Aria's Birth Story parts 1-4

part 1
Let me just start by saying that Aria’s birth was long and hard fought for.  Levi’s birth came upon us as somewhat of a surprise, he was two weeks early and we were expecting him to be late as most firstborns are. He was breech so we had to do a C-Section, he was out of my body and into the world in what felt like the blink of an eye.
With Aria we were ready. We were bracing ourselves for the VBAC, hoping, praying… three and four weeks before her due date we were focusing in on what the birth would be like, me practicing relaxation techniques, using oils, doing lots of yoga, making sure and getting a good amount of sleep at night… I had all of her clothes washed and ready, her bassinet in its place. All of this gets you psychologically geared up to… wait. And wait.

So my due date came, January the 5th and I had barely dilated, had not effaced, nothing seemed to even be getting ready. I thought, "my body's not going to go into labor, they are just going to have to go in and take her out." So many women had told me about how they would experience contractions early or how they would go into their Dr's appointments and be a 2 or a 3 ... I just wasn't really believing that I was going to have a baby.

The next morning, it was sort of still morning, around 1 am I was woken up by contractions. I tried to go back to sleep but they kept waking me up, so I decided to go hang out in the living room, listen to some relaxation music, post on facebook and time my contractions. When Ben finally woke up I asked him if he wanted to have a baby today. We were both excited, my body was actually kicking into labor... this was unbelievable. Ben called in to work (thinking we would have a baby that day) and took the day off. We decided to bring Levi to my parents that afternoon in case things really took off.

I thought they did... we laid down for a nap and I started to have harder contractions closer together... it was exciting. I thought, "we are going to the hospital soon and we are going to have a baby today!" Was I ever wrong.

We got up and started cleaning. Ben said he was doing it because he was just restless and wanted me to have plenty of room to labor. He is a sweet, wonderful man.

I called Cora, my doula, (you can read about Birth Works and doulas here) and she came over around 5 or so. We also called our friend Debbie, who is a professional photographer, she came over to take pictures of early labor. She photographed Aria's whole birth, but I'll talk more about that later. It will be kind of cool to show her documentation of her birth someday...

So they came over, we felt for positioning to make sure Aria was head down (we weren't going to make that mistake again!) but Cora couldn't tell if she was posterior (which is not good) or anterior (which is preferable, it means the baby is facing the mother's spine). We thought she might be posterior which would be why my body wasn't kicking into heavy labor yet, when babies are posterior many times they won't apply the correct pressure on the mother's cervix. I was also having pain in my lower back, which is a sign of a posterior baby. Side note: if you are getting ready to have a baby you need to learn about this stuff, I am also going to highly recommend a doula because I think I would have ended up with another c-section had it not been for the wisdom of my doulas to stay home and just try to naturally turn the baby. We would have ended up in the hospital for days had we gone in when I thought I needed to go in. I would not have been able to eat and probably would have labored in the bed the whole time with monitors on and only ice chips to chew on. We were very thankful for Cora (and Amy who comes later in the story)'s wisdom.

With the back labor I called the chiropractor. John Vincent with Chenal Chiropractic if you are an expectant mother he does techniques to help align your uterus and pelvis especially for delivery. He told me not to hesitate to call him, he would come to my house and adjust me if I felt like I needed it. With lower back pain, I thought, "he told me not to hesitate." Even with the Razorback game coming on he still came :). It helped, but I think she was still posterior. I needed to do something more proactive to really turn her.

Ben also had asked out neighbor, you can read about him here and he said his spiritual parents were coming over to watch the game and they would come beforehand and pray for me. So then these people I didn't even know came in and just prayed over me. They anointed me with oil and just asked that the Lord would make it an easy delivery. This is where I will say that we can ask and pray for something, but in the end we have to surrender to God's will. This delivery would be far from easy. The beauty of that moment when they were praying over me was just the fact, and I started crying, when he was just proclaiming the glory and the holiness of God. I remember being so filled with awe at how perfect and good and true God is.

I was also just tired. I had been in "early labor" since 1 in the morning and it was now around 7 at night. I just wanted to get through this.

part 2

I think I left off on Friday night. We weren't sure what my body was doing and I knew I needed to get some rest. I knew I did... I just wish I had really really known. I decided to take half an ambien after trying to fall asleep on my own. (Really hard when you are excited about labor plus your body is contracting plus you have sleep issues.) The half an Ambien worked pretty well until about midnight. I was awake again so I took the other half. Maybe the smartest thing I did all weekend. Sleep was what I needed.

Woke up the next morning probably around 5... I just couldn't make myself sleep any longer. Just so you know, if you have never experienced contractions, they are not comfortable. :) The good thing about them is that they are gradual, they start out uncomfortable, maybe slightly painful and then gradually increase in pain. As everyone was telling me that if I can walk/talk through a contraction then I probably am still in early labor. Thanks. That was somewhat discouraging when I would hear that because I knew I still had a long way to go. Why was my body taking so long? Was she ever going to come out? Would my body open up? I only made it to three cm with Levi when we found out he was breech, they said my cervix was soft so I had a good chance for a VBAC. I kept thinking about all the women who were not able to have successful VBACs and thinking I might be one of them. It's crazy how your mind goes to all of these places of doubt so quickly, so automatically.

We didn't want to just sit around our house all morning so we decided to go to my parents house and visit Levi.

Oh yeah, there's a huge detail here: Cora, my doula had another client who was due on the 8th. I was due on the 5th. Leading up to the birth we talked about the possibility of  her needing a backup doula in case we went into labor at the same time. I told her I would love to work with her backup, Amy, I had Amy at La Leche League and ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and my friend Debbie (our photographer) loved Amy. Amy was supposed to be the midwife for Debbie's home birth about a year ago but happened to be out of town when Debbie went into labor. I remember Debbie saying she was really disappointed Amy didn't get to be there because Debbie loved Amy so much. :)

But really, what are the chances that we would go into labor at the same time, doing the same thing? Apparently, pretty good. :)
Friday night Cora's other client went into labor. It must have been the excitement of the Hogs game, Cora said they were big Hog fans and that she really hoped she wouldn't go into labor that night because they didn't want to have to watch the game on a tiny hospital TV. :) If that says anything. Ha! I love it.

So Saturday morning I kind of got passed on the Amy. This was the providence of God. Let me explain, Amy is training to be a midwife, she has delivered several babies, had 6 natural births of her own, she knows her stuff technically about positioning and such. Looking back, we really had the best of both worlds. Cora is very hands off, we weren't sure if Aria was posterior and we were just going to wait and see. Cora was great though, during the really intense labor, she is a masseuse (I think that's what it is, gives massages and has been to school for it and everything...) and she knew exactly where and how to rub, she just touches you and you relax. It's amazing. But Amy came in vitally when it came to really looking at positioning and calling a spade a spade. Amy had more practice at feeling around on bellies and feeling for exact positioning of the baby. Sorry, I am jumping way ahead of myself here...

Okay, so back at my parents house... We ate breakfast and the guys decided to go for a walk, I wanted to go to help with getting labor going but I was pretty tired after not sleeping tons the night before. So I laid down and slept for about an hour and had a couple of contractions in between. I woke up, we were all sitting in my parents living room and I just began to cry. So many doubts going through my head. I had doubts even before I experienced my first contraction, just about the fact that I would open up at all, but now I had been in labor for 24+ hours, not active labor, but still regular contractions that I had to breathe through, I was tired. I didn't know if I would make it to delivery if delivery would ever happen... The beauty of that moment and being there with them was just the opportunity for mom to pray over me, Ben to hug me and Levi to just come and cuddle. I was able to surrender all over again. I was yet again lifted up. I remember leaving their house and thinking, I'm glad we did that. I'm glad that is part of this birth story.

The next stop was the grocery store. My contractions definitely picked up then because I wasn't able to walk through them. I remember standing next to the oranges and telling Ben to wait a minute so I could breathe.

On the way home I called Amy and she talked my through a lot of my apprehensions. We decided it would be a good idea for her to come over and assess the situation as far as positioning. She came and said I might be at 2 cm. Yep. Been contracting for about 36 hours at this point and had only made it to a two. Her encouragement was that my cervix had come far forward and that those contractions had been doing a lot of work. She was able to even feel inside of me and determine which way Aria's head was facing by feeling for her seam lines in her skull. (In case you don't know, the baby's skull is divided up into three separate plates so that it will fit through the mama's (tiny) birth canal. Crazy, I know.)

Amy knew exactly what to do. She had me get into a position called Deep Knee Chest. I had heard about this and oh how scary/hard it is. Basically, you are putting your face to the floor, supported by your shoulders/chest and knees with your butt in the air. The idea is that gravity will pull the baby's spine down during a contractions. Amy explained that she wanted 20 minutes in this position and at least two or three good contractions. I would have stood on my head if it meant turning the baby. I did it without complaining. I wanted to know if I should do it again. Between the Deep Knee Chest positions we did pelvic rocks. Pelvic rocks are where you get on your hands and knees and rock your pelvis up and down. Every pregnant woman should do pelvic rocks every day. Birth Works recommends that you do a hundred every day. You can break them up, but they want a hundred. I didn't do a hundred every day and look what happened to me :). Haha!

We felt like it would be okay for Amy to go home and tend to her family at that point. (She has six kids, did I mention that?) I would be okay and we were ready for another evening of labor. I would take half and Ambien again and the other half midway through the night.

But before we did that we decided to go out to eat just to take our mind off things and have at least one good hurrah before we entered baby world. We went to this new place called Big Orange in the Promenade. We split a burger, fries and a milkshake. As you can tell, we knew it would be another while and we were getting settled into this whole waiting thing.

I think I'll leave it there. More to come. :)

part 3

Let's see here, I think we are at Saturday night now. Amy left with the advice to get as much sleep as I possibly could that night. Go to bed early, take an Ambien, try to relax... usually women's bodies will pick back up around 4 or 5 in the morning. She said we could call her at any time throughout the night and she would come.

That evening my contractions definitely became more intense. Ben and I watched a Bill Cosby rerun, I never realized that he was an OB and he delivered babies. So we had some good laughs at some of that humor. We decided to go to bed around 8:30 (usually we are in bed by 10) with the hope that my half an Ambien would knock me out. Actually what it really did was just make me feel really good. If you have never taken one, I think different people react in different ways. A friend of mine said Ambien made him really angry, but for me, Ambien makes me really happy. I can take it and within about 10 minutes anything that I think about is just amazing. Our marriage is great, my son is precious, our room is beautiful, my bed is soft and wonderful. And that's how I fall asleep. I kind of love it. The problem was that I didn't really fall asleep. I don't really remember what happened exactly but I do remember Ben saying, "This isn't working." We tried to go to sleep anyways, but I woke up a LOT with contractions. I took another half (should have taken a whole to begin with... hindsight is 20/20) but it didn't do much to me.

Around 12:30 my contractions were becoming pretty painful. I was really at a loss as to what to do so we called Amy and asked her to come. That's the bad part about being a doula or midwife or OB, babies don't just come between 8am and 5pm, they come whenever they want.  Amy came around one am and was able to check me, I think I might have dilated to 3cm, the good news was that Aria had in fact turned! This was why my contractions had become more intense, because her head was actually pressing on my cervix the right way. We decided that maybe I should labor in the bathtub, it would help lessen the intensity of the contractions and maybe I could rest. Let me just tell you though, it is very difficult to sleep in a bathtub. And with contractions on top of that, nigh impossible. But I will say that I did rest and that was good. Ben slept on the bathroom floor (we have carpet in our bathroom, but still, he is pretty hardcore) so that he could get me more hot water when the tub got cool and just to be there to make sure I didn't drown I guess.

By this time I was completely resolved to the fact that this would be a very slow labor. I had talked to Cora on the phone earlier that night, she had called to check on me. She was with her other client who had stalled out at a 5-6 cm, which is not good and they didn't know what to do. I think they were heading to the hospital soon, or maybe were already there. I just decided to take the opportunity to pray for the other client who was in labor, her name is Summerset (I think that's how you spell it) and just that the Lord would open her up. It's a very interesting thing to be praying for something for someone else that you want for yourself. Knowing that she was further along than I was (though, I wasn't stalling out like she was) and she would probably get through it quicker than I would... I don't know. It's good to take your eyes off of yourself though and just surrender it all to God. Okay, I'll just tell you, she gave birth 2 hours before I did. :) But I kind of just knew she would... I just knew it. And looking back I'm totally okay with it.

Wait, this is Aria's birth story isn't it? Sorry.

After being in the bath for several hours I got out and took a shower. I had used some oils in the tub and put a little too much in (it was dark and I couldn't see very well) and they started to burn my skin. So I got in the shower. It's weird when you are really water logged to get in a shower. It just is. My friend Debbie said that she draped herself over her birthing ball in the shower and it was a good way to deal with contractions, so Ben got the birthing ball :). It was good. But eventually I had to get out, enough with the water, I was becoming a prune.

I got in bed after that and tried to sleep. Laying down my contractions were more painful, however, so it didn't last long. I don't remember when Ben and Amy changed shifts, but I think it might have been around 4, yes, now I remember. Ben took Amy's place in the guest room and Amy came in and slept on the recliner in our room with me in the bed. I think I made it to about 6 trying to rest. Then Amy and I got up and went into the kitchen for some breakfast. At this point I didn't want to eat anything because it's really hard to breathe through a contraction with food in your mouth, plus, you are so distracted by pain that nothing sounds good. But I knew I NEEDED to eat something, I needed strength and energy. I think I ate an orange and a granola bar and maybe some cereal. I had had some yogurt earlier in the night.

Ben woke up around 7:30 (very glad he finally slept) and we called Debbie to tell her my status. Amy said my contractions were "good" meaning: you can't walk or talk through them, you can only breathe or moan. "Good." Debbie dropped her kids off at church explaining that I was in labor and no one would be there to transition them from first to second service (when you play on the worship team, you are there all morning and this is completely normal.) I think someone ended up taking care of her kids between services for her... she stayed with us and took pictures for the rest of the day. The rest of the crazy day.

And so I kept laboring. We turned on my "Birth Playlist" for Aria. It started out with Christy Knockels "Healing is in Your Hands" and "Mighty Fortress" ... it was a time for me just to sing and weep before the Lord. If you haven't heard of these songs I would encourage you to look them up and just worship the Lord with them. Then this song came on:

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alley way that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
But little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
And no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
Every beat of her beautiful heart
Was a labor of love

Noble Joseph by her side
Calloused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
On the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
Every beat of her beautiful heart
Was a labor of love

It's called Labor of Love by Andrew Peterson and in that moment everything was so real to me. I understood Mary's pain more than ever before. I realized the pain that it took to bring Christ into the world and what that meant.

Really, I wish I could just push my whole playlist through the internet to you... if I was tech savvy I would put it on my website for you to listen to as you read this. I'll talk to my husband about that one.

The next hours were just a blur of labor. Amy made me go for a walk, which was really just up our little street and back. I complained the whole way, or made jokes, being sarcastic and just making light of everything does help. Whenever I would feel a contraction coming on I would tell Ben and he would support me as I breathed through it. I don't remember how far apart they were, maybe 5 mins, it felt like 2 mins though. Sometimes you feel like you have no time in between.

We got back from our second "walk" (Amy got me to go because she promised she would check my dilation when we got back, that was my reward:)). So we got back and she checked me. I think I had made it to a 5-6, I rolled over, had a contraction and literally fell asleep. I woke up with the next contraction with "I can't do this!" and Amy said, "Jody, you fell asleep." I was like, "Really?" and then I fell back asleep. I asked Ben to support me through my contractions while I slept in between. It was a good thirty minutes of him holding me through several contractions. Again, Ben was my rock that I was standing on, leaning against... he was right there the whole way. When I didn't have the strength he did.

I got up from my "nap" and I just wanted to go to the hospital. I just wanted to transfer. I said I didn't want to go until I was at least a 7 but I just wanted to leave. I knew my contractions would only get worse and I couldn't imagine the car ride to get there. Amazingly enough the car ride was not bad at all, I just had a few strong contractions but none during bumps and Ben was super careful as he drove.

I am sorry, this is going to have to be four parts... I am so tired right now, but I want to just go ahead and post. I will finish soon, I promise.

part 4

We got to the hospital around 11:30 am on Sunday. I had been in labor ... well, that's hard to say because we would call what happened all day Friday and most of Saturday "early labor" and so it doesn't really count. I'm going to kind of count it though because what all that early labor did was fatigue me. I hadn't gotten a full night's sleep in three nights. I was exhausted. I just wanted it to be over. I thought it would be over as soon as we walked in. I sort of had it pictured in my head that we would walk in, check in, and then I would have her an hour or so later. Nope.

I kept telling Ben to call my mom. We were walking across the sky walk at Baptist Hospital and I kept telling him we needed to call her. I didn't want her to miss it. Then I wanted him to call Diane and Lindsay... I was sure I was about to have her. He said he would call when we got up to the room and got settled. Okay fine.

This was another thing that was specific and special about Aria's birth, I wanted the women of our family to be there. I have been thinking about home births and how it is so cool that you can invite people to your birth. Can you imagine that? Being invited to help welcome a new little baby into the world? To witness their first cries, to really see, not just on a TV but in person, a baby being born? I thought that was pretty cool so I decided to invite all my sister in laws, moms and sister to Aria's birth. Two of my sister in laws were not able to make it since they are in separate cities but one did. My younger sister (who is not yet even married) decided that it might be a little too much for her to witness. I thought that was cool and we decided she would come in after Aria was born:). The cool thing is that each one of the women in the room have experienced natural childbirth. I told them they were not allowed to joke about epidurals and I knew they wouldn't be pushy, but I just wanted them to be praying for the process and just to be there... with me, with Aria as we went through this process.

When we got to the hospital the nurse checked me and I had made it to a seven. For those of you who don't know, you need to make it to ten centimeters before you can push your baby out. Only three more to go. Really, I wanted it to be over NOW. I'm just being honest here. You don't know what labor is like until you have experienced it. It's kind of a holding on for dear life kind of thing. At least for me it was and I think I am going to credit that partially to my fatigue. But the other part I'm going to credit to the fact that you are pushing out a baby. And it's hard. Your body is doing a LOT of work.

I'm pausing here because I'm wondering how much detail I want to put out there. I'm going to assume that if you are reading this you want to know some detail and you have an interest in what happened at the birth... okay.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. :) This is a sarcastic smile. My birth plan said that I only wanted to be monitored intermittently. To be monitored means that you have to wear these elastic bands around your huge belly and you are only allowed within a five foot radius of this machine that tracks your contractions as well as the baby's heart rate. Intermittently would mean that I would be on them for a little bit but then have them taken off if everything looked fine and I could labor on my own for a while. I was informed there was a new hospital policy that I had to be monitored continuously since I was a VBAC patient, birth plan shmirth plan. This meant that every time I went to the bathroom I had to be "unplugged" and then someone would carry the cords and follow me to the restroom. Fun.

I'll also say this about the monitors. Sometimes you just want to get up and change positions and there were so many times that as I was changing positions I felt like I was going to trip on the cords and then to have a contraction on top of that... I cursed the monitors in my head a lot. I knew that it would do me no good to complain about them out loud, but there were so many times when I cursed them.

At some point I made it to a nine or almost ten cm, I remember the Dr coming in and checking me. I don't remember if I brought it up or if he did, but I definitely wanted him to break my waters. I didn't care if contractions would get more painful and intense, I just wanted to get through this. All I wanted was to survive and for it to be over as quickly as possible.

It was pretty desperate at that point. Contractions were hard and very close together. I kept thinking, maybe I can get in this position and it will make me more comfortable... I thought, "maybe an epidural would be a good idea." I finally suggested it and Cora was like, "Jody, you are at a nine, you are almost done sweetheart, you can do this." I knew she was right. Thoughts crossed my mind, "A C-section would be WAY easier than this, if they could just cut her out of me this all would be over." A few days after giving birth I was talking to my good friend Katie who has been a Labor and Delivery Nurse for several years and she said that almost every woman who delivers naturally has a breakdown moment where they are just like, "I don't want to do this anymore, get me out of here, I don't want to have a baby..." That's really what I was thinking. I was thinking, this is never going to happen and if it does I don't know if I want to be around to experience her coming out of me...

But really, the only person who can give birth to her child is the mother. I was the only person in the room who could do that for Aria. I had to go through with this.

So I got on the birthing stool and began to push. Well, my body pretty much told me to push. She had been so high that it took about an hour and a half to push her down. Man, I'm giving a lot of details here... Or maybe I'm just picturing everything in my head and so many things are coming back to me.

Towards the end I realized I needed someone to support my back, someone to lean against as I just surrendered to my body's pushing. Ben, yet again, came to my rescue. He sat on the edge of the bed and supported me the whole way. It was so beautiful in that he was taking part in giving birth to Aria. It was beautiful and ... rough for Ben. He said I would reach back and pull on his neck through a contraction and pushing. I was so unaware of my movements at that point. I was so tired, almost delirious ... and Ben was right there with me. At one point I started screaming as I pushed, it actually hurt my throat I was screaming so loud. The Dr looked at me and said, "Honey, I want you to take all that energy that you are using for that scream and just use it to bear down and push." It really did help. Dr Simmons is an awesome Doctor.

Maybe the coolest part about my mom and everyone being there was just the fact that they could see Aria coming out and them saying "I see her!" "There she is!" and the excitement on their faces gave me that extra energy to really push her out. I remember Ben crying tears of joy as we looked down and saw our little baby. There she was, after all that time, all the pain, all of everything... she was finally here!

This was the moment, the reason why I survived all of that pain. To see my little baby, to have her put on my chest as I get to lay in bed and just cherish those first moments with my new little one. This is why I wanted a VBAC, this is why I chose not to have any drugs or epidural, I wanted to be present, I wanted to be in the moment, I wanted to do everything in my power to be able to deliver her vaginally and for her to just be with me skin on skin and just have those moments.

And now she is here. She is finally here.