Sunday, September 06, 2009

a front porch entrance: my perspective

the birth story of ava marie

aug. 25-26, 2009

with ava, unlike luke, i began having very mild, random contractions about 10 days before she was born. several times, i would contract for about an hour early each morning before getting up, and once contracted all afternoon. these contractions were noticeable, but never painful, probably just strong braxton hicks.

on tuesday, aug. 25, i had my 39w5d appointment. i declined an internal exam, but talked with our midwife about making sure i wasn’t pregnant at 41 weeks. she felt like it was crucial for me to have the baby before then. so, she schedule me for an appointment the following monday to “stir things up” and included an appointment for an NST with their consulting physician. i was disappointed to have to look at these steps, but wanted to make sure we were doing the best for our baby.

that evening, my sister suzanne and her fiancĂ© jerry came over for dinner. we had a great time and luke loved playing with jerry. our home was filled with laughter. they didn’t stay long, but at some point during dinner, i began having contractions that were short, but very uncomfortable. i didn’t mention it to suzanne, who was planning to be at the birth, because i didn’t want to jinx myself, but told michael as soon as they left.

after cleaning up, we laid down to watch a movie, babbette’s feast. during the movie, i timed contractions. they were lasting about 30 seconds, but were only 10 minutes apart. after the movie, we packed the rest of our bags for the birth center and went to bed around 11pm.

i fell asleep quickly after realizing the contractions had spaced out to 20 minutes apart. i was bummed because i thought labor was fizzling. i figured i’d wake up in the morning, like normal, and we’d go on about our life. in fact, michael had planned a “fun day” for our family. despite being disappointed about labor dying down, i was looking forward to spending the next afternoon with my “men.”

i woke up suddenly at 2:33am. i might have been having a contraction, but what i realized was that i had to go to the bathroom. as i left the bathroom, i had a really strong contraction that had me leaning on the sink and breathing deeply. i woke up michael to help me keep track of the time. i had another contraction 10 minutes later that was equally as strong. and then, they started coming five minutes apart, lasting 30-40 seconds.

during this time, michael decided to take several trips to our car with our bags – we had a lot since luke was going with us to the birth center and would likely still be asleep. at the time, i didn’t think his trips were necessary, but i’m so glad now that we didn’t have to worry about everything when we were ready to leave.

we timed contractions for an hour – i tried to lie down, but spent most of that time on my birth ball. after an hour at 4am, we called our midwife cherie. we chatted for awhile, she listened to me through a couple contractions. since she wasn’t the midwife to deliver luke, she asked about how long i’d pushed with him. because i’d had a lip of cervix, i ended up pushing about 1.5 hours, which is what i told her. however, once that lip was gone, i pushed about three times, which is the information she wanted.

if i had known to tell her that, the story might not have been as exciting.

at that point, my contractions were very painful, but i only felt them low in my uterus. cherie wanted us to call back when the contractions were higher and longer – she told me that would probably be an hour or two. she also recommended i take a bath.

i was thrilled with the prospect of a hot bath, so that’s what i did. michael grabbed a chair and sat with me in the bathroom timing the length of contractions. i wasn’t as comfortable in the tub as i’d remembered being with luke (looking back, i’m sure i was much farther along in labor at this point than i was when i took a bath in labor with luke) and so, i didn’t stay in the bath long. i got dressed, and leaned against the ball instead. at this point, i kept wondering, sometimes out loud, why we didn’t choose to go to the hospital so i could have an epidural. i also wanted to be at the birth center instead of at home – labor felt much more intense than i remembered and i wanted the support of our birth team.

around 4:30 or 4:45, i started to feel really panicky during contractions. i also told michael i thought i might throw up. i had to hold his hand or touch him during each contraction so that I stayed “grounded” and focused through the pain. still, i was only feeling contractions low and they were varying between 45 and 60 seconds, but not consistent. in hindsight, i’m pretty sure this was transition (the panicky feeling especially makes me think that). however, michael didn’t think to be looking for it already and i didn’t have enough cognitive awareness to recognize it myself.

we called cherie at 5am. she asked if i was ready, and said i was. she told me she was dressed and would meet us at the center. we had farther to drive than she did, so i never thought to call her when things picked up. i also should have told her initially I was feeling a lot of pressure in my bottom and that i was feeling panicky. however, for some reason, those things didn’t cross my mind. i just wanted to get to the center.

michael finished gathering a few things while i rocked on the ball. at some point about five or ten minutes after i talked to cherie, right as he was getting up luke, things changed for me – i needed to push. i looked at him abruptly and said, we need to leave NOW.

we practically ran out the door. i remember michael asking me to grab luke’s small backpack (which i normally carry when he carries luke) and i couldn’t. we live on the fourth floor and had to walk down a long hall to the elevator and then back down another hall to our car. i had three contractions during that time, including one in the elevator; michael says they were about two minutes apart. the entire time, i knew we had to hurry and tried to convey that to michael without yelling at him.

the drive to the birth center, which is 15 minutes, was excruciating; i felt every bump and every pothole. with every contraction, i tried to breathe deeply and to not push, but they were awful. like many women say, it really felt like a freight train moving through my body and i could do little to stop it, especially while seated in the passenger’s seat! while driving, michael called both sets of parents and my sisters – including suzanne who was meeting us at the center. the whole ride, i was encouraging him to run red lights, which he did, and get there as fast as he could.

right before we got to the center, i had a contraction that required me to push. at that point, my water also broke. fortunately, it didn’t gush yet. as michael stopped the car, i jumped out and almost ran up the stairs to the porch. he later told me he thought i was going to get sick. i was surprised to find the house dark and the door locked. i couldn’t figure out why cherie hadn’t turned on the lights, which is now funny to me.

i kept telling michael, this baby is coming, this baby is coming. i think he knew things were serious when we got in the car, but it obviously wasn’t until then that either of us thought we might have an unassisted birth. i was scared to be just the two of us, but knew i couldn’t NOT push. i pulled my pants to my knees and knelt and leaned on a bench on the porch. michael considered calling 911 because we were only three blocks from a major hospital, but called cherie instead (the time stamp on his cell phone was 5:38am; we'd been on the porch only a minute or two). she was four blocks away and sped toward us. at that point, i asked michael to help me take my pants all the way off. i felt the baby’s head and knew i couldn’t stop her from being born. it makes me laugh now to remember that all i kept saying, over and over, was this baby is coming.

because it wasn’t even 5:40am, it was still dark, but dawn was approaching. all of a sudden, cherie was on the porch with us. she told us that when she got to the porch, the baby’s head was almost out; she could almost feel the ears. she and michael helped me to sit back and with one more half push, ava was born. cherie later told us that ava had her cord around her neck fairly tightly; i’m so thankful cherie made it in time to catch her. in that moment, neither of us would have thought to look for that. we estimated her time of birth to be 5:40am, based on the time michael called cherie.

as a funny side note, when i jumped out of the car, michael wasn’t sure what to do with luke. so, he rolled down the window and left him in the back seat, buckled into his car seat. cherie didn’t realize he was there and told us she thought his cries were from a cat in heat.

because of our location, cherie ran inside to grab supplies while michael and i tried to get ava to cry (she did finally whimper). we immediately cut the cord so we could be moved. cherie gave the baby to michael and helped me inside without making a mess. this was the point where michael was most scared – he was left with the baby, whose face was bruised from being born so quickly and with her cord around her neck, and cherie was tending to me. we later talked to her about it and she said she wasn’t at all concerned for the baby because she had made noise and breathed. her main concern at that point was getting all of us inside so she could see and assess ava from there.

suzanne also arrived right after avaa was born. cherie had her run inside before us to strip the comforter and pillows off the bed. then, she got luke from the car and set him up in his pack ‘n play. cherie did have to warm ava and suction her mouth, but she still apgar-ed at 9s, despite her completely bruised face. fortunately, the bruising faded quickly and was almost gone by the time we left the birth center, six hours after birth.

a lot of my mom friends with two children told me how it wasn’t “love at first sight” with their second child. michael and i can relate to that: though we loved ava before she was born, we weren’t in love with her the moment we met her. but it only took a day before we were head-over-heels for this little girl. she’s our little lady.


Heidi @ Indy Photography said...

Ahh! Great to hear a firsthand account! I mean, if Michael would just FINISH his long series, that would work too, win! :)

So happy to hear things went (pretty) well (considering) and the midwife arrived when she did. :)

Mimi said...

Congratulations!! A home birth next time? Although, a midwife might not make it then either! At least there would be no car ride!! Glad everyone is well and healthy! thanks for sharing your story!

Katy said...

Wow. Congrats on your baby girl - and your spectacular delivery. I envy the length of your labor! Thanks for sharing. I love to hear natural birth stories.

Elizabeth said...

This story is crazy and I'm never having children. You might as well have been some woman in Africa who goes out by herself, digs a hole and drops the baby in. Hmmm....maybe you're being prepared for something ; )HAHA!

Sarah M. said...

Wow! You didn't even have time to remind yourself that God had his angels around you. ( : But He certainly did! Thanks for including all the great photos!

The Trulys said...

Oh it so makes me think of Todd's birth and that I never want to be in the car and feel the urge to push again!! :) So happy she's here!

Stacey said...

Congratulations Katherine! Wow what a story. So glad you are enjoying your beautiful baby girl.

Leah said...

Congratulations -- to all of you!!!

Lindsey said...

Wow! Wow! WOW! What a story! Congratulations!!!!

Extraordinary Ordinary Life said...

That was an amazing story. I didn't realize the panicy feeling was normal since I had never had a natural birth before, but I am glad to hear that it was. I just cannot believe you didn't get there in time. She is truly beautiful. Congratulations! I love reading birth stories.

lisa said...

what a great story! kinda makes me wanna call you so i can hear it again! you are such an amazing woman, katherine. 'ava' is blessed to have you for her mama! and...she is absolutely beautiful!

Desiree' said...

Ok, so it is September 11th!! and I am just now discovering you had AVA!!! I am sitting here crying, thinking that was the craziest story ever and wishing I could see her and you! I hope you are doing well. Love you, my friend! I will check in with you soon. Started my new job and have been bogged down tremendously.

Heidi @ Indy Photography said...

i have so NOT been up to blogging lately. no baby yet.

we'll be in round rock for the wedding, so just outside of austin. we're hoping to take a trip over to san antonio since i absolutely LOVE it there, but we'll have to see how everything goes.....