Please join us in congratulating Paleo Diet® writer Nell Stephenson on the birth of her first son! Here’s part two of the story of her big day and why she choose home birth. Check out Nell’s continued stories on her blog at The Paleoista!
Here we are on Yves’ 3 week ‘birthday’, getting some fresh air during our long morning walk, feeling stronger each and every day!
In my last post, I shared what I referred to as Part I of our home birth story. I left off just about the time contractions had begun, although I didn’t know it at the time, nor could I have possibly predicted all that was to come during the next few hours.
So now, the story continues:
…As my low back grew more and more uncomfortable I began to attempt to breathe through it.
In retrospect, the only analogy I’d come up with in advance was quite ridiculous; I’d actually thought that being in labor and having contractions was going to be like doing intervals in training for triathlon.
Whether swimming, cycling, or running, you know what’s coming, you know it’s going to be challenging and you know there’s going to be a respite in the middle of each during which you can gather yourself, bring your heart rate down temporarily and then prepare to do it all over again.
The more you take advantage of the moment(s) to recover, no matter how brief, your confidence builds as does your focus, and you achieve that incredible feeling of accomplishment, having pushed yourself so close to the limit, but not too much as to overdo it.
Once labor began, that all went right out the door.
Chris’ efforts to time my contractions proved impossible as there was simply no break between them.
He called Aleks, our midwife, around 6:30 pm, then Patti, our doula, and explained what was happening.
Knowing it was my first birth and that there was a good chance of labor not being all that expeditious, Aleks calmly responded that the time was near and that she’d likely need to come over later that evening.
Chris called Patti as well, and she, too, said she’d be en route after finishing teaching her meditation class, at 8:30 or so.
We entertained briefly the idea of having a nice dinner and early night, both of which went right out the door as I became consumed with whatever it was that was going on in my body, literally gripping me from the inside out, in a way I’d never experienced before.
Despite what I’d envisioned of keeping calm, cool and collected, going deep within myself to reach another level I’d never visited before, one guided solely by intuition and the most primal of focal points ever, I found myself moaning, wailing and even, as my midwife later put it, roaring.
Primal indeed, but in a vastly different way than what I’d pictured.
Throughout all this, Preston and Pele stayed calm and patient. They sat together way from where we were but still close enough to continue, observing, no doubt with some sort of profound knowing.
Chris called our Aleks and Patti again and told them time was of the essence; things were moving so fast that they’d need to come as soon as humanely possible.
And fly over they did!
Patti arrived first, having left her own class early, and I fell into her arms. She looked me in the eyes (I was seated, clothed, on the toilet at the time; one of the least uncomfortable places I’d discovered) and spoke slowly, methodically and encouraged me to take my wailing down into a more focused, very deep breathing and began to breathe in that manner so that I could follow.
I tried my best but was only able to do so for part of the time, during the fleeting period when the feeling in my back seemed to subside for seconds.
I moved around from toilet, to bed, to the tub, which felt wonderful for a brief moment as the hot water streamed down on my back.
The next contraction drew me out of the tub and back to shifting all over the place in search of some way to sit or stand or just be that wasn’t excruciating.
I had moments of doubt. I began to imagine stories of women I knew who’d had labor lasting days and I questioned how and if I could do something like that. It seemed incomprehensible.
No matter how challenging any race I’d done in the past may have been, the one theme all of them had in common was that the distance was a given. I knew where the endpoint was.
With labor? No idea. Especially the first birth.
Subsequently, I found myself asking questions like, “How much longer?” to which Patti replied, I don’t know.
How could she?
Yet I felt I had to ask again, I don’t know how many times, like a child asking his parents from the backseat of the car, “are we there yet”?
Aleks arrived shortly thereafter along with Jessika, her midwifery student, around 8:45 or 9, took one good sight of me and said to Chris – I found out later – “We’re having a baby here!”.
She asked if I felt ready to push and I said yes.
I’d always wanted to have my baby in the water, but when I got into our tub (we’d chosen not to have a birthing pool), I wasn’t able to push with the force I’d need, so I got out after what seemed like only a moment or two.
I was back and forth between all fours on our bed and a birthing stool, which is akin to the frame of a small seat, but without the seat, allowing the woman to grip the frame and bear down with as much pressure as possible.
After not too much time, Aleks asked if I’d like her to check me and I said I would and I was so relieved when she told me she was able to feel my baby’s head! That must mean, I thought, that so soon I’d be able to meet our son!
I felt a surge of renewed energy and force come over me and I began to push in sets of three, for no particular reason. I noticed that during the time I was going to push, I felt a huge relief on the pressure in my back.
I also noticed how exhausted I was growing and that I was beginning to feel a bit dizzy.
I spoke only in incoherent segments as all my energy drew from within, in order to push out our baby.
Aleks monitored the baby’s heart rate often through her stethoscope so I was able to rest assured he was fine and on his way.
I don’t know how long the pushing lasted; time didn’t seem to exist but Chris later told me that around 10:25, Aleks signaled to him to come around in order to catch his son.
I pushed, I pushed and then, in one last effort, Chris saw just the very top of the baby’s head emerge and suddenly… his whole body came out, landing safely in his arms.
I couldn’t believe it! I looked down and tried to look behind, and, as the placenta was still inside, Chris passed Yves to me through my legs.
The intense labor had lasted all of three hours and I was able to have a completely natural childbirth without pitocin, an epidural or anything else I’d envisioned I didn’t want.
Supported by Chris, Aleks and Patti, and holding our newborn son (who let out a few brief cries to clear his lungs), we walked (hobbled) over to the bed.
I lay down, wiped out beyond any level of fatigue I’d ever before experienced, and placed Yves on my chest.
I knew from all our research that he would recognize the scent in the nipples (the same scent of the amniotic fluid) and use that to wiggle his way up and begin to breastfeed.
Though we’d seen this in documentaries, all of it, to witness it firsthand with our own child was out of this world.
The three of us stayed there, suspended in joy and bliss as we allowed the blood remaining in the placenta (still inside) to pulse into Yves’ body through the cord (still intact).
After Aleks could see the cord conclude its work, she advised that about 30 or 45 minutes had passed and that it was past time I pushed out the placenta.
She handed a pair of scissors to Chris who cut the cord, then tied the stump of what was left of it.
“Ready to push?”, she asked? “ Yes ! ”, I responded.
But when I tried to push, the effort felt futile, to say the least. I literally had nothing left, nor did I have anything resembling a contraction.
More time passed and I was told that I’d lost quite a bit of blood, roughly 2 cups by that time, and it was becoming more and more pressing that I deliver the placenta.
But I just couldn’t.
Aleks suggested Pitocin, which, at that point, since Yves was not only not in my body anymore, but not even physically connected to me, made sense as there was no risk of harming him.
No reaction and I was still losing blood, yet I had no indication of such.
I thought my fatigue and shaking (actual large muscle shaking uncontrollably) was due to having just given birth.
Jessika tried gently to asses the placenta and see if it was giving any signs of loosening up, but to no avail.
Aleks advised, much to my dismay, that the smart thing to do at that point would be to transport me to the hospital.
How could this be?
After all had gone so well through the whole pregnancy and delivery?
I asked if Yves would have to come; the last thing I wanted was to have to have my newborn baby go to a hospital!
And as much as I abhorred the idea of leaving my new baby and husband, it was critical.
And there was a silver lining: Chris and Yves would be able to bond while I was gone, skin to skin, which, had I been there, would likely not have happened for a long period of time.
Aleks called 911 and an ambulance was there in no time.
I kissed my baby and my husband and left in tears.
I don’t remember walking downstairs ( or was I carried?) but once I was in the ambulance, I asked Aleks if I could give it one last try. Maybe I wouldn’t have to go after all?
No use. Nothing. The last push only resulted in more clumps of blood being pushed out.
Off we went to the hospital, and I felt a slight relief knowing we were going to UCLA, which has a midwife presence.
Aleks stayed with me the whole time which was a huge comfort, never having been a patient in a hospital before.
The anesthesiologist came in and then the surgeon, who explained she was going to have to attempt to remove the placenta manually.
The last things I remember are Aleks reading me the verbiage from a document I was asked to sign by the hospital, the room becoming wavy and then a shot being injected and my leg being placed in a stirrup as I lay on my back.
I woke in another room and Aleks was still by my side. She’d asked to save the placenta and when she showed it to me, all I could think was that it looked like roadkill that had been run over, and over and over.
She made sure I was okay and asked if it was okay for her to go back to our home to check on Chris and Yves, who was drinking milk from a donor mom, brought over by another doula, which gave me comfort, knowing my guys were not on their own.
By then it was 4am and all I could think about was how starving I was.
Nothing was open for delivery (who knew?) except a deli around the corner, and after a FaceTime with Chris and Yves, which made me weep, he ordered me what proved to be the best burger (with bacon, tomato, avocado and slaw ) I’d ever eaten.
A nurse came in and asked if I wanted to pump and I did; resulting in about 10cc of colostrum which I’d be able to save and take home to my baby.
I dozed a bit and all of a sudden it was 6 am and another nurse came in to check my vitals.
My supine blood pressure and heart rate was somewhat normal (after I explained my normal RHR is 39 and BP is 100 / 60, that is) and I was then asked if I’d like to try standing and walking across the room to my bathroom.
I stood… so far so good, but my blood pressure dropped to 80 / 40 and I grew dizzy.
I had to lie down again and was told best case scenario, I’d be home in 24 hours!
I dozed a bit, drank tons of water and visualized being home with my guys and sending energy to Yves, talking to him the way I’d done for the past 10 months in my womb.
When the next nurse came in a few hours later, I was able to stand and walk without my blood pressure dropping.
Chris came in not too long after, Yves safe at home with the doula… and with more food! Veggies, steak, avocado… exactly what I was craving!
To our surprise, the next charge nurse who came in was not a charge nurse at all, but a midwife on staff!
She knew the most important thing was for me to get home to our baby and since my vitals were looking up, she said she’d authorize my release to go home!
Still physically weak, having lost 1/2 my blood volume, I couldn’t wait to get home.
I was wheeled down to the valet and Chris drove us home.
I walked slowly up the stairs, took a shower to get rid of the hospital evidence and crawled into our own bed and held my baby for the second time… but this time I’d never let go.
Birth Day was a mere three and a half weeks ago, but it will be forever emblazoned in my heart, mind and spirit, as will the immense gratitude I feel for my husband for his never-ending support and belief that I could do it, for our birth team, Aleks, our midwife (1), Patti our doula (2), Jessika, Aleks’ midwifery student and Preston and Pel, our two ‘older kids’, who contributed, as always, they magnificent, benevolent energy and calm.
Thank you, with so much love.