That is the only word I can think of to describe my pregnancy and birth. Ryan and I got married 18 December 2005, and by the beginning of January, I wanted to be pregnant NOW. Only problem was that I wasn’t scheduled to graduate until May 2007, a year and a half away. I started reading books, most of which came from my mom, and charting my cycles to prepare for (and to prevent for the time being) pregnancy. Ryan and I had many conversations about when we would try to get pregnant.
That is the only word I can think of to describe my pregnancy and birth. Ryan and I got married 18 December 2005, and by the beginning of January, I wanted to be pregnant NOW. Only problem was that I wasn’t scheduled to graduate until May 2007, a year and a half away. I started reading books, most of which came from my mom, and charting my cycles to prepare for (and to prevent for the time being) pregnancy. Ryan and I had many conversations about when we would try to get pregnant. I was a little apprehensive about being pregnant and in school full time simultaneously, but I eventually decided that I trusted my body to grow a baby and allow me to continue my daily life at the same time. On a road trip in mid August of 2006, Ryan and I finally decided when we would try to conceive: my cycle closest to the beginning of October. That way, the baby would be born about two months after graduation. I think we picked out Gabe’s name during that trip, too. We never fully settled on a girl’s name.
I kind of assumed I would have a homebirth because, well, why not? I looked into my hospital and birthing center options just to make sure I did in fact know what I wanted. I discovered that the birth I wanted was not possible in a hospital where we live and the only birthing center in the state was three hours away. When I began to search for homebirth midwives, I was completely shocked to discover that homebirth midwives cannot legally practice in Georgia. As I talked to my mom, a huge advocate of homebirth, and read more about childbirth in America, I decided the only birth I would have would be a homebirth. The backwards Georgia law was no deterrent for me, although it saddened me to learn of the state’s ignorance surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. For anyone who knows how I was educated before attending Georgia Tech, you know that my family isn’t exactly known for obeying the law regarding childrearing.
Fast forward to October 12: I’M PREGNANT! My period wasn’t even due for about four more days, but I just could not wait to take the test. I immediately began seeking midwife recommendations. I was already familiar with the midwives in the area, but had not spoken to any. By the time I was six weeks pregnant, we had chosen a midwife. We would have to pay completely out of pocket of course because of the law.
I loved being pregnant. My pregnancy never interfered with school, although I wasn’t able to keep up with the workouts I was used to. Before I was even showing, my mom announced that she thought the baby was a boy. As soon as I started showing, everyone who saw me either asked if the baby is a boy or told me the baby is a boy. I was told that carrying low means it’s a boy and I was apparently carrying low. My mom even bought blue baby clothes. This might have something to do with why we never settled on a girl’s name.
Since it was my first pregnancy and pregnancy, like all of life, can be rather unpredictable, I really wanted to have a doctor I could go to should a complication arise during pregnancy or birth. However, most doctors will not see women who are planning homebirths. My midwife referred me to a homebirth friendly doctor two hours away. We went to this doctor to get the standard prenatal blood work and pap smear done, but the doctor retired before my pregnancy ended. During my second trimester, my midwife established a relationship with an obstetrician who was new to the area and had come from a state where midwives practice legally. He provided medical back-up for homebirthers when he practiced there. He was much closer and had hospital privileges at the hospital we would want to go to in the event of a transfer. Shortly after our first appointment with him, my midwife informed me that he would no longer provide back-up care for homebirthers because of some issue with his malpractice insurance company. We were disappointed, but decided to go to our next scheduled appointment with him unless he formally dismissed us from his care.
At our next appointment, he brought up the topic. I gave him my sad face and played dumb. I was 33 weeks pregnant by this time. The topic kind of dwindled away after he mentioned that I would need to sign some form, and I gave him the results of my two hour postprandial glucose test. He agreed that this was an accurate way of determining glucose tolerance and did not request that I take the standard glucose tolerance test with glucola. We made another appointment and left. We did not openly mention homebirth to our OB anymore, but at our subsequent appointments, he would ask questions like, “Have you had any internal exams lately?” indicating that he was in no way unclear of our plans to give birth at home.
I was very happy with the prenatal care I received from him. His nurse commented a few times that she wished all their pregnant moms were as healthy and calm as me. I replied in my head that my midwife’s clients are as healthy and calm as me and I’m just normal, so maybe you should see more homebirthers. My midwife would probably not describe me as calm since I tend to get alarmed if anything about me is anywhere near the border of what is considered normal, although my temperament was generally calmer during pregnancy than it was before. Most of the time, I felt like everything was right in my world. My OB did the same things my midwife did: check my blood pressure, weight, and urine and palpate my belly. He never asked to do ultrasound, internal exams, or any other kind of testing. He did the group B step test because I wanted it done, although my midwife could have done it. I did finally get a letter formally dismissing me from his care when I was 37 weeks, but I continued to see him. At my 38 week appointment, I signed a form stating that I understand that my OB “does not participate in planned homebirths in any capacity.” At my 39 week appointment, he told me to go ahead and make a 40 week appointment but he didn’t expect to see me next week. I did have to call and cancel that 40 week appointment when Gabriel was born on June 23, 2007 at 39 weeks and 6 days.
My midwife told me that my OB had dismissed all but one of her other clients from his care. Why he chose to keep us, I have no idea, but I am grateful. I am just sad that he won’t see other homebirthers. I did not ask him why he chose to keep me for fear of losing him as my OB. I do plan to make a six week postpartum check-up with him, so that I can thank him for providing care for me and let him know that there is a great need for medical back-up in the homebirth community. Rumor has it that it is not threats from his malpractice insurance company that caused him to disassociate himself with the homebirth community, but rather the hostility from the obstetric profession surrounding homebirth in Georgia.
Before I got pregnant and even in early pregnancy, I was a bit scared of giving birth, but by my third trimester, I had no fear at all. I probably watched about twenty birth videos since my midwife loaned me two at each prenatal visit, and I can’t imagine anything preparing me better than that. (We never got around to taking childbirth classes and for some reason, I didn’t feel particularly compelled to do so.) But really, I wasn’t prepared at all and that was a good thing. I never imagined what it might actually feel like to give birth, and I’m glad I didn’t know. Giving birth was the most wonderful experience of my life, but I wouldn’t have wanted to know what it would feel like beforehand.
I felt like I was in labor my whole last month of pregnancy. By 36 weeks, the baby had “dropped,” requiring that I get up to use the restroom four plus times a night instead of one or two. I was still working on campus with Ryan surveying fire hydrants four hours a day at this time. I think I found all the bathrooms on campus. When I took the job, it didn’t occur to me that I might have to hunt down a bathroom every 30 minutes and that sometimes we might not be near one. My Braxton-Hicks contractions were getting stronger and starting to feel like menstrual cramps. By 37 weeks, I had to pause when walking during contractions, which rather annoyed Ryan since we had to walk a lot to do our job. The walking was definitely good for me, and I can’t imagine having just sat around all that time. I remember on Friday at 38 weeks and 5 days, I told Ryan I couldn’t work anymore because the contractions were uncomfortable to walk through. I did, however, work a few more days, but we used the car to minimize walking for me. Our last day of work was Tuesday at 39 weeks and 2 days.
On Wednesday, Ryan and I hung out at home, went swimming, and then went to our favorite restaurant. That night, my mucous plug started to come out. I was also having contractions and I couldn’t sleep. Eventually, Ryan woke up and I had to tell him what was going on. He was very excited, but I told him not to get too excited just yet because it could still be a few days. My mucous plug finished coming out about 24 hours later. My contractions felt “different” on Thursday morning, maybe just stronger. I told my mom this and she started her two week vacation on Thursday afternoon, despite me telling her that it could still be a while. Friday morning, my contractions felt “different” again. They didn’t feel like menstrual cramps anymore. They would come at regular intervals, ten to twenty minutes apart, for an hour or two at a time and then go away for thirty minutes to an hour. I had been sitting at home for two days and it was driving me crazy.
My contractions got closer together when I walked, so I avoided going anywhere for the practical reason that I had to stop walking every few minutes, annoying both myself and Ryan and probably alarming anyone who happened to see me. The whole time I had been pregnant and showing, people made comments everywhere I went, except at school, where other students looked at me like they were scared of me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another pregnant student on campus, so I was a bit of a freak. My mom came over for dinner and then we went for a short walk. We returned from our walk at 9 pm and my contractions starting coming every 5-10 minutes. My mom asked if she should stay the night “just in case,” but I told her no I have been having contractions for days and don’t get your hopes up.
My mom went home and Ryan and I went to bed to read together like we do every night. My contractions continued and I didn’t want to read anymore. We turned out the light to go to sleep. Ha. That lasted about 10 minutes. I got up and walked around, leaning on my dresser during contractions. Ryan was timing them. I was starting to think we might have a baby soon. The contractions were coming every four to seven minutes. At about 10:15 pm, I said maybe we should call the midwife to let her know what’s going on before it gets too late. I talked to her for about twenty minutes and she told me to call back when the contractions were under five minutes apart for an hour. As soon as I got off the phone, my contractions started coming every three to four minutes and got stronger. Standing got to be uncomfortable so I sat on my exercise ball. Ryan called my mom to come over. I stopped looking at the clock at this point. I read somewhere that it’s discouraging to look at the clock during labor. I did keep asking Ryan how long it had been since I got off the phone with the midwife because I wanted to know when we could call back.
I think somewhere around 11:30 pm, I told Ryan to call the midwife and I don’t want to talk, I’m busy. Ryan called and then asked me, “Do you want them to come now?” “Yes!” I replied. I started feeling nauseous and constantly hot then cold. Ryan had already set up the living room by this time. The pool was ready to be filled up and the old futon was on the floor. I really wanted my midwife to get there so I could get in the pool. I had no idea how far along I was. The exercise ball became uncomfortable, as did standing and walking, so I went to the futon on the living room floor and plopped down on my left side with a pillow between my legs. My midwife and her apprentice arrived somewhere around midnight. My contractions kept getting stronger and it seemed like there was no break in between them. I really had to focus, making deeps sounds, to get through them. During one particularly intense contraction, I got distracted by something going on around me and lost my focus. For the first time in ten years, I threw up. My midwife said, “Good, that shows you’re making progress.” She checked my cervix and I was 8-9 cm dilated! I had no idea I was that far along. I knew that transition was supposed to be the most intense and shortest part of labor, so I didn’t expect my contractions to get much stronger and I thought I would be pushing soon.
I got in the pool and the contractions slowed down. That was a much needed break. I don’t know how long the break was, but when the contractions started coming on strong again, my hips hurt no matter what position I was in. My mom and Ryan sat next to me giving me water to drink and cold wash clothes to put on my head. My midwife and her apprentice sat on the other side of the room. Some time later, I said, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” My midwife came to the pool side and said that we could break my water. I had forgotten my water hadn’t broken yet. I sat and thought about it through a few more contractions and decided that yes, I want my water broken. My midwife told me to go to the bathroom and then lie down on the futon next to the pool. She broke my water and the next contraction really hurt. I got back in the pool. I had no idea how long it had been at the time, but my birth summary says I was in active labor for 5 hours and 15 minutes, and since I was in transition the first time my cervix was checked, I must have been in transition all that time. I might have had a textbook pregnancy, but my labor sure wasn’t. All the books say transition lasts an average of 15 to 30 minutes.
An hour after my midwife broke my water, my body did this very odd thing that felt like throwing up backwards. Apparently it was trying to push the baby out. My midwife came over to the pool side to check my cervix. She said I had a slight lip but it was okay to push. That was good news because my body was going to push whether I wanted it to or not. The pushing sensation was so strange and new to me that I think I involuntarily fought it for a while. My hips still hurt no matter what I did. My midwife suggested I try standing. I got out and did sort of a standing squat with Ryan supporting me. Immediately, I wanted to sit down, so my midwife put the birth stool underneath me. I rested on it between contractions and stood up to push. I think we did that for something like an hour. Ryan was getting tired and my hips still hurt a lot. My midwife told me I needed to hold my breath and push during contractions. I just couldn’t relax to effectively push, so I said I wanted to lie down.
I got back in the side-lying position on the futon with Ryan lifting my leg during contractions. This helped a lot with the hip pain. I guess I just needed all the pressure to be taken off my legs. I held my breath during contractions and my body did all the pushing. It just needed me to cooperate. The breath holding helped with the pain, too. I was kind of afraid to push the baby out, but I knew that was clearly what had to happen. Ryan told our midwife that he wanted to catch the baby. My birth summary says I pushed for two hours, so I think I pushed in the side-lying position for about an hour. Ryan cried that whole time. I only know that because I could hear him sniffling. I had my eyes shut most of the time. My mom was probably crying, too, but I wasn’t paying any attention to her except to ask for cold wash clothes for my face. Somebody, either my mom or my midwife’s apprentice, kept giving me sips of water. I’m sure I would have dehydrated if left to my own devices. I wasn’t thinking about being thirsty. I was just thinking about my face being hot and feeling the “ring of fire” as the baby’s head came out. At some point, my midwife said something about tearing and that scared me. I didn’t want the baby to come too fast. I generally like to ease into things and feel moderate pain gradually rather than do things quickly and feel extreme pain all at once. When I ran cross-country in high school, I was never better than an average runner because I simply refused to push myself beyond what I felt was comfortable. I can be a bit of a wimp sometimes. I think I could have gotten the baby out faster if I had helped my body push a little more than I did, but I just wasn’t willing to do that. When I go swimming and the water is cold, I usually take at least ten minutes to ease myself into the water. Maybe it’s a control thing. I feel that if I do it at my own pace and can think it through, I am in control.
I didn’t know this until after the birth, but Gabe’s right hand started to emerge with his head. Ryan told me that our midwife put his hand back in as soon as it started to come out. Ryan supported my perineum while his head came out. After his head was out, his body got a little stuck, so Ryan and the midwife tugged and twisted on Gabe.
Finally, we got him out! He was immediately placed on my chest. “Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked. Ryan told me that our baby is indeed a boy, Gabriel Ryan. He latched on as soon as he was offered the breast, which was as soon as the cord stopped pulsating and was cut because I was lying down and the cord was too short to nurse him while we were still connected. My midwife wanted to get the placenta out quickly because I was bleeding a little too much. I didn’t get any more contractions, so I made the effort to push the placenta out. After 15 minutes, out it came. My midwife did a wonderful job of controlling the bleeding. She had me drink three glasses of an electrolyte drink, Emergen-C, afterwards. She informed me that I did tear, so we had to get that taken care of. Ryan took Gabe and I crawled to the bathroom. I was too weak to stand yet. Then I crawled to my bed and ate breakfast. After I was all fixed up and the newborn exam was finished, Ryan and Gabe joined me in bed, where we stayed for the rest of the day. Gabe weighed in at 8 lb 11 oz! I expected him to be smaller since Ryan and I were both in the 6 lb range at birth.
I showered the next day with Ryan’s help. My mom stayed for two weeks while I recovered (and she filled my freezer with yummy food). I was up and about a little bit five days after birth and took my first walk to the park with Gabe in my sling two weeks after birth. Gabe nurses constantly and I think I’ve lost at least 20 of the 30 pounds I gained during my pregnancy. I think my breasts have doubled in size, so I don’t expect to lose any more weight, not that how much I weigh matters at all, but people like to ask me how much I gained and how much I’ve lost so there it is. I am looking forward to running again, whenever that may be since my mom says I may not be able to do vigorous exercise while I’m nursing.
Shortly after Gabe was born, Ryan asked me, “So you want to do that 11 more times?” since I joke about having a dozen kids. I replied that I don’t want to talk about that right now. Now that it has been a little over two weeks, I can say that yes, I want to do that many more times, although I don’t know how many babies I can fit into my lifetime. Hopefully, breastfeeding will fend off my fertility for a year or so. Four years is a good spacing between kids I think, but who knows. I only wish that we could live here for all of them so that I could have the same midwife.
Everything was just perfect and now I have a perfect baby boy.