Hannah’s birth story began eighteen months ago with the birth of my son Silas. Although I had prepared for his birth using the Hypnobabies home study program, I had done a poor job of managing my diet, getting exercise during the pregnancy, and doing what I could to get him into a good position for birth. I also didn’t always do my hypnosis practice as outlined in the program. My birthing time with him was very long and exhausting, with eight hours of transformation-like pressure waves and the desire to push. I got an epidural, and was pushing him out 15 minutes later. He was quite large and was posterior, so pushing him out while completely numb from the waist down was no easy task. He had meconium and substantial decelerations in his heart rate, my doctor cut an episiotomy, and pulled him out. He was whisked away to be assessed by the pediatric team. It was long time before I heard him cry. Meanwhile, I started bleeding profusely and my blood pressure dropped quite low. I was placed flat on my back and fluids were squeezed in (quite literally, I saw the nurse standing over me squeezing the bag of Pitocin to make my uterus clamp down and stop bleeding). I couldn’t hold my son when he was pronounced healthy and brought back out because I was too weak and we were all afraid I’d drop him. I looked and felt terrible for days.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I knew there were things I needed to do in order to make this pregnancy and birthing better and more comfortable. I exercised as much as was healthy and I could squeeze in. Although I didn’t do a perfect job with a healthy diet, I did a much better job of eating healthy foods and didn’t splurge nearly as much as I had before. I sat in forward leaning or straight up positions to help encourage Hannah to be head down and to put her back towards my front (known as occiput anterior, the best position for birth). I slept almost exclusively on my left side and used a pregnancy pillow to help me stay on my left side. I did my Hypnobabies practice in the day time rather than evening, because I wanted to make sure I stayed awake through the tracks and thought about what I was doing on a conscious level (even though sleeping through the tracks is okay, I felt better about my hypnosis practice if I stayed awake).
As my pregnancy progressed, I felt like Hannah was getting quite large. I never felt like Silas was big when I was pregnant with him, but I felt like I was carrying a big baby this time around. I palpated my belly daily and she consumed so much space with little room leftover. I felt great, but I also felt like I was about to “pop” any minute. I felt like my intuition was telling me she would come early, so I prepared myself mentally and physically for this. My house was clean at all times, the bags were packed, the car seat in the car, the diapers washed and folded, the bassinet set up next to the bed…
Everything was ready and all I needed was a baby. The days turned into weeks and people began commenting, “You’re still pregnant?” “You mean you haven’t had that baby yet?” “When was your due date again?” “Are you SURE it isn’t twins?” “Are you having any contractions yet?” “Are you dilating at all?”
I tried to just smile and brush off the questions and comments, but after preparing myself for an early baby, a fast and easy birthing time, and a smaller baby (my son was nine pounds and 22.75 inches at birth), my confidence began to wane. I was tired. I wasn’t tired of being pregnant, per se, but just tired. I never felt or said anything resentful towards my child or my body, but I slowly became anxious. What if something were wrong with my baby and that’s why she hadn’t been born yet? Her movements had slowed down, and I found myself anxiously watching the clock in order to do kick counts.
My doctor never voiced concern over Hannah’s size until my guess date passed. She said she was concerned because Silas was a nine pound baby and he was born with some difficulty that continuing until the time I thought would be 42 weeks could potentially result in a C-section. She acknowledged that induction would increase me risk of C-section, but she felt the risk of waiting was greater than the risk of induction. She said it was ultimately my decision, but she was very concerned. My doctor is a very caring person and I do believe she was legitimately concerned about our safety. We discussed scheduling an induction for later that week, but I changed my mind and was able to buy myself a little more time, thinking it wouldn’t even be an issue.
Another week passed and she voiced her concerns again. By this time, I had already been having anxiety. I knew that having an induction could potentially lead to a cascade of interventions that ended in C-section. The thought of a Cesarean made my anxiety intensify. I too, was concerned about Hannah’s size, though, and had been for a while. I discussed my fears with my doctor. She agreed that they were well founded fears, and assured me that she doesn’t encourage anyone to have an induction unless she is seriously concerned about safety because she knows that un-necessary induction increases risks to moms and babies. I asked her if it would be possible to do a “slow induction.” I told her I preferred for my water break on its own, and to have the Pitocin drip titrated slowly over a longer period of time. She thought it sounded like a good idea and was willing to write her orders that way. I left the office feeling good because we had discussed my options and I was empowered to make choices for myself and influence my own care. Most of all, I felt at peace with the decision.
I checked into the hospital on Monday, July 5 at 6:00 PM. We had gone out to dinner at Applebee’s with my parents and left Silas with them. I was nervous all through dinner and had a hard time being social. I had spent the day picking up loose ends around the house, playing with Silas, a lot of time praying, and doing Fear Release sessions. As the time drew near, though, I became a bit withdrawn. I had determined ahead of time that even though I was going in for an induction, that this was going to be a beautiful birth. I knew that if Hannah was as large as we all thought she was, I was going to have to be positive and stay focused to avoid an epidural.. I knew she’d need me to be mobile in order to get her out. I thought about brave mothers in the Bible who made huge sacrifices for their children. I thought about Jochebed, and how she put baby Moses in a basket in the Nile to protect him from being murdered by the Egyptians. I thought about Hannah dedicating Samuel to the work of the Lord at such a young age. Of course, I thought about Mary, riding on a donkey as she labored and then giving birth in a stable, of all places. I thanked God for these women and knew I could do what was needed to be done to give birth to my own child just as He had designed me to, even though the process was being started artificially.
We looked like a couple of tourists checking into the hospital. I had my suitcase, my pregnancy body pillow. Dan had his laptop bag, a backpack, his pillow, and my camera. The hospital was quiet and I asked the clerk checking us in if they had any patients. She assured me that they did. The nurse that took us to our room and got us settled was the same nurse who was present for Silas’s birth. We chatted for a while, but she was off at 7 and my angel nurse, Karen, came on.
Karen reviewed my birth preferences and seemed excited that I had chosen to have an un-medicated birth. She told me she had C-sections with both of her children, but thought natural childbirth was wonderful. Because I was being induced with Pitocin, it was necessary for me to be continuously monitored. Knowing the risk of hyperstimulation of the uterus and fetal distress if the Pitocin is turned up too high, I agreed that continuous monitoring was a good idea. I told Karen I wished to be out of bed as much as possible, and she assured me that the cords are very long and I could walk around the room as far as the cords would reach. She even offered to re-arrange the furniture in the room if necessary for me to sit in a glider next to the monitor. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary quite yet, but I’d like to try the ball. She brought a ball for me (which was a nicer ball than the one I have at home!) and then positioned the bed with lots of pillows so I could lean forward onto the pillows as I sat on the ball. It was quite comfy. Then she went about the business of making sure the belts and everything were positioned correctly. She always told me to get comfy first, then she’d position the monitor. She assured me she would re-position the monitor as many times as necessary for me to be comfortable.
The Pitocin drip was started at 7:30. I hung out on the ball and listened to Birthing Day Affirmations on my iPod while Dan played a game on his laptop. We would occasionally look at the monitor and the strength of my pressure waves. They weren’t too strong but they had developed a nice pattern. I was very comfortable and relaxed. Karen came in around 9 PM with the resident. He checked me and I was at 4 centimeters, can’t remember the effacement, and a -3 station. Karen helped unhook my wires so I could walk to the bathroom. Dan helped me change back into my nursing tank and skirt because the hospital gown was uncomfortable. Then Karen put the bed into an upright chair position and helped me get comfortable with lots of pillows behind my back and under my knees. I put the iPod back on and relaxed while listening to the Painfree Childbirth track and Karen turned the Pitocin up. Dan called my doula Dee Dee to let her know what was going on while I remained in hypnosis.
When I finished the Painfree Childbirth track, I was ready to use the bathroom again and get back on the ball. We decided to watch a little TV and settled on “Last Comic Standing.” Coincidentally, the comedian was talking about big babies. He was quite funny and he had me laughing out loud. My doctor came in with the resident shortly after that. I think it was about 9:50. She wasn’t on call, but she likes to see her patients through. She’s only missed one birth in her entire career (she’s family practice, not OB, so she doesn’t attend as many births as an OB does). She checked me and I was at five centimeters, but still at the -3 station. We chatted and laughed about the show on TV and then she went to hang out at the nurses’ station. I got back on the ball and put the Deepening track on. Karen turned my Pitocin up again.
I went into deep hypnosis with the deepening track. Deepening was my favorite track while preparing for this birth. I could really feel my pressure waves picking up in intensity as I relaxed through each one. Karen came in and adjusted the monitor because she was having trouble picking up the heart rate. I decided to re-start the Deepening track since I paused it while she adjusted the monitor. I continued relaxing as the pressure waves grew stronger and more frequent. Dan took a few photos, and it looked like I was asleep on the ball, but I was very aware of everything going on. As the track continued, I could tell I was going to need my doula soon. I was a little torn. I wanted Dan and my doula to support me through the intensifying waves, but I also wanted to finish the Deepening track because I was enjoying it so much. I opted to finish the track, and the moment Kerry counted me back up, I put my light switch in center and asked Dan to call Dee Dee. He wanted to finish his game, but I told him things were getting serious and I needed Dee Dee to come soon. He called Dee Dee and then he called Karen to come in and turn the Pitocin down since I wasn’t getting but about a 30 second break between pressure waves. I stood up and leaned over the bed as Dan rubbed my lower back as I swayed back and forth through the waves.
Karen came in to turn the drip down and I decided I was ready to lie in the bed on my left side. She helped me get into the bed, and she and Dan helped position me on my left side with my pregnancy pillow and the pillows on the bed. I was very comfortable, but I was no longer interested in laughing or much conversation anymore.
It was around that time that Dee Dee arrived. She sat in front of me and we talked a little. I would stop mid-sentence to turn my switch off through the waves. She told me I didn’t even look like I was about to have a baby. She said I just looked “blissed out” during each pressure wave. The waves were very intense. I would picture myself at the top of a roller coaster and then I would ride each wave like you would the drops and twists and turns of a fast, wooden roller coaster. I felt a little rush of adrenaline at the beginning of each wave, and would say inside my mind, “Here we go!” just like you would if you were on a roller coaster. It wasn’t scary, or painful, just intense pressure and tightening in my abdomen and back. I reminded myself to keep my face and my hands relaxed.
Dee Dee’s apprentice Molly came in and I welcomed her right before another wave came on. Shortly afterward, Karen and the doctors came in. They wanted to check me again and put an internal monitor in since the pressure waves were quite intense. My doctor didn’t want to continue increasing the Pitocin because she was afraid she would over-stimulate my uterus, but they were having trouble monitoring the baby’s heart rate because she was descending pretty quickly. Knowing that they would have to break my water to do this, I went ahead and okay-ed it even though initially I wanted my water to break on its own. I asked if I could stay on my side since I was so comfortable and my doctor said that would be fine. When they checked me, I was at 6 cm, completely effaced, and she was at a 0 station.
I’m not sure how long it took them to break my water and put the monitor in, but it took a lot of focus to remain in hypnosis through the waves as they did what they broke my water and inserted the pressure monitor. Dee Dee rubbed my belly, Dan rubbed my feet, and Molly rubbed my back. It all felt wonderful, but I started shaking and getting nauseous. My doctors stood at the bedside after the monitor was in. In hindsight, I think they knew things were picking up and they didn’t want to get too far away. I told them I wasn’t opposed to some Zofran, only pain meds. They kind of laughed as I told them I wanted 4mg of Zofran, or 8, whichever they felt like ordering. Karen got the Zofran for me and my doctor helped pile warm blankets on my back and my legs to help with the shaking. Shortly after I got the Zofran, my pressure waves intensified some more. I began doing a low moaning with each wave and it helped me keep control of myself. At one point, I felt myself starting to lose control, and I said, “Stop it!” pretty loudly. Everyone thought I was talking to them, so all the wonderful massage stopped. At the end of the wave, I apologized and assured everyone I wanted them to continue what they were doing and I was telling myself to stop freaking out. The massage soon resumed, much to my delight and I regained composure.
I felt like time was moving very slowly at that point, and I started to get what my mom calls a case of the “jim-jams.” I felt like I just had to get out of the bed and asked for help going to the bathroom. Karen and Dee Dee both agreed enthusiastically that going to the bathroom was a great idea, so Karen unhooked me and they helped me walk to the bathroom. I had to pause a couple of times between the bed and the bathroom because I continued having pressure waves. As soon as I sat on the toilet, I was stricken with panic, as my waves intensified to an all-new level. I felt my belly get so hard and I began pushing involuntarily. I just couldn’t stop. I began having flashbacks to Silas’s birth, where I had felt the urge to push for nearly eight hours. I was almost in tears and said, “This is just like Silas” but Dee Dee stopped me mid-sentence. She reminded me that this was a new birth and a new baby and assured me I was doing a great job. The waves were right on top of each other and I began to panic a little. I was moaning with each wave, and asked for someone to just help me. Karen and Dee Dee kept reassuring me and helped me back towards the bed. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw that my doctor and the resident had already gowned and gloved and had the table pulled up to the bed. Remembering the long stage of pushing sensations in my previous birth, I was in complete denial that I was about to give birth and I remember thinking that they were just wasting all the sterile supplies and they’d have to open up a new sterile table when it was really time to push the baby out. I kind of perched myself on the edge of the bed because another wave hit me right as I got to the bed. I was holding onto the rail and pushing (not realizing that’s what I was doing because I’d had an epidural for pushing in my last birth). I thought I was just yelling like a cave woman because I had officially lost control of my emotions, but I was actually just vocalizing through pushing. Dee Dee, Karen, and my doctor kept telling “The baby is coming, Summer. You’re pushing the baby out right now.” but I didn’t believe them. My doctor crouched down on the floor next me. She was prepared to catch the baby as I stood at the side of the bed. Suddenly there was a gush of fluid as I yelled through another wave and then I felt a powerful stretching and stinging sensation. I was able to gasp, “Stinging, stinging!” Someone said, “Summer, the baby is coming OUT!” and I suddenly became a believer and decided the bed was where I wanted to be after all. I couldn’t lift my legs up, though, and all I could say was, “Legs! Legs!” and everyone kind of picked me up and put me into the bed. I don’t really remember much once I got into the bed. I don’t think I even put much effort into pushing, I think my body was just kind of doing it on its own. Dee Dee said I only pushed through three total pressure waves, but I don’t know if that included me pushing at the side of the bed. I think it does because everything happened very, very quickly. I heard the resident call out that they needed pediatrics team to come in stat, but I just felt like everything was okay so I didn’t panic. I felt her come out and Dan announced, “It’s a Hannah!” (We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl). They took her to the little resuscitation room, but she was crying before they even got her there. Apparently, she was meconium stained and her heart rate dropped drastically when I was pushing. Dee Dee told me it’s pretty common for the heart rate to drop like that when a baby goes through such a rapid descent.
I remember thinking it was amazing how one moment I was having the most intense experience of my life, and the next moment I felt perfect. I laughed when I heard her crying, and Dan went into the resuscitation room to be with Hannah. He brought her out to me shortley and I got to hold her right away. She didn’t really cry that much. She cried when she was first born, but then she quieted right down and was very mellow. I had some bleeding issues again, but didn’t lose as much blood as the last time and my blood pressure didn’t plummet. The nurse had to “massage” my uterus (which is definitely not massage at all!). I didn’t want to turn my switch off for it because I wanted to be able to look at my beautiful baby, so I just had to deal with it. I told my doctor it was worse than the actual birthing time.
Dee Dee said that it was only about twenty minutes from the time they checked me until Hannah was born. That means I went from six centimeters to ten and a 0 station to baby completely out in just twenty minutes, which Dee Dee described as “crazy fast.” Everyone kept telling me how awesome of a job I had done and not to worry about my cave woman moments in the last five or so minutes because anyone that went through transformation and pushing that quickly would be a cave woman too.
I was on this incredible adrenaline high for two days, and people that saw me said I didn’t even look like I’d just had a baby. I feel so much better this time, and I feel like I’m healing faster. I truly believe the difference is that I didn’t use pain medicine and my body’s natural pain killers, endorphins, were not suppressed so I have less postpartum pain.
Hannah has already grown and she’s filling out her wrinkles. She’s even getting a double chin! As far as her being a big baby goes… She was 8 pounds and 4 ounces… not that big after all. She did have us all fooled, though, because even Dan earlier on in the pregnancy said he thought this baby was going to turn out to be a ten pounder because I got so big.
I guess my conclusion to Hannah’s birth story is simple. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. He created the entire birth process. It’s not something to be feared or dreaded. I know the apostle Paul didn’t have birth in mind when he wrote the book of Phillipians, but the passage in chapter four and verse eight “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” definitely applied for me in Hannah’s birth, and I know it can for others too. I’m so thankful to God for blessing me with a husband that supported me through me decision making and the entire pregnancy and birth process. I’m thankful for my wonderful doula Dee Dee who helped bolster my confidence and helped keep my focus. I’m thankful for a doctor that was willing to listen to me and supported my decisions while respectfully giving her input. I’m thankful for Hypnobabies, a program that helped me to advocate for myself, to focus on the positive, and helped remind me that pregnancy and birth are “natural, normal, healthy, and safe.” Most of all, though, I’m thankful for a beautiful and healthy baby girl.