1) Documentation and conversation about lessons learned helps us better grow as people.
2) Positive stories encourage others.
3) My story is atypical.
So, I'll begin by documenting my actual birth. I think it's important to share my birth story because one of the most encouraging things for me when I was pregnant was hearing positive birth stories. I don't know if everything ever goes 100% planned for anyone, and there's no point on dwelling on things that didn't go according to plan in a birth, so my story is mainly in hopes of giving yet another perspective to those in the future who will give birth.
During my pregnancy, I was conspicuously absent from my blog, mainly because the road was so difficult and I didn't have much to say about it. So, I plodded along in silence, wondering what childbirth and parenthood would have to bring.
I spent most of my days being a student of birth, learning about different types of birth and reading all the schools of thought (and there's a lot, and there are diehard advocates on all sides). I decided that I wanted to try for a natural birth, but from what I had learned, the desire for a natural birth doesn't necessitate that it is carried into reality.
So, I started doing various exercises to help strengthen my body for a natural birth, going to antenatal classes with Matt, reading various books with Matt and spending hours in discussion with him about what we hoped to happen and how we could best achieve those hopes.
At the end of the pregnancy, I felt as if I'd done all I could do, and I just had to go forward with whatever happened, trusting God with the rest, whether it was what I expected or not.
Monday morning (27 December) at 6am, my water broke. I figured it would either then be today or the next day that our baby would be born. Matt and I began timing contractions and spent the morning cleaning up the house. We eventually phoned our midwife around lunchtime to let her know that she'd probably be spending the evening with us.
Hours went by and finally our midwife phoned us and asked us to come in the hospital at 4:30pm to check out and see what the baby was doing. If all was good, then she'd send me home where I'd continue my labor until it intensified. At this point, contractions were 6 minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds, and they were very much manageable. At the hospital, the baby's heart rate, my temp, and my blood pressure all checked out. So, my midwife sent me home.
After a dinner of delicious burritos (around 8pm), my labor kicked in with contractions 2 minutes apart, 30 seconds long. Matt and I decided that it was time to check into the hospital. Contractions were difficult, but still manageable. During earlier contractions, I could still talk through them and move around a bit, but with these, I had to focus until they passed.
At the hospital, I continued to labor in a birthing tub and then with a birthing ball. Around 10:30, the pain became what I would consider unbearable. I fought while laboring for about a half an hour and then began to beg for medicine. My lovely husband, remembering my desire for a natural birth, helped me put off medicine for another half an hour, but finally allowed me to consider medicine after much begging and pleading from my side :)
At this point, an epidural was out of the question. I was a centimeter from pushing. But, there was an injection that I could have that would help my cervix finish dilating. The only problem was that my midwife had to give me the injection SLOWLY and I couldn't move. Ironically, right when she began the injection, I also began a contraction, and so she got through less than 1/4 of the injection before she had to stop and take out the needle (try sitting still during a contraction...it's near impossible).
Then, she said I could breathe some pain killing gas during a contraction to ease some of the pain. So, during the next contraction, I tried, but after 2 breaths, I hyperventilated and had to stop the gas. So much for medicine.
They say that during labor there are different stages, and that one of these stages is where you want to give up and think you can't do another contraction. This stage of labor is also the shortest stage and gives way to pushing, which, in some ways, is easier. Even though I knew all this in theory, I really wanted to give up. I didn't know how I would make it through another contraction.
But, just like the textbooks say, right when I was ready to give up, I was ready to push. Pushing a baby out with no meds is hard work, and I really cannot take any credit for my whopping 20 minutes of pushing or lack of need for stitches. That credit goes all to my amazing midwife who knew how to coach me and my amazing husband who stood with me and encouraged me with every contraction.
After all that pain, all that self-doubt, all that wondering as to whether it was worth it, the moment of culmination arrived. I remember screaming because it hurt so much and then a split second later my midwife saying, "Rachel, hold your baby," and she plopped this wet, warm little creature up onto my chest. Her eyes were open and she didn't cry. She just looked at me and Matt and moved around a little bit.
After 9 months filled with nausea, insecurity about my not-so-skinny self, self-doubt about choosing a child over a career, and wondering if I was crazy in the first place for getting pregnant at such a young age, it all culminated in this one moment. The nausea is but a memory. Yes, it was worth every stretch mark. Yes, a baby is worth more than any career could be for me. And no...I was not crazy for getting pregnant at a whopping age 23.
So, I guess what I'm saying in all of this is that pregnancy was no bed of roses, and neither is a natural birth (although I'm happy I did it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat-but that's another post for another day), but what great miracles require no pain? I can't think of any. Hope Brianna Hastings is no different. It was a painful journey for me (and I'm sure it was for her too!) but she is our little miracle and she was well worth it.