This is Olive's story. She is Annika's little sister and a HOME BIRTH. Excuse the all caps but Sharon delivered Olive AT HOME!!! After her difficult delivery at a hospital the first time, I am amazed at the way she empowered herself. Sharon is a warrior.
As I sit down to write out my birth story, I feel like I’m embarking on the task of writing the never-ending story, as many times during my birth I wondered if there would ever be an end. It has been a little over 3 weeks, and I’m finally sitting down to write this out because I am already forgetting the details. I think this is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that our species proliferates…only by forgetting the nitty gritty details of challenging labors can women ever think about birthing again. In fact, in the midst of labor I told Phil we would never have another child; yet within days of Olive’s birth, I decided that I would definitely do this again. After all, it would have to be easier and shorter next time, right?
So, on Friday night around 9pm, I started to notice my contractions were coming on moderately strong and were consistently 10 minutes apart. I had been having contractions on and off that entire weekend (and milder ones for about a month prior) but this time they didn’t go away. I tried to go to bed with Phil around 11pm but the contractions kept waking me up. So, I spent most of the night snuggled with Buttercup on the couch, getting up every 10 minutes to breathe through my contractions. At 2am, I called my mom to start the drive down from LA. I figured we were definitely having our baby soon and wanted to make sure she got here in time to help care for Annika during labor. It took her 4 hours to get here in the pouring rain! In the morning, I called V and told her what I was experiencing. She offered to have D come over and check me out. Later that morning, D came over and determined that I was 3cm dilated. I was a bit disappointed that it was only 3, but happy to realize that it was already more than I had ever dilated with Annika.
Phil told her that I seemed to be having back labor, since I had been asking him to push into my lower back, applying counter-pressure, during many of my contractions. During the exam she confirmed that Olive was posterior and had me lay in several positions to help move her. I lay on my side with my knee hiked up as high as I could get it, and had to remain in that position for 20 minutes, then the same on the other side. She also suggested climbing stairs two at a time which I did later that day. Most of the day my contractions were relatively minor and coming about every 8-12 minutes. By evening, they started ramping up again, both in frequency and intensity. I could not get to sleep Monday night because the contractions were coming on strong, and they eventually got to 2-3 minutes apart for hours. Sometime during the night, I had Phil set up the pool and I spent several hours laboring in it, which felt wonderful. The back pain I was experiencing was growing painfully worse, but it seemed to help when Phil would apply counter-pressure. I frequently had to wake him in the night so that he could help me get through a contraction. After strong, close contractions for hours, we decided to call V as I was sure we were getting close.
V and D arrived early Tuesday morning. D’s car broke down on her way, so her brother had to pick her up and bring her over. The rain was coming down hard, so Phil invited him to wait it out in our house. Annika was quite surprised to wake up in the morning and see all these guests in her home! When V had been on her way, Phil and I had discussed how far dilated I must be and how close we were to having our baby. We were discussing dates and decided that day, December 16, would be a fine day to have a baby. I told Phil that my biggest fear was that I’d only be 5 cm dilated and told him I would cry if it were true. Sure enough, I was checked and turned out to be 4.5 cm dilated! Oy, 15 hours had passed since my last check and I had only progressed by 1.5 cm! I was so devastated, as I was already so exhausted and had experienced such strong contractions, I couldn’t imagine it getting much worse but knew it had to being that I was only halfway there. The midwives hung around for a little while, then I asked if they planned to stay until the baby came. They said it was up to me, that they would do whatever I felt most comfortable with. Knowing that I was not even halfway to pushing time, I sadly told them they could go.
Phil was a great motivator and worked so tirelessly to keep me thinking positively. The good news was that I was progressing, however slowly. But the better news was that the baby had moved into an occipital position, out of the posterior one…though unfortunately the back labor did not go away. The midwives had encouraged us to get out of the house and walk around so we took my mom and Annika and headed out to the mall (indoor mall, since it was still storming). Annika and her Safta enjoyed running around and playing, while Phil and I slowly walked around. I was back to slowed down, less strong contractions. When I felt one coming on, I moved to stand by a store window and breathed through it so as not to stand out and look strange to the nearby shoppers. Later that evening, the contractions started intensifying again. I spent many hours of the night alternating between the pool, hot showers and bouncing on the birth ball. Phil was up with me most of the night, preparing food for me and rubbing/pushing my back. Thankfully D had shown him how to use one of Annika’s rubber bouncy balls to apply pressure to my back so that his hands had a bit of a break (I wanted him to push so hard that he was losing feeling in his hands!). At one point, I remember we went and sat in the living room with the French doors open so I could hear/smell the rain pouring down. I was on the birth ball and Phil was behind me, pushing into my back. Phil was such a great cheerleader.
There were moments during labor that I felt hopeless and ready to throw in the towel. He kept reminding me of the reasons we chose this path, telling me how well my body was working and how close we were getting, and what a good job I was doing. I am so lucky to have this man in my life! Later he admitted that he had experienced his own moments of weakness and doubt, but thankfully he never revealed them to me during the labor. At one point, I had even asked him if we could just go to the hospital for a few hours, so that I could get an epidural and feel some relief. I promised that I just needed a few hours and then we could go home. I had also made some mentions of how easy it might be to drive to the hospital and get this baby cut out of me and have this labor business be over with! Thankfully he never let me get too caught up in these fantasies and got me back on track.
On Wednesday morning, we decided to send Annika out for the day with her Safta and to get ourselves out of the house as well. We went to a nice local restaurant that we had been wanting to try for a long time. On our way in, I told Phil I was nervous about experiencing contractions while in a restaurant. I told him that we should ask for a secluded table away from other diners. At this point, my contractions had again slowed, but they still required my concentrated breathing and relaxation and they were coming about every 10 minutes. As we walked in, I was relieved to see that the restaurant was practically empty, except for one table of women. Though the owner was walking us to the opposite, very empty side of the restaurant, Phil decided to say ‘Can we please sit away from other diners? My wife is in labor’. The owner gave a very petrified glance and me and begged, “Please don’t have it here.” Thankfully we had a very quirky waitress that didn’t even notice my ‘strange’ behavior. I ate a hearty steak for lunch, Phil thought it would give me good protein energy for my endless labor. After lunch we headed to the mall again. We walked around quite a bit and even bought a cute pair of shoes for Annika. The mall was crowded with holiday shoppers, but no one really seemed to notice me. At one point, I was leaning over a banister and asked Phil if it would look inappropriate to have him push against my lower back for a contraction, as they were coming on hard again. He did it and I lost interest in whether we would look strange. Things were intensifying, so I asked if we could head home.
Late in the evening, my contractions were strong and close together. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, not sure I could survive another night of intense labor to only watch the sun rise the following day, still pregnant and in pain. I finally decided that we had to call the midwives again, knowing that I needed their support and had to make something happen soon. I really wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this, as I hadn’t slept in days and my body was exhausted. That evening my dad was over, which was strange because my mom was here too. They were cordial, thankfully, and my dad pitched in by massaging me and pushing my back. In fact, I had trained everyone in the house (Phil, mom, dad, midwives) on how I needed the counter-pressure applied, so that as soon as a contraction came on, I assumed a leaning forward position and demanded that someone ‘push my back!’. D came over late in the evening with her partner midwife, S. I recognized S from a ‘meet the midwives’ event that ICAN (The International Cesarean Awareness Network) had held over a year ago. I remember that I had liked her when I met her at that time. D and S took action, ordering my dad and Annika to leave and my mom to go to bed. They wanted me to get focused and relaxed. Over the course of the night, they alternately massaged and coached me. I was only 5-6 cm dilated when they arrived, which was horribly disappointing. They promised me that my body was doing its work and encouraged me to work through the contractions lying on my side, which was incredibly painful. They said that the more painful contractions were doing the most work, and tried to get me to relax and give in to them.
At around 2am, I was on my knees leaning on the bed with D applying my back pressure and Phil talking to me from the bed. During my contraction, my water broke and when I looked up, V hopped on to the bed. I was so relieved to see her there and to feel my water breaking. I figured finally things would get moving. A few hours later I was checked and was 7-8 cm dilated. I remember questioning them on the 7-8…am I 7 or 8? Am I really closer to 7 but you don’t want to make me feel bad so you say 7-8? I was so worn down and really couldn’t imagine why my body was working so slowly. However, during the entire time the midwives and Phil reminded me that my body was working and my baby was coming. I told myself that this had to end sometime, I couldn’t be pregnant and in labor forever. In the wee hours of the morning I started feeling overwhelming urges to push and started doing so for a while. V checked me and said I was around 8-9 cm dilated but that I had a cervical lip and that my cervix and the baby’s head were swelling due to my pushing. She wanted me to lie down on alternating sides for 30 minutes each and stop pushing. That was the longest hour of my life and I swore they were not watching the time carefully. It was so hard to lay there while my body felt like it was being torn apart and to not push when that’s all I wanted to do. Most of the night the midwives were placing drops of herbs and homeopathic tablets under my tongue.
At one point while lying on the bed, I had the tens unit (electrodes) on my lower back, acupuncture needles throughout my body, and 2 midwives and Phil massaging me and encouraging me. S talked to me about imagining my cervix opening and wanted me to chant ‘ooooopen’ during my contractions. Phil believes this meditation was a real turning point in my labor and says that he finally saw me physically relaxing and giving in to the birth. It was so hard, I am almost in tears remembering these moments. V even had Phil pour me a shot of rum to help me relax. Towards the end, I shouted that I wanted to push so badly and V notified me that I already was pushing. Apparently I didn’t realize that even as I tried to fight it, I was still pushing. I just couldn’t control it. I had been shouting other things throughout this endeavor, some obscenities and some announcements about how much pain I was in. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t woken Annika. Finally, a chance at some relief, V offered me something to take the edge off my back pain. She wanted me to be able to focus my energy more on dilating and less on fighting the back labor. She said she could give me 4 injections of sterile water in my lower back. V said that different women have different reactions to this, some find the pain goes away while others feel no difference. Her warning was that with each injection I would feel intense burning for 30-45 seconds. I figured nothing could hurt more than my contractions and I had nothing to lose but some pain. The shots certainly burned, but nothing compared to the other back pain and shortly thereafter I felt some relief from the torture and was able to put more of my energy towards opening up.
After lying down for a while, I went out to the living room to rock on the birth ball and have V pushing on my back. The midwives had sent Phil to go eat, shower and sleep. My mom was sleeping on the couch when I got to the living room. I was so jealous of the sleepers! At various times in the night, I saw midwives, Phil and my mom sleeping all over the house. I remember thinking how lucky they were to have still bodies, I couldn’t imagine feeling nothing in my body and I wanted to so badly. After the birth ball, V said I should take a shower and then she wanted me to get outside and walk around in the back yard (I believe it was early morning). In the shower, the urge to push got the best of me. I ended up on my hands and knees pushing, and it hurt but felt so relieving at the same time. I got out of the shower and kept getting down and pushing with every contraction. At this point, I think V realized that the plans of delaying my pushing wouldn’t work much longer and that I was really worn down. She asked me if I was ready to do some hard work and I said ‘bring it on’. She said we were going to do something unconventional, some ‘assisted pushing’. Basically, I still had a cervical lip and she wanted to help me push past it. I squatted on the floor with S behind me, supporting me. V was in front of me and had her fingers inside me, feeling through my contractions. She said that I was moving the baby well while I pushed and that I could probably get her past the lip. She was using her fingers to guide my pushing so that I pushed effectively in the right direction to get her moving down. D was next to us, wiping my face and giving me drinks of water and snacks.
At some point, V asked if she could make a call and get an energy circle started. Again, I said ‘bring it on’. When she left the room for a moment, I turned to D and admitted that I had no idea what an energy circle was, but that I was open to anything they thought might help. I later learned that an energy circle consists of people calling each other like a phone tree, and sending positive energy and thoughts my way. Shortly after the circle got started, I was on the bed, pushing on my own and Olive began to crown. I couldn’t believe I was finally here, about to meet my baby. I think all the midwives were surprised at how quickly things were moving, as D suddenly went running out to wake Phil. Poor guy, woken out of a deep sleep and told that it was ‘go time’ he figured we were about to start pushing and that he’d be back on counter-pressure duty. Instead, he walked into the room, still rubbing his eyes and found me there with the baby starting to come out! I was given a mirror to look down and see her and suddenly it was all so real and so close. I asked if I could move on to my hands and knees (I had been on my side with S supporting my leg). It was amazing how my body took over and I just pushed instinctually. I reached down and felt her several times and knew she was almost here. Suddenly I had renewed energy and knew I could do anything. Once I pushed her head out, they had me slow down and push gently to get the rest of her body out. I immediately flipped onto my back and my sweet and beautiful baby Olive was placed on my stomach. She was working to release the fluid out of her throat, and in a few minutes was wailing. It was a glorious moment. I did it! My body rocks. 86 hours of labor and I vaginally delivered my baby! Later, while being sutured, I asked if my cesarean would be considered for future pregnancies even though I had just successfully VBACed. S assured me that I had a ‘proven pelvis’ now. V also said I had a ‘perineum of steel’. I need to get these things printed on bumper stickers for my car!
It was amazing to have my sweet, new tiny baby laying on my chest. She was so amazingly beautiful and perfect. She started nursing within about half an hour and did so like a champ. We quickly called my mom and told her to come home. Apparently she and Annika had just bought ice cream which my mom literally dropped when she got the call. Annika seemed a bit shocked and overwhelmed by what she saw when she came home (imagine going out for ice cream, and coming home to find a bunch of people in your parents’ room and this new bloody/slimy creature on your mom’s chest!). However, by evening she was holding her baby sister and admiring her tiny parts. Annika has turned out to be an incredible big sister who loves to hold Olive and help with her (she helps change her diapers, brings her blankets and picks out clothes for her). Annika has been very gentle and loving with Olive, it is so sweet. She has also grown and matured so much recently. She is getting better at entertaining herself and seems more understanding when her needs cannot be immediately met because mommy is tending to Olive.
I am so blessed and so lucky to have had this incredible experience. And I can’t wait to do it again!!
7lbs 9 oz