We learned we were expecting Elijah on a cold morning in January. I had told Dan the night before over dinner at Buca di Beppo that I thought I could be pregnant. I had to run to the bathroom every ten minutes to pee, and that only happened when I’d either consumed large amounts of water, or I was pregnant. Since I hadn’t been pushing fluids on myself, I suspected I was pregnant. We ran by Target to pick up some pregnancy tests, and since I had to pee as we were leaving the store, I went to the restroom and used one of the tests. It was negative. I woke up bright and early the next morning used another test, and that time it was positive.
Because my older two children were born in Missouri, I was faced with the task of choosing a new healthcare provider. I had a fabulous “full service” family practice doctor in Missouri that had taken care of all my prenatal care and the births, in addition to being the kids’ doctor. Family practice doctors in this area of Tennessee do not deliver babies, so that was off the table. I support homebirth, and I like the idea of homebirth. There are an abundant number of homebirth midwives in this area. After considering all the pros and cons for our situation, Dan and I decided a homebirth would not be the best choice for us. I had heard good things about the nurse midwives at Vanderbilt, but Vanderbilt is 45 minutes away from our house. This was slightly troubling, but I liked the midwife model of care. I didn’t have good feelings about the two hospitals that are within 25 minutes of our house, so we chose the Vanderbilt nurse midwives.
We met our midwife Linda and loved her right away. She had a very warm personality and a big smile. She hugged me when she came into and left the room, and she is one of the few people outside of my church I’ve met that understood the Biblical meanings of Silas and Hannah’s names. She quoted scripture to me to encourage me at my last appointment when I expressed some stress I had been feeling. When we discussed my birth preferences, I was happy to learn most of them were routine practice at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
As third trimester approached, I got about the business of choosing a doula. Because I used the Hypnobabies home study to prepare for peaceful and painless births, I knew I wanted a doula familiar with the program. A local business, Nine Months and Beyond ( www.ninemonthsandbeyond.com) offered Hypnobabies group classes and doula services. They held monthly Materni-Tea parties in order to learn more about their services and to meet their doulas. I had chosen not to take the actual Hypnobabies class for this pregnancy because I had prepared for the two previous births by using the Hypnobabies home study program and was confident I could do it again with success. I met all of the doulas at Nine Months and Beyond and felt a connection with Micky. Thankfully, Micky was available for the time around my guess date and we booked her to be our doula.
A few words about Hypnobabies here… Hypnobabies is a comprehensive birth preparation program. In my home study program, there were six lessons in a workbook, each one with an educational theme about pregnancy. Topics included (but were not limited to) the anatomy and physiology of birth and pregnancy nutrition and exercise. The program teaches one how to do “eyes open hypnosis.” This means that the woman has complete control over her body and complete awareness of her surroundings while under hypnosis, but is able to control and direct her own hypnoanesthesia. This is done using the Finger Drop Technique to turn off and on a Mental Lightswitch. “On” is when there is no anesthesia at all, and the mom is able to move all extremities. “Off” is complete anesthesia throughout the whole body, including the inability to move. “Center” is when the mom has directed anesthesia to wherever it is needed, but is able to walk, talk, and move around at will.. This is also known as “eyes open hypnosis.” Turning the switch to off is typically most useful during intense pressure waves, such as during transformation. Center switch is very useful during the earlier stage of the birthing time, enabling the mom to stand and sway, or walk, or whatever she finds comfortable during her pressure waves. That leads to the language of Hypnobabies… because words are very important in how we perceive things, Hypnobabies changes the typical words around birthing in order give them a more positive connotation. Labor is “birthing time” because, that is exactly what it is. “Labor” may be perceived as being very difficult, but Hypnobabies teaches moms that birthing time can be peaceful and comfortable. It is not a “due date”, but rather a “guess date” because the day the baby will be born is at best, a guess, and there’s no guarantee on the date. Contractions are “pressure waves” because the suggestions given during Hypnobabies practice train the mind to perceive them as warm, tight pressure (like a big “warm hug”). Keeping a positive attitude and mindset are very important when doing Hypnobabies preparation. Whatever one puts in the mind will become reality, and this point will become very important later on in this story.
As my guess date approached, I began having daily Braxton Hicks pressure waves. A couple of times, I texted or emailed my doula Micky because I was convinced my birthing time had begun, only to have the pressure waves fizzle out later. I worked a 12 hour night shift the Saturday before my Wednesday guess date. In the last hour of the shift, I began having very realistic pressure waves every five minutes. They were intense enough to require my full concentration to relax through them and to finish my shift. I decided to stay home from church once I got home, because they continued to come every five minutes. I texted Micky to tell her what was going on. I took a shower and crawled into bed, and fell immediately to sleep. When I awoke, the pressure waves were all gone.
Wednesday, September 12 was my guess date. I woke up feeling a bit mopey because it was my guess date and I didn’t think anything would happen. My first two children had been born at 41 weeks, and I was feeling very tired, sore, and anxious. I emailed Dan complaining about how depressed I was and he gently reminded me that babies are born on their birthdays. Shortly after that, I felt a very long, intense pressure wave with strong pressure in my low back. I knelt down, leaning into an arm chair and swayed my hips until it finished. I emailed Dan back and told him to keep an eye on his phone because although I had several false starts before, I felt like it might be the day. I had regular old Braxton Hicks waves the rest of the morning, so I decided to get some work done in case it really was birth day. I vacuumed and mopped and cleaned the kitchen and washed a load of diapers. I fixed lunch for myself and the kids and prepared to put them down for a nap, when a very sharp, abrupt pressure sensation hit either my bladder or my cervix. It seemed to come from nowhere and it took my breath away. It only lasted about a minute, so I emailed my doula to ask her what she thought about it, then put Silas and Hannah down for their afternoon naps. Once they were asleep, feeling exhausted myself, I decided to sit on my ball and listen to the “Special Place” track. I was so exhausted that I went into a very deep hypnosis and fell asleep for nearly two hours while perched on my ball leaning against my bed. I was awoken by one of my kids. I felt terrible when I woke up. I was still exhausted and was then feeling a tad nauseous. Dan came home from work shortly after I woke up and I noticed that pressure waves began again. They were more intense than they had been all day, but I didn’t pay much attention to them because I had had several bouts with prodromal birthing time before.
We sat down for dinner, and I didn’t feel much like eating. Being Wednesday, we had church services. I thought about staying home, but decided to go because I hadn’t been there on Sunday morning and wanted to be there. On the way, Dan and I had a silly argument about something very trivial. Mid-argument, I realized that I had had several pressure waves just in the time we had been in the car and thought that I should probably start timing them. They were about 12 to 15 minutes apart at that point. I continued timing them through church, and by the end of church they were about ten minutes apart. I no longer felt nauseous and I was handling the pressure waves very well, so we decided to go to a friend’s house for ice cream. I sat at my friend’s table, chatting and eating ice cream, timing pressure waves the entire time, and nobody knew it. My facial expression and body language never changed. I just focused on staying completely relaxed through each wave. On the drive home, I noted they were about seven minutes apart.
We pulled up to the house around 9:45 and Dan took the kids into the house. I pulled my phone out of my purse and texted my friend Julie to tell her that my pressure waves had picked up in intensity. Her daughter babysits my kids and I wanted to give her the heads up that I might need her that night. As I got out of the car, I had another pressure wave, then three more between the car and my bedroom. I had to stop and focus through each wave. I texted my doula Micky to update her on my progress. She offered to come over, but I told her I thought I was still in denial about it being my actual birthing time. I decided to put on my PJs and listen to the Deeping track while in the knee-chest position because I was feeling a lot of pressure in my low back. Dan put the kids to bed while I listened to Deepening. I found it was difficult to turn my switch off while in this position because I had never practiced doing hypnosis while in this position. Once the track was over, I told Dan I wanted to put on the “Easy First Stage” track and go to bed to see if the pressure waves went away, because I had been convinced before I was in my birthing time, only to have the pressure waves dissipate with rest.
We were only in bed about thirty minutes when I told Dan that I was pretty sure we were having our baby that night. I changed into my “birthing outfit”, a black nursing tank and black cotton skirt, and put my hair into pigtails while Dan called Julie and texted Micky for me. I was very cold and couldn’t stop shivering, which was unusual for me because I have a very hot nature when pregnant. I put a fleece jacket on over my tank and went downstairs to wait.
Julie and Ally arrived first. It was around 12:30 at that point. They went upstairs and went to bed in the guest room. Micky arrived a few minutes later. My pressure waves had gone back to about seven minutes apart. I was beginning to feel silly, because I was sure that maybe it wasn’t really my birthing time since my pressure waves started to space out again. Micky and I chatted a few minutes while Dan talked to the midwife on call at Vanderbilt and got things ready to go. I was still able to talk through my pressure waves. Micky asked me if that was typical for me, and I told her it was, because I could stay in center switch up until transformation. She thought I was still in early birthing time, and I felt pretty comfortable, so we decided to stay home a little longer. I was still feeling a lot of pressure in my lower back, and fearing another occiput posterior baby (Silas was OP until he was born, and the birthing time lasted for two days), Micky had me do the Miles circuit, a series of positions to encourage a baby into optimal position for birth. I lied on my left side on the couch in the “pretzel position” and continued to listen to “Easy First Stage.” I turned my switch off for waves, and I felt fantastic in that position. I could feel Elijah turning and moving down with each pressure wave. Dan and Micky hung out, and we all chatted between my pressure waves. After I had lied in the pretzel position for about half an hour, I got up to do some side lunges. I put my foot up on the coffee table with my toes pointed out and lunged to the side. I alternated sides and continued to lunge through pressure waves, leaning for support on Micky. (I did all of this with my light switch in the center.)
Doing side lunges made me tired, so I got back on the couch on my left side. Dan had fixed me some ice water and encouraged me to eat a granola bar, but it didn’t taste good to me. I decided to close my eyes and rest with my switch off because my pressure waves were getting pretty intense. Dan sat on the floor and rubbed my feet. I felt so calm and relaxed, and in what felt like only a few minutes later, I began to feel like I was ready to leave for the hospital.
I’m not sure who’s idea it was for me to use the bathroom. Dan helped me to the bathroom, and sitting on the toilet caused me to feel a lot of pressure very low. I don’t remember if I said something, or if I made a noise, but Micky was waiting outside the bathroom door and Dan very matter-of-factly announced we were leaving for the hospital.
Dan and Micky helped settle me into the front seat with two pillows on my lap. I hugged my pillows, put my earbuds on, and turned my switch off. I did note before turning my switch off that the clock in the car said 3:03 AM. One suggestion I remember from my hypnosis tracks was that every 20 minutes of my birthing time would feel like just five minutes. The trip up to Vanderbilt felt amazingly short. I was very calm and relaxed during the entire car trip. I made a low humming sound to help me focus through my pressure waves. I felt the car leave the interstate and turn onto Wedgewood to take us to Vanderbilt. Within just a few minutes of leaving the interstate, I started feeling very hot and then felt the urge to push. I remained calm, keeping my face, hands, and perineum relaxed. I changed my breathing from long, slow deep breaths out to shorter breaths. Dan could tell I was breathing differently, but he didn’t say anything about it. We pulled up to the ER at Vanderbilt and the clock in the car said 3:46. Dan brought me a wheelchair and both he and Micky helped me into the chair. I remember saying, “I’m about to have this baby” to her. I could feel the amniotic sac bulging as I stood and pivoted into the wheelchair.
They wheeled me through the doors, and security let me come right through the metal detectors, although they did detain Dan and Micky. Somebody pushed me up to the registration desk. I told the women at the desk that I was about to give birth and I needed them to hurry. I was worried because Dan and Micky weren’t right by my side, they were still getting through security. The registration ladies asked me a few questions and put my bracelet on my wrist. I no longer had my earbuds in but was still listening to “Easy First Stage” over the speakers of my iPhone. One of the women asked what I was listening to and Dan gave a quick synopsis of Hypnobabies to them.
“That’s really cool,” she said.
I had several pressure waves while sitting at registration and felt the urge to push each time. I didn’t fight the urge to push, I just focused on remaining calm and relaxed and continued humming through each wave. I know I asked them again to hurry, and Micky told them I needed to push. I felt like I was losing my cool, but Dan and Micky both later told me I was very calm and spoke politely. These women at registration are probably used to seeing women come in every night saying they’re about to give birth, but in reality, they still have plenty of time left. I can understand why they would be skeptical when a woman comes rolling in, acting very calm and collected, but saying she’s about to push her baby out. They assured me that a nurse from labor and delivery would come down to get me. I think I asked them again to hurry. I’m not sure what convinced the ER triage nurse, but she popped around the corner and volunteered to take me. Perhaps she heard the entire exchange and didn’t want to risk catching a baby in the ER.
We headed off in a wheelchair. The valet for the ER was nowhere to be found, so Dan and Micky just left their keys with the registration ladies and followed the ER triage nurse and me to the elevator. The nurse said we’d wait at the elevator bank for the labor and delivery nurse. This is where things get a little fuzzy for me. I know that my pressure waves were almost back to back at this point. I also know that I was no longer able to just breathe and hum my way through the urge to push, and I began involuntarily pushing. I hadn’t completely lost my cool, but I think the ER nurse picked up on the urgency and we ditched the plan to wait for the labor and delivery nurse and we grabbed our own elevator. I think my water broke in the elevator, but I’m not sure. I don’t remember much about the elevator ride, because everything starts running together when I try to remember what happened after we got onto the elevator. Once my water broke, I lost my focus. One of the suggestions given very early on in my Hypnobabies training said that in the event of an emergency, I would turn my light switch back to “on” and I would no longer have anesthesia in my body. I believe my mind interpreted my water breaking and pushing in an elevator as an emergency, and it turned my light switch back on. I don’t remember being in pain, just feeling a lot of energy and being very anxious. I thought Elijah was going to be born in either the elevator or the hallway. Having worked previously in the ER, I knew the wheelchair I was sitting in was probably dirty and very germ-laden, and I didn’t want to give birth in that wheelchair. The dirty wheelchair felt like an emergency to me. I was loudly yelling that I could feel his head coming out. The nurse was running with the wheelchair at that point. After a couple turns and dodging boxes (we took what appeared to be a back hallway), we finally arrived to labor and delivery. I was relieved to see a room full of people waiting for me. Dan put my bags down and Micky tried to help me up from the chair. I told her I couldn’t get up, and she firmly but nicely told me I had to get up out of the chair. With help, I stood from the chair and grabbed the side of the bed. The midwife removed my underwear and I heard her say, “Oh, the head is right there!”
Someone threw a bucket down on the floor beneath me and I heard a lot of commotion behind me as I pushed through each powerful pressure wave. The midwife said, “Your baby is right here, reach down and feel his head.”
Under normal circumstances, I would have gladly reached down to touch his head, but I was in a state of shock. I could not believe the speed at which everything had taken place and I was in disbelief that I had come so close to giving birth in a wheelchair in the elevator.
I pushed again and the midwife said, “Here comes your baby, reach down and grab your baby!” I still couldn’t move, and I felt him slip out. I was still clutching the bed and looking down at the floor.
“Here’s your baby, I’m going to hand him up to you.” I was shaking, partially from exhaustion, partially from shock. I could not reach down and grab him. I heard Dan say behind me, “It’s a boy!” (we didn’t find out the sex before he was born.) and someone else said, “You’re a big little dude!” Another voice said, “3:57.” I just stood there, clutching the bed.
My birth preferences stated that I wanted to wait until the cord had stopped pulsing to clamp and cut it (which is actually standard procedure at Vanderbilt). I was so exhausted and shaken up that I knew I needed to lie down. The midwife asked if I wanted to wait to cut the cord or just go ahead and cut the cord and rest a few minutes while they weighed him, and I gladly accepted the offer. Somebody helped me to the bed, and the nurse took Elijah over to the warmer and the scale to be checked out. He was never more than ten feet away from me. I lied down on the bed and looked over at him. He did look big, and someone said, “9-14!”, meaning he weighed nine pounds and 14 ounces. They diapered and swaddled him and handed him over to Dan, who brought him over to me in the bed. I needed to be sewn up and I was still bleeding heavily, so he put Elijah down on the bed with me with his face against mine. His skin was so soft and warm against mine. He was so content to lie cheek to cheek with me, as I didn’t feel up to trying to get him to nurse right at that moment. After the midwife was finished suturing, I finally felt comfortable enough to sit up and nurse. He had a little trouble latching on, but he eventually caught on and has been a terrific nurser ever since.
We spent one night in the hospital. Elijah never left our sight the entire time we were there. Because of quiet hours, I was able to nap without interruption, and I got the best hospital sleep ever that night.
So, remember earlier when I said that whatever one puts into their mind will become their reality? Throughout my pregnancy, when people would ask me where Elijah would be born, I would always answer, “Vanderbilt…IF we make it!” We left the house at 3:03 AM, pulled up to the ER at 3:46 AM, and he was born 11 minutes later at 3:57 AM. We really did just barely make it.
I can’t pick a time when my birthing time actually started, but I do know that I spent all but about two or three minutes feeling very calm and comfortable. I was able to spend most of my birthing time in the comfort of my home, and the car ride to Vanderbilt was not bad at all. We drove right past a hospital on our way into the city and I never once thought to myself, “We need to stop at Williamson (Medical Center)!”
Although I panicked, turning my switch back on and lost control of my emotions when I nearly gave birth in the elevator, Dan and I both feel that Elijah’s birth was the best out of our three children. I spent a few days feeling embarrassed about the stir I caused, but I’m over that now. It wasn’t the perfect Zen moment I had imagined, but it was very powerful. So, although it didn’t happen exactly as I planned, I’m okay with it. Few things in life do go exactly as planned. I don’t have any negative feelings toward the women in the ER. I didn’t look or act like a typical woman about to push out a baby and I don’t think they realized when I asked them to hurry that it was as urgent as it was. I can’t think of a single decision we made that I would go back and change. Although I hope I never nearly give birth in a wheelchair on an elevator again, I’m pleased with how Elijah’s birth went.