The idea of having a birth center birth was one that was introduced to my husband, Aaron, and I in December 2012. Prior to this time, I had always envisioned giving birth in a hospital and getting an epidural—just like you see in the movies. However, as God would have it, a conversation with some close friends opened our eyes to the concept of midwifery care and birthing outside of a hospital. From that moment on, Aaron and I began our research. I wasn’t pregnant yet and hadn’t planned on getting pregnant soon but nonetheless we wanted to be ready for when the time came. Through watching various documentaries, YouTube videos, and reading blogs we became completely convinced that when it was time, we would have our baby in a birth center with a midwife. Now we just needed to find a midwife/birth center that we liked. Through the advice of the same friends, we decided to attend one of the Katy Birth Center “Meet the Midwives” on a Monday night in April (still not pregnant yet, just wanted to be prepared). By the time we left the birth center that night, we were convinced that this is where we wanted to have our baby. Not only was the birth center very nice but the midwives and their openness of God’s role in childbirth sealed the deal for us. We both felt a strong connection to Natalie and prayed that when I got pregnant that she would be available.
Fast forward a few months to September 2013. I was pregnant! Praise God! I called Natalie pretty soon after we found out and so our relationship began. From the first phone call with Natalie, I knew she was going to provide me with outstanding care. During that initial phone call, she spent nearly 30 minutes just talking with me. I had her direct cell phone number and could text/call her anytime I needed to (and I did). 🙂 When we told our family and friends that we were using a birth center, some understood and others thought that it wasn’t a good choice. Many of our friends are in the medical field and they just thought it was way too risky to have a birth outside of a hospital. After a couple failed attempts to convince them otherwise, we just decided that we would stop trying to defend our choice and continue to trust God for a great birth experience. Aaron and I looked forward to each prenatal appointment with Natalie. She took time to explain things thoroughly and to just get to know us. We also were blessed to have Natalie’s apprentice Chelsea sit in on most of our prenatal appointments and birth. During the prenatal process, I kept a log of my diet and exercise that Natalie would review at each appointment. Although it was tough at times, I really think monitoring my food and exercise helped a lot in the end. In addition to monitoring diet and exercise, Natalie provided us with so much valuable information each visit. For example, she showed us exercises that I could do to help turn the baby from a posterior to an anterior position which is most ideal for birth. The birth center also offered various educational courses which we took advantage of including a Bradley Method series taught by Karen Sanderson. The Bradley classes provided us, first time parents, with a lot of insight into labor, delivery, and postpartum (which all came in handy when it was show-time).
Now for the birth story. Thursday night, while Aaron was giving me a perineal massage, he noticed a little bloody show. He continued with the massage and after it was done and I went to the bathroom, I saw some mucus tinged blood on the toilet paper. Okay, “looks like my mucus plug had started to come out”, I told Aaron. However, it wasn’t a lot of blood or mucus so I figured that it hadn’t all come out yet. While I wanted to get excited that labor was starting, I knew that some bloody show didn’t necessarily mean I was starting labor. From the classes we took, I knew it could still be many days (even weeks) before active labor actually started. I wasn’t due for at least another week anyways (and since it was my first one I figured maybe I would go over). So that night we went to bed as normal. I continued to have what felt like Braxton Hicks contractions but nothing that was really strong so I slept pretty well Thursday night. By Friday morning, I noticed more cramping then the regular Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having. I texted Natalie just to give her a heads up and she informed me to go about things as normal but to pay more attention to staying well hydrated and rested. Just in case active labor started soon, she wanted to make sure I conserved my energy. So I went about my Friday as normal. I was working from home that day so I sat on my birthing ball at the computer and worked. By Friday night the cramping had increased in strength slightly but was still very spaced out. I also was still having some light bloody show. Aaron and I decided we would start timing my contractions so we downloaded a phone app and started timing. Friday night it was a bit harder to sleep through the night as my contractions had strengthened and started getting closer together. They were about a 4-5 on a 10 scale for pain and were coming every 20-30 minutes lasting anywhere from 20-65 seconds. By Saturday morning, my contractions had gotten closer together about 12-7 minutes apart. I started thinking maybe this baby is coming this weekend or at least I sure hope she is because I wasn’t sure if I could go days with these type of contractions. Although the contractions were starting to hurt more, they still felt like strong menstrual cramps and I was able to just breathe through the pain. Aaron and I decided we would try the Dr. Bradley “Is This Labor” checklist so I ate and drank something, walked the neighborhood with Aaron, showered, and napped. The contractions seemed to pick up slightly on the walk but still not coming consistently and still not lasting more than 40 seconds on average. Aaron and Natalie had been texting back and forth all morning just keeping her updated on my status. We had already planned to go to a breastfeeding class at the birthing center on Saturday but I wasn’t sure I felt up to the ride (we live about 50 minutes away). Natalie suggested we come to the class because she was at the birthing center and she could check me to see how far along I was. So we decided to go in to see how far things had progressed. I was sure she would tell me I was maybe 1 cm dilated but no more (in my mind, I had this idea of a long labor). We packed up the car with everything just in case we ended up staying on that side of town. I even made the comment that this might be the last time we leave without baby. By the time we made it to the birthing center, my contractions had picked up and were about 5 minutes apart lasting about 45 seconds and the pain had increased to a 5-6 on a 10 point scale. I don’t remember much of the car ride there but I do remember lots of deep breathing and pelvic rocking while I was in the car. When we arrived, I was still smiling and able to talk when I wasn’t going through a contraction so both Natalie, Aaron, and I were pretty surprised when she checked me and I was 4-5 cm dilated! Since I was that far along, we decided that we would go ahead into the breastfeeding class and Natalie would stick around and check me after class. Right before going into class, I made a pit stop into the bathroom where the rest of my mucus plug came out. In class, I labored on a ball in the back while the class was going on and munched on some snacks (needless to say I didn’t learn much but the hubby was listening). I actually think being in class helped distract me and get through another 2 ½ hours of labor relatively easily. After class, Natalie could tell from how close together my contractions were that I would be having baby relatively soon so she suggested we grab some dinner. I decided I was up to going to grab dinner with Aaron so we got back in the car and went to the store. We picked up dinner just down the street but by the time we got back I was having strong contractions about 3 minutes apart. Looking back, I probably should have stayed and continued to labor at the birth center while Aaron grabbed dinner. It was pretty miserable being in the back of the car while my contractions picked up. I just tried to focus on breathing through them (like we learned in Bradley method) and pelvic rocking (almost like I was hula-hooping without the hoop). When we got back to the birth center, I took one bite of dinner and didn’t feel like eating anymore. I was officially admitted to the birthing center around 6:30pm on Saturday night. The birthing room was perfect. As I had requested during my 36 week appointment, the lights were dimmed, oils were diffusing, and it was just a calm atmosphere. Aaron brought our laptop where we had downloaded some background music to play during labor. Once admitted, I started laboring in the pool for about 2 hours. During that time, Chelsea (Natalie’s apprentice) gave me the best lower back massage with some essential oils. It felt amazing and really helped me through some contractions. I spent most of my time in the pool hunched over the side so I could rest my head. Aaron sat on a stool in front of me and helped me breath through contractions. He also made sure I had a sip of water or apple juice after each contraction to help me stay hydrated. After a couple hours in the pool, I got out and labored on the toilet then the ball where I got another great back massage from Chelsea. Another couple hours had passed and by this time, I was pretty tired as I hadn’t slept well the night before and the contractions were pretty strong (still felt like really strong menstrual cramps but were starting to move to my back). So I got in bed, where I labored for another hour or so. It was really nice to be in bed because Aaron was able to lay beside me and help hold my leg when a contraction would come. While I was laying down, it felt as though my contractions had slowed down a bit so I was able to get little mini naps in between contractions which helped give me a boost of energy. To try and help the contractions kick back up, Chelsea gave me some homeopathic pills which I held under my tongue while they dissolved. After being in bed for about an hour, Natalie and Chelsea checked me and I was about 8cm dilated. Right after they checked me, I felt like I was going to throw-up. They grabbed me a bucket in just enough time for me to throw up what seemed like everything I had eaten and drank that day. At that point, I also felt that my water was leaking. Natalie tested the fluid that I was leaking and confirmed that my water was indeed leaking but the sac had not completed ruptured. She explained it was most likely an upper leak. Once my contractions had picked back up, I got back into the pool. It was now around 10:30pm. For about an hour, I did some rocking in a squat position in the pool to help encourage the baby to move down. By 11:30pm, I was feeling the urge to push. Natalie checked me again and I was 9.5 cm dilated. I told Aaron to get in the pool with me so he changed and got in just in time for me to start pushing. Up until this point, I had been pretty conscious of not using my voice when going through contractions. However, once I started feeling pressure to push, I couldn’t help but moan/breathe my way through the contractions. Natalie helped to hold back my cervical lip while I first started pushing to allow for the baby to pass the lip without it swelling up as I still had about ½ inch to go before I was fully dilated. This part was pretty painful as there was a lot of pressure when a contraction would come. Once the baby had dropped past the lip, the pushing became less painful but it still hurt pretty badly. Natalie coached me through pushing while Aaron sat behind me and helped hold me up in my squat. Natalie also held warm cloths on my perineum while I was pushing to help the skin stretch and try to avoid tears. After about 15 minutes of pushing, I remember thinking for a moment that the baby was coming out the wrong hole as I felt very strong rectal pressure. Pretty silly thought but I actually believed it at the time, ha! When the baby was close, Natalie had both me and Aaron touch the baby’s head. We could feel her hair which was really cool. During the pushing phase, Chelsea was recording and taking pictures using our video camera and also checking the baby’s heart rate every so often using the Doppler monitor. It was really nice that Aaron could be in the pool with me and Chelsea could still capture these amazing moments on video for us. After pushing for about 35 minutes, my water finally completely broke and about two minutes later Eliava Grace Banks was born at 12:33 am on May 11th (Happy Mother’s Day to me :-)) weighing 8lbs 8.4oz and 20 inches long. When she first came out, she wasn’t crying but after some suctioning of her nose and mouth and a couple flicks on her feet by Natalie, she was crying and healthy with no issues. Praise God! I then drunk what seemed like the world’s biggest cup of apple juice while Chelsea held the cup and straw in my mouth. We sat in the pool while I delivered the placenta and let the cord finish pulsing before it was clamped and Aaron cut it. During this time, my mother and sister-in-law came into the room to take pictures and meet little Eliava. After inspecting me once I was out of the pool and on the bed, Natalie found that I had a couple front tears which required stitches. So I nursed Eliava, then Aaron took her and did skin to skin with her while Natalie took me to her office to stitch me up. After stiches, I ate some food then got into the soothing herbal bath with Eliava. After the bath, we got some instructions from Natalie then we were on our way home by about 6:30 am so I could get some rest while Eliava had her recovery sleep. Natalie and Chelsea were then at our house the following day for our first postpartum checkup. Throughout labor, it was very encouraging to hear everyone (Natalie, Chelsea, and Aaron) say how great I was doing. I felt like they were really proud of me and it helped give me the confidence to keep laboring and keep breathing. I also remember thinking to myself as I was laboring that God designed me to be able to do this very thing so surely He will help me get through it. I am still in awe of how GREAT my labor and delivery experience went. I truly believe that it was a direct result of our choice to birth at the birthing center with a midwife. While we aren’t sure when #2 will come, we already know that we will use Natalie, Chelsea, and Katy Birth Center again. 🙂