I’ve written two introduction posts to this story, which you can read here and here. If you’re the type who enjoys a birth story (I am one such type), you can find Elianna’s birth story here (induction by pitocin), and Claire’s birth story here (9 lb baby!!).
Disclaimer: This is a birth story. Birth is raw and not super flattering. I’ve taken the time to include most of the details, though some are intentionally left out. Pictures* are PG, but still real. On the whole, I’ve tried to keep this post reader friendly for all audiences, although reading/looking at someone in pain might be uncomfortable. Please please feel free not to read if you’re not a fan of birth stories. I understand. Other than that, you’ve been warned.
And now, without further adieu… Melia’s birth story.
We arrived home from our journey to the zoo and the following few hours were a blur. I’m not sure if I had contractions or not. I only remember feeding the girls and getting them to bed. We went about our nighttime rituals as usual with a bath, jammies, teeth, prayers, and songs. I snuggled each girl good night and we prayed once again that God would grow our baby strong and healthy.
JD was a whirlwind. He filled up the van with gas, changed our headlights, finished packing our bags (including the addition of house slippers, of which I was very thankful for), and cut his hair. He was the walking definition of “putsy putsy.”
With sleeping girls and husband getting things ready to go, I was free to let my body go into full and active labor. At this point, I felt very aware of my body and the fact that I was in early first stage labor. Each decision I made was deliberate and methodical. I sent a text to my brother and dad around 8:45 pm, saying I was pretty sure I was in labor. If it weren’t for that text, I would have no reference for time.
At 9 pm I got in the shower, aiming the hot spray directly over my middle lower back, where contractions were concentrating. On my ipod was JD’s recording of “How He Loves.” Over and over I was serenaded by my favorite voice, noticing contractions peaking right around the time the lyrics, “these afflictions eclipsed by glory,” were sung. Ha. Ha.
When the water was no longer hot, I got out. Thinking I was a little putsy putsy myself, I went into the living room to watch the Olympics on the birthing ball. Kenn commented that he thought I should be screaming at this point, according to pop culture media. I laughed at his comment and then stood up very quickly from the birth ball. Two steps later and a ridiculously strong contraction caught me off guard. I cringed through it, doubled over in pain (the opposite of what should be done during a contraction). My mom asked in a somewhat panicked voice, “Annie!? Are you okay?!” To which I responded, rather sharply, “Mom! I’m having a contraction. You have to let me work through this!” I think that was the meanest I got during labor – sorry mom. Slightly taken back myself by both the contraction and the abruptness in my voice, I headed back to my room to labor in quiet. JD soon joined me and offered some pillows to rest on. It quickly became apparent that laying down was the worst decision in the world. A large blue medicine ball became my semi-permanent resting spot in between trips to the bathroom. JD brought his ipod over and played worship music while I labored in the quiet room. The music provided great focus for me during the contractions, which were steadily growing stronger, closer, and longer. JD and my mom took turns sitting with me. In between contractions, I felt completely normal.
Contractions were six minutes apart and over a minute in length, and I was ready for the hospital. I wanted to be there so I could labor in the jacuzzi tub and have access to their other birthing goodies (whatever those might be). JD suggested I wait a while longer, and after two contractions I insisted we go. I remember thinking that I felt similarly to when we decided to go to the hospital with Claire, and I was 6 cm dilated with her. Besides, when I walked back and forth from the bathroom, I’d have strong mini contractions every few steps. JD agreed we could go. We called my mother in law to stay with the girls overnight and loaded into the van. Erin (our birth photographer) was on her way from Hood River. I sat in the front seat staring at the full moon. For three contractions we drove, passing wheat fields and small farms lit by the giant ball in the sky. We really were going to have a full moon baby.
I slowly made my way to the reception desk, holding on to JD’s neck every few steps. The nurse gave me papers to sign and I was led into the triage room where I was promptly given the frumpy hospital gown. Everything felt very familiar. Erin quickly joined us in the room where we waited. I breathed through a contraction and she commented, “you sound beautiful.” See why I love her?
The triage nurse came to check me. “Well you’re three centimeters… about 40% effaced. Hmm… Have you had a posterior baby before?”
“What does ‘hmm’ mean? And no, I haven’t.”
“Baby is head down, but isn’t directly over your cervix. She is a little to the side and feels posterior.”
I was devastated at three things: 1) THREE CENTIMETERS?! 2) I was 60% effaced earlier that week, how did I regress to 40%??? 3) Oh my word I’m experiencing back labor.
“Since you’re only three centimeters, I’m going to prescribe two hours of walking the halls. If you’re really in labor, that’s the best thing you can do anyway. This is your third baby…” her words trailed off.
If I’m really in labor?
She left the room and I said, “She has fat fingers.” I did. I said it.
On our way out of the room, the nurse came back and said, “Did I say 40% effaced? I meant 60%.”
Well at least there was that.
At that point, our sweet pastor and his wife showed up. It was midnight and they drove half an hour just to encourage us. If I had been told I was 6 centimeters and admittable, I’m sure I would have been much happier. As it were, I was still totally bummed about being only 3. Tom and Pam quickly prayed for us and headed home.
For two hours, we walked. Every few steps I had a contraction. We worked our way into a rhythm. At the onset of a contraction, JD turned around to face me while I sank my face deeply in his chest. Mentally I imagined myself melting into him while my body surrendered to labor. The best advice I’ve ever received regarding labor is, “relax as if your life depends on it,” JD and I worked to release any tension in my body so that I was working with my body rather than against it. Over and over JD repeated, “you are so strong, you are so beautiful, you are such a good mom.” The triage nurse found us and informed us that she wanted us to walk for an additional half hour. Triage nurse wasn’t my favorite person at the time, but it turns out her instructions were exactly what I needed.
When labor was early and I was putsy-ing around the house, I had my Bible app open to Isaiah 40. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I found myself staring at Isaiah 41.
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I quickly memorized it, knowing it would help me throughout my labor.
There in the empty halls, I started to lose it. Contractions were fierce and my back felt like it was being stabbed with knives. Standing up with my face in JD’s chest, I remembered the words, “be not dismayed… I will help you.” I began praying hard for Jesus to help me because I was done. We found the nearest chair, located in the chapel, and I sat down to rest. I stared at JD and said, “I’m so tired. I don’t think I can do it this time babe. If I’m only 3 centimeters and I’m having back labor, I just can’t do it. I want an epidural.” I don’t remember exactly what JD said, but I know it was what I needed to hear. He said something to the effect of, ‘I know you can do this, but its ok if you need an epidural.’ I told him my plan was to try the jacuzzi tub first, but if that didn’t help then I wanted an epidural. Very consciously, in the back of my mind was the knowledge that back labor required harder pushing, and if I was going to have any shot at getting her to change positions, I needed freedom to move. An epidural would make both much harder.
We made our way back to the room at 2:30 am and I just wanted to be 4 cm so they could admit me. My mom and Erin were still in the room. I sat down on the bed and began shaking uncontrollably. JD massaged me and I breathed heavily, trying to gain control. After the shaking stopped, I told them my plan for the tub and then an epidural. Within minutes, I fell asleep in between contractions. I woke up for contractions, but just barely. I was finally relaxed enough to get rest. The immediate urge for an epidural went away and I found myself in a zone of sorts. At 3:30 am the triage nurse came back to check me. At 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced, I was admittable. I remember thinking that labor could go really fast once I was entirely effaced.
“Baby is definitely posterior so you’ll need to work hard to turn her. Wiggle your hips during contractions, walk, use the birthing ball.”
Those were her final instructions as I made my way to the furthest room possible.
The on-call midwife, Nancy, and L & D nurse greeted us in the room. They had a birth ball and a piece of material called a “rebozo” waiting for me. I learned about the rebozo during our group prenatal appointments, and had secretly hoped I would never need to use it. They place the cloth on the bed, underneath the laboring woman. The laboring women crosses her arms across her chest while a nurse and midwife stand on either side. When the woman isn’t contracting, each side of the cloth is picked up and shaken aggressively. Think elementary school PE and shaking a parachute, except there’s a body in the middle and only two people shaking. The purpose of the rebozo is to turn the baby from a posterior position. It’s totally crazy.
When they offered the rebozo, I agreed. Anything to stop back labor. I sat on the birthing ball for a few contractions while they asked more routine questions and prepared the rebozo.
The rebozo experience was entirely surreal. It didn’t hurt, but it was definitely intense. They used the rebozo in between three contractions and I felt the pain move from my back to the front.
After the rebozo, I began shaking again. My nurse told me it was my body’s way of dealing with pain. I breathed heavy while JD rubbed my shoulders until the shaking stopped.
Once the shaking stopped, I practically dashed to the tub. Every ounce of modesty gone.
The tub felt like Disneyland. I was literally giddy. The jets were on, water nice and hot, and my contractions were back to the front of my belly.
A few contractions in and she turned posterior again. Reclining in the tub reversed what the rebozo did for me. I was not about to get out of the tub and so I instinctively changed positions to child’s pose. And blew bubbles. Like my four year old. JD told me later that he was suppressing laughter. As ridiculous as it sounds, it worked. Within a contraction or two, she spun around again. I stayed in that position until my hips hurt. As soon as I shifted upright, I had a crazy intense contraction where three things happened:
1. I wanted drugs immediately. I thought to myself, “Done. No way I can do this any longer.”
2. My very next thought was, “that means I’m in transition.”
3. I had the urge to push.
Because I had the urge to push before being completely dilated with Elianna, I kept quiet about my urge. With the next contraction came the urge to both push and pee. I quietly told JD that I wanted to push and really needed to pee. He helped me up for what I knew would be probably my final contraction before pushing. Once on the toilet, I was ready to push. And if I didn’t know better, I probably could have pushed her out right then and there. Instead I whispered that I needed to push. JD said something like, “great, that’s awesome.” Way too calmly. Then I yelled, “I NEED TO PUSH!!!!” so that mom and Erin could hear. My mom and Erin rushed to find a nurse, and when none were in sight, they pushed the red button they had been warned against pushing. Within seconds five nurses and my midwife were in my room. I told them I was ready.
“Well, can you get off the toilet?”
Friends, let me tell you something. If women could give birth on the toilet, we would. It is absolutely the best position. Apparently it’s not kosher, however, and so I begrudgingly got off the pot.
My midwife checked me and said, “yup! She’s complete!” Hallelujah. It was 4:30 am, an hour after being admitted (a lot happened in that hour).
Because I had a midwife this time, and not a doctor instructing me to put my legs at the foot of the bed, I tried a few different positions and hated them all. I eventually went to the traditional birthing position with JD and my nurse holding my legs. And this is where I feel slightly sheepish. Are you ready for this?
I sort of didn’t push. I kind of thought that the third baby should slide right out of there. I breathed through a few contractions with little mini pushes and finally asked, “why isn’t she coming out?”
Midwife Nancy: “Well… you aren’t really pushing.”
During these pushing contractions, my midwife poked my water bag because it hadn’t broken yet and apparently was “bulging.” There’s an image for you. She broke my water and I finally decided to push.
With one steady, controlled push, she wriggled out of me. I remember thinking it in my head, but I didn’t know that I also yelled, “GET OUT!!!!!!” while I pushed. JD and Erin both heard it and were cracking up afterward. Giving birth is one of those entirely instinctual experiences, where losing modesty and yelling are completely necessary at the time, but a wee embarrassing after the matter. Naturally I’m sharing it with the world.
Melia Jean came out perfectly. She was immediately placed on my chest for skin to skin bonding and I loved her with that special mama love. I kept saying, “thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus,” and, “I love you, I love you,” We noticed right away that she looked different from her sisters. Her cheeks less full and features more petite. We stared at her for the next hour while they pushed on my stomach and examined Melia on my tummy. For the first time in three births, I didn’t tear. She came out at 7 lbs 13 ozs, 20 inches long, smaller than our other girls.
I am so grateful for the way things happened. Had I not been only dilated to three and instructed to walk for nearly three hours, I probably would have gotten the epidural. Which would have been fine, except then I probably wouldn’t have been able to turn Melia. And if I hadn’t been able to turn her, pushing wouldn’t have been so easy and labor probably would have gone on much longer. It was necessary for me to walk and wiggle, get shaken on a crazy cloth, and pose like a child in the tub. It was hard and uncomfortable and at times, extremely painful, but God’s hand was in every detail. I know she would have come out regardless, but I really hoped to give birth naturally, without the help of drugs. It was a crazy ride but we did it.
It’s a good story, a good beginning. You are loved, strong, and healthy. May God continue to write a great story with your life.
(another post another day with pictures of our older girls meeting lil sis)
* Photos by Erin Tegeler Photography. I cannot express enough how thankful I am for her presence during labor as well as her gift of documenting Melia’s birth with fantastic photography. Please give her a little link love by clicking on her button under “sponsor love.” And if you are pregnant and in Oregon, I highly highly highly recommend Erin. Highly.