’t do this any more!" I declared that thought out loud at one point after a painful push. I remember reading that specific phrase signaled the third stage in emotional labor, and that it usually meant the baby was almost here. But in the moment, after almost 30 hours of labor, I was pretty sure that baby was not coming out! And then, all of a sudden, after another painful, hard push, I felt the best, most amazing and relieving feeling of my life! The next thing I knew, a dark red, slimy, crying little baby was in my arms, and everything in the world changed.
“Oh honey, oh honey!” was all that could come out of my mouth as I held this squirming, crying little person. Frank and I just stared at our baby, in total shock. I have no idea what else was going on in the room. And then a voice came from over my shoulder, “Is it a boy or a girl?!” In all of our commotion of delivering the baby, Frank and I didn’t even think to check the gender. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I just couldn’t stop staring at this little being that had just come out of me! We then discovered she was a little girl, and I said, “It’s Eva! Hi Eva!” It was wonderful to meet my daughter for the first time.
We moved from the floor to the bed, where I held Eva as Frank cut the cord, and we enjoyed our first moments together as a family. I was exhausted and elated all at the same time. It was the hardest and most beautiful experience of my life. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions about our experience or natural childbirth/home birth, please feel free to ask me! Below are some of our favorite pictures from the birth. Enjoy!
Frank & Alita
Eva Luree Batham. April 24,2013. 9 pounds, 4 ounces. 21 1/2 inches.